Thoughts on Kindness

Kindness, I’m learning, is a powerful thing.

Working in a public library, people from all walks of life come through my door.  I love this because it gives me the opportunity to interact with people who are very different from me.  One of the joys of being a small town librarian is the ability to really build relationships with my patrons.  They aren’t just faces checking out books.  I call them by name, remember what books they like, and get to be part of their routines.

You find the most generous people in small towns.  My patrons, in particular, have shown great kindness to me over the past two years.  They know I have a long commute and I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been offered a place to stay on winter nights when driving conditions are hazardous.  A year ago, a family who knew I love cats surprised me by bringing in their litter of kittens.  Having a kitten party in the library was pretty much a dream come true and I glowed the rest of the day.  Recently, one of my regulars attempted to recruit my help in tapping maple trees and boiling syrup.  He’s a prankster and, when I said no, gave me a hard time.  A week later, though, he gave me a jar of homemade syrup anyway.

These relationships are one of the things I love most about my job.

One of my goals, and something I work very hard at, is to treat each person who walks in the door with dignity and respect.  I want people to feel seen and known when they visit the library–they aren’t just another faceless consumer.  I want people to feel like they matter.

This is no easy task and, so often, I fail to live up to it.  When people show you incredible kindness, it is easy to be kind in return.  When people are friendly, responsible, capable, and don’t argue when you tell them they have late fines, it is easy to show them love.

But people are hard.  They’re messy, complicated, and difficult.

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Farewell, 2017

We’ve hit the season when everyone reflects on what has occurred during the past year and dreams of the year to come.  I am no exception.

What strikes me, though, is time’s beautiful ability to slip elegantly from one minute to one day to one year.  Tomorrow may be a new year, but take away the countdowns, the parties, the reflection, it is simply a new day.  Just as today was a new day.  I love that.

It is difficult to pinpoint the significance of 2017.  Before, each year had deep meaning, filled with momentous occasions and deep soul searching.  2015 was the year I finished college, filled with questions and striving.  2016 was the year I trekked across Europe and stumbled into my life’s work.

But 2017?  I suppose it is an extension of all the years before, as if all the momentous occasions, questions, journeys, and stumbles were leading to what I am doing now: living day by day, moment by moment.

This year, I continued life in the small town library where I work.  I experienced my first Summer Reading Program, started a Lego Club, and continued building relationships with my patrons.

This year, I applied, was accepted, and began graduate school online through the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.  Grad school is not easy, but it’s taught me to make time for self-care and that sanity is more important than grades.  This attitude helped me get through my first semester with my sanity and GPA in tact.  Already, pursing my Masters in Library and Information Science has helped improve my skills and understanding of my work.  While I frequently whine and complain about the stress of my studies, I am deeply thankful for this opportunity.

This year, I continued living with my parents.  All year, I have bounced back and forth.  Should I move closer to work?  Do I want to live in that community?  Is it worth it to continue driving an hour to work and back each day?  I’m still struggling with these questions.  While I like living with my parents, I’m ready to be on my own.  But I have absolutely no desire to live in the community where I work and cannot afford to both pay rent and continue commuting.  This is something I’ll continue to wrestle with as the new year comes.

This year, I made new friends and continued walking with old ones.  From road trip buddies to coffee shop chats monthly letters, I am extremely blessed in the friendship department and am so, so thankful.

This year, my faith journey brought me somewhere between the desert and the river valley.  I’m attending church again and am encouraged by friendships, but still feel like I’m walking alone.  In college, my faith journey was wild, frantic, and I pursued the path with relentless passion.  My faith has changed dramatically since then.  I’ve evened out.  I’ve simultaneously rejected the fundamentalism of my upbringing while holding firmly to my spiritual beliefs and heritage.  I’m calmer now.  I continue to study, but I hold my faith with open hands.  I long to be a person of high character, quietly bettering the world around me, letting my actions speak louder than my words.  2017 was a step in that direction.

This year, I spent each day with Wendell Berry.  As part of my devotions each morning, I ended by reading one of his Sabbath poems.  Of all my routines, this was my favorite.  Morning by morning, his words brought me into still forests, quiet fields, and sunlit meadows.  I reached the end of the book in October and went right back to the beginning.

This year, I continued my never ending love affair with the written word.  Thanks to audiobooks during my long commute and a deepening passion for YA, I blew past my previous reading records, making it through 212 books in a mere 12 months.  For more about my reading year, check out my previous post.

I suppose, in light of all these things, 2017 was a pretty good year.  (Minus the dumpster fires of national politics and natural disasters, of course.)  I grew, I worked, I learned.  What more can one ask for?

Tonight, when the clock strikes twelve, we will slip elegantly into a 2018.  Where will this year take us?  What decisions will I make?  What people will I meet?  What places will I go?  What words will I be writing one year from now?  I haven’t the slightest clue, and that is a very exciting thing.

Whoever you are, wherever you may be, I wish you a very happy New Year!

Staying Sane: A Grad School Update

I realize I’ve been neglecting my blog of late…  So hey, let’s chat.

In September, I started my first semester of graduate school.  I’m taking classes online through the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee to get a Masters in Library and Information Science.  Going into it, I knew that grad school would be a challenge.  But, of course, there’s a difference between knowing something intellectually and knowing it experientially.  As someone who has half a semester under their belt, I can attest that grad school is HARD.

It’s not the work itself that is challenging.  I mean, yeah, it’s hard.  But it’s grad school.  High standards are to be expected.  For the most part, I think I’m keeping up just fine.  I understand the coursework, participate in discussions with my classmates, and have pulled decent enough grades on my assignments thus far.

The most difficult part about grad school has been finding time to actually do the work and still maintain a shred of sanity.  I’ve already had two emotional breakdowns this semester, which is two more than my entire career as an undergraduate.

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Weekend Coffee Share: Orchard Opening, Grad School, State Fair, and more!

If we were having coffee, we’d likely be sitting outside on picnic tables overlooking my family’s apple orchard.  Please excuse my cat, Pip, who has no concept of personal boundaries.  He has most likely climbed on your lap and is demanding snuggles.  While you pet him, we look over the orchard to the St. Croix River valley in the distance.  Isn’t the view great?

At the moment, I’m enjoying a few days of calm before the craziness that is fall hits.  The library was absolutely dead this week, which (while boring) was a nice break.  My patrons are all getting ready for school, going on last minute vacations, and harvesting their gardens.

This week, I DID get to go to the Minnesota State Fair for work!  It was Read & Ride Day, put on by the library system in the Twin Cities area.  Fairgoers could get discounted admission with their library cards.  As a worker, I got in for free!  My shift was three hours long and I ran the game Plinko.  My coworker for the day and I were given a massive amount of prizes (color changing cups, temporary tattoos, pens, bags, flashlights, etc.) and told that they needed to all be gone by five.  So we were VERY generous to all who played our game.  “Everyone’s a winner at the library!” we told everyone who stopped by.  It was a lot of fun!  After my shift, I spent the rest of the day wandering around the fair with library colleagues from my own system, who had worked earlier in the day.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I start graduate school this week!  I’m pursuing my Masters in Library and Information Science through the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  I’m kind of nervous about being back in academia and balancing school and work.  It really helps that everything is online and I can fit it in with my schedule.  I think I’ll be fine… I’ve always been a bit of a Hermione Granger when it comes to school and started reading one of my textbooks already.

My family’s apple orchard is open for the season!  My parents and brother worked really hard to get everything together.  Dad has been overseeing the harvest and getting the outside presentable.  Mom organized the store and is training all our new seasonal employees.  I’ll be helping out on Sundays this fall during the peak of our season, but with grad school and having my own job, my involvement will be fairly minimal.

That’s enough chit chat from me.  How are you spending your last weekend of the summer?  Anything exciting going on this fall?  What would you share over coffee?

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster. 

Be sure to check out the weekly Link Up to see what everyone has been up to.

Weekend Coffee Share 8/27/17

If we were having coffee, I’d be curled up in a heavy sweater drinking lemon ginger tea.  I’ve been fighting off a cold for the past few days and, today, it took a turn for the worse.  You might not want to get too close.

It’s crazy that we’re in the final gasps of summer!  Where did the time go?

I missed the coffee share last weekend due to being out of town.  My mom and I attended a retreat with a church we’ve been attending recently.  In a lot of ways, the retreat was really awkward.  We only knew a few people and neither of us are good in large groups of people.  In other ways, though, it was a really great experience.  It was really nice to get away from home–the retreat was held at a camp by a lake, which was lovely.  They brought in a Bible scholar from a university in Chicago do lead the teaching.  He talked a lot about the original Hebrew version of the texts, which was fascinating!  Through forced group games and breakout sessions, I did get to know a few people.  And, this past week, one of their pastors texted me and invited me out for lunch!  I’m meeting up with her tomorrow, which I’m looking forward to.

Work this week was busy.  On Tuesday, I had a programming double-header, which was absolutely exhausting.  In the afternoon, I hosted a class on genealogy research, which was taught by some of my library colleagues.  It was a full group–every computer was taken.  Then, I had about an hour to turn the room around for this month’s Lego Club. Continue reading

Weekend Coffee Share 8/12/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be meeting at my library.  I’d be sipping on a mocha with an extra shot of caffeine that I picked up on the way to work.  It’s a slow morning… I’ve been here over an hour and only five people have come and gone.  Thank goodness, you’re here to divert me!

It’s crazy that summer is almost over!  It always goes by way too quickly.  My August is turning out to be very busy.  Between weddings and out-of-town commitments, my weekends are almost all booked.  When I get off work today, I’m heading down to Rochester to spend the weekend with L’Abri friends.  I’ve wanted to visit them all summer, but haven’t had the chance until now.  Next weekend, I’m taking off work to go on a retreat with the church my family has been attending.

I’ve had multiple cousins get married this summer–one was last weekend.  Is it just me, or are family weddings the most awkward of them all?  I’m not close with my dad’s side of the family, so it’s always uncomfortable spending time with them.  I’m one of the youngest and was painfully shy as a child, which didn’t help forge good relationships with my cousins.  Despite that, the wedding was really nice, there was an open bar, and fantastic cake.  And I learned that some of my cousins (and their significant others) are actually pretty cool!  So that was a win. Continue reading

Weekend Coffee Share 7/22/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be meeting at the library.  Things are slow–no one usually rolls in until around ten, so I’m taking advantage of the quiet by prepping for my programs next week.  I just made a cup of tea (cranberry and raspberry)… would you like a cup?

We’re in for a dreary Saturday–with scattered thunderstorms this afternoon.  My grandpa is passing through town early this afternoon.  He called earlier this week and asked if he could get a tour of my library and then take me out to lunch.  I said yes, of course.

The rest of my weekend will be spent traveling.  I’m visiting family in Southern Minnesota, which should be really fun.  It’ll be nice to get out of town for a while–even if it’s only for a night.

Over the past month or so, a construction crew has been hard at work redoing the road I live on.  This week, they began the section in front of my house.  They’ve ripped up the entire thing and we have to keep our windows closed to keep the dust out.  It’s really interesting, watching them solidify the foundation and widen the shoulders.  It’s also been annoying–they begin work at 6 AM and the roaring of the machinery wakes us all up.  Still, it’ll be worth it to have a nice new road.

The highlight of my week was hosting a Stuffed Animal Sleepover at the library.  Kids came in on Wednesday night wearing their pajamas, clutching their animals.  I read them a few stories, gave out a midnight snack, and then they tucked in their pals and said goodbye.  When they returned the next day, I gave each of the kids a little book filled with pictures of what the animals got up to.  Much mischief ensued!

Anyways, that’s all I’ve got for today.  How has your week been?  Any fun plans for your weekend?  What would you share over coffee?

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster. Be sure to check out the weekly Link Up to see what everyone has been up to.

 

Weekend Coffee Share 7/16/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be sitting once again in my local coffee shop.  It’s busy for a Sunday–but, then again, Sundays have been more and more busy lately.  Don’t worry about finding me–I’m the girl by the window with the laptop.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve joined in the coffee share.  I’ve been neglecting WordPress lately… I don’t think I’ve even opened the site in over a week.  How is everyone doing?

This weekend is our annual summer festival in Lindstrom, one of my hometowns.  Karl Oscar Days is one of the highlights of the warm months.  The festival is named for the protagonist of a book series about Swedish immigrants by the author Vilhelm Moberg, who stayed in our area while writing the book.  The community is obsessed with its Scandinavian heritage.  Downtown Lindstrom is peppered with Swedish flags and dala horses.  I’m half Scandinavian, so I find it quirky and charming.

Anyways, I had a friend come up from the cities and we joined in the festivities.  We wandered all around town, exploring the vendor booths, and chatting with people.  The town is perched between two lakes, so we borrowed some kayaks from a family friend and spent a few hours going around the lake.  In the evening, we lined up for the annual parade.  We ended up walking away with an enormous mound of candy, courtesy of our screaming at every float that came by.

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Weekend Coffee Share 7/1/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be meeting in my library.  I’d be sitting at my usual perch behind the circulation desk blinking sleepily at you over a my Shakespeare mug, which is filled with lemon ginger tea.  Work is quiet today–the usual patrons are settled and happy on the public computers–so I have time to chat.

Can you believe it’s already July?!  Summer is going by WAY too quickly!

On Tuesday, I lead a Marshmallow Engineering STEM activity at the library.  I got to work obnoxiously early that morning, giving me time to run around town picking up last minute supplies.  I had no idea how many people to expect.  In the end, there were around fifteen kids and their parents.  I lead them through some basic exercises and challenges before giving them free reign to build anything they wanted with marshmallows and toothpicks.  It was so much fun!  Everyone had an absolute blast and, when the event wrapped up, all came into the library to do the various scavenger hunts and games I have set up.  It’s days like this one where I can’t believe how lucky I am–I get paid to play with kids!  I get paid to load them up with marshmallows and send them home to their parents all sugared up.  Continue reading

Weekend Coffee Share 6/17/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be sitting on my front patio in the beautiful morning sunlight.  I’d probably be in my pajamas groggily drinking my morning tea and watching my new kittens scamper around.

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Yes, I have new kittens!  I got them yesterday from one of my patrons at the library.  There are two girls–one calico and one grey–and they are adorable!  I already love them so much!  They’re to be outdoor kitties.  Last night, I got them set up in their new cat house.  They’re still adjusting to the new surroundings–they freak out if one of our other cats comes near them.  But they’re starting to play and explore in our flower gardens, so it’s only a matter of time for them to be settled.   I don’t have names for them yet–any suggestions? Continue reading