Retirement is a week filled with Saturdays and Sundays interrupted only occasionally by a holiday.

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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Joey’s Grand-Godfather

Last night we went to visit our friends whose daughter Denise is my husband’s goddaughter. My husband has always taken his role as godfather very seriously and has been there for all the important events in Denise’s life…her baptism, confirmation, grammar school, high school and college graduations, wedding…and I’ve been there as well for most of these wonderful times. Denise is in town for the holidays with her 5-month-old son Joey and we’ve made sure to see him a few times since he arrived at his grandparents’ home. There we were in our friends’ kitchen with Joey in my arms. He was getting a bit fussy so my husband decided to entertain him with a few children’s songs. Let’s see…there was “A Ride Around the Zoo,” “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” “There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea,” and, as much as my husband could remember, the ever popular “A Froggy Went A Courtin’.” Joey was mesmerized…I’m not sure if it was the singing or the ridiculous faces my husband was making as he sang his heart out.

Although we are child-free by choice, we do love children and Joey is the closest we will ever come to being grandparents. When Joey was born in July, we drove the 400 miles at lightning speed to arrive at the hospital in time for his birth. There we were in the waiting room with the entire family present when he made his debut at 2:24AM. We felt so blessed to be able to share in the joy of a new family member even if we aren’t quite family…at least not by blood. So my husband is now a grand-godfather and I’m the grand-godfather’s wife.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas and the Day After

Whew…it’s over. The gifts have been unwrapped and carted home; the gift bags have been thrown in the trash; the wrapping paper has been put away for next year. Another Christmas has come and gone. This year’s “event” at my sister-in-law’s was as chaotic as ever. There was wrapping paper and tissue paper flying everywhere, dancing animated Santa’s and snowmen singing silly songs, camera flashes lighting the air, “A Christmas Story” on the television the entire time. And, for Christmas dinner, we had smoked turkey sandwiches rather than the traditional turkey dinner because no one was in the mood to actually cook anything. Ah yes…Christmas with the in-laws.

And then there was the “Day After.” Against our better judgment, my sister and I decided to do the “Day After Christmas” sale at what seems to be one of the only department stores left standing after all the mergers. Now…neither of us is thrilled with this particular Department Store (we never seem to find things on non-sale days) but who could resist the 15% coupon plus the “$10 off a $25 purchase before noon” incentive. So…yesterday there we were at 7:15AM in the store with several coupons in hand. Over the next four hours, we surprisingly managed to rack up sales totaling $88.67 but, most importantly, our cash register receipts indicated our total savings was $233.24 and we actually liked the items we purchased.

Next, we returned to my sister’s house to brag to her family about our successes. My 12-year-old niece was most impressed with our new wardrobe additions and, the next thing I knew, we were back in the van with my niece traveling quite a distance to two more of this Department Store's stores. My niece this time came out the winner finding some items which looked so good on her and, most importantly, were sale items. So…in the end, the three women in the family (minus our mom) had a most successful “Day After” shopping spree. Oh…and did I mention my feet are killing me?!?!?

Friday, December 22, 2006


Yesterday I had my all important holiday hair cut and weave…the one I would have crawled to on hands and knees if it had come to that. Yes, I admit it…I am hair obsessed…just ask my husband. Now you might think it’s because I have beautiful, shiny, long flowing tresses…and you’d be wrong. My hair is anything but that. I have wavy, dry, now-thinning hair which has driven me to distraction my entire life. Growing up in the 1960s, all I ever wanted was long, straight, parted-in-the-middle hair just like my sister…you know, the kind of hair you can just get out of bed with, shake your head and go. Instead, I’ve had to deal with blow dryers, styling irons, gel, mousse, hair spray…you name the styling product and appliance, I’ve used it at some point in my life. I’ve worn my hair permed, straightened, long, short, shagged, wedged, poofed, flattened…just about every hairstyle ever considered fashionable. Pity my poor hairstylists…they’ve had a crazy person to deal with.

Speaking of hair…you might have notice my “new” profile photo. Yes it is truly me…it is NOT a boy. Just before my first birthday, I began pulling my hair out while I slept (yes…it’s more about my hair). While the pediatrician could not explain the cause of this unusual behavior, he suggested to my mother that she cut my hair as short as possible so I could not grab onto it. Sure enough, my mom decided to do just that and, after a period of time, the behavior stopped and she allowed my hair to grow back to a normal girlie length. As for the clothes, it was winter and my mom was a very practical woman…dressing us in shirts, dungarees (no, “jeans” hadn’t been invented yet) and oxford shoes. What can I say…she didn’t care if her daughters were mistaken for boys…she just wanted to keep us as warm as possible.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Nightmare…

Yesterday I took my mom for yet another doctor’s appointment. When we were getting out of the parking structure elevator, a very nice middle-aged gentleman let us exit first and then commented that he’d never seen a mother and daughter who so closely resembled each other. My mom, of course, was thrilled and even giggled…what 85-year-old woman wouldn’t like being compared to her 50+ year old daughter. I, on the other hand, was horrified. Sure…I stand in front of my bathroom mirror each morning wondering where that once 20-year-old face is that used to stare back at me. And sometimes what looks back at me often does remind me of my mom. But to hear it from a stranger…now that’s downright frightening. Could it possibly be true…have I really become my mother?!?!?!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tag Team Shopping

It’s been a busy 24 hours. Last evening my husband and I went to my sister’s home to celebrate Chanukah (next week it’s Christmas at the in-laws). I traditionally give her a hostess gift and this year I lucked out and found a really cute “applesauce bowl” at Bed Bath and Beyond. In case you’re not familiar with Chanukah, latkes (potato pancakes) are traditionally served with applesauce. The bowl was inexpensive but looks nice and, best of all, it can be used for any Jewish holiday dinner. When it came time for gift giving, my sister gave each of us a really useful pill container which hangs on a key ring. This little item she found at her local supermarket. What woman doesn’t need to carry her choice of headache reliever with her at all times?

Today, my sister and I decided we just had to have more applesauce bowls and pill container key rings to give to other family members and friends. She wanted at least 4 more bowls for Chanukah gifts and I decided I needed at least 11 more key rings to give as Christmas gifts. Now, we live approximately 25 miles apart which gives us a lot of territory to cover when shopping. So, my sister started at one Bed Bath and Beyond where she found three additional bowls, now marked down 50%, and then went to two additional BB&Bs but without luck. I canvassed my area and visited three BB&Bs and found four more bowls. In between my visits to the BB&Bs, I also managed trips to seven of the local supermarkets finding an occasional pill container key ring here and there. My sister had better luck at the 3 markets she visited finding a total of 7 key rings. All the while, we kept in touch by cell phone comparing our successes and failures (let’s hear it for free in-network calling). If you’ve lost count of our final totals, here they are:

4 bowls (me) + 3 bowls (sister) = 7 bowls
5 key rings (me) + 7 key rings (sister) = 12 key rings

So in the end, we successfully completed our mission, proving we can accomplish whatever challenge is placed in front of us…as long as there’s shopping involved. Now I only hope none of my friends and family read this before they find their key rings wrapped beneath their Christmas trees.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Do Re Me…Fa La La La La

I’m not feeling very creative today so I will resurrect something I wrote several years ago for the holiday season. A word of explanation, however, is needed first. I worked in the same public library for many years. Each December, some of us would organize a holiday staff party and one of the “highlights” of the party was the talent show the staff would participate in. I’m not quite sure how the tradition got started but each staff level (librarians, library assistants, library aides and library pages) would get together weeks before the event and create a song, poem or some other piece of entertainment and then spend several days rehearsing for the big event. Because I was the Lead Reference Librarian, I somehow took on the role of writing the librarians' act. Some years it was a library poem; other years it was a song or some other silly nonsense. Now, in my own defense, I readily admit I am the least creative person I know…that side of my brain either doesn’t exist or is in extreme dormancy and just doesn’t seem to function. In addition, what made the party so much fun was the truly awful nature of our performances…the sillier and hokier the better.

So without further ado, I am “proud” to present:

“The Reference Desk Song” (sung to Jingle Bells)

Dashing through the stacks
With a patron close behind
Looking for that book
We have to help her find
It’s for her son’s report
He couldn’t come himself
She’s in a hurry, don’t delay
Just grab it from the shelf.

Storytimes are here
For kids from two through five
It’s our job to make
The stories come alive
So they will learn to love
The books they ought to read
And visit when reports are due
For info they will need.

Reference Desk
Reference Desk
We’re here to help you find
The information that it takes
To educate your mind
Databases, GS pubs
And every me-di-a

The library is hot
Oh no, now it is cold
The vents are never cleaned
They’re surely full of mold
No wonder we’re all sick
We sneeze and cough and wheeze
Some day we all might stay at home
With some dreadful disease.

We’re in a budget crunch
We have no funds to spend
So don’t expect new books
We’ll have to mend and mend
We have the special tax
But no one seems to know
How much we are entitled to
Or where the money goes.

Reference Desk
Reference Desk
We’re here to help you find
The information that it takes
To educate your mind
Databases, GS pubs
And every me-di-a

THE END (applause, applause)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Micro-management and the Library

Yesterday I decided to visit my former library while I was out running errands. I do this every so often to see friends and hear the latest library news (and gossip, of course). I also go to help reinforce the knowledge that my decision to retire was most definitely the right one.

Each and every time I see my friends, I hear nothing but complaints about the current state of the library…both the local library and the library system. No one is happy…not the library pages, not the library aides, not the library assistants and not the librarians. In the past, while I was still with the library, much of the displeasure had to do with budgetary constraints…not enough money for materials (books, audio-visual, etc.), programming, building issues, and, of course, staffing. Now with the funding issue somewhat resolved, the issues are more about philosophy and management at the local and system levels. The Library seems to be in a “micro-management” mode with the present Administration leading the way and the community library manager following that lead. Decisions once made by the librarians at the local library (particularly collection development and hiring) have been snatched away by Administration and handed over to system personnel. The hiring of librarians, once the purview of the local library manager and regional administrator, must now be ultimately approved by the head of the department with additional levels of interviews now added to the hiring process before a candidate is accepted. Certainly, in the case of a small library system, this may seem reasonable. But when the system is one of the largest in the nation, how does the head of the department have the time to participate in each and every professional hiring?

And at the local library, it seems this micro-management style has been duplicated if one believes the staff. Even the smallest of details must be approved by the current manager. Decisions, once made by librarians and library assistants, must now have the blessing of the manager. Responsibilities have been shifted with fewer delegated to the library staff and more taken on by the manager. I cannot imagine working under such conditions. For the most part, I was lucky to have managers throughout my career who had confidence that library staff could make decisions which were in the best interest of the library. Our professionalism was never called into question. We did our jobs and did them, for the most part, well. Only when there was an obvious problem, did the manager step in to offer guidance and assistance. And that’s what I always thought a good manager was…someone who was there to mentor and promote independent thinking amongst the staff.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Jury Duty From Start to Finish

Yeah…jury duty has come and gone…in the blink of an eye. One might consider me a professional juror. I have been called for jury duty numerous times and have actually served as a juror on 5 criminal trials and 1 civil case (thanks to being a public employee who was paid for all days of service). In the county I reside, jury duty now consists of one day or one trial. If you are not selected for a jury panel and are in the jury assembly room at the end of your first day, you have served your jury duty and are exempt for 12 months. Needless to say, I was dismayed last night when I phoned the juror call-in hotline and was informed by the recording that I was to report for jury service today. My mom has a doctor’s appointment scheduled for this Friday that I must drive her to and, of course, we have our all important hair appointments next Thursday so the thought of being selected for a jury was frightening. However, the experience turned out to be amazingly swift and painless. I reported as instructed at 9:30am and, after thankfully being overlooked for one panel which was sent to a courtroom, the jury clerk at 11:40am informed those of us in the assembly room that the other pending trials today had been settled prior to jury selection and we were now free to go having served our required one day. The cheer that erupted in the room was deafening. So now I can drive my mom to the doctor’s on Friday, have my hair done next Thursday and continue to finish up any last-minute holiday shopping free from jury obligations. How lucky am I!!!

Monday, December 4, 2006

Holiday Shopping and Jury Duty Too! it's been more than a week since I last posted. What excuses do I have for this oversight? Absolutely none! And isn't that sad? I wish I could say that my life has been so filled with exciting activities that there was just no time to sit down at a computer but that would be an outright lie. I spent plenty of time in front of my computer these past several days…just ask me how many games of Free Cell I’ve won. If I have to be honest, my life has been so mundane lately that I really didn’t think I had anything to share.

Here are the “highlights” of the past few weeks:
  • We spent Thanksgiving at a family friend 's home (we call her our "pseudo-sister”) where I spent time with her brother whom I have not seen in probably 30 years…ouch.
  • Black Friday started the holiday season and I started shopping, first at a golf apparel warehouse sale with my husband followed by a rest-of-the-day shopping spree with my sister.
  • Saturday night the family got together to celebrate my sister’s 50th birthday…another ouch!
  • Sunday and the following week included a lunch date with two friends from my very, very part-time job and lots more gift shopping.
  • The first December weekend was also filled with more successful holiday shopping and a Sunday golf lesson.

As you can see, holiday shopping seems to be the highlight of the past few weeks. Since I begin jury duty next Monday (or any day next week thanks to the much improved juror call-in system), I am trying my best to get all the gifts I need before then so I can avoid December weekend shopping…something I thought I was done with once I retired. I’m not sure why I postponed my November jury duty into December instead of waiting until January to start. How dumb was I especially when the jury clerk first offered me the opportunity to wait until after New Year’s and I was the one who insisted on a December start! And what’s my biggest fear about December jury duty...that I will get on a case which will last long enough to prevent me from keeping my December 21st hair appointment. The thought of going through Christmas and New Year’s with unruly, un-highlighted hair is making me nuts. And I thought retirement would make my life during the holiday season so much calmer…geez…jury duty is worse than work.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A New Week

Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while but I spent the weekend at my sister’s house while she and my brother-in-law went to a spa resort as a celebration of my sister’s 50th birthday (which is actually on the 25th). My mom lives with my sister and so, when they travel out of town, I spend the time with my mom and their dog Amber while my husband stays home alone. Their children spent the two nights with their friends so my mom and I could enjoy a relatively peaceful weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I love my niece (12) and nephew (nearly 10) but my husband and I live a “child-free” existence for a reason and so it was best to have the kids stay with their friends.

I am so glad last week is over. Sadly, my library friend Phyllis passed away after being removed from life support in Hawaii. Her body is being flown back to Arkansas and she will be laid to rest near her parents. The Library is planning a memorial service for her and I hope I will be able to attend. Also last week, my cousin emailed me with the news that her friend’s granddaughter Kylie passed away after a long battle with cystic fibrosis. We’ve been following Kylie’s fight for many years and it pains me to know that someone so young is no longer with us.

I was hoping this week would be uneventful and peaceful but, so far, it’s been far from calm and it’s only Monday. This afternoon we found water on the floor of our service porch when we got home. My husband’s detective work has revealed that a drain pipe is overflowing rather than a pipe leaking so it means a clog somewhere in the system, most probably involving our kitchen sink. We called our plumber of many years and learned that he now works as a plumber for a local university and does private jobs as time permits. This means he won’t be able to come out until Wednesday morning. Oh well…I guess I can always wash our dishes in the bathroom sink until then. I remember now why I’ve been trying to talk my nephew into becoming a doctor or a plumber...we already have a lawyer in the family.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Retirement and Mortality

When I retired in 2004, a friend who worked at the same library decided to retire on the very same day. During the time leading up to our “big” day, we talked constantly about our plans for life after retirement. She had great plans to spend valuable time with her grandchildren, to travel, to enjoy life with her many friends. Unfortunately that was not to be. Shortly after our retirement, she began to suffer from a series of illnesses which eventually took her life this past August. Her passing was painful for all of us (family and friends) and many of us felt a sense of anger and sadness that she was denied an opportunity to enjoy life after her years of work.

Now this week, the issue of retirement and mortality has once again surfaced with the news that someone from my library life is hospitalized in critical condition. This person was a system coordinator when we met and, during my days at Library Headquarters in the early 1990’s, she and I had adjacent cubicles. Working late into the evening, we would chat about work, life and people we knew. Although never close, our paths would cross on occasion and she always greeted me as a friend. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, I knew her strength of will would carry her through her treatment and it did. When she retired from the Library last year as an Administrator, I wished her well and welcomed her into the world of retirement.

Now she is critically ill. When she retired, she expressed a desire to help the Library with its librarian recruitment efforts. On a recruitment trip to Hawaii for the Library Department this past week, she suffered a massive heart attack and is on life support. I have been told it took quite some effort to resuscitate her and that she was deprived of oxygen for some time. I am devastated. Only a few weeks ago, I bumped into her at a local amusement park. She was sitting on a bench enjoying the beautiful weather and I stopped to say “hi.” She asked me what I was doing there and I told her I was “playing at being retired.” She laughed and said she was doing the same. Now instead of enjoying the world, she lays in a hospital bed surrounded by equipment helping her hang on to life. I pray that she defies all odds and can once again enjoy all the things she planned for her life after retirement.

Monday, November 13, 2006

So why…?

So why “The Erstwhile Librarian?” Let me take the “Librarian” part first. In the mid 1970’s, I was a recently graduated English major desperately looking for a career. Tired of the interview question, “How fast do you type,” it was easy to say “yes” when a friend asked me if I wanted to attend Library school with her. Although my love of libraries began as a child when I first read the book "Rosa-Too-Little" in which a little girl spends all summer learning to write her name so she could get a library card, it never dawned on me to even consider becoming a librarian…not even when I worked in my high school library for a wonderful librarian, whose name was coincidently Marian. But at the moment when my friend called with her suggestion, I jumped at the idea. I slogged my way through school and, after graduating, I accepted a Children’s Librarian position (which I thought would be a two year stint just to gain experience) with a major metropolitan public library in one of the many branch libraries. That two year stint became a 26 year career with the Library, serving as Children’s Librarian, Audio-visual Librarian, Reference Librarian, Staff Development Specialist, and finally as “Lead Reference Librarian” at one of the larger community libraries. Never a community library manager (by choice), I spent most of my years in direct public service, watching our patrons (now “customers”) change as the world changed.

Now for the “Erstwhile” part. The definition of that word is “former (Archaic)” and that fits me perfectly. I’m not sure when I began thinking about retiring. As my husband’s retirement plans took form, I began to wonder if it was my time as well. Was I becoming “archaic”…ancient, old-fashioned? Although I’d easily integrated technology into my life as a librarian, I began to have serious concerns about the direction the Library was taking in terms of moving away from the concept of “community library” and towards a more “centralized” philosophy. I valued the notion of “small town library” even as the community around me was expanding and becoming less personalized. Suddenly, patrons rushed in and out, no longer having the time to sit and chat, no longer making their library visits an integral part of their daily lives. We were now just another stop on a long list of chores to be done. And so in 2004, I made the decision to retire. On my last day, I walked out of the library and never looked back. I kept waiting for the tears to come but none did. I’d made the right decision at the right time.