Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Kindergarten Graduate

 Forty years ago this month I completed the first formal milestone of my academic career and graduated from the Kindergarten of St. John’s Lutheran School in La Porte, Indiana.
A few years ago my mother returned all my report cards to me and I had fun today looking at how I did. The report card showed categories that were not based on subject areas, but on habits like: “learning about God,” “getting along with others,” and “things I can do.”  Each item listed under those headings has four boxes next to it, one for each quarter.  These boxes are filled with symbols:   + for “outstanding,” x for “needs attention, and ΓΌ for “satisfactory growth.”

 I was pretty much “satisfactory” in all areas.  I had all pluses in “I take an interest in many things.” I speak clearly and in full sentences” and vocationally significant “I am interested in books and pictures.”  I also got three pluses for “I can make short prayers of my own.”  The only less than satisfactory mark was in the second quarter when I had a “needs attention” for “I listen when others speak.”

On the back were some notes about the struggle the teacher, Mrs. Marlene Will, had in getting me to participate in action songs, and other activities where children are required to make fools of themselves.  The report card did not say “fool of themselves” but I had and still have a strong resistance to any song or game where one is expected to flay one’s limbs about on command.   I however had no trouble singing these songs in the privacy of my own home or in leading others in such songs.  Which goes to show that I don’t really mind looking like a fool, I just don’t like being told I have to.

Kindergarten Graduation at St. John’s Lutheran School was an elaborate affair.  Months were spent planning and weeks practicing, with a dress rehearsal before the entire student body the same day as the evening event.   Three times we had to go back to the classroom to change costumes.
The first part we wore our Sunday best and sang religious and patriotic songs.   We were standing on risers for the show and it was a very warm May night.  They placed a box fan under the risers to help us stay cool.  I was wearing a sun dress Mom made me.  It had wide horizontal stripes of four different colors of pastel gingham with rows of lace between each stripe.  The dress was somewhat billowy and I spent that part of the program constantly pushing my dress down as it filled with air.
After that we filed out and went and put on our costumes (just hats and head gear) for the theme performance.  

Our theme that year was Sesame Street and many of us lent our teacher any records we had so she could plan out the program and decide characters.   I was less than thrilled to be assigned Kermit the frog.  Of course everyone wanted to be Big Bird, but Heidi -the tallest student in the class- was the natural choice.  Matt L, whose father was the fifth grade teacher, read at a 2nd or 3rd grade level and was given the roll of Bob who sort of led the program and read from a script.  I didn’t really want to be Oscar the Grouch.  That roll was given to Mark who got to spend the show standing in a trash can.  There were not quite enough characters for all of us (these were the days before Elmo) so Mrs. Will also pulled some other Muppets.  I remember feeling sorry for Cindy who was Miss Piggy.   Still I was less than happy about how small my part was.  This became apparent to the audience during a counting song when I sighed audibly before delivering my line “Five coconuts.” It got a big laugh.
Sarah using my Kermit costume for Halloween a few years later

When the show ended we headed back to the Kindergarten room and some mothers helped us put on our caps and gowns.  We were given glasses of water and encouraged to use the bathroom if we needed to.  When we were ready we filed back in and sang a final song and then got our graduation certificates. 
Mrs. Will and her class.  I am in the front row 2nd from the left

Rebecca had attended kindergarten in Japan and Sarah had completed kindergarten at Westville Public Elementary School the year before Dad and Mom decided we would go to St. Johns’, so Mom had no idea what a big deal it all was.  We were given tickets for guests to attend. Grandparents liked to come to these things, but our grandparents were much too far away to consider being there.  So mom offered the tickets to some people at church.  Irene Bose who was my Sunday School teacher and Ruby and Dean Boss -or as we girls called them, “Grandma Ruby” and “Uncle Dean” (it was Rebecca who determined that Dean was more like an uncle than a grandpa). Mom gave them the tickets and they came, but she did not count on the fact that they would decide to bring me gifts.  I think mom was embarrassed by that. Certainly my sisters did not get gifts when they completed kindergarten.   I was thrilled.  The Boss’s gave me a small locket and Miss Bose gave me a bracelet with charms that had the Ten Commandments on them.  (Dad made a point of explaining that it was a non-Lutheran numbering of the commandments with 2 being about graven images and 10 combining what we number 9&10 -the ones about coveting. But figured that there was no harm in my keeping it as long as I understood that.)

Celebrating with family and friends after the program
So forty years ago I finished the part of my education concerned with coloring inside the lines, knowing how to tie my shoes, and reciting my phone number and address.   Time was spent learning to share and to listen and to do all the things you have to do to get by in school.  I even got my first taste of being in the minority opinion, suffering through a December of being one of only two in the class who did not believe in Santa Claus.   

At times my current vocation requires that I cut letters out of paper, color signs, count things, alphabetize things & occasionally even identify things by shape and color (it was a short book with a blue cover).  At those times I will jokingly say to coworkers that my education has prepared me for this work.  I am after all a kindergarten graduate. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

This picture was taken the day of my confirmation in 1986.  There is a general perception that my religious training was in my father’s domain.  Yet it was you who made sure we said our bedtime prayers, learned our memory work, asked if our Sunday School and Confirmation class homework was done.  It was you who decided that if no other time was going to work for family devotions then we would do them at 7:00am every weekday morning.  This practice continued for many years including when I was a high school senior.  There were several of those mornings my last year at home when you and I, being morning people, got silly and Dad would calmly wait for us to stop giggling, then with his growly morning voice ask a bemused “Are you done now?” That would, as often as not, be greeted with more giggling.   There were many of those earlier  years where I would be walking out the door and you, sitting in the lay-z-boy watching the morning news, would tell me that you loved me and that I should have a good day.  My sullen teenage self would roll my eyes and say “whatever” and leave, saving a more friendly goodbye for the cat waiting outside.   I was messy, lazy, stubborn, and often sullen, but you were always there being the mom I needed.  “Get your work done now.  You can do that procrastinating thing later.”  This admonition to get my homework done got turned into a classroom sign for Mrs. Hollis shortened to a more pithy “Work now. Procrastinate Later.” 

I thank God for you.  I am also thankful that in Christ you have been able to forgive me for all times I’ve failed to be the daughter I should be.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

A few King Library observations

This week’s library observations

Next week it will be two years since I quit my job at CUW to “go public.”  I am still loving my job at the Martin Luther King branch of Milwaukee Public Library. 

The adult reference desk is perfectly situated in the library for people who like the cold.  My colleague, Mary, and I are not such persons.  With the major shift in temperatures this week, we went from wearing sweaters because the furnace does not work that well in our area, to wearing sweaters because the air conditioner does. 

There are two sets of doors going in and out of King Library that share a common entrance.  Fifteen minutes before closing we lock the west doors (on the right when going out).   By the time they are closed the library is pretty much empty, but sometimes we have a crowd taking their time leaving and they, not being regulars at closing, do not know that the west doors are locked.  This leads to variations of what I’ve joked is the closing cries of King Library:  “Use doors on the left.”  “Those doors are locked”  “Doors on the left”  “Your other left”  “The other doors!”

The external book drop, which is only open when the library is closed, deposits books into a large bin that is in a closet in the corner of the library’s community room.  This door to that closet is never locked, though the community room is only open when it is in use.  When I was trained on closing procedures I was told that when checking to make sure that the room was vacant I must always open that closet door and make sure that “no children are hiding in the book drop.”  I have never found a person, but have on a few occasions discovered some books that got missed, either in the short window between when the book drop got cleared and someone went outside to lock the drop, or perhaps the locking the drop got missed entirely.  Anyway, those occasions have made checking the closet seem worth it.  But my newer colleague, Peter, thinks the whole idea of a child hiding in the book drop is very funny and will ask every time we work closing together if I found any. 

LHG edited and approved

Monday, April 23, 2018

CFW Walther and the cleaning of carpets

I am borrowing a carpet cleaner from my sister and I need to have it ready to go back in a month.  Conversation with Mr. Gaba:
Me:  So I think looking at the calendar May 7th I’ll…
Latif:  May 7th that’s the death day of CFW Walther
Me:  Yea,  I’m thinking I’ll clean carpets that day.
Latif: Why?
Me: Well it’s a Monday that I’m off that day.
Latif:  It’s almost like you didn’t even consider that it was Walther’s death day when you decided to clean carpets. 

LHG edited and approved.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Things I believe--Library Edition

A library is an organism.  Technical Services is the digestive system (They supply the materials and discard the ones that are no longer needed.)  Access Services is the cardio-vascular system. The circulation desk is the heart of the library—shoot, it is even in the name.  Administration is the brain.  Reference is the nervous system that is ready to jump as soon as it gets poked by a sharp object, like a question.  All of them are needed, all of them are important.  They all need to work together.

The vast majority of the public think the kid behind the circulation desk who checks out their books is a librarian.

Many reference librarians believe that students should consult them more often.  Most librarians whose primary duties are to other parts of the organism, but put in time at the reference desk, would prefer that the students were 100% self-sufficient.
 Most of the one-on-one help a librarian gives is to non-traditional (older) students and community users.
There is a time to teach patrons skills so they don’t need you, and a time to just get them what they want or think they want.  Wisdom knows when to do what.
I crunched five years of reference desk data, making generous estimations regarding how long it takes to answer most questions.  I can say fairly accurately that a four hour shift at the reference desk will, on average, yield about 16 minutes of work answering questions.

Average is purely a statistical phenomenon.  I will have one shift before finals, when I actually have people waiting for my help and have almost 3 hours of work to do at the desk.  Then there will be several weeks, or in the summer, months where the only reference desk tasks I have are making an ID card because the administrative assistant is out of her office, or telling someone where the bathroom is.

“Is there a bathroom around here?” is the most frequently asked reference desk question of all time. “Where is the copy machine?” used to hold that place before everyone got a computer and most of the journals went online.

Signs are not put up to inform people.  Signs are put up so workers can feel superior when patrons ask questions and you point at the sign that answers the question which is usually less than a foot away from where the patron asked it.

Every database vendor will use “global warming” as their test search.  No student will come to the reference desk asking for help finding information on “global warming.”  Students will ask for scholarly based research articles written in the last five years on how the rise in temperature of Lake Michigan has hurt the trout fishing and what impact that has had on local economic development.  Oh, and the paper is due tomorrow and all they have found so far is a 1973 book on fishing in Wisconsin.

College students don’t want to talk to grownups.  They are more likely to consult their friends then a librarian when they need help.  If they have to talk to a librarian, more than likely it is going to be one of those frustratingly difficult trout fishing topics.

Despite a reputation for being broadly curious, after helping a patron find resources for a paper my thought is rarely “What a fascinating topic.”  More often it is “Glad I don’t have to do that assignment.”


lhg edited and approved

Monday, February 18, 2013

Married Middle Age Woman Without Kids

It is almost my 41st birthday.  There is no way of denying it, I am middle aged.  My life has taken a lot of turns I didn’t expect and didn’t take a few turns I counted on as a young adult.  I am 40.  I am a wife.  I have been a wife eighteen and a half years.  I’m also a librarian.  I’ve worked in libraries since I was 15.  I’ve had a degree to go with it since 2002.  That I have a degree in Library Science was a bit of a surprise to me.  In my early days of library work I used to state in interviews that I planned to get a degree as a way of showing my interest in the field, but I didn’t believe the line myself.   I finally had a boss who encouraged me to pursue the degree, and there were compelling financial reasons for getting it.  Of late my enthusiasm for my career choice has waned.
                What I am not is a mother.  This was not an active choice.  God in His wisdom has not blessed us with children.  To abuse Job: the Lord gives and sometimes he doesn’t.  Thanks be to God. 
                The simple fact is I am socially an unusual case.  The peers that are my age mostly have school age children and are rightly busy with all that goes into that.  They are very busy with carting children hither and thither and I admire their dedication and diligence as parents.  It does, however, leave me in a lonely place.  They don’t have time for a friend like me aside from the odd comment on Facebook.  It also becomes challenging to find things in common to talk about.  The lack of children often means being left out.  Elusive are couple friends in the same circumstance.  First you have to realize that they do not make up a large portion of the population and then without children a couple develops other interests that are quite diverse making it harder to find friends that you have much in common with.  This is compounded by the fact that Mr. Gaba and I don’t share a great many hobbies or interests.   I’m not complaining.  I am simply stating the facts. 
                There are other groups:  The empty nesters and the newlyweds who haven’t started a family yet.  Relating outside one’s own generation is never a simple thing.  Single girl friends are often more difficult.  While it is easy to find common ground around hobbies or profession, they don’t understand that I’ve been married for 18 years and that my life is ordered by what that means.  When I explain that I do or don’t do something because my husband has strong feeling about it one way or the other, they give me funny looks, like they should be slipping me a phone number for a shelter for battered and abused women.  They simply don’t understand that being a good wife means obeying your husband and that this is not a burden but a privilege.
                Now regarding children themselves:  I do not dislike children, and if I were to find one in my charge, I would be grateful for that child.  As an aside, please don’t ask me if I’ve considered adoption, or inform me that adoption is an option.  It takes every ounce of self-control to keep me from sarcastically saying, “Really, there is such a thing as adoption?  I will have to look into that.  What a novel idea.  I think I’ll go home tonight and introduce that idea to Mr. Gaba.”  I’m a talkative person.  If I were working toward adopting a child I would probably never shut up about it.  Along a similar note please do not ask if I’ve been to a fertility doctor—quite simply, that is none of your business.  When you ask if I have children and I reply, as I often do, “Not so blessed,” take a hint and drop the subject.  It is a bit of a tender one with me.  It is the reason I don’t teach Sunday school, the reason I spend December fighting depression, and the reason I cry every time I see an infant baptism at church.  Most of my life I am content with the blessings God has given me, but at times I look at Mr. Gaba, who in my estimation would be a wonderful father and who so dearly loves children, and I think, “My family is too small”  And yes I have a cat.  I like my cat.  No, he is not my baby, nor a baby substitute.  He makes the house more welcoming to come home to and less lonely when I am home and Mr. Gaba is not there.
                While we are on the subject of home and work, I spend a lot of my life by myself.  One of the difficult adjustments I’ve had in my current job is that my office is removed from my co-workers and the public and it is possible in an eight hour day for me to only speak to one or two people for a few minutes and then get home and wait for Mr. Gaba to get home.   I am not like my peers who are mothers.  My life is filled with too much time alone, and very little in the way of things to plan, arrange, or look forward to.  This will pass.  The children of my peers will grow up and move out and suddenly their day to day lives will be quite similar to mine.   They may then find need of a friend to hang out with and I will be there.
                I’m not writing this asking for sympathy or prayers that God would give children.  I am writing this because it’s been spinning around in my mind for a while and I thought I’d share. 


lhg edited and approved

Friday, June 22, 2012

Street Parking June 22, 2012

        The city of Milwaukee requires a permit to park on the street at night. You can purchase window parking stickers either on an annual or quarterly basis. The most economical option is to purchase the Annual pass. On January 3rd I went online to figure out where we had to go to get one and we realized at that point with our work schedules we had two choices: Ask for a temporary three night visitor waver and then purchase a pass on the 6th or order it on line and get an eight day grace period for it to show up on the mail. To order it online you had to pay an extra $2.50 convenience fee. I figured why go through the hassle, besides if we got it downtown we would probably pay at least that much just to park the car to get it. So I pulled out my card and filled out a form and was given a confirmation number. The money was taken out of our account and everything seemed fine. But the sticker never came.
        Ten days later we got a ticket. Latif decided that all he needed to do was go downtown and deal with it. So one Friday afternoon, after getting directed from one office to another, he was told that he needed to call the number on the ticket. They were the only ones who could forgive the ticket and rectify the situation.

        The number on the ticket is only answered on weekdays during regular business hours. Calling it you can expect to be on hold for upward of 20 minutes. The only time Latif has to make such calls is the odd Friday when he gets off work early. In the meantime we got another ticket. Latif finally got ahold of a human being and had a lovely chat with, let’s call her, Shannon. She agreed to forgive our tickets and explained that when I filled out the online form I failed to enter the license plate number and they couldn’t distribute it without that. Of course the form did have our phone number, e-mail and mailing address, but there was no way, after taking my money, that they could figure what car I drove. Shannon promised that as soon as she received our parking sticker she would forward it on to us. Time passed; we never got the sticker, but we kept getting occasional tickets. Latif would call, tickets would be forgiven and finally in late February when calling to deal with yet another ticket Latif was told that the sticker was finally ready to be put in the mail. But the sticker never came.

           Eventually, they claimed that according to their records someone else lives at our address and thus they couldn’t mail it to us. Funny that—they had no difficulty sending us letters about unpaid tickets that Latif hadn’t had the time to call and get excused right away. At the end of it he asked them not to mail us our sticker and worked to see where he could pick it up in person. Arranging that took another two weeks and we got two more tickets in the mean time.

       So here we are, six months and 19 days after paying for our annual night street parking pass, 12 forgiven tickets and money spent in downtown parking for Latif to finally show up in person at the third party company that the city contracts with to handle parking citations and we have the proof that we paid for our parking on January 3rd. Icing on the cake is that letter they handed him with our sticker is addressed to LITIF GABA and thanks us “for using the web permits application/renewal system.”

      If I were rich and petty I would sue the city for a refund of the convenience fee or as I refer to it: the worst $2.50 I have ever spent.


lhg edited and approved.