Sunday, August 14, 2022

Here We Come To A Turning of The Season (Summer into Fall, 2022)

 Sometime around the last third of July, I decided that August was going to be the beginning of fall. 

Admittedly, this was probably 'round about the time that I was starting to get delirious from acute Summer Reading Program Sickness (There are only so many times you can utter "Yaaaaarrrr! You get ALL YOUR PRIZES! Dig into the treasure chest, enter the raffle, choose your book, and don't forget about loving books!"within a one hour period without this occurring), so I wasn't necessarily using all of my brain. But the bit of my addled brain that was working...kind of...came up with this reasoning:

1. Because Summer Reading Program Ends July 31st, due to children going back to school around August 1st...

2. And thus, reasonably, When children go back to school, it's called "The Fall Semester"

3. Therefore, August 1st is the Fall Semester...

4. In conclusion, August 1st is the beginning of Fall

Does it make sense to any person other than a perimenopausal children's library-manager-bureaucrat whose brain has been absolutely fried by SRP shenanigans, and whose body is absolutely drained by the heat, dear god the heat? Probably not, but whatever. It made sense to me!

And what do you know? August 1st rolled around and...things got better. The first half of July seemed to be filled with a lot of sunny, humid, 90+ degree days; the second half of July was maybe a little better, especially with the SRP finish-line in sight. And August...It wasn't immediately or consistently cooler those first few days, but after that....August has been absolutely charming. Dog Days? No such thing! For the last ten days or so, we've been enjoying days that aren't too humid, and that don't get past the low 80s, and plenty of rain here and there to get rid of the flash-drought-stricken grass. (And also, let's not discount a  more sustainable workload in my professional life.) I've been sleeping with my windows open at night; I've been contemplating going outside for recreational purposes. I've been trying to rebuild my social life and Get Out There, more. And in the mornings, it has almost felt cool. In the evenings, it feels...golden. Gentle. Those are the words that come to mind: golden, gentle evenings, filled with the feeble chirps and creaks and sing-songs of crickets and cicadas, making their racket in defiance of the encroaching empty barrenness of the winter and the dying that inevitably comes with it.

(Okay, I know it's not so anything poetic as summer insects screaming against the coming death; it's got something more to do with them trumpeting their final attempts at mate-reproduce-marry-fuck-kill.)

But here is the thing: each late summer, as I listen to the cicadas and crickets begin to protest their impending doom...I hear an echo of my own encroaching end. I can't be the only one, can I? I can't be the only one realizing that the death of summer is a somehow significant milestone in another year slowly marching its way to its end. The death of summer is the approach towards the fallow months, where I, at least, am prone to taking stock, remembering, honouring my labours, thinking of the people I've met, loved, talked to, yearned for, laughed with, held close, advised, supported, dismissed, scorned, reviled. (Yes, there are even a couple of those.)

These late summer days, as well as the coming autumn, are beautiful gifts, really--and sad gifts--an annual reminder of our own coming harvests and decays and ends, and an annual recollection of the fruitful, endless numbered days that will one day run out. But until they do run out, I'm just gonna sit here drinking my Pumpkin Spice Latte coffee that I found at Wal-Mart last week. 

And if you are judging me for shopping at Wal-Mart, whatevs. Clearly you're not a basic bitch with a poetic soul fighting a losing battle against inflation. 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Book-It List, August 2022 Edition

I had a whole post typed up about how, at some point over the heartbreak and trauma of the last two years, I somehow manage to lose my Reading Groove. That is to say, my voracious appetite for books somehow withered away to a skeletal echo of its previous voluptuous self. Thanks, Corona.

But then I thought, who the fuck wants to read about that? Many of us found our concentration shot during the fallout of the last couple of years. Many of us had too much else going on. What-the-fuck-ever. We keep buggering on.

Fortunately, I think my Reading Groove is starting to come back. Books—which are, perhaps, my oldest and truest friends—are starting to appeal to me once more, and I am trying to deliberately cultivate that interest, coax it back into being. What better way to do it than to create a monthly Bucket List of Books? A Book-It List, if you will: 


I'm not a book blogger--hell, I'm barely a blogger--so I promise I won't be nattering on at great length about all the titles on my bedstand right now; nor will I be doing any sort of formal reviews on here. Instead, I figure I'll just hit a few of the highlights about my reading goals of the month...

First, and obviously most importantly, The Art of the Occult, by S. Elizabeth

Full disclosure: I read this book a couple of years back, but the author S. Elizabeth (AKA Eldest Sister) is releasing her second book The Art of Darkness next month, and I figured I should re-read to get me in the mood for her next literary work. Although, I won't be reading The Art of Darkness until we are balls-deep in the middle of Spooky SZN.

Next up! The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, both by Andrzej Sapowski.

I'm not always a slut for fantasy novels, but when I am, it's usually because there's a delectable bit of man-meat lurking within the pages. And if you've seen The Witcher televisions series, which is based on these books, you'll know the man-meat of which I speak: 

Behold! Geralt of Rivia, at his cleanest. 

Alas and alack! There are only two seasons of The Witcher out as of right now, but happily, there's a whole stinkin' series of books just waiting for me to devour. 

And finally, The Midwest Survival Guide: How We Talk, Love, Work, Drink and Eat...Everything With Ranch, by Charlie Berens.

Look, just because this book is considered "regional humour" doesn't make it untrue. (Especially about the Ranch dressing, AKA "Hoosier Sauce.") The author is Charlie Berens of TikTok and YouTube fame, and his writing is every bit as delightful (and mostly wholesome, which, wtf? Who am I even?) as his video productions. Out-of-towners, if you ever plan to visit me, please read this book first...and be prepared for "A Midwestern Good-Bye." 

Obviously, I've got a bunch of other stuff in my reading pile,  including some youth fiction, as well as the picture books I look over when I'm working the desk, but since there's every chance I won't read my way to the bottom of my August Book-It List, I'm sure as shit not going to blog my way to the bottom, either. 

Happy Reading, Comrades!


Monday, August 1, 2022

All That Wilts Shall Bloom Again

An Artist's Rendering of Me on July 31. 
Source: An Amazon vendor that has absolutely no business selling or marketing these stickers to non-adults. 

Summer Reading Program. 

If you know, you know. 

I thought I knew. I have, after all, worked in libraries now for 16 summers; more summers than not, I was a front-line worker. For four of those summers, I managed people who were completely immersed in it. And of course, I had my good friend and veteran Children's Librarian, Abby Johnson, to blog and share firsthand accounts of the programs, the intensity, the added desk shifts, the madness. The fucking madness of it all. I thought I knew. 

Comrades, I knew nothing. Not until this (distressingly hot) summer, my first in a 100%-immersed-in- Youth-Services-management gig, did I truly learn what it means to live through Summer Reading Program at a public library. And when I say "live through", what I really mean is "endure". Slog through? Melt and droop and ooze through? Whatever. A post I made on Facebook, relatively early on during Summer Reading Program, sums it up pretty well:  

And of course, what have I to complain about? It was the librarians and assistants in my department who I feel did the lion's share of the work: they are the ones who planned and staffed the programs that drew in hordes of children and families and caretakers. I just provided all the desk staffing and moral support I could and tried to keep the schedule in order and helped with program cleanup when I could and tried not nag folks too much about their timecards. But whatever, we all played our role in what, I'm told, was a pretty successful Summer Reading Program. However, by early July, I was dragging myself home every day, fairly wilting from the heat and my ears still ringing from the incessant hollering and screams (I promise, it's a Children's Department, not a torture chamber) and not able to do much except hunker down in my chilly, darkened living room, pulling faces at the cats and trying to remember a time before or after Summer Reading Program. 

It was fun. Fun and funny and frenetic and frickin challenging in all the good ways, but I am not going to pretend even in the slightest that I'm sorry that it's over for another 10 months or so. Because, while my wall calendar and desk calendar are still open to June 1, Summer Reading Program officially ended on July 31. RIP, Oceans of Possibilities. We'll catch you on the flipside, in your resurrected form sometime next May. 

It's actually kind of fitting that the first day of Life After Summer Reading Program starts today, on August 1. Some of my witchywoowoo friends celebrate Lughnasadh on August 1; it is the first of the harvest festivals, one in which we harvest the fruit we had sown in the spring. We celebrate our harvests knowing that the dark winter is coming, reminding ourselves that all that falls shall rise again. Including us. And including Summer Reading Program. But for now, a fallow time. A time of rest. 

So, okay, it's a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea. Summer Reading Program has passed for another year, and hopefully the year marches on to a cooler, gentler time, and those of us who wilted under the heat and work of summer can rise and thrive, at least briefly, once again. 

Except maybe the flowers I tried to grow on my patio this summer. They're fucked. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Same As It Ever Was?

Some people have their profound realizations and best ideas when they're taking their morning showers. Me? My life-changing epiphanies usually happen when I'm driving to work. Now, these epiphanies don't happen often (I'm usually too busy singing along to the Dropkick Murphys or Taylor Swift to have too many conscious thoughts) but when they do happen, they tend to be doozies. 

The last time it happened was January 8, 2020. I was driving to work, and feeling...restless, I guess? Perhaps a little trapped, a little bored. While I love the safety and steadiness of a predictable life with minimal risk, it can get occasionally...oppressive. By then, I had been living in Indiana for four years. I had a job that I loved, but I was perhaps starting to feel as though I wasn't challenged enough, and that Bloomington had simply gotten too small. I found myself wondering, What if I am still doing this in five years? Driving down this same road, heading to the same job? And I knew, with absolute certainty, that I wouldn't want that. I was happy enough at the present time, but I wouldn't be forever. I knew it completely, and I knew it immediately, and the next question came without bidding, Where DO I want to be 5 years from now? And the answer came just as quickly, and with just as much certainty: "I want to be living in Indy." I had always wanted that, or at least since 2005, and really, Bloomington was only ever supposed to be a temporary soft landing until I got my bearings. But I had fallen in love--with my job, my organization, my colleagues. And so I had been hooked but good. 

Later that day at work, a colleague mentioned that the Indy Public Library was hiring in a position that sounded perfect for me. I was tempted; god, I was tempted. I thought about it, and talked it over with my mentor, and he watched in quiet amusement as, before his eyes, I undertook a fierce but brief mental struggle and ultimately decided not to apply. 5 years from now is not NOW, after all. But still...I made sure to document it in my memory journal that night. 

And then the pandemic happened. Lockdown, quarantine, social distancing and isolation and the collective ongoing trauma that simultaneously blasted us apart yet in some ways, drew us together. But mostly blasted us apart. Two years later, and most of us still seem to be stumbling about, trying to make sense of things and rebuild even as the world persists in re-falling apart around us anew every morning. Two years later...

Two years since that day that I promised myself I'd live in Indy in five years...I find myself living in Indy. So, a bit ahead of schedule, I guess? The pandemic changed so much in my life; during the first year of it, pretty much all but two of my closest friends moved away from Bloomington. The nature of my work changed; the organization changed profoundly, as well. And I think I changed, too. I'm more tired and jaded and hopefully more compassionate than I was two years ago. I've realized that I'm less of an introvert than I thought (or, at least, not to the point where I can withstand two months of little human interaction). More than ever, I don't like my time being wasted (unless I am wasting it, on my terms) and I have gotten really really good at not hanging about when I'm not wanted. I've changed jobs, I've changed address, and that's quite enough upheaval for me for at least another five years, thank you very much.

Finally, I am in the city I have been dreaming about for seventeen years, living close to some very old, dear friends. I live in a old townhouse that's showing its age (who isn't, these days?) and perhaps because really, this dream is a pretty modest one, I have not yet found myself disappointed in it. (Incidentally, I've found that this is how I have found a lot of contentment in my life: expectation management.) So, here I am, in Indianapolis, finally. And I find that I'm pretty frickin grateful it didn't take me 5 years to get here. 

(My commute is three times as long as it used to be. But hey, bright side--that's three times as much time on my drive to work to have some really great revelations and epiphanies!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Days to Dust

There's no good way to preface this, so I'll just say it how it is: last month, shortly after the summer finally gave way to fall, and after the most awful 2 work weeks of my life, I saw that my cat Indiana had developed a sudden blood clot, and I ultimately had to make the heart-rending decision to euthanize him. 

I did what I could for him--as soon as I saw something was wrong, I texted my vet friend, Dr J, for advice. Ten minutes later, we were out the door. I drove 80 miles an hour along country roads and through construction zones to get to the nearest after-hours vet, all the while hoping that something could be done. I didn't know how bad it was until the kindly vet tech told me our limited options. And then I did the next right thing I could: I decided quickly to end Indiana's suffering, and I said good-bye. 

We got him when he was just a half-grown kitten; he was my gift to my then-husband (was-band) for our one year anniversary. But Indiana Jasonville Bruecks became my cat very quickly--so much so that I got custody of him in our eventual yet inevitable divorce.
He was a neurotic goofball and a total dope. He had a big personality, and never knew a stranger. He had massive paws and tiny ears and a beautiful swooping tail. He was a marmalade all over, except for a funny little black dot on his paw. He loved to attack fresh sheets when I was making up the bed, and he would happily commit murder for just a little more wet food. When he was happy, he didn't purr... He huffed and puffed and drooled, like a pervvy old man making the best of obscene phone call of his life. "You're a mess," Middle Sister used to tell him, and he would just huff and drool in blissfully contented agreement.
He was in my life for 10 years, and was hale and hearty right up until that last, godawful day. I thought we would have many more years together, but I was so wrong.
We assume we will have our fur companions forever, but we won't. And even if we did, forever still wouldn't be long enough.


"There will be a hole in my heart forever
That will be the shape of you
And darling when your heart was breaking
You were breaking my heart, too."
-Sofia Talvik

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Armchair Travel: Antelope Valley, California

Among my closest family, friends, and colleagues, I'm a bit notorious for my rather intense distaste for all things California.  The funny thing was, this wasn't something that sprung up after I moved away; California and I always had a less-than-perfect relationship, from the very beginning. Well, time and distance have blunted some of my unhappier memories, to the point where I'm almost ready to go back for a visit, and I'm certainly open to taking a trip down memory lane every now and then. Fortunately, during my almost-decade there I did manage to tamp down my disdain enough to occasionally go forth and explore some of the many, many rather awesome things that California had on offer.

Today, April 6, is designated as California Poppy Day, in honor of the California State Flower, which is (gasp!) the poppy--specifically, the Eschscholzia californica, the California Poppy. In honor of this rather whackadoodle holiday, I decided to sit down and blog a bit about the time I had the opportunity to frolic about in literal vast fields of these rather lovely little flowers. 

While I reckon you can find the California poppy in lots and lots of parts of the state, there's this one area which is rather famous for its concentration: the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. It's located in the middle of fuckin' nowhere, in northern Los Angeles County (hard to think that anyplace out in Southern California could be considered the middle of nowhere, but really, it's a damned big state.) It's rather a desolate bit of the region, save for when the poppies are in bloom. And not every year is a good bloom season--it depends on the when and the how much rain that falls in a given year. So, while strolling the poppy fields of California had been on my bucket list for many years, it wasn't until the spring of 2014 that an opportunity of good timing enabled me to explore them. 

My travel companions (my was-band, and a couple of our housemates) and I ventured out on Easter Sunday, and after a lot of driving, we got to the nowhere place of all the poppies. (Hey, I think that should be the new name for the nature preserve! or at least the title of an epic poem.) To be honest, I'm not even sure we made it into the proper preserve; there were so many fields blanketed in the orange-gold blooms, we just stopped and strolled wherever the was-band deemed photogenic enough. 

The region we was vast. Huge. Big sky, big fields. We rarely encountered other folks. Only sheep.

Given the mercurial nature of the bloom season, if you live far away, it can be difficult to time your visit so that you can get the full poppy experience. Now that I live far away, I reckon it's unlikely that I'll have a chance to return, at least in this lifetime. There are always more places to travel to, after all. But if you can find a way, do try to explore these vast fields and their blooms. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

March in Review

Well, let's first address the elephant in the room: My whole "blog every day in March" turned out to be a flop. Not sure why, exactly...I think it was a combination of "jesus christ, what the fuck am I supposed to blog about today," "oh god it's 10pm and I haven't started and I'm so exhausted," and, finally, "fuck this."

On the bright side, it did get me in the mode of trying to brainstorm content and be proactive and strategic about planning content. I think, part of it too, is always trying to remember why I blog. God knows, blogs seem to be "so 2010", and one need look no further than someone like the Pioneer Woman to see how far they have evolved (and not in a good way, as far as I can tell.) Also, I was never in this for getting views or whatever. My main purpose in blogging has always been to quietly remind myself that while I don't matter on a grand universal scale, my life matters to me, and I enjoy documenting my struggles and joys and reflections and explorations and little accomplishments, and sometimes even my acquisitions. So that's what I need to remember when writing and planning and brainstorming. 

So! other than my blogging failure, what else did March bring?

  • MY FIRST VACCINE! On Friday the 26th, I took a rather circuitous route out to Spencer, where I got my first Moderna jab. The vaccine site was at the First Nazarene Church, and while I confess myself a little surprised that the Nazarenes would have anything to do with letting something so sciencey take place in their church, I was a little reassured: if the Nazarenes are letting us use their church as a vaccination site, the vaccine can't be the Mark of the Beast, right?  From beginning to end, the experience was smooth, and the road trip out to Spencer was, in and of itself, a pleasant reminder of Indiana explorations to come. Which brings me to...
  • The concept of "The After Times." Very early on, I began referring to the time before the pandemic as "The Before Times." And then, of course, the pandemic itself, I've been calling The End of the World, or the Apocalypse. I was so engrossed with simply surviving that it has only been in this last month that I began to register what my friend Jain is calling "The After Times." Yes, the pandemic is not over. Yes, we still need to be not utter dickholes and mask up and be considerate. But many of us are well on our way to being vaccinated, and that means it's time to think about hope, and making plans, and rebuilding. I'm already plotting my first big vacation!
  • Beautiful weather: Normally, I have a love-hate relationship with spring. I hate the fact that it's a harbinger of summer, my least favorite season, but this winter was so bleak and dark, both literally and metaphorically, that I couldn't help but to rejoice in the fact that March seemed to be unusually warm. This warm spring, coupled with the rapidly-expanding availability of the vaccine, seems like a true rebirth in every sense of the word. 

  • This also led to my annual "cleaning of my deck space"

Before (resembling a post-apocalyptic wasteland)

After (And ready for After Times Entertaining!)

  • March 22--my 5 year Indianaversary! How the hell have I been home 5 years already?

  • Word of the month: "Vaccined" (tipsy shorthand for "vaccinated")

  • Quote of the month: "I consider myself 'man-agnostic.' I'm have neither faith nor disbelief that decent men exist. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I'm open to the possibility, but I'm not motivated enough to go out and find evidence." -Me, of course

What did March bring into your life?