Friday, June 23, 2017


At the library today a patron asked if she could extend her checkout dates for a stack of audiobooks.  I gave her what we call a vacation checkout, which basically means you get to pick your checkout date as long as no one is waiting for the items.  While I was checking her out she told me how much she enjoys listening to audiobooks while driving to see her children, who are scattered throughout the country.  She mentioned that the child she was visiting this time around lived in Colorado and that, "there's nothing like listening to Fleetwood Mac while driving through western Kansas, but for the rest of the trip audiobooks are a must." 

I smiled at this, thinking about all of the intriguing, soothing, and familiar rituals every person has, and what a wonderful book this could be.  Rituals of Ordinary Folk is what I would title it, and I would begin with the ritual of listening to Fleetwood Mac while driving through western Kansas. Now, who wants to write it?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

rescuing kittens from the Feds

Robert received an Apple watch for his birthday courtesy of his grandma.  We've been drooling over them since the first one came out but couldn't justify the expense of two.  We really loved our Jawbones, but they eventually wore out.  Fitness is the biggest reason we've been so excited about Apple watches.  They encourage healthiness and monitor your heart rate.

After Robert got a watch for his birthday we decided to do something crazy and buy one for me so that we can compete encourage each other. After watching him have so much fun with his for a few days I was ecstatic when mine arrived. Naturally the first day I wore mine was after 10+ days of major exercise - mostly tennis, bicycling and walking.  But also physical therapy for some bursitis and nerve issues in my right hip area. I needed a rest day, which I usually give myself every couple weeks.  Well there is no rest day with an Apple watch.  Or with PT for that matter.  So I did my PT and a long walk with Robert and was very pleased with the watch and ready to try it out at tennis.  

The very next day I crashed my bike.  Or rather, my bike threw me off and crashed me.  It was a very complicated scenario, and I honestly have no regrets.  Sometimes you've just got to be thankful that it was pavement instead of a car.  I came out of it fine, but tore up my left knee and got some road burn on my left arm.  I also hurt like heck everywhere, which shouldn't surprise me because I'm not 7 anymore.  

So sadly I haven't been able to close my rings on the Apple watch. Each day you've got three rings to close:

1. standing for five minutes per hour for 12 hours (this one is a piece of cake, apparently even when you're injured)
2. getting your heart rate up to a healthy high for 30 min
3. overall movement (this one is tough as heck. Steps don't seem to matter much, as I've gotten over 10,000 steps a day and met only 50% of my movement goal)

It couldn't have been a worse time to receive an Apple watch (yes, you can tell what a great life I have by my complaints), and quite frankly I've been a little glum. It certainly doesn't help that Robert has turned into Richard Simmons and is closing his rings like it's the easiest thing in the world (way to go Robert).  But it's smart to wait for the goose egg on my knee to disappear and pretty much everything to scab over.  I wanted a rest day, right? How about four of them?  

Thankfully everyone at work has been really sweet and not asking a lot of questions about my mummy appearance.  Today a few patrons asked me what happened and I thought long and hard about coming up with a grand story involving an alien invasion thwarted by a gal and her bike, but I simply said I had a bike wipeout and smiled through the demeaning "well God bless your soul" that was thrown around a couple times.  The best interaction happened at the end of the day when an elderly lady came in and made a beeline to where I was standing.  

"Can I help you?" I asked.  
"Whatever happened to you?" 
And before I could answer: 
"Did you fall down?"  
I hesitated. This was it, my last chance to do this right.  
"Well you know the FBI, right?" 
She stared at me blankly.  
"Well I was trying to rescue a kitten while being chased by the..."  
"And you fell down," she pantomimed falling down as she interrupted my tall tale.  

Any hope of ever becoming a storyteller was dashed in that moment.  I stumbled away trailing gauze and a plume of whatever hope looks like when it pops.

Thankfully I still had my humor intact because I went to the break room, made myself a cup of the hard stuff (green tea) and laughed about all these problems I'm so lucky to have.    

Tomorrow I will close all my rings.  Robert's going to wish he never messed with someone who rescues kittens while being chased by the FBI.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

fountain flopping

You know the humidity has officially set in when Rose and Ella's idea of a walk is to find a fountain to flop in.   

Monday, June 12, 2017

the Arnold Schwarzenegger of bibliophiles

Every year a very special library in my neck of the woods has an EPIC book sale.  I start training for it days in advance.  I work out my elbows so that they're extra pointy and can politely yet firmly push others away from books that could potentially change my life.

Weeks prior to the sale whenever I carry books at the library I add an extra dozen or so to my stack so I can build up my strength to lug every book my heart desires, and then some.

Hours before the sale I only eat foods that give me titanic amounts of energy.  And I usually take the day off so I can clear my mind of everything and have the zen focus necessary to spot only exemplary titles.

It's the Wimbledon of book sales and I always treat it as such.  

This year my weeks of grueling training paid off.  I found a lot of memoirs, mostly women kicking heiny and people saying f&#$ it and heading out to the country.  

As I started pawing through the children's books I was a little disappointed.  I saw only one box of paperbacks (which are cheap and perfect for my little free library).  Only one box?!?  I was devastated.  I had high hopes to stock up on several months worth of children's books for my little free library.

I made my way through the table and moved on to the next.  And that's when I saw it.  Just ahead was an entire table devoted to paperbacks.  Boxes and boxes to flip through.  I checked my elbows - pointy and ready. Check.  I unloaded my latest haul on Robert, who was standing patiently by.  Empty hands check.

I dove into those boxes with the the ferocity of a thousand bibliophiles (I was pretty much the Arnold Schwarzenegger of bibliophiles).

As I happily sorted through the boxes two volunteers took interest in my search and asked if they could help.  I told them I had three criteria - popularity, perfection, and stickers.  They nodded knowingly and pulled out more boxes from beneath the table.

After awhile they began asking questions about my criteria, and that's when I explained that I had a little free library that couldn't keep up with the demand of its young demographic.  I also explained that I wanted kids to have books that felt new, and if they wanted to put their name on a book it would be the first name the book saw.  The volunteers nodded knowingly again, and after an hour of digging we were like old friends.  I walked away with my best haul of children's books to date, enough to fill my little free library for months.  And so many stickers.  

Today, I barely made it home from tennis before I sat down and carefully went through every book again, relishing stories that have lifted my heart for years and new stories that the volunteers urged me to read.

Whether your buddy is Clifford, Fancy Nancy, Skippyjon Jones or Thomas, there's always a place to find them, a place where you can come and go as you please.  A place you can share with others. A place to call your own. 

And if you're like me, and you have many pals, you can jump between these worlds and take whoever you like with you.  What would Fancy Nancy say if she saw the boa constrictor eating the wash?  Can the Giving Tree be visited by The Magic School Bus? Would Eeyore have a change of attitude if he tagged along with Skippyjon Jones for a few adventures?

I think about these different worlds as I organize my constantly-changing collection of books and sprinkle the little free libraries in my neighborhood with stories.

And I know that all my grueling  training is worth it whenever I see someone tearing down the street with a little-free-library book in their hands. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

toilets soon!

The remodel is still happening.  Slowly but surely.

Tile is mostly done everywhere.  Other important bathroom things should be happening to our two downstairs bathrooms soon.  Like toilets.

Drying racks were installed in my office.  Now I just need to remind myself not to clunk my head on them when I do yoga.  Although it looks like our common area upstairs is going to be our workout area, which will be nice to have that separated from my work space.  Robert found a squishy interlocking mat for the workout area and covered the whole room in it.  The room officially has a rowing machine (not exciting enough for pictures), and more will be added later.  Like maybe my yoga stuff once I clunk my head on the awesome drying racks. 

Picture rails were also added to my workspace.  My current plan is to cover the entire house in these so I can rotate out our ever-growing art collection, and maybe display some of my stuff too.  

We finally have a bannister, which hopefully means no more falling down the stairs when we fumble our way up and down the stairs to potty in the middle of the night.  And hopefully soon we will have at least one toilet on the first floor.

If someone told me I would spend almost a year without a bathroom on the first floor my spoiled ears wouldn't have believed them.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


While happily working at the library the other day I saw a lady walk in with an umbrella in one hand, which made sense because it was pouring outside.

But then I did a double take and nearly fumbled an interaction with the patron I was helping.

In the lady's other hand was a coconut she was clutching tightly to her bosom.  Yep, a real-as-can-be coconut, complete with straw.  Once she sat down at a computer I walked by just to be sure.

So if you're looking to create that island feel on a rainy day at the library, you just can't go wrong with a coconut.  And, as you close your umbrella, you can pretend that the water that flies from it is really just the gentle mist from the ocean surf.

On another note, I created a new Staff Picks bookmark, which is incredibly exciting. Surprisingly, people are noticing our wacky bookmarks and letting us know what they think of them.  One of my favorite patrons collects my bookmarks, and because she disliked my Ms. Frizzle bookmark so much, she started replacing them with older bookmarks she had at home. Every time she saw me at the library she let me know that she didn't like the new bookmark.

I can't make this stuff up.  

Here is the short evolution of Hannah Jane bookmarks:

Old bookmark (only one person liked this one)

This next bookmark is wonderful for anyone who wants to explain The Magic School Bus to confused, elderly patrons at least once a day. Naturally, the book I always tried to explain was the one where Ms. Frizzle takes the kids to explore the human body. It was a lot of "That bus goes where?" or "I drove a bus once (for the circus) (in the jungle) (while running for Mayor)."  Seriously.  

And (are you ready for this?) here's the new one!

I am ready for anyone who walks up to me wearing a confused expression while waving this new bookmark.  They will want to talk about their dogs (hopefully), the fact that I look nothing like Fancy Nancy (whatever) and that their favorite place to read books is at the circus/in the jungle/while running for Mayor/any place that has a refreshing hairy coconut to sip while they read.  

Personally, I think the bookmark is sublime.

Friday, June 2, 2017

poetry, gardens, ghosts, & slinkys

After two months of reading lots of so-so children's books, I was beginning to wonder if they lost their magic for me.

The children's books I read last month erased all my doubts. Interestingly enough, everything else I read turned to eye-rolling crap after at least 50 pages.

So thanks to these books I still have faith in words, and definitely the marriage of words and pictures.  

Fresh-Picked Poetry by Michelle Schaub and illustrated by Amy Huntington

With lines like "not one sloppy heap of beets, no single misplaced pea. Each veggie castle he constructs has perfect symmetry." and illustrations packed with lush food and exuberant doggies (that I'm pretty sure aren't allowed at farmer markets), this book is so much fun. I loved most of the poems, but the one that stands out the most is Necessary Mess, which is an ode to dirt and how important its role is in growing produce. Yay dirt! This book has so much going for it. You can ogle the illustrations, enjoy saying the fun rhymes aloud or make your own illustrations and/or rhymes next time you go to the farmer's market! 

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

I love the idea of a small garden blooming on a raised railway above a lifeless city, and with a little encouragement from a curious boy, the garden engulfing the entire city. The best line is, "The garden was especially curious about old forgotten things," and my favorite illustration is the garden consuming a stop sign.

The Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Lisa Brown

The journey of Goldfish Ghost, who's always floating perfectly upside down, is sweet, funny, a little morbid and oh so inspirational. Goldfish Ghost may go right over the heads of some youngins, but adults will feel a wide range of emotions as they journey along with Goldfish Ghost to find a friend. The ending will sweep over you like a beacon of light from a lighthouse and leave goosebumps everywhere, even in your heart, as you wonder if the afterlife is really this magnificent. 

Psst when you read it again, as I’m sure you will, be on the lookout for extra ghosts and intriguing happenings.

The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring by Gilbert Ford 

The illustrations are dynamite, outrageously original and an inspiration to anyone who's an artist, especially mixed media artists. The story is fascinating as well, especially the extra details like how the slinky got its name and where the inventor and his wife kept their slinky profits. Just like the slinky, this book is simply marvelous.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Most of the fam damnily

Rachel, Robert and I just got back from Tucson, where we had one of the best family vacations ever. Both my brothers, Scott and Rusty (AKA James) live there with their families.  And this trip was extra special because we talked my dad and his girlfriend, Lisa, who live at Lake of the Ozarks, into flying down as well.  Altogether we totaled 11 people and were the biggest, loudest, and happiest group of people in all of Tucson and Oro Valley.  It took three vehicles to get all of us around and you could hear us coming for miles.

I felt like a small piece of something so awesomely giant, so wonderfully reassuring and beautiful my heart could barely contain the feeling. Each day I woke up, threw myself into the crowd of family, and off we went, to storm through the city and its mountains with our laughter.  

It's that sense of belonging right there that glues me to life.  

Before I share pictures I will explain who everyone is.  Robert and Rachel are mine.  Kristin is Scott's girlfriend, and she has a daughter, Autumn, who is almost 4.   This was my first time meeting Kristin and Autumn and they are the bees knees and very lovable gals.  Heather is Rusty's wife and they have a daughter, Harper, who just turned 4. Like I said, lots of people.  Lots of awesome people.

When we arrived, a huge cookout was underway at Scott's, and it was instant chaos.  We spent the next few days hiking, eating amazing food, driving up Mount Lemmon, touring Tucson on bikes, shopping at 4th Ave, and visiting Rusty's work at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base where the A-10 he works on has his name on it.

I have so many pictures from this trip and I really struggled to narrow down my favorites.  

We were having such a good time the first evening that we forgot to take pictures of my dad and his brother, Wayne, who along with his wife, Kate, dropped in for the cookout. Dad and Wayne hadn't seen each other in ten years and Scott, Rusty, and I were so young we only barely remembered them. It was a blast catching up with them. 

Rusty did manage to snap a picture, and though it's missing some people I still love it.

From left: Dad, Wayne, Kate, Kristin's dad and mom, Heather, Robert (behind me), me, Scott, and Rachel.  Floating around in this soup of people somewhere are two dogs and two kiddos but who knows where. 

If you like weird burgers, Lindy's should be on your radar. From left to right: Rachel, Scott, Dad, Lisa, Heather, Harper, Rusty, Robert, and me.  

Rachel, Robert, Scott, Rusty, and I hopped on bikes and went for an evening tour of Tucson. We saw many historical parts of Tucson like the nation's oldest Mexican restaurant and the El Tiradito Wishing Shrine.  We also ate a Sonoran hot dog which had lots of unknown toppings but was really tasty.

Part of the tour was through the famous rattlesnake bridge, which is where the tour guide snapped this picture.

We took a sunny hike at Honeybee Park

And climbed around an old dam

Robert snapped this excellent shot of Autumn, Kristin, and Scott

And towards the end Autumn caught a couple free rides

We had so much good food - my list of favorites include the orange cardamom pastry and cherry rose sencha tea at Prep & Pastry, PB bacon burger at Lindy's, scrambled eggs with bacon and chiles and a cochata (which is 1/2 cold brew coffee, 1/2 horchata) at Seis, picnicking at the top of Mount Lemmon and breakfasts at Scott and Kristin's house.

One morning there was even a Pac-Man tomato egg burrito.

The Pima Air and Space Museum was fascinating. Rusty talked about planes, how all the pieces came together, and how to fix them. Dad, who is a retired junker, talked about scrapping the planes. 

These legs belong to (from left) Robert, Scott, and Rusty

We spent hours exploring Mount Lemmon - hiking, sightseeing, picnicking, and even going up the slow and peaceful ski lift.

It was Memorial Day, and though Rachel and Harper didn't plan on dressing alike, it just magically happened.

This is a little more dangerous than it looks (for Rusty that is, because Heather wasn't pleased). 

And finally, a picture with Scott, Dad, and Rusty