Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Banned Books Week? Splendid!

I've mentioned in previous posts that I love to read.  This love of reading started very young for me, 
Obligatory picture of Kiddo Kim "reading" around age 2.

and it has continued to this day.  In 2012, I read 50 books.  I'm that person that becomes thoroughly engrossed in a book and can't put it down.  I read while cooking, while getting ready for work in the morning and for bed at night (no wonder it takes so long some days!), while I should be cleaning, and definitely while I should be sleeping.

I remember reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the first time in college.  It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years.  I got so engrossed in the last few hundred pages that I couldn't possibly fall asleep.  So I spent the whole night reading and finished the book, crying over Sirius, on the porch while watching the sun rise.

In high school my job was to scan old payroll records into the computer, burn them to CDs, and shred the now useless paper.  At the time, scanning the dot matrix printer paper took about 90 seconds per sheet.  I would read while the computer scanned the page, mark my spot, save the payroll record, put the new sheet on the scanner, and resume my book.  I would walk to the library on my lunch break, usually multiple times a week.  I would spend the walk back to work reading one of my latest finds.  Then at night I would stay up far later than I should, always telling myself "just one more chapter".  It was almost never just one more.

I was lucky to grow up in an environment that encouraged reading.  My parents took us to the library on a nearly weekly basis while we were kids.  In first grade, my mom sent a note to my teacher and the librarian asking that they make sure to send home books that I could read to her instead of books she had to read to me.  They happily obliged, and I discovered my love of Amelia Bedelia and, a few years later, everyone's favorite Stoneybrook, CT teens, The Baby-Sitters Club.

This week is Banned Books Week.  According to the American Library Association's website the purpose of Banned Books Week is to "highlight the value of free and open access to information".  The BBW website is full of lists of books that have been challenged or banned over the years.  You can view lists broken down by decade (going back to 1990) or by year.  They have a list of classics that have been challenged or banned as well.

According to the the lists of 100 most challenged books of 1990-1999 and 2000-2009 (some of which overlap) as well as my somewhat failing memory, I read 27 of those books before graduating high school.  Some of them I read on my own, like the Alice series, while others we read in class.

I distinctly remember reading Bridge to Terabithia 5th grade.  The book had been challenged in our district at some point because of language and the fact that it dealt with death.  In order to continue teaching the book, our teacher had to go through each class copy of the novel and white-out any offensive language.  Each of us had to have signed permission slips to read the book in class.  Parents were encouraged to read the book as well so they could be prepared for questions we might have at home.  My mom checked the book out from the library and read it.  I don't remember having any specific questions for her at home, but I do remember using her uncensored copy to find out what swear words were used before reporting back to my classmates.  Most of them we could figure out from context clues, but we just wanted to be sure.

One of my high school literature teachers did a unit on banned books, though I don't remember if it was during Banned Books Week.  To this day, I still love that in my tiny, conservative town, I had teachers who understood that banning books is a ridiculous concept.  They not only allowed us to read controversial books, they assigned them!  I'm pretty sure that's when I read Slaughterhouse-Five.  We talked about why they had been banned or challenged, and I believe the assignment was far better for us as readers and critical thinkers than had those books been removed from the classroom.

Recently I've been consuming books both the traditional way and also through audiobooks.  I think Audible is a great resource for audiobooks.  I like to listen to them as I fall asleep.  I've made my love of John Green's book The Fault in our Stars abundantly known.  I've also read and loved all his other books, too.  In honor of Banned Books Week I am listening to the audiobook of the 7th Most Challenged Book of 2012, his debut novel, Looking for Alaska.


I find the concept of banning or challenging books fascinating.  So many times books are deemed "inappropriate" for an age group, and that's why they're removed from a classroom or library.  I firmly believe that instead of restricting the access that children have to books, parents should encourage them to read whatever strikes their fancy and be prepared to answer questions about it.  I know that I didn't understand all of Slaughterhouse-Five when I read it.  I had to ask questions.  It may make for uncomfortable conversations, but I honestly think that's worth it.

Though the week's half over, if you want to participate in Banned Books Week, check out the ALA website suggestions.  I would love to know if/how you're choosing to participate, even if it's by reading a book that hasn't been challenged in a school!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Thoughts from My First Week (Back)? Splendid!

Thoughts from the first week back at the school district:

Everything is the same, but everything is different.  I kind of have that vaguely familiar feeling that you get when you're trying to piece together the events of the previous night after drinking yourself silly.  (Not that I've ever done that...) I have an idea of all the things I'm supposed to do, and mostly how to do them.  I just keep getting little flashes here and there of specifics.  I'm sure it will all come flooding back with time, but for now, there are just little blips of remembrance.

I'm totally in "back to school mode".  I picked out outfits for day 1 and day 2...  After that it's all been downhill, mostly because I didn't get all my laundry done before I started.  Also, the fact that it was 95 degrees for most of last week was stopping me from busting out my adorable sweaters.  That really is reminiscent of going back to school as a kid.  I remember everyone wearing cute pants and fall clothes the first day before we all remembered that it was still August in Illinois and our schools weren't air conditioned.

My boss sent an all-district email reviewing the changes in the department, congratulating the guy who was previously in my job on his new position and welcoming me back.  I got two emails almost right away from teachers.  It was seriously heart warming.  Those two teachers are people who I always had a soft spot for - teachers who I worked with closely for one reason or another.  I always kind of assume that when I'm no longer an active part of someone's life that they basically forget about me.  It made me feel so good that these two teachers in particular wanted to welcome me back.

I had a bit of a reputation in my department last time I worked here.  No, not that kind!  For whatever reason, I was the awkward interaction magnet - especially with the now-retired Superintendent.  We always joked about starting a Google Docs list of all my awkward interactions.  Less than one week into my new-old job, my boss has already mentioned starting a new document for awkward interactions with the new superintendent.  I had honestly forgotten about the joke from before, but then (see paragraph 1), it all came flooding back to me.  So I had to ask her if she remembered how I had to hold the old Superintendent's hand.  Yes, that was a thing, and yes, she did remember.

During a job interview a few years ago, I was asked what superpower I have.  I answered that I have a real affinity for remember people - their names, personal details like hometown or significant other's name.  I'm especially good at remembering what instrument they played, and I can attribute that directly to my time spent working for the Marching Illini.  I've already freaked out new coworkers with my ability to remember the names of her kids (whom I've never met).  I also amazed her/freaked her out when talking to a former teacher from a neighboring school district.  I was able to remember her husband's name and his occupation, as well their anniversary.  I also realized that we have some mutual friends.  What can I say?  I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night, but I'm good with personal details about people.

Overall, I can absolutely say that I am so happy to be back at the school district.  My coworkers and I used to joke that we were so spoiled by our boss that we would never be able to work for anyone else.  I guess we were right!

Friday, September 13, 2013

General Chaos Sequel? Splendid!

I’ll admit it, I’m not a huge fan of video games, so this post will probably seem a little out of place.  I don’t have anything against them, but I just never really got into them.  The only game console we had growing up was a Sega Genesis – and we got it right before the Nintendo 64 was released.  I do have a Wii now, and I think it’s great, but honestly, I mostly use it to watch Netflix.

One thing I am a fan of, though, is passion.  Listening to people talk about their passions is fascinating to me.  I love reading biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs because not only is real life often much funnier than fiction, but I love to hear what excites other people.  I've been teased before for requesting former colleagues write the stories of their lives, but I thought they were fascinating!

I think that’s one reason I like podcasts produced by Nerdist Industries – they’re all made by people who are passionate about one thing or another.  I don’t typically listen to The Indoor Kids podcast, because it’s primarily about video games, but I did listen to their most recent podcast this week.  Brian Colin was the guest, and he talked about his career as a game designer.  It's so apparent throughout the entire podcast that Brian is passionate about game design.  I really enjoyed hearing about his early career, before the big boom of video games.

One of his biggest successes was a game called General Chaos in 1992.  He says in the podcast that to this day, more than 20 years later, he still gets the most mail and communication about General Chaos.  Because of this, he has started a Kickstarter campaign to create a sequel game.  There’s also a live action trailer for the game.  I find the trailer especially amazing because my incredibly talented brother worked on props, special effects, and editing of the video.  His super talented friends, roommate, and girlfriend also acted in the trailer.  In all honestly, my appreciation for the project definitely stems from the fact that Brian is also my brother’s girlfriend’s dad.  That doesn't diminish or change how important it is to Brian and the fans of the original General Chaos game.

If you’re interested in video games, definitely check out the trailer and the podcast and consider donating to the Kickstarter campaign.

Click these links!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Newfound Free Time? Splendid!

Quick life update:
I was working at a music (instruments & equipment, not CDs) store for the last three months.  It was an okay job with some wonderful people, and I learned a lot.  Recently though, I found out that my previous position at the local school district was open again (thanks, Jen!), and I applied for it.  After a couple of interviews, I was rehired, and I started my new-old job this week.  Aside from the fantastic people, supportive environment, rewarding work, and encouragement to wear orange often, I have to admit, one of the things I'm most looking forward to is no longer spending 2 hours on the road every day.

So, here are the Top 10 Things I'm Going To Do With My Time Now That I Don't Commute (in no particular order):

10. Voice Lessons - Guys?  I think I started my bucket list, and the only thing on it right now is to sing in a band.  I've got a decent voice, but I think it would definitely not hurt to take some lessons.

9. Illini Volleyball - The Illini Volleyball team has been consistently good for quite a few years, yet season tickets for an adult are only $25.  At $5 a game to get in normally, I only have to go to 5 games to make it worth it!

8. Illini Basketball - A slightly less consistent team, I still love going to Illini Basketball games.  Since I'll be getting off of work before 5pm every day, I'll definitely be able to attend way more weeknight games this year than I previously thought.

7. Illini Football - Despite the insane sunburn I got on the left side of my body at last weekend's game (still hurts!), I was so excited to be there.  I ordered season tickets before I started working at the Music Shoppe, so agreeing to give up my Saturdays to the retail gods did not make me happy.  Luckily I only had to miss one game for work, and I should be able to enjoy all that football Saturdays have to offer.

6. Ukulele - Did I mention I bought another ukulele?  I had been lusting after a Fender uke since my first day at the Music Shoppe.  I was going to wait till the holiday season to get one with some sales credit promotion they offer, but obviously that won't be happening.  Instead I took advantage of my employee discount and brought one home last week.  I've really enjoyed practicing so far, so I'm looking forward to skipping fewer songs in my book because they use "hard" chords.

5. Exercising - I'm going to start slow, but maybe I'll try the Couch to 5K program again.

4. Visitin My Friends, especially those with kiddos - LOOK AT HOW CUTE MY FRIENDS' KIDS ARE!  THEY ARE SO CUTE!  

I need to spend more time hanging out with them.  I also have a ton of friends in the Chicago area whom I should visit more.  Who wants to go on the Chicago architecture boat tour this fall with me?

3. Cooking - Remember when I used to cook delicious meals?  Remember when I was making pasta from scratch?  Yeah, it's been awhile since I've had the time or motivation to do that.  I would say I'll even consider cooking slightly healthier options too, but I don't want to get ahead of myself.

2. Being a Better Sigma Alpha Iota Member - I have been slacking in this area lately.  I'm looking forward to catching up with my responsibilities to my chapter and the collegiate chapter.  I'm also looking forward to coming up with new ideas for recruitment, fundraisers, and chapter events.

1.  Updating My Blog - I got into a nice habit of writing something on a weekly basis, and then BAM! all writing stopped because I wasn't getting home till after 8pm most nights.  I have so many ideas for posts that I just haven't gotten around to sharing.  Because I know you're all waiting with bated breath for the next installment of Kiddo Kim Stories and This is My Life?! ridiculousness.