I always have a wonderful time.

Happy first day of Autumn! Fall is my favorite season. I’m always glad when summer is over and we start to have cooler weather and the trees begin to change. I did a theme of Fall for story time today and even with the really young, it seems as though people know that Fall is an exciting season. They shouted out all the things that Fall brings when I asked them to tell me about it. I heard about pumpkins and leaf colors and long pants and corn mazes and Halloween, etc. Fall has a lot going on. It’s well-loved.

I’m attempting to watch all the Harry Potter movies. I own a couple of them, so have been relying upon the library to supply the rest. I’m only on the second one so far. I’ve seen all the movies before, but not in a short time span, so watching them in order within a few weeks is sort of new and interesting and fun. I am one of the book buyers for the system and buy all of the juvenile Spanish books and have made a point to try to purchase (or re-purchase) books that are popular but that we have very few of. The Harry Potter series is one of those that seems to still be very popular. Last month I re-purchased several copies of the first book for my Spanish-speaking kiddos, and that’s what got me interested in watching the movies again. Plus, at an outreach event, one of the elementary-schoolers got very excited when I answered him that, “Yes, we really do have all the Harry Potter movies. All of them.” And I thought, how nice to get so excited about something like that.

When is the last time you’ve gotten so excited about something? I feel like I’ve always been a pretty easy person to impress. I like a lot of things and enjoy a lot of pastimes, so it’s not tough to find or discover something that is interesting to me. I think a lot of people who go into library work fall into this sort of category. A lot of librarians are librarians due to their inability to focus only on one thing. A lot of people who join the profession do so for the chance at a career that will allow them to continue to learn about a wide variety of subjects, sort of wherever the wind might take them, rather than have to specialize in one single area. Working as a special collections librarian was interesting because I helped a lot of researchers find information on such a variety of subjects, it was never boring. Genealogy was also never boring, because you’d find links and clues and it was always a bit like detective work, I thought. It was interesting. Being a children’s librarian is interesting in a different way. I’m not necessarily forging new territory in what I’m sharing with kids, but I’m seeing them discover things. And I’m re-discovering things. For instance, I forgot how awesome bubbles are. Nothing is cooler than bubbles to a preschooler. Except maybe Play-Doh, or a parachute, or finger painting, or singing a song, or playing with a giant goose puppet. In this job, unlike any other I’ve held, I feel like I’m sort of re-discovering things to be excited about. Things that adults sort of, don’t, anymore. Not because bubbles and play-doh and painting aren’t fun for adults (because I’ve seen that despite “adultness”, most people still love these things), but they seem to act as though they’re not allowed to have fun with these sorts of things anymore. They’re “too old” for bubbles or play-doh or painting.

But, my question has become the ever-popular, “Why?” Why does getting older mean you have to stop playing with these things? Why, when you reach adulthood do you suddenly have to deny yourself access to the things you loved as a child. I believe people are who they really are, truly, when they are children. The six-year-old boy who comes in and can tell me all these obscure facts about Greek Gods? And will use the puppets to create and tell his family the myths that he’s read about in books?I know he actually likes mythology. He’s not into them because another kid likes them and he wants to be like that kid. He is actually interested and excited about this because it’s who he is. The five-year-old girl who can design them most amazing Lego creations? She’s actually interested in building things. This isn’t for a test, she’s not being graded or judged by anyone. Nobody’s yet tried to dissuade her from building and engineering things, because “girls don’t become engineers”. Her brain is wired to comprehend mechanical things and see ways to build things in ways that others don’t. And that’s awesome and true to who she is. So, why, when those awesome kids grow up into adults, might they probably not play with Legos anymore, or act out ancient legends with puppets? Maybe they will. Maybe they will be some of the select few who survive to adulthood with their true selves still intact and not buried under the expectations of what “adulthood” is supposed to mean. But, what I’ve oddly learned from all of these children in my job is to question our version of adulthood. Why does growing up have to mean that we deny ourselves these simple things that made us SO happy as little kids? Why can’t adulthood mean, “Hey! I’m old enough now to make my own money and buy my OWN play-doh! And that awesome bubble machine I’ve always wanted! Hell. Yes.”

I think it’s wrong to “age-shame” people into believing that once they reach adulthood, they have to deny themselves all the things they loved as children. Or that you can’t buy things you liked as a kid, because you have to buy all the things you need as an adult, which I think is pretty negotiable most of the time. It seems like a punishment, to me. Where does that belief and action even come from? No wonder people are stressed out all the time. I’m telling you, if you just take a buck and buy a little tub of play-doh and set aside time to create with it for even an hour each week, you will feel happier. Or, buy some bubbles and blow some bubbles in your living room after a tough day at work. Why not?

I won’t always be a children’s librarian, but (I hope) I will remember some of these life lessons that these kids are teaching me while I’m here. And if I can’t remember them, there’s always Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd in the 1950 movie, “Harvey” to remind me of the importance of a good attitude and the happiness that is found in being easily impressed and excited by the simpler, everyday things:

I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I’m with.

Don’t worry, be happy.

Today went much better than I expected. I had an outreach event at a huge high school and everyone was too busy to come with me, so I was going alone and the librarian wanted me to issue library cards and I was envisioning a mob scene because the last time I worked an event alone at that school it was a mob scene. I lost my voice from talking to over 400 people in just a couple of hours. It was non-stop people, but that was for a resource fair for families from all over the South Valley and today was just the open house for the high school. The high school is the largest in the city with nearly 2500 students. So, anyway, I was heading into this chaos again this evening and it turned out to be just fine, as most things that you worry over tend to do. I was given a table that was sort of behind the Navajo Club who were giving out Navajo Tacos, so the long line sort of blocked me from the roaming crowds. And after just an hour and a half, the students and families were all supposed to start to visit their classes. Still, I talked to over 70 people and issued 18 library cards in about 90 minutes, so it wasn’t bad at all. Definitely worth the trip because those 18 might not ever have come into a library and now they have access to the databases and e-books and, if they do need a book, they’ve already gotten over the ‘bureaucratic’ part of the process. And I was more than able to handle the whole thing by myself. That’s the funny thing about worrying, it’s positively the most useless activity and I really haven’t had any situation ever end up turning out the way I thought it would when I spent time worrying over it. There’s a lot of energy wasted in thinking about all the stress and bad things that might happen in any given situation, and think how rare it is for things to really go as poorly as you believe it could. There are a lot of people in this area who tend to see only negative things in the world, and expend most of their energy complaining, lecturing, and trying to warn people about all the bad things they believe are just around the corner. I think there’s not much in it, though. There is bad in the world, but the good outweighs the bad, I believe. People find hope in dire situations and they hold on to it, they become resourceful and find joy in small things, otherwise humanity wouldn’t have survived this long. One thing that has my community buzzing is the Pope’s visit to the United States. I know two people from my Spanish class who got surprise tickets to go see the Pope when he comes to Washington, D.C. next week to speak to Congress. They’ve been busily getting their plans together for hotels and flights and things, and they are so excited! I’m not Catholic, but I really admire this Pope. He seems to ‘get it’. He’s one of those who sees that there are problems in the world, but he doesn’t complain about it, he provides hope and happiness and realistic solutions wherever he seems to go. I like him. I don’t see myself converting to Catholicism because I think the Pope has a good head on his shoulders, but I like that there is a major religious leader who seems to understand the modern world and his place in it. I expect my fellow students will be bubbling over with plenty of news to share about their trip upon their return!

Another good thing was the launch of my classic movie program last weekend at the library. I am going to start showing older movies once a month, geared toward adults, but really open to all ages as long as they can be quiet and not constantly go in and out of the curtained program room. I showed “To Kill A Mockingbird” on Saturday and two people came and watched the whole thing. While that seems like a small number, it’s pretty good for our first event and also, one of the two people came in this week and was still talking about how much she enjoyed the movie and how good it was. Huzzah! Neither seemed very interested in next month’s choice, “Frankenstein”, but maybe I’ll get someone else interested and they will attend! I’m currently trying to watch a possible movie choice for November, “A Streetcar Named Desire”, but it’s sort of not working for me. I own it and it’s okay, but I think maybe I’ll go a different route. I’m feeling sort of indecisive about November’s movie choice. I’ve already thought of two and dumped both of them. I’ll keep looking.

More happiness is that we had 1 family show up for our Music & Movement program, the first in the entire month that I’ve been trying to do this program. I even have a co-worker now assigned to be my back-up person for this program when I’m on vacation. I think we’ll learn how to get better about fashioning the program to suit the age of the child. The program was a bit higher level than the 18 month-old girl could handle, but it was another good lesson for me in library programming. It was nice to just get a chance to try out the program on a real family. The freeze dance segment at the end and the parachute activities were by far the most popular with the little one. So, maybe more of that! They might return this week, they said. We’ll see. I’m going to be better prepared for smaller children this week, just in case they do actually return.

I decided to live on the edge this week and buy two dresses from the mystery stylish surprise sale from Modcloth.com. It’s usually a very hit or miss investment, because sometimes the dresses aren’t something you (or anybody, really) should ever wear or could pull off very well at all. But, I’m willing to give it a try. You can usually try to swap or re-sell the things you get that aren’t your style. And the price they charge for the mystery garments are always less than the retail cost they’d charge if you bought it from the website. So, in a week or so I’ll have two new dresses, and I’ll either like them or they’ll be worth a laugh, at the very least.

When my life is my own.

I’ve been slowly preparing for my trip to Spain later this Fall and over the weekend I decided to try to walk a bit carrying my trekking pack, just to see how I handled carrying the weight, and also how my shoes would hold up over longer distances than just a couple of miles. Albuquerque has an absolutely wonderful urban running/biking/walking trail called the Paseo del Bosque, which runs along the Rio Grande through about half of the city. It goes by a few state parks, the zoo, and many county open space areas. It’s quiet and very nice, especially not having to deal with cars. I was able to walk from my home to one of the early entry points on the Paseo and then walked about 8 miles north to the very end of the trail. All in all, it was about a 9 mile walk. I did okay for about the first 6 miles, but the last three were torture. My feet hurt;, my hips were killing me; I was beginning to get a blister on one of my feet, and it was getting pretty warm outside by the time I finished. It took me about 4 hours to walk 9 miles. It’s taken me several days to heal from that experiment. Today was the first day I was able to really move around and walk quickly without much pain. It’s a tricky thing because initially, I felt like my hips were the worst part of the pain. My calves, knees and ankles all felt pretty good. But they started to hurt the following days, after my hip pain went away. I think maybe the hip pain was more from carrying the weight of the pack. I didn’t use a hiking pole when I walked and I certainly will carry one on the Camino Frances. I hope to be able to complete this Paseo del Bosque a couple more times before I leave, just so I can try to get my body somewhat familiar with walking long distances. I don’t know if I’ll really be able to walk the 200 miles I’ve set out to walk in Spain, but at least I can try it. I don’t know anyone who has actually walked the Camino, despite there being 20k people a year who do it. I thought I had met one at the library but she came back in yesterday and clarified that she actually hasn’t walked the Camino. She’s been to Santiago de Compostela and she walked the last half mile or so on a whim while studying there, but she didn’t actually do the whole pilgrimage experience. But, I’ve been planning what to pack and what I need to buy and (most important) what songs I want to put on my mp3 player for the 200 mile attempted walk. John Mayer’s “Paradise Valley” album is absolutely terrific. It’s a good wandering/meandering sort of folksy rock album. I found this acoustic version of one of the songs from that album and I thought I’d share it here. I think he’s getting better as he gets older. I like most of his music, but I feel like “Paradise Valley” is his best album, to date.

Another way I’m trying to prepare is by learning Spanish. This isn’t really for this trip, although it will help me. I feel obligated to learn it for my job. We have no one at the library who is fluent in Spanish and it’s a real problem. There are a couple of us who try our best at translating, but without someone who can really speak the language, it’s difficult. So, I’ve been trying to learn Spanish for a while now using an app on my phone, and it helps with basic skills. It’s good practice and a nice refresher for me, but it’s not really practical. It’s got me constantly translating sentences like “The girl eats an onion” or “The turtles drink water”. Not bad sentences, but totally not that helpful in my daily life. A wonderful woman who comes in for computer classes agreed, a couple of weeks ago, to begin teaching me Spanish! She likes to teach, and although she’s not a teacher, she is patient and willing to try to help people learn the language. She is also trying to learn English, so it’s a good trade-off. So, we have enlisted a small  group of people who meet for an hour each week to learn and practice their Spanish. I’m excited about it because I think it will help me. Eventually, it will be real conversations with people I actually will see on a fairly regular basis, as well as people I can contact if I have questions or am confused about something. I don’t really know the other people in the little class yet, but they are all from the area and grew up here, so it’s fascinating just to hear their stories of how the community changed in relation to the tolerance of people speaking Spanish. One woman was saying how when she was growing up, she would get into trouble at school for speaking Spanish on the playground. She would hear it at home, but the nuns at her elementary school would punish anyone they heard speaking Spanish. I’ve heard that quite a bit in my community as people reminisce. There are entire generations here who cannot speak Spanish, book-ended by generations who do speak Spanish. It’s interesting to hear the stories of the Mexican immigrants, as well, because the woman who is teaching me is from Southern Mexico and her stories of difficulties in understanding Spanish-speakers here when she arrived are eye-opening. I know dialects are everywhere. Every country has different regions with different dialects, but I didn’t realize that Northern Mexico and New Mexico share much of the same dialect. It’s Spanglish rather than what my teacher calls “proper Spanish”, which is what they apparently speak in Southern Mexico, where she is from. She had a very difficult time learning words and communicating with people here when she arrived, despite everyone speaking (what each of them considered to be) Spanish. She was trying to teach her son to speak Spanish and he was taking Spanish in school and the words he was taught at school were different and she finally stopped trying to fight the differences and had to accept that she and her family needed to learn not only English, but Spanglish, if she wanted to understand her new neighbors. It’s all very interesting and I would just go to this class and listen to them all reminisce, but I do try to participate and focus on learning the lessons. I even jumped into my basic Spanish skills today at the library when a co-worker struggled with asking a woman if she’d had a library card before. And the woman understood me! It was a tiny triumph. My teacher says you will know when you are fluent in a language when you begin to dream in that language. I have a hard time even imagining getting to that point. I will be very pleased if I can just confidently speak with the people who come into the library and need my assistance but who only speak Spanish.

Buenas noches.