Is Every Halloween a Family Search for Life and Death?

Image

Carolyn Berga was born New Year’s Day, 1917. Mildred told me this over the phone a few days ago at work. Carolyn died just a few years later from burns and injuries she sustained after she wandered to close to the fireplace and her dress caught fire in the family farmhouse in the Belforest community. Carolyn is buried in the Belforest Catholic Cemetery.

Mildred was chasing the toddler’s date of death, which she had learned was between November, 1919 and January 1920. I offered to go through back issues of the Fairhope Courier, which we have on CD.

I did not find any mention of this family tragedy in the Courier. I was stumped! So I recruited my coworker and resident genealogy expert Pam McRae to help in my search. She went to several different websites, only to be snakebit on any death date at Family Search, Ancestry, and Find a Grave. Pam praised Mildred’s research, harkening back to her teaching days and said, “she’s really done her homework.”

When I spoke to Mildred last night, I told her we were not able to find a date of death for young Carolyn. Undaunted by the bad news, Mildred vowed to continue the search and said she would contact the Baldwin Times newspaper. If Mildred was related to Carolyn in some way she never mentioned it. Before hanging up, she said the cemetery committee wanted to, “add the dates to Carolyn’s headstone.”

Losing a family member on a holiday or your birthday is tempered by reflection. Yet we are bound together by time shared and distanced only by dates on a perpetual calendar. As the collector of the record, this blog is not about cataloging legs this time. It’s an attempt to connect two families through one holiday; Halloween.

scan (2)

Frank Joseph Samry was born on September 30th, the year of the Great Mississippi River Flood, 1927. Pam’s father Gerald Martin was born the same year on May 12, which is my father-in-law John Cherkofsky’s birthday (1939). (Pam and I hope to attend the free outdoor screening of The Great Flood at the downtown branch of Regions bank in Fairhope on Nov. 7, at 6 PM. Live music by Modern Eldorados will accompany the film)

scan (3)

My dad, the one whistling with one hand on the wheel, was in the Navy during WWII. Pam’s Dad Gerald also served in the Navy during WWII and the Korean War. The man in the photograph with my dad is “Rebel.” With a name like that, I’m hoping he was from the south.

scan (1)

Wedding Day. August 30, 1953. Joseph Samry, Mary (Walouke) Samry, Frank J. Samry, Joan (Hannan) Samry, Lillian (Tuell) Hannan, Walter Hannan. Can’t wait to see my mom this Thanksgiving. She’s coming to visit us again.

1461880_10202800155713716_3447378755208699260_n

Pam McRae’s daughter Megan with her fiance James. Megan’s celebrating a birthday today. They are getting married in July in Baldwin County. Happy Birthday Megan!

scan (4)

My father (Notice the name difference?) died on Halloween 20 years ago today. Pam’s father died June 1, 2007.

How do we commemorate a holiday, celebrate a birthday, and mourn a death all on the same day? By sharing words, moments, pictures, and documents with family and friends we are asking others to contemplate those being honored. If we are fortunate, we have committed moments to our minds, people to our hearts, and conveyed the value of life’s memories. If we are successful, the next generation will continue to cherish, collect, and preserve their family histories.

Happy Halloween.

Is Parody the Sincerest Form of Flattery?

Our group of bloggers attended the Social Media Conference earlier this week on the Baldwin County campus of the University of South Alabama.

After the conference, the Southern Bloggers Jubilee party sat outside for lunch at Panini Pete’s. Karyn got an email from Cal Tech’s swim coach about her son attending college on the west coast.

“Do you know who else went there?” I asked from across two tables.

“No,” she said, shaking her head, “Who?”

“Weird Al Yankovic.”

A couple days later, I emailed Karyn. It turns out Cal State, not Cal Poly had emailed about her son. Can you guess what song’s stuck in my head?

Dare to be Stupid. It’s so easy now.

Chuck Klosterman said. “Nothing is ever in and of itself.” We are constantly looking for connections. That’s why I’ve decided that everything that happened during and after the conference can be summed up with two words. Weird Al.

AL

Angela Rand

I’ve been to lots of sessions led by Angela, the University of South Alabama’s Baldwin County Librarian. She does a great job of presenting and hosting. In fact, she’s Like a Surgeon. Using her scalpel, forceps, and retractors she brought a surgical team of librarians and a marketing company founder to the OR.

Dr. John Burgess

In “Classical Rhetoric for the Digital Age,” Burgess defined rhetoric and talked about Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. Obviously that triangle is the last one I think about when I post a photo of my grinning, glasses faced self in a cardboard cutout of Drew Daywalt’s book The Days the Crayon Quit. I was inspired by Weird Al, who has his own picture books, When I Grow Up, and My New Teacher and Me. (Also relevant for woman in the audience writing children’s books.) As a rhetorician, John said I should think about whether Facebook, blog, and Instagram posts project a persuasive message. Being a skeptical librarian, I probably don’t need to worry too much, since I only have 5 followers on Instagram and only 12 people like my Facebook post.

crayons quit

Gump came to mind too, and not because it rhymes with stump, and leaves me a leg up on no legs, Lt. Dan. Burgess is an instructor at Alabama, and Winston Groom, the author of Forrest Gump, lives down the road in Point Clear. I remembered another Gump-ism and as it turns out, a circular argument: stupid is as stupid does. My wife Susan is always telling her second graders that you can’t use the word you are defining in the definition. I liked Burgess. He reminded me of a younger Dr. Demento, except Burgess had a red beard any Portlandian hipster would be proud to groom. He was no pirate though, more White and Nerdy, like me. Maybe next year we can bowl with the gangstas.

Beth Shepard

Angela built up such an introduction to Shepard that I was nervous that she wouldn’t deliver. She didn’t disappoint. Shepard had lots of useful information on Instagram and the most interactive audience session of the conference. For her efforts, she gets I Perform This Way because some of us went Gaga for her content and delivery on all things Instagram. Even better, I never imagined or saw photos of Shepard draped in a shawl of raw red meat. She said yoga so many times, I began to sing Y.O.D.A Yoda.Ya ya ya ya ya Yoda. I’m following Yoda on Instagram now. #yoda.

Paula Webb

Anyone who follows Shepard has to be comfortable in her own skin. Paula was, even as she was pointing out all the apps for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the game called Solve the Outbreak. Webb’s focus was on government apps, including Smithsonian, which has an app called MEanderthal.

“I’ll have to download that app in the man cave,” I said, which got a good laugh, and reminded me of Bedrock Anthem. Yabba dabba dabba doo now. That’s Flintstone for post something will ya! Preferably, with your phone in one hand and your baby elephant vacuum cleaner in the other.

There’s even an app for Fat. When I walk out to get the mail (U.S. Postal Service), it measures on the Richter scale (FEMA). Down at the beach (Healthy Swimming), I’m a lucky man; I’m the only one who gets a tan (UV Index).

Melissa Hoffman

I loved how Hoffman described social media marketing as the “Million-legged Beast.” Where does that leave me? As the one-legged guy in an ass kicking contest, that’s where. Hoffman’s the marketing director of SixDegrees (not from Kevin Bacon), but has a few peeves about email. The fact that she doesn’t read spam, leads me to believe that for Hoffman, It’s all about the Pentiums, and it’s important to stay current. Your laptop is a month old, Well, that’s great, if you could use it as a, paperweight.

Our time is valuable, so Hoffman had some sage advice for us: Stop Forwarding that Crap to Me. If you do send or forward mail, companies with IT hackers, code crackers are blocking all your Mail Chimp and PicMonkey business.

Audience

Glasses, Guy, Glasses Guy, or Marcus was the social media guru turned heckler, and chamber of commerce blasphemer. However, Mr. Bluefish had lots of relevant comments and suggestions, just like CNR, (Charles Nelson Riley). Most important for the guys in attendance was his information about the men’s version of Instagram’s @whatsinmybag. @everydaycarry is what are you carrying for dudes. Glasses Guy reached into his pocket and pulled out a Lego Stars Wars character keychain. I think it was a stormtrooper, so let me just say, The Saga Continues.

Lunch

During the Southern Bloggers Jubilee feed session, AKA Eat It, we rehashed the conference. None of our bloggers were living in an Amish Paradise, acting technologically impaired.

We all got the message at the conference that if you “do” social media, you should never be Inactive.

My bloggers would never do anything Tacky, like live-tweet a funeral, take selfies with the deceased.

And we always own up to and immediately correct our Word Crimes. Most Bloggers could care less, which means we do care.

In fact, we love social media so much we’ve got the chutzpah, nay the Gump-tion to have our own social media and blogging conference. It’s still early on, and I’m optimistic that we have a better shot of holding a conference than Weird Al headlining halftime at Super Bowl XLIX. I definitely don’t want to be his Foil.

 

Have Amputees Gone Mad or Mainstream?

It seems like amputees, and their legs were coming at me fairly regularly, at home and at the library this week. I wondered how much and how often amputees are in the media. So, I put them to a test. How many new amputee references can I catalog in a week?

Friday

I was at lunch at the picnic table on what I call the back forty, the property behind the library that doubles as a parking lot most days. I was flipping through my Flipboard, an app that brings me headlines, stories, and book recommendations. A headline from Huffington Post:

“Leo Bonten has his leg amputated, turns it into a lamp and tries to sell it on Ebay.”

The Dutchman’s story was cataloged under “Weird News.”

After having the leg amputated, the man had help from a pathologist and a lamp maker. He said Bonten could not “say goodbye,” to his leg, so he preserved it.

Mr. Bonten put the leg lamp up for sale on Ebay for $127,500. Ebay took it down the same day saying it does not sell body parts.

Bonten claims he had to sell it because he’s broke.

“Soon I won’t even have a home where I can put the lamp,” Bonten said.

I guess an amputee can’t even cash in when he’s able to upcycle his own leg from medical waste to a practical home furnishing project. I just want to know what bulb fits in the socket. LED, compact fluorescent, or incandescent?

Lampleg

Saturday

I was thumbing through a new book, On Paper: The Everything of its Two-Thousand-Year History, by Nicholas Basbanes when I came across a quote from a former POTUS. John Quincy Adams wrote in a journal every day from age twelve until two days before his death. He even wrote on leap year days. In one entry, Adams writes about the futile and occasionally frustrating writing habit. It had become, “Like the race of a man with a wooden leg after a horse,” and resulted in, “a multiplication of books to no end and without end.”

On Saturday night, I was using Amazon Prime Music, an app that lets subscribers stream from millions of songs in about 15 different genres and from other Prime member playlists.

I flicked across the Dropkick Murphys, an American Celtic punk band. You’ve got to hear their song, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” The main character is a sailor without a leg, and he’s “shipping” up to Boston to get his peg.

Sunday

As I sorted the Press-Register on Sunday morning, a pair of brown eyes glanced up at me from the cover of Parade magazine. I was greeted by a German Shephard mix dog missing a left front leg. Mama Lucca was an IED detecting dog who saved the lives of 14 men, and was awarded an honorary Purple Heart for her actions. Her record of keeping our service members safe and without casualties still stands, but it came at a price. She’s now retired and living in sunny southern California.

Monday

I was talking to a co-worker during lunch. Gwen asked if I’d seen the woman on crutches this morning.

“I thought she might be coming in to talk to you,” Gwen said. I have met many amputees in the library and often go and introduce myself and let them know I’m an amputee too. The woman was was an above knee amputee. She was not wearing a prosthesis.

“No,” I told Gwen, “I was helping another patron, so I didn’t have a chance to talk to her.” I saw her only briefly when she was checking something out at the circulation desk.

After lunch, Cheryl told me she saw the movie Dolphin Tale 2 with her granddaughter. The movie features Winter, the prosthesis wearing dolphin, and the sequel features Bethany Hamilton. Hamilton, who plays herself, lost her arm in a shark attack while surfing her home waters of Hawaii. Cheryl said the movie was good, but Hamilton didn’t have a lot of dialogue. The first movie is based on the children’s book, Winter’s Tail. I enjoyed the movie Dolphin Tale so much, my wife Susan and I went to Clearwater, Florida to see Winter. The picture of me with Winter’s prosthesis number 17 sits on Susan’s desk at Daphne East Elementary School. Her kids don’t even notice my prosthesis because they are so excited about seeing Winter’s prosthesis.

DSC_1059

Tuesday

I always straighten  the new books when I walk past them on the way to my desk. I spotted Stronger, a book by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter. Bauman survived the Boston Marathon bombing, losing both his legs, but was an FBI witness in the search for the bombers.

Killing Jesus: A History by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Julius Caesar, after conquering a town along the Dordogne River, cut off the hands of every man who fought against him.

I watched the tail end of Utopia on Fox, and a little bit of New Girl. I saw a commercial for Red Band Society, a hospital ward of teens facing long term stays for various illnesses, which now includes leg amputees Jordi and Leo.

Wednesday

Susan and I were watching Survivor when we saw a commericial for Criminal Minds. The preview showed a human leg in a box. Presumably, the rest of the show was about finding the rest of body.

Thursday

Looking for movies to borrow, I spotted The Fault in our Stars DVD while scaning the online catalog crawl. I’ve already seen it. Good thing, since it already had 35 hold requests for patrons wanting to borrow it.

Leg-End

Yesterday, I saw the future of legs in libraries, which indicates to me that media coverage of amputees and their prostheses will continue to expand.

I read in the Wall Street Journal that the Westport, Connecticut Public Library will have a couple of humanoid robots roaming around. Vincent  and Nancy are quite sophisticated. They are able to be programmed and also learn with Artificial Intelligence (AI) through human interaction. They have already been programmed to speak 19 languages, to kick a ball, dance, and do Tai Chi. Robots and their artificial intelligence can think on their feet just like humans. Nancy, Vincent, and I do this on our artificial legs.

robots

How to Pay it Forward

I had 18 people attend my class, “Starting a Blog with Stump: the Librarian.” It was a wonderful mix of familiar and new faces, including library patrons, business owners, artists, photographers, and writers.

photo (4)

My class at the library was an introduction to blogging. Patrons did not create a blog and start posting in my class. There was not enough time. It was a not-too-serious, but informative, learning environment. I told them to think up a clever name that combines who you are with what you want to say, but cautioned some of the good domains may already be taken. “Without a leg to stand on” was my first choice, but Stump: The Librarian is actually better, since I’m writing about amputees and libraries. I hope my passion for blogging was evident in my enthusiasm for sharing what I’d learned about blogging. I wanted each person to determine for themselves if they should start a blog.

Several people signed up after hearing about the class from fellow blogger Karyn Tunks, the guest speaker at Pensters, a local writing group. Library volunteers, Nonfiction Book Club members, Genealogy Club members, and a couple of co-workers sat in on the session. In my last post, I wrote about connecting with community. I could swear these people had read it because that’s exactly what we had in the computer lab yesterday.

Since I had such a convergence of community, I’m paying it forward to another local organization that provides educational opportunities. The Eastern Shore Institute for Lifelong Learning (ESILL) bills itself as “school for the fun of it.” The classes are not free, but they are very reasonable. Four ESILL instructors attended my blogging class who are also part of Pensters. Gene, Jane, Fred, and Rosanne teach photography, art, ancient wisdom, and writing, respectively. Bloggers and future bloggers should check out Blogging 101. I’m constantly looking for opportunities to continue my leg-ucation. Fall is a great time to learn something new.

Are You Part of Your Community?

                              Morning/Afternoon

Yesterday was a day off from work, but I was at the library for a monthly Southern Bloggers Jubilee meeting. We had Pat Smitherman, Crafty Hope’s husband and KPMG Web Developer, show us a few things about HTML and CSS. I learned quite a bit, but I’ll continue to use WordPress because it’s so user-friendly. (Want to learn more about blogging, take my class, Starting a Blog, on Monday September 15, at the library. It’s priceless, as in free, but you have to sign up.) Pat the code walker was patient with us, and it never hurts to pick up a few tips in another language, especially computer speak. Some of my fellow bloggers were really digging it. A few had their heads buried in their laptops writing code like they’d been trained by Anonymous.

After wrapping up our meeting and waiting out the rain, I chatted briefly with Tamara Dean, the library director, in her office. She handed me the DVD about the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, America’s Amazon. Tamara forwarded me the number of Mango users, which continues to soar. Mango is our online language learning program, which also has a popular app version.

wharton_esherick2

 

 

 

 

 

Evening

After an early dinner, I stopped by Fairhope Brewing for Mobile Bay Green Drinks, “a monthly happy hour for environmentally thoughtful folks.” It’s a “get involved/what’s happening” night for local organizations and businesses. It was the first time I attended, and there was lots of information, and free stickers too. Free samples from Sunflower Cafe awaited with additional items available for purchase. As I sipped my Fairhope 51 Pale Ale, a group of about 40 people listened to speakers who stepped up to the microphone, set up in the middle of the tap room.

The Slow Bicycle Society on the Eastern Shore was represented by Molly Peterson, who serves on our library board. I’m part of this group of riders that bike locally and take regional bike ride field trips. Several Slow Bikers were in attendance and Molly also spoke on behalf of Baldwin County Trailblazers, the group behind the Eastern Shore Trail.

Others speaking up were representatives from Alabama Coastal Birdfest, taking place the first weekend in October, Pro Cycle and Triathlon, which has slow bikes for sale and for rent now too. Katy of Pro Cycle was fond of the phrase “rip your legs off,” when describing her rides. Apparently, there are paces for everyone, including people like me. I just want to keep the leg and a half I’ve got left. Alabama Coastal Foundation clean-up, a fishing rodeo, and BARC Rib fundraising events were promoted during the open mic segment.

I enjoyed a delicious creamy coconut pop from Frios, a gourmet frozen treat stand set up inside the tap room. By the way it was delicious! Until I tasted blood. I bit the inside of my cheek chomping the sweet sugary goodness. No biggie, it’s frozen, I just kept eating on that side, and a couple bites later, the bleeding stopped.

slow-bike-logo-from-ann-m1

 

 

Night

With the tropics still dazzling my taste buds, I went to the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) public hearing on their Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan. Sounds rather somber, but as a reporter I’ve covered much worse. A sewer commission meeting comes to mind.

I thought I might be a sight to stare at, an amputee coming to a bike meeting with shorts on, flashing my prosthesis. Plus, the leg was making a popping sound as I walked in the room. If they stared, I didn’t notice. They were welcoming, and I suspect happy to see another resident at a public hearing. I even saw someone from my book club, “Drinkers with a Reading Problem,” at Green Drinks and at the MPO public hearing.

The MPO staff is eager to hear from the public on what they believe the future walkability and biking needs of the Eastern Shore should look like. Read the draft report, you have until September 22, to send comments. I’ll be advocating for a bike path/sidewalk from my neighborhood, River Station, to Wal-Mart, which is about a third of a mile away. There is no plan to build a sidewalk, even though it is very dangerous for walkers and riders to use County Road 48, the major east west corridor connecting the county with downtown Fairhope. The five other people at the meeting, including two staffers were very encouraging and positive, but realistic. All the goals require funding, not all of which has been secured.

If you want to look at the 92-page draft report, there is one available online and at the Fairhope Public Library. It rests on the ledge of an easel that has an MPO map on display near the public computers. The short term goals of what pathways to build, and staffer Matthew’s “30 days on a bicycle,” are must reads.

All of these organizations, government entities, and businesses have websites, Facebook pages, or both. Check ‘em out!

                                          Full Moon

When the meeting ended, I turned east to head home and was greeted by a harvest moon. It was rising up and looked like if I kept on driving I’d crash into it. It loomed so large, you couldn’t miss it. The moonlight reminded me to say thanks to those who are engaged in what’s going on around the Eastern Shore. We need people in the community to be the squeaky wheels. I’ll be sure and wear my popping prosthesis.

 

An Amputee’s Legs and a Steam Shovel’s Arms

(I wrote the following Guest Book Review for Professor Storytime, a blog by writer, reviewer, and teacher Karyn Tunks)

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton used to fill me with wonder and fuel my imagination. I thought I was over the book, you know, been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. I was wrong. Even now, the story brings back memories, conjures the imagination, and sparks my creativity.

One of the best parts of the book is the diagram of the steam shovel with her name, “Mary Anne,” emblazoned on the “boom.” The “dipper,” or bucket, is labeled from top to bottom as “teeth,” “dipper,” and “tongue.” Mike and Mary Anne are the best digging duo the city has ever seen. They scoop earth and “finish the corner neat and square.”

Mary Anne wears her personification on her dipper, with subtle human eyes, smiling mouth, big eyelashes, and even tears. Mary Anne’s dipper has fabulous facial expressions that match the action on the page, from grimaces and grins, to batting eyelashes, closed mouthfuls of dirt, and mouth agape as dirt drops in brown clouds to the ground.

Burton’s sweeping brush stroke illustrations, in the mind of a seven year old’s imagination, move on the page as the shifting boom billows white steam and the black puffs from the “smokestack” blot the sky.

As a congenital amputee, my prosthetic leg has characteristics similar to Mary Anne. The leg is a lever, or simple machine and built of manmade materials: metal, plastic, fiberglass, and wood. My motion with a prosthesis, while not machine-like, is certainly awkward, and my gait looked a lot like Mary Anne’s swinging arm.

Eventually, technology catches Mary Anne, and she and Mike are overtaken by more efficient gas and diesel shovels. So Mary Anne and Mike’s journey takes them from urban to rural areas, while my trip with Mom to Shriners Hospital took me in the opposite direction. Types of communities, according to my wife Susan, are still something second graders learn. (I’m writing this in her classroom, which has a copy of Mike Mulligan and More. She teaches at Daphne East Elementary, but this is summer, and she’s in a lesson planning meeting with her fellow second grade teachers.)

Mike and Mary Anne are challenged to complete a dig in less than a day in the town of Popperville. Once the digging begins, we read Burton’s onomatopoeia as her words match the sounds and motions of Mary Anne working at great speeds to meet the challenge. “Bing! Bang! Crash! Slam!” This reminded me of my mom and dad who told me “not to hop in the house,” and wear my leg or use my “sticks,” or crutches. “A herd of elephants,” is what dad said I sounded like when hopping around. He warned me, “One of these days you’re going to go through the floor!” The prosthesis made other noises, like Mary Anne’s shovel.  A screw loose “click,” a rubbing “squeak,” a weight bearing “clack,” all combined in a magical simple machine symphony.

Like the labeled parts of Mary Anne on the inside pages, it was also important for me to understand how things worked and to have labels, or definitions for my human and machine parts. How my prosthesis stayed on, and how my prosthetist used machines and materials to make a comfortable socket were things I wanted, and needed, to know.

Back then, prosthetists would often tell my mom and I that I didn’t need an artificial leg.

“He’d walk in a flower pot if we gave him one,” I heard Mr. Williams say more than once.

That’s where mom got the idea. I remember her threatening to make a flower pot or a planter out of an old leg that I had outgrown. She and I did a lot of brainstorminng about how to do it, but the foot always posed a problem, so we never made one.

Mike and Mary Anne do their jobs well. Too well, in fact, as they dig themselves a hole so deep they can’t get out. A classic dilemma, and one we’ve all experienced as children and adults. I am not a golfer, but  Mike Mulligan gets a mulligan, a do-over. He and his steam shovel get a second chance in Popperville.

The best authors engage our imaginations as we empathize and identify with their characters. I’m not Mike Mulligan, the little boy standing over the hole, or even Dickie Birkenbush, the author’s neighbor credited in the book with the solution to the problem.

I’m Mary Anne! Don’t let her name fool you. Mary Anne’s a girl who loves to get dirty digging in the dirt. She’s a boy’s girl. The kind of girl that would go outside and join a game of pickle, ride a bike through the middle of a deep puddle, talk Red Sox baseball, or “play cars” using real Matchboxes in my imaginary town beside the driveway on Nanumet Drive.

Today, Burton’s Mary Anne is an inspiration to readers and writers and an example of our human ingenuity. When people have something that no longer works as it was intended, it can be repurposed to make something new. It’s called upcycling, but I like to think of it as a work of art, just like my favorite children’s book, written in 1939.

I take Mary Anne down from the shelf every once in a while. Susan and I are child free, but we still read children’s books, often aloud, to each other. (The Plot Chickens, by Mary Jane and Herm Auch is the latest we recommend.) There is no higher praise for literature then putting it into new hands, so I gave the book to my co-worker Laura to add to her baby’s library. Rereading it again to write this review, I found some wonderful memories of dad, mom, Mary Anne, and myself. I’m continually amazed at how reading fills our imaginations, inspires learning, and shapes our identity no matter our age.

This is not the end, check out my upcycled leg!

IMG_1792

(Be sure and and click on the link below to check out Karyn’s post, which includes illustrations from the book and an animated video, adapted and narrated by Robert Klein.)

newheader

What Makes a Public Library Great?

I spent four hours, on my day off, in the Fairhope Publlic Library with a group of local bloggers I belong to called, Southern Bloggers Jubilee. The seven of us met in the library to socialize, learn, and hopefully have a few laughs, all before we head to lunch.

We had our regular monthly meeting, and there was a shwag bag, which included an application for a Fairhope Library card, stickers, coupons, and a welcome flyer. Tamara, the director, and I led the group on a tour to show off the wonderful space, architecture, art, books, programs, classes, and study rooms.

During the tour, the bloggers took photos and made notes. Along the way, Tamara and I said hello to patrons and introduced staff members to the group. Everyone blogged about how wonderful the library is in Fairhope, and they conveyed it so well in words and pictures. Please visit their blogs to see and read everything they discovered.

We Are: Clamco

Lorraine had a wonderful photo of Worldbook, a set of encyclopedias now rarely used. She reminisced about a set of encyclopedias in her childhood home. In our conversation at lunch, Lorraine talked about how a friend of hers in Jersey, an amputee, married his prosthetist. I found it fascinating for two reasons. There are not many female prosthestists, though the number continues to rise. Secondly, pyschologists say amputees marry their caregivers. I’ve researched this all the way back to America’ s first amputee, Peter Stuyvesant. He lost his leg to a cannonball, and when he returned to the Netherlands to recuperate, he married his nurse.

 Cozinest

Kim learned about our genealogy collection and even signed up for a class. It was on her Macbook that the group hovered around to learn how to use Picmonkey, an online program to format photographs for your blog, specifally your header, the image at the top of the page. She took a great photograph of our head-dressed staffer Megrez.

 Crafty Hope

When I introduced all these women to Tamara, I got a little ahead of myself and almost introduced Hope, as  Kim. I corrected myself and said Hope makes  jewelry from found items, like washers, brass, copper, glass, metal from file holders, etc.  She makes crafty, creative, and one-of-a-kind bracelets, necklaces, and earings, which she sells on her Etsy site. Also, her husband is coming to our next meeting to talk about HTML. She cautioned us that he doesn’t know much about blogs and confessed, “he doesn’t even read mine,” which I didn’t believe for a second. Even if it were true, she has a real following with us, the Southern Bloggers Jubilee.

Flower Child Designs

Deborah arrived late, but was eager to contribute to the discussion. Many of us complimented Deborah on how well her painted hardwood floors turned out. She talked about the success of her “linky parties,” and I laughed because it sounded funny to me. I learned that “linking parties” are a way for similarly themed bloggers, like fashion art, and jewelry, to connect.

Fairhope Supply

During her tour of the youth services department, Leslie Anne was verklempt. (Talk amongst yourselves. The topic: Is a jubilee a lagniappe?) She got emotional as the memories turned the pages of her mind to her son’s time in the library. She also snapped a photo, the first I believe, of me in shorts in the library, showing off my sleek carbon fiber and titanium prosthesis. Did you see it? She also had me take a photo with the newest Florida State graduate. Tamara just graduated from FSU with a Master’s in Library and Information Science.

Professor Storytime

Karyn, who welcomes guest book reviews on her blog for Throwback Thursdays, was enamoured with the children’s department. Her own children’s book, Jubilee, is wonderful, and you should check it out. On her blog, Karyn has a great photo of a mom and her son reading in a window seat. During the meeting, Karyn said my blog needed a new header, and a sidebar. She also suggested I use three photos in the header. Everyone at the meeting who saw my recent post, told me to use the coffee shop photo in the header.

The Library

During our bloggers meeting we discussed SEOs, Hootsuite, how to insert the Southern Bloggers Jubilee and Bloglovin’ “buttons” into our blogs, Instagram, and gave praise for things we are doing well, and offered suggestions for ways to improve.

It’s only now, weeks after the meeting, tour, and having read everyone’s blog posts, that I’m beginning to catch what the Southern Bloggers Jubilee netted. The value of our library is in the building, architecture, art, books, and DVDs, and the beauty of our library lives in the hearts and minds of the  people who populate this memorable place.