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Friday, August 31, 2012

Goodbye, RIF

Due to a loss of federal funding, today is the last day of our RIF program (a reading incentive program that gives kids the opportunity to obtain free books). To steal a phrase from the kids: this really sucks. One 11-year-old girl, who attends RIF every week, more eloquently expressed her feelings about RIF ending in this letter.

It's my sincere hope that federal RIF funding will be restored someday soon. Here's a statement from the BPL website about ways you can possibly help:

"You can help make sure your Congress members know the importance of RIF and why funding should be restored.  Please visit www.rif.org/advocate for more information and to easily identify and contact your Congressional members."

I know there are a billion important things being cut, but I really feel like something that promotes literacy and gives kids access to free books - and for some kids, these are the ONLY books that they will own outright - should not be one of them. Blah, guys. Blah. (Sorry, I'm not feeling very eloquent today. Budget cuts get me down.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sneak Reading

A little kid pulled a little chair into a relatively quiet corner and "hid" there, reading away. Sometimes I wish I could do the same thing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mackenzie's Letter

I'd like you to meet my pal Mackenzie. She's 10 years old now, but I met her back when she was four - I worked for her family as a "personal assistant" for some time several years ago. This essentially meant that I was an extra set of helping hands with the every day things that Mackenzie needed to do - physical therapy, school, meals, homework, games, etc. We did it all, and I formed a great relationship with both Mackenzie and her amazing mother, Christine (who took and/or provided most of these photos).

Mackenzie needs a helper because she has cerebral palsy, which in Kenzie's case basically means that her legs don't work the way they are supposed to (there are other physical difficulties as well,  such as a lack of fine motor skills in her hands, etc). Since I've known her, Mackenzie has made great progress in dealing with these physical difficulties, but they are something that she will deal with her entire life. 

When she was younger, Mackenzie used a special walker to get around (as seen in the photo above). These days, though, Mackenzie uses a motorized wheelchair - and you better watch your toes, because she's FEARLESS in that thing. 

Here she is being fearless AND toothless. 
Here's a photo from a couple of years ago of Kenz in her chair rockin' out on my keyboard when she, Christine, and Kenzie's brother came to visit me in Brooklyn. (That's me pretending I know how to play the guitar.) As you can see, Mackenzie has many interests.

Mackenzie's pretty much the greatest kid I've ever met, and this would be true whether or not she had CP. She's funny, highly intelligent, observant, sweet, sensitive, and silly. She's also incredibly resilient; the challenges she faces are beyond my comprehension, and knowing her has been life-changing for me. She's an inspiration, in a very real way.

The photo below is from my birthday a few years ago. Christine and Kenzie took me out to lunch when I was visiting home, and Kenz brought a special surprise: a copy of Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Suess. She read it out loud to me as we waited for our food - a great gift for a librarian - but she ended up laughing more than she read (which was just fine by me!)   

Dr. Seuss words are HARD.

Christine told me that Kenzie is getting more and more self-aware about her disability - I guess it's a function of growing up, and the fact that her "differences" are becoming more pronounced to her as she compares herself to her friends and classmates. Even though she sometimes feels sad or frustrated, however, Mackenzie has great spirit and optimism and does most everything that "typical" kids do, and then some. She even can ride a bike! 

Recently, Mackenzie wrote a letter to her favorite singer, Taylor Swift. Now, the letter might not make you cry like it made me cry, (the mere fact that her handwriting is so painfully neat as compared to past letters indicates how hard she must have worked on it) but I hope you can tell how special a kid Kenz is. It would be so much fun - and a dream come true for Kenzie -  to show Taylor Swift how special she is too. (Edit: I've blurred out Kenzie's last name and phone number for safety purposes, but I can easily provide them if Taylor wants to call - I know she's busy and a visit might be difficult right now.) ;)

Mackenzie's mom has created a hashtag on Twitter to try to get Taylor Swift to see this letter. I wanted to help in any way I could, and I figured posting it on my blog and tweeting it was a start. If anyone else out there wants to do the same, the hashtag is #kenztaylor and Taylor Swift's Twitter handle is @taylorswift13. It's the least I can do to give something back to Mackenzie - she's given so much to me, even if she doesn't know it. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

For Vote

Politics is CRAZY, son. We all know this. We're sick of the mud-slinging, the endless commercials, the fake gaffes, the REAL gaffes, the fact that important issues are being used as leverage in political games. It's annoying. It's frustrating. We're disillusioned. We just want to be able to turn on the radio without someone telling us that our choice of candidate is going to cause the apocalypse. However, we got this, guys. We're tough. We're AMERICANS, dammit. This is the beauty of our country: we can make our own choices - informed choices, even - and voting is a great way to make those choices count.  

Now, frankly, I'm about as tired of people who try to guilt you into voting as I am of people who are defensively apathetic about voting, but the bottom line is that you really should just FREAKING VOTE ALREADY. I'll admit, I don't have a perfect voting record (I've missed a primary or two) due to either ignorance or laziness. But I'm determined to do better. 

The other day, a man who barely spoke English came into the library and asked my co-worker for help. He was having a little trouble being understood, so he came over to me at the reference desk and I did what I usually do when I can't understand what someone is saying (whether it's due to a language barrier, hearing impairment, or if it's a kid trying to pronounce some manga title I've never heard of ) - I asked him to write it down on a piece of paper. This is what he wrote:

So simple, yet so freaking beautiful: he wanted a voter registration form. Now, I don't consider myself a blindly patriotic person. I know there are major flaws in our current political system. However, I'm involved in local politics in various ways and I know that there ARE good people working hard out there to better our communities. And I've always considered voting to be important, so this kind of thing, a man who cares enough about his new country to want to have a say in what goes on, gets me all choked-up-feeling. I just want to run to the top of the Statue of Liberty wearing a dress made of flags and shoot flags out of a flag cannon while singing "God Bless America."

And honestly, the same thing happens when I step into a voting booth (the choked-up feeling, not the flag cannon stuff). 

It's the feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself. It's letting your voice be heard, in whatever small way it can be heard when you feed your ballot through the new weird scantron ballot machine. It's knowing that my great-grandma wasn't allowed to vote when she was a young woman because she was a woman, but my grandma could and my mother could - and did. When we were kids, my mom would take my sister and me into the voting machine with her and let us watch as she clicked the little knobs down. Then my sister and I would fight over who got to slide the curtain open and we'd all go get ice cream. OH SAY CAN YOU SEE...

Anyway, the transaction with the man at the library reminded me that Election Day is almost upon us (and the deadline to register for the NY primary is THIS SUNDAY). You see, there are other important things to vote for besides the Office of the Presidency. Whether you're a librarian or not, it's useful to know what the deal is with voting so that you can be informed and help answer peoples' questions. Since there's no United States of the Internet (yet), you guys will have to figure out the rules for your own state, should you need to. Below are a few helpful links.

Non-Partisan General Information: 

Vote 411
I'm not telling you who to vote for. I just think it's a good idea to vote, and kinda fun too. Besides, apathy is SO ten years ago. Do it for your country. Do it for yourself. I don't care. Just get out there. NOW WHERE THE HELL IS MY FLAG CANNON???

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I'm a Poet and I Kinda Knew It

Because there was such a high level of demand to see it *cough* after yesterday's blog post, here's my poem that won first place in the *Suffolk County Library System writing contest in 1991-ish. This was also included this in a book of poems I made for an assignment later that year, which is why it was "illustrated" (believe me, I use that word loosely). You might have noticed that I put a big "1st" in the upper right hand corner. That was in case my teacher missed the fact that I had won the contest. Subtle, Rita. Subtle.

But all joking aside, I was very proud of the poem and obviously felt very strongly about the subject matter (I think we were learning about Harriet Tubman at the time).

The left side of the scan is a bit cut off - it should read "gruff voice" in the 8th line, there should be "grass" following "soft" in the 10th line, and it should be "I sing with the wind" in the 13th line. And as you might be able to tell, I was very much into shape poetry then. (I believe I also wrote a poem about rain that was shaped like, you guessed it, a raindrop.) I'll be waiting for your call, Pulitzer committee!

*My mom and I have conflicting memories about the actual scope of the contest. I remember it only encompassing the school district, my mom thinks that it was Suffolk County as a whole. Since I come off better with my mom's memory of it, let's go with that.   

Monday, August 13, 2012

Birthday Card

It was recently my 32nd birthday. That's right, 32. There, I wrote it for all the world to see. I AM NOT ASHAMED. I AM YOUNG AT HEART.

Anyway, I took a little mini-vacation (which was much-needed, regardless of a birthday) and during that time I went home to visit my parents on Long Island for a couple of days. When I got there, my mom gave me something that she had found while going through boxes in the garage: a card my grandmother had written to me on my 12th birthday, twenty years ago. (Good God, I am old.)

I wanted to share what my grandmother wrote in the card because I feel that it nicely illustrates the kind of woman she was - funny, thoughtful, and creative. Interestingly, it also shows what was perhaps the actual beginning of the decline of her memory, which my family thought had started about a decade later. In any case, reading the card again after such a long time made me bittersweetly emotional.

Note: my grandma mentions some things in the card that I should maybe explain first.

1) When I was born, they put my mother's maiden name on my ID tag instead of my father's last name, so there was a bit of confusion at the hospital when people tried to visit us. Seeing as how my mom has always hyphenated her last name and my dad (John) is a pretty laid-back guy, I doubt that anyone was actually "embarrassed" as my grandmother writes, but she was probably just using poetic license!

2) Back in the day, I fancied myself quite the poet - I wrote poems all the time, I made a book of poems (along with my terrible, yet earnestly-created drawings) for a project in fourth grade, etc. Shel Silverstein and Nikki Giovanni were my heroes. In fifth grade, I even won first prize in the poetry category of the Suffolk County library system's writing contest. Now I see from where I inherited the poet gene (and, perhaps, my fondness for exclamation points!)

Thank you, Betty.

8 - 3 - 92

"My dearest granddaughter -

You know I wish you every wonderful blessing on your birthday! And I wish a better memory for me - caught at the deadline without a card! I'm so proud of you & all you've accomplished in your dozen years. Thought I'd have some fun & greet you with one of my silly rhymes - in your honor!
'Twas a short time ago
A quick dozen years
When I anwered the phone call
That called for loud cheers!
It was John who had called -
The news couldnt've been neater.
It's a girl, he shouted!
And we're calling her Rita!
I ran straight to the hospital
To greet our new "doll"
But the search proved near vain!
They tagged her wrong - calling her Neill
It embarrassed us all -
and caused her Dad pain!
Let's straighten the record, each of us said
The family name is Meade
To call her by Mommy's name would turn our faces red!
And now she's grown these dozen years
And there's no girl that's sweeter
A delight to all - a cause of pride,
Miss Meade - we still say 'Rita'!!"

She added on the back of the card:

"It all ran crooked - the meter isn't always correct - but it was fun to rhyme for my little poet! I love you, Rita - and cherish the many warm reflections of you - when my memory works right, I've many of them. Happy 12th - hope the enclosed will buy something you'd like to have.



Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ref Desk of Fortune

Yesterday evening was pretty slow, so I talked for a while with one of the library regulars, who is 12 years old. She started making one of those folded fortune teller things that kids make (which, as everyone knows, are completely and totally accurate).  

Her: "Okay, name a good fortune."

Me: "Um. Being happy in life?"

Her (making a face): "No."

Me: "Winning the lottery?"

Her: "Nah. Kids can't play the lottery."

Me: "Oh, okay, this is for kids. Winning lots of...candy?"

Her: *blank stare*

Me: "I don't know!"

Her: "Okay, okay. Name some BAD fortunes."

Me: "Um. Losing your...favorite toy?" (I didn't want to get too dark, although later she put "dying from a disease on the list." There you have it.)

Her: "RITA. Give me something that kids actually DO these days."

Me: "Why don't you just tell ME what a bad fortune would be for kids?"

Her: "I don't know."

Me: "How about losing your library card?"

Her: "FACEPALM." (Note: she actually SAID "facepalm" and put her palm over her face for EXTRA DRAMATIC EFFECT.)

Me: "What! I would be sad if I lost my library card."

Her: "No. That's not THAT bad. Okay, I'm putting 'bad luck for the rest of your life.' It means that you get lots of money and then lose it in the same day."

Me: "Sounds like lots of adults I know."

Her: "Okay, here's your fortune: YOU WILL BE RICH."

Me: "Yay!"

Her: "It probably won't come true...but it gives people hope!"

Me: "Hope is a good thing."

We tried the fortune teller again. This time, I was not so lucky.

Her: "Uh oh."

Me: "What?

Her: "You don't want to know."

Me: "Tell me!"


Me: "I knew it."

My attempt at making a fortune teller. It's safe to say that "origami expert" is not in my future.

 A little bit later, she asked me a question for the ages:

Her: "What do you think is the perfect life?"

Me: "I don't know. I think just being happy is a good start. What do YOU think is the perfect life?"

Her: "To have everything the way I want it. If I want people there, they will be there. If I don't want them there, they won't be there."

Me: "Well, you can sorta make that happen that when you're older."

Her (after thinking): "Actually, I just want magic."

Don't we all?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Librarian Gets TOLD

On occasion, an older kid will accompany his or her younger sibling to storytime (this particular storytime session ended with some free play time, which included blocks, etc.).

This is the kind of thing that happens:

Girl (around age 9 or 10): "Look, I built this."

Me: "Cool! What is it, exactly?"

Girl: "It's Bowser's castle."

Me: "Bowser? Like, from Super Mario Brothers?"

Girl: "Yes." (I could sense her unspoken "DUH.")

Teen Volunteer (holding out a plastic cow to the girl): "Here, you can put this in there to live in your castle."

Girl: "That's not Bowser. That's a cow."

Me: "It could be COWSER! Get it? ...Get it?"

Girl (looks at me with disdain): "I would NEVER have that live in my castle."

And THIS is why we have age restrictions for storytime.