Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday Letters

I've written a few Friday Letters to recap my week, say what's on my mind, and take the opportunity to offer a thank you or two. Let's open the mail...

Dear Next Door Neighbor,

I can hardly thank you enough for snow blowing our sidewalk last night. When I finished shoveling the driveway and trudged up front to start the sidewalk, sadly and exhaustedly dragging my shovel behind me, I almost cried tears of joy when I saw that you had already done it (except my tears would have frozen since it was -8°). The sounds of you rescuing us with your kindness and working snow blower had been drowned out by John cursing repeatedly when our snow blower broke after blowing snow for about 25 feet. I have already ordered the $60 part and hopefully we won't need it again this season. Your thank you muffins will be baked and delivered this morning.

Dear Ryan,

You know we are happy to support your educational pursuits, both emotionally and financially, but you'll have to forgive me if my support seems to be wavering just a tiny bit. When you called to ask if you could use the credit card to book a flight to Tuscon for the Arizona Winter School, we said yes immediately. Graduate students don't have extra money for spring break trips, and this one is more like "Mathematicians Gone Wild" than the usual sun, fun, and alcohol-soaked Spring Break. It's just that I've been thinking about you "letting X be a smooth projective variety over a global field k and focusing on obstructions to existence of rational points on X" in sunny 80° weather and envy got the better of me. I will be basking in our 40° and maybe even go wild by going outside without my coat!

Dear Daylight Saving Time,

Welcome back; I'm greatly looking forward to your return on Sunday! I'll be the one sitting in the sun on the patio at 7:00 pm Sunday evening.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Je suis fatigué

With another foot or more of snow falling today, I'm experiencing some moderate to severe winter fatigue along with thousands of others, but even I wouldn't go so far as to describe it this way.

We've lost power twice so far, but I made two pots of soup (potato and split pea) so we won't starve during the weather hell. Maybe we'll even make some grilled cheese sandwiches in the fireplace with the pie iron.

At least the birds are happy, and I will be also when the temperatures are in the 40s next week.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ten on Tuesday - You're Invited...

Photograph. Designs Concepts Interiors., 24 Dec. 2013. Web. 2 Mar. 2015. Disclaimer: Photo was not taken in my dining room!

Picture this: you are hosting a dinner party and you can invite 10 fictional characters from books. Who would you invite? What a fun Ten on Tuesday! My engraved invitations are going out to these characters:

1.  Dumbledore (Harry Potter) - We could talk about knitting patterns, and then I would ask him why he kept so much important information from Harry. Also, where can I get a phoenix of my own?

2.  Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter) - She always has such a unique take on things, and I bet she could contribute some truly interesting fodder for conversation.

3.  Sherlock Holmes - I'd love to chat with him in person and get a better understanding of how his mind works. He would, of course, look exactly like Benedict Cumberbatch.

4.  Watson - Poor John has always been a bit overshadowed by Sherlock, so I would like to be able to tell him that I always thought he was much smarter than Conan Doyle gave him credit for. I'd also like to get the real story about what it was like to work with Sherlock.

5.  Miss Marple - I'd love to see her knitting and I'm sure she would have lots of interesting and revealing observations about the other guests and what they're really up to.

6.  Fiona Maye (The Children Act by Ian McEwan) - She was such a logical, reasonable family court judge who was able to rule with intelligence, empathy, and humanity; it would be wonderful to chat with her about how she managed this, and what costs were exacted in her personal life.

7.  Louisa Clark (Me Before You by JoJo Moyes) - Louisa is one of those characters that manages to just get on with her life, no matter what crummy circumstances she has to face. I'm sure that conversation with her would be both enlightening and helpful. I would also be able to ask her about her life now, before After You is published in September!

8. and 9.  Raymond and Harold McPheron (Plainsong and Eventide by Kent Haruf) - These bachelor brothers and ranchers add some much-needed humor to Holt, Colorado, simply with their down-to-earth, honest demeanor and actions. I think they could do the same at the dinner party, along with providing excellent examples of how change is possible, even in the most stagnant lives.

10.  Quoyle (The Shipping News by Annie Proulx) - Although Quoyle initially appears as a downtrodden underdog, he demonstrates the capacity for real change by creating a rewarding job, a loving family, and a life for himself. I would love to get his take on it and hear about his life in Newfoundland now.

I haven't given much thought to how these characters will interact at the party, but I will be serving plenty of pre-dinner wine and drinks (Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy may be a bit too much) to loosen everyone up for a fun and interesting evening. This is a dinner party I would really look forward to!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Letters

I've written a few Friday Letters to recap my week, say what's on my mind, and take the opportunity to offer a thank you or two. Join Paula here to share your own letters and read those from other "pen pals". Let's open the mail...

Dear GREs,

Please take it easy on Justin tonight. It was difficult enough to convince him that it would be a good idea to take a four-hour test (especially on a Friday evening!), but if you treat him badly I think it will be nearly impossible to persuade him that applying to graduate school might be a viable option. I hope I've spent $195 wisely; that would have bought some nice alpaca or cashmere yarn!

Dear Danielle,

Happy Wedding Day tomorrow! I know that you've been busy planning, making preparations, and checking off details for this big day, but keep in mind that this is one day. A day to be celebrated surely, but as your aunt and someone that has been married for 34 years, I want to say that we could all wear jeans, flannel shirts, and boots (you know Justin would prefer that!), you could get married at the farm, and you and Dan would love each other just as much, and your family would be just as supportive. Like you've said, all your dreams are coming true and you couldn't be happier; I know there will be much more love and happiness with Dan throughout your lives together.

Dear Winter,

Please bless Margene and the rest of the West with some cold weather and snow (dare I ask for at least a month's worth?) I know warm weather is lovely, but the West really needs that snow for the water it will provide, and the cold to kill mountain pine beetle larvae and garden insect eggs. Those of us in the rest of the country would be more than happy to share our cold and snow!

Dear Subaru Dealer,

I must say, I'm a little disappointed in your service. Admittedly, I was slightly grumpy due to the fact that I was bringing my car back for the second time on one recall; it was 3°, and my ice scraper broke while trying to clear the windshield on my recalled Subaru, but my grumpiness quickly turned to dismay when you told me that the coffee maker was broken. I understand this is not a life or death matter, but believe me, it is upsetting not to be able to enjoy a nice cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate while waiting for my car. This is especially true when we, the customers, are woefully deficient in coffee or tea, but get to watch you happily sipping your own hot beverages that you made with the showroom's coffee machine. Next time I make an appointment for service, I'm checking to make sure the coffee maker works!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Former Life as a School Library Assistant

Last week I wrote about my first career as a hematologist. This week I'll tell you about my second career, working in the fun and exciting world of elementary and middle school libraries.

Several people asked about the possibility of returning to hematology. Once my husband stopped traveling so much, my kids were older, and it was time for me to head back to work, I thought about going back to hematology, but that meant being on call, and working nights, weekends, and holidays. I worked every Christmas for 13 years (every year except my last one!) and just wasn't willing to give up that much family time for a job. I had volunteered in the library at my sons' elementary school for seven years, so I was lucky enough to stumble into a job there within days of when I started looking. The pay wasn't great, but I had the incredible benefit of having my schedule match my kids' - even snow days! I got to be surrounded by books and the students were wonderful. There was always the challenge of helping kindergartners find a dinosaur book they hadn't yet read and explaining to fifth graders why we didn't have any biographies about Robert Pattinson, but it was a job I really enjoyed.

Our school district reconfigured, built a brand new middle school for grades 7 and 8, and I was offered the chance to work there. We had the fun (and it really was!) of moving all the books we had packed from the old middle school, configuring the library shelving, and starting completely from scratch. There were only two of us (the librarian and myself) but we served our 1000 students and almost 200 staff members well. We ordered thousands of new books, developed a curriculum to teach research to seventh and eighth graders, and built a library we were really proud of.

Then our newly-elected governor decided that school budgets had to be slashed. Like many states, New Jersey was in deep financial trouble, but Chris Christie (you may be hearing more about him over the next year!) seemed to blame most of the state's woes on teachers. Our school district chose to outsource all of our teacher assistants and custodians, get rid of eight teacher positions, and cull the "low-hanging fruit", as I was called during multiple school board meetings that year. At the end of it all, my "low-value added" position was eliminated.

The librarian was left to try and run the library by herself, and it became evident how true this quote from Harold Howe really is, "What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education." While it has really saddened me to see the library program we spent years building left by the wayside, my greater concern is for all the students that are now lacking an environment where they can learn to become literate seekers of information, educated users of all types of information technology, and enthusiastic readers. I know students rolled their eyes when we tried to teach them what plagiarism is and why it's wrong, and absolutely hated learning how to cite sources correctly, but it's still valuable and necessary information that, sadly, they are not being taught.

If you've made it to to the end, please accept my sincere thanks for reading my rant about the value of libraries!

@ your library. American Library Association, 2012. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ten on Tuesday - Looking Forward

Today's Ten on Tuesday topic is 10 Things You Are Looking Forward To Right Now. I think this may be just what I need in the middle of February, with seemingly endless snow and below zero temperatures. So, in no particular order, I'm looking forward to:

1.   My second cup of tea.

2.   Getting my grocery shopping done. I've procrastinated this morning, and I'm going to regret it when I finally get to the store since there is more snow on the way. French Toast weather means everyone will be there buying eggs, bread, and milk.

3.   Finding my next really good book. I've been in a small reading slump and have been looking for a truly excellent, engrossing book. I'd love to hear your suggestions!

4.   Frank Underwood's return. I can't wait until February 27th!

5.   My niece's wedding this weekend. It will be a real treat to see lots of family and enjoy a wonderful celebration.

6.   Figuring out what to wear to my niece's wedding. My "wedding clothes" are more appropriate for spring and summer, and nothing in my closet seems right. It will be interesting to see what I end up wearing, especially because I really dislike shopping.

7.   Finally finishing these fingerless mitts. Another hour or two of knitting and I'll be done, but I've been spending too much time on ravelry and not enough time knitting.

8.   Working on my Campari Hitchhiker.

9.   More hyacinths! I've been forcing hyacinths so I have continuous blooms this winter and it's worked so far. I started three more this morning and it made me happy to hurry Spring along.

10. More amaryllis! Two of my amaryllis have surprised me with second flower stalks, and they're getting ready to bloom.

11. And for a bonus #11 since we only have 11 more days in February, I'm looking forward to these!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Letters

I've written a few Friday Letters to recap my week, say what's on my mind, and take the opportunity to offer a thank you or two. Join Paula here to share your own letters and read those from other "pen pals". Let's open the mail...

Dear Orchid,

I'm thrilled that you're sending out a new flower stalk, complete with teeny, tiny buds! Don't tell your siblings sitting on the windowsills, but you are my favorite. You're the first one I just had to bring home from the grocery store and I love how you've rewarded me with reblooming every year since then. Thank you for a lovely February surprise!

Hey Starlings,

I'm sorry, but I just can't address you as "Dear" based on your incredibly rude behavior. I love feeding birds, and I don't even begrudge you guys some seed and suet. What I do resent is your bullying, noisy, messy behavior, scaring every other bird away from the feeders, making your angry squawks, and shoveling all the seed out of the feeders in your greediness. Please refrain from this in the future or I will be forced to take drastic action (as soon as I figure out what that is.)
P.S. Please share this letter with the squirrels.

Dear Dr. D,

Thank you for operating on Justin and fixing his hand. We saw you at a time when other things were a little difficult and overwhelming, so I also want to thank you for answering all my questions and never making me feel like I was a crazy person. You're a great orthopedic surgeon with a wonderful bedside manner, but you're also a pretty nice guy. When we spoke the other day, you said the treacherous ice that coated everything had brought patients in in droves, almost like you were selling 10 cent beers! I wish I could buy you a few beers (or beverage of your choice) and raise a glass to you.