This past weekend I went with my family to see The LEGO Movie. It was my second time seeing it. I got to see a preview of it earlier with my daughter and both times I loved it! Of course there are lots of moments in the movie for the kids to laugh at, but I found there was even more for adults to enjoy; well, this adult at least. More than the humour, though, there was a nostalgic connection with my own childhood. Of special mention is the character Benny. Benny is a LEGO mini figure from the 80s. Benny is a spaceman. I had a few spacemen when I was young. I loved my LEGO space sets, and I loved how there were details in the movie that really hit home. For one, the insignia on Benny’s chest was partially rubbed off; that happened a lot to LEGO spacemen. Also, there is a crack in Benny’s helmet, right in the middle where it passes under the mouth; once again, spot on. When faced with technology, Benny assumes he can navigate it, he is spaceman after all, but he discovers that he is out of his depth. That is until he encounters 1980′s technology, which he can harness to do whatever he needs. Finally, there is the particular aspect of Benny’s personality that compels him to build spaceships; only spaceships. When I played with my space LEGO, it was inevitable that the only things I would build were spaceships or space stations. Several times in the movie Benny tries to answer the call to build, only to be told by the others that, no, a spaceship is not needed. He is of course crestfallen when his ships are rejected, but that only makes it all the more glorious when the time finally comes that a spaceship is needed. At this point, Benny goes manic and builds a magnificent juggernaut of a ship whilst shouting, “SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP!” I laughed out loud and I beamed with pride for Benny.
You may think it odd for me to go on about Benny, a film character based on a LEGO mini figure from the 80s, but Benny and all his spacemen friends are part of my childhood. I direct you to a previous post, All your Space LEGO base are belong to us, for some background. Suffice to say, Benny was my favourite character in The LEGO Movie.
This month I will be taking on a new position with the Edmonton Public Library as a member of the EPL Literacy Van. What is the EPL Literacy Van? Oh, nothing to spectacular, just a roving van of awesomeness delivering library programming and digital literacy experiences to the citizens of Edmonton! Not your traditional bookmobile, EPL2GO is a mobile library branch that aims to connect the communities of Edmonton, particularly those communities which are currently under-served by EPL with the benefits of library programmes and membership services. Currently, Edmonton Public Library has 17 branches and 2 Lending Machines throughout the city, but Edmonton is a city that continues to grow. As a result, distance from and transportation to branches is one of the barriers faced by some of the communities in Edmonton. EPL2GO will work to break down this barrier as we bring EPL out to the communities. As well, we will be visiting various organizations and institutions who can benefit from EPL programmes and resources, both in the inner city and out in the new developments. In addition to simply being a presence in the community, we will also be focusing on digital literacy. As the world continues on toward the digital age, the library, as a both a centre and a facilitator of information, knowledge, and growth must strive to remain relevant; and with projects like EPL2GO, that is exactly what we are doing by focusing on digital literacy and programming that entices, challenges, and inspires people.
As of yet, Im not to sure what a typical day will look like. Essentially we, my two colleagues and I, will be building this thing from the ground up. It’s very exciting, but also more than a little frightening. I’m really don’t know what I’ve got myself into, but I guess what attracted me the most to the position was that it is not a typical library job. I’ve been with EPL for almost 19 years. In that time I’ve worked in several positions and have seen many changes, but there has always been a cloud that’s hung over me; it is the ever-present cloud of uneasiness. I’m not your typical library employee; I don’t read much. I don’t devour novels or absorb non-fiction. I don’t have vast amounts of knowledge that make me particularly stellar in a particular subject, and even in terms of general knowledge I don’t make rank. You know that phrase, fake it ’til you make it? I am most definitely still faking it. As a result, I’ve never really felt like I belong in the library. That’s not to say that I haven’t had the opportunity to work with amazing people who did nothing but make me feel welcome; please do not misunderstand. The staff I have worked with over the years have been an important part of my life. The library is pretty much my second home, which makes it all the more unsettling to look around me every day and realise that I really do not measure up. I think that’s why, for the past two and a half years I’ve found in the Children’s Library a place where I could thrive. We do things a little bit differently in the Children’s Library. I discovered that I was good at reading stories to children; that I could stand in front of a group of preschoolers and make animal noises; that I had an appreciation for a really good picture book. For me, working in the Children’s Library was not like working in a regular library, so even though I was still faking it, I was getting closer to perhaps making it. That’s why it’ll be difficult to leave. I am comfortable where I am, and now I’m throwing myself into chaos.
With my upcoming position I will be redefining what it is to work for a library. Maybe by helping to shape to this hitherto nebulous enterprise I can find a place in my library family where I don’t have to worry about being the odd child who doesn’t seem to quite fit into the family photos.
Same shirt, different pants! Here’s another tune I came up with a while ago; the title I came up with today.
Last night I returned to kickboxing after a good two years off. I say “a good two years” only because that is the common phrase. In fact, it was not a good two years off. It was two years of significantly decreased physical activity and significantly increased midriff. It was two years of me finally starting to feel like I’m getting old. Now that my Monday nights are open again, I have signed up and I am going to try to get back into it. After last night, it seems that I will have a lot of work to do.
I was good to see some familiar faces; faces of individuals that have been able to keep up the commitment. I was hesitant to start, but I soon got back into the groove. To my delight, my technique still seems to be there, but, alas, my cardio and strength have taken a hit. This was most evident when we did our Olympic 5 at the end of class. The Olympic 5 is a series of one minute sets of calisthenics, one after another – abdominals, push-ups, jumping jacks with a jumping knee tuck in the middle, burpies (thrust jumps), and mountain climbers. I was doing alright with the abs, but when we switched to push-ups I could barely lower myself halfway down; I was becoming upset. As we moved onto jumping jacks my will to continue was ebbing away at a quickening pace, but I had to push on, so I only did the knee tucks for every third or fourth jump. Burpies was a demonstration of desperation. I did alright hitting the deck and thrusting my legs out, but when I had to tuck in and jump up, I’m sure I resembled a zombie in a mosh pit – arms limp, head rolled to one side, the very slightest of lift produced by legs that had ceased to work properly, and a soulless groan to complete the picture. Finally, mountain climbers. Up to this point I had been becoming increasingly disappointed, but I was encouraged to find that I was still able to get my knees past my elbows easily. However, that is where the joy ended as it seemed that the particular mountain I was climbing was covered in thigh-deep powder with a nasty wind putting up resistance. I must have also been climbing at quite an altitude, too, because I found myself quite laboured in my breathing as I frantically looked about for my oxygen tank, which was not to be found seeing how I was not on an actual mountain, but rather threatening to set the wood floor on fire by the sheer heat of my burning quads.
Much like my recent runs, my first day back at kickboxing had me feeling like a beginner all over again; which, like my running, is frustrating as all hell. It takes me a long time to get to a point where I feel comfortable doing an activity; sometimes I never make it to that place, so having to go through this process again, blarg! Once again, it’s not just the physical discomfort, it’s the mental discomfort. The physical pain I can live with. In fact, I used to relish the feeling of next-day soreness; it meant that I was continuing to challenge my body. It’s the knowledge that I’ve let myself go that stings in a way that physical pain can’t match.
I just came back from a run at lunch and I fell like shite. Yes, yes. I feel pretty good about getting out, making the effort, calling upon my willpower, et cetera, et cetera; but that’s where it ends.
I had done next to no running in the past couple of months, and hardly any running the months prior to that. As a result my feet were sore, my calves were tight, my quads were jelly, and my breathing was strained. Oh, sure, I started out alright, but it wasn’t long until I started shuffling my feet and sucking wind. It’s not just the physical discomfort, but also the mental discomfort of knowing that I had let myself deteriorate to a point where something which I had been doing on a regular basis now makes me feel like I’m starting all over. I can only imagine what I’ll feel like when I start up with Muay Thai after being away for, what’s it been, two years? More? Oh, joy.
I am out of shape. I can feel it. I can see it. I am going to change it; but it’s going to take some time.
This is a song I came up with whilst sitting in a white wooden chair in my back yard this past summer.
Read In Week 2013, In which I travel to school with a sloth and a stupendously stuffed sack of stories
Another Read In Week has come and gone. For those of you who may not know, Read In Week is a week-long event that highlights the importance of reading in the development of literacy skills. One of the staples of Read In Week is guest readers in schools. Once again, I volunteered to read at my daughter Abigail’s elementary school, and like last year, I was invited to read to more than one class.
Leading up to Read In Week, I had a plan to post the list of books I was going to read. However, judging from past experience and realising how my brain operates, I knew that the booklist I would have posted would not be the same as the one I would ultimately use. When I’m preparing for a storytime, I have a general idea of which books I want to use, but I end up pulling several other just in case I need to make any last-minute adjustments. These adjustments may be due to the make up of the group, having to react to the dynamics of the group part way through, or just the general vibe I get when I sit down in front of the children. With that being said, the theme of Read In Week 2013 was “You Will Go Far” and there were a couple of books which I felt compelled to include. Firstly, Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. This is a classic book about finding yourself and your place in the world; about facing up to fears and disappointments and rising above them; about realising your potential. Next, The Flight of the Dodo by Peter Brown. This is a story about three flightless birds who are tired of not having a bird’s-eye view of the world and build a flying machine. It also shows that dreams must be tempered with discipline if they are to be realised. Aside from these two, I had a special request from my daughter; two actually. The first was for The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, the second was for 13 Words by Lemony Snicket. When my daughter picked The Gruffalo I had mixed feelings. It is a certainly a book that she has grown up with, though it’s been a while since we read it. It also serves as a touchstone for my ability to read stories to children. One evening after my mother had been watching the kids she told me that she had read The Gruffalo to my daughter. My mother had been told in no uncertain terms by my daughter that she hadn’t read it right because she didn’t use the voices Daddy does. While this was all very sweet and gratifying, I have to admit that I was kind of done with The Gruffalo. I know that seems like a flaky and selfish reason not to read the book, but there it is; I was not in the mood to read The Gruffalo. On the other hand, 13 Words was a book I was looking forward to reading. 13 Words is a great book for one-on-one reading. It has thirteen feature words that are then inserted into the overall narrative. It’s fun to have the child read out the feature words while you provide the context. The interesting thing about the feature words is that some are simple, like bird and dog, while others are more complex, like convertible and haberdashery. As I said, this is a great book for one-on-one reading, but maybe not the best for group readings. However, last year I read this book to my daughter’s grade one class specifically because it was one of the first books that she was able to read on her own; not just the feature words, but the entire book; and so I thought it would be nice for her to read the book with me in front of her class. While my daughter read the feature words (including convertible, haberdashery, and mezzo-soprano) I read the rest of the story. It was such a good experience last year that I wanted to do it again, and my daughter, once again, was excited to join me.
So, that takes care of three books. However, I would be reading in six different classes, and so I started to put books on hold from the Edmonton Public Library catalogue and pulled from the shelves of the Shelley Milner Children’s Library where I work. Finally I had what I felt would be a good pool to pick from and with out branch sloth puppet, Sanderson, by my side, I went out to Lorelei Elementary. As it turns out, I only needed nine books, but of course I didn’t know that until I got there.
Grade One – The Dark, My Rhinoceros, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
Grade Two - The Dark, Flight of the Dodo, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
Opportunities Class (Division 1) – Bark, George, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
Kindergarten (morning class) – Are You a Horse?, Bark, George, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
At this point, it was lunch time. Fortunate for me, it happened to be Soup Day at Lorelei and the staff invited me to join them. While I enjoyed a magnificent lunch of homemade soups with apple crumble for dessert, the teachers and I had a discussion about storybooks. I told them that when it comes to picking which books to read, I only choose the ones I enjoy reading. The book may be identified as a “classic” or it may be a story that is read over and over to children around the world; regardless, if I don’t enjoy reading it, then I will have a difficult time imparting any joy or interest to the children. I also shared my position that not all storybooks are suited for reading in groups. Some are beautiful stories, but are filled with subtleties, either in the illustrations or in the story itself, that will be lost within a group setting. Several of the teachers agreed that there are many great storybooks out there that appeal to both adults and children; we also agreed that those were the ones we liked the most.
Well, lunch was over and it was time to get back to the classes:
Grade One/Two – The Dark, 13 Words, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
Kindergarten (Afternoon class) - Are You a Horse?, Bark, George, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
In the end, I packed up my ridiculous sack of stories, grabbed one last cookie from the staff room, and signed out at the office. There were several highlights that day, but there were three in particular that I want to mention. First, reading to the Opportunities class. This is a class of children with special learning needs, but when I sat down in front of them, I can tell you that it was not any kind of deficiency that I saw. Rather, it was in a class filled with gratitude, excitement, and participation. When I pulled out Pete the Cat from the sack, the whole room erupted. Unbeknownst to me, they had been studying Pete the Cat; they were even creating their own Pete the Cat book. They read and sang along with me as they knew the story by heart, and it was great fun! Second, having lunch with the staff of Lorelei School. I was thankful for the invitation to lunch, and I was grateful for the opportunity to have pleasant, candid conversation with teachers and staff, including a gentle ribbing from the wonderful Kindergarten teacher who’s always trying to get me into teaching (I have a degree in Elementary Education). Lastly, but not at all least, was the opportunity to not only read in front of Abigail’s class, but to have her join me in front of the class to share 13 Words. I was filled with pride in my daughter, and even now as I type this my eyes are welling up. It was wonderful to be able to do this for her, and with her.
Maybe next year I’ll have my act together and post a booklist before my visit…
… probably not.