Since putting up my own Little Free Library a few months ago, I have made it a project to visit others, both local and out of town.
My library has a geocache, and this month I have gotten extra visitors looking for clues for the geocaching “Mystery at the Museum” puzzle. I also put a geocache in a local friend’s Library that she made out of an old newspaper box. Here’s the door to that one:
I started inline skating again recently. I originally learned to use inline skates in graduate school, the last time I lived in California, and I dug my old roller blades out of the garage with the intent of getting some exercise around the neighborhood and reliving old times. Those skates were unfortunately so old that the plastic cracked and the skates were unusable. Undaunted, I bought new ones and went out skating several days last week. While skating, I found another neighborhood LFL with nice blue doors. You can see my shadow taking the picture in the lower left corner.
Rollerblading with a friend in grad school
Photographing the LFL on skates
Some LFLs are close to elementary schools and are well-stocked with kids’ books behind their doors (or not):
San Jose, CA
And some LFL Stewards really go all out, decorating not just their libraries but the areas around them. There are benches, chairs, solar panels, statues, flowers, signs, and paths around these libraries.
San Jose has some other great LFLs too:
This last one doesn’t have a door at all, but I’m adding it into this post anyway because I think it’s a cool idea. The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton airport has its own book exchange too, where you can pick up a book for the upcoming flight, or leave one that you’ve finished reading.
Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments at Norm’s blog.
I have had my Little Free Library up for a few months now. I had been wanting one for a long time, and I think that the impetus of going back to work, teaching, and having published some books (with small presses), is actually what got me there. I’ve been putting copies of my published work in the LFL, and happily, three of those books have been taken! The others come and go. I haven’t yet figured out what are the most popular. There are some kids who live in the neighborhood who have been enjoying my teenagers’ old board books. It’s a much better fate for them than a box in the garage!
What I generally do these days when I start a new project is to join a Facebook group or two, connected to the project. (Well, who am I kidding, it’s usually more than two. Ask the twelve science teaching groups I’ve joined in the past several months!) This one is no exception. The members of Little Free Library Stewards don’t mess around. They have events: grand openings, readings, canned food drives, story hours, bookmark-making parties . . . and their libraries even have their own Facebook pages!
I can’t say that I’m that active. I started a full-time teaching job in January and have only recently been able to catch my breath. My blogging activities have slowed down a lot.
But in any case, I was able to decorate my LFL a little bit for Independence Day. This little flag was one that I think we got back in Cambridge MA when my daughter was a toddler. Or it might have come from the Memorial Day parade she marched in as a Girl Scout.
I was also able to decorate my front doorway in CA, for the first time. I bought this flag holder a couple of years ago and only recently got around to installing it, in what feels like the same burst of energy that got me through the LFL installation.
This is the same flag that traveled from Massachusetts, where it adorned our house every Memorial Day, Flag Day, and 4th of July since ~2007. It has been in the closet for almost 4 years, but got to fly yesterday.
We’re often traveling at this time of year and spending the fourth in another city or even another country. This is my favorite blog about one of those trips, to visit my parents in Western New York. But this year was different: we rode our bikes to Crittenden Hill in Mountain View and took a position overlooking Shoreline Amphitheater, where the San Francisco Symphony was playing a tribute to the moon landing.
We had a nice view of the sunset, the parking lot, some planes, and a waxing crescent moon. They turn off the floodlights 10 minutes before the fireworks start. And from here, viewers can see other celebrations up and down the SF Peninsula. Little balls of fire in the distance.
I brought along a few chemiluminescent bracelets, unused leftovers from a long-ago birthday party or Halloween.
Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Chemical energy turns into light and sound energy, every year.
Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments at Norm’s blog.
I have wanted a Little Free Library at my house for about as long as I have known there were Little Free Libraries. I may have been first introduced to them via geocaching. Or at church. I have blogged about Little Free Libraries for Thursday Doors before, just not my own.
Last December, for my birthday and Christmas, I asked for a Little Free Library. My husband obliged, but that was only the first step. The unpainted, unfinished library (and its post) sat in the entryway to our house for months and were threatening to become a permanent fixture.
LFL post. It’s 5 feet tall!
I bought some paint that was meant for outdoor deck furniture, in colors that looked like they went together, and in the store near the paint there were some stencils. At the time, the stencils seemed like a good idea, so I bought them, hoping to make the library look cute.
I took off the sign, and the door handles, and eventually the hinges, while I was painting. My 15-yo son painted the post, as we took over the garage for a weekend.
Painting the LFL in the garage
Painted post awaiting installation
I enjoyed using the stencils to paint designs on the library itself. I liked the idea of painting a wise owl and a fantasy dragon on the library. Books have introduced me to both wisdom and fantasy.
The wise owl
The dragon of fantasy
But ugh, I guess I didn’t get the memo about how to use the brush, because the end result of the stencil painting wasn’t very good. Some paint oozed underneath the stencil and blended together in a mess. (I didn’t document this in pictures.) I had to fix the pictures freehand. This was a little daunting at first, but I warmed to the task and decided that it looked okay, even charming.
Even more daunting than the painting, to me, was digging the hole for the post. If I’m being honest, I think that was my main reason for putting off the installation this long. I wasn’t even sure if I could dig a deep enough hole. Fortunately I had help. I borrowed our neighbor’s post-hole digging tool, my husband and son both pitched in along with me, and we had the necessary 2-ft hole in about half an hour.
Digging the hole
Post in the hole
Then there was attaching the library itself:
Post, with digging tool
Is it level?
The library is up! Where are the books?
All of this was a long process that happened over several hours. While I was out there, I met two sets of neighbors who were interested in the same thing. One said he had his own library still sitting in his garage. The other offered some books.
Library with books
Most of these books are mine. I got some free with the library, and I have a stash that I brought along from MA of old books that I and my kids will probably not read again. There’s something I like more about putting them in the LFL rather than selling them or even donating them.
I was a little concerned about book theft, since I have a friend with an LFL in a busy area of Philadelphia, and she has had her LFL cleaned out more than once. I stamped the books so that they will be less attractive to used bookstores. You may also note the presence of one of my books, Geocaching GPS!
I even put a geocache in there: LFL 69535, named after its charter number. Since we bought the library from the official organization, it came equipped with a charter number, which means you can find it by searching on this map. The First-to-Find (FTF) was none other than our neighbor Rich, owner of the post-hole digger!
If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hello! If you’re not, check the map for an LFL near you.
For Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors. Since this is supposed to be about doors, I’ll highlight some of the doors’ features. They are held closed by a magnet. I painted the handles to be like flowers. And I put a couple of pockets on the windows to put in bookmarks and orchestra cards. There are flowers on the outer edges and a “lawn” across the bottom.
ThursdayDoors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own ThursdayDoors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments at Norm’s blog.
This month I want to call attention to another adventure cyclist, local resident Tim Oye, who is riding for Climate Ride, a nonprofit that organizes events to raise awareness and support for “active transportation” and environmental causes. Tim’s ride will take him through Death Valley this coming week. Tim will also be giving a presentation at my church on Saturday night.
Environmental advocate and Sunnyvale resident, Tim Oye, is biking across the US to talk with adults and kids about Oceans, Plastic, and Climate Change. While bicycling 4500 miles from San Francisco to Boston, he will stop to give a talk about bicycling across the continent, how day-to-day human activities affect our oceans, and what we all can do to save our environment for our kids. With a degree in Chemistry from Harvard and after more than 30 years in high tech doing product development at Apple, Sun, and Adobe, Tim switched careers to pursue environmental advocacy and public service. He is a certified bicycling instructor with the League of American Bicyclists, a coach instructor for the American Youth Soccer Organization, a 4-H leader, and on the cutting edge of going zero waste.
I worked on “Anything But a Car Day” at my son’s school last year. It is an initiative to promote kids biking to school safely. My son biked to middle school. Now, in high school, he lives close enough that he can walk.
I like to bicycle and I used to ride my bike to work when I had a shorter commute, but I am not as hard-core as these adventure cyclists. We can’t all do everything but we all can do something!
Since January 8th I’ve been reliving adolescence. Hopefully in a good way: I started a job as a Teaching Fellow, training to become a full-time Biology teacher.
Working for someone else 40 hours a week, every day M-F, has required some adjustment after 6 years of part-time work. And getting up before the sun has never been my favorite thing, neither as a teen nor as an adult. But there’s another way in which I’ve been revisiting my teenage self: with my violin, the most reliable time machine yet invented.
Last fall was a whirlwind of music. I played in 3 different orchestras, and I played some of the most difficult repertoire I have yet attempted. I played in San Francisco with professionals! I had solos! It was exhilarating . . . and it was also tiring. At the end I felt like I might be getting tendonitis, or some vague inflammatory condition resulting from overuse. And the larger, heavier viola might have been making things worse.
I took most of December off playing altogether, and as the New Year dawned, I considered whether I might want to take more time off, especially with the new job looming. But an old friend from violinist.com, Jasmine Reese, was returning to the Bay Area to play the Bach Concerto in D minor for two violins, the Bach Double, with the South Bay Philharmonic. And another friend, chamber music partner, and fellow violinist.commer, Gene Huang, was going to be playing the Bach with Jasmine, and the Bruch violin concerto as a solo. I really didn’t want to miss that concert!
So I arranged to play the violin only for this concert. I had played the violin I part of all the repertoire before, so I thought maybe I’d have less work to do, and I could do what practicing was necessary on the smaller, lighter violin and preserve my hand and wrist.
Some of it, namely Beethoven #2, was quite recent, but the rest goes back. Way back. The Egmont Overture, for example: I first played that during my senior year of high school. I was sitting inside next to the concertmaster and turning pages. The way the sheet music is laid out, the last page-turn is a pregnant pause, a brief break in the tension before all heck breaks loose, horses come galloping in on the wave of a crescendo, and you climb up the ledger lines to the highest notes you have ever seen, and wail away up there as loud as you possibly can, while no one can hear you anyway because the brass is also wailing away as loud as they possibly can . . . and although at this point in my career I have now occasionally seen–and played–higher notes, the excitement of playing Egmont is still like that for me. I love Egmont! If I listen to it on the way to work, it has the added bonus of waking me up, no matter how early or dark it is outside.
Listening to the Bruch and the Bach on my commute, on the other hand, is a little more complicated. One year in my youth orchestra, we accompanied a competition winner playing the Bruch, and that sparked a surge of interest among the violin section players. Have you played it? Have you? Are you ready for it? I had to say no. Unlike many violinists who like to play concertos, I have never studied the Bruch. Back then, I was not ready for it, and now I’m more into viola and chamber works. I did learn the opening bars and I played them while I was violin shopping, to cover all the strings and a decent portion of the violin’s range. But other than that, I have hardly listened to the Bruch since I was back in youth orchestra. Even now, among some violinists, I notice that the piece can take on the role of technical benchmark for comparisons and competitions. That aspect of playing the violin–the comparison and competition–is something I was more than happy to leave behind when I left school.
On the car stereo in the morning as I prepare to leave, the opening measures of Bruch rise like the first rays of the sun. Then comes the G–just an open G, which on the violin can’t be anything else . . . how does Joshua Bell manage to make a simple open G so expressive? I wonder, and am curious and delighted. But as it goes on, I start to hear tension creep in. A cello pizzicato repeats over and over, lub-dub, lub-dub, beating like a heart. It’s cool at the beginning but after a while, for me, it starts to evoke more Edgar Allen Poe than Valentine’s Day.
Ironically, last year around this same time I blogged about a similar topic from a different angle: Anxiety, Biology, and Playing from the Heart. I had had to teach a heart dissection class for heart-lung day at a school, and it was making me anxious, much as the prospect of playing a solo concerto made me anxious. I eventually made my peace with the dissection and learned to enjoy it. I wonder, as I listen and drive past my son’s high school, if that will happen for me with the Bruch concerto too. Maybe I have been too busy, or too stuck in adolescent ways of thinking, to really hear the piece’s gentler, sweeter side. In any case, the tension dissipates when the second movement arrives along with the full sun.
The Bach Double was the first major piece I ever learned with my childhood violin teacher, Philip Teibel, a violinist with the Buffalo Philharmonic. He passed away years ago, but his handwriting–his fingerings and bowings–are still vivid both in the music and in my memory. I’ve looked through this piece periodically since then. I played the 2nd movement in church for “Music Sunday” back in Boston in 2008. But the main person I have played it with the most before now, both parts and all 3 movements, was Mr. Teibel, and I still associate it most strongly with him.
Mr. Teibel was an older gentleman when I was his student, and he gave me a recording to listen to of the husband-wife team of Leonid Kogan and Elizaveta Gilels playing the violin I and violin II parts, respectively. I had to look up Gilels’ name for this blog. What Mr. Teibel actually said at the time was “Kogan and his wife.” She didn’t get a name. And it went without saying that the husband was violin I and the wife was violin II. I also remember him suggesting to me that I might be able to play the Bach Double with a “nice young man” someday. At the time, I discounted that suggestion immediately. I didn’t aspire to be some famous dude’s nameless second fiddle.
I needn’t have worried. The musical romance implicit in the suggestion never happened. My husband is not a musician, and one of my few regrets in music is that I rarely have gotten together with friends to just jam or play for fun with no goal or performance in mind. While I do that occasionally now, I never did it as a kid. Competition, not fun or connection, seemed to rule the day back then. Even in my unfinished novel, which has a teen violinist protagonist named Hallie, I wrote a scene in which Hallie and her friend Annie try to play the Bach double. The session ends in tears as Hallie comes to a realization that Annie has advanced so far beyond her technically that she feels they can no longer play with each other. In the story, Hallie and Annie are (as I was at the time) also, at least temporarily, losing their fight against the toxic inferiority complex of the second violinist.
My meeting with Jasmine is nothing like what Hallie and Annie experienced in fiction. I stop by after work; she is staying with friends close by. Her dog Fiji and her hosts’ dog run around joyfully as we are playing, and they occasionally accompany us. There are mistakes but we restart, or play through them. There is a lot of laughter.
What Mr. Teibel knew already then, but what took me 30 years and a 16-year hiatus from the violin to learn, is that one of the best things about this piece, and the memories it holds, is being able to play it with a good friend.
December 20th 2018 was my last day at my old job. I worked as an instructor at the educational non-profit, Science from Scientists, for over 5 years. Fittingly, my last day took place at Lipman Middle School, the same school I started in when I moved to CA in 2015.
Nestled on the side of San Bruno Mountain in Brisbane CA (pronounced “Briz-bane,” not like the “BRIS-bin” in Australia), Lipman is in an idyllic environment. Like many public schools in CA, it comprises a collection of smaller buildings, which students walk between and among to get to classes. (One aspect of school I always disliked when I was a student was the “closed campus” rule that students couldn’t leave the grounds during school hours. If they did, even to go to, say, the pizza place across the street for lunch, they faced severe consequences. Suspension for getting a slice of pizza—a strange prison-like mentality.)
Lipman, though, has an outdoor classroom the woods, and we were able to do some of our SciSci lessons outside. Beanbag tossing with prism goggles could get a little rowdier than usual outside, and no one would mind.
Other days, we fished, we looked at the moon, we made DNA origami, and we built models of brains.
Fishbank sustainability game
DNA origami and the class chromosome
Clay brain areas
Our last class before Christmas break was a lesson called “Rover Restraint.” Many schools do this: students have to build a contraption to keep a raw egg from breaking when dropped from a height of around 8 feet. In our version, we compare it to landing a Mars rover like Curiosity.
And to keep expectations in check and the playing field level for everyone, we limit the planning and building to one class period, using only the materials we bring with us from SciSci. I stand on a stool and drop each entrant from the same height. This procedure usually leads to a nice mix of some eggs cracking and some surviving, and a range of designs and budgets, making it relatively straightforward to pick a winner. (The winning group gets a nice set of SciSci pencils!)
Onward and upward! I’m going to miss Lipman, and Rover Restraint. This post is 2 weeks late for Dr. KO’s Mundane Monday prompt, Motion.
I started a new full-time job last week. I’ve been too busy with it to blog about it in detail–too busy to blog at all, in fact. But I wanted to get started again with this week’s Thursday Doors.
Behind the school where I work, there is an astroturf “lawn” and a basketball court. There are also some picnic tables for the students to eat lunch. And a door.
Students painted this mural, with names of famous cultural figures, next to the back door last year. I like how they included two genders and several nationalities. I spend a lot of time looking at this mural when I’m supervising student lunch.
I have showed a school, with murals, in Thursday Doors before. That school was a more typical California public school, with a lot of separate buildings.
My new school is different. It is located in a former office building in San Jose. Architecturally it is unusual for a school too, with a lot of windows but not much in the way of athletic facilities. These students are more interested in science than sports anyway.
Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time), on the linky list at Norm 2.0’s blog.
It’s the last Monday of 2018! And it’s not so Mundane, since it’s New Year’s Eve. It’s approaching midnight on the East Coast, the ball is dropping. Here I have 3 more hours. I may or may not make it until then. I’m pretty tired and my eyes are feeling dry and sandy.
This week’s theme for the Mundane Monday Challenge is appropriate for this time of year: Reflection. I am starting a new full-time job in January. I will blog more about the exciting changes this will bring to my New Year when I have the mental energy to do it justice. But right now I am reflecting on how my life is going to change in mundane, daily ways after I start working full-time again.
I took this picture one day in early November of this year. It was also during the weeks of terrible air quality in the SF Bay Area during the Camp Fire. I was driving home from one of the schools where I worked, and I stopped to find a geocache in a park near the water, as I did many days for my daily geocaching streak. I have been finding at least one geocache a day, every day, since December 31, 2015. Some of these cache stops in parks on the way home from school have been beautiful. This one was too, in a way. But it was also dystopian and strange. I hope it isn’t the new normal for California.
The air is much better now, but I still had a rough day today. Just before Christmas, my husband and I decided to do a 12-days-of-Christmas geocaching challenge and today was day 10. This means we had to find 10 caches today for this challenge. And, rather than being fun, it was a pain in the neck. I’m not going to stop the challenge now that I’m so close to completing it, but I am ending my streak in two weeks, and days like today have convinced me that it’s definitely time for it to end. No regrets!
I am also not making any New Year’s resolutions, other than to survive the transition back to full-time work. Earlier in the year I took Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Quiz and I found out that I’m a Rebel. Rebels resist expectations, inner and outer alike. (Rebels are also the smallest category, apparently, so I’m feeling overlooked and in the minority.) With respect to resolutions, Rubin has this to say about Rebels:
Rebels generally don’t bind themselves in advance, so a New Year’s resolution might not appeal to them. They want to do what they want, in their own way, in their own time — not because they promised themselves they’d do it.
And I have to say, this sounds a lot like me. If I make a resolution, I may be less likely to do whatever it is, not more. And then she goes on:
On the other hand, some Rebels love the challenge of a New Year’s resolution: “My family thinks I can’t give up sugar for a year? Well, watch me!” or “Starting January 1, I’m going to work on my novel, and I’m going to finish by December 31st.”
BINGO, again. Why did I start this geocaching streak in the first place? I started it because I thought my husband, a serious cacher who was once ranked #10 in Massachusetts, thought I couldn’t do it. But now I’ve been doing it even longer than he has. And I will probably even miss it a little bit when it’s over.
I am celebrating the end of the streak in 2 weeks with a geocaching event at a donut shop. A couple of people have already written to congratulate me, and one mentioned that his streak had become a crushing burden by its end. I’d rather quit while I’m ahead: I’ll make an intentional decision to end the streak on my own terms, surrounded by friendly faces and donuts.
Today’s Mundane Monday blogging prompt is “Making a Move.” On Dr KO’s blog, the move involves a cat.
I tried the new Word Press editor last night on my blog. Change is inevitable: even if it ain’t broke, people still try to fix it. So I was planning to “make a move” to the new editor. Use blocks! Paragraphs! Pictures! Galleries! It’ll be so easy, and my blogging efficiency and posting frequency will skyrocket!
The problem for me centered on the picture galleries and the captions. They don’t work on iphones or ipads (at least). If you put your pictures into a gallery on the phone while you are waiting for a long intermission to finish, when you get back to the computer to finish up the post, the computer doesn’t recognize the pictures as a gallery at all and turns those gallery blocks into lists. In list mode, rather than being under the pictures, the captions were to one side. And there were weird, annoying bullet points next to the text. The placement of the pictures wasn’t right either.
So I re-made all the galleries in the new editor and published the post. It looked fine to me. Then I got an email from a friend. On his ipad, my blog looked like this, with the pictures STILL messed up.
So I went back to the classic editor. The blog looks fine now. I hope. I’m not making that move yet. But please read the blog–I worked hard on it! Thanks to these editorial snafus, I didn’t get it published until very late, when most people east of me had already gone to bed.
When I first read this prompt, “making a move,” I actually thought of something different, however: a physical move. I am working on my holiday letter, which always puts me in a retrospective mood. I scroll back through most of the current year’s pictures, and sometimes those from previous years too. Three years ago, we got ready to make one of the biggest moves of our lives.
This is our realtor’s gift of flowers and a balloon, congratulating us on our new house (set in front of the door of the old house):
And our cars, on a truck ready to move across the country:
And our empty house:
This post about the move, “Gandalf’s Knock,” is still, more than three years later, my most-viewed post.
Am I glad we moved? Yes. But more on that another time . . .
“Camp Fire” is a strange name for such a terrible thing. I grew up thinking of campfires as cozy opportunities to gather around and roast marshmallows. But that is the name for the most devastating wildfire in CA history, destroying the town of Paradise, killing 88 people, and causing $7 billion worth of damage. Thanksgiving rains brought relief from smoky skies and a reason to be truly thankful as they helped the fire to reach 100% containment.
This was a semi-final girls’ volleyball game in the CIF NorCal Division VI. The Cougars from Paradise, the town devastated by the fire, still showed up to play the Lady Falcons. They didn’t even have uniforms. But their opponents welcomed them with jerseys, shorts, knee pads, and socks, donated food and clothing, cash, and gift cards collected from the community. It struck me that these young people know better than adults how to treat others who may be their adversaries in one area of life.
These communities will be dealing with the fire’s aftermath for months and years to come. Please consider donating to fire relief efforts.
1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible.
2. Link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month.
3. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. The more the merrier!
4. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.