Women Hold Up Half the Sky

A couple of weeks ago, I received a program in the mail for a special exhibition at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.  It is called Women Hold Up Half the Sky, and is based on the work Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn highlighted in their book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity.  I read the book and loved it several years ago.  The exhibition opened today with a keynote by Lisa Madigan, so I went over to take a look.  Madigan was speaking at 2pm, so I figured I would check out the exhibit, stand in the back of the room while she spoke and book out as soon as she was finished.

Not so much.

I arrived shortly after 11am and the place was nearly empty.  It seemed that they really didn’t want people in the special exhibition until after the event.  As it happens, I hadn’t actually visited the Illinois Holocaust Museum yet..even though it is practically in my backyard.  Yes, I am ashamed of myself.  I went in and am very glad that I did.

To state the obvious, it is smaller and has fewer artifacts than the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.    It felt somewhat less overwhelming, but rather more personal.  Skokie, you see.  Those are our people.  I could still hear the voices from one video interview as I walked on toward the next, which seemed very natural.  There is an awful lot to read, if you have the time.  The lady at the front desk suggested it would take an hour or so to go through and I took more than two.  I also didn’t bring any Kleenex.

When I finished the main exhibit, I went downstairs to grab a cold drink and read my book.  The crowd started to arrive – there  were actual shuttles to the overflow parking lot, so people came in big groups.

The room was packed.  The program started with the usual Thank Yous and acknowledging sponsors.  Lisa Madigan spoke only briefly, but noted that the fight against domestic violence and human trafficking is also very local.  Chicago is one of the U.S. hubs.  One in five women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime and one in four will be physically abused.  Then she pulled out the same program I had been mailed and noted that it contained the names of local organizations working on behalf of women and they have plenty of ways for us to get involved.

I’d had enough of the crowd, so I didn’t go through the actual exhibition today.  But I became a member of the museum and will be going back soon.  There are several more programs and panels running over the next few months and I plan to make the time.


You can find more details, including that list of partners, at the website of the  Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

I am going to hug my dog now.



Bernie’s Book Bank

I may have mentioned that my awesome employer allows for each of us to have two work days each year for volunteering events.  Last week we spent some time at Bernie’s Book Bank.  Their mission: “facilitates the collection, processing and redistribution of new and gently used children’s books to significantly increase BOOK OWNERSHIP among at-risk infants,
toddlers and school-age children throughout Chicagoland.”

They receive donations of used books from individuals and groups as well as new books from publishers.  The volunteers sort, label, and package up books for the kids. My group did the packaging for second and third graders.  It was sort of like wrapping Christmas presents!  Except instead of wrapping paper, the books were in plastic bags.  The regular volunteers told us to mix up the traditional gender books because the kids get an opportunity to trade with their classmates.  (Or, I might add, second graders might be less hung up on the traditional gender thing.)  So it was pretty easy.

When our session was over, we were shown a video of a school delivery and we could see how excited the kids were.  And check out this Thank You note that was blown up and put on the wall:


Bernie’s has plenty of “drop in hours” so that people can show up and volunteer whenever they like without making a big commitment.  And they can certainly accommodate groups by appointment.  Even little kids can get in on the action, as one of the jobs is to put Bernie’s labels on each of the books.  So obviously, I am endorsing this place as worthy of time and donations.

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An Evening with the History Nerds

Civil War BooksFriends of the Glenview Library hosted a program last night with John Alexander, a Civil War scholar who runs a used bookstore downstate with his lovely wife.  I found him particularly charming because he said several times that his interest was not necessarily in the military, so when he was doing the Q&A and someone asked about the action he would say something like, “Well, my military friends would tell you that the West had the A team in the field.”

He argued that Senator Douglas has been made to look like a villain because “every hero needs a villain”.  But in fact, Douglas totally had Lincoln’s back after the election was over and he made sure to bring the unionist democrats with him.  Mr. Alexander maintained that the election of 1860 killed Douglas and I rather believe it.

Another intriguing line of thought was that it has been popular to argue that Grant was the worst president ever, but he thinks the tide is going to turn and History will declare that he wasn’t so bad after all.  He didn’t have time to elaborate  – he literally had to talk over the “library is closing” announcements.

So.  Next time you are downstate, please look up Books on the Square in Virden, IL.  It’s for history nerds.


The national conference for the Society of Human Resource Management was last week.  Thirteen thousand HR types descended on Orlando for a few days of education, bonding and booze.  Because that’s what conferences are for.  That and the recertification credits.

Not all HR people like this conference.  Some think it is just too big.  Too big to network and too expensive to be practical.  I love it, and I am extremely grateful to my awesome employer for continuing to send me.  Truth be told, I don’t do enough networking.  I jam in as many sessions as possible, have dinner with a colleague and then fall into bed exhausted. I can’t imagine anything more boring than having to listen to someone talk about all the great stuff she learned at a conference, but there are a few things I want to note, for myself, for future reference:

First, Cy Wakeman.  The author of Reality Based Leadership, which I have not yet read, did a great session on the theme of Ditching the Drama.  Which, hello.  I need to keep top of mind.  There were two thoughts so poignant that I tweeted them.

Stop judging, start helping.

Sooooo hard to stop judging.  But I am working on it.  The “start helping” makes it a better mantra.  At the same time, my job makes me a sort of professional coach and I have to balance the validation of feelings with the Reality.  “Stop judging, start helping” is a phrase I might be able to adopt.

Would you rather be right or be happy?

If my damage as a human being could be summed up in one line, that might be it.  I should have this tattooed on my wrist.

It’s not that I make a ton of poor decisions.  I am a completely functional person and I don’t create a whole lot of drama myself.  I absolutely get impatient, but I don’t look for things to get upset about – particularly at work.  However.  I am very easily sucked into other people’s drama and if my head is not in the game I am liable to express every feeling that I have right in the moment I am having it.  Bad form.

Another thing about conferences is the BOOKS.  I read Social Gravity, by Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen.  The piece of advice they gave that resonated with me was to start answering those phone calls that I don’t want to answer.  Start taking the meetings.  It is not a crime to try to sell something, and sometimes those calls turn into contacts and those contacts turn into relationships.  Investing some more time isn’t going to kill me.

Then I came home, filed my application to renew my certification, and got back to work.  I remember seeing a statistic once about how very little is retained from the average training/development session.  Maybe blogging it will help this year.

Culling the Library

I have often said that my To Be Read book pile is an overflowing seven shelf book case.  So overflowing that I can’t actually see all of the books that are on it and once or twice a year, I buy a book that I already have.  Thursday night, at the library Used Books Store, I thought I might have done that.

Around that time, my friend Holly forwarded an email that she received regarding the Evanston Library having a used book sale.   I’ve been avoiding these since starting the “stop buying fiction” experiment.  But this one advertised that it had leftover stock from Bookman’s Alley, a fantastic used book store that closed last year.  So we went.

I had two rules:

  1. Only as many books as you can carry in your arms all at once (I use this in every bookstore and book sale) and;
  2. Do not buy anything that is likely to show up in my own library’s Used Book Store any time soon.

I bought one book for a friend of my mother’s who is ill and five books for me:

Evanston Library Book Sale Take


Over lunch after the sale, Holly and I were lamenting how much stuff we have and our terribly inefficient use of space and I knew that I was going to have to suck it up and cull more books.  I have culled books before.  Generally, they have been books I didn’t like.  A year or so ago I gained nearly a whole shelf just by pulling old biographies of Kennedys.  When I got home, I took a hard look and targeted three things:

  1. Mass market paperbacks.  Seriously, if the book is so great, I should have found a better copy by now.  (In some cases, I had.)
  2. Popular fiction.
  3. Biographies and memoirs.

That last one was hard.  I love a good memoir and it always seems to me that any non-fiction has some value under the heading of For Future Reference.  But really, reference?  That’s what Google is for.  And it isn’t like one is likely to read a memoir twice.  In about an hour, I had compiled this:


Most of my Anne Rice, which were hardcovers.  The Hannibal Lecter books.  Most of the V books.  And all but one of the old V.C. Andrews books. (My Sweet Audrina had to stay, though I couldn’t tell you why.)  I did not touch my history shelves or any classics – except for Sister Carrie which I am. never. going to read – and I barely pulled anything from what might be called “literary fiction”.

I took these eight bags and one box straight to the library Used Book Store where my friend Sarah was already overwhelmed with the books of other people that had been Spring cleaning and making donations.  So I said that I would put in an hour with her and see if we could get through them – at least pricing and perhaps shelving.  And so we did.

When I came home and shuffled things around I found that I had a tiny bit more space on several shelves, and I had this:


Three Shelves


Three empty shelves!  Which I promptly filled with the random, overflow, To Be Read piles:


Three Shelves Nearly Full Again


All that work and you can hardly tell that I did anything.

I’m going to go read now.

I Went to C2E2 and Didn’t Take Pictures

I had heard of the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, but never attended.  Yesterday, after my Book Club was postponed, I decided to go.  A couple of authors I like were there, they were going to have some stuff about 24 and in fact, my online friend Elliott Serrano was moderating a panel called 24 Reunion.   Also.  Lots of Star Wars stuff.

Note to Self:  It takes for freakin’ ever to take the El to McCormick Place.

When I arrived, I went straight to the Expo floor.  Bad idea.  It is very easy to lose track of time that way.  When I finally thought to look at the program, I saw that I had plenty of time to make a panel discussion of sexism in Geekdom called, “Glass Ceilings, Missing Stairs and Gatekeepers: Geeks Still Deal with Sexism”.  I am posting this link so that I can look up the panelists that have blogs.  I liked them a lot and one side of the table was definitely talking more than the other.  I was at least 20 minutes early for the panel and the line was snaked around the hall.  I got in pretty easily, but am certain that people were turned away.

The session was pretty good, but there was only one example that I hadn’t heard before and it surprised me and it really shouldn’t have: I believe it was Dawn Xiana Moon that told a story of being at a conference and wearing a Speaker badge and someone on the expo floor or something asked if that was really her badge or if she had borrowed it from a friend.


I have not had these really bad, sexist experiences in Geekdom.  To be fair, I don’t live there.  I am not a Geek Blogger and am not active in the Fantasy/SciFi fan community.  But I really like to visit.  When I first became acquainted with my geek friends, I felt like they were really glad to have more girls in the room.    So the first time I heard of a lady getting a rape threat for posting something online, I felt sick.  Of course, I knew that stuff was happening to women online.  But I had been under the impression that Geekdom was a relatively safe place for girls.  The panel made the point several times that just because it isn’t happening to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening and everyone ought to step up and ensure that bad behavior isn’t happening in the community.

On to happier topics:

I missed Mary Robinette Kowal, but there were two autographed copies of her book left at Anderson Booksellers booth so I bought one.  After I decided that I need to stop buying fiction and use my library, Shades of Milk and Honey was the first book that made me say, “Damn!  This is why I need to buy books!”

After wandering the floor a bit longer, I went to the 24 Reunion, where actors Louis Lombardi, James Morrison and Carlos Bernard met to swap stories.  They took a few minutes to warm up, but Elliott got them talking and there were a lot of laughs.

By the time that session was over, I was done.  18,000 steps that day, thank you very much.  I snapped one picture on the way out.

c2e2 2014

If I were to attend again, I would have a strategy before showing up.  C2E2 has an app where you can build a schedule.  That might be more structure than I can stand, but the point is there are tools to ensure that one doesn’t lose the day staring at drawings of Darth Vader.

Christmas Reading Challenge 2013

I just returned from a week from the road and found two surprising things:

  1. The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge had already started.
  2. I did not read a single book that was on my list from last year’s Challenge.

Seriously, I read seven books during last year’s Christmas Reading Challenge, and not one was on the original list.  So I will start there:

  1. Christmas in Plains, by Jimmy Carter
  2. Star Bright!, by Andrew M. Greeley
  3. The Queen’s Christmas, by Karen Harper
  4. Silent Night, by Mary Higgins Clark

I have several others in my pile, and I know the library will have plenty and I haven’t even looked at audiobooks yet.  But what I really need to do right this second is catch up on logging all of the other books I have read over the last few months.