Friday, January 30, 2009

A good day at work

At work this afternoon, I had such a wonderful feeling: maybe for the first time, I could really feel how close we're getting to the end of our backlog. I've been plodding through the collection for over five years now - and Becky's been working on it even longer - and I can finally envision the day when we don't have a ton of old books and reports to process, but will truly know, and be able to find, all the publications we have in the KDOT Library. It was a peaceful feeling. I was productive today, but also content.

I hope Monday will be the same kind of day. And, it will be Groundhog Day -- so automatically, the planets should align to please me! ;-)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Violence then, violence now

While I was doing some housecleaning yesterday and listening to Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, a number of things I've recently seen and heard started swirling through my head, and spinning themselves together. I wish I had time to write a proper essay, but I'm afraid it might have more in common with a jumbled list. Still, I want to at least have a record of this set of echoes, however thin and insubstantial it might look.

In Raskolnikov's dream, he is a child again, with his father. A man is mistreating his mare, and encouraging others to do the same. He whips her, then begins beating her with a bar, while others whip and strike her as well. The boy Raskolnikov is horrified, and is one of the few onlookers who speaks against this man and his actions. The mare's owner keeps saying, "She's my property!" He owns her, so he can do as he likes with her, including injuring her severely, and even killing her. After she is dead, Raskolnikov approaches and kisses her head. When he awakes, he is very relieved to find it was only a dream. Raskolnikov seems to have a decent grasp of right and wrong, and yet not long after this terrible dream, he will commit murder.

I read Tess of the D'Urbervilles many years ago, maybe close to 20 years. They recently had a new version on Masterpiece Theatre (specifically, "Masterpiece Classic"), which I watched this past week. During the first hour of the program, Tess is raped by Alec. Early in the second part, Tess marries Angel, then tells him about her past. Although he seems to believe that what happened was against her will, Angel leaves her for Brazil anyway, and their future is uncertain. When she and Alec cross paths again, he begins pursuing her. In the film, he says things like, "If you're anyone's wife, you're mine," and, "I will have you." She finally gives in, so that her mother and sister and younger siblings will be taken care of - and because she hasn't heard from Angel since he left, well over a year earlier, and Alec says Angel will never come back. When Angel finally returns and tracks her down, she tells him she is with Alec, and says, "I am his creature," and also, "I am already dead."

Tomorrow, Barack Obama will become the first African-American President of the United States. Less than 200 years ago, those who looked like Obama were slaves, the "property" of other men who happened to have lighter-colored skin. (I hear the horse's owner again: "She's my property!") I am proud of our nation's progress, and hopeful that race relations will continue to improve, that all people will have opportunities to better themselves, no matter their heritage or the color of their skin.

But then again...last week, a man who works in Jeff's department was found dead. Two days later, after the autopsies were done, the sheriff held a press conference, finally verified the identities of the four people found dead on Monday morning. They said this man killed his three children, attempted to take his own life, then started a fire inside the house. He died of smoke inhalation, and his death has been ruled a suicide. Jeff was friendly with this man; he participated in Jeff's online fantasy football and basketball leagues, so Kyle was acquainted with him, too. Jeff said, "If you'd asked me to pick out the most normal guy I work with, I would have picked Mike." He and the others in the department are stunned, they can't believe the Mike they knew could do such a thing. Could he have really harmed his own children? If he did, then what on earth could have driven him to it? They said he's never seemed depressed, and he's never shown signs of having a bad temper. And yet, the evidence is pointing to him, that he ended the lives of his own children, and himself, and tried to burn his house down.

So much progress has been made in the areas of race relations, in the status of women, and even in the rights of young people, many of whom had to work from a very young age back when Dostoevsky and Thomas Hardy were writing about Raskolnikov and Tess. I can understand losing your head, doing something you probably shouldn't do - heaven knows, I've done a lot of things without thinking, even sometimes when I should know better. But to physically harm someone (or an innocent animal, as with the horse) without provocation, to impress one's will on that of another person using physical strength and brutality, or with weapons --- why, why would someone think they have the right to do that?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Draft -- fragment

I am the same as ever I have been.
Lying hollow on my pillow, making lists
of scars and sins.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Aaaaaand...we're off!

Here we go again. The boys went back to school today. Grandma got back from California last night. Jeff and I are both back at work today (after taking alternate days off through the holidays, in Grandma's absence). And we just found out yesterday that the boys' SportZone basketball team (which they'll both be playing on together this session, for the first time) has a game tomorrow evening at 6. Nope, no chance to practice before the first game. And on top of that, Jeff has to go to the YMCA coaches' meeting at the same time, so will miss some or all of the game.

Yeah, I'm tired just thinking about it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Obama uses "the L-word": Libraries

I happened to click on a headline that said President-Elect Obama had made his most specific statements to date about how he hopes to stimulate the economy. The article, "Obama sketches out recovery plan," was in CNN's Money section. One of the five main goals: "modernize classrooms, labs and libraries." (There was also "rebuild crumbling roads, bridges and schools," which gives hope to those of us working in the transportation sector.) I found Obama's Weekly Address on YouTube, and yes, he used the word "libraries."

One reason this is so encouraging to me is because there are not many transportation librarians, and we are forever trying to prove our worth. Here, in a four-minute video, the President-Elect mentions both transportation (roads and bridges) and libraries among his top five focus areas for stimulating the economy. In contrast, back in mid-2006, the draft version of the Strategic Plan of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), which oversees the National Transportation Library (NTL), did not include the words library, libraries, or librarians! During the public comment period, I and a good number of other transportation librarians submitted comments on the draft. The result of our efforts was the appearance of this sentence in Appendix B, "Stakeholder Input," of the finished Strategic Plan: "Include the role of transportation libraries in information sharing and dissemination of research results." For many years now, we've studied not just Library Science, but Library and Information Science - and I attended University of Arizona's School of Information Resources and Library Science in 1996 and 1997 - and in this final document, the word "information" appears 151 times, and libraries are treated as just an afterthought. The PDF of this document is 202 pages long, and includes the word "libraries" only one time. The video above is only four minutes long, and touches on a variety of issues, yet it also includes the word "libraries" one time.

Thank you, Mr. President-Elect, for understanding the value of libraries, and the need to support them. You give me hope for the future.

My mom no longer on hospice

I got a call from Jerilyn, my mom's hospice social worker, in the second week in December, letting me know that my mom's condition had been stable for six months, and she was no longer eligible for hospice services. Hospice coverage was to end on December 18th, and Jerilyn said she'd be sending me papers to sign. My mom was becoming anxious about this change; she'd grown attached to Jerilyn and to some of the other hospice staff who worked with her, and was afraid that not having this additional care would send her back into the abyss. But Jerilyn told her she would still stop by to visit with her, and the main difference would be that she wouldn't need to keep notes about their time together. By the time Jerilyn called me, my mom had begun to accept the situation.

Though my mother's mood is a lot better, and her appetite GREATLY improved - Jerilyn told me a couple months ago that she was routinely cleaning her plate at many meals - she still gets out of bed only rarely. But she did get out of bed on Christmas and was brought out to the nurses' station to talk with me on the phone. I called and the aides were busy, then called back but they were still looking for a chair for her to sit in while she talked with me. We were leaving to bring Sue to the airport, and I didn't think I'd be able to call back. Just a few minutes later, my cell phone rang: my mom was at the nurses' station ready to talk with me, so the nurse called me back.

My mom was very emotional for the first couple of minutes, and said that she missed my dad. But then she settled down, and we had a very good talk. She asked how Sue was doing, and said she knows how it feels: "It's hard to be alone." I told her a little about GriefShare, and how I'd talked about Da's death in there more than about Papa's death. Grief has a way of hanging on, and then cropping up even years after the loss occurs. I was impressed that my mom was asking about others - a very good sign, because in her deepest depressions, she can only see her own difficulties. (That's probably true for most people in the well of darkness.) I promised that our Christmas card and a few new photos HAD been sent, and she should get them in a day or two. She was looking forward to that. We talked a little over 15 minutes, then said goodbye. It's been a very hard year, but my mother is better. She is eating, and she is not dying. May 2009 be brighter for her.