Today is my last day at the Portland Public Library.
Three years ago we came to Maine as a trio and now we leave as a quartet. We’re heading to the South, somewhere just three years we thought we’d never call home, but now we’re proud to be moving to such a forward thinking city full of awesome people doing great things. Here we go.
I have learned a lot here in Maine and will always look back at my time and the people I surrounded myself with very fondly. I had some major ups and major downs, but I wouldn’t change a thing. From these moments and situations, I’ve grown as a person and I feel better equipped to handle life and everything that comes my way.
Thank you Portland, ME, specifically the teens, members of the community, and the folks that I worked with at the Portland Public Library. I have nothing but love and respect for each and every one of you. I know I use the word community a lot on this blog but I don’t think I really understood the true power of community until I lived in this town. The way that I’ve seen this town come together has shown me that no matter what, if we work together towards a common goal, we will get there. My heart goes out to so many people that I’ll forget to mention a few but I’ll try: Tim Spalding and his family, Jan Kendrick, The West End Neighborhood Association, The Rowe Family, The Schuitt Family, Leza Gough, Kirsten Cappy and Mark Mattos, Michael Whittaker and Michelle Zichella, Justin Busque, Abraham Schechter, Michelle Souliere and so many others…you know who you are.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not big into the social books/cataloging scene, but I do have mad love for the community that it supports. I also have mad love for LibraryThing. Yes, founder Tim Spalding is my neighbor (see?). Let’s put that aside because it really doesn’t mean anything. Here’s why I dig Tim and the LibraryThing team: they are real, honest, and caring people. They don’t hide their feelings, they share, and they look out for the community that helped get them where they are today.
I say go Team LibraryThing. May Goodreads becoming part of Team Amazon mean good things for you, the LibraryThing community, and your families. Why? Because good, honest, people (and businesses) should succeed.
Eight months ago I told you all about THE WHOLE WORLD WAITING, which is a film by David Meikeljohn, Sonya Tomlinson, and The Telling Room featuring fifteen teenagers from the Portland, ME area. Today, I’m here to share the finished film with you…and isn’t it great! It’s so wonderful to see so many of the teens that come through the library every day sharing their story.
Young Writers & Leaders (YWL) is a free, afterschool literary arts program for teenaged refugee and immigrant English Language Learners. The program runs for nine months each year, engaging each student in weekly afterschool sessions that provide unparalleled opportunities to work directly with some of Maine’s best writers and artists, creative writing and arts programming and job skills and leadership training.
YWL is offered in partnership with Portland, Deering, and Casco Bay High Schools, and has served teens from Haiti, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Sudan and Kenya, improving their writing skills, academic performance, social and emotional wellbeing, and their chances of future success.
Teaching artist Sonya Tomlinson and filmmaker David Meiklejohn created The Whole World Waiting to showcase all fifteen students from The Telling Room’s Young Writers & Leaders program (2011-2012) in three-minute segments. Each story tackles the myths of America told from the perspective of immigrant and refugee youth.
I’m going to take a moment away from talking about libraries to share what I’m calling The Most Bizarre Evening Ever.
I got home from a long day at the library at around 5pm EST. My son Aero was pretty sleepy and ready for a nap and my wife Haley was getting ready to go see the movie Pitch Perfect starring Anna Kendrick. The weird part about this? She was going to go see it with some neighbors, one of who is Anna Kendrick’s mother (a really wonderful and smart lady!). So in my head, that’s just something odd and out of the ordinary that lends to the story.
I snuggle into bed with Aero. He really likes to nap on top of me while he sucks my finger. I guess it’s a comfort thing for him. For me, it’s a nice break after I get back from a day at the library surrounded by teens. While he’s napping, I queue up The Walking Dead. I just started season two. It’s one of the shows I watch by myself because my wife Haley isn’t really into it. The thing about the show and me is this: my brain is already in full on zombie apocalypse preparation mode. I’ve got a plan in my head just in case this really does happen (PS: it’s a pretty good one). So I’m already on high alert.
Haley finishes getting ready and takes Aero from me to breastfeed him before she leaves. I go into the living room where my older son Finn is sitting on the couch, dozing back and forth, almost falling off the couch. He looks a bit like a zombie but that’s only because he didn’t take a nap today. I guess bedtime at 6pm is really happening tonight and that’s OK with me. I pick him up and carry him into bed. I take Aero back from Haley and snuggle in for what looks like to be an evening in bed with the boys and Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead.
Haley leaves to go see her movie and just a few minutes later someone starts ringing our doorbell and knocking on our patio door. This may seem normal to most people but here’s the thing…no one ever rings our doorbell or knocks on our patio door. I immediately rule out the possibility of it being Haley because I know she has her phone (she texted me) and I heard her take her keys. The boys start to wiggle a bit. “Oh no…they’re gonna wake up and be grumpy.” Luckily they calm down and fall back asleep, and I go back to The Walking Dead and immerse myself in a hellish world of zombies and complaining humans.
Ten minutes later the doorbell starts up again. This time, the boys are waking up for real. Have you ever seen a ten month old be suddenly awoken from a nap? They love to scream because they’re usually very confused about what’s going on. Have you ever seen a very tired and not napped three and half year old suddenly awoken from a nap? That’s not fun either, and to top it all off Finn suffers from night terrors (basically, he’s awake but not awake and he’s crying/screaming and requesting really random things that are most likely happening in his dream). All of this is going on at once. I just watched Rick Grimes shoot a zombie walker in the face and I’m on high alert. It’s totally dark in our condo. What is going on?
Finn runs out into the living room, bouncing from the couch to the floor back to the couch and running into the wall. He’s mumbling “I want it, I want it” but I’m not sure what it is because it is in his dream. I’m holding Aero and he’s crying in my ear. Once I get one kid calmed down, the other erupts and then the other kid is back to screaming. There’s no end in sight…and then.
It feels as if there’s a giant airplane RIGHT overhead our condo. The whole place is shaking. Will it crash into us? Is the world ending? Is it a meteor? I DON’T KNOW AND EVERYONE IS SCREAMING AT ME AND THINGS COULDN’T GET WORSE AND I HAVEN’T GOT THE WOOD, HAMMER, AND NAILS TO PREPARE FOR THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE YET. No worries, it’s just an earthquake…in Maine. The earthquake lasts about 3-5 seconds tops and I rush to collect both of my boys to make sure they’re ok. Aero is safely in my arms and Finn is in the middle of the living room peeing his pants. For real peeing his pants. Like it’s everywhere. He rushes over to me mid urination and hugs me. He’s scared. I’m scared. Aero’s scared. What is going on? The three of us embrace and regroup.
It takes about 30 minutes to calm everyone down. Finn is now requesting a milkshake so I gladly tell him that I’ll get him one. It takes about another 15 minutes to get everyone dressed, diapers changed, urine wiped off the floor, and everything else. We end up at the car and for a moment, there’s peace. The rest of the night has ups and downs, as the boys never fully recovered from everything that just went down, but we make it through. Haley gets home and the boys hug her as I get a second wind and clean the entire house while telling her about the madness that just went down. It was a night I will never forget. I will really enjoy sharing this story with my sons and their future friends and partners for years to come.
For this program, I’ll be discussing graphic novels, storytelling, and the importance of visual literacy. It’s going to be an interesting challenge for me…this will be my first non-library conference speaking engagement!
I’ll be sure to post the slides after the program…