We Carricos are officially Friends of the Memphis Public Library. It’s no secret that I love our library. I put books on hold, have books sent from other branches, and shop in Second Editions (the used bookstore inside the Central branch). Noah played baby bingo this summer and was given a free board book for a prize. I participated in their Explore Memphis program for adults, which I hope they will work the kinks out of and try again. I download my five free songs a week through the library’s subscription to Freegal, and I check out ebooks from the relative comfort of my desk chair.
I also use the archives frequently. So frequently, in fact, that I have gotten to know several of the archivists on a first name basis. I can say with certainty that they are some of the nicest, most qualified people I have met in my researching. Honestly, I cannot sing their praises quite loudly or often enough. The Memphis and Shelby County Room (where the archives are housed) also has fantastic equipment available to researchers. I’m talking about a digital microfilm scanner. DIGITAL. Any historian out there knows the magnitude of this equipment. You can zoom in on specific areas and save the images to a zip drive. That means no more reams of copy paper that must be read through a magnifying glass.
Then there are all the library resources that I don’t use–classes for teenagers, job fairs, technology classes, computer access. These are fantastic resources for the Memphis community, and we are happy support them.
Basically, we love the library. Our kid is going to grow up having access to one of the coolest children’s libraries and learning about the world through afternoons spent grabbing whatever book catches his eye. We are happy to be their Friends.
The picture above is the Benjamin Hooks (Central) Branch Light Veil atrium sculpture by Ed Carpenter. You can see more photographs of the piece and read his artist statement on the Urban Art Commission’s website.
Here’s a link to my latest post over at the Pink Palace blog about some postcards I found in our magic filing cabinet.
Tom “Midtown is Memphis” Foster Draws the Palace.
Now that I’ve been a mom to a child outside of my body for eight and half months, I’ve been doing some thinking about what’s changed. Other than everything. Lots of aspects of our lives are remarkably different from what they were a year ago. We ate dinner at 7 o’clock last night, after the kid was in bed, and could barely get over the fact that there was no crying or violent banging of the high chair in demand of puffs. Sleeping in is when the baby decides to stretch his sleep to 7AM; tripping over an ill placed toy is a frequent occurrence.
I think the thing that has struck me the most is the change to the rhythm of my life. I have always set the pace for myself. And that pace is fast. I like to move–physically and mentally. I cram as much into a day as possible, walking fast to get there and reading quickly to get to the next novel. I always have; in fact, I cannot remember a point in my life when I did not have somewhere to be or a complex day to plan.
Until now. To be fair, I still have places to be and a desire to be there on time. I go to work and church. I have meetings and classes to teach. But I do them on a different rhythm than I did before I had my kid. Where my days were hyper structured to make sure that nothing fell through the cracks, they are now fluid. Today I want to respond to my students, go buy milk, organize some paperwork, do laundry and replenish the baby food supply, but it doesn’t matter what order it happens in, or if I’m being honest with myself, at all. (Other than the baby food unless I want a thoroughly displeased baby tomorrow, and the replying to students because that’s my job.) I find that when I try to move too fast, chaos ensues. Instead of making things “easier” it makes them stressful. And if I moved through my day at the pace I did before my child came, I would miss so much joy. I use to be a multitasker in the extreme, but I would rather just play with my baby than try to read a novel while keeping him entertained. There are always points in the day when I find myself holding a baby and trying to cook or sitting a screaming infant on the floor so that I can do something with two hands. But that is life. My life. With its new rhythm.
My camellias (that I did not plant but did pull the greenbrier out of) are blooming:
And my moon vine is giving a last minute show:
They are reminding me that I must plant flowers next spring. They make me too happy to not.
This growing season was a lot of things. Challenging, delicious and frustrating are the three adjectives that come quickly to my mind. Getting to our plots with a baby was difficult. Going out there without the baby was a logistical issue. However, when we did make it, it was nice. The food we grew was delicious, and I enjoyed being able to harvest vegetables that I (somewhat) nurtured to fruition. The plot may have eventually turned into a mass of weeds, but we had a garden this summer. And that is a win.
The sweet potatoes are dug:
The popcorn is dried and waiting to be shucked:
And that’s a wrap.
One thing that I’ve realized about myself is that I spend a lot of time thinking about food. Not just what to buy at the store or what to cook for dinner, but why I eat the way that I do.
A little bit of background is in order for this stream of consciousness to make any sense. For most of my life, I never thought about how I ate. As long as there was food, I was fine. That mindset began to change towards the end of college. One reason is because a group of my good friends got involved in gardening. They had always been my social justice oriented pals, and they began to focus their energies on food security and equal access to healthy foods. (As an aside, three of these friends have built this college project into their graduate coursework and, in one instance, a career.) I find it impossible to be surrounded by enthusiastic and well-read people and not be persuaded to think. At the same time, Greg started teaching me how to cook. I knew some of the basics, but he took the time to really teach me how flavors can work together. These lessons also coincided with our quest to try “intimidating” vegetables and fruits–like parsnips, winter squashes and persimmons–and cooking techniques–like canning. The final piece that pushed me to really THINK about food was when a friend gave me a copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I love Kingsolver’s writing, and this book about eating locally and seasonally resonated with me in a way that I did not fully expect. She makes such a passionate plea to her readers to think about what they do when they eat and to decide if their decisions are really in line with their ethics.
You know what? Mine weren’t.
That started us–Greg and I–on a process to change the way that we eat. We are completely dedicated omnivores who are quite fond of the adage “everything in moderation.” We eat meat, just not as much as we used to. We eat a lot more beans and fish than when we first started sharing home cooked meals. We eat all kinds of vegetables, but we eat them in their proper growing season. Mostly. Blackberries taste perfect in summer and wrong in December. Asparagus are one of the finest vegetables that spring has to offer, but they are not the same in October. That means that we eat a ton of leafy greens in the winter and squash in the summer. We gorge ourselves on strawberries in May and content ourselves with strawberry jam during the winter.
Our relationship with food is constantly evolving. We are forever adding to the list of things we make ourselves. I bake our bread; Greg makes our chicken stock. I want to learn how to make yogurt; Greg has mentioned wanting to try brewing beer with our church’s What Would Jesus Brew? group.
We do these things and eat this way because it tastes good. It challenges us to be better, more creative cooks. It has led us to have a healthier diet since we have a couple meat-free meals every week, eat more vegetables, and try not to keep processed food around. The only label that we have chosen to give ourselves is omnivores. We are not so strict with our diet that we never eat Flaming Hot Cheetos. We will never be vegetarians. We do not get all of our food locally, but we try to buy as close to home as we can when we are able to. Basically, we have spent the last four years slowly changing our diet and thinking about the fact that we are doing so in order to be kinder to our bodies and to the planet.
I am going to take a moment to discuss my new hobby by writing a completely unsolicited and gushing post. If you are a bibliophile, you might already be familiar with the site LibraryThing. I got reacquainted with the website recently through my work at the museum. One of my longterm (very longterm) projects is creating a digital catalogue of the staff library. The decision to use LibraryThing for that project led me to start my own library. The tagline “LibraryThing is an ocean” is true beyond my initial understanding of what you can do on the site.
For example, I love bizarre statistics that are in some way based in reality. My book stack is currently 86.2 feet tall (slightly higher than the Sphinx) and weighs 8,075 pounds. That is 0.03393 the weight of a blue whale. My library is about 60% male authors to 40% female with more alive authors than dead ones. History, classic literature, dystopian, fantasy, nonfiction, young adult and humor are the tags that come screaming out of my tag cloud.
I’ve gotten a few helper badges for adding to the common knowledge section of the site and adding in the locations of Little Free Libraries. I even joined the Early Reviewer program and received a copy of How to Make Your Baby and Internet Celebrity by Rick Chillot. Admittedly, it is not a book that I would have picked out on my own, but I enjoyed it. It is a quick, afternoon read that occasionally made me laugh out loud. I found the middle section to be the funniest, and I read portions aloud to Greg. In case it struck your interest, I recommend giving this book as a gift to any social media maven in your life who has or is expecting a little one. Just make sure that you get it to them before their kid is older than one and therefore useless for internet celebrity purposes.
Greg has fantasy football; I have LibraryThing. There is peace in the kingdom.