Sunday, July 05, 2015

Wild Berries


      As a child I’d walk with Nana and Grampop
on the trails behind the cabin.
In the heat of summer
we’d find the bushes
laden with tart wild berries.
We collected them as we walked,
one for the basket,
one, two for my mouth.
Dappled sunlight fell on our faces and hands
as Nana exhorted me to restraint
during the harvest,
“We have sugar and cream
back in the cabin.”

As a child I’d watch Mom-mom
stir the boiling elderberries
Pop-pop had gathered for jam.
I watched him squeeze the cooled berries 
through the cheesecloth,
the purple-black juice tracing
the veins on his forearms.
I once asked to have some berries
before they went in the pot,
“No, girl. They’ll give you a bellyache.
They need the heat.”

As a woman I moved to the woods
with my husband and children.
I remembered the wild berries,
searched my property
and found none.
I called the berries in the wilderness.
They did not answer.

There were sour years,
Years of pain and quarrel,
Years of heat and squeezing,
Years when I so desperately wished
I could speak with my grandparents,
the men and women who
had survived Depression and War
and broken promises.
I wanted
to sit at their feet and ask,
“Where is the sweetness?”

In want of quiet and healing
I returned to the wooded paths,
inhaled the piney air,
let the brook water wash my toes,
dried my feet on the moss,
listened to the birdsong,
warmed my face in the leaf-filtered sunlight.
When my heart was at rest
the berries were waiting for me.
They whispered,
“We have come.
We are here,
wild
and free.”



Sunday, May 31, 2015

Overheard in the Library

3rd grade girl: Where are the girly girl books?
Me: What exactly do you mean by that? Can you explain more clearly what you are looking for?
Her: (looking at me as if I just fell to Earth from Mars) You know the books girls would like...
Me: Well, I'm a girl and I like motorcycles. Are you looking for books about motorcycles?
Her:(completely certain of my dullness in comprehension) Uh, no!
Me: Ok, then tell me what you like.
Her: (wheels are spinning...no response is forthcoming)
Me: (smiling)How about you think about it while you keep looking.


She trots off and returns a moment later to declare, "Princesses! Do you have books about princesses?"
Me: I sure do. Fairy tales or biographies?
Her: Fairy tales.
Me: Now we're getting somewhere!
Library Girl may have other superpowers but she doesn't pretend to read minds.That way she has a chance to challenge them to work a little.

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Library related conversation with my daughter:
Me: So do you want to know what the least frequently checked out books in my library are?
C: I can't even guess.
Me: Presidential biographies. Forty-seven of the bottom 50 titles are presidential biographies.
C: That's a shame. I can recall having a fascination with Taft when I was a kid.

That there is evidence of a nerd begetting a nerd.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Things you don't expect to say in the library: Please stop comparing your bellies and choose a book.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And then there are the library questions which momentarily make you take pause.
An articulate, well-mannered 2nd grader walked into the library and inquired with all seriousness, "Mrs. Lime, could you please tell me where the pink beaver book is?"
Me: (wheels spinning wildly as I try to shift into school appropriate mode rather than wildly inappropriate double entendre mode and actually generate an answer) *blink...blink...........blink blink* Uummm.....
Him: (with utter propriety and impeccable diction) It's the book where he tries on lots of clothes.
Me:(delighted for that piece of clarifying information as it immediately fires the correct synapses) Ooooh! You mean Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed?
Him: (still with great composure yet gratitude that we have communicated effectively) Yes, that's exactly the book. Do you have it?
Me: Yes, friend we do. It's my very favorite Mo Willems book. It's right here.
Him: Thank you so much, Mrs. Lime. You have a nice afternoon.
Me: (smiling) Thank you. I already have, friend. I hope you do as well. Enjoy your book!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I had to close the section where Disney books are found because of the extreme level of destruction which has been occurring there repeatedly and the reminders of library etiquette going unheeded. The young patron who told me she wants more Disney books in the library lamented that she couldn't choose anything because there were no other good books. I directed her to 398.2 in non-fiction, three whole shelves of folklore and fairytales as opposed to half a shelf of Disney in the picture book section. Her eyes boggled.
 
And I am left to consider, where is my own vision so narrow I cannot see a new world of joyous wonder?

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It's standardized testing season in our great commonwealth. In the interest of formulating questions relevant to the real world here's one for all you kids.

If Miz Lime spends $50 a week for gas to get to and from her job and she just paid more than a week's pay to fix the vandalism done to her car while at work (because the cost came in under her deductible amount) and the district says she's SOL for being reimbursed because she wasn't in a school parking lot (because said school doesn't even have a lot, thus necessitating parking on the street) how much money could she have saved by just not going to work during testing week (when she can't see classes anyway because they take over the library for testing) and merely being docked pay once she exceeds her 4 remaining sick days? Generate an equation to express your answer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Her: I forgot my book, can I bring it tomorrow?
Me: Well, tomorrow I am at my other school.
Her: You have TWO schools you have to go to?
Me: Yes.
Her: What's your other school?
Me: Warren G. Harding
Her: Warren G. Harding?? That's another big school! Isn't that a lot of pressure?
Me: (smiling) Sometimes, it is. Yes.
Her: Man, That's just a lot.

The kid gets it, more than the school board or superintendent. There is hope

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bless the poor, toothless kindergarteners and first graders. It drives me nuts when at the end of the school year they still don't know their own last name but when they know it and the lack of teeth makes it impossible for them to pronounce it I feel great pity.

Thowweth. My name is Thowweth.

Feel free to guess.

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Crap that makes Library Girl want to open a can of whoop ass:
When I ask a student who just stepped OVER a book if he saw that book on the floor and he says no while looking at it. Then I ask if he sees it now and he nods. Next question from me is, "Well, what would be a wise choice when you see a book on the floor?" Student response is to walk away.
I compelled the student in question to demonstrate the wise choice. I did so calmly, without violence or profanity. I love elementary aged kids but some days making sure my edit button works and I don't hurl a heavy reference work at anyone is challenging.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Another young man informed me he didn't want a book.  Said student cried bitterly the week before when I didn't allow him to check a book out due to egregious misbehavior.  I asked if the earlier tears had been crocodile tears.  He was confused as to what that meant so I explained the idiom. He insisted they were sincere but he didn't want a book this week because the one he liked wasn't in.  I guaranteed he could find one he liked among the 10,000 volumes if he looked.  He was skeptical.  I asked what he liked.  He said animals.  I put a book about crocodiles in his hands.  He regarded it and declared it sufficiently interesting.  Next week we may tackle sarcasm.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Finally, a simple but satisfying exchange with a kindergartener after she checked out her book.

Her: (a little sheepishly)  I can't read this book but I reeeally like the pictures.
Me: That's okay.  Sometimes the pictures help us figure out what is happening in the story and the artist made them hoping you would enjoy them.  I am a grown up but I still like to look at picture books because some of them have such beautiful art in them.  If you want to read though, I bet you can find some of your sight words in the story.
Her: (excitedly) You sure are right about the pictures!  Look at this one!  It's sooooo pretty!
Me: (smiling) It really is.

She continues paging through the book reverently regarding the artwork then discovers a page with a large rip.

Her: (in dismay) Oh, Miz Lime, someone didn't take care of this great book!

And another book and art lover is born, may her tribe increase.

Before May Ends...

...I have to get in at least one blog post.

It's been a month of insanity.  I started the month teaching one yoga class a week.  Then the studio owner opened a second site and I picked up a second class there.  Next was an after school class for some of the teachers where I work.  Finally we added subbing for the owner while she's off on a seven week world tour so I had a couple of weeks where I taught four nights in a row after doing my day job every day.  And just in case that wasn't tiring enough PennDOT decided it was time to dig up the main route to work thus doubling my commute time... and hour and a half to go 40 miles...oh joy oh bliss.  And yes, I tried alternate routes. The problem is, this area is rural enough that they aren't highways and all the other commuters decided to try them too so they are just as gunked up as the main route.  Yeah, so I have been just beat.

I've also been going to this writer's group for the last several months.  I like it.  A lot.  It's a terrific group of talented people and they have been very welcoming.  The irony is I've written fewer original pieces in the months I've been attending than before I started.  Sigh.  I did introduce them to the concept of the Friday 55s and they all have enjoyed writing their own.  It makes me smile thinking G-man lives on in this little group of writers even though he is no longer with us to host it here.

Work continues to be.....um...fascinating.  It would seem that having a rotten situation made permanent is my reward for making things work well in a situation I thought would be temporary.  Damn my ridiculous work ethic and concern for the students.  What was I thinking by trying to provide good service?

Isaac is in Haiti and has requested I send his copy of The Hobbit.  It encourages this library lady that when he kid is in the Third World he is not pining for his game system or some other luxury but for books.

Calypso and I have begun an herbalism course together.  I am excited to share it with her even if I am concerned about my ability to work well with plants given that in a mere three weeks I killed a houseplant I was given.

Next month I go visit Diana in Georgia.  I can't wait to see her.  It's been since Christmas.

Other than that I am counting the days until the end of the school year, which also means I am doing inventory, that is, counting all 22k books in my two libraries.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Oh the Irony


This week is National Library Week.  I live in the state which brought you the United States' first free public library.  I also live in a state which schedules all the statewide standardized testing for 3 weeks in April.  Wanna take a wild guess as to when all that begins?  Yep, today.  Wanna guess where the testing takes place in my schools?  Yep, the library.  Therefore, during National Library Week we can't have any book circulation.  It's enough to make a library lady either cry or rampage.  In order to soothe myself I bring you some interesting happenings in the library lately.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The kindergarteners get very excited when I come to pick them up.  One little guy, who is enthusiasm embodied, shouted upon seeing me, "It's Library Girl!!!"  I thought it made me sound like a superhero so I am adopting it as my new moniker. Faster than an OPAC! Able to leap tall stacks of books in a single bound. She stands for facts, information, and the literary way!  It's a teacher, it's a book lover, it's Library Girl! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A student was dawdling in choosing a book after his teacher had given the countdown for finishing. He grabbed a book off the shelf and moseyed to my desk.  As he arrived he announced, "I'll take this book,  It's sucky, but I'll take it." Nope, we have 10,000 books here there is no reason for you to grab one you think is sucky.  Go find one you actually want.  He said he couldn't find one. I asked what he liked.  He told me.  I stuck a book in his hand.  He looked at it and said, "This doesn't look like it sucks."  Good, try to enjoy it.  Maybe he needs to go spend some time with the kindergarteners.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have long had a big soft spot for six year olds in glasses.  I also collect Caldecott Award winning books. When a glasses sporting six year old comes to the library and asks on every visit if he can have a "reward" book* I am a complete goner.

*The first week I said I wasn't sure what he meant by "reward book" and asked if he could explain more about it.  He drew circles in the air and declared, "They have gold and silver circles on the covers!"  It was at the end of a  long day.  His little grin when I handed him Officer Buckle and Gloria totally made up for his one classmate who drove me nuts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One  little girl came up clutching a Disney book and begging, "Please, Miz Lime, can you order lots more Disney books?  They're my favorites!!!"  I told her that was a great idea and she ought to talk to the principal about it.  Bewildered, she asked why.  I explained that is because the principal decides how much money the library gets for ordering new books each year...and that it's been five years since our library had new books ordered.

Lime...disseminating information and fomenting unrest among primary students since 2012.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At the same library we have a tile floor.  Judging by how long certain spills have remained untouched, the floor has not been mopped all year.  Could I do it?  Yes, but I spent a lot of time cleaning up after adults last year.  I've asked repeatedly for people to clean up after themselves. I've been told the custodial staff is responsible.  My take home pay for a full-tome job running two libraries is less than what my kid earns at a part time job serving burritos.  I expend a lot of energy just keeping 22, 000 books in order.  I figure if the floor looks hideous enough maybe someone will finally be compelled to do is or her job. That has proved to be unsound logic.  I am now considering finding a kid with the belly bug and having him strategically barf in the library to get the floor mopped.

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I have a fifth grader who has asked me for books on quantum mechanics and the works of Shakespeare.  She has been so understanding when I have told her we have nothing like that.  I so wish I could put something in her hands that she wants but I am encouraged that she tells me she gets to the public library where she can find these things.

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One student returned a badly damaged book.  In such cases I assign the fine after speaking with the student to see if there is a plausible story or any sense of responsibility or contrition.  This student seemed to have both so I showed her that the cost of the book, which I could not repair was $18 and I told her I would only fine her $5.  We are a very poverty stricken district.  So few fines come in....ever.  She sat down, thought a moment, and asked if she could still check out a new book.  I reminder her that all books and fines have to be taken care of before new books can be selected. 

Her: Well, my parents were going to focus on buying me stuff on Friday so I don't think they will be able to send the money in.
Me: Perhaps you could suggest they buy you $5 less "stuff" and send it in for the fine.  Better yet, you could go home and ask them for some chores to do to earn the money to pay for the book.
Her: (indignantly) I don't like chores!
Me: (arching a single eyebrow and questioning my earlier sense of mercy) No one likes chores but they are a responsibility...just like that book you didn't take good care of.

It was a more professional response than what I wanted to say which was, "Then it sucks to be you."

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I may be Library Girl but it takes more than Super Human strength not to burst out laughing when a first grader checks out a book about outer space and announces, "YOOOOOOUUR-anus is an AWESOME planet!"


Friday, April 03, 2015

Good Friday 55s



Although our beloved friend and host of Friday 55, G-man, is no longer with us I humbly offer my traditional good Friday 55s with this year's newest verse appearing as the last in the collection.

 

The Magdalene

I wandered
tormented, unclean, unwelcome.
He drove away my darkness,
restored me to a community.
I followed him,
served him gratefully.
Now I follow at a distance
witnessing his torment 
as darkness falls on him,
while the others turn away.
I watch where his body is laid.

So I may offer
my final loving act of service.


The Arimathean

I followed him secretly
since I was on the council which opposed him.
At His trial
I would not condemn him
though the others did.
What I could not do while He lived
I dared after He died.
I boldly asked Pilate
for the body,
prepared it for burial,
laid Him in my own tomb.    



The Governor


I found no fault

in the one brought before me.
My wife warned me.
Herod returned him to me.
I offered to release him
but the crowd demanded the murderer instead.
Lacking strength of conviction,
I yielded to the mob.
Water washed my hands
but could not cleanse my conscience
of an innocent man's blood.

The Disciple

I left my business and my home to follow him.
I sat at his feet,
swore my allegiance,
said I'd die with him.
drew my weapon in his defense.
When my test came
I cowered in the darkness,
denied we ever met,
and knew my love was nothing
as his poured out for faithless me.



The Cyrene

I came to Jerusalem for the Passover.
I heard the commotion,
saw the condemned paraded in the street.
One was barely alive.
I turned away until...
the Roman yanked me from the crowd,
laid the beam on my shoulders.
Only when I met the bloodied man's eyes
did I realize he endures the judgment
I deserve.



The Thief

Merciless sun blisters my skin as the crowd's unrelenting curses assault my ears.
The weight of my own guilt,
the pain of dislocated joints and bound limbs bear down so heavily
I can barely breathe.
I dangle between present agony and hopeless eternity until He tells me,
"Today you will be in Paradise with Me."







The Guard

I'm glad to follow my orders well.
It's like taking out the trash to rid the earth of the scum we execute here.
Today is different.
One never begged for mercy, never fought us.
He spoke mercy on us all.
For the first time I feel guilt.
I fall to my knees, confess His deity.



The Mother

We had to travel when my time was so near.
When the king was killing the little boys we had to flee for our lives.
I was panicked when we lost him in the city.
But nothing has pierced my heart
like watching the spikes enter his flesh
and the sword plunge into his side.


The Beloved

I am a son of thunder
And have asked him
To pour wrath upon the unrighteous.
I’ve witnessed his transfiguring divinity
On the mountaintop.
I’ve been promised a seat in his kingdom.
I watch him gasp for breath.
He entrusts his mother to my care
And I am struck by the humanity
Of a son.