Friday, July 21, 2017

The Cutest Little Library

Shortly after I moved to Milton, NH, I went in search of the local library. I was delighted to find out there are actually two! One of them is adjoined to the local high school, and the other is in Milton Mills, a village that is included in the town of Milton.

The library adjoined to Nute High School is fairly modern, whereas walking into the Milton Free Public Library is like walking into another century. That's not a criticism; the building that houses the library is an old schoolhouse that was constructed in 1875. The building appears now as it did then, because the only renovations have been to repair the building and to preserve it.


The building was originally a grammar school on the ground floor, with the high school on the top floor. In 1902, the high school students started attending Nute High School. As time went on and progress beckoned, the schoolhouse was threatened with closure several times through the decades. By 1975, the building was used only for grades 1-3; however, the school remained in use until 1991.

The following year, the building was re-opened as the Milton Free Public Library.

I love this library. I love that the old hardwood floors creak and groan as you walk around perusing the shelves.



I love that the original chalkboards were preserved.



I love that the movie selection is on the teacher's platform.



In 2002 the schoolhouse was added to the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places.


Last year a local Eagle Scout refurbished the wooden floor on the second story as his project.

The second floor retains the little coat hooks used by the kids in 1991, as well as the remnants of their name tags:


Seeing those little stickers with faded names like James and Lindsey on them was a little sad; those kids were the last ones to use this school, and it made me think about the schools I attended (St. John's, Nazareth Academy), which are now defunct. But they are also a tribute to the building's original use, and the generation of kids who were educated within its walls. And now it has a new life as a library.

That's not a bad life.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Another Little Cemetery

 During my morning drives for day-care drop-off duty, I noticed a tiny little cemetery on the side of the road, near a Mobil gas station.  A little while ago, I wrote about another little local cemetery which is outside of a Starbucks (formerly a Taco Bell), and how these little cemeteries are forlorn remnants of former lifetimes.

Yesterday I decided to stop at this cemetery and take a little look. Unlike the previous graveyard I blogged about, this one is pretty neglected. It doesn't have anything that indicates the name of the site, the weeds are almost as tall as the headstones, and the stones themselves are tipping over. One of the stones is so weather-worn that it's unreadable, and a couple are so obscured by the large, overgrown, privacy hedge that I wasn't able to squeeze in there to look.


So far, I haven't found very much information on this little resting place. It is called Hussey Cemetery, and several of the stones had that surname on them, so it's obviously an old family plot. The name has existed in Somersworth since at least 1766. There was a Hussey family that owned a farm on the outskirts of Dover, and Somersworth is right on the line of the two cities, so the placement makes sense historically.


They seem to be kind of forgotten, but with the weeds flowering up around them, they have a sad beauty.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Call Me Booger"

I haunt bookstore and museum event websites. The Brookline Booksmith in MA is one place where we've visited several times over the years, because they tend to have a really interesting assortment of authors come through there. We've seen Molly Ringwald there (she would not sign my Pretty in Pink soundtrack), and we've seen Patton Oswalt (who was signing pretty much anything) and last night we met Curtis Armstrong. Although Armstrong has had a 40+ year career in theater, television and film, he is forever known to the American public as Booger, from the 1984 movie Revenge of the Nerds.



I'm a huge fan of this film- I used to have it on VHS, and my brother and I watched it countless times.  I now have the collector's edition DVD (the Panty Raid edition). I've seen all the sequels as well, but they never captured the heart of the original. Speaking of heart, Armstrong said that although he was reluctant to play a guy named Booger, who said and did such disgusting things, that ultimately he is very proud of the movie. The prologue of his book is poignant, as he illustrates a brief history of nerd-dom. The word "nerd" was coined in 1950 by Dr. Seuss in his book If I Ran the Zoo, and the word became a description for adolescent social outcasts. He points out that the word is often applied to smarter than average teens, who do not meet the standards of physical attractiveness for their peer group: bad skin, prescription shoes, thick glasses, etc. That is the stereotypical image, but it's really intended to label anyone who doesn't fit in. Nerds  are known to have a variety of interests: anything from math and science to computers to comic books and video games and Dungeons and Dragons and model trains. Some of them are genius level, some may have above average intelligence, and some of them were labeled as "retarded." He revels in the fact that there is now a geek pride movement, and words like "adorkable" have even come to exist. 


He even got a little emotional when he recalled the point in the film where the newly minted fraternity, has the words NERDS burned on the front lawn of their house. It was never meant to be a throwaway part, it was a very deliberate part of the script to show how destructive intolerance and hatred can be. Furthermore, this experience is what leads the fraternity Lambda Lambda Lambda, a national black fraternity, to side with the nerds in the final scene. Everyone in that fraternity can relate to how it feels to be discriminated against. 


As you can see in the photo, we had our little monkey with us.  It's almost impossible to get him to sit still and be quiet in a place where there's so much going on, and I was worried that people would get annoyed with him and start shooting us dirty looks. He enjoyed clapping with the audience though, and he waved at Curtis Armstrong, who smiled and waved right back. He is so nice! Not only was he gracious and personable to all the fans who came out to see him, he signed books and DVD's and posed for photos. He also explained that he has a personal connection to the Brookline Booksmith. Before it became the Brookline Booksmith, it was a different bookstore, owned by the people who would become his mother and father-in-law. His wife worked at the store when she was a young woman, so it was a small piece of history for his family.

Of course we bought a copy of his new book Revenge of the Nerd: Or,.  .  .the Singular Adventures of the Man Who Would be Booger. If you'd like to know more about the book, NPR did a nice little review of it. 

I'm sure you can guess what movie we put on last night to watch in bed. .  .

Sunday, July 9, 2017

When I was Fifteen

The May/June issue of the Horn Book magazine was their annual humor issue. One of the contributors interpreted this theme as writing a letter to his younger self, like a 40 something guy telling his 13 year old self things that would amaze, confuse and horrify him. Because nostalgia is one of the most powerful emotions, and retrospect is often 20/20, it was the article that made me laugh out loud (something about how whenever he's alone now, he likes to find a good documentary to watch, whereas the 13 year old would probably try to find something about "naked ladies" to look at.  .  .).

It got me thinking what I might write to a younger version of myself. And since my birthday is tomorrow (gulp), now seemed a good as time as any. So, I'm picturing myself as I was around 14 or 15 years old, and trying to think of the things that would encourage, shock, or prepare me for the future.

1. A can of rainbow chip frosting is NOT a well balanced breakfast. Nowadays, your favorite thing to eat in the morning is a toasted bagel topped with avocado.

2. High school is tough for almost everyone, but try to figure out what makes a good friend. This way you can make sure to keep the right people around, and lose the ones who don't understand.

3. You know how you don't like anyone to interrupt you while you're watching Friends on Thursday nights? In about 20 years, you'll be able to watch any episode you want, whenever you want, pretty much wherever you want. And it's still funny!



4. Don't be afraid to try new things. It doesn't matter if you're friends aren't going, or you've heard of it before, or you don't think you'll be any good at it.

5. Soak in your highschool experience. It's four short years. And I don't mean just the usual cliche stuff, like first day of the school year, or prom, I mean really look around. Memorize the way the old building looks, look at the faces of the people teaching you, and appreciate the bus ride/uniform/lunch money because soon it'll be on you transport yourself, figure out to wear everyday, and feed yourself.

6. When you write in your journals, just write. Don't try to record any sage wisdom or sound profound. It's really embarrassing to read now.


7. Your family drives you crazy, but this is pretty much a universal truth. If you don't spend enough time with them now, you'll spend the rest of your life regretting it. Grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles- just stop by and say hi, or write a letter or an email, anything is better than nothing.

8. Dancing is good! Just because something's not a career path doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. It's good for your body, but more importantly it's fun. Even if you're not as good as you wish you were, don't stop.

9. "Listening to what ignorant people say is like listening to a dog fart- you just hope it goes away." I read that in a book just now, and it's a good thing to remember. Oh yeah, remember that time you gave the dog all those leftover pork and beans? Don't ever do that again!

10. Despite how you're feeling right now, you're not "in love." You have loving feelings, and they are intense and they are valid, but they are only a few pieces of the puzzle. There's alot more that needs to get filled in before you can really see the picture. You are very fortunate though, because you will meet someone who makes all the time, and pain, worth it.

Okay, so there's my list. I tried not to make it too sentimental or erudite. Just as I wrote in #6 about not trying to be profound, I don't want to think I am recording some great truths here. It's just a tool for introspection.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Keeping Secrets

After I read All the Rage, I wanted some more intense reads about heavy issues. I guess that's been my reading MO for a while now- I am trying to read a middle-grade novel right now, but I find myself losing interest in it whenever I try to read a little. There's so much dialogue, rather than internal thought narration, and they're discussing silly things. I enjoy middle-school humor, but I also need to be able to explore and discuss more controversial topics that are not appropriate for that age group.

I picked this one up while browsing in the local library. Devon Davenport cannot believe that 'it' was inside her. Was she really in denial for nine months that there was something growing inside her, or is she just another teenager who did not want to take responsibility for her actions? Nothing about 'it' ever seemed real, so when she gives birth alone in her home, no one else, not even her mom, believes it. How could she have hidden that secret for so long? Furthermore, what could have possessed Devon, a talented soccer player and honors student, to try and hide all the evidence, including 'it' in the garbage can? After tells the story of a girl who is desperate: desperate not to end up like her mother, desperate to go to college, and desperate to keep her secrets. Author Amy Efaw manages to keep the story focused on Devon, and her psychological struggle, rather than condemning girls like her or proselytizing.


I'd been waiting on this inter-library loan book for a couple of weeks, and I finished it one day. I think this title came up on Amazon as a suggestion while I was browsing one day, and it seemed like a good companion for all those Jodi Picoult books I've become kind of addicted to.  Lisa Kallisto is a mother of three, with a full time job at a local animal shelter, balancing her schedule with the crazy hours of her husband, who is a taxi cab driver. One day, her daughter's friend, who was supposed to be sleeping over, vanishes. Lisa takes the blame, from her friend, the locals, and herself, for neglecting to tell anyone about the change in schedule that led to the miscommunication, and the search for the teenage girl begins. Running parallel with the story of searching for young Lucinda is the narrative of a man, a predator. Reading the book is like being in a race against him.  .  .at least until all the secrets start coming out.  .  .


I don't think this book is on par with Picoult in regard to the careful characterization, and the crafting of descriptive passages that always renew my addiction, but it was a great read. Readers who enjoy mysteries, and the satisfaction that comes with uncovering deep, dark, secrets would enjoy this.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mini Workshop

I did a little workshop today at the Dover Public Library. I met one of the children's librarians at the Maker Faire last year, and she contacted me a few months ago to see if I'd be willing to display some of my dollhouses there, and possible do a little workshop since the summer reading theme is Build a Better World.

I'm always happy to display my dollhouses, and even though I've never really done an official workshop before, I figured it'd be fun.

I was a little nervous today when it was time for the workshop, and there were no kids around, but after a few minutes,  one little girl came in. As I was showing her the houses and talking to her, a small a group of little girls gathered around, and they wanted to see what we were doing.


I showed them how to make tiny lollipops and jars of candy, how to cover a battery operated tea light candle with stones and twigs to make a working campfire, and how inexpensive supplies can be put together to make furniture.

Before I knew it, they were painting cardboard boxes, and getting their own ideas on how to make items. Two of the little girls were working on a Cinderella scene, and the little candy crafts inspired one of the other girls to do Hansel and Gretel.


I love being able to share this hobby, especially with kids. I love hearing their ideas, and seeing them try new things. There are a couple of dollhouses on display there right now, but later this month I am going to bring in the Harry Potter one to go along with the Harry Potter party they're having (to celebrate Harry's birthday).





Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Still Foolin Em

The reading challenge this year put, put forth by the current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, is Reading without Walls.  I was lucky enough to see this year's ambassador, author/illustrator Gene Luen Yang at the Carle museum this past spring, and he outlined the three parts of his challenge:

1. Read a book about a character who doesn't live like you or look like you

2. Read a book about a topic that you don't know much about

3. Read a book in a format that you don't normally read for fun.

I accomplished #1 by reading The Pact, a story about three boys from a poor part of New Jersey that made a pact to all become doctors, and succeeded. I accomplished #2 by reading The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda. I was struggling with the third one though because I'm pretty open to any format in print, but audiobooks have always been difficult for me to get into.

But I'm proud to report that I finished an audiobook yesterday! And it wasn't an audio version of a book I've already read in print. We had a lot of drive time since we traveled out to Western NY to see friends and family, so the day before we left, I went to the local library to scope out the selection. I ended up leaving with Still Foolin Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell are my Keys? by Billy Crystal.  I had just recently re-watched Analyze This,  and remembered how funny he is, so I was looking forward to hearing the story of his career, which spans decades and film, television, stand-up, directing, Broadway and writing.


The book is read by the author, because honestly, how could any one else properly tell the story of his life? His warm voice, and trademark delivery made it very easy to listen to all seven discs. He begins his story at the best place: the beginning. Talking about his parents, siblings and growing up in Long Island, it was the typical coming of age humor that most adults can easily relate to. My first realization that his book was not going to be all laughs though is when he recalls his first night of college; he went into town to get something to eat, and stopped in at a diner.  He was asked to leave, due to the Star of David necklace he was wearing.

I know it was the 1960's, and I know he went to college in the South, but I guess I never fully realized that anti-Semitism was still a concern then, only two decades after the world learned of the horror of the Holocaust.

He tells his story with ease, even the painful parts of it like the death of his father, and interspersed with the joys and sorrows of his personal life are episodes dedicated to his long career. From his first time on Johnny Carson to writing and directing his one man Broadway show 700 Sundays, and of course the film that cemented his movie star status, When Harry Met Sally.

I always enjoyed his movies and his comedy, but I never realized how interesting he is.  He married his wife in 1970, and they're still together now, 47 years later. He enjoyed close friendships with legendary athletes Mickey Mantle and Muhammed Ali. He lived his boyhood dream of playing for the New York Yankees (at least for one day). And there's one chapter in which he recalls an encounter with a black shrouded figure in the night, and is convinced it was his father speaking to him from beyond the grave, despite the dismissal and scoffing from others.

After each disc ended, we were eager to put the next one in. It made the drive time much more enjoyable, and I'd recommend the book, especially the audiobook, to anyone who is even a little familiar with his movies or comedy.