Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011: or the busiest year of my life...

My friend Kristin Tennant wrote a great "what do you think about 2011, what do you hope for 2012" post, which included these great questions. Since I was thinking of doing something for the end of the year, I stole her questions:

1. What experiences most shaped you in 2011?

2. What is something you learned (or learned to do) in 2011?

3. What is something you want to learn to do in 2012?

4. Is there a hurt, frustration or fear that you’d like to heal/let go of in 2012?

5. What inspired or encouraged you in 2011?

6. What gift could you use to inspire and encourage others in 2012?

7. What do you want to experience more of in your life this next year?

8. What do you want to give/share more of?

9. Is there a word that sums up 2011 for you?

10. Is there a word you want to carry with you through 2012?

[plus one] 11. What book, movie, or show really jazzed your year?


1. Most shaped me in 2011:

Working on my PhD application. (It's in, btw. Now we just wait until the end of February when I hear if they want to interview me.) Even as I was working on re-writing the article in January, or working on the presentation in October, or studying for the GREs, all of those were cumulative work to the final December 15 deadline.

2. Learned to do this year:

Work a deadline. Discover that I do my best work in the morning, so work then, and veg in the evening. Keep the laptop in the other room. Separate laptop (work) time from (veg) TV time, but that when it comes down to the last minute, I can keep my tush in my chair until I'm done.

3. Want to learn next year:

Create systems. I started using a 7 day pill box in 2010. It has made my life easier. (I take pills 4 times a day.) I have started to learn (see #2) to break items down into pieces, and would like to create systems for paying bills, doing dishes, doing laundry, cutting clutter. I have learned in the past couple of weeks that just doing dishes for 5 minutes (or while something is cooking in the microwave) makes a big difference. If I only did housework for 5 minutes a day...I have tried all the self-help, reduce clutter books and none of them have worked. I have to figure out my own system, one that works for me.

4. Fear that you want to heal?


  • letting go of my sister (she got married!) and learning to love her husband (I do like him a lot. I see how they are a great couple, but I'm not "there" yet.)
  • Re-learning that I am enough. The PhD process scratched a surface of insecurity...what if I don't get in, what if this isn't the right path, what if, what if. I would like to be able to say, I'm enough. Whatever happens, it's going to be okay. (Not that there's anything wrong with being scared, but I don't want the fear to rule me.)

5. Inspired you this year?

JUST DO IT. When I went to speak to the woman in charge of children's library programs at the Library School here in town, she said, try to get published, try to present. In 2010-2011, I did both (one of each.)

6. Gift to encourage others in 2012?

CUPCAKES, of course!

7. Experience more in 2012?

More time with friends. In person. Face to face.

8. Give/Share more of in 2012?

This one gave me pause...I don't think "writing" is the right answer, but it's what I came up with.

9. Word that sums up 2011?


10. Word that you want to carry into/with you in 2012?


11. Movie/Book/Show?

Bones. (Show) I am totally obsessed with Bones, the same way I was totally obsessed with SATC when I first discovered it back in 200?.


*January: Polished my first scholarly publication

February: Sister got engaged

March: I got the flu, I picked out a maid-of-honor dress

April: I gave my sister a bridal shower (big thanks to cousin Kiki and Mom!)

May: prep for Summer Reading, New York for unco11, blasted cold that developed into third sinus infection for 2011.

June/July: Summer Reading

August: learn I have food allergies, prep for the wedding, the wedding

September: family vacation, study for, take the GREs

October: my first professional library presentation, sinus surgery

November: Recover from surgery, research for my PhD application essays, Thanksgiving, my 40th birthday

December: finish my PhD application essays, Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2011 us down from the ledges...

(Amy Grant, That's What Love is For)

A girl's gotta have friends.

And this girl has the best ones.

Last week, in the middle of writing my research proposal for the secret Midwestern school application, I found a reference in a bibliography that I hadn't looked up. So I looked it up. And instead of seeing it as a piece of the puzzle, I saw it as the arrow that burst my research, that made my work invalid. Panicking, I picked up the phone and called Sally. Who, I had forgotten, had a house full of guests. She took a moment to assure me that no one was doing work on Third Culture Kids in libraries, that my work was important, and that this was just an application to graduate school, NOT a dissertation. She took five minutes away from her guests to talk me off my ledge.

All week, I have been screaming on Twitter, wanting to throw in the towel, and friends like Deb have been sending me reminders of what I want to do in the form of cupcakes.

Thursday morning, I sat my tush in my chair and filled in the online application. It took me all morning, including a trip to FedExKinkos because the watermarks on one of my transcripts made it impossible to compact it beyond 2000KB. The file needed to be under 500KB. Murphy was alive and well, but I had set aside the entire morning, so I beat him at his game.

Anyways, as I sit here, kind of like a couch potato, stunned that my year of striving is almost over, I want to say thanks. Because your encouragement is what got me through, you talked me off my ledges.

I'm leaving out a big plate of cupcakes.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

[Anaiis Nin quote here]

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." (Anaiis Nin)

Well, I'm still working hard on my Midwestern essays. Exhausted, but I am working. Or like we say on twitter, #amwriting #amworking. I took this morning off work to take time to write. And I thought I would have a chance to do so much more. But it has to be enough. I have 7 days. 8 if you include the 15th. In those 7 or 8 days, I have to gather together my research proposal and I have to update my resume. Oh, and show up for work for 5 of those days.

I wrote these bits when I was putting together my "statement of purpose" but I think they fit here more than in an application for "further schooling." (Yes, I have to be secretive.) (Yes, you'll know when I find out, which won't be until late Feb for an interview, and after that, I think March or April.)

A little bit of background, as I sort of start in the middle here: I had been writing about my teen years, reading with sibs, how it kept me interested in picture books as a teen.

...While all of this was happening, something else was happening that would shape my life’s work, though I didn’t recognize it then. My father, a career foreign service officer, was preparing for his next post, in Warsaw, Poland. He and I both had a lot of homework my senior year of high school; while mine was in English with a little bit of Spanish, his was entirely in Polish. My parents and siblings lived in Warsaw, Poland from 1989 to 1992, as communism was being replaced by the private sector.

In college, I was trying to live the normal life of an American teenager, but I couldn’t ignore that my life was markedly different from the lives of my fellow students, most of whom spent Christmas vacation in a place called home. I spent Christmas vacation with people I called home, in a foreign country where I could barely tell cab drivers my parent’s address. In high school in the suburbs of Washington, DC, I was able to pretend I was just another kid. Now, at 17, I was faced yet again with my heritage: of many languages, many houses, and many different “homes.” The concept of the third culture kid was not yet mainstream, and most of the writing is still non-fiction by adults, for adults. As a confused teen, I would have benefited from some books to mirror my experiences. Instead, I took all the “windows” and made some of them into mirrors.

In high school, I could forget that I had lived overseas. I found teens like me in the books of Judy Blume, Cynthia Voigt, and Paula Danziger. I didn’t talk about my childhood abroad, and no one asked me about it, because I blended. I no longer looked for books about kids like me who had lived abroad, because I pretended that I had lived in Maryland my whole life.


There is much more there, but I need to drive home and take in some restorative television. If you are the praying type, please pray. These next 7 days are going to be FULL. Thankfully tomorrow I have two things on my side (which also mean I won't get any writing in): a massage at 8:30, with a guy who is also a third culture kid, so I'll be able to tell him about my project, and a woman at the library school I graduated from, who has agreed to talk to me. She can't help me with the writing, and I was sure I'd be done with it all by now, but she can also be a "bounce ideas off" person.

Setting out a plate of cupcakes for you all,


Saturday, November 26, 2011

a strong but silent culture...TCKs and ATCKs

I've been working on my essays to go to that Midwestern school, and one of the things I've been working on is how to get TCKs (Third Culture Kids) and libraries in the same box.

And there are no journal articles. And there are anecdotal events on the internet that happened two years ago in international schools in places like Israel. And librarians in international schools don't even know that a grown up TCK is an ATCK (adult third culture kid) not a TCG (third culture grown-up.)

Do you even know what a TCK is? Have I ever even written about this on this blog? Not likely. Why? It's not because (as I thought earlier) that we don't have a strong culture. No, it's because our culture is one of silence and white lies.

Denizen, an online magazine for TCKs, says it best in the article, "White Lies TCKs Tell:"

Within the Third Culture Kid (TCK) community, distaste for the “Where are you from?” strikes a common chord. It’s indicative of the confused identity that comes innately with a TCK status. According to The Washington Post, TCKs make an average of eight major moves before graduating from high school. It’s what separates us from immigrants or casual travelers, because instead of developing our identity and worldview in one locale and then leaving, we develop these characteristics while in constant transit. This is why, according to Pollock and Van Reken’s “Third Culture Kids”, people can be former expats or former foreign service officers, but never a former Third Culture Kid. We take our world with us wherever we go.

But not everyone else understands this. And this is why we do a “little dance” every time we’re asked about our identity. It’s not only because we’re unsure ourselves, but also because we’re unsure of the reactions we’ll get.

I've been reading my way through Dakota by Kathleen Norris. This morning's bit brought me to talking about why there are so few Dakotan writers. Since I have been wondering why there are so few TCK writers, I perked up. And it came to me. No one is telling our stories, so we don't know how to tell them. We are a strong culture, but one of silence. We want to fit in. So we don't tell you that we moved between five different countries before we were 12. We don't tell you we had household help when we lived in developing countries. We don't tell you that we're not sure if we watched TV shows like "Little House on the Prairie" in English or Spanish. Because we don't want to stick out. We just want to fit in, now that we are on native soil.

So we don't start our stories with, well, when I lived in Bonn, the river flooded every spring, because we have been burned. What was it like? Did you learn German while you were there? Did you see the Berlin Wall? We don't say, well, in the second house in Tegucigalpa was really modern. It had a garage on the street level, steps up to a small terrace, and then steps up to a big patio. I remember my grandmother sitting there, reading me from Lad, A Dog, when she came to visit. Then you went in the door, and the living room was on the left. It had a huge cathedral ceiling, and on the side, steps to the dining room. If you went to the right when you came in, you came to the "study" which was really just where the piano and the TV were. Oh, and my loft. The only place where the maid wasn't allowed, although one year I came back from summer vacation and it was clear she'd been up there to straighten. And then I can't finish telling you about the house because I feel the need to explain why we had household help, something that is very rare in middle class America. We had one live-in maid, and one who came occasionally to do other things. In Honduras, you had to boil the water before you drank it. And we often had bomb scares at school. We'd all file out of the school and sit on the front lawn while the building was searched. And we'd sit on the lawn and look at the bumps in the grass. Do you suppose that is a bomb? And some kids bought mango in vinegar with salt in baggies from the man on the other side of the fence. I never did. (I was a real goody two shoes.)

Can you imagine as a seventh grader, explaining all that to your new best friend, whose parents were first generation immigrants from Greece and whose mother was a seamstress and whose father managed a restaurant? You'd sound like a Trump. And that was the last thing you wanted. Blend. Blend. Blend. I didn't have any friends who were TCKs in junior high, high school, or even college. There are TCKs in Pittsburgh, but I only sort of know them, and I don't know if they remember that I am one. All of them are MKs, a subset of the TCK culture: Missionary kids. I'm a diplomat's daughter. So I'm not a military Brat (another subset), or an MK. So what am I? I'm a diplomat's daughter, which is just as explainable as the daughter of an economist. It's not the sort of thing you can explain in ten words or less. A dentist? People know what that is. A seamstress? yep. A teacher? yes. But what the heck does a diplomat do? Well...and then you get into a long convoluted conversation and people's eyes glaze over.

And what I've been finding, is that the writers who ARE TCKs write about either/or. They write about the folk stories of the countries they've lived in, or they write about the country they are from. There is very little fiction about kids who straddle two cultures, trying to figure out who they are as they move from country to country.

I've written enough for now. I need to sleep. But this has been eating me for the past week, and I needed to get it out.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

My mother, the theologian

So. With all the "living" I've been doing, hanging on by the seat of my pants, getting by on the skin of my teeth, my contemplative life has been pretty much nil.

Instead of reading and praying and going for walks, I pick up the phone to call my mom or Sally in Michigan. If they aren't home, I try Emily in Russia, or Lilly in Maryland. I get online. I tweet, or play game upon game of Free Cell. (I did play solitaire with real cards for a while, but the colder weather necessitates a comforter on my bed and it's too bumpy for real cards.) I watch episode upon episode of Bones.

But this morning, when I chatted with my mother, as I tried to dust the sand from my sleepy eyes, she was in the midst of preparing for Bible Study later in the morning, and so she told me all about Psalm 124. They are doing a Eugene Peterson* study, so the translation below is his:

A Pilgrim Song of David
1-5 If God hadn't been for us —all together now, Israel, sing out!—
If God hadn't been for us
when everyone went against us,
We would have been swallowed alive
by their violent anger,
Swept away by the flood of rage,
drowned in the torrent;
We would have lost our lives
in the wild, raging water.

6 Oh, blessed be God!
He didn't go off and leave us.
He didn't abandon us defenseless,
helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs.

7 We've flown free from their fangs,
free of their traps, free as a bird.
Their grip is broken;
we're free as a bird in flight.

8 God's strong name is our help,
the same God who made heaven and earth.

She said, the point of the psalm is that even when the turkeys tried to get us down, God was with us, and we kept on going. (Those weren't her exact words.) So, as I sat down at the kitchen table with my Grape Nuts and raisins, I got out my Jerusalem Bible, and then my Timothy Botts' book of the Psalms. (Do you know Timothy's** work? Yowsa. His calligraphy is phenomenal.)

And so I sat there, reading Psalm 124, 127*** (if God doesn't build the house)... and ate my breakfast and thought about my mother. Who has been a nurturing force in my life--all of my friends have been. And how finally, I have gotten to the place where I have not one but two scriptures open on my breakfast table.

These are not easy times. I am racing at breakneck to come up with a plausible research project to wow the folks in the Midwest who will determine if I get to start my PhD in the fall. I was pulled off of Mother Goose duty, (where I sing to babies) for the next two weeks, when the session ends, because there were complaints that I seemed not into it, unhappy. And my boss, rather than reprimand me, decided that I have a lot on my plate (oh, did I mention recovery from sinus surgery?) to say, take a break. We'll reevaluate in the new year. Here, I have been off my game, thinking as I look at a sea of young ones and their mothers, grandmothers, fathers, will this be my last fall of singing to them? How they ARE my sunshine. And that sadness came through. And so it's relief, sort of, because yes, I could tell I was off my game, but also, again, sadness, as there is, when you're pulled off the game and someone else is put in.

If God hadn't been with us,

We would have lost our lives
in the wild, raging water.

And I haven't been lost. I haven't been washed away. I'm still here, still plugging, still standing. For now, that is enough.

(I have put the links at the end, in hopes that you will go to them, but to prevent you from leaving the post before finishing reading.)
*Eugene Peterson, A long obedience in the same direction.
**Timothy Botts: Online Gallery
***Psalm 127:1-2, from

Thursday, November 03, 2011

things i will say...

...when I become a professor at library school.

Raise your hands if you like books. Good, good. Raise your hands if you like people. Good, good.
Now put them down and think about this: do you like people when they are nice to you or do you like grumpy people? Because that's what it is to be a "people person." You like people even when they are not giving you the correct information, when they are acting ignorant, when they need help irrationally. This cannot be taught. If you do not like those people, you might as well decide now to become something else when you grow up. Because even if you become a cataloger and sit in your basement office, you will have to deal with librarians. And sometimes, you will have to sit at the reference desk.


I dream about these things, I do. I wake up and create these scenarios, of things I will tell my students. Since I most likely will never have a son or daughter, and won't be taking my nieces for long drives in Pittsburgh, I will probably never be able to explain why you change lanes after the U haul (because people turn in that lane) or why if you get a green light, you keep going and turn at the next intersection, not at Elfinwild. But if I get into grad school, I will get a chance to share my from the front lines info about working in a library.

Yesterday I watched a really awful "customer service" video. It was one of those 17 minute deals, short enough so that you could pause it a few times to talk about things and still not go over a half hour, something you could show before you had a meeting. I sort of remembered that I had watched it before when I saw the accompanying worksheet. This guy was trying to cover every transaction in a library and show the right and wrong ways. I bet this guy has a similar video for cardiac nurses. Since I'm trying to watch these videos and write reviews as a form of comp time (read: work in my PJs) as I recover from the sinus surgery, I decided to research some YouTubes. I found a 6 minute video that gave the same basic information, but gave heart reasons. Because in the end, customer service is not about the 3 P's or remembering mnemonic phrases. It is about the heart. Do you like your job enough to respect the people you work for and with? Will you help the unhelpful? Because if no, then maybe you should make a career change.

So yes, I'm recovering from the surgery. I worked 4.5 hours at work and 1 hour at home, which included doing Mother Goose (where I sing with babies and their mothers) twice. This morning, after the most bizarre mix of dreams, I woke up at 9:43. Since I nodded off around 12:30, that would be over 9 hours. Which is about what I've been sleeping, lately. Roughly 9 hours.

I would write more, but I actually have a lot of errands before work today.
  • Call admissions person.
  • Go to Pharmacy, ask about a medication
  • Go to Pscyhiatrist appt, ask about that medication
  • Drive to work
  • Lunch (somewhere in there.)
  • Work at least 4 hours.
And when I come home, a fresh new episode of BONES, the premiere of the seventh season!!

(Bones is what I watched as a part of my recovery. There was one channel I watched, the bones only bones only bones. Somehow it soothed me.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Playing solitaire on real cards

So, over the course of the past two days, my solitaire playing has showed me how addictive it can be. I went over to talk to Marian (WHO IS BACK AT WORK!) and she was busy putting out a computer center fire, so I sat down at the extra computer behind the desk, and you guessed it, started a game of solitaire.

While I was on the reference desk today, for one hour instead of the usual two, I played solitaire.

On the way home from work, I bought a pack of cards. They're the pink kind, for October being breast cancer awareness month, but I bought them because everything in my apartment is pink. My laptop is pink, my cell phone is pink, my wireless mouse is pink. Even my Kleenex is pink. (I only buy pink Kleenex.)

And I opened the pack of cards and smelled them. They smelled like cucumbers. I had to laugh. They are not only pink, but they have ribbons on the cards. Like inside the clubs and spades and ribbons. I thought it was really silly and thought, that will be distracting when I'm playing...there's also a little card inside instead of telling you how to play cards, it gives you tips on how to detect breast cancer, make sure you get your mammograms and do your breast self-exams.

I came home, and called the person in my family who calls playing solitaire "smoking a cigarette," my mother. When she's stressed or bored, she plays solitaire. With real cards, on the kitchen table, or on her side of my parent's bed.

We talked about next week (the sinus surgery upcoming on Wednesday), that she's bringing extra pillows (so I can sleep sitting up), and I told her to bring her cards, we could play Canasta. And while we talked, I shuffled the cards and made piles of the cards on the bed.

In an episode of "The Good Wife" this year, a lawyer said to the lawyers of the Good Wife team (I'm not remembering their names), "things are dead." (well, that was the essence of the quote.) But that ideas, bytes, bits, they are more important than a bowl, a carrot.

And all those commercials for pre-made dinners? That say cutting up food is drudgery? They lie! I like cutting up food. It's relaxing. It's empowering. I'm making something. (In other words, don't buy me a food processor.)

What did I do after I got off the phone with my mother? I figured out how to play solitaire again (I had to use this e-how video) and I dealt cards all evening as I watched Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, and The Odd Couple. But here's the thing. It wasn't just playing the game (which I lost more than I won--I'm not sure I even won a single game, to tell you the truth), it was holding the cards in my hands. The sound the cards made when I shuffled them. The feel of the cards in my hands.

I can tell you now, if given the choice, I would rather play solitaire on cards than on the computer. I don't care if I win. I don't care that I got 49 points in 140 seconds. I don't care how many games I've won, and what my highest score is. That is NOT why I play. I play to have something to do with my hands when I'm bored or stressed.

I think I summed up my computer solitaire addiction perfectly today when I said to Marian, this is one of the things that I'm doing because I'm anxious and it's not doing a bit of good.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Playing solitaire on the computer at two thirty in the morning...

Yeah, so if I play endless games of computer free cell or solitaire, you can guess that I am in anxiety h-e-double hockey sticks.

Called my parent's house this morning as I woke up from bad dreams around 10 a.m. (Thank you God that I work at 1 p.m.)

So, what are you anxious about, my dad asked.

  • my car
  • the surgery (for deviated septum -- nose sinus surgery, Wednesday the 19th)
  • my mother coming to visit; (my apartment is SO NOT READY)
  • getting into grad school
  • what if I don't get into grad school
  • things I'll miss if I do get into grad school, like how well the Penguins are doing.
  • Sidney Crosby (so you can imagine my GLEE that he has been cleared for contact today!!!)
  • moving
  • Mother Goose (where I sing to babies and their mamas)

Yesterday I had 64 folks (babies and adults) in my 10 am session. That's like performance, making sure you are projecting to the folks in the back of the double room. In the 11 am session, I was off (don't know why...) (um, anxiety, um, having 64 folks in session 1) and so were they. It was like doing story time to a wall. I didn't let them know THIS IS PARTICIPATORY and even though we're four weeks in, it was almost all new folks so there weren't people modeling "this is what we do when she reads the book about animal sounds." (You make the animal sounds!!)

My dearest friend, Marian the Librarian, is a ghost that I see once in a blue moon...she can't seem to get healthy!! And she was my sounding board at work for years! So then I started going out with the ladies who lunch (my nickname for them) and then the soy allergy came ker-blow into that, I eat in, and now I've gotten to a point where I just read on my lunch hour, so I try to not go at noon, I go at 12:30 so that I miss the people that sit and talk while eating. Yes, I am going into myself. It's bad.

I need to find out WHAT I can eat at some of the restaurants the ladies go to. B/c I need to spend some lunch money--the way you get to know what's going on, and the way to kvetch about it, at our library, is to go out for lunch.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Did you go to Duquesne?" (a Pittsburgh conversation)

My chiropractor is wearing a Duquesne t-shirt. Now, I know that the other chiropractor at the office DID go to Duquesne, but I have never seen any indication that my guy did. So, like a fool, I ask him. "Did you go to Duquesne?" And he says, no. It was as if I was accusing him of wearing the wrong shirt.

"But you did, right?"
"No, I went to Carlow for two years." I pause. "I dated a guy that went to Duquesne"
"Well, there you have it."
"Actually, I dated two guys that went to Duquesne."

(by the way, if you're not from Pittsburgh, you're probably trying hard to pronounce that French word in your mind. It might be one of the few French words that Pittsburghers pronounce correctly. It's Duke-caine. Like Novocaine. You should see the red squiggles from my spell check.)

his monologue: "My two sisters went to Duquesne. I went to a branch of Penn State. I told my dad maybe college wasn't the right decision for me and he said, you're not going to Duquense! I intended to go to the main campus after two years, but that was right about when I discovered I wanted to be a chiropractor."

my monologue: "I just was wondering, because you'd never worn anything before, and well, everyone wears Pitt* t-shirts and you know they didn't all go to Pitt, but no one seems to wear Duquesne t-shirts unless they went there."

We had a laugh.

(By the way, my spell check thinks that I wanted the word Sequence.)

In other news, it's a good thing I'm getting this sinus surgery, because I have yet another sinus infection. The facial pain is unbelievable. On October 19, I'll have a septology, which means a correction of the deviated septum. Spell check doesn't like septology either. It thinks I want to say Egyptology. Um, no.

In other other news, I take the GRE on Tuesday. Be prepared for a decent verbal score and an abysmal math score. Ayyyy. One of the 10 question quizzes I took yesterday? I got 2 out of 10. I usually get 5 out of 10.

So, if you get alerts on your RSS, I'm alive. I know I've basically abandoned blogging, but I'm still here. Really. Say hi in the comments, will ya?

*the University of Pittsburgh, where I got my Master's degree. Pitt is a Division I school in football and both men's and women's basketball.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Cinco de mayo

High temperature today 63. Meanwhile, I know my heater thumped on sometime in the night. This is a second "reveal" in a set of pictures I took a few weeks ago. (The first one was on FB.)

Even though it is sunny outside, I'm feeling like this picture, murky and cloudy and...

...sitting on my bed at 11:30 a.m. in my nightgown. Surrounded by pink balled up Kleenex.

Yes, I'm sure it's hormonal. And also because I haven't let myself take stock of much of anything these days, just running from one tweet to the next, playing Free Cell, trying to figure out what the "so what" point is of my latest project/article...

I'm so afraid these days.

This too shall pass.

If nothing else, I have the oeuvre of this blog to let me know that it will.

I remember writing in the back of a journal once that I hoped I would always remember happy times when I was sad, and sad times when I was happy, so that I wouldn't get too set on either one.

And the radio gods love me, as Brad Paisley starts it up with "You're not supposed to say the word "cancer" in a song..."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is risen, He is risen indeed!

One of my earliest Easter memories is of being tucked in my bed on Calle Guaymura, and my mother coming to my bedside, whispering in my ear, He is risen! I guess I was 9 or 10.

I just got off the phone with my Dad, who answered the phone, "He is risen." I responded with, "He is risen, indeed!" which is a tradition in many reformed tradition churches. It's one of the traditions that holds with Easter, and as a one who doesn't have many traditions to hold on to, I cling to this one for more than one reason.

I'll go to the Open Door for the 11 o'clock service, join some friends from church afterward, and then drive to O'Hara Township to spend some time (and Easter Dinner) with some friends from college. I only see these friends about once a year, but they are dear to me. They were not in college, but in their early thirties, but that is when I knew them. They weren't even dating when I first met them. I met Pat first, and Henry later. They were engaged and married before the end of my freshman year, and theirs was one of the first (if not the first) weddings I ever attended without my family. (And at the church where I want to get married, but BEFORE the renovation, so I remember the gray ceiling with chips of paint peeling off.)

Wow, that's not where I meant this post to go, better get back on track. My dad said that the year my mother was in the hospital, the first person that spoke to her on Easter was the woman coming around for payment for the newspaper. Did she say "Happy Easter"? my dad asked. "Are you kidding?" My father has a great way of telling stories, deepening his voice for effect for that last bit. I'll have to ask my mother more about that story. In some ways, that year is a locked box that is just now becoming opened, as the pain of losing Peter lessens, even for me.

(If you're new here, Peter was an angel baby. Born March 23, 33 years ago, so 1978. Wow. I would have had a 33 year old brother. He lived for about 20 days. It was Maundy Thursday, his birthday, that year.)

My dad and I talked about sunrise services, the ones at my grandmother's church in Washington. We'd meet at a tiny graveyard and the pastor, who was the man who baptized me as a baby and maybe the same man who married my parents, would blow his trumpet. And then we'd have Easter dinner at my grandmother's house and have lamb-shaped cake from her friend...whose name I've forgotten. Later years, we'd go to restaurants so that people didn't have to cook. A restaurant that was NEAR the Wayfarer. The Wayfarer, which is now gone. And no one lives in Washington anymore, even though at one time my great Aunt Margaret, my grandparents, and my Aunt P. and Uncle Klaus and their three kids (yes, right, my cousins.)

The other sunrise service I remember, a picture that I can see in my mind's eye, was across the street from the Union Church in Tegucigalpa. It overlooked the city and like Pittsburgh, the city was hilly, so it was a beautiful view.

I always say that Pittsburgh is the city of my childhood. It has the rivers (like Bonn) and the mountains (like Tegucigalpa.) I remember telling that to a new therapist once and she laughed at me. That was when I knew (though I had suspected) that she was not the therapist for me. I mean, you don't laugh at your clients. Laugh with them, maybe. But not at them.

As per usual, this post is going ALL over the map, and I don't just mean Central America, Europe, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh.

It's funny, I woke up this morning thinking it was Monday and crap, what time is it, I have a chiropractic appointment at 8:30, and I REALLY have to get writing, because my self imposed deadline for a draft of my paper is Saturday. I have written 3 pages front and back, but I have miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep. It took me a while to realize, um, no, I think it's Easter, and really, I had to check my phone to see if it was Sunday.

I went to a conference on zines yesterday afternoon. I did NOT fit in, in the sense that either I hadn't ever written (or really read) any zines, I didn't have a tattoo, or blue hair, or I hadn't written a book. (Two of the speakers had written books, and while I did bother her in the hall while she was texting, and I was ignorant of her book, I did think she was kind of rude...I mean, isn't one of the points of being at a conference to meet new people that might want to read your book? Or at least to meet with kindred minds? I do NOT want to read her book based on her personality, although I do, based on the subject matter.

(I mean, if you are Alan Rickman walking through a bookstore and someone walks up to you and says, "are you in movies?" I think you have the right to be rude, because, well, he is, a little bit, and I was a COMPLETE naif in that situation. But...I have to let it go.)

Because I've discovered that magazines are one of my "research interests." How lucky that the first bit of mine that will ever be published in a scholarly journal is ON magazines, how I fell into that opportunity. I am astonished at how Providence has lined up things for me. Even that I happened to read the City Paper on Thursday (which I rarely do) because I had left my book on the kitchen table and needed something to read while I ate dinner. And that the zine convention was listed on the front cover...I couldn't go in the morning b/c I had to supervise at work, but I was there for the afternoon, and it was amazing. These were people who cared about Sassy magazine (before it sold out, I mean in terms of publishing quality) and I'd heard the librarian (with blue hair, jello blue, not granny blue) from Barnard speak before...perhaps when I heard Leonard Marcus speak for the first time in Chicago, at the American Library Association conference, that would have been 2005.

Back to the zine conference...there was one amazing moment, when someone asked about cataloging zines and there we were, looking at one of her MARC records, talking about 650s, and 655s (subject headings, genre headings) and I was in librarian HEAVEN.

Afterwards, I still had time before the Pitt Library School Library closed at five, so I browsed the bound periodicals. Found a bunch of cool articles. Which meant that my brain was not dead at five, and so I chose to go to the Sharp Edge for dinner, and after dinner, I sipped my water and composed a grocery list and then WENT grocery shopping.

(This is pretty amazing, folks. By the time Saturday evening comes, I am so brain dead I generally curl in a ball and watch TV)

Well, time to get ready for church. And, um, eat something. Ta!

OH, OH. But first, if you want, visit this link for a trip down mem'ry lane -- Anita Silvey spotlights The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes in her Almanac.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sarah Louise goes to the cafe

Apparently, I am not having luck with the e part of cafe. (Alt +0233 doesn't want to do its magic today.)

Learning, learning. I'm not going to fuss over it now, I'm actually writing this from a national chain cafe that has wireless!

Why, you ask, the exclamation point? Don't you do that all the time, SL?

Why no. This may be my first time...I'm pretty sure it is. We are experiencing Pittsburgh spring, which means 75 F by morning, 45 F by evening, showers with hail somewhere in between. It's why Channel 11 calls their weather forecast "Severe Weather." Since I live in a garret (read: third floor walk-up, attic of a 100 year old house with precious little insulation), the heat is abhorrent and today is NOT the day to be in my apartment, washing dishes. So I must find another occupation.

I've been thinking, as per usual. These days, my favorite subject to obsess over is grad school. Will I be in the Midwest, Texas, or the South? (Texas is South, but also a place unto itself.)

I am not naming school names on purpose, so please don't comment on them if you know where I'm talking about. I really really want to go to the Midwest, as the school in question is highly regarded in research...which is what I want to do.

I play a game with myself when I'm at work on the reference desk and it's quiet. What would it be like to live in x town, going to x school? So I've been researching the professors. What have they published lately, what projects are they interested in. Because apparently that is the most important component in getting into a particular school. Do your research interests match theirs.

All along, I was thinking Midwest, and then my main research interest changed. And then I found out how competitive PhD programs are in general, and this one in particular. And then I got scared and opened to the Southern schools (yes, including Texas.) I am not a warm weather lover, and our family is more a Northeast/Midwest family, so I hadn't really thought I wanted to change that. (A creature of habit, I am.)

The thing is, the more I try on other places, the more I want to go to the Midwest, and the more I am valuing the things studied there.

Learning for learning's sake seems somehow frivolous, to a daughter of a diplomat and a early elementary teacher, who are now both retired and advocating for the conservancy of monarch butterflies. Those are noble professions, with results that can be seen, after a few years, or decades. What is the tangible good of studying St. Nicholas magazine, which hasn't been published since the 1940s? But it is what I want to do. Digging, and digging more, makes me happy, as I find bits here, bits there.

And, I think, if I can get that coveted PhD, get an academic post, maybe my students will be the ones that will do the "practical" jobs. Maybe I will do something that will bear fruit in decades.

Following your bliss is scary.

(Oh, look, it's 11:17!)

Um, SL, yes, do you have to be somewhere?

No, not yet. But the home my parents owned for most of my life was 1117 "something" Avenue. And when ever it was 11:17, one of us would exclaim, it's 11:17! It's a silly thing, but it made us happy.

Outside, the clouds are moving across the sky. The rain isn't posted till the evening, but I can't believe it will wait that long, there feels like weather is in the air. To be prepared, I am not wearing my good shoes, they are inside my boots which are in the front seat of my car.

Back to research. While it seems frivolous, there is a reason why libraries exist, above doing preschool storytime. And if research is what makes me putter like a...puttering person, happy as a lark, and there are places I can do this...and my research will make me a scholar, which will in turn make me able to mold young's a lot to twist your mind around, a girl who saw library school as an opening to a profession, much like going to plumbing school makes you a plumber.

To go to study? That's what undergrads do. That's what my English degree was for. But now I, single and needing to support myself, must find something more practical, which is why I became a librarian. But it turns out that I'd much rather be DOING research than helping others do research (although I enjoy that too.)

I need to bend my brain around the fact that it is possible my dissertation will never be a published book beyond the university library...that it will not aid the cure of Polio, solve an economic crisis, or save an endangered species.

But haven't the women I always admired been women who had doctorates? That's another post...I have somewhere to be, my alarm on my cell phone just went off.

As Kim at All Consuming says, MTC (more to come...)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry."

(Emily Dickinson)

There was a fire on the street over from mine. I didn't see the fire, just the fire engines, the wet pavement, and the police cars blocking my street.

And it's silly, but I've been just staying in the back room, where I can't see the flashing lights and tiptoeing over to the front room, to check in every so often.

A little bit ago, I tiptoed over. Seeing that all the police cars blocking the street were gone was not as comforting as seeing Max get out of his red Mazda.

I guess ex-boyfriends are good for something.

He'll put the trash cans out on sidewalk, and all will be well with the world.

"Weather forecast for tonight: dark."

(George Carlin)

Today at church I learned from a physicist that it's important that we are at a dark corner of the Milky Way, which is one of the darkest galaxies. Dark allows us to see stars, and dark is also important for growth. Apparently we are one of the only galaxies still growing stars.

I thought about this, in reference to things I understand (read: not black holes). Tulips grow underneath the dirt before they break ground. Human babies gestate in the dark for hopefully 9 months before they see the light. Often a "dark night of the soul" is needed before someone hits a truth, something that brings them into the light.

Today was a convergence of sorts: not only was Michigan Sally in town (yay!) which took me to Bellefield, but a dear friend was in town for her brother's birthday, as were a couple who has moved to Guatemala. So not only did I get to see regular Bellefield faces that I would see any Sunday I showed up, I also got to see folks that I otherwise never see. During one of the songs, I cried. Did I ever think, that 17 year old me, that saw Bellefield and said, oh, maybe I'll go to church there on Sunday, that at 39 I would be returning to visit, still living in Pittsburgh, single, and contemplating a PhD? I didn't even want to be a *librarian* at 17.

The pastor who spoke has a PhD in physics, and he described a PhD as being tested to the point where there's no point in testing you in that subject again. He compared the Christian life as living under a kind professor who tries to guide you the way you should go.

So, two weeks of church in a row, that's good. (After 4 weeks off, due to first to sickness and then a ideological crisis.) I went to the Open Door last week, and had dinner after with Maddy. I'm taking my therapist's advice to go to the Open Door for a month and see if it's where I want to be. (A year ago, it wasn't, but things change, people change.)

When I showed up at the OD last week, the phrase came to my mind, "We're in the question and question portion of this life. No answers right now, just questions." So when people asked me how I was, that's what I said. And they got it. The OD is peopled with new parents, PhD students, MFA they get that the questions sometimes don't go away, for a very long time.

I'm sick this weekend. I caught a virus which has had me "grounded" since Thursday afternoon, when, after a day of Summer Reading training with all my children's librarian peeps, I came home and slept for 3 hours. When I woke up with a sore throat, I thought, I guess this isn't just "daylight savings" tired. I took Friday and Saturday off work. I'd hoped to go in this afternoon, when I'd have the office to myself, but I'm still winded, and the work will wait. Somewhere between last night and this morning at church, I forgave myself. I was mad at myself for getting sick. I was mad at myself for losing my cool earlier this week. I was mad at myself for not knowing which church to go to.

And this weekend surprised me with some delights: I became friends with a twitter friend on FB, and got a friend request from another twitter friend. Then a woman who knew me sort of from Bellefield and later the OD, found me on twitter, and it turns out she knows some of my dearest twitter friends. (She now lives in rural PA, darn it, but she is closer than some of my twitter friends in Illinois, Iowa, and Oklahoma.)

AND at Thursday's training, I met up with a PhD candidate from Pitt, who already has a job after graduation at Simmons, proving that there ARE academic jobs out there. I have her email, and once I feel better, I'll shoot her a note to get together for coffee. She was thrilled to meet me, which is always a good sign.

As I write this, I'm listening to a tied Pens/Panthers hockey game. Tied is the norm, anymore, with the Pens. For ages, we just were losing tie games, but at least we got the point, and all of a sudden, we are winning, so we get two points. We don't have a playoff spot yet. Before the game, the awards were given, and Marc-Andre Fleury got the MVP award. And does he ever deserve it. He got another award, I can't remember what it was. It was strange not hearing Sidney Crosby, the Penguin's captain, get any of the awards, but he's missed so much of the season, hasn't played since January 5th due to a concussion early in the year, possibly from both the Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals on New Year's Day and the January 5th game with the Tampa Bay Lightening.


WE WON!! (Shootout, goals by Kovalev and Neal.)

And at 4:00 p.m., having been awake all day, I'm ready for a nap.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Things I'm not writing about...

In high school, a rival school had a literary magazine called Erehwon. (Nowhere spelled backwards, which is a fancy pants reference to something.) Our literary magazine was called Silver Quill, to match the newspaper, which was Silver Chips, and the yearbook which was Silverlogue. (I had to reach under a pile of books by my bed to get the name of the yearbook.) The one I uncovered is 1987, the year after I joined the literary magazine.

In this magazine, the one from the rival school, I remember making a copy of a poem a girl had written. It went something like this. "I'm sorry that I haven't written any poetry. I've been busy doing homework." It went on, but this is going on twenty years, this memory. And the last line was something like, "I'm sorry that I've been too busy not living."

The gist, of course, being, that for some of us, living = writing.

Well, I've been too busy to write.

Too busy working, and watching Mary Tyler Moore (I'm on season six right now.)

Too busy to write about the fact that almost overnight I became a co-manager of Technical Services with my friend Jane, as our boss Eva left to join her husband in New Jersey, after the sale of their house. I have no more hours in the day, and my pay has stayed static except for the 2% at the beginning of the year which doesn't even cover the fact that our health insurance costs doubled or tripled. (Doctor visits doubled, prescriptions tripled.) And I do still work in the Children's department, which has actually been a saving grace, because when I need some air, I can say, I'm going over to Children's, and oftentimes, Maya, my excellent manager, will be in her office and I can sit and talk to her as I calm down.

Too busy to write about Charlotte Zolotow, an important editor and children's writer, a rewrite of a Master's program paper that I need to get published in a peer reviewed journal so I can impress upon the folks at PhD programs that I'm serious, and they want ME.

Too busy to write about the fact that I'm not studying for the GRE, because of course the year I need to take it, it has changed, AGAIN, and this time, big time. It's an hour longer, and they've taken away analogies, antonyms, and sentence completions. Which just means that the stuff they've kept will be more complex, because why else would they have added an hour AND given you an online calculator? (Yes, it's a computer test now. If you get easy questions right, they give you harder ones in that subject, upping your score. But if you get the easy questions wrong, you'll keep getting easy questions, which will sink your score, and possibly your boat.) The GRE is not as important for my program, the letters I write and the letters my recommenders write is what will get me in, but a good GRE score can be a tool for getting more scholarship money in some cases. And I know, if I went to college, I can pass the GRE, but I do need to prepare, and I do need to go over the math that I haven't done for at least fifteen years.

Too busy to write that all of my friendships are changing, again. It's the changing of the guards...Anna is in Russia now, so if I call her, I have to call her when it's a normal hour there (our time +8 hours) and know that she will keep me on the phone for a while, because, well, not many people call her. She loves it there, though. Sally in Michigan is acclimating to Michigan, so she's home less, she has folks we have missed each other coming and going. But all of a sudden, Sally East End has a project involving taking books to Haiti, so she enlisted me to help her find appropriate kids books, so we're talking more. But I'm so tired these days that I don't want to work on relationships that aren't at least eight years old because I don't want to have to explain how I feel about things. Which means that I pretty much go to work and come home and read or watch Mary Tyler Moore. (Plus the fact that my schedule has always been best suited for friendships with stay at home moms, since I am home during the day a lot, and not available most evenings.)

Too busy to write that my sister is getting married!! Yes, my dear Bird has gotten herself an engagement ring and a mighty fine boy. The wedding is in August. (Yes, 2011.) I'm the maid of honor, so that has added to the stress too, as we try to figure out dresses and things. My sister is not one for chatting, and my mother has had other things on her mind, so I knew WHERE the wedding was five days before I knew WHEN it was. It's a Friday wedding, so I assume in the evening, but I don't actually have that information either. I had to ask my dad. Mom and Dad are in California right now. They spent a week traveling around, spending time with friends (had lunch with their future in-laws) and today they'll meet up with "the butterfly folks." My mother is big into Monarch butterfly conservation, and so after she went to a few workshops, they asked her if she'd help...and so she travels all over the country doing exactly that. Usually in February there is a trip to Mexico, but, well, things are a little dicey in that particular Central American nation, so they're visiting the Muir forests (of the huge redwoods) as that is where some butterflies spend the winter, the ones that don't go to Mexico.

As I go over this post, I realize I've just written the opposite of those Christmas cards that glow: "Our daughter just gave us TWINS! We love being grandparents!! Our son got married in Alaska, it was a beautiful ceremony at sunset, the seals were on the beach. Manny got a promotion this year, so we're moving to Hawaii. We'll miss all our friends in Manhattan, but it's an excellent opportunity for our youngest, who we've decided to home school. Did we mention that our son married a doctor? So while he builds his law firm, she'll be building her private practice..."

And all of a sudden it's quarter to eight and I need to get in the shower so I can get to work before nine. Say hello in the comments, I've missed you!!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Some things bear repeating.

So this is just a reprise. I hate it when folks post a link with no context, so here's yours. I am in the throes of week 3 (the week before PMS, where your body starts to slow down and life is listless...)

And I get an email from this site, that a dentist from Allentown has spam commented on one of my posts. So I go and read the post, which linked to a previous post. (Yes, it's all about going back.)

And I found this gem, from October, 2006. I don't write like this anymore, I don't allow myself to be this vulnerable, or maybe, I'm just in a hard place where I am slogging through, step, next step, third step.

So I'll let my younger self teach me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Like the Roach Motel...

...stink bugs check in, but they never check out. Sans six dead stink bugs that just went into the trash.

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