Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Generation of Lost Parents

The opioid crisis, and it's companion meth and heroin crises, have wreaked havoc on our communities, our families, and most specifically our children.  In the school where I teach, I can think of at least three children who have lost a parent to overdose and many, many more who have one or both parents in jail. These children are being raised by grandparents, aunts and uncles, or complete strangers in the foster care system.  

These are the children that are lucky.  Many more are being brought up in homes where drug and alcohol abuse are the norm, where domestic abuse is common, and where parents frequently change partners, leading to very confusing family connections for the children.  The children in these situations often have no real sense of who their families actually are.  

One child I observed repeatedly called another girl "Sissy," because she thought of her as her sister.  The second girl adamently denied being the first girl's sister.  I asked the first girl if she and the second girl had the same mother and/or father.  No.  Did her mom or dad marry the other girl's mom or dad? No. Why does she think they are sisters?  It turns out two of their parents hooked up for a time.  The girl refused to believe that this did not make them sisters.

The worst part of this, for me, is realizing how much the first child needed a connection.  She desperately wanted to have family, something that seems to have been lost to her. She needed some kind of stability and was willing to latch on to a child who refused her.  I can't imagine this desperation.

I wonder what the long-term effects will be for these children.  Will they grow up thinking these relationships are the norm?  When they are parents, will the behave in the same manner?  Who will be the responsible adults in their children's lives, since their grandparents were dysfunctional parents.  How can the foster system support more children?  What is going to happen to these babies

When Hillary Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child, I doubt she saw the long-term implications of these words.  Will those people not dependent on drugs and alcohol be asked to intervene?  I have thought of fostering, but the fear of heartbreak paralyzes me.  How could I let a child return to a home that may not provide the same level of care?  I don't think I could.

I don't know how long people like me (who came from a dysfunctional home, but had excellent secondary family members that provided nurture) will have a choice.  Children need love, attention and guidance, as well as food, shelter and clothing.  They need someone to be invested in them.  With a large part of this generation of parents being lost to their children, I shudder to think what the next generation will be.

We need to be ready.

I Got A Prize!

got a prize for self-control.  Granted, it was imaginary and self-awarded, but by golly, I earned it!  What didn't I do?  I did not chuck my non-responsive laptop across the room, smashing it to pieces. Realizing temper tantrums do not befit a 60-year-old woman, I congratulated myself on my self-control and reflected on reasons why I made a superior decision:

1.     I realized the wall would be badly damaged, and I would have to pay for the repair;
2.     I realized that smashing my computer would only hinder and prolong the odious tasks for which I required my laptop;
3.     I understood the value of the work and memories located on that computer could not be easily recovered; and finally
4.     I once chewed my daughter out for doing nearly the same thing.

Once when my daughter was a teen, I spied her, in a fit of rage, chucking her cell phone on the ground.  I recall her mood being inspired by her boyfriend.  I could understand if not support her sentiment, but I berated her loudly and publicly about the cost of the phone and the assurance that the phone would not be replaced if broken.

This did not improve her temper. She retrieved her phone from the soft, cushy grass and stormed inside.

There have been many times since then when I have had the urge to act like my former teenage daughter, but common sense and decorum always seem to derail my baser urges.  This is good, I suppose. No damage was done, and unnecessary financial commitments were avoided.  

Dr. Roberta Satow, in her Life After 50 blog on Psychology Today's website describes adult temper tantrums as the unachieved ability to handle disappointments in life.  She noted that tantrums can be internal, expressed in feelings of negative self-worth and fear.  Nurturing parents help children learn to deal with these feelings and evolve into emotionally healthy adults.  Adults who have lacked this childhood guidance require the patience and love of those around them as they continue to work through their personal and professional turmoils.

I guess I should feel grateful that I have evolved into a relatively stable human being but I have to admit that I think I would occasionally enjoy the freedom of a good scream and throwing tantrum.

Satow, Roberta. “A Strategy to Deal with Adult Temper Tantrums.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 5 Feb. 2019,

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Kobe Bryant's Top Book of Summer

If Kobe Bryant recommends a series for young adults, my guess is that this series is going to hold adolescent's attention.  Bryant said the he became aware of the series when his twelve year-old daughter "came home raving about the book and said, "Dad, you've got to read this."

The series is Jason Reynold's Track series, a set of four books which follows track and field athletes as they stuggle with challenges on and off the track. Ghost, the protangonist in the first book, Ghost, has a dark past and a lot of anger to overcome.  Can he funnel this anger into a positive outcome?

The value of this series, as Bryant notes, goes beyond setting goals in athletics.  It is about teens developing resiliency to get them through the big battles in life. Ghost was awarded  Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award (2019) and many other coveted awards.

For more information and professional reviews, consult:

Cooper, Llene. “Top 10 Diverse Fiction for Youth.” Booklist, vol. 113, no. 11, Feb. 2017, p. 38. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost, Accessed 25 May 2019.
Njoku, Eboni. “Ghost.” Horn Book Magazine, vol. 92, no. 6, Nov. 2016, p. 86. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost, Accessed 25 May 2019.
“The Must List.” Entertainment Weekly, no. 1430, 9 Sept. 2016, p. 3. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost, Accessed 25 May 2019.

Thursday, April 11, 2019


Did you ever have one of those days? If you are a school librarian, you no doubt have had many.  Here are a few headslappers I have endured:

From a parent:  "Do you need a high school diploma to do this?"

From student teacher:  "I've always wanted to be a librarian. I love to read."

From a student:  "You've read every book in here, right?"
Note: The student gets credit for thinking I am industrious.

From a district administrator, at a faculty meeting:  "How can you say you have a degree in library science?  There is no science in what you do."  (Yeah, I corrected his thinking.)

Now that I am retired, in theory, I spend a great deal of time advocating for school libraries and pushing my fellow librarians to push themselves to be cutting edge.  I am often buried in complacency, but lately I have been surrounded by dynamic women who are change agents, willing and able to assume some of the responsibilities I have shouldered the past few years.  Though I sometimes regret being on the outside looking in,  I now have the freedom to correct misguided notions without regard to how my employer will interpret my mission.

In my advocacy mission I have run into several brick walls, as we all have.  No matter how articulately I might have conveyed the school library talking points and delivered the elevator speech, some people could not  get past their preconceived notions of our job.  All I could hope is that these people did not directly impact our day to day library functions.   Without the limitations of their thinking, we had the opportunity and responsibility to show them our worth. 

Unfortunately some still will not see.  For those situations I am grateful John Koenig has coined the term exulansis, defined in the graphic above. Now I understand I am not alone in my despair.

Now that my colleagues have assumed the role of chief school library advocates, other points of view and approaches will be used.  I can  rest well knowing the future of school libraries in my state is not on my shoulders.  I have had about all the exulansis I can stand.

(Note:  For those interested in other words that  don't exist, such as exulansis, visit the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows on the website.  You can meditate on these words on The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows Facebook page and follow on Twitter and YouTube.  Koenig's print edition version of the book is being published by Simon and Schuster. No release date has been announced.)

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Letting Go, Part II

(The first part of this post can be found at

The first part of this post relayed my sadness about the conditions of my childhood home and hometown, which have changed from wonderful places to grow and explore to a condemned house and drug-infested town.  While I have pride in the memories of my hometown, I have accepted that my memories are only things of the past and not likely to be resurrected in the present or future.  I have let go.

The same can be said about my attachment to the school and job I worked at for more than 20 years.  In Disappointment I wrote how betrayed I felt when I discovered the new library I designed before my retirement, the piece I felt would be the capstone of my career, was not built to the specifications I designed.  While I still feel, firmly, that my vision was superior to the one carried out, I can let this go.

I can't say this is a good feeling.  In fact, I have no feeling about this now.   I have accepted the situation for what is was and have more or less discarded any attachment I had to the project.  Should I be happy or sad about this?  I don't know, and it doesn't matter.  Time has moved on.

My successor, Tara Tipton, is doing a fantastic job with the library and is making it her own.  I am quite pleased with her accomplishments and look forward to seeing what her vision will bring to the students and teachers in the school community.  Her makerspace is underway, and it promises great activities for the kids.  Her vision for collection development will focus strongly on materials that promote creation and innovation.  I know under her guidance the students and teachers will have access to the best available.  As it should be.

As for me, I think I am finally ready to retire in mind as well as in body.  It has taken fifteen months to come to this realization, but now that I have accepted this thought, I don't believe I will go back and fret about what has or has not been done to my design.  It isn't my fight.

The thought is freeing.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Letting Go

The picture at the left is what remains of my first home, the house where I blissfully spent the first seven years of my life.  It now sits on the city's demolition list, abandoned and used for too many drug deals to make its restoration desirable.  Doors are busted out, broken windows are boarded.  But you should have seen it back then.  

Well, maybe not.  The truth is it was a small two bedroom, one bath house situated on a foreboding hillside and in the midst of a bad turn on our town's major highway.  The front porch was always dirty from the traffic, and heavy concrete posts had been driven in the ground in front of the house to keep errant vehicles that missed the turn from coming in our living room.  The living room was an acceptable size, but the two bedrooms and bath were barely sufficient to sleep our family of five.   Steps from the living room led to the basement and then to the dining room and kitchen beneath that.  There was a back porch that set off the dining room that seemed entirely too high in the air.  The metal cabinetry and old appliances in the kitchen were utilitarian at best.

But in that kitchen was a cheery red table where I drew pictures as Grandma fixed dinner, backed a pie, or canned the harvest from our garden.  My brother and I could ride our pedal-powered cars in the ample dining room and on the back porch.  We had fun there. We colored, cut paper, used glitter and daydreamed there.  It was warm and safe.

My favorite part of living at 714 Milford Street was being outside, where I was mostly alone and unsupervised. (Mind you, we moved before I was eight.  The freedom I enjoyed as a small child is difficult for most to believe.)  I swung on the fronds of the willow tree, no doubt singing at the top of my lungs.  I picked the sweet peas and Rose of Sharon.  I played on my swing set.  And most importantly, I played with dogs that lived under my porch - two beagles, Sherry and Duchess.  My cocker spaniel, the house dog, followed me wherever I went, which may explain why no one worried about my escapades.  If I left my yard, it was to walk along my neighbor's walled garden.  I spent plenty a day trespassing, bringing no harm, simply enjoying the fragrance of the wonderful garden.

If my dad was working split shift, we would sit on the front porch in the afternoon and watch cars go by.  He would wave and yell "who that?" at every car that went by.  He would wave respectfully as Pop Bottle Pete trudged by, pushing his wheel barrow.  He taught me to recognize and name every Chevy and Ford that passed, and I could promptly discern the differences among the BelAirs, Biscaynes and Impalas from  the late 50s to 1967.  I learned a few Fords and Mercurys, too.

Whenever my dad was home, I was his shadow.  He tended a magnificent garden on the lot next door, and I was there with my toy rakes and hoes working alongside him.  I can still smell the Rose of Sharons, the dusty beagles, and the aroma of my grandmother's canning Concord Grape Jam as it I were smelling them for the first time. I can see the bumblebees as they moved from the Rose of Sharons to other plants

In the evenings or on weekend afternoons, we would sit on the back porch and watch the boats cruise up and down the West Fork River, back in the days it was navigable, before the Flood of '85 and subsequent flood control initiatives left it shallow and debris-filled.  In the winter we would lay across one of the beds upstairs and watch folks skate across the  frozen body of water. The West Fork was an unofficial calendar of the arrival of summer and winter.

These were peaceful times.

Now my hometown is anything but peaceful, taken over by drugs and prostitution, the recourse of those with no viable economic future.  The walkways around my house have eroded to gravel, weeds choked out the sweet peas.  I have not been around back to see the Rose of Sharons, but I doubt they remain.  The lot next door where my dad maintained his garden is filled with sumac trees and the occasional deer carcass.  I want more than anything to buy it and fix it, to restore my memories, but what would be the point?  My memories are my own now, as everyone who shared them with me in that house is dead.  It is best just to let it go.

I have been doing a lot of letting go lately.  It is not my  favorite thing.

To be continued

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Random Thoughts: Things are Looking Up

Random Thoughts: Things are Looking Up: The Texas Association of School Librarians has put us firmly on the right track.  Their idea is simply to plan on posting a message via s...