Friday, December 9, 2011

Gumdrop Tree

green foam cone: $2.49

box of toothpicks: .49

two bags of gumdrops: $1.98

having fun with my favorite little boy....


I wish that was the end of it.  It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?  But aren't you wondering where the "ta-dah!" picture of the finished tree is?  Don't the crafty blogs always have the ta-dah shot?

The tree needed to be admired at eye-level on the coffee table.  That's when it got tipped over and the top of the cone fell off.

No worries, a stumpier tree has its own charm.

And then one night I found a gumdrop in Landon's mouth, half a broken toothpick and all.

No(?) worries, an explanation that this is a decoration and toothpicks can hurt a tummy if swallowed seemed to be enough.

Now our poor little gumdrop tree reminds me of  a patient from an old-time insane asylum.  Like a tortured soul who worries patches of her hair right off her scalp, the poor tree is getting patchy and losing gumdrops.

a bit distressing

Ok, so maybe our lives don't play out like a commercial.  But I'll take the crazy little tree and the memories that came with it and hope that I don't pull out a filling sneaking stale gumdrops.

That would be just priceless, wouldn't it?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Confessions of a Lazy Girl

In a rare moment of honest clarity, I realized something about myself: I am lazy.

It stings to type it.  Just as it scraped to even think it.  I certainly know how to work hard, and do when I am getting paid to, but in my personal life, I think it's time to admit that laziness is a deficit I need to address.

If you're wondering how I could just now be figuring this out, read on.  Perhaps your laziness has been masquerading as other things, too.

  • "I feel so overwhelmed."  This past year, I have said this to Bill a few times, and to myself, many more.  It is such a solid, legitimate, unarguable statement.  And over and over, the train of thought that follows this engine is, "I'm so overwhelmed, I don't know where to start, I can't get anything done."  At the end of the day, the caboose comes rolling in, "I'm so overwhelmed, I've gotten so little done, I am feeling paralyzed by how much there is left to do, I just need a break from it all."  

So I spend the day in a state of panicky inaction because there is a lot to do.
The evening is a state of regretful inaction because so little got done.
And the morning becomes frustrated, frantic action as I scramble to get to work on time because I spent a fair two, three hours past my bedtime "taking a break" from my stress.

To be fair, it has been an overwhelming year.  Death and loss came knocking at our door, and on the doors of many we love.

And the sadness of it all, the deep heavy ache, of things gone wrong that can't be righted, of people gone who we won't see again this side of Heaven, of a baby we briefly held, of our own two we didn't get to meet...these were no small sorrows, indeed.

So when it seemed like I was surviving better than thriving, I chalked it up to the circumstances.  How could I expect myself to be productive, considering??

But here's the raw truth: I was no more productive before this difficult year.  Now, I've simply been sad and unproductive.

  • "I don't have the capacity for this."  This is not a train of thought.  This is a steamroller of thought that barrels through and leaves me flat.  I do not brainstorm how to increase my capacity, I just decide I've reached it, and can't do another thing.  (Except maybe go watch a movie, read a book,  or waste an hour online)  My capacity limit doesn't send me to the logical place: bed.  Instead, I almost guarantee to keep my capacity low by not getting enough sleep.

  • "I am the fun one in this family.  It's my job to make sure that we don't miss out on the good times because we're so busy checking off items on a to-do list."   I love how I'm the hero in this one.  The trouble with it, though, is that it is just NOT fun for my family to function in varying states of chaos, varying degrees of lateness, and varying levels of unpreparedness.  It's really hard to take advantage of a beautiful day with a spontaneous picnic if nobody went grocery shopping and bought a few basics.  Kinda hard to see what's so fun about taking a drive in the mountains in a car that resembles a rolling trash bin.  (Sure, I'm painting it bleak, but it's easier to see in exaggerated sweeps.)

It brings me back to laziness.  Seems like I've realized three things my laziness might be hiding behind:

A sense of being overwhelmed
My sense of capacity: what I can do, or be expected to do
A sense of identity

What I haven't yet thought through: how does one go about getting that balance?

Between taking time to grieve and getting on with what needs to be done
Between working hard and renewing myself
Between getting things done and letting the beautiful happen

Even as I type this, my favorite little boy has crawled up into my lap and is ready to spend time with me again.

Days off with him: sum total of my to-do list: BE with Landon.  Somehow, that never feels too lazy.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Here They Come to Save the Day

The snow falls.  For so many people, it is magical and beautiful, heralding outdoor fun or a reason to light a fire in the fireplace and cozy up with quilts and good books.

For me, it ushers in a new season of tension headaches, teeth grinding, and moments where I forget to breathe.  Because this California-raised girl is no snow driver.  And I certainly don't cherish the hours I spend with the road warriors on slippery roads, all of whom are in various states of reckless urgency about arriving on time.

This weekend, on the way to work, as I was about to merge onto a snow-packed busy road, it seemed I could have cued up the movie music as a caravan of snowplows came around a curve and were going to blaze a trail.

Knights in painted orange, I am so grateful to see you, I almost forget to turn when you don't.

Your early-morning rounds are the biggest reason I'm not stuck in a gutter just blocks from my house.

Because even on a Saturday, we still have places we need to be.  On time.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No More Words

What do you say when the words run out?
When every little phrase rings hollow and trite?
What do you say when your soul aches, when the happy ending isn't in sight, when band aides on a severed limb are just absurd?
What do you say?

Sometimes there is simply nothing left to say.

The questions pile up like softly falling snow.
Chilling and heavy,
Silently amassing crushing weight.

You lie awake,
And I lie awake,
And we join the multitudes who share the knowledge
Of the dark night of the soul

Before the light comes
When there is simply nothing left to say.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Patch, City Style

Grandpa Bill goes back to buy him a mini

So You Think You Can Write

She loves to sew, and is creative and whimsical and experimental and intentional and we never ask her, "So, are you a seamstress now?  Are you going to try out for Project Runway?"

Or if someone plays the piano, and he practices and gets better and maybe even writes a few songs himself, why do we never ask, "Are you trying to sell your own cd?"

She loves to cook.  She tries new recipes; she's getting better all the time, but no one thinks to ask her, "Oh, do you think you'll get selected for a cooking show one day?  Have you sold any cookbooks?  How about one recipe?  Have you at least sold one recipe?"

When someone tells me that they love to paint, I don't usually wonder if they have a degree that qualifies them to pursue that passion.  Do you?

All these creative pursuits are validated for their own sake.  All are allowed to tinker with them, and their value is easily seen whether or not the person pursuing them ever earns a cent as a result.

And then there's writing.

Writing as a creative pursuit comes with more strings attached:  Are you any good?  Do you have anything important to say?  Are you publishable?  Are you/have you/will you ever be published?

As if that is the only result that can justify your putting pen to paper, pixel to memory.

As if only people in the Nutcracker should dance.
As if only geisha should share tea.
As if only botanists should garden.
As if only angels should sing.
As if only two-year-olds should handle play-dough.

I think we all have creative passions to pursue.  Made in the image of God, the ultimate Creator, is it any surprise that the impulse to create something stirs in all of us?

No surprise, either, that we all want to be good at creating something.  We're not flinging mud around hoping it sticks to the wall of our cave in some kind of pattern.  No, we're bringing a piece of ourselves to the table and hoping that someone will be nourished...comforted, entertained, pleased, inspired, empowered, encouraged, expanded, outraged, activated, mobilized...something.  Creativity asks us to give something of ourselves, and we want the offering to count.
Titles and accomplishments aside, I believe when we tap into any creative part of ourselves, we are praising God.  The muse and maker of all.

I don't hear knitters expressing too much angst over whether they are any good, whether anyone will truly enjoy the blanket they made, will it be warm enough, pretty enough, will anyone ever want to buy it?  They like to knit.  So they do.  And they get better all the time, and every little baby wearing a hand-knit baby cap in the hospital nursery looks adorable.  And my feet are snuggly.  And that scarf is amazing.  And this--what is this little squarish knit thing? ...this potholder is, um, a charming conversation starter over dinner with friends.  Where did I even get it?!  I love it anyway.  I love that someone, somewhere, said yes.

Permission to write?  Yes.

What about you?  I hope you'll say yes, too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Author, The Artist, and The Rambly-Word-Maker

I chose her because she was alone.  Because I was alone.  And I didn't want to be a party crasher amid all the other groups I saw settling in for an author visit at the library.  I was a groupie looking for a little of the kinship that seemed like it should go with the role.

It was going to be too long (and thus too awkward) of a wait if I sat there for twenty minutes without saying anything. 

So being such a rookie at small talk, I start with something obvious like, "Wow, there's a lot of really cool art hung up around the room."

There was an exhibit of paintings with horses in them.  Many of the paintings were quite large.  (That's why the comment was so obvious; we were surrounded by a lot of beautiful art.)

I plunge on, "Take that one over there.  It kind of reminds me of Mondrian."  Why do I say this?  I don't think I'm some kind of art aficionado.  I really don't.  It sort of just spills out.

"That's how I intended it."

um, what?

As it turns out, I have sat myself next to The Artist.  The one whose work is transforming this meeting space into a gallery.  I look around and realize too late that all the pieces feature her horse in reinventions of masterpieces.  Now my remark feels painfully obvious.  Like I was trying to show off, when really, I was just trying to be friendly.

The conversation went ok, though.  The Artist's larger passion was running a horse therapy clinic (for people).  It was interesting to hear about her life.  And she didn't seem offended at my less-than-sparkling comment about her beautiful art.

Got me thinking, though.  I can be tactless.  I have a list of regrettable things that I shoulda/coulda/woulda wish I didn't say.  Things that sort of just spilled out.

The conversation SO could have gone another way.  It could have gone so badly that I would be too mortified to even share it here.  I could have said something tactless and insensitive.  I could have, because sometimes, I do:

Recently, my sister gave my mom a gift.  Nice, right?  My comment? "Oh, someone gave me that once, and I didn't really like it.  I wish I knew you were going to get this for Mom, I would have let you regift mine."

Niiice.  Really classy.  Can't say we all had warm fuzzies after that one. 

I only include that little scenario so you know that when I say tactless I'm not being falsely humble and self-deprecating.  It's truth that has embarrassing evidence to confirm it.

Whether I narrowly avoid embarrassing myself, or say the wrong thing all wrong, I still take comfort in an old friend's little adage: "Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet."  Granted, this "old friend" is a character from a book.  But still.  I met her a long time ago.  And spent a great deal of time with her.  And she was a good-hearted soul who often said the wrong thing, too. 
At least I'm not the only one. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Trail Guide on the Writer's Path

I fell in love the other night.  Quite unexpectedly, quite decidedly.

With a writer named Anne.  It so figures, considering how much I have loved every other Anne I have ever read.

So when Anne Lamott busted on the scene, I was quite smitten.

She has a way with words so authentic, I feel like I have known her and been her friend for a long time.  How does she DO that?!  How does she draw me in and make it seem like she wrote the whole book just for me? It was quite remarkable.

So remarkable, in fact, I read her whole book in one sitting.  Knowing it would cost me.  And willing to pay the price. (A bleary-eyed following day to be endured with large doses of caffeine and lowered expectations of myself)

Her book,  bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is exactly as titled.  And while I have reservations about whether I would love her fiction or other prose as much as I loved this little guidebook, I have no doubt that it has left its mark.  Most notably, I want to reread it.  And maybe read it a third time.  And I'm simply not a re-reader.

"This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered worlds.  When this happens, everything feels more spacious.  Try walking around with a child who's going, 'Wow, wow!  Look at that dirty dog!  Look at that burned-down house!  Look at that red sky!' And the child points and you look and you see, and you start going, 'Wow!  Look at that huge crazy hedge!  Look at that teeny little baby!  Look at that scary dark cloud!'  I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world--present and in awe."                                 ~ Anne Lamott

Friday, September 30, 2011

What Time Is It?

Tonight Landon was all about telling us what "time" it was.  At dinner time he declared, "It is not play time.  It is dinner time," and redirected himself away from the toys and back in his chair to take a few more bites.  Then he would be compelled to get up again, back to the toys until he would re-announce, "It is not playtime."  

I got the feeling it was a scenario that must have repeated itself in his day before. 

But ok, whatever.  Who am I to talk?  I spend all my working lunches at my desk, seeing how much facebook or email reading or postcrossing I can do while I eat.  So I'm kind of a multitasking eater, too.

At bedtime, after stories I told Landon it was time to pray.  He sat up and said, "It's pay time."

"I know it's prayer time, Landon.  Let's pray."

"No, pay time."

"PRAY time?"

"No, PAY time."

"That's what I said, pray time.  It's time to pray."

He got so exasperated with me.  Finally, in a desperate attempt at clarity he said, "TOY time, mommy."

Ahhh, play time.

Who's on first?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Know How It Feels

I almost said no.  I started to say no.  I thought the correct answer was no.
And then, it wasn't.

"Do you have any more of the writing journals?  I really like them."

Well, no.  Those were our gift for the summer reading program, and now they are in deep storage somewhere.  We will see them again next June, though.  So that's something to look forward to.

"Oh, that's too bad.  I want to be a writer someday, and I filled mine, and I really loved it and I wish I could have another one."

He's not more than eleven.  And he wants to be a writer someday.

"I've written 53 books," he said.  "My friend has illustrated a few for me."

I'm genuinely impressed.

He's that perfect mix of shy and serious and earnest that gets me every time.
And a touch of moxie...asking for a summer gift well past summer.  Past when everyone else has packed them up and moved on to book reports and dioramas.

He's still writing.  And he really loved our writing journal.

"You know, I still have a small supply of the writing scrapbooks.  Would one of those work?"

So I'm off to the back to get my key to the closet, and then I remember we have extra pages in another closet, and on my way back from that I run into our staff writer on a lunch break, and with a bit of fast talking and a bit of begging, I convince him to come out and share a little about the writer's life as a professional-a pep talk, man to man, because don't you think this little boy would be inspired to know that men become great writers, too?
And yes, I rattle it all off to him as breathlessly as that run-on sentence would suggest.

So we go back out to the boy bearing gifts-- the scrapbook, with extra pages from two years ago, and the encouragement and tips from the real deal writer who talks to him as seriously as an agent would talk to his next client.

His mom takes notes on her smartphone.  The boy looks up at our tall and serious staff writer with a little shock and awe.  I look up in gratitude and perfect happiness that he is willing to come out and blow on a spark with me.

"Okay, so when you fill up these pages, I hope you'll come show me.  I really want to see what you've written.  And I have more pages where these came from.  This is exactly how Dav Pilkey started, you know.  He couldn't stop writing and drawing and annoyed his teachers and they told him to get serious.  So he did, about his writing.  And now, who hasn't heard of Captain Underpants?"

Of course this boy had heard of Captain Underpants.

And maybe someday, I'll hear about this boy.

I guess I know how it feels to want to be a writer someday.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


"What's that, mommy?"  and he points to a (mole) on  my face.  A so-called beauty mark I've never been that crazy about.
"It's a freckle," I tell him.  (Freckle sounds so much less severe, so I go easy on myself)  Soon after, I discover the first little freckle on top of his ear.  A pinprick of brown I thought was a speck of dirt at first. Not long after, another little one shows up on his left knee.  And now I've discovered a matching one on his other knee.

All so adorable.  So tiny.  Itty bitty reminders that even this little baby is aging into a full-fledged boy: "I not baby!  I big boy!"  His indignation rings out every time he declares this.

I've shown Landon all of his freckles.  Well, the two on his knees.  And I told him about the one on top of the ear.

Tonight, as I was beside him for bedtime stories he pointed to something speckled on my face and said, "Is this mommy's meckle?"
"It is."
He sits up with such a grin.  "Like Landon's meckles?"
"Yep, like Landon's freckles."
"On my ear?"
Oh sweetness, how did you remember that??

I may not be crazy about the random spots I have, but I'm crazy about the little boy who just noticed them, noticed his own, and charms me with words like "meckles."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why I'm There

 I am a librarian.

What that really means varies as much as if I said I was a chef.

We both can serve up quite a bit, in lots of different styles.

She comes in tonight.  She is anybody; she is everybody.  Seeking books during a busy time when a line is apt to form.
She tells me the topic.
She shows me the titles she wrote down in the doctor's office.

I start typing.
I start looking.
I start thinking about whether or not we can get the items on inter-library loan if we don't have them in our collection.
My fingers are fast.  My thoughts fly faster.
I am efficient and professional.
I don't want that line to form, let alone get restless.

And then I stop myself.  Full stop.

I look at her intently.  I really hear what she said: She got this list from a doctor's office after a very upsetting diagnosis for her grandson.  She said it so fast, almost off-hand.

And suddenly I see it:  Her daughter taking the son home, trying not to cry, or maybe too numb to.

She'd be saying: "I'm on it.  I'll go straight to the library.  We'll figure this thing out.  There has to be resources for something like this.  I'll get these books.  You take the baby home.  Don't worry honey, we can do this."

And now she's standing here in front of me, and I can see that she is in pain, and a little agitated, and that the pushy teen behind her waving his dvd at me like he's hailing a taxi with it is causing her to wish she hadn't come.

"I just want you to know,  I really heard you when you said you received some big news today.  Really big.  I want to acknowledge that.  I kind of jumped into trying to find your books without stopping to tell you that I'm really sorry that you're going through all this.  Your daughter is lucky to have you."

And then her eyes get glassy and my eyes get glassy and we look at each other a moment longer than is normal with strangers.

"Thank you," she says, and her voice cracks a bit.

We move away from the front, toward where I know the books are.  Where I knew all along they were without needing the computer to make it official.

She talks about the diagnoses.  The signs and symptoms.  I listen.  I show her the two different sections that she'll want to browse later, when she isn't just here to make herself useful after the first shattering blow.

"How do you know all of this?" she asks with a little admiration.

"I'm a librarian," I tell her simply.  How do I explain that it is my whole job to make the contents of this kitchen accessible to anyone who is hungry?  To find the exact bit of nourishment they need and to offer it in a way that makes them feel like they could have just as easily found it themselves.

"Well, I'm so lucky I got you, then.  You've been so helpful."

Oh, dear, sweet woman with an aching heart, I'm so lucky I got to be with you.  At the intersection of your pain and helplessness, you came here.

To the library.

And you remind me why I'm here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Real Alarm

We went to the children's museum and visited the fire truck exhibit.  

They had a real fire truck and a mannequin in real firefighting gear holding a real hose nozzle.  It was fun to watch Landon and his cousins enjoy pretending to be real firefighters: dressing up in gear, sitting at the steering wheel, or posing with the firefighter.

While we were waiting for them, my sister showed me this sign on the wall and I started to laugh: 

Everything is so hands-on and interactive at the children's museum.  This locked box and sign made me wonder if they had learned a lesson the hard way about fire alarms in the same room as the fire truck exhibit..

 I wish I had a space where I could store my alarm for real emergencies only. There can be a lot of alarm floating around in my life sometimes.  I usually call it worry (or concern), though.

I worry about what will or won't happen.  I worry about what I won't measure up to or what I'll be too afraid to ever try.  I feel alarm if I think something is wrong with Landon, and then I feel alarm that I won't catch it, and then I feel alarm that I'm being too paranoid, and then back to alarm that I'm not paying close enough attention.
I feel alarm when I watch Landon play on the playground and attempt things that look way beyond his physical abilities.  And then I worry that by preventing him from trying things beyond his abilities (and consequently injuring himself), he'll never actually learn what his own limits are--making him increasingly reckless and lacking good judgement.

It feels silly just writing it all out.  But this randomized, unproductive worry still floats in and steals my peace sometimes.

So I wish I had a store of it somewhere, in a place relatively difficult to access emotionally: real alarm for a real emergency only.

And then I wish that life would present itself so unambiguously that I would never even need ask myself, "Is this worth worrying about?"
The signs would be clear, I'd have my little box of genuine alarm, and the emergency would receive the proper amount of it that it deserved.

The rest of the time, I'd love to be in the moment.  Present and attentive, full of as much wonder and excitement as Landon was at the museum.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cat Woman Comes Home

Occasionally I come home and I'm like a penned-up cat--taking irrational swipes at whoever draws near, even those who care.  I feel hissy and wary and primed to throw a fit.

It doesn't take more than 24 hours and a couple of replays in my mind before I feel completely foolish and contrite.  Who is that snarly woman and can somebody just do us all a favor and not let her come home here anymore?!

A couple of nights ago it was about a tree.
I stepped out the front door and found a tree growing in the middle of the front yard.

Instead of a dozen lovely and grateful things I could have said, I chose,

"Did you know they were going to plant a tree in our yard?"

Bill (blithely not noticing an edginess in my voice) apologized that he was going to tell me about the HOA's decision to do so, but he had forgotten.

I just plow on: "What kind is it?"

"Oh, I really can't remember.  They got an amazing deal on them, though, because the landscaper ordered the wrong kind for another client.  I kind of fought for our yard to be one that got a tree.  Cool, huh?"

And then, with a slow and steely precision you think would be reserved for prosecutors accusing very evil people, I ask,

"What kind of person let's a tree be planted in his yard and doesn't even know what kind it is?"

The conversation only devolved from there.  I'll spare you the details.

Less than an hour later I was crying for being such a brat, and then apologizing for crying like such a baby and then reduced to, "I'm  really sorry; can I just have a hug?"

I find it startling how totally immature I can be.  I find it embarrassing that anyone has to see me in such states of unrestrained pettiness.

Really?  About an unidentified tree?

Bill volunteered his time on that HOA board, and instead of being grateful for his efforts when we benefit from one of the ensuing perks, I just get all weird and start making speeches about dogs wanting to pee near the base of the tree.  (oh! right-- I was going to spare the details)

Maybe someday I'll only argue about things I really care about.  Maybe someday I'll always be wise enough  to declaw and decompress before I start taking random swipes at the first person or issue that crosses me.

In the meantime, can I just say how grateful I am to have a friend who will still give me a hug at the end of the day, write me a love note of encouragement to find in the morning, and tell me by every means possible--we can get through this--and you're still my Jode?

I'm really more grateful than I can say.


It's a quarter to midnight and my day is finally wrapping up.

Two nights a week I get home close to ten.  Bill is usually still up, basically just waiting for me to get home safely before crashing into bed himself.

I feel like I have missed the party.

Bill gives me highlights.
They walked to the park.
A funny moment.  A silly expression.
What they ate.
How easy/hard it was to get Landon to bed.

I peek in on Landon and can't help but think how there is nothing sweeter than the way he looks.
Tonight, he is nestled into a blanket we put on the floor next to his bed.

I don't know if he started there, or fell there.  I'm glad it's there either way because it has cut down on the midnight thumps and subsequent tears.

Five minutes with Bill.
A few minutes to gaze at Landon and give him a goodnight kiss.

They left this morning before I even woke up.
I come home long after, or shortly before they are asleep.

It feels strange to live with two people and miss them so keenly so much of the time.

Friday, August 12, 2011

3k for my Birthday

Isn't that a catchy title?  Kinda forces you to say "birthday" with a weird inflection doesn't it? : )

Anyway, the 3k is not money or kilometers or cheapo 3 karrot gold. (is there such a thing?)

It represents the 3,000 page views that I've gotten on this blog.  I just hit this number today, on my birthday.

And that, my friends is a true gift to me.  One you have been giving since January.

Yes, a good two thirds of those page views have to be from my family (they are generous that way), but that still leaves a fair chunk of page views left to people unrelated to me.

Your interest and remarks have both fueled and rewarded my efforts.

I have felt daunted on and off by the fact that there are so many examples of excellent and amazing blog writing one click away on the internet.

I have thought of this quote when I've considered stopping:

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang the best.    ~ Henry Van Dyke
 In my very first post I wrote,
CS Lewis said, "We read to know we are not alone." I have lately become convinced that we often write for the very same reason. 
Thanks for joining me in this forest and listening to this song.

I hope you'll stick around for the next 3k.  : )

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Takes One To Know One

Tis' the season of reading lists coming in at the end of the summer.  The long days that seemed to stretch endlessly ahead are quickly coming to their conclusion and every procrastinator out there is realizing that "plenty of time" has dwindled down to "this is due next week."

The more prepared, more disciplined among you may not understand this, but I love these little procrastinators.  I find their panic slightly endearing, their urgency kind of funny, and their overwhelming gratitude completely rewarding.  I will go the length and width of my library, scouring to find something  on the school reading list they can read and slap together the corresponding project for.

"You can do this,"  I tell them, and they are relieved to hear that someone thinks so.

I'm particularly delighted if we have the thinnest book from the list on our shelves.  "Your lucky day!" I exclaim, "You'll be able to knock this out in no time."  (If they were such a great reader, I reason, they wouldn't have dreaded and put it off for so long.)  This is no time to be whipping out fat books that look daunting.  This is no time to ask them to challenge themselves with some obscure award-winner that was a total sleeper-how-did-it-win-an-award dead-weight.

I look for the easiest, most accessible titles, the ones that still evoke good memories for me all these years later, the ones that might leave the reader thinking, "Hey!  This isn't so bad..."

I find them audio versions.  I find them graphic novels and suggest they scan them first before trying to dig into the original text with no idea what it is supposed to be about.  For highschoolers, I look for study guides and commentaries.  Old BBC versions of classics that will help them be able to picture a distant time or place.

Here's what I wish I could say to them:

As time goes on, you'll probably learn (as I have, to greater and lesser degree), that procrastinating is a lifestyle strategy of diminishing returns.  

But for now, while you pull your all-nighter (from which you'll bounce back with ease you'll take for granted) I hope you'll be encouraged by the memory of the librarian who is in your corner--cheering you on to find out what you're capable of, what you can produce, what you can complete, what you can really dig in and do...

You can do this.  You really can.


I wanted to go the rose garden park because we had never been there when the roses were in bloom.

The roses were blooming;  our affection had room to grow, too. Little moments to cherish.     This day, it took really, truly smelling the roses to remind us to "stop and smell the roses."

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Covert Operation for Drugs?

I can't help it, I must share these library stories because I think they are hilarious.

We give away bookmarks at my library.  This is not so unusual, what with all the books we are loaning out and all.

And we have a trademark series that says ANY this, ANY that, ANY this, and then ends with ANY  ____and the name of the genre.  At least, that's pretty much the gist--I haven't memorized them.
They are meant to suggest that we can connect you with anything you are looking for.

So one young patron is looking them over at the desk, kind of taking them in and she gets to:

ANY Heroine

"Any heroine??  Isn't that illegal?"

I guess I should clarify: Comments like these really do crack me up.  I am not smoking crack.

For my part, I am perfecting the art of laughing only with my eyes.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Good Night, Gorilla

He has always been a happy baby. 
He's got a first-rate laugh when tickled, when delighted, when surprised, when happy.

But the other night I realized that he is developing a sense of humor, too.
When did my baby become a little boy who gets a kick out of a subtle joke in a picture book?!

So Good Night Gorilla gets a special mention because it made my little boy truly laugh.  He got the giggles over this book, and that's a moment I don't want to soon forget.

This clever little gorilla follows the unsuspecting zookeeper around, unlocking each animal as the zookeeper says goodnight.  Landon puts his finger up to his mouth and says, "Shhh," when he sees this picture.  He pinches his little fingers together and pretends to turn a key in each lock.

When the animals follow the zookeeper home and all try to crash in his bedroom, the wife wakes up and takes them all back to the zoo.

Except for that clever little gorilla and his mouse sidekick.

This is the picture that cracks him up.  
Mouse gets the final goodnight, (after many other unsuccessful ones) and everyone else has fallen asleep. 

Gorilla is exactly where he wanted to be all along.  
That silly little gorilla.

My little monkey has made this one of his most requested lately.
Oh, the bittersweet of library books.  I'll hate to say goodbye to this crew who gives Landon the giggles.

At least I know there's more waiting where that one came from.

The Titanic Couldn't Compartmentalize

 We all know what a wonder the Titanic was.
We all know how confident everyone was that it was an unsinkable vessel.

I heard a man on the radio describe how the Titanic had 16 watertight compartments that would help it stay afloat.  Various combinations of flooding in those compartments was acceptable-- the Titanic could sustain some amount of flooding. (More than other ships before it)  

The designers could not picture the side of the boat scraping along the side of a jagged iceberg, suffering multiple puncture wounds to six compartments as it bumped along.

Maybe even that would have been ok, but as it turned out, the compartments were not truly waterproof.  Their internal walls did not go all the way up to the deck.  Water got in, and as it rose high enough, started spilling into compartments that had not taken any hits.

There are truths that this can illustrate, and the radio man explained.

For example, we all take "hits" in our lives.  In any given compartment (physical, spiritual, relational, professional) something may be going utterly awry.  A flooded compartment that compromises our survival, our happiness, our peace of mind.

But if we can compartmentalize, we can do damage control so that a strained relationship at work does not create unhappiness with us and our family.  Our personal troubles do not cause us to give up eating well or exercising.  Tragedy outside of work does not render us useless at work--the place we must still function if we are to keep our financial boat afloat.

We are taught that it is pathetically fake to be bright and cheerful in one arena if in another, you have nothing to be cheerful about.

But the point is, the Titanic sunk.

Without being able to compartmentalize, he suggests we also will not be able to survive.  To weather the storms.  To repair damage without going down.

If you have ever been in an argument or bad mood with someone en route to a social gathering, and then were able to almost instantly put it aside, put on a cheerful face, and be kind and civil to everyone the two of you encountered, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Your disagreement was put in a compartment until you could properly repair your relationship later.  In the meantime, you were good company to a kind host who didn't need to be burdened with your spat.

This past year has been some pretty treacherous sailing for my little ship.
Icy waters
Spiked with tragedy and loss
Pain and confusion

Last week I barreled into a huge iceberg that has left me in near-constant pain.
I'm flooding in too many compartments.

I need them to be watertight.
I need them to hold true.

I'm taking on a lot of water here.

So if I seem a little tired, a little distracted, or a little less enthusiastic, it's only because I'm pulling double shifts trying to shore up every compartment in this little boat of mine....

I'm a punctured mess taking the advanced course on compartmentalization.

I'm no Titanic, but one thing I know: I'm not going down.

You Make Me Laugh: Twice

Two little girls found me at my library desk to ask for movies about magicians.  And as conversations with little patrons do, the conversation wound around to all sorts of things.

I'm fascinated.

By their animated stories of their pets.
A riveting retelling of their dog's untimely death.
The way they bounce around from topic to topic and I somehow manage to follow along.

The two of them are like the conversational equivalent of a ping-pong game.  Their comments bounce back and forth between them in a seamless rhythm.  I don't have to say much, just a question here and there, and they are off and bouncing again, finishing each other's sentences, and even saying things simultaneously.  (Rather remarkably, actually)

So cute.  So funny.  So nine.
I'm quite taken with them.

We're wrapping up when I ask, "So are you girls twins or just sisters?"
"Yes, we're twins."
"Are you fraternal or identical?"
They look at each other and laugh.  The first thing they have said that didn't match.
You could almost hear the little ping pong ball clattering off the table.

But they got it sorted out between themselves and came back with a unified description of how they are fraternal twins, and a story told in stereo of the identical twins in their class who they call by the wrong names.  We all laugh and they're about to skip off, when one of them clarifies for me,

"Oh, but we're also sisters."

I can't help it.  I laugh out loud.

Of course you are.  I should have guessed.  I'm glad we got that all cleared up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My Favorite Library Conversation of the Summer

I have to share this one because it made me laugh, more than once.  Even in the retelling I thought it was hilarious. 

I think this may well be my favorite library anecdote of the summer:

I was signing up a group of girls for our Summer reading program and they were kind of hovering around, watching the screen with me.    There is a line where we fill in random letters to verify it is not a bot signing up.  One of them read the following to her friends :

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

And then she asked quite earnestly, "Do you GET many aliens trying to sign up for this?"

What's not to love?

Friday, July 15, 2011

8 Hours in the Car with a Toddler: Endure or Enjoy?

We've all heard (or lived through) a few distressing travel stories: ears that wouldn't pop, kids who won't stop crying, sanity drizzling away faster than the miles gained.  So it wasn't without evidence that I felt a bit nervous about embarking on an 8 hour car ride with our two-year-old.  Could he make it?  Could we?

East to Nebraska

First stop: still in his pajamas

A stop at a museum lets us all stretch our legs

There are rules: you must take pictures
in front of large statues.

on the road again

letting the baby drive gave Bill and I a nice break

secret weapon brought out on the return trip
he's mesmerized

last of the secret weapons: needed for the final hour
coming home in Denver rush-hour traffic

hope he doesn't delete all my photos!

As it turned out, Landon was a little super-trooper, better than I had even hoped for.

We made it with flying colors.  And a one-pound pack of Red Twists.

A First Time For Everything

In the planning stages, a road trip to Nebraska didn't exactly sound like a huge bag of thrills to me.  Of course, I was looking forward to the time with family we would get to have, but other than that, I didn't have high expectations.  I completely underestimated (again) how fun it is to be with someone for whom most everything is new.  His first road trip.  His first time out of the state.    Here are a few of the things that were Landon's "firsts" on our first-ever, family road trip:

first time swinging in this kind of swing by himself

magical moments with the first fireflies

First movie in a theater: IMAX Tornado Alley

  • First time eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet
  • First time climbing out of a Pack and Play and opening a bedroom door (I wish I had a picture of the satisfied, mischievous expression he wore when he came into my bedroom and said, "hi," as if monkey antics of this scale were totally normal.)

first time to see a penny souvenir machine--
will he collect them with the same delight I do?

first time to see a wax person

first time on an escalator this big 

Being with Landon IS the adventure.  One that I never tire of--first time around, or two years in.