Tuesday, March 31, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 31: Habits

Things I have done for thirty-one days in a row, and whether or not they became a habit:

  • Kept a gratitude journal (habit)
  • Exercised (not)
  • Brushed my teeth (habit)
  • Meditated (not)
  • Showered (habit)
  • Stuck to a diet (not)
  • Hugged my husband (habit)
  • Took a multivitamin (habit)
  • Been pregnant (not)
  • Kept my fingernails polished (habit)
  • Kept my toenails polished (not)
  • Worked at paying jobs without a day/weekend off (not)
  • Checked in on Facebook (habit, until this Lenten season)
  • Checked email (habit)
  • Slice of Life Challenge (does a yearly practice count as a habit after three years?)
I'm not sure if I'll keep up the daily writing practice, as there are other tasks tugging at my conscience--some of which are listed above, that I would like to become habits.  I will certainly try and blog more, even as I transition back into professionally related themes.

Looking back at my three years' worth of SOLC posts, I've realized that they are time capsules, snapshots not only of my life and thoughts at the time, but also of my relationship with others, my willingness to open up and share, my trust that I can do so without negative repercussions.  I can be vulnerable and silly and thoughtful and opinionated and awed.  

I'm looking forward to next year's Slice of Life Challenge.  I wonder what I'll uncover then.

Monday, March 30, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 30: Shhhh, no talking in the library

My library is normally not quiet.

Most days
There is soft music playing
Laughing among the adults
Booktalking with the students
Teaching inference and empathy
How to turn a page, and turn a phrase
Read-alouds in the book nook
After we sing songs to get our wiggles out.

There will be no music, no laughing
Books lie face-down, turned around
Reminding students to be quiet, focus
No teaching, just verbatim instructing
How to turn a page and mark a dot.

My library is normally not quiet.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 29: Creepy crawlies

They're back.

Six legs, eight legs, no legs.  Winging, crawling, slithering.

Once the temperatures stay above seventy degrees Fahrenheit for more than two days in a row, they start appearing.  Add some rain, and we know they're coming in droves.

The first one of the season was a blind snake in the bathroom.  They're very tiny--about as big around as a toothpick, and only five inches or so long.  Still, watching one squirm around your feet when otherwise indisposed is unsettling.  I let my husband handle that one.

Ant beds started reappearing.  Brown wasps have been buzzing around the backyard and my mailbox (?).  Those crane flies that look like giant mosquitoes, but don't bite, are hovering near our door.  We've already had a real mosquito bite or two, apiece.  Where's the hydrocortisone cream?

I scrambled in the door this past week to avoid the big brown grasshopper poised on the ledge, looking ready to jump into my work bag.  I danced with a small spider in the kitchen (I kinda like them--their webs trap mosquitoes) until it went under the cabinet.

Tonight, the most telling sign that summer is on the way are the june bugs batting up against my kitchen window.  Sometimes we find dozens outside at the front and back of the house, clamoring for the lights at night and most often dying in their attempt to reach them.  The clickety-clack of their beetle bodies against the glass annoy me to no end, along with the fluttering of a myriad of moths.

To be sure, it's hurry-in-and-close-that-door-behind-you season here in Central Texas.  I'm feeling itchy just writing about it, and looking forward to seeing the other winged and crawling creatures--purple martins and geckos--who come and help cull the creepy crawly population.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 28: Yep, I do that too

Let me start by saying that I really love my job.  I mean, REALLY love my job.  I get to talk books and stories and information literacy all day long--what could be better?

I also haven't had an experience (yet) in the library that has stressed me out to such levels that approximate my most anxious moments in the classroom (remember, I taught/ worked in special education settings before).

That being said, there is so much more to a library program than books, stories, and lessons.  It's the stuff that I have to do at my messy work desk that tends to stress me out a bit.

Like navigating the online district financial program.  Thank goodness we have fabulous librarians in our district who actually took their own valuable time to write a step-by-step handbook on the subject--and thanks to the computer design that allows me to have said handbook open in one window while I trudge through the financial trenches in another one.

The responsibility of a district purchasing card, and handling of money can stress me out a little.  I have bookfairs to decorate, refreshments to purchase for events, a conference and author visits to pay for, books to buy.  Those said bookfairs generate a lot of sales on my campus.  We collect funds for lost ID badges, lost and damaged books, birthday book donations.  Spending taxpayer's money wisely weighs heavily on my mind.

I am getting a bit less queasy each month that I submit my financial statement, and I'm good about keeping up with receipts and forms.  I have to admit that even in my second year on the job, I get giddy when I place big orders for books on the district's dime.  Even giddier when the boxes arrive and I get to share them with staff and students.

I once had a parent who asked what it took to be a librarian, and acted surprised when I told her that one has to have a master's degree.  I went on to explain that the library is more than checking books in and out and buying the latest bestsellers--it's a classroom, meeting place, safe space, and program all rolled into one.  I'm guessing that at the campus level, the library budget ranks in the top half amount-wise, when you add in the book funds, database subscriptions and revenue.

I know that as the years go by, I will become more confident in the program duties the job entails.  It makes me ever so thankful that I have a wonderful assistant and volunteers who take care of some of the more mundane details like book maintenance, checking in books and shelving, so that I can disappear occasionally into my office and take care of the paperwork.  I will still maintain, though, that my favorite part of being a librarian is out there with the students, among the stacks, in the Book Nook and learning areas, talking books and stories and growing as global and digital citizens. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 27: Flour

I haven't indulged in one of my favorite activities in awhile, and I'm feeling a bit glum.

When I have the time, I really enjoy baking.  Something about focusing on a recipe, mixing dough and batter, dropping it or rolling it out or filling my fancy Bundt pans to make cookies and cakes to share makes me happy.  If left alone in the kitchen to bake, I can almost enter a zen state, moving through the triangle of counter-oven-cooling racks.

My mother was a baker, especially around the holidays.  She would bake all kinds of cookies, and they became hostess gifts, party goodies, and treats for unmarried soldiers in my father's unit to ease their homesickness.  I have friends who fondly remember certain cookies she made, will ask if I've baked any lately.

I picked up the habit after college.  My baking season lasted August through May, with an occasional firing up of the oven during the sweltering Texas summer months if an event called for it.  Cookies for my school colleagues and children's teachers, cakes for birthdays, special cut-outs to say thank you to the crossing guards at Thanksgiving.

And then there was Christmas time.  In a really organized year, I start making the chilled dough the weekend after Thanksgiving, and bake each week through New Year's.  My holiday season record is 1500 cookies.  They went to neighbors, friends, teachers, and shipped to faraway relatives.

Over the last few years, for various reasons, the number of batches have dwindled down to a paltry few.  I didn't even make cutout gingerboys or sugar cookies with royal icing this past year, and they have always, always been Christmas staples.  No heart cookies on Valentine's Day, and St. Patrick's Day went by without the orange zest-with-mint-icing shamrocks.

At Easter, I will make an effort to bake my usual lemon pound cake in the rose-shaped Bundt pan (the yellow rose of Texas!) with homemade lemon curd.  Maybe I'll pull out the egg-shaped cookie cutter, whip up a batch of royal icing, and we'll have cookies instead of hard-boiled eggs, since my family doesn't eat many of the latter.

Maybe for a few moments, I'll find that zen state again in the golden triangle in our small galley kitchen.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 26: How far we've come

More thoughts from the school board meeting held on Tuesday evening...

The white-haired-but-not-elderly-seeming
man was called forward
dark of skin, bright of eye
recognized for being the first
in that skin, to cross that threshold
in our district, fifty years ago.

He spoke eloquently, gratefully
of how his transition was
so much easier, less negative
than similar stories of the day,
his speech received with a standing ovation
nods of agreement--we've come so far.

That audience gone, 
a blond-haired-lanky-and-nervous-seeming
teenage boy brushed the hair from his face
as he approached the podium
to speak on behalf of his group,
marginalized students
defined by five letters
fortunate to have a club to call their own.

In a voice first shaky and small, then
growing louder and more sure
he spoke of their need for acknowledgement
the practice of one day of silence
to bring attention to the 
micro- and blatant acts of aggression
that darken their spirits and dampen their light
(not to mention their grades, and sometimes, their lives).

One day each year, because for them,
we have not come far at all.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 25: The board meeting

"Whereas school libraries provide
                                             teach and model

Educational resources
Literacy and lifelong learning
Families, communities, the great equalizer
Emerging technologies
Research and scholarship
Diversity and intellectual freedom
                                            Joining and celebrating."*

How strong we are, how much we do, those who work among the students and the stacks in library programs.  I am proud to be associated with such vibrant verbs and honorable values.  Sitting in a row filled with my fellow librarians, I could not help but smile and nod in agreement. 

*(Paraphrased from the Round Rock ISD School Board Resolution , agenda pg 22,  in support of National Library Week and School Library Month, March 24, 2015).


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 24: Let the walls come down

Vulnerability.  Losing the armor.  Allowing the messiness of life to be openly acknowledged.  Acceptance of imperfection.  These were the messages I read in Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton.

Melton is very open in her book about her checkered past and her current struggles to maintain a marriage and a home.  She does so with a sense of self-deprecating humor, through the power of knowing that every day, we get a chance to do better.  Every.  Single.  Day.  One day at a time, in AA speak.

Carry On, Warrior struck a nerve with me.  I was told by a peer as a young adult that I didn't "play the game" very well, wouldn't get far if I didn't learn to schmooze and network and hide my faults.  I've lived by my own lights and not paid much attention to getting ahead of anyone else.  

I am not perfect, my house is not perfect, my life is not perfect, and I am perfectly happy to talk about any of those things.  I have come too far and lived long enough to own the experience I've had to inform my thoughts and actions.  I will speak my mind and bare my imperfections, because who does it serve to act like life isn't messy?  Who needs the stress of holding up a facade every day?  Life is stressful enough!

Life is also full of glorious, blessed moments.  And I'm just as willing to share those.  The fact that I like to focus on the good stuff does not make me a Pollyanna with rose-colored glasses.  I acknowledge the bad in the world; I just choose to send my energy to what's going right.  Simple behavior management--that to which we pay more attention, increases. 

This is my third SOLC, and the first time I've gotten so personal with my posts.  I've noticed that the more raw the story, the more it seems to resonate with my readers.  It is in the vulnerability that we find connection.

Monday, March 23, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 23: Thirteen more days

Thirteen days until Easter.

Thirteen days until I return to Facebook.

Email notices taunt me with tags from friends.

I wonder what my newsfeed will look like?

Should I announce my return with an "I'm BACK! Did you miss me?" post, or just quietly slip back in with a morning musing?

Maybe the former sounds too needy; I should go with the latter.  

Should I even try to catch up, go back over a month's worth of posts?

Maybe I'll just ask everyone to message me with the highlights.

Will I allow it to be a major time-suck again?

Maybe I need to set a timer on the computer...but then the sound needs to be turned on, and the ads disrupt my quiet time when I follow links.

Can I resist the allure of reading post after post, clicking on links, watching videos, playing games?

Maybe I should use it as a reward for exercising and cleaning.

Do I really want to jump back into Facebook after forty days?

Yes!  I really miss connecting with my friends!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 22: Undone

I'm having a hard time believing this is the ninth, and final, day of spring break.  I've already messed it up a bit, because I slept in half an hour longer than I wanted to, which is going to make the 0430am alarm even that much more daunting tomorrow.

There is so much that went undone.  Cleaning my desk, for example.  I did gather up the loose receipts, and started to go through the paper pile, resulting in another small paper pile on the floor.  I think maybe a dozen sheets ended up shredded or thrown into the recycle bin.  Twelve down, a couple hundred to go.

I am way behind in book reviews for work.  My goal was to get ten of them done (most of the subjects are picture books).  I got four completed--yesterday.  

Passport photos--haven't gotten them yet.  Though I did research how to get passports.  Of course, my paperwork is complicated by the military brat/ foreign-born thing.

Book fair financial form--not done.  Getting the photos back on the mantel, which has been bare (except for Bionicle LEGOs) since the Nativity set came down after Epiphany--not done.  I did swap out the winter painting over the mantel for the spring one--yesterday.  But the red LED candles from Valentine's Day are still flickering each night...where did I put the green ones that should be there instead?

It's a good thing I love my job, and look forward to going back tomorrow (even if I'm not excited about the early wakeup).  I feel so much more accomplished at work!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 21: Text to self connection

I have two children, and I tell them their birth stories on their birthdays. (You can read my daughter's story in yesterday's post.)  I think I do this for lots of reasons:
  • They are memories worth repeating.
  • The stories are complicated, and miraculous.
  • Childbirth is hard, and wonderful, and scary, and oh so worth the results--I want my kids to know that.
  • None of the books I read while pregnant REALLY spelled out how messy and scary childbirth can be.  I want them to know that, too, and know that it can be all right in the end (or is that "beginning"?).
  • They survived and thrived because of the work of many helping hands--doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, surgeons, child life specialists, occupational therapists, speech therapists.
The last note is my text-to-self connection.  I just finished reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and one of the points he makes is that no one is truly a "self-made man" (or woman).  Success can be linked to a series of astounding coincidences that put people in the right place, at the right time, born to the "right" families, under the right socioeconomic conditions.  Personal efforts are taken into account, for sure, but Gladwell provides statistics and data to prove his theory, not only in success, but in failure as well.

I want my children to know that we were blessed to have them under the circumstances that allowed them (and me!) to live, to not take that for granted in a world where childbirth can still be risky and life-threatening for both mother and child.  (There are many programs like this providing birthing kits for women in third-world countries, if you'd like to help out.)

So to give equal attention to both children, here's my son's birth story.

The nurses in the downtown NICU threw me a party at 27 weeks.  I was working there as a weekend desk clerk, and they wanted to mark the milestone of making it past my firstborn's premature delivery.  All signs were pointing to a "fully-baked" child, as I got to enjoy my third trimester for the first time as a second-round mama.

I went into labor at 37 weeks, in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, and had to call in "sick" to work, then call the labor and delivery folks at my suburban hospital to let them know I was coming in.  "Honey, is this Gaby's mom?  Please tell me you are past 26 weeks this time!"  Wonder of all wonders, it was the same nurse who had received me almost five years earlier, who remembered our first miracle baby.  Happy to hear I was closer to term, she told me to come on in.

A few hours later, I had the doctor and nurses scrambling yet again.  Blood work drawn (twice, to be sure) during labor confirmed my platelet count was dangerously low, and delivery had to be sped up to prevent hemorrhaging.  The stomach ache that I thought was from the previous night's pizza turned out to be elevated liver enzymes.  I had HELLP syndrome.

When our son decided to make his appearance, he had jump-roped his cord to a thrice-wrapping around his neck.  I got a few good looks at him before he was whisked off to x-ray to make sure his windpipe was sound.  A couple of hours later, our pediatrician's brand-new partner came in to tell me our son was fine, but...he had an extra thumb.  I'm guessing he didn't know my birthing history, because he seemed surprised that I didn't "wig out" over the news.  After confirming that it wasn't part of a syndrome, I let him know that after having a 26-weeker, we were okay with extra parts.

Yep, my family has interesting birth stories. No self-made mama and children here; we are ever so grateful for the interventions made on our behalf.

Friday, March 20, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 20: I didn't plan on this happening

(This slice was inspired by this post by medunn80, another fabulous teacher-slicer!)

I never expected to be a mother.  Or a wife, for that matter.

Oh, I had my favorite baby dolls growing up, and a couple of teen crushes on celebrities.  Had serious boyfriends, too.  But I never thought about marriage, never bought a bridal magazine like my high school friends who pored over them and had their perfect dresses picked out even before the perfect partner appeared.

I never thought about it because somewhere along the way, I received the message that boys don't like smart girls.  I was the nerdy girl in glasses, overweight most of my childhood, often the teacher's pet, the go-to gal for homework help and the one to get bullied when I set the curve.  When you throw being a military brat into the mix, you do not get the elements of a hometown high school sweethearts love story.

So it really was a shock (in a good way) when my husband proposed to me on St Patrick's Day, twenty-seven years ago.  An even bigger epiphany was that  I wanted to have children with this man, because I knew he'd be a great father.  I had no idea what kind of mother I would be, though after teaching for a few years, I had a few non-examples, and realized what a great job my own mother had done.

Before the birth of our first child, I was a planner.  There were wedding plans, meal plans, even work outfit plans.  And, of course, lesson plans, as I taught until I got pregnant.  After six years of teaching special education, I was worn out and frazzled, and we decided I could take a break.  I started tutoring in the evenings to maintain some income.  Life was going along as planned, until my firstborn changed everything.

She decided to be born at twenty-six weeks.

This was certainly not what my OB-GYN and I had in mind.  If you ever want proof that we are not in control in this life, having a premature baby clinches it.  I've told our daughter that she chose to come into the world early because she was meant to be a Virgo, meant to be born on her grandmother's birthday.  She was an old soul who knew her path already--even the NICU nurses saw that.  We learned a lot through that experience, especially about angels on earth in the guise of nurses, doctors, and  family and friends and strangers who prayed for us.  Our daughter survived the first critical 24 hours, and has gone on to lead a fairly uneventful but fulfilling twenty-one-plus years, with a promising future in store.

And our second-born son?  Well, he had to outdo his sister...but that's a story for the next blogpost.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 19: Part 2 of 2--Yes means no

Yesterday, my post was about "filling your well", taking time to care for your needs so you have enough "oomph" to juggle all of life's demands.

So let's talk about those demands a bit, with the second theme that kept popping up in all the reading I've been doing on achieving balance in life.

Remember that when you say "yes" to something, you are saying "no" to something else.

I took a professional development course for librarians awhile back, and one of the mentors said that we should say "yes" as much as possible at work. This made perfect sense to me, as the library program is one of curricular support, there to serve the learning community. And I generally say "yes" to almost every request. Most of my "nos" come from schedule conflicts; the library is a busy place on my campus.

But lately, the second theme of yes and no has been popping up quite a bit in my inbox, on blogs, in books and articles I've read.  The authors may not always use the same wordage, but the message is the same:  What are you giving up when you obligate yourself, and is the trade-off worth it?  This litmus test of time management rings true with choices big and small, personal and job-related.

When you say yes to chairing that committee, are you saying no to more time with your spouse or children?

When you say yes to that extra piece of cake, are you saying no to that new dress in the closet?

When you say yes to that new program/ curriculum/ unit in your classroom, what will you have to give up to make room in the schedule for it?  (The powers that be really need to think about this, too...) 

There are no right or wrong answers, just a need to be aware of how we choose to spend our time, to think about what we value and whether or not our choices reflect those values.  In doing so, we may find that feelings of unhappiness or imbalance are due to obligations that conflict with what's important to us.  It also makes it harder to complain when we own the choices we've made.

Better choices I've made lately have been sleep over TV shows, regular dates with hubby over computer time, writing for the SOLC over meditation time, saying "yes" to piloting digital devices in the library over wanting one more year to settle into my new-ish career.

I'm still working on the chocolate cake vs. the new dress, the pull of online word games keeping me from exercising or tackling the paper pile on my desk.  And a nap often sounds better than dealing with another load of laundry or the insurance company.  At work, I need to say "yes" to the paperwork waiting in my office (my desk is a mess there, too), even if it means saying "no" to some time spent among the stacks with staff and students.

No matter how sparkly and big our superhero capes are, we all still have 24 hours in a day.  I'm working on saying "yes" to spending time on what matters most to me. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 18: Part 1 of 2--Filling your well first

In my vain attempts to strike some sort of work-life balance, I am continually reading books, emails, blogposts, and magazine articles on the subject, written primarily by women.  Two messages keep coming through loud and clear:

1.  Self-care is important.  You can't keep giving from an empty well.
2.  Remember that when you say "yes" to something, you are saying "no" to something else.

I'm getting a lot better with the first directive, after almost two decades of practice born from necessity. 

I hit rock bottom emotionally, physically, and spiritually in my early thirties, after losing my mother to ALS and having my second child.  I had quit teaching five years earlier, had no plans on returning to the classroom, and was working a satisfying but non-advancing job in my daughter's former NICU as an assistant/ desk clerk on the weekends.  My husband worked evening shift, which meant that I was the one who woke up with the kids, put them to bed, and answered any middle-of-the-night cries.  Teacher that I was, I focused on providing my children with meaningful daytime activities, chauffeured the oldest to mothers' day out, and managed to launder cloth diapers for a time.  

By the end of each day, I was worn out, and housework went undone, which added to the stress.  My husband, working four twelve-hour shifts a week, was left to deal with dirty dishes and much of the cooking.  It was all I could do just to take care of the kids, and without my best friend--my mother--to call and lean on, I was miserable.  I had no visions for my own future.  Exhaustion and depression were starting to take a toll on my relationship with my husband; we were housemates and not much more.

The breaking point came at Easter time, when my youngest was nearing a year old.  We had gone out as a family to buy outfits for Easter Mass.  Cute clothes were readily found for the children, and hubby got a nice shirt.

I could not find a single thing to wear at the mall.  I wanted something to make me feel confident and beautiful, but every dress I tried on seemed to emphasize how dejected I was.  I came home, sat on a chair in the living room, and cried.  My husband lovingly, but plainly, said, "I'm worried about you.  You need to do something.  Get some help, change something, but just do it." 

He was right.  It didn't happen immediately, but I started taking better care of myself.  I exercised more often, ate more healthfully, and didn't feel guilty about napping to make up for lost evening hours.  I subscribed to Flylady's emails and started to maintain some housekeeping routines.  (We still have a shiny sink at night.)  I started reading books that fed my spirit, including Simple Abundance.  And quite by coincidence, I ended up back in the education field as our oldest started kindergarten, doing a then-newish job of ARD facilitating--running special education IEP committee meetings.  What started out as a way to get my foot in the door with our local school district ended up being an eleven-year half-time job that I loved.  I became a learner again, working in a disciplinary environment and keeping up with special education law.  Without that job, I wouldn't have met the librarians who nudged me into grad school to become a librarian myself.

I have not found work-life balance yet.  And I'm as fickle with exercise programs as any non-athlete could be.  Our house is still messy.  But I have routines in place that sustain me--quiet time each morning, keeping up with good friends who cheer for me, prioritizing my relationship with my husband and my children.  I still miss my mother terribly, but I am surrounded by strong, creative women who support me in her place.

Today is going to be a "me-day", to read, plan, think, relax.  (There will be laundry, there is always laundry!)  I've learned how to fill my well.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 17: Forever green

"Ma'am, to make a decent claddagh, it's going to have to be three or four inches wide.  Anything smaller will turn into a green blur within a few years.  You don't want that to happen."

"We can come back another time," my husband said to me.

"No," I said, "I came to get a tattoo, I'm leaving with a tattoo."  Scouring the picture-filled walls of the parlor, I spied a four-leaf clover.  One leaf each for faith, hope and love, with an extra for luck.  Symbolic enough to mark this day, my first birthday without my Irish-American mother.

Eight years later, on my 39th birthday, a triquetra Celtic knot was inked into my other ankle.  Maiden-mother-crone, Holy Trinity, past/present/future, ancient Piscean sign.  Threes are important, you see, births and wedding and death and graduations, all happening around the number 3.  

And there will be a third tattoo.  Just two years away before inking, I've already called upon my artistic friends to help me design it.  The image must incorporate an owl, a book, a Celtic tri-spiral, and the number 51.  It will be more visible, on my forearm this time, a reminder of where I've been and how far I've yet to go.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 16: One word

I picked my "One Word" for 2015 back in December.  I deliberated over several choices for two or three days, and finally decided to repeat the word I had chosen for 2014, since I really hadn't done it justice.

Strength.  It is now plastered over my desk, bathroom mirror, place at the dining table, front of the refrigerator, on my work computer monitor, and even the top of my alarm clock, so it's the first and last thing I see each day.

I chose it because I need strength in so many different ways to achieve my goals:  
  • Physically strong to maintain good health and be able to perform my job duties in the library.
  • Spiritually strong to center myself and strive to be the best person I can be, even if I'm feeling drained and depressed by my own and other's human faults.
  • Mentally strong to continue learning and teaching.
  • Emotionally strong to set boundaries, and own and freely express my feelings, knowing that in vulnerability, we connect and empower ourselves and others.
The inspiration to write about my one word came at an appropriate time.  At this halfway mark through the Slice of Life Challenge, I'm wondering if I'll have the mental strength to keep writing for another two weeks--without boring my readers!  I seem to be losing my battle with the scale yet again, and it will take strength to eat well and lace on the sneakers instead of making every day a pajama day during spring break.  And since I've designated today as "Cleaning Day", I'll need strength in the form of willpower to plow through clutter and cobwebs.   

Strength--it's what's needed in my life right now, even if I'm just tackling "first world issues," as my college daughter would say.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 15: Riding the rails

College girl's spring break occurred this past week, when teenboy and I were still in school/ work.  And hubby, who works in the "real world", was only able to take his birthday off this past Friday.  So what's a family to do with only two days of overlapping spring vacation time to celebrate together?

Why, take a trip on a train, of course.

It was a gorgeous day for a ride on the Hill Country Flyer.

Our car was called "Nambe", and dated back to the 1930s.

We picked up a gunfighter in Bertram.  He told us about the shootout we could watch in Burnet, and gave us the history of his weapon.

We rode through the Hill Country.

Saw lots of ramshackle homes and barns,

and cows, of course.  This is Texas, after all!

Found signs of spring along the way,

And one dome house.

We arrived in Burnet before noon, 

just in time for lunch in a cafe, at a table painted a la Alice-in-Wonderland.

Time for some sightseeing!  This sword decorated a memorial to our Armed Forces.

My family jokes about the number of county courthouses we've seen in Texas.  We thought this was oddly modern and new; turns out that it was built in the 1930s, after the original courthouses were burned by arson and razed.

We like old jails, too.

Burnet is famous for their recreation of the Nativity story; we thought this was an old fort at first, didn't realize it was a permanent backdrop for their Christmas tradition!

After two hours of good food and interesting sights, we said goodbye to Burnet.

The conductor was gracious and posed with our children before we boarded.

I had to take a picture of the interior.  The color scheme and fixtures were lovely!

We saw many chunks of pink granite alongside the tracks; I thought "possible gorgeous countertops" when I saw them.

Getting close to home; they don't call it "Cedar Park" for nothing!

Halfway through the trip up to Burnet, this white-haired gentlemen from the nearby table approached my husband, and said, "By any chance, do you go by "Margocs"?"  Turns out, he was my husband's master sergeant during their assignment at Bergstrom AFB.  They hadn't seen each other in over 25 years.  They spent some time reminiscing and catching up, and exchanged contact info after we disembarked.  An amazing coincidence to highlight our day on the rails.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 14: As if--

As if 
waking up next to my husband
as he marks another birthday today
wasn't celebratory enough

As if
the last day of school 
before spring break
wasn't momentous enough

As if
another random letter of thanks
in handwritten kindergarten scrawl
wasn't sweet enough

As if
a compliment from a teacher
in response to praise for my colleagues
wasn't heartwarming enough

I was chosen today to be one of the librarians and teachers
piloting technological devices 
next school year, my third year in the library,
(my lucky number three)

As if
this is one more sign
I'm where I'm supposed to be
Doing what I love, learning so much along the way.

--My Friday the 13th, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 13: Where the rubber meets the carpet

The boots felt different as I walked through the house in the morning.  The left one gripped the kitchen linoleum just fine, while the right one felt slippery.  Too busy to investigate the reason, and having no other hiking boots to complete my "Camp Write-a-Lot Presenter" ensemble, I went on to work.

There it was again, that slippery feeling on the sidewalk into the school, down the hallway, into the library.  

And then I saw them.  Black pieces of rubber strewn about on the carpet where I had just walked.  Unable to see the bottoms of my feet, I raised them up for my trusty assistant to take a look.

"You're missing a whole chunk of tread from that boot," she said.  Even got me a mirror to look at it.

The sole was still intact, as was half the tread, so I went about my day...marking my territory every few feet with another piece of black rubber.

By the time I made it to the district Battle of the Bluebonnets at another elementary school, half the bottom of my shoe was missing, and I was leaving black bits throughout the cafeteria as I met my team and helped set up.  One side was completely split from the uppers, but still I carried on with my duties.  I was thankful that it was intact enough for me to walk to my car for the drive home.

I get it--these boots are old (we're talking decades).  I would expect the rubber to desiccate and crumble.  But......why one boot, and not the other?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 12: Too many favorite things

I really enjoyed Virginia's post about naptime a few days ago, and how she rewrote a line of "My Favorite Things" to include her napping habit.  

The tune must have stuck in my head.  There I was in my car yesterday, hurrying from work to pick up teenboy from high school, when my own rewritten line to the song popped up.

"Lifetime of memories tied to my things, 
In piles of clutter my house is drowning..."
(cue waltz music)

Decades ago, I read an article in Psychology Today about military brats.  The study mentioned that we either turn out very well-adjusted due to learning to conform to many different cultures and societal standards, or very neurotic because of the instability of frequent moves and missing parent(s).  I often wonder about where I land on that spectrum. 

It also mentioned that we may become packrats.  This may happen because our stuff becomes our "home", since there is no one place we can refer to as a hometown.  I can't literally take a walk down memory lane like my born-and-bred Cleveland husband, or native-Texan children can, pointing out their schools and favorite restaurants and nearby friends' and relatives' houses.

Nope, my memory lane stretches around the world, from Paris to San Fernando, Fort Hood to Naples, Bangkok to Stuttgart.  Revisiting my childhood would be one expensive plane ticket.

So stuff becomes our history book.  That ticket stub from the strassenbahn.  The geisha doll in a glass case, parquetry from Italy, Lladros from Spain.  Military brat museum displays, taking up square footage and wall space in my home.

Unfortunately, the habit sticks long after the traveling ends.  It's not exactly hoarding, as I'm able to throw away trash, magazines, empty containers, coat hangers--the stuff you see piled up in intervention episodes.  

Instead, mine are the kids' baby blankets I sewed, and their first Harley t-shirts.  The sweater I got in Germany as a teen, in a size this motherly body can no longer squeeze into.  The handwritten cards from my deceased relatives, doll collection from my travels (in boxes, gathering dust), my mother's wedding dress, my husband's christening outfit.  Report cards spanning two decades.  Grandparents' crystal.  College papers from when I felt "smart".  Family heirlooms are precious to me, ties to a past and connections that eluded me when we were traveling, items from my current life that I'm afraid if lost, the memory will be, too.

Spring cleaning will happen next week, and decluttering is a must.  But how does one discard a memory in its physical form?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

SOLC 2015 Day 11: Whirlwind and downhill slide

At our team leaders meeting yesterday, the second round of Project Based Learning units, state standardized testing, professional development, and end of year parties were discussed.

March may come in like a lion, but it certainly does not go out like a lamb in terms of spring semester happenings.  We just wrapped up our book fair last Wednesday.  We have testing training today, Battle of the Bluebonnets tomorrow, Spring Break the following week, PBLs and the last broadcast and newspaper teams beginning the week after that.  I've finally placed the last of my big book orders which had been sitting in a virtual shopping cart for months.

Then there's testing, the state library association's annual conference, and more testing.  Last checkouts for the year occur a couple weeks later, as we finish up the bulk of our inventory process. 

What does this mean for the library?  Very few, if any, "normal" weeks.  A rush to get lessons in, a lot of rescheduling of classes due to disruptions.  A whirlwind of activity trying to get everything done before impending deadlines.  The downhill slide to summer break accelerates at a rapid pace from March to June.  You'd think in my 22nd year in the education biz I'd be used to this by now, but I still find myself hanging on tight, days and months flying by in a blur.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com