the busy day

Thursdays =

6:45 a.m. Up early enough to cook up a bowl of steel-cut oats.

This takes about 6 times as long as breakfast preparation should, but informal experiments indicate that steel cut oats ACTUALLY fill me up, as opposed to the following other supposedly filling breakfast foods:

- fried eggs

- egg + cheese sandwiches

- egg + cheese + veggie omelets (although these come close)

- high protein, high fiber cereal

- low fiber, low protein cereal

- toast with peanut butter

- regular oatmeal with nuts

So I cook my ridiculous oatmeal and read a little Ragged Dick while I wait.

8:10 a.m. Leave the apartment dressed and with enough supplies & food to get me through the day.

Opt to take the train, since having enough supplies & food to get me through the day means I am, yet again, carrying two overstuffed bags, and there's really no room on a morning-rush bus for me and all of my crap.

Run for the train, burdened like the beast I am with aforementioned crap.

8:30 a.m. Get to Job #1 early. Absolutely no advantage to being at work early.

Commence working:

- sending email after email after email

- telling people after people after people that no, I know nothing about Study Abroad, I am sorry that somebody who I have never met has yet to hire a Director, I get paid 13 dollars an hour do you think I have ANY influence over the administration here? But you have my sympathy, I promise, and I will dutifully listen to your questions.

- printing things

- sending more emails

- fretting over research assignment. Is this qualitative? Quantitative? Exploratory? Descriptive? I hate my life? Questions of Theory? Phenomenological? Good gravy, just kill me now?

- registering for LIS classes. 10 minutes before registration period opens, realize that some major academic planning has not yet occurred. Frantically map out rest of graduate school career. Feel impressed when this takes 6 minutes. Sign up for two courses, plan to drop 1.

3:00 p.m. Leave Job #1. Head to library. Spend my single precious hour of free-time finding articles and books potentially pertinent to my research project.

4:00 p.m. Assume position at Job #2.

- Answer questions from First Year Students who do not know how to use the library.

- Answer questions from disgruntled PhD students who just need their articleokaythanksWHYISINFORMATIONNOTFREETOTHOSEWHOSEEKIT? I don't know, man, I just don't know.

- Answer questions from my classmates. Feel awkward.

- Update a wiki. Feel technologically advanced.

- Fret over Research Assignment.

- Read a Public Safety email reminding me to never walk around alone in the dark, otherwise I'll get attacked like the girl that got attacked the other day.

9:00 p.m.

Leave work, walk alone in the dark to the bus.

Hopefully, arrive without being attacked.

Hopefully, don't miss my bus stop for the third time in one semester.

Hopefully, I will figure out how to use the word "hopefully" in a grammatically correct way.

Hopefully, I will go right to sleep and dream of research designs and methodologies.

Hopefully, my cat will be waiting for me in a basket.

thoughts on a semester

This semester is quietly sucking out my insides... just like every other semester of my life. It may be time to face a bitter, bitter truth: I love school, but school does not love me. I certainly get off on Going to Class, Taking Notes, Learning, Academic Conversing, Gathering of Questionably Great Ideas, and Canoodling With Literary Celebs, but school also sends me into a perfectionist tizzy. I read Penelope Trunk's article last night and was fairly horrified.
Try having an opinion that is wrong. Tell a story that is stupid. Wear clothes that don’t match. Turn in a project that you can’t fully explain. People will not think you’re stupid. People will think you spent your time and energy doing something else — something that meant more to you.


Anyway, I started to think about my pair of classes this semester. I have two most excellent professors who are both teaching highly inaccessible topics. Going to class is not difficult, but doing my homework is.

For one class, I get to digest stacks of articles on how to properly formulate and conduct research experiments that measure library use. Eight weeks in, I still have no idea what it means to "operationalize my terms." I rewrote the problem statement for my semester-long mock-research project for a better grade, put some legitimate thought into it, made some changes, and got an extra .5 points. A pity .5 points.

For the other, I get to read once popular, now obscure, (always 600 pages...) children's literature titles from the 19th century. Common plotlines so far include "I love my mother more than God! Waahh!", "My father is punishing me for loving God more than him! Waahh!" and "Why can't I read novels on the Sabbath? Waaaaaaahhh!!!" Finding anything to say in my papers other than "Wow, that book was bizarre" is surprisingly difficult.

But I'm still getting, largely, A-minuses. No, this former valedictorian is not an A student, she is an A-minus student. Thank you, sub-par public secondary education! However, despite my 18-years-and-counting proclivity for the A-minus, I always have this feeling that if only I could [fill in the blank with some random self-improvement], then I could get A's.

I always enter each semester with the inarticulate goal to "Stay On Top of My Schoolwork," but I have really no idea what that means on a practical level. Theoretically, "Staying on Top," means "Maintaining Some Semblance of Control Over My Life," but every semester, no matter how I play my cards, I end up partaking in the following behaviors that drive me out of my skin, send my muscles into recurrent migraine territory, send my energy levels to the ground:

- Starting papers the day before they are due.

- Coming home after work or school and collapsing onto the couch until I fall asleep.

- The Incredible Disappearing Weekend

- Coming to class without having completed the required reading and feeling like an idiot.

All of which have been regular behaviors this semester, no matter how much they induce the mania. Urgh.

But what bothers me most of all is that somewhere behind the mess of working and classes and vegging out on the couch, I don't actually have time to do ANYTHING AT ALL. Nothing. Not my reading, not the kind of work that will get me that coveted A, and not anything at all that I typically find useful or entertaining or enlightening.

So I'm going out of my way to carve out chunks of time out of my day to just... be. I'm hoping this will a) improve personal morale b) increase productivity c) contribute to a sense of control over not just my day to day life, but my larger destiny.

In June, when I had 20 hours of work, 16 hours of internship, and 6 hours of class every week, I started waking up with Lance and having him drop me off at Starbucks in Brookline, or at the T so I could hop on the train and go to the Starbucks in Somerville. It was an act of desperation: the papers had to get written, and I discovered that I was more likely to work on them with two shots of espresso in hand, even if I had to hold them at 6:30 a.m. The habit followed me to this fall semester - before every large paper, it seems I've procrastinated enough to send me into desperation, and into Starbucks before the sun comes up.

But I've decided to reclaim the Early Morning at the Coffeeshop Habit for the forces of personal good. Instead of staying up until midnight with a paper only to revisit it six hours later, I'm launching a pre-emptive strike. On Wednesdays, when I only work 10:30 to 4:00, I can haul ass out of bed early enough to hitch a ride and then I can have a morning to myself to

a) Tackle that homework before it tackles back

b) Do something I don't typically have time for, like spend an entire hour writing a really long, self-involved blog post!

So at least for a few hours a week, life is good.

And although I do miss my summer Somerville Starbucks, the Brookline Village location sure has more than its share of colorful clientele.

Today, I grasp at the edges of my manic life with help from a guardian angel.

it's not you, it's me. it's so definitely me.

I have had friends, in my life. But I mostly can't handle it.

This picture was taken on my 21st birthday. I assumed I would go to a bar with Lance, maybe a roommate, and have a drink. Somewhere between Sunday afternoon and Sunday night, I had my boyfriend, my roommates, and a good portion of my a cappella group, all singing and dancing and buying me drinks all over the Oldies-Night dance floor.

I still can't believe it, looking at this picture. How did that happen? I don't have friends! Where did they all come from?

But that was college. College ended and my friends mostly stayed and I left and I mostly disappeared. I was happy to remove myself from a number of friend-based situations, I wouldn't miss sitting at home thinking about whether I should invite myself to a party I knew some of my friends were going to but hadn't invited me. I wouldn't miss the stigma behind Sitting At Home and Doing Nothing. I was so happy to return to people (aka my family) who would join me in my Sitting and Nothing.

So I stopped wishing my college friends happy birthday on Facebook, lost my cell phone numbers and didn't go out of my way to replace them, and after six years of daily AIMing, officially gave up on Instant Messager because it totally stressed me out. I spend most of my time with my favorite friends: my family.

I still have my friends from high school,


but without exception, they are all engaged or married, and they all have children.


Which is fine, which is great, I still love them and I wish I could see more of them and their adorable kids, but we're just in different stages of our lives, you know?

I was excited to move to Boston, to meet more people who were in my stage of life. And I did! Grad school friends!

But there's still a distance there, and it's totally my own doing. We see each other once or twice a week, in class, before class, after class, and that seems fine to me. That seems like plenty of time to see your friend. And there is always work to be done - homework, housework, work-work - that precludes close friendship.

There's not enough time in the day to make friends, basically. There is almost always an excuse not to hang out, not to go to this bar, not to go to this event.

I'm okay with this about 90% of the time.

But then I start looking at other people's friendships and get jealous.

And I think about my future...

- When I get married, will I have ANYONE to invite to my wedding? Will anyone even WANT to come? (see 21st birthday anxiety)

- When I have kids, will I want my kids to grow up isolated from relationships with other adults just because *I'm* a social recluse?

- Wouldn't it be nice to feel like you are part of a community, Jessica, of people your own age who help each other and support each other?

So I'm not actively seeking close friendship with peers... but am I also consciously rejecting it? I shut off my instant messager. I RSVP "no." I smile and nod when you mention something fun you are doing instead of inviting myself along. I am always too sick to go out, always too broke, always too busy.

So I am always sitting just outside the circle.

And maybe that's just the way it's gonna be.


Here is what happens when you are sick:

You shower before 6:30 a.m. and drive to Lowell so you can spend all day waiting for your boyfriend's car to be repaired.

That's what you shouldn't do when you are sick, but life makes you do thing you shouldn't do all the time.

Also, we did not see the Les Miserables Bowling Alley. We mostly saw the inside of Target, which was, for this city girl, a sight for sore eyes.

You take a nap

You dip in and out of books

You watch Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince... and when the DVD starts over, you don't turn it off

Optional Activities:






going to bed at 10 p.m.


on Picturebooks and Impatience

I posted these two articles to my Facebook wall this morning, before 8 a.m. I don't like being all over Facebook like that, especially before most people I am friends with are awake, but I did it anyway. I'm weird. Get over it.

First, a video:

This is a little talk from David Foster Wallace, about the differences between commercial and literary fiction. Ignoring any inherent debates between the value of High Culture Lit vs. Low Culture Lit, I thought the most interesting part of Wallace's argument was this:

Literary fiction requires time, it requires quiet, it requires focus and concentration, and it's getting harder and harder to ask readers to do that.

I don't know what the solution is to this problem: we can try to train kids to see the value and enjoyment of reading a book that's "hard" or "dense," but I think a lot of English classes ARE trying to do that and failing. I have always been A Reader and I made it all the way through an English B.S. without that appreciation.

So do we ask the writers of commercial fiction to Beef It Up? To trick lazy American readers into loving literary fiction?

Or do we give up the crusade?

And then there was this article from the New York Times:

Picture Books Languish as Parents Push "Big-Kid" Books

I'm sure there is a lot about this article that screams "ALARMIST!" "QUOTES OUT OF CONTEXT!" or "WAH! WAH! OUR BUSINESS SUCKS!" but after spending a semester literally knee-deep in picturebooks, I think there's some truth to the changing perception of the picturebook and what it's for.

When I was giving storytimes, I plucked picturebooks from the shelf at random, looking for something large enough to be visible around the room, something with short enough text to keep the attention span of my infant-4-yr-old audience, and maybe some repetition or humor for a little interaction.

It's very easy to see picturebooks like this. I didn't even LIKE picturebooks all that much at that point in my life, even though I was reading 2-6 every week.

And that's because I was BUSY. I had a program to present, I usually had about an hour to make sure music and props and chairs and everything was ready. I wasn't really thinking about the picturebooks at all, except as a means to the end-of-this-flipping-storytime-oh-my-gosh-this-is-exhausting.

A year later, I adore picturebooks because they are works of art, and not just any art, but this crazy, special art that somehow combines images and words to create an almost tangible story or an experience. And I don't think most people get that. Maybe more people considered picturebooks to be a "Literary Experience," during some "Golden Age of the Picturebook" in the 70s or whatever, but something changed.

The NYT article focuses on economic and educational causes, but isn't that just another way of saying:

"We're too busy balancing our budget and getting our kids how to pass arbitrary standardized tests to slow down and focus on something literary, or to encourage our children to do the same?"

This has been stirring around in my mind all morning.

In other news: I wish David Foster Wallace would have written a picturebook.


Lance has been sick, and when he comes home from work, he sleeps on the couch all evening and then convinces me to go to bed before 10 p.m.

You'd think I would wake up fresh and chipper and full of life.

Oh, no. I don't. I wake up sick!

And the dreams - oh, the dreams. Anyone else have their dreams kicked up a notch when they are ill? I still remember some of my dreams from various childhood illnesses, they were that weird. This week's dreams were a variation on the standard "Anxiety Dream - Transportation Related" format. Earlier in the week, my 17-year-old sister took me on a joyride, and when the cops started tailing us, she wouldn't/couldn't pull over.

Today, my family and I got onto a subway train, and it turned into an airplane, and flew through a tunnel.

Oy vey.

I think I've played too many racing video games.

So I hobble sickly around the apartment and contemplate the disaster that is Unpaid Sick Leave. Seriously, now. I had to go to work, no questions asked, because if I stayed home, I would miss out on about 150 dollars worth of paycheck, with no time left in my schedule to consider making up the hours. And I'm not that sick, not too sick to function. So I'm here, functioning, and infecting the rest of the school.

This is a public health issue, people. Paid time off for everyone! Is that somewhere in our new health care bill?

Things I Don't Have

Paid sick leave



Things I Do Have

Cough drops

A pimple

A drink

A cup of ice

And 10 and a half hours to go!

past presents

Dear Betsy,

What were you doing to that tree back there?

I am serious. This picture bothers me.


Your beloved sister,



Dear Smaller Me,

I'm sorry your gymnastic dreams were crushed. Shortly after this picture was taken you grew. A lot. And also became quite uncoordinated.

And never again would you wear tights and a leotard out of the house.

Except for when you did Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat...

Theater doesn't count.



curiouser and curiouser

There are so many strange things going on in this photograph.

Why does my dog have a leash on in the house?

Why did my parents have a fish in a strange, cylindrical jar? And how small does a fish have to be in order to live in such enclosed quarters?

Where, exactly, did my parents get that strange, gray, furry puppet and why was its name "Normal?"

Why do I remember the strange, gray, furry puppet's name?

Is that a missing patch of carpet? Or was I playing with corrugated cardboard again?

Did my parents notice my misshapen, protruding ribs when I was a baby? Were they at all concerned?

When is that red dictionary going to fall apart?

And what season, exactly, necessitates THAT kind of outfit?