Exhibiting Awesome Outreach

Posted: April 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

While on twitter one late evening I stumbled upon a call out for submissions to a project called “Show me the Awesome.” The aim of this project is to highlight some of the awesome things that we librarians are doing out in the world. I thought to myself, “Hey, why not participate and talk about all the exhibit work that you do?” So, here goes. I am a Research and Instruction Librarian who loves programming and outreach. I have worked at several different types of libraries– public, a big 10 university, and now, Wellesley College, a small liberal arts college for women. While the patrons are all slightly different at each institution, one thing remains consistent, the need for effective outreach. But not just any outreach but the kind that gets patrons excited and through the library’s doors. A good reason to give up some of their time and spend it with you. This is the challenging part because our patrons have lives and things are happening in those lives every single second. Competing with that noise is difficult but not impossible.

One way I like to do outreach is through traveling exhibits. These are wicked fantastic.  No, really, they are. My advice to anyone who is interested in bringing a traveling exhibit to their library is to sign up for the Programming Librarian PPO program through the American Library Association. Every so often, ALA will email you with upcoming traveling exhibits with a chance to write a grant to receive the exhibit for its first run. Why is this important? Because the first run often comes with money! Yes, free money that you and your institution can use to bring in speakers and guest lecturers to draw in bigger crowds. Some exhibits are designed for specific types of libraries like public but more often than not, they are open to anyone. The grant writing process is challenging but not so difficult that it should stop you from attempting it. The first exhibit I ever received was Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine.  This was my first time ever writing a grant. It proved to be a very useful lesson in not only grant writing itself but learning how to partner with organizations outside your library, department, and/or campus.  These partnerships are a requirement for the grant and after doing my first exhibit, I see why. It’s amazing the types of programming that can be accomplished when more creative minds are involved! For Harry Potter, I partnered with our local library who ran programs such as movie festivals, cake decorating, and potion-making classes. I partnered with our local zoo who brought a selection of reptiles to show and discuss with our audience under the theme, “Modern Day Dragons.” How about Quidditch? Well, it turned out my university had its own Quidditch team and were overjoyed to participate in the exhibit by teaching kids how to play the game. These partnerships ended up being long-lasting as I brought several more exhibits after Harry Potter which allowed us to work together time and time again.

I cannot stress enough how awesome the traveling exhibits are through the American Library Association and the National Library of Medicine. The first run of traveling exhibits usually require a grant proposal and application because they come with a monetary award but after their first run, they are open to anyone. All that is required is payment for shipment which averages anywhere from $250 – $500 depending on where it is being shipped to and from. The exhibit stays with you for 6-8 weeks and for the most part, is really easy to put up and take down. Another good place to look is with your state’s historical society as they sometimes have traveling exhibits as well. I used to live in Indiana and our historical society had wonderful exhibits that only cost a $100. The best part was they not only delivered it but did the entire set up and tear down. If you have a big budget (I’ve never had this luxury), the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress have traveling exhibits as well but the price is not for the faint of heart. A quick Google search can pinpoint other traveling exhibits out there that might meet your interests and budget restraints.

So, you have secured an exhibit, now what? It’s time to plan your programming. For me, this is the best part because it is a chance to forge new friendships and partnerships. It all starts with an introductory email on who I am and what I am doing with this crazy exhibit that is coming our way. I also research my prospective partners. No matter what type of library you work at, there is always someone in the community who is an expert on something. If your exhibit is on Abraham Lincoln, find out who is a Lincoln scholar or a Civil War reenactor. Talk with your local college or university to see who might be willing to give a talk. I promise, there is always someone out there. Also, focus on different age groups. If you work for a college, your target audience will of course be the college students but think more broadly. Think about the community that surrounds the library and how you might entice them to attend a program. And don’t forget the little learners. While they are not your target patrons, one day they could be, so take this opportunity as a way to get them excited about learning, attending college, and the library in general. Work for a public library? No problem. Reach out to your local college, community centers, and daycare facilities. You might be surprised who is willing to work with you. I mean, who doesn’t want to see their community members engaged in active learning?

My best piece of advice? Ask your captive audience! If you work at a college, you certainly have student workers. Ask them what types of programs they would like to see. Also, have them help! Every exhibit I’ve ever brought in has had a book display to accompany it. The student workers at my current job love to be involved. So let them!  Let them run with their ideas as they know more about effective marketing for their demographic than the outsiders do. If you work for a public library, ask your pages and shelvers. They know your target audience because they are a part of it. All this asking will certainly land you with ideas and suggestions you never dreamed of. That’s the point as collaboration is key. Just as research does not live inside a bubble, neither does effective programming. You might be surprised just how many people want to participate and help out if you only ask them.

And lastly, have fun! Exhibits are a lot of work, I won’t lie but they are also really fun and exciting. There is nothing better than seeing a crowd of people around the exhibit you brought in. Engage with them. Strike up a conversation. Find out what specifically brought them to the exhibit and ask what they liked or didn’t like about it. Leave out a guestbook for people to sign so you can see who all came and what their opinions were. All of this will help you for the next time you bring in an exhibit. And believe me, you will. Once your patrons have seen something new in the library space, they will come to expect it. I’ve even had students inquire when the next one was coming because they enjoyed interacting with the space in new and different ways. And you know what? You will too.

Ready to get started? Take a look at the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s traveling exhibit page to see what is currently available.  Inquire about when you might possibly host the exhibit and start planning! There is no better time than the present and with all the various exhibits out there, one is just perfect for you. If you have any questions, you can drop me a line here. I’d love to hear what you are doing and what you are bringing to your library! If your library is near me, who knows, you might just see me in the crowd your exhibit has effectively brought in. If you happen to be in the Wellesley, MA area, stop by and check out the Charlotte Perkins Gilman exhibit I currently have at the library until May 18, 2013!

Interested in learning more about this awesome project? Check out these ladies:

showmetheawesome2

Times, they are a changin’.

Posted: March 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

It’s been a few months since I last blogged. I admit I’ve been really busy this semester. Busier than I was last semester, for sure. I have been at Wellesley for over a year now and I am finally settling in. The first semester was all about finding my way and meeting my departments. The second semester was building on those relationships and continuing to learn the ropes. This semester? Instructional teaching! I will have done more instructional sessions this semester than ever before and that is definitely a good sign. It means I am doing something right. It means my name is getting out there and faculty are willing to take a chance on me. Or have me back into the classroom. The good news? I finally made contact with the Anthropology Department. They are small so I knew getting into the classroom would be a real challenge but for whatever reason, this semester is money. I have THREE sessions with them! Fabulous. I just hope I blow their minds so that they ask me back again.

The other good news? I will be a published author come July/August! I wrote an article along with my friend Erin on teaching information literacy with zombies. The article discusses how we implemented the zombie theme into the course we taught at Harrison College. I had the idea to write the article during my last semester at Purdue (2011) but it took awhile for us to collaborate, write, and then edit. We submitted it to the College and Research Libraries News and it was accepted right away. YAY!!! It will be in their July/August issue. Which is perfect timing as instructors and librarians will be thinking about their course designs before they head back to class. Perhaps some of our ideas will be adopted. Who knows but what I do know is that I freaking love that my FIRST professional publication is about zombies. You can take the librarian out of the horror but you cannot take the horror out of the librarian. I’m proof of that. I wouldn’t mind being known as “the zombie librarian.” I have a schtick and it works. The only downside now is that I do not have the type of instruction anymore to implement any of the zombie themes. But at least I can share with others how they can do so. Along these same lines, Erin and I have submitted a proposal to NELIG (the New England chapter of ARCL) to present on our zombie instruction. If we are chosen, we will present this June. In front of the living. And then perhaps that “zombie status” can be achieved for me.

Also this semester, I will be teaching two workshops on journaling! While I am not an “expert” in terms of degrees in journaling, I have been writing in my journal/diary since I was seven years old so I think I can speak about the subject. My workshop idea is to discuss why journaling is important, the different ways to journal, read passages from different women’s journals (Anais Nin, Sylvia Plath, Mary Shelley, and Courtney Love) to see how they wrote, and then have a breakout session with writing prompts. Hopefully at the end of the workshop, everyone will be willing to share a little of what they wrote. Journaling is so important to me and I am so passionate about it. I just want to share that passion with others because I really believe journaling can lead to not only healing but discovering who we truly are. Finding our inner voices makes us stronger and I think we all owe it ourselves to not only find that inner voice but hear it and utilize it.

The journaling workshop has inevitably led to me thinking about my next degree. Yes, how many of you are actually surprised that I would think about more school? I didn’t think so. In fact, Matt has been waiting for that shoe to drop for the last six months. I have been looking into the low-residency MFA program at Lesley College which is in Cambridge. If I decided to do this, I would go for non-fiction and hopefully be able to combine journaling with therapy/spiritual healing. Right now, I am just looking in to it. Not committed to anything yet as the number one priority outside of work is to get the novel done and sent out to agents. THAT is my summer goal and that is the focus right now.

Which led to the important decision to spend the summer in Monessen with Matt. Last summer I stayed in Salem and worked at the local witch shop, Crow Haven Corner. It was a good summer, busy, but good. The downside is that I had no time to write. This summer I NEED to focus on the rewrites and edits so that I can meet my goal of sending out my agent query letters by the end of summer. In Monessen, there would be NO distractions because there is not jack and shit to do there. Seriously. There is NOTHING. So while Matt is in school every day during the week, I can write! I can even sit outside on the front porch with my coffee and write! Then on the weekends, Matt and I can do non-work/class things together. Like, a NORMAL married couple living a normal married life. And if I can be honest here, I really do not want to spend another summer alone without him. This whole “separation” shit is getting old. And each time we say goodbye instead of it getting easier, it gets harder. So if we can spend a little more time together, all the better. I do have visitors coming to Salem this summer so I will be back for that but otherwise, I will be enrolled in what I refer to as the “poor woman’s writing retreat” in Monessen, PA.

So that’s the scoop. I’ve been busy, creative, lonely, happy, and healthy. Sometimes all at once and sometimes more one than the other. But we have survived our first year apart. One more year to go.

The end is in sight.

And it looks so bright, I gotta wear shades.

 

Suck it up Buttercup

Posted: January 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

I realize it has been a million years since I last blogged. Okay, it was in September but still, that is a long ass time. I wish I had some amazing excuse like I cured cancer or took a walk on the moon. Nope. I just didn’t think about it. In fact, the thought never even crossed my damn mind until five seconds ago after a powerful shot of Kah tequila. All of a sudden I was like, “Hey, what ever happened to that blog thingie that I was writing in?” So, here I am.

Samhain came and went without much ado. Sure, Salem was like Bourbon Street on a Friday night for the whole month of October but for the most part, I managed. The crowds were annoying yet fun. The traffic was annoying yet awful. The weather was mostly nice until Hurricane Sandy decided that she too would like some Halloween festivities and the town sort of lost some of its tourist population. Honestly, I was okay with that. While I enjoyed the craziness of Salem during October, I was happy to see November roll in and the tourists roll/drive/fly/crawl/walk away.

There is nothing better than walking around Salem during “off season.” While the holidays were fast approaching, the tourists did not really visit. It was mostly us locals enjoying all the holiday decorations. The Christmas tree that was put up in Lappin Park was beautiful and majestic. I was slightly pissed that I missed it going up. I spent Thanksgiving in Monessen with Matt and thought for sure that the city tree would not go up until at least the first weekend in December. Oh, how wrong I was. The damn thing arrived the day AFTER Thanksgiving meaning I wasn’t a part of the singing and caroling that surrounds the event. Maybe next year. I did however manage to see Santa arrive onto the rooftop of the Hawthorne Hotel. I admit it was a little terrifying as it was raining outside and I thought what would happen if he simply slipped while walking down the ladder attached to the firetruck? Would the dozens of the kids waiting for his descent be traumatized forever? Would it be slightly funny? Would I laugh or cry? Luckily, no tragedies happened and we were all able to see Santa firmly plant two feet on the ground and quickly scurry off to drink or whatever Santa does when he needs private time. I also was surprised to witness the lighting of the Christmas tree in the Common’s Gazebo. I was not expecting this so I was happy to know I at least saw one official tree lighting during the holiday season.

As much as I like buying gifts for my loved ones, I had no money. No, seriously, Matt and I are practically flat ass broke. So we set a limit for each other at $100. The only people that I bought for were my nieces, my nephew, and some various friends. Other than that, holiday shopping was a bust and probably will be until Matt and I merge households again. I admit, it was nice to not have all the holiday pressure of having to find “the perfect gift.” Instead this year it was about spending time with people. Matt and I decided to journey to Indiana and spend time with my mom, nieces, and friends. The nieces had no idea we were even coming so you can imagine the screaming and carrying on that happens when you surprise a 14 year old and a 6 six year old! Deafness for about two hours. But we had a blast playing board games and talking, laughing, and just catching up.

Truth to be told, I am tired. I have spent a glorious three weeks with Matt here in Monessen that has flown by. I can’t even tell you how fast it all went. In a blur. In a blink of an eye. In whatever cliche you can come up with; apply it here. Then travels to Indiana and seeing friends and having wonderful conversations and good food and drink. The holidays of 2012 were awesome. Sure, I was slightly bummed that the end of the world did not happen on December 21. In a way I was looking forward to a zombie invasion and the ability to chain smoke cigarettes without really worrying about my health. But we move forward. With dreams of zombies and machettes and yes, cigarettes and tequila.

So tomorrow I head back to Salem. I am ready to start 2013 with a bang. Okay, maybe not a bang but a slightly loud binging sound. Something that won’t scare Izzy and make him hide under the futon. I am ready to just get this shit going and get it done. I know how quickly 2012 went. I have officially been employed at Wellesley College for a year and one day. Damn. Yes, that went by in a blur. I accomplished awesome things, made great friends, and realized what I am made of. More than stuffing and buttons, and organs, and sunshine. I am made of bravery and confidence, worry, and determination. I am made of awesomeness that will lead me to great things with Matt.

So 2013, here I am. With bells on and other shiny sparkly things. Here’s to Matt and I making more of our dreams come true even if it means doing them apart, in different cities and states. Here’s to furthering my professional development at work and being a more kickass librarian. Here’s to Matt creating more gruesome and realistic FX makeups and getting the notice and recognition he deserves. Heres’ to Izzy not throwing up so much and for Edgar to finally lose some of his fatness. Damn that fat shit cat is fat.

Here’s to good tequila and friends. Sunshine and thunderstorms, good wine and nice walks by the water. Here’s to living.

And  as Wooderson would say, “I just keep livin. L-I-V-I-N.”

My Tattoo Story #3

Posted: September 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

Since my favorite holiday is fast approaching I thought it only appropriate to honor my father. On my left arm, I have a tribute tattoo that was drawn by Matt (he did not tattoo the original but went over it again later and added the background) that I had placed on me weeks after my father died. This is difficult to put into words because I’m not sure even how to begin. How do I possibly discuss what it was like losing my father? Unexpectedly. He had been ill for almost a year with strange symptoms. He was taken to every doctor in the area to try to figure out what was wrong with him. He couldn’t remember things, he couldn’t sleep, he had what appeared “restless leg syndrome”, his gait was off, and he was losing weight. As luck would have it, a neurologist happened to walk by when my father was in an observation room attempting to complete memory puzzles (he couldn’t) and she said to my mother, “I know exactly what is wrong with him. He has Huntington’s Chorea.”

Finally, after almost a year of not knowing we had the answer but it wasn’t good. The disease had taken out my grandfather (my dad’s dad) in the early 90’s. At that time it was not diagnosable. So we knew what to expect and it is an awful, awful disease. My father was a biker and enjoyed riding is Triumph but now that his balance was off, he had to put the bike away. And driving? How was he supposed to commute to work? Could he work? He had difficulties remembering his appointments or the bid estimates he drew up. He was a self-employed electrical contractor who earned the bulk of my family’s money. This was a death sentence. His disease would progressively get worse and in the end, he would be locked inside his own mind unable to talk. As it turns out, he did not die of Huntington’s Disease but instead a massive heart attack while commuting to work. Early in the morning, alone. I think this image bothers me most because it was an awful way to die. I won’t get into the graphics of it. In a way, I guess it was for the best. I didn’t have to watch my father deteriorate right before my eyes. I didn’t have to watch him waste away to nothing. Instead I didn’t get to say goodbye.

The truth? I died too that day. I always knew that my father’s death would affect me greatly. He and I were a lot alike despite our disagreements and arguments. He is the reason I love Halloween and horror movies, and “romantic death songs from the 50’s” like “Tell Laura I Love Her” and “Teen Angel.” My father had an extensive record collection that I now own. So when he died, so much of me went with him. I have been an avid journal writer since I was 7 years old, averaging one or two journals a year. So as you can imagine there are TONS of journals on my bookshelves. But you won’t find a single mention of my father’s death. I stopped writing. Instead I wrote poetry, trying to cope and make sense of his passing. Trying to make sense of who I was now, how I was going to get “passed this,” and living in a world without him. But one thought kept haunting me. No matter where I went, no matter how far I ran, or how fast, I would NEVER find him. He wasn’t here anymore and I still don’t know what to do with that, even today.

I refer to my grieving period as “The Dark Ages” and I wouldn’t wish a minute of it to anyone even someone I dislike. It’s a process where you think you are fine, you think you are coping but everyone else around you knows otherwise. And you don’t listen. You can’t listen because to hear would be to admit you are not as brave or strong as you think you. That you wish you were. I almost lost my marriage. I almost lost Matt, my love because I didn’t want to love him. I didn’t want to see him dead some day, mourning for him, tearing at the fabric of the world to bring him back to me. So I pulled away and tried to keep myself safe but isolation is a very lonely place and hard to leave once you feel at home there.

But eventually, through therapy, Matt and Barbie, and my own will, I pulled through and came out the other side. I still grieve my father. There are days when out of nowhere it hits me that he is gone and I can’t catch my breath for a few seconds. Then it passes and I tell myself, “It’s okay. You are still allowed to miss him.”

So the tattoo below is my tribute tattoo. Matt drew caricatures of my father and I. Why? Because he had drawn some a few weeks before he died, of my entire family, and my father wanted to frame it. My father was also an artist and loved Matt’s rendition of who we were. The banner at the bottom reads “Momento Mori” which means “in death we remember.” A few years later once Matt was tattooing, he added the background. I wanted it to be a hokey, haunted Halloween theme, a throw back to all the awesome Halloween parties my dad threw when I was growing up. For our love of horror movies and cemeteries and ghouls. One tombstone reads “Ded” which is my silent wave at my dad, a play on words. I receive a lot of compliments on this tattoo and most people assume it is of Matt and I. That’s okay. I enjoy correcting people and being able to acknowledge my father’s life even if for a moment.

So I will end this post with something poetic. I mentioned earlier that I did not get to say “goodbye” to my father on the day he died. This is true. But two weeks before he died, Matt and I had spent the weekend at my parents’ house. My mom was on this crazy cleaning kick where she was throwing out things from the basement. (most of it was mine, that’s a WHOLE other story). Once we arrived my dad said, “Dawn, mom threw out the jewelry box I bought you when you were 8. I told her you were going to be pissed.” And rightfully so. Just because I had not moved it with me, didn’t mean I no longer wanted it. I was devastated and my mom refused to feel bad about it. Later, my father said, “I know which bag it’s in. We’ll get it out before you leave.” So that Sunday afternoon, I drove my car down to his garage and stood in front of the dumpster while he pulled out the bag of trash. And sure enough, there it was, with the jewelry of my childhood still inside it. He handed it to me and I hugged him. I then told him I loved him and would see him soon. He kissed me on the forehead and said to “I love you too.” And then we drove away. Like we always do.

I guess if this post has a lesson it would be to grieve at your own pace. No one has the right to tell you how long you should grieve a person or how to do it. Just feel it and if you find yourself sinking, reach out your hands. Someone who loves you is waiting and wanting to help you.

Ain’t no rest for the wicked

Posted: August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

Summer officially comes to a close for me today as the students of Wellesley will start classes next Tuesday. As I don’t work Fridays here, Thursdays are my Fridays. I have to say that despite the sadness that comes with seeing summertime end, I am super excited for the fall! I love freshmen and all their hectic, chaotic messes that come with being “new to the scene.” It’s one thing I sort of miss about Purdue. The “Boiler GoldRush.” Now, I know what a pain in the ass this actually is for those who work on Purdue campus. Traffic is horrendous and people seem to just walk out into traffic without looking or even caring if they might get struck by a moving vehicle. And people do get hit by cars on campus all the time. But it’s that air of excitement, that newness, the intensity of people all in the same boat, navigating towards their first semester of college. Well, Wellesley College has orientation too for new students but it is nothing like the madness that surrounds Purdue or other big campuses. I realize that size is relative so in a few years when a few hundred people show up for orientation I will be overwhelmed but this semester, I happily embraced it. I actually love freshmen orientations which is why a position as a “first year experience” librarian has always appealed to me. I just love helping them find their way and answering all sorts of questions. So when my colleagues were asking for volunteers to help,  I jumped at the chance. I did three events that were well attended. The first event, we as librarians actually met every single freshmen who signed up for orientation (which was about 99% of the new crop). That’s impressive. And to have our presence shown at the very beginning of things is awesome as well. Planting those seeds of research. If they know librarians and the library exist straight away, they will be more inclined to find us and use our knowledge later on.

So I traded in 14,000 freshman to around 300. I have to say, I do love working for a small liberal arts college. There is nothing better than giving an orientation on library services and having eager freshmen girls show up who want to know about library databases!  I’m serious. It’s awesome.

But with the excitement of a new semester comes my commute to and from campus. I’m not going to lie or even paint this a little prettier. It sucks goats in hell. Seriously. I hate it. I wish that I swap Wellesley College’s location with Salem State University. Or at the very least, add a few more damn lanes to the road. Really, there needs to be AT LEAST six lanes of traffic going each way. Think L.A. I’m not sure how feasible this renovation could be but someone needs to really look into it. There are just too many damn people all going the same direction at the very same time. And there is no rhyme or reason behind the traffic either. Some days it is perfect. Then the next day you leave at the same time thinking you will catch that same wave of awesomeness and you are so dead wrong. And it’s not your fault. I guess it’s no one’s fault except the a-holes or Massholes rather, who designed the roads out here.

So the commute is long and makes me very tired. By the time I get home and exercise, cook dinner, eat dinner, and then try to relax, it is already 8:30p. Guess what? I’m ready for bed. Seriously. I’m almost 37 and that means I need sleep otherwise I won’t be my pleasant loving self at work the next day. But the problem is, as tired as I am, I cannot stay asleep once I’ve gone to bed. I wake up about a dozen times during the night and this leaves me very unsatisfied when I finally do get up in the morning. Believe me, I’ve tried everything. Wine, tequila shots, nyquil, benadryl, and recently OTC sleeping pills. The problem with sleeping pills is that they need time to work. So I literally have to come home from running or weight training, put my dinner on, down the pills, take a quick shower, eat dinner, and then get sleepy. It sucks. Because 9 out 10 times I wake up feeling groggy the next day. I did, however, see a commercial for “zzzquil” the new nyquil for those of us who take said product without actually being sick. I’m amused that there are more people like me out there who take it even when they are not ill. The new “zzzquil” might be worth a try at some point in the future. And I don’t want to hear any fluffy bunny hoohah about “drinking hot tea before bed” or “exercise an hour before” or “yoga moves before beddy-by” or whatever mind numbing crap people want tell me. It doesn’t work. At least not for me. For now, it is what it is.

And then there is the actual work that comes with a new semester. This is my very first fall at Wellesley so I did not get to experience a full-0n crazy semester. I guess spring semester is a bit more laid back in terms of how many courses are taught. So I can expect to teach double the  number of instructional sessions I did last semester. Out of the starting gate, I did 7. So if the math is right, I’m in for a very busy semester. And for those who don’t teach, it isn’t just showing up for that one session and rambling on about awesome library resources. I mean, I guess yeah, I still do that to some extent but I actually have to prepare in advance for the session. I have to create a libguide (specialized webpage) that highlights all the resources for that particular course, and then lay out what I will say, what I will demonstrate, what hands-on activities the students will do. That’s IF I have enough time with them. Some instructors give me a full hour. Some only want me there for 20 minutes and that is actually harder than a longer session because you have to really know what to tell them so that they get something out of the brief time you have together. This prep work takes a considerable amount of time and if I have say, 14 to do, that’s a LOT. It’s fun and rewarding, sure, but actual work nonetheless. Plus I am writing an article with a fellow librarian that we hope gets published. If it does, this will be my first professional publication! That’s the Wellesley side of things.

Then there is the Crow side, the part-time job side that takes up my Friday and Saturdays. And October is coming which is a big freaking deal when you live in Salem, MA. Everyone has October on the brain and everyone is getting ready for the influx of tourists and crowds in the form of merchandise ordering and stocking, merchandise making and creating, and of course, general panicking all around. Things are starting to get really hectic and that stresses me. As excited as I am to experience my first Samhain in Salem, I am slightly terrified of what it is going to look like from behind the retail counter. I might die. Or kill someone.  Maybe even both. Good thing I left the machete with Matt.

One thing I can say is that I will only get the first Samhain experience in Salem once and I plan on using my Sundays off to be a tourist. I want to take a haunted harbor cruise, take in a trolly tour of the cemeteries, take in a catacomb tour, and of course, shop and people watch on Essex Street. Everyone in Salem waits for their “October money”, the money they live off of the rest of the year. I can’t wait to actually spend a little of my own “October” money on some cool merchandise. Who knows what it might be.

So there you have it. I am busy in both worlds. I’m not sure if I will ever sleep again, at least through the night without some sort of hard narcotic or liquor enhancement. I’m not sure what kind of teaching instructions I will end up doing. At the very least I hope I am prepared for them and that the students glean a little knowledge from me. And I don’t know how I will stomach all the tourists with their shitty children lined up outside the door waiting impatiently to get in and shop. That’s the beauty of life, I guess. Wait and see.

Until next time, remember there is no rest for the wicked. Unless you are that unfortunate wicked one that had a house land on her. Then the rest is the forever kind.

So my time as a full-time Salem Witch is coming to a close as the summer blends into fall. I return back to my Research and Instruction Librarian side on August 20. I admit, there will be a definite change in mindset. While both jobs are a part of me, each representing who I am, they require different skill sets to some degree. All this summer I focused on spells, magick, readings, curses, and the like. I have helped countless people find the right herbs and stones to help them with all kinds of ailments from fear of heights to ridding themselves of extra weight. This is of course research but of a different degree than what I will be doing at Wellesley College. And because of these differences, I love my life. I really feel like I have the best of both worlds. The two things I am really passionate about, being a witch and being a rockin’ librarian are a big part of my life. Now if Wellesley College would only allow me to teach a class in Witchcraft, life would be perfect. I’m sending my energies out right now….

Now, I admit I wax a little poetic here because not every single day I work in Salem is full of sunshine and roses. There is another side to the Witch world that I never really thought about and in some regards was not prepared for. I’m talking about the crazies. Yes, I know that they are in every profession. I’ve met them when I worked at the public library, at the factory, and of course, in retail. But I never thought about the obsessive people who flock to psychics like flies to shit. These obsessives are what I call “tarot hoppers.” They come into town and collect readings, all the while hoping to hear that one thing they desperately need to hear. It can be anything. That they will make lots of money. That so-and-so will finally love them back. That they will finally get that career they always wanted. When the previous psychics fails to tell them this bit of information, they set out to find another who will. These are the people you have to be afraid of because they can get angry or violent or stalkerish. I never thought about psychics needing bodyguards but I’ve heard several stories in the past few months that opened my eyes to just what this world entails. Then there are the people who refuse to leave the reading. These are the ones that linger and keep asking a million questions. They want to know everything there is to know about every aspect of their lives. I want to tell them that sometimes it is okay to go blindly into the night. Besides, readings are a snapshot of the “right here, right now.” Every one has free will so if they don’t like what they hear, they can make the necessary changes to avoid that outcome.

Let’s see, oh, I could never forget the people who come into a reading who are complete wackadoodles. I mean, really, really scary Ed Gein-ish nutjobs. These people truly terrify me and I have had more than a few run-ins with this kind. These are the people who have really bizarre problems like succubus attacks, vampire boyfriends who drain them at night, and dead sisters who set fire their houses because they are mad over who you married. You think I’m kidding. I’m not. I’m not saying that succubi do not exist. Just because I’ve never encountered one doesn’t mean anything nor do I know for sure what your boyfriend really is or does to you once the sun goes down but I’m not sure a psychic is the answer. I think some medication might be a better solution or a nice visit to the police station. Or a the very least a damn fire extinguisher or a phone so you can dial the fire department.

And then there are the tourists. The number one question I hear every single day is “Are you a real witch?” And when I answer “yes” because it is the truth, they reply with, “Can I take your picture?” I’ve never said “no” even when a creepy father of two small children was hitting on me and probably hoping he could whisk me away to take care of his two bullshit brats. Sorry, I’m not that kind of witch. But what I want to say is “You know I”m going to show up in the photograph right? Because I’m a witch not a vampire.”  I really think most of them are disappointed when they see their photograph with me actually in it, standing there all in black, smiling, and looking fabulous. Also, I’m just a person. Who happens to be a witch. Who also happens to be a librarian. Who also happens to have a lot of kick ass tattoos. Who also happens to secretly like “The Goo-Goo Dolls.” There are many different facets to me and I’m not sure being a witch is photo worthy. But if it makes the tourists’ vacation a little more Salem authentic, then what the hell. And I admit, sometimes making a random kid cry is priceless. And yes, it has happened more than once. My favorite was the little girl who screamed, “But I don’t want to see a real witch!”  Well, Gretel dear, you have just landed in the wrong damn city. Curse your parents sweetie not me.

But mainly I’ve learned this summer that I am still in love with Salem. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. This town might be full of more drama than an episode of “General Hospital” but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I know that I made the right decision to move here. Every day that I spent showing my guests (best friend, family, Wellesley College friends) around town, I was full of pride that this is the place I call home. It’s a nice feeling, one I did not have back in Indiana. I’m happy to be a part of this community even if it is a small part, working in witch shoppe helping people find the appropriate herb for a mojo bag. Whether or not you believe in magick, this kind of work matters and the number of people who flock to our shop and Salem in general prove it.

So as my summer comes to a close, I embrace the next chapter. This time when I start Wellesley College, I won’t be a newbie! I’ve already done one semester and had an entire summer to get to know the “me” who made a home in Salem. I’m much stronger, smarter, tougher, and witchier than ever before. And I’m ready to research the hell out of whatever student topics come my way. And maybe, just maybe, someone will want to research the Salem Witch Hysteria of 1692. Now that’s good mojo.

Until next time, that is not a freaking lake bordering Salem. It’s called the Atlantic Ocean and I don’t need a psychic to know that you couldn’t find your way out of a paper sack when it comes to geography.

Witch City Woman

Posted: July 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

So it’s been a long time since my last confession, I mean blog but I have some valid excuses. I’ve been busy, plain and simple. For those who know me well, know that I can’t NOT work. I honestly wouldn’t know what the hell to do with myself if I wasn’t working a job. As you know, I am on an academic schedule at Wellesley College and so that left me to my own devices for the summer months. Hence, my need for a part-time job and thankfully for me, I work part-time for a kick-ass Witch store in Salem.

Most of my days consist of walking around in bitchin’ witchy goth outfits (that I already own) and pass out fliers to entice tourists to come into our shop for readings, merchandise, and to sign up for our Salem Witch Walk Tour. I love being outside despite the heat, or rain, or wind, or shitty-ass tourists. Not all of them are pleasant and full of wonderful things to say. Some of them are douche bags or giant perverts, or massive creepers who think I’m hot or cute or the devil incarnate or whatever. Those are the “Ew Factors” of my job. But for the most part, I enjoy talking to tourists, finding out where they are from, why they chose to visit Salem, and what they know about modern-day witchcraft. I have actually met a few families from Indiana! One from Evansville and another from Indianapolis who just happened to be a tattoo artist and knew my guy Damon! Small freaking witchy world. I have also made some really great friends being outside among the “barking community.” We are really a team that watches out for each other and protects each other from the major whack-a-doodles that tend to gravitate towards the more “prettier ones.” I will say the highlight of my weekend this week was making a small child cry as I tried to hand her mom a flier. She screamed, “I don’t want to see a Witch!!” But for every crappy kid that cries, there are a handful who think I’m awesome and want to pose for pictures with me. I can’t tell you how many countless family vacation photos I am apart of now. In a way, that’s kinda cool but freaky. I have no idea who these people are and there I am, with them in Salem. The best photo ops are when I am standing outside talking with my friend Eric who does the “1692 Tours.” He dresses like a Reverend of that time period, full-on garb. People always mistake him for either a pirate (which he looks NOTHING like) or a Puritan. So when they see a Witch talking to what they think is a Puritan, they about wet themselves with delight. Usually we are not even asked to be memorialized on film and instead are photoed as the trolly takes off down the street. Tourists.

In addition to this, I  have also made some really awesome friends by joining the Crow Haven Corner family. Firstly, there is my fabulous friend Nikki who is from Illinois. Yeah, Midwest people unite! There is nothing better than being able to hang with someone who understands that midwestern mentality, and of course, cow-tipping. Nikki is named after Nikki Sixx, from Motley Crue, which I think is severely kick-ass because I adore Nikki Sixx. I mean, anyone who dies from a heroin overdose with a needle still stuck in their arm, sees themselves dead, and then lives to only do more heroin that night is kinda badass regardless of your stance on drug abuse. Nikki’s parents are practicing Witches and they are the coolest family I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I will add also that Nikki’s mom is a year older than me which is kinda weird considering how close Nikki and I are and she could really be my daughter. I also want to point out that not only Nikki but her two younger brothers are some of the most mature people I’ve ever met and they are a decade (or more) younger than me. In fact, I’d say they are more mature than some of the 30-somethings I know who are just laying there doing nothing with their lives. I want to stress to those who think that growing up in a Witchcraft family will cause the children to be worthless, jobless, idiots without souls or religious values. In this case, the truth is just the freaking opposite. Nikki and her brothers were raised in a straight-up Witchcraft family and are some of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. And I know a lot of so-called “Christian” households that have raised total shitbags for kids. Just saying.

My other new family member is Jody. She has become my mother and good friend. She is just an amazing woman who is a Phoenix just like me. We have both been through some serious shit, made serious mistakes (that certain family members will NEVER let go or forget and constantly need to remind of us) and have risen above the bullshit ashes to be wicked awesome. I identify with Jody despite our age difference. Even though we grew up in different households, a lot of the same drama happened around us. It’s amazing how many people are put through the emotional ringer just because they are misunderstood. I admire her tremendously and really do believe that one of the reasons I was meant to work at Crow was to meet her.

And then there is my boss Laurie. She is probably one of the strongest, fiercest, guns-a-blazing woman I have ever met. I admire and fear this woman. She takes no shit from anyone and watches out for “her girls.” She is all about the “goddess energy” of her shop and we are a close knit group of powerful females. I will mention though, that her fabulous familiar Chico is a dude but that’s okay. He’s the coolest little dog I’ve ever met.

I’ve been enjoying my days outside and working behind the counter inside however, my hatred for children has been getting worse. I mean, I really can’t stand the little bastards. They come into the store crying, or whining, touching everything with their sticky gross fingers, and leaving smudges and germs and goddess-knows-what behind. And honestly most of the parents are just as bad because they seem to be relieved to get their kids in public so that countless strangers can watch them. Bullshit. I feel like that witch that will eat the children. (This would depend on how many calories they contain. I do like to eat healthy). When they overrun the store I think about how insane and chaotic the month of October is going to be in Salem. Particularly inside the store. We have a maximum capacity of 15 people meaning that there will be a line outside the shop for about an hour just to get inside to shop! I’m claustrophobic. If these people are inside with kids in tow, holy shit batman. I’ve been warned that most of the store crew drinks heavily during the month of October so I might be drunk blogging that entire 31 days. This is my early warning so do whatever you have to do to prepare yourselves.

Despite all this, I am really looking forward to my first October in Salem. I’ve always wanted to be here during that month and of course, on Halloween but we could never afford the trip nor the damn hotel room. So I suppose I’m ready for the crazy. At least for now, as I sit safely in my apartment at the end of July. There is always time to change my tune later and I more than likely will.

Summer for me is rapidly coming to a close. I go back to Wellesley soon. I can’t believe how fast it has all gone but I am really looking forward to seeing my colleagues again. Even though it will be a total shift in mindset to go from 24/7 practicing witch to research librarian/witch. I love having polar opposites in my life. I find this dynamic super interesting and can’t wait to see what new things I will encounter while being a member of the Salem community.

I live a cool life.

I am saddened to report that I did not finish the first edit through of my novel but I will be damn close. So that counts, I promise. I also did not even begin to retype the novel or do a rewrite but I did do a lot of rewriting and changing characters and other behind-the-scenes things so I am not totally disappointed in myself. Besides, I was out being the awesome witch that I am. What more could I ask?

I am also saddened to say that so far we have been unsuccessful in opening our second tattoo shop in Monessen. Despite Matt’s hounding of store owners and countless phone calls, no one seems interested in actually making money in rent. This the weird part. Monessen is a “one-horse” town and you would think that owners of vacant store fronts would WANT to rent out their spaces. One would think that but the answer is “no.” Matt thinks it is because everyone has given up on life and has already “cashed out” in terms of ever really turning the economy around. It’s depressing and frustrating as hell because we both really do think a tattoo shop would be a good money maker but no one will even give us a chance to try it out. In the meantime, Matt has visited Salem twice so that was awesome. I just wish he could go back to Monessen with a job to do. Until that happens, he is busy sculpting and working on independent projects until his classes start in October.

So until next time, know that the Hansel and Gretel totally deserved to spend some quality time in the big bad cauldron. They were eating the Witch’s damn house and no matter what fairytale land you think you live in, that’s called “property damage” people.