Thursday, October 18, 2007


Autumn is, by far, my favorite season of the year.

I love the cooler temperatures, the vibrant, earthy hues, the falling leaves….

I feel more alive during Autumn than I do during any other season of the year.

When I think of Autumn, I am reminded of…

- Raking leaves into giant piles and then jumping into them. And then raking them all over again. And jumping again. And laughter and unfettered fun.

- Long afternoons of vibrant field hockey, running up and down the playing fields. “Ground, stick, ground, stick, ground, stick… Ball!”

- Football games at West Point where the surrounding hills are a patchwork quilt of fall colors.

- Hiking in Colorado where the predominant color is the awesome yellow of the aspens.

- Long walks through the woods in Germany, rustling up the leaves, enjoying the deeper, muted greens and browns and burnt oranges and scarlets.

- The two days of fall in Alaska where the leaves literally change colors before your eyes and fall off, the cranes fly south, and the aurora borealis does its lava lamp dance across the nighttime sky.

I love sweaters and turtlenecks and pumpkins and raking leaves and apple cider and candy corn.

I think better, I feel better, I live better… I am better.

During the brief, golden, crisp, chilly days of Autumn.

There is nothing "gray" about Autumn!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Twilight Zone

My fifteen year old is reading Volume 4 of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, which he just acquired today on a nice romp over to Barnes and Noble where we picked up a present for his best friend’s sixteenth birthday. The Sandman series comes in the form of a graphic novel, a venue which does not really appeal to me as it resembles comic books too much, but Gaiman writes some pretty amazing stuff. And the graphic part can be, well… pretty graphic. This series is pretty heavily based on mythology, which my son loves, and you could almost consider it “research material” because my son has decided to create a graphic novel for his IB project at the high school.

M was sharing a bit with me on the way home from the birthday party: Lucifer has decided that it is really just too much work to run Hell, and he has decided to quit. “What?” I quipped. “He was ‘burned out’?” I found that totally hilarious, far more so than my son. Then I added, “What’s he gonna do? Retire and move to Florida?” M just grunted with dismissal. About fifteen minutes later, though, he came running up to me in the kitchen. “Oh, my gosh! How did you know?” “Know what?” I asked. “You were right,” he said, in that astonished way teenagers have when their parents ever happen to say anything even remotely intelligent, which is, like, never. “He’s saying it right here!” M pointed to a page of his comic book novel. “Lucifer is saying, ‘I think I’ll just move somewhere warm, a beach. And do nothing.’ How did you know?” He was incredulous. I had to stifle a laugh. I had just picked the biggest cliché there was, which had come to me with virtually no thought or effort. I was impressed that he was so impressed.

But the whole issue of “burn out” hit home with me, and I could totally relate to Lucifer’s deciding to chuck Hell as it was just “too damned much work.” I feel like my work life now is just “too damned much work” for too damned little money. I am a freaking librarian, for god’s sake! How hard can it be to be a librarian? Well, being a librarian is not so hard and is, in fact, rather fun. But it is all the other crap we have to do – all the meetings, all the extra added bureaucratic bs paperwork, and all the additional teaching. In addition to our regular jobs, we are teaching four sections of freshmen (about 150-160 students). With no added pay or benefit. Don’t get me wrong, I love to teach. But, alas, I am just one person. I don’t like to sound like a whiner. Or a wiener. And I don’t think of myself as either, really. But I am exhausted.

It is increasingly obvious to me that I must be a total loser. I am incredibly well-educated, but my income is barely above poverty level. Obviously, an intelligent person would pick a career field where the pay was good, where one’s efforts and time were rewarded appropriately. I seem to gravitate towards careers that are very service-oriented… and pay crap. I really have no desire to make a lot of money. On the other hand, I really have no desire to be poor and wonder how I am going to pay all the bills and support my family. When I was in the Army, I felt like I was doing something really worthwhile, that I was serving my country, and training soldiers to be the best they could be, in case, God forbid, they ever had to go to war. And, frankly, Army pay was not all that bad. Plus, I did not have children then and did not have to support a family as a single mom.

Now I feel like I am killing myself. And for what? I am a librarian. At a university. I teach a few classes. Woohoo. How does that have any impact on anything? And I am barely making ends meet. It is distressing.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be a doctor, a lawyer, a businessman, or an investment banker. None of those careers appeals to me in the least. If they had, I would have become one of them. At the same time, I don’t think I should have to worry about whether or not I can pay the bills and the taxes and all of my children’s expenses, which seem never ending.

I am not sure where I went wrong exactly. But obviously I did.

I had a dream the other night that some kind of apocalyptic event had destroyed most of the world as we knew it. A group of survivors in my local town were all living together in an abandoned country club clubhouse. (I am NOT making this up!) It was almost Christmas, and families with small children were trying to scavenge the ruins for salvageable stuffed animals or small toys which they could then give to their kids as Christmas presents. They were stockpiling these gifts in the abandoned ballroom of the country club, where none of the children would find them. I was helping a young mother whose baby was fussy by taking her salvaged stuffed animals to the ballroom. As I was placing the toys in her designated spot, I heard a pitter patter sound behind me. Turning around, I saw water dripping from the ceiling. Looking up, I saw a sudden gush of water come streaming out of the ceiling, right where a chandelier used to be. I was alarmed that all of the parents’ hard work was going to be ruined by this sudden flood of water. I ran around trying to get other people to help me before it was too late – to move the toys out of the way, to get containers or buckets to catch the falling water, to go up into the attic of the clubhouse to see where the water was coming from and try to stop it. But to no avail.

No one wanted to help me! No one at all. I couldn’t believe that these people were unwilling to do anything to help. I had no personal connection to this problem, but it seemed only the right thing to try to help out and solve it. People looked at me with dismay and confusion and even disgust.

Finally, one woman stopped me. She had this look of utter disgust and derision on her face. “Why are you doing this?” she demanded. “Why do you care? What is it to you?” I couldn’t understand why she would ask me such a thing. Wasn’t it obvious what I was trying to do and why? And why I needed others’ help? This woman, the only one who felt compelled to say anything to me, was looking at me as if I were the one who was deranged and wrong. In her eyes, it was not normal to try to solve any problem or dilemma. If something bad happened, that was the way it was. You didn’t try to stop it or fix it or make things right. I was completely blown away by this woman’s point of view. But then I realized that this was EVERYONE’s point of view. They were all “normal,” and I was the abnormal one. It was like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

And then my alarm went off.


It was time to get up and get my kids up and off to school and me off to work. Another day had begun.