TED Part 1: How I Got There…

12 Jun

 

I have been a fan of TED Talks for years. I probably was turned on to TED talks by my younger son Cris, who is really good about keeping me up-to-date with social culture and YouTube and internet postings.

What is TED? I could tell you the TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and their catch phrase is “Ideas worth sharing.” I could tell you there are a non-profit corporation that hopes to make the world a better place through 18 minute talks (TED Talks) on technology , entertainment and design.

Or I could just post a link to their own explanation:
http://www.ted.com/about/our-organization

Or I could just post a link to their 20 most popular talks:
http://www.ted.com/playlists/171/the_20_most_popular_talks_of_a

TED Talks have made me think, have made me shed a tear, have made me feel optimistic about the state of the world, have touched me profoundly and have made me want to be a better person.

That being said, there are others that made me think, “Well, they can’t all be winners.” These are few and far between.

I get an email every few days telling me that a new TED Talk is available for me to watch. And I subscribe to the pod casts of the TED Talk Show broadcast on NPR.

I was looking at one of the TED Talks that arrived in my email, when I saw a button that said “Want to Attend TEDWomen 2015?”

Well, hell, yeah, I thought, though I was also thinking, this is too expensive for me to even think about it.

I clicked the button and though all the $3,500 subscriptions to attend the Talks and see the speakers in person were taken, there were places in the screening room where the speakers would be simulcast. That was available for a little over $1000.

I had not celebrated my retirement in any significant way with a big trip or a new tattoo or a piece of jewelry. This would be my gift from me to me.

My imaginary number was $3,000. I could afford $3,000 without feeling I was endangering my retirement.

There was another consideration. How to get there?

I had a friend who said she wanted to drive cross country. Though I had not wanted to drive cross country with her because her itinerary was to hit every presidential library she could (boring), and also I had been cross country with my motorcycle club already (how do you top that?), I thought if we had one week to get there and one week back, with a week in Monterey, CA for me and for my friend, a week with her daughter who was a Dr. in Stanford, and we shared expenses, I could do this. And make my friend’s bucket list one item shorter. But only if we shared expenses; because while NJ gas prices were still under $3.00 a gallon, the rest of the country was terribly expensive.

Did I mention we only had two weeks to decide?

It was around the first week in May when I saw the postings and the Conference was May 27th through the 29th. And I wanted a couple of days to tour Monterey, thinking I would probably never get there again.

Unfortunately my friend had a health crisis and without her, driving was not a viable alternative.

Did I mention I had to fill out a questionnaire, give two character witnesses and write an essay about my TED moment in order to be considered as an audience member? To sit in front of a screen and not in the presence of the speakers? And to pay $1250 for the privilege? And I was looking forward to it!!!

I asked the former President of the American Library Association and the current Executive Director of the New Jersey Library Association to be my references. They agreed.

I wrote about how  I refused to give up a patron’s borrowing record to the police without a subpoena and became a temporary national cause celeb.

I was accepted, and I was on my way!

Book Report: Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

20 Apr

I’ve loved Anna Quindlen’s writing for what seems like a long time; first as a Pulitzer Prize winning thirty-something New York Times reporter.

I’ve loved her for the life lessons in her books “A Short Guide to a Happy Life” and “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake“.

And I’ve loved her for sharing her love of books. libraries and reading as recorded in “How Reading Changed My Life.”

But now it’s more than love…it’s envy…for having written the type of book I want to write…a witty and charming story called “Still Life with Bread Crumbs.”

If you haven’t read Quindlen’s fiction, you’re in for a treat. You will soon realize you’re in the presence of an awesome wordsmith…the similes, the metaphors, the play with words and the character descriptions.

And the plot development:

Sixty year old Rebecca Winter finds herself in financial straits after having had a modicum of fame and fortune as a photographer…in particular for a photograph she took while living a life of quiet desperation with her asshole professor husband, and beloved son.

The photo was of the kitchen counter detritus from a last minute dinner party her husband had instigated (and of course had not helped clean up after). Half empty wine glasses and broken baguettes. A spilled oil bottle here, a few breadcrumbs there. All was as it was left, nothing staged. It becomes emblematic of the burgeoning women’s movement. But like most posters of an era, eventually it becomes out of date. And though Rebecca remains as talented as ever, her fame fades.

Bills mounting, she sublets her NYC apartment, moves to a ramshackle cabin in rural New York State, and begins adjusting to a life for which she never planned nor wanted. It’s her interaction with the local folk that makes up the drama and comedy of the book for the most part…a gourmet baker with a cafe’ in the middle of nowhere, a former child soprano who’s literally clowning around, a handyman with a family secret. The rest is about her family relations-a mother with Alzheimer’s disease who never was motherly, her failed businessman of a father who is quick with a cliché’, and her son who is just coming into his own.

Of course, there is romance. And of course, it doesn’t run smoothly. But the way the characters are brought together, the way they break apart and the way they come together again is alternately charming, bittersweet and believable.

What constitutes a good read? In my way of thinking it’s a book you can’t wait to get back to. It’s filled with characters you come to care about and wonder where life will lead them in the future.

Therefore, in “Still Life with Crumbs”, Ms. Quindlen has written what I call a good read.

Many Strong and Beautiful Women

26 Mar

The older I grow the more I cherish the company of women.

After 9/11 I thought “what have I not done with my life that, if it were to end tomorrow, I would regret?” There were two answers…I wanted to write the Great American (Trashy) novel and I wanted to get my motorcycle license. At the ripe old age of 52, I got my license, bought a motorcycle and joined a group of like-minded women who call themselves “The Spokes-Women Motorcycle Club.” (Still working on the novel…)
We are middle aged (and older) professional women who all share a love of riding. We are straight, we are gay, we are experienced riders, we are newbies, we ride Harleys, we ride trikes, but we all ride. We are trailblazers (less than 20% of all riders are women) and role models (if girls can see us, they can be us). And whenever we ride in formation, I look around me and think, many strong and beautiful women. And I’m among them!

The next group I belong to was inadvertently named by a professor in the Rutgers School of
Communication, Information and Library Studies. Dr. Pamela Richards said to us MLS students, “Never think of yourselves as mere librarians; think of yourselves as Acolytes in the Temple of Wisdom.”
Acolyte?!? I thought. Hell, I wanted to be a Goddess in the Temple of Wisdom!
So when I and three other librarians outstanding in the profession competed in the Rutgers SCILSbowl…a trivia game akin to the GE College Bowl…I named our team The Library Goddesses. We beat the grad students, the doctoral students, the professors and other librarians. And if we were friends before, we became sisters after.We travel together, we blog together, we laughed, we cried, we became a part of each other.

My third group of women are the Poker Gals. Ten years ago, my chiropractor asked if I knew how to play poker. Her kids had given her a gaming table and she was inviting some other women to play. We are a disparate group, who at one time other another had met each other at Teresa’s parties. And we have expanded. We are a gemologist, a library director, a children’s librarian, a paralegal, a head of transportation for a major NJ city and a nurse. What we have evolved into being is a traveling poker club who likes to eat. We rotate every month to another gal’s house and she will cook for us before we play. We’ve had French,
Chinese, Cuban, Polish, Italian, and American cuisine. For $5 we eat and gamble and laugh all night. (Well, to call what we do gambling is stretching it…) I LOVE saying, ”
Sorry, I can’t go out that night….I’m playing poker with my Poker Gals.”

It took years to forge these friendships, but it was worth the wait.

In the words of Goddess Arlene: “I love us.”

Goddesses-in-Training

2 Mar

I’ve had a lot of fun with this Goddess thing.

But it never meant as much to me as it did today…

I had a visit from two 11 year old Goddesses-in-Training and they brought me a Thank You Note Book.

Some background information…

About 12 years ago, I needed a new secretary, and began interviewing.

One of my staff buzzed my office.

“Charlie’s car’s been hit.”

Charlie was one of our Senior Volunteers who did retirees’ income taxes for them. We all LOVED Charlie.

Still, it was snowing that day and accidents will happen…

“Is he OK?” I asked, as I looked from my second story window down at the two cars involved.

“He’s fine,” said the staff member, “But his mirror got knocked off.”

I saw Charlie exchanging registration and insurance information with the gal who had knocked the mirror off.

She was tall, stacked, dressed like she was going to work in the city instead of a small public library and carrying a briefcase.

“I’ll bet that’s my 3 p.m. interview,” I said and I was right.

It might not have been the strangest interview I’ve ever had, but it’s right up there.

As I started asking her questions about her work experience, the snow that was on her hair began melting and dripping down her face, so I took some tissues and blotted her dry. Within three minutes she was crying, telling me about how she had been an administrative assistant in an office building across the street from the World Trade Center on 9/11, leaving work that day never to return.

“I’m so verklempt!” she said, trying to fan her tears away.

I hate that saying that good comes out of bad, but I never could have afforded a person with her skills otherwise.

So I hired her and we got along like a house afire.

She was witty, she was wise. The staff loved her, and in addition to being my secretary and all that entailed, she automated the bookkeeping (which she did in half the time of her predecessor), and in her spare time, she also made signs and fixed computers!

However…

When I hired Deb, she said she had to be honest: she and her husband were trying for a baby, but they had not been lucky yet. I said that wasn’t a consideration.

She was pregnant within six months.

With twins.

So when she left on maternity leave, there was no coming back.

But if I couldn’t have her as an employee, at least I could have her as a friend.

On Groundhog’s Day, 2004, Debbie gave birth to two beautiful baby girls, Rebecca and Sarah.

They are fraternal twins and each had their own personality from the get-go, Sarah being the outgoing one and Becca being the introspective gal.

When they started talking, Deb wanted to know what I wanted to be called.

“I think “Michele” is too familiar. How about Ms. Reutty.”

“Nah, too stuffy,” said Deb.

“OK, how about Aunt Michele?”

“But being an Aunt-that name really belongs to my sister.”

“You’re right,” I said.

“I know!” Debbie said in her Aha! voice. “How about they call you Goddess?”

I loved it!

From the time they could speak, the girls have called me nothing else~

And so it came to pass that the girls grew in beauty and grace and I now call them my “Goddesses-in-Training.”

They presented me with a completed jigsaw puzzle of a Harley, similar to the one I ride.

I invited them to a tea party and made them scones and lemon curd and hand-dipped chocolate covered strawberries and I got out my prettiest tea set. We each wore one of my tiaras…what’s a tea party without a tiara?

Sarah and Becca at our Summer Tea Party

Just before Chanukah, I gave them hats with tiaras on them…Becca’s is a winter hat lined in faux fur with a tiara in rhinestones and Sarah’s (which broke ) was a glittery tiara on a Santa’s hat. Deb told me Becca wears hers whenever she’s not in school.

So today I got a call from Deb, asking me if I was going to be home. I said yes, but I was expecting a call; someone had given my name as a reference and I wanted to give him the excellent reference he deserved. I told her to come on over.

In about 5 minutes, she arrived with the girls in tow. I asked what was new.

Becca had a huge joke book with her, in addition to her tiara ski hat.

“Let’s hear one,” I said.

“Why was the sofa afraid of the chair?”

“Why was the sofa afraid of the chair? I repeated. “I don’t know!”

Becca said, “Because the chair was armed.”

I moaned and said, truthfully, I didn’t see that coming…

I apologized and told them I was expecting a phone call.
“OK, girls, you gotta make it fast,” said Deb.

“Wait a minute…here,” I thrust Deb’s overdue Christmas present in her hands. “You can open it while the girls do their thing.”

I had no idea what Sarah was holding, but their Mother nudged them a little and they took turns reading from a sheaf of papers that turned out to be book they had written and illustrated for me. It was called “The Thank You Note” by Sarah and Rebecca Tester, the cover told me.

Rebecca and Sarah's Book

Rebecca and Sarah’s Book

You open it up and in big green letters it says

“Acknowlegements”

(Then it continues in blue crayon…)

Thanks to our good friend Goddess we wouldn’t be writing this book right now. So, this book is for you, Goddess!

Dear Goddess,
(This is script.)

Thank you so so SO much for the hat you gave me. I wore it all day yesterday as soon as I got it and almost all day today. I took the red one.

Love,
Rebecca

(On the side of this is a self-portrait of Sarah in her tiara hat and the words written above it read, “Love at First Sight.”)

Dear Goddess,
(Here a different handwriting, but still in blue crayon.)
You are the one who made us write this “book”, a success. Thank you very much for the Pink Santa hat. –Sarah

But on the next page is a story called “The Thank You Note” printed in very fancy writing and blue ink!
“Three weeks before Christmas two girls named Sarah and Rebecca walked in a enchanted forest. Then a Goddess named Michele that was the God of Tiaras and Beauty came down on a cloud in front of the girls, “Who are you?” Sarah asked. “She’s the Goddess of Tiaras and Beauty, “Becca stated. “Correct, young tot,” Michele said. So, the three girls talked and when it was time to go home, Michele gave the girls enchanted hats. They said thanks you and walked home to show their awesome hats off. When Christmas came Michele got a thank you note from Sarah and Rebecca. Michele sent a thank you note to the girls to thank them for the note. So, everyday each other sent a thank you note.”

(At the end of this story is a drawing of a flurry of thank you notes and envelopes.)

But, the best is yet to come.

On the back cover is a portrait of the girls and me. We are all wearing tiaras. And we are all smiling. And we are all floating on a cloud.

Goddess surrounded by Goddesses-in-Training!

Goddess surrounded by Goddesses-in-Training!

They are well on their way to being Goddesses. May they always remember they ARE Goddesses.

They have a Fairy Goddess Mother to remind them, should they ever forget.

But they won’t.

Because they are surrounded by strong and beautiful women like their Mom and their Mom’s friend Rosalie.

Debbie, Rosalie and Goddess

Debbie, Rosalie and Goddess

Many strong and beautiful women…and girls.

All Goddesses.

Harper (I’m No One-Hit Wonder) Lee has a new book!

3 Feb

The Internet is going wild!  Facebook is going wild!  The press is going wild! Librarians are going wild!

Bigger than Gone Girl?  Amazing Amy says yes.

Bigger than Fifty Shade of Grey?  Christian says the thought of it is making his palm twitch.

Pulitzer Prize winning author, Harper Lee has a ‘new’ novel (her first, actually) written over fifty years ago and due to be released on July 14, 2015. And from the Associated Press, ‘According to the publisher, the book will be released as she first wrote it, with no revisions.’  And 2 million copies for the first run!  That’s a boatload of copies, in case you were wondering.

Go Set a Watchman is a 304 page, 1.4 pound novel with Scout (Jean Louise Finch) as the main character and when she presented it to her editor all those years ago, Ms. Lee was told to go back home and write a novel based on Scout’s memories. The rest is history.

Oh, the yawning souls at work on July 15 after staying up all night to read those 304 pages!

Of course, the book is not without controversy and suspicion and I don’t know any more than what I’ve read about the book thus far today but I know I love Scout and Atticus and Gem and I want to love Go Set a Watchman.  I also want Harper Lee to be treated fairly.  So stay tuned.  July will be here before we know it.  Let’s meet back here after we’ve read the book.  See you then!

Dear Blog~

11 Jan

How I’ve missed you!

I’m sorry I haven’t written in so long.

It’s not that I don’t think about you and want to keep you up to date with Goddess doings.

It’s just that life gets in the way.

I know that’s no excuse.

But since I last wrote you one of us has moved south and one of us has retired.

There have been health situations with loved ones that required our attention.

Some of us have had health problems ourselves.

It was a season of changes…a friend became a lover, houses were sold or renovated, and a first grandchild is on the way!

Two Goddesses separately went on European vacations, one to Italy, the other to Paris.

Now that you are up to speed, let us go forward. I will try to write more…not as often as I think of you, but as often as I can and on a regular basis. I really have missed you.

I promise to do better in the future…but you have to do your part, too.

Let us know you’re out there. Just a word of two. Let us know if we are striking a chord or tickling your funny bone, if something resonates, or is of interest to you.

We’ll be writing…and listening…

Love,

Goddess Michele

Three-peat!

27 Apr

Last night my team, the Library Gods and Goddesses, won the Parsippany Kiwanis Trivia Challenge for the third year in a row.

The team consisted of Library Goddesses JK, JR, Arlene and Michele and Library Gods Michael Maziekien, my two sons, David Walters and Cristian Maiullo and our family friend Steve Vega.

Now winning might not be everything, but it was something…something to behold, because we only won by one point.

One point!

Oy!

The trivia game is extremely well run and, as I said to one of my team mates, I’m surprised Libraries all over the state are not holding trivia contests as FUNdraisers.

Before the games begin, each team puts their best guess as to how high they are going to score without going over the number, and record it on their team’s sheet. In case of a tie, the team that guesses closest to their final score without going over wins.

The game consists of 10 categories with 10 questions each.The Kiwanis Quizmaster makes up the questions and intones them in a mellifluous voice. Some of the questions involve an audio component; most do not. Some of the categories have included: Spices (the spices were described and you had to name them…one of the answers was fenugreek!), Balls (we were given the dimensions and composition of balls used in sports and we had to name the sport) and Themes from TV shows of the 70’s (that was an audio question where the Quizmaster played bits of prerecorded music).

This year’s categories included: All About Me ( the Quizmaster gave us the name of the autobiography we had to name the author), Disney and Pixar Movies (Michael, the lone male librarian on our team, just about ran that category), and Foreign Money (the Quizmaster named the country…we needed to name the unit of currency used there).

But the category that laid us low (and many others) was The Superbowl. Which teams have never played in the Superbowl? Who is the Superbowl trophy named after? Who is the winningest coach? We lost major points in that category. We felt whipped!

But two categories got us back up on our feet…Songs with Countries or Cities in their Titles (an audio category, both the title and the singers of the songs played were required in the answer, for a half point each) and Women Crime Fighters on TV (we were given the name of the character and a description of the program; we needed to give the actresses’ names and the shows in which they starred).

It was nip and tuck all night long with two teams as our major contenders: one of the teams had a husband and wife librarian team at it’s head, and the other was a table full of Princeton students. At the end of each round the scores were posted and we all would run up to see who had fallen behind and who had forged ahead. Every round was different, keeping the tension up to the very end.

I don’t think anyone was more surprised than me and my team when we were announced the winners! We never felt that it was a lock…and as I said, we had very stiff competition and tough questions.

I’ll tell you what I think the secret to our winning team is: diversity. We range in age from 29 to late 60’s. We have eclectic interests in music, games and hobbies. Other than having 5 people who have Master Degrees in Library Science, we have a Math Major, a Science and Physics Teacher, and a jack of all trades who has a genius IQ.

And they are fun to be with.

Even if we had lost, we had a great time.

But I’m glad we won.

AND there truly is strength in diversity.

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