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?

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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

Fighting the Good Fight   Leave a comment

The other night was nothing but trouble.  Battles were being lost on all fronts.  The bed was uncomfortable and the sheets were irritating.  A variety of relaxation techniques were proving more aggravating than anything else.

And then it was 3 am.  Of course.  Nothing like the loss of time to take the pressure off and shut down a hyperactive brain.  I hate the farce of Daylight Savings.  I’m not even a fan of the bonus hour in the fall.  It all just really wreaks havoc on my reality.  And these days I can use all the help I can get.

And the other night was not the fault of Daylight Savings, much as I would appreciate a handy scapegoat.  The battle for peace and quiet is becoming all too common these nights.  My brain is crowded and does not set down its shiny baubles of worry easily.

I get it, I really do.  There’s lots to keep my mind busy.  It’s hard to stop thinking about assignments and projects, just because it’s time to sleep.  In addition, all kinds of uncertainty is looming in the coming months.  And of course, there’s the garden variety worries that slip in as well, health?  welfare?  happiness?  Just in case I manage to make my way through all the specific worries.

Daylight Savings just made it all the more annoying.  So I lay there, unsuccessfully running through a mental relaxation exercise, which I was sabotaging with a distracting monologue on superheroes.  Well, a monologue on BatGirl in particular.

In the past couple years, she’s been a totem of sorts, for me.  In part, yes, because she’s a librarian,master of information, and how cool is that?  But really, it’s the superhero thing.  The mask and cape.  The fighting of evil.  The kicking of butt.  The certainty of success.  When things are scary and success doesn’t seem quite so guaranteed, the allure of the superhero can be irresistible.  The admonition to “Be the superhero in your own life” is certainly one that I’ve taken to heart.  But on this night, my evil villain of a mind, mocked me for having chosen a superhero without sleepytime superpowers.  Alas, I’m not sure that one exists.  And tempting as the thought of super sleep was last night, I think I’ll stick with the BatGirl.  Sleep may be elusive these days, but the guidance and courage of the past few years is worth more than a few restless nights.  And I anticipate that in the coming months, while there will probably be a few more sleepless nights, the   inspiration to get out there and kick some butt and be my hero will be worth more than a few extra zzzs.

Don't put away the mask and cape just yet.  There's more thrilling heroics to come.

Don’t put away the mask and cape just yet. There’s more thrilling heroics to come.

Posted March 11, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Living Large

Perspective   1 comment

So the bulk of my day has been spent glued to a heating pad, throwing the rowdiest pity party I can muster.  At some point in the last few days, I not only found a muscle somewhere in the vicinity of my right shoulder, but I also caused it to do something it was never intended to do and now I am paying the price every time I inhale deeply.  Yawning is inadvisable and I have blocked the memory of the sneeze this afternoon from my memory.

And the tricky thing about pain is that it manages to spin everything else negatively:

– The BatMobile goes into the shop this week becomes: Great!  Hauling groceries on the bus!  What joy!  And the bill!  Is that a new twinge in my back?!!

And not: Oh thank God!  I’ll finally be able to get in and out of the car without crazy contortionist moves.  Which, I might add, probably contributed to this current back pain.

– Staying up until 4 am to complete a paper becomes: What a chump!  At  your age you really should have progressed beyond this kind of behavior.  What is wrong with you?!!

And not – well, truthfully that was way too late to be up working on a paper and it surely didn’t help my back to be hunched over a computer at all hours of the night.  But I got high marks on the paper … so is it still a chump move?

Valid complaints or not, beating myself up and focusing on the negative without formulating some kind of plan to improve things is the real chump move.  A long time ago I came to the conclusion that complaining without an active search for the path out of the darkness is really just wallowing.  And there’s nothing wrong with wallowing, but it should be recognized for what it is.

So tonight, I wallow.  My back hurts and I’m cranky, and that’s valid, but really, the last week has been a pretty good week.  Classes are challenging, but I’m learning new things and really, I love learning new things.  I am kept busy, but I’m not buried.  While I’m not employed yet, I have managed to do some actual networking.  And the weather has even brightened up a bit.

Could spring be on its way?  Maybe.  And maybe not.  It’s New England and it’s March.  Whatever.

So I’ll take some aspirin, cut up a bowl of strawberries with some chocolate, pour a whiskey and watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Things aren’t all that bad.  

Sometimes the beauty is in the details.

Sometimes the beauty is in the details.

Posted March 4, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Living Large

The Magic of the Tale   1 comment

One of my favorite books as a small reader was a hefty tome of fairy tales.  It didn’t have a very kid-friendly design.  Published by either Reader’s Digest or some other Book-of-the-Month club, it had a cover of simple red and white check and a title like Best-Loved Fairy Tales.  It was probably the size of my head with seemingly thousands of pages and a single color plate picture for each of the hundreds (I’m sure) of tales.  And these were not the sanitized and simplified child-safe tales of today.  Some of them were pretty disturbing and scary, as I recall.  But I loved them.  Especially The Snow Queen, with its exotic wintry setting and the drama of Kai with the splinter of ice in his heart.  Terrified and fascinated, I pored over it time and again, always transported by the magical story.

As I got older, I became a little more conflicted about fairy tales.  At some point I became aware of the inherent injustice of them.  Frankly?  Being a princess blows.  I always wanted to be the hero.  Cinderella?  Meh.  Sleeping Beauty?  Boooring.  Goldilocks?  A little better.  Gretel?  Now we’re getting somewhere.  Although, to be really truthful, Kipling’s Mowgli, the boy raised by wolves was probably my ultimate ideal, and if I had known the Chinese legend of Mulan, I’m sure it would have owned my heart .  But my point is not to bust on princesses.  They just didn’t speak to me.  They still don’t.  Surprisingly – or maybe not – I have always been drawn to the hero, the actor, the quester.

The searcher, not the waiter.  This weekend my need to be an actor in my life and my love of story smashed into each other.  Beat down by studies which were only resulting in me feeling less and less smart, and looking at another round of inclement weather which would discourage wandering off, I seized the window of opportunity which presented itself and took a walk down memory lane.

A lifetime ago, a girl not all that different from myself, worked her way through college at the New England Aquarium.  It was an all-too-ordinary retail job in a not-ordinary-at-all environment.  It was crowded, noisy, and chaotic, but if you’re going to hawk pencils and t-shirts, you might as well be surrounded by braying penguins and moray eels while you do it.  Since returning to the area, I had thought many times about returning to visit the aquarium, but hadn’t acted on those thoughts.

The impending gloom of more stormy weather and growing frustration with my inability to master the arcane language of structured electronic searching pushed me out the door and I found myself standing in front of a building I hadn’t been inside of in almost twenty years.   A painfully slow line and the massing of strollers on all sides gave me grave misgivings, but like any hero on a quest, I refused to be scared off.

Once inside, the place was almost unrecognizable.  Much had been changed in the intervening years, and what hadn’t been changed was currently undergoing renovation.  But one thing hadn’t changed.  As I stood in front of a tank of tropical fish, I became aware of my breathing.  It was … different.  Slower, more measured, deeper.  Calmer.

Sucking the stress right out of me.  This enchanted kingdom of water and coral and little darting, brightly colored fish was restoring my soul.  And as my calm was being restored, I started listening to those around me.  Everyone’s experience of the world is different, but I was hearing a recurring theme as I stood in a corner of a tropical reef.

Nemo.  Everyone that passed by my little patch of bliss mentioned Nemo.

The magic of a tale well told and its influence.

The heroic quest comes in all shapes and sizes.

The heroic quest comes in all shapes and sizes.

Posted February 25, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Book Lust

“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

Gimme Shelter   2 comments

About the middle of last week, seemingly out of nowhere, the world became filled with dire portents.

A blizzard was coming.  It would be epic.  It was time to panic.

And I found this really kind of amusing.  I spent 20 years living in Virginia, the land of champion winter storm panickers.  It’s a mid-Atlantic state, the weather is weird, not quite southern and not quite northern.  The residents of Virginia seem to fully embrace the inherent drama of the situation.  Weather reports are always filled with excitement.

But now I’m living in New England.  Snow is to be expected and New Englanders are supposed to be hardy, stoic folk, unfazed by nature’s whimsy.  The weather reports said otherwise.  There were lots of exclamation points and lots of claims of impending doom.

And so I decided to go with the flow.  I planned meals a few days out and took into consideration the possibility that I might lose power.  I checked supplies.  I made some lists.  I braved both Target and the grocery store, avoiding the PANIC NOW displays, wielding my cart with authority and armed with my lists, and I was in and out in an hour.

As the snow started to fall, I sipped coffee and  worked on assignments, watching as the backyard fence slowly began to shrink under piling snow.  As the storm continued to blow, I took phone calls from family down south who, true to their nature, were envisioning me huddled Little Matchgirl-like in a corner of the BatGarret, freezing in the powerless dark and probably buried in snow by a collapsed roof.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  It was, indeed a bona-fide storm, with a very respectable snowfall and howling winds.  The windows rattled and the walls shook and some snow even  managed to sneak between one of the double-window panes, but the power stayed on and the roof held up.  It was really quite cozy.

48 hours later, the sun was shining and the icicles on the eaves were dripping.  I stepped out into the brilliant winter’s day, ready to take on the snow and win back the use of my BatMobile.

Only to find that the BatMobile had already been freed from the clutches of the snowbank by my landlord.  Slick purple metal, shining in the bright sunlight.  Enough space cleared around the car to maneuver out into the roadway.  The roof was even cleared.

Yes, indeed, they do things differently up north.  And I rather think I quite like it.

Now, also revealed, was that the BatMobile had been wounded at some point during the storm, by snow removal equipment.  But the wound does not appear to be terminal, and while it took some of the shine off the day, it won’t take it all.  We’re hardy and stoic survivors of severe weather.  We may be wounded, but we’ll continue to battle on.

Perspective is always essential, and the perspective from the BatGarret is really pretty cozy.

Perspective is always essential, and the perspective from the BatGarret is really pretty cozy.

Posted February 11, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Living Large

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