Luna

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LunaDear Luna,

This morning I woke up to a pounding on my door and the sound of my mother crying. She told me that you were dead.

You didn’t pass away gently in your sleep. You were killed, probably by raccoons. It was a violent death, and definitely not one I ever wanted for you – indeed, I had never considered it in my list of possibilities. You weren’t a fighter – sure, you’d gotten into a couple scraps over the years, but it was pretty rare that it went farther than exchanging insults in that particular yowling tone that cats have. I wanted you to slip away in your sleep, curled up in a sunbeam.

I don’t want to think about how you looked this morning when we found you. It’s something that’s going to haunt me, and I couldn’t even bring myself to go closer than five or six feet away. It’s my mother who was brave enough to wrap you in a piece of fabric like a shroud.

Luna, I knew you for almost your entire life. When I started sixth grade, my teacher told us her cat had just had a litter of four kittens, and that if we wanted, we could come see them if we wanted one. I met you at three weeks old, and I loved you on sight. You were this tiny little puffball of white fur with a toothpick of a black tail and little black ears sticking up over those bright blue eyes. I wasn’t a particularly large eleven-year-old, and you fit comfortably into my cupped hands. One of my friends adopted one of your siblings, a high-strung grey creature prone to hiding under beds, and your tabby-like sibling went to another classmate, a boy who followed me around for a week, trying to persuade me to trade you for the tabby. Obviously I refused. Our blue eyes had met and we had bonded. You met me at the school when I came home from a weeklong field trip to Walden West. I have a picture of me hugging you there at the pickup. Poor Luna, you were probably terrified.

The early adjustment was a little bumpy, as you were never good at changes, and this was the biggest of your life. At seven or eight weeks old you were taken from the home and the family you knew and handed to us. I remember that sometimes in those first few weeks, you seemed to have bad dreams. You’d start trembling and whimpering in your sleep, and I found it terribly upsetting.

But you settled in. You played games, you loved catnip and chasing a toy that was some pieces of cardboard attached to a thick wire, so I could make it jump and twirl. In those early days you behaved a bit more like a normal cat, although you were never a lap cat. I have a photo of you sitting on the fabric my mom was trying to run through the sewing machine, with an expression that really says, “Well? What do you want?”

I don’t think we trained you. I think you trained us. We couldn’t get you to keep a collar on, and we never put in a cat door, worrying about other critters getting inside the house. That meant that we were your butlers, opening and closing the doors when you asked. This was particularly irritating on rainy days, as you’d insist on checking ALL the doors to see if it was raining outside all of them. That said, in spite of your aversion to rain and continually-expressed surprise and betrayal whenever the sprinklers went off (every other morning for, like 80% of your life, but you never picked up on the pattern), you had a preference for drinking from puddles, drip lines, and so on. I have a memory of you at about age two, sitting in the middle of a mud puddle and carefully washing your paws, then replacing them in the mud puddle. It took you a while to figure out that you’d already DONE those paws a few times over.

In some ways, we were lucky with you. Yes, you scratched up the furniture, shed everywhere, and generally made a nuisance of yourself at times, but we also never had to worry about you getting on counters, messing with holiday decorations, or hiding deceased prey anywhere. Your idea of hunting, in fact, was to sit in plain view, purring loudly, while the robins laughed their heads off at the very idea. You got hold of a fledgling or two, but you never really knew what to do with them, so you carried them around for a while until we noticed and separated you from your frightened toy.

In fact, over the years, we defended you from a number of adversaries. At the first sign of yowling, we’d all bolt outside with flashlights and shouts to drive off whoever was bullying you. Usually it was a neighbor cat, but occasionally it was something larger. A year or two ago, you spent a few months being harassed by a particularly aggressive scrub jay who had a nest in the trellis above the back door. I am so, so sorry I wasn’t able to protect you this time. That’s the part that hurts most at the moment.

Last month you turned eighteen, and in the past few years you really turned into a cranky old lady cat. Your grooming went downhill, you began refusing to use the litterbox, and one of your ears was permanently crumpled and folded over due to one of those blood vessel things cats can get if they scratch their ears too hard. A month or two ago, we realized that you were showing pretty much all the symptoms of feline dementia, and we started to wonder about your vision and hearing, but you were physically fine, so we just tried to adjust to your new issues. You were old, that’s all.

You were always surprisingly loud. For a cat who really never got above 8lbs (and most of that was fur), you had remarkable volume. Whether purring, washing, or talking, you could be heard all over the house. How did you DO that?

You drove us crazy sometimes, but you were OUR weirdo kitty, and we loved you. I hope wherever you are now you can find your mama and finally get an answer to how a shorthaired grey cat with green eyes managed to have a white and black longhair with blue eyes. We used to call your father the Midnight Marauder – you were the only one of your siblings who looked like that. Two of your siblings were grey, and one was a mixture of tabby and white. All were shorthaired.

I’m glad I took a moment to pet you yesterday. I’m sorry I took to calling you “Whiny” of late.

Luna, Lu, Lunar Object, Lunarsich, Lunatic, Leafbutt –

We miss you. We’re so sorry it ended this way.

Forgive us.

Elspeth

WIP Wednesday, Wool Edition

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Some of the people on a cross-stitching community online that I’ve joined talk about doing multiple projects in a rotation. I’ve never really had more than one going at a time before, but since I’ve started taking on larger projects, I’ve decided to try this rotation idea. One of the reasons it takes me as long to finish projects as it does is that I get bored, and set it aside for months, or, as in the case of this blasted Peacock Rug, years.

Currently I’m trying 2 weeks on L’Esperance, and one week on the peacock. That will likely change as the holidays approach and I set stitching aside for my usual holiday beadwork crafting, but for the moment, this is what I’m trying.

So here’s the current progress on the peacock. For any who are curious, it’s worked on 10-count canvas mesh with steel yarn needles, using Anchor Tapisserie wools.

Technically-still-Wednesday WIP

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Look look look I FINISHED A PAGE!

L’Esperance is officially 1/48 done. Stop laughing, I’m excited. Yes, I know, that means I’ve done approximately 8,000 stitches, and that means I’m about 2.6% complete. BUT I FINISHED A WHOLE PAGE. Go me.

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And here’s the page in context of the entire project:

Page 1

That right there is about 8,000 stitches out of what will be 304,650. Whee! At this rate I’ll finish in… (please hold, doing math) … eek. Never mind. No more math. Back to excitement! I finished a page!

A Little Bit of Professional Self-Promotion

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I’ve been going back and forth on whether to post about this for some time. The only arguments against it are really my own internal neuroses saying HIDE HIDE HIDE HIDE. So I’m going to try and ignore them and engage in a little shameless self-promotion. Well, myself and two others. I’m part of a team, after all.

I have posted about attending American Library Association conferences, and I think I even posted once or twice about my more specific association involvement. I am a member of a division of ALA known as LLAMA, an amusing metaphor which stands for Library Leadership and Management Association. Initially, I hesitated to join LLAMA because I thought it was only for established professionals already in management positions, which I am not.

The LLAMA llama finger puppet. Because we're whimsical like that.

The LLAMA llama finger puppet. Because we’re whimsical like that.

But at Midwinter 2014 in Philadelphia, I went to the initial public meeting of a brand-new section of LLAMA called the New Professionals Section. And that’s when I realized that LLAMA could have a place for me – specifically in the idea that they’re nurturing future managers and leaders. I’m not in management yet, but I hope I will get there someday. And working on leadership is not a bad thing. It’s pushing my comfort zone, but in a good way. As I recently described myself, I’m not the kid who sits in the front row of the class, and I’m not the one who sits in back – I’m the one who sits in the second row: willing, even eager to participate, but not one to lead the charge.

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So I’m pushing myself a bit, which leads me back to the shameless self-promotion. I’ll get there in a minute.

LLAMA and ALA in general seem to have a lot of conversations at conferences that focus on attracting new membership, and getting new blood into active committee involvement/leadership. At one conference, I heard a person describe her committee as being a bit like the Mad Tea Party in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – every year, everyone stands up and moves one seat to the left, cycling through the same positions over and over.

I’ve been turning this over in my mind since joining NPS. At first I tried focusing on outreach to library schools, trying to help students bridge the gap between student chapter and larger association involvement. I got frustrated with that, though, and started looking at other ideas.

ALA and LLAMA love webinars, but there’s a problem with those – they’re preaching to the choir. You only hear about them if you’re already involved, and you only take part in them if you a) hear about them and b) have the money and c) have the time. This does not seem to me to be a good way to get new blood.

So this year at Midwinter in Chicago, I started agitating for a podcast. It’s free, it’s accessible outside of the ALA website labyrinth, and you can listen any time. And thus I find myself at the head of a three-person team.

I am happy to announce that Break Room Chats, the podcast of the NewLLAMA_NPS_Logo Professionals Section, is up and running. We have two episodes up – it’s a monthly thing at the moment – and don’t be scared, episode two is abnormally long (but it’s FUN, if I do say so myself.)

Please check it out. I think there are insights and tips relevant to all careers, not just librarianship. We talk about what we like in our supervisors and mentors and how we try to apply those things in our management/leadership styles. We talk about the things that are frightening and exciting about starting something new or taking on new responsibilities.

And I’m pushing myself WAY outside my comfort zone in doing this. Yes, I’ve been a blogger for years, but this is my actual voice going out there. It’s scary, but it feels like the good kind of scary. I have to say, even as my stomach registers the stress-butterflies, I’m very proud of myself for doing this, and I am so proud of and grateful to my two colleagues, Elizabeth Davidson and Heather James. And I’m also deeply indebted for Tyler Dzuba, our initial and outgoing NPS Chair, for being endlessly supportive and encouraging of this idea.

We can be found on iTunes (search Break Room Chats) and on SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/llama_nps.

ALA Annual 2015: San Francisco

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Well, another ALA conference has come and gone, and I am left with a handful of fliers and papers to sort through, and a double stack of advance reader copies of new books that I picked up.

Here is this conference’s haul:

1. Sword of Honor, by David Kirk

2. Armada, by Ernest Cline

3. Secondhand Souls: A Novel, by Christopher Moore

4. Cold-Hearted Rake, by Lisa Kleypas (yes, a romance novel. What? They’re amusing.)

5. What A Girl Wants, by Lindsey Kelk

6. Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure, by Bonnie MacBird

7. Crooked Heart: A Novel, by Lissa Evans

8. The Heart Goes Last: A Novel, by Margaret Atwood

9. The Jesus Cow: A Novel, by Michael Perry

10. Last Night at the Blue Angel: A Novel, by Rebecca Rotert

11. The Girl from the Garden: A Novel, by Parnaz Foroutan

12. Pretty Girls: A Novel, by Karin Slaughter

13. Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA, by Roberta Kaplan with Lisa Dickey, foreword by Edie Windsor

14. She Came from Beyond!: A Novel, by Nadine Darling

15. The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy, by Kliph Nesteroff

16. After the Parade: A Novel, by Lori Ostlund

17. Beaded Ornaments for the Holidays and Beyond, from Bead&Button and BeadStyle Magazines

I also got to hear Roberta Kaplan speak as part of the opening ceremonies on Friday. What an amazing thing to hear this woman, who is both an out lesbian and one of the lead litigators from United States v. Windsor, speak on the two-year anniversary of her winning Supreme Court case – which also happened to be the day that the verdict in Obergefell v. Hodges was announced.

WIP Wednesday

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Taking a break from the rug as a) bored and b) it’s too big to work on outside as we fight the Squirrel Wars of 2015.

The situation is this: we have a rather old and rather large Blenheim apricot tree in the front yard. These are the apricots that used to be grown here when it was the Valley of Heart’s Delight rather than Silicon Valley. You almost never see them in stores, because they don’t travel at all well – bruise far too easily.

They’re also far and away the king of the stone fruit season.

Unfortunately, the squirrels agree. They wreak havoc in the crop if undeterred, and they would strip the tree while the fruit was still green if we didn’t guard it. So we do. We take turns sitting out there under the tree, picking up fruit as it drops (you can only be sure it’s truly ripe if you let it drop rather than picking it off the branch, and contrary to general belief, stone fruit does NOT ripen on your counter – it can get softer, but that’s not riper), and we literally chase the squirrels away when they approach. It’s all terribly dignified.

Anyway. The rug’s too much of a hassle to work on under such circumstances. Instead, I’ve started on another complex and long-term cross-stitch project that is actually a higher stitch count than the rug, but will be smaller when finished. The final product is 18×27 inches on 25ct fabric. That means 25 stitches to the inch. That means the entire project is approximately 304,650 stitches. I’m at about 1700 stitches so far.

The image is L’Esperance, a ceiling painting over a staircase at the Chateau de Chantilly in France. It was painted in the late 19th century by Diogene Ulysse Napoleon Maillart, a name which tells you rather a lot about him and his family.

Anyway, I’m completely in love with this image, and even though at this rate I will finish the piece in approximately December of 2018, I’m enjoying myself tremendously. The person who designed the cross-stitch pattern has done some work to play with light effects within the painting, creating more of a radiance emanating from the central figure. This is why my current progress looks more like army camouflage than cloudy sky.

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And for anyone who’s wondering, yes, that is a poker chip I turned into a needle minder by gluing a set of magnets to it. It’s a special commemorative poker chip handed out last year at the ALA conference in Las Vegas.

WIP Wednesday

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Chipping away at that rug… In a recent conversation on a cross-stitch community on Facebook, one member described her method for rotating projects (she has three or four in progress at any given time) as a “screaming rotation.” She goes with whichever project is “screaming” at her loudest. I’d never thought of it that way, but now that she said it, I totally get what she means.

All this is to say that I’m working on starting up another big project to toss into the rotation. It’s screaming at me pretty loud, whereas the rug is more of a nagging at the back of my mind. It’ll get finished eventually, but this is a hobby, not homework.

Yes, I am justifying further procrastination to myself!

Anyway, here is the week’s progress on the rug.

Peacock 03

Peacock photo 3

Peacock 04

Peacock photo 4

WIP (Work in Progress) Wednesday

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Remember that insane rug project I took on, back in 2007? Yeah, yeah, that was eight years ago. I know.

Here is the photo from the pattern book:

Anyway, when you last heard about it, it looked like this.

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Well, that was about a year and a half ago. Since then, I’ve put in about another, uh, two weeks of work on it. But I’ve picked it up again! I swear!

Here is what it looks like as of today:

Peacock 03

Still on page 1 of 8. I’m hoping to finish the whole thing before I turn thirty in 16 months. Think I’ll manage it?

Works In Progress

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I’m coming toward the end of one cross-stitch pattern, and I’m having trouble picking the next one. I’m trying to work through some of my stash, with a particular focus on a few that I was either particularly eager to obtain and a few that I’ve already started (not much).

Thing is, I’m feeling equally uninspired by all of them. Here are four kits I’d like to select from for the next one. Any opinions?IMG_2836 IMG_2837 IMG_2838

Best Picture Project: Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

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The thing about the Oscars is that they aren’t based on what audiences liked. They aren’t even based on what critics liked. They’re based on what the film industry as represented by the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences liked.

And there’s not much that the Academy likes more than a navel-gazing look at their own industry, especially if it’s cynically critical. I predicted BOYHOOD would win Best Picture this year because of the unusual technical achievement, but in retrospect, BIRDMAN was not a surprise.

That said, I’m not entirely a fan. I don’t particularly like surrealism (I make an exception for Cirque du Soleil’s QUIDAM), and because we’re mostly seeing the film through Riggan’s fragmenting mind, this film lays on the surrealism pretty thickly.

There are aspects of the premise that I like, and I think the use of the Birdman character as a manifestation of the persistent nasty little voices in our heads is an interesting one. He is insidious. He will not be ignored or denied for very long, and he grows louder and more poisonous over the course of the film. Michael Keaton’s aging, increasingly irrelevant actor Riggan does not seem to be cognizant of the fact that he’s hallucinating.

I’m not sure how I feel about Keaton, either. I really enjoyed his “Fresh Air” interview about this film – he came off as soft-spoken, thoughtful, and generally rather pleasant. But I haven’t seen him as any character I actually liked. Riggan is selfish, and he’s unspooling at an alarming rate over the course of the film. Keaton’s Dogberry in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is a cartoon, grotesquely overblown, even for a Shakespearean clown.

One thing I’d like to bring up is the score which makes a choice that is especially notable in one scene backstage when Riggan is arguing with Birdman and ends up trashing his own dressing room in the process. It’s an interesting choice to have the music here be nothing more than a series of drumrolls and cymbal crashes, as though Riggan’s life is constantly on the point of just-before-the-curtain-opens.

It’s not a bad movie. I can see why it won. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Also, the Birdman costume is weird. I like the giant robo-bird in the hallucination, though.

Next Up: TBA

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