A Diamond in the Rough?

There’s a reason that the nightly news ends with a ‘good news story,’ we need hope. Hope gives us energy. Hearing and watching stories of how others have triumphed over the odds inspires and helps us to think better of others and ourselves.

We had our own good news story live last evening when we looked out our living room window and spotted a young couple setting up a Covid 19 style birthday party in our neighborhood. We stood in awe as decorations went up in the pouring rain and the little family waited a good 40 minutes until a trail of young families, including the 32 year old birthday girl, arrived dressed to party. We joined in from our deck as everyone sang happy birthday. 9AE6593F-91F3-4616-AFBD-EBE8A02EDC1F

Last evening was remarkable, but other days it’s been a bit like searching for diamonds in the rough. I’ve found Cloud Library the easier of the two online ebook apps to use when doing a subject search. I began my search on self-care and health but, landed on inspirational books and stories of courage. I encourage you to do your own search. Cloud Library has an extensive topic search although some titles overlap.

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Papemy

I don’t want to die, however in my more broken and vulnerable moments I feel like I need to be fixed. Author Anna Mehler-Paperny tracks her quest for knowledge and her desire to get well. Impeccably reported, Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is a profoundly compelling story about the human spirit and the myriad ways we treat (and fail to treat) depression, a condition that accounts for more years swallowed up by disability than any other in the world.

Last May I blogged on depression. No one was more surprised than me on the response I received, which attests to the importance of mental health. More recently co-worker Linda blogged on the subject as part of her Did You Know series.

Almost Everything by Anne Lamott

I’ve enjoyed and shared my enthusiasm for Lamott’s candor in a previous post. I can’t think of a better time to revisit her in Almost Everything. In this profound and funny book, Lamott calls for each of us to rediscover the nuggets of hope and wisdom that are buried within us so we can make life sweeter than we ever imagined. Her work is divided into short chapters that explore life’s essential truths. Candid and caring, insightful and sometimes hilarious, Almost Everything is the book we need and that only Anne Lamott can write.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Whimsical comes to mind when reading this short summary: From the revered British illustrator, a modern fable for all ages that explores life’s universal lessons, featuring 100 color and black-and-white drawings. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked the mole.“ Kind,” said the boy.

Walking with Peety: the Dog Who Saved my Life by Eric O’Grey

Eric was 150 pounds, overweight, depressed, and sick. After a lifetime of failed diet attempts… sound familiar?…Walking with Peety is for anyone who is ready to make a change in his or her life, and for everyone who knows the joy, love, and hope that dogs can bring. This is more than a tale of mutual rescue. This is an epic story of friendship and strength

Broken Places & Outer Spaces by Nnedi Okorafor

A powerful journey from star athlete to sudden paralysis to creative awakening, award-winning science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor shows that what we think are our limitations have the potential to become our greatest strengths.

We’ve heard it, and we’ve said it a thousand times over these past weeks “We’re in this together.” Author Philip Yancey once wrote “We don’t get to choose the family we’re born into.” So much of life is about not having control, yet seeing a spontaneous birthday party outside in the rain and finding books with amazing stories and insights helps us along our way. A bit like finding a diamond in the rough.

Patty the Vampire Slayer

In The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, Campbell loves her husband and children, but she thought she’d be living a bigger life than running errands all day, cleaning the entire house, doing loads of laundry, and cooking gourmet meals for her less than appreciative family every night. Oh, and on top of all that, her elderly mother-in-law, in the grips of dementia (the poor soul has almost forgotten how to eat) moves in and Patricia has another person to look after.

Campbell has given up her career as a nurse, married a very ambitious (and now often distant) doctor, and makes herself nearly insane by being part of a book club where execution is the preferred method of shaming if you haven’t read the assigned book. It’s at one of these horrible book club meetings that a smaller faction of women who don’t want to read ‘Books of the Western World’ come together to form their own book club. The new book club includes four other Southern housewives: Slick, Kitty, Maryellen, and Grace.

The new club reads true-crime novels with titles like Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs and Buried Dreams: Inside the Mind of John Wayne Gacy. They also choose more well known titles like The Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, and the oddly chosen Bridges of Madison County because one of the club members thinks the main character is a serial killer who drifts around the country killing housewives. The book club is the only exciting thing in Patricia’s dull life of driving her two children to after school events, packing lunches, and getting no support from a husband who spends most of his days at the office.

One evening, with the thrill of a book club meeting still fizzling through her, Patricia sees that her son Blue hasn’t taken the garbage bins to the end of the driveway. She can’t really blame him since the cans are stored at the side of the house and it’s pitch black and a little scary there once night falls. So she heaves a sigh only a mother can sigh and begins to drag the garbage bins down the driveway. But a noise catches her attention: the slurping, gulping, crunching sound of something being eaten.

In the shadows she sees her neighbor from down the block, Mrs. Savage, a mean old biddy not much beloved by the neighbors. Mrs. Savage is down on her haunches behind the cans with a raccoon stuffed in her mouth. She disembowels the dead animal while growling at Patricia who is backing away from the old lady and is about to make a run for it when the old woman pounces and tears off Patricia’s ear lobe. The cops and an ambulance come and take both Patricia and the old lady to the hospital.

Patricia is patched up and sent home. The next day she hears that Mrs. Savage has died from some sort of blood poisoning. There’s evidence of intravenous drug use on the on woman’s inner thighs, injection holes that have pierced her skin. Patricia knows that Mrs. Savage has a nephew living with her and acting as her caretaker. Like any Southern woman worth her weight would do, Patricia decides she needs to take a consolation casserole over to the grieving man.

When she gets to Mrs. Savage’s house, she sees it’s completely closed up and the blinds are drawn even though it’s a scorching hot day. When no one answers the door, Patricia lets herself in and begins to search the house for the nephew. She finds him lying in a bedroom. She can tell he’s not breathing. Her old nursing skills kick in and she immediately begins to give him CPR. His skin is cold and dry and she’s positive he’s dead until he sits up with a gasp.

This is her introduction to James Harris, a seemingly shy and artistic man with a hint of appealing strangeness to him. The sunlight hurts him and makes him fatigued. He seems helpless in both his grief over his aunt and whatever ailment haunts him. She decides James Harris is going to be her friend (perhaps more?) and helps him get settled as a real resident of the town: setting up a bank account and going to pay his power and water bills because he can’t bear to be out in the light. He drives a white van (the kind that you expect to see ‘Free Candy Inside’ written on the side) with windows that are heavily tinted to dim any light from getting in.

One evening, James comes over to Patricia’s house while the family is having dinner. Patricia’s mother-in-law, Mary, is having a particularly bad night and takes one look at James and starts babbling about a picture she has of him. Her behavior is excused because of her waning mental faculties. Soon, however, Patricia begins to think James Harris is something sinister with his cagey, secretive ways, the fact that he doesn’t go out during the day much, and his creepy van.

She starts to hear stories about children in town disappearing only to return as ghosts of themselves and eventually committing suicide. Not much has been done about it because it’s in the ‘bad part of town’ where most of the people of color live (remember, this is the early 90s in the South). Mrs. Greene who lives in that part of town and who is Mary’s nurse, tells Patricia about the missing children and how they come back.

Curious, Patricia decides to go there and investigate. She finds a very familiar creepy white van in the woods and what she sees happening in the back is something she can’t explain to herself, let alone to anyone else: James Harris with a monster’s face leaning over the prone body of a little girl. Patricia thought he might have been a serial killer but what she sees in the van is a creature from the depths of myth and folklore.

Patricia tries to tell her book club all about it, but they think she’s nuts and let her know they won’t put up with her crazy stories and theories about James Harris, who has become an upstanding citizen and businessman in town. So Patricia decides to go it alone, to get proof that he is indeed a monster that needs to be destroyed. But even crippling James Harris on her own is more than she’s capable of and in the end, it seems like he will continue snatching small children while charming the town and the book club members husbands. That is, until another book club member witnesses something and they band together to take this creature down.

If you like funny horror novels that are just a damn pleasure to read from beginning to end, pick up Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. You’ll laugh, get scared sh**less, laugh again, and find yourself cheering on a group of somewhat cliched Southern belles whose only worries up until that point had been packing lunches every day and making sure their kids make it to swimming practice on time. Much like blood on the lips of a vampire’s mouth, this book will stick with you for a long time. For God sake, go download it and get to reading!!

Ghosts in the Machine

Are you missing personal interaction with people other than your immediate family nowadays? We sure are here at the library. Helping people to access the library’s resources in person is one of the pillars of our service and, truth be told, one of the major reasons we love our jobs.

But if, like us, you are in need of some human interaction, don’t despair. We have created several videos so you can spend some quality digital time with the staff here at the library. The topics range from crafting to storytimes and beyond. But the real benefit just might be staying visually connected in these isolating times.

Create & Explore:

Feeling creative? If so, definitely check out Elizabeth’s Create @ Home series and follow along as she takes household items and turns them into art. Her latest has her getting creative with paper coasters and trivets:

Since you probably have more than enough time to contemplate your immediate family right now, why not delve into your ancestry to make them seem more interesting? Lisa has you covered with an excellent video on how to get started with the Library edition of Ancestory.com. Enjoy the rocking intro!

Let Us Tell You a Story

When it comes to face time in the library world, let’s admit it, children’s librarians take the cake. Their enthusiasm is contagious to children and adults alike. We have two ongoing video series to highlight their talents and keep you entertained: eStorytimes and Book Bites. There is a lot of great content here, but here are two favorites.

Miss Eileen introduces us to the itsty, bitsy, spider:

Join Miss Andrea as she shows us the best way to say hello to friends:

From the Vault

We have actually been making short videos at the library for a fairly long time. Peruse our YouTube channel to access all of the content including our Everett Massacre Centennial series, poetry reading and much more. Here are two from the lighter side to make you chuckle and incite some nostalgia for out beloved downtown location. Hopefully we will all be back soon!

A Shakespeare fight between Tyler and Linaea in the sorting room.

A squirrel enjoys the reading room.

Puzzles, Puzzles, Puzzles!

I enjoy putting together jigsaw puzzles. I never had the time and or patience before a couple of years ago, but due to different health issues, a spinal fusion and then an ankle joint replacement, walking on my lunch breaks was no longer an option for me.In the Everett Public Library staff room, we usually have an ongoing jigsaw puzzle. I was never really interested until I had to sit still and do something different.

Since then, I’ve become one of the most adamant of the staff puzzle club. Anything from a 500 to 1000 piece puzzle is usually there waiting to be pieced together. And like Linda’s latest post pointed out, puzzles help with depression. When deciding to write a post, I thought I might as well write it on something I was personally interested in and so I ventured forth to see the digital offerings that Everett Public Library had about the subject of puzzles. 

Here are some puzzle related digital items that sounded interesting to me:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – In this story a virtual reality world is a vast online utopia where people plug into an “oasis” instead of the grim , poverty stricken reality of the outside world. This story is full of action, puzzles, nerdy romance and the nostalgia of the 1980’s. In this high energy cyberquest, geeks everywhere will feel like they were separated at birth from the author. 

Young Adults who are fans of John Green (Fault in Our Stars) will enjoy the ebook by Arvin Ahmedi called Down and Across. In this  coming of age story a college bound senior, Scott Ferdowsi, sneaks off to D.C. and meets a college girl, Fiora Buchanan, whose ambition is to write crossword puzzles. The main character, Scott, gets himself into all sorts of mayhem like sneaking into bars and picking up girls at the national zoo all while trying to figure out who he is and what he wants to be.

A streaming video I found in the library collection on Kanopy is a 1992 Italian mystery/thriller called Body Puzzle. This film has been described as a fun 90’s giallo. The leading lady, Joanna Paula is a heroine in peril because some sick killer keeps breaking into the house and leaving severed body parts laying around. Needless to say, this title is Not Rated and definitely a slasher film. 

Something more science related is a streaming film called Mastering Rubik’s Cube, which is on Kanopy as well. Are you interested in an easy to learn eight step method for solving this mind bending puzzle? Follow along step by step and you will be solving a Rubik’s Cube in less than three minutes.

A third interesting streaming title on Kanopy is a documentary on artist Rene Magritte.  He makes witty and provoking images that merge his childhood, memories and everyday objects from his Brussel’s apartment into a fantastic, unique puzzle of art.

Some streaming music that came up in my puzzle search that is available from the library is Beggars Banquet by the famous English rock band the Rolling Stones. This streaming album on Hoopla has the song “Jigsaw Puzzle.”

Also the American rock band Saint Motel has a streaming album called Voyeur. I listened to their song “Puzzle Pieces” with its upbeat piano and happy tempo.

Since the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order I’ve completed a couple of jigsaw puzzles, but miss the team effort of my fellow staff members. Oh well, that will come back in time…but now I’m off to order a puzzle of Rene Magritte’s art!

Homemade relief for your dry hands? Yes, please!

Lotion bars made by EPL staff member JoAnna

Hands getting dry after all the hand washing?  My horribly dry, painful hands got me thinking about what I could do to heal them, since regular old lotion isn’t cutting it. Then I remembered my coworker JoAnna had made a lot of lotion bars, which are very moisturizing, and it turns out she’s tested the following tutorial.

You’ve probably heard by now about our newest arts and crafts resource, Creativebug. I have looked at it quite happily for quick and easy art projects, but hadn’t thought to look for tutorials on making soaps, lotions, and other skincare and natural home products. But they do indeed have such classes. If you are looking for some relief for your hands, check out this quick and simple DIY Lotion Bar tutorial.

Tips from JoAnna:

* You can substitute coconut oil for one of the butters.
* If you do not have a double boiler, you can make it in a small crockpot or in the microwave. Be sure to use a glass bowl in the microwave as the beeswax takes a long time to melt and the bowl will get very hot.
* Melt the beeswax first, once melted you can add the other butters to mix.
* You can add vitamin E to help with skin repair; break 1-2 capsules into the mix.
* If you do not have any molds on hand, you can use silicone cupcake holders.
* Put completed bars in a tin or plastic bag to store so they don’t get messy.
* Beware, in warm temperature they can melt.
* To use, hold in your cupped hands. The warmth of your hands will soften the wax.
* The ingredients can be ordered and delivered from hobby and craft stores, or soap making supply companies.


Besides Creativebug (which really has tons of great classes) we have eBooks about making your own bath, skin care, and cleaning products.

The Organic Country Home Handbook by Natalie Wise, includes recipes for cleaning all areas of the home, from kitchen to bath, and everywhere in between. If you are so inclined you can find everything you need here to do some spring cleaning! There is also a chapter, “The Medicine Cabinet” that features homemade skin care products.

DIY Beauty: Easy, All-Natural Recipes Based on Your Favorites from Lush, Kiehl’s, Burt’s Bees, Bumble and bumble, Laura Mercier, and More!
by Ina De Clercq
From lip balm to bath bombs, these recipes attempt to recreate best-loved products from popular beauty product companies.

Homemade Bath Bombs & More: Soothing Spa Treatments for Luxurious Self-Care and Bath-Time Bliss by Heidi Kundin
This book focuses on bath bombs and other fun and luxurious bath products such as sugar scrubs, body butter, and bath jellies. Bath jellies? I will have to look that one up!

Natural Beauty: 35 Step-by-Step Projects for Homemade Beauty by Karen Gilbert
These ‘lotion and potion’ recipes for face, body, and hair, use readily available, natural ingredients and easy-to-follow methods.


I hope Creativebug classes and our crafty eBooks inspire you to try your hand at making healthy, simple home and beauty products! And may your hands be in much better shape than mine.

Community History

Doris Bell at Alpine
Doris Bell at Alpine, Courtesy of Neil Anderson

One of my favorite parts of my job as a History Specialist at the Everett Public Library is doing programming that teaches people about local history. Some of these programs are lectures on historical topics, while others are hands-on workshops that discuss how to work with family collections of photographs and other records. One thing that I try to stress over everything else is that we are always living through history, and are always part of history. In the most average of times, it’s very hard for many people to receive this message. How could my Facebook wall, emails, or my Instagram posts possibly be historic? They don’t seem to have the same gravitas as those sepia toned pictures of great grandma, do they? So what happens when we find ourselves living through a series of events that one can’t help but recognize as being historic?

I’m sure those of us who were living during September 11th, 2001 could tell us a little something about where they were that morning. Do our voicemails or emails still survive from that day? Perhaps some of us have a forgotten Livejournal post or two floating around the internet recording our thoughts and fears from that period of time, but it’s unlikely that many of us documented what was going through our minds and kept those fleeting, likely digital records.

We currently find ourselves living through a period of time that will undeniably be viewed decades from now as historic. While COVID-19 is a different disease with its own trajectory from the Influenza pandemic of 1918-19, there is much that can be learned from how people documented their lives during that time, and how historians put those pieces back together over 100 years later. In this excellent article that was just published in The Lewiston Tribune, you can see a similar pattern of spotty information, varying local responses, public disbelief, and waves of infection. The author used a variety of sources to put this account together: published books on the pandemic, interviews with a woman who lived through the pandemic, local poetry and children’s rhymes, contemporary news accounts, archival images, and so much more. All of these documents survived to be used by a mixture of chance, and people taking deliberate action to make sure that their records would be saved.

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Family album page showing a 1919 Everett parade celebrating the return of troops from Europe. Similar parades around the country were often followed by increased influenza cases.  (Everett Public Library digital collections)

There are a couple of local resources that I have been fortunate to work with that talk about how Everett families coped in 1918-19. In a journal loaned to me by Everett historian Neil Anderson, I read about Doris Bell’s life during the influenza pandemic. At the time Doris worked as a teacher in the remote town of Alpine, Washington (between Skykomish and Scenic). Her journal entries document the life of a young career woman who seemed peripherally aware of how influenza was impacting the larger population centers, though the remoteness of her teaching position protected her from being exposed to the worst of the pandemic. Her life in Alpine was most affected when her school was closed temporarily in October of 1918, though it appears that there was not a serious outbreak in her area.

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Entry from Doris Bell Journal, 1918 – courtesy of Neil Anderson

During the school closure Doris returned to Everett to visit her family. From what can be gleaned from her journal, life went on fairly normally, with no cessation of casual social activities. This would not have been unusual at this time, as there were not any formal prohibitions on visiting other people. On October 8th the Everett Health Board had banned all public gatherings such as school, dances, and church, but day-to-day life went on. According to notes in the Northwest Room archive on Everett Tribune coverage from 1918, it appears that people were cautioned to stay home, but that downtown Everett showed little sign of change other than the darkened theaters. In the cigar stores it was business as usual, with people gathering to socialize and smoke.

Nurses at Providence slowly became overwhelmed throughout October, and many became ill. The Tribune reported that volunteers were coming in shifts in to sterilize and pack bandages; no nurses could be called up from Seattle because there were none to spare. The old wooden Bethania College building on Broadway, near what is now Compass Health on Broadway, was returned to hospital service and the Red Cross put a call out to the public for bed pans and any other medical supplies that could be spared. 

Doris’s routine daily entries were occasionally punctuated with mentions of people in her social circle succumbing to influenza, and in one jarring instance, a fellow passenger dying on a train she was aboard. Because Doris was limited to a mere four lines per day, her mixing of death and mundane daily tasks can feel a bit jarring, but that was a result of the format she had available rather than a reflection of callousness. There are occasional references to masks (the State Health Board started requiring the wearing of gauze masks in public on November 4th), but her entries are dominated by her more-or-less normal life: going for walks, seeing friends, and thoughts about her work. Reading Doris’s journal doesn’t feel much different from reading friends’ Facebook walls, where incredibly serious news is mixed with the kinds of content we’re used to sharing. People are aware of the bigger picture, but most are still living their lives albeit in a very modified way.

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Entry from Doris Bell journal, 1918 – courtesy of Neil Anderson

Another window into local life during the influenza pandemic comes from the minutes book of the Everett Woman’s Book Club. According to this record, October and November meetings were cancelled due to the influenza, and the December meeting account was peppered with mentions. A gold star was added to the service flag for a local soldier who passed away in France of influenza, and member Ida Coleman asked her colleagues to help with the eradication of the disease. Both Doris Bell’s journal and the Woman’s Book Club minutes mention working in the gauze room; it’s unclear if they were helping sterilize and pack bandages for the local hospitals in need, or if these efforts were intended to help troops abroad.

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December 1918 Woman’s Book Club minutes courtesy of the Woman’s Book Club.

So what are the journals and club minutes of today? How do we preserve our altered daily lives so that someone looking back in 100 years will understand the decisions we made and the actions we took? It is important to recognize that the future of our daily records like Facebook, or Instagram, or any other social media are less than secure. Changing trends in social media may see many of these platforms fall out of favor and disappear over time (see Friendster or Myspace).

The best way to help ensure that our historical record doesn’t have gaps during this time period is to intentionally document your experiences and look for the organizations that are trying to preserve these kinds of records. Preserving digital materials is a problem that still hasn’t been solved, but archives and museums are doing their best to have plans in place to prolong their lives.

At the Everett Public Library, we have launched the Community History project, which aims to collect people’s images and thoughts during this time of social distancing. To participate, you need only to email your content to CommunityHistory@everettwa.gov – we will be monitoring this account for submissions to be considered for inclusion in our archives. If you are keeping a written journal, keep the library in mind for a future donation either of the original or a copy if you would rather keep it in the family. The Northwest Room has already been building an archive of news clippings, city records, and documents related to how local businesses and organizations are reacting to COVID-19, but we are very interested in preserving what life was like for our community members on an individual level. I encourage you to consider sending your thoughts, pictures, poetry, or art as emails to the future.

 

Learn Yoga with Rodney Yee

If you’re trying to stay active while stuck at home, and you’ve always thought yoga sounded intriguing but never had time to try it, I have great news! Hoopla, one of the library’s free video apps, has a great Beginner Yoga video taught by Rodney Yee, a famous yoga teacher: Rodney Yee’s Yoga for Beginners. Best of all, this video is part of Hoopla’s Bonus Borrows Collection which means you can watch it repeatedly and it does NOT count toward your monthly limit of Hoopla borrows.

Rodney Yee’s Yoga for Beginners has three parts: a Morning practice of about 20 minutes, an Evening practice of about 20 minutes and a Pose Guide. Mr. Yee says that you should watch the Pose Guide video before you try either of the practices. In the Pose Guide, he gives instruction on the correct alignment for each yoga pose and points out common mistakes beginners make – I found this especially helpful.

Hoopla also has another Rodney Yee yoga video in the Bonus Borrows Collection that is geared toward yoga enthusiasts at all levels (beginner to advanced): Rodney Yee A.M. Yoga for Your Week. This is composed of five different videos of about 20 minutes each: Forward Bends, Standing Poses, Twists, Back Bends and Hip Openers.

If you enjoy these videos, there are many more Rodney Yee yoga videos available on Hoopla (although most of them are not part of the Bonus Borrows Collection).