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“Library = Life.” One of my high school students tattooed that beautiful piece of graffiti onto a desk in my school library. I could not have expressed my feelings about libraries any better than the thoughts released by an anonymous student. My whole life has been spent eating, breathing and (sometimes) sleeping in various types of libraries.
Currently, I am working as the school librarian in a suburban high school. On a daily basis I work collaboratively with teachers and administrators to help students build strong information literacy skills, by guiding and motivating them through the research process. In addition to arming students with the skills to discern quality information from disingenuous “fake news” sources, I am actively involved in the ongoing redesign of my library, ensuring that the space is aesthetically able to support research, collaboration, independent study and the integration of makerspace activities.
Outside of school libraries I have worked as a youth services librarian and as a professor of academic writing and research. A former contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, I coauthored the monthly Cut To The Core column and am co-author of the book, Make A Big Impact @ Your School Board Meeting. Library Journal has recognized me as a Mover and Shaker and I have been featured on PBS as an American Graduate Day Champion.
In 2019 I received my certification from Karma Kids Yoga. This exciting new path now allows me to help children and teens as a yoga instructor and mindfulness teacher. Who knows what the rest of my journey will bring!
Alice fiddled with the latch on her Coach key chain as she sat at her desk waiting for the phone to ring. Why she even bothered, was a whole other story. Of course no one was calling, it was 7 a.m. Everyone knew the corporate big wigs didn't roll out of their martini, steak and hooker fueled hangovers to lug their girth to work until at least 9 a.m. Plus, it was a Friday morning and everyone knew that Thursday nights were the new Saturdays. Still, she had to be there. She was the low girl on the totem pole in the sleek, shiny New Vision offices. Morning phone duty rotated once a month among the youngest assistants and even though she had some age on her colleagues, she was new at this job, having bounced around from temp agencies to sugar daddies throughout her twenties. Yawning loudly (because really, who was listening), she drained the last of her coffee. Last night was epic she thought, but having recently crested over the hill from 29 into 30 it was getting harder and harder to bounce back like she had in her younger years. Eyeing the empty coffee cup, her gaze wandered beyond her cubicle towards her manager's office and then down the hallway where the EVP of human resources enjoyed his pristine corner office digs. For once, she was not lusting after his river view. The break room was situated at the end of that hallway and she desperately craved another cup of coffee. Could she leave her post for no more than five minutes to brew some Green Mountain in the Keurig? It wasn't her grande-nonfat soy latte, but it would do the trick. Toying with the idea while absentmindedly twirling her frosted locks she attempted to distract herself from her exhaustion but it was too overwhelming. Glossing over the stacks of invoices waiting to be entered into a spreadsheet, she ignored the angel on her shoulder; that had morphed into the voice of her obnoxiously chipper millennial manager stressing just how important morning phone duty is. “The markets are open across the globe at all hours; it is pivotal that someone is there to field calls and direct any messages to the EVP as soon as possible...Your role, though small, keeps the company going…blah, blah, blah.” Looking at the devil and praying to the caffeine Gods she sprinted down the hallway. When she returned ten minutes later, having not anticipated a lack of non dairy milk products, she was already pondering her plans for that evening. It was only when she grabbed her phone to jump on Instagram that she noticed the red message light blinking aggressively on the master phone at her desk. She barely noticed as the coffee dripped over the invoices and down the edge of the table.
When the world changed we played outside, and did our best to shelter you from the storm. We splashed in the puddles and danced in the raindrops. And on the days when the clouds thickened the sky, we sheltered together and created our own sunshine. This is what I hope you will remember.
My school library is frozen in time. A living encapsulation of the anxiety and nervous energy that feverishly descended upon my school during the week of March 9th, 2020. The library, with its cheery Saint Patrick's Day decorations hanging from the ceiling, amidst a cart of books waiting to be shelved, pays homage to all that we have lost; a reminder of swift and bitter change. I spent Friday March 13th, the last day schools were open in New York, in a hyper anxious state, feeding off the giddy nervous energy emitted from my students and colleagues. Misinformation swirled. Rumors birthed out of fear crackled in the air with a reluctant forbearance that our lives were being altered by a force beyond our control. As the final bell rang that Friday at 2:43 p.m. I hastily grabbed what I thought I would need to work from home. Surely there was no need to take down the Saint Patrick's decorations, we would be back in a week. Besides, waiting in line to “stress shop” for toilet paper and meat proved to be a much more pressing issue than some silly green decorations. Today, with no end in sight, the library remains a time capsule, a reminder of the day before everything changed. The day before my elderly parents came to my house to wave goodbye as we sat safely on the steps, crying from over six feet away. A reminder of the last time my four-year-old son saw his friends in person and greeted the sunrise without fear. A reminder of the last time I was able to sit alongside a student to refine a research paper or banter about weekend plans and college decisions. A reminder that this is now our new normal, as we do our best to teach, parent, love and persevere amidst COVID-19 and its heavy veil of uncertainty.
I was once in yoga waiting for the sweaty asana work to begin, when the instructor reminded us to get low to the ground to feel supported. On the third day of my son's life, that is where my husband found me, on the floor, cradling my baby. My son had been crying incessantly since we walked in the door from the hospital the previous afternoon. In a postpartum haze of exhaustion, sadness and frustration, I let my instincts take over and snuggled his tiny body close to my battered one and he finally fell asleep on my dry nipple. I had no food to offer, just the comfort of my skin. With nothing flowing from my breasts, I repeatedly heard his shrill cries through the haze of choppy sleep that did little to abate my exhaustion. Once my husband picked us up off the nursery floor, my sister came over to shove a bottle in my son's mouth. She refused to heed my protests that “formula was devil,” and sent me to rest. Unfortunately, it was too late. The seeds of postpartum depression and anxiety had been planted, blossoming in the coming months into invasive weeds.Their roots took residence in my brain, stripping any desire to move forward and enjoy what was supposed to be one of the happiest times of my life. I wish I could say that I sought help right away, that I stopped dismissing bouts of hysteria over spilled breastmilk and postnatal insomnia as the “baby blues,” but I refused to acknowledge the truth. To the outside world, everything was fine, I was the perfect new mom. With a postnatal diet that consisted of oatmeal and bland cereal, my pregnancy pounds melted away. At six weeks postpartum I was thinner than I had been in my adult life and too sick to understand that I was in the saddest and darkest place of my life. Flashing fake smiles, I projected the persona of a confident, happy new mom, terrified and embarrassed to reveal the dark inner turmoil that plagued my early days of motherhood. The weight of maintaining this facade, coupled with my son's colic, allowed silly irrational fears to blossom into terrifying phobias. Despite the cheery July sunshine, my personal forecast always showed more clouds than sun. I spent those warm summer days chained to the video monitor, watching my son as he napped. Obsessively, I logged his actions into an app that exported into multiple spreadsheets. Those early weeks passed with a frustrating consistency akin to Groundhog's Day, where my days began with my son's piercing overtired sobs and ended in nights filled with uncertainty. While my husband enjoyed a restorative sleep, I feared the evening, terrified of what the night would bring. How many feedings would I have to endure? Would I manage to get at least three hours of sleep? So I waited, wide-awake, fearing the unknown. Warrior moms, survivors of postpartum depression and anxiety, talk about the one thought or action that shocked and terrified them into seeking help. It was my 38th birthday, a day of milestones, my son was able to roll over and push himself up while I fell down into darkness. It was the saddest day of my life. After a week of nights filled with stolen swatches of sleep, I was high with hysterical delirium. Intrusive evil thoughts ruled my mind, whispering that I knew the code to the safe where my husband kept his service revolver. At that moment, I watched my son muster the strength to roll over to reach the prize on the other side, his mommy. Mimicking his courage, I used my shaking hands to call my sister and ask for help. Immediately, we were in touch with my doctor's office, speaking with the resident social worker. Her soothing words pulled me temporarily from the tempest. In the following days, weeks and months, I pulled from the root the weeds postpartum depression had planted in my brain. In weekly therapy sessions, I learned to challenge negative thoughts and break obsessive patterns. After meeting with a psychiatric nurse practitioner, I worked through treatment using an integrative, holistic approach. As I reintroduced exercise into my life, my mood lifted and my diet began to change. Gradually, I unearthed the simple joy of taking a leisurely walk and rediscovered the tastes and textures of food. On the more difficult days, when I wanted to hide in bed and stalk the video monitor, I recalled the wisdom of my yoga instructor when she stated, “you are not going in circles, you are spiraling upward.” Eighteen months from the day he was born, I sat on the floor again with my son, his laughter echoing against the walls of the nursery. This time, the tears that flowed were those of joy. The sun illuminated his face and I realized that I was happy; I had finally welcomed contentment back into my life. There is a belief in certain religions and cultures that babies choose their parents before conception. I hope that when my son chose me he saw that same moment of happiness, cuddling and laughing with his mommy, on a warm summer day, overwhelmed by pure joy.
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