A bit shit but also wonderful: the 2017 story

OK, OK, 2017 was A LOT shit in many ways. The government is constantly trying to take away/destroy things I care about – like human rights, the environment, libraries, health care, being able to live and pay my bills in general – and every day there seems to be another mass shooting. Add onto that the occasional threat of nuclear war over what seems me to like some really stupid dick measuring contest, the fact that people are accepting Nazis (WTF white people?!), and like probably 18,000 other upsetting, stressful, and legitimately scary things this year and there were some days that it was hard to get things done.

Anxiety medication helps. I realized I probably should have started taking this a while ago. But I guess took me years to realize that situations like having a coworker point out typo in a work document in a lovely, nonjudgmental way so you can change it, probably shouldn’t send you into an hours-long spiral of shame, near tears, and inability to do anything else. Yay! So yeah. Thank goodness for SSRIs.

I also really struggled with running because of recurring hip problems and some other very lame health problems so I’m ending up 2017 a bit chubbier than I was in years past. I’m remembering it’s a lot easier to be all body positive when you feel like you’ve been able to take care of yourself and when you like the way you look. But, it’s a work in progress. Also, maybe I’ll figure out what’s going on with all my potential food allergies/digestive issues this year. Or not. Thanks a lot, Body, I thought you’d wait til at least 40 to start to just go to hell but 30 is fine, too.

Hey, also being married is hard?! Like, I know people say that all the time and this is not news to me but guess what? Everyone is right. Of course, I don’t want to do this hard work with anyone other than Doug but it’s a serious adjustment.

Doug, Bev, and myself by the amazing Clare Vacha

I promise there were good parts to 2017…..

I went to the Women’s March in Boston and while it wasn’t without it’s problems – centering cis women over trans women, white women over women of color and Native women, being some of them – it was important for me to go. I wouldn’t say that I’m an activist, but I’m trying to learn to be more engaged with politics and supporting the causes I care about.

I also got to spend a lot of time with friends and family this year. Especially important are times at my BFFL Hannah’s cabin where I don’t really get cell service and so I’m forced to read books and talk to people. It’s incredible and Hannah is the perfect mix of hospitable and “do it yourself since we’re very old friends.” Some of my favorite weekends are those spent with there.

Doug and I also visited Minnesota which we loved and picture of me that I ACTUALLY LIKE is photobombed by a couple of doofuses.

I also made this dress and definitely improved a lot of sewing skills this year.

And despite marriage being hard, it’s also amazing. Doug and I spent our first anniversary in Maine where we read, ate, slept, and played games. It was so perfect. I’m in love with him and with how completely unhinged I look in the picture below.

LOL

Work was a challenge at times. I didn’t always agree with the way some issues got handled, and I share this pseudo-management role that I don’t feel good at or prepared for at all. But other times, we had a Ghostbusters lock-in with 30 teens and it was the best kind of crazy. Finally, my coworker Renata is the best and incredible and I would definitely cry if I didn’t get to work with her.

We ordered a DOZEN pizzas for the lock-in.

Renata bought my these “Kirk and Spock but if they were cats” pins and I love them.

What else was good? There is more, but throughout the year there are constant themes: my family, Doug, Hannah, Renata, Bev (that’s right, my cat) and all my friends who reminded me that I’m loved and cared about. With everything else being a bit shit, it’s the people who you care about that matter. Thanks to all who made an effort for me this year, it means more than you know.

What’s next?

Well, resolutions aren’t my thing but as Doug and I were talking today in 2018 we want to:

  • Take down Trump and the rest of the government who wants to ruin everything
  • Fight for what is right (the environment, health care, LGBTQ rights, people of color, fair wages, etc)
  • Play more games
  • Hang out with our friends
  • Hang out with our cat

I also want to:

  • Sew more clothes
  • Find a different exercise routine if I can’t figure out how to run without pain
  • Write more here
  • Be a good Printz Committee member
  • Pierce my septum
  • Get a new tattoo
  • Eat more veggies
  • Bake more
  • More more more of everything that I love and that matters
  • Get a porg
  • Maybe wear less vests? (4 out of 5 of the pictures I posted I’m wearing a vest. I have a problem?)

That’s it for 2017. Hug your family and friends when you can. See you on the other side.

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Best of 2017

Hey everyone, it’s time to list the best books I’ve read this year! There were some really great ones and I hope you find something you like in these recommendations. I won’t be able to be blogging about YA books next year because of my Printz duties – eeeeeek! – but I’ll try to write more about library programming and adult books.

I hope to have a personal update posted soon.

Cheers!

Best YA

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry – You know I love a historical fiction about a supposed heretical Christian sect in 13th century Province? Don’t you? I guess I didn’t know I needed that in my life, but this is incredible. It treats the issues of Christian women mystics, the abuses of the Catholic church, and faith in general with such tact and skill.

The Reader by Traci Chee – A fantasy where reading is outlawed and has a sweet meta-narrative. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee – Need an 18th century Continental gay road trip novel? Of course you do, read this.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds – Jason Reynolds can do no wrong. Every book he writes is a winner. This one is a verse novel about a teen taking a long elevator ride trying to decide to whether or not to avenge his brother’s murder. Heartbreaking, real, incredible.

I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez – A great novel about not fitting in. Perfect for anyone who has ever felt way that. I have a feeling there’s a lot of people like that.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – If this doesn’t win the 2018 Printz I’ll scream. Incredible story about family, police brutality, friendship, and more. Everyone should read this.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner – Another great one about feeling like you’re destined for better places, but don’t know how to get this. It will probably break your heart.

Thor loves snakes, so he’d probably like The Serpent King.

 

Best Adult Books

How to Read a Dress by Lydia Edwards – Utterly fascinating with beautiful pictures. Great for anyone interested in fashion even in the slightest.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby – Some of the most hilarious writing about anxiety, staying inside, and falling in love.

The Stone Sky and the whole Broken Earth series by N.K Jemisin – This is a great conclusion to the series. If you’re not on board with N.K. Jemisin and you like fantasy and sci-fi, you’re seriously missing out.

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Leznevich – A hard, sad book that mixes true crime journalism and memoir. Not for the faint of heart or those not willing to examine their feelings about the death penalty and the nature of evil.

H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald – You wouldn’t think a book about training a hawk and T.H. White would be so emotionally resonant but really is. Also, the author reads the audio book and it is very lovely.

Hullo, I am birb.

 

Best Series – not necessarily my favorite on their own, but consistently great series

Giant Days by John Allison – This comic consistently makes me laugh out loud. The characters are such gems. Perfect for anyone who has friends.

The Expanse Books by James S. A. Corey – It’s always fun to see what scrapes Holden, Amos, Naomi and company are getting into. Every book is better with characters like the foul-mouthed UN ambassador Chrisjen Avasarala and huge marine and badass lady Bobbie Draper.

Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers – A deceptively simple and fun sci-fi series that ends up being more heart-felt and deep than it appears. If possible, I liked the sequel even more than the first one and can’t wait for book three.

Oh wait, you should also watch “Jane the Virgin” because it is very very good.

Best Comics

Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun – A cute, weird little book that would melt the coldest heart.

Spinning by Tillie Walden – A beautiful comic memoir about figure skating, friendship, and coming out.

Unstoppable Wasp by Jeremy Whitley  – Nadiya is the cutest and it’s a shame this was cancelled. As they say, “Comics will break your heart.”

Favorite Games:

Clank! – I love this game. It’s a bit goofy but I like the card drafting aspect as well as the movement around the board. Lots of stuff going on, but super fun.

Century Golem – Cute golems and quick to learn gameplay = a sure hit for me.

Gloomhaven – I wasn’t sure I was going to like this at first because the box is very large and that’s intimidating. But it’s like a premade, RPG-light game that is easier to grasp and more fun than I anticipated.

Elevenses – Yes, it’s a game about having tea but somehow my friends and I have managed to turn it into something very obscene. I don’t know how, but it’s a delight.

Cat Lady – Cats! In a board game! What more do I need to say?

#lifegoals

 

Other great things:

The Adventure Zone and other McElroy products – If you’re looking for a D&D podcast that is both hilarious and very emotional, check out the Adventure Zone. It’s so great. The McElroys seem like such good, good brothers if I ever find out they’re sexist or racist trash I’m going to be heartbroken.

Kesha’s Rainbow – Friends, this album is soooooooo good. It is legitimately good. Don’t discount it because you don’t like pop music, Kesha has pipes and the writing is top notch. Thanks to Renata for getting me to listen to this all the time!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Amazing! If you didn’t like it because you wanted it to be like the original series, then fine. But you gotta accept that a franchise is going to evolve… Anyway, I loved it. Rey is a badass, Luke was a real character with motivations and demons, Rose WAS THE GREATEST, Poe was still super hot, Finn was a delight, and I loved how a main message of the movie was to listen to women and people of color.

I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE CRYING

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Baby animals and snow cones: the best summer reading party ever!

[Note from Anna: this was in my drafts folder for like 7,302 years or since August but whatever. Enjoy this late Summer Reading post….]

That’s right: BABY ANIMALS and SNOW CONES. These are the two things we had at our Teen Summer Reading Kick-off party this year. Do I have the best job or do I have the best job?!

Renata had the idea to have a petting zoo at our kick-off party and I jumped at the chance. After permission from our director – who was totally on board because who doesn’t like baby animals? – we booked Farm Visits. They will bring an assortment of baby animals from their farm in southwest Mass. and let your patrons hold, pet, and cuddle them! Farm Visits was amazing. They set up and tore down quickly and educated the over 100 teens, parents, and children (more on the kids later) about how to interact with adorable creatures. They brought a baby goat in a diaper, a pig, bunnies, chicks, and baby ducks. It was a huge success but there were a few hiccups. Here’s the breakdown:

Cost: $375 for an hour

Booking: We booked in February for the visit at the end of June. They were really easy to book via email. Because I’m a garbage millennial, I hate having to call people to book programs.

baby goats

The flyers we handed out at school visits and plastered all over the library.

Promotion: Renata and I talked about this at all of the summer reading school visits we did. We talked to about 800 students and talked about the program constantly in the teen room. We also had information up on the website and did some promotion through our library’s email list. I made the flyer in Canva like I do almost everything else because it’s my crutch.

Preparation: Mostly it was promotion once we had settled on a date and made flyers/signs. There was very little prep related to the animals. We did work really hard on our other summer reading items like making the flyers, reading logs, buying all the prizes, and raffle tickets.

Bumps in the road: PARENTS OF SMALL CHILDREN. It was very difficult to explain to parents that this was a program just for teens entering grades 6 – 12. I realize that it seems like a program geared toward small kids, but everyone likes baby animals! Our Children’s Room decided not to book them out of some concerns, but I think it would make a great program for any age. Many parents were miffed that their elementary aged kids – who are very advanced readers, thank you very much – weren’t really allowed. Except. That we did let them in because it’s hard to say “no” to people in the moment. Some also didn’t understand the need for teens only programs or why the presence of little kids at a teen program may make said teen program less fun. Don’t you remember being a teen, parents?

The other problem was just crowd control. We could only send out teens in groups of 20-25 to meet the animals so we had to last minute improvise a group system. Renata gamely grabbed some stamps and made groups. Next time, we should probably do timed tickets so people spend less time waiting around for their turn. We also did door prizes and we could do door prizes throughout the program rather than at the end.

 

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Save IMLS because libraries are essential

If you didn’t hear that Trump is planning on cutting funds to SO MANY ESSENTIAL programs, then here you go. Also, some of these essential programs include the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an important source of funding for libraries and museums in the U.S. I want to talk a little bit about IMLS today because a lot of people don’t know what it does. IMLS gives grants to libraries and museums to provide essential education and access services to patrons. This can be you the public, students at universities, museum patrons, and more.

In Massachusetts, IMLS grants help MA libraries to put on Summer Reading, perhaps the one of the most important programs many public libraries have to help combat the summer slide, and our Commonwealth Catalog, which is an easy way to request and receive books from other consortia to your home library. Looking for a book but you live in Western MA but only a library in Boston has it? The Commonwealth catalog allows you to see that book, request it, and for librarians to get it for you in about a week.

Here are some grants that IMLS has awarded to libraries and museums that I especially like:

This grant supports the Chicago Public Library’s Maker Lab which helps to educate patrons of all ages about art, engineering while giving them practical, hands-on skills.

This grant to the St. Louis Science Center – one of the best places ever! – helps support school readiness programs for kids aged 0-4.

This grant to the Boston Public Library helps to preserve the incredible John Singer Sargent murals located in their historic Copley Square Branch.

This grant to the Southern New Hampshire University helps to provide access to research about business and economic development.

IMLS gives many grants to American Indian tribes and nations in Arizona and elsewhere.

This grant gives Orange County, FL the ability to offer classes economic development class in Haitian Creole.

This grant to Clemson University helps to establish an online database of National Park information.

This grant to the Columbus Public Library helps prepare students for school as well as social, reading, and languages skills in the city’s poorest areas.

This grant allows the Houston Public Library to create mobile library “pop-ups” to combat the loss of skills over the summer.

Friends, there are hundreds of grants. Take a look and see the essential services that IMLS helps to provide. What can you find in your state and community?

So, does the thought of these programs going away because Trump and others of his ilk don’t think they are important or necessary make you full of rage? First of all, welcome to my world, and secondly, what can you do? You can all your representative and ask them to support IMLS in general and to specifically sign these “Dear Appropriator” letters which support funding to LSTA grants. If you don’t know your representative – maybe you don’t have them all in your phone like I do?! – find them here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Also you can use your public library and your museums. Tell them that you appreciate what they do. Join the Friends group at your library or buy some books from their book sale. (My local library’s book sale is this weekend and you can also donate to their teen room renovation project.)

Here’s another great article about how IMLS helps libraries, museums, and you. Yes, you personally. Do you live in MA and your kid did summer reading at the library? IMLS helped you. Fill in the blank with hundreds of other examples of that sentence. Now help IMLS and fight the Trump budget’s campaign against essential job training and education services.

And don’t even get me started on the proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 

 

 

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Coming out a reading slump

Ever had a reading slump? One where you either can’t seem to focus on a book or don’t like anything that you’ve been reading? I think I’ve been in one for the last few months. I’ve been having some anxiety about the world, our garbage-fire racist sexist President, and work and health stuff. That’s been making it hard to focus on reading. It’s been a lot easier to zone out to TV and play Hearthstone or Avengers Academy.

But after some new anxiety meds I feel like I’m getting back to being better. Plus I’ve been able to read more and actually feel like I’m absorbing what I’m reading! This is pretty important for my job and for someone who generally really likes to read.

It feels good to be getting back on track.

that's better

Briefly here’s a few books I’ve read recently that I really enjoyed:

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry – I didn’t think that I would love a story about 13th century French so-called heretics so much, but I did. So amazing.

Monstress, Vol 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda – Incredible art and fascinating world-building. Plus talking cats with two tails!

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner – I cried some ugly tears in this one. I really identified with snobby Lydia AND fantasy-obsessed Travis.

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham – A lovely inter-generational story about a grandmother, mother, and daughter.

The Reader by Tracy Chee – A fantasy that’s all about the magic of reading and books? Sign me up! I loved the meta-storytelling elements, too.

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