You Can Stop

And it is ok. For more years than I am willing to share with you, I did not abide by this. But I do now.

I used to fight and finish every single book I began. Even the ones I was a chapter in and was like uh this is going nowhere and I hate the main character. Yup, I would chug on like the little engine that could and finish it. Always with a feeling of time wasted and disappointment.

And I don’t know why. Was I afraid of being a quitter? Did I think it made me less knowledgeable? I do struggle with that being a librarian. Contrary to popular belief, we do not read everything we have in the library. I am honestly not sure I have ever read Tom Sawyer clear through. Pretty sure I have only read about a half of a Captain Underpants and golly don’t take my certification away, have not read any Neil Gaiman (I do plan on fixing that in the next week).

Reading should be fun. It should be relaxing or educational or some sweet place in between. It should NOT be painful and grudgingly done. Graphic novels are such a hot topic and frequently seen as Not Real Books. Yeah, I am not a member of that cult. Here is the thing with GN, the words are less, the pictures are more, BUT more often than not the vocabulary is harder than a basic junior novel BECAUSE the pictures help with definition. Just sayin’.

Read for fun. Read to learn. Read for that sweet spot in between. But don’t finish book if you don’t want to… life is too short.

Many Feels

My kid just finished his first year of his architecture program last week. He has applied for one of the three paths and will know in July if he was accepted… this is after a whole year of learning the trade. He had to create and submit a portfolio after declaring his path. There is no guarantee (even being accepted in the college and the program) he will get in. And yet when talking about his classes and what he did this year he said, “I hope to really practice this summer. I was good, but I know I can be better”. Yeah, cool moment for me as a mom.

I did not know my maternal Grandfather. I have pictures and he looks like a lovely person. He seems engaged while reading or feeding or playing with baby me. But I never knew him. My father in law, ironically, told me more about him than my blood family ever did. From my family, I knew he worked for the telephone company and had a drafting board. Never saw him do either but the drafting board intrigued me from an early age. When my grandmother had to downsize, I asked for it… and proceeded to drag it around for thirty years never setting it up. My mother would ask if I still had it and I would confirm yes and she would shake her head in confusion as she was not overly fond of her father and had no idea why I wanted this thing. Oddly, I find it a tie to both her and him after they have left this earth and could not verbalize to you why.

We have a third bedroom in our house. I painted to be our daughter’s room. Almost nine years ago, I miscarried her. And while the level of pain fluctuates from day to day, it still hurts. It will always hurt. And I avoid that room… though I did put one of my favorite chairs in there thinking it would help. It didn’t.

The other day, an idea hit me… what if I could combine all these feels for good?

So, I did. I cleaned, moved, sorted and changed things around… and in the end I have a little mini studio with my grandfather’s table and a comfy chair with throw and friendly plush dog (moving the chair I like to the main room so I can enjoy it) for my kid to putz, think, explore and have his own work space this summer. And it feels really, really good.

As you can imagine, this post was so hard to write on many sides… but here is my point… we carry puzzle pieces with many sharp and hurty edges and we have no idea why. It would be so much easier to drop them in a recycle bin or burn them in a bonfire…but maybe they do have purpose and we just need to find where they fit. And once they fit… I can tell you there is a sense of peace and of “oh that was why”. Sending you hugs that you find that with your sharp, hurty edges.

Kindness

A friend sent this to me not long ago as a compliment. And have read it quite a few times as many different aspects of it are so very true with regards to kindness.

Kindness is frequently viewed as a weakness or a softness to be manipulated by others. The mindset being that if you are kind, you have no backbone and will fall for anything. I had someone once tell me that my problem was that I was too nice. 1) didn’t know I had a problem 2) didn’t know too nice was a problem and 3) really? Insecure much? Just because you are kind to others does not make you a doormat. You can be kind AND stand up for what you believe in and help others. I give you Mr. Rogers as an example. Not only did he display kindness, but he also broke down racial barriers that he thought were wrong and stood up for the underdogs.

Along the lines of Jack Lemmon saying send the elevator back down”, I do honestly believe those that are the most kind and consistently kind have had others reach out to them when life was not kind and know the depth of feeling and help that gives others. They know how a whole day can change by some stranger buying them coffee or complimenting their hair/shoes/top. Small steps the right direction can change so much. A kind person does for others what they know has helped them in similar situations.

Kind isn’t an insult, no matter how much society tends to try and make it so. Kindness is a strength and a necessity

Silver

My grandfather worked for the telephone company. He met my grandmother as she was a telephone operator, who worked those giant phone boards and put the cords in and out for different connections for calls. He helped set up new lines and fix broken ones.

One time when visiting a house, he had to go into an attic to find and fix some wires. While he was up there, he noticed a very dirty and in need of love wooden rocking horse. He also noticed boxes and boxes of empty alcohol bottles. Having a daughter about four years old at home, he asked the lady of the house if he could buy the horse so he could fix it up for his daughter for Christmas. She told him she did not want the money, but he could have the horse if he also took all the bottles with him. So he did.

He worked at night to fix the rockers and paint the horse a pretty dapple grey. My grandmother made a new mane and tail and together they put together a lovely bridle and saddle with some scrap leather and a few narrow strips of velvet. It was the highlight of my mother’s Christmas.

I met Silver when I was about three and was at my grandmother’s house. She had moved from her house on the river into town when my grandfather died as she had never learned to drive. Her house was packed with all sorts and kinds of things… a giant mirror, Tiffany like lamp shade, empty Pringle cans, bags of those plastic Legg eggs and of course quilts. I feel in love with Silver the moment I met him. Fast forward 21 years and my grandmother was moving out of home into an extended care facility and asks if there is anything I want; I said Silver… and any quilts you can spare. And she laughed as we both knew there were LOTS of quilts.

I painted Silver and gave him a new mane and tail, left his old bridle and saddle and eventually my son came to be quite the horseman on Silver. For the longest time, I had a frame of three generations of Silver riders and I like to think my grandfather would be smiling to think how many more years of love he gave Silver just by asking and taking a chance.

PS that is me… and there ARE quilts in the back ground!

Who Does That?

Well first off… I honestly believe there is a snoopy comic for every single adventure or moment in life. Charles Schulz was a master!

In my past work life, we used to joke when things happened that were totally off the wall in attempt to make things a little more palatable that … this would make a great chapter in our book.  We would kid about making up false names to protect identities. At one point, my husband pointed out that maybe you should NOT change the names and let them live with their less than stellar comments and decisions in life.

My new library job I have shared snippets of my daily work and challenges in my very locked down Facebook account (and yes changed some names also, just in case). And granted these are my friends but a few times they have said… you should really make this into a book 1) we had no idea library life was like this. We saw it all as books and shhhh-ing and 2) It is funny and sort of unbelievable.

The other day we had a patron complaint and after researching it, it was one of my staff, but it baffled me… this was really, really unlike her. We sit down and I ask her side of the situation. And it makes much more sense. It was one of those things that based on what side of the event you were on, you could see the different points of view. The library point of view, the kids were running around with two parents present and no one stopped them. She tried a few times to ignore it but they were flat out playing tag running in the library. She stepped in and said running is not allowed in the library. But she said it to the kids. The parents took affront because she was “trying to parent my kid and if she has a problem, she needs to take it up with me.”  As her manager, I did not see a problem with how she handled it. Still don’t. But we brain stormed other ways to approach the issue (because it will come up again and again) and how to say it.

She left for lunch and when she returned, she told me she almost didn’t come back. I said, I knew that was a possibility when you left. She told me how much this bothered her and that she felt she did no wrong. I agreed, which is why we just talked it through and I was official done with this incident. And I told her about how maybe we needed to write a book, and this might be a strong third chapter. She laughed. We now have the phrase Who Does That? as our mantra when we have material for another chapter…like let’s say the Fried Chicken people or the is that really poop in the conference room?

Will it be a book? Maybe. Maybe Not. But it is a great way to defuse some of our ickier situations and highlight some of the wins.

Diving Too Deep

I drove over to see family and lunch with them today. The drive is like fifty minutes; not that big of deal. And normally I enjoy the chance to listen to music, sing and think. About half way over today I see a car that looks a lot like the make and model my son drives in a field and the whole back is just demolished. The driver area looks fairly ok, but this car got rear ended by a semi and It ended badly. My brain froze. Logically, I knew that my kid was hours away, has not been to this town in over eight months and that was in no way him and his car.  I wanted to text him but I also didn’t want to be the crazy mom.

I noodled on it a bit. It got to be like that tiny popcorn shell that gets caught in a tooth and no matter how hard you try, you just really need to go home and get floss and get it out. But you cannot stop fussing at it with your tongue or if no one is looking your finger nail. You cannot let it go.

And then the spiral starts. That odd staircase that steps down into the black of your brain. You think of something that you should have done and ponder if things would have happened differently, could you have changed something. You ponder the people you have hurt or that have died. Did you do enough? Could you have changed something? You ponder your own present life. Are you doing enough? What if something happens to you? Have you made appropriate steps that that would not be a burden on others? ARE you a burden on others? Why are you a burden on others? And further and further down into the inky, oily blackness of your anxiety filled brain.

Finally, you stop the descent. You have been here before. You have tricks to get your brain out… sometimes it takes a bit longer than others, but you can get out. You focus on the positive things. Small things you do for others, kindness that have been shown to you and you have shown to others. You focus on color and smells. Focus on other senses besides your brain.  You try to spend less time alone and inside your head and you get back to even.

There are two junior chapter books Slug Days and Penguin Days (I have just read the first one) the main character is a girl on the spectrum and what goes on in her head. They are fascinatingly descriptive, and I felt that I understood what people on the spectrum go through so much better because I read this book (and want to read the other one). Our brains are amazingly wonderful and dark places sometimes. Know you are not alone when you dive deep, even though it feels that way. Focus on the good and reach back for the surface.

Listening

I had dinner with a friend the other day to celebrate my cake day. And we did the small talk, cute gifts for me part but then I could see something was bothering her. Turned out lots of things were bothering her. And at first I tried to help pull her out or highlight positives or offer suggestions but then it hit me; I just needed to listen.

And listening is hard. It takes focus and self-control. It is so easy to hunt your brain for a similar situation that you can then talk about to show the person they are not alone. But the hunting takes away from the focus, you don’t hear as well when your brain is racing for your next comment. True listening takes all the senses and focuses them on the person talking. You see facial clues, hear what they are not saying, body language… all of that you miss when you are “listening” and checking your phone or thinking of your next comment.

And if you are really listening to someone you don’t need the lengthy stories; you just need the words Because? Why? Or I’m so sorry you are going through that. Because that is what they need right then, they need to be heard and valued.

Now later, on the drive home, when you can’t sleep in the night, or cooking dinner, you might mull over parts of the conversation and think of a few nuggets you want to share and that is great… share those over a call or text or letter… because they know you are thinking about them, you took their struggles seriously and you care.

But when people talk, stop yourself and listen. Really listen. And it is not easy to do at first, it really is a learned skill. But see what a difference that can make in your world.

Renita

I kept getting progressively sicker when we were on vacation. And trying really hard not to show it, but I could have just plopped myself under a palm tree and napped for days. One of the things we had booked in advance was this awesome all day snorkel excursion. We had done it prior and it was just so worth the cost. The boat ride, exploring Buck Island, the amazing colors of fish you see when you snorkel and the cook out later where hermit crabs and mongoose come to see if maybe you have a bit of hot dog or bun you don’t need. If you have a chance, you should do it.

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So the day of the snorkel, I know in my head this would be a very bad idea to leave the boat. I am not breathing the best (even with cold meds and asthma inhalers) and while if a person had to meet their end, surrounded by warm water, sunny skies and friendly fish might not be the worst way… I feared it would cause much drama. So I inwardly pouted and stayed on board with the captain, a man in his early 90s and Renita (a lovely, slightly flamboyant lady in her mid 60s).

Let’s step back a moment. This was our third vacation here and our third trip on this snorkel tour. Part of the reason I love this tour was the wonderful crew we have had every single time AND the melting pot of people who go on this trip. This time was no exception… we had a lovely group of 8 Danes who jumped back and forth in language and I learned that mongoose is pretty much the same word in both languages; we had the adorable Lesbian couple who were hesitant to hold hands at first and then felt accepted (and the one lady had the coolest tats on her ankles!); college baseball players from MN with their parents; Mr. Never Stop Talking from Chicago with his 90 year old uncle; the cool kids from CA (one of which ended up throwing up on the ride back, ewwww) and two couples from NJ that were fluent in both English and Italian who had traveled a TON together. Renita was a member of this last group.

So everyone (except we four) get off the boat for the learning part of the snorkel and then can go their own ways, the two crew lead the two groups on the “tour” to make sure everyone is doing ok. The captain (so chill, early 30s dude with a great play list) goes over to R and asks why she doesn’t want to go. She expresses that she cannot swim. He said, what if I can make it so you can see fish, be safe and not have to swim, would you try? She pondered it and said again, I can’t swim and he said calmly won’t be a problem. So they fitted her out with a mask and tube all in one, had one of the crew come over and she laid on a ring and he pulled her around and she put her face in the water and was out for at least 20 minutes.

She came back on board and was giddy as a kid on Christmas morning. We all clapped for her and told her how proud we were of her and she went on and on about the colors of fish she had seen. And I realized why I was supposed to not snorkel that day. I told the captain later that it was as such a kind thing he did for her and he shrugged it off… but it was… very kind and more reinforcement for me that things happen for  a reason… even when I pout.

Cooking for One

My husband travels quite a bit. One week a month, he works from home, but other than that, it is meals with just me four nights a week. And at first I really struggled with that and didn’t eat the best (apparently wine and popcorn fills very few food groups, who knew!) But over the last few months I have been making actual meals and maybe enough for leftovers for lunch the next day. And most of all, I make myself eat at the table. I light candles and set the place setting and then sit down to eat. Sometimes, ok, most times, I have a book I read but always at the table.

Growing up we ate most our meals in front of the TV after my parents divorced. I ended up doing quite a bit of the cooking so we could eat when my mother got home from work. And I think we were all just sort of done with the day at that point and chatting was beyond us. But it worked for us then.  I have really good memories of M*A*S*H episodes and how that invokes family to me. We could have, however, embraced a little less Crisco and a few more vegetables in our meals.

I do like to cook and I enjoy it when I have the time. I am not that adventurous but I am doing better. I used to be a recipe only type of gal (I know this shocks no one) but I am getting better at a splash of this or a pinch of that and let’s see. I do a fairly decent chicken, veggie, rice thing that I measure NOTHING and it turns out very nice for a meal and then a few lunches.

At the core it comes down to worth. I am worth it to have a nice, warm meal that is relaxing and so are you. You are worth it also. One of the most difficult things for me when my mother was getting older, was seeing how she started to eat so poorly because she felt she wasn’t worth the effort to cook for just one or it was too much trouble. Maybe keep that in mind if there is someone near you in that boat and maybe you just cooked “way too much” and need to share.

Missing Chapters

My library has some meeting rooms big enough for groups and then some smaller ones for studying and small groups.  More often they are used for family visits or supervised visits. And while everything is very private and personal information is never divulged between the library staff and those professionals supervising… you pick up on things. And for better or worse form your own opinions and well, I assign people names. Chicken family.

Not a common fact is that on these visits some sort of food must be provided. It can be a meal or a snack, but some sort of food. Are you starting to see the issues with this and being a library? In the youth department, because we try and feed the kids, there is an area we allow food and beverages. It is not near the computers nor in the stacks. Anyway, this is frequently where these visits eat… and it is fascinating what they bring. I have seen a full fried chicken dinner, ice cream, subway, quick grab of items from the mini mart and a giant casserole. I must say, while I was kind to the patrons, I did not think the fried chicken was the best choice for library eating.

Anyway, you start to see changes in people or not. You see very withdrawn children reach out of their shell and smile and tell you hi, after working for months with someone. You see a parent being more hands on with their child and you see teary goodbyes at the end of the visit.

What I am starting to struggle with, and it is none of my business… is the final chapter. Because these visits can go on for months and then… they stop. And the one on ones with the kids, I get that. Maybe they have worked on the assigned issue and everything is going well. Maybe they timed out and coverage no longer paid for treatment. Most of these kids though, I see the change, I see the growth and I think yeah they got this.

It is the families that are starting to gnaw at me. A lot of these are child custody situations, the child is living with foster parents and visiting the biological ones. And here too, you see some changes. You see behaviors change (or maybe not). I try to help by modeling good adult/kid interactions. But then these stop. And you don’t know. You might never know.

It is like reading a book only to find the last four chapters have been removed. And I never even imagined this would be a large part of my new job and it gnaws at times. Library not so much all about the books these days.