Theory about Staplers

I have this mental image of staplers at the office supply warehouse. As they are being packed in a big box, they can’t help but express their excitement about going out and making a contribution to the world of paper.

“No one will lose page 8 because of me.”

“I’ll keep that report together, and my owner will get an ‘A.'”

Then one of them happens to overhear their destination: a college library.

The excitement turns to wailing and gnashing of teeth. For they have all heard the stories.

And, yes, yesterday was the first day of classes. And already one stapler has given its life to the cause.



Monday Motivator: It’s Always Someone’s First Time


A few weeks ago, I stopped to fill up my car. The station had gone to a new credit card machine, and you had to slide your card in a different way than before. I put in my card and received the message ‘card not read.’ This is not what I wanted to see, but I wasn’t surprised. My card is old and grumpy and doesn’t like certain card readers. I put it in again. And again. After the third time, I asked for help.

The attendant came over and pointed at the picture description of how to put in your card. “I did that,” I said. I showed him. He was less than impressed. I turned the card over, and that irritated him even more. Again, he pointed out the directions. I pushed the card in one more time, and thank the heavens, it worked. He walked off.

But as I was filling up my car, his voice floated over to me as he talked to another customer. Words like “can’t read simple directions” and “how hard it is to put a credit card in a slot.” Now, it would be too much to say he damaged my self-esteem. After all, I know how to read directions. And I have a lot of experience using credit cards. Still, I was glad to get out of there.

I think I know what happened. Since the changeover at the pumps, this poor man had been besieged by folks who couldn’t get the hang of the new system. I was probably the fiftieth person who needed help that morning. And he was frustrated.

But here’s the thing. It was the first time I needed help on the system.

This is one idea that I try to keep in mind as each new semester begins. Yes, I may have answered the same question twenty times. I may not want to walk over to the printer AGAIN to show someone how it works. After all, I’m tired. My bunion hurts. This is the first time I have sat down in the last hour.

But then I remember: It’s the student’s first time asking the question. And the way I answer is going to affect how he views the library, maybe the entire college. So instead of caring about I feel, I put myself in the student’s place. How would I want someone to respond if I didn’t know how to do something?

And despite my fatigue and my bunion, the answer is obvious.

Monday Motivator: Rocking the Eclipse

Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul. — Victor Hugo

Today was the total eclipse. Like many people, I had fretted over this day for a while. What would happen if it rained? What if my glasses didn’t work? Or I lost them? Would my eclipse t-shirt arrive in time? Most of all, what if the eclipse turned out to be a disappointment?

Let’s face it. By the time you reach my age, you have learned that the event does not always live up to the hype. But nature did not disappoint today. The light right before the totality is something I will never forget, and I now truly understand why our ancestors associated eclipses with the supernatural.

If I had been alone at my house, the eclipse would have been special. But I was lucky that my college made an event out of it. We joked and laughed. We snacked. We took goofy pictures of each other in our glasses. And when the sun disappeared, there was a second of communal silent awe before we broke into applause.

It was special. And a great start to the school year.

Monday Motivator: And Then Suddenly It’s August

It’s hard to believe that August is upon us, and, while some friends and colleagues are either on or about to leave for vacation, many of us are feeling the inevitable ending of summer.

To be honest, summer has always been something of a disappointment to me. As a kid, I remember waiting all year for summer vacation, only to find it mostly boring, and then missing it as soon as I returned to school. Summer was like a beautiful myth whose reality never quite matched up to its description.

And this summer has been no exception. I had hoped to take every Friday off to work on some personal projects. Then, due to unforeseen circumstances, we were short-handed most of the weeks. But even on the few Fridays I managed to stay home, I made little progress on those projects.

I think I’m just going to have to admit it: I’m not a summer person.

Still, my thirty-day projects were a success. I’m still writing every day, and my office has been totally decluttered (except for the stuff that Charles still has in my closet). So I won’t judge my summer as a failure. It’s just that, in May when the weather is cool and the days are pleasant, I overestimate my energy during the hot days of July and August.

Still, whether your summer has been glorious, boring, or disastrous, tomorrow is still an opportunity to begin again.



Monday Motivator: Everyone, Just Take a Breath!

Apparently, there were several cars stolen in my neighborhood last night.  This is a bad thing. It means calls to the police, insurance forms to fill out, and time lost spent in doing those things. It also means a basic loss of security in a part of town that prides itself on being safe. So I’m certainly not minimizing this.

I found out about the thefts because I joined a neighborhood Facebook group.  I wanted to learn whom my neighbors considered good plumbers, dentists, etc. And I have gotten some good information. But, unfortunately, there is also a great deal of complaining about, well, everything.

Take this morning. In the midst of people offering sympathy to those who had their cars stolen, there were others who were complaining about the lack of police protection. Some were loudly proclaiming that my part of town was becoming like another part of town that has a reputation for crime, although Metro stats don’t justify the bad rap.

Part of this is a function of social media. Years ago, I wouldn’t know about these stolen cars unless the victim was a friend, neighbor, or colleague. Now we have instant knowledge of every major and minor crime committed moments after it happens, and it makes us feel afraid and threatened, even when crime statistics don’t support that fear.

For those of us who have lived in our neighborhood for many years, we know that we’ve never been crime-free. My condo community had break-ins before I moved in. My apartment community had a rash of smash and grabs. (The joke among my friends was that the thieves came to the top of the hill where I lived and saw my beat-up car, decided other crooks had gotten there before them, and turned around.)

Nowhere is completely safe, but social media can make us feel like every place is a war zone. So the next time bad news starts overflowing your feed, take a breath. Things may not be getting worse; it’s just that our methods for communicating bad things have improved.

Monday Motivator: Public Service Announcement about Summer

If you are like me, back in May, you probably made several sweeping statements about this summer. Here are some of the things that I was sure I’d get done:

  • Appointments for my dermatologist, ophthalmologist, and dentist.
  • My deck pressure washed and stained.
  • Carpet cleaning.
  • An unspecified number of articles, essays, and stories submitted.

Well, there’s more, but you get the picture.

At this point, I am probably at .003% completion level.

So if you are like me, let me go ahead and give you the bad news. Summer is more than half over. In just three weeks, the summer term will finish. In a little over a month, we’ll be starting fall semester.

You still have time to get those summer goals completed. But the time to start is NOW.

So excuse me while I get on the phone and make some appointments.

Monday Motivator: Sometimes Don’t Trust Your Gut

Last week, I received a message to call someone. My reaction was immediate and extreme. I became quite upset, sure that something bad was going to happen. My heart raced. My stomach churned. I was sure that the day could not end in anything other than disaster.

Why was I so sure of this? Well, it had happened once before, and my gut told me that this had to be round two.

So how did it end? It took one visit and one phone call to solve the issue, and all was well. The entire disaster had occurred only in my mind.

We tell each other to trust our gut, and we recount the times that intuition saved us from some horrible fate. But what we forget are the times our gut is just plain wrong. Mainly because it’s part of us, with all our prejudices, wrong ideas, and impulses. Our gut often simply confirms our biases.

Maybe a better thing saying might be “Listen to your gut after giving it a thorough questioning.”

Unfortunately, that doesn’t fit neatly on a t-shirt.




Monday Motivator: Happy Independence Day

There is no doubt that America means many different things to different people. I was brought up in a “love it or leave it” town, during the Vietnam War. But as I grew up, I realized that I was more the “love it and improve it” type. Probably the reason I’ve spent my entire career in education.

I read this story when I was a kid. And it has stayed with me all these years. If anyone asked me what America means to me, I can give no better answer  than “Yes, Your Honesty” by George and Helen Papashvily.

The Library-Infant Connection

I have a secret theory about our IT department. When a young computer tech is thinking that perhaps it’s time to have a child, the director sends him/her to the office in the library to make sure that this person is ready for the responsibility and patience necessary for parenthood.

To the computer tech, I’m sure that there are many similarities between his new library colleagues and infants:

  • Infants cry, but they have no way of telling you what’s wrong. While we can talk, I’m sure much of what we say sounds like babbling to our tech. “Jeff, the printer’s mad at me.” “Jeff, the computer is blinking.” “Jeff, there’s a message. I couldn’t read it all before the computer shut down. But I think the words ‘zombie apocalypse’ were there.”
  • Infants cry when their toys break. In the library, there may be tears when the printing system goes down, and we have to have students save documents to a flash drive and then we print them at the circulation desk.
  • Toddlers love saying the same thing over and over. While our purpose is different, we tend to do that as well:

“Jeff, my computer’s not working.”

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s not working.”

“Can you tell me exactly what happened?”

“It was working and now it’s not working.”

  • Toddlers/Infants can throw tantrums. (Umm, will say no more here to protect the guilty.)
  • Infants love you unconditionally. We adore Jeff. He is always patient. He never talks down to us. He’s willing to answer our questions, even if it’s the 300th time he’s been asked.  We think he’s pretty much perfect.

Last year, Jeff and his wife did have a baby, and he’s a good parent. And luckily, so far, he has chosen to stay with us.

Monday Motivator: Another Month, Another Challenge

For June, I chose the challenge of writing every day. So far, so good. I certainly have not created anything Wordsworthian, but I have written something each day. So I hope to make it to Friday and keep going.

For July, I decided to go a different way. I’ve been in my office for fifteen years and have gathered a massive amount of STUFF: books from my teaching days, knick knacks that have mysteriously appeared on my bookcase, notebooks from long-forgotten committees, food that could be eaten in case I’m trapped in the Zombie apocalypse but, otherwise, shouldn’t be touched, and so on. So I am undertaking a massive decluttering project, using Jason Manning’s 30 Day Minimalism Game.

This challenge adds a bit of a twist. On day one, you get rid of one thing. On day two, two things. All the way to Day 30 when you throw out 30 things. I’m already feeling a twinge of anxiety in my stomach as I think of that last week. But it needs to be done.

So here goes.

Who’s with me for the July Challenge?