Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

My Emotional Soundtrack: What Keeps Me Sane

So the other day I talked about things that I just couldn’t go back to, even if I wanted to (if you missed it, go here).  Today, I thought that I’d share things that give me comfort.  It’s a rocky place out there, and while I consider myself a stable person, there are things that can rock you to your core- things that happen with your teens/tween, within your professional life, within your personal life, or within the world in general.  We, as teen advocates, should be embodying and modeling ways that are at least generally healthy ways to cope with whatever life throws at us, because you never know who’s watching.  We can (and do) break down in private, but we can’t exactly go screaming through the stacks to let off steam, as much as we would like to.  Someone, unfortunately, is bound to notice, whether it’s our teens, our patrons, or our boss.

So, I thought I’d share what keeps me as sane as I can be [which I’ve been told is up for doubt some days :) ], and please share yours in the comments below.  I think we’d all like to learn different ways to keep on keepin’ on.


Family and friends.  Even if they are over half a world away, and we only connect via social media, text or email, I can send out something and get something back within seconds to minutes.  I have a very expanded definition of family, very different than what most people (and probably those in my “family” would consider) but these are the people that if something happened, I know that they’d drop everything to get to me- and I would drop everything to get to them.  I can contact them with anything and no matter how trivial, or how silly, we can laugh or cry or share and it’ll be OK.  And I have been extremely blessed in that I have found people where ever I have landed throughout my life and have been able to keep adding to my family.

Music.  I really cannot live without music, and I am as bad as my tweens and teens with it- needs to be on constantly.  I listen to just about anything (save for most rap- that’s a whole different discussion), and you can rarely find me without my player.  I name them.  The current one is named Lilith after the Lilith Fair concert series, an ipod Touch, and has a speaker set in my office and has a port in my car.  Plato is quoted as saying, “Music is a moral law.  It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”  I prefer Aldous Huxley, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”  


Tea.  I’m not sure how I grew up with sweet tea in the middle of Illinois, but we always had sweet tea in the house.  I got out of the habit in college, but after I married That Guy, I got back into iced sweet tea, although the sugar got replaced with substitutes.  Now, I’ve gotten into hot teas at work and at bedtime, and oh, man, it is a comfort.  I haven’t gotten the hang of the spiced teas or fruit teas yet (always willing to try) and haven’t been brave enough to try a chai (they seem so expensive), but I’m addicted to black teas that have vanilla caramel or a good English Breakfast tea.  I even got a special cup from my last Disney trip that has Alice and the Mad Hatter having a tea party that I can microwave that has a sippy lid, instead of having to balance an open cup around my crazy kids.  Ah, simple joys.


Fluffy things.  I’ve always been lucky in my library career in that I’ve always had someplace with storage that was mine and mine alone, and I know enough about library worlds to know that my situation isn’t always the norm.  I’ve always been able to have something fluffy to take out to play with the kids, whether it’s a bear or a bunny dressed in different outfits (did you know that those Build-a-Bear animals fit in about size 3-6 month baby clothes?).  And as my space has expanded, so too has my collection of things, as you can see above.  I’ve gone from one teddy bear that was for baby story times to a bear and a bunny (who have been renamed for co-workers by the kids), a chef, two sock monkeys (a pirate and a ninja), a frog, a Dalek, and a Beaker, and there are a basket of Beanie Babies in the closet waiting for the appropriate time.  However, the toys aren’t just for the kids- they’re for me too.  They all mean something, and at times, I need the hugs that they’ve stored up from the kids who have dressed them and babysat them.

Books.  Always, constant, faithful companions are books.  My house is full of them, my work is full of them, and my life is full of them   If they weren’t, I am definitely in the wrong job. When I want comfort, I want the familiar, and I want familiar authors- ones that I know I like and will transport me away for a while.  I don’t want to take a chance on a book and be disappointed.  I take off the librarian and blogger hat, and I put on the consumer/patron hat, and read what makes me feel safe.  And yes, I know there are bloggers and librarians alike out there probably pulling hair out at the thought of using reading as an escape, but sometimes, for me, it is.  

My favorite YA and Adult authors are ones that I know will deliver me to other places and settings, give me a good story, and not jar me with inconsistencies.  I turn to the techno worlds of Cory Doctorow, to the realities Judy Blume (heaven help me if Summer Sisters or Superfudge goes out of print).  I go to the worlds of Anita Blake and Merry Gentry by Laurel K. Hamilton, and Rachel Morgan and Madison Avery from Kim Harrison.  I look for Maureen Johnson, David Levithan, John Green, Rachel Cohn, Jillian Larkin’s Flapper series and Anne Godberson’s Luxe series (all considered teen/young adult materials).  I look for Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series, or Patricia Brigg and Tanya Huff, or Eric Jerome Dickey (all considered adult materials).  I look for Mercedes Lackey (an author that can fall either teen or adult, depending on the reader).

So, those are my comforts.  What are your comfort reads, your comfort things?  Share in the comments below.
 

Shelf Talkers: The “C” Word in Teen Fiction

My Judy Blume fan.  Because Judy Blume “gets it”.

Several years ago my grandmother went to the ER and they opened her up and said they were sorry, but there was nothing they could do for her.  She had cancer and, because she didn’t know it was there, it was so advanced that in just a couple of months it took her from us.  It was quick and unexpected, but often cancer is not.  Sometimes it hangs over you for years

I met and began dating The Mr. when I was 18 years old.  On my 20th birthday we got engaged.  I met the man who would be my father-in-law exactly once.  He was at home in the midst of what would turn out to be an all to brief period of remission from lymphoma.  By the time we got engaged he had already passed away.

Many years later, my friend  (my mentor, my adopted mom) would call and tell me that she too had cancer.  Unlike the others in my life, she would survive (thank God and modern medicine).  She was fighting cancer at the same time that I laid on bed rest fighting HG and trying to make sure my baby made it into this world.  We would call each other and talk about what it was like to have fallen down the rabbit hole that our lives had become.  I am the librarian I am today, and the persona I am today, in large part because of what she taught me.  I am thankful every day that we both made it out of that rabbit hole.

These past few weeks I have spent wondering if cancer was once again going to touch my life.  The truth is, it touches all of our lives at one point or another.  Current statistics indicate that 1 out of 2 men and 1 out of 3 women will have cancer of some form.  Cancer touches us all.  I remember years ago watching the movie St. Elmo’s Fire and there was a scene around the dinner table where the mom whispered that another person had “cancer” (said in a tiny, tiny whisper).  And here we are just 20 years later and the word is so common, we no longer whisper it.  It is no longer the “C” word.  So today I thought I would share with you some of the best books out there about teens dealing with cancer in their lives.

As I was writing this post, my childhood favorite, Judy Blume, announced that she, too, was fighting cancer.  Thankfully, she is recovering well. All my good wishes go out to her.  Her books have touched millions of lives, including mine.  The other day I had a teen come in and ask where the Judy Blume books were.  She reads them, she says, because “Judy Blume gets it.”

Before I share some of the amazing works of teen fiction out there dealing with cancer, I want to encourage you to read this amazing piece of work by Katie1234 in Teen Ink called The Cancer Monolgue.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Hazel and Augustus are two teens struggling with cancer in a brilliant, touching story written in the master class by John Green.  Hazel and Augusts try to resist falling in love because they know what fate awaits them both, but sometimes the heart has its own ideas.  With snark, wit, wisdom and humor, Green tells their story and pulls at your heart strings in all the right ways.  This book has now spent months on the bestseller list so if you are one of the two people who hasn’t yet read it, you really should.

A Time for Dancing by Davida Wills Hurwin
Samantha and Julia have been best friends forever, bound together by their love of dance.  In the summer before their senior year they are poised for great things and ready to face the world head on.  But what they aren’t ready for is cancer.  Julia is diagnosed with incurable cancer.  A Time for Dancing is an older title, published in 1997, but it is a raw presentation of the anger and fear that comes from a cancer diagnosis.

Me, and Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Me, and Earl, and the Dying Girl is a book that has done a very rare thing: made me laugh out loud. Literally.  And yes, it is indeed a book about cancer via “the dying girl”.  Greg and Earl end up spending time with Rachel, who has leukemia.  They are not really friends. but Greg’s mom wants him to help Rachel.  Greg is used to flying below the social radar at school, but suddenly finds himself the center of more attention then he ever wanted.  The guffaws come courtesy of some baked goods laced with marijuana and their unexpected eaters.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Second Chance Summer is one of my favorite summer books of all time.  Matson perfectly captures the essence of summer in this story of Taylor Edwards whose father has been diagnosed with cancer.  In addition to all the touchstones, including summer love and rekindled friendships, SCS is a beautiful story of a relationship between daughter and father.  As you know, these types of relationships are rare in teen fiction, but Matson presents a rich and deep look at what it is like to spend what may be your last moments with someone you love and adore.  You will sob.

Deadline by Chris Crutcher
What would you do if you knew you only have a year to live?  How would you spend that last year?  That is the question that Ben Wolf faces.  Told in a way that only Chris Crutcher can tell it, Ben spends his final year trying to find a way to make his mark on the world.

If you have titles to share, please add them in the comments.