One More Time

I have been blogging for five years now.

In September of 2008, when I was a high school senior who fancied myself enough of a writer that I thought I should do it publicly (still not sure if that was a good idea), I started my first blog.  It was drama-laden and iffy at best in the adjectives department and still exists if you really want to go there.  But don’t think I’ll be providing the URL.

Actual picture of high school me in an actual marching band uniform.  I look like such a baby.  I wish I could go back in time and warn myself not to take Intro to Statistics.

Actual picture of high school me in an actual marching band uniform (I’m on the left). I look like such a baby.  So naive about the ways of the world.  I wish I could go back in time and warn myself not to take Intro to Statistics in college.

In September of 2011, I began my second blog upon departing for a semester in Salzburg, Austria.  I only posted about a dozen times on that one, since I was, you know, living my grandest Sound of Music daydreams.

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In December of 2011, back from my travels, I decided that I didn’t want to return to the high school Blogger blog, and anyway, I had a new goal in mind: I was resolved to blog once a day, every day for the entire new year.  Thus Eight Days a Week was born on WordPress.  When that year ended I stuck around for another year, blogging about whatever struck my fancy.

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In September of 2013, I decided to start yet another blog.  My last, I fervently hope.  I have long wanted my blog to be its own website, to have a higher level of creative control, to have a chance to join blogging communities, and to interact with blog readers on a larger scale.  Additionally, while the name suited my original project well, Eight Days a Week no longer describes what I’m trying to do as a blogger and writer.

So, I’ve moved.  One more time.

Don’t think for a moment that this changes much.  Goodness knows I’ll be writing the same goofy sagas and literary rants as always.  Also, as I mentioned before, my posts from Eight Days a Week have transferred over to the new blog, so the gang’s truly all there.

Although it’s not really goodbye, I want to take what feels like a solemn moment to thank all of you for reading, for following, for liking, for commenting.  Thanks for not rolling your eyes when eye rolling was more than justified.  At least, thanks for not rolling your eyes where I could see you.  It has meant a great deal to have the support of fine folks such as yourselves.

I hope that you’ll follow the link below to the new blog**, where an introduction is waiting:

http://www.hollyinspec.com

**Please note that if you’d like to continue to receive my posts in your email, you’ll have to resubscribe at my new blog (link above).  I will no longer be posting on Eight Days a Week.  

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Little House on the Prairie, Explained

When I was eight, I asked for a Little House on the Prairie book for Christmas.  I already owned one, and thought I’d like the next book in the series.  On Christmas Eve, in the midst of the annual party, I was given a large gift bag filled with the gingham-bordered books.  All nine of them, including the one I already owned.  The party, needless to say, was lost to me after that.  I plucked out Little Town on the Prairie, because the girls looked the prettiest on the cover.  That was important to me then.  I read as adults flitted about with wine in hand and I ignored Amy when she tugged at my arm, begging me to help her chase our particular favorite adult, deemed “Tim the Alien.”

Ironically, I forgot Little Town on the Prairie at my aunt and uncle’s house that night, and didn’t get it back until I had read through the rest of the series.  I started it first and finished it last.

Once I had read the books at least five times each, had sufficiently cracked the spines and dotted the page corners with peanut butter, I began to make up my own versions of the prairie stories.  Specifically, I liked to make them up alone in my room, using my American Girl Dolls as my daughters.  I had the role of omnipresent mother, and would lecture the dolls as I tugged a tiny plastic brush through their hair.  Things like, “I know you don’t like school, but it’s very important that you have an education,” and “Felicity, you look beautiful.  Any boy in town would be lucky to dance with you” were oft-used phrases.  In fact, I don’t believe I ever did anything with the poor dolls but boss and brush.

When I was twelve or so, mom heard about a pioneer school held in a nearby town for a few days in the summer.  The classroom was a circa 1852 schoolhouse.  Pupils were encouraged to dress as early pioneers.  It was a dream.

I don’t remember much about the lessons, nor about the field trips we took to local historic sites, but I do remember the teacher.  She seemed to me very old and wise, and was almost a cartoon in her elderly perfection.  The throat of her dress was clasped with a large brooch, her hair was an airy puff of white, and one day she drew some of us older children to her.  Her “big girls,” she said, deserved a treat.  In her open hand were three small stones.  They were all alike, save for the varying patterns of gold stripes upon the brown fields.  Tiger’s Eyes, she whispered, as if sharing a great secret.  We took our stones solemnly and pocketed them so that the other pupils wouldn’t see and be jealous.  I showed mine to Amy anyway.  Tiger’s Eye, I told her.  Maybe when you’re older you’ll understand, I said.

Later, the big girls sat on the steps together to eat lunch.  We hadn’t spoken to each other yet, but the stones in our pockets had bonded us somehow.  It wouldn’t take much for us to be friends, but it was difficult to begin.  Amy had been picked up by mom for an orthodontist appointment, so I was without my usual freckled buffer.  I had her can of root beer, though, a great treat.  I offered it to one of the girls.  They offered me a cookie in return.  That was all it took.

The other big girls were sisters.  Laurissa, Katherine, and Emily, I think their names were.  The cookie they gave me was good; it was oatmeal chocolate chip.  I politely said so–we were old enough to wade into friendship slowly–and the girls offered to get the recipe from their mother.

Over a decade later, I still have the recipe.  Laurissa copied it out on two neon orange index cards.  The handwriting is painstakingly neat, and the very last step, punctuated with a period, reads: eat.  I made those cookies tonight, wanting the rustic, pioneer-ish task of stirring together butter and sugar, of patting down cupfuls of flour with my fingers.

I haven’t seen those girls since the last day of pioneer school when they trotted off down the sidewalk in the opposite direction.  The American Girl Dolls are packed snuggly in a large box in my closet.  I still peek in now and then to scold Molly for letting her bangs get so tangled.  My Little House books, still the ones from that long-ago Christmas gift–the new color editions are lovely, but I just can’t bring myself to upgrade–have a place of honor on my bookshelf.  I can’t say for sure how many times I’ve read them, but I suspect at least twenty times each.  I still have my Tiger’s Eye.  Its great significance hasn’t yet been  revealed to me, but I don’t worry about that.  Maybe when you’re older you’ll understand, I tell myself.

Chequamegon Books

Friends, let’s talk bookstores.  We’ve done this before.  There was the time when I studied abroad, and ignored things like the Famous Sights of Paris and Munich in favor of their tiny, English bookstores.  Like this one.

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And this one.

There’s also Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books in St. Paul, which I try to duck into whenever I can (admittedly, part of the draw is hope for a someday sighting of the man himself).

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There’s Half Price Books, which, while somewhat lacking in that cozy bookstore charm, has filled most of my bookshelves because it’s so cheap.

But then there’s my very favorite bookstore, which I had the good fortune to visit last weekend.  I’m only able to go about once a year, as it’s 3.5 miles away from my house, in tiny Washburn, Wisconsin.  Might I introduce Chequamegon Books? (pronounced sheh-wah-meg-an)

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Please note that were you to walk forward down the sidewalk and then turn left around the edge of the building, and were you to continue to walk straight after that, you would find yourself at the edge of Lake Superior after about ten minutes.

I love this bookshop most of all because it’s so familiar to me.  I’ve been getting books here since I was young enough to promise my mother that should she purchase my pile for me, I would pay her back come next allowance.  Chequamegon Books introduced me to Anne of Green Gables, to Betsy Tacy, to the Mary Poppins series.

Most recently, I found the entire His Dark Materials series–in near-new condition–for fifteen dollars. I nearly cheered as the owner was ringing them up, and then, having flippantly declared that I didn’t need a bag and could carry them out, saw that it was raining thick and fast.  So, I did what every gleeful owner of a new set of reads would do: I stuck all three books under my shirt, eight months pregnant-style, and sprinted to the car.

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It’s one of those bookstores that makes you feel intelligent as soon as you walk through the door.  You don’t merely feel as if you’re among readers, but you feel as if you’re among readers who challenge themselves, who discuss what they read, who appreciate the smell of one part coffee one part dust one part yellowed pages as much as you.  It’s not a snobbish place (they do stock the likes of Twilight, I noticed), but it’s a place that makes you want to dive into a classic novel, to scrawl notes in its margins.

Chequamegon Books stacks books horizontally.  It embraces the crammed, the hour search before you unearth the book you’re destined to take home, the handwritten signs, the small wooden chairs placed randomly about should you need to rest while you comfortably browse the lower shelves.

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There are also actual shelf ladders that actually roll across shelves.

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I walked right under this ladder, forgoing all superstition.  Shockingly, I haven’t sustained any major injuries since.  It must be part of the magic of the bookstore.

Chequamegon Books is a peaceful, earthy place, and one of my favorites in the world.

Let Me Catch You Up

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Intriguing title. Disgusting recipe (although I didn’t make it, so let me know if it’s actually delicious).

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Grammar error! North Branch, MN, shame on you!

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Delicious gyros at the Soho Cafe in Uptown, Minneapolis. By the way, sorry for the poor pictures. Sometimes my phone does well, sometimes (mainly in poor lighting), it suffers terribly.

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The Gentleman Caller and I saw “Urinetown the Musical” at the Jungle Theatre last night. It was a rehearsal show, so we got in for free (with $5 donation). I had no idea that the public was invited to rehearsals like that-and it ran smoothly and without directorial interruptions just like a regular show.

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Brief sunshine one morning last week. Otherwise, it’s been raining for about three weeks straight.

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Chicks in the feed store this afternoon. Ever since I was little, we’ve been going into the local feed store for dog food, and I’ve peeked in on the chicks when they’re there in the spring.

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Why, hello!

Relinquishing the Hoard

I’m taking a hiatus from writing my graduation saga in order to write about another momentous event:

I have cleaned out my bookshelf and donated one hundred of my babies to my old K-8 school library.

My bookshelf is a giant, unvarnished, red-brown thing, looming over all of the other furniture in my bedroom at home.  I’ve had it since I was about eleven years old, when my grandparents, knowing my tendency to stash overflowing books in piles around my room, got it for me for Christmas.  The bookshelf was initially supposed to be hidden in the detached garage.  Grandpa had written a clever poem which was meant to lead me to its location.  Unfortunately though, Christmas morning dawned especially cold that year, and my parents thus decided to spare me the traipse outside.  The bookshelf waited beside the Christmas tree instead.

For years, this bookshelf has been large enough to hold all of my books.  Sure, there’s some double layering going on.  Sure, when I ran out of room to arrange spines vertically, I stacked more horizontally on top of the vertical.  But I don’t especially mind having a packed bookshelf: I have a system of arrangement, and I do, contrary to my family’s belief, generally know which titles I own and which I don’t own (and how to find them).  Plus, a packed bookshelf implies literary affiliations.  I feel proud and cozy and like an English major when I gaze upon it.

Today, however, when standing in front of the dear thing, trying to decide what to read next, I tipped back a few titles to peek at the ones behind.  And some of the ones behind, I realized, I hadn’t seen in a while.  And I hadn’t missed them.

I decided it was time to pare the collection down.

I have long thought that if an eleven-year-old girl in possession of familiar bookworm tendencies were to stop me on the street and ask me for a suggestion regarding what she should read next, I would undoubtably pile all of my Gail Carson Levines, my American Girls, my Nancy Drews into her hands.  I would happily pass my books off to someone who I knew would enjoy them as I had.  Why, though, was I sitting like a miser on a mountain, hoarding books I had long outgrown, waiting for the right young prodigy to come along and ask for them?  Surely it would be better to put the books in a library, where they could be paged through and jam-smeared by hundreds.

I quickly had all my books off my shelves and into piles: Classics; Popular But Still Quality; Popular; Teen Fiction I Still Love; Short Stories, Poems, Plays; Reference; Series; Children’s With Sentimental Value (Little House, Betsy-Tacy, Charlotte’s Web); and Donate.

I dusted the empty shelves, and then slowly started refilling them.  I moved my most beloveds to the top, and–vainly–put the classics front and center.  I pulled out the books I plan to attempt this summer and stacked them separately, for easy access.  I bagged up the “Donates,” including A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Perhaps the ban has been lifted since I left middle school?

Mom (a teacher at my old school) placed the bags in her van.  While I’m a little ashamed that it’s taken me so long to pass all of those books on, I’m glad it’s finally happened.

 

Commencement of Commencement

Want to watch me give the student commencement address/graduate from college?  Likely not (that’s okay), but just in case, the url for the live stream is here:

http://www.morris.umn.edu/events/commencement/

The ceremony is tomorrow (Saturday), and starts at 1:30 p.m. Minnesota time.  I should be giving my speech about 10 minutes in, give or take.

Hello Again

Please listen to the provided Neil Diamond while reading.  It’s the theme song of this post.

The funny thing about this blog is that when I’m not posting, it feels like I’ve been cut off from an old friend who I’m used to chatting with regularly.  And all that’s complicated in my life, or hard, or sad, or unbelievably happy, seems to build up inside of me until I’m running around campus holding my chest as if it’ll burst open if I don’t.

What happened to make me stop calling and texting you were the MCSA (student government) elections.  I’m Election Commissioner this year, which didn’t seem like a very complicated job at the onset, but which escalated until I was spending all day every day policing Facebook and Twitter, planning debates, editing videos, sending reassuring emails to the student body, dealing with illegal spray painting incidents (still can’t believe that happened), and near the end, checking the online polls every ten minutes to see who was ahead.  The worst part was that MCSA doesn’t have detailed rules outlining the powers of the Commissioner, so when “disciplinary” situations came up, I had little guidance, and mostly had to wing it.  As is natural when a leader is “winging it,” there were quite a few shouts of “unfair!” and “dictator!”  It got old really quickly.

The elections ended last night at 11:59, and by 2:00 a.m. this morning, I had sent out emails to all the winners and losers.

The high point was that I got to call the winning Presidential/Vice Presidential team to tell them that they had won.  Hazen, who was running for president, is a dear friend of mine, and asked me beforehand to call her with news, whether bad or good.  When I told her last night that she was the 2013-2014 MCSA President, she didn’t believe me at first.  And then she screamed with excitement, and I could hear her running mate, Andrew, screaming in the background.  It was the best call I’ve ever made.

And how can you be bitter about a job that ended like that?

Besides elections, I’ve been spiraling toward my last month of college.  Lots of paper writing (I have two big ones to finish this weekend), graduation planning (bought my cap and gown and two dresses (one for the awards banquet and one for commencement)), and nostalgia.

You know, as sad as it’ll be to leave this dear place, I’ve been slowly realizing that I’m ready.  I’ve taken in Morris completely, I’ve had wonderful experiences and made wonderful friends and learned how to be a grown-up, analytical thinker.  But there’s not much more for me here, now, and that means it’s time to move on to the next big thing.

What is “the next big thing,” you ask?  I have no idea.  Does anyone want to offer me a job?