Blogs

stack of books next to bedWe're all book lovers here, right? I mean, why would you be here if you weren't? My theory is that we come in two basic types. Type one (not me) checks out a few books at a time, reads them all, or at least gives them all a try, before returning and checking out more. Type two (me), takes books home all the time, because you have to get 'em when you see 'em. I want to read them all, but there's no way that'll happen. The rule is that I do have to at least open them. There are stacks in most rooms of my tiny house, except the bathroom--never in the bathroom.

This is a pic of my most important stack, the stack of honor, the one by the bed. That way these books are always close at hand for those times when I need an Amazonian jungle tale, for example. Or something to coach me through a dishwasher repair.

If a few of my friends aren't too shy--(they're not)--I'll get them to take a picture of their stack by the bed and we'll have little stack peep show. Stay tuned.

I know, I’ve been there. At times basic tasks like getting dressed and eating can seem overwhelming, and reading can fall away completely. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t break up with books altogether! If your concentration balks at fiction, try non-fiction, poetry, or even a different format like audiobooks.

How to Be An Adult in Relationships

My own personal experience was that fiction could not hold my attention, so absorbed was I in my own story, but non-fiction was able to break through and perform a particular brand of magic. Self-help titles helped me! I clung to How to Be an Adult in Relationships by David Richo like it was a life raft (it was) and I was going over some very turbulent water. As I progressed, so did my appreciation for what came out of others’ break ups.  Sharon Olds took fifteen years to publish her most recent collection of poetry Stag’s Leap after her divorce, while Josh Ritter knocked his divorce album Beast in the Tracks out in just a year. Both are poignant, intimate glances at the demise of a relationship and prove that good things can come of these trying times. 

       Stag's Leap                                         

And for those David Richo fans out there, his new title How to Be an Adult in Love came out in paperback this year and I received my pre-ordered copy. I squealed when I saw it in hardback at the library, but then quickly realized I would be underlining the entirety of the book and I just prefer a paperback for self-help. It can be folded over onto itself and thrown around as needed...sort of like the state one comes to a self-help book in...

Breaking up is hard to do for the broken and the breaker. Find a getting through it guide, break up memoir, or break up art to help you here.

I think it's time to start an I Heart David Richo club.  Anyone with me?

 

Adam from Central is reading Beds are Burning by Mark Dodshon. 
"A book about a band so ferociously, fantastically exotic that no US library can contain it! Thanks Vancouver Public Library and MCL's ILL department!"

It's that time of year again to think about those wonderful women in our lives who have sacrificed so much for us: Time. Sanity. The last slice of pizza.
 
Our mothers.
 
It's time to think about and honor those mother figures in our lives. If we are mothers, it's also time to adorn ourselves with hand-painted necklaces made of macaroni, admire handmade cards and clean the kitchen after our offspring have endeavored to make us a "surprise" cake. It will look like a reenactment of a theater of war substituting kitchen utensils and food for soldiers and weaponry, but the real surprise is when you discover an entire thriving colony of ants a month later. They will be busily subsisting on a dripped mound of faintly familiar pink frosting. Try not to scream when you find this.
 
The Bad See dvd coverThis year I told my husband I wanted to celebrate with pizza and a movie. (And possibly a Dairy Queen run. I attribute part of my survival as a parent to Peanut Buster Parfaits.) The pizza, just this once, will not be ordered with my children in mind and, thus, will not involve pineapple. The movie will be The Bad Seed starring the inimitable Patty McCormack as everyone's favorite psychopathic child murderess, Rhoda Penmark. You can watch this movie instantly using the library's streaming service, Hoopla. If you have never seen this gem of a movie, you are in for a treat. (If you can define a treat as the escapades of a cold-blooded serial-killing eight-year-old in pigtails like I can.)
 
Another unconventional look at motherhood on film I recently enjoyed was Fill The Void, which provides a sensitive and riveting look Fill the Void dvd coverinside a Hasidic community and the dilemma of one young orthodox Israeli woman. Shira's older sister dies in childbirth, leaving a husband and brand-new baby boy. Does Shira continue on the traditional matchmaking path or step into the life and family her sister left behind? The last shot of the film made me want to watch the whole thing all over again. 
 
Mom's Who Drink and Swear book jacketWhatever Shira does or does not decide to do, we can be reasonably sure her choices will not involve alcohol consumption or inappropriate language. Or Dairy Queen. Which is the polar opposite of the parental musings of Nicole Knepper in Moms Who Drink and Swear: True Tales of Loving My Kids While Losing My Mind. This book is hilarious if you do not mind a potty-mouth or someone comparing the chore of preparing dinner to a sexually-transmitted disease (see the chapter "Dinner Is Like Herpes"). As she so eloquently puts it:
 
Like a turd hitting the fan, motherhood touches everything. Nothing in your life is the same after you become a mother. Not your marriage, your friendships, your career, your ass, your breasts, your mind or your heart.
 
And there's really only one thing left to say to that.
 
Thanks, Mom.

I don’t really know why, but I love singing in other languages.  In the last two years, with my choir and others, I have sung pieces is Xhosa, Hebrew, Latin, Ndebele & Zulu, German, Yoruba, Welsh, Hungarian, Spanish, Russian, and most recently in French.  While I can’t say that I always have as much fun as Benny the Irish Polyglot singing a German pop song, I also can’t think of how to have more fun practicing another language.

The first two of Benny Lewis’ “7 reasons to learn languages through singing,” are at the heart why I enjoy it so much.  I feel like I am building a bridge to another culture when I can master the words of a song well enough that they can be heard and understood in the language of that culture.

There is even evidence that singing can help you learn a language more easily. A University of Edinburgh study found that groups of adults who listened and repeated short phrases by singing them, performed better in tests than those who learned by speaking them.  Learning by listening and repeating phrases has been basis for popular audio courses such as Pimsleur language programs, as well as online resources like Mango Connect, and free web and mobile apps like Duolingo.

Once you get your foothold in a language, one of these books on diction in singing can help polish your pronunciation, or satisfy your inner perfectionist.

old times image od record plater

Reflecting on a recent birthday, there’s a sense and some science that my tastes are set.  Is there room for new things?  Of course.  However, looking back at my musical past there’s some defining records that helped cement what I love. Don’t worry. I’m not about to go all “Garden State”.  

Even though I may not listen to these albums often, they’re like old friends. You don’t see them much, but when you do, things pick up right where you left off.  Thanks to the new library service Hoopla, it’s even easier to visit them. Give it a try!

Waaaay back in the day, I was a nanny for six months, and I have to admit that I was not a particularly good one.  In junior high and high school, I had tons of (mostly) enjoyable babysitting experiences, but living with a family is so much different than going home after a few hours of coloring and playing hide-and-seek. To clarify, though:  the family was fine and I had the best bedroom in the house.  I didn’t have to clean and, fortunately for the kids, I had only light cooking duties.  It’s just that when you aren’t the ultimate authority, things can be a bit tricky.  Taking care of other people’s children is not for the faint of heart as Kelly Corrigan relates in her memoir Glitter and Glue.

Glitter and Glue book jacketKelly Corrigan became a nanny a few years after I, only her family gig was in Australia.  She hadn’t planned on it, but when she and her friend ran out of cash on their trip around the world, jobs suddenly became necessary if they wanted to eventually continue their adventure (not to mention get back home to the United States).  Kelly’s Aussie family was grieving the loss of the mother who had died of cancer a few months before. 

As she navigated those sorrowful and difficult waters (so many topics of conversation with the children seemed to potentially contain mother references), Kelly gained a new appreciation for her own mother who was not particularly affectionate but kept the family on track - the “glue” in the family as opposed to her father’s role as the “glitter” (read “fun”).  She constantly heard her mother’s voice as she was going about her daily routine and making decisions about the kids (“Children, Kelly.  Kids are goats.  Are Millie and Martin goats?” ).  Now that she’s a mother herself, Kelly realizes how much her mother influenced the way she is raising her own daughters and, for Kelly, that’s a really good thing.

Now that you've learned some tips to help set SMART money goals, set up a budget, and survive tax season - its time to focus on how you can save money.  This Money Tip$ episode offers creative ways to save money in order to achieve your SMART goals, while staying within the framework of your personal budget.  You'll find that you'll be better equipped to handle unexpected situations not included in your monthly budget - such as a serious illness, or auto repair and maintenance - by establishing a plan for saving money.


This episode of the Money Tip$ video series was produced by Multnomah County Library in collaboration with Innovative Changes, a Portland non-profit organization that exists to help low-income individuals and families manage short-term financial needs in order to achieve and maintain household stability.  Made possible by The Library Foundation with a grant from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation through Smart Investing @ your library ®, a partnership with the American Library Association.


 

 

Cover image: Growing up sew liberated by Meg McElweeOne day a young boy around the age of four, marched into the library dressed in the most adorable vintage sailor suit, paired with very Pacific Northwest Photo of little red riding hood cloakpractical and fashion forward leg warmers.  As he came up to the desk with his books I said, "I love your outfit!"  His reply? "This is not an outfit. These are just regular clothes."
 
That kid had it completely right. Some days you're a hulk-princess-mermaid and other days, you just want to wear head to toe brown. It's not a big to-do, just regular clothes because that's what the day calls for.
 
When I saw the hooded cape in Growing Up Sew Liberated: Handmade Clothes & Projects for your Creative Child by popular blogger Meg McElwee, I knew I had to make it.  Superhero capes were a big hit at my house when my son was younger, but they haven't been Photo of child in brown hooded play capegetting much use lately.  Add a hood and a little imagination however, and the possibilities open up to endless.
 
As with most all of McElwee's patterns, this one is crazy simple, even for the novice or impatient sewer.  Thus far I've sewn a little red riding hood cape for my niece, to gift along with a copy of the Grimm classic fairytale and a solid brown one for my son, which does double duty as either a Jedi or Robin Hood cloak.  I see a Harry Potter invisibility cloak on the horizon, just as soon as I find the right fabric. No big thing. Just regular clothes.
 

Andrea, who works at the Central Library, is reading the New Yorker on her phone.

Sometimes it's hard to decide what you think about an issue. 

Other times the truth seems so obvious  you can't imagine anyone disagreeing with you.

And sometimes you need to back up your strong opinions with more information that helps prove your case.

For all those times, check out IQ2: Intelligence Squared Debates.  

The site has archived debates on many topics -- vegetarianism, Obamacare, online education to name a few -- and regularly broadcasts new ones.

You can watch videos of past debates, read the research that each debater used to support their arguments, and see graphs that show listeners' opinions before and after the debate. 

Your body is a pretty amazing place to be.  Every day things try to make you sneeze, make your nose run, make you cough, or even something worse.  Lucky for you, your immune system fights them off - most of the time.

So think of your immune system as the Immune Platoon, a bunch of superheroes battling so you can be as healthy as you can be.  Using some great online resources you can get an overview of the immune system, find out how your body responds to an attack on your immune system by playing a parasite game or an immune system game, and even quiz yourself to see what you know!

And you can always contact a librarian for even more info!

LolitaLolita. “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”

Do you know this book? It’s about middle-aged, European Humbert Humbert, who has had his eye on certain girls between the ages of nine and fourteen for his entire adult life. Through a mix of strategy and happenstance, Humbert gets 12-year-old Lolita completely in his power and makes her his concubine-- who also  poses as his daughter. And yes, it's as deeply disturbing as it sounds. The book was banned for years all over the world after its publication and still carries an air of scandal.

I’d been reading indiscriminately and in volume, heading every couple of weeks to a used bookstore that sold paperbacks and filling a grocery bag with books by Danielle Steele, V.C. Andrews, and Jacqueline Susann (who I still kind of love). Lolita, when I finally picked it up, grabbed me in a different way than those books. For one thing, I thought it was sexy. At 15, I wasn’t completely horrified at what I saw as Humbert’s seduction of a twelve-year-old. I knew I was sexual, and I wasn’t that much older than Lolita. At that age, I was interested in older men.  I was also seduced by the novel’s sinuous music and deep romanticism. There’s beautiful poetry in this book. “My only grudge against nature was that I could not turn my Lolita inside out and apply voracious lips to her young matrix, her unknown heart, her nacreous liver, the sea-grapes of her lungs, her comely twin kidneys.”

I read Lolita at least five or six more times in my teens and early twenties, but then I worked in bookstores and libraries for awhile. It seemed that books were flying at me all the time, so I didn’t do much rereading. Later, in the wildly hormonal years when I was having babies and dealing with being a mom to small children, I couldn’t imagine wanting to read a book about a sexual predator and didn’t even want to think about Lolita.

Recently I found out that Jeremy Irons was the voice actor for the audio book of Lolita, which the library has on CD and in downloadable audio, and I thought, “Sign me up!” Honestly? Sign me up to hear Jeremy Irons read a grocery list or the ingredients in a bottle of shampoo. After years and years, I “read” Lolita again.

At the age I am now, the book was so much more, in every way, than I remembered, both lovelier and more poignant, and more distressing. It’s genius, having Humbert narrate the book in the first person. You’re right there with him, appreciating Lolita’s beauty, remembering the shock of new love, and then he says something so devastatingly cruel and selfish, so perverted, that you’re shocked. You go in and out of sympathy like this again and again and again. He becomes a monster, then someone whose pain we understand perfectly, then a monster again. Walking home, with Jeremy Iron’s voice in my earbuds, I would sometimes have to stop and cry out, bury my head in my hands. "Hi, there, neighbors. It's not mental illness. It's literature."

Jeremy Irons reads the book with verve, showing us Humbert’s charm, his anger, his often very funny sense of humor. But at the end, as I listened on a grey, drizzly morning on my way to work, his voice grew more subdued as he tells of realizing what his love  has done to Lolita’s life. “We had been everywhere. We had really seen nothing. And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night — every night, every night — the moment I feigned sleep.”

I showed up at the library in no kind of shape to help patrons, at least for a little while. But I’m glad I listened to this masterpiece again.

The Girl with the Dragon TattooI’ve been reading Scandinavian mysteries for years (even before The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo burst onto the international scene). I’ve always been drawn to the dark, murderous mayhem in these books, but I’ve also wondered about the crimes that abound in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic mystery books. Are there really so many violent occurrences in those cold climes? Or is it rather that all of those sunless days of winter just breed writers searching in the dark for soulless murderers?

Since I spend my days at the library, I decided to do a bit of research on this. First, looking at crime statistics in those countries, I compiled this chart from statistics in 2012:

Homicides per 100,000 people rate

population

Iceland 1 0.3 320,137
Denmark 47 0.9 5.59 million
Sweden 91 1.0 9.517 million
Finland 118 2.2 5.414 million
Norway 111 2.3 5.019 million

Okay, compared to the  U.S. (14,612 per 100,000 for the rate of 4.7!), Scandinavians are a peaceful people. In terms of sheer numbers, the United State is the ninth most murderous country. Yes, there are tons of books set in this country about horrific murders and violence but sheesh, there was only 1 murder in Iceland in 2012 (or possibly up to 3, I couldn’t find the actual number),but I counted at least 20 murders set in Iceland written by their popular authors.

I can only think that those long, dark winters create the perfect atmosphere to spin tales of violence. Here are some of the Scandinavian mysteries I’ve curled up with during Portland’s long, rainy winters. Skal!

 

Blogs tend to lend themselves as a platform for books. It is a natural forum for sharing book reviews, what you’re reading now, and learning about new books you might be interested in reading next. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites who all just happen to be British…

Rachel at BookSnob is a voracious and serious reader, who has thankfully been slowed slightly by her duties as a new(ish) literature teacher to a group of sometimes apathetic students. She also shares stories and pictures of her weekend explorations of her beloved England. I stumbled upon her blog through LibraryThing, which is another handy tool for the bookish crowd. I use it more as a means to catalogue my books, but there are plenty of reviews and chances to discover new titles.

Persephone Books is not a blog, rather it is a publisher of classic grey paperback novels. They re-publish neglected titles by women, for women, and about women that have gone out of print. Their claim is that “the books are guaranteed to be readable, thought-provoking, and impossible to forget.” This forum is a book club of sorts. Each month a book from the Persephone Press catalogue is chosen and discussed.  

Dove Grey Reader is another one of those insatiable consumers of the written word.  She always has a list of titles she’s currently reading and anticipating, plus what she’s watching or listening to at the moment. 

Honorable mentions go to Simon over at Stuck in a Book who has very similar reading tastes to myself but brings a male perspective to the table, Jane over at FleurFisher, and to the now defunct blog by Verity where she catalogued her read through the entire Virago Modern Classic canon.

How will you find your next book?

Eric works at Central Library and is reading The Female Man by Joanna Russ.  "It reminds me that Sci-Fi can actually warp minds and beg questions that will never be easily answered.  Who can resist a radical feminist take on gender destabilization, utopia and forms of resistance? The novel is somewhat demanding in its break with straightforward narration but commitment pays off.  It's also very funny."

Are you going to school and need money, but feeling overwhelmed by the thought of where to begin?  Your Scholarship Application Guide was developed by Portland Community College staff to make the scholarship search and application process easier for you.  This guide outlines much of what you need to know including an explanation of what a scholarship is, reasons why you should apply, the scholarship time cycle, links to where you can search for them, and much more to help you get started!  Understanding the scholarship application process is the first step toward continuing your education without breaking the bank to do it.

Happy scholarship hunting!

 

 
Kate is reading Thomas Jefferson: Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything. She finds that it is full of facts both small (the number of windows at Monticello) and large (the ownership of people).

Elizabeth Blackwell - first woman physicianLadies! Your health issues are different from those of the males in your life. Luckily, there are lots of resources around to help you learn more about your health.  

Did you know that the Food and Drug Administration has a page devoted to women? You can find information about medicine and pregnancy, heart health and women (did you know that women can experience the signs of a heart attack in different ways than men?) and much more.

The National Institutes of Health includes an Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH), which partners with the other 27 National Institutes and Centers to “ensure that women’s health research is part of the scientific framework at the NIH—and throughout the scientific community.”

The ORWH has partnered with the National Library of Medicine to create a women’s health resources portal that links to many resources, including information for women veterans, the ORWH’s Primer for Women’s Health, alcohol, tobacco and substance abuse resources, information on exercise and fitness, and much more.

Womenshealth.gov is a site created by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (OWH). Follow the OWH blog for up to date news and thoughts on womens’ health, search for information, or browse health topics A - Z. This site is also available in Spanish.

OWH also maintains a site for girls ages 10 - 16. At girlshealth.gov, girls can learn about health, fitness, nutrition, bullying, and more.

MedlinePlus, the National Institute of Health’s consumer website, is a great place to go for health information. The site contains a wealth of information about women’s health, including information on specific conditions, stages of life, prevention, and more. The site is also available in Spanish, and contains information about women’s health in Chinese (traditional) and Korean.

Multnomah County has a women’s services page, too, as well as a pregnancy resources page.  

cover image of joy harjo books

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