Where’s Mom?

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It’s been over a month since my mom died. I still occasionally find myself driving over to her apartment after work to visit. Sometimes I’ll want to tell her something.  To reach her these days, I need a completely different vehicle.

*

I found a nice spot on the Fish River, a small park, under a canopy of cedar, magnolia, pine, and live oak.

It’s quiet, clear, and sunny with gusts from the west blowing overhead, with an occasional swirl upriver. Pollen, leaves, catkins, and pine needles float by on the river current.

A brown magnolia leaf, curved just right, keel down and canoe-shaped like it was made just for the water, is lifted off the shoreline by the river.

It’s floating for the current, closer to the far side of the river, but slowly. Now, it’s outside of the swiftest part of the current but moving closer to it. Finally, the leaf is collected into the fast flow. I watch it as it rounds the bend. I don’t know how far it’s going to make it.

Maybe the leaf will float all the way to my coworker Danielle’s house, near the confluence of the Fish River and Weeks Bay.

Then again, I suspect another stretch of river, where it is wide, deep, and rough will capsize mother earth’s canoe. Once capsized, she’ll rock back and forth cradle-like through the water until she rests on the bottom, joining the leaves from springs of yesteryear.

As I lift my head up to enjoy the scenery, I jumped out my seat…scared by a shadow of a red-tailed hawk. Now that I’m up I wander around the shoreline a bit. The water is clear closest to the river bank, thanks to the sandy bottom. Minnows flinch from nibbling at my footstep, and dance away with one another, and then return.

With a hand on a cedar, I gaze at the water and see a bubble, not a ripple from a fish kissing the surface, but a small bubble, rising from the darker, black bottom. I walk closer. From below the layer of leaves, sticks, and decomposing black river bottom, two more bubbles rise. Freshwater mussel, crawfish? Whatever it is, it’s so happy to be alive in the river’s dead organic matter, it sends up three more bubbles.

Returning to my seat I notice another magnolia leaf is gathered up by the river. It moves upriver for several yards, and is caught in an eddy, not far from the bubbles. The leaf circles, circles faster on the second spin and catches the main current. I decide to stay and watch a few more leaf launchings.

*

Mom and I enjoyed our visit along the river. We had a nice conversation too. I sent leaf letters and she replied in word bubbles. 

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Who’s Talking Sh*t?

It’s never happened before. Not once in over ten years at the public library. On Monday morning it happened twice. At the computers in front of me, two patrons uttered “it.” Oddly enough, or perhaps not in our technological world, the curses were directed not at a person, but at computers. A young woman, legal to vote, but not to drink a beer, said “it” first. People around her looked at her, which is a surprise in itself, as most people are so engrossed in their screen they don’t look up for much of anything. A swear gets their attention! Good to know in the future. The young woman muttered something about being shocked by a grade, gave an apology, giggled and continued working.

After that a man came up to me to complain there was someone talking on a cell phone. I walk through, silence. A half hour later he comes up to complain again.

I said, “If you want a quiet place you can reserve a study room.”

Clearly disturbed by the noise, he said, “I thought libraries were supposed to be quiet.” If you have visited our library, a large open room with 30 foot ceilings, then you know it is not designed with silence in mind.

“Not anymore,” I said, thinking this library, and most libraries nowadays are the life of the community and that means people communicating with voices. Also Monday, I saw a woman signing to someone on Skype, or FaceTime from her laptop. How cool is that! Anyway, I suggested a study room for my silence-seeking patron again, though the way the day had been going, I should have asked him if anyone was swearing during these calls.

An hour or so later, a man, nearing Social Security benefits, blurted “it.” A few heads peered over their screens. This guy didn’t even know he said it out loud! I swear. He never lifted his eyes off the iMAC screen, or he would have seen my stink eye. I was going to tell him if it happens again I was going to wash his mouth out with a bar of soap, but he quickly settled down, and never said another word.

Sh*t books

A little later, I went to the catalog to help a patron find a title, and a new nonfiction book cover came across our catalog home page. How to Get Sh*t Done: Why Women Need to Stop Doing Everything So They Can Achieve Anything, by Erin Falconer.

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Unfortunately, the student had already left so I could not recommend it to her, but I got curious and I looked for more books. Nine books in our catalog with “it” in the title, mostly with an asterisk for the “i” but all searchable with the actual word.

Sh*t Girls Say; Holy Shit: Managing Manure; Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing; Sh*t My Dad Says; Tough Sh*t; Why Sh*t HappensHow to Shit in the Woods, and Be Ready When the Sh*t Goes Down. Man, that was a lot of semi-colons.

My Sh*t

There is no “semi” in my colon, but it sure is healthy! Want to see the pictures? For the squeamish, or disgusted, the colon collage should open in a new window if you click here. With a family history of colon cancer, I don’t have the option of sending “it” through the mail for testing. I have to get a colonoscopy. Anyone who has had a scope knows that the prep is often the worse part. My brother Steve referred to it as, well, I’ll paraphrase here, “peeing out your butt.”

The new drug they used during the procedure, Diprovan, was great, a much faster recovery than the previous colonoscopy. The procedure took less than 15 minutes. The gastroenterologist’s report was full of words I had to look up like, ileocecal valve, cecum, splenic, sigmoid, retroflexion. Perhaps you know these words, it’s a reminder that it is not difficult to Stump the Librarian (I’m so proud to be a Top 50 Library Blog. Be prepared to scroll, flick, or click for a while, I’m near the bottom).  Diverticula, (seen in the upper left of pictures 4 and 5 for those looking along) I was familiar with, having had several bouts of diverticulitis. The doctor’s recommendation was to eat more fiber, get more exercise, whatever is “possible with his right amputation,” and avoid “drive through restaurants.”

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In the end, it’s so wonderful how we use words and language, written, signed, and even expletives to communicate, write books, and tell stories.

It’s the Holiday Season?

Library School

I’ve finished! 6 semesters + 12 classes = 1 Masters of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) from the University of Alabama.

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For the final two classes I created a Libguide and digital exhibits. Check out my digital exhibits using Omeka on the history of the Fairhope Public Library and the Fairhope Public Librarians.

For the Humanities Reference course I had the opportunity to create a Libguide. For those who don’t know, a Libguide is a one-stop shop online subject guide created by librarians for researchers and students.

The Libguide for Fairhope focuses on how the Fairhope Public Library, Fairhope Single Tax Corporation, and The Organic School were responsible for the city’s unique and Utopian beginnings.

Family

I created two more photo boxes for family members. Three nieces, a nephew, a close family friend, and now I’ve added an aunt and a newfound cousin. The photo boxes  are curated and usually handwritten. This time, I’ve created two videos using some of the skills I learned in a Digital Storytelling class last summer. I’m still new to iMovie, and the sound mix is not good at all, but they do capture some wonderful memories in words, images, and video.  My cousin Charlie Walouke found me through this space when I mentioned my grandmother Mary Walouke. I’ve rounded up some family photos, documents, and even a video for the Samry-Walouke Digital Story.

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My mom took this photo in July, 1955. Left to right: my dad, Francis, his dad Joseph Samry, Joe Walouke, Janet Midura, Mrs. Stonkas (Anna’s Mother), Stanley Midura, Evelyn Midura, Anna Stonkas Walouke, Sophie Walouke Midura, Rose Walouke, and Mary Walouke, my dad’s mom.

The other digital story I created was for Aunt Dolly’s 80th Birthday. It’s a video scrapbook of the gift we created for her. I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Legs

One of my coworkers, the one who wears many hats, always gifts us with these wonderful handmade trees. One year it was a tabletop version, a small base and a stuffed red tree.

This year she really stepped up her game.

She and her husband created a tree “from a staircase in a historic home which was torn down in Selma, Alabama.”

Here’s a picture of it on my mantle.

I took one look at this tree and knew exactly what to do with it.

Stump’s Christmas Peg!

Thanks for reading and Season’s Greetings.

 

 

 

What’s A Weekend in NOLA Look Like?

Our Airbnb for the weekend. (1896)

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Well, not the whole place, just the back studio,

With a great writing space.

Frenchman Street

Tuba Skinny

Before Bike the Big Easy.

20 miles later.

Lafayette Square

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Robert Cray, performing “Smoking Gun.”

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House on the corner of (lying in) State and St. Charles.

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Happy Halloween from Stump: The Librarian!

Rockets Versus Missiles

Susan and I took a trip with the Baldwin Senior Travelers to North Alabama last weekend. What a great experience it was and how delightful people were to us, especially when they asked, “Are you old enough to belong to this group?”

On Saturday morning, as we began boarding the bus in Rocket City to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, our tour guide Jim asked how I’d lost my leg.

I went to my go to answer of late saying, “I never had the whole thing, I was born without my right foot.”

“Oh, well my dad lost his leg in Korea so I’ve been around prosthetics all my life.” Jim’s father always complained about the fit. The one improvement in my lifetime that radically changed prosthetics for the better was the development of the silicone gel liner, the interface between my stump and the socket. It is truly amazing.

Susan’s dad John never served in Korea, but he was part of the war effort. In 1958 his unit delivered the Redstone Missile to Germany. The Redstone was the first missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could be launched in the field. We went on the Huntsville trip to learn more about the Redstone, and John’s role in the Army.

Of course, Rocket City has next to nothing on information about missiles, war, or nuclear proliferation. It’s for families! So they promote Space Camp instead. While I didn’t go to Space Camp, follow the link to watch my ride on the Space Shot.

We didn’t have to go to Huntsville to learn about Korea. That morning we woke to the news that North Korea had successfully tested a nuclear warhead missile, technology we developed during John and Jim’s father’s war days.

This trip took place just a few days after our library book club read Almighty: Courage, Resistance and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age, by Dan Zak. The book is extremely well-written and traces the history of our nuclear arms race through the biographies of three protesters who were arrested at Y-12 National Security Complex (AKA The Fort Knox of Uranium) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 2012.

At book club, our 9 attendees unanimously agreed that the protesters were peaceful, nonviolent protesters. We also agree it’s far too easy to break into the country’s largest plutonium processing facility, which costs an average of $300 million to operate per year. It turns out all these folks would have been welcome on our tour bus, as the average age among them was 67. All three, including the nun, Sister Megan, reached Y-12 with a pair of bolt cutters and the belief they were on a mission from God.

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Dean was our bus tour guide for our NASA experience on Redstone Arsenal military base.

We stopped at the Redstone Missile Test Stand, now a historic landmark.

We stopped at NASA’s Payload Operation Center, where people communicate daily with astronauts about ongoing research at the International Space Station. One thing Dean pointed out seemed very telling. All of our astronauts are required to learn Russian. However, Russians are not required nor do they speak English, which is supposed to be the primary language on the ISS. Fun Fact: Our astronauts used a 3-D printer in space to repair…something!

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Finally, we learned about Orion, the new spacecraft that will circle the moon in 2022 and then go on a three year mission to Mars in the late 2020s or early 2030s.

It has not been decided what fuel will be used to get to Mars. Get this, according to Dean, politicians and NASA officials have concerns about using nuclear energy in space, but somehow having 32,000 nuclear warheads at the ready in the US alone is okay. What? Kind of makes me wonder what planet they’re from, or where they plan on going if we ever use these weapons. Orion only has room for 6, but only four astronauts will be cruising by the moon. I imagine it’s the world of difference, like first class versus coach. They could go to 51 Pegasi b, the first planet identified in another galaxy.

On our way back to the Gulf Coast we stopped at Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama.

We had lunch in the school cafeteria, and while we waited I stood outside in the shade under a buckeye tree. I don’t think I’d ever seen a buckeye tree, and one of my fellow travelers, Kim, originally from PA, said she didn’t know they grew this far south.

In his spare time, Brother Joseph Zoetti, a Benedictine monk at St. Bernard Abbey, built shrines out of local materials and things people sent him in the mail. I’m calling him the Founding Brother of Roadside America.

As I stood among the tall pines, the hydrangea and the buckeye, I noticed a three letter Latin word, PAX, in Brother Joe’s art. On the hillside in Cullman while walking with Susan, I enjoyed  visiting the St. Bernard Abbey Church, and learning about Brother Joe’s creative life. What I wish for new friends, neighbors, and nations is the time to think, reflect, and value these quiet moments of PEACE.

How’s Your Summer Going?

 

I’m in love with the graphic novel! I’ve only read two graphic novel memoirs but I’m totally impressed with the combination of images and text. I’ve also created a few digital stories and now I’m obessessed with iMovie.

The first graphic novel I read was El Deafo, by Cece Bell. It’s her story about becoming deaf and adapting to life with a hearing device. It’s funny, poignant, and somehow celebrates difference in a new and magical way for me. In a class discussion it was great to see so many of us becoming fans of graphic novels after reading one very powerful book.

I just finished My Friend Dahmer, by Derf Backderf. The author actually went to school in Ohio with Jeffrey Dahmer, one of America’s most notorious serial killers. I know, why are you reading about serial killers, Alan? Well, I’ve had a fascination with them going back to high school. Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi left an impression on me about how one man can control the feelings and behaviors of others. (Rumor has it Quentin Tarantino is planning on bringing the Manson Family to the big screen.) Mrs. Courtey’s Criminal Justice class at Falmouth High School was a great introduction to the subject that has been fueled by other great true-crime books including In Cold Blood and The Devil in the White City.

I took three library school classes over the summer and all them required video/digital story component. I thoroughly enjoyed learning iMovie to create these stories. The stories are less than 6 minutes each and contain all the flaws of a movie-making beginner. They can only be viewed by following the link below and signing in with a Youtube or Google account.

For the Maymester, which is just three weeks, I took Traditional and Digital Storytelling (LS 543). Here’s a link to my digital story, Why is My Hero a Villain? This is the first one, so the sound is a bit soft at the beginning.

The Summer I session was a five-week whirlwind that began the day after Memorial Day. The second video, and by far the most fun and the one I recommend if you only have six minutes, is the read aloud I recorded for one of my favorite picture books, The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt.

Finally, my management class (LS 508) centered around leadership and vision. This is the digital story of My Leadership Philosophy.

Only two classes left before I graduate with my MLIS from the University of Alabama! The fall semester begins August 21, so I’ve got a few weeks to relax, take a vacation, and reflect on my ten years of working part-time at Fairhope Public Library. Right now, I’m working on a digital story about my family genealogy for my cousin, Charles Walouke and I’m reading Wonder and The Great Fire. I’d love to hear what’s on your list! Share your summer reading/watch list with me in the comments!

Need a Hand?

Up until a few days I was skeptical about public libraries hosting maker spaces and 3D printers. That all changed after I began reading articles about 3D printers and prosthetics. Most of the articles mention the e-NABLE community. Enabling the Future is a global nonprofit that provides open source software that lets users custom design functional prosthetic hands.

Anyway, it’s all here in a 7 minute video or text. It’s the story of a man who wants to give people (especially librarians) the tools to imagine, design, and build affordable functional prosthetic hands. It completely changed my perspective not only on 3D printers, but it’s a powerful message about our compassion and our innate need to help others.

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The Fairhope Public Library is getting a MakerLab for adults and teens! Complete our interest survey. We already plan to get a 3D printer, 3D scanner, robotics equipment (Lego Mindstorms, Arduino and Raspberry Pi) and Silhouette.