Warming the Wintry Cockles of My Bookish Heart

I’ve had my Little Free Library for nearly 7 months now, and I have to say it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. When I see someone standing in front of it and gazing at the books like a kid in a candy store, it makes me smile. When someone takes a book or adds a book to the collection, I’m thrilled.

I’m a member of a Facebook group called Little Free Library Stewards, and I’ve heard a lot of heartwarming stories there, too. Unfortunately, I’ve also heard some horror stories. Vandalism. People taking out every single book and leaving the library empty. People filling the library with hate speech or adding books like Mein Kampf. Angry notes that say that this library should be taken down because it reduces patronage to public libraries. (Huh?)

Fortunately, the only bad experience I’ve had so far is someone making off with the log book. I promptly replaced it with another log book that is chained to the library, and I haven’t had any problems since then. And it’s a good thing, too, because the log book is my favorite part of this whole experience.

I’ve gotten so many gratifying comments in the log book. One gentleman from the local Sikh community blessed me for having this library, and asked that I add more fairy tales to the collection, as English is not his first language, and fairy tales are easier to read for him. (I’ve done so.) I’ve gotten some very enthusiastic comments from children who enjoy telling me the books they’ve borrowed and the books they’ve donated. A mother of small children said that she’s had the opportunity to read some great bedtime stories because of this library. A homeless woman thanked me, because she says she loves to read but has a hard time accessing books. All of these comments never fail to bring tears of joy to my eyes.

One of my favorite little commenters at present is Sydnee. She leaves comments like:

Thank you for this little library! I took The Puppy Place. I am excited to read it. Thank you. I look forward to bringing the book back. Love, Sydnee

Thank you. I got Dear Dumb Diary and I gave a book to you. Princess Posey. Love, Sydnee

Hi, I am Sydnee and I took A Wrinkle In Time. I can’t wait to read it. So excited. Love, Sydnee

I love knowing that she’s been back more than once. Her last comment prompted me to respond:

I hope you liked it, Sydnee! It was one of my favorites. – Barb

I don’t know if she has seen the comment yet, but I hope so!

All of this wonderful community contact has inspired me to start yet another Facebook group called Clark Lake Park Little Free Library. Everyone is welcome to join! I’d love to make this library a true community effort.

As the title post says, this little free library is warming the wintry cockles of my bookish heart. (Thanks to a fellow little free library steward for that wonderfully expressive title. Hi Bilby!)


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Inadequate to the Task

Sometimes I expose my soft underbelly in this blog. I do that because I hope it will help others, and also because it’s therapeutic for me. I often find I am willing to say things that others are not, so I’d like to think that, in some small way, I’m giving them a voice.

Because of this, over the years people have confided in me. Sometimes they leave raw, vulnerable public comments. Other times they contact me personally.

Either way, I’m very honored. I know it takes a lot to put yourself out there like that. I know that in many cases what you reveal has been festering inside for a long, long time. I am humbled by what people have shared with me because of this blog.

At the same time, though, I often feel inadequate to the task. I’m not a mental health professional. I don’t have that skill set. I often worry that I’m not saying the right thing, or not saying enough. Sometimes I wonder if I should say anything at all. What if I get it wrong and there are dire consequences? I take this very seriously, because you matter.

Through this blog, people feel that they know me, and I’m proud of that. In fact, I’ve made many friends through this forum. But in actual fact, I’m a stranger. A stranger who speaks, and a stranger who listens. But I’m still a stranger.

It means a great deal to me that you’re reading this. It means even more to me when you participate in the conversation. I hope you’ll keep it up.

But please understand that I’m still just a woman sitting alone at a laptop, exposing my underbelly, and when all is said and done, my underbelly is no better or worse than your own.

Soft Underbelly

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My Blog Through Fresh Eyes

I have a confession to make. For about a month now, I’ve been wondering if this blog is worth the effort. I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed. And sometimes I feel like no one is reading it.

That’s why your comments mean so much to me. Without them, I’d feel as though I’m sitting all alone in front of this computer screen, typing to myself. It’s like spitting in the wind, only slightly less messy and humiliating.

Not everyone likes to comment on such a public forum. That’s why I’ve set up a way to contact me personally on my blog’s welcome page, and I’ve also got a Facebook group called The View from a Drawbridge, which I encourage you to join.

Every now and then I’ll get a comment that completely does me in. (In a good way.) I’ve gotten several of those related to my Why I Hate Alcohol post, for example. A lot of people struggle with that issue, and they appreciate having someone put a voice to the way they feel. That’s when I know I’m making a difference. That makes it all worthwhile.

Just the other day I got a message from 13-year-old Mariah J. in South Carolina. She says she’s been reading my blog for about a year now, and that she finds it funny and inspiring. She wishes she could do what I do.

Sniff. Cold coming on. Or… no. The sun is in my eyes. Yeah. That’s it. The sun.

We’ve exchanged an e-mail or two since then, and it makes me realize that she’s an impressive and intelligent young lady with life goals and plans. She definitely seems to have her act a lot more together than I did at that age! And she says she looks up to me. Hoo. I mean… hoo. Speechless.

Since then, I’ve started reading my blog posts and I kind of have Mariah mentally looking over my shoulder. It makes me realize that I really ought to watch my language, for starters. And it’s also making me take what I say much more seriously. My words do have an impact. I’m not just spitting in the wind. I have a responsibility. I might actually influence someone every now and then. Whoa. Hard to believe.

Mariah’s message has renewed my faith in this blog. It has made it special again, for me. For the first time in weeks it’s not feeling like work. It’s once again feeling like a pleasurable calling.

So thank you, Mariah! And thank your SAT prep teacher for introducing you to my blog, and thanks to your 5 siblings for putting up with stories from it, and to your best friend Hannah for thinking I’m a “half famous person”. I think you guys are the best. Stay on your amazing path! And good luck on the PSAT today!


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Credit Where Credit Is Due

If you were told that someone had a talent that only a handful of people on the entire planet had, wouldn’t you be impressed? Wouldn’t you be even more impressed if you knew that person was also a free speech advocate, had been in a few films, organizes for street performers, is a storyteller and has a radio show?

Meet Abby the Spoon Lady. This woman is talented beyond measure. She’s also intelligent, well-traveled, and dedicated. That should be all anyone needs to know about her.

But that’s not how the world works. If you check out her Youtube channel or Facebook page, both of which show you dozens of amazing performances, you’ll be enchanted. Unless you start reading the comments. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll be infuriated. While many people recognize her talent, trolls abound. They criticize her looks. They criticize her clothes. They criticize her lack of teeth.

It seems to me that if Abby were a man, she wouldn’t get this type of feedback. But being a woman in the music world, you’re supposed to be glamorous and perfect in every way, or you can’t be taken seriously. I don’t find Willie Nelson particularly attractive, but you don’t hear people discussing that to the point where his talent gets forgotten, do you?

Give Abby a break. I think she’s beautiful. I think her talent is also beautiful. I think the world is a much more beautiful place because she’s in it. I hope I get to see her perform live someday. And if I do, I hope the trolls stay home.


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The Back Scratcher and Other Encounters

When I created this blog, I had no idea how many incredible people it would bring into my life. When I’m typing away on my laptop, all alone, it can be easy to forget that my words aren’t just drifting off into the ether. People actually read them, and some are impacted by them. I’m really amazed and humbled by this.

The other day, in the space of about 5 minutes, I met two people. I walked into a coffee shop and this woman waved at me. I had never seen her before. I thought she must be waving at someone behind me. But no. She recognized me from one of my photos on my blog, and told me she reads it all the time and sometimes leaves comments. After she told me her name, I knew exactly who she was. Her comments are always great. For a second there, I felt like a rock star.

The second woman I had seen several times before, but we had never really talked in any depth. She told me she had read a blog entry of mine entitled Design Flaw, in which I discussed the frustration of not being able to scratch one’s own back. She had been carrying around this nifty retractable back scratcher in hopes of crossing paths with me. She gave it to me, and I’ve been using it ever since. It makes me smile to think that someone cares, based on a random rant I put out there. That means a lot. I mean, seriously, how unbelievably nice is that?

I also met a longtime reader and fellow blogger for coffee recently. When I do that sort of thing it makes my older sister nervous. But I’ve yet to have an uncomfortable experience. In fact, she was a delight to talk to, and I learned a lot about Seattle history.

I feel as though I have made friends all over the world, thanks to this blog. That’s really gratifying. I genuinely believe that the more people connect on a personal level, the more it becomes impossible for hate to win. I like the idea that I’m playing a part in that, however small it may be.

So, a group hug and a sincere thank you to everyone who is a part of Drawbridge Nation! I’m really glad you’re here, there, and everywhere.


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Trolls and Hackers

Recently I got a really offensive and illogical comment on one of my blog entries. The guy was clearly trying to get a rise out of me, and since his argument was specious at best, I could have verbally shot him down quite easily, but I didn’t take the bait. The best way to get rid of a troll, I’ve found, is to not feed it. I simply deleted the comment without responding.

Trolls always take me by surprise, because it’s not in my nature to be hostile to total strangers (or to anyone, for that matter). Apparently some people get some perverse pleasure from it. I find this behavior incomprehensible. It’s easier for me to view these people as a different species entirely. It’s as if the predatory, lizard part of their brain has devoured their entire frontal lobe, and they have no human feelings or conscience whatsoever. I can’t even imagine how sad and lonely their existence must be.

But if I don’t understand trolls, I really, really don’t get hackers. At least trolls are feeding off your pain. Although I can’t relate, I can sort of compare them to cats playing with a mouse. Hackers, on the other hand, cause destruction without even getting the “benefit” of their victim’s negative reaction much of the time.

Hackers can shut down entire networks, thus impacting all the people who rely on said networks. Thousands and thousands of people who have done nothing to you. Thousands and thousands of people who will be affected in ways you’ll never know. What’s the point? Extortion rarely works. Identity theft? How long can that be maintained? Is that really your path to happiness? Do you wake up smiling? What in your mental makeup causes you to believe that this is a good idea?

Greed doesn’t sound like a very satisfying spiritual meal to me. Nor does hostility. But then, these people probably have no spirit. How very strange to be sharing a planet with these creatures.


The Best of The View from a Drawbridge

I cannot believe it, but today is the one year anniversary of my blog! What a ride this has been. I’ve managed to post an entry every single day for an entire year. I would have never guessed I’d have this much to talk about.

By writing this much I’ve learned a great deal as well; about myself, about various topics, and about the people who have been kind enough to leave comments on my many posts. I’ve also made a lot of new friends and been introduced to a lot of unique perspectives. I am very grateful for this experience. It has been, and will hopefully continue to be, one of the highest points in my life.

At the time of this writing, I have 168 followers, and an average of 35 views per day. I have received 2,842 comments, and people from 102 different countries have stopped by. And that includes China, which is a country I never expected to see, given the internet restrictions there. Welcome, China! I hope someday North Korea will have the freedom to join you.

My most viewed entry, by a country mile, is Andy Johnson, SHAME on you!!! I guess people are just naturally drawn to descriptions of gross fraud by public figures.

My best title, in my opinion, is Weather, ‘tis Nobler.

My best sentence, without a doubt, is “Barack Obama eats boysenberry aspic on melba toast while doing the watusi in a frothy silk kimono.” That comes from my entry entitled I’m going Slightly Mad. You’ll just have to check it out if you want more details.

I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to decide which of my blog entries this year was the best, or at least which one is my favorite. This was not an easy job. I went back through every single entry and narrowed it down to four possibilities. From there I asked my friends to give me their opinions, and they were most gracious about taking the time to share their thoughts with me. The feedback was so overwhelming that I feel confident in saying that my best entry this year, by far, was How to give HORRIBLE Customer service.

I wanted to thank you, dear reader, for hanging in there with me this year. I hope that we’ll be enjoying each other’s company for many years to come.

My Stats _ WordPress.com - 2013-11-15_08.24.12

This is a map of all the countries who have stopped by to visit me. The list of countries on the left was so long that it actually scrolls off the page. Woo hoo! (Africa, I hope I’ll be seeing more of you soon.)