Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

In January, we set up a book display of biographies in my library and called it Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes. I think the notion of exploring another person’s life from the inside is what makes biographies and autobiographies so compelling.  My official READ A BIOGRAPHY (OR AUTOBIOGRAPHY) OF SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE book is Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly.

Endurance

Loved it!  I wasn’t a space geek but I might be one now.  Interweaving Kelly’s childhood and path to becoming an astronaut with his year-long mission on the International Space Station, Endurance offers a fascinating look at a life so completely unlike my own.  As you read this, astronauts from NASA and various countries around the world, circle the globe.  We know that but do we really think about it? I certainly didn’t. Certainly, not with any true acknowledgment of just how absolutely amazing that is.

The title pays homage to Sir Ernest Shackleton and his doomed yet ultimately miraculous expedition to Antartica on the ship Endurance.  One of the few personal possessions Kelly brought with him for his year in space was a paperback copy of Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. It’s a fascinating book that I read several years ago. When the magnitude of Kelly’s challenges weighed most heavily on him, he would think of Shackleton and his crew and know that he could endure what was required of him.

Shackleton

As I was finishing the book, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule took off from Kennedy Space Center for the International Space Station (ISS), paving the way to launch astronauts into space from the United States for the first time since 2011. I even thought about staying up late to watch it.  I didn’t, but I thought about it.

If I had completed this challenge as a child, I might have chosen the biography of an author, maybe Judy Blume or possibly Louise Fitzhugh, author of my all time favorite book and sometime alter ego, Harriet the Spy.  Or, maybe one of my favorite athletes: Nadia Comaneci. In the name of transparency, and in full cringe mode I’ll admit that as a teenager I would read anything I could get my hands on about 80s new wave singer, Adam Ant.  If you can’t see now how much I trust you, you never will.

A couple of things that became apparent as I completed this challenge:

1. If you follow the blog on Facebook you know that I shared some biographies and autobiographies that I’ve enjoyed. In compiling the list it became glaringly obvious that I need to read more books about people of color.  And not just people in the entertainment industry.  I started Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Written as a letter to his teenage son, Coates writes unflinchingly about his experiences as a black man in America.  Powerful, uncomfortable and important. My daughters refer to their no-nonsense talks with their grandmother as “real talk with Granny”. Real talks about real stuff that make the particpant feel trusted and respected. Between the World and Me is like real talk with Granny: no euphemisms or shielding the truth. I will finish the book but it is a heavy read that requires small bites and time for contemplation.

Betweentheworld2. Reading challenges are my favorite.

3. In trying to select a biography about someone I admire, I found myself drawn to people from my childhood: Bob Keeshond, also known as Captain Kangaroo, from my favorite early childhood TV show; Peanuts Illustrator Charles Schulz; TV comedian and actress, Carol Burnett; beloved icon Mr. Rogers. Regardless of how it looks, I did do more that just watch TV as a kid.  I listened to Carol Burnett’s memoir In Such Good Company: Eleven years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox and actually finished it before I started Endurance. It was such a personal book, connected to memories of my childhood, and it made me think so much of my mom while I was listening to it.

burnett

4. So many books. So little time. Hey, I should put that on a t-shirt!

You know how when you go to a meeting you always leave with more to do? Challenges are the same way.  So, in addition to astronaut tweets to read, sushi to eat and puzzles to complete, I now have a pile of biographies on my coffee table and a list of holds from the library. I may have to quit my job.

Currently listening to:

Codes
Codebreaker extraordinaire, Elizebeth Smith Friedman. Quietly kicking a– and taking names.

In my reading future:

Mattis
I met General Mattis once years ago when I worked at the library in Quantico, VA. He’s a voracious reader and donated many books to the library. I hope he tells his own story one day.
PrairieFires
Recommended to me by a library patron. I love books about writers.
FactBody
True crime. I’m in. Always.
Douglass
Discovered this book pulling titles for our Black History Month display. If the length of the holds list is any indication, this is going to be a good one.
CatherinetheG
Recommended to me by my daughter, Elisabeth. Can’t wait.
Rogers
Needs no explanation. Although, I’m scarred by the idea that on a bad hair day I look like Lady Elaine Fairchild. Interested in finding out if she had a real-life counterpart. Luckily, I’m too young for it to be me.
schulz
Snoopy and the Peanuts gang were a staple of my childhood. Wonderful memories that make me think of my mom.
PDJames
The British mysteries of PD James are the best. I’m a fangirl.
CapKang
We named our cat, Fatrick, after a cat we saw on the show. Bob Keeshan was a Marine. Started my childhood mornings with Mr. Green Jeans and Co. Aha moment: Could Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit be the reason I like puppets?
becoming
Inspiring,
Burr
Haven’t read the Alexander Hamilton bio by Ron Chernow that inspired the musical Hamilton yet. Feel compelled to read more about Aaron Burr.  Chernow has a new one about U.S. Grant, too. I’ll spare you another picture.

So, tell me who you read about?  Or share one of your favorites. I’m not afraid to add more books to my list.  I only get worried when I don’t know what my next book will be.   Thanks for reading!

Before you go…I’ve recommended Endurance to several people since I read it but I can NEVER remember the title.  Is it Endurance or Endeavour? Endurance or Endeavour?  Both seem like they would be appropriate. Seriously, CAN NOT REMEMBER.  In my defense, one of the space shuttles was called Endeavour.  Close enough to cause confusion, right? I have a similar issue with those canned peppers in spicy sauce…chipotles in adobo.  I so frequently referred to them as chipotles in adobe that I am no long sure which I’m supposed to say and so do not refer to them by name anymore.

 

 

 

 

The Irrelevance of Rob Lowe, Dewey and Bigfoot

READ A BIOGRAPHY (OR AUTOBIOGRAPHY) OF SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE

So, when I planned to tackle this as my next challenge, I thought it was going to be too easy.  I mean, people think I read for a living anyway.  But, I’ve started and restarted this post multiple times.  I feel like I have reader’s block.  If you are a big reader you might know this syndrome: a general inability to get into something that you are “supposed” to read.  For me, it usually involves some kind of deadline to start and finish an “assigned” book. It’s probably amazing I ever made it through school!

At this point in life it most frequently manifests itself in book clubs. People often ask me how many book clubs I’m in.  None.  I have enjoyed book clubs over time and would join again if the right situation arose but for now, I’m more than happy to be riding solo.  I’ve got a bit of “stick-it-to-the-man” in me even when it comes to books.

In this particular situation, I actually am “the man”.  I’ve got to get over the assignment feel of this challenge.  Maybe it’s because I read a lot of fiction. For some people, that means I’m wasting my time. Not “learning” anything.  Whatever. It’s not that I don’t read nonfiction, I do. I just like fiction better. It’s like cake. I’ll eat any cake that looks good, but there’s nothing like a white cake with white frosting. That will be a controversial statement for the chocolate cake eaters out there.  Just move on.

I do enjoy a good biography or autobiography.  In fact, while reading a memoir several years ago I was motivated for the first time to reach out to someone famous via social media.  It’s always exciting when someone with some influence talks about libraries. I was enjoying my library copy of Love Life when Rob Lowe told a story about his time in the  library researching Bigfoot as a child. Then this happened: “Has there ever been a more horrific barrier to reading than the Dewey Decimal System? No wonder libraries are becoming irrelevant.”  Well, thanks for that.

 

Why am I promoting this? Actually, his books are good.

The majority of autobiographies or biographies that I read are interesting or entertaining but are not necessarily about people that I admire.  Not that I don’t admire them, but, usually admire would be too strong a word.  See previous Rob Lowe story. I’ve been undecided for awhile on this so I guess it’s going to be a game-time decision.  I’ve started the clock ticking with this post and by next week I need to have selected, read and written about this book. It’s like being in college again!

Are you an autobiography/biography reader?  Do you read about people you admire? Read along with me this week.  Just don’t overthink it like I do! I’d love to hear what you’ve read, this week or previously, and what you recommend. I’ll be back here next week, and hopefully, you will, too.  Thanks for reading!

Before you go…I’m not letting this library thing go.  First of all, Horrific Barriers to Reading for $2000, Alex.  Does the Dewey Decimal System even make the cut? I’m not going to defend the Dewey Decimal System but I will challenge you to go to your local bookstore and try to find a book on Bigfoot without asking anyone for help.  Irrelevant, my a$$.

 

 

 

 

Mayo Roll

Let’s jump right in. The first challenge of 2019: TRY ANOTHER COUNTRY’S CUISINE.

Growing up in Moore, OK I didn’t have much exposure to international cuisine. Or people from other countries. Circa 1980, for international flavor we had a Taco Tico and a couple of pizza places. Also, I’m a picky eater. Fear of condiments. Hatred of pickles. Fish, no thank you. Once referred to as “the big plain, plain” for my continued preference for a plain burger. I’ll own it.

Early in our marriage I had the opportunity to visit Lee in Hong Kong. We explored,  shopped and toured. We ate and ate and ate at …Pizza Hut. Given the opportunity, Lee would have tried the local fare but he didn’t make me feel bad because I wouldn’t. Probably helped that he hadn’t seen me in five months. I was young and afraid. But I’ve grown to like a lot of foods that I never thought I would. I’ve learned to try a lot of foods I never thought I would.

I’m trusting that I can tell you that story and you won’t judge.  Now, I’m fighting the urge to list all of my international food experiences, both here and abroad, to redeem myself. But, no one wants to read that and that’s not what we’re here for. We need to find some food and find it quick.

img_7259
Not this.

First up, determine what country’s cuisine I haven’t tried. This might be fairly challenging.  Luckily, we currently live in a very diverse area and I’m going to use that to my advantage.  I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of options.

Next, what to eat? I am thankful for my wonderful friends and coworkers over the years who have made and shared delicious dishes from their cultures and traditions. Food from the heart is always the best food.  But, I’m not going to go begging my friends. Not making it myself either.  The book provides a recipe for making sushi which I was up for trying but 1) I’m too lazy to buy a sushi mat and 2) I’m disgusted/appalled that the sushi recipe calls for mayonnaise!  I’ll admit that I’ve never eaten sushi–I know, I know–but I do need to know if mayonnaise is something that one would normally find in sushi.

Anyone up for this challenge? Make it yourself, try a new restaurant, rope your friend into cooking for you, whatever works! What’s the best international dish you’ve ever eaten? Anything you’ve been hoping to try? Sushi eaters…mayo in sushi, is that a thing? I’ll be back here next week with tales of daring eatery and delicious feasts. Maybe you will, too!

Before you go…one of our favorites is Pho (pronounced “fuh”), Vietnamese noodle soup.  If you haven’t tried it, you should.  Almost as good is the creatvity of Pho restaurant owners. Some of our favorite Pho restaurant names:  20 Pho 7, Pho Real, Pho Sho, and the new Keene, New Hampshire restaurant Pho Keene Great.

 

 

Direction Over Speed

I’m amazed, and frankly a little scared, at how fast time passes.  A lot has happened since I last wrote and yet somehow I can’t believe it’s been over a year.  2018 was in most ways a year like any other.  I worked, I ate, I laughed, I cried, I moved.  Ah, yes, the ever presenting moving.  It was also the year I turned 50.  That birthday so dreaded by many but also rightly celebrated. A milestone. The combination of its approach, an additional major life change and an unassuming little yellow book are what initially led to this blog.  I knew I wouldn’t complete the challenges by 50 but I’m ready to start again.  I’ve missed this endeavor.  The planning, the writing and the connection, not only to my faithful, supportive readers but to myself.  Two of my new guiding principles for 2019 fit nicely with this: live deliberately and direction over speed.  As I’ve written before, one of the benefits of this blog has been that it’s forced me to live more deliberately.

My subconscious has been busy trying to convince me that it’s been too long for me to pick up where I left off.  The ship has sailed, no one cares, you (shockingly) failed to finish something again.

img_7238
Rare sighting of my subconscious watching me write.

But, I’m in charge here and I want to pick up where I left off.  I’m choosing direction over speed.  As a military spouse I find this to be a difficult task.  We don’t feel like we get to choose the direction and once we land somewhere we have to act with speed, ever aware that time is precious and finite. The truth is that whatever the outside forces or internal whispers WE get to set the speed and direction of our lives. Obstacles just make it more challenging and interesting. I’ve said all of this to say, I’m back! There are many challenges ahead and I hope you are still with me. Let’s do this.

Before you go…Facebook has been reminding me that all 69 of you that liked my Before You Grow Up page haven’t heard from me in a while…I’m not sure if that’s supposed to motivate me or depress me but either way it worked.

Ok, I just realized that I’m the 69th person (or probably, more accurately, the 1st) so to the other 68 of you, thanks for reading.

Waking Up in a Different Time Zone

One day I fell asleep in North Carolina and several months later, just like on TV, woke up in California. But unlike your favorite series, it wasn’t a clean cut. It wasn’t easy or without pain.  If you are still with me after this extended hiatus you are either very patient or, more likely, related to me but either way thanks for hanging around. We’ll now resume where we left off, tackling the 100 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU GROW UP. This week’s challenge is to STEP OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.

Let’s be honest, this is pretty much a staple of adulthood. As you get older you realize that you can somewhat design your life to minimize encountering situations that require you to step outside your comfort zone. I was probably 24 years old before I realized that I actually didn’t have to ride roller coasters if I didn’t want to.  But with this challenge I feel like I’ve stumbled onto what is probably the existential test of the average person’s life: how to balance comfort and security with continued growth and purpose. Now, I’m no self-help expert so if you are expecting me to give you some timely tools to help you with this I’m going to assume that you are new to this blog and assign you the chore of reading the earlier posts and then going to the library for the latest self-help title.

The book suggests trying a new food, talking to someone you’ve never met, or exploring somewhere you’ve never been.  It says you’ll never know what you’re truly capable of until you push beyond your boundaries a little bit.  I agree. I’ve gotten better at trying new foods as I’ve aged, I’m embarrassed to say that sometimes I am that person who chats up the next person in line and I like to explore places I’ve never been.  These are good comfort zones to expand as a kid.  Life as a military spouse requires a fair amount of time outside the comfort zone. I have learned a couple of things, both as a military spouse and just a participant in life. 1. Discomfort is okay, it’s temporary and usually not as bad as you expected. 2. Always look forward.  My kids know that “Don’t look back” is a long-standing motto of mine, usually deployed upon seeing an animal hovering at the edge of a highway. If we can’t stop something from happening without hurting ourselves our best recourse is to not look back. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t torture yourself over things you can’t change. 3. Who am I kidding? I don’t have a number three.

Sometimes pushing yourself means trying tripe or attending a conference where you know no one. Other times life gives you a push.  For the first time in 27 years I am living in a house without any of my kids. Not only do they not live with me, they live on the other side of the country. Now, I know that many people have it much worse. I have friends living in other countries that put their college student on a plane in August and don’t see them again until June. Comparing one person’s trials against another’s is a long and deep rabbit hole that I have no interest in digging.  What I’m saying is that I am outside my comfort zone and I’m doing ok. Next week I’ll spend the first Thanksgiving, since I had kids, without kids.   But, I’m happy that they will all be together. And, I know that we will all be together again. I’m embracing the discomfort, enjoying time as an empty nester with my co-empty nester, and not looking back. It’s been exciting to watch as my little people have developed into big people. More importantly, developed into good people. The kind of solid people that you spend a lifetime of love and patience, mistakes and worry, pain and joy, hoping you’ll end up with.

So, how big is your comfort zone?  Are you a roller coaster rider? A raw fish eater? An empty nester?  I’d love to hear your experiences. If you did look back on that road and what you saw wasn’t pleasant please keep it to yourself and I won’t say I told you so.

Before you go…I’m well aware that “don’t look back” could be construed as encouraging denial as a coping tool.  Your point is?

 

Ramblings of a Mad Woman

I managed to record my dreams, or at least, attempted to capture and recount strange fragments of an alternate reality.  In the process, I can’t say that I unlocked the secrets of my brain but I did learn a couple of things:

-Most nights I remember two dreams.  The first dream of the night is longer and more in-depth making it harder to recall details, the one right before waking is easier to remember but not very substantial.

-My subconscious mind is preoccupied with moving and getting a job.

-I don’t remember my dreams every night.

-To have any chance to remember an average dream you have to write it down right away.  If you write down your dreams, make sure you go back and read what you wrote in a timely manner, otherwise it just looks like the ramblings of a mad person.

dreamrecord

-The dreams of adulthood are different from those of childhood.  It’s not surprising that three of the five popular dream themes listed in the book–monsters, being lost, and being chased– reflect feelings of powerlessness.  As an adult I can’t remember the last time I dreamed about any of those things.  It’s not that adults don’t dream about feeling powerless.  Apparently, when I am feeling powerless, I dream that my teeth are crumbling out of my mouth.  I have had that dream from time to time and, man, am I glad when I wake up and realize it’s only a dream!

Several people mentioned their recent dreams to me.  Did you know that if you dream about wearing inappropriate shoes that could be indicative of feeling unprepared for a situation? If you dream of falling, and you aren’t afraid, you might be overcoming obstacles.  If you’re falling, and it is scary, it could indicate that you feel a lack of support. If you are cleaning an object in your dream, the related area of your life might not be functioning as it should. Being late?  You might be taking on too much.  Naked? Vulnerable.

So, did you attempt to write down your dreams? Remembering to do that was not as difficult as I thought it might be. Did you learn anything? I’ll admit that I like the world of my dreams and I enjoy it when I remember them. If you recorded your dreams, or even just remembered them, I’d love to hear about it.

Before you go…do you know how difficult it is to capture a dream in a photo?  If you are following the blog on Facebook or Instagram you are well aware. No matter how hard I try it ends up looking like an ad for a feminine hygiene product or a bad 70s album cover.  Maybe I missed my calling.

 

Dream On

This challenge could be very interesting…if I can remember to do it.  RECORD YOUR DREAMS FOR A WEEK.  THEN TRY TO DECODE THEM TO DISCOVER WHAT’S GOING ON IN YOUR BRAIN WHEN YOU SLEEP.  From what I understand, everyone dreams but not everyone remembers.  I am one of those people who remember their dreams.    Although my dreams are vivid and strange they are usually forgotten once I start my day.  It will be a challenge to 1) remember to write them down and 2) take the time to do so.   Trying to decode my dreams might be even trickier.  Do I really want to know what’s going on my in brain when I’m asleep?

Sometimes decoding my dreams is easy.  Because I often dream about things that I have on my mind when I go to bed, I have a rule that I don’t talk about subjects that could be stressful or thought-provoking right before bedtime.  This rule was initially put into play when my sister, Emilie, and I started a reusable bag company, circa 2006.  Lee always wanted to talk about it as we were heading to bed, thus the institution of the “no bag talk after 8pm” rule.  This rule has morphed and been used for many topics.  I highly recommend it. It’s necessary for my self-preservation and required if I’m going to get a good night’s sleep.  Don’t get me wrong,  it’s not that I won’t be able to fall asleep, although that happens occasionally, but that I will spend the night living out our discussions with strange tweaks and weird settings.  Not conducive for restful sleep.

Recurring dreams are supposed to reflect an unresolved conflict.  My first recurring dream happened when I was in either 6th or 7th grade when my sister, Emilie, left for college.  I dreamed I was riding my bike around Stillwater, OK looking for her but whenever I arrived somewhere she would have just left.  I’ve had other recurring dreams but I wouldn’t say most were the result of unresolved conflict as much as a reflection of a large change in my life.

The biggest challenge might be translating my dreams into writing.  If you’ve ever tried to describe a dream to someone you realize that there is really no language that allows you to adequately detail such a singular occurrence.  I’ll do my best and you’ll just have to promise not to conclude I’m a weirdo.  One especially peculiar aspect of  dreams appears when you “know” you are in a particular place, like your home or work, but it looks nothing like your home or work.  Another occurs when you have a famous person in your dream, let’s say Derek Jeter, but as the dream goes on you realize it is not Derek Jeter but your husband instead.   I’m not saying I’ve ever dreamed about Derek Jeter, that’s just an example.

So, do you remember your dreams?  Are they vivid and strange, like mine?  Please tell me they are! Do you find it difficult to capture them for other people? If you are up for this challenge, I’d love to hear about your dreams.  I’ll be writing down my dreams each morning for a week.  Next week, I’ll be back to let you know if I remembered to write them down and, more importantly, if I’ve managed to decode them and crack the puzzle of my sleeping brain. Oh, boy, wish me luck!

Before you go, I think we’ve all had that I’m-at-school-naked dream at one time or another but I’m wondering if you have work specific dreams as an adult?  I’ve had a couple of library Storytime dreams…most recently I had a Dance Party nightmare!

Everything Must Go!

I’ve been in procrastination mode.  Unfortunately, that’s a fairly standard mode for me.  What needs to get done always gets done but I often require the pressure of a deadline.  The big deadline in my future is the move to California.  As deadlines go it’s not exactly looming.  As I write this I have about 7 weeks until my new best friends, the packers and movers, roll up to my house and touch everything I own.  But, this is a big job.  Getting ready for a move, especially after being in a house for four years, is a very big job indeed!  Now, for those of you who think that four years in a house is not a very long time, I will concede that you have a point.  However, for those of us who tend to pack up and move every two years, it is!  The challenge we are about to embark on meshes perfectly with my approaching deadline: DONATE YOUR OLD CLOTHES AND TOYS TO A CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION.

This certainly isn’t the first time we will be donating items.  And, it’s going to involve more than just clothes and toys.  Actually, I’d say every couple of months it seems like we drop off a box or two of clothing and other items that have outlived their usefulness in our lives.  You might think that people who move as much as we do would travel lightly.  Either our items are reproducing like rabbits or we just buy way too much stuff.  Regardless of how it’s gotten to this point, it’s time to take some action.

I started reading a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo which had been previously recommended to me by more than one person.  Confession:  I did not finish it.  I didn’t even get very far.  Not because it wasn’t good.  I may go back to it again at some point.  I just realized that while it seemed like the perfect time for just such a book it was actually the worst time.  At least for me.  I couldn’t even follow the bit of advice that made complete sense to me.  Kondo recommends tidying not by location (for example, your closet) but by category (clothing).    I think this makes a lot of sense and then I immediately did the opposite.  Reminiscent of when I signed up for a gym membership and immediately thought to myself, “I’m never coming back in here.”

The poor kids who are taking their cues from this book have no idea that this is not a singular task that they’ll never have to tackle again.  Little do they know they’ll be pitching stuff the rest of their lives!  Hopefully, they will try to donate and not just trash.  It helps with the guilt of having too much stuff.  Honestly, I’ll probably be pitching stuff up until my previously-mentioned mover friends arrive.  But, I’m motivated and that’s half the battle.  Rachel and I got a good start on the garage a couple of weekends ago.  Our goal was to get her things organized and ready for Lee to move them to Greensboro for her post-college apartment.  We finished that task…now I just need to finish the rest.

garageside

So, is it spring cleaning time at your house?  Are you a pack rat or a minimalist?  I think I’m somewhere in the middle.  Do you have favorite organizations for your donations?  When we lived in Northern Virginia the Military Order of the Purple Heart would put a postcard in our mailbox to let us know when their trucks would be in our area.  All we had to do was let them know (online) if we’d have something to pick up and then put it at the curb. That’s how I like it.  Convenient and easy…like pizza delivery.

Before you go…if you have a hard time deciding what to give away and what to keep, I have a plan for you.  Put your items in boxes.  Stack the boxes in the corner of your garage. Wait four years.  Dust off the cobwebs.  Presto…donations!

Oh, and if your items (or books!) are themselves covered with cobwebs or mouse droppings or have gotten wet, please just throw them away!  No charitable organization (or library!) wants them.  Trust me.

Ode to a Dog

You may not realize it but April is National Poetry Month.  Which means it’s the perfect month for this particular challenge: WRITE A POEM. If you are like me you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about poetry.  I probably haven’t written a poem since I was in school…possibly grade school.  The good news is that this time I don’t have to present it in front of a class.  The bad new is that I’ll be sharing it on a blog but at least I don’t have to make eye contact.

I’ve always been a prose person.   Give me a novel any day.  As an English major I read plenty of poems and as a Youth Services Librarian I’ve purchased my share of kid’s poetry books.  But, if I’m honest, I can’t say that I’m a big poetry fan. I think that says more about me than about poetry.  I’m relatively sure that appreciating poetry requires more thinking than I’m inclined to apply to a free time activity.  It’s probably no surprise that my favorite book of poems hasn’t changed since I was in grade school:  Shel Silverstein’s classic, Where the Sidewalk Ends. I only own three books of poems and they are all by Shel Silverstein.  I’m going to assume that everyone is familiar with the poems of Shel Silverstein.  If not, please at least google him and read a couple.  Or better yet, check one of his books at your local library.  They’ve held up very well.  Plus, his accompanying illustrations improve on the text, just as they should.  Maybe that’s why I’m stuck in the poetry of my youth…I need pictures.

I will spare you the agony of reading a traditional poem crafted by me.  However, I am a fan of the six word memoir. The story goes that when asked if he could write a complete story in six words, Ernest Hemingway offered, “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”  Using that as inspiration, in 2008, Smith magazine invited writers, famous and not, to write their own Six Word Memoirs–some were funny, some were sad.  The best have been compiled into books if you are inclined to seek them out.  If you haven’t ever tried your hand at describing your life using only six words, you should.  It’s actually kind of addictive once you get started.

Last weekend we had to say goodbye to our fourteen-year-old basset hound, Luke.  He was a great dog and beloved member of our family.  In his honor, my six word memoir:

Lucky to have loved my Luke.

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Luke

This might not technically count as writing a poem, but as I’ve said before, this is my blog and I can do what I want.  Plus, my dog just died so I think I get a pass.

Before you go…whether you are a poetry person or not, I invite you to join me and write your own six word memoir this week. Your life story in six words: funny, sad, touching or clever.  I will be writing and posting a different one of my own each day on the Before You Grow Up Challenge Facebook page.  Post yours in the comments here or on the FB page.  I dare you to stop at just one.  Actually, I beg you to write at least one!

Words Into Action

I’ve spent some time writing blog posts about not-so-important topics and hoping someone will read them.  Now, it’s time to write a letter about an issue that is important to me and hope that someone reads it. WRITE A LETTER TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  I’ve never written a letter to any of my congressional representatives.   I did make some calls earlier this year about a certain nominee for Secretary of Education but it appears that no one listened.  I certainly never wrote about anything important to anyone as a kid.  I did write a fan letter to my favorite local dirt track race car driver when I was probably 10-years-old. He sent me a brief note and a signed picture in return. As a teen, I wrote to the movie reviewer at the Daily Oklahoman basically to ask him what I needed to do to get his job!  He wrote back and was both kind and encouraging.  Those letters were definitely in the self-serving column.  Time to do something for someone else. The 100 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU GROW UP book says that even before you can vote you are “definitely old enough to express your opinions and create positive change”.  I’m definitely old enough vote, let’s see if I can create positive change.

Today, April 13, 2017, is the first Take Action for Libraries Day.  I’ve written letters to my Congressman and Senators asking them to commit to saving federal library funding in Congress.  I’m under no illusion that my letter alone will create change.  However, I’m hopeful that my letter joined with the letters, emails and phone calls of others might lead to something positive.  It wasn’t hard to write a letter advocating for libraries.  I believe in libraries and the essential role they play in the communities they serve.


How about you?  Do you put pen to paper to try to affect change?  Have you ever contacted your representatives to share your opinion?  I’d love to hear about it if you have!

Before you go…I’ve included the text of my letter below.  I’ll admit I used one small section from a template written by the American Library Association demonstrating what to say when advocating for libraries but the rest comes from my heart.

It is no surprise that as a Youth Services Librarian I believe in the power of libraries. I’m not sure if you are a library user but, if you are not, let me paint of picture of what happens everyday in our public libraries. Everyone knows that libraries provide free access to books, but a library offers so much more to the community it serves than just books.

Everyday in our libraries children and parents in early literacy story times are encouraging the skills kids need to be ready to learn to read, teenage volunteers are gaining valuable work experience, distance education students of all ages are working on online classes on the only computers they have access to, unemployed and under-employed adults are working on resumes and applying for jobs, students with public school issued devices are using free wifi to complete homework assignments, homeschoolers are accessing online resources and databases and families are attending free cultural and community events. Libraries add value to their communities everyday in more ways than I have time to list. Many people rely on their libraries as a way up, a way out and often the only way forward.

The President has proposed eliminating the tiny amount of federal money ($183 million) provided to every state in the country for small, innovative, community-building grants – hundreds every year– by eliminating the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  In 2016, North Carolina libraries received $4,229,540 for everything from workforce recovery efforts to computer programs for homeless populations. I am also a parent and a military spouse. I support defense spending and understand the necessity for a strong military. However, the $183 million saved by cutting ALL federal funding to museums and libraries will not even begin to help fund a $54 billion increase in defense spending.

Please protect the Institute for Museum and Library Services and fight to save federal library funding in Congress. We must continue to fund education, arts, and libraries, and to fund them well. Otherwise, what exactly are we defending?”

Valerie Suttee