An Annoying Opinion about Little Free Libraries

In the interest of full disclosure, I operate a little free library, and it has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Based on community feedback, it has also become an important part of the neighborhood. I am proud to take part in any endeavor to increase literacy.

So when I read an article entitled, “Are Little Free Libraries helping locals survive COVID? L.A. weighs in” I struggled to avoid taking many of the criticisms therein personally. I get that it’s an opinion piece. The majority of my blog posts (including this one) are opinion pieces. But this article hit me where I live.

The very first paragraph set my teeth on edge. It discussed a LFL curator’s irritation at finding a Star Trek novel in his box, and one that is in the middle of the series, no less. He said, “Why do people give away unreadable books?”

This curator is missing the point. If you’re trying to promote literacy, you have to appeal to a wide variety of readers. Not every tome is the great American novel, and, for that matter, not every reader is looking for the great American novel. There are plenty of people out there who love to read Star Trek, in or out of sequence.

Yes, you should curate your library. I’m not going to leave porn or three volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica or books that peddle false information in my box. But are a lot of the books in my box books that I would never read myself? Yes. This is not “Barb’s Bookshelf”. It’s a humble little library to encourage people to read.

Another person interviewed for the article complained that she took a book from a LFL and it turned out to be awful, and that seems to have put her off ever using this resource again. Oh, come on. Who hasn’t read a book that turned out to be awful in one’s lifetime? You can get awful books from the library, from a bookstore, and from Amazon. Awful books exist. It’s the chance you take when you’re a reader.

Another person said that these libraries are eyesores and “supposedly-cute trash receptacles full of books that should have never been published.”

Where did this author find so many snobs? It astounds me. I’m so sorry that we don’t all meet your highbrow standards. We, the great unwashed, have as much right to read whatever we want as you do. If you don’t like little free libraries, don’t use them. It’s that simple. But most LFLs that I come across are places of community pride. Yes, you’re going to see neglected, run down ones here and there, but most are well kept.

Another person said that these libraries are “a place where books go to die.”

First of all, if I notice a book has not moved in quite some time, I remove it from my library and replace it with something else. That’s what responsible stewards do. I also recycle books that have been donated to me that are water stained or are crumbling to dust. My library is no trash receptacle. But I can’t afford to constantly buy pristine, shiny, brand new books to make sure my inventory meets with your approval. Sorry.

Another interviewee said, “We would never take a nice book of ours and put it in that trash-depository bookshelf…We can’t support that situation, you know?”

To that I say, “Why is that, exactly? Afraid your nice book might get pawed over by some dirty blue collar worker who needs something to read on his sweaty lunch break? Worried that someone who’s used to lower quality books might develop a taste for something better? Worried you might start a trend toward ‘better’ books in your neighborhood? Gasp! Scandalous!”

Yes the author posits that these “curbside bookhouses” are no educational substitute for a robust library system, but newsflash: We aren’t trying to be. We’re just providing access to books for those who can’t or won’t access them any other way. Most public libraries seem to appreciate that, and aren’t threatened by our modest efforts.

The article purports to be an opinion about LFLs and COVID, and yes, it does mention the current fear of touching anything, let alone books. Yes, I tend to use the hand sanitizer I provide, or wash my hands, before and after rummaging through my library, but let’s not overlook the fact that more and more cases of COVID are being found to be caught via airborne droplets, not physical touch. Wash your hands, yes. Wear a mask, definitely. Quarantine books before reading them if it makes you feel more comfortable.

But the main purpose of this article seems to be to portray little free libraries as the inferior, pedestrian pursuit of people who don’t understand what good literature is. And therein lies the crux of the problem with this article. It’s that sort of elitist attitude that makes these libraries so vital.

768px-Street_book_exchange_Little_Free_Library_Bennett_Park_Hudson_Heights_Manhattan

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Diagnosed with Inflammation

Recently, someone I respect very much told me that my blog is inflammatory, and that he found that disappointing. Even though I can’t deny that accusation, it did make me sad. It made me feel as though he viewed my blog as flawed, and since my blog is basically me on a page, it is kind of hard not to take it personally.

First of all, I’d like to think that my blog isn’t inflammatory all the time. I do write about nature and travel and my dogs and my gratitude for the many gifts that we are all given by the universe. I write about hope and courage and decency. I write about the many things I have learned and the many things I still need to learn. I am proud of this quirky little blog of mine.

But yes, my politics are blatantly obvious. Yes, I call out public figures. I do not give Trump a pass on his idiocy. Sorry. I’m hardly alone in that. And if you put yourself out there and are reaping the sweet benefits of your fame, you also have to be able to drink the bitter dregs of your infamy as well.

Let’s face it, though, politicians and their ilk are not reading my blog. They’ve got much bigger fish to fry. My blog is a mere clownfish in the overall media ocean. No meat on this bone.

But my respected friend felt that my inflammatory remarks might offend those people who disagree with me. He has a trait that I’ve never had: diplomacy. He tolerates dissention much more than I ever will. He is all about smoothing things over. His gut reaction is, “Well, now, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion…”

Well, now, I couldn’t agree more. And this blog is my opinion. My forum. My sandbox. That same friend has also informed me that I need to develop a thicker skin, but apparently that advice does not extend to my readers.

In case you did not realize this, dear reader, you don’t need my permission to disagree with me. And I strongly suspect that those who take offense do not read my blog for long. And that’s okay. There are plenty of forums out there that will support every opinion under the sun. (Don’t you just love the internet?)

I have this fantasy that people from the future will stumble upon my blog, and they’ll appreciate seeing how one person felt about current events. Count on me to give my unvarnished opinion about what is happening, right as it’s happening. (And none of us can deny that a heck of a lot is happening these days.)

By all means, put your thoughts out there as well. I highly encourage you to do so. But for facts, researchers might want to look someplace other than this blog.

I genuinely feel that our politics say a lot about who we are. So, yup, I will make sweeping judgments about certain political attitudes. I can like you as a person and think your political views are foolish and a poor reflection of humanity. If you don’t want to hear me call out views that I find irrational, then don’t read my blog.

Here’s one thing you’ll never see on The View from a Drawbridge, though: the kind of hostile, vicious personal attacks that I’ve been treated to on the internet in the past few days. I’m not a politician. I have only a marginal influence over a very small circle of friends. I know tensions are high, but I don’t deserve the bs that has been hurled in my direction recently.

I would never call an individual, total stranger’s comments asinine, or attack their character when I’ve never even met them. And I will call you out if you do so in any forum of which I’m a part. Because to me, that behavior is unconscionable. I’ll attack groups. I’ll attack public figures. But I’ll never verbally beat up an individual. That’s crossing the line.

But yes, I’ll call out an individual who is attacking me, or going after anyone else for that matter. I’ll protect those I care about from the harsh injustices of this world as long as I draw breath. That’s a promise.

Sometimes diplomacy is what’s needed. Sadly, diplomacy is not my skill set. Knowing your skill set is a part of what makes you an adult.

But sometimes diplomacy is not what is needed. Sometimes, you need to take a stand. You need to step up when someone is feeling bullied, even if you can’t relate to the feeling, and even if you think the bully in question is usually practically perfect in every way. That’s what’s called integrity, and it takes courage.

Even diplomats have to respect that there are limits. Boundaries matter. No one could mistake me for Switzerland, but I have boundaries just the same. So if you want to play in my sandbox, play nice. Otherwise I’ll invite you to find another sandbox, and if you persist, don’t be surprised and don’t blame me if I hit you with my verbal pail.

inflammatory

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

I’d Love Your Advice

In recent years, with the benefit of age and life experience, I’ve come up with a strategy that has greatly increased the positive energy in my world. It will sound counterintuitive, but when I have a goal that I’m trying to reach, no matter how small it may seem, and even when I already know how I plan to reach it, I will ask for someone’s advice.

Have you ever seen the look on someone’s face when you tell them you’d like their opinion? Pure delight. You just gave them the highest compliment on earth. You value their insight. You respect them. You want to hear what they have to say.

Be sure to be genuine with your request. Even if your game plan is in place, by employing this strategy, you may be rewarded with some fabulous ideas that you hadn’t considered. It never hurts to get someone to look at your project from a different point of view.

And remember, you don’t necessarily have to take their advice. Either way, you’ve just made a huge deposit in someone else’s emotional bank account. They’ll remember that.

This approach will also keep you humble. It will remind you that you aren’t the only person with solutions in this world. Going it alone isn’t always the best way to get ahead.

I have never gotten anything but positive results from this tactic. Try it. Pick one person during the course of your day and say to them, “I’d love your advice.” Extra points for asking someone who rarely gets to give advice, like a young person or an elderly person.

See what happens. I think you’ll like it. I guarantee that the other person will.

lucy-advice-booth

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Just My Opinion

Well, it seems I’ve ruffled more than a few feathers of late. Most of those feathers seem to be firmly attached to Trump supporters, and that’s perfectly okay with me. I can’t imagine that we’ll ever see eye to eye.

Here’s the thing. I’m not a journalist. I’ve never claimed to be one. I’ve never wanted to be one. If you’re looking for facts, you’ll want to look elsewhere. What I write are for the most part opinion pieces.

My whole life I’ve been told that I have strong opinions. For decades I took that as a character flaw of some sort. I tried really hard not to have opinions, but it just wasn’t in me. Those failed attempts caused a great deal of self-loathing and wasted time.

Then, with maturity, I realized that everyone has opinions. I just tend to express them more than the average person. So why not turn that into an asset by way of writing a blog? Well, that isn’t going to make everyone happy. So be it.

I think the confusion occurs when people assume that I insist that everyone should agree with my opinions. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. After all, who the hell am I to dictate what anyone else thinks? I don’t consider myself an influencer.

I speak for me, not for anyone else. My opinions are mine. This blog is mine. It’s therapeutic for me. If this were the 19th century, I’d probably be writing a diary. It’s wonderful to have a broader forum. But rest assured that your participation is voluntary.

I’m writing it for me, and if my readers enjoy it, I view that as a delightful side benefit. Many times you give me broader insight, or inspire other posts, or get me interested in topics that I would never have thought to pursue. I’m grateful for that.

But if in the process of writing this blog I step on a few toes, I’m guessing those toes will take themselves elsewhere eventually. I hate to say this, but I really couldn’t care less either way. That’s one of the few facts I’ll lay claim to.

Namaste.

Ruffled Feathers
Ruffled Feathers

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

What Are You Known For?

Recently I overheard someone proudly say, “My grandma was known for making the best apple cobbler in the county.”

That got me thinking. Is everybody known for something? I believe they are, at least to the people who love them most. I’ve heard people described as the type that would give you the shirt off his back, or the strongest person I’ve ever met, or, on the opposite extreme, a massive jerk.

Do we know how people truly think of us, or how we are described by others? Well, I certainly don’t. So I decided to ask. I reached out to about two dozen friends and loved ones, and posed this question:

If everyone is known for something, what do you think I’m known for?

I decided to keep it that simple, and only elaborate if someone asked for clarification.

Most didn’t bother to respond. That disappointed me greatly, but that’s typical with any type of survey, formal or informal. Even that taught me a little bit about who will actually step up for me, or at the very least, who lacks concentration and/or is epically busy.

Of those that did respond, many came back with the easy, surface stuff. I’m known for being a bridgetender and a writer. Those who aren’t in touch with me as often mentioned that I’m known for being a fractal artist, even though I haven’t made a fractal in years.

Those were legitimate responses, and nothing to be ashamed of. But it made me realize how important it is to properly frame your question. What I was hoping for, really, was not what I’m known for by people in general, but how would you describe me to others? What has been your personal experience with me? What makes me unique in your eyes?

But there were those who delved deeper. One smart aleck said, “Epic farts.” But even he got more serious and went into more detail after a little bit of prompting. Here were some of the responses I received:

  • Supporting someone in need.

  • Makes me laugh.

  • You’re unique. A fair amount of women I just can’t “talk” to.

  • Loving.

  • You mean what you say. You tell it like it is.

  • An advocate for those you feel have no voice.

  • Brave, independent woman who takes no nonsense from nobody and loves her husband and dogs and job.

  • You care about right and wrong so much that your blood boils when you see what you believe is unjust.

  • Perception.

  • Delivering your opinion in a most enlightening way.

  • Integrity.

  • Curiosity.

  • You are adventuristic. A ‘seize the moment’ sort of person.

  • You appreciate the now.

  • Heart to heart sharings of intimate fears.

  • Your ineffable sexiness (this one made me blink, and blush.)

  • Candor.

  • Courage.

  • Compassion for animals.

  • Patience and persistence in pursuit of making a good life for yourself.

  • Reverence for the use of language to convey your insights.

Wow. Just… wow. These were wonderful observations. They certainly made me proud. They humbled me. Some of them were extremely unexpected. But I’ll take it.

This experiment also taught me a lot about how different my inner self is from my outer self. The two ways I’d describe myself were not mentioned by anyone. I would think that I’d be known for my intelligence and the fact that I have no filter whatsoever. But maybe I see myself that way because I use the intelligence as a suit of armor to hide behind, and I spend a great deal of time doing damage control for my lack of filter.

The bottom line is that I’m really glad I asked this question. I would recommend that everyone try this with their loved ones. The education you get from it, in ways both predictable and unexpected, is priceless.

Check out O
One of my copyrighted fractals.

Hey! Look what I wrote! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Discouraging

Recently, someone I know spent a great deal of time trying to talk a friend out of getting a divorce. She was convinced that this divorce would be the worst possible thing her friend could do. She applied a lot of pressure and created a ton of doubt. The jury is still out as to whether she changed her friend’s mind.

But the whole time this was going on, I was thinking, “How dare you?”

First of all, you have no idea what goes on behind closed doors in any relationship. And it’s not for you to decide how someone else is to live life. Even if what that person is doing seems like a monumental mistake, it could be the catalyst that brings on greater things for him or her in the future. At the very least, the experience may be an important life lesson. The choices one makes are what shape that individual. You don’t have the right to determine someone else’s shape.

In my opinion, the only time you should try to intervene in another person’s decision-making process is when that person is contemplating suicide. Because that’s the one choice in life from which one cannot turn back. Give your opinion about other things if asked, yes. But don’t get all definitive unless someone is about to step off a cliff.

I came by this belief the hard way. Once, I was in a relationship that was making my life so miserable that I decided it was time to move on. I had all my stuff packed. I had decided what to say. I was ready.

And then I made the mistake of telling my oldest sister. And she screamed at me. Because she liked the guy.

At the time, my self esteem was so low that that was all the discouragement I needed. Maybe she was right. Maybe this was a huge mistake. I mean, he was a nice guy. A great guy. Was it his fault that he left me feeling unfulfilled and alone? Was it his fault that I felt as though we had no common goals, that we were working toward nothing, and that our future would forever be exactly the same as our dreary present? Was it his fault that I felt more like his mother than his partner? It’s not like he beat me or cheated on me. What were the odds that I’d wind up with anyone better?

And so, with tears in my eyes, I unpacked. And he never knew. And we stayed together for another 12 long, miserable, unsatisfying years. What a waste. What an unbelievable waste. For both of us, because he certainly deserved more, too. It’s one of my biggest regrets.

Discouragement is an interesting word, when you think about it. It basically means that you are taking away someone’s courage. No one has a right to do that. Ever.

Discourage

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Reinforcing One’s Worldview

Come on, admit it. You like reading stuff that agrees with your already established mindset every bit as much as I do. It’s such a relief to surround yourself with a stereophonic chorus that’s chanting “You’re absolutely right!”

So imagine my sheer joy, my unparalleled delight, in finding two articles in a row that say what I’ve been longing to hear for my entire life. I want to stay in this emotional paradise forever. I don’t want to read another thing. You can’t make me.

The first article, entitled Cheese Protects You From All Causes Of Death, Says Science shall henceforth be my bible for all things dietary. I mean, come on. Cheese. You know what I’m sayin’?

The second article, entitled Hot Baths Might Be Just As Good For You As Exercise, Study Reveals is every bit as lifestyle affirming, as far as I’m concerned. Whenever I sink into a hot tub, my body screams, “Yes!!!!” So it’s high time I stop feeling guilty for listening to it.

Now, if I could find an article about sitting in a tub full of melted cheese, my cup would truly runneth over.

Cheese

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Is the World a Safe Place?

More and more studies are showing that how you answer that question will accurately determine whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. If you accept that as a given, then we are in a very scary point in history, because I can’t imagine anyone or anything that would make any of us change your mind about how we answer that question.

If you think the world is not a safe place, well, then, it wouldn’t be very safe for you to change your mind, now, would it? On the other hand, if you think it is a safe place, then you are more flexible about new concepts, new knowledge, new ways of seeing the world and the way we choose to live in it, and I can’t imagine anything making you give that up, either.

Think about this from a political standpoint. If the world isn’t safe, then immigrants can’t be trusted and should be walled off. Vaccinations can’t be trusted. We should stick with age-old traditions. Gender roles should remain rigid. We should all have guns. These are all political issues that stem from our worldviews.

This article, entitled A new theory for why Republicans and Democrats see the world differently, by Ezra Klein, spells this out in much more detail. It’s a fascinating, though frustrating read.

And once you’ve read that, hop on over to take this intriguing test. It consists of 27 questions that have nothing to do with politics, but your answers will quite accurately predict your politics regardless. It’s pretty much based on the same theory, only it determines one’s level of disgust. And that’s a little scary, don’t you think? (The results said that my brain is 74 percent Democrat. That’s because the only thing that disgusts me to any degree at present is the current administration. I’m surprised that I didn’t show up as 110 percent Democrat. Still…)

So, if the way we all see the safety of the world isn’t likely to change, and if it’s true that that pretty much spells out our political party, then that means we can count on being polarized from here on out. Because we’re already polarized. That means that this divisiveness and gridlock will be nearly impossible to get past. In essence, nothing of note will ever get done.

That makes me tired. And it makes me sad. But I’m really glad to be in the group that sees the world as a basically safe place. It must be terrifying to think otherwise.

safe world

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Professionalism

When you work for a government agency, all your office correspondence is accessible to the public. In my case, such scrutiny is highly unlikely, because my job is generally uneventful, and doesn’t inspire those types of inquiries. Thank goodness. Because I don’t really like drama.

So, I definitely could have lived without the excitement when one of my coworkers decided to send me an e-mail entitled “professionalism”, with a copy to two of my supervisors, saying that I was unprofessional and lazy. This really stunned me, because I take bridgetending very seriously. I am proud of the job I do.

Without going into detail, it boiled down to a difference of opinion regarding a gray area in our procedure. He suggested I should lie on the radio to my boaters to keep up appearances. I prefer to be honest, and my actions caused no inconvenience or complaint. And more importantly, no one’s life was put at risk.

But he would not let it go. He went on and on, saying he’d never heard anything so unprofessional in his 19 years as a bridgetender. That kind of made me scoff, because I’ve worked with him for 17 of those 19 years, and oh, I could tell you stories about some of the outrageous things we’ve heard from coworkers. Bridgetenders are a very unique breed.

But he didn’t stop there. After I came back from my days off, there was another e-mail from him, to me and my supervisors, calling me a liar. This was patently absurd, and I could easily prove it. He was really beginning to sound like he had lost every single marble he had ever had.

I basically said that I wasn’t going to have this discussion with him on this public forum, and that if he had a problem he should take it up with our supervisor, and that he needed to stop harassing me.

The weird part about it is that it’s much ado about nothing, and his outburst and name calling made it very clear that he was the one being unprofessional. The irony is that he retires in about a week. I guess he has decided to burn all his figurative bridges behind him. Let’s hope, in his heightened state of agitation, he doesn’t go all literal on us.

I used to respect this man. Now I’m not going to miss him at all. And that makes me really sad.

So here’s to professionalism. Here’s to being kind to one another and treating fellow human beings with respect and courtesy. Here’s to keeping it classy. And here’s to not pulling a b**** move on your way out the door.

Let it go

Like this blog? Then you’ll love this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Are You Vacuum-Worthy?

Ugh. I hate house cleaning. I’m not unhygienic, mind you. I don’t have creatures residing in my sink or anything like that. But let’s just say that everything does not always find its way back to its place under my purview.

And yet, if someone whose opinion I care about is coming to visit, I will spend days vacuuming and straightening and organizing. Heavy emphasis on the “whose opinion I care about” part. I hate to say it, but the older I get, the less I care about the opinions of most people. Seriously, I just can’t be bothered.

If I ever have any doubt about the depth of my feelings for someone, I simply have to see how much effort I’m willing to put into gaining their good opinion. And that’s ironic, because those people, in general, are the very ones whose good opinion is pretty much guaranteed.

It kind of reminds me of the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine decides who is, and is not, sponge-worthy. With me, the question is, are you vacuum-worthy? If you are, my friend, consider yourself in an elite group, indeed.

vacuum

Like this blog? Then you’ll love this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5