Thursday, May 30, 2013

One Library to Rule Them All

The title makes it sound like Dr Who meets Lord of the Rings. The idea of one library isn't quite that dramatic.

The libraries in South Australia are in the process of joining together in a one library system. So far, I have only benefited from the move. I put a hold on a book I wanted several months ago and, when it came, it was the property of a library in a different part of the city. Similarly, a member of my writers' group saw a book he wanted at one of our meetings in a library to which he didn't belong. No problem; his card was good there anyway.

Last week I had a meeting with a friend I'm doing some work for. We went to my local library in order to use their wifi which is free to members. It's not just free for members of that library; any library card holder can use it. My friend belongs to another library but that membership allowed him use of the wifi. My work of editing articles on my friend's website just got a whole lot more portable. Maybe as the work increases I'll invest in a dongle but it's not necessary at the moment.

Generally speaking, I tend to find that centralisation can equal rationalisation and/or a cutting back on services. In the case of the one library system, however, I'm all for it. My local suburban library is a hive of busy-ness most of the time. Why wouldn't it be? It has computers, wifi, a toy library, pre-school activities, work tables, puzzles, magazines, newspapers, CDs, DVDs and, of course, books. And whilst it's great to be able to reserve a book from any library, it's equally good to just browse shelves with no specific book in mind until the perfect one leaps out in front of you. It's the best of both worlds for me. The only thing missing is a good cup of coffee to sip on while working or reading there. Other libraries now have cafes near or even inside the building. To be fair, it's really only a short stroll across a car park to the nearest cafe, however.

My writers' group meets at a different branch of the same library. It's the main branch and, when we're there on a Sunday afternoon, it's always crowded.

That all being the case, I think it's unlikely the one library system will jeopardise local branches. Besides, we'll need to collect our reserved books from somewhere, won't we?


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Neglecting Near, Nurturing Far

Mother cut her activist teeth in the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. Deep South in the 1960s. She met all kinds of people and learnt many valuable lessons. It was from those experiences that she developed an intense dislike for activists who treat individuals badly. She firmly believed that it was the height of hypocrisy to march for better rights and conditions for people and then treat a checkout operator with disdain and condescension or cheat on your spouse or beat your kids, whatever. I’ve certainly met some of those people and I share Mother’s dislike. Yesterday, however, I was one of those people. It’s all very well to sit at the computer and write what I hope are eloquent blogs or shop with the Ethical Consumer Guide in my hand but I left my grumpy footprints across Teenage Son’s psyche yesterday. Compassion did not begin at home.

On my behalf, it was always going to be a tough day. I had a lot to do, was suffering from hormonal grumpiness and hormonal insomnia which was exacerbating the grumpiness and Teenage Son was having braces put on. I try to look after myself to avoid such situations but hormonal insomnia only lasts a week or so and there’s not much I can do about it. Unfortunately, I’m like a cantankerous toddler when I’m overtired.

Teenage Daughter couldn’t wait to have braces to close a gap between her front teeth. We always told Teenage Son he wouldn’t need them since he had straight teeth. Famous last words. A quirk of nature meant that one of his adult canine teeth ended up sitting crooked in the gum and wouldn’t come down. All because of that, he’s had to have the baby canine removed, his gum opened and a chain attached to the adult tooth. Now braces are holding the other teeth in place and encouraging the adult canine to grow and to do so straight.

Teenage Son is a very good trumpet player; more than that, he’s a passionate trumpet player and it defines who he is. When we arrived home yesterday, Teenage Son was understandably on a downer. His mouth was aching and his tone on the trumpet was not up to its usual standard. As a lay person, I thought it still sounded very good but he’s a perfectionist and was well aware of the difference. He and I were alone in the house together so I was the person he took his anger and frustration out on.

I’ve become fairly adept at shielding myself from teenage angst and not personalising it. Not so yesterday. First, there was the low-level complaining. I tried soothing and placating. That made things worse so I tried just listening but was then told I was ignoring him. My back began to get up. Eventually, I shouted. I can’t even remember what the trigger was or what I said. What I can remember, however, is his face as I did so and the way I felt inside, even as I did it.

Almost as soon as I’d finished I apologised. Of all the times to yell, it had to be when he needed to be strongly nurtured. I think mothers often feel too much guilt but I’m wearing and claiming every ounce of guilt I feel on this one. We were fine later - he even teased me about it in front of his sister – but I think neither of us will forget it in a hurry.

Today was a nurturing day for both of us. Teenage Son stayed home from school, the pain rendering him unable to eat or concentrate, even with analgesics. I only did the red star things on my to-do list, spending time instead with Teenage Daughter who had a late start at uni and Teenage Son when he eventually emerged from the fog of sleep. I tempted him with porridge and milkshakes which he devoured and we just sat and chatted or watched his favourite show together.

I still feel ragged, having not slept well again last night but the low-key day helped a lot. I don’t feel as if I’m going to burst into tears or yell at the slightest provocation anymore. One blogger I follow wrote some time ago that sometimes we need to think of ourselves as toddlers and nurture ourselves accordingly. Ie. “Rachel gets grumpy when she’s overtired.” Maybe I should have made yesterday one of those days when I only do red star things. I didn’t know until I snapped at my son, however, how fragile I was feeling. Maybe I need to be proactive when I’m overtired and assume I need nurturing.

What about teenagers? If my son had been a toddler I would have given him paracetamol immediately, fed him a soft lunch and tucked him in for a nap. The fact that he slept thirteen hours last night speaks volumes about his own tiredness. He’s not a toddler and he’s at an age where he is determined to assert his independence. Furthermore, I don’t have a monopoly on hormonal grumpiness; he’s fourteen years old. All I could see yesterday, however, was one angry kid pushing my buttons.

Today, Teenage Son fluctuated between cheerfulness and anger. The difference was that I was able to deflect and nurture, almost wiping away the grumpy footprints from yesterday. Now I feel like I can campaign on behalf of others again.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Shopping (Almost) Locally

It's good to shop locally, right? It's good for the environment and local business. It's even better if you're not just shopping locally geographically but buying local products.

My nearest shopping centre is great. There are two supermarkets, a butcher, baker, candlestick maker and even a library. Okay, I jest about the candlestick maker and have left others out for poetic license! Many of the businesses are independent, too. I live in a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant area in the heart of the mortgage belt so it's a pretty boring and homogenous shopping centre. What it lacks in diversity and "flavour", however, it makes up for with a sense of friendliness and community spirit. I rarely go there without running into at least one of my friends.

Over the past several months, however, Foodland seems to have decreased the number of brands it's carrying. The larger ones seem to be squeezing out the smaller ones and, while the shelves are as full as ever, it's more and more of the same. Furthermore, it's only carrying a fraction of some of the products that some companies make.

In the recent school holidays I ventured slightly further afield. Tucked away in an unassuming block of shops in the heart of industrial Lonsdale, is a treasure trove of a shop called Suntralis. They sell nuts, dried fruit, dry beans, grains, flours, cereals, snacks and sweets in bulk. Teenage Son loves going there so he was the reason for the trip. We had a great time filling bags with products we can't get hold of at our local Foodland. There was an added bonus in that we can reuse all the bags until they fall apart.

Maybe it was because of our trips to Suntralis, I don't really know but today I decided to shop elsewhere. I went to Pasadena Foodland. I read somewhere that "it's more than a supermarket, it's an experience". I've been there before and I'd have to second that opinion. It's a foodie heaven, filled to brimming with diverse brands and products. Interestingly, I went to my local shopping centre first for something and saw no one I knew. I had barely stepped off the travelator at Pasadena when I ran into one of the children's bosses. (Teenage Son is also working at the restaurant where Teenage Daughter works.)

I walked through the aisles finding everything I wanted and more, entranced by the fact that I passed a couple of women chatting in Greek, one of the checkout operators was African and I kept crossing paths with a young woman in hijab. I'm a sucker for cultural and culinary diversity.

The shopping centre also has a bakery, butcher, fishmonger, Target, news-agency and chemist, among other things. It's not local; it is, however, the closest best shopping centre to meet my needs. Furthermore, the Foodland actively promotes local producers. I'm having to go less local to buy more local.