Hello, friends! Before I dig into the news of the past few months, I will start with some housekeeping. Going forward, I will post my content to cygnoir.net and syndicate it elsewhere. Some follow-up notes:
If you want to know more about why I’m making the switch, read the IndieWeb overview of POSSE, which stands for Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere.
And now onto the update …
About three months after the COVID-19 pandemic closure of the library building and the transition to remote work, the senior managers and I returned to the building to prepare for part-time onsite work again. And now, with the help of staggered schedules, physical distancing, face coverings, and sanitizing protocols, most of our team is working onsite for roughly half of their week, and working from home the rest of the time. We rolled out our “Library Takeout” service last week, enabling our patrons to make appointments to get their holds in a curbside pickup model. To write it out like that makes it seem so easy, but it has required months of many people brainstorming, planning, and testing to get to this stage. And we have so much more work to do.
If you know me at all, you know that I’m a structure and process nerd. I enjoy setting up rules, templates, and procedures because I find it challenging to keep myself motivated when I don’t know what is expected of me. I like knowing the rules because I like knowing when it is important to follow them … and when it is important not to.
The pandemic, then, has precipitated some upheaval in my brainmeats. The rules are made, and then the rules change, sometimes within a week or even a few days. This level of change adds a whole other layer of complexity to communication: in the midst of communicating with my team about a rule change, the rules change again, rendering the initial communication invalid.
And then, on May 25th, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police, and a whole bunch of white people woke up all at once. (Why now? I highly recommend the “Why Now, White People?” episode of Code Switch.) And even though I was at a different place on my personal journey of understanding systemic racism, I had a reckoning too. For years, I have avoided speaking about anything “too political” online, avoiding subjects that might cause confrontation with friends, family members, or even strangers. I used my white privilege as a shield to protect me from discomfort. I excused myself from the fight. I opted out because I could.
Can you relate? Can you recall a time when a friend made a racist comment and you did not speak up because you were afraid of hurting their feelings? Or because you were too tired, or felt like you didn’t know what to say, or because you were afraid that you’d make a mistake? I can. And while I am embarrassed to admit that to you, all the embarrassment and guilt that we white people feel now, that all well-intentioned white people have ever felt, doesn’t matter at all. Action matters. And we start with educating ourselves and then getting to work, and doing the work every day for the rest of our lives.
I started my own education by listening to Black activists, which is how I found this shared document of anti-racism resources for white people, which lists books, articles, videos, podcasts, films/television series, and organizations. A few of the books were already on my holds list at the library, so I started with the first one available to check out: So You Want to Talk about Race (public library). Ijeoma Oluo’s book is an excellent primer on systemic racism, well-researched and written in a straightforward way. It is a great place to start.
Loyalty Bookstore, a Black-owned independent bookseller in the DC area, has created an excellent list of anti-racist reading recommendations. I dearly hope that your local public library is sharing lists of anti-racist reading recommendations as well, especially e-books that can be accessed while library buildings are still closed. (Use the LibraryExtension browser add-on if you want to see library holdings on Amazon and Goodreads.) And if your local public library isn’t, well … I have something to say about that.
In fact, I have a lot to say about the pandemic, public libraries, and equity, enough for a whole other post I’ve already started to draft. Damn, it feels good to be writing again.
That’s it from my corner of the world today. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Dismantle white supremacy.
Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash.
I missed a couple of months of “what I’m doing now” posts. I bet you can guess why.
By the end of February, the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic in my small corner of the world was limited to news articles and speculation. By the end of March, I had already been working from home for weeks.
Working from home! Even the transition to this has been stunning. Previously, we had never attempted to provide all of our library workers with meaningful and effective remote work, and now we have all made the jump. It hasn’t been without its hiccups, but we’re all doing our best.
While sometimes I am nostalgic for the halcyon days of … early March? … I don’t want to go back to the way it was before. I want this to change everything. I want us to value human life, actually value it, and we can start by treating the people our modern life depends on with respect and pay them accordingly.
We can also give our planet a break by building in work-from-home resilience to many jobs, resulting in less air pollution from fewer commuting hours.
There’s much more to do, of course, so much more that it can quickly become overwhelming. So here is your reminder that it is enough to be attending to basic needs during this global crisis; do not add another level of guilt onto yourself for not being “productive enough” while staying at home.
Cooking and eating are two of my favorite pastimes, so our new grocery-shopping reality has been a particular pain point for me. If you are feeling stress about groceries (for yourself or for loved ones) Imperfect Foods offers produce boxes delivered at a reasonable cost. I also recommend the meal kit delivery service Green Chef. The recipes are easy to make and the results are delicious, and the paleo plan is gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free.
If all of this is a bit much, here are some distracting links. Flula is reliably silly, and his recent video is no exception.
A friend of mine reminded me today of this excellent song by Brandi Carlile, “Hold Out Your Hand”.
And because the internet is the internet, I followed a link that brought me to a video that made me so happy about grammar and “they/them” pronouns. The message is simple: Those of us who love grammar don’t have to stop loving grammar; we just have to love people more.
One last distraction, a picture of a place that is both real and not real: my little corner of a virtual world. If you’re missing the ability to travel right now, why not do some virtual sightseeing in Second Life?
Throughout all of this, FunkyPlaid and the Bottlebrush Brothers have kept me in laughter and snuggles, which goes a long way during this isolation. Loved ones have sent care packages in the form of yeast for bread-making, jigsaw puzzles, and hand-sewn masks. I’m grateful for group texts with friends and for eye contact with strangers during neighborhood walks. All of the little things add up to one big feeling of togetherness.
I hope you are staying home and staying healthy, and I also hope you are being gentle with yourself. Let me know how you are doing in the comments.
January, a fresh start, an injection of newness, 31 days or more (as it felt) still straddling multiple notebooks and planners and apps. A blur, with some emotional spikes both up and down but residual good feeling. Some newness to share:
My digital declutter (mentioned last month) is complete. I restricted myself to accessing social media from a browser instead of an app, and the result is that I didn’t miss it much at all. I enjoy knowing what the people I care about are doing and thinking, but using social media to do that wasn’t working for me. Non-chronological feeds stress me out because I can’t track where I left off and I can’t find what I’m looking for. (Instagram refuses to show me FunkyPlaid’s posts, for example, and we’re actual real-life married, opting instead to show me endless advertisements for sunglasses. In Portland.) The economy of likes and retweets is another stress point; did I remember to “like” things that someone I care about has posted so that they know that I see and validate them? Will a retweet (even with a comment) convey the nuance that the context requires?
Is it the speed with which I prefer to get to know people (slowly, methodically, with intention) that is at odds with the speed of the medium? Is it that I am not sharply-tongued enough to keep up with the hot takes? Is it the performative nature of all of this meta-thinking and meta-conversing? All I want to do is share kitten photos and brief excitements over books I’m reading. I’ll keep plugging away here and at Micro.blog. “Likes” never existed on Micro.blog, and I’ve just turned them off here.
We’ll just have to talk to each other.
Featured photo: a screenshot taken in Second Life.
The big news this month is KITTENS. Meet Criminy and Crivens, whom FunkyPlaid and I adopted in mid-November from Cat Adoption Team.
These stray tabby brothers were expertly fostered, so it took them no time at all to adjust to their new home with us. At their fourth-month veterinary check-in this month, they had nearly tripled in weight!
Their foster names were Walnut and Chestnut, and they had two more siblings we never got to meet: Cashew, who was adopted right before them, and Almond, who is a bit of a mystery to us. We’re both sad and relieved by this missed connection: we can’t imagine only adopting two after meeting the whole family.
It had been decades since either of us had raised a kitten, and we’ve never raised two at once, so to write “it has been a learning experience” is both an understatement and sounds way less fun than we’ve been having. Crivens and Criminy are a delight as a brotherly-bonded unit and as individuals with very distinct personalities starting to emerge.
Mostly they are babies. And so everything is brand-new and therefore exciting. Sure, the things we have acquired for them like the cat tree, play tunnel, and window seat are pretty good, but they much prefer hoodie strings! Bathtub! Kitchen counters! Worn socks! The inside of the grandfather clock (sigh). Christmas tree! And each other. They really, really, really love each other. As I write this, they are play-fighting on their cat tree, and Criminy is attempting to fit Crivens’ entire head into his mouth. Sideways. It’s the best.
As expected, the joy these two bring doesn’t change the nature of my grief over losing Zen, but caring for our new family members has been a more productive focus of my energy. I still miss Zen every day; I imagine I always will. The pain is less acute, most days, more like a lingering bruise I forget about long enough to whack it good and hard with a careless motion.
I thought I might participate in Holidailies this year, and I was off to an okay start, but finally embraced the fact that I am just enough of a contrarian to resent the forced structure of daily challenges. Even my past Project 365 challenges were arduous to maintain. It wasn’t the pressure to create that sapped my enthusiasm, but rather the pressure to create within timed constraints. I never seemed to have enough time to do all the things.
And then I read Cal Newport’s book “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” and realization after realization crashed over me. It wasn’t about time, but about focus. In my desperate attempt to avoid FOMO – the fear of missing out – I have thrown myself into every new online service and group I discover, only to run out of energy to participate. It’s a basic math problem: a finite amount of energy divided among an increasing number of groups results in decreasing amounts of focus paid to each group. In plainer terms: I’m not participating in any one thing well because I’m too busy participating in everything badly.
Newport suggests a digital declutter to make participation more intentional. I had already turned off notifications from social media apps on my phone, but this week I decided to delete everything except Micro.blog and only check the rest once a week from my home computer. I’ll ask the people who only message me via these apps to email, text, or call (😱) instead if they need to reach me urgently. It will be a big adjustment but one I am eager to make.
I took notes on “Digital Minimalism” but opted not to share those notes or review the book publicly – a choice that I am telling myself is 100% okay to make so I can spend my time on other things I find more rewarding – but someone I know through Micro.blog posted his review and reference notes for “Digital Minimalism”. And if you use Firefox (which I recommend) here’s a plug for the Library Extension add-on which checks your local library’s holdings while you’re browsing books and e-books online.
Other things that happened this month:
It’s the end of the year (and the end of the decade, depending on who you ask), and although I am no longer so naïve to think that everything changes once the calendar page turns, I still savor the anticipation packed into the last few days of the year. Today I’ll crack open my new Passion Planner and try to capture some of that excitement. May your new year contain kindness, good health, camaraderie, and peace. And kittens.
The way a body moves through the space of grief is confounding. At times the body is a sieve and grief is a million grains of sand. Other times the body is just a body and grief is air its lungs greet and release, greet and release.
My cat has been dead for almost seven weeks and I’m still sad. I’ll probably be sad for a while. If sad blogging ‘Sted is not your bag, I get it. I won’t hold it against you. Come back soon.
I had planned to review John Hodgman’s “Medallion Status” for you this month, but I got to the cat death part of the book (not kidding). If you guessed that it made me sad enough to put the book down and not yet pick it back up again, you are 100% correct.
This month I am learning to be the person who says she will participate in NaNoWriMo but, left alone, forgets how to string sentences together. So I’m here, practicing that again.
Earlier in the month I visited friends in Providence, Rhode Island, for a few days. It was a whirlwind, but I remembered to share some photos.
Spotify’s wily ways introduced me to this song, which I like but don’t know why, and now I like all of Ruel’s songs but don’t know why. So thanks, Spotify? The future is weird.
Fountain pen ink fans, you simply must see Troublemaker Inks. I don’t know how they make the ink shade like that. Science is brilliant.
Portland is a locus of oddities. I found a creepy postcard in a wee shop here and it had a website on the back so I of course went to the website and now I’m possibly part of a secret society. Or I just stumbled upon a marvelous art project.
Goodnight from me and Toby Toad, the amphibious king of Instagram.
This was a “now” post that should show up on my “now” page so that I can build an archive of these posts. I’ll try this experiment again next month.