“Never be a prisoner of your past. It was just a lesson, not a life sentence.” ~ Unknown
Birthday surprises from HRB Crystal Heis. What, indeed, would Dolly do? Just cracks me up. In case you can’t make out the socks, they have bread and milk on them. They also crack me up. Crystal knows me so well.
“There are three ways to ultimate success:
The first way is to be kind.
The second way is to be kind.
The third way is to be kind.”
~ Fred Rogers
Yesterday I rose before dawn, even though it was a rainy Sunday, perfect sleeping weather. Nevertheless, I snuggled into my armchair with hot coffee and a book. Wally was the first to appear. Over the last few weeks he’s wanted to sit with me. That may sound sweet, but the chair is just wide enough for a person. There’s no extra space for a dog, too. But I can’t deny him when his sweet brown eyes look at me. I make myself as small as I can so he has room, too. Within minutes Lily perched herself nearby, and then it wasn’t long before Leo became brave enough to take a step toward me. You can see the side-eye stare he’s getting for it from Wally. It was a truce, but it was oh so temporary. Nevertheless, if I could start every day like this, I sure would do it.
“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”
~ Carlos Castaneda
Finally, after ten long years of work, Erin Chandler has published her memoir. She graced me with the opportunity to read an early draft some years ago, and let me tell you, even then it was an engrossing, heart-tug of a read. I got my copy of the real thing today, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it’s finished glory. I’m incredibly proud of Erin, and in awe of her determination to see this project through. She is one of the strongest, most compassionate, creative, driven woman I’ve ever known. It is a true honor to call her my friend.
I don’t ordinarily have craptastic days and this is no exception. It started off pretty craptastically when Lilly cat woke me with her yowling at 7 a.m. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so up for coffee I go. A few hours later I found out what all the fuss about when I sat down in a cushion full of pee. After a change of clothes and few choice words, I loaded her up and off to the vet we went. Naturally, being the little anxiety feline she is, purging from both ends occurred before we even got there. The vet is only a mile away. A UTI, a bottle of pills, and $150 later, I got in the car only to discover it, too, was not feeling well. Power steering, slipping clutch, tie rod, balding tires, or a combination of the four meant I wasn’t going to make my planned trip to Cinci to see my friends Bree and Eric open for Joe Lynn Turner; a reunion that was to be my prize for not going to Iceland this weekend for the News Media conference. My day just wasn’t going very well until Stacy agreed to have lunch with me. We had a great conversation followed by a trip to Wild Fig Books for Independent Bookseller’s day. We ran smack dab into Crystal Wilkinson whose award winning book, The Birds of Opulence, I specifically went there to buy. She graciously signed it for me and that just tickled me no end. I read the first chapter when I got home and had to force myself to put it down to do other things. It’s *that* good. So, you see, I had a few things go wrong today, but look what a beautiful reward I was given for sticking with it. I gotta go now and start chapter two.
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” ~ Pablo Picasso
I just finished reading a 600+ page tome about Paul McCartney. He was always my favorite (you thought it would be Ringo, didn’t you?). I couldn’t have told you exactly why he was my favorite, but after reading Barry Miles’ book, I have a better idea. Paul lived in an extraordinary time, surrounded by extraordinary people, and he created music that changed the world. There aren’t many people who can say that. His seemingly simple pop songs are often intricate, near orchestral at times, and full of more imagery than you can shake a stick at. Most of his characters are made up, though many LSD tripping hippies thought otherwise. The songs he and Lennon composed together are nothing short of otherworldly. The sheer originality of each one defies description. I took many things away from this book. For instance, it was John that broke up the band, not Yoko, and it was primarily Paul’s creative drive that produced their last four albums. To be clear, those recordings sound the way they do because of the fab four (and George Martin), not Paul alone, but he was their energy (the others probably called him bossy); from album cover design to playing drums on a few tracks. I said earlier that I’d always loved Wings, and one can clearly hear remnants of the Beatles’ in that band. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine what those songs would have sounded like if John, George, Ringo, and George Martin had been alongside Paul. I think he always held out hope that the band would reform one day, or at least go back on the road and do a few shows like they’d done when they were young men. That’s what he loved more than anything. I can’t help but feel sorry for The Beatles. They loved each other more than most families, but people and drugs (mostly) ate away at them until they fell apart. Then, a crazy man came along, and with one shot, ended any chance they had to fully mend (though John and Paul had become friends again). Life is like that sometimes. Still, what a gift they gave the world, huh? I loved this book. It left me inspired. And I love Paul McCartney more than ever, and I can tell you exactly why.
“Life: It’s about using every crayon in the box.” ~ Unknown
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I opened the package today. Inside was this gorgeous hardcover coffee table book put together over many months by my soul friend Pam Thurman and her colleague Shawna Cain. It’s stunningly beautiful – seriously. Cherokee National Treasures highlights “Cherokee Nation citizens with exceptional knowledge of Cherokee art forms and cultural practices…” A book devoted to these gifted folks is not only an honor for them (bestowed by The Nation), but it gives the rest of the world the opportunity to enjoy and honor them, too. It’s vitally important that cultures cherish their torch bearers like this, but it’s especially important for U.S. indigenous cultures to do it because, historically, the country has committed unspeakable atrocities to destroy every last one of them. Modern U.S. politics has a long way to go to convince me that they’re not still trying, what with the North Dakota pipeline being just one of the more recent tragic examples. That’s why I’m especially proud that the Cherokee Nation formally embraces the people keeping the culture alive through the arts. They could have picked no one better to put this book together than Pam. When she’s not busy flying all over the world making it better and being a kick-ass academic, she’s busy being an artist and musician. As someone who has devoted her life to her native heritage, I suspect Pam will be a Cherokee National Treasure before long herself. One thing is certain: she’s a treasure to everyone who knows her, and I am deeply honored to call her my friend. I’m sure Lance is beaming right now.
“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” ~ Joseph Campbell
Over the holiday break, even with all the cooking, visiting, and hospital business, I managed to read two books. This is a big deal because I have, over the last several years, become increasingly distracted to the point of having zero attention span. I can manage to get about 50 pages into a book, but that’s about it. Things began to turn around last year when Michael Slone loaned me Terry Pratchett’s Dodger. Immediately, I fell in love with Pratchett. I mentioned this to Bobby Ray who then recommended Wee Free Men also by Pratchett. Who doesn’t love a story about tiny Scottish sounding men and a teenage witch in training? Still, it would be months later before I read Margaret Verble’s Maud’s Line. The rest of the time I just felt bogged down with a bunch of non-fiction and other stuff that just wasn’t very good. Just before the break a co-worker and I were commiserating on our lost passion for reading after Graduate School. Maybe that’s what did me in, instead of the lackluster material. Maybe it was both, I don’t know, but I knew I desperately wanted to reconnect that part of my brain. So, the first book I read over the break was News of the World by Paulette Jiles, recommended by Jen Reynolds. It did not disappoint, and it set the stage for the second book, which I picked it up with my usual Christmas gift card from Doug Boyd. It was Ron Rash’s Above the Waterfall. Here was a book that’s been stalking me since 2015. By stalking I mean it’s a book that keeps showing up in every bookstore or grocery line I walk into until I read it. I have yet to be disappointed in these stalker books, and Above the Waterfall was no exception. Rash writes about Southern Appalachia as a smooth, contemporary storyteller, devoid of the expected dialect or dreamy theme. It was refreshing, to say the least, and the story was excellent. I made myself a promise when I finished it this morning: I’m not buying any new books until I’ve read the two stacks I’ve already got, and that’s going to be hard because I really want to read more from Rash. Still, reading more – specifically more good writing – is my goal for 2017. I’m off to an excellent start.
“Just because your past has been damaged doesn’t mean your future has to be worthless.”
Some time back Jen Adkins Reynolds gifted me with Maud’s Line. It’s a wonderful novel (a Pulitzer Prize nominee) set in Cherokee Territory of Oklahoma; my second home. I got through half of it, and then got so busy that all I did was look at it as I walked from the bed to the back door on my way to work. That is, until today. On this Labor Day, for the first time in months, I did exactly what I wanted to do. I took Maud’s Line, my coffee, and The Boy and sat in the cool shade of my newly fenced yard where I read the entire book. It was delicious. For dessert I took a three hour nap. I have enjoyed my day immeasurably. Dear Jen, The Boy and I thank you for a great day.
“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” ~ Frida Kahlo
Today has been all about publishing I guess. I got home from work to find a copy of The Bible Belt Almanac in my mailbox. BFF Catherine Brereton has a piece about Mamaw in it, which includes some of my photos. Catherine was inspired by my exhibit at First Presbyterian Gallery back in October. (I absolutely love it when art inspires art.) It’s a story that’s happy, sad, tragic, loving, faithful, funny, and much more. It’s pretty amazing that she was able to wrap all those emotions into a short story. Of course, I was thrilled to pieces when they wanted to publish the photos along with it, but more than that, I was honored that Catherine found Mamaw’s story worth writing. It means more than words can say really. Then, I checked my email and learned an article Judy Sackett and I wrote is being published next month. Like I said, I guess today is all about publishing. Blessed beyond measure is what I am.
“The older I get the more I realize that the things that cost nothing hold the most value.”
This is my friend and former student Elizabeth Leggett. I had not seen, or even heard from, her in a very long time until suddenly, today, she appeared at work. She wanted to give me a copy of her book “Digitization and Digital Archiving.” I was, and am, so proud of her for this. What an unexpected opportunity for her, one she rightfully embraced. She did a fantastic job, too. It really is a great book. Then she gave me the shock of a lifetime when she opened the cover.
I’m not prone to crying, but I was so touched that I welled up a little. I can’t tell you how validating it is. Knowing I made a difference in someone’s life is a real honor. There are times I go home frazzled, feeling marginalized, my talents overlooked (everybody feels like that sometimes, I’m certainly not unique in this). Then, in walks a young woman who’s life I helped along all because she paid attention to what I told her. That makes every frazzled, personal disappointment worth it. To make a difference is exactly why I took to librarianship, and I’m overflowing with joy to learn it hasn’t been for nothing.
Guido, as Crystal and I lovingly nicknamed Elizabeth (which she gladly answered to), is extraordinarily kind to everyone she meets. A gentle soul with a heart as big as Texas, and talent to boot. I could not be more grateful for her. And gosh darn it, I’m just so proud of her I could bust. I’m liable to smile for a week solid!