Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dec. 25

Merry Christmas everyone! Wishing that you may have the ability to give up hope for a better past, find forgiveness, and from there create reconciliation and peace.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Blizzard Tantrums

I am having a tantrum-y day. Our driveway plow hasn't come but the garbage & recycling still had to go out. At 6:45 a.m., it was still ok--about 4." I carefully placed the bins well out of reach of both the street & driveway plows, I thought. Later I looked out of the window from my "control center" as I was working, and saw that both bins were tipped over into the driveway & recycling was scattered. So I bundled up & went out. The garbage bin had filled up with snow & I had a struggle to right it & move it to the other side of the drive, even farther out of the paths, I hoped. The recycling was worse, as bits were everywhere & picking them up with thick mittens was difficult, & trying to cram it all back into the bin.... Later, I saw the garbage picked up. Watching the grabber arms come out of the truck sides gave me an idea about how far apart the 2 bins need to be in the future. About 11:00, after I prepared some correspondence to be mailed, I bundled up & went out. The recycling bin had been sent flying yet again by the street plow, I guess. I had a full-fledged tantrum out in the blizzard, trying to pick it all up & beating the junk into submission. Pulling the garbage bin back to the garage was a several-minute hike in heavy, wet snow now up to my knees. I wonder where our driveway plow is? Good thing I decided not to go to campus today. To work off my tantrum, I shoveled the sidewalk & path to the utility boxes, then righted the squirrel-tipped bird-feeder. Soon I'll go back to work on my annual activity report. I am not good with feeling cooped-up.

Still, this has given me a chance to do a "dry run" on using my new desk & office space. I need a mousepad, & for warmth, my fingerless gloves, felted hat, & thick slippers over wool socks. I need a small container for pens & pencils. I'll be glad to have my office computer set up at home, with the separate keyboard & monitor for ergonomic comfort. Otherwise, I feel ready to go!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Annual Query from Lake Erie Yearly Meeting

Am I open to the other? What keeps me from connecting with those who are different from me? What fears cloud my vision of the Light in all beings? How can I listen with my heart, willing to be vulnerable?

I wish I were open. Anger and fear keeps me closed and clouds my vision. I am not willing to be vulnerable yet.

Still, I am going to Meeting, and meeting new people. I am willing to acknowledge that there is that of God in all people, whether or not I can perceive it. Isaiah 45:5-7 “I am the Lord, and there is no other…. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”

I'm reading Evelyn Underhill, an "ordinary" English woman who was also a mystic. She struggled with these queries, married and living in the world while all the time wishing she was able to live as a solitary, in perpetual retreat. She suffered from her perceived failings, from depression, from illness. And yet she was able to convey the idea that a mystical connection with God is open to the ordinary lay-person, not reserved for prophets or saints.

Friday, October 24, 2008

MLA Conference & more

This week I attended the Michigan Library Association's Annual Conference. At the MEL update, I learned that (kid's) InfoBits will read articles out loud. MEl has a section on Content Expectations for K-12 Teachers in MI, and under LearningExpress News, there are practice tests for the ACT, along with the new citizenship test and Grad school entrance exams. The NoveList database had a "describe a plot search" that I would like to try, and I want to explore the "Michigana" tab.

WMU is moving to an product which sits on top of the Voyager catalog called VuFind (like the Encore product for III?). This seems to make it easier for students to find library resources. They conducted usability exercises & will modify the product based on the results.

Of course I went to Amy's talk on the future of cataloging, posted at She did well, especially for a first-timer. Bottom line is that she doesn't think that RDA will come about any time soon, that libraries do have to take advantage of other info producers' & consumers' data (like, user tags, etc.), and that no matter what, catalogers will find ways to "muddle through."

Jeffrey Trzeciak, dean of libraries at McMaster University (in gorgeous Hamilton, Ontario) spoke at lunch about the innovations during his 2 years there. Amazing, interesting. See the ACRL website for details in the documentation for the award they got. Also watch Library Journal for a column by McMaster's gaming librarian.

Attended a session on digitizing the Great Lakes Maritime collection which includes the NOAA Sanctuary in Thunder Bay: see and Fascinating project/s...huge amounts of materials digitized, which took tons of grant money & staff time & other collaborative resources.

Fun final keynote speech Jim Van Bochove on "Laughing in the HOT Seat: Living Life with Extreme Enthusiasm and Extraordinary Service!"

The other important meeting I had was outside of the conference, with an independent information professional/entrepreneur, Liga Greenfield, CEO of BioMedPharmaIS. The funny thing is that she was my 1st babysitter, 39-44 years ago! The last time I had talked to her was 20-22 years ago, when I was interested in both the Upjohn Co. libraries (where she had worked) & the Upjohn Institute library (they aren't the same company!).

I was fascinated at this meeting to hear Liga's insights on working alone, working with a spouse, working from a home office, how different working alone & from home was from working in a group in a large company, the state of the info business in the current economy, competition, pricing, approaching potential customers, specialization, associations to join & meetings to attend for solid support, etc. I went with Amy so I can better understand and support her business, and of course because I wanted to catch up with Liga. That was great.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Molded or molding? Or just moldy?

Yesterday, some of the Grand Rapids Friends joined the Holland Meeting for worship and a worship-sharing facilitated by Mary Ann Downey, a traveling minister from Atlanta. Spoken ministry during worship centered around being willing to be molded by God (submitting to God's will) and/or molding oneself according to the leadings one receives from God. I believe in a combination of the two. I can mold myself again & yet again according to the principles of integrity, equality, simplity, and peace. Yesterday, I made a resolution to apply the principles of nonviolent communication & conflict management. Listen, affirm (find common concerns), respond, add. Define the issue/s, identify stakeholders, draw them into the conversation, get the history (if need be--sometimes people can get stuck in negativity on this step), brainstorm solutions, evaluate possible solutions & choose one to implement, define who/what/when/how of the implementation, lay out to evaluate it, and follow up with the evaluation and discussion of the process. These are also the ways of dealing with diversity. Following these principles means waiting rather than jumping in with emotion. Really, really hard for me.

Let the adult self comfort the inner child. Don't let either personality get moldy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Life Cycle of a Church & Government

I'm reading If I Were the Devil: ... Contemporary Challenges Facing Adventism, by George R. Knight (Review & Herald Publishing, 2007). In chapter 4, he wrote, "In many ways, if not most, the early Sabbatarian Adventists would find themselves distinctly uncomfortable in Adventism as we know it today" (43). Makes me wonder how George Fox would find the Liberal Friends (Quakers) today -- perhaps comfortable with our silent worship, but wondering why we aren't traveling around the world spreading the word? I know others have written about the stages of church development and church history as applied to why did Friends stop evangelizing? And perhaps one response to the often-expressed feeling that we are diminishing in numbers relative to the world's population is reflected in the Convergent movements?

I'm also thinking about an analysis I read that said that Pennsylvania didn't survive as a "Quaker state" despite being an ideal model for government in many respects, because its citizenry was threatened by Native American, British, and French violence. The pacifist Friends refused to deal with this issue--leaving the settlers unprotected and being decimated--and also refused to allocate funds for a militia. The non-Quakers in the government went ahead and formed the militia....

Since this particular book is a brief history of religion in the U.S., I'm left wondering what peace-making measures were taken, if any, by Pennsylvania Quakers?
More to research when I have the gumption to take me past idle curiosity.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Underground Railroad Conference

I attended day 1 of a 2-day conference on "The Underground Railroad in Michigan: A Decade of Discoveries." The 1st panel included a series of court cases having to do with the Fugitive Slave Act vs. abolitionists who resisted slavecatchers. The next speaker was Karolyn Smardz Frost, an archeologist who wrote I've Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad, delineating the story of Thornton and Lucy Blackburn. They escaped from Kentucky and got to Detroit, where slavecatchers eventually caught up with them. During the trial, the African-American community protested, allowing the Blackburns to escape to Windsor. This sparked the first international court case between Canada & the U.S. over fugitive slaves, Canada refusing to extradite escapees to certain re-enslavement. The Blackburns moved to Toronto and started a successful cab (originally horse-drawn) business, and are buried there.

Allen Guelzo spoke on the Lincoln-Douglas debates, apropo to the current debates. Veta Tucker spoke briefly about Cass Co.'s history and the gift of documents to GVSU's Libraries collected by a local historian on the URR, Sondra Mose-Ursery. Mary Edmond from Grand Rapids told the story of Isaac Edward Bailey, a runaway from Virginia who was sent to Quebec but returned to Michigan to live (to the age of 105!).

David Boers told about his research on Carolyn Quarlls, the first identified fugitive slave to go through Wisconsin (she escaped from St. Louis to the Sandwich neighborhood of Windsor). Quarll's great-great-great-granddaughter, Kimberly Simmons, emphasized the necessity of integrity in relating these histories, as they are the stories of living descendents' families. As such, they don't need to be changed or embellished, but told as correctly as possible.

The conference was engaging and at some deep level, enraging. That slavery happened; that humans treat each other as animals; that these horrific abuses still happen in the world. Made knots in my gut.

p.s., here's an interesting book which describes how historians piece together their narratives from various types of documents:
Freedom roads: searching for the Underground Railroad by Joyce Hansen and Gary McGowan. Chicago: Cricket Books, 2003.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Teaching & Learning

In May 2007, I attended WILU, a Canadian conference on information literacy, with a focus on Web 2.0 / InfoLit 2.0. Cameron Hoffman spoke on the corresponding learning theory, Constructionism: creating an underlying philosophy with an overarching framework through discovery with co-learners. I.e., teachers design/create activities which lead to skill development and reflection. Social software (web 2.0) should lead us to discourse analysis--asking: who is speaking, who is absent, what is the power base, what are the cultural relationships, what are the vocabularies? He addressed the use of many web 2.0 tools in terms of information literacy formation.

My notes to myself included these suggestions:

Set up a blog for myself. Results: this is it.

CAP 115: set up a wiki for students to fill in answers to the exercises on web searching & evaluation. Results: in BlackBoard, a wiki only allows 1 user at a time, so we set up a blog instead in one section; I read each group's responses aloud to the class. This year I set up blogs in all sections of CAP 115 & will have students write responses as a prep for then responding aloud, instead of me reading (boring & pointless!).

CAP 115: use Flickr tagging to teach keyword brainstorming & subject access. Results: I did this, using a photo in Flickr & having them brainstorm search words, talking about the title & tags, & using a comparison photo from Library of Congress. Students don't seem to know what Flickr is (they use Facebook); so am not continuing that exercise.

Rick Salutin spoke: Standards & competencies try to prescribe/formularize a process for something interpersonal & human--it is presence that matters most. We get more from re-reading something & going deeper (especially in small-group discussion) than from reading something new all of the time. Humans are good at thinking, not knowing; we mistake the urge to think with the urge to know.

Sheril Hook, Esther Atkinson, & Andrew Nicholson spoke in a program entitled "Practice Makes Perfect: Applying and Adapting Best Practices in Information Literacy."
In embedding info lit into course curricula, emphasize the library vision--the availability of resources, & the enhancement of student engagement & critical thinking. Three discipline-oriented outcomes examples follow.

Social Sciences: identify & locate statistics needed; evaluate stats (time period, geography, characteristics of subjects, etc.); analyze stats (e.g., create a cross-tab table & draw conclusions); communicate results; cite (acknowledge sources/materials used).

Sciences: evaluate research by scope--does it include citation tracking stats & periodical impact? Check "reputable." Locate & interpret citation info--review the cited references; check the # of times cited (yields the impact factor of the article in the discipline); check for the journal's rank in the discipline.

Humanities: compare/contrast the sources of a myth & how the myth changed over time; identify changes & context; interpret changes in meaning. E.g., look at primary sources of art or music, biographical info on the artist/musician, & context in society, events of the period, culture.

Don't teach how to search but more on thinking about how sources are used & what the various tools provide. Change the focus from "tool-based" to "conceptual-based" library instruction & info lit. Only teach "how to do X" when learners ask, at the point of need.

Info Lit program evaluation includes looking at various factors.
A. market penetration:

# of students reached by year & semester; departmental contact (# students per department); # unique sessions per department; # sessions per course level (100-600).

B. reflection on current teaching practices:

How do we gain access to departments which are underserved? How add new depts? Abandon classes when there is little impact? Develop stronger vertical integration (per course level). Keep tables on tools taught, e.g., catalog, databases, library website, etc. Bring this to librarians' consciousness so we can reduce tool-based instruction. Develop strategies to meet goals. Build class profiles. How to abandon courses: if we engage students at a deeper level in 1st or 2nd year, don't do a basic catalog session at the 3rd/4th year level. For the few who haven't had the catalog instruction, point to a learning object (tutorial) for them.

Also, take a look at the entries about "Teaching on the Edge of Chaos: Dynamical Systems in Library Instruction." The main point I took away was: don't lecture but have students complete a task; by giving students experiences rather than lecture, we use "incremental complexity." WILU Blog. New Jack Librarian (scroll down to May 19, 2007).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Collaboration with Faculty

I've been asked how I achieved the collaborations I've engaged in at GVSU.

Through lots of conversation & gentleness. Passion led me to try things I was afraid of, like doing workshops for faculty & using new teaching & learning techniques in the classroom. Honesty & directness, caring & compassion, tact & trust helped me tell colleagues, "I'd like to try this with your classes, will you give me some feedback at the end?" I made small revisions--not too many at any one session--& kept a journal to track what worked & didn't. I learned to teach from the person I am (see Parker Palmer's Courage to Teach), & to use technology. I read a lot about teaching & learning, brain development, higher education, information literacy, assessment. I struggled with being open to students despite being afraid. I participated with faculty in workshops & discussion groups, & faculty governance--especially university-wide task forces. I persisted despite annoyances, frustrations, disappointments. I learned to talk the language of the disciplines and higher education.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fall Conference on Teaching & Learning

The Pew Faculty Teaching & Learning Center at GVSU hosts an annual conference. This year's keynote speaker was James Zull (Art of Changing the Brain). His Power Point presentations are linked from this page.
Zull's primary emphasis in the morning's talk was that teachers need to create conditions in which learners' brains change, by engaging the major regions of the cortex: sensory (visual, touch, hearing), integrating (e.g., seeing an object & identifying it in speech), and action/movement (includes speech, reading, writing). Zull listed 4 pillars of learning: experience (get info), reflect (make meaning), create-solve-conceive, and act or test. Teaching begins with linking new knowledge to learners' prior knowledge base. When students have misconceptions or make mistakes, don't repeat their misconceptions or point out errors but build on the misconceptions by saying the correct thing.

Memory evolved to solve problems--remembering comes from action, working with new ideas/knowledge.

In the afternoon, Zull's talk was about "Brain, Emotion, Learning." Zull stated that the brain evolved as an organ of emotion, that reason is dependent on emotion (!) and that all actions are a result of emotion. "We are always being emotional--it's a matter of degree, balance, and the specific chemicals being released."

The emotion sparked by the Amygdala gets integrated into cognitive meaning. So fear can be integrated into memory, and that is why the memory itself can spark the actual physical reaction of fear. In smaller amounts, fear can focus our attention, increase energy, and help us remember clearly. At the other end, fear can lead to stress, not being able to think at all, and can actually damage memory. So find a balance on the positive side of fear by providing challenges (new tasks) at just the right level for the students, then supporting students until their interest progresses into hope, confidence, success, and self-motivation. When they get to a place of inertia, disinterest, or frustration, provide additional challenges. Support is not explanation, but could be an illustrating example, or a reference to written material such as an article, etc.

Another workshop I attended was about Student Responsibility. How do we help empower students' learning? Ask them to do the work, ask them to share their knowledge, connect to and build on their knowledge, build reflection into the class session, build in application of newly-acquired knowledge to new situations in the session. Hmmm, that sounds just like what Zull said.

So, what will I do differently?
1) When teaching databases to first-year students, in order to build on their prior knowledge, ask them, "When you've had a question and successfully used a computer to find an answer, what did you use? [some responses I might expect to hear are: search engine, Facebook, email, database]
2) To encourage responsibility, after having students create blog entries to answer a set of questions during an in-class library instruction exercise, say to them, "So now that you've written some responses, you can refer back to them, add, revise, see classmates' responses.... During the rest of the class, let's talk about what you found out...."
3) To encourage reflection, use minute papers with the question "What was the most important thing you learned about library research during the session?" more often, even if I don't need feedback for myself.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The vacation trip

Was awesome. I had little idea of how dry California actually is, even at the coast. The sequoias were so immense & gorgeous! They don't die of old age but fall over eventually. Kings Canyon is several thousand feet deeper than the Grand Canyon...beautiful rocks & roaring river & Grizzly falls; we enjoyed the attention of the Stellar jays. Point Lobos was fantastic: harbor seals basking on rocks breaking crashing waves, flocks of brown pelicans cruising by, black Cormorants & Oystercatchers on the rocks.... Then the trip from Monterey down to Gorda was hair-raising: the Pacific Coast Highway 1 was closed because of the fires, so we went on a hairpin road following the arroyo between the mountain ranges, at about 15-30 mph the whole way. We saw only a few firefighters' vehicles; there were no sideroads & only 1 turnoff--with a trooper guarding it--right where I was watching not only smoke but also flames from the fires. Of course this was the road Amy wanted to turn on! Eventually we found the Hunter-Liggett army base, went through it to the National Forest road, & began an even more twisty-turny, up & down, 5-10 mph drive. We did see Acorn Woodpeckers, a new species for us. We were exhausted by the time we arrived at the Treetops Resort, the Yurt place, which was great. Round tents with a clear roof to see stars, wood floor, running water; the lodge had great food & clean bathrooms; we heard elephant seals from dusk to dawn, saw a golden eagle, Western Scrub Jay, Spotted Towhee, quail, & turkeys. We visited the Hearst Castle, which has amazing artwork: sculpture from ancient Egypt, banners from the Palio in Sienna, Italy, wood ceilings from medieval Spain, famous tapestries from France, etc. Enjoyed our visit to San Luis Obispo, with the airy public library (our one chance to catch up on email) & the Natural Cafe. Then there was Malibu, with more hair-raising canyon roads & driveways, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and the Getty Museum, where Amy got us a private tour of the largest art history library in the world. There they not only measure the books' size, but also weigh them: shelving goes up to 15' & staff have to know ahead of time if they'll be able to handle the weight when an item is requested; they also use cherry pickers besides the stair-step ladders. They had a whole large room full of files about provenance, and scroll-holders for architectural drawings which are too large for flat files.

My photos are at the Picasa link on the upper left; Amy's are here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Back from California

New photo album at Picasa with the trip.

American Library Association Annual Conference:

re: chat ref--about 30% of users are in the building but won't leave their computers to come ask questions, so it is reasonable to ask if they're present & if we may come to them.

RUSA Codes--liaising with users--the point was made that librarians from ALL departments teach (yes, including tech services). Based on their survey of all types of libraries across the US, time spent on liaison work ran from 11% to 31% of the workload. Liaisons would like more training; there is not clear standard on what liaison responsibilities should be. Liaisons should meet in small groups to share their current practices, challenges & strategies (e.g., how to establish trust as a new liaison, how to set boundaries). While there is no one way to do liaison work (varies by institution, academic discipline, personality of librarian), it is helpful if groups establish responsibilities & expectations in written form, and share these with each new librarian.

Media Literacy [Copyright & Fair Use]--owners retain the rights to "derivative use" (e.g., thumbnails of websites) but not to "transformative use," which adds value & uses the product for a different purpose than the original (e.g., using an entertainment film snippet in the classroom to increase communication skills & critical thinking by commenting on a social aspect of the film). Fair use is not supposed to stifle creative uses of that expression.

LITA Top Tech Trends--small literary journals & presses are going open access because it is less costly for them; we need to become better at manipulating data, visualizing it, using it; libraries can provide technology like scanners for circulation, provide in-house podcasting booths, etc.

LITA - Joe Janes--People are "in the library" when they are on our website, asking a chat ref question, renewing a book online, in databases, etc. They are interacting with info provided by the library or with staff. A library is all 5 of: place, stuff, support, interaction, & values. Libraries have to be somewhere (specific physical place) & everywhere. We need to ask: when don't the users want to be "in" the library? What is the library "in"? The user is the library, not the librarians or staff. [My, Kim's question for us: How do we make it easier for users to be the support & interaction & values?]

Monday we trooped to the Orange County Court to get our marriage license, with our conference friend Mara and our friendly Justice of the Peace Ken; had our brief ceremony; & are now legally recognized in CA, a few other states, & a few countries (Canada, Spain, Netherlands, Denmark?).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Off to ALA

Tomorrow morning, early, we'll be off to the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Anaheim, then up to see "big trees" at Sequoia National Park & King's Canyon, then over to Monterey & Big Sur, then home again. While in Anaheim, we will pick up our marriage license and be legally married (recognized in California, Connecticut, New York, Canada, & Spain). It's very exciting!

Monday, June 16, 2008


I went to see some long-time friends in Seattle. I had more vacation than Amy, so I went alone (& we missed each other like crazy!). The coolest parts were going all over Vashon Island with Alice--woods & beach walks, "downtown" shopping & lunch--and going to Bainbridge Island with Carrie--to Bloedel Reserve which was very quiet & peaceful. The gatekeepers said it takes a couple of hours at a leisurely pace; we took 4 hours. Carrie read aloud from the guidebook & I pointed out the plants/flowers they mentioned, as much as I knew. We ate twice at a great bakery, fabulous desserts! I also enjoyed driving along Lake Washington, along a wooded trail-like road with beautiful views of the water. Carrie & I got caught up with each other's lives after 5 years of short letters...I feel more rested & relaxed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Young at Heart

Great documentary about a chorus of folks from age 73-93. They do fairly contemporary rock songs, which take on a new meaning: "Do I stay or do I go?!" For a night, in this life, or...? Lots of laughs, some sniffling, & some very profoundly moving scenes.

Go see it, no matter your age. It provides a realistic & hopeful look at aging & is also cathartic.

Friday, May 9, 2008

D.C. visit

Thanks to ams & mas, and ps for suggestions, to my intrepid & agreeable hostess jl for accompanying me everywhere. Also thanks to host gl for his sense of fun! To both of our hosts, many gratitudes for their care & hospitality, & interesting conversations.

The dogwoods & redbud were in full bloom during the trip--this has been an extraordinarily gorgeous spring so far.

We went to the National Cathedral first, on a very rainy day, negotiating the Metro train & bus. The stained-glass windows were fantastic--I could have spent a whole day wandering around looking at them. We stayed for the organist's talk & brief concert at 12:30--a rush of sound in the choir where we were sitting. J & I had interesting conversations about Judaism, seventh-day sabbath, & the belief that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene--as he wouldn't have been allowed to teach children if he had been unmarried after a certain age.

The next day we went to the National Museum of Women in the Arts. I really liked the photos of Cheryl Ito, paintings of Rosa Bonheur, Joanna Boye, Fanny Churberg, & Anna Boch. Then we walked down to the White House & I took photos of buildings, statues, churches.

On the 3rd day, we went to the U.S. Botanical Garden at the back of the Capitol--I liked the jungle part of the Conservatory best because it reminded me of Australia. Then walked around the Capitol building--beautiful but heavily guarded. One can't go into the building at all any longer except by getting a tour pass months ahead from one's congressperson; it is frightening to see men with big guns standing at the ready on the steps. Then onto the Native American Museum, which is larger than I had thought, so we just saw a portion of it before eating in the cafeteria--lots of interesting Native foods from around the country. Back to pick up Amy & on to the National Zoo, to see the pandas & the beautiful plumage in the Bird House.

4th day--walked around the National Mall, photographing the Smithsonian Castle, seeing the gems (Hope diamond; immense copper sheet from the Keeweenaw) in the Natural History Museum, walked around the Washington Monument, Lincoln & Vietnam War memorials.

5th day--took it easy, walked in a riverside park where Jack-in-the Pulpit & Indian strawberries were blooming, & saw an immense Copperhead snake sunning itself on a rock in the middle of the water. We were safely on a bridge overlooking the river, I'm glad to say.

On the way home, stopped at Magee Marsh about halfway between Sandusky & Toledo, where we saw many Great Egrets, a Black & White warbler, a Palm warbler, dozens of Martins, Tree & Barn swallows, & Killdeer.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Went to D.C. for vacation as a tourist, which was interesting; stayed with friends who were absolutely lovely & hospitable.

Re-read a favorite SF GLBT novel called A Paradigm of Earth, by Candas Jane Dorsey, a Canadian whose writing is as good as Margaret Atwood's and less depressing, though still dystopic. To me, it's about grief--feeling a sense of "otherness," living with it, coming back to life slowly, connecting with others, the slow renewal of hope.

Lots of grief lately--the Michigan Supreme Court's decision that no partner benefits may be offered by public institutions, A's recent illnesses. I feel "other" & depressed, tired, uncertain.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Responsibility for Hope

I was reminded today that we often can’t see our own patterns of behavior. I was also reminded that it is important to look for the best in people, to give them the opportunity to prove themselves to be good, honorable, just, etc. To look for the best possible outcomes, not to be so pessimistic, worrying about negative possibilities, assuming the worst. It does seem that we draw toward us that which we most fear, by the energy we put into it. So, let’s hope that someone who has said several times that s/he “wants us to succeed,” truly means it and will act compassionately and in accord with that statement. I fear my own woundedness and tend to look for woundedness in others. Well, I can make art out of that woundedness, and spend my energy on looking for goodness instead. I hope.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Still more tension

Had a good chat with my sis last night--I feel much relieved, supported and loved. Want to sit with things for awhile before I talk to the middle sis.

What happens to folks who call themselves religious yet do not practice "love your neighbor as yourself?" Well, I have theories about how well they love themselves, based on their actions toward others.

What is intended for us in our situation, trying to do our daily tasks as they come to us, trying to make meaning? Perhaps to realize the love pouring to us from friends, perhaps to fight an injustice being done. Definitely to turn to each other with love. To listen for that still small voice in the midst of anguish. Hard to let go of the "why are they doing this?" question. Hard to keep in mind that they are wounded themselves and so are deserving of some compassion -- even as we are setting our boundaries by refusing to take into ourselves the results of that woundedness.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Birding on a cloudy Sunday

It was an exciting morning at Blandford Nature Center. Before leaving the driveway at home, the male hawk I've been trying to identify landed in a tree across the road; I walked to the area where I'd seen the pair and now have positively identified them as Northern Harriers. OK, birders, maybe pretty commonplace to you, but very exciting to me. I had seen the smaller gray male with yellow eyes, but the female was very different--larger, brown with a cream breast; their calls didn't seem to match up with the bird CD. Finally I could see the white rump patch when they flew. I could see 3 large nests in almost adjacent trees (no, not squirrel nests) but apparently the harriers nest on wetland ground. Also positively identified a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers (I had only seen the female previously at our feeder; today saw the male as well in the park), a male Golden-crowned Kinglet, & American Tree Sparrows. Also there were bluebirds, catbirds, house sparrows, house finches, juncos, chickadees, cardinals, robins, etc. We have loved seeing the red-breasted nuthatches this year along with the white-breasted at our feeders. Yesterday I heard phoebes & yellow-throated vireos in Aman Park--the vireos always remind me of whistling for the dog. Also heard the bird which says (in my mind anyway), "hurdy-gurdy-gurdy', hurdy-gurdy-gurdy'" (emphasis on the last syllable)...if you can point me in the right direction to identify the bird from its call, let me know.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


March 26, 2008

I’ve been praying that I might be filled with Spirit instead of hatred and my own will. It’s a tough business when I feel so threatened. I still wish that Pat Parker were still alive to make me laugh. I miss her dreadfully some days.

It was great to see my aunt & uncle, cousins, youngest sister, brother-in-law, and nephews last Saturday. It was not great to see mom, but I mostly ignored her. “I wish you would be more compassionate” said my sister. But she doesn’t know what an effort I do make. It has been 7 years since I understood what my nightmares, anxieties, and body were telling me. My mom’s dementia is increasing and seems worse each time I see her. I still have nightmares after she phones and when I anticipate seeing her. I try to give myself extra care.

Many of our friends have been giving us extra love & concern. They are touchstones, landmarks in a murky landscape. I’m deeply grateful.

Winter Twigs

March 5, 2008

I feel like the winter twigs—bare, leafless, hibernating. Not sensing God. Maybe a bud of hope will come again in the spring. Maybe I’ll find my heart again. Seems like parts of myself need repairing. I react to every barrier and criticism (whether perceived or real) by feeling overwhelmingly frustrated, and very young and powerless. I feel the weight of others’ expectations and needs as heavy burdens.

Pain & Fear

February 27, 2008

I’ve been in so much pain and fear lately.

(Former?) friends: I’m still upset about a fellow who has taken the opportunity to tell me what a bad friend I’ve been over the 17+ years we’ve known each other, and that he wishes that my wife, sisters, other family members, friends, acquaintances, etc., weren’t so b*!@&y to him. I’m unwilling to put any energy or effort into trying to communicate with him further.

Family: I hate it when my mom calls.

General: I seem to feel paralyzed by decisions.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Post-Review Comment Form

After it’s over for this year, here’s what I am struggling with: to feel my judgment and anger and express them creatively, through music, through writing, by getting out the crayons to scribble a picture of my feelings, through complaining (!). But not to let the feelings take me over, nor to feel ashamed by them. To remember that vengeance is not to be mine, that I don’t believe in the duality of enemies or hatred. To act with civility at the very least, with courtesy, with collegiality when possible.

How do I define courage in my job? Being present for the personnel reviews. Going into the classroom to teach, when I dread it each time. Courage is deciding to do these things anyway, and learning how to do them well. Preparing, practicing, learning techniques for asking clarifying questions and describing behaviors, providing encouragement, coping with the anxiety—mental, emotional, physical. Oh yes, spiritual. The last-gained, first-to-be-forgotten “leg” of sustainability.

What is sustainable economically, socially, environmentally? Spiritually?

Are personnel reviews, at 45 minutes for each person under review, for the 21 full-time tenure-track or tenured faculty present, financially sustainable? When do we split the process into sub-groups? Does it make more sense for only tenured faculty to participate?

Is public criticism sustainable socially? Is this our way of shaping our colleagues? Is it effective in creating a cohesive and collegial culture? What are the emotional costs?

What kind of carbon footprint does the process leave, literally? Items trashed but not recycled: styrofoam and plastic cups, plates, silverware. A lot of food was consumed nervously and compulsively, and probably unnecessarily.

And what of the spiritual? How does each of us cope with the urge to get revenge for perceived slights by the reviewee or reviewers? Do we wait for the Spirit to speak through us, do we bring intellectually-prepared statements, or some combination of both? How do we love our neighbor as ourselves (do we love ourselves at all!) during this time of high tension?

As usual, I have questions, not answers. However, I do think it is too bad that we rely on an ego-infected majority vote instead of practicing spirit-infused discernment.

Friday, February 15, 2008


What to do when the rules do not let you recuse yourself for conflict of interest?

My wife conducted herself gracefully in a difficult situation...she kept her calm, stuck to her plan, answered hard questions without a tremor in her voice, and accepted compliments graciously. I am so proud. She kept her dignity and acted with integrity. She is a good cataloger, a good librarian... she looks at and understands the big picture: librarians are educators. What she does is to make resources accessible (findable), balancing the restraints of time and energy against perfectionism. She finds ways to decrease the labor of her colleagues. She educates herself so as to be better at her specialty. She constantly consults colleagues in other libraries in order to make the best decisions possible for our situation. She admits her mistakes and tries hard to make things right with other people.

My sense of integrity feels tired and battered. I was present to support my wife; I did my best. Now I hope to find some sense of peace and forgiveness, but I tell you: the heavy bag took a hard beating last night. Yet I feel right about my decision.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Submission or Solidarity

A friend wrote to me, both in response to something I said about having tried to find my way among the Seventh-day Adventists and a news item about Muslim women choosing to wear the head covering: "I totally don't understand making a choice to fit into a community that limits one's ability to grow, make choices, enforces submission for some over others. Does submission become a comfortable habit? Or is there a sense of safety and freedom in not having to make choices/take responsibility?"

The thing that I see emphasized in what I have been reading is that submission is a deliberate choice, made each and every day (and several times a day, some days--being neither a comfortable habit nor freedom from responsibility). Many religious writings, Quaker included, talk about submission to God being a conscious giving of oneself to God and giving up of one's ego-driven will--a deliberate and constant seeking for the inward "still small voice"--tempered by the community also seeking the will of God. So how we define "submission" varies! Some religious groups believe that women must submit to their husband's decisions. Yet liberal Quakers do not (nor do Adventists seem to). Wearing the head covering in conservative Christian and Jewish groups, along with wearing plain clothing, is seen as part of both following God's law and maintaining the sense of community. Maybe this is true also for Muslim women? And as with families--when one member is attacked by an outsider, isn't it usual for the others to show solidarity and a united front? Wouldn't re-claiming a visible identity be part of that?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Licensed to...

I'm still reading Amish "inspirational fiction" and am glad that as a non-Amish woman, I am able to speak my mind, wear pants, fly on airplanes, pray however I want, not have to cover my hair, have electricity in the house, have a driver's license. Regarding the last: now illegal immigrants will not be able to get a MI driver's license. I wish someone could explain to me how that is a good thing. Will the immigration laws be eased and the process sped up, or will we simply have more unlicensed drivers, who if discovered, will be deported?

On the work side: just finished up adding to our Arabic literature collection (children's books in Arabic; adult literature in translation). I was finally able to "blow up" the Arabic script enough in the website and my Excel file to match ISBNs with titles & authors (in Arabic script & transliterated but not translated), which was quite a puzzle.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


On Jan. 1 (2008), the New York Times had a column called "The New Year's Cocktail: Regret with a Dash of Bitters" by Benedict Carey about reflecting on our past experiences and the process of maturing as adults, which I found very thought-provoking. Emotionally healthy folks tend to look at what was gained in past situations when they might have chosen differently were they to have that choice again at the present. I guess it's a reminder to see god/the good in situations instead of spending energy in blame or regret, and to look at the bigger picture.

For example, had I gotten a job other than the one I have currently, I probably would not have had the energy to make a marriage--and this is a relationship I cherish more than any other. I'm inexpressibly grateful every day for A.

And I get thanked in my job fairly often, e.g., today I received this: "What a thoughtful email and helpful service you are offering! I am not sure if my students will be able to use Library helps as it's a skills class, but I was really impressed with the potential of the resources you suggest. Have a great semester. Thanks for all you do, [X]." Whereas I can imagine fielding many more complaints with fewer rewards if I were in any of the other positions I had applied for in the past 3 years.

I had a fairly quiet and quite restful holiday: I got to read a lot while eating fudge and cookies and watching the bird life at the feeders, walk in the woods, and cross-country ski.

OK, enough PollyAnna--those of you who know me know I'd rather complain than breathe some days! So I'll get back to it now--anyone passing by who'd like to stop in for some "blue air"?
; )