Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Can you help ID this bookish statue?

That's me in the late 70s or early 80s sitting on a book on a statue. 

Looking at what I'm wearing and the other pictures this one was with, it might be somewhere near Niagara Falls, but I can't make out the writing at the base of the statue.

Can anyone identify this bookish statue for me?

Thanks for your help!
Check out more Wordless Wednesday 
(or nearly wordless if they're like me) entries here.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Performing Under Pressure (Author event recap)

The other night I took time off from the pressure of a work deadline and went to hear Hendrie Weisinger talk about his new co-authored book, Performing Under Pressure, at R.J. Julia's. Here are some of the highlights of his talk.

No one does better under pressure. In fact, if you were to personify pressure in your life it would be a terrible villain. It makes you lose control of your physiology, bends your ethics, causes anxiety, insomnia, and a host of other problems.

Weisinger made a distinction between pressure and stress:
  • Stress makes you feel overwhelmed.
  • Pressure is about producing results.
I was happy to hear him specifically call out the retail industry for the relentless pressure (and stress!) it puts on employees: demanding greater results in less time, squeezing employees until they drop. [Insert Borders flashback here.]

Hendrie Weisinger

Contrary to popular belief, at least from what research has shown in high stakes situations, people don't "rise to the occasion" to win the game. That's media hype, Weisinger says, and explained that athletes make the winning goal because it's what they train for--for hours each day, year-in-and-year-out.

Professionals choke only when they let pressure into their minds, when they think too hard about what they're doing. That's why you hear athletes say big games are "just another game." We may roll our eyes at that, but the athlete must focus on what he or she needs to do in the moment and not the end result. It makes sense: thinking about wearing a Super Bowl ring takes your mind off of making the next tackle.

Amateurs, on the other hand, by definition, don't choke. Rather, they're just not good enough to follow through. He gave the example of a friend who claims he choked during a game of golf. Weisinger told his friend that he didn't choke, he's just not good enough to make every shot. Apparently this was intended to comfort the friend.

For us non-professional athletes, we may get a lot done under pressure, but it won't be our best work. And if you have an anxiety disorder it predisposes you to failure in a pressure situation. What we mortals can do is to minimize uncertainty with lots of practice and then develop and nurture these four attributes of success, which Weisinger calls a Coat (COTE) of Armor:
  1. Confidence
  2. Optimism
  3. Tenacity
  4. Enthusiasm
These attributes can give us an edge and diffuse pressure.

Some other things you can do:
  • Develop confidence and support yourself by only hanging out with supportive people.
  • Create a sense of success around a pressure situation like a job interview: the job is not the goal, a good interview is. If you have a series of good interviews, you're bound to get a job.
  • Write down your anxieties and concerns. This is helpful because it develops what he called worry cognition which helps get worries out of your system. Like when you're talking about a situation with a friend and suddenly say, "I don't want to talk about it anymore!" You're done with the worries, at least for a time.
  • Squeeze your left hand into a fist. This triggers the right side of your brain to reinforce performance memory (hence the promotional stress ball). Also tell your elderly parents/friends to do this when they get out of bed in the middle of the night and it may help them to not trip and fall.
  • Look at multiple opportunities. This is what a quarterback does in the Super Bowl: he's not thinking he has to throw the one winning touchdown, he's thinking, "I have five potential receivers down field." [Insert Chicago Bears joke.]
  • Shrink the importance of a test like the ACTs or SATs. Instead of thinking you're gonna blow it, think that you can always take the test again.
  • Develop a pre-routine. The energy of a pre-performance routine signals your body and mind to "get juiced." I thought about Hemingway sharpening pencils when he sat down to write.
To wrap up his talk, Weisinger said you can't do better than your best. People who aren't professionals simply cannot accomplish a 100% success rate. And even professionals don't win 100% of the time because some days the other team plays better and other times the pressure is too much causing a missed putt or field goal.

So practice, practice, practice. And if whatever you do requires performance in front of others, videotaping yourself can help you get used to people watching you perform.

Final words of advice:
Do your best and you'll never feel bad. Realize that sometimes other people are just better than you on a certain day. And for those things that you can't control, like what people think of you, why bother? Please yourself.

The above is simply some highlights of Weisinger's talk. I haven't read the book or bought a copy, but I'm going to request it at the library. The book seems full of examples and advice for how to diffuse pressure.  

If you've read the book I'd love to hear what you think of it.
Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most
Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry
Random House, Crown Business, February 24, 2015
Goodreads link

I can't hear the word pressure without hearing Freddie Mercury and David Bowie singing "Under Pressure" in the back of my mind.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Behind "Just Books, No Bull" or, My Rusty #TruthTrain

My #TruthTrain is a little rusty from lack of use.

For those of you who don't follow the book blogging world, there's been a brouhaha recently around the issue of plagiarism. A well-known book blogger admitted to plagiarism, which she attributed to feeling overwhelmed by over-commitment.

Andi over at Estella's Revenge wrote a wonderful post in response--Getting Real: We're Not WonderWomen--about the pressure bloggers can feel and the need to let go of things and give yourself a break. The post touched me deeply and the subsequent calls on Twitter to "blog honest" triggered something within me about my own blogging. 

I felt the need to write about what's come up for me in recent days about my own blogging experience, so here goes--

For regular readers of this blog, it is no doubt obvious that I'm a casual blogger. I don't take on very many commitments, my blog isn't monetized, and I've never stuck to a schedule. But I still want to do a good job on my posts and, to be honest, sometimes getting out one post a week can be a challenge. The stress I feel about my blog, when it happens, usually takes the form of guilt. I think: I haven't posted in two weeks! I've only posted pictures lately!, Everything is blah!, etc!

Many bloggers talk about how amazing the book blogging community is and I agree. That said, I suck at being part of a community and that creates some guilt, too. My ability to hang out with others in a consistent way has also been a challenge in real life. I'm aware of this tendency and try to keep myself in a healthy place.

The Ugly Behind "Just Books, No Bull" 
The tag line of my blog is "Just books, no bull." Given that my blog is named WildmooBooks, it's a relevant tagline. When it first came to me I thought it was funny, maybe even a bit witty.

However, another truth behind "just books" is that I didn't want to become "one of those" bloggers--bloggers who start blogging on a topic (say, books) and then devolve (my judgment) into writing about kids, bad bosses, or grocery shopping--whatever seems to be handy when a post is due. In the past, each time I read a post by a book blogger who said she was going to "open up" her blog and write about things other than books, I rolled my eyes and closed my browser.  Thankfully, I've evolved over the years and have since read posts by book bloggers on a wide variety of topics, however initially mundane seeming, that are funny and/or thought provoking.

Hiding Behind Books
An even deeper truth behind "just books" is this: I've hidden behind books for a good part of my life.

I spent 10 years in college/grad school, worked in two libraries, taught college literature courses for five years, and worked for Borders for 12 years, much of that time in marketing, where I became even more comfortable writing about books and authors.

But the other night while pondering Andi's post, I was reminded of an experience I had back in graduate school. It was this: a couple of my colleagues seemed to be morphing into the kind of professor I have little tolerance for. The type who stands (or struts) in front of a class and spouts information. If a student risks asking a question, she'll get the same facts and concepts repeated, maybe in a different order, maybe with a bitchier tone. This is the type of teacher who may love books, but can't--for whatever reason--be fully present with other human beings, so she hides behind books and information. This type of professor scurries away to her office or car after class rather than risk any post-class questions or chatting. "See me during my office hours," she says over her shoulders as she walks away.

I was different! I'd never be like that.

But I realized the other night that is exactly how I've felt as a book blogger: I write my bookish post and walk away.

Am I being too hard on myself? Sure. And maybe I'm not explaining my epiphany very well, but that's not really the point. The point is that reading Andi's post cracked me open a bit and made me understand that I was hiding behind books right here on my book blog!

Hiding behind my favorite book.
I'm anxious about writing about things other than books, things that matter to me and that I may want to write about like: being a lesbian, having a wife, struggling with my weight, learning how to eat better, getting the hang of my new job, staying sober, being a woman veteran (because, you know, women aren't real veterans), deciding to start dying my hair again, and more of that mundane life stuff.

If there's one thing I've learned from being a Friend of Bill's it's that we're only as sick as our secrets. Not that anything I've mentioned above is a secret...but I have been hesitant to write about my life not out of a sense of privacy, but out of a fear of judgement. And that, as Shakespeare would say, sucketh. I'm ready to let it go.

Personality Online vs. IRL
Another thing, kinda weird. I'm almost always comfortable talking with people In Real Life. I enjoy meeting new people. My online personality, however, is the opposite. Online I feel shy and awkward when engaging people or talking about my life. Does anyone else feel this way?

That's probably another reason why I don't share much personal stuff on my blog. I've naturally fallen into a separation of blog and life, but I'm ready to cross boundaries a bit and (oh, my) open up. I doubt I'll ever be a completely extroverted blogger, but who knows?

What's next?
I do want to keep blogging about books and authors. I'll keep writing photo essays of the libraries I visit and may even get more consistent about that. I'll do recaps of interesting author events.

Will I start writing regular posts about non-bookish things? Not sure what or when or how, but I'm open to it. My first blog was about running and cross-country skiing, but I never got much steam behind it and so it was rather short-lived.

At least for now I've broken the ice in my own mind thanks to great posts by Andi and other book bloggers like Becca at I'm Lost in Books and Allison at The Book Wheel.

Now that I've gotten this off my chest I feel I can move forward and start writing more consistently on my blog again and be a more engaged member of the book blogger community.

Thanks as always, fellow book bloggers and readers, for the motivation you provide and the food for thought that you share!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Library Visit: Mystic & Noank Library, Mystic, CT

Mystic & Noank Public Library
40 Library Street
Mystic, CT 06355

About this beautiful library:
Dedicated: January 23, 1894
Built by: Captain Elihu Spicer
Architect: William Bigelow of NY
Contractor: Mertz's Sons of Port Chester, NY

Some of the materials used:
  • Roman brick
  • Granite from Leete's Island in Guilford, CT
  • Sandstone from Longmeadow, VT
  • Marbles from Vermont, Tennessee, and Africa
  • Tile floors from Italy
  • Cathedral glass transoms
An impressive, yet welcoming facade.
The original front entrance (no longer in use)
Looking up at the original front entrance.
Carved frieze: Minerva represents Literature
Carved frieze: Apollo represents the Arts
Side view (note the addition on the right, which added an additional 6,000 sq. ft.)
Chimney close-up.
The new main entrance is through the addition built in 1991.
The new architectural detail is in harmony with the original, thus maintaining the integrity of the whole, a sure sign that this community loves their library.
Unique shelving on the first floor.
Lovely section signs hand-written in calligraphy guide patrons throughout the library.
A reading area on the second floor of the new addition.
Where books go to be repaired.
A stunning room.
The oak ceiling is high, yet the warmth of the wood makes the room feel cozy.
Dedication above the fireplace reads:
Elihu Spicer
Gave this library to the people.
'Large was his bounty and his soul sincere.'
Bay window reading area to the left of the fireplace.
The view from the bay window.
Looking back into the room from the bay window reading area.
Another view of the great room. Notice the periodicals section and the stained glass windows.
A handsome, user-friendly reference desk.
Bookcase detail.
A sunny corner.
The view sitting at a work table to the right of the fireplace.
Cather on the shelf.
Read about the history of the library here. And if you ever find yourself in Mystic, the library is just a short walk up the hill from historic downtown Mystic (where there's a wonderful bookstore, Bank Square Books, and, of course, Mystic Pizza for those of you old enough to remember the movie)
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