This Bird Does It

Librarian ramblings


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Miss me?

I have a lot of things I’ve been thinking about writing. I have five or six separate posts I want to get into writing, and it probably just isn’t going to happen. One, in particular is languishing. Some friends in the neighborhood have a foster son they would love to adopt, and there’s all sorts of nastiness in their story highlighting how broken our system is, and I’d love to tell you all about that, and maybe even get some support going for them to try and reverse the most likely outcome of their situation. I won’t, though, because I won’t take the chance that anything I write, or share, or post, or tweet, or whatever, could put the tiniest chance they have of winning for the side of GOOD at risk. That’s a tough position to be in. Not as tough as this little boy’s situation and that of the foster family that loves him dearly, but tough. I’ll share their story when it’s resolved, and in the meantime, let’s all pray that it has a happy ending.

In other, happier news, I finished my ten week course this semester. Final grade looks like an A minus. Still an A, but not a four point A. I’m disappointed because I lost a couple points for some careless mistakes. I can’t believe I’m beating myself up over an A minus, but I am. A little. Just a little, just for a minute. Now I can focus on the sixteen week course I’m taking in Rare Books. I’m having such a great time with this class, even though I’ve fallen behind finishing the other class. This week was “Spring Break” which just means I didn’t have any NEW work for that class. I’d meant to spend most of the week catching up, but it didn’t work out quite that well. It will be a busy weekend. I’m not terribly worried. I have a lot to do, but I’m confident that I can get it done.

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Photo by dbking, flickr

This class is so engaging and so fascinating to me. I’m working on a virtual exhibit of Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass. On Wednesday, I went out to the Rare Books room at OSU to see a first impression, published in 1855. It was a little thrilling to just be able to sign in and then HOLD the book. I could handle it, and read it, and smell it, and examine it. I could not, however, photograph it, but that’s okay. I pulled up the The Walt Whitman Archives and compared the book in front of me to the digitized version of a first impression that they have online. Wow, that was awesome. Those two books might have come off the presses RIGHT next to each other. There were only 795 copies of this edition printed, and even fewer with that lovely green cloth cover. And this one is in wonderful shape. It was such a privilege to play with it, and it ramped up my love of the rare books and archives part of this profession. I wish I could count on finding a job in that particular area, but it seems unlikely. Nonetheless, I will be looking for more opportunities to volunteer in the field, even if just for the fun of it.

Speaking of volunteering, I’m thrilled to be starting my first official volunteer gig with Hamma Library at Trinity Seminary next week. I will likely just be doing some general helping out and shadowing, but I’m excited to be spending some time in a library as something other than a patron! I interviewed the director of Hamma for my Special Library class that just finished up, and everyone there was wonderfully helpful and lovely. I’m looking forward to spending more time with them and to gathering some experience from them.

20140328_072828MIDDLE BIRD IS NINE! My second kid is NINE YEARS OLD! Somehow, I’m feeling like the capital letter scream is just not conveying how knocked out I am by this. My oldest turned ten in January and I celebrated a decade of motherhood, but somehow, this kid’s ninth birthday is heavier! Perhaps it’s that he’s the kid requiring the most attention and general parenting challenge acceptance lately, but I just can’t believe he’s halfway to eighteen! He’s such a wonderful, amazing, sweet, brilliant, thoroughly infuriating kid! I’m so proud of him, so in love with him, and so blown away with how fast he’s growing up. He has challenged everything I thought I knew about parenting and little boys. He’s fighting every day to be the person God created him to be. Even when it doesn’t look much like he’s fighting, I know he’s struggling, and I’m proud of him for sticking with it even when I’m exhausted with frustration. This kid was a total surprise, as much as that third kid four years later. When he was born, there was a true knot in his umbilical chord. Though of the three kids, his birth was by far the easiest for me, I will never forget hearing Dr. D’s first words after, “It’s a BOY!” He said, “Whoa, you don’t usually see that with a live birth!” Jarring, but there he was, screaming his little heart out, announcing his giant presence with all the gusto he still brings to each day of his life. Oh, he’s a live birth, alright. Maybe more alive than the rest of us. He is a challenge to parent, but I pray every day that his dad and I can be up to the task, because that giant presence will serve him well someday. I’m certain that he has work to do on this planet. We all do, but he has something special to accomplish, and I’m so excited to watch him do it. Happy Birthday, buddy.

 

 

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Perfection. It doesn’t exist, but the story DOES!

364_29718079747_5941_nIn 1978 I started second grade at William H. Blount Elementary School on Princess Place Drive in Wilmington, N.C. I liked school. I liked books. I liked the library. I remember being in the space with lots of short stacks and paint-stirrer sticks used to mark the spot on the shelf where you removed a book. I remember going into the library for storytime. I don’t know how often we students were herded into the library and seated on the pea soup colored carpet to listen to a teacher or librarian read a story, but I remember one particular story so clearly.

Do you remember any of the stories you were read in the second grade? How about any of the stories that you never heard again? I mean, sure I remember the Dr. Suess stories. I remember the Madeline stories. I remember Eloise and Curious George. I’ve been reading those, or hearing about them, or watching them be turned into children’s programs, since I was a child. We read those at home and read them over and over. But this one time, this one story, that I would not hear again for 36 years, I remembered. And I spoke of it sometimes to friends. We would laugh about how ridiculous it was. Who tells kids a story like that? I often wondered over the years if I had made it up in my own memory. Or perhaps I just remembered it differently.364_29718084747_6150_n

The story, as I remembered it, was about a perfect little girl and the devil. The devil was, of course, unhappy that a little girl could be so perfect and began trying to get her to be angry. If she were to get angry, he reasoned, she wouldn’t be perfect. So he gave her the chicken pox, but she didn’t scratch or complain. He had a cow step on her favorite doll, but (and I always used this exact phrase in retelling the story) she forgave the cow. He tried all sorts of other tricks that didn’t work, but in the end he did win. He let her have her perfect life, a perfect husband, and a perfect house. And a less than perfect child.

When I started thinking again about becoming a librarian, this story kept coming back to my mind. I knew that I had to find it. I had to find out if it was even real. It seemed like an excellent wannabe librarian challenge. I Googled and Googled, and eventually, I figured out that it was a real story and it appeared in The Devil’s Storybook, by Natalie Babbitt, first published in 1974. At the time, that was fine, I only needed to know that some story about a perfect little girl and the devil was real. I probably twisted it around in my head anyway. I probably didn’t remember the story just right. I’d only been seven, after all, and I have never heard the story since.

364_29718094747_6354_nThis week I happened across an article about my old elementary school. It doesn’t matter much what it was about, so I’ll spare you, but it made me remember those storytimes when I was little. I decided I needed to get hold of a copy of The Devil’s Storybook. It was time that I actually READ the story and compared it to my memory. It only took a couple days for my library’s consortium to get it delivered to my local branch. It’s a really short story, so bare with me while I share the whole thing.

“Perfection,” by Natalie Babbitt

There was a little girl once called Angela who always did everything right. In fact, she was perfect. She had better manners than anyone, and not only that, but she hung up her clothes and never forgot to feed the chickens. And not only that, but her hair was always combed and she never bit her fingernails. A lot of people, all of them fair-to-middling, disliked her very much because of this, but Angela didn’t care. She just went right on being perfect and let things go as they would. 

Now, when the Devil heard about Angela, he was revolted. “Not,” he explained to himself, “that I give a hang about children as a rule, but this one! Imagine what shell be like when she grows up–a woman whose only fault is that she has no faults!” And the very thought of it made him cross as crabs. So he wrote up a list of things to do that he hoped would make Angela edgy and, if all went well, even make her lose her temper. “Once she loses her temper a few times,” said the Devil, “she’ll never be perfect again.”20140307_073628

However, this proved harder to do than the Devil had expected. He sent her chicken pox, then poison ivy, and then a lot of mosquito bites, but she never scratched and didn’t even seem to itch. He arranged for a cow to step on her favorite doll, but she never shed a tear. Instead, she forgave the cow at once, in public, and said it didn’t matter. Next the Devil fixed is that for weeks on end her cocoa was always too hot and her oatmeal too cold, but this, too, failed to make her angry. In fact, it seemed that the worse things were, the better Angela liked it, since it gave her a chance to show just how perfect she was.

Years went by. The Devil used up every idea on his list but one, and Angela still had her temper, and her manners were still better than anyone’s. “Well, anyway,” said the evil to himself, “my last idea can’t miss. That much is certain.” And he waited patiently for the proper moment.

When that moment came, the Devil’s last idea worked like anything. In fact, it was perfect. As soon as he made it happen, Angela lost her temper once a day at least, and sometimes oftener, and after a while she had lost it so often that she was never quite so perfect again.

And how did he do it? Simple. He merely saw that she got a perfect husband and a perfect house, and then–he sent her a fair-to-middling child.

I was stunned at how perfectly I’d remembered the details of the story, but at the same time, how different the story really was. It was essentially the same story I’d remembered, but in Ms. Babbitt’s words, now it was about the concept of “perfection”  and the idea of perceptions, and parenthood, and life. Now, with my 42 year old, mother’s sensibilities, I read this story and cried. Not because I’d ever, EVER been perfect, or even aspired to perfection. Not because my husband, or my house, or any other aspect of my life, is perfect. Not because I have any fair-to-middling children. 364_29718099747_6555_n

My mind is still wrapping itself around this little story. I don’t suppose there are a lot of K-12 librarians reading it to school children these days. Why did I remember it so well? I wonder why it made such an impact on my seven-year-old mind. Regardless, I feel so satisfied in having tracked it down and found out that I DID remember it correctly. I feel so vindicated.


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A Year In Birdland

Today is day 365 of blogging for me. I’ve kept this thing going for a full year. Not sure that it’s any more entertaining today than it was on March 6, 2013, but it’s still here, and that’s saying something, right?

It’s also Ash Wednesday. Lent, Easter, and all the associated dates are so variable, that it’s hard to measure the years by those dates. Middle Bird’s birthday is March 28 and he celebrated his first birthday before he got to his first Easter.

The Girlie Bird’s first trip to church was on Ash Wednesday, that year it was back in February, and she pulled one of those baby power blows just as we stepped to the alter for the imposition of ashes. Yeah, you parents out there know what I’m talking about. When you’re holding your sweet newborn, and she’s sleeping so peacefully, then for just a second she screws up her tiny face for just a second, and there’s a rumbling that’s so deep and so foreboding that it doesn’t occur to you it might be coming from that bundle in your arms, then BAM, the explosion! And I just slipped out quietly hoping there hadn’t been a containment error.

Baby Bird was baptized on Easter Vigil. Actually, all three of the kids were baptized on changeable dates, the other two were Mothers and Fathers Days.

Babbling? Well, yeah, a little. But hey, that’s life. I just wanted to pop in and say it’s been a year. A full year of blogging, and that happens to end on Ash Wednesday, which is, of course, the beginning of Lent. I’m not sure what adventures Lent will bring this year. I don’t know what spring will bring. We’re not to spring, yet, but Lent is surely a good sign that we’re moving that direction!