Personal

The Incarnations of Motherhood

There are many incarnations of motherhood.

The joyous, nervous, nauseated expectant mother.

The sleep-deprived mother of a newborn who never knew her capacity for love while at the same time feeling resentful for having to put someone else so far ahead of herself.

The harried, stressed, exhausted mother of a toddler who longs for naptime and bedtime, but misses that sweet, sticky child when they are sleeping.

The mother of elementary aged children, always trying to keep up with their projects and assignments, their friends and activities, their moods and their needs.

The mother of junior high aged children who tries to impart advice upon deaf ears while their beloved child rolls their eyes at her as she tries so hard to stay active and aware of their lives.

The mother of the high schooler who struggles to maintain a balance between being their friend so they will confide in her while also being their mother and praying that she has done a good enough job and that they will make good choices and decisions.

The mother of almost-grown children who gives advice and guidance while also taking a step back to let them make the choices and take the next steps in their life.

Each incarnation has had its difficulties and its rewards, its struggles and its beauty. I feel so blessed every single day to have been here for this journey and I pray every day that we all get to continue to take it together, even if together means miles apart, in different states or countries, even.

Before I had children, I had about a 25 minute commute to the school where I taught and on that commute, I would pray. I would spend time talking to God. When I was pregnant with my oldest, I would pray every day for her health and safety and I would think, I can’t wait until she’s born so I don’t have to pray for this….until one day I realized that I would be praying for that health and safety and happiness for the rest of my life.

And I am blessed to do so.

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Personal

Day One vs. Journey app

I have been using Day One to journal on a near daily basis for over a year now.  After a few months, I decided to spend the money to get the annual subscription, which allowed me to upload more than one photo per entry and journal across devices–so I could journal on my phone and it would show up on my computer.  The only thing I could not do was journal on another computer and sync it.

I LOVE the look of the Day One.  It’s clean and fresh.  The calendar is bold and show the dates you journaled.  You have the option of putting a title for each post which is in bold and when you look over the posts in order, you just see the titles and a few lines of each post.  The photos are also put in a calendar type style so you can see which photo(s) you took which day.  I challenged myself to take one photo a day – could be of anything but to find something visually interesting in my day every day, like the sun coming in my dining room window as I drank my Dandy Blend in the morning or my daughter wrapped up in a fluffy blanket.

What I don’t love about Day One is that I can’t journal from other computers and that it is downloaded on my computer as a file, so when I got a new laptop this year, I had to transfer the files over.  I did use The Cloud, but it was a hassle.

So, when the year was almost up, I started looking at different option and came across Journey.  From the website, Journey looked visually similar to Day One and instead of an annual for $24.99 (I subscribed when they were running a promotion for $19.99 a year), I could just pay $14.99 for the life of my computer.  I would have to pay an additional $4.99 to have the app on my iPhone.  But everything is also synced to my Google account, so if I get another computer, I can either just use Google and journal for free OR I can put the app on that computer and sync it and have everything on the new computer.

Journey also offers a free Cloud based version that allows you to journal, but not add photos or access the calendar.  They don’t post your location or the weather with the Cloud version.

I used the Cloud version for a couple of weeks and found that I liked being able to journal from work on breaks and add to my journal from my phone.  I decided to pay the $14.99 since I really wanted to be able to journal from anywhere and could not do that with DayOne, and a one time fee of $14.99 sounded better than $19.99 a year.

Journey has the maps, the posts, the photos and the calendar, but the presentation is not as sophisticated as Day One.  You can not view the calendar and photos at the same time, for instance.

They both have their pros and cons, but this is what I love about each:

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Day One is only available for Apple products.  Journey is available across platforms.  This is not a big deal to me, as I am an Apple user.  But for someone who uses Microsoft, Journey is a great option.  Or for someone who has a Macbook and an Android phone, Journey would be the better choice as they can sync between devices.

Personal

Goals for 2019

Bookish Goals:

I saw a lot of bookstagrammer and book bloggers posting about reading goals for the New Year. These are all either in my Netgalley queue or have been on my TBR forever and this year, I am committed to reading them. I would LOVE to do a buddy read on any or all of them if anyone is interested.

2018 was my first year on Bookstagram, and when I first discovered Netgalley, I went crazy (easy to do!) but this year I really want to keep it to books that I really want to read. I overextended myself with blog tours and reviews from publishers and I don’t want to do that again either, I will only say yes to reviewing a book IF I am interested in it AND I have time.

I am not going to worry about Twitter. It’s not my jam.

I want to focus on building relationships on Bookstagram.

I want to blog more about books + life. I miss blogging about life stuff and I want to do more of that in the new year. I have wanted to do a self-hosted blog since I was a homeschool mom blogger and learn about SEO and plug-ins and things like that, but I just never did it, I might take the plunge this year.

Marriage Goals

In 2017, I was inspired by an Instagram friend who went on 52 hikes. I knew 52 was not do-able for us, but my husband and I took on a challenge to go on 9 hikes and we had so much fun with it. All the hikes had to be in New Jersey. We had a lot of fun exploring our state and finding different hikes. A lot of times we would either grab a picnic lunch from a vegan restaurant or go out to brunch before the hike or dinner after the hike.

My husband is really into craft beer. We both used to be into craft beer, but about two years ago, I started getting nauseated after even a sip of alcohol. We had a lot of fun last year going to a couple of breweries one day when our hike was cancelled due to rain, so we have decided to take on a challenge of visiting 6 breweries this year. I will probably have a tiny sip of each beer in each flight and bring some pretzels or crackers to keep my stomach at bay. It’s just something fun to do together.

Other Goals

In my journal, I wrote down these three goals for the year:

  1. Don’t try to impress anyone.
  2. Don’t worry about what others think.
  3. Don’t compare myself to others.

I was going to wait until the new year to deactivate my Facebook account, but I couldn’t wait and deactivated in mid-December and you know what? I think these last few weeks have been wonderful without it!! I am not quite ready to completely delete my Facebook account, but I am considering it.

I want to become more of a minimalist. Years ago, encouraged by Sarah at Memories on Clover Lane, I took on a Lenten 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge. I don’t know how many times I have done it now, but I love getting rid of stuff more than getting new stuff! It’s so liberating and freeing! And it’s SO MUCH EASIER to keep our house clean and find what we need and I honestly do feel like I have more time for the things that I want to do. I think it’s a mindset, a lifestyle. So, I have divided my house up and each day this month, I am filling a bag. I might do it again over Lent.

I am doing Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day Yoga Challenge, and then I am planning to do Brett Larkin’s Yoga Challenge. I really like having everything laid out for me every day and not having to think about it.

I want to cook more vegan food this year and try more vegan restaurants.

My younger daughter and I have plans to redecorate her room this year, which I am looking forward to and we have my parents’ 50th Anniversary this summer and a lot of fun family plans in the works for that!

Personal

Christmas Break

I have heard it said that the week between Christmas and New Year’s is sacred and indeed, it does feel that way. Everything feels quieter and more peaceful (or maybe it’s just that we never turned on the news). We relax, stay in our jammies all day. We make big elaborate meals. We visit with family and friends.

When the girls were little, we would put together toys that needed to be put together and play with them with the girls. Now we play board games and read. I read three books over the last two weeks.

Jason and I both love yoga, but we rarely practice together as he likes to get up at 4:30am to practice and I don’t go to sleep until 11:30pm or later. But, we try to always do a yoga routine together on holidays. On New Year’s Eve we did Yoga with Kassandra’s Winter Solstice Practice and on New Year’s Day we did Partner Yoga -Thai Massage.

The very first year we started homeschooling, we got to be good friends with a family that lives about three blocks away, also has two girls and at the time, homeschooled. We invited them over for New Year’s Eve and the girls slept over and a tradition was born. With the exception of the year I had surgery on December 30 and one year where we went to a party at another family’s house, we have had “the homeschool neighbors” over for every New Year’s Eve and every year it has grown a little. But, I am so thankful for this family. The four girls call each other “sister-friends” because they are closer than just friends. They have been through A LOT together. A LOT. Ups and downs. Months of not talking. Huge Fights. Then huge apologies. The “homeschool neighbor girls” went to school several years ago, but opted to homeschool again last year and in the spring will start taking classes at community college on the same days (Tuesdays and Thursdays), same times as my girls.

I am not sure if our New Year’s Eve party will go on again next year. We planned it in November, but as New Year’s Eve got closer, invitations from the girls’ friends started coming in… and two of them accepted the girls’ invitation to come to our house (but didn’t want to be in the photo). But, I know it’s only a matter of time before the girls want to make their own plans for New Year’s Eve…so many changes happening here. 2018 was a year of transition and I have a feeling 2019 will be as well.

4 star reviews, Book reviews, Cookbooks, plant based, Self Care, vegetarian

Clean Enough by Katzie Guy-Hamilton

4/5 stars

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Katzie Guy-Hamilton is both a pasty chef and a health coach and her approach to eating is to eat clean…most of the time.  And to recognize that there are times when you want a treat and that is ok.  She provides recipes for both clean, healthy, wholesome plant-based meals and tasty treats that still honor your body’s need for nutrition.

I have an eating disorder.  It started as anorexia when I was 12 and, like many people with eating disorders it spirals from anorexia to bulimia.  I wish I could say that I am passed it, but I have had to accept that, for me, it will probably be something I will deal with for the rest of my life.  Although in all honesty, it is nothing like what it was when I was a teenager.  The thing that has made the biggest change for me is focusing on nourishing my body, focusing on vitamins and minerals.  That never occurred to me in the 1980s when I was growing up, it was all about calories, not nutrition.  For me, eating a whole food plant based diet has helped tremendously.  I have read of and spoken to a lot of other people who suffer with eating disorders who have found the same thing: whole food, plant based, the less animal products the better and I actually have a theory that there is something in processed foods that triggers binging and for those of us with eating disorders, after binging comes purging.  But I have no proof of that, it’s purely anecdotal.

I love Katzie Guy-Hamilton’s approach because I think it’s realistic.  I think eating whole food, plant based meals is important to get the vitamins, minerals and protein our bodies need.  But I think we all crave sweets once in a while and having some good recipes for fairly healthy sweets is imperative when those cravings hit.

My daughters and I tried the Cinnamon Carrot Lemonade and found it to be super delicious and refreshing!  I was also really excited to have an actual recipe for Gold Milk because I love ordering it in cafès but I had no idea how to make it.  Also, I am excited for a chai latte that uses rooibos instead of black tea since I don’t do much caffeine!

The granola recipe looks amazing–the ingredients are on my grocery list!  And I am buying apple cider for the overnight oats!  I have made overnight oats many times with almond milk, but never thought to add apple cider and I can not wait to try it!!

There are recipes for things like sumac and gigante beans–which I have never heard of and don’t know where to buy, which is kind of a turn off with cookbooks for me.  But I am excited to try both the Gentle Lentils and the Blistered Miso Sweet Potatoes.

The recipes for treats all look amazing!  I have been trying to eat vegan desserts lately and all of the recipes contain eggs and dairy, but I did earmark a couple for my daughters to try and they look delicious!

I would like to thank Netgalley and The Experiment Publishing for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

Personal

Looking Back at 2018

This year was a good year for our family. I feel so blessed to say that. Everyone was healthy. Everyone was happy. Everything that happened was something we grew and learned from. Most of what happened was planned and wanted.

Old Quebec

Both of my daughters started taking classes at community college. Although they are not the same age, we homeschooled them since our older daughter was in 5th grade and our younger daughter in 3rd grade. Our older daughter would have graduated in June, had she been in school. She opted, as many of her friends did, to consider this year her senior year of high school as opposed to her freshman year of college. It was a decision mainly based on two things: she had not finished Geometry in June and if she was considered a high school senior, she would not have to take the Accuplacer to start taking classes at community college. She was still able to take 3 college classes, which seemed like a good transition into a more structured academic profile. (She just finished Geometry this week and will start Algebra 2 in January, but I don’t think she will finish it).

Since we started homeschooling 8 years ago, my girls did most of the same classes and used most of the same curriculum, with the exception of math. With my older daughter graduating, I didn’t feel like I had anything left to give as far as history and science. We had been through the history of the world twice; we had gone through American history from the settlers through WWII twice and we had covered modern American history in various ways – documentaries on Vietnam, news reports on the Gulf Wars; my girls are fascinated by conspiracy theories on everything from the Moon Landing to 9/11, so they studied that independently because I am not much of a conspiracy theorist; we tracked the 2016 election and the girls were invested in researching candidates (even going to see Bernie Sanders, their candidate of choice, speak). As for science, we had done chemistry three times, biology twice, physics twice and geology once. It was time for both girls to take science in a classroom with a real science lab. My younger daughter had the option of enrolling in a high school program or taking college classes. I did feel that I could still work with her on language arts and she could do math using the online software we have used for years, so she opted to take a couple of classes at community college.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

My older daughter LOVED community college much more than she thought she would – she loved meeting new people, she enjoyed the discussions in her classes and I have no doubt that the material she learned will stay with her for a long time, as she came home from almost every class eager to share with her father and I what she had learned. My younger daughter was very stressed out about her classes, she was concerned about getting called on in class, she was extremely anxious about tests and exams and projects and she found that she did not like college as much as she had hoped she would. There were some tearful evenings and she considered not enrolling for the spring semester and enrolling in a high school program instead. But, one of her best friends, who was homeschooled but went to school a few years ago, decided to leave school, take a high school equivalency exam and enroll in classes at community college. Although they are not taking the same classes in the spring, they will be going on the same days and will be able to hang out in the cafe or student lounges and Piper has decided to enroll in ASL and Geology in the spring.

Neither of my girls knows yet what they want to do. Well, that is not entirely true. My older daughter wants to be a mother and a wife. She wants to live in a farmhouse, homeschool her kids, have chickens, grow organic food and make her own organic holistic beauty products. So, we discuss plans that make sense for this lifestyle. A degree in education? She has assisted in running children’s programs at the library for years and she doesn’t feel she wants to work with kids. Possibly a degree in marketing to market those beauty products? She is currently working at a skincare and make up store and considering getting her esthetician’s license to learn more about skincare.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

My younger daughter is quite the opposite, not sure if she wants to marry and have a family, but definitely knows that she wants a career where she can be creative. She’s wanted to be in fashion ever since I can remember, but we have been encouraging her to think broad for her undergraduate degree…maybe marketing with a minor in fashion merchandising (design, drawing, sewing are not her thing). She also likes to edit video and so we have looked at the Communications program at the community college. Additionally, she is THE MOST ORGANIZED PERSON I have ever met. The child LOVES to go to the Container Store. Her closet and drawers are organized with bins and things that she has purchased there. It is quite a marvel and she sticks with it! We have a friend who owns a company where she helps people purge things and organize their homes, I could see Piper doing something like this and have considered approaching our friend to see if she would consider allowing Piper to intern with her.

Both of my girls have worked since they were about 12. My older daughter tutored my friend’s daughter; my younger daughter walked dogs in the neighborhood. Over the years, my older daughter has babysat and worked as a “page” shelving books at the library and my younger daughter has a dog walking business, walking several dogs in our neighborhood every day and she cuts grass for several neighbors during that season. This year, Allie got a job at the mall. She has wanted to work at the mall since she was 4 years old. She got a job at her first pick, the first store where she applied: Riley Rose, a makeup, skincare and decor store owned by the daughters of the owner of Forever 21. She works with a GREAT group of people! I could not ask for a better group of people or a better first job experience! There have definitely been issues that she has had to navigate – first, getting many more hours than she had originally said she could work and then getting too few hours. But, she is making friends and from what I hear, the girls and guys that she works with seem to all have good heads on their shoulders, are not into drugs or going to crazy parties, they all have a good sense of right and wrong and when another employee doesn’t, it is not tolerated.

A year ago, I was distraught at the idea of my girls growing up. This time last year, I kept thinking “this will be the last time…”. The last time we take off the month of December and craft and watch movies and bake cookies and enjoy the Advent season. This will be the last time Allie is home for Thanksgiving or to decorate the tree or to decorate sugar cookies with us. This is the last time the girls will have time to watch Christmas movies with me and bake with me. I needn’t have worried. Although Allie is working at the mall and taking classes, she was with us on Thanksgiving (her boss scheduled herself and other managers and had a sign-up sheet for staff that wanted to work the holiday). We were able to plan tree and cookie decorating around her schedule and we watched many Christmas movies together, sometimes at 9 or 9:30pm when she got home from work. She missed our annual neighborhood potluck open house, but that is really more for the adults in the neighborhood at this point than the kids.

Montreal

This year I have grown in ways I could never have foreseen a year ago. Like my older daughter, all I ever wanted to be was a mother and wife. I love making a home and taking care of my family. I spent a good part of the last few years telling people that when I thought about having kids, I didn’t think about them growing up. I didn’t think about them no longer needing me. I loved planning playdates, planning meals, cleaning our home, creating a peaceful home sanctuary for our family, it’s all I ever wanted and to feel like that was coming to an end was disorienting to say the least.

I have worked at our local library for ten years and one of my favorite parts of my job is talking to people about books, recommending books and getting book recommendations from other readers. I have managed the library’s social media for a good portion of those ten years and last March, I decided to start an Instagram to recommend books…I thought for our local library patrons, I had no idea Bookstagram was a thing…until I started posting and looking around and realized it was a community! I started following other readers who liked to read the same kinds of books that I like to read. I learned about Netgalley. I made new friends. I started communicating with authors and publishers and it was been such an amazing, rewarding experience! A hobby, yes. But a hobby just for me and one that gives me so much pleasure!

My husband and I always take the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. Last year, during that week, we went out to lunch and we started talking about how we can do these things now…we can go out to eat just the two of us, we don’t need a babysitter. The girls have their own lives and that gives us time to be together. That seemed fun! Also, inspired by my Instagram pal, Mamaland, we decided to take on a hiking challenge for the year. We both love to hike and the girls never liked it, so we had not done much hiking with them, but it was something we wanted to make time for and we didn’t. I knew that taking on a challenge would encourage me to plan it and put it on the calendar and in our house, that is the only way things get done. We discussed reasonable number of hikes considering our work schedules, family time, not wanting to hike when it was 40 degrees or cooler, etc. We decided that 9 hikes seemed reasonable and we had fun all year looking for places to hike. We often combined hiking with brunch or lunch or a visit to a small brewery. We are taking on both a hiking challenge and a brewery challenge for 2019.

This year, we also started fostering dogs, which is something that I have wanted to do for many years and has been so rewarding and something that we look forward to getting more involved with in 2019. I wrote about our experiences here and here and here and here .

Another big change this year was that after many years of being vegetarian, inspired by Hannah McNeely and Ellen Fisher, I decided to go mostly vegan. I am not completely vegan. I eat dairy and eggs on occasion and I am not sure that I want to be completely vegan, although I do feel better when I eat completely vegan, but I also feel good that I am causing less harm and cruelty to animals by having dairy and eggs infrequently. I have a lot to say about this, too much for just a recap post.

The Butcher’s Daughter, NYC

Jason continues to work as an arborist and volunteer his time with the NJISA, our local shade tree commission and sit on the board of several gardens and arboretums. He continues to practice guitar. Several years ago, he got a record player for Christmas. He has always loved music and receiving a record player was the impetus of a new hobby: record collecting. He and I travel around to record stores on weekends, where he peruses the collection for rare or interesting records. He waits on line for hours on Record Store Day and was up and out at 6am on Black Friday Record Store Day to stand out in 12 degrees to get 1 of 3 coveted copies of a Mamas and Papas album. He loves it and finds it so much fun!

This year has been a year of tremendous personal growth for my girls and I. It has been a year when my husband and I started focusing more on our relationship and less on what the girls wanted to do–that is not to say that we are not focused on our kids or are any less focused on them, it’s more that we are focused on them in different ways which leaves more time for us to focus on our relationship. We are all in a good place and for that I feel very blessed.

One of the highlights of my year was seeing Springsteen on Broadway
4 star reviews, activism, Book reviews, Keeping House, Minimalism, plant based, Sustainability

The Sustainable Home by Christine Liu

4/5 stars

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Several years ago, I was a homeschool mom blogger and I took on the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge for Lent.  Basically what you do is fill up 1 bag a day of stuff to donate (or discard) for each of the 40 days of Lent.  I felt so much lighter after I got rid of that stuff.  It was so much easier to keep my house clean.  So I just kept going with it.  It has made us be more intentional with what we bring in to our home and what we purchase.

Over the last couple of years, I have become more and more aware of how much is being wasted in our society.  The rate at which we are redecorating, stores that sell fashionable items for dirt cheap, all of this is contributing to waste.  What are we going to do with it all?  It won’t decompose.  Where on the planet will it all go?  We are depleting resources by continually creating these things.  The working conditions of the people making these products is often deplorable.  I want to be more intentional and so when I saw this book available on Netgalley, I knew I wanted to get my hands on a copy.

Christine Liu does a great job of explaining the global issues of consumerism and materialism.

Then she goes on to explain the benefits of a decluttered space with useful and meaningful items.

Which space would you rather work in?

I used to admire the one on the left, but think that was not where someone actually worked, it was just a design space.  I have found that when you get rid of what you don’t need, you can have a workspace like the one on the left.

Christine Liu gives a practical guide to how to decide what to keep and what to toss and gives suggestions on what to do with the things you decide not to keep.

She then goes into energy consumption in the home and making your home more energy efficient.  She discusses using plants in the home.  She goes into detail about being sustainable in the kitchen, from diets that sustain the planet to growing your own food to how to store your food to what to do with food waste.  There are recipes for several plant based meals.  She gives advice on clothing that is sustainable for the planet and what to look for.  Christine Liu advises getting higher quality pieces that last longer.  There is advice on caring for your clothing and laundering your clothing.  She also discusses bedding and has a recipe for making your own room spray.  From there she goes into being more sustainable in the bathroom from skin care and body care recipes and ideas to hair care and water usage.  Ms Liu also discusses greening the workspace, dining out, going places and taking action.  This is an extremely comprehensive guide to living a lifestyle that is better for the planet as well as our bank account.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

homosexuality, opinion, Personal

Sexuality: I Don’t Want to Go Back and What We Can Do

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Twenty years ago, on October 12, 1998, a young gay man was attacked, chained to a fence in the middle of nowhere, beaten and tortured and left to die.  He suffered for six days from severe head injuries before finally passing away.

I have been haunted by that story for twenty years.  I can not stop my mind from imagining his pain, his fear.  I can not stop myself from thinking of the pain of his parents and family.

He was killed for being the way that God made him.

For twenty years, his parents were afraid to lay his ashes to rest.  They were afraid the grave would be destroyed.  Finally, on October 26, 2018, his ashes were put to rest at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

It feels a little like healing today as I search for images of Matthew Shepard and find images like the one below, and not just images of the fence where he was left to die or of his sad face – the face of a young man who felt so maligned and misunderstood by our society.

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A couple of weeks before Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered, a new show had aired on NBC.  A show about a successful, attractive gay man who lived with his female best friend, they had an egocentric flamboyantly gay neighbor and a rude, self-centered, substance abusing wealthy socialite that also hung around with them.  At the time that show aired, my husband volunteered at our local firehouse on Thursday evenings and I had a standing call with my best friend.  Our phone call started before the show, with conversation, but while the show was on, we only talked during commercials.  We did that for years.

Will and Grace was our show.  But it was also the show of countless other people and it had a huge impact on our society.  When Facebook really took off, about ten years after Will and Grace had first aired and three years after it went off the air, most of my friends posted equal signs as their profile picture, showing their support for same-sex marriage.  Eight years later, the Supreme Court of the United States passed Marriage Equality – allowing same sex couples to marry.  We celebrated by taking our kids to the Pride Parade in NYC that weekend.

Will and Grace went off the air in 2005, but last year, the political climate was such that, they were afraid we were going backwards, away from acceptance and inclusion, and they brought the show back**.  I was thrilled because now I get to watch it with my girls.  Last night, I watched Episode 4 of Season 2 (10), an episode in which Will and Grace spend a rainy day reading through a box of letters they had written to each other.  They discover that Grace has not read a letter that Will wrote her because she was so devastated after he came out to her; she finally reads the letter and realizes how he felt like the world would hate him.  The wonderful actor, Eric McCormack, who plays Will did a great job of just staring off into space.  Remembering.

It made me remember what it used to be like.Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 11.09.52 AM

When I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone who was homosexual.  In the 80s, we used to use an expression “that’s so gay” and one night my parents asked us if we knew what that meant.  I was 11 or 12 and my parents were glad that we said it meant “lame”.  A few years later, my parents explained to us what it meant.

There was a boy that I grew up with who loved to come over and play with my play kitchen when we were little.  As we got older, our friendship changed, of course.  We stayed close.  When we were in high school, a girl in our class had a crush on him and kept asking me to talk to him for her and see if he liked her.  I would ask him and he would joke around.  I never knew what to say to her, until one day, I told her that he was gay.  I didn’t even think about it, it just came out and as soon as it did, I realized it was true.  It didn’t take long for that rumor to spread through our high school.  My friend was so mad at me by the end of the day and he was so scared, which I did not understand at the time.  He didn’t come to school for several days.  We didn’t talk again for years.  He was teased mercilessly, he was physically assaulted and I later found out that he was hospitalized more than once for suicide attempts.

I don’t want to go back to that.

Another boy in our high school class did commit suicide because he was afraid to come out.  I don’t want to go back to that.

My best friend, who I met in high school and who was my best friend at Rutgers when we were in college, who served in my wedding party and is my younger daughter’s godfather, was teased and tormented physically, mentally and emotionally for being different when we were kids.  I am so grateful that he has found a wonderful partner and been married for several years and has a happy and thriving life and career.  But there was a time when he thought his future would be bleak, where he felt like he was an abomination to God, where he felt like he was wrong, that there was something wrong with him, where he wanted to go to be reprogrammed.  I was the first person he came out to and that was huge and an honor I took very seriously.  It took a tremendous amount of courage for him to come out.

Because of my best friend in college, I knew many other people who struggled with coming out when we were in college.  I sat up many nights holding people’s hands, listening to them, telling them it would be ok.  I was there the night the football team came to the dorm, drunk, and started chanting outside the windows of gay students, asking them to come out and get their asses kicked, telling them that would make men out of them.

I don’t want to go back to that.

My girls grew up with gay uncles and gay aunts.  When she was three, my oldest asked me why Uncle (my best friend) wasn’t married and I told her that he and Uncle (his partner, who is now his husband) loved each other just like they were married and that satisfied her.  I never explained it again to my kids.  They just understood.  Love is love.

When I started working at the library, ten years ago, there was a flamboyantly dressed openly gay high school boy that would come in.  He felt free to be himself.  I did hear that some kids teased him in school, but that enough other kids had his back.

My kids now have friends who are all over the spectrum of sexuality.  Gay, lesbian, bi, pan, trans.  Kids feel comfortable coming out.  They feel comfortable being themselves.  I struggle sometimes with kids who are gender confused, I feel as though saying, “I feel like a boy today, call me Micah” and then a short time later, “I feel like a girl today call me Erica” is fodder for people who think sexuality is a choice; I feel like they will use it to validate their argument.  I do understand gender confusion, but I also understand how we got to this place of acceptance and inclusion and I am so afraid of going backwards that I don’t want to give conservatives any ammunition.

Sexuality is not a choice.  As the pastor of our church has said, sexuality is like eye color or handedness, it’s determined by God.  Maybe to make us more tolerant of those who are different from us.

If sexuality were a choice, my childhood friend would not have been suicidal.  The young man I knew in high school would not have committed suicide.  My best friend would not have chosen to be different, he didn’t choose this life, he didn’t choose to be different and to live in fear for his life for years before the world became more inclusive.

A woman I work with is a very conservative Christian and she loves to talk about a man she knows who was gay but was reprogrammed and is now straight and has children.  But, she says, you can tell that he was gay because he is a little effeminate sometimes.  It makes me sad that he couldn’t be himself and I just hope it works for him.

When my grandfather was a little boy, he was left-handed, but as a young boy in Catholic school, the nuns thought that was an abomination against God and made him write with his right hand.  His knuckles were slapped daily and repeatedly with a ruler as a punishment if he dared write with his left hand.  He was punished, made an example of.  Until his dying day, he wrote better with his left hand.

At one time in our country, the Bible was used to defend slavery.  At another time in our country, the Bible was used to condemn interracial marriage.  The Bible was used to support segregation and Jim Crow laws.

I don’t want to go back to a country where slavery is legal, interracial marriage is forbidden or segregation is allowed.  And I don’t want to go back to living in a country where young people are beaten, chained to a fence and left for dead because of their sexuality.

If you agree with me, PLEASE GO VOTE!

** The tribute to Madonna and what she has done for the gay community was beautiful and so touching and so true.

Being a Librarian, Personal

What No One Tells You About Being a Librarian

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 10.37.39 PMI’ve loved books since I was a child.  My mom used to tell me to put my book down and go play outside and I would just bring the book and hide in the trees and read.

I’ve always loved bookstores and libraries.  I loved being around all the books.  I loved the quiet.  I have fond memories of singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” in the children’s program I attended as a three year old.  I had a wonderful relationship with the children’s librarian in our town library and she used to order me books about pioneers because she knew I loved them.  So, it seemed a natural fit to want to be a librarian.

What You Expect

I thought I would spend my day discussing and recommending books, helping people find the information they needed, purchasing books, cataloging books, creating displays with books and maybe, if I was done with all of my work, I would don a pair of those reading glasses on a chain around a librarian’s neck and read quietly at my desk until another patron needed help.

Yeah, not so much.

Hardly anyone reads books anymore. In the ten years that I have worked at the library, our circulation numbers have steadily declined as more and more people use e-readers.  I seldom get to recommend books to patrons anymore, as they are using Amazon for that.  One of the reasons I started the bookstagram was to share posts on our library social media pages as a way both to reach patrons and because I had a need to discuss books that was not being met at work.

Everyone uses the Internet. Ten years ago, people would come in looking for information on everything from eating a healthier diet to starting a business to Fodor’s travel guides to how to build a shed to legal documents and forms.  Now they no longer come to the library for those things, they look online.  The information online many times is much more up to date.  There is an abundance of healthy recipe blogs.  There is a plethora of information on starting your own business.  You can see someone’s reviews of restaurants and hotels and travel excursions on Yelp.  You can access the most up to date information on legal documents and download forms from the internet.

We still buy books, but not as many as our budget was cut for many years and has now stabilized, but still there is not as much room in the budget or necessity to buy books when so many patrons use e-readers.  We still catalog the books we buy and create displays relevant to monthly events or literary themes (creating displays is one of my favorite parts of my job!)

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What You NEVER Expect

Librarians need to be part social worker.  Libraries are a free service.  Everyone is welcome, which is lovely and we provide a wonderful service.  But this means you will deal with a lot of mentally ill and mentally disabled people, which can be rewarding but it can also lead to burnout.  You will have to sit closely to someone that has soiled themselves and help them use the computer.  You may have to deal with someone who comes to the library in pajamas and slippers and meows at you.  You may have to deal with someone who is angry with you for shushing them and so they stick their library card in their mouth, withdraw it slowly and want you to take it and scan their number so they can add money to their account or check out materials.  You may have someone throw a small display set of foreign language DVDs across the room because you asked them to refrain from using their cell phone.  You may deal with people who think they are in another time period and work with historical figures and if they sense you don’t 100% believe they just got off the phone with JFK or Ronald Reagan, they get very agitated.  Patrons may invite you to their birthday parties and confront you about why you didn’t attend.  You may have homeless people seeking shelter and begging for food or money from patrons; which puts you in a sad quandary of what to do–you can’t kick them out in the cold, there are few shelters for homeless men; if you give them food or money, they will always ask for it and you may not want to set that precedent.  **All of the above has happened to me personally at the library.**

Something that has never happened to me but I see routinely on message boards is that drugs are sold in library bathrooms.  I can not tell you how many times I have seen that someone was busted for selling drugs in a library bathroom or that a patron came out of the bathroom and said that they thought there was a drug deal going on in the bathroom.  This is not just in inner city areas.  I have heard of drugs exchanging hands in bathrooms in suburban and rural libraries, in affluent communities and in middle class communities.  And that leads to the whole issue of…will people feel safe coming to the library?

If you work in the Children’s Room, you will be a babysitter.  In many towns, after-school care ends in 5th grade, but parents don’t feel comfortable having their 11 year old go home alone after school, so they tell them to go to the library.  If they come alone, that’s great.  They usually sit quietly and do their homework.  I usually have projects waiting that I can ask for their help with if they seem bored (of course, they don’t have to help, but many of them LOVE to help because it gives them a purpose).  Many kids, however, will come in a group and they will get rowdy and start talking loudly and causing a scene.  If you ask them to leave, they have nowhere else to go since their parents don’t want them home alone.  You will more than likely hear from their parents if you ask them to leave.  Their parents will not understand that putting Mentos in their Coke on the table at the library was not allowed.  Their parents will not understand that they were loud, that you asked them repeatedly to quiet down, to not sit on the tables, to not swing their backpacks and hit other kids, to not run in the library, to not swear loudly, to not throw things, to not push each other, to not eat in the library, to not shout across the library and to not make-out (this is more for kids in 8th grade and up) in the library.  ***All of these things have happened to me in the library.***

You will also have parents who drop off kids under the age of 10 (as young as 4) because they don’t have childcare; the kids will hang out in the library, usually with siblings, for hours.  You will have parents who don’t pick up from programs.   Depending on how long and how frequently this goes on, you have the quandary of whether or not to call Child Protective Services.  We have an Unattended Child Policy that is displayed in the library and periodically emailed to all patrons so that we can not be held accountable should these kids get hurt or worse, go missing.  But you do worry.  ***All of these have happened to me in the library.***

People don’t understand that you can’t get involved with their private information.  Librarians can not get involved with people’s private information – their social security numbers, any kind of personal documentation.  But people don’t understand that.  Some don’t understand how to use a computer, but need to fill out unemployment applications, pension applications, job applications, tax forms, relief aid forms, etc. online and don’t know how to use a computer, so you are put in a situation where you can’t help someone who really needs help or you jeopardize your job in order to help them.

Librarians are NOT tax or legal experts. Almost every single shift I get asked to help with either tax or legal issues.  I am neither a tax nor a legal expert.  I can’t tell you what forms to fill out or if this is what you need to win a lawsuit.  I can’t help, because if I do and things don’t go right, I run the risk of you coming back and blaming me.  Same goes for not being able to help your kid with their homework beyond basic help or helping them find a book that might have the answer.

Lonely people love libraries. We have quite a few patrons who are lonely.  They are widowed or widowers or live alone and many of them come to the library and are happy to just sit among others and read the newspaper or a book and have a casual chat with the librarian if she is not busy.  But some people are not satisfied with that, they want more, they want the librarian to talk to them for hours, they want attention, they want to feel like someone cares.  And we do care.  But we also have books to catalog, displays to create, programs to organize, people who need assistance on the computer, etc.

Libraries are no longer quiet places of study. Libraries have had to re-invent themselves in a time when people use e-readers rather than checking out books and search the internet as opposed to asking the librarian for help.  Libraries have become meeting places.  On any given day we can have social workers and medical advisors, attorneys, financial advisors and accountants meeting with patrons at tables.  In the afternoons, our tables are filled with tutors meeting with students.  It’s not quiet with all of those different voices talking -even at low tones – at the same time.

There are wonderful things about being a librarian – like helping people and possibly finding a book for someone that will make them love reading.  But, like any job, there are a lot of difficult things and being a librarian is not for the faint of heart.  It takes a certain armor and strength to be a librarian.  Every day is different and you never know what will happen until it happens.  Burnout rate was not high for librarians years ago, but now that the role of the library has changed, burnout rates are much higher with many librarians not working in libraries after 12 years.

 

5 star reviews, Personal

Springsteen on Broadway

10/5 stars

When I was a little girl growing up in New Jersey, I was aware that everyone made fun of the state–the armpit of America.  People thought the state was all factories and refineries and pollution and cities that had been destroyed by race riots.  I come from a hard-working, blue collar, Catholic Polish and Italian family.  I went to Catholic school and in 1984 when I was 12 years old, I could not wait to get the hell out of there.  There was a song that would come on the radio and I would dance around my little bedroom thinking that this guy understood, he got it.  I didn’t know then that he was from a town just 35 miles away and that he, too, was from a hard-working, blue collar, Catholic (Dutch, Irish and Italian in his case) family.  But the stories, the sound, the feel…it was what I had known my whole life.  Some of that music felt then and feels now as though it was being played inside of me.  The following summer, my cousin’s neighbor slept out all night in Colonia, NJ and got tickets to see Bruce at Giants Stadium.  In New Jersey, that summer, that was the biggest thing going.  One of our own had made it big and we all wanted to go out and cheer for him.  My cousin, her friend and I stood our little 13 year old bodies on top of our seats and screamed our throats raw and clapped our hands bloody and it was the best night of my 13 year old life.  Still stands out as one of the best nights of my life.  I was hooked.  The next day, I scrounged up all my money and went to the record store and bought every Bruce Springsteen cassette tape I could afford.  I listened to them in order, starting with Greetings.  I spent weeks just listening to Greetings before I moved on to the Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, absorbing it, just drinking it in.  My family and friends thought it was crazy that I had all these tapes and I had not even unwrapped them yet.

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When Springsteen on Broadway was announced, I put in for a code and didn’t get one.  Second round, nothing.  Finally, when they announced that Bruce wanted every single person that had applied for a code to get one and to have the chance to see the show.  I got a code.  My husband and I could not get seats together and we paid more for the seats we got than we have ever paid for a concert ticket before.  But it was worth it.  Worth every penny.

Bruce is a master storyteller.  He gets to that part that is human experience, that we can all relate to in one way or another.  His dad, quiet and stoic, dark and angry, never feeling that he got the love from his dad that he wanted so he emulated his dad to feel close to him.  He talked about a dream that he had where he knelt beside his dad and watched the man onstage perform in front of 80,000 screaming fans.  He said he wished his dad could have seen this.  The woman next to me and I both had our hands over our mouths so that we wouldn’t sob out loud.

He talked about his mom and how proud and happy she was.  How hard she worked.  How she was always smiling.  He sang a song called “The Wish” which is on Tracks, an album I have owned for twenty years and listened to countless times, but it never stood out to me until he sang it last night after talking about his mom.

If pa’s eyes were windows into a world so deadly and true
You couldn’t stop me from looking but you kept me from crawlin’ through

He talked about being a young man, moving out of Freehold.  He talked about his sisters, his friends growing up, the tree that had stood in front of his house when he was growing up.  He talked about meeting Ron Kovac and he talked about getting drafted and the guys he knew who had died in Vietnam.  He said he often wonders who took his place, because someone did.  He talked about his relationship with Patti.

He sang songs, raw and acoustic in between the stories and it worked beautifully together.  But the stories are what told me that I was right about him.  That he was the man that I had always thought he was.  A man who cares about family and where you come from, a man with integrity.  A man with great soul.  He talked about how he has tried to figure out his story and our stories and it’s been a service that he tried to provide over the years and that he could not have done it without the fans.

My one criticism of this performance is that the tickets were priced exorbitantly high.  I don’t think it was necessary to price them that high.  I think they could have been more reasonably priced.   I would just see him more as a man of the people, if he had more tickets in the $75-150 range and nothing over $300.  It does bother me to think of how much money he has and that he would charge these prices.  But, I do not regret having spent the money because the show was awesome!