My sister

Today would have been my only sister’s 50th birthday. She passed away five years ago. Here is what I prepared – and mostly said – at her funeral:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Some of you may think that it is inherently unfair that I am here today with my brother, my mom, and my dad, a year and a day after we said goodbye to our brother and son, saying goodbye to our sister and daughter. You’re right: it is unfair. A year and a day ago, we didn’t even know Linda was sick. Parents should not have to bury their children, period. But something I’ve learned in the last year and a day is that life is unfair. I hope I’ve learned that lesson well enough to last for a while, but you know that goes.

Linda was seven years older than I was. So we didn’t have the type of relationship like my daughters have, going to football games together, taking classes together. No, I most assuredly was the baby in the family. Sometimes I felt like a plaything, to be dressed up and brought out, and some of you know that my nickname as a girl was “Dolly.” But I relished that role and Linda indulged me in that.

I was in 5th grade when Linda graduated from high school. I well remember the gift that I gave her: a cake. It was a chocolate cake, and now, so many years later, I remember Linda’s reaction later because she was so proud at this gift made by her baby sister. She proudly put it next to the cake made by our Grandma. Many of you had a Grandma cake, too, and you know how beautiful that was. Now, at the time, I thought my cake was beautiful, too, but I have this photograph in my mind of what the cake looked like, and it was pretty lumpy and rather funny looking. But she didn’t care; she put it out there anyway.

Now that wouldn’t surprise any of you who knew Linda. She was just like that. The thing I think most about Linda is that she wanted to make everyone else comfortable. That’s why she was such a good nurse and a good mom. I know it broke her heart when she could no longer work as a nurse because she so loved the children that she took care of. And I know she adored her children, especially her granddaughter, Aurora. Linda told my mom that one of the saddest things about Monte dying was that he would never know his grandchildren. Mark, thank you for giving my sister a grandchild.

And that’s how Linda lived, and how she died, too, always thinking of other people. Now maybe that sounds funny, but let me explain. On Friday, there had been a family meeting with my mom and dad and Linda’s children, at the hospital. On Saturday,there were visitors, but they had all left, and it was just my mom and Linda. My mom called my dad and said that Linda was doing fine. That didn’t mean that we thought she was going to get better. We had had hope for a long time, yes, but when we found out that her diaphragm was no longer working, we didn’t really have much hope left. My mom meant that Linda was sleeping peacefully. Mom looked at the instruments to see Linda’s pulse and blood pressure and whatnot, as nurses do, and just as she did, Linda’s pulse went to zero, and she was gone. So this was a gift to my parents. As I said, my mom was on the phone with my dad, and so he heard the instruments and machines and knew the precise moment that his daughter had died. And my mom – she didn’t have to call her husband to tell him that his Linda Sue, that beautiful baby they had brought home from the hospital 44 years before, was gone. My mom didn’t have to do that. And I think that was a gift to my mom, too. And again, that’s just the way Linda was. My mom has great faith, as did my sister, and she said that she saw Linda’s face as she went into heaven. I know that Linda is in heaven in the arms of her Savior, Jesus Christ.

I was lamenting to my son that I don’t have a single picture of myself as an adult with my sister. He said, “But, Mom, you have your memories. No one can take those.” I said, “But Caleb – I’m going to grow to be an old woman! What if I forget?” He assured me that I wouldn’t forget. I don’t know – I’m pretty forgetful. But then I think of the fact that I remember with picture-perfect clarity a cake that I baked in 1981. So maybe, just maybe, he’s right.

Linda had a real joie de vive, a love of life. Linda was thrifty, she was generous, she was passionate – in her likes and her dislikes, she was loyal – fiercely loyal to her children, and above all else, she loved.

Sometimes, I look at something I wrote and I’ll think, “Wow, that looks just like Linda’s handwriting.” And my mom – just this morning she called me Linda. She was so embarrassed, but Mom, you’ve been calling me “Linda” for 37 years, and I’m hear to tell you, I want you to call me that for 37 more. It’s a good name.

But I want to emulate my sister more than just my handwriting and being called her name by my mother. I want to emulate her thriftiness, her generosity, her passion, her loyalty, and her capacity to love.

I don’t think Linda would begrudge this opportunity to grieve, but I also don’t think she’d want us to stay here too long. She would want us to smile and laugh, to sing and to dance, and to love. She’d want us to love each other.

You’re right. It is unfair. It is unfair that those of us who are here, and those who are here in spirit but couldn’t be here today, are the only ones on this earth who got to know and love Linda Sue. Think of it – of the millions and millions of people on earth today, we’re the only ones! How did that happen? How did I get so lucky to have her as my sister – to be her sister? I don’t know, but I tell the world, I’m sorry, but life is unfair. We’re just going to live with the unfairness of that.

Linda, if you’re allowed to be here in spirit today, I want you to know that I love you, and I miss you, and I will love and miss you every day of my life. We were supposed to grow old together – maybe you didn’t know that. But we were. But I want you to know that when I’m an old lady, I won’t forget. I will remember.

Thank you.

And here’s something I made to play at the wake the night before. I know it’s completely against copyright, and if Celine Dion’s people request, I’ll take it down. But know that we appreciate how this song so perfectly captured our feelings that sad, sad, day.

Boy, do I miss her.

On elections

It’s been quite a couple of weeks. There was ITEC, then the regional STEM council meeting, then Edcamp Sioux City. I was busy volunteering with the presidential campaign (and sure as heck wasn’t getting paid to do so!) and busy cooking up new projects at school. I was reading more (I’ve discovered Michael Connelly – he’s a can’t-put-down type of writer) and still trying to exercise after my 15 pound weight loss this summer. Then I got an email, asking members of the Iowa Association of School Librarians to consider nominating themselves or someone else to run for office.

I had kept that email around for awhile, mulling it over whenever I cleaned up my email enough to see it again. I think I was approached via email, that someone else had suggested that I run. Really, me?? I decided to run for the secretary/treasurer position, but then in another week, there was another email looking for people to run. I emailed again and said I’d run for either secretary/treasurer or vice president/president-elect. If I won, I would be VP for 2 years, then president, and that would give me enough time to know what I was doing. That worked out well as they already had two others who would run for secretary/treasurer and just one for VP.

Anyway, on the morning of the last day of voting, I wrote a blog post. I told myself I’d be fine no matter the result (in any other year, I would have voted for my competition, as I know and like her), but my mind hearkened back a couple of years when someone else asked me to run for office . . .

A school board election was coming up and the person in my area was stepping down, and no one in my precinct had made it on the ballot in time. So the previous school board president approached me and asked me if I would run. Really, me?? I was honored, but told her I wasn’t going to campaign. I’d put an ad in the paper, but I wasn’t going door-to-door, trolling for votes. She assured me that since no one was on the ballot, putting my name in the paper would be enough – no one else was running a write-in that she knew of, and she’d get the word out too. I did reach out to a few neighbors and ask for their votes – completely out of my comfort zone, but I did it anyway.

I didn’t know the results that night, and the next morning, it wasn’t on the auditor’s website as it was a write-in election. I didn’t know for several DAYS when I finally called the previous school board president who figured I already knew that I’d lost, even though it still wasn’t on the website and no one had called me (by the time I called her, I knew I must have lost). She said, “Well, you can run again next time.” HA! That wasn’t going to happen. (There was another write-in candidate who didn’t put an ad in the paper but who told all his friends and family, and vote they did.) At any rate, I wanted to put the whole embarrassing event behind me and didn’t check the auditor’s website again.

So all of this was on my mind as I was running for IASL office. Again I didn’t actively campaign, but I did talk to a few librarian friends, and honest-to-goodness, when I sat down at lunch at ITEC and the table of ladies happened to be librarians (complete coincidence!), I asked them for their votes. I put something on Twitter. I may love to talk politics, but I’m not going to be a politician. That was enough campaigning for me.

And I won!

And then today, looking something up, I found this.

I know in my heart of hearts, it’s a good thing that I lost that, because I never would have moved and taken the great job that I have now. But I know now it’s a good thing that I never knew the exact vote tally, or I never would have run for IASL, and I’m really excited to serve there.

So why am I so embarrassed three years later? And I’m thinking back – did I ever use “ran for school board” as a bullet point on a résumé or interview? Good Lord, I hope no one else has ever Googled me and found this!

Or, that is, found what I found, and read as quickly and incompletely as I did . . . if you go down some, you see I did get more than 3 votes. That was just someone in the wrong precinct writing me in. I ended up getting 50 write-in votes in my precinct, plus my 18-year-old daughter got one too! (We often are mistaken in looks – until I quit dyeing my hair, anyway – apparently by name, too.) At any rate, it is good I didn’t see this before I ran for IASL – because I would have read this quickly and incompletely and thought all these years I had only gotten three votes.

But still, they don’t know what they missed!

Presenting my vision

I had the opportunity last week to eludicate my vision for the school library to the elementary faculty.  I did so using this Prezi.  The big points:

The goals of the library:

  • Create a library space that is welcoming, attractive, and organized.
  • Instruct students in research and information literacy.
  • Support recreational reading by students.
  • Support the curriculum of the school through print and digital resources.

Statistics on the elementary library:

  • 7,330 holdings
  • 19 per student
  • Average age is 1990

A good school library includes a solid collection plus programming and teaching.
But a great school deserve a great library.

This can only happen together.

Then I discussed some initiatives – leveling all the books in the library, coordinating library and tech instruction, and working in the classroom with teachers. 

Dr. Pasco’s law:  The quality of our library tells students what we think they deserve.
My law:  This is my classroom, but it is your (and the students’) library.

How can I help you?

Like a wash of grief

I’ve been having a great time in the school library.  There’s so much to do – it’s still a bit like whack-a-mole – but I do think I’m making progress.  The kids love the furniture at the high school, and circulation is up.  Things are going very smoothly at the elementary with my new schedule and my splendid paraprofessional helping out.  

Then I came home today and thought I’d read a bit of the local paper, and there was a story about a soldier who died.  I’ve read lots of stories like this one, I don’t know why it affected me so, but the article mentioned a video that was played at the funeral.  Oh, I have a video like that, I thought.  One that I made that was shown at my sister’s funeral almost four years ago.  So I watched it.  And now I’m downloading sad songs on Itunes and thinking and crying.  There goes the whole night!

The good news is, I had a bit of a health scare a week ago but was checked out completely and got a clean bill of health.  I have a great job, a great family, good health that I can build upon with better habits.  

We just don’t know how long we have.  I’m happy that I’m now what I’ve literally always dreamed of being, a school librarian.  

It’s time to stop sweating the small stuff.

Beautiful Linda
1963 – 2007

Things that stay with me

It’s been a week since the IASL meeting, and I thought I’d write up just a few things that have stayed with me:
  • Consider what are the “ambulance moments” at your school and put your focus there – ours might be going 1:1 and how to really use the laptops so they aren’t just big flash drives
  • We sometimes give credit to students when really, it should go to a computer programmer (Glogster) – strip it down and find what is the actual content and assess based on that
  • Librarians are integral to Common Core implementation with its focus on critical thinking and reading and understanding difficult texts
1:1 conference is coming up this week and there are so many great programs, I have no idea how to choose! 
On Saturday, I finished two more classes toward my MLIS, Cataloging and Collections.  Frankly, not much in Cataloging will stay with me, other than perhaps it’s really, really good if you can get the MARC records when you purchase books so you don’t have to fuss with with it.  Oh and also that I’m really glad I’m not a cataloger!  But Collections was fantastic, and there’s a lot that I’m taking away from that class:
  • Teach on your feet, not your knees
  • Your collection – be it crap that’s outdated, books that are falling apart, or that it’s limited to simple books that don’t challenge students’ thinking – sends a message to your students about what you believe they deserve – Consider the message you’re sending!
  • Diversity in the collection is so important – my professor told a story about a year her school got new textbooks, and on the first day, one little girl cut out a picture in the textbook.  She was asked why she did that, and she said it was the first time she’d seen a person who looked like her (she was black) in a book, and she wanted to take it home to show her mom.  It matters, and even if it’s one student or none, it’s a bigger world out there.  We owe it to our students to prepare them for it, including embracing a diverse collection.
Additionally, I need to figure out a good method of keeping all these types of things that I want to remember forever.  This noggin ain’t what it used to be – I need a system!
Have a great week.