I write about a lot of things — whatever’s going on in my life at the time, whether that’s traveling, getting in shape, reading, etc, and sometimes thoughts about where I’m headed, or where I’ve been. As a former librarian I’m a little obsessed with books, and as a tech geek I love all things Apple, Kindle and in-between. I love food more than it good for me, and my viewing habits range from “Downton Abbey” to “Modern Family” and back around again. I have two cats, a wonderful husband, and the rest is subject to change without notice.
I recently finished a highly enjoyable reread of the Harry Potter series. At the end, though, just as always, I can’t help but feel a little down. Not because of the sad bits, especially in the last book — though those would be a worthy reason. Really, just because… it’s over.
I came to Harry Potter just before the fourth book came out. All the signs at Barnes & Noble, counting down the days to the book’s release… I felt like there must be something to this. I read the first three books and loved them. Then, on the midnight release night for Goblet Of Fire, I was on my way home, late, and remembered the book was coming out in a few minutes. I walked into the store expecting, I don’t know, a few dozen people. Instead the line filled the store. Two hours later I had my copy, and never looked back.
For later book releases, I knew what to expect. Believe me, by the time the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released, I was a pro. I spent the day at Barnes & Noble, and was one of the first hundred to receive our books after that midnight countdown…
The thing I remember most, though, was leaving the store a few minutes later, book held high proudly in hand. About a thousand people were in the parking lot (overflow — the store was full to capacity) and they cheered as we came out.
That’s the thing about Harry Potter that still gives me chills of happiness, after all these years. Once upon a time, kids waited in line all day for a book. They wore costumes, they debated theories on sites like The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet… for a book. They formed tribute bands like Harry & the Potters and released CDs. They made videos, fanart, and wrote fanfiction. They’re still doing those things, years after it’s all over. That night in 2007, people stood outside at midnight and cheered — just to be able to read something. Isn’t that the best thing you’ve ever heard?
After the books were done, it was disappointing knowing there wouldn’t be any more stories of Harry and friends — but we had the movies, at least. An extra one, even, when they split Deathly Hallows in two. So that was something for awhile, but eventually all good things do really come to an end.
I know some people feel Harry Potter doesn’t do anything for them — they read the first book and weren’t hooked. I don’t know exactly what to say about that, other than: for what it’s worth, one of the magical things about the Harry Potter series is that the books age along with Harry. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is written about an eleven-year old, and it’s written for eleven year-olds. That didn’t stop a lot of adults from enjoying it, of course, but the themes, emotions and Harry’s perception of the world around him is childlike. With each passing book, though, Harry grows more perceptive. He experiences more things, he has more complex emotions. He grows up, and the books grow up with him. So if that first book seemed too childish, that might be an explanation.
Truthfully, though, to each their own. I loved every moment of the series, from the first page to the last, from the first on-screen image to the final credits, and can’t fathom missing any of it. I loved the characters, good and bad; I loved Harry’s decisions, right and wrong; his mistakes, his failures, his courage. I loved his friends, more than anything else, really, and I loved living in his world for awhile. For me, just as for so many other people, Harry Potter was a wonderful experience, one I’m always sorry to see end. The beauty of it all, though, is — I can go right back to page one, any time I want, and start all over again.
My alma mater, Cornell University, has designated tomorrow as “Cornell Giving Day“.
Cornell was a wonderful experience for me, and I try to give back when I can. Truthfully, though, I’ve instituted a hard rule of “no giving $ until I finish paying for the first time around”. And yes, I’m still working on those lovely student loans — grad school will do that to you. One day I hope to help Cornell students in financial need the way I was helped, and until then, I donate my time and energy as a volunteer.
To this end, and with that disclaimer, I’m boosting the signal here, for any interested fellow alums and Cornell supporters:
What is Cornell Giving Day?
Cornell Giving Day is a festive and inspiring virtual coming-together of alumni, parents, friends, and Big Red fans all over the world to raise support for Cornell over 24 hours. All gifts made on March 25, 2015, between 12:00 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. EDT, will count toward Cornell Giving Day.
What makes my contribution on Cornell Giving Day special?
On March 25, your contribution has an even bigger impact than usual, thanks to a handful of generous supporters who will be providing $300,000 in challenge money to various Cornell colleges, schools, and units. By making your gift, you can boost the area you care about and help it win the challenge amount. Throughout the day, leaderboards will show progress by college and unit in real time, and games and contests will sustain the fun and suspense.
Where does my gift go and where do the challenge funds go?
100 percent of your gift goes directly to where you designate it: your college or school or in support of areas like undergraduate scholarships and athletics—you name it. The challenge funds will go to the annual fund of the winning college or unit.
Tonight is the finale of “Glee” and I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m going to be sad to see it end. Well, maybe a little embarrassed. But not slushie-to-the-face humiliated or anything.
Anything you could say to criticize “Glee” would be completely accurate. Yes, it’s WAY cheesy. Yes, it’s basically an hour-long musical every week, which poses the same problem all musicals do (who just breaks out in song like that, really?). Yes, there are plot holes the size of a dinosaur-wiping-out craters, really basic stuff like “how does a high school manage professional-quality productions, complete with stage lighting, costumes and sets at the drop of a hat?” And “are the state requirements to become a teacher somehow not in effect in Lima, Ohio?” and “why did New York City look so much like LA?” “Glee” is guilty of all that and much more, such as questionable guest stars, repeated plot devices and no real concern for the boundaries of space, time and the actual taking of high school classes.
But the “Glee” pilot remains one of the best first episodes of a show I’ve ever seen, hands down. And that’s saying something. I downloaded it from iTunes and brought it with me on my new iPad when I’d been called for jury duty; sitting in that bullpen all day, waiting to be picked or sent home, I put on some headphones and started watching, and couldn’t stop. It was like nothing else on TV at the time in its sheer, unadulterated, so-cheesy-I-can’t-watch-without-crackers, well, glee. I went to a performing arts high school and even we didn’t have a show choir — I was jealous. I wanted in, slushies and all. I loved a lot of the songs they covered, and I found a lot of new artists to listen to, by following the “Glee” versions (handily released on iTunes, of course) to their originals. “Glee” is where I first heard Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Adele.
Confession, though: my enthusiasm waned, after awhile. Somewhere in Season 3 I got bored. I didn’t like the music, the plots seemed more ridiculous than usual. I stopped watching. Stopped, completely. And came back a couple seasons later — something I’ve never done with a show. When Corey Montieth died, I couldn’t help but wonder how “Glee” was going to adapt. As any Gleek can tell you, the Rachel/Finn pairing was supposed to be endgame, in fact, the very focus of the show. Creator Ryan Murphy even had the final scene written, one that would reunite Broadway star Rachel and new glee coach Finn for their happily ever after. Tragically, then, Murphy really was going to have to find a way for the show to go on without its male lead, and without a roadmap to the finish. I couldn’t resist seeing how they were going to pull it off.
It’s been interesting, you can’t deny that. I mean, sure, there was an entire new glee club that got pretty much thrown under the bus for being uninteresting, and the New York City plotline bounced around from one crazy week to another. (Rachel’s boyfriend is a male escort! Santana’s on Broadway! Rachel’s bored of being the lead in “Funny Girl” after a few dozen performances, despite this being her life’s ambition! And wait, we’re all back in Lima, for some very flimsy reasons!) It was downright silly, but it was fun. One of the best things about “Glee”, after all, is that it knows how to laugh at itself, with self-mocking asides and self-referential nods to the absurdity of it all.
But “Glee” was also more than itself, in some very important ways. This show unflinchingly addressed the problems and pressures that young gay men and women face, including bullying, peer pressure and the threat of physical violence. Later seasons addressed transgender rights, as well as domestic violence and hate crimes. The not-such-a-surprise double wedding of Brittany & Santana and Kurt & Blaine was really a celebration of everything “Glee” had done before to give a voice to those who are too often silenced by hate.
So, this season I’ve watched as the remaining episodes have dwindled down to just this one, and I’ve already been misty-eyed more than once. “Glee”, flaws and all, tugs at my heart a little. It’s heavily laced with nostalgia and it delivers a whopping overdose of schmaltz, and I’ll be watching tonight with a box of tissues ready.
Both cats FREAKED OUT. I don’t know exactly why; we’ve had repair people and delivery people in the house before. George cowered and Freddie did too. I took them upstairs in the loft with me and the three of us hid there, feeling superfluous. George foolishly ventured down (they aren’t lying about curiosity and cats) and stayed down for the duration; when it was all over I found him cowering under a table. Fred stayed with me while I read “Deathly Hallows” and played Candy Crush upstairs.
When all is said and done, I have to say, this is pretty nice. The house is spotless. They cleaned everything. They cleaned things I didn’t know were dirty. It smells like a lemon exploded in here. Thank you Cleaning Girls, Inc. of Long Island.
I still feel weird about having someone come to clean my house, but not so weird that I wouldn’t do it again.
When I was in college, I lived in a dorm. Dorms can be great equalizers. It’s hard to tell who’s as poor as you are or as rich as Midas when everyone’s living in the same building, schlumping around in sweatpants and pajamas. Hardly anyone at Cornell had a car (the campus isn’t vehicle-friendly) and this was way back in the day before cell phones, laptops and even computer ownership might have given some clue. One telling factor was Spring Break plans — if you were off to Prague on a moment’s notice, that probably meant you weren’t down to your last two dollars, as I often was. The more economically challenged among us often stayed put for Spring Break (and had a fun time, too).
Another thing I noticed was cleaning ladies. Every now and then, one of my friends would mention their housekeeper, or the cleaning person that came to their house, back home. I couldn’t fathom such a thing. We’d never, ever had a cleaning person. Quite frankly, at the time, my mother was working a second part time job *as* a cleaning person, to keep me in school. You can imagine how galling I found it when a fellow student protested to me that having a cleaning person wasn’t a luxury; his mother worked, after all. She didn’t have time to clean. Meanwhile my mother worked all day, worked cleaning offices at night, and cleaned her own house with whatever energy she somehow had. It’s not an entirely fair comparison, but I still think having someone come to clean your house, unless you’re physically incapable of doing so (and a lot of those people can’t afford help, sadly), is a luxury.
You have to imagine, then, how weirded out I am by the fact that we have cleaning people coming to the house this week.
I mean, this isn’t a regular thing. We had a Groupon, and it’s a spring cleaning kind of deal. Dave’s super busy in tax season. And I have a little trouble doing certain things, especially when there’s bending involved. It’s still a luxury, though, and I feel strangely guilty about it.
I’m a lousy housekeeper. I didn’t inherit the Leonard cleaning gene, the one that guaranteed my grandmother’s basement floor was safer to eat off of than most people’s kitchen plates, and the one that made my mother stress about dust bunnies in the storage closet. Yeah, I missed that. I don’t have it in me. But I grew up with it, so I end up looking around my reasonably neat house and seeing nothing but dust and dirt and feeling ashamed.
So as a result of all that matriarchal genetic pressure and guilt over economic divide, I’ve been desperately restraining myself all week from cleaning the bathroom ahead of time, because I don’t want the cleaning people to see that my bathroom is dirty and think I’m lazy. I haven’t succumbed yet, but there’s still more than 24 hours to go. I’d say it’s 50/50. At best.
Geeks like cool tech stuff. We like gadgets, electronic thingamabobs, we can fix your laptop and we often have a spare USB drive just when you need one. Nerds, on the other hand, know a lot about Star Trek, always win at Trivia Night, and recognize the African Anteater Ritual when they see it. I’m both, and proudly so.
For the record, though, in my opinion, the level of enjoyment I’ve gotten out of setting up shop at my brand new spiffy site, whatamiholdingonto.com, marks what is probably both my geekiest and nerdiest moment to date. I mean, registering a domain and setting up a self-hosted blog, that’s just mildly geeky. Gleefully looking forward to playing with plugins all weekend? Pricelessly nerdy.
This is me, in high school. I was voted Most Likely to Succeed. I’m not mentioning that to brag — the opposite, really. It’s more that I sometimes ask myself, how did I get here, from there? Wasn’t I supposed to end up doing something, I don’t know, important?
Honestly, I started out on the wrong foot: the only thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was an astronaut. This, despite a fear of heights, speed, fire and airless places, also no aptitude for science and an utter lack of the physical skills needed for astronaut-ing, made that particular goal a pipe dream. So when I graduated from high school, despite a resounding endorsement from my peers, I had no particular idea what I was going to succeed at. I’d been on Debate Team, and I was pretty good at it too, so my yearbook is filled with a lot of “good luck in law school” comments. I have not, however, ever in my life entertained the idea of attending law school. Too dry. Too dull. (Though, I will say that when I was in about third grade I told my mother I didn’t want to be President someday, I wanted to be a Supreme Court judge. Presidents only get to keep their job for 8 years at most. Supreme Court judges get hired for life. This future union member already knew the value of job security.)
During orientation in my first week at Cornell, I wandered into the open house for the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance. Four years later I graduated with a background in costumes and directing. Three months later I quit graduate school before I’d even started, and for the next five years or so I worked at mostly meaningless jobs that didn’t quite pay the bills.
Sooner or later I decided I needed, you know, a career, or something. And in 1998, believe it or not, Library Science was a good field to study if you wanted a job. When I graduated with my Master’s from UB, there were recruiters at the school every semester. I had three job offers to pick from. I chose Amherst Museum. And that’s where I spent the next decade as a solo librarian. I had a great time organizing my library, processing the archives, getting involved in regional professional organizations like WNYLRC, where I spent some time on the Board. It was a terrific experience. I’d be lying, though, if I told you I was following my heart’s desire. Being a librarian mostly appealed to the OCD part of me that liked organizing things. That still likes organizing things. But I saw people who had passion for librarianship. I wasn’t one of them. So when I stopped being a librarian, I missed my colleagues, but not the rest.
So I never did get around to deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now, to be frank, Dave and I both try our best to work as little as possible. I have a job but it’s not anything worth mentioning; it’s just a job, not a career. I’m not really anything, professionally, and probably never will be. I’m just a little surprised that doesn’t bother me more.
You know, it’s twenty-five years since that picture was in my yearbook, and I look at it now and think, if I’d done a few things differently, maybe I would have fulfilled that promise and done something “important”. There were few times I believe, objectively, that I made the wrong choice. I should have picked a different major in college, or a different graduate school for theatre, or a different library to work in. Those were turning points for me. And it clarifies things for me to see that now, definitely. But in the age-old tradition of everyone who’s lucky enough to be happy, it doesn’t mean I’d go back and change anything now, if I could. Because whatever I did, right or wrong, I ended up somewhere I want to be. I didn’t succeed the way I thought I was going to, or the way my high school classmates apparently expected I would, but I wouldn’t trade my life for the world, wrong turns, failures, and all.
I work out every day. Every. Damn. Day. Some people love to exercise. I’m not one of those people. But despite my dread, I push myself to it anyhow, because I know it makes me stronger, gets my metabolism moving, and it allows me to eat a Reese’s in peace.
In the summer, I swim — great for you all around, and better for my back — but in this long, bleak, frozen winter of our discontent, I’m forced into the gym. I use the bike a lot, and I’ve recently started getting used to the elliptical. Mind you, the first time I climbed onto that medieval torture device, after 30 seconds I wanted to confess to being a heretic so I could burn at the stake instead. But after a few more tries I got the hang of it and I’m building up to spending half my work out that way.
This isn’t my first time to the rodeo. I’ve done this before. But I think I didn’t keep it off because I hadn’t learned moderation. I got in the low-cal zone and I denied myself *everything*, and when I was done (there’s a mistake right there) and fell off the wagon, I fell big time. I don’t want that to happen again, so I’m being more reasonable with myself this time. If we constantly deny ourselves, we’re guaranteeing that we’ll eventually fail. Because you’re never “done”. It’s never over. Since this is it for the rest of my life, I need eat responsibly but not miserably if I’m going to succeed.
There are a lot of people who’ll tell you you’re doing it wrong, this way. I use MyFitnessPal and it’s a great app, but I don’t spend a lot of time in the discussion forums. It can be kind of crazypants judgy in there. “Hey look at me” syndrome is alive and well in weight loss communities. Look at how fast I’m losing, look at how under calorie goal I am, look at me, look at me, look at me. You can get an inferiority complex really easily. Just remember, it’s not a race. Or if it is, it’s one the tortoise is going to win in the end, not the hare.
For what it’s worth, here’s what I do, and what works for me. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s not all that hard, either, once you set your mind to it:
Count all your calories. All of them. It’s boring, by the way, just so you know. Tedious. But do it. Exercise often. Also potentially tedious. Try podcasts, or audiobooks, or Netflix. Eat lots of veggies and fiber but eat the things you like, too, just in moderation. A Hershey’s kiss has 22 calories — if you need a sweet treat, just have a couple of those. Be kind to yourself. Don’t get on the scale too often (too bad I don’t listen to my own advice on that one). The number will go down, over a period of time, but not all at once. And give yourself a day off, now and then, and enjoy yourself. Enjoy food, enjoy a break from vigilance. Then rinse, reuse, and repeat.
Random House Children’s Books said on Wednesday it will publish a recently discovered manuscript with illustrations called What Pet Should I Get? this summer, on July 28, 2015. The book was most likely written between 1958 and 1962 (Theodore Geisel died in 1991) and features the same brother and sister seen in Dr. Seuss’s 1960 classic, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. This newly-discovered story is available for pre-order from Amazon.com and other bookstores.