I’m back! And that’s not all.
We went to a spy-themed birthday party for our friend Svetlana, recently. It was so fun, and creative! We were a couple of the only people who spoke English as a first language, which was sometimes a challenge, but definitely added to our mystique. It’s not like you can pop your head over and get in on a conversation when everyone else is speaking Russian, and all you know is Thank you, and the colloquial way to say Bye Bye. Everyone was patient and kind to us, though, loved our costumes, and I tell you, these people can bring on the food and disco like nobody’s business! I’ve been trying to talk Joe into dying his hair blonde – what do you think?
A whole slew of friends and I have or will be turning 50 this year. I think ‘turning’ is the current catch-phrase for becoming a vampire, which isn’t as dissimilar as you might think. Thanks to SPF 50 sunscreen (hmmm. Is this merely coincidence? 50?) like a vampire I am whiter than ever, as I drag myself out of bed each morning and make my way to work I feel that heavy ball and chain angst of When Will it Ever End!? which vampires, being immortal, must go through on a daily basis. I’m also finding myself a bit bitey these days.
What is with the grumpy, negative attitude? I’ve taken pills for that slight attitude adjustment that keeps my tongue in check when I want to yell at my boss, (doctor prescribed) for the last couple of years, yet it seems at some point during every day I realize that I’ve been frowning; like someone snuck up and slapped Mr. Potato Head’s Angry Eyes onto my face. Perhaps it’s the lack of a decent sleep. I feel tired all the time. I had a dream the other night that I found a pair of earplugs that blocked out up to 45 decibels (the highest I’ve found only white-out 33). What kind of a dream is that? The rare time I actually have a surge of energy I mistake it for an anxiety attack: My heart, it’s fluttering! It’s beating too fast! What’s going on?! Damn that Baconnaise! Then again, maybe it’s not being a middle-aged woman head-banging her way into the change of life, but that Eeyore at work who cannot seem to say a positive thing. Ever.
Because no matter how you look at it, that’s what we are now – middle-aged. Turning 50 is smack dab in the middle of the road. Like the opening to The Pretender’s song:
THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD IS TRYING TO FIND ME
I’M STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF LIFE WITH MY PLANS BEHIND ME
or another person’s interpretation of the lyrics:
THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD IS TRYING TO FIND ME
I’M STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF LIFE WITH MY PAINS BEHIND ME
Get out! Pains? They’re behind us, like we’re not going to have any in the second half? Whoever transcribed that can’t be a day over 30. I had one too many tacos last night and thought I was going to die. I have to reach down and click the little toe I broke a couple years ago (running from Joe in my slip with champagne giggles after we got home from the company Christmas party) back into place every morning. The little kid freckles I still have on my face surround the deeply furrowed lips of my grandmother! Oomba baloomba, talk about pain!
Or, there’s the way I’ve been hearing it and singing it for years:
THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD IS TRYING TO FIND ME
I’M STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF LIFE WITH MY PANTS BEHIND ME.
What can I say? I like an entertaining visual.
I was a juror last week — again. Attorneys love librarians. I know now that if I get called up to serve, I’m going to be picked. During jury selection last week, one of the attorneys even asked, “Where’s my librarian?!” in an eager way, kind of like a kid who hears the ice cream truck in the neighborhood and wants to know exactly where it is. In this case, I think my librarian experience actually did help.
One of the things I routinely do in my job, although I’m sure most of the public isn’t aware of this and it certainly wasn’t ever covered in library school, is write up incident reports. These are reports we send to our Security Department, detailing incidents when the Rules of Conduct are violated. Some of them are relatively minor — repeatedly falling asleep, repeatedly eating food in the library, or using someone else’s library card to get additional time on the computers. Some are much more serious — threatening other patrons or staff members, assaulting other patrons or staff members, stealing or damaging library property, showing up drunk, refusing to leave, and using drugs on library property.
When one of these violations occurs, we have to write up an incident report. This is not a simple task. You need to think about what happened and describe it objectively. You need to make sure your own adrenaline rush or anger or fear don’t cause you to write it up in a slanted or inaccurate way. These incident reports are used to dole out consequences, like being excluded from the library for a certain period of time, and can potentially be used in a lawsuit. It’s critical to get the facts straight and to report them in an unbiased way. One of my co-workers is a professional writer, so his incident reports are always top-notch. He captures the dialog and actions in a page-turning sort of way, while still staying true to all of the facts. A recent report of his described a defiant patron who raised his fist on the way out after being asked to leave the library. Probably not a critical fact, but very entertaining to read, for sure.
I have gotten better at writing these reports because, frankly, I’ve gotten a lot of practice and also because I’ve learned what kinds of facts our Security Officers need. One thing I’ve learned is that witnesses who saw the same event don’t necessarily remember the same things. We often differ on physical descriptions of people, what we remember hearing people say, and timelines of events. So, when I got called up as a potential juror last week for a domestic violence assault case that primarily revolved around conflicting witness accounts that also didn’t synch with the police report, I was the perfect juror. I totally understand how that can happen and don’t assume that what anyone says after a frightening event is necessarily wrong or right. It’s true for them, but maybe nobody else.
One thing that I really like about serving on a jury is the way you get to know other people rather intensely in a short period of time. Our trial lasted three days and our jury included just six people (instead of the usual 12 that I am used to) — four men and two women. All white. All well-educated and doing okay financially. In other words, very different from the people directly involved in the trial. So, is that a true jury of the defendant’s peers? I don’t know. I did get to know and come to respect and like all of the other jurors. I’m proud to say that I think we were fully present during the trial and took our jobs very seriously. That didn’t prevent us, though, from ending up in a mistrial. We were a hung jury, split down the middle with 3 guilty votes and 3 not guilty votes. We all knew we wouldn’t budge, so we ended up disappointing the judge and the prosecuting attorney. I suppose the defense attorney was somewhat unhappy, too, but she was probably relieved that her client wasn’t found guilty. I would be shocked if the case is tried again. Ultimately, the evidence was weak, poorly presented, and full of contradictions.
It’s interesting that everyone who spoke during the trial was female — the judge, the two attorneys, the police officer, and the two main witnesses. The one person we never heard was the defendant — a young African-American male. He had no voice in the process — not during the trial and not on recording of the 9-1-1 call that we listened to multiple times. I suppose his attorney was his voice and she did an admirable job of defending him, much better than the prosecuting attorney who appeared to be fresh out of law school and a little unprepared, but his silence was still very noticeable. I wish I could talk to him and find out how he is.
I told a friend of mine that I had been a juror on a domestic violence case that ended up with a hung jury and she automatically said, “You voted guilty, right?” Whoa. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that upset me. It made me realize how quickly so many people jump to conclusions when they hear words like “domestic violence.” In fact, I was one of the three jurors who voted not guilty. I took the juror instructions very seriously and literally and the prosecutor had not proven the man’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I had lots of doubts. I knew I could not look the defendant in his eyes if a verdict of guilty had been stated. I would not have slept well after that. When I’ve been on juries in the past, I felt very confident in my votes and stood up to them even when, in one case, the defendant came charging at us jurors after the trial, screaming at us and had to be held back by his attorney.
This time, though, I knew that the prosecution failed. Fortunately, one of the other jurors was a paralegal and felt exactly the same way I did. Based on his experience and training, he knew we couldn’t deliver a guilty verdict. Another juror, a very impressive young man with lots of energy and smarts, agreed. The three of us entered the deliberation phase sort of assuming that everyone would agree that the evidence was lame and that we would quickly decide on a verdict of not guilty. So, it was interesting to find out that the other three jurors saw it very differently. I respect their views. I understand their stances. I just disagree. That’s the beauty of a multi-member jury. Disagreeing is an option. I know I disappointed the other female juror who, like my friend, probably assumed I would vote guilty because of the subject matter and my gender. But, I couldn’t do it and I slept fine that night.
This picture was taken by my dad in Norfolk, Virginia not quite 50 years (aaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!) ago. That’s my sister, Sherry, and my brother Lance flanking my mom, and I’m the little white bundle. When I asked my dad for this photo I had to laugh that it was labeled “Norfolk-’57 Buick.” My dad has a thing for cars. I love that even at this size you can see my mom’s dimples. She’s a smiler. And a hugger. One of the reasons I chose WWU for school was that Bellingham was a quick hour away from Oak Harbor and my mom’s sturdy hugs. They are no-nonsense, 100% organic and true hugs. I’m glad to say the Hug Gene is a dominant one and has been passed down to me, and to my son, as well.
I’ll soon be in full party mode, shining up the house, food shopping, and doing some prep work in the kitchen, as we are hosting a brunch for my extended family tomorrow, and know I’ll be disconnected from the computer. I just wanted to wish all the mothers out there a truly happy Mother’s Day. Today, tomorrow, and every day, thank you for having that special quality of a mom, and knowing what to do when we need you. Even if it’s just a hug.
When you work at the Information Desk in a public library, you get asked every kind of question imaginable and then some. Last week, an elderly gentleman asked my colleague and I whether the library had a dress code for its employees. We asked why he wanted to know and the gentleman said that he wondered if my skirt was too short and, thus, in violation of the dress code. I am 49 years old. My skirt was not too short. It was above my knees, but, believe me, everything was covered. I was wearing maroon tights and flat Mary Jane shoes, which may have created the visual impression that my skirt was shorter than it was. I often wear boots, which reduces the amount of leg I’m “exposing,” so that might have been part of what was going on. But, still.
My colleague was awesome about laughing this off and reassuring the gentleman that, in fact, I was not violating the dress code. I pretty much didn’t bite. Often, these types of patrons want to engage you in some kind of discussion that only lead to awkwardness, at best, so I’ve acquired some skills at sidestepping this kind of debate.
After the gentleman left (and seemed disappointed that we hadn’t taken the bait and discussed the pros and cons of short skirts, dress codes, etc. with him), my colleague asked me what the weirdest question was that I had ever been asked while on desk. One was, “How do you like being a woman? Do you ever wish you were a man?” My co-worker said someone came up to the desk once and asked, “Do you have a brick in your toilet?” But, topping that, was, “Are you circumcised?”
Just think about that. Do YOU work in a job where people think it’s okay to come up and ask you random, personal questions? We get them all the time. “Do you have kids?” “Don’t you think they should impeach Obama?” “Don’t you wish you could kick all the homeless people out of the library?” “Where do you live?” “That woman over there, don’t you think she should do a better job of watching her kids?”
A lot of the time, people just want us to agree with them, on whatever topic currently matters to them. They want someone to concur with them, reassure them that they are not alone. Today, I can already tell, will be one of those days. I guarantee that a huge number of people will come into the library and ask me whether I’ve heard the news about Osama Bin Laden. They’ll want me to engage in some type of patriotic fist pumping. They’ll be disappointed if I don’t match their fervor. What I’ve learned, though, is that I need to acknowledge what has been said without any kind of agreement or disagreement. I cannot engage with these people. I have to smile and vaguely nod my head, or maybe shake it from side to side in a kind of “Isn’t that something?” sort of way. You have no idea how difficult and exhausting this is (unless you already do this).
So, today, if you come into my library and you notice that my eyes are glazed over and I appear to be avoiding making any real contact with the public, you’ll know why. I simply can’t engage in the equivalent of a “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” chant, no matter how many people want me to. I will, however, be happy to tell you that I do, in fact, have a brick in my toilet.
I drove by Death this morning on the way to work, trudging uphill in loose-fitting Levi’s and a gray hoodie, his face wrapped in a black scarf, white skull-and-crossbones glowing out from the hood. You couldn’t see his eyes. It’s the first time a skull-and-crossbones has seemed scary like it’s supposed to be, in a long time. I saw Death in the past riding a motorcycle all in black leathers, long black dreads flowing behind him, this time a neoprene balaclava with skull covering his face, but I thought the gray hoodie was much more subtle; you’d be much less likely to expect him that way.
Saw a kid’s upper torso bobbing up and down on the other side of a fence, and thought something about it looked odd. He was obviously jumping on a trampoline, but where were the flailing arms? Does he not have arms? How would that work? Got to the other side where I was afforded a full view and saw he was sitting on a wooden chair, holding onto the seat and jumping on the trampoline that way. Uhhh… Where’s mom? Where’s my camera?
Joe and I went to a wedding reception recently and saw a few folks we hadn’t seen in ages. One woman I was trying to avoid eye contact with, hoping she wouldn’t recognize us, because I remembered conversing with her as awkward and uncomfortable. Of course, Joe the Golden Retriever Husband flags her down as she’s passing our table where we were eating. “Hi! Remember us?” (wag wag wag) The first words out of her mouth were about this foot surgery she had where they whacked off all her toes, did some reconstruction and re-attached them, and she can walk now, but still can’t feel her toes, and did you know that toes keep alive in water for 109 days? Now that you mention it, I did not know that…wow, (nod nod nod). Really, you can’t feel your toes? (I dig my spike heel into the tip of her tennies, but she doesn’t get the joke or even much notice, much to my frustration. Or delight.)
A friend of ours invited us to the Trash Fashion Show, a part of the Tenth Annual Recycled Arts and Fashion Show in Ballard a week from last Saturday. This year’s green theme was focused on plastics; recreating discarded plastic from our everyday lives into yes, designer, runway worthy fashions. It was informative, fun, and fascinating! Alas, I cannot locate the program I kept to refer to when I finally got around to writing about it, (I fear it’s buried in the coffee tray we use as our dumping ground for bills, neighborhood news letters, thank you notes, dead batteries and all the general clutter we just can’t bear to part with or know where to put), but Joe took some great pictures, as we had the extra cool VIP seats with even a view of the sometimes recycled plastic undergarments…Creativity has no limits! Here are a few of my favorites–names are my own.
We prescribed to HBO recently just so we could watch the new series Game of Thrones, based on the first book in The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. We’ve been bad-mouthing George the last few years because he hasn’t come out with the next book, but under a list of upcoming new releases at Third Place Books I saw the latest, A Dance with Dragons, is coming out in July! He’s lucky, that George R.R, because I was seriously thinking about stalking him at the next near-by Sci-Fi Fantasy festival, slipping a sharp, but intricately worked dagger of Valerian steel from under my heavy, medieval skirt and giving him a bit of his own medicine, a bit of what-for, a bit of a sexy threat, like maybe I’ll cut off some of your Santa beard, bard-man, because how hard can it be to write a two-and-a-half inch thick novel with intricate plot and rich character development every couple of years? What can I say? I’m a Drooling Fanatic for this series. As of the writing of this post only 76 days, 4 hours, 28 minutes and 36 seconds to go!
Andy and Lily are, that is. I did not go to Disneyland. I stayed home with our needy, needy dog and enjoyed some time on my own. I certainly missed my little family, but I was content to hang out here, with few demands (beyond Happy’s sometimes sizable list) and mostly unscheduled days.
We had all been to Disneyland before, when Lily was 4, but Lily doesn’t remember much about that trip.
I was just able to confirm when that trip happened by checking Wilco’s archived concert schedule. You see, originally, I planned that trip to Disneyland as a solo trip to see Wilco at the Hard Rock Cafe in Anaheim. My friend Bruce lived in LA at the time and said he had a ticket for me if I wanted to fly down and join him and his wife for the Wilco show. I jumped at the chance and then as I was starting to make arrangements to go, Bruce gently pointed out to me that the Anaheim Hard Rock Cafe was on Disney property and that maybe I should consider making it a family trip to, you know, visit Disneyland. D’oh!
So, all three of us went to Disneyland and did all the stereotypical Disneyland stuff. Andy and Lily rode the teacups while I watched because I was afraid the spinning would make me barf. I have a distinct memory of the teacups making my sister sick when we were little kids. My brother and I teased her because we thought she was a wimp. We were awful siblings. I am so sorry, sister!
It’s hard to believe that 9 years have passed since that trip we took in 2002. Lily wasn’t even in kindergarten yet and now she’s choosing which high school she’ll enter this fall. HIGH SCHOOL!!
While they were in California this time, Andy and Lily also visited our nephew, who’s in law school down there, and his beautiful wife. They went to the beach, stopped by Mood Fabrics, and ate some good food. Then, they stayed near Palm Springs for a few days, soaking up the sun. A school friend of Lily’s happened to be down there at the same time, so they had fun hanging out together. Andy took a trip out to Joshua Tree, which I know I would have loved, but I also know it will still be there when we no longer have a dog and I feel more free to travel.
You can tell who took most of the photos on our 2002 trip to Disneyland! Lily took the next one, though.
When we got the photos back from processing (because this was way back in the days before we had a digital camera), I laughed about this photo and teased Lily about cutting our heads off. She said, in all seriousness, “I wasn’t taking a picture of you and Daddy. I was taking a picture of Minnie Mouse.”
I’ve been trying to come up with legitimate, worthy, guilt-free reasons why I have made such a poor showing here lately, such as I’m really, really tired all the time, work has been incredibly busy, the words simply don’t come into my fingertips anymore, my creative juices seem to be flowing only in the direction of music–whereas before when I was wigglin’ a phrase in my head like a loose tooth it had the potential to become some type of prose, now it wants to become a song. You know, a lot of blah, blah, lame excuses. Then I thought, why not show you? Put you in my shoes.
The following is an intimate, sometimes action-packed, documentary that reveals Why Lori Hasn’t Had Time to Write.
Each day, something happens that makes me think, “Oh, I should write about that on the blog.” And, then, as you’ve learned, that’s as far as that gets.
Here’s an attempt to highlight a few of the events from the past week and a half or so that made me think that.
Pam and Bob came to visit. Yes, the same Pam and Bob that I visited recently. Bob came to Seattle for a conference and we enticed Pam to join him by offering to take them both to a Sounders game. It worked! We met for dinner and then one of the most exciting soccer games ever played in Seattle. The Sounders did not win, but it was still a thrilling match. They took a record number of shots on goal (26!), yet managed to score just once. Too bad the other team also scored once, so the match was a draw.
Pam and Bob surprised me by visiting me at work the next afternoon and got to see for themselves that the stories I tell them about what it’s like to serve the public in an exceptionally busy branch library are not made up. Two events requiring incident reports occurred during their brief visit. And, no, Pam and Bob weren’t directly involved in either of them, thank goodness.
I met my dear friend Carl for brunch at the cafe at Swanson’s Nursery one day and had a wonderful chat with him about work and life and gardening. Carl is one of my few friends from grad school. We met in one of Nancy Pearl’s classes and hit it off instantly. He’s one of those friendly people who gets along well with everyone and is in high demand for get-togethers. We don’t see each other very often, but when we do, it’s always full of laughs and hugs. His girlfriend is exceptionally tolerant of the many female friends he has who make demands on his limited free time. She understands that we all need our Carl fix from time to time.
Thanks to Kenneth, I made my first batch of granola, ever. And, it was awesome. Kenneth kindly taught me how to make granola after reading how much I enjoyed eating homemade granola at Pam’s. It’s super easy and so delicious. Andy and I ripped right through it. I bought more raw ingredients today and hope to make some more tomorrow. I think I’ll make a big batch or two and take it into work to share the next time I work on a Sunday, as a nice alternative to donuts or pastry. Along with another mix CD, of course.
Andy and I attended a lecture about parenting and it was surprisingly good. Dr. Mike Riera gave a talk about “Uncommon Sense for Parenting Tweens and Teens” at Town Hall, which focused almost entirely on the broad range of “normal” behaviors of teens. He was refreshingly positive about teens and clearly enjoys working with them, in all their complicated glory. His basic premise is that parents of teens should view themselves as consultants or coaches rather than CEOs. We should influence our kids, not try to control them. Sounds obvious, I know, but it’s so easy to forget this when you’re in the thick of some kind of drama with your teen.
I walked around Green Lake a few times with various people, including the lovely Linda, with her adorable dog Owen. I also made a fool of myself at my exercise class twice, which is sometimes great and sometimes hell on earth.
I got to attend the church of Nancy for four hours one day, and get paid for it! My library system got a grant for Nancy Pearl to come in and teach a bunch of us about Reader’s Advisory. Several of us have taken her classes, gone to her programs at conferences, and even taught for her, but that didn’t exclude us from taking this new class, which contains a lot of familiar content at this point, but still gave me new ideas and hope.
Unfortunately, there was another break-in on our block last week. Not much was taken from the home, but it was still bad news. I am the block watch captain, so I’ve been busy updating our block watch map again and rallying all of my neighbors to look out for one another and report anything suspicious. I have a huge fear that we’ll be broken into and am trying to keep that in check. We’re lucky that we have an alarm system AND a dog, but I know that neither will truly prevent a motivated thief from robbing us.
A tragic event occurred last week that I am still trying to deal with. On Monday, we found out that a student at Lily’s school had died. Lily didn’t know her very well because they were in different grades, but it’s a small school and everyone was greatly affected. On Tuesday, though, we found out that the girl took her own life. I cried a lot that day and am still crying about it off and on. It’s just devastating. The school has responded admirably, making resources available to students, staff, and parents, but it’s still just so shocking and sad.
On Wednesday, I reported to KUOW for a 4-hour phone answering shift for the pledge drive and just happened to arrive at the same time as half a dozen parents from Lily’s school. They were there in a group to do a community service type of thing, but I was just there on my own. I ended up sitting near them and it was incredibly helpful to talk to them about what had just happened. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to talk to other parents about how sad I was and how worried I was about how the girl’s parents were doing. How does a parent ever recover from something like that? Hell, how do they ever get out of bed again? It was heartbreaking to hear about the daughter of one of the volunteers. She had just spent the previous three days with the girl who died and had absolutely no idea that anything was wrong. Now, she just keeps asking whether she should have noticed something or if there was something she could have done. Her mother has tried to reassure her in every way that she can, but it’s a huge task. This woman was so very sweet. She asked her daughter what she needed on Tuesday and her daughter said she needed her at school with her that day, so she went. She said they didn’t talk, really. She was just there, on a very sad, very quiet day of school.
The woman sitting on the other side of me at the pledge drive just happened to be an artist — the artist who created the beautiful artwork now displayed at the entrance to one of our libraries! Plus, she’s a rower and knows my neighbor across the street, who’s also a rower. I really enjoyed talking to her. I love how little events like these — volunteer shifts at public radio pledge drives — illustrate what a small world it is and how interconnected we are. I had not sought out other parents from Lily’s school to commiserate with, yet it ended up happening just by chance and was so very helpful. I wouldn’t guess that I’d have a lot in common with an artist who’s also a rower, but we connected right away.
Andy and Lily are now braving the elements as Lily starts a new soccer season and Andy takes on a co-coaching role. They had their first practice on Thursday night and their first game today. Lily’s team was terribly short-handed, so the result wasn’t ideal, but I think the girls had a good time and are excited about playing together again. One of the girls came home with us and is spending the night, which is both fabulous and frightening. We get a huge kick out of this particular friend of Lily’s because they routinely laugh so hard when they’re together that they can’t breathe, but they often end up very short on sleep during these overnights, which means that we do, too. So often, on the following morning, Andy and I say to ourselves, “Never again!” But, in this house, if you make us or our daughter laugh, you will probably be given yet another chance, as we’re illustrating right now. We’ll forgive a lot if you’re funny. And, this girl, she’s hysterical. So, she’s here again, making us eat our words, again.