Back to the Blog!

Four years have passed since I’ve posted on this blog. Four years. In that time I earned a Master of Library and Information Science degree, plunged into my first school library jobs,  went on a year-long adventure in Taiwan and Southeast Asia with my family, and watched as Little Man went from toddler to kindergarten graduate (he just lost his first tooth! What?!). While all of that would have been interesting to document, I just did not have the time.

Now feels like an auspicious time to start back up. I will begin a very exciting new job this Fall as the Middle School Learning Commons Coordinator at a brand new space at the Chinese American International School. As Dr. David Loerschter has proclaimed this The Year of the Learning Commons, it seems like it might be helpful for other librarians to see my process – so they can learn from my experiments and avoid the inevitable failures, as well as have a place to cheer each other on.  I will also have a monthly blog spot over at Knowledge Quest featuring other librarian folks and their Learning Commons adventures.

I am so ready to hunker down and dive into this career. It really is my dream job and I cannot wait to meet my new colleagues and students and start imagining ways to use the Learning Commons resources to help make learning fun, relevant and connected to their passions – to start creating wonder! Please follow along and join in the conversation.



New year, new direction

I have had this blog for over two years now. Originally, it was a place to get in the habit of writing articles and posting illustrations regularly, but it morphed into whatever I needed it to be at the time – a pregnancy log, a place to meet other new moms, a way to stay creative while surviving my son’s infancy – and once again it will be shifting its focus down a new path.

I am still on a campaign to create wonder, the emphasis I made in the blog last year. I always thought that would be through writing and illustrating books or teaching art, but I have decided to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science because I believe librarians play a huge role in creating wonder in the world as well, and in a way that may better suit my personality. Over the next few years as I slowly chip away at the program, while also working and raising my son (now 18 months old) this blog will probably contain thoughts about what I’m learning in the San Jose State MLIS program. Please check in from time to time if you are interested in libraries, their role in preserving and sharing information with the larger society, how they create wonder, or how I might incorporate my interests in art, children’s literature, and education into a meaningful library career.

Here’s to a great new year!

Books, People

Summer Pierre: The Artist in the Office

“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard

I have been thinking a lot about jobs lately – why we work, how we end up doing what we do, what those choices lead to, etc.  I’ve often felt a disconnect between what I do for a living and what I wish I was doing with my time (even more so now with a baby). I’m sure everyone goes through moments like that, but I think creative types often have an idea that making Art (with a capital A) and making a living are incompatible and struggle with not feeling like a legitimate Artist if they have an unrelated day job. As I’ve recently gone back to work full-time, I have been trying to deconstruct that myth and look for ways to incorporate Art into the everyday.

Lo and behold, one of my favorite Artists, blogger/author/illustrator Summer Pierre, has written a book on the subject, and I had the opportunity to see her read from it last night at Books, Inc. It’s called The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week. I haven’t read it all yet, but just from the excerpts she used to sum it up and the first few pages I perused last night, it is exactly in line with what I’ve been pondering these days. She doesn’t encourage wild fantasies of dropping everything in your life to become who you truly think you’re meant to be. She asks you to look at the life you are in and analyze how you got here and what the job you have is doing for you. For example, though dogwalking has its frustrations, it allows me a lot of time to think, to be outdoors, to be with happy dogs instead of disgruntled co-workers, to be my own boss, and to afford to live in this amazing city where I can actually go see authors speak.  I’ve had a few “dream jobs”, but no matter how good a job is, they get old. I bet even if I was writing and illustrating full-time, I would find things to be frustrated about. In the book, Summer challenges you to shift your perspective and find ways to keep yourself living creatively throughout your days, as opposed to feeling like you can only create while you’re off the clock. Instead of feeling like you are living two lives (your work life, and your “real” life), she reminds you it is only one life, and it is yours. With examples of famous authors and artists who had day jobs alongside their illustrious careers, tips for prioritizing your life and exercises to try to get your creative juices flowing, Summer makes you feel like it’s not only possible, but a realistic and tangible goal to be an Artist (with a capital A) and keep your day job.

I am thrilled to have met her, as I’ve been following her blog for awhile. It’s such an odd thing to feel like you know someone you’ve officially never met, but she is a kindred spirit and it was nice to connect. Her husband and darling son were in the audience. They are on a small California book tour together (see if she’s coming to a town near you). She has another book coming out in November. Hooray for artist mamas making the life of their dreams. I am inspired. Congrats, Summer!

Check out her book and her blog.

And check out another job related podcast that has been fueling my thoughts about our occupational choices lately.


One. Oh. One!

This is my one hundred and first post on this blog. And we just went to the top of Taipei 101. The giant building is one of those things you “have” to see while you are here. But just like I’ve lived in San Francisco for nearly nine years and have never set foot in the Transamerica Pyramid or walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, my in-laws watched 101 be built from the ground up only a few blocks from their house, and didn’t go up in it until now.
It was worth checking out, even though we had to wait in a long line to get in and to come back down. I don’t know if it’s because our baby is extra specially cute (which he is, if I do say so myself), or if he seems exotic because he’s mixed, or if they are just crazy about all babies here, but our son draws a lot of attention in Taiwan. Usually just playful smiles and sweet compliments, but I guess because he had a captive audience with that line, he became the star attraction. Good thing he’s in a phase right now where he likes strangers because he was being aggressively admired by one and all as we slowly wound around through the amusement park style line. Groping, poking, pinching fingers all trying to get a piece of him as if he were a lucky Buddha. He basked in it, hamming it up, showing off his dimples, even beaming through the forced portrait session in front of the green screen version of 101 spewing fireworks.
We zoomed up the fastest elevator in the world in 37 seconds, up so high your ears have to pop to adjust. We leaned against the windows over dizzying views of the entire city. We stood on the outdoor observation deck and spotted my in-law’s building, which we could have spit on with a good wind. We looked at the huge ballast that keeps the building from swaying too much in high winds or earthquakes. We came, we saw, we got back in line, our baby had a brief meltdown, I felt claustrophobic, and it made me glad we haven’t been hitting up too many of these “must-see” sightseeing venues.
We have had a great time wandering around neighborhoods, eating delicious food (I promise I will get to that food post, but it will have to wait until I get home and can add pictures to it), and hanging out with my husband’s relatives. Last night, we left our son with his grandparents and our cousins took us to a night market, the best dumpling house in the city, and then to a favorite local bar, and we sat and talked for hours. It was such a perfect way to see a slice of life in a different place. You wouldn’t get to know my San Francisco by seeing the Pyramid or the Bridge, and though I may have seen most of Taipei from the 101 building, I will remember it most by the people I met here.
Slow Travel 101: Stick with the locals. They’ll show you where it’s really at.


My New Baby, the iPad

As a big fan of pen, paper and actual books, it was unlikely that I would be one of the first in line to get the new iPad, and yet here I am creating my first post on one. I have never been on the forefront of new technology. I was the last of my friends to get a computer and then a cell phone. I still don’t have a smart phone and if I attempt to do anything on my husband’s droid it ends up chirping and croaking and running five apps at once. New gadgets have always been his thing, but when he saw the iPad coming, he knew it was for me.
It is big enough that even a klutz like me can type comfortably. I can read on it, I can write on it, I can do crosswords. I’m sure there are a million other things I haven’t even discovered I can do with it. There are valid critiques of it you can read at Gizmodo, the most important of which to me are the lack of a built-in camera and the inability to multitask, but above all else, it is truly an objet d’art. Now that I have it in my hands, I feel like I should have on kid gloves. It is so elegant, in fact, I want to put it in long satin gloves and take it to the opera to show it off. Or skip the opera and stay in bed all day getting to know each other.
But my life is no opera and there’s no time to lollygag. This thing has to be able to not only withstand my clumsy hands and low-tech brain, but a drooling baby, shedding dogs, and the rigors of international travel. Its very first job is to entertain us on the flight to Taiwan this Tuesday, guide us through the streets of Taipei for three weeks, and allow me to tell you about it from the other side of the world.
Stick around to see if it is up to the task.

Note to other WordPress bloggers: I am already having issues on this first post. I am using the WP app, but can’t insert links or look up words (thanks to no multitasking). It seems like you can’t type directly into the WP website. Is there a way to type a draft in Pages and paste it into this app? Any easier ways to go about it?


Inspired (finally!)

Ah, the muse is back. The fog has lifted. The juices are flowing. Insert whatever mixed metaphor here that works for saying I feel like my old creative self again. My son is almost eight months old, and on a great sleep schedule, and suddenly my brain is functioning again. For awhile there it was touch and go; there was a period when the Twilight series was the only thing that I read, and any writing consisted of notes scribbled down about how often said son was napping and pooping. At last, I am beyond that newborn haze, and my mind has a few brain cells that can be occupied with creative things.

At first, when my wits returned to me, I didn’t know what to do with them. I could look around and see with new clarity that a few things had been neglected in their absence – my household, my husband, and my wardrobe, to name a few. But I’d also been forgetting to feed my soul, which leads to despair for me and renders me incapable of taking care of those other aspects of my life. To regain my creativity, I needed to “fill the well”, to borrow a concept from Julia Cameron’s, The Artist Way. I needed to do things that sparked interest in life, that got my ideas churning again, that made me feel engaged and present, instead of merely getting through the days and craving escape to vampire land (or werewolf-ville, since I am for Team Jacob).

Here are some ways my well is filled:

  • Listening to stories: The Moth, NPR and PRI have some of the best- Great stories get me going, mostly about people who are pursuing their passions, but really learning anything new can get me high on ideas right now. Here are some that excited me recently: Bootlegger Blues: L.Gabrielle Penebaz’ obsession with trying absinthe turns into a serious creative pursuit (anything can be your art!).   Change Over Time – Carl Honore talks about the Slow Movement (I will blog later about how this got me interested in “slow parenting” and “slow travel”) and Amy Gorman decides to interview older women artists to see how they keep at it. Very inspiring! (Makes me want to go get the book she wrote about it.)
  • Looking for role models – If I just bumbled through life with what I know and what I learned from my parents or my limited experiences, I wouldn’t have much to work with. It’s hard to create in a vacuum, to make something from not very much, so by looking around and seeing how others are fashioning interesting lives for themselves, I get ideas for how to dream bigger in my own. The documentary Who Does She Think She Is? is a recent example of this, my new heroes being those women who pursue their artistic life while also choosing motherhood. It helps me be more creative about how I spend my days to ask myself “who do I want to be like?” and “how do I start taking steps to become more like that now?”.
  • Reading – Just finished Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Very interesting studies, deserving of its own post later.
  • Planning things to look forward to – It’s easy to get into a rut of just going through the motions one day after another while childrearing. It can feel like Groundhog Day. But we’ve just planned a three-week trip to Taiwan in April, and the anticipation has been a tremendous boon to my energy level.

It really is amazing how different life feels with a little sleep and some inspiration. By taking care of my own spirit’s needs, I have so much more to give to my family. And maybe that will even trickle down to this blog. I might actually have some interesting things to share with you soon!


To expose or not to expose?: Deciding how much info is too much when it comes to my kid

It turns out I have boundaries. I know that’s surprising, given the gratuitous photos of my giant pregnant belly and explicit details of my son’s birth story that appeared on this blog. But when it comes to posting his vital stats and even any photos, I hesitate. It’s tough, because everybody’s doing it. Mommy blogs everywhere are filled with photos, video, real names and info about every detail of their kids’ lives. I read them, and enjoy them immensely, and am tempted to post my own because surely he’s the most beautiful baby there is and his life just as entertaining, but I can’t help but wonder what the backlash will be.

I have vague, ominous fears about internet boogeymen trolling for kidnapping victims or turning innocent videos or photos into ugly things or stealing identities that won’t be discovered ’til your kid turns 18 and applies for their first credit card and finds out someone has racked up huge debt in their name. The latter is a true story that helped me decide to not even post his name or birthday, though I’m sure if you dug deep enough, you could find it. I’ve shared it all on Facebook with nearly 200 of my closest friends (I said I had boundaries, I didn’t say they were particularly stringent ones). What made me really stop and think about all this was when we were posting videos of our baby on Motionbox for my in-laws who live in Taiwan. They miss him terribly and this is a great way to keep them updated, but when my husband was about to upload a video of our 6-month-old happily splashing in the bathtub, I thought about the Demarees, and made him stop. Yes, our account is password-protected, but it still didn’t feel right. If this family could get arrested and separated from their children over printing a couple naked baby pics at Walmart, why even risk it?

Above all, my decision to keep his life private is based on how he will feel when he’s old enough to decide for himself. I remember being annoyed that all my mom’s friends knew all about what was going on in my life, and can’t even imagine how upset I would’ve been if she’d had a blog at her disposal and typed to millions of strangers, “Guess what, Internet? Cassy started her period today.” Argh. The humiliation. I feel for all these kids who I know by name and how many bowel movements they’ve had in the past week and I vow to not embarrass my son. As much as I’d love to share his antics and expressions, big moments and small ones, this is not the best forum to do so. I respect his privacy too much. This is my blog, so I will make it about me which will occasionally include my experience with motherhood because that’s where I am right now, but not be so focused on him. So, sorry, all six of you who read this regularly, there won’t be any chubby baby pics here, but I’m sure Little Man will thank me someday (though I’m sure I’ll give him plenty to be embarrassed about regardless).