Thursday, January 29, 2009

Libraries Change People.......

....this is what our library director said this afternoon. Interesting words, and true on many different levels.

Specifically, we were speaking about a new volunteer at the library. She is a practicum student and I believe this is the first time she's worked in a public library. No holds barred, public library work is VERY different from working in an academic setting. I'll call our new volunteer K. K has to do about 80 hours of volunteering for her class this semester. Since she's interested in adult services, our director assigned her to work with me. So K works Wednesday evenings, and then also comes in Sunday afternoons, and she gets a taste of working an evening and a weekend.

I really like her. She's quiet, but I don't think she misses anything. She jumps right in and helps with whatever needs to be done. K has commented a couple of times that she thinks it's exciting and I think she's really enjoying seeing the differences between working at our casual, and often rowdy, public library, and working in an academic setting of a law library and a reference desk of a main university library.

So, I mentioned today that I thought K was doing a very nice job so far, and seemed to be enjoying it, and our director made a comment about our practicum student being a little meek and wasn't sure how she'd take to working in a public library. I said something about K taking the time to really observe what's going on in a setting she's never been in, and then I made a comment that 15 years ago, our director would have probably thought I was meek. And our director nodded and smiled and said,

"Libraries change people."

I thought that was an extremely interesting and observant comment to make. And so true. I know it's true of me. I'm not scared to speak up anymore, and not scared to expect our rowdy kids to toe the line when they come in, and I don't hesitate to send them on their way if they misbehave. And this assertiveness translates to other areas of my life, too.

But libraries change people in other ways. They give people a chance they might not otherwise have. Libraries give people the opportunity to access information that they might not otherwise be able to obtain. And sometimes, someone just needs a friendly face and a librarian to chat with. Libraries aren't just about checking materials out to people and telling kids to be quiet. More than anything, libraries are about people. In these uncertain times, libraries give people the opportunity to come in, find out about jobs, type up a resume, access books and movies and newspapers and the Internet for free, which is a godsend when a person can't afford to pay for those things.

And in so many ways, libraries have the power to change a person, and maybe make their life better.

I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Yes, a big DUH to me.

I've always felt pretty comfortable with technology. For the most part, it makes sense to me. I'm no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I can figure things out.

Or so I thought! Okay, let me backtrack a little. Several months ago, our modem died. We had a brown out in the area, and it fried my modem. After a (very) lengthy phone conversation with a tech rep. at Qwest, we determined the modem was dead, and they sent me a new one. And not just a new one - a brand new, updated, and sleek new modem. I downloaded the software to both computers, hooked it up, and thought all was good! Then I upgraded our service as well.

All was not good. I couldn't figure it out. For the last few weeks, it's taken FOREVER to get connected, we couldn't stay connected, and we've had to do constant repairs to renew our IP addresses and/our reset the router. It was getting very frustrating.

Finally, the other evening, I got down on the floor to reset the wireless router. I looked at the back, and discovered that perhaps the ethernet cord wasn't plugged in to the right spot. Lo and behold, there was another place to plug in the cord and it said INTERNET next to it. Feeling just a little bit sheepish, I re-plugged the ethernet cord into that spot, and BAM: our computers were instantly connected to the Internet!

DUH. Perhaps being more observant of those little details would be a good idea......

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I've had goosebumps all day. Watching all the pomp and circumstance this morning, the swearing in first of Vice President Biden and then President Obama, His Inaugural speech, and then that amazing Benediction, and now, watching the festivities this evening.

I feel such a renewal of spirit today. Renewed optimism, renewed credibility of America around the world, and renewed patriotism. There is a charge in the air; people are excited, proud and hopeful. I'm not sure if I've ever felt this, this energy of people focused on a common goal, brought together by an uncommon leader.

Tonight, I feel united. People came together in November, and that feeling is still there. President Obama seems to have a gift for bringing people together, and he's brought the country together. He will lead, but we can't expect him to fix things alone. He empowers us all to work together, and he makes me feel like my contribution is necessary. Now THAT is a leader.

God Bless, President Obama. YES, WE CAN.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Wonderful Birthday

It has been a lovely birthday weekend. Added to that is knowing something else is going on this coming Saturday, so the birthday celebrating will continue! I have no idea what it is, I just know that two dear friends couldn't be with us on my birthday, so we'll be doing something, at least with them, on Saturday.

My birthday started out VERY lazy. Gillian and I took our time doing everything. My darling girl made me cupcakes on Friday, so we enjoyed cupcakes for a birthday breakfast. YUM.

Dan and Jerry picked us up about 4pm and off we went. East. To points unknown. We drove and drove, and I hunted for clues, but didn't get much. Finally I asked if we were going to Illinois, or staying Iowa. Dan said we were staying in Iowa, but don't trip. Hmmmmm. That made me think we were going to be VERY close to the Mississippi.

I was right! We ended up in Le Claire, right on the Mississippi, at a wonderful restaurant called The Faithful Pilot
We sat at a table overlooking the river and watched the sky darken to evening. Several trains chugged by. We enjoyed some Pinot Noir, wonderful food, and lovely conversation. I can't wait to go back.

We ended the evening at The Wig and Pen, a British Pub in Coralville. They were closed for over half of 2008 because of the flood, and reopened only a week ago. They are known for their pizza. The place was PACKED, and the pizza was as good as always. It was a great way to end a wonderful evening.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

But it's Summer There......

This morning, when I turned on the local news, the big story was the weather, of course. Cedar Rapids set a new record low of -29, and I know it wasn't much warmer in Coralville. I saw -22. We're talking COLD. REALLY, REALLY, COLD. So the morning anchors were being silly (their brains were frozen, I'm sure) and asked the weatherguy to find out the temperatures at the north and south poles.

At the next weather update, he reported his findings. He couldn't find the temperature at the North Pole, but he did find a current temperature in Antarctica.

It was only -18 there. Really. It is warmer today in Antarctica than it is in Iowa.

Well of course it is! It's summer there!

Monday, January 12, 2009

By God, the Wind!!!!!

Indeed. It is cold and getting colder and the wind is howling and the snow is blowing. Windy winter days always remind me of one of my favorite professors from Cornell.......

Cornell used to offer an England trip every other January. I was lucky to get to go in 1987. Yeesh, a long time ago.......anyway.......For 3 1/2 weeks, we traveled all over England and Scotland. It was an amazing experience. We saw amazing productions in London's West End, spent 10 days just in London, and traveled Great Britain, north and south. On one day, visiting Whitby Abbey in northern England, it was terribly windy. As we were getting off the bus to tour the Abbey, Stephen, our professor, flung his scarf around his neck, announced, "Dress warmly, children. By God, the WIND!" and marched off the bus. Stephen always had a flair for the dramatic, and this scene has always stayed with me, and makes me smile every time I recall it.

Tonight is definitely a "by God, the Wind!" kinda night, and I think tomorrow will be a "by God, the Wind!" kinda day!

But, here's a little something to warm you up - a lovely picture of our Leo the Lion, all orange and sunny looking, and full of all sorts of mischief. You can see it in his eyes!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hibernation Mode

It's that time of year.......when I want to hibernate.

Besides taking Gillian to school and going to work, this time of year I just want to be a homebody. I really don't want to do anything else. It's cold, and the weather is icky, and if I don't have to be out and about, I am perfectly happy to be home.

So......this time of year, not much is going on. I try to read more. I try to work out more, and I cuddle more with my wonderful daughter. It's hard to get up in the morning (due to lack of sunlight) and it's easy to go to bed early (again, due to lack of sunlight!).

I finished the latest in my favorite mystery series by Shirley Damsgaard. She writes a WONDERFUL series, the Ophelia and Abby series. Ophelia is a librarian in a small town in central Iowa, and she and Abby, her grandmother, are witches. Murders happen, they get involved, things get sticky, but they use their supernatural powers to figure things out, much to the chagrin of the local sheriff! Ms. Damsgaard's latest, The Witch's Grave is the best yet in the series. I highly recommend it. Fun, and suspenseful, and well written.

This weekend I'm going to finish The Rope Walk, by Carrie Brown. It is the 2009 selection for All Iowa Reads. It's beautifully written, and I'm about half-way through it, but I'm still figuring it out. I'm not sure yet where this story is going. The characters are very compelling. And, even though the story is contemporary, it feels older, somehow. I think this is what makes it so compelling to me. Old world, yet current.

It's cold, it's winter, but my lovely books are keeping me warm. OH! And next Saturday is my birthday!!!!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

At the Movies

Yesterday was a perfect day to go to the movies. Cold, very overcast, and a promise of slick roads later in the day. So, we decided to head to the movies in the afternoon. One of Gillian's friends also went with us.

Now, I must explain, it's been over a year since I've set foot in a movie theatre. Oh sure, I've watched lots of movies in the last year, but on DVD or Video on Demand. I haven't felt particularly motivated to go the the theatre, plunk down $6.50 for a matinee, and then pay another enormous amount for popcorn and drinks. Plus, so many of the movies coming out seem to be remakes of older, already classic movies! I swear, if they ever remake To Kill a Mockingbird...

But I digress (I seem to do that quite a bit!). There has been a movie I've been motivated to see, and this is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It's based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I saw previews for it on tv, and I was fascinated by the story, of a man who ages backwards, and the life he leads while living this curious life. I found the short story in a volume of Fitzgerald's short stories, and read it one day at work (shhhhh, don't tell!). It was remarkable! Sweet, touching, and heartbreaking. Probably one of the BEST short stories I have ever read. I decided I definitely needed to see the movie for two reasons: because it had the potential to be an epic, and because I wanted to see what they would do to the story. Would they stay true to it or somehow modernize it and put a current spin on the story?

I can only recall one movie that I actually enjoyed more than the book. Usually I'm disappointed with something left out, or the interpretation of something I had my own vision of, or the choice of actor for a role. But this time, although the movie is quite different from the short story, it stands next to the story as an equal.

Brad Pitt is Benjamin Button, and Cate Blanchett is Daisy, and they are extraordinary. The movie is almost 3 hours long, but it is so compelling it doesn't feel long at all. At times it is a sweeping epic, but other times it is a very personal and intimate recollection of Benjamin's amazing life. And the makeup in this movie is out of this world. Just amazing to watch the characters change throughout the movie.

If I had to wait a year to see a movie on the big screen, this was definitely the movie to end that wait. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year and First Post of 2009

Happy New Year to you all! I sincerely hope that 2009 is a wonderful year for everyone.

We had a very calm and quiet and fun New Year's Eve. Gillian and I went over to Dan and Jerry's for the evening. We enjoyed a little champagne, ate, and played a marathon game of Pixar Monopoly (Gillian received it for Christmas). We barely made it to midnight! But we did, and saw in 2009, and went home to bed. Such excitement!

Today has been a wonderfully lazy day. We have been avid watchers of SciFi channel's Twilight Zone marathon today, and I made bread. Amazing and incredible, "I can't believe I made this at home" bread. I am serious.

Last year, in a weekly newsletter from Mother Earth News, was a bread recipe. Easy, and promised to deliver home baked bread just like bread you would buy from a bakery. Crisp crust, soft and chewy interior. I've never been able to make bread like that at home. You know what I mean: those wonderful rounds of bread with the glossy brown crust, and all soft and snowy white inside. The secret? It's baked in a Dutch Oven.

I asked for, and was given, a wonderful ceramic Dutch Oven for Christmas. So last night I started the bread. It is a no-knead bread recipe, which means it takes an incredibly long time to proof and raise. We're talking 12-18 hours for the first step. All said and done, it takes about 19 hours from beginning to end, but there is actually very little work involved. Just patience.

The only ingredients in this bread are yeast, water, salt, and flour. And a great deal of time. But boy, oh boy! The results are well worth the time it takes. I ended up with a round loaf of bread that I easily could have purchased at a bread makers', but I made it myself! Making it in the Dutch Oven is what did it. It steams as it bakes, covered, which produces the wonderful crisp crust. Yum. Here are some pictures of my marvelous bread: