Life in General

Next Chapter

I’ve been feeling extremely thankful these days, in ways that have little to do with the recent holiday.

For the past two weeks, I’ve had a lot of time for reflection. Because exactly two weeks ago, I officially stepped back from being a working librarian and stepped down from the position I’ve held for the past 4 years at the most wonderful library I’ve had the privilege to work for.

I’m thankful that I have a partner who -when I offhandedly said one day in the deepest part of the pandemic that I had some dreams I was having trouble chasing with a full time job and felt unsettled being unable to chase them- said without hesitation, “I think we can make it work.”

I’m thankful that my managers were willing to discuss and navigate options with me for months to see if there was a way I could stay with them part time under the stipulations I wanted. I’m equally thankful to have worked in such a lovely community and among such incredible coworkers that made deciding to leave an excruciating choice. I am thankful that those same coworkers sat with me outdoors in the freezing cold during the season’s first snow to send me off with the best pandemic goodbye possible.

I’m thankful for all that I’ve learned, about both librarianship and life, from the people I’ve worked with, the communities I’ve served, the boards, committees, and panels I’ve sat on, teachers I’ve collaborated with, parents, students, and young readers I’ve assisted, and every library interaction -both meaningful and passing- I’ve had over the past decade.

I’m thankful for the times working at a public library was an easy joy, and I’m even thankful for the times it was anything but. I am thankful for the memories and how they will help me now to be an outspoken advocate and forever friend of the library from the other side of the desk.

I’m thankful for the friends and family in my life who, upon sharing this news, have been so fully supportive of and excited for me, how they continue to believe in me… sometimes even more than I believe in myself. I truly couldn’t be more thankful for that.

I am mostly thankful to even have this opportunity: to have the room to dream, the freedom to make choices that frighten me, the privilege to be able to look fondly on the story of my life thus far, and the courage and support to turn the page and begin the next chapter.

Yes. I am thankful. And hopeful. And ready.

Life in General

Ten Years Later

On this exact day ten years ago, I graduated with my undergraduate degree.

Or degrees, to be exact; a bachelors of art in rhetoric- creative writing and a bachelors of science in psychology.

And as I tossed my mortarboard joyously into the air, hard work duly noted, accounted for, and rewarded, I don’t think I could have ever guessed where I’d be a decade later.

Because hard work and ambition isn’t always rewarded with a piece of paper promising a shiny future. And that promised future might turn out to be a merely guilded shimmer, requiring even more effort than anticipated to hit its solid core.

But ten years later, here I am. And getting here wasn’t all positive, it hasn’t all been easy, and I don’t think I’m anywhere near done with my journey, but it’s great to take anniversaries like this and -instead of thinking about what you’ve yet to do- take stock of all you’ve accomplished, how far you’ve come. To remember the you of yesteryear when everything you have now was a dream or, better yet, unfathomable.

Because, as it turns out, here is a pretty good place to be.

So here’s to dreaming big, working hard, and celebrating how far you’ve made it after all.

Life in General

waxing poetic

April is National Poetry Month, and in the name of getting back into a creative groove, I decided to try and write a poem a day.

Which instantly proved how far removed I am from my undergraduate creative writing degree and uncovered all I had forgotten about writing poetry: a poem may be small, but she is mighty and requires much time and effort to finesse into her best self. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, I did not achieve a poem a day in April.

But I leaned on my guide word of the year -Balance- and I let myself not write when the day got away from me, work on already-written pieces to get them to their final stage, or even write multiple poems in a day when the inspiration really hit.

And from these thirty days came a handful of musings I’m pretty proud of.

Here are my favorites:

April’s come
to make fools
of us again.
Forgetting
the past year,
we make plans for
a future
guaranteed
to nobody.
Is this hope?
Let’s hope so,
for the wide world’s sake
and for our own.

sunflowers
standing in a
parking lot
puddle-
April showers
prove even
asphalt
can be
picture worthy

You carry a palette
that rivals the sunset-
each shimmering shade
an extravagant hue.
But somehow your colors
shine brighter in dim light-
the overcast gloom
could never touch you.

Life in General

Five Years Down

Five years ago, my husband and I got married on a golf course near our hometowns. It was fitting that he, an avid golfer and I, a fan of sprawling landscapes, have our wedding at a country club despite my having never seriously picked up a club.

If you asked me then how we’d be spending our first substantial milestone anniversary (because one year is nice, but a cakewalk compared to five), I would have ventured guesses involving Michelin stars or Caribbean isles.

I would not have guessed a pandemic severely limiting our options.

I would not have guessed Wisconsin being one of the most attractive scenarios.

And least of all, I would not have guessed how excited I would be to spend an afternoon participating in an activity I’d spend the past decade lamenting with its early weekend hours and long televised tournaments and extra checked baggage.

But I suppose, in the way life has about teaching you unexpected lessons and coming full circle, it’s fitting after all that I spent my fifth wedding anniversary with my still-beloved husband playing my first ever round of his favorite sport and past time.

And here’s hoping we last as many years as the number of strokes I took to finish 18 holes.

Or, as it were, ’til death do us part.

Life in General

Lucky Me, Lucky You

All of us, regardless of locale or vocation, have recently crossed into a second year living through a pandemic. In this third month specifically, each sunrise brings with it a new anniversary and a flood of memories: the last time you sat in a crowded room, hugged a loved one, felt normal. The first time you wore a mask, worked from home, felt like this would never end.

It’s been a year of everyday firsts and lasts, each one its own tiny tragedy.

Some of us suffered loss beyond the more gentle changes the rest of the world faced in horrified harmony. In addition to the freedom we so recently took for granted, we lost health and companionship and safety and homes and jobs and family. Who among us could feel lucky right now?

Me, that’s who. I do.

And as insolent as it feels to use that word, it’s true. I feel lucky.

Because looking upon this past year and all I grieve, a loved one is not in that reflection. I do not mourn a job I loved or the home I built or the level of safety on the street this skin this color affords me.

Even in what feels like a truly hapless era, I still found fortune.

And, in my relative comfort during this calamitous time, I mined from the depths of my pain enough treasure to spin a tale worthy of recognition. Because what good is luck and fortune if you cannot share it?

And so on this week of unsettling reminiscence and this day of unlimited luck -though there is barely a glimmer of Irish running through my veins- I’ll collect the pots beneath my rainbow, spread some Kerrygold on a slice of soda bread, and share my fortune with others as I look forward to tomorrow. Because, perhaps the greatest treasure I found this past year, is the knowledge that we’re all lucky to make it there at all, no matter what brand of luck it brings.

The fortune I alluded to: an essay I wrote detailing a year of changes during the pandemic has since aired on WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR station, but a recorded clip and my full essay can be listened to and read here.