Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Life Moves Pretty Fast....

So a lot has been going on in the last month or so that has been keeping me from the blog.  Let me explain...no there is too much...let me sum up.  First, Calypso turned 21.  After a family dinner during which a pitcher of sangria was enjoyed by all except Isaac there was a pub crawl.  Further details of the evening beyond letting you all know I was the designated driver for later festivities I am prohibited from sharing.  So as not to cramp the celebrant's style I dropped her off with older sister and a friend telling them to call me when they were done.  I also told them I'd be picking them up in the celebrant's car not my own so they may want to consider the lingering effects of vomit on car upholstery before embarking for the ride home.  I ain't no dummy.

Then there was the high school graduation of Isaac.  We thought it might never arrive, not because of any academic deficiency on his part but due to delayed dates after a harsh winter with an abundance of snow days.  Arrive it did and there was much gladness.

Then a couple weeks later there was an official East Coast meeting of The Freaks in the Box Club (aka blogger meet-up) during which Calypso was introduced to her very first freaks in the box and inducted into the club.  Susie, her hubby Ratburn, AndyT13, and his lovely wife, along with Calypso and myself all converged on New Brunswick, NJ to watch Talented Freak Progeny and many others compete in a west coast swing dance competition.  A good time was had by all and Calypso seemed to fit in well with the Freaks.  It may have helped that she found my blog a couple months ago and has excavated it heavily.  Her extensive research into the care and feeding of Freaks in the Box permitted for effective communication with such.

Other goings on have included expansion of the bird sanctuary that is our backyard, continued slow work on the bathroom, undertaking a decrapification process for Chez Lime, yoga teacher training weekends, a week-long vacation in Maryland, and a trip to Fox Chase Cancer Center wherein two out of three medical tests confirm I have officially been cancer-free for a year.  Yay!!!! The final test is to be performed next month after another lovely round of dietary purgatory during which the list of what I may eat is considerably shorter than what I may not eat.  This will take place just after we move Diana to Georgia.  Oh, and I hope to find a new job and visit Boston as well before summer is through.  Busy, busy, busy!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Dependence Day

Forty-five years ago today my adoption was finalized. The above picture was taken that day. My mother had sewn the outfit I was wearing, just for the day. My grandmother's friend sent the flowers. I was about 9 months old. When I was born, adoptive parents were not generally permitted to visit their babies in the hospital. My first 5 days were spent entirely in the care of nurses. When I was released, my parents' lawyer and his wife picked me up and brought me to my parents.

When I was 18 my mom gave me copied pages of her diary from the days when she and Dad first learned I would be theirs, when I was born, and when I came home. It filled in some of the gaps I had always wondered about from those days.

My birthday is always a bit odd. I share it with someone I've never seen yet upon whom I depended entirely at one time. I'm told she chose not to hold me because she wasn't sure she could let go if she had. I can completely appreciate that. I worry about this woman I've never met, whose name I don't know. Every birthday I need to draw away for some silent and private time. I need to spend time to reflect and, in my own way, wish this stranger peace and well-being. It's not a time of sadness like some overwrought TV movie of the week might have you believe. I give thanks that she was able to put my needs first since she was not ready to be a mom. I give thanks for my family. It is a strange day though.

July 3rd is my finalization day. There is a purity and clarity to it that my birthday doesn't have. Some decree by a judge isn't what gave me a family. A judge can't issue an edict of parental love and sacrifice. "Do you promise to swab vomit, kiss boo-boos, braid hair, wipe tears, mend broken hearts, paint the bedroom her favorite color, make photo albums, engage in tickle wars, shop for clothing and listen to music you just don't get, bake cookies together, etc......" Many years ago I had the privilege of being invited to the finalization for a friend's child. They thought I might like to see what it was like. I really appreciated that thoughtfully offered opportunity. It's a very simple procedure that only takes a few minutes. Parents explain why they wish to adopt, promise to provide for their child, and recognize him or her as a legal heir. After all the home studies by social workers and interviews by people within agencies, after all the probings and scrutiny and the months of first waiting for a child and then waiting for a court date, it's all over in a few words.

Sometimes I become irritated when people suggest or even insist that my family is not my "real" family. I find it completely misinformed when people expect that being an adoptee is somehow a scarring experience. I become irate when media potrayals in movies or journalistic write-ups find the need to draw negative attention to adoption in a sensational way. But I take a deep breath and try to inform people correctly, reminding myself these attitudes generally come from ignorance not malice.

My mother said it was so hard to wait for the finalization day. She told me how she'd have nightmares of people coming to take me away. "Sorry, your time is up. She's going back where she came from." On July 3rd her bad dreams stopped and no one had any right to suggest my family was any less real than theirs.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What a Difference a Year Makes

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth of even a zipline.  It's been a wild ride the last couple of weeks closing up two libraries and having a yoga teacher training weekend.

Today, however, is noteworthy.  A year ago today I was having a cancer riddled thyroid removed from my body after several months of medical testing and arguing with incompetent doctors before finding some excellent ones.  All this began shortly after I started my then new job as a Library Paraprofessional.  It was a job in which I was unclear about what latitude I did or didn't have.  I was afraid to overstep my boundaries.  I was also trying to keep my head above water. I spent the two weeks before surgery on medical leave from my job so I didn't have to sit in a moldy basement at one school while I was trying to prepare mentally and physically for surgery. Those two weeks were spent at home in the embrace of my family and attending as many yoga classes as I could handle, roughly ten classes in two weeks, in order to keep myself calm.

It worked.  I went into surgery physically strong and mentally calm.  I didn't panic until about five or ten minutes before they came for me to give me the pre-surgical sedative.  The sedative took care of the panic.  As soon as I was awake in recovery I began doing deep yogic breathing to begin helping my body get rid of the anesthesia since I knew the respiratory therapists would be telling me to do that anyway.  Apparently, what I considered mindful breathing in a still groggy state, looked labored to the recovery nurses.  They asked if I was having trouble.  When I told them what I was doing they commended me.  Later when I used my foot to pull the bedside table nearer so I could help myself to ice chips they scolded me with the warning that too much too quickly would make me vomit.

The last two weeks of this school year were spent exercising the full latitude of my authority in the library.  In one I was well caught up with the mundane aspects of shelving and repairs and record keeping.  I rewarded myself by reading to the classes with the best library usage of the year in between processing new books.  It's something I enjoy doing a great deal but it's not part of the scope of my job description or even something I ever have time for anyway.  It was a lot of fun to hold the kids' attention and even that of the teachers who opted to take some time away from pressing duties.  Even their faces expressed rapt attention and each of them expressed surprise at how I engrossed their students.  Yes, I can do more than just shelve books.

In my other school it was a flurry of activity trying to catch up with things left undone all year.  I had new books to finish processing and repairs of old books. I also did a major weeding (nearly 500) of the picture books, deleting them from the catalog and removing identifying tags and marks. Then I shifted all those which remained to make room for new subsections for holiday books and books for beginning readers so it's easier for those kids to find something they are able to read independently.  That also meant updating the catalog as to a new subsection and the books located therein.  Oh, yeah, and I inventoried nearly 11,000 books.  Nothing like setting the bar ridiculously high but I really wanted to properly whip this library into shape because it's been so neglected for so long, like years before I arrived kind of neglect.  Thanks to Calypso who came into work for one day and my dear friend and fellow Para, Big Mama, I was able to accomplish almost everything.  I left the repairs for next year and I have to make new shelf labels after having shifted roughly 5000 books.  Otherwise, I finished it all and accounted for all but about 30 books in inventory.  I could not have done so without Calypso and Big Mama, who even dragged a substitute teacher in to help one day as well.  Big Mama is a compelling person.

In looking back over the last year, there's been a lot of change.  A cancer has been excised from me literally.  I think in some ways one has been removed figuratively, though treatment for that is ongoing.  Although one could argue I am a risk taker as evidenced by incidents involving ziplines, I never was in the work world.  This year I have grown in confidence about what I have to offer and I have struck out in an unusual new direction of signing up for teacher training in yoga.  I've also decided to actively look for new employment elsewhere this summer, which is part of why I worked so hard at one library.  I want to turn it over in the best possible shape.  A year or two ago I doubted my professional skills and I NEVER would have considered I could possibly teach anything that could be remotely considered athletic.  I've asked for references from people I respect and they have responded with great encouragement.  I have had two trainings in the yoga program and I have received wonderful feedback for my participation there as well.  Oh, and I even was bold enough to actually SELL some of my tie dye creations instead of giving them away.

It's been quite a year, one with lots of growth...the kind indicative of life rather than the kind leading to death.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Two Weeks*

Remember this post from January when I bemoaned the intended replacement of a shower door leading to the total gutting of my bathroom?  Just in case you forgot, here's a little reminder.  That's my shower after it was gutted to the studs and the floor was broken up.  It revealed even worse damage than what was behind the walls because the idiot who installed it nailed the sub-floor to the dryer vent allowing decades of moisture from the punctured vent to poor into the floor.  Mr. Lime says it was a miracle I didn't wind up falling through the floor.

It's been two weeks* since the work to strip down and rebuild the bathroom has begun.  It's still not done but we estimate it should be done in....two weeks.*  There were delays due to the unbelievably harsh winter.  For example, when you have to shovel two feet of snow off your roof, and then the neighbor's because they are overseas, it kind of wears you out for remodeling.  There was winter illness.  There was the need to completely re-plumb the house.  Little things, you understand.  Then a stretch of free weekends and a flurry of activity brought us to the point where Mr. Lime could finally spackle.  He hates to spackle.  He hates it almost as much as he hates painting.  Me?  I like to paint.  I don't spackle though.  He pretended there was no spackling to be done for a while.  He struggled through the first coat.  He begged a friend to do the second coat.  He sanded it....sort of.  Then he turned it over to me for painting because the only thing he hates more than spackling is painting.  He did enjoy building that nifty little built in shelf unit though.  It's made from local ash his friend milled.

As you can see in the picture above and in this picture, I painted.  I am given to extensive deliberation over paint colors but this time around I was pretty quick about it.  I opted for Woodrow Wilson Putty because nothing says bathroom luxury quite like conjuring images of the POTUS spackling my bathroom.  I've decided to give up on becoming a librarian.  The pay stinks. I'll need student loans.  I have to deal with the public.  I'm gonna find me a nice gig naming paint colors because I am pretty sure with names like Woodrow Wilson Putty they just sit around the pool drinking heavily while they sort paint chips.  Whaddya wanna call this faded yellow chip here?  How about Millard Fillmore Wax? 

Oh and check that medicine cabinet.  Mr. Lime recessed it for me even though it was supposed to be a wall mount.  I appreciated his indulgence in this matter.

Once I finished the priming and painting (and may I say I find it hard to believe someone finds plumbing preferable because painting is a zen thing for me) I turned the room back over to Mr. Lime.  Today he put the ceramic tile floor in. It's starting to look almost like a bathroom instead of a nightmare.  It should be done in two weeks.*

*The term "two weeks" should not be taken literally.  It should be regarded as an estimate for an indeterminate amount of time which could be greater than or less than two calendar weeks, in fact, it is best to just disregard any calendar at all and assume a span of time which may best be characterized by the term "era."  Failure to release any and all expectations regarding estimates of completion date may lead to hypertension, stroke, outbursts of rage, existential crisis, hallucinations, severe nostril cramps, hammertoes, alopecia, simple chronic hallitosis, and irritable spouse syndrome. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Prom 2014

 It's that time of year again.  I have to say, Prom is quite different when getting a boy ready as opposed to a girl.  No hair or nail appointments, not accessory shopping.  We go to the tux shop, pick a tux, match the vest and tie to the girl's dress and we're off.  Getting dressed, also easier.  Basically, I saac and I both got home about 20 minutes before he had to get to his date's house.  A quick shower for each of us, thrown on our respective clothes and hey, we even had time to take a few pictures at home.  The boy is ever a clown.  I'm glad he indulges my photographic drives.  So I present a few of the many faces of Isaac.

 Do I not make these flowers look extremely manly?
 GQ look or wondering what exactly those two birds are doing in the tree over there?
 Hiiiiii, I'm yer date.
I quite like his very adorable date.  She was lovely but not inclined to take herself too seriously and thus willing to mug ridiculously for the camera with little prompting.  This earns points with me.

And then there was the post-photo op, pre-prom ping pong match.  Yeah, say that five times real fast.  I forget who won but I know she was doing well enough early on that the boy defended his poor showing with, "But I'm in a tux!"  We were unsympathetic.
She ain't no pushover, is she?  Have I mentioned I like this girl?
They may not have been prom king and queen but they get my vote for the most fun and most adorable couple at the prom.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Do You Like Your Job?

After enduring the latest major maladjustment to keep the library from functioning as a library and not being informed until moments before the very last day of book selection that I'd not have use of the library for half the day, thus preventing five classes of students from choosing books, I became angry.  In the next 20 minutes I contacted ten teachers, and turned my schedule inside out including double booking four classes with specific instructions as to how to make this work so students and teachers could check out the books they need both for pleasure reading and for research projects.  I was still fuming when the usurper of the library appeared just as I finished settling the schedule, which had already been rearranged earlier in the week to accommodate testing in the library.  Said usurper felt the need to poke at me in my ire and finally dared to ask me, "Do you like your job?"  I was too angry to say the following.

Do I like my job?
Yes, I like helping students find books they will enjoy.  I like making life easier for the teachers by finding materials they can use in their classroom instruction.  I even like the boring parts like shelving and covering new materials with the crinkly plastic jacket covers.

Do I like my job?
Yes, I like teaching the kids the word bibliophile when I tell them to hug their books while they carry them so the books don't fall on the floor.  I like how excited the little kids get when they are entrusted with and remember such a big word, how they stand at enthusiastic attention in line clutching their books to their chests like the treasures they are.   I like when the older kids successfully sound out the word bibliophile when they look at the "Bibliophiles always welcome" sign above my desk.

Do I like my job?
Yes.  When a student checks out a Shel Silverstein book I like telling them he's my favorite and asking them to share which poem they enjoy most in the book.  I love when one remembers and actually comes back with a bookmark in a page so he or she can show me.  I want to dance for joy when one asks to discuss some of the deeper meanings of her favorite poem and she observes, "I think the poem could really be taken two different ways."  I like doing this all year long not just during National Poetry Month.

Do I like my job?
Yes.  When a student comes through the line to sign out a book embossed with a shiny Caldecott or Newbery award I like to ask if they know what that means.  Most don't.  I like when their eyes light up because I tell them the book won a gold or silver medal for being so good.  I like asking them to give me their opinion when they return the book.  Did it deserve an award or do you think something else might have been better. I like when some of them remember.  I love when one little guy comes up to me at breakfast the next morning, throws his arms wide, and exclaims, "I LOVE that book!  It's GREAT!  It TOTALLY deserves an award!"  And I LOVE when one is bold enough to say, "I don't think the pictures in that book were good enough for an award at all!"  and yet he is willing to listen to me explain that when the book was published the color printing process was too expensive so the publishers opted for monochrome and although he stands by his review he agrees that with such information he does see things in a new light.

Do I like my job?
Yes. I like being able to give a student or a teacher the very book they are looking for.  I like helping a student who doesn't know what to chose find something to be excited about.  I feel very satisfied with myself when I can "sell" a kid who wants Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which is checked out as soon as I re-shelve it so I could never hope to give it to as many kids as want it,  EB White's Trumpet of the Swan because the synopsis I gave made it sound interesting.  I love having a student who knows what genre he loves most and knows he loves to write his own stories but he struggles for ideas and making them long enough.  I tell him short stories are a terrific form and ask if he'd like me to show him the section with anthologies of short stories so he may draw inspiration.  I freaking LOVED the way his eyes nearly bugged out of his head and he almost hurdled over two tables to get there with me and how he poured over those shelves.

Yes.  I like that some of the kids who have problems every where else come into the library and behave for me because it's the one place in the school where they have the right to choose something for themselves without interference.  When a boy sheepishly hands me a book which mostly only girls read and pleads, "Please don't make fun of me," I like how he stands taller when I look him straight in the eye to say, "People have all sorts of reasons for choosing different books and I will NEVER make fun of you for any book you choose."  I like researching the etymology of a student's surname because she tells me she is embarrassed by it because others make fun of it.  I love to see her new confidence because I now address her as Miss Brave and Strong since that one of the possible interpretations for her name. And when a first grader looks up into my face and asks me to show her where to find the happy family books are because her family isn't I know I am standing on holy ground in that moment because the book I put in her hand will either tell her someone hears, understands, and cares enough to give her an example of something to which she can aspire or that someone is just shoving a book at her to get her out the door.  I can either provide a measure of soothing and hope from the written word or I can give her meaningless drivel.

I like how kids who just want to be helpers push my book carts with pride while they help me go from class to class collecting books to return.  I like when kids who are working off fines by taping ripped pages, or erasing pencil marks on pages, or fixing torn covers wake up and realize they really need to take better care of their own books.  I like when  teachers asks me for resources and I hip them to something they never knew existed.  I like the sigh of relief that someone saved them some time and effort.  I like the excitement over new resources, because you know, the best teachers never stop being students.

Do I put 80 miles on my car every day so I can do it? Do I sit in a moldy basement to do it? Have I stepped it up a notch because the district has furloughed 14 of the 15 elementary school librarians? Do I bend over backwards to make sure every class has an opportunity even when the library is taken for testing, and meetings, and God knows what other activities? Did I show up and continue to give good service to the roughly 80 staff and 1500 students in not one but TWO schools even when I was dealing with CANCER?  Did I arrange the moving of shelves by promising baked goods to any teacher who helped after my work order was ignored for a month?  Did I then return about 6000 books to the shelves with no help and complete an inventory in record time so circulation could begin sooner rather than later or who knows when until the shelves would have been moved?  Do I seek out the testing schedules well ahead of time so I can plan around them? Do you think I do any of this for the generous remuneration to the tune of food stamp wages which are exceeded by what my daughter earns to flip hamburgers????

You are either woefully ignorant of what I do and how I do it or you are threatening me.  Neither reflects well on you.  If you want to know if I like my job I invite you to ask ANY of the classroom teachers I serve in either of my buildings what their perception of that would be.  Ask the best teachers.  Ask the worst teachers.  Then go ask the few who were in my buildings last year and have been moved to other buildings this year.  You go right ahead and ask them all.  You ask them, "Does Michelle like her job?"  You tell me what they say.  Yes, I am that confident that my work and the manner in which I perform my duties speaks for itself in answering that question.  If you can't see that you're not even as perceptive as the six year old who peered up into my eyes and said, "Miss, my daddy would just love you because I tell him how you always smile at us when we come in and me when I get a book.  He says only people who like their jobs smile at work.  Do you like your job, Miss?"  I beamed and wiped away a tear as I  told him, "I like my job very much because I love to help boys and girls find books they will enjoy."

Do I like my job?
Are you kidding me????  Don't you dare insult or threaten me with such ignorance and arrogance.  I love my job but I LOATHE the stupidity which drives the policies in our nation, our state, and this school district.  And I despise with every fiber of my being your audacity in asking me such a question simply because I hit my limit over a total disregard for the purpose of the library and your inability to communicate with me in a timely fashion regarding its usurpation.

That's what I wish I could have said.

Instead, with my eyes boring like lasers into hers and my jaw set I replied, "I like my job very much.  I know it is meaningful work, important work.  I'd like it even better if I had any sense of this school district valuing its libraries or the people who run them.  This district gets quite a bargain for the service I provide."

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Expletive Deleted

It is my first class of the morning, after what has been two exceedingly draining schedules the last couple of weeks, after a weekend involving two consecutive 10 hour days for my own education.  The first class comes after I've already had to hit the ground running by collecting and checking in books from nine classes and helping herd 600 students through breakfast in half an hour.  It's morning and I am already tired.  I'm drained.  I'm spent.  I'm exhausted.  I feel like I have little left to give.

The class enters in jumbled, tumbling wave of preteen vexation.  I hear a torrent of profanity.  Oh no you didn't!  I stop them all.  I'm damming the damner.  Everyone is silent. Who was spewing that filth in my library?  Denials swirl.  Fingers point.  One confesses.  The teacher enters at the end of the line.  She asks what was going on.  I inform her.  She begins to remind the class of expectations as I walk to the reference wall.

I return with a thesaurus and dictionary plopping them on the table in front of the offending student*.  Do you want books today?  Yes.  Good.  Start with these.  When you can give me a list of ten appropriate words you could have used in this situation you may go find books to check out.  He is stunned, amazed, incredulous.  He is confused by the results of his confession.  The teacher says, "You heard her.  Go sit over there and get to work if you want books."

The other students come and go checking books out.  He sits against the wall paging through the books.  It was a gamble in this building full of defiant tweens who know the administration doesn't back up the teachers.  He is not displaying stubbornness, passive aggression,  obstinacy.  I ask if he's ready.   He says he is still looking.  Okay, keep at it.  He looks chagrined, humbled, small, unsure.

When everyone is gone I walk over seeing he has his fingers saving pages.  I ask him to show me what he has found.  He points in the thesaurus to the word "calm."  I ask if that is how he felt when he said the foul words.  He shakes his head.  Ok, it's a good word but it's not how you felt at the time.  What are appropriate words to describe how you felt?  I was angry.  Good.  We all get angry.  Now find ten words that mean the same as angry.  Do you know how to use this book?  He admits he doesn't.  He is embarrassed, fearful, disturbed....yet receptive, open, willing.

I show him the guide words, tell him to find the word "mad."  He pages uncertainly until he finds it.  Now read what it says.  Mad, angry...  Is that how you felt when you were cursing at the other boy?  Yes.  Okay, what other words mean the same?  Annoyed, upset, furious, incensed.  Were you annoyed?  Yes.  Were you upset?  Yes.  Were you furious and incensed?  What's incensed?  What do all these other words mean?  Mad.  They are all the same.  So it means mad?  Yep, that all mean mad.  Yeah, I was incensed.  Good.  Pick one of those words and look it up, find some more.  Angry.  Look it up.  Read it to me.  Angry, mad, irritated, bothered, upset, irate.  What's irate?  Think about it.  What do all the other words mean?  Angry and mad.  What do you think irate means?  The same thing.  Yep.  So you know a lot of those words, right?  Yes.  And some of them are new to you, right?  Uh-huh.  Which ones of the words you know do you like best for describing how you felt? Upset and furious. Ok, which of the words new to you do you like best for describing how you felt?  Irate and incensed.  Those are good words.

Guess what?  What?  You're allowed to be upset, furious, incensed, and irate.  You're not allowed to be nasty because of it.  You talk about what made you feel that way. "Ricardo, it makes me furious when you push me away from the chair I want."  You don't say, "Get outta my way you blankety-blank blank!"  That just makes more people angry and starts more fighting. Now tell me how you can say things better next time with some of these words.  I'm irate because you took my chair.  Good, that's a start.  Am I going to hear that other filth from you again?  No.  Good.  Go find some more books to improve your mind and your mouth.

*God knows my internal kneejerk response was to want to unleash a flood of invective on the offending party but that's probably all he hears at home hence his own colorful repertoire.