Sometimes There Are Lows…

Last week stee was making lunch (Macaroni and cheese, because we eat like children, like broke children fending for themselves). He was also on a conference call, moving around the kitchen with the phone crooked against his shoulder. I was antsy, and perched on a chair, watching him work, wishing that we were already eating.

I decided to help out by cleaning up the table in preparation of our wonderful lunch when I heard a bit of a clatter, followed by stee cursing quietly into the phone, before hanging up. Then the cursing was louder.

“Uh,” he called to me from the other room.

“What’s wrong? What happened? Are you okay?”

I ran into the kitchen. Stee was standing at the sink, an empty pot in his hand.

There was a moment when we looked at each other, silently, mouths open. And in that moment we knew what had happened, but the words needed to be said anyway.

“I was rinsing…I don’t know what happened… It just…”

I slowly approached the sink, and that’s when I saw the pasta carnage.

Our macaroni was all over the sink, not in the pot, not in a strainer.

Stee began to scoop it with a spoon. “I’ll clean it off.”

“You can’t clean it off,” I said. “That sink’s dirty. We can’t eat that.”

“Sure we can. I’ll boil it again.”

“Then it’ll be mushy.”

“I don’t know what else to do. Aren’t you hungry?”

We stared at each other again, and that’s when I began to cry.

“I don’t want sink pasta,” I whimpered.

“Neither do I,” he said, sounding a little insulted.

“We shouldn’t have to eat sink pasta.”

“I know.”

“And last week, it was wrong when I served us Ramen noodles with cut-up leftover chicken.”

“Yes.”

“Every week we joke that we’ve hit the low point, and then somehow it gets lower. Sink pasta. Please, we can’t eat that. There’s like, coffee grinds in that sink. It’s not healthy. This isn’t healthy.”

“Don’t look. I’ll just scrape it out, and I’ll wash it off or microwave it or–”

“I don’t want microwaved sink pasta!”

“It’s got to taste better than the time you were out of town and I ate Mac and Cheese with water instead of milk.”

“I can’t watch whatever it is you’re going to do so that we have lunch today.”

“It’s best if you wait in the other room.”

“I can’t stop crying.”

“I understand.”

You want to find the romance in it. You want to find the tender, life-affirming side of it that says you’re both really making it, that the struggle makes you artists, that the suffering gives you inspiration, that everything will one day be okay and this moment will be something you tell your children, that “sink pasta” will become two words that mean, “At least we’re not that broke anymore. I love you.” Two romantic words you say to each other when you vacation in the tropics, when your each holding a glass of champagne and looking back over the past twenty-five years. Sink Pasta. That’s what it should mean. That’s what it should be.

But right now, all you’ve got is a gnawing feeling that your lunch is going to be nasty and a story that makes people feel better than you.

[db]

I’ve been having a strange couple of weeks where suddenly I feel the urge to clean everything, everything there is, everything around me. I get in the tub and I scrub with baking soda, with glass cleaner, with soap scum buster, until my knees are bruised.

Then I can’t stop checking email, compulsively, as if the next email that arrives will be the one with the bag of money attachment instead of this stupid virus our mail server has picked up, that shoots me viruses that say “thank you” or “wicked screensaver” or “your details” by the hundreds for the past two days. And do you know how many legitimate emails I get every day that say “thank you”? Enough that I’m having to open lots of virus spam. So I’m on my Mac instead of my PC laptop to check mail, just in case.

Then I’ll start feeling pretty good, getting things accomplished. I’ll finish notes on a script and shoot them off to the producer. I’ll answer all of my email. I’ll pay all of my bills.

Then spiraling depression over bills! Down, down! No money! Can’t afford groceries! Sadness!

Then, to combat the depression, I clean! Everything off the desk! All of it filed away!

Where’s that important phone number? Can’t find it anywhere. Everything pulled out of its place!

I need to go to the post office and mail a few things. This simple task takes four hours to accomplish, due to the fact that Staples pretty much only sells staples, and the guy in front of me at the post office apparently auctioned off his entire life on eBay yesterday and needed to mail everything out minutes before I got to the building.

Then I’m angry because it’s hot and I’m frustrated because I didn’t get enough done today and then I decide my boyfriend must be as bored of me as I am because all I do is fret and type and make phone calls and fret and type and clean. I accuse him, at the top of the stairs (because that’s where all the best accusing takes place), that he’s bored of me and wishes I’d stop talking.

He, of course, was in the middle of doing something equally important, but drops everything to sit on the stairs with me, hold me and tell me that I’m the most interesting, non-boring, cleaning and crying freak he’s ever had the pleasure to fall in love with.

I’m so happy that I must sit very still for an hour and watch two episodes of What Not to Wear.

Then it’s more work, and emailing into the middle of the night, getting back to people, scheduling other people, phone calls and postcards and fretting and waiting and it feels good to work but none of it is permanent, it’s all so tenuous and fragile and in the future…

So I unload the dishwasher and load the dishwasher and gather up the trash and change the kitty litter and pull the trash cans to the curb and clean the living room and answer more email and start updating my journal because I’ve been neglectful because I worry that all I do now is talk about books. Mine and other people’s, and libraries and books and fretting and blah.

So I decide the problem is I’m working too hard and not seeing enough people, not having enough friends over, so we have people over and I make dinner and we have fun and everything seems not too bad, that it’s all going to be okay and there’s nothing to worry about.

And I’m so relaxed and appreciative of my life that I worry that soon it will end, my life will end because I’m sick and dying or my lifestyle will end because I didn’t do something fast enough or good enough and then I’m up again at two in the morning, at my computer in the dark, writing. Because the only thing that makes me feel better when I feel out of control, when it seems that it’s all going to end soon, the only thing that quiets my head is writing. Getting away from my life and into other lives, ones I’ve made up. Then I’m doing something. I’m moving forward. I’m working to maintain, to improve, to prove, because I have to, because I want to, because I need to.

I drink too much coffee and I stay up too late and I get up early for the phone meeting that gets rescheduled and I go to the store and forget my list for the second time that week and buy all the wrong things because I can’t seem to remember a list of things anymore. I buy the wrong envelopes, the wrong light bulbs, I forget the milk. I drop my keys when I go to put them in the doorknob three times this week. How can that happen three times in a row?

So I clean my closet and do all the laundry and hope that the more I put things away, back in their places, the easier it’ll be to see what I’m doing, to see where I’m headed, to get a sense of things. I want to enjoy right now, where I am and what I’m doing. I want to be proud of it, and feel good about it, and I want to take a moment to myself to whisper, “Good job.” But instead I hear, “Now what?”

[db]

Think this whole library-awareness thing is so last May? Look how what you’ve done is still making an impact in other parts of the country.

Here’s your feel-good librarian letter for today:

[readermail]Pamela:

Thank you for encouraging your online friends to donate books to libraries. The Castle Rock Public Library in Castle Rock, Washington, has an Amazon.com wish list. One of your pamie.com people, Loree Parker of Seattle, bought East of Eden” by John Steinbeck and “Living History” by Hillary Clinton. I appreciate this very much. Several other people have donated books in the past few months. Thank you for getting the word out.

Our library has almost no book money in our budget and we rely on donations. Every book donated is one I might not have been able to afford, otherwise.

Thank you, again, for helping support literacy, libraries and random acts of kindness.

Sincerely,

Vicki Selander
Library Director/Librarian
Castle Rock Public Library
Castle Rock, Washington
(306)274-6961[/readermail]

Okay, make that two feel-good librarian letters of the day. Check it:

[readermail]Mary,

I am a young teacher in Chicago and was wondering…what kind of volunteer work could I do at my library? I spent hours upon hours at my library as a child. Now, though, I read so many books that I fall in love with, I usually just buy the books right off the bat insead of visiting the library. I would love to give back to the library. But HOW? Please let me know how you may use volunteers at your library.

Thanks,
Karyn[/readermail]

Hey, when you ask Mary Farrell of the Lakeview branch of the OPL a question, she doesn’t just sit around and rest on her broken foot. No. She doesn’t even pop a pain pill and ask, “Did you need something?” She responds. For real.

[readermail]Hello Karyn,

Congratulations for considering volunteering at the library! The library can use you!!!

Each library has different needs and opportunities for volunteers. Volunteer activities vary from the menial (dusting shelves) to complex (setting up web sites). Most libraries will not permit volunteers to do what is specifically designated in a staff member’s job description. Particular restrictions have to do with working behind the desk, seeing patron records and handling money. Beyond that it is what the library has need for and what you can do. Some libraries have established volunteer duties that are not flexible. Many libraries will look to see what you can do and fit you in.

Oakland Public Library has a story reader program where volunteers are trained to do story reading at day cares and occasionally at libraries when the children’s librarian is unavailable.

Lakeview Library currently has 8 volunteers. Three set up and maintain our garden, which the city could not afford to do. It makes our little library looked loved and cared for. The other five do many tasks. One teen volunteer refinished our rolling book carts. He does other regular little tasks, such as sharpening pencils, seeing that scratch paper is out, cleaning the computer monitors, arranging magazines, pulling out outdated magazines and newspapers.

We have one volunteer, a former librarian, who has been here longer than all of our staff. She deals with gift books. She reviews which are candidates for adding to our collection and checks the system to see if they are already in the system and checks how often they have gone out. She is indispensible. The gift books we can’t add to our collection are sold and she maintains the book shelves with our sale books. She handles the money as the treasurer of our Lakeview Friends Group.

Other volunteers help with tracking down mishelved books. One volunteer has helped clean our books and attach date due stamps. One volunteer sets up tables and chairs for our storytimes and covers books when they are tattered.

As you can see, we LOVE VOLUNTEERS at Lakeview. Not every library feels that way because it does take time from staff to train people and monitor their work, but a good volunteer is PRICELESS!!!

We ask volunteers to work at least a three hour stretch at least once a week. This helps us keep track of what is going on. We ask them to treat this as a job, coming on time and calling if they cannot come. You see we grow to really depend on their good work and when they don’t come there is a big hole in what we can accomplish that day.

I would suggest that you find a library that you like and ask a friendly staff person. Don’t give up. The person you ask may not be the one who knows. Ask another until you get the feel for what the situation really is.

Volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door for a future job. You will know the gossip of what is opening up before the general public. Library jobs open and close quickly so it’s good to be near the source of the information.

If you don’t have the time, a great way to help the library is when you buy a new book and finish it, give it to the library right away. New books circulate quickly and it helps boost your library’s circulation statistics. Statistics, unfortunately are often where the worth of the library is measured.

I certainly hope you get involved. Obviously I think the library is one of the greatest places in the world. I wish you were here! We’d find something you could do!!!

Best wishes to you!

Mary Farrell

Branch Manager
Lakeview Branch Library
550 El Embarcadero
Oakland, California 94610
510-238-6576[/readermail]

I love you, Cool Kids.

Starting with Carol:

[readermail]Hi Pamie,

Finally, finally, finally! I got off my lazy ass and donated books. I chose to donate to the Los Angeles Urban Outreach Bookmobile because 1) I’d like to help my community and 2) I relied heavily on bookmobiles when I was a teen in San Diego. I love bookmobiles and think there should be more, not just in rural or urban areas, but also in suburban areas. There are a number of them that lack a proper library, believe it or not (as did my old neighborhood in San Diego at one time).

As for the books that I chose, I went with ones written by people I actually know or have met, since I want them to be wildly successful: Why Girls Are Weird (because you know how much I love your book) and It’s Not the Media by Karen Sternheimer, who is a member of my writing group and is one smart lady.

I’d love for you to link my humble ‘blog because I’m a hit slut, but another great link is BookCrossing.com. They believe in “releasing books into the wild”, which is pretty revolutionary for an avaricious old collector like me. Very cool.

Thanks again for a great site, Pamie. I hope to see you in Torrance![/readermail]

Sarah writes:

[readermail]Hi Pamie!

After weeks of meaning to donate to Oakland, I finally sent “Everything You Need To Know About Dealing With the Police” to the Cesar Chavez branch today. It seemed appropriate, since I’ve been doing criminal defense law all summer, and has the added bonus of both encouraging kids to read and keeping them out of jail. Fight the power.

You don’t have to put this email on your website though because I’m sure it’s a pain to keep posting updates.[/readermail]

But I like posting these letters. Now that I don’t have a forum anymore, it’s hard to see what kind of community exists around this site. This book drive is one way for us all to come together and … kumbaya, my lord! kumbaya!

Someone needs to create a “singing” font, so my jokes work better.

Evany said over at Webmonkey that the blink tag is totally back. Evany makes me laugh every day.

My friend Rebecca took time away from a young son and grad school to send a few books on behalf of her family:

[readermail]We sent the MLK branch:

Young Naturalist Pop-up Handbook: Butterflies (from Sky)

Panther: The Pictorial History of the Black Panthers and the Story Behind the Film

Derek did his senior thesis on the Panthers and this book is supposed to by great…except for the crazy gun stuff the panthers did some amazing things for Oakland….[/readermail]
Jennifer writes:

[readermail]Darlin’, it’s actually 107 degrees in Dallas. That’s right. I was hoping some good karma and membership in the Cool Kids Club might make my life a little more temperate, so I dropped by the Highland Park branch of the Dallas Public Library with a big bag of hardbacks and books on tape. They received:

Skipping Towards Gommorah by Dan Savage

Run Catch Kiss by Amy Sohn

Camels are Easy, Comedy’s Hard (Roy Blount, Jr. — Comedy God)

Tis by Frank McCourt on tape Hannibal by Thomas Harris on tape

There were three more books on tape, but lordy, my wedding is in 12 days, so if my name wasn’t written in my underpants, I wouldn’t know that.[/readermail]

It would have been much more difficult for me to have thrown Tis across the room like I did if it had been on tape.

Happy wedding, Jennifer!

Cheyenne-Gilmore isn’t afraid to woot.

[readermail]I figured I’d check out what was on various branches’ wish lists just TO LOOK. And then I found Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation by Silver Ravenwolf and Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft by Ray Buckland on the Cesar E Chavez branch’s list. How does a young closeted Pagan not get these must-haves for a library that has asked for them? And now we’re 2 books closer to 600. Woot![/readermail]

Currently Reading

I put down Middlesex because I’m way too busy to read a real book right now. I’m in the middle of Word Freak because I have to return it to stee’s mom next week. But man, it’s making me remember the days when I dated this guy who wanted to be a chessmaster.

Dammit. Every time I come here I tell you guys something you really don’t need to know about me. It’s getting embarrassing.

Please donate a book to Oakland

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