The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

August 25th, 2014

school busForget January 1. As the parent of a school-age child, the first day of school rings in the real New Year where the optimism shines as brightly as the new first-day-of-school outfit.  My son, though, has never been able to fully revel in this joyful season.  Instead of inspiring him with talk of a new start or lofty resolutions, his ever cynical mother can offer only real-life, social-doom-related adages, such as never ever leave your lunch tray unattended at any time for any reason or let your cosmetologist cousin “fix” your hair the day before class pictures.

This summer, I resolved to rediscover the magic of a new year by reading and watching characters reinvent themselves. My favorites included:

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Rebecca, a once famous photographer, finds herself stuck in a raccoon-infested cabin in rural New York consumed by worries about money and her stalled career.  Relaxing into daily life with her quirky neighbors and the roofer who traps the rampaging raccoon, Rebecca leaves her old self behind, finding inspiration and a late-in-life second chance in the upstate woods.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Once renowned L.A. architect Bernadette Fox finds both the people and weather of Seattle eroding her sanity. Attempting to plan a long promised family trip to Antarctica hilariously derails as Bernadette is forced to ever more eccentric means of hiding her agoraphobia. Bewildered by his wife’s behavior, Microsoft guru Elgin Branch attempts a mental health intervention, during which Bernadette mysteriously disappears. Compiled by her daughter, the story uses Internet postings, emails, magazine articles and FBI reports to trace Bernadette’s journey back to her family and a rediscovered life.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
A former stay-at-home dad whose wife has left him, Ben takes the job of caregiver to Trev, a teen with muscular dystrophy, hoping to find a purpose in life. Their subsequent road trip in search of Trev’s estranged father (during which they pick up a runaway, a pregnant farm girl and a tail in a Skylark) points the way to forgiveness for Ben’s past deeds.

Doctor Who: The Second Series – DVD

The poster child of reinvention, Dr. Who’s regeneration in “The Christmas Invasion” features murderous Santa robots, a deadly spinning Christmas tree and a plot by the alien Sycorax to enslave the human race.  Putting his own stamp on the beloved character, David Tennant’s debut as Dr. Who encapsulates both the confusion and excitement wrought by a brand new start.

Busy Monsters by William Giraldi
Jilted by his fiancée for a giant squid hunting oceanographer, Charles seeks to win her back by embarking on a manhood-proving quest of his own. Confronting Bigfoot, alien abductees and other questionable creatures, he fights his own self-created monsters on a comic road trip to true love.

All good intentions aside, as my son left the car to wait at the bus stop all I could think to say was to sit toward the front, keep your eyes forward, ears closed and hands to yourself. I was rewarded with a massive eye roll and just the hint of a smile. I guess there’s always next year.

What’s your favorite back-to-school advice?

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Back to School Bargains… @ Your Library!

September 5th, 2012


I love bargains; the cheaper the better. My wallet is a virtual potpourri of store cards, loyalty vouchers, clipped coupons, and bonus bucks. I scan the newspaper for yard sales and know when the local thrift shops are having Half-Off Saturdays. Anything I can do to stretch my dollars a little further, sign me up.

Like a lot of parents, Back To School can be especially challenging for me because it means spending a little more to stock up on everything from juice boxes to cool sneakers. Thankfully, it’s also a major sales time with huge banners splashed across storefronts luring me in with promises of savings. Clearance! Everything 50% Off Storewide! BOGO! B2GO! (Do most of us even know what that means?) And like most parents, I go where I can get the most bang for my buck. For that reason, my favorite “store card” is from the Cecil County Public Library.

No, I’m not going to find the latest fashion trends stashed among the bookshelves, but the library offers one-stop shopping for everyone in my family and almost everything is FREE. Obviously, there are tons of books but they also carry current DVD titles from Hollywood blockbusters to popular TV series, exercise videos and travel documentaries. The music CD collection is extensive; whether you prefer Pink, One Direction, The Beatles or Blake Shelton, CCPL covers a wide variety of musical choices. You can catch up on current events with regional and national newspapers, check out video games and magazines for all ages or download titles to your eReader…all with a library card.

From infants to teens, CCPL branches are offering tons of fun, free programs this season, including Halloween crafts, family movie nights, LEGO challenges, and pajama storytimes. Explore outer space, learn about bees and make bottle cap jewelry. Working on a school assignment? Did you know that you can access the Internet using our library computers for up to 2 hours a day, six days a week? Or if you have a laptop, we have free WiFi.  And homework help is just a click away through the CCPL Digital Library with tons of databases available 24 hours a day.

For Mom and Dad, why not tackle that project you’ve been putting off all summer? From DIY home improvement books to step-by-step auto repair instructions available through the CCPL website’s Online Resources, they’ve got it covered. There are computer classes, cooking demonstrations, and gardening presentations at the local branches. Or maybe you’d like to become a genealogy detective: trace your family roots through Heritage Quest on the CCPL website or sign up for our first ever Cecil County Genealogy Symposium to get you started on your own personal history. You can even get your resume reviewed or start a small business, all through your local library.

If you’re like me, Back To School means that my kids are busy, my days are crazy and family time is even more important. As a parent, I love the fact that one card gives me access to so many resources that all of us can enjoy, and it even fits into my budget. And occasionally, when I bring home a stack of movies or CDs from CCPL, I get to be the cool mom…and that is priceless.

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