Author Archives for jennasauber

From Laura Ingalls and Alicia Florrick to Elizabeth II: literary and historical women as role models

female literary heroines

The more time I spend reading, writing, volunteering at the library, and exploring what I want to do with my life, the more I’ve learned that what I read and who I read about has influenced who I am and who I want to be. While I love Dickens, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, and Shakespeare, my heart is with Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Lucy M Montgomery, and Jane Austen. Half Pint (Laura), Jo March, Anne Shirley, and Elizabeth Bennett are some of the strongest, imaginative, passionate, and soulful characters in literature – determining their place and path in life while remaining devoted to family, friends, and love. In history, I nerd out over the family wars and power struggles during the times of Henry VIII and Richard III, but it’s the reformations and revolutions and sea changes that Anne Boleyn, Katherine Woodville, and Elizabeth II brought about despite the opposition that really resonate with me.

Even when I think about the TV shows and movies I enjoy, it comes back to the women. Sure, Mad Men’s Don Draper is a fascinating look at the flawed man, but Peggy, Joan, and young Sally Draper are prime examples of women finding their way in a world dominated by the opposite sex. And while the Earl of Grantham may hold the keys to Downton Abbey, Ladies Cora, Mary, Edith (yes, even Edith!), Sybil, and Rose, and servants Mrs. Hughes, Mrs. Patmore, Daisy, and Anna set the stage for the changing role of women in the first half of the 20th century. On The Good Wife, Alicia Florrick adapts to and then owns her circumstances, making us question what “good” really means. And in Game of Thrones, perhaps the most exciting character development lies with Daenyrus Targaryen, Sansa and Arya Stark, and (begrudgingly) Cersei Lannister.

When I was younger, I may have thought that I just liked that Laura Ingalls got to help her Pa make hay and then go buggy-riding with Almanzo. I may have been jealous of Anne Shirley’s red hair and her smart and witty friend and future husband, Gilbert. But what I think was really going on was that I admired their fiery spirit, their continued desire to learn and explore, and their fierce loyalty to home, family, and self. One of my favorite book series is one that centers on how a young white woman and her (later freed) slave and best friend get through the Civil War and years afterward, both dealing with their own set of obstacles, but both also remaining adamant about who they are and how to fulfill their dreams. Dare I say that these are the very reasons I have had a lifelong love affair with The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz? Beyond the singing and the rainbows and ruby slippers, these are also the stories of women and girls who overcome their fears – of the unknown, of the world beyond their doorstep, of those who challenge their beliefs – and take a journey to find their calling, or to find what matters most, even if it is right in their own backyard.

There are many out there that have applauded the arrival of newer young female “heroines” and role models in literature, such as The Hunger Games’ Katniss or Divergent’s Tris. While I support new stories and inspiring characters, we weren’t lacking in the first place. Stories of females fighting back against societal pressures and life’s ups and downs and tragedies is nothing new – all you have to do is pick up the Little House series, The Diary of Anne Frank, or Little Women. A 16-year-old pioneer girl braving her first teaching assignment in the middle of nowhere sounds pretty brave to me. So does the story of a young girl hiding from the Nazis in an attic, and another of a young woman cutting off her hair and secretly writing stories under a pen name to provide for her family.

This is no great epiphany of course. We read what we like, and we read (and watch) what connects to us, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically. And as I continue to determine my next steps and explore who I am beneath the surface, I’ll keep in mind my heroines from the page, screen, and history, that I have loved from the first moment I met them.

Who are your heroines from books, tv or film, or history? Why?

I love being a newbie knitter

knitting collage

Excitement. Nervousness. Enthusiasm. Drive. Curiosity. These are just a few of the feelings we may have when exploring a new hobby, topic of interest, job, or relationship. Think of the first few times you played an instrument, read books by a new author, or took surfing lessons or dance classes. There’s something about being a newbie to something that’s like no other stage — everything is bright and shiny and fun and you want to throw all of your time, money, and effort at it.

Nearly six months into learning how to knit, I’m still very much a newbie, and I’m loving it. While I look forward to becoming more advanced and being able to master intarsia and fair isle and bust out a pair of socks in an hour, right now, I’m enjoying the ride of being a beginner.

As a young girl, my grandmother taught me how to sew, and I’ve always liked to be crafty in that way. I made a simple baby quilt as a teen, and started one for me, with the idea that I’d give it to my first baby someday. That second quilt is still in progress (long story). No one in my family knits, although some crochet or do needlepoint. I bought a knitting kit at Michael’s circa 2008, and after an hour of attempting to cast on and knit one row, stuffed my kit and two beautiful (and not appropriate for newbies) skeins of yarn into a box. Last fall, I decided to give knitting another shot, and after studying the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch guide and a few YouTube videos, I finally figured out how to cast on, knit, and purl. My first piece was a swatch of course, as all knitters recommend. I got help with the bind off from my friend who loaned me the book, and then I was ready to tackle my first real project — a headband.

I spent a lot of time trying not to drop stitches so that I wouldn’t have to fix them (and sadly, I still don’t really know how), and figuring out the most comfortable position for my hands and the yarn. I went back to Michael’s again and again for new knitting accoutrement and other practice yarn. By Christmas, I had made two pot holders for my mom (one with one of those first skeins I bought back in 2008!), and headbands for me and my parents. But my real goal was ahead: a baby blanket for one of my closest friends. I was determined to figure it out by the due date in February. So I bought some fuzzy (too fuzzy) baby yarn and got to work in January. The yarn made a pattern or colorwork unnecessary, so I just knitted flat on circular needles in garter, and in the process got fuzz all over the carpet and couch for two months. I was totally over the project by the time it reached the desirable dimensions, but I was pleased as punch, and was able to ship it off to my friend and her new baby just two weeks after the birth.

The baby blanket wasn’t the only project I was working on: I also had (have) a running list of friends having babies, and have been making little hats as well. And in between all of this, I’m experimenting with new patterns (seed stitch), new yarns (check out Knit Picks for good deals), new techniques (Craftsy has some great, cheap video classes), and new needles (finally bought double pointed on the recommendation of my local yarn store). While I may not need to need a bunch of winter wear for myself here in San Diego, I’m on the lookout for other projects (“Mom, want me to knit you a placemat?” and “Mom, I made you an eyeglass holder with stash yarn.”) to keep my hands busy while watching Law & Order reruns at night or sports on the weekends.

One of the best things about being a knitter (new or not) is that there no shortage of advice, tips, and patterns — and a lot of it is free. I haven’t bought a single knitting magazine or pattern book because there is YouTube, Pinterest, knitting blogs, friends, yarn stores, and the mother of resources, Ravelry. So while I may still be putting off really figuring out how to fix a dropped stitch, I can spend too much time finding new patterns and buying way more yarn than I need (this is eerily like my addiction to books — you can never have too many!).

I asked friends and family who knit or crochet if they had any tips to share, or just general thoughts about their own adventure with the craft. Here’s what they had to say. If you have any stories or tips about knitting that you’d like to share, please comment!

  mary blanketAunt Mary Beth: My first prayer shawl after joining the Prayer Shawl Ministry Group at church. I had not crocheted for years but quickly remembered the relaxing art that it is. The plus is that these items go to cancer patients and are blessed by our priest during our meetings. I have not been to deliver any yet but I am told that they are very much appreciated by all. Also made by our group are both crocheted and knitted gloves, hats and lap blankets. I look forward to one day delivering them. I hear from the other members that it is a wonderful experience.

Molly: I’ve started incorporating knitting with my quilts. I’m working a quilt now with knitted accents. It’s so relaxing to do both at the same time. When one gets frustrating or I reach a creative block, I’ll switch to the other. I like to sit at night, when it’s finally quiet and just “Quit.” (Note: turns out that Molly (my friend since childhood) and I both used the same Bernat baby yarn to knit a nearly identical blanket/car seat cover, at the same time.)

  karin hatKarin: I crocheted this hat for Andy when I was preggo and he wore it pretty much the entire winter. Found the basic baby hat pattern on YouTube and added the eyes and horns. Was done in three hours.

  Linda: I was given two prayer shawls while my Mom was dying in the hospital. I felt so comforted knowing someone had made these items just to help buoy the spirits of people like me, a heartbroken daughter. To those of you who make these lovely shawls (like Mary Beth), please know they are most appreciated. (Note: Linda is my knitting mentor and loaner of Stitch ‘n’ Bitch!)

  Brianne: It’s on my bucket list to learn how to crochet a baby blanket just like the one that was given to me as a little, tiny one. My plan is to learn before I have a baby one day!

The Other Millennial: Searching Beyond the Stuff

IMG_7272

Yesterday, I read a piece in The Washington Post about a “seismic shift” happening all across America: Boomers are cleaning out their clutter and updating their décor, but their Millennial kids don’t want their stuff. The article goes on to discuss the various element at play, that we have read about again and again in nearly every story about Millennials for the last few years – we want to downsize and take less stuff with us, we capture important moments digitally, and, according to one quoted Millennial, we prefer to “spend money on experiences.” (I read another article this morning on this last point.)

While these things may be true for many Millennials, I find that the article is one-side, as most of these pieces are. What about those of us (me, obviously) who capture our moments digitally, but also do still carry around boxes of cherished items to feed our nostalgia and experiences? What about those of us who spend money on experiences but also spend money on such old-fashioned things like records, stationery, and (gasp!) books? And not to neglect the Boomers – what about parents like mine who don’t have clutter and whose decorative tastes are actually quite appealing?

I emailed the author of the article to express these thoughts. Her response: “Thanks. Interesting idea.” I don’t expect to see the other side of the story anytime soon. According to the article, eight out of 10 Millennials don’t want their parents’ boxes of memories and furniture. And again, while this may be true, it’s also stating the obvious. Just like all of the pieces about Millennials moving back in with their parents focus on the “majority” – those who are in debt, lost their jobs, in school, etc. What about the other side to that coin? What about the Millennials like me who make personal choices to spend more time with family, to explore a new career path, and to get a change of scenery? What about the Millennials who use this time to browse the old photo albums, read the old letters, and bust out the heirloom blankets for the bed?

With each of our collective numerous moves, my parents and I have donated or trashed a lot of stuff—whether it was knickknacks, collectables, furniture, etc. But there’s always that box or two of papers and ribbons and notes and other chachkies that we just can’t let go. And when my grandparents passed away in the 90s, I relished being able to discover their own cherished possessions, some of which became my own. There’s something to be said about these reminders of our past that use all of our senses—the smells, the touch, the colors—they can do a lot more for our memories than rifling through thousands of digital photos on a hard drive.

In an age when what’s old is new again, the real story should be about those Boomer parents and Millennial kids who are connecting over their precious moments from the past and the present, both through physical mementos and digital files. In an age when we shake our heads at the lack of connection between these two generations that are supposedly miles apart in ideology and tastes and behaviors, why not take a closer look and find the families that are bonding over classic Johnny Cash vinyl, taking selfies with a Polaroid, and supporting each others’ hobbies and passions (even if it means creating more “stuff” for the house).

I may be in the minority, but there’s something beneath all of this “stuff.” I think there’s a lot of soul.

Do you have any stories to share about your own experiences of keeping your or your parents’ old “stuff”?

Celebrating one year in San Diego

san diego 1 year collage

This week marks one year since we moved to San Diego, which means I’m edging on two years since I moved to California (Remember that little stint up in Paso Robles? A distant memory for me, too.). In some ways, it seems like I have always been here, and in others, it feels like I just arrived and everything is still fresh and new.

While there are definitely areas of my life that I’m still looking to fill (a few more friends, a partner, a place of my own), when I think about what I have done so far in this past year in my new city, I have to say, I’m pretty darn fortunate – and when it comes down to it, I’m also pretty happy. Having a pity party about not having it all right now can only last so long, and I once again give credit to my parents for helping me to see the light – and for reminding me that for the most part, the only obstacle in my way is myself. To have the flexibility and the freedom that I do, to really try to be true to myself and focus on my writing…well, not everyone has that option. As people say, things don’t happen for you, you have to make them happen for yourself.

But back to what I have done, thanks to this journey I’ve been on. One of the things I love most about living in San Diego is the priority on a balanced lifestyle. While it looks like all people do out here is surf and hike and bike and play with their dogs, I know that there are a lot of hard-working folks out here. But they really walk the talk when it comes to that “work hard, play hard” mantra. People do their jobs, but they also make time for themselves, and for friends and family. It’s just as important to make sure that you get a trail run or kayaking trip in on the weekend as it is to finish that project at the office.

As I continue to find the operational mode that works best for me (while I’m working from home), I’ve been able to have a lot more time for other things that I shied away from committing to when living on the East Coast. I avoided signing up for volunteering, I didn’t join any running or tennis groups, and I didn’t take up any new hobbies. Sure, I went to sporting events, and happy hours, and visited museums, and hung out with friends. But there were so many things I didn’t do that are now feeding my soul, and that I feel are helping me to continue on a road of self-discovery.

Some highlights:

  • I’ve run several races with my mom, and supported her as she became a runner in her own right. Bonus: some new PRs for me along the way.
  • Volunteering at the library has introduced to me to some lovely people, and expanded my literary horizons even further.
  • Tutoring middle school and high school students in English has taught me patience, creativity, and a lot about my own learning style.
  • Helping my parents with various home and garden projects has made me realize how much I love working with my hands, and the sense of productivity it brings. Which brings me to…
  • Teaching myself to knit after first buying a set of needles and yarn several years ago brings me joy from crafting things that others appreciate, and the act of knitting is a calming and fun experience.
  • Participating in activities like trail running, kayaking, SUPing, and getting back to tennis means I can enjoy San Diego’s beautiful outdoors and maintain fitness.
  • Meeting new friends of all ages and backgrounds through my various activities means common threads and a diverse set of relationships –> quality over quantity.
  • Speaking of quality: continued focused time with my family has made us closer than ever, as we all support each other in this phase of life.

Here’s to another great year ahead here at home.

Things I’ve Learned While Volunteering at the Library

bookshelf

I began volunteering at the local library last August. I’m in the circulation department, and once a week for about an hour and a half, I shelf-read and clean books. I also help shelve some paperbacks and organize carts ready to be shelved, things like that. And contrary to belief, it’s not only elderly people who volunteer at the library. There aren’t many of us younger ones, but there are some, including my supervisor, who is my age, and has been working at libraries since high school. I may be one of the youngest volunteers, but being at a library is like another home to me. So getting my library fix once a week and supporting the system? A winning combination for a book lover. (Bonus: I even met a wonderful woman at the orientation who has now become one of my closest friends here in San Diego. We talk about books, knitting, Downton Abbey, and desserts. It’s perfect.)

Shelf-reading basically means making sure the books and other materials are in order on the shelves. You literally go book by book and read the spine label, re-shelving any books (or DVDs or audiobooks, etc.) that are out of place, and aligning them all on the edge of the shelf so it’s pretty and upright. So for instance, in fiction, you follow the spine label by author, then title. In nonfiction, you follow by the Dewey Decimal number, then author, then title. Some sections are nearly always perfect, making for a boring (if not fast) review, while others seem to always be out of sorts (children’s, new fiction, some non-fiction sections).

For most people, volunteering at the library may seem like a very mundane and rather uninteresting activity, but for book lovers, it’s a nice escape to the world we love, and a continual learning experience. Here are a few things I’ve learned from volunteering at the library:

  • Children’s books are filthy. I don’t mean the content. I wear gloves and use a household cleaner and microfiber cloth to clean books. What appears on the cloth after just one cover of a kids’ book is absolutely disgusting. (Note: there are Purel sanitizer stations all throughout the library. This is an important feature.)
  • The children’s books are also always the last to be organized. The volunteers will go through all of the rest of the library each month, shelf-reading anything but children’s, until we have to do it before starting any other section again. Said one volunteer recently, “I don’t do children.” (I wondered after if she meant that specifically for shelf-reading or in a larger life sense.)
  • Mystery and thriller series have all sorts of interesting title themes. I’ve never read mysteries or thrillers, so for a long time I thought that Sue Grafton’s alphabet series was somewhat unique. Or that whole “The Cat Who…” series. But when I started shelf-reading, I realized there is an insane amount of theming that goes on with these titles across the board, some of them kinda cool, and some that are lame. The alphabet thing is quite common, actually (i.e. Capital Killer, Capital Larceny, Capital Murder), and then there’s overplayed themes like baking or holidays (Carrot Cake Murder, Red Velvet Cake Murders).
  • Patrons still rely on old services. When I’m in the circulation room cleaning books or doing other tasks, at least three to four calls come in with a request for renewals or someone wanting to know when their books are due. This is despite a printed receipt system when you check out your books that show when they’re due, and an online renewal system that is quite easy to use. I think it’s an interesting example of how even though libraries are instituting technology to streamline processes, many patrons still prefer traditional methods.
  • People still use libraries to get work done. Or play games on the computer. Believe it or not, people don’t exclusively go to coffee shops now to hog the Wi-Fi and work on their paper (or check Facebook). Even on Tuesday afternoons, the library is full of people getting work done on their laptops at study tables, doing research, and whatever else they need quiet space for. But a fair number of people come to the library to make use of the computers for job searching, playing solitaire, and watching YouTube videos.
  • Library book sales are hard to beat. If your library has an ongoing bookstore and frequent sales, take advantage of it. On any given day, I can buy a newer paperback, a great biography, a classic cookbook, or a fascinating non-fiction book for anything from $1-3. Many of these books are in near perfect condition. Consider donating books you don’t want to your library, and buying from them, too, if that’s an option. Keep the cycle going.
  • You can never run out of new material to read. If you’re open to expanding your literary horizons, the library is a perfect place to try new genres, new authors, and new subjects – all for free.

Have you volunteered or worked at a library? What you have learned from your experience?

1 2 46
Austenesque Reviews

Reviews of Jane Austen Sequels, Para-literature, and Fan Fiction

litvisuals

Just another WordPress.com site

A Chronicle of Karma

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Classicritique

What classic will you read?

A Celebration of Reading

It's All Fiction!

Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

Join the celebration of Jane Austen novels, movies, sequels and the pop culture she has inspired

Live to Write - Write to Live

We live to write and write to live ... professional writers talk about the craft and business of writing

WordPress.com News

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

The Garden Smallholder

Growing Veg & Chicken Keeping in a Rural Back Garden

101 Books

Reading my way through Time Magazine's 100 Greatest Novels since 1923 (plus Ulysses)

Eleventh Stack

A books, movies, and more blog from the staff at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh - Main.

Word by Word

Books I've enjoyed, Journeys I've loved, Places that inspire

The Fearless Cooking Club

It's never too late to start

Yogitastic

Yoga. Health. Wellness.

bearrunner

Just another WordPress.com site

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,796 other followers

%d bloggers like this: