On One Year Of Being a Librarian

I’m just terrible at blogging.  It slips my mind, I’m lazy, there isn’t anything that feels important enough to write about, etc. etc., excuses, excuses. Fine, no big deal, you all have to deal with my daily updates via Facebook anyway.  You don’t need long, drawn-out ones, right?

Anyway, tomorrow (today?) marks one year of starting my position as the Dundee Library Youth Services Director. One. Whole. Year. It hardly seems possible.  I’ve tried to make a habit out of writing something when it’s important. Our wedding anniversary, my best pal’s birthday, my mom’s birthday, etc. I suppose surviving an entire year as a children’s librarian should definitely count as an “important event”. So, here it goes. Things I’ve learned, things that have happened, things I’ve thought in the past year as a librarian:

1. Kids don’t care if you’re terrible at things, so long as you put your heart into it. I can sing all of my books off key, I can glue together a couple sticks and call it a log cabin, I can draw a picture of a dog, and they will think ever single thing is entirely incredible.  Unless they’re older than 7.  Once they’re 7, they start calling you on your bullshit. “Mrs. Rachel, that doesn’t look like Cinderella.” “Mrs. Rachel, what is that supposed to be?” “Mrs. Rachel, that’s not how the song goes.”

2. Kids do care if the crafts they’re making don’t stay together properly.  If it stays together and looks awful, it’s fine.  If the Elmer’s doesn’t hold, tears ensue. Every. Single. Time. I used to think that using a hot glue gun was too dangerous (we don’t want little hands to get burned), but now I’ve learned it’s worth the risk.  And so far, no burned hands (mostly because only the moms or I operate the glue gun…), and far fewer tears.

3. No games get old. Ever.  Those kids will play Hide and Seek and hide in the same three spots over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.  It is always hysterical when you can’t find them.  My favorite is when they don’t even wait, they just pop out from underneath the table and laugh maniacally, then beg to play again. Also? Other children are not required to play games.  In the past year, I have witnessed multiple games of single-child Tag (imaginary friend style) and single-child Red Light, Green Light.  I’m not sure if there were imaginary friends involved, but I assume they were there somewhere.

4. If you do something a child enjoys once, you should expect to do it every single time you see that child again for the forseeable future.  You spun them around in a hug when they left? You will now do it every time you say goodbye.  You let them play with your iPhone once when you were tired? That’s their new favorite thing (though I do my best to discourage them from playing with screens….iPhones are always a last resort, usually only when I’m battling a headache or a cold). You toss one kid onto the beanbag chairs after a hug? You now have to do the same thing for ALL EIGHT CHILDREN, and then do it repeatedly for an hour.  Unless moms have somewhere else to be, they are entirely happy to let you entertain their children for an hour with repetitive and absurd kinds of fun.  My few adventures in babysitting have helped me appreciate their need for just a little bit of peace, so I’m more than happy to provide a stress-free break.  Plus, it’s like I’m working out–those 4 year olds are light, but after you’ve lifted them 8 or 9 times, you start to feel the burn in your muscles.

5. Being a Children’s Librarian does not mean that you only work with children. As the person with the most technology experience, I’m also the go-to for any patron who needs assistance with Kindles, Nooks, or computers.  I love it because it makes me feel super smart, even though the things I’m helping with are in no way difficult.  Also, a HUGE part of my job is maintaining relationships with the parents of the children I work with.  I don’t care how great of a story-teller you are–if you’re non-personable to the grown-ups in the room, they will not bring their kids back.  Luckily, I have the very best kind of parents, which my husband pointed out is because I deal with the kind of parents who bring their children to the library.  They’re already a cut above the rest.

6.  I made two new best friends this year through my position at the library.  First I fell in love with their kids, and then I became friends with their moms. Today, as I made plans with one for a cook-out this Saturday with our husbands and her kids, I got a phone call from the other to remind me of her son’s birthday party on Friday.  It hit me that a year ago, I didn’t even know these women existed, and now I can’t imagine my life without them.  Since graduating college, most of my friends have moved to NYC or Boston or some other faraway place that we can only visit a few times a year. I am so incredibly lucky that I somehow found two incredible women who I can see any time I need them, I can tell them anything, and they also never, ever judge me for not having kids of my own.  They have both become entirely necessary to my sanity.

7. Kids are the most hypersensitive, impressionable, loving, hateful human beings on the earth. I’ve made kids cry when I yelled at them for breaking rules. They’ve made me want to cry when they talk back and say terrible things that they don’t realize the implications of.  There are days when they come in after school looking glum and acting quiet–when I ask them what’s wrong, they’ll tell me non-chalantly that so-and-so was mean or that they didn’t get the best grade, or that their saxophone broke.  There is a moment where they act like everything is entirely okay, until I offer my arms out for a hug; they fall into me and it makes me feel so wonderful that they could share with me and that I could do some small tiny bit to make them feel better. On the days when I’m feeling terrible, they are quick to notice and to react empathetically–they’re quiet if I have a headache, funny if I’m feeling sad, and the first ones ready with open arms to hug me when I need it.  When people in the library ask me when I’m going to have kids or why I don’t have them yet, my library kids respond for me: “She already has kids. Us.” And they melt my heart every day. Sure, sometimes they’re terrible brats–but even then, I love them to pieces.

8. Books are the greatest bonding agents ever to exist.  This is something I’ve known for a long time, but it’s still something that I am reminded of almost every day.  Since I moved the YA collection downstairs near me, my interaction with the teen readers in our community has grown exponentially.  They ask for my recommendations, they tell me what they’ve read, what they liked, what they didn’t, what they can’t wait to read (DIVERGENT # 3!!!).  They bring me in their own books from home to share, they gush with me over the gorgeous boys depicted in the novels, they share their anger over stupid choices characters made, their love for the writing, their excitement to read more. I share my love of YA novels with other adults that come in, we discuss which are our favorite, which are realistic, and which are entirely unrealistic but still so much fun. Not since working at Random House from 08-09 have I been surrounded by such a book-loving community. And in a village that is not known for its literacy, I think this is truly an amazing feat.

9. I was taught in library school that being a librarian means you don’t have time to read. False. I make time to read, because in my opinion, a huge part of my job is being able to recommend great books based on my own review.  Sure, you can read the multitude of reviews online and recommend based on that–but how do you build personal relationship and create conversations around books if you haven’t read it? I make it a point to read every day at the library, whether it’s a few pictures books or an entire YA novel–it’s all making me better at my job.  And damn, if I don’t love what I do.

10. Children’s books are WAY funnier now. Mo Willem’s “Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs” is a prime example. While children love it for its classic Willems style of narration and illustrations, adults (myself in particular) fall in love with the ridiculous humor.  “How To Be A Baby” is pretty much my all time favorite: “When you’re a baby, you do all sorts of illegal things, like poop on the floor, eat my books, draw on the walls…and when you do that, you go to jail (insert picture of a playpen)”. Honest to goodness, I still discover books in my library that I’ll sit down and read and laugh at, all by myself, sitting on the basement floor in the middle of the children’s room.  I might be crazy. But it’s kind of awesome. And I love it.

11. The most important thing? I love what I do. I love the kids I see every day, I love the books I read, the programs I run, the things I do on a daily basis.  I feel like I’ve made a difference in my community, that I matter to my kids and their parents.  I think I’ve helped kids learn how to read, and more importantly, I think I’ve helped kids learn to love (or at least like) reading.  And the reason I know that? Because I am so lucky and blessed to work with amazing kids, wonderful parents, and supportive community members who never hesitate to tell me how much they appreciate what I’m doing and how impressed and happy they are with my work.  My mother (my biggest fan) would be the first to tell you that I don’t need the ego boosts, but I promise you, I do my damndest not to let it get to my head. And I thank you all for all the support and love you’ve given me over the past year.  It’s been fabulous, even in all its ups and down.

Thank you, Dundee, for letting me live my dream job, and for letting me do it my way.

On 1 Year of Marriage

You know that I will always at least sing “WE BUILT THE PYRAMIDS” during “The Big Bang Theory” theme song. And you sing it with me.

I still miss you. Every single day that we don’t spend the full day together? I always tell you I missed you when I get home. And I am never lying. And it makes my day when you say you missed me, too.

You back me up. In so many ways and areas of our lives. Personally, publicly, to our friends, to our families, to our co-workers–you never, ever say anything against me in front of others.

On the other hand, you don’t shy away from telling me “stop it”. Those times when I’m trying to cook and you get in my way for 8 seconds while you’re putting dishes away and I snap and tell you that I’ll just do it, you tell me “you’re being ridiculous. Just stop,” and you say it in such a way that I’m never offended–it just makes me see reason, and it makes me stop having unnecessary tantrums. You don’t let me be a spoiled brat.

You make me laugh. You make me laugh so much.

You dance with me in the kitchen when there’s no music playing.

You appreciate me. When I clean the house in the morning before work, you text me as soon as you get home to say how clean everything is, to tell me thank you.

You understand my love of reading, of writing, of words. You suffer through my lengthy expositions on the latest novel I’ve read. I’ll never forget that when I finished “The Fault in our Stars” and came to you, bawling my eyes out, you just said “Oh honey, did he die?” and you held me and let me cry it all out while I blubbered incoherently to you about what happened at the end.

This next thing is something I simultaneously love and hate. Sometimes I come home and you’re already home. And sometimes, you’re not waiting in the living room or the kitchen. And whenever that scenario arises, I cannot simply wander upstairs to look for you. I have to cautiously peer around corners, look behind doors and check under the bed because you are potentially waiting to jump out and scare the bejesus out of me.

You fall asleep instantly and you can sleep through anything. BUT, when I need you, you wake up. What does that mean? It means that I can read with a light on until 4 am and you won’t mind. It means I can have the TV, the fan AND the air conditioner on and it doesn’t bother you. I can also turn them all off in the middle of the night if I think they’re keeping ME up, and it still doesn’t affect you. At the same time, when I wake up at 2:30 from a terrible nightmare, I can shake you awake to give me a hug and tell me everything is okay…before you fall promptly back to sleep.

You helped me survive through the greatest tragedy we’ve faced. You still understand if I get upset about it. And you’ve strongly agreed that we are cat people, and let me get one more kitten and name him Tut.

You let me name the cats after Egyptian kings and queens.

You always remind me how happy you are to be married to me. You’re out with friends, and you’ll come home and say “They wanted to stay out, and I was like ‘No, I want to get home to my wife’, and they made fun of me, but I didn’t care, because I really just wanted to be home with you.” You’ll never know how happy that makes me.

You encourage me to write. You let me bounce ideas of you, read out loud every word that I’ve written, and you never stop telling me to write more. You offer to help me make schedules, to do anything it takes to get me back on track. And I promise that someday really soon, I will get back to that writing. Here is an example of me trying.

You root for the Patriots. You stand by me through every win and loss. Last season, in that devastating loss in the Superbowl, you didn’t say a word when I quietly started crying and headed immediately for bed. You have, for two years, taken me to the Patriots vs. Bills game in spite of my major illness. That first year? I cried the whole way. You insisted that if we didn’t go, I’d be sad until the following year. And you know what? You were absolutely right. And it’s now one of my favorite things about you, one of my favorite stories to tell. This year, I was finally healthy, and I had so much fun with you, especially because we won! Thank you for being by my side.

You do this really weird thing sometimes, and it usually happens when you’re sick and have combined too many cold medicines. You get a song stuck in your head, some terribly annoying random tune. It’s usually right before bed, and until I convince you to try to fall asleep (which, as I already mentioned, takes 5 seconds once you put your mind to it) you will only speak to me via this tune. The most memorable one was when you would only talk to the tune of the “underground theme” in Mario brothers. It is SO annoying and SO endearing.

You love my cooking. I’m still never sure that you really love it, because you’re the only one I cook for, and maybe you’re just being excessively nice. But you really know how to make me feel good about myself. And it’s made me love cooking, which in turn has made me better at it. So, maybe all along that was your plan? Whatever, it’s made us both happy and it’s made me a good cook (probably). Props to you, sir.

When we go on car trips, we can sing Broadway songs together. I know my singing can’t ever compare to the amazing voice that you have, but you let me pretend I’m harmonizing with you. And it is so much fun for me.

When I started Harry Potter Club, you dropped everything you were trying to accomplish during your prep period to help me set everything up. You want me to be successful, you believe that I can be successful, and you do everything in your power to help get me there.

You don’t trivialize my problems. If I’m upset about something, you’re upset about it. You might not agree, you might think it’s silly, but you let me cry and complain and pout, you hold me and you try to understand. And that’s what I need, so thank you for that.

You tell me every day that I’m beautiful.

If I want to sleep sideways in bed, or upside down (our heads at the foot of the bed) you join me without complaint. And then 30 minutes later when I decide it was a stupid decision, you grudgingly (but without complaint) go back to our regular sleeping spots.

I have to say, that while you love my cooking and constantly encourage me to do so, you never expect me to. If I arrive home and have neglected to get something out of the freezer, and there’s nothing in the fridge? You have never once made me feel bad about that. You don’t dwell on it for a second. We order some pizza or go out to dinner, and that’s that.

In that same vein, I know you love when I’m a housewife. You love when I cook and clean and take care of you. But I never feel like you expect it and I always know that you appreciate it. Because you love me and take care of me, too, and you always say thank you. I cannot express how respected, needed, and loved that makes me feel.

You have stopped fighting my obsession with F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

You still let me, and encourage me, to do my own thing. To go out with my own friends, to make plans without you, to stay up even if you’re going to bed. You make sure that I still have my own identity, that while we’re a WE, you make sure I’m still ME. (That was incredibly cheesy and stupid sounding… you’re welcome.)

You (at least) feign interest in everything I’m interested in. Sometimes I can’t even tell if you’re faking it. And isn’t that what really counts?

A year ago, we got married. We did the vows, the dance, the cake cutting, the celebrating with our family and friends. We really rocked our first dance. We had an amazing honeymoon, and we’ve had one hell of a first year. We’ve had ups and downs (more ups, for sure, but also at least one major down) but none of them have had anything to do with our relationship. They’ve been the result of outside forces, and what has made me understand our relationship is how we have gotten through all of these situations, good and bad. There’s no un-cheesy way to say “we did it because we were together”, and even writing that ironically right now made me a little nauseous. Alas, it’s true. Being with you has allowed me to not only handle the terrible, but to happily celebrate the wonderful. You are the “good thing” in every situation. Simply put, you make every single thing in my life better. I’m so glad I married you–saying yes was the very best decision I’ve ever made. Happy Anniversary, Kyle. Here’s to a lifetime of a happiness and always celebrating it.

And then there was Wodehouse

Have you read P.G. Wodehouse?

I discovered that the man existed last spring when I read an article in The New Yorker about this author that people became obsessed with.  There were multiple accounts within the article of someone picking up Wodehouse only to be unable to put it down, or to stop reading him, ever.

Sure, I was skeptical, but I thought I’d give it a shot.  I found some instances of his writing online and it reminded me of something my best pal S would really enjoy, so I forwarded the info to him, and bought him a treasury of Wodehouse books for Christmas.  I, on the other hand, was apparently so absorbed in other literary (and not so literary) works, that I didn’t read any myself.

Since graduating with my Masters, I have been faced off and on with not only writing block, but reading block.  I’ll fall incredibly in love with a book, finish it, and then be unable to get involved in anything else.  In case you’re wondering, the books I fell in love with this summer are (in no particular order):

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The Borrower by Rebecca Makai

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

and

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

(note: I read other books…these were just the cream of the crop)

Now, these books vary in content, genre, style, etc, and they all captured me for different reasons.  After finishing The Age of Miracles recently, I found myself stuck again. And it was a long stuck. I checked out multiple new books at the library, and every single one failed to capture my interest. Not because they were bad, poorly written, or “not my thing”…I just couldn’t be absorbed.

And then I ran across a Wodehouse volume, “The Cat-Nappers”, first published under the even more hilarious name “Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen”.  And now all I want to do is kick myself for not starting him earlier, and leap for joy because there are SO MANY new books to read.

 

He. Is. Hilarious. He writes about Bertram “Bertie” Wooster and his ever-faithful and stoic and incredible butler Jeeves.

I suggest you go out and find one for yourself, post haste.  I’ll leave you with a favorite snippet from my current read (just one, because otherwise I’d be typing forever, and I’d really rather get back to the reading):

“She ignored my observation.  This generally happens with me.  Show me a woman, I sometimes say, and I will show you someone who is going to ignore my observations.”

 

Written Things

You guys! I totally did it. I whipped my apron off at 9:59 AM after washing a plethora of dishes, grabbed my computer, went to the spare bedroom (don’t question my inspirational methods), sat down, and started typing. And I was at it for a whole hour! The only breaks I took were to use Nymbler to come up with some character names.

I did it freewrite style, because when I sat there staring at my blank screen, I had no idea where I was going to start, what I was going to write about, or even why I was writing.  So I just started typing and suddenly, I had characters, I had a plot, and I even had an ending.  Not a concrete one, and the plot is thin, but that just means there’s lots to add still.  I’m trying for YA, set in the first year of college for my main character. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m excited. I have a legitimate outline. I mean…no, not legitimate, because legitimate implies organized, and that it is not.  There’s a lot of  “eff, that won’t work”, and “oh god, no, I can’t have three names that begin with M”, but aside from that, it’s totally legible.  I wrote 2500 words in an hour.  And now I have somewhere to start.

I actually brought my laptop with me to work today, so I can work on some character sketches in my down time (HAHAHA, downtime…) because once those are a little fleshed out, I think I’ll have an even better basis.  Right now I’m struggling between whether I want to write in first person or third person.  There’s advantages to both, obviously (and disadvantages, too), but I still haven’t decided which will work best.

In the meantime, I’m going to write a second post today that is a quick story I did during writing club this summer.  So you have THAT to look forward to. 🙂

And now television is back?

I realize this is posting twice in 2 days, but I’m excited about a couple not so exciting things.
1. I got my WordPress app working in my iPhone. (this post comes from there!)
2. Fun television! For 2 or 3 months, my DVR has been basically empty. I’ve been recording one or two episodes of things every week. Suddenly this week there’s tons of new episodes to watch. K an I have gotten hooked on “perception”, “the great escape”, AND “face off” is back tonight!! Have you seen these shows? Escaping games! Perceptive crime shows! Movie make up extraordinaire! Just such fun television.
3. This is an extension of 2. I’m all caught up on “awkward”. It’s amazing. You’re welcome. “Friday Night Lights” is equally awesome. And “white collar”? Also pretty great.
4. I swear I still read. All the time. 🙂

So Rachel, did you ever write that book?

No, you guys, I didn’t.

I started getting frustrated with myself again this week after hearing that a girl I went to school with wrote a book…and it was accepted by Meg Freaking Cabot’s agent.  F. My. Life. Where’s my agent? Oh, I have to write a book in order to get an agent? Well shit.

And of course, my husband has learned to not just go “Oh honey, you’ll write one someday”, he’s learned that I need to be slapped in the face with a dose of reality.  “If you want to write a book, then start writing every day. You’ve got time in the mornings, and you’re totally capable of writing, and what you write is good. So you have to just sit down and do it.”  Honest? Yes. Brutal? A bit. Necessary? Obviously.  And yet, here I sit, writing a blog about how I can’t write a story instead of sitting my ass down at my desk and cranking out a chapter or two.

To be fair, I’m watching this Amy Schumer stand up, which is hi-larious. PLUS I’ve just got addicted to Awkward. and I have the first season of Friday Night Lights.  Look at all the excuses I have!

But no, for serious, I need to get my shit together so the next time someone asks me that question, I can at least say “No…but I’m working on it.”