Monday, February 25, 2013

Another Exhausting Week

The old adage advises us to take one day at a time. That's what I've been forced to do with so much happening over the past week, and it leaves me feeling completely exhausted and skimming along the line of "overwhelming." 

After fighting to get over a bad cold, I think I now have the flu. This is my final week at a job that I've had for nearly five years that started out as a blessing and has turned into a curse. It is the longest job I've ever held and by far has offered the best benefits, a must to thrive in America today, but the cost is just too great. I'll be losing all of my benefits, a chunk of retirement, and some weekly income, but I'm optimistic that by leaving I may regain some self respect and perhaps not go to bed at night thinking how comforting it might be to not open my eyes again the next morning. 

I'm pretty excited about my new job, damn the consequences, because I know it will be far more spiritually and emotionally fulfilling, as has my job working at the bookstore. (I'll still be working two jobs to pay my bills.) Working a "normal" 9 to 5, Monday through Friday job is not fulfilling to me. It is a death sentence. I would quite cheerfully shove off this mortal coil if that were my fate. There is no joy in life without freedom and creative expression. Unfortunately, the American lifestyle in itself is also a pretty sure death sentence given how viciously the poor are hated and how desperately the affluent wish to kill people like me. I truly want to move abroad, I just need to take care of some things here first. (Boo.)

Even writing this blog entry right now is a chore. I'm just so exhausted I can barely make it off the couch for a cup of water, and I still have to go into work tonight. And the next night. And the next night. And the next night. I have no idea when my next day off will be. I'm guessing it will be a week from next Wednesday. I hope I can survive it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dystopic Children

A few months back I checked in a book by Lois Lowry called Son. I was pleased to see her name on the cover as she was one of my favorite writers as an adolescent. I read Number the Stars for class, and I read The Giver twice, once for fun and again for a summer writing camp after eighth grade. I think this was my first introduction to wonderful world of dystopias. (The classic Brave New World has since become one of my favorite books.) 

Reading the back of this new book, Son, I noticed something strange. This book claimed to be the final sequel to the Giver series. Series? What? Turns out that seven years after the publication of The Giver, Ms. Lowry published a sequel called Gathering Blue. Since I was entering college at the time and reading very few books targeted at adolescents, this book completely swept past me. In 2004, another sequel came out entitled Messenger, and then Son followed this past October, falling right into my hands, hot off the presses.

I immediately wanted to read them, but I wasn't sure I could remember The Giver in enough detail to follow the sequels as I didn't know how much detail would be in them. I decided to get the audiobook of The Giver out of the library to refresh my memory. (I am truly enjoying my audiobook experiences in my car. I'm getting through so many books now!) I finished it in a matter of days and I was reminded how much I had loved Lois Lowry as a child and The Giver in particular. I've sold it many times at the bookstore since we got it back into stock along with its sequel to complete the quartet. (It wouldn't do to have someone pick up Son, realize it's the fourth in a series and be unable to buy the previous three books now would it?) I know it's under some debate, but to me, it's obvious that this book is an enduring classic. Why else would it sell so well, even today, twenty years after it was originally published?

After finishing The Giver, I requested both Gathering Blue and Messenger on audiobook from the library. They were at different branches and had to be sent over, which takes a few days, so I looked around for something else to listen to while I waited. My attention fell onto another dystopian novel aimed at young adults that I'd been meaning to read, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. 

I'm only on disc 3 our of 9, but I can already attest that The Hunger Games is pretty grim and, at times, downright morbid. I don't mean to say these qualities make it a bad book. I am just surprised that with how overprotective adults are these days that a book like this, so graphic and unfiltered, would be allowed to slip into the hands of children. 

I suppose there are two reasons for this. 1) Because parents are notoriously ignorant of their children's behavior and interests. No, seriously. My mother told me she didn't want me reading Interview With the Vampire four years after I'd not only read it, but three of its sequels as well. 2) Because that is where they are meant to be. Who better to benefit from the harsh warnings of dystopian novels than children, the builders and keepers of society's future? I was never as enthralled by what the future might hold than when mine was so uncertain. 

The future is still uncertain for me at thirty (for all of us, really), but nobody cares what I want to be when I grow up anymore. I'm only asked about college when people mistake me for a student. (I am routinely told that I look young enough to be one, though it's been nearly 8 years since I was granted my BA.) The future is now, I suppose. But that isn't how it is with kids. They have so much ahead of them, and it's inconceivable and seems so far off, yet so close at the same time. 

And the future is probably going to be a little dystopic, in all honesty, but maybe we'll luck out and it won't be as numbing as in The Giver or as callous as The Hunger Games. I'm not getting too hopeful, though. I do read the news. I also look forward to finishing the rest of the Giver quartet and the Hunger Games series. Oh right, and the movies. Gotta see the movies. Yeesh! My future is overflowing with media demands.

For your listening pleasure, The Future Soon by Jonathan Coulton:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Being Sick

The problem with working 6 days a week is that I don't have time to recover from being sick. Sunday, my only day off, was spent sipping tea on the couch watching episodes of True Blood until about 5pm when my boyfriend Greg came to pick me up for Game Night because I didn't feel well enough to drive so far on my own. 

Monday morning is when the illness really hit me, though, and not only is my next day off not until next Sunday, I picked up extra hours this week selling books at an authors forum on Saturday. My throat was on fire and feeling a little swollen, my voice was weak, and my nose stuffy. Since Monday was also my only guaranteed day to spend time with Greg, I sucked it up and picked a low key activity. 

We went to see Warm Bodies, the new zombie romance movie. It was actually pretty funny! It also had some cute moments and I think was trying to make a broader statement about humanity not connecting with one another in an age of personalized technology (iPhones, PSPs, etc), but I didn't feel beat over the head with it, and if it was the moral, it was a weakly put forth one (okay by me!). When I got to work that night (a mostly quiet night of checking in books and helping people at the counter so I could sit and rest a lot of the time), I looked up the book the film was based on at our supplier's website. They had two different paperback versions that we could order - one with a movie cover and the other without - both on back order. Oh well. I'll check again later. I think the book might be worth reading. 

I was going to update this blog when I got home last night after work, but I just felt too crappy, so instead, I ate pizza rolls then a bowl of a chocolate paczki and ice cream, my comfort foods that I picked up from Busch's on my way home. Shopping in a regular grocery store is weird for me now (I tend to stick to the alternative markets since I work in one and am generally horrified by all the poisonous elements they put in American food). Busch's is a very nice, clean grocery store - almost fancy with its brown and gold tones! - that is proud of being from Michigan and selling Michigan products, both things that I support. But I was still relieved to get out of there. It made me feel almost agoraphobic.

This morning, my throat is very much swollen. I had a hard time swallowing the paczki I had for breakfast, and I can barely talk. Looks like it's ice cream and tea the rest of the day! Until I have to go into work, that is. Then I think I will have to pack some iced tea to take with me. If I feel any worse tomorrow, then I may have to call in sick since I have sick time at that job that I can use. It isn't enough to cover an entire day, but it's better than nothing. I hate being poor.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Exciting World of Audiobooks

Working in a bookstore, I have hundreds of books pass through my hands every week. Many look interesting, and some make it to my To Read List. It may not sound like much, but that's a lot of books, and the list is very, very long. The list gets longer also through my boyfriend who keeps picking me up books at used book sales and brings over books from his personal collection that he thinks I'd enjoy. How am I to get through all of these books?? I work two jobs six days a week and the seventh day is reserved for Game Night. Aside from a few minutes before bedtime, I don't have a lot of me time. Sometimes, if a book is really good, and I want to get through it, I'll stay up until 4am reading, sleeping until 11am, only to rush around to get ready for work the next day and feel sick and sleepy. 

Some friends have recently supplied a helpful suggestion that, so far, is working out very well! Audiobooks.   I spend up to an hour driving everyday to and from work, and I have both iPod access and a CD players installed in my car. I really should have considered this sooner. When I was in high school and early college, I worked at a library and sometimes listened to audiobooks while I pushed a cart around the library, putting books away, since they let us wear headphones to make the pretty menial tasks a little easier to bear. (It honestly didn't bother me much. I love libraries.) 

After all the read-along books on cassette and record - yes, I had records as a kid - the first audiobook I listened to was Taming the Star Runner by S. E. Hinton. It was sort of funny listening to a book. The way I pictured things in my head was different than reading, probably because there weren't any words in front of my eyes to get in the way. Recalling scenes later occurred in pictures in my head rather than appearing as words on the page. It has always been easier for me to remember things that have been written down, or printed, so this was a unique experience for me. 

The first audiobook I chose this time around was America the Book (the Audiobook) by the staff at the Daily Show with Jon Stewert on Comedy Central. I'd been meaning to read it since it came out, I just never got around to it. I didn't realize at first that it was abridged, but I decided it was all right. I finished it on my way to work, then on my trip to Kalamazoo for my brother's surprise birthday party. Having something different to listen to in the car on such a long, and too familiar drive was wonderful. It was also fun to listen to Jon Stewert reading the text (I have had a crush on Jon Stewert since he had his show on Mtv), and Stephen Colbert doing the end-chapter activities. Also, Samantha Bee's supplemental "how we do it in Canada" segments were cute. I love Samantha Bee, too.

When returning America the Book to the library, I had just enough time to grab another audiobook before running off through a rainstorm to work. The selection at the downtown library branch, however, is far more extensive than it is at the much littler branch I usually go to, and I felt at a loss. "Maybe they have some French language CDs for the upcoming trip to Montreal," I wondered. If they did, they did not keep them with the audiobooks, and I didn't have time to hunt them down. I tried to remember what all the Dewey Decimals meant as I perused the shelves so I could narrow in on a particular section that might interest me, then a title jumped out at me. 

It was a book I had seen on display at Crazy Wisdom and had mentally added to my To Read List. How perfect! I grabbed it. It is called Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal. The audiobook is read by the author, Conor Grennan. Listening to the author read his own book is, I am convinced, the best way to go. He uses Nepali names that I would never get even close to correct on my own by just reading them. He also better imitates other people's voices and accents than a person who has never been to Nepal, and can convey exactly what sentiment he intended in the original writing. 

Some of the reviews I found on Goodreads say that Conor comes off as basically being a self-righteous ass, which does not come across in the audiobook at all. He is quite candid about being a clueless dolt when he first arrived, only wishing to have a story to impress the ladies he would one day meet at bars. He definitely made some remarks that he fully admits were pushy or not appropriate, but I don't think this made him a jerk. His struggles with the different ways that Nepal operates from America echoes sentiments I have heard other Americans abroad express. (I have the opposite problem. I struggle with the way America does things. Or doesn't, as the case may be.)

The story that Conor tells is intensely moving. I find myself often laughing out loud, cheering, or tearing up during his narration. I can't wait to get back in the car and hear more! And I regret having to turn it off to go inside, out of the cold. But not only am I enjoying the story, I am re-thinking my life. I miss traveling, and I want to do something good in the world. One my debts are paid off, could I do a stint abroad, too? I have a friend who is teaching English in Taiwan, and many friends have lived and worked in Japan, teaching English among other things. I've certainly had my own adventures, but life just leaves me feeling impatient lately because I know this isn't what I really want to be doing, it's just what I have to do to pay my bills. I find this profoundly depressing. 

They say the new year is the time to begin new things, pen new chapters in our lives, and I have started submitting stories again. I just need to do more! But like I said at the opening of this entry, I'm finding it difficult to find time to read, let alone pursue my other passions. There's no choice but to keep going. Maybe one day, through extremely hard work, I'll find happiness.