My Literary Sins: Audiobooks

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I have decided to start a series on the blog. This started out as a bit of a joke between my sister and I. We make an event of spending time together once a week and that time is most often spent at the library. We like to commiserate on the (insert eye roll here) woes of that bibliophile life. Sometimes these lighthearted talks are nothing more than jest, but we have had our share of “me too!” moments as well.

I give you: My Literary Sins. All lovers of books have them. We do come in all kinds of varieties, with different values and systems that rule us all.

This year has been the year of the audiobook for me. This takes me by surprise because I used to have weird rules about audiobooks. I was against them for the most part and considered it to be lazy reading or for people with no attention span or imagination. Maybe my aversion for audiobooks started long ago. When I was in Kindergarten, every Monday in music class my teacher, Mrs. Hickey (you don’t forget a name like that) would have all of the students either lay down on the floor or across 3 chairs and close our eyes and listen to an audio cassette recording. The one that stands out the most to me was the famous ghost story of The Golden Arm. If this was their attempt at nap time for 5 year olds, these people had to be sadists. Every Monday was a terror. And the chairs were awful.

As I got older and my various English teachers would have us read along with a tape providing narration on the books for our class, I would just get annoyed at the narrators. I learned to tune them out and just read ahead on my own, which would then result in chastisement from my teachers.

Tisk. Tisk. Naughty. Naughty.
No reader left behind.
Groan.

As adults we tend to rather enjoy creating our own systems rather realized or not in which we navigate and manipulate our world. As such, I did the same for the prospect of audiobooks. I came around in the sense that I no longer utterly disdained audiobooks, but felt that I needed to maintain some integrity. A girl has got to have standards! So I reasoned that I would be okay with listening to audiobooks, provided that the book in question was one that I have already read on my own in the purity of my own mind. In some bizarre sense I felt that my imagination would be corrupted if I listened to an audio version before reading a book on my own.

My imagination is not maimed by the fact that other people have put their imagination to work in the art form of spoken word.

The change in my rigid thinking began in 2015 when I heard the brillant audio that accompanied Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is DeadAlthough I had read the book before listening to the audio, this was totally different. It was more than just listening to a book. It became an experience. Listening to this audiobook brought me back to my senior year of high school when I decided to try Oral Interpretation instead of a 4th year of Theater.

I started to see audiobooks through the same lens that I would view an Oral Interp performance. Every audiobook is just another interpretation of a written work. My imagination is not maimed by the fact that other people have put their imagination to work in the art form of spoken word. These days, I tend to seek out audiobooks from certain sources because of the fact that I do value their interpretation. This is especially true of authors who narrate their own works with great skill.

You guys. At the time of this writing, 22 out of 49 books I have read so far this year have been audiobooks. I think it’s safe to say that I have progressed on my narrow ways of thinking. I have gone from abhorring them → to being okay with them → to loving them. I used to feel so guilty about not being able to get more reading done because of my ever growing to-do list, but now that I have embraced audiobooks, I can have it all! And so can you!

♥ MM

2016 Bookscapades

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CB068378” (CC BY 2.0) by Raoul Luoar

Hey there.

I wanted to try and sneak in one last post before 2016 is graciously no longer upon us.

There were some pretty exciting literary moments for me in 2016. Last year I put myself up to the epic quest of visiting every single SAPL Public Library in my great city of San Antonio. This year, I had the pleasure of experiencing the reopening and renovation of the Collins Garden Branch and the launch of the Potranco Branch.

[January 30th]
Grand Reopening of the Collins Garden Branch Library

[November 4th]
Grand Opening Potranco Branch

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Believe it or not, libraries are some of the most difficult places to take children to, especially if your have kids with sensory issues. We started out our trip struggling, but by the end of it, my son was having a blast.

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As you can see, he even transformed into Raphael! Being touched with a sponge full of paint is sensory territory my son would normally never entertain. I love it when my son loves his visits to the library. These memories mean the world to me.

Another one of my goals was to visit all of the Half Price Books locations in San Antonio. I ended up surpassing that goal. I visited all 5 San Antonio locations, one in Round Rock, one in San Marcos, one in Corpus Christi, and all 5 in Austin.

Why this madness?

Earlier this year I decided to recollect my favorite series as a kid, The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids. There is just such fun in the hunt for the books you loved as a kid. I only have 9 left (of 51) to collect.


No matter what I resolve to accomplish from year to year, I am never disappointed in deciding to never stop reading.

Happy New Year, bibliophiles!

♥ MM

Sylvia Plath’s Post Election Day Advice

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Powells – The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath” (CC BY 2.0) by Photos by Mavis

On November 9th about half of the country woke up absolutely heartbroken about the results of the 2016 presidential election. I stayed up and watched in disbelief as I saw state after state get called in favor of Donald Trump. The outcome of this election crushed me and made many people like myself feel less safe. I cycled between sobbing and rage until I felt cold and empty. Then I turned to Twitter. And the first thing I saw was this tweet that totally resonated with me.

Oh Twitter.
Oh Sylvia.

For a moment I felt like I could breathe and let myself just be in silence for a bit. I started thinking about what other musings, advice, or lament that my dear Sylvia might have for me. As I lay ugly crying in my bed, I remembered this gem.

“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: “I’ll go take a hot bath.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I took her up on it.
I washed the snot from my face.
I was still a wreck, but I at least had a moment of repose.

“Let’s face it: I’m scared, scared and frozen. First, I guess I’m afraid for myself… the old primitive urge for survival. It’s getting so I live every moment with terrible intensity. It all flowed over me with a screaming ache of pain… remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted. When you feel that this may be good-bye, the last time, it hits you harder.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

The responses that I have seen from the right towards people on the left that minimize the trauma and grief felt by so many families that may be saying goodbye and parting ways upon Trump’s first days in office jarred me. Can’t we reason together? If you want to justify your vote for Trump, is there room enough to also justify the safety of your neighbor? How about some understanding?

“Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much – so very much to learn.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Journals of Sylvia Plath

I don’t want you to tell me that my future will be ok, while endorsing a man who promises that it won’t.

“I also hate people to ask cheerfully how you are when they know you’re feeling like hell and expect you to say “fine”.
-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Let me yell.
Let me vent.
Let me cry.
Let me seethe.

Build a wall? Will you be my wall, neighbor? A soundboard that I can bounce my pain off of, in hopes of having a shred of solace bounce back to me? Just a little understanding, is all.

“I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of non-feeling, or stop questioning and criticizing life and take the easy way out. To learn and think: to think and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

In all of this, please do not confuse my passion for hatred. I love you neighbor, but I will not censor myself to show my love. Understand that it’s not that I am hopeless, it’s just that now I hope less. I do not wish for doom. I don’t want to “let it burn”. I know you want to make America great “again”, but I think that people like you and people like me and people that don’t look or talk or think or pray like either of us are what make us great. And more than anything…

Please, I want so badly for the good things to happen.”
– Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

♥ MM

3 Picture Books That Promote Autism Acceptance

I read a lot of children’s books. A LOT. In fact, so far this year 84 out of the 95 books I have read  are children’s books. 80 of those 84 are picture books. However, it never occurred to me until recently to start searching for books about autism inclusion/acceptance (at least not children’s books). It turns out there are quite a few out there!

I will admit that I am more critical of anything written on the subject of Autism/Neurodiversity because as a neurotypical, even though my child is autistic,  I don’t see the full picture. Therefore,  I try my best to align myself with the ideals of actual autistics. Their voices are the most important for our world to embrace full inclusion and acceptance. I wanted to write a little bit about my top 3 favorites  that I have read this year.

1. Different Like Me by Jennifer Elder

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This book is geared towards ages 8-10 because there is a lot of text on the page. It is narrated by an autistic boy named Quinn. In the book you will learn about some famous people who he can identify with because they are “Different Like [Him]”. It’s not possible to know if every person that he talks about in this book had a black and white diagnosis on the spectrum due to time period that some of these people lived, but the significance of the book is how Quinn is able to see a part of himself in the lives of these inspiring people. Some of the “autism heroes” in this book include, but are not limited to: Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Anderson, Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Temple Grandin, and others.

2. I Love Being My Own Autistic Self by Landon Bryce

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I love, love, loved this book! I wish I could place this book in the hands of anyone who interacts with autistic adults or children on a regular basis and have difficulties understanding their challenges. The presentation of this book is geared more towards children, but I think that there are many adults that need to read these truths. What I love about this book is the honesty that there are differences in the autism spectrum both good and bad, and that’s a part of what makes us all human.

There is a common misconception that people who are pro neurodiversity and who push back against the grain of cure culture think that autistic people are superior to neurotypicals and allistics. This is simply not true. Above all the emphasis on inclusion of autistics especially when it comes to neurotypicals trying to further their understanding of autism is such a great component to this book.

3. Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap: NT is OK! by Clay & Gail Morton

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I got this book as a gift for my son’s 5th birthday. It is usually difficult for me to find books that capture his attention, but this one did. So many times in books or in the media when it comes to minorities or the disabled, all energy and focus is geared toward the neurotypical (NT) person. I saw this a lot in some of the picture books that emphasize the relationship between siblings where one is NT and one is autistic.

This book makes you want to throw the word “normal” out the window because NT’s can seem just as unusual to someone on the spectrum even though it’s usually presented the other way around. When I first heard about this book, I thought it was a spoof of some sort. However, having read it, this book will seem a little humorous to NT’s but it actually is informative to kiddo’s on the spectrum. Not every person on the spectrum is going to fit exactly into the mold of the characteristics described in this book (for example my son is autistic but he loves to play with other kids). Overall I think that this is a great picture book to show autistic children that we are all different and that’s ok. We just need to accept each other.

♥ MM

*Disclaimer* While I loved Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap, I do not recommend following the book’s fb page because I did find some of the content ableist in nature and offensive.

What are your favorite picture books about acceptance and inclusion? Comment below!

 

When Emily Dickinson Puts You In Your Place

On Monday I had the pleasure of attending a talk hosted by the Forest Hills branch of the San Antonio Library with guest Dr. Glenn Hughes — newly appointed 1st Chair in Catholic Philosophy at St. Mary’s — on the topic of “Emily Dickinson and Spirituality”.

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I really enjoyed the discussion at this event. I vaguely remembered her poems from high school and some college but I had been recently re-reading some of her work in honor of National Poetry Month. What struck me about Dickinson was her capacity to be authentic. She was true to herself, even when that self was so very conflicted. She is so transparent in her writing because it was hers and hers alone. I’m not sure what she would think about the fact that the whole world is reading some of her most private thoughts that she never intended to see published. Nonetheless,  I’m glad we have them for our sake.

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I feel like I can relate to some of her motivations in writing and even some of her lifestyle choices. Dickinson is traditionally typed as an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). As a fellow INFJ,  I can see the appeal of living what appears to be the life of a recluse even though the 1800 plus poems that she crafted in her space hardly speaks of the pigeon holed “spinster” that we have made her out to be. She was doing her life’s work in that room. She was someone that lived in her head and that is evident in much of her writing that wrestles with the idea of eternity.

What I love about her work is the humanity of it all. She is so effortlessly genuine, albeit messy at times. She seeks to appease no one. She is on a mission for understanding and she needs to write it out in order to come to find her resolve. It is no wonder that scholars have compared her writings to Job of the bible as he wrestled with God.

Dickinson was no stranger to what St. John of the cross refers to as the “dark night of the soul”.

I’m banished – now – you know it
How foreign that can be –
You’ll know – Sir – when the Savior’s face
Turns so – away from you –

Even in her doubt, she did not hide her contempt for those who utterly disregarded the divine.

How much the present moment means
To those who’ve nothing more —
The Fop — the Carp — the Atheist —
[…]
While their commuted Feet
The Torrents of Eternity
Do all but inundate —

Throughout the ebb and flow of this inner turmoil of questioning and seeking, she can’t seem to abandon her notion of the divine, as mysterious as it is to her.

I know that He exists.
Somewhere – in silence –
He has hid his rare life
From our gross eyes.

One of the themes that was discussed was Dickinson’s bravery in how she expressed herself. Even today in 2016 we see people at the opposite ends of two extremes when it comes to faith. You can either ignore the nagging questions, add more activity and “take it by faith” or you can throw your faith away, become jaded and rely solely on science, logic, and reason. But why not both? The bravery that we see in Dickinson is that she doesn’t give up the struggle for an easy “I’ll hang my hat on that” ending. She doesn’t care about being contradictory in her writing. She cares about finding the truth.

I dwell in Possibility

As a Christian, I try to err on the side of hope. I do have moments when I can feel jaded and skeptical, and that’s ok. Emily puts us in our place. Her writing seems to cry out, “never stop searching and don’t be afraid”. Let’s get messy! Let’s not be afraid to have a “taboo” conversation that may or *gasp* may not have a resolution! Don’t be afraid of your questions or doubts. Let them provoke you! I wish I knew what Emily’s last conclusions were when she died. All anyone can know for sure is that she never stopped having the conversation. She never stopped seeking. I think that is the greatest lesson she can teach us — greater than any eloquence or masterpiece her arrangement of words to the page may prove to be.

Life, theology, and faith are not always precise, color coded and by the book.

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond –
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
 .
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy, don’t know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
 .
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
.
Faith slips – and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
.
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –

Sometimes you can’t be a Paul. Sometimes you need to be a  Job.

♥ MM

SAPL Library Adventure 2015

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On Monday I completed one of my resolutions for 2015. On May 31st of this year, I hatched a brilliant plan to visit all of the “SAPL” libraries here in San Antonio, TX. Yep. All 27 of them. I finally finished my quest. So I am here to report. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of each library or we will be here all day. I do want to give a brief overview with a few lists that I think may be helpful.

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I’ll start off with a general list of all the libraries (so far) in alphabetical order.  I know there are at least 2 new libraries in the process of being built.

 

1. Bazan
2. Brook Hollow
3. Carver
4. Central
5. Cody
6. Collins Garden
7. Cortez
8. Encino
9. Forest Hills
10. Great Northwest
11. Guerra
12. Igo
13. Johnston
14. Landa
15. Las Palmas
16. Maverick
17. McCreless
18. Memorial
19. Mission
20. Pan American
21. Parman
22. Molly Pruitt
23. San Pedro
24. Semmes
25. Thousand Oaks
26. Tobin at Oakwell
27. Westfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Haul at the Pan American Branch

Why do this? Well, the obvious answers are that I love to read and I love libraries. I also recently became a SAHM and want to expose my 4 year old son to being around books and the library in general. Hello, Mr. Dewey 😉  I have taken my son to 19 of the 27 SAPL libraries which brings me to my next list:

Libraries with or near Playgrounds

1. Carver
2. Igo
3. Johnston
4. Landa
5. Maverick
6. Mission
7. Parman
8. San Pedro
9. Semmes

 

 

As much as I love a good library run, the idea of going with my  son can cause a reasonable amount of anxiety because libraries are quiet and children are not! Therefore, unless I am going in and out for a quick holds pick up at my home library (Westfall) I usually need a plan.

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Matthias napping at the Cortez Branch

I don’t know if it is intentional or not but I love how most of the playgrounds at these libraries are neatly tucked behind the library, almost hidden. Why? At first sight of said playground my kid bolts full speed ahead oblivious to any obstacle to get him there. Having them out of sight at least gives me some time to take him with me to browse before heading out to where he can play and I can read.

Carver was the only location with a playground that was smack in the front of the entrance so it was quite a fight to get inside since my (autistic) son has difficulty with transitioning.

It’s hard to say which playground is the best. I really like that Maverick is across from the Nani Falcone park which has a playground, a skate park, baseball field and a walking trail all together.

The playground near Semmes is across from the parking lot making transitions quite easy.

I loved the playground at the Mission library. It is so well hidden that the playground is almost as quiet at the library itself. It was almost like an island apart from the library. The only sound I heard was the occasional ring of a nearby church bell.

I should note that San Pedro used to be near a playground. The only thing left of it when we visited was the swing set. The entire park is under construction at the moment.

My Top 5

1. Landa
2. Mission
3. Encino
4. Central
5. Parman

These were really super duper hard to choose. There are so many libraries that I like for different reasons. This list is not by rank but just my top 5 overall.

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Landa gives you that feeling of going to your grandmothers house but wait… there are books everywhere! The playground and outdoor areas are beautiful for photography as well. I kind of felt like Lucy running up the stairs to find the wardrobe when exploring here for the first time. I actually considered eloping here in 2013.

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Mission was also wonderful. The landscaping outside makes it seem like you are in a wide open plain. This was one of the more peaceful locations I went to complete with additional exhibits inside.

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Our view at the Encino Branch

Encino has a great layout and the space outside the library would be perfect for outdoor studying. There is a gorgeous partition with book quotes (pictured above) and they have an area set up outside for projector movies and other outdoor events. Customer service here was warm and cheery.

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Central… oh Central. They don’t call it the “Enchilada” library for nothing. Walking into the Central Branch is like being swallowed by a library. Although it can be quite overwhelming the first time, it’s a good kind of overwhelming. Like when Belle visits the library in the castle for the first time. Magical. It’s nice and quiet for studying or even just for aesthetic purposes. Visiting at night does have a creepy “Night at the Museum” feel to it though.

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Parman… that fishbowl though! There is a giant fishbowl at check out that is amazing. I regret not asking for the fish’s name. This is also a very peaceful library and surprisingly the only one I saw that was selling it’s own branch’s T-shirts. Come on SAPL make shirts for the people!  The outside landscape has breathtaking amphitheater seating.

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Old Faithful at Westfall

Other libraries that I also love but didn’t put on the list would be Great Northwest for nostalgia as this was the library I visited most of my childhood. The renovation has done the Children’s section well and I love the creative play area.

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I love that Maverick participated in “Blind Date with a Book”. It’s like Christmas at the library, complete with butterflies and sweaty palms. When I was working, Las Palmas was my go to location for after work reads. And while modest, my home library, Westfall is convenient for picking up library holds and is right in the middle of most places of business that I frequent.

Critiques

Something that I was surprised by was the fact that there was not one single library that has individual study rooms. When I lived in the DFW area, most of the libraries had the individual rooms. Granted there are “Quiet Rooms” in most of the branches I visited, but sometimes one needs total and complete solitude.

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This is kind of minor but I noticed that at a few branches if it was your first time visiting, the metal detector beeps loudly when you first walk in. Scared the bejesus out of me and I didn’t even get a prize.

I was kind of confused about the Molly Pruitt library. It’s in a high school, so I get why they need to check ID. What I don’t get is that if it is an SAPL library then why can’t I return their books to any SAPL branch? The location was nice, especially the children’s area, but I found it annoying to have to come back to the same branch every time I checked something out.

In Conclusion

This little project of mine was a lot of fun. Not only was I able to get a little taste of all the libraries in town, I was also able to see different parts of San Antonio that I might never travel to. For my little one, this also added a sense of adventure to our routine and gave us something to look forward to.  The longest it took for me to drive to any one location was no longer than 25-30 minutes.

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I definitely recommend taking the time to visit all your SAPL locations and to get involved in the services that your branch offers. The “Little Read Wagon” program came to my son’s school and did activities with the kids, shared with parents some keys to instilling a love for reading, and we even walked away with 2 free books! Literacy is one of the greatest gifts that we can receive, so nurture it, and pass it on to someone else!

♥  MM