Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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My Life is So Different Now

Three years ago this week I made the decision to retire from Yale and move to Texas to live with and care for my dad. I don’t regret the decision but my life is so totally different; sometimes I feel disconnected, because there is no one here who has any connection to the professional life I led for so many years. Married people, people with children, usually have at least someone who has shared those experiences with them. I don’t even have my cat anymore.

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Yale Law Library Reading Room

I worked on college campuses for almost 40 years and there is an energy there that keeps things hopping. I started working in general university libraries right after getting my M.L.S. and moved to law school libraries three years later, never looking back. My career was in Technical Services, which started out as cataloging and evolved into management of all of the specialties under the Tech Services banner: acquisitions, serials, binding, cataloging, electronic resources, integrated library systems. I worked long hours at challenging work – You want a book from Singapore that was published today? And you want it when?  Okay, let me see what I can do. I lived in Virginia, in Maine, in Boston, and Connecticut, sometimes moving without knowing anyone else in the state. Moving was hard but I did it – and by myself.

My organizations allowed me time to be active in my profession, going to national and specialty conference such as the Innovative Users Group for users of the system I worked with for almost 30 years. Of course, that meant working late and on weekends to get my regular work accomplished, but it was a good trade off for keeping my brain stretched and making wonderful contacts across the country and around the world.  I spent five years on the IUG Steering Committee, including being education chair for a national conference, followed immediately by three years on the Executive Board of the American Association of Law Libraries. And three years later, I was education chair for the AALL conference, too. Exhilarating, challenging, hard, creative, fun.

I loved working out the bibliographic puzzles that went with my job. Figuring out what happened to serial publications that stopped coming or morphed into other titles without warning. Finding books requested by colleagues and faculty that came with incomplete or wrong titles. Resolving systems problems. Dreaming up new ways to explain old things to staff.

Ah, staff. I hated supervising. That was the only really hard thing about my job to me. I want to work in a collegial relationship with people who act like adults and pull their weight. Supervising people, and especially those in a tough union shop, made that difficult at times. And it was exhausting. I do not miss that one bit, though I do miss some of the people. Okay, not many of them, but some.

12108756_10208073611423764_1885628941810349569_n (1)I thoughtfully planned my departure from Yale, working to transition tasks and responsibilites to new people and writing endless documentation to explain how to do it. One week after I retired from Yale, I got in the car with the cat and my sister-in-law and drove to Texas. There was no time to process or grieve because new things were coming. I almost never hear from the people I worked with and it’s as though who I was and what I did there doesn’t matter to anyone except me. I’m forgotten and left behind. Which is appropriate; I don’t want them mourning me, either, but people I thought were friends apparently were just passing in the hallways instead. And that’s hard.

So I have a new life now. Instead of being an experienced, senior person, I’m a youngster in a retirement community. I work part-time as a church secretary, making bulletins, writing documentation, maintaining the website. I sing in the choir, play Mah Jongg, and have friends. I’m also primary caregiver for my 90 year old father, who is increasingly fragile and forgetful. Never having had children, I have one now in many ways, and it’s difficult. It’s hard to know how to take time away when I have to be at the church at 8:00 a.m. six days a week, plus care for my dad. I don’t regret being here but I haven’t adjusted.

I miss my friends and am grateful to Facebook, with all its problems, for helping me stay in touch with people who knew me in my other life. I miss my cat, who died last May. I need a hug.


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A Week or So in the Life

Have you missed me?  I seem to be spending more time living my life and chatting in short little spurts on Twitter and Facebook instead of posting here.  Let’s see if I can catch up.

I’ve been busy with work, learning new responsibilities since on 11/1 my job changes.  My best work friend is retiring at the end of November and her unit and mine are being merged into a single Acquisitions & Continuing Resources department, with me in charge. I’ll miss her like crazy because we’re good friends and I enjoy her company, knowledge, and wisdom.  We’ve been backups for each other these last 3 years and it will be hard to fly solo, but it’s also an opportunity to rethink job responsibilities and descriptions, and workflow.

I’m off to Chicago on Tuesday for a few days visit with my best friend and then a committee meeting over Halloween weekend to select the programs for next year’s annual meeting.  I’m in charge of it all so am feeling a bit stressed that we don’t make any false moves. But we will and it will all be okay. Trust me, though, I’ll be happier next Monday when the decisions are behind us and I’m home again.

Tessi went to the vet on Friday, much to her dismay, to get her claws clipped and have her anal glands checked. She’s had problems there before and I’d noticed she was licking her butt more than usual.  It seems that the glands were fine but she had some hard crystals in there that were irritating. Now she has a small shaved bit and short claws.  So far she hasn’t retaliated by throwing up but I’m sure she’s biding her time.  I’d better warn the cat sitter.

Weight loss has slowed down to a stop and to be quite honest, I don’t really care that much.  Except I do.  I’ve decided that my goal isn’t a point on the scale, it’s being able to fit into size 16 petite pants.  I’m having a terrible time finding pants to fit because I’m really an 18p right now and petite departments usually only go up to a 16.  Sure, I can get some online but I really want to be able to try them on in a store instead of paying for stuff I have to return because it doesn’t fit.

But it doesn’t really matter to me when that happens.  After losing 126 lbs, it’s hard to get excited about another 15-20.  Picking up the exercise pace will obviously help but I’ve been sick for 2 weeks and have been having continuing back problems that my doctor thinks are connected to that heavy apron of excess skin hanging in the front.  My balance is off.  At least the pool workouts are easier on everything than the ones “on land” as my trainer calls them.

Did you know that you can create 8×10 photo collages at Walgreens?  I’m sure you can do it other places, too, but I know it works there.  I uploaded some digital photos to have prints made, and discovered there was an option for photo collage.  You can select up to 20 photos (though I’d definitely recommend no more than 8-9 if you want to actually see them) and the system arranges them for you.  You can shuffle the images, add more, remove some, select the color background and width of the lines separating the photos, etc.  Price is $3.99 each.  I’m not sure if you can create them on the spot; I did this from home and picked up at the store.  They’ll make fun presents for the family and one of them will go into my new office.  Check it out!


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Being In the Zone

I spent last weekend evaluating 179 program proposals submitted for our annual meeting next summer.  We can only pick 63 of them, so we need to make wise choices, and that means reading each with care, assessing the topic, speakers, description, learning outcomes, level, time length, competency area, whether the topic was recently done, does the program overlap with others proposed, etc., etc., etc.

I’ve done this twice before, once as a member of the committee and last year as I shadowed last year’s chair, so I have experience in working through this whole thing.  But it takes uninterrupted time, focus, concentration – and being In The Zone.  I finally got there this weekend, as I made my second pass through.

The table was completely cleared of everything except my Big Notebook, lists of program rankings, final programs from the last 2 conferences, my pens and markers, and the laptop on the chair next to me for quick reference (doing “find” searches through the lists to make it easier to locate duplication).  On, and No email, no surfing, no TV.  My iTouch was hooked up to speakers, softly playing a mellow playlist on an endless loop, and the kitchen was nearby for water bottle replenishment.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed and scattered, I was focused and purposeful.  I’d prepared by reading all of the proposals once already, dotting the pages with colorful post-its with notes and reminders.  This time I could really concentrate and had a context in which to see them all.

I don’t get in this zone very often with work; things are too fragmented with information and questions coming from every direction at once.  But when I can get into it, my mind is crystal clear and I’m extremely productive – and happy.

I need to find ways to build this into the office routine, especially with my friend’s retirement.  I’ll have more to do than ever and it would be easy to just be fragmented. I need my space to be tidy, interruptions at a minimum, soft music to help block out outside sounds and help me concentrate, and enough time to accomplish the task at hand, or at least in whatever time I allot for it on a given day.  Things to ponder.


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September Progress Report

I saw my lapband surgeon and my primary care doctor this week, covering a lot of bases. They were both pleased with my weight loss (121 lbs in 18 months), which has slowed down a lot lately. But I’m still losing an average of 1 lb/week while feeling very normal; that counts a lot.

I’ve been having problems with my back and my right knee, which limits what I can do for exercise (tho I’m still doing what I can with my trainer and on my own).  One reason for the back issues is probably the apron of belly skin left from losing weight. It’s just not elastic enough to come back to a normal shape.  I got a referral to a plastic surgeon to talk about options, see what they advise and what their rules are, etc. I hadn’t thought I’d actually do this but am seeing now that it makes sense. In any case, the surgeons aren’t likely to do anything until I’ve been at my goal weight for a year.

Which led to the “what is my goal weight?” discussion, really for the first time. I had a ballpark number but have been having some reservations about it as the pounds fell off.  My brain hasn’t caught up with the loss, which is actually normal since it usually takes approximately one year for every 25 lbs for reality to take hold.

Much to my relief, my primary care doctor advised that my goal be 165-170 lbs and that she’d be very happy for me to be at a BMI of 30.  (It’s already dropped from 54.9 to 33.2 so 30 isn’t that far away.)  I’d been afraid she would want me out of the obese & overweight categories and down to 130, a weight I haven’t seen since junior high and don’t think I could maintain.  Dr. W. is practical and stressed that a healthy BMI for ME doesn’t have to match what a chart says.

FYI: don’t worry if you don’t hear from me very often over the next weeks.  I am program chair for my professional association’s annual conference next summer and we’re gearing up to review 200 proposals, evaluate and rate, and finally select programs.  I’m also learning the ins/outs of the new responsibilities I take over on Nov. 1 (the day after we finalize the programs).  So I’m likely to be slow on the blogging front, but I’ll check in when I can!


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By the pricking of my fingers

If you thought I was productive on Saturday morning, you should have seen me yesterday.  I went to WW, breakfast at McDonalds (and yes I counted the egg-and-cheese biscuit and hashbrown, which were yummy).  Then to the grocery store to get fizzy water, a stop at Bed Bath and Beyond to find lining paper (which I didn’t but I found something I could use instead), and ended up at TJMaxx where I bought a new purse.  Came home and watched/listened to snippets of movies while I lined the dresser drawers and put the bedroom back together, paid bills, and did laundry.  I have another bag of clothes to take to Goodwill – yayyy me.

Today at work was also productive.  The office was pretty deserted with about half of the staff out on summer vacation, and I spent most of the day working at my “second desk” down in the serials area, reviewing a giant 165 page renewal list and verifying record numbers, flagging titles to be cancelled, and following up on problem receipts.

I really hate the layout of the workspace in my office and am thinking about how to rearrange it to suit me better.  I work best with the computer in the corner and workable counter space on both sides.  And I want the keyboard on a tray that I can move under the desk easily when I need to actually work away from the keyboard – strange but true at times.

I noticed a few days ago that my right wrist is starting to ache and the thumb, middle and index fingers are a bit numb and tingly.  It feels like carpal tunnel, which I’ve had before – in fact, this hand had surgery for it 16 years ago and the other hand was done about 6 years ago.  But I spend almost all of my work time at the computer when I’m not in meetings, and spend way too much time online when I’m home.  I know something isn’t right and by a remarkable coincidence (and it is a coincidence), I have an appointment with my primary care doctor tomorrow so will bring it up then.

The real topic for the appointment is to discuss bariatric surgery, as well as the things that go with it, including counseling.  WLS may not be right for me now or ever, but it makes sense to talk to a doctor instead of making up my own mind about it without enough information.  There are plenty of steps to take before WLS and this is one of them, whether it ends up with surgery or not.


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Train ride coming home

Amtrak travelMy sociability is exhausted after spending 6 days surrounded by people and being “on” from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. I love this conference and the chance to see old friends and meet new ones – but I really am looking forward to being home and quiet with the kitty. No lines for a bathroom, no crowds in the hall, no eating out every meal with different combinations of people.

Right now I’m on the train en route between DC and CT and this is definitely not the quiet car. There’s a woman behind me who’s been chattering in loud Spanish on her cell phone off and on for the last three hours. The two seats ahead of me are occupied by Rachel and Amy, who are dissecting relationships and using the word “like” at least every four words. I want to strangle them and am longing for the iPod, which I left behind in an effort to not take everything I own on this trip.

I’ve been going to this event for 16 years, since the very first conference, and there are just a few of us who have that longevity. And at one point I was program chair and even chair of the organization. Now I just feel so tired and a bit depressed to see how out of touch I am with the technology changes and energy levels of the folks who are doing presentations. I don’t have a job where dreaming of big things in a systems sense really happens, so even if I wanted to propose a program, I wouldn’t know what would be interesting when my work feels so low-tech.

Yeah, I’m a little depressed and sad. I miss being important and part of an active, dynamic team – even as I know I don’t have the skill set, knowledge base or really interest in doing it again even if I had the chance to. It’s not helping that my feet are swollen up like water balloons, my knee is sore, and most annoying, my head feels as though it’s about to explode and the throat hurts when I swallow. I’ll be fine when I’m home in my own space, cuddling up with my kitty, and have a few days to rest and recover.

…. Rachel and Amy got off the train and were replaced by Sarah, who worked her way through a list of potential donors for a charity auction. I know more about all of it than I ever wanted to know.


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Christmas Music and Office Decor

Christmas Music JukeboxMy current favorite Christmas song is God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings recorded by the Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan. I’ve added it to my iTunes both at home and the office, along with an assortment of other relatively soft Christmas tunes, where they play in “party shuffle” rotation while I’m working.

There’s something happy about plugging away on a project and hearing a few Christmas song every now and then in the office soundtrack. I’m already tired of the idea of all Christmas music all the time — it’s not even December yet, for heaven’s sake – but the occasional seasonal tune reminds me that this isn’t ordinary time.

We decorated at the office today, with people pulling out hoarded supplies of little trees, figurines, ornaments, and little wreaths. All of my office decorations were left behind when I moved so I need to find some new things that will work with my new space because I like the visual as well as the musical touches. My boss has an amazing collection of Christmasy frogs (who knew??) so our end of the office is already pretty festive.


You Are a Tree


You love every part of the holidays, down to the candy canes and stockings. And you’re goofy enough to put a Christmas tree ornament on your tree!

What Christmas Ornament Are You?