As a librarian and lifelong reader, any opportunity I have to meet authors is one that brings me untold joy.
When it was announced that David Grann had agreed to be the guest speaker for our university’s annual endowed lectureship, I knew this would be a big deal, attended by many guests from outside the university.
Grann’s third book, Killers of the Flower Moon, has now been on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list for 37 weeks, was an Amazon.com top 20 picks of the best books from 2017, and a 2017 National Book Award Finalist in Nonfiction. So, having him come to our mid-size, rural university was especially notable.
However, our university has distinctly proud tribal roots, and since the whole focus of his book centers around the murders of members of the Osage tribe in the 1920s, it was a perfect opportunity for a special spotlight to locally be shone on American Indians and Oklahoma history.
This story of greed and prejudice was expertly told through the lens of a talented journalist and researcher, with it taking 5 years for Mr. Grann to research and accumulate information from various archives and museums to write this book. We were also fortunate to have some Osage descendants in attendance, whose family stories were featured from the murders that took place almost 100 years ago.
For those who have yet to read Killers of the Flower Moon, this tragic story will be one you hopefully don’t quickly forget; a segment of American history from which we all learn and hopefully do not ever repeat.
Linking up with Emily P. Freeman & others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout the past few months of spring.
1. Summer = health
I know it’s not ‘officially’ summer yet, but once finals week and spring commencement are through (and they are!), my schedule slows down drastically and I’m on summer-mode. Once again, I’m reminded that summer me is the best me.
Mental health: Since I have a 12 month academic contract the slower pace enables me to use personal and vacation days without the worry of not being on campus or having to promptly respond to e-mail. I know this is somewhat self-imposed pressure, but I also know I’m not the only one. The lightning of my work load allows me time to run quick errands in the middle of the day, get caught up on back-logged tasks (a lot of academic library reading), and give myself more grace and time to enjoy creative pursuits: home renovations, trying new recipes, casting on lots of new knitting projects, and stocking up on books for pleasure reading.
Physical health: Living in Oklahoma in May is truly the sweet spot; consistent rain keeps everything green, fruits and vegetables are fresh, the humidity is blissfully low so I can enjoy crisp morning walks around the neighborhood, and attending my weekly lunchtime yoga class is a gift to myself for an hour to simply breathe, stretch, and be quiet.
Spiritual health: Last year I read my first Shauna Niequist book, Cold Tangerines. For Christmas I received her newest offering Present Over Perfect from The Optometrist and waiting until now to read it was such a providential decision. This now sets a summer precedent of cherishing her writing at the best possible time, when my soul is most receptive and uncluttered. On Mother’s Day she spoke at Willow Creek, her home church in Chicago, and her statement of I’m someone who…_____________ helped me rethink the way I give, love, and serve.
2. Faith in practice
Hearing Oklahoma Senator James Lankford give the commencement address during one of our May exercises was a special opportunity. He had several applicable words of wisdom and advice for those departing from our university, one of which was this, “If you have faith, and you live in your faith, walk in your faith.” This has resounded deeply within me and has served as a good reminder to be proud of who I am as a committed Christian and a person of faith.
3. I can get by with less.
Recently The Optometrist and I underwent some blood testing, which required a bit of overnight fasting. Leading up to the time of the blood work we were conscious about making diligent menu choices, but even after the blood work was complete and we were cleared to eat again I realized I not only did not want to eat rich/fattening foods, but I wasn’t as immediately hungry as I thought I would be. (This coming from the girl who often gets hangry, is really saying something.) Perhaps my metabolism is thanking me for changing things up a bit?
4. Steadfast love
I recently blogged about my goal of memorizing Psalm 103 this summer and am pleased to report this goal is coming along well! I’ve found the most meaningful and productive moments of memorization come as I am out on my morning walks, carrying around a printed copy of just this Psalm, breathing out this ancient text. “Bless the Lord, O my soul…”
In both versus 4 and 8 David mentions God’s steadfast love and as I continue to read in the book of Psalms, I am now keenly attuned to each instance of this repeated phrase (and it happens a lot!). How thankful I am for God’s abiding, changeless, stubborn, and wholehearted love!
5. Savor, don’t hoard.
I’ve long had a tendency to save something I really enjoy and/or something that doesn’t come around very often: the final cookies in a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies (Samoas, please), and monthly magazines (Magnolia Journal is currently my favorite) are two that namely come to mind.
But my tendency is then to wait too long – the cookies grow stale before I’ve finished them and the new month’s magazine arrives before I’ve sat down to fully read the previous month’s.
So as the summer begins I’m reminded to fully live in the moment, savoring and enjoying the simple things, without guilt of the completion of a task, or worry about what’s to come. It’s been freeing and liberating!
During college, throughout graduate school, and now working as a professional librarian, I love using a paper planner to organize my life. (I did use a PDA 10+ years ago, provided by the college where I worked at the time.) A print calendar with hourly listings throughout the days of the week is visually helpful, allowing me to look to see how my day will map out – whether it’s the following week or six months down the road.
I’ve used the August to August planner for years, also tried one from Levenger, and currently have a monstrously heavy one from Erin Condren (it’s super cute, but didn’t realize how large and heavy it would be to lug with me to work five days a week).
In organizing individual events, in years past I’ve used different colored pens to signify different responsibilities: work (black), personal (blue), my husband’s schedule (red), and church music responsibilities (green) – just to name a few – thanks to a pack of multi-colored Bic pens.
But last fall, as I began adding events into my 2016-2017 planner, I was a little hesitant to use the same color-coded process once more, so I decided to use pencil for everything instead, just until I decided what I wanted to do. And seven months later, I’m still writing down every event in pencil.
I’ve found using an eraser is far more practical than having to get out the wite-out pen for the rescheduling of meetings, fluctuating numbers of students attending library research sessions, changes in event locations – you understand.
And while this has been my routine for months and months now, the calendar open before me for hours each day on my desk, and just recently did it occur to me that this practice of writing out my life in pencil has deeper connotations.
How I invest my time speaks to my priorities.
I have no control over the passing of time, so make it count.
Don’t miss your moment.
Looking back to various days, I observe my pencil markings that are indicative of inner dialog like: Oh, good grief, I didn’t get hardly anything accomplished today.
Well, that was good enough for today. It’ll still be waiting for me tomorrow.
I have enough time to look ahead to next week’s task and be proactive in getting that done.
Wow – that was a really great day where everything came together so well!
And as I glance back through events over the past two months or so, there have been moments I have seen parallels to how time = service or howblank spaces = rest.
~ Spending a Sunday evening at the nursing home to sing quartet music for a friend whose heart is struggling to keep beating.
~ Heading home a bit early to prepare food in hosting a friend for dinner.
~ Taking a few minutes to be intentional and send a quick thinking-of-you text, or a few more minutes to hand write a note of encouragement to a friend.
~ The Optometrist and I having an open evening and saying an easy “yes” when friends invited us over to play cards on a school night.
~ When nothing is planned for the evening, we we can cook dinner together, play music together, or simply “nest” in our bedroom with a good book and knitting (me)/playing a new video game (The Optometrist).
While it’s a continual balancing act, my aim is to continue doing my part to plan and be prepared for what’s to come, serve others and take care of myself, all the while looking to the future with optimism and openness.
“I will open my hands, will open my heart
I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes
To all that you have for me.” Open My Hands ~ Sara Groves
“I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus, I will hold on to Jesus for life” Hold on to Jesus ~ Steven Curtis Chapman
“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” ~ James 4:14 (NIV)
“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” ~ Isaiah 40:8 (NASB)
October began with a valiant endeavor to read several books as quickly as possible. It reminded me of when I was in my final semester of library school when I read one to two books a week of various genres for my reader’s advisory class. It was a fun challenge then and was again now!
Yet in this instance my reading goal was to share personal insights with our University’s common read committee (of which I am a member) to decide next year’s Freshmen reading selection, so my timeline and reading list were much shorter.
We had ten overall candidates and, ironically, each of the three I read are our top three contenders, which will soon be voted upon by our faculty, staff, and students! It’s nice to know I can confidently advocate for any of these, as well as discuss plots and subject matter from a thoughtful, informed place.
My common read list kicked off with this compilation of short personal accounts, shared with the producers of the audio StoryCorps project, of which you might have heard segments on NPR. Each are memorable, many bring a smile, several bring a tear, and all of them have a connection to what fuels personal passions and motivations. My favorite was a conversation between two men who work together as repairmen on the Golden Gate bridge, who have been able to also prevent several people from jumping off the bridge and committing suicide. This was a great contender for next year’s common read!
This is another contender for our university’s 2017 common read, which stretched me and made me think about the serious ramifications of online behavior. And not just the “I posted pictures of me partying and I was fired” types of situations, but things that people posted that became trending topics on Twitter and “blew up the Internet,” causing tremendous backlash from perfect strangers who weighed in on the situation. An overarching theme Ronson offers is that the “they” of the Internet is actually “we.”
In the current political climate, where a certain Presidential candidate doesn’t indicate any apparent shame for his actions, makes this a very timely read…
There were some very R-rated themes and language, a high “shock value,” which makes me hesitant about this being our selection, but at the same time, I kept finding myself talking about what I was learning.
This third common read selection was a terrific one and was my favorite! Johnson uniquely researches the history behind our modern reliance on six common, ordinary objects or phenomenons: glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light. As I read this from a college freshman’s perspective I think they, too, would love discovering unknown historical facts that have a present-day connection, the supporting diagrams and photographs were an added touch, and my overall impression was one of amazement and appreciation for human perseverance and ingenuity.
After reaching the end of my common read commitments, I picked up this ARC I had been wanting to read for several months. My thanks to Edelweiss for this advanced reader’s copy!
This debut novel is written by an actual baker, which lends an air of authenticity to the descriptions of ingredients and methods for baking pies and other kinds of desserts. There’s also a nice subplot of folk music, which I also enjoyed. Each year I look forward to reading a good book about food (especially desserts) and thought this one was a fairly gentle story with a happily ever after, especially since the story begins in the fall – perfect timing. The main character Olivia was likable and found myself rooting for her to be successful with professional and personal decisions and to come out on top (which she does!).
The Optometrist and I enjoy audio entertainment, including lots of 30-60 minute podcasts we listen to on shorter car rides, and it’s not unusual for me to read books aloud to him. Yet, we have a very short commute to work so we don’t feel we would get our money’s worth out of a full Audible subscription. But thanks to our Amazon Prime subscription, we have a handful of Audible audio books we can stream for free, without having a full, stand-alone account.
Last week I took advantage of listening to a shorter book, the unabridged version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, narrated by Scarlett Johansson. I had never read this childhood classic and found it bizarre, witty, and memorable. Johannson’s voices and accents were consistent and often made me chuckle. (If you liked her voice in the movie Her, with Joaquin Phoenix, you will like her interpretation of Alice.)
As November dawns, I’m endeavoring to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time (I’ve been intimidated by this fantasy series quite long enough and I’m being brave!) and queuing up a slate of Christmas books. Hurrah for overcoming challenges and cozy Christmas stories!
As an academic librarian I have a 12-month contract, so while today is just another Monday reporting to the university, it’s also the first day of the fall semester.
Thinking back on previous first days of school, I’m reminded that today marks my seventh first day of school working in my current library, and if you count the three years I worked at a community college (pre-grad school), this totals a decade of first days of school working in higher education. I’ve got to say, I’m pretty proud of that!
Last year our Provost shared with the incoming freshmen how, regardless of their chosen major and future career aspirations, they would more than likely be working in a profession that served others. These words of wisdom have stuck with me, helping me realize this broader goal of serving others as an extension of my life-service to Christ is what motivates me to keep-on-keepin’-on. Seven years in, I’m thankful I remain excited to partner with faculty and learn alongside them, plus connect with their students as I teach them effective and transferable research skills. Even though I continue to do the same thing year in and year out, new professional and personal opportunities continually arise and keep me feeling vibrant and fresh.
It’s also good for me to remember today marks a milestone in the lives of many freshmen stepping foot on campus. Their first day of college signifies something more than just “it’s what I do after I graduate from high school,” since many come from very rural areas and are first generation college students. The pursuit of a college degree changes not only their lives, but alters the course of history for those generations to follow. How humbling that I get to play a small role in their academic journey and eventual achievement.
Today also marks the first day of school for our nephew who begins 1st grade! Our favorite little strawberry-blond boy is excited about this new year of school and his new teacher. He enters 1st grade reading like a champ (!!!) and we are all excited for the good things in store for him this year.
So regardless of age, here’s to a renewed commitment of serving, growing, and learning!
Throughout this calendar year I am serving as the chair of a statewide library organization. I’ve been a part of the group for about 5 years and it’s been a terrific way to meet fellow librarians, plus has served as a fun geography enhancement as I’ve tied together names, faces, and colleges/universities. So, when I volunteered to be the vice chair in 2015, I only thought it would look great on my annual report…but didn’t quite realize, until after the fact, that I had just volunteered myself to be the chair in 2016. So, there you go – lesson learned #1: always know the full scope of what you’re volunteering to do.
Lesson learned #2 – I never realized how much I appreciated communication and transparency until the previous chair stepped down and I assumed my role as chair in January. My predecessor is a great librarian and was a terrific chair woman, but her leadership style was very solitary. Not me! I’ve included my vice chair on so many details in order for her to not be in the dark about things like communicating with the group via the e-mail list serv, maintenance of social media accounts, and many, many details surrounding the annual summer conference.
Lesson learned #3 – surround yourself with good, hard working, responsible people. The success of last Friday’s annual conference was enhanced by the fact that I could ask individuals on the board to do something, and they did. While I stewed about a lot of little details, I knew I was taking care of my tasks, and they were taking care of theirs.
Lesson learned #4 – I don’t know how I could have planned a statewide conference without e-mail. How did people plan any kind of conference before the invention of e-mail? Seriously?! In addition to e-mail, the voice/video conferencing product Zoom was helpful in chatting with presenters beforehand to “meet” each other online before the actual face-to-face conference.
Lesson learned #5 – Google Drive is a gift that makes my life easier. Whether sharing documents and registration lists, or keeping track of call for proposals and registration forms with others, the Google cloud unifies the ability to easily access important information at work and home.
Lastly, lesson learned #6 – “Saying no isn’t an unnecessary rejection. It’s actually a necessary protection of our Best Yes answers.” ~ Lysa Terkeurst The Best Yes (p. 171) For my transportation to the conference (2 1/2 hours away), I was thankful to drive a university fleet vehicle. Originally I thought I would leave by 5:30 a.m. and invite local colleagues to ride with me so they wouldn’t have to spend their own gas money getting to and from the conference. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized if I drove by myself to the conference site the night before it began, I would arrive in enough time to help the local librarians prepare for the next morning, and get more/better sleep since I only had a 5 minute commute to our host campus. Saying “no” to helping 3 others allowed me to say “yes” to helping present my best self to all 47 attendees.
And who knows what other leadership opportunities God has in store in the months and years to come! For now, I’m thankful for His provision and the strength He gives me to serve Him while serving others.
2016 rolled in relatively quietly last night after The Optometrist and I enjoyed a night in, watching episodes of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime, then enjoying a pre-midnight bubbly blueberry juice toast.
And as I reflect on 2015 this afternoon, I figure the best way of recapping the year is to do so season by season, maybe filling in a few gaps that were missing since the fall was oh, so busy.
It was lovely having a few snow days where the university was closed. This gave us time to enjoy relaxing at home, fixing yummy meals together. The “knitting factory” was also in full production as I churned out dish cloths, baby booties, blankets, hats, and a few knitted & crocheted items for a local fund raiser. Professionally, I began the process of co-authoring my first journal article with four professors, which lasted most of the semester (but has finally been published!).
We received so much rain this past spring. It finally resulted in water tables of local aquifers being restored after drought conditions, but our backyard turned into a pond many times throughout the spring and early summer.
After a short Spring Break trip to Branson in March, we returned home and adopted our kitty Sylvester from the Humane Society. Among many things, he enjoys exploring in my closet, and here, he looks extremely cat-like. He has become our little “fur baby,” love sponge.
My parents paid us a visit over Easter, we viewed one of the Blood Moons through The Optometrist’s telescope, and the end of the semester brought about my birthday, which was spent with my in-laws, and visiting Crystal Bridges. The traveling exhibit Van Gogh to Rothko was on display and I loved getting to see works by Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and Mark Rothko, but my absolute favorite was Peasants in the Field, Ergany, 1890 by Camille Pissarro. (We have since ordered a reproduction to hang over our mantle to enjoy year round.)
June was a heavy travel month – we enjoyed getting to see my parents during our (shared) anniversary trip to Branson and a family reunion, plus we loved our first big trip to Seattle for an optometry conference and vacation.
Fall: Professionally, I laced up my administrator shoes and learned a great deal about communication, teamwork, and partnership as my colleague Susan and I co-coordinated the University Strategies course for 800+ freshmen. Here we look a little ragged but triumphant as we just finished overseeing 7 hours worth of class the first two days of the semester.
The fall also included helping coordinate an inaugural library conference, plus attend several other conferences and meetings in the area and throughout the state. I step into a new leadership role in 2016, where I will be traveling monthly to college and university libraries, meeting hard-working librarians, and learning new tips and tricks along the way.
This past semester, Monday was my long day, when I oversaw four hours of classes. During my lunch break, almost every Monday I met up for lunch with Lauren, with my sweet sister in Jesus. Our discussions of relationships, graduate school, faith, and culture were the perfect opportunity for my body and soul to be nourished.
October was another blur of a month – it began as we spent a week in New Orleans for another optometry conference.
Our first evening, we happened onto Mulate’s, near the convention center and our hotel, where we ate delicious food, accompanied by live cajun music.
The Optometrist always loves visiting local aquariums when we travel, so we enjoyed the wide variety of fish, birds, and aquatic life at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (and casting our vote for their new albino alligator to be named Chompitoulas).
We also relished the chance to spend the day with my BFF Addie,
with whom we took a tour of Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District,
Later in the week we enjoyed a lovely meal at Muriel’s in Jackson Square with a friend & former classmate of The Optometrist. And lastly, before we flew home, we quickly worked our way through the National WWII Museum. It was incredibly well done, still expanding, and we wish we would have had more time to explore this treasure trove of history. If we return to New Orleans, this will definitely be a place we would like to visit again, and for a longer amount of time!
The next weekend we enjoyed celebrating the marriage of my husband’s younger sister to her sweetheart.
As November gave way to December, so did my body to that rotten end-of-the-semester-sickness/exhaustion. I had to sit out all of my Christmas singing plans at church and in the community. Instead, I languished on the couch with Sylvester as my nurse, watched some heartwarming Christmas movies, and had a blast wrapping up my Christmas knitting.
Time with family and beloved friends during Thanksgiving and Christmas rounded out the year nicely.
When 2015 began I had no idea how much I would learn, grow, and experience. Yes, it’s been downright stressful at times, but totally worth the ride. Here’s hoping 2016 will bring about even more similar opportunities!
“What a great way to start the first day of the rest of my life.” ~ Nickel Creek – Rest of my Life from A Dotted Line (video here)