The Truth About Librarians; or What I’ve Been Reading Lately

I am librarian, hear me Shush!

When people first learn that I’m a librarian, they say something like, “I’ve always wanted to be a librarian; I love reading so much!” Libraries and librarians always bring reading to mind.  There is this idea that being a librarian is recreational. We are asked from time to time if we are volunteers.  When people learn that we actually have advanced degrees to do what we are doing, they are shocked. “You went to school to do this???? What do they teach you, the finer points of shushing?”  Hahahahahah.

Speaking of shushing, did you know there is a librarian action figure who can shush you with the touch of a button?  She is modeled after a renowned reader’s advisory librarian, Nancy Pearl. (She’s here, too.)

action librarian

I’m sure old Nancy does a lot of reading, but whether it is on the clock, is rather doubtful.

That’s the thing. Libraries are about literacy and knowledge, about access to information, about recreation and that third place, the home-away-from-home. We bridge the digital divide and match readers with books. We teach people how to write a resume and attach it to an electronic application. We find high interest books that could entice even the most reticent reader. We enlighten people with the knowledge that a toddler who holds a book in the upright position and turns pages has mastered a beginning literacy skill.

We go out of our way to learn new and different skills so that we can present them to our communities. For example, I learned all about alcohol ink – what it is, where you get it, and what you can do with it. It took weeks. Then I offered a program in which I set up three projects, created an instructional powerpoint presentation and taught a group of women (men would have been welcome, but none signed up) how to create works of alcohol ink art. Another time I researched journaling – all sorts of journaling – and why to indulge in/pursue/and otherwise write a journal. I created a related powerpoint presentation, gathered materials and developed exercises. This was to be a four part series, but by popular demand it continued for four years

So, while literacy is definitely a central tenet of libraries and reading a serious focus of librarians, it is rarely something we do at work; oh, unless it’s  Story Time. No, we must discuss books, talk about books, and generally promote books, but the actual reading is done on our own time. It’s the ultimate bringing-your- work-home task.  While some books are a joy to read, just as many are torturous to plod through.

For six years I lead an adult book discussion group. We met twice per month – that’s 24 books per year. Then for five years I was an outreach librarian at several middle schools. I visited classrooms at each of the schools three times during the school year – each time bringing around 15 books. Let me tell you, that was a Herculean task (for me anyway, a slow reader) All I can say is thank goodness for audio books. You can slog through any book if you can listen to it. Lest it sound as if I didn’t enjoy some of these books, let me hasten to tell you that, there were many gems among these selections and I have found a number of favorites.

This brings me to the real reason I’m writing today. Because of some heartbreak with one of my cats (info on my FB page), I couldn’t concentrate on reading the past couple of weeks. I sought out some previously read favorites and listened to them.

Rainbow Rowell is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read Attachments, Fangirl and Eleanor & Park. Each one is a  work of art with characters I care deeply about.

eleanor and park

I ran across Eleanor & Park in my middle school book talk years. It seemed like a possible candidate for my students, because Eleanor & Park were in high school. The last thing I expected was a story an adult could get wrapped up in. I also wasn’t expecting the happily-ever-after. Rainbow isn’t billed as a romance author and she is so adept at the Big Black Moment that her stories bring the reader to the brink of despair… all hope seems lost. In fact, the characters seem to get on with their lives, time passes, the book seems to be ending and then – twist – she turns it around and makes it happy after all.

fangirl

The second Rainbow book I read was Fangirl. It’s really cool to me that Rainbow wrote this one as her NaNoWriMo novel one year – and says she didn’t change it much at all.  It is two simultaneous stories in one. The main story is about a college student who is a brilliant writer – a popular writer of a fanfic about two guys – Simon and Basil. They are reminiscent of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy and a slash fic – where romance is brewing between our two heroes. In the main story, the young writer is going through some huge challenges and life changes – and doesn’t see romance when it’s spending time with her on a regular basis. Arrrrgh! <– that’s the sound of angst and my love for these characters.

attachments

Last but not least, is Attachments. This is one I just listened to last week. It is the most awesome concept for a story. A guy named Lincoln is employed by a company to work in the IT department. As part of his job, he is to enforce their internet policy. He must read emails that are flagged and advise people when they are breaking policy. Over the weeks and months, he reads the emails bouncing like tennis balls back and forth between Jennifer and Beth, until he knows them like two good friends. Lincoln and his love interest don’t even meet until the end of the book. How can an author create a romance like that – and it works? (OK, Rainbow’s books are more than romance, but they’re romance.) It’s just too awesome.

Here is a total spoiler, but I’m going there. I love this little interchange.

“Lincoln?” she asked.
“Yes?”
“Do you believe in love at first sight?”
He made himself look at her face, at her wide-open eyes and earnest forehead. At her unbearably sweet mouth.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Do you believe in love before that?”
Her breath caught in her throat like a sore hiccup.
And then it was too much to keep trying not to kiss her. (pg. 319)

And they do live happily ever after!

sweetness

These were not the only books I read the last couple of weeks. I had an adult discussion group and read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C Alan Bradley. I listened to the audio version, voiced by Jayne Entwistle. She is SO talented – and sounds like a young Hayley Mills. Her acting adds so much to the main character, 11-year-old Flavia de Luce.

The book group, for the most part, didn’t care for this book. I think it was charming, witty and engrossing. I’ve read four or five of the Flavia books.

me missing dead

The final book I read just this weekend was one I had read before called Me, the Missing and the Dead by Jenny Valentine. It is supposed to be for high school students, but I can’t see it interesting them much. It is the story of a young man who solves the mystery of an urn of ashes left in a cab and also, the likely truth about his own father’s disappearance six years previously. The book delves into parent-child relationships, marital relationships, the nature of love, death, grief and acceptance. It is heavy, but a relatively quick read with a surprising turn of events. This was my second time through this one. It is one to leave you thinking.

Now that I’ve let you in on my reading habits, you’ll see that it is entirely possible that you are already reading like a librarian….and you don’t even have to change careers.

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Gotta Fly

Have you ever heard of the Fly Lady? Marla Cilley is the Fly Lady and she will gently, but firmly usher you into a life of order and serenity. I first heard of her maybe a dozen years ago when her book “Sink Reflections” was on the shelf at the library.

I was amazed at how she could encourage anyone to take heart and conquer the demons of perfectionism, procrastination, and clutter. Using her advice it is possible to overcome inertia and an overwhelming to do list.

When you hear the words order and serenity it sounds very zen and meditation-y – and it is! – but it starts with cleaning your house. So if you’re expecting Thick Naht Hanh or Pema Chodron or the Dalai Lama, you’ll be disappointed, but I guarantee that these FLY feelings are kith and kin, and who knows, maybe one thing will lead to another.

Maybe, these thoughts could be the precursors to manageable New Year’s Resolutions or, better yet Resolves to New & Improved Lifestyles. We are just three weeks away from the new year after all.

Marla’s methods are simple, but effective. Here are a couple of her standards.

1. It starts with a clean sink – do this one thing, do it well, then keep it up

2. Take small bites of tasks – you can do anything for 15 minutes – set a timer!

3. Perfectionism leads to procrastination – oh, yeah!

4. Routines, zones, timed work sessions, 27-fling-boogies (I’ll let you explore these as desired)

Marla’s world has fun acronyms, too. For example: CHAOS = Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome (the way we feel when our house needs a good cleaning)  and FLY=Finally Loving Yourself (by making your life easier)

I found myself thinking about flying a lot the last couple of days, because my December so far has been very overcast. Depression has moved in like a 1/2 ton gorilla sitting on my chest.  Yeah, that sounds more funny than, not, but I can assure you, I am not laughing.  In fact, tears have been a nearby threat for days. And that has not been me for years. I don’t know what is going on, but I need to push it away. Hard.

That’s where Marla comes in. Part of this state I am in is comprised of anxiety – and I think that is from an extensive to do list. I’ve handled the most pressing items left in the wake of a fairly irresponsible November, but the holidays are just around the corner and there are a gajillion things to do –  at home and at work.

So, I’m going to try to FLY.  I’m going to get up and go to work every day. I’m going to pay my bills and cook food and wash clothes and clean the bathroom.

And I’m going to write every day, because writing is the best way to fly.

Cilley, M. (2002). Sink Reflections. Bantam.

Words ~ The Desiderata

There are words that stay with us. It is a gift to unwrap them carefully from time to time, hold them gently and breath them in deeply.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

max-ehrmann

Max Ehrmann

Author profile

Max Ehrmann (September 26, 1872 – September 9, 1945), an attorney from Indiana, was best known for writing the prose poem “Desiderata” (Latin: “things desired as essential”) in 1927.Ehrmann, who was of German descent, received a degree in English from DePauw University, followed by a degree in Philosophy from Harvard University. He then returned to his hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana to practice law. Eventually this led him to work in his family’s meatpacking business and in the overalls manufacturing industry. Finally at the age of 41, Ehrmann decided to forget such work and become a writer. At the age of 55 he wrote Desiderata, which achieved fame only after his death.
(excerpted from Good Reads, 10.29.14)

Friends

Two or three weeks ago, I read and responded to a blog post on the topic of friendships. That posting began succinctly with a statement to the effect that strangers can become best friends, but that best friends can become strangers or worse – people who hurt or betray us. The gist was that friendships change and we must be prepared to adapt, while remaining kind, honest and loving.

With these words as the impetus, I spent a long morning in thought. I wrote as I meditated on friendships, relationships, and our need for connection with others. And because I put so much of myself into it, I wanted to include it in my own blog.

Our friendships are more numerous than our romantic relationships and are as varied as the people we share them with. They begin and are based on so many factors – where we live, activities we participate in, where we work, go to school, or exercise ~ each circumstance, a jumping off point from casual acquaintance to the possibility of true life-long friendship.

One thing about people that doesn’t change is that they change – not necessarily in big ways – but we are all changing. Every day our experiences and interactions adjust our knowledge, our feelings, and our beliefs. We are still ourselves, but we have a changed view of the world and the people we share it with. Because we are each involved in the same process, there is the possibility that some differences will begin to effect relationships.

Sometimes, also, relationships are formed around a developmental task the individuals are working on. Their relationship is part of their unconscious push to work on that task. When one or both complete that task, then the relationship dissolves. If someone continues to form relationships that result in the same sort of challenges, that can indicate where an individual is striving to grow. This also explains why some friendships fade away at certain times in our lives – early childhood, grade school, young adulthood, etc. Those are natural boundaries in life’s progression.

Just like romantic relationships, some friendships can be life-long bonds between soul mates. Losing a friend like that can be as life-changing as a divorce or a death. I lost my best friend through death. Nothing could ever change our history, our mutual respect, the experiences we went through together, or the unconditional love we shared, but with every passing year we were changing. She was very deeply immersed in a life focused on a fundamentalist religion while I was pulled in a completely different direction spiritually. Though she is gone now and I’ll never know with certainty, I believe our friendship would have survived these differences, but some of our closeness would have been lost, because our beliefs were no longer shared in common. (I think particularly of her today – her birthday was October 13.)

Though it probably sounds rather cynical, it seems life is composed of one loss after another. We strive continually for love, peace and happiness, but those greatest of desires are elusive and fleeting. Despite our disappointments and losses, we get up, brush ourselves off, and with hope as our inspiration we fight onward. If we’re fortunate, our lives are a series of serene interludes seasoned with the blissful highs of exuberant happiness and breathtaking love and our lows only the briefest of punctuations, the poignancy that underlines the sweetness of our highs.

And friendship ~ it is the best and dearest of what our lives can hold. It’s our friendships that make our lives. And how happy I am to learn that despite a busy schedule and limited social outlets, there is still the hope of great friendship.

What I’ve learned in this wondrous world of cyber connectedness is that time, age, circumstance, and geographic separation do not constitute barriers to friendship; it takes curiosity, respect, a mutual desire for connection, and a willingness to invest the self. Cyber friendships are a pen-pal kind of friendship, but I have great faith in that mode. Much of my best friendship was based on letters. My best friend and I were apart geographically more years than we lived near one another.

Written words can be a more precise and deliberate mode of communication. The act of writing itself creates a secure and open atmosphere. It lends an intimacy that makes it easy to reveal the authentic person. Within the bounds of such trust and sharing lies the basis of lasting friendship.

In my life I have many relationships ~ family, friends, coworkers. Despite the numbers of them, none come even close to the kind of friendship I shared once upon a time. I have to wonder why. Is it my time of life? Have I changed so much that such closeness is not possible? Was it a developmental task or a series of developmental tasks that kept us in tandem for so long? Whatever it may be, I am enjoying the friendships I am building in the ether. They offer me the opportunity to experience other cultures and lives. There are a couple that I really care about, though I must admit, I feel more like an aunt, than a friend. Perhaps this is my way of holding onto youth. Certainly, there is much more room for reflection here.

I will wind this up by sharing some songs. My best friend and I had a custom of “giving” each other songs from time to time.

I gave her this one:
You’ve Got a Friend by James Taylor

She gave me this one:
That’s What Friends are For by Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & Elton John

And I will leave you with a newer one I enjoy very much:
Hi, Friend by DeadMau5

🙂

Ready or Not, Life is Full of Surprises

It has been months since I posted anything here and though that’s not completely unexpected for me, I’m disappointed that I’ve let it lapse for so long. There have been reasons for this.

First off, my job changed drastically and quite unexpectedly. I’ve worked in the same library system for 13+ years, at the same location for five years and felt happy and content there. But my employer has a strategy of shuffling managerial staff around for various reasons. They do it periodically and it usually involves three or four people. Despite the fact that this is the way things work, I was taken completely off guard when I received a call on a Thursday afternoon in late March informing me I was being moved.

My first reaction was tears – couldn’t stop them. Several people who were there cried as well and we shared hugs and thoughts meant to focus on the bright side.

This was not the first transfer I’ve been part of, but it was the most poignant. Eight of us were relocated and I went from the most genteel location to one of the least. Not only was this unexpected, but it was precipitous. The move was effective a week from the following Monday.

That night my mother-in-law, Frances, had a stroke, though we didn’t realize it, yet. And on Friday she was hospitalized. The damage from the stroke was devastating and irreversible and she passed away on April 1st.

Frances was laid to rest in the same cemetery where Robert’s and my son, Joshua, was buried. We decided to have him moved to the same grave as his grandmother. It was something that had never been done there before, but they did a good job of it. They wrapped his tiny casket in a blanket and placed it on Frances’ casket as it was being lowered.

This delayed my start at the new location and added greater depth to the grief I was already feeling. I don’t want to make this move sound awful – or say that I don’t like it. The part of me that loves humanity and yearns to spend efforts on loving and helping others receives this with open arms and grateful heart. It’s the part who loved her previous coworkers and the part that’s a little anxious about rough social challenges that feels reticence.

So yes, this branch has some seriously rough spots. We have armed off-duty police officers on guard during the busiest parts of the day. And yes, we’ve made four 9-1-1 calls since I arrived – three with me the manager on duty, two involving knives…both of those were last week! This element is the reason I didn’t want to come. Several years ago – at a more tame branch – I was attacked by an autistic woman. She boxed my ears and ruptured one of my ear drums. So, I know that working in a nicer area doesn’t guarantee my safety, but psychologically, it feels like it.

This year my branch was one of three chosen as a site to extend the government subsidized free lunch program to children during the summer months. I can’t say enough about how wonderful this is and how it touches me, but I will say that it is a huge amount of work, especially for people who are used to dishing up novels and knowledge, rather than sandwiches and milk.

So, I’m learning a new location, a new community, a new staff, a new work partner – and it all takes mental and emotional energy. Did I mention that summers at the library are insanely busy? Plus, we’ve had the usual vacations, meetings, and training as well as some not-so-usual ones as we prepare for huge renovations in 2015.

In the end, what I’m saying is that I’ve been a little preoccupied and out of the spirit for blogging, but I’m working on rekindling the spark.

There is also the matter of the alternate identity I’ve been creating. She is known to only 3 or 4 people, so she gives me greater autonomy and anonymity for research and contacts related to my reading and writing projects. That ID has a blog, too, but she’s been subject to the same pressures as I have and she’s been silent as well, though she’s having some fun recently learning how to use instagram.

I wanted to attach a picture to this post, but can’t seem to manage it using this phone. That’s another skill to add to the growing list of things to learn. They say learning new things will keep you young, so I’ve got time.

Later…
I’m using a regular PC now and have a picture to attach. I hope it won’t seem to be in poor taste. It shows Frances and Joshua’s final resting place together. Frances doesn’t have a marker, yet, but Joshua’s is 18 years old and stands there for them both.

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The Value Of Lions

Here is a poem about lions living out their lives in cages. I’ve often spent time thinking about the plight of elephants in captivity, but any animal spending its life in a cage is beyond sad. This poem reminded me of the Lion of Lucerne, though it was not exactly the same topic, it is about loss.  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(Here are links to a couple of elephant sanctuaries I follow: https://www.elephants.com and https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/.     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Also, here is info on the Lion of Lucerne monument: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion_Monument)

Questions Old & New

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The local library offers Ed2Go and Learn4Life classes free to its patrons. There are a wide range of courses to interest just about anyone, but I haven’t paid a lot of attention to them.  When I finished my masters at the end of 2006, I swore off anything formal-education-like.

Then in November I gave in to a long-time desire to return to writing and participated in NaNoWriMo. I’ve forgotten my final word count, but it was around 35,000. Printed out, it’s about 80 pages and is half a story. It needs a lot of work, but I love my characters, so I want to give them their HEA.

Enter:  free 6-week writing course. Day 1 was 2/19.  So far, it’s fairly general. The instructor had a couple of suggested text books and I have them ordered.  There is also a class discussion forum which I have’t tried, yet. It’s a nice low-pressure get-out-of-it-what-you-put-into-it kind of class. I’m hoping for motivation, direction and some specific instruction for proceeding with my work.

Interestingly enough, one of the texts is called “Goal, Motivation and Conflict.”

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Motivation is probably the most critical of the qualities I am hoping for – for me more than my characters. I have been struggling to stay present…to be a participant in life. Depression has been dogging me hard the past year. No idea why. I have literally been living in books.  And I’d love that to change.

But I ask myself, is writing books better than reading them?  Can changing role from receiver to creator change the fact of living in a fabricated world?  Will it open a door beyond angst? Will it provide a passage from anxiety to serenity?  Can constructing happy endings play a part in generating real life counterparts? Or will it be a mode of passing time until life or brain chemicals or circumstances bring about an easier state of being?

Perhaps I will emerge at the end of six weeks with some answers, lighter insides, or at the least a HEA ending for my characters.