Work

“there’s no sense crying over every mistake”

Photo by Janko Ferlic from Pexels

I grew up with the public library just walking distance from my home. I remember my first library card, and the man who gave it to me. I’d checked out the same two books on constant rotation – dilapidated copies of King Kong and Godzilla books. Memories come rushing back, flooding my mind with the scent of the card catalog, the crack in my voice when I asked for assistance, and the moments spent looking out the window to the small atrium – if you could call it an atrium – within the children’s department. Part of me wanted to live in a library – and, in some sense, I do – or at least work within one.

When the Edinburg Public Library closed its doors, the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library opened. The library was named after a boy I knew in high school who was killed in the Iraq conflict three years prior.

The switch between libraries happened in my final year of college – I went to one library in the winter of 2006 and the other in the spring of 2007. I remember the confusion from the change, and wondered if the library card I held would still be valid. (It was.)

My days of unemployment, working odd gigs and contractual jobs, were spent hanging out at the library during poetry readings, performing my works, and borrowing books. When Jeanna got pregnant with Shaun, I knew that my days of just getting by were over.

In November 2011, I attended a job fair hosted at the library. One of the booths was for the City of Edinburg, and one of the positions was for the library. Because he was present, I asked the assistant library director – whom I met during my stint as a local poet – about the position. Of course, the job required an MLS degree, however, he did let me in on some information. One of their children’s staff members was retiring and a position would soon be open. Adding, that I should keep up with the city’s website and talk with the library director.

I did both.

Continue reading ““there’s no sense crying over every mistake””
Work

A Funny Thing Happened to Me at Work Today

The sense of under appreciation can cling to you like a gym rat’s stench after spending a humid day at the park deadlifting weights. It’s sense that can arise in any job, I’m sure. I know I’ve experienced it at the ballpark. And there isn’t a month at the library where it doesn’t sneak up on me like an ex-lover trying to make amends. And it’s easy to feel invisible when everyone gets the praise, overlooking that despite their planning, you helped in the execution. People would beeline around me to shake hands with the brains of the operation. Sure, we get the pats on the back. The nods of recognition from those you helped, but it the feeling still arises.

Sometimes, though, there comes your moment to shine and you’re left baffled at the thought that someone actually sees you, saw you all these times. They recognized that you’ve come a long way from you meager beginnings as a “doer” to the “creator.” I’ve had my moments post-children’s department, assisting in organizing the poetry readings to being in the pilot seat. And I think that’s why I loved being part of the poetry readings at the library. It gave me a sense of being appreciated, being noticed. And despite my aversion to get on stage and start the program (or having to find new poets, not getting responses, booking flakes, etc.), I looked forward to them. All good things, however, succumb to the inevitable.

When they told me January would be my final hurrah in the poetry scene at work, the sense of invisibility snuck up on me again. I didn’t begrudge the person they gave the responsibility to, though. I couldn’t have left the poetry scene or my friends in better hands. I coasted the weeks, knowing that the February poetry reading would only be weeks after my final one. There was no time to grieve. Planning for the International Book Discussion needed my attention. I ignored work by focusing my attention on work, if you can believe such nonsense. I designed a scavenger hunt and created puzzles for the children to decipher.

Thursday, it all came together. I watched the children dashed across the department, the excitement of figuring out the riddle, the hidden message word search, the rebus, and the zoomed in picture clues. As they worked on their craft, the school librarian approached me to “pick my brain.” She wanted to know how we went about selecting our books for our collection, seeking “insider secrets.” I explained that we purchased new books, recent award winners, popular series, and patron requests. I admitted that I do browse the children’s books at Barnes and Noble and take pictures of books that catch my attention. But as for any algorithm, there wasn’t much to it. Books are hit or miss with kids. Sometimes it takes a movie for a book to become popular or breathe new life in an old classic. (Note to self: purchase a few copies of A Wrinkle in Time for donation.)

She asked me if we all worked on the games together, and Ida responded that it was all me. This came as a surprise, it seemed. In the past, I’ve always been the seen and not heard library employee. And perhaps that was my fault for not showing initiative and maintaining my survival mouse stance. Being recognized as someone other than that, well, that’s a boost in my personal morale. Seeing that I am the harbinger of the children’s entertainment, that’s a boost in my morale. Seeing my game, albeit a Frankenstein creation from past games done in previous IBD events, entertaining, is a boost in my personal morale.

I may not be the most kid-friendly person in the world—sometimes, I downright feel like my department would be much more cleaner and in order without them—but I love my job for the most part. These kids are my kids, and I’d rather them be excited about the library than scowl at the thought.

I just wish they’d stop making me feel so damn old, though. But that’s a story for another day.

Personal

“Tell each other stories”

“So when do you think you’ll publish a book?” he asks. There’s nothing condescending hiding within his voice, but his weasel smile still angers me. There are times when I want to trust him, but this isn’t one of them. The knowledge of what he’s capable isn’t lost on me. I know better than to share my secrets with this tiny man.

“I don’t know,” I say. Yeah, I do. There were plans in the past where being a published a writer was the end game. I imagined penning the novel that would move people. That would grab men by the balls and women by the heartstrings. That would make the readers uncomfortable with themselves. Make them question what gets them hard. What gets them off.

These days, those plans are behind me. I write when I can. The need has dried up. And I’m ok with that. There are time when I think about getting started again. Let my boredom create worlds and people. Let my fingers clatter away at the keys. Hear the orchestra of pen to paper as my scrawl fills journals. Wake up to the sound of a character’s voice.

Every project I started these days has ended up the same. Unfinished. Forgotten. Left in the note-taking stage. And it’s not something I want to tell this man, because as I recalled the only reason why they hired me in the first place was because I possessed a certain skill of molding words into images. Images that captivated people. That drew others to me.

“I haven’t written enough,” I tell him.

At home, I busy myself with television. I vowed to read a hundred books this year, and only managed twenty-two so far. I spend as much time with Shaun as possible. And by that, I mean we’re both on our respective devices while the hours figuring out puzzles. That is until I realize that the best days are burning quickly. Then we tend the garden. We run. We play hide-and-seek, and each time my heart catches in my throat when I can’t find him. And when he seeks up behind me to catch me, I feel relief.

The dreams returned after a few year hiatus. In them, we’re happy. They started off as memories. False memories. Memories from another dimension where we didn’t split at the seam. And they become heavier. I feel her lips on mine. Her touch upon my skin. The heat of her breath on my neck. I shudder awake. I stare at the darkness of my bedroom. I listen to the whirl of the fan, of the a/c. I have never felt more alone than I do after one of those dreams.

And just like that, the voices come to me. Almost in unison.

“Hey,” they say. “We’re not finished with you just yet.”

Doldrums

An Atheist Christmas Special

I’ve dodged the question for several years now. The number of times hasn’t grown since my announcement of “converting” to atheism. If anything, it’s lessened. And that’s not because people have become more accepting to my “lack of” views; it has everything to do with my lack of interest in talking to the general public. Still there’s one every year who cannot help but to ask. Sometimes it’s condescending. Sometimes it’s mere curiosity. Usually, it’s annoying. Over the commotion for the world around us, the question pours from his mouth and becomes a thorn to my temples. My head quakes with an urge to launch into a diatribe filled with frothing words. And it hangs in the air like a Pisces breath.

“If you’re an atheist, how can you celebrate Christmas?”

The question comes in various forms throughout the year. “If you’re an atheist, what do you believe in?” “If you’re an atheist, where do you get your moral value from?” “If you’re an atheist…?”

I wasn’t raised atheist. I didn’t have the same luxury that you did. I found my (non)religion on my own. The set of morals I grew up with are common sense. Doing bad things to others is wrong. If you can’t realize that, it’s not religion you’re missing—it’s empathy.

But why Christmas?

This might come as a blow to you put-the-Christ-back-in-Christmas folks, but your lord and savior wasn’t born on Christmas day. The Bible makes no notation on his birth date (or year, for that matter). And considering that the good book is riddle with historical and scientific inaccuracies, it wouldn’t have mattered. And call me a religious conspiracy theorist (as one such friend mocked), but Christmas started off as a pagan holiday. Christians made a habit of lying to non-believers, stealing their pagan celebrations and beliefs and altering them into something that resembled their own.

But why celebrate if the religious connotations are present?

Because I don’t see them. Santa Claus (despite also being St. Nick) isn’t a religious figure. Nor are elves, flying reindeer, the tree, consumerism/materialism, eating pork tamales (because it’s one of the forbidden foods), etc. I just see it as a time of year of being around family and loved ones. A second Thanksgiving.

A Father Christmas

“Jesse’s gone into dad mode,” Monica tells me as we head out for our monthly excursion to Barnes and Noble. She’s come to this conclusion because Jesse has asked for a flashlight. It’s reminiscent of their father’s Christmas wishes.

I think about it for a bit. I know there won’t be anything waiting for me underneath the Christmas tree. Still, I think, wouldn’t it be cool to find a nice tool set, the kind that comes with a set of Allen wrenches? It’s a giddy thought. Somewhere along the lines, I stopped expecting toys for Christmas. As adult, you have to buy your own toys. Christmas becomes more about getting things you wouldn’t get on your own, but know you need around the house. And right now, I need a set of Allen wrenches to dismantle an unused crib.

Altruism

As few of you know, I work at a library. The library world is a family one. There are relatives you love and cannot be away from. There are relatives you hardly speak a word to. There are relatives you wish would just fall off a cliff. And there’s extended family members you haven’t met before.

Last month, we learned that two of our patrons were homeless. The family found themselves in a tough spot. We gathered food and boxed it and presented it to them for Thanksgiving. In lieu of our usual secret Santa gift exchange, we all agreed it would be nice if we gave this family a Christmas they couldn’t afford.

Altruism, for me, is always done in the shadows. In the past, whenever I donated money to a cause, I always wrote in my nephew’s name. Now, I write in Shaun’s. I don’t do nice things because it makes me feel good. I don’t do them to get into heaven. And I don’t do them for recognition. So when it came to this gift giving, I didn’t expect to get any. However, it became a photo-op and they wrangled me in. I stood off to the side, hoping I’d get cropped out in the final edit.

This is the time of year when people boast about donating money, food, and their time to charity. They puff out and beat their chests declaring the amount of good they do each year. They want to measure up their good deeds like men in a circle jerk comparing their erect cocks. The better and exponent the deeds, the bigger their wings, their halo, the cleaner their conscience.

People should stop expecting rewards for doing nice things. They need to stop pretending that the season of giving comes only once or twice a year. It should last all year round. They shouldn’t take credit for something their church does each year, when they didn’t lift a finger. That’s like sport fans saying they won a game when they’re not even on the damn team.

Linus’s Speech Revamp for a Secular Crowd

wpid-img_20141225_082835.jpgEvery parent wants what is best for their kids. Our job is to raise and guide them the best we know how. Sometimes we tell little white lies—the stork, Santa Claus, gods and monsters—to give them magic in the world. The end game is always the same. We want them to excel where we couldn’t.

I only bought Shaun one present this year (three if you count accessories). He looked thrilled to see the new tablet that awaited for him inside the box. A tablet he could take home with him to his mom’s. I loaded all his games and placed a few dollars in his Google Wallet. And he spent his morning counting, finding, and putting puzzles together. When got tired, he sat on my lap and asked to color. We sprawled out on the floor and colored the pages I printed for him. We watched a movie together. We talked. We sang songs. We ran around. We played with his toys from last Christmas.

And I thought about the parents of the kids killed this year. I thought about the families of the police officers murdered in cold blood. I thought about the families of the people who murdered those kids and those police officers. Imagined what their Christmas must be like this year. That dark cloud hanging over their heads. Several people already labeled me anti-police. I stand against a system that allows officers to act as judge, jury, and executioner in cases where the suspect posed no threat.

Is it safe to assume that all these parents had the same wish for the kids that I do for Shaun? It wouldn’t matter if my kid came out of the closet some years down the line. Wouldn’t make me flinch if he told me he was born in the wrong body. Wouldn’t bother me if he served in our military. I’d be proud if he chose to become a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, or journalist.

What I want most for my kid is that he grows up happy. The he knows he’s loved even when things seem bleak. That he can come to me no matter what. That he is good and kind and understanding to the people around him. That it’s not about how much you have as compared to your neighbor, but that your neighbor has something.

And if you ask me, that has little to do with Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or whatever. And it has everything with being a decent human being.

Merry Christmas. And Happy Holidays.

Doldrums

“Never pay the reaper with love only”

A romantic gesture. We’re splitting hairs here. Had a good cry the other day and broke down. Last time I did this, I took a walk. Sometimes I lose myself in a character I created. A routine that I become. For hours, I’m watching the world through the eyes of a some teenager sitting on the beach, his nose bloodied from a fight that ensued the night before, watching teenage girls jogging by while he ponders the rising sun and what this life means. And this teenager will never grow up to be me, because I was never this teenager. Maybe I wished life was a bit more like a teen romantic comedy where it all sews together in the end. Or maybe, my only hope that I am able to write one.

I survived last week with just the hairs on my knuckles. A whirl wind of emotions, a roller coaster. A tsunami of torrential tears. My thirtieth birthday, the International Book Discussion, and FESTIBA. I decided that my secret needed out of the bag. I confessed to Lee first, sometime last year. He knew the play by play. When he left work, I decided not to let my coworkers know the situation, so I bended the truth. I played cards that hid my secret without actually having to lie to them–think the pronoun game when attempting to hide the sex of the person you’re seeing. I told Grace after she was fired because I trusted her enough to keep the secret. The added bonus is that she’d never slip and discuss it in the lounge. I’ve hinted it here on the blog, if not just stating it outright. Anyway, I won’t discuss it tonight.

Friday, FESTIBA involved me donning the Clifford costume and walking around city hall court yard. I couldn’t see anything except the skyline, and Edinburg doesn’t have one. Not to mention that I lost about 15 pounds in sweat alone. Still, I saw a couple of familiar faces–including I-love-you girl, who, after checking the archives, I never mentioned here so I’ll save that story for later as not to get sidetracked.

Killer Clown
Exhibit A (as if there’s an Exhibit B)

I’m sure I never mentioned that my coworker, Angela, is deathly afraid of clowns. So not only did one of my coworkers dress up as a clown, another decided to “hire” the killer clown from the water-dunk booth to chase her after it ended. I should also mention there’s a prank war brewing in the horizon. A war that I’m a part in ever since my spicy brownie won the affection of my fellow coworker (the same guy who got the killer clown to chase Angela around). After Clifford, my night was pretty slow moving. So I joined whatever activity there was until it was time to pack up and leave. We carried our stuff to the van at the end of the night and we were led away by our fellow leader. By this time, my mind was at getting home rather than remembering the planned conspiracy. Just then, Angela bolts as that guy in the picture above starts chasing her around. My blood rushed through my head and like the monster I am, I got giddy. Of course, now I’m part of the conspiracy group and must not be a target of the revenge conspiracy. However, Saturday and figured something out. I figured, coupled with my stepping out of my comfort zone Friday, that I could bribe my way out of this as I’m already in the works of pranking the prankster that set her up for a scare.

Starbucks Solution
Will you look at that, Exhibit B

Now Angela is Catholic and, as most of you Catholics know, we’re currently tumbling through Lent. Which means, she’s not allowed meat on Fridays and must sacrifice something. She gave up her two main sources of caffeine–coffee and soda. So I’m wandering through Walmart, when happen upon the solution to my prank problems. Now, personally, Starbucks is the corporate devil which spews coffee zombies addicted to name brands. However, Starbucks is the mecca for most coffee drinkers; therefore, giving her this as an act of contrition should get me off the hook.

I suppose we shall see how it plays out Tuesday, as I won’t see her until then. Meanwhile, I’m beginning my notes on the story I mentioned in an earlier post. I’m still uncertain how much of the reality will get left behind. I just know that the direction I want to take it is YA. We’ll see.