The Book Was Better

You have read the book… any book that talks about spreading someone’s ashes. Heck, I’ll make one up.

Sandra found herself on the jagged edge of the shore, heart breaking but knowing she had to fulfill Robert’s last wishes to return to the sea that he loved … at times even more than his love for her. She dropped to her knees and whispered a blessing to the water as she returned him to his long-lost love. Peace settled over her soul as she rose, and it followed her to the cottage as she had a cup of tea.

I am here to set the record straight; this is bull hockey!

I mentioned a bit ago my brother had passed and one of his wishes was to have his cremains (ashes) spread at different places… lots of different places. It will be three months in a few weeks and it was starting to wear on me having him as a house guest in my dining room (What? Where else was he to go? and he loved a nice meal… seemed logical).

This weekend I tried to fulfill a few of his wishes; in the river by our childhood home, at my mother’s cenotaph; near one set of grandparents’ headstones, near his best friend’s parents’ headstones, and while I was there our great grandparents’ headstones.

At my mother’s cenotaph, I realized that the books and movies (well except for Donnie’s ashes in the Big Lebowski) had led me astray. This is not work for the faint of heart. Have you cleaned out a wood burning stove? Fireplace? Random fire pit? Times it by 10 and make the ash finer.  Honestly, there was no breeze and at one point I said out loud, Dang It Donald you are on my damn shirt! WTF! Thankfully I was alone, often talk to myself and I have quite a dark sense of humor. We had a very stereotypical older sister/ younger baby of the family brother relationship. There is no doubt in my mind that he is wherever he is laughing his fool head off at me.

I have three more stops and won’t be finished until March (again pretty sure he is laughing) and have learned a lot this weekend that I will pass on to you. You are stronger than you think. You can tackle the things you think you cannot. And a hot shower is a lifesaver at times.

Susan

My mother’s name was Susan. She was one heck of a gal. She would give you the shirt off her back… even if she was not wearing one (necessitating her daughter providing said two shirts) but also teaching me the joy and the value of giving without any thought of reward. She had my back. Yeah, that. She had my back, regardless of the stupid things I did. Crazy choices I made. She was a rock. Damn, if my eyes don’t fill and it has been over five years.

Not the point of this post.

I took this library job with some consternation. I have manged people since I was 22. I do not enjoy it all all. I enjoy mentoring people in which I can see potential. But basic 101 management… stick a fork in my eye. Please, it would be easier. But I took the job and I have two staff members I supervise.

One of them may be the reason I buy wine in bulk (I tell myself it is for the discount). The other is why I think there is a higher power and She has one heck of a sense of humor. My second staff member is calm and zen like. Still waters run deep. Not much ruffles her but if she gets mad, you take notice. She has patience with the kids and knows more about nature (and my youth book collection) than I will ever know. She tells stories that make me giggle and am also astounded by the many twists and turns her life has taken. She is a fascinating novel in and over herself. Reminds me of my mother and then not even remotely. She is lovely and a joy to work with… I mean supervise.

She makes me such a better person in so many ways. I take more chances. I say, I don’t know more and then figure it out instead of bluffing. I make more mistakes and I give myself permission to learn. I am more me.

I am currently reading The Diary of a Bookseller (pick it up and see… I bet you like it) and there are quite a few terms I don’t understand as it is based in Scotland. Year ago me would have said, uh yeah I get the gist, moving on. But I found myself in the first 100 pages looking up three words… that is huge for me. And in the back of my head, I feel this  sense of … what is the rush, is there a rush? don’t you want to learn? And that is what she has given me. I’d say I mentor her as well as supervise, but I wonder who is mentoring whom.

I am currently professionally pushing her to the edge of her comfort zone. Mostly to keep her from getting bored but I also know it is a risk. You push to hard and poof. And that also fascinates me. She embodies the line by EStVM of “some day, not too bright and not too stormy, I’ll be gone and you may whistle for me.”  We had an incident about eight months ago that I was not totally sure she was coming back from lunch break, I told her that when she returned and she smiled and told me she had considered it. And damn if I don’t admire that ability to say, nope, make a call and move forward.

Part of me knows I will never be able to give her back what she has given to me, that chance to learn to slow down and enjoy the warm, humor and friendship of another Susan.

 

Capturing the Moment

I have a friend who travels quite a bit for work and always goes with her camera. She has an eye for capturing the essence of the place in the simplest shots. I have no idea if she has had training or just a gift, but you can really feel the ambiance of where she is by the pictures she posts and of the subjects she selects.

She was recently in Maine for a conference and spent the afternoon driving and taking pictures. Raw pictures of nature and the coast. And she tossed the question out there “if you lived by all this beauty every day, would you no longer see it?”

And I said yes. I think you would appreciate it, but I think the wow factor would fade somewhat. I have a lovely back patio area. There are flowers and multiple places to sit. There is a swing under a tree and a gas fire table for the chilly evenings. I always feel better after sitting out there for a small bit of time and yet I find myself not going out there as much as I should. I sit at the table and eat breakfast and think, gah need to blow the leaves, deadhead the flowers and… And the moment gets away.

I’d love to live near the ocean (in a town that needed a librarian of course) but I wonder if it would be the same way.  I like to think not, that I would always love the sound of the waves and the feel of the sand. The thrill of hunting for the next unique shell or bit of sea glass. Like I said to my friend after I gave my yes answer, I’d love to give it a try just to see.

 

Life Beyond Thunderdome

My offspring is in his second year of college with a major in architecture. I am fascinated beyond belief of the stuff he makes. We have a room filled with “things”. Models? Drafts? Even the terms can confuse me. Some are small and some are quite large to the point I have suggested the attic might provide better storage.

This last project had to do something with kite fighting (learning curve for me on that one) and then he said he was building a thunderdome (which I guess earned kudos from the professor for the Mad Max reference). I, of course, the moment he said this started singing “we don’t need another hero” which confused him with my 80s song reference.

Another project was to make a house. But in the offspring’s case he was assigned to make a house for three pole dancers. Must admit I laughed, but it really made him think outside the box. Their work life was on their feet, artificial light etc. so their home life might be opposite this to allow them to recharge. I really liked the fact that while the professor had gained some laughs he also had a way of making them think outside the box and really lighted the spark of creation.

I start a new STEAM program for 1st to 6th graders in a few weeks. I am worried about it. I want this to really work, I want to get a group of kids that is very excited about this idea and learning cool things. But I need to find a way to light that spark like the professor (on the 1st to 6th grade level, probably no pole dancers) that makes them laugh and explore the edges. Learning, for me, is the best when you don’t even realize you are learning.

Religion of K

As an infant, my family was Methodist and I was baptized by sprinkling. I, of course, have no memory of this but it was always told with an air of great family legend, so I believe it. Fast forward and we became Baptist. In the Midwest, but with enough Southern influences that we had hand raising to receive the Holy Spirit during the benediction and a lot of Amens were yelled during the sermon. Each service the pastor would get red faced, sweaty and I would fear for his health. Unfortunately, the Baptist church prefers full submersion baptism. So about age 11, I, dressed in white with a hanky over my face, let the pastor dunk me backwards. Did I mention I really do not like getting my face wet? Yeah, that was memorable.
The church was a bit nasty to my mom after the divorce. Which I guess is common especially in the late 70s. But it made me mad and made me start to question the things that were being taught. If we are just mouthing phrases but don’t care for people in their time of need… seems like an odd religion to me. I soon stopped attending church.
I went to a Catholic college, not because it was Catholic but because of the college. I like mass. I get balance from mass because it is always the same and no one is yelling out the odd AMEN! to scare you. But again, I struggled with the base of the religion.
I’ve read a lot of different texts about all types of religion. Read one book called if grace is real why everyone will be saved. Made sense to me. I believe there is a likelihood something bigger than just me out there (seems sort of self centered to think the whole universe is just about me). And on sad days, I like to think there is some sort of heaven where I get to see the people I miss again. But I still have trouble embracing organized religion.
I follow the religion of K. Be kind, look out for others, fight for the underdog if you can, accept help when you need it, appreciate the small things. You are here for a reason, embrace that and do the best you can. And take care of you (including naps as needed). it really is that simple to me.
I saw this underside of a pier recently, looks like the perfect chapel for the Religion of K.

Taking to My Bed with Vapors

When I was fifteen, I worked as a docent in a historical home. We wore large dresses with hoops under them and took people on tours throughout the house spouting numerous facts and odd tidbits of information. In one of the bedrooms was a fainting couch and while we could not sit on any of the furniture, I would often pantomime a faint complete with back of hand to my brow while showing the room. It was my second favorite room in the mansion.

Sunday night, I probably gave my family food poisoning. It may have been oysters (which my Louisiana friend tells me you only eat in months that have an R, but I said I did and she said they were not harvested then so who knows; feel free to file this under odd tidbit). What I do know is I was very miserable and felt, to quote my mother “like I had been dragged thru the knot hole backwards”. Which I have always wondered about because would it not be bad enough to go through forwards and why backwards? Is it more painful that way? Maybe more splinters?

Anyway, Monday was spent in bed and feeling sorry for ourselves. At one point, we found ourselves back to back under the covers and my husband’s voice said softly “I hope Charlie finds the Golden Ticket” and I snickered. But yes, I felt exactly like that. Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine taken to bed by the hardships of life.

Not going to lie, it was hard to get out of bed today. There is a lot of my plate coming up. Stuff that is going to take patience, courage and did I mention patience. It would be so much easier to climb back in that bed and say “After all tomorrow is another day!” I now can see how my mom would crawl into bed and tell me she was too tired to get up. It becomes an emotional tired that makes you physically tired and then just … well takes you to bed with vapors. I wish I had better understood the slippery tentacles of depression back then and maybe have helped more.

If you got out of bed today… good for you! And if not, well tomorrow is another day. Be kind to you and don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

It had been a bit

Since I had worked in a field that encouraged going to conferences. Back in the early 90s, it was all the rage. Lots of corporate money flying around. Lots of conferences in Vegas or Orlando. Seemingly little sessions but lots of golf, I am told.

When I was about 8, my father was a volunteer EMT and would go to trade shows. I was fascinated. All the colors, give aways and candy. Back then I collected patches and would then sew them on my book bag. So many people, it was overwhelming in a way but I had him with me so I was all good.

The last two days I was at a Youth Services Librarian conference. It was a day and a half (no golf) with break out sessions you could pick from and then yesterday an illustrator came and talked to us about his career path and how a librarian had really helped set him on that path (very cool). There was down time to visit vendors (and yes they gave out free things and lots of candy) and meet with other librarians. Many of the sessions were sharing periods at your big table of 9 others.

It was good for me in a lot of different ways. Showed me that while my library is a tad dysfunctional, we are NOT the most dysfunctional library out there. Gave me some ideas for dealing with my staff and maybe to better manage this difficult situation that will be approaching in the next few months. I got some great program ideas that will push me outside my comfort zone but in a good way and got to laugh quite a bit. Oh yeah and picked up 10 LEUs to keep my credentials alive and well. It was exhausting, all the people and the having to gather courage to keep introducing myself. But I did it… and I am glad I took that chance.

Our Youth department did a lot of special programs for Summer Reading and we hit the end of July exhausted. I purposely scaled back the programming for August to help us catch our breath and for me to carve out some time for professional development. I think it worked; as I do feel better prepared to tackle the next year (personally I feel the new year begins after Summer Reading ends) and maybe make some more changes.

So that class you are thinking of taking, that retreat, that program the library or Y is offering that catches your eye and you are like, huh, sort of out of my comfort zone, won’t know anyone there… go ahead and do it. Sign up and take a change in finding a new place to let joy into your life and the chance to look back when it is over and say Dag I did that!

Waiting

I am annoyingly early. Partially because it is just my nature to plan for like five different scenarios to arrive on my doorstep at any given moment. So, if we are to meet at 11, I will take into consideration where it is, how long it would take in normal conditions to get there, odds of other things (construction, trains, pack of wild wolves) that might change that time frame. And then I add 10 minutes.  If we are meeting in a restaurant, I will probably just go in and get a table. If we are meeting at your house, I will park on a side road until about 5 minutes prior to decided arrival time. I normally have a book on my phone so it is really no big deal.

Three of my closest friends are late arrivers. One is consistently 5-10 minutes late. The other I can count on 15-20 minutes late and the other has been up to 45 minutes late before (that was a download a new book experience). And for the most part it doesn’t bother me.

In a business environment, it makes me insane. I will leave after 5-10 minutes or hang up on a conference call. I think it is just rude and a power play that your time is more valuable than my time? But it never feels that way with my friends… or 99% of the time doesn’t feel that way. Life gets complicated, you think you can squeeze in one more thing and eek!

My point? Not sure I had one… just wasn’t up to another death post no matter how bogged down my brain is right now…and I have spent a lot of time waiting for a lot of different people and things these last few weeks.

The Art of the Obit

I have written two obituaries and have helped with three others… ok and have a general draft of my own. Granted it says things like KKdonk has checked out on DATE (pun on the library thing). What? At least it doesn’t say KKDonk was stamped discard today, DATE.

And I have always looked at them two ways.

One. For those that do genealogy, they can be that needle in the haystack. That grand AH HA moment. They can join generations and help hunt down new threads to tug and limbs on the tree. Which is why I work very hard on making the family tree accurate in this area. We had a friend of my mom that we called Aunt. She didn’t make the obituary as sister but dear friend. To me this part needs to be accurate as you can make it, because who knows how it will be used in history.

Two. This part can be grey. I see no need for the mic drop on this part. Maybe someone was feckless and couldn’t stay in one place or hold a job; you decide to say they were well traveled and adventuresome. I have seen the scorch the earth ones and they just come across mean. And maybe that person did not have a single redeeming quality and yet it just makes the writer look mean to highlight that fact. You can spin without lying. It is all in word choice and what you goal is. (Mostly mine has been to get through an amazingly difficult time as quickly and sanely as possible).

Few more tidbits I have learned along the way…

Add things about the person… but not too much. This should not look like an entry in Who’s Who. No one needs to know your 90-year-old grandma won her 4th grade spelling bee. That she wrestled a rogue alligator and won, heck yes! But every time you add that personal tidbit the reader gains a bit more and the memory of those that have passed lives on a bit longer. Don’t be afraid to weave those things in.

Memorials in lieu of flowers are a big thing. Think about them a bit and then also offer some alternatives. For my mom, I suggested everyone do one RAOK (that was actually really well received as I had people email me and tell me things they had done) or like my brother who was a Foodie, I suggested enjoying their favorite snack in his memory. And yes, they both had an actual monetary donation places, but this was a cool alternative.

Keep in mind that most funeral homes have online places for the obituary and you can be wordy but most actual newspapers might have a word count, everything up to X amount of words is free but everything after that is priced by word.

If called upon, you can do it. Find one you admire as a template and go from there. Be kind. Be creative and celebrate your loved one’s life.

Rocks in the Creek

When my brother and I were little, one of our outings was to go to a creek near our house and play with my mom. We had old sneakers we called Creeking Shoes and we would play for hours. Building damns or diverting the water flow for leaf boats by building with the rocks. I was probably fifteen before I realized that all rocks do not contain fossils. Hence, the youth of a river kid. My mother would often (and a bit constantly) recite… well sing “Where go the Boats?” by Robert Louis Stevenson. When my own child was about four, my mom and I took him and he had a blast, building damns and diverting water.

My younger brother passed away recently and his service was this last Sunday. Lot of baggage there to unpack. He lived pretty much in the same town his whole life and the same town I lived in 1st to 12th grade. We were three years apart in school and knew the same people and yet didn’t.

C came up to me during the visitation part and we talked about my brother; she had gone to school with him and I had gone to school with her brother. She was kind, lovely and I thanked her for coming. I spoke at the service and then afterwards she came up to me with tears in her eyes and said, “I have story I always wanted to tell your brother, but I never did.” And her voice caught with regret.  I grabbed her hand and said, Oh, he knows and I would love it if you would tell me.

When he was little, he tried out for some ball and stick team (tball? Little league? Something.) but in our town they had tryouts and then the team lists were posted at either a bank or one of the professional buildings. Her mother worked at the front desk and had a direct view of the listings and the kids and parents coming up and looking at the listings. She told her daughter later she had never seen a child so very devastated to not make any of the teams as my little brother when he saw the lists. It broke her heart as he cried and cried. She decided right then that in the town she was from (smaller next town over) would always allow all kids to tried out, to play on and be part of a team. And to this day, that is exactly what happens there.

And out of all the things that were told to me on Sunday and over the past two weeks, that hits the most. His actions 40 years ago changed the path for so many others and he never knew. We never know. We are those rocks in the creek that get moved and change the shift of the flow. When things get big, I often get caught up in thinking I am one person, I cannot do enough to make a difference. But one sobbing kid changed the path for many, because someone cared and was moved by that.

And tell people things, when people do kind things or have made a difference, don’t be afraid to tell them. Face to face or a note in the mail. Or tell their sister, because that means the world at a very difficult time.