Tag Archives: Suzy

 Unquiet Mind.

Imagine one day your brain is overflowing with ideas, bursting with creativity; you can’t stop the thoughts from coming, faster and faster and faster. You’re exhilarated, you don’t sleep, you see everything with a clarity you didn’t think possible; your brain is on fire with understanding. You’re euphoric, delighted, inspired by life.

And then it isn’t and you aren’t.

Instead you can’t get out of bed. You can’t go to work. You don’t eat or you eat too much. You stop showering. You’re apathetic, possibly suicidal. Nothing matters, nothing is exciting, everything is pointless. You’re tired. You’re done.

That’s life with bi-polar disorder. There’s no in-between.

UnquietMind

Kay Jamison is a clinical psychologist and an expert in the field of mood disorders. She has also suffered from bipolar disorder since early adulthood. A good friend with bipolar disorder asked me to read her book, so that I might understand him and his illness. I’ll confess, the idea of “mania” is seductive to me. As someone who is pretty even-tempered, the idea of going off the rails is tempting. However, the personal and financial fall-out is too scary—and that’s what makes me different from someone suffering from bipolar disorder.

Jamison wrote Unquiet Mind as a memoir, so it doesn’t get too scientific—though she does explain the science behind drugs (some work, some don’t and it seems like all of them deaden) and brain chemistry. But ultimately, it’s her story about years of refusing medication—even while studying it! At one point, instead of finding a therapist, she buys a horse. She racks up piles and piles of bills, is evicted multiple times and yet completes a PhD. It’s a highly personal glance into someone’s very personal struggle.

Do I understand my friend’s illness better now? Maybe?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, by the way, so it’s a great time to read Unquiet Mind!

suzy

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Hero or Traitor?

serialAnyone else here obsessed with the Serial podcast? I listened to the whole first season in one sitting. Yes, that’s 12 hours. No, I didn’t talk to anyone or move.

If you aren’t familiar with the series, it’s from the creators of This American Life with host Sarah Koenig. It tells one true story over the course of a season; hence the name.

The first season was a riveting story about Adnan Syed, a young man — wrongfully? — convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee in 1999. Using court documents, police interrogations, witness interviews and even driving tests, Koenig found far more information than was ever revealed in court. In fact, her investigation led to an appeal in Syed’s case (currently pending).

Season two follows another case: that of Robert Bowdrie Bergdahl, better known as Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl is the Army soldier captured in Afghanistan and held captive (and tortured) for five years by the Taliban. The circumstances of his capture and release have generated a lot of controversy. Donald Trump called for his execution. Is he a traitor? Is he a hero? Why did he leave his post? Was he working with the Taliban? Is he just a dumb kid who made a terrible, life-altering mistake? Koenig articulately captures the frustration of Bergdahl with his superiors, as well as the frustration and anger of the soldiers tasked with “rescuing” him. I hate to be the one that tells you, but you never really find out the answers. In December, Bergdahl was charged with one count of desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty (Article 85) and one count of misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place (Article 99).

AP Photo/U.S. Army, file

AP Photo/U.S. Army, file

I wanted to read more about Bergdahl himself, but it turns out that no one has written a book about him! Sebastian Junger should get on this. I did find this list of books to read if you’re addicted to season two of Serial. And while lists don’t usually do it for me, I read two of them: one from each end of the spectrum.

NoWayOutNo Way Out: A Story of Valor in the Mountains of Afghanistan, Mitch Weiss and Kevin Maurer

I have read very few books about the Afghanistan War, even though it’s been going on most of my adult life, and I am friends with people that served there. Part of me thinks it’s surreal to read about a war that is still happening. And maybe part of me doesn’t want to know. No Way Out is the story of a Special Forces team dropped into an enemy-held valley with the mission to capture a terrorist leader. Instead they were ambushed, stuck in the Afghanistan mountains, continuously attacked by machine gun fire and rocked-propelled grenades. It’s fast-paced, especially the battle scenes, and you often have to remind yourself that you are reading non-fiction. This actually happened. While learning about the war, the battle and the weaponry, you are also introduced to individual soldiers, which makes the book better, but harder to read. When the battled ended, 10 soldiers were awarded the Silver Star, the Army’s third highest award for combat valor.

GuantanamoGuantánamo Diary, Mohamedou Ould Slahi

This is the first (and only) diary written by a Guantánamo detainee. Mohamedou Slahi has been imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba since 2002. It is very easy to think of the remaining 93 Guantánamo prisoners as faceless, nameless, American-hating religious extremists. But then there’s this German-trained engineer from Canada. In his third year he began a diary. By turns darkly funny and terrifying, Slahi recounts his life “before” U.S. custody. Page upon page of text have been black-bar redacted by the United States government. Slahi has never been charged with a crime. A federal judge ordered his release in 2010. The U.S. government appealed. Slahi remains in U.S. custody.

Serial fans, how did you feel about the last episode? Does Bergdahl seem like a traitor?

For the record, I think he was far more “dumb kid” than “needs to be executed.”

suzy

 

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Not Crying Post.

Last year around this time I posted about Things That Have Made Me Cry Lately.

It kind of hit a nerve. I won’t lie, these long Pittsburgh winters bring me down. I am desperate to see a flower, eat a fresh vegetable, walk around barefoot, ride my bike, dig in my yard, swim and generally loll about in the sunshine without 87 layers of clothes on.

The thing is, when this post drops (as the kids say) I’ll be on my way to Key West.

It’s kind of hard to be Captain Bringdown in the Florida Keys. So instead of making everyone sad, I figured I’d make everyone giggle. Here are some books I stumbled upon in the children’s room that maybe made me laugh more than I should.

crayonsThe Day the Crayons Quit & The Day the Crayons Came Home, Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

Crayons have feelings, too, in this funny back-to-school story illustrated by the creator of Stuck and This Moose Belongs to Me –now a #1 New York Times bestseller! Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking–each believes he is the true color of the sun. What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

nopicturesThe Book With No Pictures, B.J. Novak

You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except . . . here’s how books work. Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say . . . BLORK. Or BLUURF. Even if the words are a preposterous song about eating ants for breakfast, or just a list of astonishingly goofy sounds like BLAGGITY BLAGGITY and GLIBBITY GLOBBITY. Cleverly irreverent and irresistibly silly, The Book with No Pictures is one that kids will beg to hear again and again (And parents will be happy to oblige.).

BeekleThe Adventures of Beekle, Dan Santat

Winner of the 2015 Caldecott Medal This magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked time and again, he sets off on an incredible journey to the bustling city, where he finally meets his perfect match and–at long last–is given his special name: Beekle. New York Times bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Dan Santat combines classic storytelling with breathtaking art, creating an unforgettable tale about friendship, imagination, and the courage to find one’s place in the world.

YoureHereYou’re Finally Here, Mélanie Watt

Hooray! You’re finally here! But where were you? A bunny bounces through a range of emotions in this funny picture book about how difficult it is to wait. At first he’s ecstatic that you, the reader, has arrived. But then he can’t help letting you know that waiting for you took too long, was way too boring, and even became insulting. The bunny is ready to forgive everything if you will promise to stay. But hold on–he has to take a phone call. Wait! Come back! Where are you going? Underneath this book’s silly, in-your-face humor are feelings true to every child who has had to wait for someone’s attention.

MoleRatNaked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, Mo Willems

Wilbur is different from the other Naked Mole Rats in his Colony, because he wears clothes (and he likes it!). But what will happen when Grandpah, the oldest, wisest, and most naked Naked Mole Rat ever discovers Wilbur’s secret? Funnyman and three-time Caldecott Honoree Mo Willems exposes the naked truth about being yourself and wearing it well.

Okay, okay. ONE sad thing. The Only Child by Guojing

TheOnlyChild

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Spring!
suzy

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

New Shoes and Sole Hope

Print

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.

There was a joke about African Americans having bad feet. But once you bought a shoe, it was yours. You couldn’t exchange it. And you couldn’t try it on in the store.
Betty Ellison-Harpole

When I was reading the book New Shoes by Susan Meyer I cringed when Ella Mae wasn’t allowed to try on shoes. I know this was simply one more Jim Crow indignity piled upon a mountain of indignities, but imagining a little girl unable to try on shoes…

NewShoes

New Shoes, Susan Meyer

When her brother’s hand-me-down shoes don’t fit, it is time for Ella Mae to get new ones. She is ecstatic, but when she and her mother arrive at Mr. Johnson’s shoe store, her happiness quickly turns to dejection. Ella Mae is forced to wait when a customer arrives after her and is served first. Ella Mae is unable even to try on the shoes because of her skin color. Determined to fight back, Ella Mae and her friend Charlotte work tirelessly to collect and restore old shoes, wiping, washing, and polishing them to perfection. The girls then have their very own shoe sale, giving the other African American members of their community a place to buy shoes where they can be treated fairly and “try on all the shoes they want.” Set in the South during the time of segregation, this stunning picture book brings the civil rights era to life for contemporary readers.

FOOT_LOGO

In celebration of Black History Month, CLP- South Side is having a special storytime and shoe-cutting party for the whole family. What is a shoe-cutting party, you may ask? Using patterns from the charity Sole Hope we will use denim and plastic to create shoe soles for children in Uganda. We’ll collect our soles and send them to Sole Hope, where trained shoe-makers create shoes for those in need.

New Shoes and Sole Hope
Saturday, February 20
2-4 PM

SHOEPARTY_BUTTON

We could use the following donations for our party on Saturday!
Jeans or denim
Fabric scissors (just letting us borrow a pair for the day would be awesome!)
Clean milk jugs and/or laundry detergent bottles
$10 to sponsor a pair of shoes

Hope to see you Saturday!
-suzy

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Suzy, my friend! Curry chicken?

My favorite take-out place closed on December 31. I am devastated. I never thought I would live in a world without Zaw’s Asian Food (2110 Murray Avenue, Squirrel Hill.) I was a college freshman, working at the Green Grocer on Hobart Street when Sonny Lee, the manager, convinced me to try something other than white rice (I’m that kid that didn’t let their food touch.). The first thing he introduced me to was their curry chicken. I’ve eaten it at least once a month since 1995. And I’m not the only person, according to this recent Yelp review:

I am so upset about this [closing] I can’t even express it. The curry chicken here was my favorite thing to eat to the point where I would consider it as a last meal. It was a red spicy curry sauce with garlic and ginger and chicken broth. I will miss it so much.

Last meal indeed. It is named Zaw’s Asian Food for a reason. Owners Marvin and Esther Lee are originally from Burma (Myanmar), so the food was never typical take-out; it was a little bit of everything. Through 20 years, 11 apartments, 6 boyfriends, 8 jobs, and 2 degrees, Zaw’s has been there. I live on the South Side. I willingly crossed a bridge for take-out. That’s some serious business. Not only did Sonny know what I wanted to order, he recognized my voice on the phone, he asked about my husband, he noticed weight loss and new haircuts! When I picked up my very last order, Sonny shook my hand and told me it had been a pleasure knowing me all of these years. His voice broke; I left in tears.

I sincerely hope the Lees have a wonderful retirement. And that they pass their recipes on to someone. I have a lead: Ron Lee, the owner of the Spice Island Tea House, is Mr. Lee’s nephew. Anyone have other ideas? I really don’t want to use these cookbooks. Let’s have lunch!

CompleteCurryBookComplete Curry Cookbook, Byron Ayanoglu and Jennifer MacKenzie

Authentic curries made easy. Curry is enjoyed throughout the world. This wonderful selection of curry recipes draws its inspiration from India, Thailand, China, England, Indonesia and the Caribbean. These quick, easy and tantalizing recipes feature ingredients found in supermarkets, yet the dishes maintain authentic tastes and flavors.

BurmaFlavors of Burma (Myanmar): Cuisine and Culture From the Land of Golden Pagodas, Susan Chan

Susan Chan depicts the culture and traditions of Burma, providing ample information on the Burmese market, commonly used ingredients, and eating and serving customs, explaining, for example, that Burmese eat with their fingertips. She also familiarizes her readers with the language, festivals, and principal cities of this country. Complete with b/w illustrations and photographs.

BurmaRIversBurma: Rivers of Flavor, Naomi Duguid

The best way to learn about an unfamiliar culture is through its food, and in Burma: Rivers of Flavor, readers will be transfixed by the splendors of an ancient and wonderful country, untouched by the outside world for generations, whose simple recipes delight and satisfy and whose people are among the most gracious on earth.

TheCurryBookThe Curry Book : A Celebration of Memorable Flavors and Irresistible Recipes, Nancie McDermott

Whatever its incarnation — in a lightly seasoned deviled egg, a cold chicken salad, or a spicy Indian- or Thai-style dish — curry is one of the most popular seasonings in the world. Nancie McDermott explores endless variations on the curry theme, from Jakarta to Senegal, Tokyo to Jamaica, and Sri Lanka to South Carolina. The result is an untraditional — and accessible — celebration

BigBookofCurriesThe Big Book of Curries: 365 Mouthwatering Recipes From Around the World, Sunil Vijayakar

The Big Book of Curries details the intricacies of these delicious dishes, from the numerous herbs and spices that flavor them to essential equipment and accompaniments. The recipes are organized by main ingredient–meat, poultry and eggs, fish, and shellfish–with a special section on vegetarian meals. Techniques for cooking the perfect rice are included, and there is even a selection of starters to prepare the palate. With these 365 recipes to try, an amazing culinary experience is only a few minutes away.

sad & hungry for curry,
suzy

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave Me Alone. Sometimes.

vGQOGFuA therapist recently informed me that I am an introvert.* I never thought I was an introvert. I like meeting people. I like parties. I socialize. I have friends. I’m not particularly shy (though I hate calling strangers on the phone), and I don’t have anxiety about meeting people.

But.

I don’t mind going out alone to dinner, movies, bars, whatever. Brainstorming makes me grit my teeth. Group projects suck. Mingling is a nightmare. And it all makes me so tired! Judging by how many secrets strangers tell me, I’m a good listener.  I’m better on paper. All of my best ideas come when I’m alone; usually in bed or the shower. I loved living alone. I was never lonely or bored. My husband is an extrovert. One of the hardest things about marriage for me is living with another person. Like, can’t we have a duplex and visit? (The answer is no.) If I don’t get enough time alone to decompress, I get irritable and withdrawn. I do not thrive in a group environment. Oh yeah, I’m also a librarian.

I thought it was an only child thing.

In reading the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, I came across her definition of introverts:

Introverts have a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment. Introverts tend to enjoy quiet concentration, listen more than they talk, and think before they speak, and have a more circumspect and cautious approach to risk. Introverts think more, are less reckless and focus on what really matters—relationships and meaningful work.

That’s me!

bookcover (5)

In Quiet, Cain presents the history of how Western (and in particular, American) culture is dominated by a culture of personality, an “extrovert ideal.” She describes this ideal as “the belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight” and “favors the man of action over the man of contemplation.” And while Cain is gently rebuking a culture that favors style over substance, she does point out that both temperaments have important roles to play.

Without introverts, we wouldn’t have the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Rosa Parks), The Emancipation Proclamation (Abraham Lincoln), the Theory of Relativity (Albert Einstein), Starry Night (Vincent VanGogh), Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling) or The Cat in the Hat (Theodore Geisel)! What a terrible world indeed!

Introverts also feature in some of my favorite fiction titles!

Tell the Wolves I’m Homebookcover, Carol Rifka Brunt

There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down.

bookcover (4)The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

Perks follows observant “wallflower” Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama and new friends. Sex, drugs and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

bookcover (1)Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be; a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

bookcover (2)Glaciers, Alexis M. Smith

Glaciers follows Isabel through a day in her life in which work with damaged books in the basement of a library, unrequited love for the former soldier who fixes her computer, and dreams of the perfect vintage dress move over a backdrop of deteriorating urban architecture. Glaciers unfolds internally, the action shaped by Isabel’s sense of history, memory and place.

bookcover (3)A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

Francie Nolan, avid reader, penny-candy connoisseur and adroit observer of human nature, has much to ponder in colorful, turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. She grows up with a sweet, tragic father, a severely realistic mother and an aunt who gives her love too freely—to men, and to a brother who will always be the favored child. Francie learns early the meaning of hunger and the value of a penny.

Are you an introvert? An extrovert? An ambivert (it’s a thing!)?

crawling back into my corner,
suzy

*I took the online Myers-Briggs Extroversion quiz like five times because I didn’t believe her.

 

 

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Poppin’ Poppin’

Seed-Packet-Header

Way back in January, my good friend and fellow South Side Community Council member Jenn Holliman said, “Hey Suz, want to do a thing?” And, since I’m impulsive and don’t think things through, I was like, “YES! Let’s do a thing!”

She didn’t tell me that we had a month to make 1,000 flowers.

That thing was Pop des Fleurs. You may have noticed back in March that CLP – South Side was covered in bright flowers of every material: plastic, yarn, coated paper, and anything else we thought could withstand a Pittsburgh winter. We were a test installation to see what materials would survive. There was another gorgeous installation at Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville as well.

Arsenal Park, Lawrenceville

Arsenal Park, Lawrenceville

Pop des Fleurs was originally conceived by Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh member, Annette Sandberg. The idea was born during the cold and dreary Pittsburgh winter. Annette was trying to remember how her friends and family had remained up-beat and connected during long, cold winters in her birthplace, Norway. The image that came to mind, was her family home filled with flowers and candles, and warm conversations in front of the fireplace.

Its creation will create color and bring delight during the dark season of February and March through handmade, pop-up flower bouquets and gardens. It will also raise awareness for the internationally renowned exhibit of contemporary fiber art happening here in Pittsburgh in May 2016.

Remember Knit the Bridge in 2013? It’s the same amazing group of people!

IMG_7674

Knit the Bridge, 2013

IMG_7685

Knit the Bridge, 2013

Our flowers were installed on my birthday! The community came out in full force and embraced the project from beginning to end. The Market House Senior Center ended up doing their own project for their 100th Anniversary. The Chamber of Commerce had an installation. People loved it. It brightened up the gray March.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The great news is that Pop des Fleurs is partnering with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Every branch will host workshops, serve as a space for individuals and groups to make flowers and also will be installation sites for the gardens. This project aims to connect communities and neighbors while learning about different fiber arts.

In other words, it’s a big deal! I am beyond excited to be working on this project and I am so proud that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh was picked as the community partner. Every library in Pittsburgh will be covered in flowers for the month of February! If you are interested in becoming involved—by making flowers, donating materials or planning the installation—contact your local library branch or check out the Pop des Fleurs website for more information. And follow them on Facebook for updates about the project.

10376991_356318394542997_1084852778639392012_n

If you feel the need for even more entertainment, come to CLP- South Side’s Crochet and Knitting Club and watch me learn to crochet left-handed! So far it has consisted of me swearing a lot and launching yarn across a room.

-suzy.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized