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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!
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 his 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 the smile of a Charlton, 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 was 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.