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While waiting for the train last week, I was able to read Mary Poppins. Yes, it was a book way before Disney ever made it into a movie. The book is quite a bit different than the movie although all the same characters pop up. What I found most interesting was Mary Poppins being portrayed as a cranky, vain woman.

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I’ve long wanted to read Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. When I found it on my library’s shelves, I had to check it out even though it’s not one of the books I originally chose for the 52 books challenge. This was an incredibly strange and fascinating book. I can’t really say much more about without giving anything away. But I do recommend reading it if you haven’t already.

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Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is an autobiographical novel of the writer’s life. This was one of those gem’s that I’m surprised I’ve missed reading for so long. Despite the time period she lived in, this book really is timeless. I’d imagine lots of people could identify with that feeling of hopelessness and inertia that Esther experiences. Maybe even more so these days. Another book that I’d recommend although it’s more of a read for women.

I’m now onto The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Seventh Well (which is another not on the original list.) It’s supposed to be cold this weekend and I’ve got some things to do around the apartment, so it may be a good weekend to spend time curled up with a good book.

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The second book I’ve finished for the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge is the Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This is another YA book, so it was a quick read. I enjoyed every page of this book.

Sure there were some incredibly sad parts in this boy’s life, but in general, he handles all the challenges with tenacity and a certain grace. Plus, he’s got a great sense of humor about the world around him and himself. It’s an attitude that keeps him going and makes the reader like and admire him.

I’d give this book a high recommendation. You’ll laugh, maybe cry a small bit, and come away having gained something.

It’s amazing how a cute outfit can make you feel good. I recently got a dark brown pencil skirt from Avenue. (Let me just say that I love Avenue. At least the online store.) Add a denim swing jacket with a floral tank underneath and my purple suede wedges and I feel stylish and sassy. The only bad thing is the pachyderm ankles due to hose. While most women have eliminated pantyhose out of their wardrobe, with my scarred up, dry skin legs, I really need to wear something when I’m wearing a skirt or dress. As the temps cool more, I’ll switch over to tights.

And the weather is cooling some here this week. The temperature on the computer says 61 degrees. I’m able to sleep with my window open a small bit which makes for better sleep for me. Don’t know why it is, but fresh air seems to help. My landlord came in sometime last week to turn the heat on, but it’s not running much because it’s really not that cold outside yet. We might get some rain tomorrow. I like rainy fall days. Perfect for sweaters, hot tea, and soup. And of course, knitting.

On the knitting front, I seem to have many WIP’s and not much FO’s floating around. I’m almost done with my second pair of socks. I’m almost done with my string market bag. I’m almost done with my pumpkin. I’m almost done with my vest. One of my 101 things was to finish a knitting project each month. Since I knit fast (when I’ve got uninterrupted time) this isn’t usually a problem and I’ve been doing well with this goal. But I got a bad case of startitis recently. Now I’ve just got to get the finishitis bug and get some things off the needles.

I finished reading The Historian this weekend. It was a really good book and held my interest. In fact, I was almost late to work Saturday because I was trying to finish the last couple of chapters as I ate my breakfast. A very different take on Dracula’s story. Less about Dracula and more about how the fascination in the vampire affected the lives of the characters. Throw in a mystery and a couple of doomed love stories and you get a fascinating read.

I recently got a $50 gift card for completing an online health survey for my work insurance. It was a pretty simple survey and there were some good suggestions for health improvements at the end of it. And a $50 gift card, did I mention? I got to choose the store. Of course I went with a bookstore, Barnes and Noble. Today I picked out my goodies and am pleased with my haul. I pre-ordered Stephen King’s new collection of short stories. Looking forward to that. I’m also getting a new box calendar for my desk at work. Knitting related of course. Someone reminded me of the knitting cartoon book. And there had to be some music in the order as well. It’s like Christmas in October.

On the job search front, I’ve got a phone interview next week for another possibility. The job is here in KS though. But I’d like to talk to them to find out more and see if it would be a good fit. In many ways I’m still torn about looking for a job. There are many reasons for leaving, but a few good reasons for staying put. If anything, it’s making me fairly cautious about what I’m looking at and where. I won’t be rushing into a new situation without careful thought and thorough research. In the meantime, I do have some interesting projects I’m working on. (Which is part of the reason I’m reluctant to leave. If I could basically be left to do my work, I’d be happy as a clam.) Something that just came up is doing SWARM International tours again for spring semester. I really enjoyed working on this before the fall semester started and now that I know how it worked, I’m ready to tackle it again. And I’m confident that I’ll be able to easily meet my tenure requirements as there have been some very positive developments on that front. It was a struggle, but I think we’re in a better place with how the process should work and how to interpret the requirements for librarians. Still…

I couldn’t wait to start assembling the Halloween goody bags for the student workers. It’s just too much fun. I’ve found little Halloween decorated cans of pop, Halloween stickers, tattoos, play-doh, pencils, and mini flashlights. All I need now is some candy and the bags will be ready to go. I’ve got to get candy to hand out at home this year. It’s the first time in years that I’ll be home to hand out candy. I enjoy seeing the costumes and hearing “trick or treat”. Since I’ve got Halloween on the brain, I’ll leave you with a Halloweenie picture:

My roommate at Ref Renaissance was kind enough to pass along her copy of Odd Hours, the latest installment in the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz.

As usual, it didn’t take me long to get through the book. I’ve really been enjoying the series. Something about a person who sees dead people interests me (for example, I also enjoy watching Ghost Whisperer.) However, I’d have to say this was not one of the better books. But you almost have to read it to understand whatever is coming next because he introduces a couple of new characters. In fact, it’s the existence of one these enigmatic characters that left me deeply dissatisfied with the book. Koontz really doesn’t need to do this to sell more books. So, now all of us loyal readers are left hanging until the next Odd book comes out. *laugh* I guess I’ll survive somehow in the meanwhile.

A Good Read

Posted on: August 1, 2008

I recently finished reading Without a Backward Glance by Kate Veitch. She will be doing a reading from the book at a bookstore during the time I’m in Denver. I’m planning to go and look forward to meeting her. I’ll share my review that I posted on Goodreads.

I really enjoyed this book. In the beginning, it was hard not to dislike Rose, the mother because she walked away from her children and husband seemingly without an explanation. Yet, because you are given insight into her mind, you can also be sympathetic with a woman who perhaps shouldn’t have been a mother and who wants something more from her life. Rose is creative and artistic and living in a time and place where that isn’t appreciated or encouraged in women.

It would be easy to see Alex, the husband, as a victim of Rose. But the author makes him human with flaws and rather than feel sorry for him because of his wife’s abandonment, the reader is able to relate to him as a person who has also made mistakes. If Alex were a different type of man, Rose may not have left. In many ways, they weren’t suited to each other and ended up together because of an unplanned pregnancy.

The book however, is really about the children who were left behind and their individual struggles to finally grow up. Facing reality and one’s responsibilities is a thread that runs throughout the book. As the protective layers are peeled away, the children are finally able to become adults.

Life is messy and this book doesn’t gloss over that. People often act without thinking about long term consequences. Fortunately we sometimes get second chances to make things right. Kate Veitch offers an insightful look into the consequences of difficult choices. Highly recommend this book.

I never read just one book at a time. Well, I do read one at a time, but I usually have several books started at any given time.

I’m currently reading Plainsong and a few other books. For some reason, July has been a particularly prolific month of reading for me. It’s not likely that I’ll keep up the pace. But it’s something I’ve noticed as I’ve added books to the list.

Of course, my TBR list gets longer by the day. Some people have adventurous things on their bucket list. I’m pretty content with having a long list of books that I’d like to read before I die. It might be considered living vicariously, but I’ve always enjoyed the adventures that I experience when I enter the pages of a book.

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Nothing fancy today because Tuesdays in the summer look a lot like Mondays. Still working on weeding, gift books, working the reference desk, etc. No meetings today. Like I said, the usual grind…that’s not really a grind because I like my job and the work that I get to do.

I sat down last night and read The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. Not a particularly inspiring title, but it was really insightful and interesting. The basic idea is that there are three things that managers can do to make people happy with their work. First, help employees find ways to measure what they do. This is really a simple concept and doesn’t involve big lofty goals. For example, for a reference librarian, it could be something as simple as counting the number of questions that we are able to answer correctly in a day. The second concept is helping employees realize why they are relevant in the workplace. Every person makes a difference to someone somehow. And it’s important for employees to know who and how. Managers can help them see this. Easy, right? The third concept is making sure employees don’t feel anonymous. It means that managers need to get to know their employees as more than just the people who do the work around the place.

I’m not a manager right now, but there were still some really good principles that I can apply to how I approach my job. I do try to find out things about the people I work most closely with. Not because I’m nosy, but because I do want people to feel that they are important.

As to measurable stuff, my to-do list is good for that. It gives me satisfaction when I’ve made it through most of the things in a day. No big lofty goals on it, just stuff that I want to make sure I work on each day. Actually that’s why I like using Remember the Milk. There are projects that I’m working on that I set up to recur daily, a few times a week, once a week…whatever I need. But maybe I’ll start keeping track of other things, like how many smiles I can coax out of people when I’m working the desk.

The relevance thing is a bit harder to do on your own because it really requires some support and feedback from other people. I’m not the type who goes digging for compliments, but if I’m not getting feedback, these days I’ll ask for it. I know that what I do is helpful to other people, patrons and co-workers both, but I do check in occasionally to make sure that I’m on the right track. And I try to make sure that I let other people know how they are relevant to me.

There are times in the past year when I’ve really wanted to give-up. I’m glad that I didn’t cut and run because I’ve learned a lot and have come out stronger. I’m invested in making things better and working through the tough stuff. I realized this last night when I picked up the book, one of many I’ve read recently about management, employees, leadership, and other things that will help improve my workplace. Somewhere I turned a corner. It feels good.

A final thought for today relates to customer service. When I got my usual Monday coffee at the shop that’s most convenient on my commute, I saw a sign announcing that they would be going out of business yesterday. Although I was disappointed because this is truly the only drive through place on the way, I wasn’t all that surprised. See, I don’t think they ever really understood some of the principles of good customer service. (I will say that there were some other things working against them as well in terms of development in the area not happening on schedule.) The woman that always seemed to be there when I drove up on Mondays had a personality as flat and bland as a pancake. She never smiled and made you feel like she was doing you a favor to serve you. Yeah. One of the main reasons I like going to Starbuck’s here in LittleUtown (beside the convenience of the drive-up window) is the fact that baristas are always smiling, chatty, and pleasant. I know they aren’t just waiting around for me to drive by and get an over-priced cup of coffee, but they certainly make me feel that way. My point is that attitude can really make a huge difference in how successful a business (or a library) is. Guess I’ll have to start making my own coffee on Monday mornings.


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