In a Flash!

Back when I posted My Hero(es)the amazing Angie from Fat Girl, Reading tweeted something along the lines of “could you imagine if there was a kid in a wheelchair?” Yep, I could. It just took Bruce and I longer to work on than anticipated, but hopefully we have her done in time for most summer marketing.

I wanted a super-confident girl who, when someone makes a stupid comment about her loving The Flash will remind them that “you can’t run 74 miles per second either.”

I’ve gone ahead and added her to my original post, so if you’ve bookmarked that, then know you don’t need a whole new bookmark. And here’s the b&w version for coloring sheets, or anything else you can think of:

Remember to click on either above image to get a much bigger version.

And I must give yet another whole-hearted thank you to Angie for her suggestion. THANK YOU!!!!!

 

My Hero(es)

I think that it would be safe to say that for most nerdy youth services librarians, the announcement of 2015’s CSLP theme sent shivers down our spines: Every Hero Has a Story.™ I also think that it’d be safe to say that it was a bit of a letdown when the official artwork arrived. Ummmm…I mean, the artist did a great job, BUT jellyfish and police officer platypuses are not what I had in mind.

Immediately I told my team that we weren’t going to use the artwork, and that I’d ask/beg/bribe my artist fiance to make something else. In my mind I wanted him to put fun superhero costumes on our dragon mascot. It wasn’t until the fantabulous Erin from Erinisinire emailed me to see if it was cool to use my superhero mashups instead of the provided CSLP artwork. Naturally I replied “heck yeah!” I then also told her of my plans to work with Bruce (aforementioned fiance) to make fun dragon logos that she could use as well.

Later that night, I had a SHAZAM! moment when I realized that instead of using our library’s mascot – we should have children dressing up as superheros, and that way, any and all libraries that would like to, could use our artwork! AWW YISS!!!!!

Needless to say, my mind went into overdrive. The very next day I sat down and sketched out ideas with lots of notes for Bruce to use. Basically, and this blows my mind, I got to be his art director (eep! ME – an art director for a professional artist) But, I mean, we’ve worked on artsy projects together before, and it’s been a blast. However, this was quite the task, and I knew that I was going to be pushing Bruce out of his comfort zone (and into the land of cutesy chibis). Heh.

Bruce took my rough sketches and made them magical. He spent three days on this labor of love, and it’s been pure joy collaborating and watching our ideas come to life. He’s one of my heroes.

Oh yeah – you might like to know the concept: I wanted it to be children who are cosplaying their favorite superhero characters with things that they find around the house. Also, I really wanted kids represented who are hardly ever featured as leading superheros both in books and film. To riff on a wonderful book movement #WeNeedDiverseHeroes And because of the chibi eyes, most of the children are ambiguous in terms of gender (and do cause some uncertainty in race as well). I’ll write the intention (not set in stone by any means) that Bruce and I had with each character. But if you see someone else being represented, then that’s totally cool too!

Finally, I wanted to work in the concept of LIBRARIES into the art. That has driven me nuts with the CSLP: it’s a big library thing, right? But it usually only focuses on reading. Not even libraries. And for the love of Jibbers: libraries are so much more than books (and yet, the CSLP marketing seems to push that pretty hard). ::gets down off of soapbox::

Without further ado, here is what resulted from Bruce and my collaboration:

 An African-American child cosplaying as Superman showing off the awesome power of his/her library card.A Latino child dressed as Thor – carrying his/her library tote that just happens to resemble Thor’s hammer.Asian child who wants to be Spider-Man.Caucasian girl who wants to be Batman. She’ll punch you if you try and call her Batgirl (at least in my mind).Middle Eastern girl cosplaying Ms. Marvel. I love that she uses an over-sized glove to represent how Ms. Marvel can morph shapes.An African-American girl cosplaying as The Flash. If someone’s silly enough to make fun of her for her love of The Flash, then she’ll point out that “you can’t run 74 miles per second either.”

And here are the b&w images for you to use. Oh! There are two versions of Spider-Kid because the initial version Bruce did had brown hair – he modified it to the black/blue hair at my request.

     

Click on any of the above images to get a high resolution version.

PLEASE feel free to use any/all of these images at any time! Modifying them is completely fine too. The b&w outline images are perfect for coloring sheets (just sayin’). And it’s so very very sweet when librarians email me to make 100% sure that it’s okay to use the images, but I promise that my answer will be “yes.”

Also please don’t feel that you need to give either Bruce or I credit in whatever you’re putting our artwork on! If someone wants to know, then you can tell them, or I’d like to think that they’d be able to track the source online pretty darn easily.

This “leaving off credit thing” especially applies to my superhero mashups. I actually really dislike seeing credit given to me on calendars or brochures because I think it takes away from the striking/simple art. So know that we’re totally cool with credit being left off. Pinkie promise!

One other thing I did that I thought might help librarians out there for this summer: I went through Dafont’s comic fonts and picked out ones that I thought would work best. Honestly, this was also a selfish act of mine to try and stop a proliferation of flyers being created using Comic Sans. ::shudders::

In case you were curious why I picked the fonts that I did – it really comes down to readability and characters. When I’m looking for a font, I ALWAYS use the preview option. I may type what I want the flyer’s headline to be (both upper and lowercase), a special character, and a number. What I’m doing is making sure that lowercase is an option (because you can always use caps lock), and that the font maker has made both special characters and numbers. It took me several heartbreaking times where I found the perfect font, downloaded it, and then realized that I couldn’t use it because I couldn’t type event times.

Anywho! Click on any of the fonts down below to be taken to their download page where you can see the rest of the characters and even type in your own preview.

Okay, I think that about covers it! If you end up using any or all of our artwork, then know that we’d love to see what you did with it. Think of it as payment. OR, if you feel weird about using the artwork for free, then do something special for someone or some organization in your community. Pay it forward. After all – each and every one of you working with and for families in library-land are the heroes I refer to in this post’s title. (I betcha thought it referred to the artwork, but nope! I’m talking about YOU).

Nerd Chi

The story of how Nerd Chi came about is rather boring, but I know that if I heard this program’s name, then I’d be curious about its origins. What it boils down to is that as I did a tai chi instructional dvd, the instructor made it very clear that visualization/imagination was very important to the process. And as he described the moves, my mind most easily related to pop-culture and other nerdy references.

I then thought, “Geez, I wish I’d taken tai chi classes as a teenager – that would have been awesome.” This was mainly because of how fantastic it is at stress relief, and how incredibly easy it is. I mean, in yoga you’re doing some interesting poses, but with tai chi, it’s all smooth and gentle. And that’s when I had a SHAZAM! moment when I realized that I could teach a class at our library!

Thankfully, our Young Adult Librarian and Library Director loved and fully supported the idea. And Nerd Chi was born.

From that point on, I just had to think of every move in terms of nerdery (which turned out to be rather easy for me). I quickly came up with an overall concept of how to explain the concept of chi to the teens: basically that with Wi-Fi everywhere floating through the air, then that means that there are (à la Carl Sagan) billions and billions of internet cats floating through the air around us. (Yes, I know that this isn’t exactly true, but it sure is a blast to share this funny concept which has been well-received).

But seriously? Just type in “tai chi cat” or “taiji cat” into an image search:

Yup! My concept may deserve more serious consideration…

Plus, it’s really fun to say things like “draw the sweet chi cats in, and let the grumpy cats flow out into the earth.” Heh.

So, that’s the overall idea. I created a (not-sure-how-well-it-would-stand-up-in-a-court-of-law since our city’s attorney never got back to us) permission slip for parents to sign. Yes, these routines are incredibly gentle and easy, but I’d never taught a class like this before, and I’d like to try and have both the library and my booty covered in case someone in class tries a backflip. When we convert the class to all-ages in February (yay!), I think that I’ll just have a verbal statement at the beginning of each class where I’ll say something like “follow what I say, stop if you feel anything odd, etc.”

I did create a handout with the different movement’s names so that the teens could better familiarize themselves with the routine. Click on the image for the two-page pdf for a better look, if you’d like to use it yourself, or if you’d like to try your hand at teaching a Nerd Chi class (and yes, the backside/2nd page comes up first, so don’t let that throw you):

Honestly, I was pretty nervous about teaching my first class – mainly the whole “instructor does the mirror image” thing. Like, telling the teens to step out with their right foot while I’m stepping out with my left. But by calling a program “nerdy,” I felt so much more at ease to admit my struggles to the group and they all laughed and were super-supportive (even when I told them to look at their outstretched foot when I meant hand). Also, the moves are slow enough that I generally can think through what I need to say and do before doing them. Yay!

I also keep the above handout by my side so that I can refer to it – and refer to it I do! There’s still so much to think about and say that remembering the order of the 8 Tokens of Arcade gets difficult. The visual cues really help a ton.

Oh – I also bought a (rather expensive) CD of super-nerdy orchestra music. That’s made very nice background music to play and that I enjoy in my own music collection. But, I think that any compilation of softer pop-culture songs would work.

The class, even with me talking a lot, has ended after 25 minutes the first two times. My plan is to do extra repetitions (i.e. bump up everything to 4X), and see if that gets me to the scheduled half hour.

I told my second group of teens that they would get to be on my blog if they wanted and were fine with getting a picture taken. Almost everyone was game to do so! I also asked if they had a preference for what move we should be doing. Naturally, they unanimously picked their favorite move: Hulk with Laser Beam Eyes. We’re not really caring about proper form here – more about striking an impressive “Hulk” pose:

If you’d like to give Nerd Chi a try, then I say go for it (whether at the library or at home). It really adds a fun new dimension to these traditional qigong moves. The actual names for the routines are: Gathering Chi from the Six Directions, The 8 Pieces of Brocade, and Balancing the Heart.

Gaiam produced the AM Tai Chi program that inspired all of this (and they very generously share pretty much the whole thing on both Youtube and their website). But here’s the beginning of the routine:
 Furthermore, please feel free to use any of the Nerd Chi logos that Bruce and I created in a very fun joint effort. Yes, the gal holding the Poké Ball is supposed to be a Gravity Falls version of me – so if you’d like to change that up (or anything else about the image), then please feel free to do so. I’d even be fine if you pasted a picture of your face over mine. The nerdier – the better! Click on the image below or at the very top of this post for a clean jpeg:

I hope that you give Nerd Chi a try, and if you do, then I’d love to hear about it!

The Chronic Librarian

This is one of those rare “Life ‘n Stuff” posts – so feel free to skip it if you’re here for the decor and general library stuff. Seriously – you won’t hurt my feelings.

I actually debated for a few weeks on whether or not to address what was going on with my health on my blog. But then I read the amazing Jen’s post about her agoraphobia on Epbot, and I thought that through sharing my struggles, I could maybe help someone else out there going through a similar struggle to my own. I also think that this is a form of therapy for me: getting it out there so it feels less like an issue.

About three years ago, I had several health setbacks: I had four consecutive bouts of strep throat and then within a month or two I came down with a terrible case of mono.

When I say it was terrible – it was terrifying: both my spleen and liver almost ruptured. After surviving that, I never felt good. I put on 70 pounds and felt like I still had a light case of mono. I tried working out again (prior to my illness I was a lean-mean workout/running machine), and the workouts seemed to sap my strength vs. invigorate me. I would also radiate heat like a furnace.

I could break down the next two years where I struggled to live an okay life, but then this post would be five times as long. So, to escalate it even quicklier: I changed doctors and she discovered I had hypothyroidism. She ignored some new symptoms (all over body pain and exhaustion), and old symptoms (my overheating, which made no sense with hypothyroidism), and put me on a crazy diet. I felt worse.

I found a new doctor and he adjusted my medications, put me on some pain pills, but then the pain came back worse than ever. He then sent me to a rheumatologist. And after chatting a few minutes, then poking/prodding me a bit, he had a diagnosis for me: fibromyalgia. He called me the poster child for fibromyalgia – between possible triggers and my symptoms, he could check off “yes” to almost every single one.

It was a shock to get my diagnosis, but it was also a HUGE relief to know what was wrong and that it wasn’t going to kill me. However, it was likely a life sentence of pain and fatigue being given to me. Only around 25% of people with fibro go into remission – not great odds, but by golly, I’m going to hope that I’m in that quarter-percentile group.

I also have to say that I’m extremely lucky that it took less than a year from when my fibro truly flared to when I was diagnosed. Many patients go for years and years and from doctor to doctor doing tons of tests to eventually get to a proper diagnosis.

The other thing I’m very grateful for is that I have this during a time when fibromyalgia is acknowledged as real, and not just “in your mind” in the medical community. I think that if a doctor had told me that the pain was in my mind, I would have tried to get their license pulled. All-encompassing/debilitating pain during one of the happiest times in my life being all in my mind? Not so much.

So, I’m still figuring out how to manage my new reality. My mother, who has a different chronic condition, has been such a huge support and teacher in terms of handling something like this. Thankfully, I also have an amazing job filled with amazingly supportive people. I wrote a frank email to everyone explaining what was up with my health. And since then, if I’m doubled-over in horrible pain (all it takes is one joint in one finger to flare – which my pain flares feel like the repeated full impact of the body part getting slammed in a car door for a minute or so), then whoever’s nearby makes sure that I’m okay, and that the library keeps functioning normally.

What things would I say to someone going through uncertain health issues?

Trust yourself. Don’t go crazy on “web doctor” sites and freak yourself out. I always suspected something else was wrong beyond my hypothyroidism. I actually said to my newest doctor “this is what I would imagine fibromyalgia would feel like” over a month before my diagnosis.

Also, find someone or a group of someones to support you. My family was a great help during this time, but Bruce was my constant helper/cheerleader. I tend to err on the side of being stoic, and he’s really good at seeing through that wall I put up (and then gently/considerately nudging at its foundation).

And, of course:

General notes about what’s helping me with this syndrome (that might help you if you’re in the same chronic boat):

  • Tai chi, tai chi, tai chi! I felt immediately better after doing Gaiam’s AM Tai Chi (and no, they are not paying me for this endorsement). I actually was questioning if I’d taken my Tylenol the first morning that I did it – and that was amazing. Tai chi is like a moving meditation – it’s wonderful. I’ll be getting a few more DVDs and I’ll be sure to update this post on whether or not I like them too.
  • Yoga’s good too, but it doesn’t have the same effect on me. But with everything I do in terms of working out, I look at it as a necessary medication. I do it, and I usually will feel better. I don’t do it? I’m not going to feel better.
  • Meditation. Stress can be a trigger for flares, and so I’ve begun practicing more consistent meditation. I bought several cds (neither one is worth mentioning here) that mainly focus on stress relief and breathing. They do help some, and breathing is one way that can help me through a sudden spike in pain.
  • Visualization and other bizarre techniques. One medical paper I read suggested that patients with fibromyalgia should view their energy as pennies and that we have a daily piggy bank to invest those limited pennies in. This has really helped me determine what’s worth my energy every day. Is it worth running around like crazy to get the reshelve cart reshelved? Usually the answer to that is no – I can take my time, and if it doesn’t get taken care of today, then there’s always tomorrow.

    (^^^super-ultra-nerdy Doctor Who reference – sorry non-Whovians)
  • In terms of my personal bizarre technique: many times when I’m aching or there’s a body part that I can tell might start acting up, I begin talking to it in my head. Usually with cartoon voices, or other famous actors. One of my favorites is a variation on Madeline Kahn’s “burning” monologue from the movie Clue. I think this sort of distracts me from the pain, and sort of derails a possible downward spiral.
    There are a lot of other “body sense” and mental tricks that you can learn/do pretty quickly in terms of pain management. There are some great blog articles on Psychology Today‘s website that I have found helpful.
  • Low-impact cardio! Bruce and I went out within a week of my diagnosis and bought the cheapest treadmill we could find. The rheumatologist told us that cardio can reduce the pain by 40%, but not doing cardio could increase the pain by 20%. Let me tell you: pain relief is one of the best motivations for working out I’ve ever had.
  • Space heaters! I was having a rough day at work: the aching was getting progressively worse in my forearms and calves. I was about to take Tylenol when I decided to put on a space heater since there was a chill in the air. In less than two minutes, the pain was completely gone.This trick hasn’t worked every time, but it generally helps a great deal.
  • Sleep and having a regular sleep schedule is super-important. I’ve never stuck to such a regimented schedule since becoming an adult. I think that it definitely does help, and it also helps me know when my body is actually fibro-ing vs. me being a night owl. 2 mg of melatonin has also helped me get to sleep faster (my mental wheels tend to do a lot of spinning as I try to go to sleep and the melatonin stops them in their tracks).
  • Cymbalta – it’s more than an antidepressant, it can help with fibro pain. This is what my most recent doctor put me on a few weeks before I got in to see my rheumatologist, who then told me to up my dose. It definitely has helped a ton.

    I want to bring up this specific medication because I had a scary side effect that I couldn’t find a whole lot about on the web: muscle spasms/tremors. They were disruptive and kind of freaky – I tried to make light of them at work (singing “shake it like a Polaroid” if I got an especially noticeable spasm) but I was worried that they’d never go away.

    I mean, from what I could find, about 900 out of 42,000 people have this side effect – and nothing indicated that the shaking would go away.I want to put it out there that this side effect went away for me (both after my initial dose, and then the upped dose) after about 3 weeks.

    Right now I only get a little shaky if I’m under a lot of stress, and even then it’s nothing like it had been during the second week of Cymbalta. So, if you happen to stumble across this post looking for someone’s personal experience with this side effect, then please know that there is hope.
  • Last, but not least, like I mentioned above, having some sort of support is so very important. Having Bruce there to listen and support me was priceless. When it was nearly impossible for me to drive, he drove me to my doctor appointments. When I was overheating yet again, he gently would point out that I should really find out why my body was doing that.

    (^^^some of my favorite pics of Bruce: his suave senior photos – they make me smile every time)
    Like I mentioned before, having watched my mother go through a much more distressing chronic disease diagnosis, and her speaking with me about it, has also been invaluable. She went through, and is still going through some rough times – but she has shown me how not to give up, and how to keep living better than ever when faced with a life sentence. She’s also taught me about how much humor can help. She’s my hero.

    Also, something quite coincidental happened during the time right before I was diagnosed with my condition: I was taking a fabulous Youth Services Managment continuing education course led by Marge Loch-Wouters, and one of the final discussions was about keeping it zen at work. Without knowing it, everyone who shared a technique in that discussion was supporting me. I appreciated those suggestions when I first read them, but less than a week later I had my diagnosis, and those suggestions became precious.

    So, try seeking out advice from people who seem to let stress roll off their backs. Or do some internet searching. I was really touched when this post on Mindfullness in the Library recently came up on the ALSC blog.

This is a lifelong journey that I’ll be sure to update from time-to-time – I really don’t want to make this condition a focus in either my life or blog. I mean, the pain is already vying for most of my attention, and most days I stubbornly keep going. I’ve also gotten better at knowing when I need to throw in the towel and be prone at home. That said: the rare days where I feel good – like pre-illness/conditions good – I deeply appreciate those times more than I ever did before.

 

Guardians of the Literacy

Anybody else really excited about Guardians of the Galaxy coming out this week?

In honor of the occasion, Bruce and I collaborated on another library logo mashup! I’ll be the first to admit that I leaned heavier on the comics material as my source, but with a little movie mixed in as well. Bruce was my “could you look at this?” consultant and we talked through many-an-issue (usually color-related). I must give Bruce full credit for doing the entire logo (he saw me struggling and had mercy). He’s awesome like that.

Like the superhero and Sherlock logos before these – feel free to use these. Many people have written seeking permission to use those for avatars, library brochures, stickers, etc. Please know that I’m totally cool with all of that. I actually get a HUGE kick/ego boost when I see a stranger use one of my logos. And I LOVE getting random emails from people showing me what they did with them (hint hint).

Have fun!

As an added bonus to anyone who scrolled all the way down here – I’ll share what Bruce spent part of his day working on since it’s Guardians-related as well. And also adorable: