Archive for the ‘Scholarly Pursuits’ Category

Ohana   1 comment

The last few days have been a whirlwind of excitement in my little corner of the world.  On Friday, under a big tent on the waterfront, academic regalia was donned,  “Pomp and Circumstance” was played, rights and privileges were granted, and a stage was successfully traversed.  Waterworks were kept to a surprising minimum, and at the end of the afternoon, I drifted away from that big circus tent on a cloud of euphoria, tightly gripping a certificate that affirmed that I had, indeed, successfully navigated library school and had attained the rank of Master of Science.  Best of all, while much of the work toward this degree has been done in relative isolation, the celebrating was not.

While I have been toiling away in the BatGarret, my mother and sister have been watching from down south.  Supporting, comforting, worrying and encouraging from afar.  This weekend, they made the train trip up, sat in the audience, cheering, celebrating, making a big deal of my accomplishment, and reminding me of the importance of family.   The moment during the graduation ceremony which came closest to causing a complete mental breakdown, was the moment where family stood for our applause.

Because truly, this could not have been accomplished without them, and yet they are the ones that get the least credit.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but they are the ones subjected to my worst behavior.  I keep it together for the rest of the world, but they have to endure sulking, whining and standoffishness.  They’re the ones for whom I don’t feel compelled to behave.  They see the jagged nerves and the brattish tendencies.

And vice versa.  In the highly emotional hours leading up to the ceremony, personalities clashed and erupted, leading to meltdowns, shouting, slammed doors, and sulking.  Followed by apologies, hugs, and forgiveness, shortly thereafter.  Such is the safety of family.  The safety to be without the necessity for performance.

In Hawaii this is expressed as ohana, the absolute safety net and support provided by family.  At the end of the day, temper tantrums aside, your ohana is always there for you, in both good times and bad.

Graduations in Hawaii are particularly joyful celebrations.  They are marked by an abundance of well-wishers, flower leis and food.  And while my ohana bemoaned the absence of flower leis, we made up for it with some extraordinary food and a lot of talk. Talk both of joyful events and sad events from the past and talk of the hopeful and admittedly scary prospects of the future.  We did what ohana does.  We hung together.

At the end of the weekend, I tucked them back on a train headed south and returned to the BatGarret, where, while graduation is over, there is still much  work to do and many challenges to be faced.

But I did so with the knowledge, that I’m never quite so alone as I may think.

Many things are up in the air right now, but whatever the future holds, I know that my ohana will always be right there.

Many things are up in the air right now, but whatever the future holds, I know that my ohana will always be right there.

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Posted May 13, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Scholarly Pursuits

The BatGirl is Back   Leave a comment

As of not quite a week ago, I have completed all required work for a degree in Library and Information Science.  It’s all over but the walk across the stage.  No longer BatGirlTrainee.

I am a BatGirl.

And as in any great adventure, there were moments in the last few months where the outcome did not seem sure at all.   When the world appeared to be coming apart at the seams.  When it seemed that the costs were too high. In spite of all my plans to ensure that my last semester be as easy and stress free as possible, mayhem loomed large.  How could those last two classes cause so much trouble?

This BatGirl spent a month only eating things that came out of cardboard boxes.  Many years ago, after I got divorced, a steady diet of chicken parmesan left me believing that I would never enjoy it again.  Sadly, after a month of subsisting on macaroni and cheese, I may have destroyed my ability to enjoy that delicacy as well.  In addition, I discovered exactly what it takes to get less than excellent marks.  That stung.  The BatCat paid a visit to the ER.  There were lots of tears associated with that.

But the BatCat is recovering, assignments have been completed and graded, and in a few days, I walk across a stage and …

And what?  A few short years ago, that walk across the stage was as far into the future as I dared to look.  But it’s not the end of this journey.  Far from it.  It’s a milestone, surely, and one I intend to celebrate.  It was not easy.  But there’s more.  A thought which in the past week has inspired both ecstatic elation and crippling panic.

The focus shifts.  I am BatGirl, but now what?  The search shifts.  I have the skills, now it’s time to use them.  I  need a job, but it’s more than that.  I am in search of … something.  I’m not exactly sure of what, just yet.  I’ve hit one of those blind corners, where life is all possibility.  It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.  Life could go anywhere.

Come along for the ride?

I'm not really going to do anything as simplistic as a blooming flower, am I?

I’m not really going to do anything as simplistic as a blooming flower, am I?

Posted May 6, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Living Large, Scholarly Pursuits

My Year of Living Irishly   Leave a comment

This St. Patrick’s Day, the BatGirl was locked in the BatGarret having a complete mental meltdown over a relatively minor paper which had already monopolized spring break and was still refusing to behave.  It’s not the missed opportunity for drunken boorishness that stung, those days are well behind me.  And I know that everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but I really have no Irish in me, well at least to the extent that anyone can know.  Having come from fisher folk and marauder stock, I suppose it’s possible that there’s some Irish mixed up in there, but I tend to doubt it.  Regardless, I feel no burning desire to play Irish for a day.

This, in spite of the fact that many many years ago, the BatGirl found herself living in the city of Dublin for almost a year.  Young, impressionable and completely in thrall to both James Joyce and Samuel Becket (writers who both, it must be noted, fled Ireland at their earliest opportunity), I ran off in search of  … well, I ran off.  I’m sure I told myself that I had a plan, but I’m not sure the plan amounted to much more than: Dublin!  something something Writers!!  something something something  It’ll be SO COOL!!!!  I mentioned the young part, right?  

And well, it was and it wasn’t.  I look back now and I shake my head, amazed.  It was one of my jumping off a cliff moments, and while I walked away from the experience, I wouldn’t say it was without a scratch.  Seen through the rose-colored lenses of hindsight, that young girl seems so ill-prepared for the experience. I learned some lessons the hard way and I didn’t learn some lessons in an equally hard way.  When I left Dublin, it was with a shaking of the dust off my feet and no desire to return,  which I find sad.  For years, when I thought back on the experience, I regarded it as a mistake.  Most definitely an adventure, but a mistake nonetheless.

I’ve softened a little in my self-criticism, these days.   Those rose-colored glasses do a great job of softening the harsh edges.  The converted closet masquerading as a bedsit is more charming than impoverished.  Walking to school because I couldn’t afford the bus?  Let’s just say that I understand the glee with which elders talk about walking uphill to school in snowstorms … both ways … barefoot.  But mostly these days, I recognize the similarities between those hard and lonely days in a foreign country and my current adventure.  I think I learned more lessons in Dublin than I thought and they are lessons which are making the library school experience a better one.  I am less of a romantic these days.  I have ideals and cherished beliefs, but I don’t believe that they’re any more important than, oh say, having food in the cupboard and electricity.  These days I have plans and goals that are a little bit less starry-eyed.  They are more practical in nature and I’m far more likely to listen to the well-meaning advice of professors and advisors.  It doesn’t hurt that library school is far more trade focused than Literature programs.  There’s a reason it’s a science degree and not an arts degree.

In addition, I’ve learned to step outside my library school bubble and occasionally do something that has nothing to do with the curriculum.  That’s perhaps the toughest lesson I didn’t learn in my year of living Irishly.  These days I no longer feel quite so bitterly about my experience and I even think that one day I’d like to go back to Ireland and experience what I didn’t all those years ago.

It's not a matter of regrets or wishing I'd done things differently, but more a sense that perhaps there's still something interesting to be discovered around the bend in the path.

It’s not a matter of regrets or wishing I’d done things differently, but more a sense that perhaps there’s still something interesting to be discovered around the bend in that path.

 

Posted March 21, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Living Large, Scholarly Pursuits

“Monkey monkey underpants” with apologies to The Gilmore Girls   Leave a comment

mardigrasfattuesdaylentneworleanslovevalentinesdaychinesenewyearculturalstewardshipparadesnoisydimsumheritagebustedcar bustedheartthatsbullshitonlinedatingproximityoperatorsslimpickingsbigbagofweirdlorelaipopcultureSTOP

Just stop.

So often, these posts begin with me looking with dismay at an empty text box.  Then I scroll through my library of over 5,000 photos.  Then I think about the past week.  And then I go back to glaring at the still-empty text box.  I’m over a year into this blog and the writing still doesn’t seem to get any easier.  If anything, in the past few weeks, the week’s topic has been even more difficult to find than ever.

Me staring at blank slates is nothing new.  I’m a reader, not a writer.  I have read too many books, and in the words of Louisa May Alcott, it has indeed turned my brain.  I have far too much polished end-product rolling around in my head and it  skews my sense of reality.  My brain swoons over the flawless prose and turns a blind eye to the reality that hours of labor and countless revisions were integral to the creative process.  I am a true believer in the concept of the perfect word and find it almost impossible to move on when that perfect word or phrase eludes me.

And this annoys me.   One of my motivations for maintaining this blog has been to break myself of the perfect word addiction.   It hasn’t exactly worked, so far.  Writers, real writers with real deadlines recommend just sitting down and writing.  Kind of like a type of free form poetry or scat singing.  Just let it all out.  Interesting advice.  It’s even good advice up to a point.  But I’m still missing something. Just sitting down and writing something resulted in the above bundle of gibberish. There’s a step in between the Lorelai Gilmore Big Bag of Weird and words that form sentences that make paragraphs that have a coherent theme.

As an aside, if you are unfamiliar with the Gilmore Girls and the sage wisdom of Lorelai Gilmore, you really should do something about that.

But back to me and my issues.  That missing step in the middle?  Work.  Well, work and having something to say.  Just having the jumble of thoughts and words is not enough.  Clearly.  My brain is crammed with thoughts, words, images, desires, hopes, fears,  … Some days it’s loud and distracting in there.  Even worse is the disorganization.  I like to know what things mean and how they relate.  I am never happiest than when I’m writing from an outline.  I like to know where I’m starting, where I’m going and how I’m going to get there.  Clear, concise writing is bliss to me.  Is anyone surprised that I’m a big map junkie?

But some days?  Some days, there is no road map.  I don’t know what the clamor in my head is trying to say.  Some days it’s a big knotted mess, and it’s going to take a little more time and patience to sort through the chaos and find the path.

Confused?  Don't feel bad.  Some days I take a peek into my brain and even I can't make sense of the chaos.

Confused? Don’t feel bad. Some days I take a peek into my brain and even I can’t make sense of the chaos.

Posted February 18, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Scholarly Pursuits

Stumbling Along   Leave a comment

I’m sitting here in the BatGarret.  Another Sunday slowly winding along.  The snow is falling, ever so softly, and I want to be out there.  I want to stand amid the swirling flakes and listen to the soft hiss they make as they slide against each other.

But I’m not.

There’s some exercises in electronic searching to be done and a bunch of reading that needs to be completed.

But I’m not doing that either.

Another Sunday rolls around and I again find myself locked in battle with that familiar and tricky foe, self-reflection.  And today, I’m really struggling with the question of why.

Why do I do this?  There are any number of more “important” things I could be doing.  There are several items on today’s to-do list that are certainly of a higher priority.  There are any number of more interesting and entertaining things that I could be doing.

So why?  Why the need for introspection and reflection on the past week and what it has meant to me?  Why the need to share?  I’m not sure I have an answer to that question.  Certainly habit plays a part.  As does an all-t0o-human need to be heard, although that is a bit too Sam Beckett to be comfortable.  The second I start to resemble a character in a Beckett play, someone needs to kick me back into the real world.  I’m all for self-awareness and reflection, but I’m also aware of the slippery slope they perch atop.  It’s just too uncomfortably close to those brains in jars that are so prevalent in classic science fiction, warning of the dangers of the excessively cerebral lifestyle.

It appears that balance needs to  be incorporated into my repertoire.  Excellent news for a girl with spastic tendencies.  Some days I’m not too sure that I have this walking thing down and tripping over my own feet is all to common in my life.  Balance?  Good luck with that.

And just like that, I’ve added some another task to the day’s list.  At this rate, I’ll need for it to snow for quite some time, if I’m going to get my moment of peaceful, wintry bliss.  Not to mention any real answers to my wandering thoughts.  Time to move on to another project with better prospects of success.

Wait a minute!  There’s a Caps game streaming on the internet?  Well, that changes everything!  Peaceful wintry bliss will just have to wait a bit longer.

For the moment, this will just have to suffice for my moment of zen.

For the moment, this will just have to suffice for my moment of zen.

 

Posted February 3, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Scholarly Pursuits

Also Known As Stubborn as a Mule   Leave a comment

As a child, I had quite a fascination with wild things.  Particularly gigantic, paws larger than your head, gobble you up and still be hungry, cats.  I’m not quite sure where that fascination came from, they’re not exactly thick on the ground in rural Hawaii, but I was smitten, the way young boys are drawn to dinosaurs.  Santa gave me a stuffed lion one Christmas that was my most cherished possession for years, until the family dog ate it, setting off a torrent of tears.  But it was too late.  A dangerous obsession with lions had already taken hold of my fevered little brain.  I might not have been able to convince my parents that we should really move to Africa, but I still managed to surround myself with lions in one form or another.  Television, film, books, I was always searching them out.

Eventually, my interests branched out, but I’ve always kept a soft little spot in my heart for the King of the Beasts.  It’s always been a bit of a mental talisman for me.  A way of reaching down deep, when I’m scared and dragging out the bravery that I know is in there somewhere.  And so, this past week I found myself looking at a little carved stone lion that sits on my dresser, usually ignored by me, but always there.  My mother gave it to me a few years ago, saying simply that she thought I needed it.  She was right.  (Aren’t they always?)

Curious about the phrase, “heart of a lion”, I utilized my sharpest librarian skills and found this definition floating about the internet:

“To have ‘A Heart of a Lion’ means that you never want to give up. An example:
‘Inside his/her chest beats the heart of a lion’. It basically means the refusal to give up and to show exceptional courage or bravery.”

And once more, my lions gave me what I needed.  Courage.  At a moment when things were looking a little bleak, and I was feeling not so up to the task in front of me, I was reminded that the courage is there.  Just like L. Frank Baum told us.

Because once upon a time, I was the Cowardly Lion for an evening and It. Was. Awesome.

The point of all this is that in the last week, I was reminded that my mother is always right, and that I do, indeed, possess the heart of a lion, although it has at times been confused with the stubbornness of a mule.  But that’s not very romantic OR inspirational, so I’ll just choose to ignore that.  Regardless, I’ve got my nerve back and I’m ready to get out there and reign.

So much more inspiring than a mule!

So much more inspiring than a mule!

Posted January 27, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Scholarly Pursuits

What’s Going on Here?   2 comments

They say that the final mile is the hardest.  I wouldn’t really know about that, I was never a runner and probably never will be, but I can say that one week into this semester I am having a difficult time finding my drive.  Last week I was unconcerned .  I attributed my distracted nature to the transition from break to semester.  A week later, my level of worry is slightly elevated.  A week into classes, I should be in a frenzy, poring over syllabi and worrying how I will ever accomplish it all.  But I’m not.  Oh, I’m worried about it, but rather than the worry spurring me into a whirlwind of action, I find myself in quicksand.  I struggle.  I try my usual tricks.  I make the lists and prioritize.  At the moment, it’s all come to naught.  I’m weary.  I’m tired of it all.  It seems ludicrous.  I have invested a lot of time and energy into this project.  Not just the classes themselves, but even just getting myself back into school took a lot of effort.  And now, with the finish line in sight, I’m overwhelmed with exhaustion.  What’s going on here?

And so, last night, after hours of agonizing, I walked away from what had essentially become the equivalent of slamming my head against the keyboard.  A good night’s sleep and some aspirin for the knot under my right shoulder and I’m back to try this again.

Soooo, what’s really going on here?

Fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of the known.  Fear of the past.  Fear of the future.  Fear of others.  Fear of myself.  It can be pretty all-encompassing.  And it can be pretty crippling.

So where do I go from here?  I mean, it’s useful to identify fear, but then what?  I certainly don’t want to remain here.  Fear makes me extremely uncomfortable. Enough so that rather than writing about fear (which, apparently is where this is going, despite several aborted attempts to write a different post), I felt a compelling need to scrub down the coffeemaker and now I’m looking suspiciously at the toaster.

But the avoidance game is the one I’ve been playing for at least a week now, and like the BatCat hiding under the couch (which is her go-to safe place when she’s scared), I can’t stay here forever.  Pop psychology recommends doing one thing every day that scares you.  While I tend to view easy aphorisms with a bit of scepticism, I am a fan of using the adrenaline jolt of terror to spur action.  So, it looks like I’m in search of something scary to do.  Bungee jumping?  Spelunking?  Going to the dentist?  

I have the next week off, thanks to the ALA midwinter conference in  Seattle.  Looks like, at the very least, I have the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone.  For now, I’ll start small, with actually publishing this post.  Admitting that I’m afraid is taking me a ways outside my comfort zone.   And then?  The BatCat suggests brushing our hair and perhaps a manicure.  I don’t think she quite gets the concept.

It is indeed a bucket list, just filled with all the things I DON'T want to do!

It is indeed a bucket list, just filled with all the things I DON’T want to do.

Posted January 21, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Scholarly Pursuits

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