Monday, March 9, 2015

My Friend A

I have been at the Jackson County Public Library for exactly one year tomorrow! It has been a great year full of new things and new people, some things stressful, some things amazing, but mostly wonderful.

I want to tell you about one particularly delightful thing that happened this year.

A first came into the library with his Grandmother. I knew right away that this kid was smart when he came up to the desk, introduced himself and asked if I wanted to play with him. Did I mention he had just turned three at the time? I didn't play that day but, since they were the only ones in the room at that time, I did talk to his Grandmother a bit.

She told me how A was able to interact with adults and older children but that he didn't know very many children his own age and, really, preferred not to play with them or interact with them much. She thought the library would be a good place for him to learn to socialize since A wasn't in preschool. I agreed that the library was a great place and got her our calendar and talked to her about the educational and social aspects of our programming.

They came back the next week. This time, when A asked, I sat down and said I had five minutes to play - there were no children here that time either. They came back again the next week and this time there was another little boy playing at the train table. A asked if I would play so I said I had five minutes. After a minute I started to engage the other boy in our play letting A and this little boy start playing together. Then I slowly backed out and they played together! No adult! I wish I could convey what a big deal this was.

Over the year A and I played every time he came to the library, always for five minutes until I had to go back to work. Of course, five minutes means very little to a three year old but it gave me an out when it was time to go. Often I left him playing with other children, boys and girls.

When A started attending story time he was all over the place at first, wanting to know what was next, when can we...what are we... Typical really. Over time he began to trust that we would indeed get to all his favorite activities and that he must be patient, sometimes even taking turns. He interrupted less and participated more. The ladies that provide storytime said they could see that changes happening and that it was fun to watch him develop.

Then I started hearing from others, people I worked with and patrons, that a little boy said his best friend worked at the library. His Mother thought I was a child in storytime until she met me - fortunately she was okay with it.

When A said, "I love you, Lola" I, with no hesitation answered, "I love you too."

Two weeks ago his Grandmother told me that the family was moving. Not far, but far enough that his library will change. The day she told me A yelled across the library, "I love you, Lola for my whole life."

I wanted to tell you about A because I will miss his smile, I will miss that he only has one volume (loud), I will miss that he always wants to know "why" and "how," I will miss stamps up his arms and down his legs because one stamp is never enough,  and I will miss how he brightened my day when he ran through the door, into my office and gave me a really big hug.

I also wanted to tell you about A because I invested so little of my time in relation to other things in my day and was given a huge return on that investment. Children really just want us to play with them, care about them, pay attention to them. A few minutes of acting silly, that's all it took.

It was worth every second!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Oktoberfest in Seymour

So apparently Oktoberfest in Seymour is a pretty big deal. People have been talking it up since I moved here over 6 months ago. But I came from Evansville with it's Fall Festival, and every fried food you could want and many you really don't want at all - edible bugs. I wasn't expecting much really. So imagine my surprise when at the beginning of the week the roads started being blocked off. LOTS of them. I live about 3 blocks from work and was nearly late trying to find a route that would go through because there was a man - in actual lederhosen - up on a ladder changing the street signs.

The event officially starts on Thursday morning with several of the vendors serving breakfast type items - if you consider sticky buns and kuchen breakfast items...I do. Our library board has decided to close the library at non on Thursday, and all day on Friday and Saturday. Staff is required to work 4 hours both days in order to receive 4 hours holiday pay. How wonderful is that?! So we all headed up the street at noon to indulge. Many people commented, "here come the librarians." I wondered if we all looked typical or something but then I remembered, small town, everybody knows everybody, where they work and live and what they had for dinner last night. (It's not that bad)

One of our group had a detailed plan of attack, a list of foods and the booths in which they could be found. It was funny until I tried her first item then I thought she was pretty smart. My favorite purchase was the Pierogi, potato and cheese filled yumminess, sautéed with onions and dill. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about them.

Christina Hime, john Downey, Sara Brockman, Jill Willey, Me, Sheila McDonough
What made Oktoberfest so much more than just an orgy of food were the arts and craft booths, the spoon man, the hurdy gurdy, the cake walk, and the flea market at the Methodist Church. It was like all of my favorite activities rolled into one! Oh and there are rides for those so inclined. I had a great time, my feet were killing me and it was hotter than blue blazes that afternoon but I will go back next year, OF COURSE! Sorry Evansville and the West Side Nut Club but this transplant enjoyed Oktoberfest more than I ever did the Fall Festival.

Now I REALLY can't move back to Evansville...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Angry Birds - Large and In Charge

I recently did an Angry Birds program with my Middle Matters group (kids grades 6-8) that went pretty well. We are still looking for the right time to offer programming but right now it is Fridays at 4:30 advertised as a homework break. Bad news is, it's football season so...

Before I go into what I did, please know that I borrow liberally from other librarians who have graciously shared their ideas on the internet. So, thank you, if you see your ideas splashed across my blog.

I set up several stations for the kiddos to choose from. The first was Angry Birds Body Parts, think of the game Cootie but with Angry Bird parts instead. I wasn't sure about this one but the kids really got into it.

Roll the dice. Add the piece that corresponds with your roll. If you roll a six you must remove a piece of your bird. First one to have a complete Angry Bird wins.

    1.   Body
    2.   Beak
    3.   Eye (2)
    4.   Head Feathers
    5.   Tail
    6.    Remove a body part

Next there were Papercraft. These can be found all over the internet but the ones I used were by Little Plastic Man.

These were pretty tough to put together but everyone made one or two of them. I let them take the patterns for the others so they could make them at home.

Then came the cute craft - pom pom birds and pigs.
Love the eyebrows
Pom poms were made by wrapping yarn around fingers many, many, many times, then tying a knot around the middle making loops on both sides of the center tie. The loops were then cut, fluffed, and trimmed until the desired roundness and size was achieved. I supplied small squares of paper to cut beaks, crowns, and noses from, plus the googly eyes - because all projects are better with googly eyes.

We had tattoos available and a snack of Angry Bird Droppings, which made me smile more than the kids but I forgive their lack of sophisticated humor. They're young.

Of course you can't have Angry Birds - Large and in charge without having life-sized angry birds to play. I spent several weeks gathering boxes of various sizes, wrapping them in brown paper and drawing "wood grain" on them for authenticity. Realism is key (snerk)

At this point I need to stop and say that I had help with the wrapping and wood graining. Okay, I didn't do a lick of it. I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful intern this summer who was willing to take on any assigned task.

I purchased several kickballs and tried to get the right colors but blue didn't come in the right size so I used green. Honestly, the kids didn't even notice they were having too much fun. I looked on the internet for templates but to be frank I didn't really like the ones I found so I made my own. They are included at the end of the blog. I tried taping the bird faces to the balls but it didn't stick very well so I tried glue dots. Those worked for the first few launches but fell off soon thereafter. Again, the kids didn't care, in fact they thought it was funny, so there you go with their sense of humor.

The taped faces came off pretty quickly

From one blog I got the idea to lob the birds at the pigs by using a towel but I wanted to make it as Angry Birds authentic as possible - remember realism is key - without actually using a slingshot so I brought a black, fleece scarf from home and made them work together to figure out how to get the bird to fly to the right place. It took a bit of coordination and a lot of trial and error but they managed.

Green ballons with Pig faces drawn on them completed the game. The kids had great fun knocking things down and building in new configurations trying to make it harder to get to the pigs. Never let anyone tell you that they are too old to build with blocks.

Hope you have as much fun in your Angry Birds program as I had in mine.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Life Well-Lived - Jan Steinmark

Very shortly after starting work at McCollough Branch Library in Evansville, IN, I received an e-mail from a woman at East Branch named Jan Steinmark. She ended it by telling me how wonderful her PT Cruiser was. Huh... Seemeed a bit quirky but whatever. A few weeks later I received another e-mail, and another and another all extoling the virtues of her purple PT Cruiser. Ugh! I thought. Enough already, we get it, you love your car, it reminds you of the past, get over it and move on!"

Years later I was moved to Central Library and had the honor of being paired up with Jan Steinmark to work on Saturdays. Just the two of us. My first thought? Does she still have that dang car? 

What I learned, when I finally took the time and effort to get to know Jan was that the P T Cruiser obsession didn't mean Jan was stuck in the past. It meant that she loved to know about who she was, who her family was, where she and others came from. She was infinitely curious about others and their lives. She loved teaching people! She was passionate about helping others and wanted to see them succeed in whatever endeavors they chose. 

When Jan found a project, she often turned it into a mission. She liked to knit so she started making hats and scarves for cancer patients and bears for babies. She made a cat toy for her babies that they seemed to like so she made enough for the whole children's department at the library to try them out. The same with bookmarks and jewelry.

On our Saturdays together Jan very politely listened to me read children's books out-loud, oohing and ahhing in the appropriate places. She joined me in loving the simple joys and deep lessons that can be found in children's literature. 

One Saturday I read a book called Subway Story by Julia Sarcone-Roach about a beloved subway car that eventually became old and found itself in a junkyard, sad and alone. Then one glorious day the subway was taken and put into the ocean to become a part of a coral reef and it wasn't long before the subway car was once again loved and full of friends. Jan shared with me that she wanted to be cremated after she died and her ashes added to a coral reef off of Florida. This way she said she would always be a part of making the world a better place.

That was Jan, stubborn, yes, driven, to a fault, a lover of all things kitsch, and also one of the most caring people I have had the privilege to know. 

Rest well my friend. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Remembering June Snyder

Here are the things my Grandma June taught me:

Toadstools are really fairy houses.
Be outside as much as possible.
Shuffle your feet in the clover so you don't step on a bee.
In the summer, shoes are for going out and for church.
Sleep with the windows open even in winter, fresh air is good for you and you sleep better cold.
Fingers in the sugar bowl are only allowed at Grandma's house.
If you close your eyes you won't notice that it's dark and won't be afraid.
Laugh as much as possible.
Kittens will survive a lot of rough handling.
Love others.
Be patient in affliction.
Look for the good in everything.
Love God.
Trust Him no matter your circumstances.

My Grandparents lived on a very small farm. Learning all the wonders each season held was one of the things I loved about going to visit. There were baby rabbits and kittens in the spring, planting and the smell of the freshly turned soil and the big rain barrel would fill with water in the spring rains. In the summer the wildflowers on the property line would bloom - the red poppies were my favorite.

When the days grew long and steamy Grandpa would clean the pool and Grandma would make a picnic lunch. We'd spend whole afternoons swimming coming out only to rest in the shade of the cherry trees when our cheeks and noses started to burn. Evenings were spent snitting beans, talking and playing games on the patio. Later canning took over the kitchen. Tomatoes, corn, beans - the stock pot would be full to the brim of tomatoes in the morning, they cooked down all day until the pot was about half full. It was the best sauce. The neighbor's cows came over to the fence for apples from Grandpa's orchard. One licked me once. Very slobbery.

Fall was apple cider time, a jumping in huge piles of leaves time. We also butchered the rabbits and chickens. That was tough for me and I usually stayed away. Whatever limbs and trees came down that summer were piled up and burned in, what I thought then, was a huge bonfire. It was beautiful. I loved watching the sparks fly up into the air until they burned out and disappeared.

In the winter Grandpa and I went out and dug winter carrots. Not sure why I thought that was fun but I did. Grandma would put the chain on the tractor and attach saucer sleds with rope to the back. It was so much fun! We cooked hotdogs and marshmallow in the out building behind the pool. The steam from our wet clothes would rise in the air.

It was a magical place for me. I learned to love and respect God's creation there.

My Grandmother died of  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. She was 58 years old. She knew something was wrong when she dropped her fork at the dinner table. Her hand just wouldn't work properly. I remember reading to her. She always asked for poetry, the Bible, or bless her, whatever book I was reading at the time.

ALS is an ugly disease. In a nutshell it kills muscles. Think of all the muscles in your body slowly atrophying until you can't walk, hold a hand, smile, talk, swallow, or breathe. These muscles don't die quietly, they die painfully.  

Recently an advocacy campaign has appeared called the ALS ice bucket challenge. Earlier this evening I took the challenge. It wasn't about dumping cold water on my head, or being videotaped, or wanting to be seen. It was about raising awareness for a disease that gets very little notice and so very little research funding. Only about 30,000 people in the US have ALS. Hardly a blip, unless it's you, or someone you love. Then it is consuming.

I wish I could better tell you about the amazing woman that my Grandmother was, how she continued to minister to others even while unable to talk or move, how she remained faithful, how she meant the world to a little girl and how I still miss her today. 

Instead I will ask you to consider making a donation to the ALS foundation. This campaign will lose steam and donations will dry up again so let's make the most of it while we can.

Thank you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I've been absent for awhile. New job, new location, new everything. It's kept me busy. But now I'm back.

I now work at the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour, IN. It's located in a small, rural community that serves about 35,000 people with a main library, two small branches and a bookmobile called the Discovery Bus.

Seymour Public Library built 1905

The original Carnegie is still a part of the building today but there have been three additions over the years. 

From across the street you can see how we've grown.
Apart from the library I am learning about all things rural like "Take your Tractor to School Day," counting fogs to determine winter weather - yes, fogs not frogs - and planning a trip to town because you only get there once a week or so, trains at all hours, especially the 2 am local and the whistle patterns they use - two long, one short, one long - and how some engineers are lazy when it comes to their whistle crispness.

Everyday's an adventure.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I have a mystery on my hands...

It all began when as a little girl I was told stories by my Grandmother of all the wonderful adventures she orchestrated as a leader of a Girl Scout Troop. She taught me the songs they sang around the fires and while hiking on camping trips, she showed me how to make a daisy chain and whistle with a blade of grass. She also started me on the path of wanting to know the names of plants, trees, and to learn as much about animals as possible.

Then, when I was still too young, my sister became a Brownie. It's like Girl Scout Preschool. I was sooooooo jealous of her cute little brown dress, sash, and knee socks. And the beanie! Don't even get me started on how much I wanted a beanie of my own. She stayed in long enough to wear the green of an official Girl Scout. I was over it by then though because her troop didn't seem to resemble AT ALL the troop my Grandmother so lovingly talked about. My sister's troop did crafts. And... nope, that's pretty much it. They fulfilled the service portion of their duty by making these crafts for nursing home residents but it was mostly all crafts. I remember Christmas trees made out of Reader's Digest Magazines most vividly.

If you want to make one for yourself check out the step by step instructions on:

I do remember that I enjoyed spray painting them green. We also made angels and something else. I remember silver and gold paint but not what we used it on.

Long story to say that I had no desire to be a Girls Scout!

Meanwhile all my friends who were boys were joining the Cub Scouts on their way to becoming Boy Scouts. They were going camping, learning how to make fires, pitching tents, canoeing! All the fun stuff I wanted to do!!!!

So I tried to join them. Rejected due to gender. Naturally.

Last weekend while cleaning out a box I came across a Boy Scouts of America membership card for one Lola Snyder until May 1985.

Uh what?

Mom and Dad had no idea what it was about so I contacted the Great Trail Council in Akron, OH and am awaiting further information. How cool would it be to know I was actually a Boy Scout. And, how sad that I didn't get to do anything with it.

So I'll let you know...