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Posts Tagged ‘library’

I woke up before the alarm and groaned.  Today of all days when I could actually sleep in a little, of course I’m awake even earlier than usual.  I decide not to be too upset, at least I don’t have to go to work!  I’m off today, a rare vacation day for which nothing specific has been planned.  I’m actually off because hubby has work stuff to do after work today and my son needs to get to a hockey practice and then my daughter needs to get to a hockey practice so I offered to take a day to do that.

But all of that running around stuff doesn’t start until later this afternoon, which means I’ve had time to do things.  Any kind of things I want. And this is what I’ve done:

1) drop the kids at school and spend five minutes pawing through the lost and found bin looking for my son’s missing hat.  I’m pretty sure it won’t be in there but I had some time and decided to give it a shot.  The entire time I’m sorting through the piles of stuff, I just kept thinking of the moms out there who are, right in that moment, looking through their house for said missing item.  After having already asked their child ten times where it is and throwing up their hands in exasperation over “why can’t you just bring your sweater home with you??”  I totally get it sister, I’m right there with you.  And really, in this day and age don’t you think the whole lost and found thing can be digitized at least a little bit?  Take a picture of the item and post it on the school website so we don’t have to stick our hands down to the bottom of a crazy bin on wheels and get whacked on the head with the heavy wooden lid?  Just a thought.

2) go to the grocery store to get margarine.  Walk up and down the aisles somewhat aimlessly pulling one of those baskets on wheels which, incidentally, were a great invention.  Pick up a few things we don’t really need (what can I say – I have a craving for cinnamon buns) and a few things that we do and headed to the check out.  Then realize I forgot the margarine.  Really?  I don’t know why I’m surprised, it happens almost every time.  Run to the back corner of the store where the margarine is – of course it’s literally as far away from the checkout as is physically possible, I never forget something that’s close by – and run back in time to pay.  Spend a minute contemplating how winded I am after such a short run but decide that’s a thought for another day.

3) realize I have 15 minutes to kill before the library opens so I head to Tim Hortons to grab a tea from the drive through.  Make a witty comment to the lady working the cash about the holiday cups now being available.  Momentarily congratulate myself for successfully making a witty comment.

4) go to the library and just miss getting the last free parking spot out front.  Decide that today is my day and I’m not going to let things like that get me down.  Pull into the other lot and pay for 30 minutes of parking and head inside with my bag of books to return and my cup of tea.  Spend a blissful 15 minutes browsing through the magazines and the movies and the CDs, spending a little more time than I should admit contemplating whether I should borrow the Depeche Mode greatest hits album (I decided no and then regret it as soon as I get home).  Remember I was going to pick up some Christmas books while I was there.  Spend another 15 minutes browsing through the Christmas books before realizing my 30 minutes of parking has now expired and I’m probably getting a ticket right now.  Run to the automated checkout (why is there so much running today?) grabbing eight items from the hold shelf and realizing the book bag I brought is going to be horribly inadequate.  Get the books all checked out, and squash as much stuff into the bag as I can, carefully balancing the others in one arm while being incredibly careful not to spill my tea which I have not yet finished. This is probably why they’re not too keen on people who bring beverages to the library.  Note to self for next time – get the tea AFTER the library.  Make it out the door without spilling a single drop and have just enough time to feel very proud of myself before I dump the remaining contents of my cup down the front of my jacket.  Oh well, at least I didn’t get any on the books!  And it’s my day; things like this don’t bother me on my day.

5) home to do a bit of work around the house and in the backyard.  Finally put the garden to bed after weeks of staring out the window telling myself that I really have to do it.  Take a minute to enjoy standing in the middle of the yard on a Thursday morning without anything else to do.  Cut back the dead plants and think about what a wonderful gardener I am.  Momentarily wonder if I’ve actually cut the plants back too far which means I’ve actually just killed them.  Decide not to think about that today, because today is my day.

5) decide I’ve worked very hard so far and it’s time for lunch.  Heat up some minestrone soup which isn’t great but it’s not chicken noodle which is what I usually have to eat when the kids are here so I am thankful for that.  I finish the soup and contemplate how many candies I can reasonably take out of the bin of leftover Halloween candy without anyone noticing.  Decide that number is probably five and am satisfied with that.

6) sit my butt down on the couch and watch the episode of The Good Wife that I recorded from last week and, not for the first time, hate Julianna Margulies just a little bit for her perfectly coiffed eyebrows and her ability to wear fabulous colours of lipstick.  But it’s the nice kind of hate because of course I also 100% love her, in the same way you love your best friend but also hate her a little because she has better hair than you do.

7) breath.  I haven’t had time all week to even sit and take a breath so I’m going to do that now.  I’m going to do that for the next hour before it’s time to think about gathering together hockey equipment and trying not to forget the bag of pucks and the water bottles and the 10,000 other things to stuff in the back of my van.  Breath and lay my head down and love the fact that today, at least for part of it, was my day.

And I have loved every minute of it.

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the library

A special shout out to the Eagle-Eyed Editor for passing along this writing prompt in response to my “stuck on repeat” post.  As soon as I saw this suggestion on the list, I knew I had to write it.

“The Library that means the most to you.”

When my daughter was eight months old we moved to a new house, in a town about half an hour from where we used to live.  I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know where anything was, I didn’t know anything.  I was also on maternity leave which meant I had hours upon hours upon hours alone with my daughter during the day.  And, as those of you with kids know, there are only so many hours you can spend playing with Duplo before your brain begins to shrink.  After just a week of being in the house, I was bored.  I needed to find something.

So I packed my daughter up in the stroller and off we went, looking for something.  What we found was the library.

It was only about a 15 minute walk from our house, down a beautiful tree-lined street.  It was September, the leaves were changing and the whole street seemed to be on fire.  The library was at the end of the street, an old, dark, depressing looking building but, upon closer inspection, I could see some construction trucks tucked in behind.  They were in the process of building a new library, right behind where the old one stood.  Once it was done they would tear down the old one and put in a courtyard where it used to be.  It wasn’t much to look at, but it was what was inside that mattered.

We made our way up the ramp that led us to the second floor.  I had to struggle to get the stroller through the door and I was wondering if maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all.  But once I got inside I knew I was home.  All of the books, shelf upon shelf upon shelf.  The light was dim, the carpet was dark, the windows were small but I didn’t care.  My eyes adjusted quickly and my heart beat faster; I hardly knew where to begin.

I don’t remember how long we stayed that first day.  Knowing my daughter as she was at that age, she probably gave me 10 or 15 minutes before she started to fuss and whine in her stroller, no longer entertained by the crackers or toys or keys from my pocket.  I can’t remember how long we stayed but I can pretty much guarantee that by the time we left, the bottom basket was full of books.  I probably never even read half of them but just the idea that I could if I wanted to was enough, it was enough for me that day.  When my brain was shrinking from stacking and unstacking blocks all day, I could read a book and feel better, feel human, feel like maybe I could still matter.

As overly dramatic and cheesy as it may sound, I feel like that library saved me.  Whenever the walls of my house felt like they were closing in, I went to the library.  Whenever I felt out of touch with the rest of the world, I went to the library.  Whenever I just wanted 10 minutes to flip through the latest edition of People magazine and find out what the Kardashians were up to, I went to the library.  It helped me remember, if only for a few minutes, who I used to be.  When I used to read and read and read, hardly coming up for air, when I used to dream of one day writing a book that someone else would devour in the same way I had devoured the words of others.  Slowly I began to come back into focus.

When the new library opened, I went through the doors that first day and stood in awe at the floor to ceiling windows, the spacious aisles, the comfy arm chairs.  It was beautiful and filled with so many new books I hardly knew what to do with myself.

Nine years later we still live in the same little town but we’re in a different house and sadly, we’re no longer walking distance to the library.  No matter, I’m still there at least three times a week.  My hubby jokes that it’s my second home.  It’s really not a joke though because, next to my own home it’s the place where I feel most at peace.  There’s just something about being surrounded by all of those words, all of those ideas; it simultaneously makes me feel incredibly small and yet part of something incredibly big.

Maybe one day my name will be on one of of the books on one of those shelves.  Maybe one day someone who is lost, like I was, will find it and not feel so lost anymore.  Maybe.  You never know, amazing things can happen.

Especially at the library.

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Dear Ms. Binchy,

Let me first off explain that I realize it is rather strange to be writing a letter to someone who has passed away, but for some reason I feel like you would get a kick out of it.  I feel like it would strike you as rather amusing, although, obviously having never met you I would not know for sure.

It does feel that we have met though, which is perhaps the strangest part of all.  I have read all of your books, although the word “read” probably doesn’t do justice to it.  I inhaled them, I devoured them and they have now become part of who I am.  Just yesterday I finished reading A Week in Winter, your most recent book, and, incredibly sadly, your last.

I wonder what you were thinking when you wrote it.  It is such an uplifting and ultimately inspiring tale that I feel you did not know it would be your last.  As I finished reading the last sentence I was both incredibly happy and incredibly sad, all in the same moment.

The world will miss you, I wonder if you know?  Obviously those that knew you best, were close to you, will miss you the most but we, those of us who read your books and loved your words, we will miss you too.  I hope you know.

I hope you know you made a difference.  Perhaps not in a way that those outside of your circle of readers would understand or even celebrate but for those of us inside the circle, we know.

I remember the first one of your books that I read.  It was Circle of Friends and I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I picked it up because they were making a movie out of it.  My mom and I were planning to go and see the movie and according to my mother you always need to read the book first, before you see the movie.  She always says the book is better, so you have to read it first.  And so we did.  She got us a copy and we read it, one right after the other and then off we went to see the movie.

She was right; the book was better.

And Circle of Friends led me to Copper Beech and then I lost touch with your words.  I was finishing high school at the time, and then off to university.  I lost track of your books as they came out, until a few years later when I needed to find them again.

I was living in a new city, away from family and friends, except for my then-fiance, now husband, who was completing his teaching degree in the area.  I was lonely, lost, unsure of my place.  I didn’t know how to fill the weekend hours when he was off studying and I was left to explore this city that I felt no connection to.  I decided to do what always gave me comfort; I went for a walk and found the local library.

I don’t remember what drew me back to your books, what made me pick one off the shelf after so long and carry it back home with me.  But what I do remember is falling in love with them all over again.

You have such a special way with your words, with the characters you write about.  They don’t seem like just characters, they seem like people I would pass on the street and want to get to know.  I read Evening Class and wanted desperately to be a part of it, to know those people, to be included in the world you had created for them.  There I was, alone in a new place wanting so much to fit in, and within the pages of that book you made me feel what I couldn’t find elsewhere.

Week after week I went back to the library, hoping against all hope that I would discover another of your books that I had not yet read.  If I close my eyes now, even all those years later, I can picture the library and the covers of the books, as if they are imprinted on my mind.  I believe that books find us when we need them the most and yours did; they found me there in that little local library when I felt like I didn’t have a friend.  Your words did that.  Your words that were written so many thousands of miles away from where they ended up.  I wish I could have told you then how much they mattered.

Through the years I continued to follow you, gobbling up each new book you published like I hadn’t eaten in years.  If I had to explain to someone what it is about your books that makes them so inherently readable, I don’t think I could.  I would just shove a copy of Quentins or Scarlet Feather into their hands and just say “read it and then you’ll understand.”  You write about people as they are, for good or bad.  You write about people’s relationships with each other, not just as they are on the surface but the truth, way down deep where we don’t often look.  It seems so simple; and yet I know how difficult simplicity can be.

And as I read the last pages of A Week in Winter I realized that your true gift is that you made it all seem so effortless.  Having sat down myself and tried to write something resembling a novel, I can now appreciate just how difficult it is.  But for us, the readers on the other side of the page, we don’t see any of that.  I’m sure you struggled.  I’m sure you threw up your hands in disgust along the way, turned away from the screen and feared what you were writing was never worth having anyone read.  Although I don’t know you at all, I’m sure that you did.

But you obviously went back.  Something pulled you back to the screen, back to the characters and lives you were forming, back to the pages you were filling with words.  I wish I knew what it was.  I wish we could sit down and chat about it.  I wish you were still there, thousands of miles away, plugging away on your words.  I wish I knew that in a couple of years there would be another book from you, another group of people who would become part of my life, part of the stories in my mind.

I’m sad that you’re gone.  I’m sad, selfishly, because there will be no more books.  I’m sad because I should have written this letter years ago when there might have been a remote chance that you would read it.  I’m sad that you will never know how your words, your characters, your books, touched me and, yes, even changed the person I have become, as cheezy as it sounds.

I think you would have thought that was pretty cool.

I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.

Yours truly.
T.

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In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I had my first ever blind date on Monday. As a happily married woman who met the man who would eventually become my husband when I was 17 years old, there really wasn’t much need for blind dates, but I was interested to give it a try, such that it was.

From what I’ve heard from friends who have done it, it can really go either way.  I decided to give it a try anyway and went in with high hopes, which was probably my first mistake. It really is better to temper your expectations, to be pleasantly surprised rather than hopelessly disappointed.

Lesson learned.

I picked him up at the library.  He looked so great, sitting there on the shelf wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string (just like the song, how could I go wrong?).

My date - isn't he handsome?

My date – isn’t he handsome?

Each book had a note attached to the front, a small “hint” so to speak as to what you would find when you opened it. I chose carefully, bypassing all those with thinly-veiled references to vampires (of which there were many). I ended up selecting the one that said “it’s not about knowing all the answers…it’s about the journey to find them.” Well heh, that sounds pretty much exactly what I’m looking for right now!

I checked him out and could hardly contain my excitement.  The woman who scanned him through the machine for me explained how the “date” worked.  I was supposed to take him home, unwrap, read, and then fill out the “feedback” form tucked between his pages.  If I did all of that, I could be entered in a draw to win a prize, as if getting to read a “surprise” book wasn’t reward enough.

I waited until after I got home and the kids were tucked safely in bed, letting the anticipation build.  I think my hubby thought I was a little bit insane but he has long since given up understanding my obsession with books.  I took a deep breath, sat down on the bed, and ripped into his smooth brown paper wrapping.

I exhaled, scanning the cover for some small sense of recognition.  I flipped open the cover and read the liner notes.

I sighed.

Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

Now I love books.  Love them.  Devour them.  Can’t imagine life without them.  And although I would say that I have a certain “type” of book I tend to read more often than others, I consider myself fairly open to trying new things.  Looking at my “date” made me realize this was certainly going to be a test of how open I really am.

I took the book with me on the train the next day, convinced that I had to at least give it a try.

I made it about 30 pages.

Now don’t get me wrong, this book is great, extremely well written.  This author knows what she is doing, and judging by the reviews I read on-line and the sheer fact that she’s written and published more than a handful of books, she is very good at what she does.  It’s just not my cup of tea.

I decided that 30 pages is as far as this date and I were going to get.  There’s just no spark, no connection, no set of shared interests.  I fully agree that opposites can attract but it’s just not happening in this case.

So I’m going to fill out my form and send him back to the library where he can be enjoyed by someone else; someone perhaps who can enjoy his unique set of attributes.

And I will be just a little bit sad that things didn’t work out differently; lost as I was in my high expectations of finding something amazing there on the shelf, all wrapped up in brown paper and string.

But I won’t give up hope, and if the library decides to do this again next year (which I desperately hope they do), I will be first in line to try my hand at another blind date.

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Image Courtesy: 4freephotos.com

My hands are full.  I struggle to fit the key in the lock, turn the door knob that always sticks, and shoo the cat out of the way before he gets outside.  It’s freezing outside though, I don’t know why he would even want to go out there but there’s no convincing him.  I throw my purse on the bench, manage to get my keys on their designated hook on the key rack and slide my feet out of my boots.

I gently set down the reusable bag that functions as my library bag.  My purse I can throw; these books are important.

There are probably 10 or 12 books in the bag and if you asked me off the top of my head, I can probably name two or three.  Not a great number considering I only checked them out 15 minutes ago, glancing at them quickly as I slid them through the automated machine, stuffed them in the bag and hastily grabbed my check out receipt. I will make time to look at them later, when the house is quiet and my brain has settled, I will sit down in the middle of the floor with my bag and I will slowly take them out one by one, deciding which to read first, and second, and third.

This is my ritual.

Ten or 12 books is a pretty standard haul for me from the library.  At any given time I probably have 50 books on the hold list and at least two bags stuffed with books in various locations around my house.

Some people are addicted to shoes, some to purses, some to music.

Me?

I’m addicted to the library.

I justify it by telling myself that there are a lot worse things to be addicted to.  I mean really, I’m addicted to reading, how can that be a bad thing?  And I’m addicted to reading at a place where everything is free.  In my view there really is no downside.

I love everything about the library. I love the way it smells. I love the fact that it’s so quiet. I love the way I can get lost in the shelves, seemingly alone in the world.  I love the way I can walk through the doors and randomly decide that I want to learn about some topic like knitting or kayaking or how to make paper airplanes and there will be books about all of those things. Lots and lots and lots of books; just waiting for me to pull them off the shelf, run them through the scanner, tuck them in my little bag and take them home with me.

Some people have issues with library books; they don’t like the fact that other people have read them.

I have an issue with people who have issues with things like that.

I personally love the fact that other people have read the books. When I’m flipping through the pages I try to imagine the people who have done the same thing, flipping through those exact same pages. What were they hoping to find in these words? Did they find them? Did this book change their lives?  Did they cry at the same parts I did?  Did they slam it closed and throw it into the chair beside them in disgust, as I did?

One of my favourite things is when people leave things between the pages, little clues about who they are.  One time I found an invitation to a party tucked between the pages. The party was for a date months before and I wondered if they ended up going.  Did they have a good time?  Did they look through their purse for weeks wondering what they did with the invitation?  Did they have to call someone to get the address because they couldn’t find it?

Sometimes I find pictures.  Sometimes it’s little notes, grocery lists, a phone number jotted down on a square ripped from a newspaper, a piece of ribbon, a drawing from a child; the tiny scraps that make up someone’s life.

Quite often I find the check out receipts from when the book was taken from the library.  These are one of my favourite things to find because I love nothing more than to see what other people are reading.  I’ve gotten many great reading recommendations from people I will never know, just by seeing what else they checked out of the library.

One day technology may surpass the library.  Maybe it’s going to be all about the e-books and the e-readers and e this and e that, but I for one, certainly hope not. Because there’s something so special about sharing a book, even if it’s with people you don’t know. The communal idea of many hands holding the same pages, the interconnectedness of reading the same words.

And the amazement that comes from finding something special, long forgotten, tucked between the pages.

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I got to spend my day playing with books.

A few times through the year I volunteer in the library at my kids’ school and I essentially go and do whatever the librarian tells me to do.  Sometimes I get to order new books, sometimes I get to unpack boxes of new books when they arrive (pretty much my version of Christmas morning!) and sometimes, like today, I help out in the stacks, organizing and re-arranging.

Today in particular I was re-arranging the picture book section, moving over and spacing out the books to make room for new books that are expected to arrive and be in place for the start of the next school year.

I love books.

I love books more than just about anything in the world.  I can’t remember a time before books were in my life.  I remember my mom surprising me after a bad day at school by sneaking the newest Babysitters’ Club book under my pillow.  I remember going through book after book after book on our long family vacations with hours spent in the car.  I remember getting my own library card for the first time and feeling like I’d just been given the keys to the whole world.

Books were, and still continue to be, my escape.  The place I go when I’m sad, happy, bored.  The smell, the feel of the pages on my fingers, the excitement and wonder – where will this book take me today?

There really is something about the books you read as a child that change you in a way that few other books do.  For a little girl who often doubted her place in the world, who struggled with fitting in and growing up, the hours spent in the school library proved to be life-changing.

With all the beauty of hindsight, I know now that I probably should have become a librarian.  I mean it seems so obvious now but when I was 16 and deciding “what I wanted to be when I grew up” I could only see myself as a journalist (a researcher and writer for 60 Minutes if you want to get specific), but almost 20 years later I realize that my true love has always been books.  Now I dream of one day figuring out a way to spend my days flipping pages, closing my eyes and running my hands over the covers, soaking in all of the beauty of books, and managing to make a living at it.  I still haven’t discovered a way to make this a reality but for the time being, I spend a few hours every couple of months glimpsing a different life.

The librarian at my kids’ school always has so much to do and I try to help out as much as I can when I’m there but, to be honest, sometimes I find myself pausing for a few minutes, mid-task, to read.  There are so many amazing kids books and I wish I could just curl up in a chair with stacks of them piled at my feet, and read.  Read for hours and hours and hours, making notes of which ones I know my kids would love, which ones I would recommend to friends, to family, which ones I know I have to add to my own collection.

But work I did.  And as I worked, I pictured in my head a little girl coming into the library and sitting down just where I was sitting, moving her hands over the spines of the books, trying to decide which one to pick.  I imagined that because I spent a few hours today working in the library, that maybe she’d be able to find the one she was looking for; that the book she was meant to read at that particular moment would find her, and shape her to become the person she was meant to become.

As I sit at the computer hours later, my back is aching from moving piles of hardcover books from one set of shelves to another; my legs are sore from sitting and standing, over and over.  I worked for almost 6 hours and, in the grand scheme of things, I didn’t actually accomplish a whole lot.  But as I sat there on the carpet, making sure that all of the Fancy Nancy books are grouped together and that “One” is on the shelf next to “None” where it belongs, I felt a greater sense of accomplishment then I ever do pushing paper around on my desk.

I’m drained and physically tired but I also feel content, inspired and energized.

I spent the day playing with books…and it was pretty amazing.

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