Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tuesday Slice: An hour of gratitude

They started arriving not long after our return from Thanksgiving Break, a token here and there, becoming a flurry of presents two weeks later.  Thank yous had been said in person, brief squeezes on shoulders with heartfelt smiles in between rounds of reading stories and checking out books.  

The gifts had been moved behind the chair, to make room for the tree.  Two shopping bags full of smaller gift bags, envelopes, a few boxes, almost out of sight but not forgotten over the hectic past few weeks.  With family returned to their corners of the world, the tree was taken down this past weekend, the chair moved back to its usual place, and I could reach my holiday treasure trove.

The presents were wonderful, to be sure.  A tin of Danish cookies, snacks, scented hand creams.  A pair of reading socks.  Beautiful mugs with hot cocoa mixes.  Gift cards to my favorite stores.  Christmas all over again, in my now undecorated living room.

As I opened each gift and wrote out my thanks, I was captured most by the childish printed notes of appreciation.  "Thank you for letting us check out your books."  "Thank you for reading us good stories."  One student even asked, "If you were a child, what books would you read?"  My answer--"All the picture books in our library, because they are wonderful."

A note from a parent made me pause.  He took the time to thank me for making the library a welcome place for his child, for understanding when a book went missing, and recognized the effort it takes to be of service to over twelve hundred students.

The words were the best gifts of all.   

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Tuesday Slice: Commit and Habits

I am choosing two separate words for my One Word this year, for the first time.  

Why?  To further define the boundaries between work and personal life.

My personal word came from a few sources.  Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and the blog post on Depth Year come to mind.  I am pretty good at fulfilling promises I make to others; keeping promises I make for myself is a work in progress. My personal word is "Commit".  Commit to creating a peaceful, uncluttered home, eating healthfully, moving my body more. Commit to getting more sleep and allotting realistic amounts of time to get things done on my to-do list, instead of making unrealistic "wish lists" each day.  Commit to saving money to spend on experiences, not things.
At work, I feel overcommitted, hence the need for another word.  For work, my word will be "Habits".  I have a lot of set habits at home, especially in the morning--empty dishwasher, make coffee, pray, read--but I lack set times to complete necessary, repeating tasks that must be done to run my library program.  I'm going to work on scheduling those times so that those tasks become routine, freeing myself to focus on the creative and service aspects of my job.

Here's to a productive and fulfilling 2020!

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Tuesday Slice: Joyful reunion

The morning was filled with instructions, errands, and last-minute questions for the event planner.  I silently thanked my daughter once again for making this wedding celebration easy for us.  I couldn't thank her in person because she was shopping for flowers at Trader Joe's with her husband, the trained florist/ IT guy.  He had insisted on making the centerpieces, and we were happy to oblige.  

The newlyweds returned to the chaotic energy of the household filled with five extra family members.  Her grandfather tentatively helped with flower cutting; brother and first cousin sorted and bagged KitKats brought from Japan.  Then the relatives, still tired from driving across states to be here, willingly got back in their cars to pick up more flowers and cupcakes to deliver to the restaurant, along with the guest book, candles, framed pictures and card box.  My husband left at the same time to pick up her altered dress and her husband's dry cleaned suit, leaving the couple and myself a quiet interlude to breathe.

A few hours later, our nuclear family of four plus our new(ish) son-in-law arrived at the lakeside restaurant.  My husband dropped us off so we wouldn't have to carry the centerpieces too far.  As he pulled away, I started walking and felt my shoe separate from its sole.

It's not a wedding celebration without something going wrong...right?  I shuffled into the venue and up the stairs.

The room was wonderfully appointed with the decorations we had sent on ahead.  Party coordinators greeted us and took the centerpieces to be placed on the tables.  The photographer was already there, and began taking pictures of the couple.

Extended family reappeared--my father, his wife, my uncle, my brother and his daughter--with more picture taking to mark the event.  One, two, twenty more friends and family from all across our daughter's life strolled in.  My partner teacher who was among the first to know I was pregnant twenty-six years ago.  Her NICU nurse, still a good friend.  Friends from middle school and high school.  Her college roomate.  Beloved neighbors who might as well be her grandparents.  Our favorite, welcome Thanksgiving dinner guest.  

A motley crew, to be sure, but all connected by their love for our daughter and her husband.  Laughter and smiles and conversations filled the room as we all caught up with one another or found new connections--the college roommate discussing her med school NICU rotation with the nurse, my teaching partner and my daughter's high school friend commiserating over Minnesota winters.  Toasts were made and glasses were lifted to the newlyweds' happiness.

We couldn't have asked for a better celebration.
The centerpieces now adorn our kitchen table.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Tuesday Slice: The best things are invisible

The Book Nook rocking chair has been pulled over to the "learning side" of the library, where I can sit in front of the YouTube fireplace on our big touchscreen. Our usual schedule of story or lesson, then checkout, is flip-flopped each half-hour, allowing me to start reading a bit earlier while stragglers are still searching for books. 

I've been reading Auntie Claus and the Key to Christmas by Elise Primavera to my older students this week.  Most remember the first book from last year, and are happy to hear the sequel.  I do my best to make Auntie Claus sound eccentric and wise, the unbelieving Christopher a bit whiny and snarky, the Head Prune and Santa full and booming.

Christopher's motto is "I'll believe it when I see it."  Auntie Claus counters with "Sometimes you have to believe in order to see."

We have to believe in order to see...

Believe in the freshness of a new day, in order to see opportunities.
Believe in ourselves, in order to see our strengths.
Believe in our students, in order to see their possibilities.
Believe in our loved ones, in order to see them as individuals.
Believe in the value of all people, in order to see their worth. 
Believe in the magic of Christmas, in order to see the best in us.

The best things are invisible, until we choose to believe.   

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Tuesday Slice: Lyrical memory

Fundraising on public television is purposefully, successfully annoying.  I became a member decades ago during a telethon, and with threats of government funding cuts looming once again, I understand the need to drum up support.  Oh, but I was annoyed at the breaks during the recent airing of a modern take on "Jesus Christ, Superstar".

They were interrupting a memory.

It was the late 70s?  Early 80s? The cassette was a gift from my mother's brother, a classical music aficionado.  I remember the plain brown liner paper with the yellow logo--the 1970 recording.  He copied off the lyrics for me, too. I must have played that tape a hundred times on my boombox, singing along, thrilled when I could match the tempo of the fast-paced songs.  

Despite our near-regular attendance of Sunday Mass, it was my first real introduction to Mary Magdalene.  I remember wondering why we heard so little about her in CCD classes; I see now that it planted the seed for my search for Feminine Divine in the patriarchal trappings of the conventional Church.

So yes, I was annoyed at the breaks, even as I compared these latest singers to the soundtrack in my head (and found them lacking; the 1970 recording is still my favorite).  I may just have to hunt down a new copy and relive a memory or two.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Tuesday Slice: Liberation

I have found that among its other benefits,
giving liberates the soul of the giver.
--Maya Angelou

It was so easy to get caught up in online shopping last week.  Without my usual work prep or hours in the library, I could and did spend hours clicking through sale emails, typing in coupon codes, perusing the piles of catalogs that arrived daily.  

Without fail, at some point within each shopping excursion I found myself looking at gifts not for others, but for myself.  Oooh, those shoes would go great with the sweater I just got, and now they're thirty percent off...  Free shipping limits prompted the rationalization of "something for them, something for me", just to save eight or nine dollars.  

I realized just how much online shopping I did when I made a list and counted the packages to be delivered--nineteen, in all.

I should feel liberated, with the pile of gifts to be given growing with every visit from the USPS, UPS, FedEx, and Amazon delivery people.  Several purchases were made to support friends' small businesses, and that did feel good, buying gifts while furthering their pursuits. But that doesn't stop the twinge of guilt I feel as I open each box and realize how much is staying right here, these items that lured me in with their double-digit discounts.

This morning, I'm focusing on the moments of liberation I have experienced these past few days:  giving a gift card to a stranger in need; unsubscribing from dozens of retail email lists and deleting hundreds of emails from my inbox; realizing that items I purchased for myself really aren't working out, and knowing just the right person who would enjoy them.  I've joined a "clearing space" Facebook group started by a friend, and threw dozens of catalogs in the recycle bin.  My New Year will bring a renewed effort to curb needless spending.

I'm feeling liberated, just thinking about it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Tuesday Slice: The holidays are different...and that's okay

We're dining out for Thanksgiving this year.  Seems to be an every-other-year event.  It's nice to enjoy the food and the company, but I do miss the leftovers.  We bought pared-down versions of our usual Thanksgiving meal to cook next weekend, just to have some turkey, stuffing, and cranberry jelly in the fridge.

Christmas will be different, too.  Our daughter and new-ish son-in-law will be joining us three days after Santa's usual visit.  You don't know how steeped in traditions your holiday is until you try to negotiate them on an altered timetable.  Does Santa still visit on the 25th?  Does Santa visit at all?  Do we open some of our gifts on the 25th, or all of them later, together?  Will the kids want to bake Jesus' birthday cake together--we all know the 25th really isn't his birthday, anyway--or will the youngest fly solo with that tradition again, so Santa has a piece on his usual night?  

We're letting our grown-up children answer most of those questions.  Our daughter wants her Japanese husband to experience the "Christmas crazy" in our house, as she's come to describe it from afar.  I don't know if I can just let the 25th go by without some of that Christmas magic happening; I'd rather celebrate twice.  Their father and I haven't talked about that yet.

Yes, the holidays will be different this year.  But the best parts remain the same--family, friends, and good food.  We are blessed, and grateful, and ready to celebrate together, no matter the location or the date on the calendar.