Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Sweet Smell of Summer

Early this morning L & I made our first trip of the summer to the local branch of the St. Paul farmer's market. We went bright and early to avoid the heat, but it was still stifling!

As we walked (L slept in her stroller), I took in the sweet smells of (early) summer produce! Sweet & tangy yellow & white onions, a damp earthy smell of dirt & warm veggies, warm sun baked June berries...It was pure heaven. Less the heat and so I quickly stopped, smelled the produce, admired its beauty, breathed a big sigh and cruised down the row of vendors, hoping Miss L would stay sleeping. (She did, until we got home, which is another story...)

Farmer's markets always make me want to eat nothing but vegetables. I even look at things I never eat--various kinds of lettuce, cabbage, beets and think to myself, "I should get some of that." As the summer progresses, I try to vary what I buy. Today it was June berries--which were entirely too expensive, but just the smell of sun-ripened midwest berries versus the CA overly plump, no taste things we buy at the store had me sold. Some rhubarb as our rhubarb crop was miniscule this year and snap peas for dinner tonight. There was something about the bright green peas and their light airy smell that sold me today. Mmmm, is your mouth watering yet? Gosh, mine is...maybe I'll just have one berry before dinner?

Monday, June 22, 2009


Thanks to Mom for the email tip about author Marilyn Brant's blog, Brant Flakes and AustenFest (description of AF post here) on her blog!

In honor of Brant's upcoming novel release--According to Jane, due out late September--she has guest authors of other JA fanfic posting with her on the blog. Today's author is Syrie James, author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, and it was a fun interview. Complete with virtual tea, scones and prizes (did someone say galley copies of books?!), it's a great time! Check it out!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quote of the Night

"If educators can't/won't change job related expectations/duties to reflect changing needs, we become Chrysler or GM."

--Stuart Ciske (a Tweet from the WI Department of Public Instruction as read in School Library Journal)

QotNight because this was read super late last night...My summer goal: actually read School Library Journal issues during the actual month they are for. So far: goal attained. It's a first.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Art of Doing Nothing or Balance

Admission: I finally finished a bookclub book. A year later. I've been toting around a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir Eat, Pray, Love for the last year, since bookclub read it and I got through the first 4 or 5 chapters and just couldn't keep my eyes open. In the throngs of 1st trimester exhaustion, last spring it just wasn't going to happen.

I may have, however, also gotten the book on audio cd and I may also have ripped it to listen to later. And finally this spring with my new iPod, I started listening. What's really sad is that I have read the first maybe 10 chapters countless times. Why? Because when I was actually attempting to read the book I kept having to start over to remember what was going on. And then my iPod changed changed playlists without me knowing what track I was on...It got to the point where I knew what she was going to say next!

Finally, though, I made it past that point in reading/listening and I finished the book. One bit of a chapter really struck me and so I relate part of it here.

From chapter 21, "Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment. Americans work harder and longer and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today. But as Luca Spaghetti pointed out, we seem to like it. Alarming statistics back this observation up, showing that many Americans feel more happy and fulfilled in their offices than they do in their own homes. Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure). Americans don't really know how to do nothing. This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype--the overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but cannot relax."

What struck me is the truth of this paragraph. We (Americans) work hard. We aren't good with quiet. We don't know how to relax, how to simple "do" nothing. And yes, mom, I've eaten cereal out of the box watching horrible Saturday afternoon movies. Just because it was the opposite of working. But pleasurable? Maybe, but mostly not. How do we just be? Is that why Americans take the "great American vacation" each summer? To get away to the cabin, the lake? To do nothing? There's got to be a better way to find the nothing time.

During both my time in Scotland and Italy, what was impressed on me was the art of doing nothing. Of being. Of being relaxed and in no hurry. My Scottish flatmates taught me the saying, "I can't be arsed" when they didn't want to do something or were feeling lazy. But somehow, it wasn't about laziness, so much as somehow really saying, "I don't need to do anything else. I'm happy just sitting here contemplating the rain fall from the sky as I drink some warm tea." Interestingly enough, I have never been more relaxed in my life than the time I spent living in Scotland. In Italy, meals can last upwards of 3 hours and teach you to just sit, wait and just be. Sip some wine, watch the people around you, enjoy, relax. There is nothing else you need to do this afternoon or this evening. Or--sit and eat your gelato on the steps of some old church and listen. You can't know a place until you hear it, taste it--Wait! that's Frances Mayes talking...Back to this one.

As Liz Gilbert searches for balance in her life, she meditates and learns about the art of quiet, and of stillness of the mind. Btw, she's got some great inner dialogue that she shares with us readers as she learns to meditate. The kicker is--she finds it, that balance thing. And what hit me the most from this book was--can I, will I?

A Joke or Two

If you know me, you know I can't tell a joke to save my life. Thanks to Reader's Digest, I have discovered these gems or groaners. (Depends on your funny bone.) I actually remembered the pirate one to be able to tell a co-worker. In my 30 years, it was the first time I'd probably told a joke and remembered the punch line. So without further ado, I present my entire repertoire of jokes. And yes, they are bar jokes.

Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini. The bartender asks, "Olive or twist?" (Being a librarian and taking the theme of this blog into account, I thought it was a good one.)

A pirate walks into a bar with a paper towel on his head. The bartender asks, "Why do you have a paper towel on your head?" The pirate replies, "ARRR, I have a bounty on me head!"
(Ok, I really did laugh out loud when I read this. I know. Really. I know. Sad but true.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

On My Mind

What's on my mind this week: Exactly a year ago this weekend, I won a bundle of baby stuff in a silent auction fundraiser. Included in this bundle was the sleeper L is wearing in this photo. JD and I unpacked our mass of baby items at the time and held up this sleeper. We marveled at how in a year or less someone would fit into this cute little striped green outfit. And here she is. :) Sigh.

200 More Miles To Go

Normal ends of school years aren't so bad. The library closes to collect books, we do an inventory, clean the shelves up, get things looking spic and span & get ready for the next school year.

But this year, not so much. It's a bit different & a bit more stressful. Last spring, I was told we were on the list to get new carpet the following summer. So I walked into this school year thinking we'd have to box things up etc. Then I came back from maternity leave and due to budget cuts was told there would be no new carpet. While I was disappointed, I was ok with it. Really, who wants to pack up books? It's a lot of work and, well, after returning to work this spring, my heart just wasn't in it.

I knew something was amiss when both our head custodian and principal came to find me in the back workroom one morning. (Note: Principal rarely visits the media center...) I got the "good" news that, indeed, we would be able to get new carpet. So instead of a busy, but reasonable end to the year, we're packing up books into boxes and palletizing all of the boxes of books, all while checking teachers "out" of the building, getting returned textbooks shelved, urging a rather large number of disgruntled students to pay for the long since overdue/lost/damaged/at my dad's house books. In theory, none of this sounds difficult, but when all added together it's just simply insane.

For the last week, I've had the Cowboy Junkies song "Two Hundred More Miles" in my head. "I've got two hundred more miles of rain asphalt in line, before I sleep." The version I have is a haunting live version that just leaves the song floating in your head, pounding like the rain. I think this was how I was feeling about making boxes, packing things up and watching as the shelves got closer and closer to empty. Just a little bit more. Just a few more days of school. Only the 900's to box. Only the fiction to box.

What baffles me is the lack of, well, a clue, that so many of my coworkers have. (If you are a coworker and reading this, don't take it personally. I'm just simply quite amazed at how oblivious others can be of their surroundings.)

"So, do you do this every year?" My inside thought: "Hmmm, you've worked here longer than I have. Where have you been? You really don't pay much attention do you? No. No, I would not choose to do this." Outside thought: Lips pursed, eyebrows shrugged, "Uh, no. We're getting new carpet this summer. Let's hope it's worth it." Smile.

The other favorite I conversation I have is,
"So, I bet you'll be busy in August."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, this is going to be a lot of work to unpack the books blah blah blah."
"Uh, I start when you start in September next fall. Would you like to come in on your free time and not get paid to unpack?"
Staff member looks at me with mouth slightly open, then shuts it. "Oh, I suppose..."
"Yeah, the library won't be open until mid-September at the earliest." I sigh with much emphasis and stress, then roll my eyes.

Let's just use the old cliche, "De Nile ain't just a river in Egypt, baby." Denial...I am choosing to block all thoughts of September out of my head right now. "I've got 200 more miles of rain asphalt in line, before I sleep."

And so with an exasperated sigh, I report to you, dear readers, that the books are completely packed. There are 450 some odd boxes of a middle school library boxed up on pallets. There are about a million odds and ends to complete in the last 4 days here, but the end is in sight.