Sunday, September 30, 2012

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week kicks off today. Find a description and a list of the top banned books of 2011 here.

To celebrate, I read one of 2011's most banned books, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It's a semi-autobiographical story about a 14 year old Indian boy going to an all-white school off the reservation where he lives. The introduction promises that you'll laugh in about a dozen different ways while reading, which I did. I also teared up quite a few times as well. This story is deeply moving, and Alexie pulls no punches whatsoever as he portrays what it's like to grow up feeling like an outsider. The story addresses race, poverty, alcoholism, and yes, even masturbation. Hey, the main character is a 14 year old boy!

Those are the very reasons cited when people have voted to ban this book. I found this on Wikipedia, which says that the Richland School Board in Washington initially banned the book, but when they did so, all ten copies were checked out of the library, and there were holds on the returned copies. So the members actually read the book at that time and discovered that it was, in their words, outstanding. They had banned a book without reading it. They lifted the ban a month after initiating it when it would have never happened in the first place if they'd actually read it. This makes me want to scream.

At its heart, this book is about loneliness. The main character, Arnold Spirit, Jr., feels half-Indian when he's at school in Rearden and half-white when he's home on the Spokane Indian reservation. Here's one of my favorite quotes from the book:

"I realized that I might be a lonely Indian boy, but I was not alone in my loneliness. There were millions of other Americans who had left their birthplaces in search of a dream.

I realized that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms."

And here's another great quote:

"If you let people into your life a little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing."

What's not to love about this? It's a great message. It tells teenagers, hey, you belong somewhere, you're worth something, you have a reason to be proud of yourself. I loved reading this as an adult, but I would've loved this so much more as a teenager.

Find your tribes. Embrace who you are. And celebrate Banned Books Week by reading something from the list.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shake It!

I spent most of this past weekend in a classroom taking a continuing education course on balance. It was an excellent course, and very applicable for me as I happen to see quite a few geriatric patients. At any rate, the instructor showed us a video at one point. I found it on YouTube and thought I'd share it here. The next time a patient tells me they're too old to do something, I'll show them this woman. Now, she starts off rather sedately, but things really pick up at about the two minute mark, so watch the whole thing.

A little research revealed she was only in her 70's when this was filmed, not in her 90's as some suggested.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

If You're On Your Last Nerve, Where Did The Rest Go?

Some events over the past few days have brought the phrase "on my last nerve" to mind, and I wondered where the phrase originated. It's a little strange, isn't it? "You're getting on my last nerve." "You're working on my last nerve." There are a few other variations of the phrase.

I suppose if it's your last nerve and it's exposed, then if somebody's on it, that would be excruciatingly painful. I googled and couldn't find where the phrase started. I looked through a book of clich├ęs and couldn't find it there either. It can't be that new, can it? If anybody knows the origin of the phrase, please share.

Anyhow, that reminded me of the Room of Interesting Medical Things at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. I'm actually not sure what the display was called, but I remember one item there. It was the entire human nervous system, carefully dissected out over a lengthy period of time. I tried to find a picture of it online because I never thought to take a photo myself. I didn't find that particular one, but I did find the nervous system of Harriet Cole. Pretty weird, huh?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Shards of History Launch Party.

This past weekend I finally, officially celebrated the release of Shards of History with a launch party. It went well, I had fun, the food was great, and the company even better. I got some excellent tips for throwing a launch party from Mary Robinette Kowal. I strongly suggest reading her post if you're going to throw such a shindig.

My husband talked me into having the party at a tea room called Special Touch, and I'm glad he did because it's a beautiful facility, as you can see here:

That's my little man sporting his jersey. The unfortunate part is that I didn't think to take any pictures during the party. I was in full blown hostess mode and thinking about my reading and making sure my son didn't touch anything on the shelves filled with delicate tea pots and cups and carousel horses. So this picture came after the party, when everybody had cleared out.

There were little sandwiches in the shape of hearts, delicate cuts of fruit, tortilla rolls, and an assortment of desserts, including tiny tarts topped with whipped cream and itty bitty pastry dragonflies.

I ate that one right after taking the picture, and it was delicious. And no, there are none left! Why are you looking at me that way? I always hold my hands behind my back!

I gave a reading, which went well. About two sentences into the reading, I realized my throat was extremely dry, and I thought, I can't stop for a sip of soda now! I was told I didn't sound nervous at all, but I couldn't quite contain my nervous energy and kept shifting my weight from one foot to the other. I've actually never read in front of a crowd not dominated by writers, and I was a little anxious about the response I'd get.

I didn't have physical books to sign, so I signed bookmarks instead, and I included those bookmarks in the gift bags that I gave to the guests, along with feather pens and tiny little notebooks made of upcycled paint sample cards, like so:

The pens were quick and easy to make and tied in with the theme of the novel, and also tied in with the theme of writing in general (as did the notebooks). I ordered the notebooks from One Stitch Designs on Etsy, and I also included chocolate in the gift bags, just in case my guests weren't hyper enough from dessert.

Some friends over at Frame-N-Art framed the cover art for me:

I have yet to hang it in my office, but believe me, it will have a place of honor!

Also, one of my guests mentioned that she and her family recently acquired some chickens, and they had named all but one. They named their last one after a character in the novel. As the 2007 Odyssey workshop class has a thing about chickens, and this novel began at the workshop, this seemed most appropriate.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

My favorite time of year is just around the corner.

It starts in early October with the International Balloon Fiesta. The Balloon Fiesta is touted as the most photographed event in the world. That may or may not be true, but there are certainly plenty of people snapping pictures and filming. If you haven't ever been to the Balloon Fiesta, it's a bit difficult to describe. There are hot air balloons everywhere. They go up in waves, and they're in such cheerful colors. The burners hiss like dragons, and if you stand close enough to one, it helps alleviate the chill in the air. If you get there early enough, you can watch the dawn patrol, which consists of several balloons that take off to assess the wind conditions. They light up the pre-dawn like stars. And then you get to watch the sky turn to gray and then light blue and then the brilliant blue typical of the Southwest as the rest of the hundreds of balloons take off.

And then there's Halloween. It brings out the kid in me every time. Last year I took my son out trick-or-treating for the first time while his father stayed behind to hand out candy. He was a bit apprehensive at first, but when he realized people were giving him candy he got into the swing of it pretty quick. I'm still trying to figure out his costume this year, although I think I know what mine will be. Steampunk My Little Pony, anyone?

After that the holidays come one right after the other. I've always enjoyed the holidays, but celebrating with a young child makes them that much more special. I find myself watching my son's face, trying to memorize every minute expression of joy and amazement as he takes it all in, and I am dying to know what's going on in his mind.

Unfortunately, this glut of celebration makes January and February drag by, and by March I'm antsy for Spring and green, or what passes for greenery in the desert.