Posted in Life

Things Your Local Library Might Offer

Libraries don’t only have books to share. Many of them provide creative resources for their communities, and I think people often don’t realize that.

I have not seen all of these at any one library. But this is also by no means an exhaustive list of possibilities. Browse your library’s website, stop in to look around, or give them a call and ask.

To check out:

  • Mobile hotspots
  • Puppets
  • Cake pans in fun shapes
  • Board games
  • Seeds for growing plants
  • Laptops
  • Devices that convert old formats (video tapes, cassettes, floppy discs, etc.) to digital files
  • Scanners
  • GoPros
  • Kill A Watt EZ
  • Portable blu-ray player
  • E-readers loaded with books
  • Selfie sticks
  • Ukuleles
  • Guitars
  • Traffic cones for driving maneuverability practice or all your other traffic cone needs
  • Video games
  • Video game consoles
  • Record players
  • Projectors
  • Radon detectors
  • Knitting looms
  • Museum passes

Digital selections:

  • Access to ancestry.com
  • Use of language learning programs like Rosetta Stone
  • The Chilton database for vehicle repair information
  • Creativebug, which offers tutorials for all kinds of crafting
  • NoveList suggests books similar to what you already know you like
  • Databases for subjects like medicine and law and history and economics for when you need scholarly sorts of articles that are often not free to access
  • LinkedIn Learning offers online classes
  • Freegal lets you download free music

Other services:
(These are more likely to involve fees to cover the cost of materials. That’ll vary by library.)

  • Faxing
  • Notary
  • Printing
  • Tax forms
  • A studio for recording podcasts or music or filming videos or photography
  • 3D printers
  • Laser engravers
  • Vinyl printers

Libraries are creative. Go make use of them. That’s why we’re here.

Posted in Christianity, Life

Bible Class Excitement

In my Wednesday night Bible class, my student and I are working our way through 1 and 2 Samuel. We’re not hitting just the Sunday School Highlights: Samuel listens to God, Saul Disobeys God, David and Goliath, whatever. Instead I’m doing my best to present it as the continuous story it is. Not because I expect her to remember all the connecting details at this point – she’s only six – but because I want to give her a good foundation in seeing the Bible as a whole instead of disjointed pieces.

This is stuff I’ve read over and over at this point in my life. It’s not new to me. I know what happens.

My little student does not.

Last week we learned about Jonathan saving David from Saul’s attempts to kill David and how David and Jonathan are such good friends. And she desperately wanted to know if Jonathan becomes a bad guy by the end of the story.

I wouldn’t tell her.

Earlier she had the same reaction to wanting to know who God would choose as the new king after Saul.

I love seeing her eagerness and excitement to find out what happens. It’s such a delightful thing about teaching children who aren’t already familiar with the whole story. It makes it more fun for me, too.

Posted in Writings

Superroommates

I don’t know if I’ve talked about Superroommates on my blog before. Several years ago, my friend GG and I encountered this prompt:

We loved it and wanted to write it. So we did.

Or, we are. It’s ongoing. The document was created in 2017 and is currently at 59 pages.

But we did get far enough that there’s a slightly shorter shareable version that wraps up the first plotline arc reasonably well. It’s pretty great if we do say so ourselves. So if you’d like to read it, please ask.

Anyway. Today while looking through my stories, I came across this one-shot with the characters. It happens after they have figured out what’s going on, and I think it makes for a fun, brief introduction to their dynamic. Enjoy.

If I couldn’t, three times a day,
be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee,
in my anguish I will turn into
a shriveled-up roast goat.
(Please appreciate this cantata’s full lyrics here: http://emmanuelmusic.org/notes_translations/translations_cantata/t_bwv211.htm)

After a long night of work and some unexpected superheroing on his way home, Ryan wasn’t exactly prepared to walk through his front door and find Devin facedown on the floor. He stopped and stared for a moment before asking, “Devin?”

“Hmm.”

Well, he was alive. “You okay?”

“No,” said Devin, voice muffled by carpet. “We’re out of coffee.”

Ryan looked toward their kitchen, where he could see their various coffee makers and the open cupboard above them, a cupboard with a jarringly empty shelf. “Huh.”

Devin turned his head to the side. “I’m a failure. How could I let this happen?”

“I let it happen, too,” Ryan pointed out.

“I can’t start my day without coffee.”

“Devin. You work at a coffee shop. Make yourself some when you get there.”

“Can’t. Too far.”

“Did you get any sleep last night?”

“Mmmmm, not much.”

That explained it. Well, partially. Ryan picked up a mug from an end table and examined its contents. A couple inches of black liquid remained. “I didn’t finish this before I left for work. I could heat it up for you. Would that be sufficient to get you out the door?”

Devin picked his head up. “That sounds terrible. But maybe.”

“Fine.” Ryan stepped over his roommate to get to the kitchen. “But I’m not bringing it to you. You’ll have to drag yourself to the microwave somehow.”

“If I must.” Devin dropped his head onto his forearm, deflated again, but when the microwave was running, he said, “You’re my favorite superhero,” and Ryan laughed as he headed to his room.

Posted in Life

A to Z Survey

It’s time for a post about books. I found this list of book-related questions to answer here.

Author you’ve read the most books from
Counting only from the books I’ve rated on Goodreads – which is inevitably somewhat skewed – we’ve got Margaret Peterson Haddix at 39. Would not have called that.

Best sequel ever
Huh. What an interesting question you ask there.
I shall say Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde. It’s technically the second in a loosely connected series and is so much better than the first. And there’s no need to read the first to follow this one.

Currently reading
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa by Joan Jacobs Brumburg.

Drink of choice while reading
Tea or water.

E-reader or physical book
Currently I read mostly physical books, with occasional e-books on my phone or computer. I had a Nook in college and was very thankful that I could borrow e-books on it through libraries, because I didn’t have a car to get myself to a library regularly. But eventually it died.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school
Look. So many. I don’t know how to narrow that down for you.

Glad you gave this book a chance
The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan. I read this because the description on the back sounded so much like a Lord of the Rings ripoff. But it ended up being sufficiently different and the start of a series I like a lot.

Hidden gem book
Shada by Gareth Roberts, an excellent novelization of a lost Doctor Who episode.

Important moment in your reading life
Perhaps when I decided to start reading some religion-related books I wanted to get to a little bit at a time alongside other stuff instead of waiting for gaps in my endless to-read list.

Just finished
Princess Mary’s Gift Book. This story collection was published during WWI and the profits went to the war effort. I was kind of surprised I found a library that would let me borrow one. I didn’t love all of it, but some of the stories were enjoyable. By far my favorite was J.M. Barrie’s “A Holiday in Bed”.

Kinds of books you won’t read
Not really interested in horror.

Longest book you’ve read
According to Goodreads, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. That one took forever to read, but I’m glad I did.

Major book hangover because of…
I don’t have a specific answer for this, but what most consistently makes me feel like not-reading is when I start and decide I’m not interested in a whole bunch of books in a row. It’s annoying and tiring.

Number of bookcases you own
There are two in my room currently. Another sitting in the garage that should be brought back in…

One book you have read multiple times
Pretty sure I’ve read The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 14 times now.

Preferred place to read
I don’t know? I read a lot on the loveseat in the living room. There’s a chair in my bedroom and it can be nice to open my curtains to let in some sunshine and read there during the day.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read
I love this one from Les Misérables: “There is a spectacle greater than the sea, and that is the sky; there is a spectacle greater than the sky, and that is the human soul.”

Reading regret
Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I spent way too much time and effort on that book for the ending I got.

Series you started and need to finish (all books are out in series)
The last book in The Homelanders series by Andrew Klavan has been on my Goodreads to-read list for… eight years…

Three of your all-time favorite books
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Unapologetic fangirl for
The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. I just love them.

Very excited for this release more than all the others
That description seems excessive for my feelings, but I am looking forward to Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo, which should be out in September. It’s the third in a series of graphic novels. I enjoyed the first two, and the art is lovely.

Worst bookish habit
I guess sometimes I get distracted reading when I have other things to do.

X marks the spot: start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book
That brings me to a one-volume collection of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Your latest book purchase
I recently bought Ragged: Spiritual Disciplines for the Spiritually Exhausted by Gretchen Ronnevik because I couldn’t find it at any libraries.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up way too late)
Last week I stayed up late finished The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson, but more because it was just okay and I was ready to be done than because I couldn’t put it down.

Posted in Life

Little Libraries

Have you ever seen a little library?

They look like a small shed on a post and often have creative and pretty paint jobs. Sometimes they’re in public places like parks, sometimes at the edge of people’s yards. And they’re full of books.

Anyone can stop to take books that interest them or leave books they no longer want. No need to register or note what you take or return things.

I recently spent an afternoon going to a bunch around my town. I left more books than I took, which was my goal. I think it’s a delightful part of society that more people should know about.

Many people who create little libraries register them on littlefreelibrary.org, and you can check out the map to find some near you.

Posted in Life

Things About Working at a Library

A good thing: My favorite question to answer is when people ask how many books they can check out at once. The answer is 75, which is inevitably far above what they expect. Their eyes get wide, their mouths drop open, they laugh incredulously. It’s funny every time.

A bad thing: You meet people you worry about. Then at some point they just stop coming in and you never know why.

Posted in Christianity, Life, Thoughts

Whatever is Lovely – Part 2

A couple years ago, I read a book called Seeing Green: Don’t Let Envy Color Your Joy by Tilly Dillehay. In it, the author discusses God’s glory and traits humans have that reflect aspects of that glory – beauty, charisma, intelligence, creativity, etc. – and how seeing those traits in others can make us feel envy when it should lead us to praise God.

I would like to preface what I’m about to say with the statement that overall I thought it a useful, wise, well-written book. I can recommend picking it up if it interests you.

But a few chapters in, Tilly Dillehay reached intellect, and I was excited. She had already discussed beauty and charm and influence and sung their well-deserved praises. These are not things I relate to deeply. I can look nice, but I’m not exceptionally attractive. I get along with people, but I don’t attract hordes of followers just by walking into a room.

But intellect is a way I reflect God’s glory. I was always a smart kid. I am a smart adult. I’m proud of my high school and college 4.0 GPA. I’m constantly reading. I absorb new information easily. I was interested to hear what she had to say on this subject.

Getting ready for church on a Sunday morning, listening to the audiobook, this is what I heard:

“The glory of human intellect, while a true glory that mirrors the glory of the unfathomable mind of God, is comparatively unimpressive.”

I remember stopping in my tracks and feeling so, so hurt.

It took me months to sort out the pain from that one sentence. To conclude that whatever amount of my own sinful pride might be mixed up in my reaction, it was still uncalled-for for someone else to announce that this way I reflect God’s glory is objectively less impressive and valuable than all other ways, even if they personally find it so.

In a post last June, I wrote about a problem I’ve seen in churches my whole life: a thorough denial that beauty matters. In art. In architecture. In books. In music.

In people.

I hear a lot of, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart,” and, “Let your adornment be not outward, but the inner person of the heart” (1 Samuel 16, 1 Peter 3). Of course this is true and Biblical – and so unbalanced if it is all you hear.

God is beautiful. He created a world that’s beautiful. He calls his people his bride, pure and cleansed and beautiful. The new heavens and new earth he has promised are beautiful.

My intellect does not determine my standing with God, but it reflects his glory whether I choose to serve him or not. Someone else’s beauty does not determine their standing with God, but it reflects his glory whether they choose to serve him or not.

If it took me months to process one hurtful statement regarding an area of my personality where I am already fairly secure, what is the church doing to people when we constantly deny the value of their beauty? How much are we harming those who already struggle with insecurity about their body, in the whole range from mild self-consciousness to severe eating disorders? How must we turn away people who live in a world where their entire life and identity can be built around their beauty when we give them not the freeing truth that their beauty has a God-glorifying purpose but it need not be all that defines them and give them instead the identity-crushing lie that their beauty is unimpressive and has no value?

To quote myself, “In Philippians, at the end of a paragraph about what it looks like to rejoice in God, Paul says, ‘whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’ (4:8).”

Whatever is lovely.

People’s beauty glorifies God.

Posted in Life

Fan Video

I love the movie Tolkien. One of my absolute favorites.

Part of the plot involves Tolkien having his friend Geoffrey’s poetry published after Geoffrey died in WWI. I’ve intended to pick up the book (A Spring Harvest by Geoffrey Bache Smith) since first watching the movie, and last week I finally did.

The section of poems written during the war had so much emotion. I came to one called “The Last Meeting” and realized it was probably talking about his group of friends. Which means it’s a scene that happens in the movie. And I had to put the two together.

I am pleased by the fact that I don’t hate my recording of me reading the poem, because I expected to. And also just pleased with how this turned out. I think I captured the emotions well, and I wanted to share.

Posted in Christianity, Life

How-to: Inexpensive DIY Prayer Labyrinth

Me two weeks ago: I don’t sew a lot.
Me today: So anyway, here’s a sewing tutorial.

Tutorial is a strong word. But when I was looking for ideas of how to make a prayer labyrinth, I couldn’t find anything like this, so I thought I’d write a post walking through my process.

This post ended up quite long. Feel free to skip to the end if you’d like to see the result but don’t want all the instructions.

I’ve been looking for creative ways to teach my young Bible class student about prayer, and one thing I wanted to introduce her to is prayer labyrinths. If you’re not familiar with the concept, you simply walk around a labyrinth while you pray. I find it a useful way to keep my body occupied in a way that helps my mind focus. There’s one at a park not far from where I live, but that wasn’t going to work to incorporate into my class.

I wanted something cheap, easily portable, and reusable. In one way or another, this ruled out the various suggestions I found online. After thinking for a while, I went shopping for some sturdy king-size blanket. I came home with curtains instead.

The cashier, probably under the reasonable assumption I intended to hang them in a window: If these don’t work out for you, just bring them back along with the packaging and you can return them!
Me, thinking about how the first thing I intend to do is rip out seams: Okay, thanks.

Between the two curtains, the set gave me almost the same square footage as that king-size blanket I was after, and they were a dark gray fabric that shouldn’t show dirt easily. Purchased from a store that sells retail stores’ excess items at a discount, they were about $28. This is the only money I spent on this project, and it could be less if you have the patience to haunt thrift stores until you find the right blanket or set of curtains. I was in, “I’ve had this idea and I want to make progress on it RIGHT NOW,” mode, so I did not.

Then I ripped out seams along one side of each curtain, and I cut out way too many strips of fabric to make the labyrinth lines. Way too many. My brain has very little spatial awareness, and I could not predict how much I might need. In the end, I used strips cut from three fat quarters and one piece of fabric of indeterminate size. Altogether, probably one to one-and-a-half yards? Certainly no more than two.

This fabric came from a stash I have from my grandmother, so it didn’t cost me anything. If you don’t have a Fabric Stash to raid, a couple yards of basic quilting cotton isn’t too expensive, especially with a sale or a coupon. Sometimes fabric stores sell the remnants of bolts of fabric at a discount, and you could snag a few of those. Or think more creatively: Do you have a bedsheet hiding in a closet that you never use because it lost its mate? A stained tablecloth? Some old pillowcases? If you have a friend with a Fabric Stash, they might be happy to get rid of a few pieces. I, for example, would love to find a use for some of my excess fabric strips. Let me know if you need some. Or again, try the thrift store; someone else’s unwanted sheet could provide plenty of fabric.

Anyway, I cut my strips 1-1/2 in. wide, sewed the ends together (leaving the different colors separate; I didn’t want them too long and unmanageable), and pressed those seams open. Confession: I used a hair straightener for this part instead of an iron. It worked great.

Then I cleared some floor space and laid it all out.

I drew consecutive rectangles with chalk. (I have a pencil that’s made to draw on fabric and wash off. Turns out it’s the same shade of gray as the curtains. The chalk worked fine, though I did eventually have to retrace some of the lines as they got rubbed off as I moved the fabric around.) After some experimenting – you can see some of my extra lines in the next picture – I ended up leaving a foot of space between them. It’s a little narrow, but walkable. I started out attempting to get the lines nice and straight and perfect. That deteriorated steadily as I got tired of kneeling on the hardwood floor.

I fit four rectangles this way. The middle is smaller than I would have liked, but it is what it is.

Then I had to figure out how to turn that into a labyrinth.

A labyrinth, for the record, is not a maze. It doesn’t have turns and choices and dead ends. It’s some sort of winding path, but you walk it all in one line.

I wish I could tell you I could look at those rectangles and see how to transform them, but again, spatial awareness; my brain doesn’t work like that. I tried a few times before I gave up and Googled. I found a picture of a square labyrinth and somewhat recreated that.

If I understand correctly, I ended up with an approximation of a classical three-circuit labyrinth. Approximation because I eliminated a few of the turns for ease of walkability with the way my space worked out.

I adjusted my chalk lines, adding pieces and rubbing away unwanted bits with a damp cloth. Then I took a picture of the result to reference when I had it up off the floor and couldn’t remember details.

Then I… ironed.

To give my fabric strips tidy edges, I ironed them about like you would make bias tape. There are fancy tools for this. I do not have one. But I read about using a needle, and that worked out for me:

You stick your needle in the ironing board cover, leaving a gap the width you want your final strip to be (in this case, one inch), and tuck the end of your fabric under it. Once you get it started, the needle folds your edges over as you pull the fabric through, and then you can iron them down. It’s still a little fussy and time-consuming, but much better than doing it without the needle.

Still, since it’s fussy and time-consuming and I don’t love ironing, I only did this as I needed new pieces so I didn’t waste a bunch of time on extra.

If you would like to pin your strips down before you sew, absolutely have at it. I did not bother. I could blame this on the fact that I was house sitting at this point and never once thought to pack pins, which is true, but I never intended to use them anyway. This means some of my lines are a little wobbly. There are worse things.

In the interest of having less fabric to maneuver around my sewing machine, I chose to sew the curtain panels together last. And after tearing out a couple spots my sewed fabric strips didn’t match up in the middle, I learned to line them up while both curtain pieces were laid out on the floor and hold the fabric strip in place until I started sewing it. So that’s where I might have used pins if I had them.

I sewed down both sides of each fabric strip, lining up the foot with the edge of the fabric and moving my needle to that side. It seemed to work well.

Although this is a lot of sewing, it’s entirely straight lines and an occasional corner. If you know how to work a sewing machine at all, you can do this.

Here is an attempt to explain how I did the corners, if you wish to know:

Fold the strip under so the wrong side is up, pointed in the new direction.

Flip it back over, creating a little triangle of fabric underneath. Now the right side is up, in both directions. You might have to lift your machine’s foot to tuck the new fold beneath it.

Sew forward, past the edge of the fabric strip, and then back up a little. Make sure you stop with your needle down to keep it in place, then lift the foot and spin the fabric around. And keep going!

I will say, you’ll go through a lot of thread. I took the opportunity to use up leftover thread I’d bought in specific colors for other projects.

At last, I sewed the two sides together. For that, I used a zigzag stitch and went over it twice, wanting it to be sturdy.

And here’s the result!

I think it’s pretty cool. I might wait a week or two to use it in class, because I want to take it outside and my allergies are extra bad right now, but I’m looking forward to sharing it with my student.

Posted in Life

Music Shuffle Game 8

As is tradition. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just a boring tradition, but I chuckled more than once reading through last year’s answers, so it can stay.

1. What is your name?
Shooting Star – Owl City (Call me Star, I guess.)

2. What are your hobbies?
Giants – Lights (Like, fighting them? That seems like a bad idea.)

3. How are you feeling today?
Astronaut – Simple Plan

4. How was yesterday?
Quiet – Lights (Mostly.)

5. What are you doing right now?
Winter of Our Youth – Bastille

6. What song describes you?
Drag Me Down – Shawn Mendes

7. What is good advice?
Loch Lomond – Peter Hollens

8. What were your first words?
Take My Life and Let it Be – Ray Walker (I believe it was actually telling my mom, “Bless you.”)

9. What are you afraid of?
Convocation – Yellowcard

10. What is your motto?
It’s Going to Take Some Time – The Carpenters (I’ve heard worse mottos.)

11. What is the story of your life?
Shattered – Trading Yesterday

12. What will the future be like?
Frequency – Starset (Am I going to take up radio broadcasting?)

13. What is your happiest memory?
Oh the Blood – Praise and Harmony (OH THE BLOOD!)

14. What is your wedding song going to be?
Up All Night – One Direction

15. What do you think of every day?
Problem Child – Simple Plan (I do have a variety of characters who are problem children…)

16. What did you learn today?
Windsong – John Denver

17. What is your biggest secret?
Downtown (Up North) – William Ryan Key

18. How do people see you?
There’s a Stirring – Praise and Harmony

19. What will your dying words be?
Boom! – Simple Plan (Sufficiently dramatic.)

20. What song will they play at your funeral?
Hunter’s Moon – Celtic Thunder