Vagabond Librarian

Reports from the intersection of military life, motherhood, & librarianship.

Reader Response: War and Peace

I loved War and Peace from the moment Pierre bumbled into scheming Anna Pavlovna’s party and proceeded to horrify everyone by fawning over Napoleon.

I’m a sucker for an epic tale, and War and Peace contains all the elements of a great epic, with the bonus of also being a sweeping historical novel and intense work that explores love and the human condition.

A few notes on what kept me immersed and tearing through the pages of this work:

  • Interesting characters who are sometimes more than they seem, sometimes less than they seem, and sometimes precisely what they present themselves to be.
  • Complicated social constructs that confine every character, regardless of their social standing, and make them do ridiculous things that actually aren’t ridiculous at all in the context of time and place.
  • Glorious battle scenes that become decidedly inglorious when you zoom in for a closer look, revealing both the necessity and  futility of war.
  • Existential crises, the necessity for characters to make heart-wrenching decisions, and a dash of forbidden love kept me fully submerged and invested in wide sweeping historical  events on a personal level.
  • Prison time. A little time in captivity is always good for a hero to search his soul about what truly matters.
  • Self sacrifice, written beautifully, and undertaken by different characters for different reasons–for family, for country, for loftier ideals–was met throughout this work with varying degrees of success. There is no straight path to fulfillment or redemption for Tolstoy’s characters, which made their evolution that much more satisfying.

Similar to Prince Andrei, I had a mid-novel realization that I love everyone in this work because they simply are who they were meant to be. I loved that characters had moments of clarity that were profound and presumably life-changing, and that sometimes they remained changed by those moments and sometimes their return to “civilized” society pushed those revelations to the background.  I found that as I became more involved in this novel, I came to sympathize with everyone, but most especially Pierre, who was so sincere in his search for meaning and purpose that I couldn’t help but feel protective of him when he seemed he would never truly find his way.

And, just when I though I had come to the conclusion of this epic journey, Tolstoy endeared himself to me even more in the epilogues. I appreciated that Tolstoy did not fast forward to an idealized, soft-focus montage of Natasha and Pierre’s married life, but instead dropped us in the middle of a relatable and rather humorous description of squabbles, diapers, and the thought that goes into doling out gifts after a business trip. I also enjoyed the philosophical meanderings in the epilogue, but it was the unkempt Natasha and her family who made the epilogues worth reading for me.

While it is Pierre that I enjoyed getting to know most as a character, it is Prince Andrei whose thoughts resonated most strongly with me throughout War and Peace. Prince Andrei sums up my overall take-away from this multilayered tale of history, sacrifice, mortality, and love when he says to Pierre, “Here I am alive, and it’s not my fault, so I have to try and get by as best I can without hurting anybody until death takes over.” Like Andrei, I find this concept both comforting and hopeful.

It has been a week since I finished War and Peace, and I’m still not ready to pick up another book just yet. It was that good.

Book Review: Ulysses

I wonder if it is possible to write a rational book review of this notoriously difficult and consistently praised novel. The unique style of Ulysses does not lend itself to a standard issue review. I loved the brilliance and humor that shown throughout this work, but I loathed the overwrought cleverness that weighed it down. I appreciate how mind-blowingly revolutionary it must’ve been at the time it was written and that its structure and prose are still freshly innovative today.

I didn’t struggle with Ulysses the way I did on my first two abandoned attempts, which probably can be attributed to following a reading schedule and digesting each section one at a time. I decided not to explore any of the reading guides or summaries of the work prior to reading. I respect that a reader’s guide may have eased my journey through the work, but I was worried it would influence my reactions and detract from the experience of connecting to Ulysses as a unique reader. I found a stripped-of-all-notes, no distractions, unabridged copy of the book, and simply dug in.

I appreciate Joyce’s technique and experiments with style. I found his echoes of, and connections to, other literary works rather fun. I, in turns, enjoyed Joyce’s cleverness and found that cleverness eye-rollingly overdone. My greatest joy in reading Ulysses was finding the literary gifts sprinkled throughout, and encountering the passages in the work where a character’s stream of consciousness rang true in gloriously jumbled cadence. I found Molly’s segment absolutely brilliant in this regard, and was happy to close Ulysses with the feeling of exhilaration Molly’s thoughts brought with them.

My biggest disappointment in this novel is that I want to feel caught up in the undertow of a novel, especially one that deals in intimate point of view and stream of consciousness, but I just didn’t feel caught up in this as a whole work. I understand the fascination of literary scholars who spend decades plumbing the depths of Ulysses for treasure or working to solve the puzzles strewn throughout by Joyce. I am certain I will revisit individual sections of this work to deepen my understanding of them, but I don’t feel compelled to return to Ulysses as a complete novel.

Ulysses is a remarkable exploration of style and experiment in stream of consciousness, but I don’t know that I would go so far as to recommend it. For any friends with a desire to read Ulysses, I would say “Go for it!” and offer all the support they’d like as they work their way through it. To friends expressing a desire to wade into modernist literature, I would instead recommend picking up Faulkner, Eliot, Woolf, or Pound. My first choice is anything by Faulkner, whose writing I love, though I’m understanding of anyone who doesn’t connect with his world and style. The Sound and The Fury is my personal favorite by Faulkner, but Light in August is better on which to cut one’s teeth. Other enjoyable examples of modernist writing are The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, and anything by Ezra Pound, who I think is a true craftsman. Alternatively, I’d recommend picking up the latest by George Saunders, who explores style, plot, and character in the strange and magical Lincoln in the Bardo, a novel which is uniquely structured and particularly fun to read–and doesn’t require additional guides, notes, or interpretations to understand.

Links to Further Explore Ulysses

Brilliant “Ulysses to go (James Joyce in 18 minutes, English version)” as told with Playmobil by Sommer’s World Literature to go

Salman Rushdie Recaps ‘Ulysses’ in 20 Seconds

Bloom (2003) Produced By Odyssey Pictures

I watched this film after completing my reading. I enjoyed how closely the film followed the dialogue of the book, though it is somewhat simplified in certain segments, which was no doubt necessary to fit this entire day into 113 minutes. I was glad I watched it after I finished the book, but I think it could be helpful to struggling readers to watch when they get bogged down a few chapters in. From IMDb: Adapted from James Joyce’s Ulysses, Bloom is the enthralling story of June 16th, 1904 and a gateway into the consiousness of its three main characters: Stephen Dedalus, Molly Bloom and the extraordinary Leopold Bloom. 

James Joyce’s Dublin: The Ulysses Tour (2007)

This documentary was more enthusiastically delivered summaries for each chapter than tourism video, though the narrator, Robert Nicholson, does present each segment on location in Dublin. Nicholson’s love of Joyce’s work, and of Dublin itself, make this a fun alternative to written summaries of UlyssesFrom product packaging: Although James Joyce spent much of his adult life in self-imposed exile from his native Dublin, the beloved Irish city retained a firm grip on his imagination, serving as the center of his literary universe. This documentary reveals that universe through a detailed tour of the city and the author’s favorite haunts. James Joyce Museum curator Robert Nicholson serves as the guide, sharing his extensive knowledge of the man and his works.

My Reader Response: Ulysses

Reader Response: Ulysses

I look forward to doing a book review for Ulysses next, but a Reader Response based on my margin notes felt more appropriate given the nature of the work. 

Okay so this may not be as bad as I remember I mean it’s just some dudes eating breakfast and borrowing money from each other and then Stephen going to work to teach history and there are some funny observations and connections so I wonder if we’ll follow Stephen more or get back to Leopold well it looks like we are sticking with Stephen for awhile and he seems so incredibly broody that I hope that this entire book isn’t just Stephen as a vehicle to showcase point of view stream of consciousness and Joyce’s cleverness because right now that’s what it feels like and I wish I wasn’t not drinking this month because this would probably be more fun to read if I were drinking a stout. Hallelujah we’ve been delivered from Stephen for a while we just caught up with Leopold who seems generally more likable though not totally nice which is good because nice-ness is often the kiss of death for an interesting protagonist and it is a nice change of pace that he is less broody as well though he is pretty concerned about that cheating wife even though he has a side girl of his own which is good for him but which he seems horrible at hiding or maybe he doesn’t want to because he’d like to blow things up and confront his wife but hasn’t got the stones to do it and anyway this doesn’t seem the kind of thing this book is interested in exploring because it is too pedestrian and not pedestrian enough at the same time for Joyce and I enjoyed the funeral scene and really hope this lankylooking galoot guy goes somewhere because I’d love this book to be more than just the wandering rambling thoughts of these guys written cleverly but I wonder maybe he will end up being one of those everyman type guys or maybe some kind of substitute for Athena appearing to Odysseus or maybe he is really just a random dude that sparks a thought for Leopold because this is stream of consciousness and this does not seem either like the kind of work in which there will be a mystery with a solution which is ok I suppose but if I am not getting a story or a plot I would at least like to find a character I care about in some capacity I mean these guys have their funny moments but if this is how boring most people’s inner monologue is all day I am glad I cannot read minds and am only privy to the clever bits they share out loud. And now they’re having sandwiches and I’m hungry and thinking sometimes these guys and the people around them are funny and I love following these random people around town because the writing and observations are clever but then I get to the pub and oh for godsakes this is like hanging out with people who think they are incredibly insightful and deep and they just aren’t and I cannot wait to find an excuse to get away from them. I need a break from these people.

Back on the shore to ease back into Leopold’s world and then on to the pub after an interesting bit of great writing I wish more of the book was like this but I suppose that part of the point of this modernist exploration in writing is to not be bound by convention but it is mostly just making me so thankful for authors who utilize consistent style and punctuation though I do really enjoy the play format as a brain break after the dense bit that preceded it and thought the question answer format was super clever but then we are back again to dense writing drunkenness and murky identities and money and poetry and free association still going precisely nowhere which I suppose is how most of our days rolled out and laid bare would seem.

We finally get to Molly and she deserves a sentence of her own as she is worth trudging through all of the overwrought meanderings in the rest except perhaps when I thought they would never stop droning on during the afternoon when they probably all should have just gone home and had a nap and I like that I got a bit of her story and it is wild to me that of all the characters her voice is the truest and has the most honest cadence and her recollections intertwined with her awareness of present sounds and feelings and sensations is truly brilliant and quite beautiful and I’m thinking wistfully if only all of the book had been as magical as Molly.

Too Many Fridays: Our Military Move

This is the story of our summer 2017 military move. It is a pretty typical military moving story, mixed with highs, lows, and a few jags of ugly crying. While this is an accurate accounting of a sometimes frustrating experience, it is written from a place of commiseration and not a place of anger. “Cheers!” to the friends, neighbors, packers, and local transportation people who provided the high points of this experience. 

Friday Zero: The Prologue

On a sunny Friday afternoon in Coastal Georgia, I sit and wait for my movers to come for the pre-move inspection they called two weeks ago to schedule. When the movers don’t show up, I call their customer service number, mildly annoyed that I have taken the afternoon off work and they didn’t make their appointment window. The nice lady I speak with informs me that they dropped the appointment because I cancelled our move. I am usually pretty calm when unexpected news comes my way, but not today. Between heaving uncontrollable sobs, I tell her I did not cancel our move and I ask her if she has any other information about the cancellation I can write down. I calm down just enough to contact the move manager and find we’ve been assigned to a different mover. No big deal, the move manager tells me. I beg to differ. Thinking, however briefly, that I was thrown back to square one of trying to sort out a military move with a deployed husband during peak moving season is a pretty big deal to me.

It has been a busy week at work. I had planned to sit down with a margarita and a bag of lime popcorn to celebrate a productive work week and a complete pre-move inspection. Instead, I frantically chat with a friend on the phone about what just went down. Then I sit on the porch to share a glass of wine and commiserate with another friend about all the crazy moving stories going around the neighborhood this move season. I hope that maybe I just got the “craziest thing” out of the way early in the move process.

I decide to start a blog post about this move. I consider this emotional Friday a prologue to a much more positive story, and envision calling the post something like, “The Five Fridays of My Military Move.”

Friday 1: Payday

Direct deposit amount is way off. Like, below basic pay off. The possibilities are endless. Deployment pay disappeared? Double dipped rent? I decide that this is something my husband can handle from afar. I also decide to channel my frustrated “why can’t people just get their sh*t together” energy into packing collectibles into their original boxes in anticipation of the move. Then, I worry that the people who can’t get their sh*t together may be us, and I wonder if there is unfinished paperwork out there somewhere that caused this. I create a color coded moving calendar and make a few calls. I discover that we do have our sh*t together, our move manager thinks I need to be more patient, and our local transportation office representative is funny and kind.

Friday 2: iPads and Hand Sanitizer

I spend the week not worried at all about moving because it is an insanely busy week at the high school. My co-librarian and our fearless library staff spend our week checking in, processing, and organizing the thousand-and-some iPads our  students were assigned this school year as part of our district’s 1:1 technology program. I use tons of hand sanitizer (these iPads are grungy!), and then get home Friday afternoon and make my son clean all his electronics. I decide I’d better do something in aid of move preparation, so I take down my curtains and take the pictures off the walls.

Friday 3: The Fourteen Hour Work Day

Graduation on a Friday night makes for a long and emotional workday. I get home and briefly consider using some of our weekend to organize or pre-pack more stuff. Instead, I decide it will be a much better use of our time to take advantage of our close proximity (for now) to awesome friends and we hit the road to hang out with them. I am certain the move manager is thrilled I chose not to check in with him today.

Friday 4: Journey North, First Trip

The Vagabond Teen, our two cats, and I hit the road early. I have invested a few hundred dollars in equipment that I hope will keep the cats happy for the two day car trip north. It sort of works. I am grateful beyond reason that my Vagabond Teen is a calm and easygoing person who does not seem to mind cleaning up cat vomit.

Friday 5: Pack It Up

I’m back in Coastal Georgia after leaving the Vagabond Teen and the cats with longtime friends in Northern New York, and I am having the best packing experience. Ever. Three ladies show up, walk around, and begin to work with a precision and professionalism that I have never seen in a packing crew. When the lead packer tells me they’d like to get the job finished in one day, I am skeptical and ask if she has looked in the kitchen cabinets yet. She says she has, and that they can do it. It is beautiful. They seem to care about my stuff. They move at a steady pace that is awe inspiring.

Sabrina, Caroline, and Delores do our three-day pack out in one day. Thanks to them, I have two bonus days on my color coded moving calendar! Instead of supervising packers for those two bonus days, I spend one day cleaning (with the help of my awesome friend who has come to assist with such things), and one day roaming around Savannah (also with the help of my awesome friend who has come to assist with such things).

Friday 6: Journey North, Second Trip

I rock the housing “final out” inspection, and am on the road in record time. I’m thankful to the neighbors on either side of me who are willing to take my last few bags of trash and the bucket of fish tank gravel that won’t fit anywhere in my overloaded pickup truck. I am beyond jazzed when I find that Sirius has a Tom Petty channel, and I only take a break from belting out Tom Petty songs to fret about the low tire pressure light that comes on about a hundred miles from my destination. I stop at every opportunity to check the tires, which seem fine. I use my mad library skills to find reliable information online about low tire pressure sensors and decide to just keep moving forward, stopping as often as I can, and believing that the sensor probably just got bumped while I was on the patches of I-77 that are rough and under construction. I get to my hotel three hours later than anticipated, but with all four tires full of air, a breathtaking view of the mountains, and a decent movie playing on HBO. Score!

Friday 7: The Unpack, First Load

I unpack, trying not to dwell on the fact that the driver showed up with our stuff a day after he was scheduled to come, without checking in with me, the moving company, or transportation to let anyone know what was going on. I try to focus on how great it is to be back in familiar territory, with wonderful friends and neighbors. I decide to relax, get my list together to sort out the overflow on Monday. I check out a military spouse Facebook group on which people are sharing moving stories, and decide I may be frustrated, but it could be worse. Thanks to my amazing packers, everything I’m unpacking is in great condition.

Friday 8: Same Song, Different Verse…

After much inquiring, I finally receive word that our overflow shipment has still not left Georgia. The moving company can’t find a driver, so I am advised to be patient and wait until I hear from someone.

I about come unglued when I get an email from the move manager asking me to fill out a satisfaction survey so that they can close out our move. I can’t even respond to that today.

The pay that got fixed last time is somehow un-fixed. And, to add insult to injury, the amount that was previously fixed got taken back. I leverage the situation to remind my husband he is lucky he married someone who is great at saving money.

Friday 9: A Little Bit Louder, A Little Bit Worse…

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 9.11.26 AM

It is now two weeks after our “No Later Than” delivery date. I receive another email from our move manager in reply to my latest inquiries to let me know they still haven’t found a driver to bring our overflow shipment, and he will get back to me when they hear something from dispatch. He cannot give me any sort of expected delivery window, which is all I really want…just a window so that I don’t feel powerless, with my schedule held hostage by the unknown. He hopes I have a great weekend. I hope he does not enjoy his weekend at all (but I don’t tell him that). I hope he is sorry for my inconvenience (and I do tell him that), but I doubt that he is because he has never once said so. I want to break up with this dude, but he seems to hold the key to getting my stuff back.

I get an email from my husband, forwarded from finance. They have the problem figured out, have done the necessary paperwork to fix it, and expect we’ll see it sorted by the end of next month.

Friday 10: My Birthday

At this point in the story, I feel a little non-Friday detail will add context, and will be helpful for my fellow problem-solving military spouses. Those spouses who I know and love that are no doubt by now screaming from the sidelines like rabid sports fans, “You need to call your move manager and hold them accountable,” or “Go to your local transportation office, girl!” I’m doing those things, they are just not happening on Fridays. My original intent was to stick to just the Friday stuff, but if I were reading this,  I would really need to know that the author wasn’t just passively waiting for this stuff to solve itself.

I’m on a first-name, direct line basis with my local transportation representatives on both ends of this equation, I’ve spoken with the moving company directly and have gotten to know the warehouse dispatcher so well that I feel like I’m going to owe her a Christmas card. I still haven’t been able to break up completely with the move manager dude, but I’ve  moved on and got someone else to speak with at that company now. My husband has taken the time to speak with my move managers, too…which I think is crazy for him to have to step in and do. I appreciate him providing cover fire for me, but I strongly suspect he has one or two more important things to be concerned with on his deployment than whether my mother’s dishes, our bicycles, and the lawnmower are sitting unsecured in the corner of a warehouse.

Friday 11: Second Load: ETA Tomorrow

I have spoken to everyone except the driver. We just passed the one month mark beyond our “No Later Than” deliver date, and I have taken to correcting everyone who refers to this shipment as “overflow,” reminding them that what they were viewing as excess cargo are my household goods–my toaster, my kitchen chairs, my silverware.

The truck should be here tomorrow morning.

I wonder whether this move seems more stressful because my husband is not here to share the phone call and email stress or whether the process really is less efficient, more stressful, and more disorganized than in past moves.


I am having coffee and browsing blog drafts after a brisk autumn walk with an old friend. I realized that this draft has been sitting here, waiting to be wrapped up and shared, or deleted and let go. I’m sharing.

My toaster arrived that eleventh Saturday, along with all the other “overflow.” Who knew I’d become so obsessed with such a simple appliance?

I’ve tried and failed numerous times to submit the moving satisfaction survey, so I’ve instead just written them a letter about my experience.

Finance got us sorted out exactly when they said they would.

My husband sent me an email this morning about potential duty stations next summer. Dude.

This Year is Different

A Story of Self-Censorship

As the dust finally settles from our latest move, I’m spending a quiet morning cleaning up my Facebook timeline and looking through my old posts. The themes of my posts and the posts I’m usually tagged in are personal, full of librarian stuff, and generally free of politics (though I am always passionate about intellectual freedom, which sometimes veers into political territory). Every year, I post about various holidays, special occasions, and national and international observance days. For me, this is a fun way to have conversations about local and global issues, as well as an enjoyable exercise in finding additional reference material to share with fellow lifelong learners. One of the days I post about each year is International Women’s Day, a day established to celebrate the achievements of women and to serve as a call to action to accelerate gender parity. This year, the responses I got to my post were different than in past years. And I let that difference lead me further down a road of self-censorship.

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 7.08.22 AM This year, my fairly innocuous March 8th International Women’s Day post garnered not just the few likes and “atta girl”s that those kind of posts usually do. This year my post also inspired a few not-very-nice private messages and one or two lost online friends. I don’t dwell on the lost “friends,” but I am sad that we have arrived at this place where people are not only quick to find fault and offense, but are determined to shut out all viewpoints they perceive to be different than their own. I haven’t been living under a rock. I’ve read The Filter Bubble. I am aware of the cacophony of discord that exists on social media and in passionate conversation, particularly during and immediately following election seasons. My reflections this morning are not about what I see in general (that type of observation is plentiful on the internet), but about the way I realized I let this discord influence my willingness to share ideas and information online.

I noticed while cleaning up old or redundant posts that I had started to share less and less on social media as we neared the presidential election last year, and that I hadn’t really started sharing again. I have always been around people for whom it was not appropriate to speak about personal political opinions in public–city government employees, educators, and active duty military people to name a few. The people in my circles, both while I was growing up and now, as an adult, have mostly been open minded and have definitely been well informed about politics and policy. And they have not seemed to have trouble sharing opposing opinions while staying friends. Until this year.

This year even posts that have nothing to do with politics seem politically charged. This year I’ve seen name-calling. Ugly name-calling. This year I’ve seen nasty “if you don’t like it, leave the country” ultimatums posted by people I once respected as reasonable and kind. This year there was a person who sent me an angry manifesto because they interpreted a high school lesson I shared about the responsible use of social media as an attack on free speech. Another person sent me an expletive filled message about the same lesson because they saw it as an attack on our president’s use of Twitter.

This year I see so many of my friends of different political persuasions desperately seeking kindness, understanding and clarity while so many others (also my friends) are lashing out with what I can only describe as a deep and ferocious anger. Depending on your political leanings, you probably pictured the “Other Guys” when you read about the angry people in that last sentence. If so, I’d encourage you to take a better look at whatever social media you follow and leave your bias aside when you do so. We can all do better. We need to stop working from the assumption that people who express different opinions than ours are Super Bad Other Guys. It’s not getting us anywhere. They are just people, many of whom are struggling, and most of whom want things to be better. These people envision different paths to getting to better, and have different ideas of what better looks like. In some cases, we have fundamental differences that do not allow for compromise. Surely though, dynamic and respectful discussion of those differences is better than shutting out any attempt at understanding. For me, one of the best things about our country is that there are so many of us with so many different ideas and perspectives. We are really a pretty amazing bunch–once we are willing to get past our own viewpoints.

There is quote I’ve had taped to my fridge for over two decades now that reminds me that if I want to maintain the right to speak and be heard it is important for me to extend that right to others–and to defend that right for everyone. Ironically, at the same time I wish everyone would practice a little more civility online, I vehemently support their right to not do that.

If we don’t believe in free expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. 

-Noam Chomsky

The realization that at the same time I’ve been championing freedom of expression in other platforms I’ve been censoring my own posts on social media is as paradoxical as it is timely. Considering this realization in the context of Banned Books Week has given me a fresh look at how easy it is to fall into the gray area between carefully selecting information out of a desire to share ideas and opinions and not sharing information out of a desire to avoid conflict.

I will continue to read, to learn and to listen. I will continue to select topics that are important to me to have a conversation about–and I will stop avoiding sharing my thoughts about  tough topics. I look forward to agreeing with you, disagreeing with you, broadening my perspective and (hopefully) broadening yours.

The featured Noam Chomsky quote is from an interview by John Pilger on BBC’s The Late Show, 25 November 1992.

Censorship, Selection & Banned Books

Banned Books Week kicked off yesterday.

I love Banned Books Week. It is a whole week dedicated to awesome stuff like celebrating our freedom to read and highlighting our right to access diverse material of our own choosing at our school and public libraries. And, equally as awesome, it is a reminder of the guarantee that librarians will protect our privacy when it comes to what we choose to read, check out, and research.

As this week approached, I encountered a number of in-person and online discussions about book challenges, reading choice, and student privacy that spurred me to think deeply about books that have been challenged at school libraries throughout the past year. Even more than that, though, I’ve been thinking about books that didn’t make it to a library’s shelf because of self-censorship or the fear of community reaction.

The following articles are useful in developing a better understanding of the manner in which censorship can creep into collection development:

Not Censorship But Selection by Lester Asheim

“Not Censorship But Selection,” by Lester Asheim is a brief read that helps frame the discussion about the difference between banning or removing a book from a library and the thoughtful selection of materials appropriate for inclusion in a collection. First published in the Wilson Library Bulletin in September 1953, this article stands the test of time in explaining the sometimes blurry line between censorship and selection.

Worth Fighting For: Factors Influencing Selections Decisions in School Libraries by April Dawkins

“Worth Fighting For: Factors Influencing Selections Decisions in School Libraries” is a doctoral dissertation by April Dawkins that explores book selection and self-censorship in school library environments. I am excited to be working my way through this right now, and grateful to Ms. Dawkins and to the Scholar Commons for providing open access to this work.

American Library Association | Professional Ethics

American Library Association | Privacy Guidelines for Students in K-12 Schools

Just For Fun: Flashback to a Few Favorite Banned Books Week Moments



Three Years: Panther Media

Thanks for an awesome three years, Panther Peeps!

Memorial Day

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

-George S. Patton

From his speech at the Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston Massachusetts, June 7, 1945, reported by William Blair in The New York Times, June 8, 1945, p. 6.


Memorial Day hurts.

For military families, Memorial Day is personal. We honor the memory of fallen heroes on this day, including many who were much more than heroes to us–they were our friends and family.

This year, like every year, I obsessively read the thoughts, responses, and manifestos posted about the meaning of Memorial Day and the appropriateness (or inappropriateness) of the words we use to express that we’re thinking of each other on this day. I am going  with my gut this year, and I will not be conflicted about what to say to someone who wishes my family a “Happy Memorial Day.” I will thank them for their warm thoughts, assume they are coming from a place of caring, and seize the opportunity to tell them about one of our fallen friends and how important it is to me that we have this day of remembrance for them.

My family and friends do devote time to somber moments of remembrance on Memorial Day, and I am glad to live in a country that dedicates a day to pay tribute to our war dead. I am also glad that in my family we spend most of Memorial Day laughing. We come home from somber and reflective ceremonies during which our eyes and hearts well up and we hold each others’ hands a little tighter, and then we spend the rest of the day telling old tales and building new memories. And we usually laugh our damn heads off, eyes and hearts still welling, sharing those tales and thinking about how fortunate we are to have had such friends as those we have lost. And how fortunate we are to still have each other.


National Moment of Remembrance

Our National Moment of Remembrance is a time for Americans everywhere to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.

The photographs featured in this post were taken by the author at Fort Drum Memorial Park.



Deployment ’07: Extended Remix

A decade ago, our military was facing a dizzying  op-tempo, coupled with the kind of violent warfare that my family, and many other young Army families in the regular combat arms community, had not been exposed to quite so intimately before. I have felt comfort in reading stories from other military spouses processing their most galvanizing deployments from that time. Stories in which I saw echoes of my own experience. One of the great dichotomies of the military spouse community is that while spouses have so much in common with each other, we possess even more that serves to make us unique. For this reason, our individual stories are important. I respectfully add this small piece of my own story to the greater anthology. I use “we” frequently in this post–this is the “we” I felt part of at this exceptional time in my military spouse experience, and is not meant to be definitive.

This little piece of my story is my love letter to those sisters who helped me through the extension referred to here, those sisters who kept me from shattering during the deployment that immediately followed, and those sisters and brothers who inspire and support me through the deployments that continue to follow. 

In early 2007, my Against All Odds sisters and I thought we were winding down a brutal deployment.

We were weary. We were exhausted from a steady barrage of gut wrenching news, memorial services, and incident briefings.

We were tender. We were bruised from constant worry, from caring for everyone except ourselves, and from shouldering a great emotional burden that was impossible to set down.

And, we were fiercely resilient. Which was a very good thing, because just as we thought we could begin to relax and think about homecoming, the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense announced the extension of our soldiers for an additional four months of deployment.

I had just seen my Vagabond Soldier in December. He’d been deployed eleven months by the time he was able to take leave, and we wondered whether it was even worth it at that point. We were so close to the deployment’s end, we wondered if it would be emotionally harder and more disruptive (for us and for our young son) if we were to take a knee for a break so close to the finish line. By that point in the deployment, we were also superstitious about every decision we made: were we asking to be that tragic couple in the movie where you just know the poor soldier who just came back from seeing his wife and kid is going to step on a land mine within seconds of being back in the combat zone?  In the end we decided that the opportunity to see each other, like life itself, was a precious thing and not to be wasted. Our leave was quietly glorious. We watched Star Wars movies and Animal Planet, and played in the deep snow of Northern New York. And, best of all, I watched my husband sleep soundly, safe for the moment from IEDs, rocket attacks, and bad guys.

A little over a month after leave ended, as the brigade’s torch party and another battalion were just beginning to head home, and around the time our battalion families were receiving tentative dates for homecoming, I got a call–a vicious, sucker punch of a call. There was going to be an extension. We’d get more news soon. There would be a town hall meeting.

I’d been writing in a journal throughout the deployment. Originally with the intention of giving the journal to my husband when he came home to share daily stories of charming things our son did and my adventures in house renovation. I am a glass-half-full-kind of girl, whose prolific and honest journal entries about the wonder of everyday things are evidence that I was not just “surviving” but “thriving” through deployment. It was a mindset a number of us adopted–a little everyday Pollyanna mixed with a heavy dose of dark cynicism at the larger goings-on of the world. Mostly, I wrote about everyday things I wanted to share with my soldier: the first crocus peeking out of the snow; our son sledding like a maniac down the “big hill” with bright red cheeks; my success in installing a new floor in the upstairs bathroom. Looking at those entries a decade later, I find them conversational and chatty, and hovering somewhere between sucking-the-marrow-out-of-life passionate and pragmatically zen. My journal entry the day of the phone call was quite different:

I am so tired. 

Not sad. Or angry. Or anything. Just empty. Clinging to what I remember of my brave and solid self until I find her again.

This isn’t some sad story about slowly fighting my way back to sanity. I found my brave and solid self quickly, with blunt force, in the faces of my sisters during the emotional cacophony of our town hall meeting. I found bravery in our honesty, tears, anger and unapologetic disappointment. I found solid footing in our grit and gallows humor–and in the pragmatism of the questions we posed. We were not a stoic group, but we had more than enough practice at dealing efficiently with the unthinkable to let this sucker punch keep us down for long.

I regained my equilibrium  though the sheer strength I saw in the people around me. I don’t believe things in life happen to us to provide us with lessons, but I do believe that we have a choice to learn from everything that happens to us. What I learned from laughing, crying, caring, and sucking it up and driving on with the badass sisters of the CHOSIN, Against All Odds, battalion was to live deliberately every second of this life that you are given, because life is too damn short and too damn beautiful not to. It is as simple and as profound as that.


Version 2The picture featured in this post is of a shadow box that hangs in my kitchen. It holds a 1-32 Infantry ‘Against All Odds’ charm, a Fort Drum pin, a political cartoon from the time of the extension, and a photograph, c. April 2007, of a handful of the phenomenal people who helped me find moments of joy in the most worrisome of times. 



Jan 25, 2007

Release Number: 0701-18

By: CJTF-76 Public Affairs

NEWS RELEASE: 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division will extend deployment in Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIR BASE, AFGHANISTAN – The U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense announced today the extension of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, N.Y., for an additional four months through June 2007. Coupled with the scheduled deployment of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C., this extension will increase the U.S. forces supporting the NATO led International Security Assistance Force by approximately 3,500 Soldiers.

“This increase in combat power will ensure a robust, flexible force capable of denying insurgent sanctuaries in Afghanistan, place greater emphasis on the border region and extend security operations to a wider area in Afghanistan,” Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, 10th Mountain Division commander said.

The U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited Afghanistan January 17th promising to provide the resources U.S. commanders need to defeat the Taliban and ensure security and stability in Regional Command East in support of the ISAF mission.

“Secretary Gates and General Pace asked us, ‘What do commanders on the ground need to win?’, and we told them an additional maneuver battalion, addition forces on the border and a theater tactical reserve,” Freakley said.

The extension of 3rd BCT immediately satisfies that requirement with a U.S. commitment to seek a long term sourcing solution yet to be determined. The actual employment of this increased combat power will be determined by ISAF and RC East commands.

“I understand and respect that this news will be taken hard by some members of the Task Force Spartan family team, but they have been responsible for so much positive progress here in Afghanistan and I know the Spartans will take this in stride and together with 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne, Task Force Fury, they will make a significant impact on the mission during this 4 month extension.”

The Department of the Army will send a Tiger Team to Fort Drum to identify ways to resource additional support to the families of 3rd Brigade Soldiers for the four month extension. General Freakley has also charged the Fort Drum staff to double their efforts to support the soldier’s families.

“This extension is necessary to demonstrate to the Taliban that pressure on them will be unrelenting and to show the Afghan people that the United States of America is fully committed to the security of their nation and the assurance of their freedom,” Freakley added.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team has been deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom for 11 months. Their four month extension will allow them to support security operations along side the 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division to promote stability and security in Afghanistan.


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