The Best of Intentions
Issue #4: Fall Break
We didn’t plan much for our Fall break at home with the kids, but we had the best of intentions. I was looking forward to being off from the mom-taxi duties and being able to dive into writing first thing in the morning while the kids slept in.
I’d wrapped up a formatting project for a client, and was glad to have that off my plate, and I hadn’t scheduled any coaching calls. Of course, there were a few small projects around the house that I’d wanted to tackle, but it was supposed to be a relaxing and restful week for all of us.
It certainly didn’t include a bathroom remodel.
Sometimes life is crazy that way.
Hub and I have talked about updating the bathrooms since we bought this Urban Cottage seven years ago. The house was in great shape, but the fixtures were original from 1980 (oh, except we bought toilets when we moved in, so those were new) so it’s not like we felt it was an extravagance to do this - there is a lot of wear and tear over 41 years. Leaky valves, warped cabinets, cracked sink - it was time, a long time ago.
But you know, the kids were small, remodel projects are disruptive, and our attitude about getting new stuff has always been - let’s beat the hell out of it while the kids are little and get nicer stuff when they’re older. I mean, we are still rocking the same pair of leather sofas from 2006. And all of a sudden now I’ve got teenagers.
I’d called around earlier this year about updating one bathroom, and a few of the places wouldn’t even come out to quote us if our budget was under a certain, shockingly high dollar amount. One place quoted us a ballpark of $650/per square foot and we aren’t even in Scottsdale. Another place stood us up without knowing our budget. And of course, with the pandemic and labor shortages, we were looking at early next year before they could even start.
It all sounded like a huge, expensive pain-in-the-ass.
So, like we normally do, we did nothing.
We can kick that can down the road a little longer. We will survive not having a new bathroom right this minute. As long as we have hot running water, I am living in luxury, I tell my kids.
But, my mom has a guy who does remodeling.
Of course she does. I should know by now to listen to my mom, but I still resist it like a teenager sometimes and I’m fifty years old and it’s something I’ve always had to work on. I’m just rebellious at my core. Anyways, my mom’s realtor friend uses this guy and his crew for all of her flips, and they did my mom’s kitchen and bathroom, beautifully. For a shockingly reasonable amount of money.
So on a whim, I called the guy last Sunday. He was here Monday to quote. We picked out tile on Tuesday. His crew was jackhammering in our bathroom on Wednesday.
None of it was planned. It all fell into place within a couple of days, and pretty painlessly. After years of avoidance, and then overwhelmed at the prices, I thought all hope was lost on finding someone, not only who is trustworthy and competent, but available and within our budget. But I found him.
So, here is what’s crazy: I don’t even know the guy’s last name - not yet at least. I guess I should ask. I don’t know where he lives, or if he’s licensed/bonded/insured. I did zero research into his credentials, other than photos from the realtor who vouched for him and the work I’d seen in person.
I don’t know where he was born - or any other kind of “status” that one might be curious about during these stupid and polarizing times - I honestly don’t care and never would.
What I do know is that he has a wife and four children and a new grandbaby, that he wants to work, and shows up on time. He is super polite and funny. He knows his building codes, is a creative thinker, and cleans up after they are done for the day.
And the most important thing: he and his crew treated my little mom like family and took good care of her while they were in and out of her condo.
These credentials are all good enough for me.
I am operating on complete faith in the Universe. It’s something I do all the time. I am going to trust that this guy won’t screw me over, and so far he’s been stellar.
Of course, I didn’t get much writing done this week. I didn’t realize how exhausted I’d be from having a people in my house from 8am to 7pm, from making sure the dog didn’t wander off with the side gate open, from not being able to lay and rest for 20 minutes, and from being fraught with all the other decisions and errands when one tackles a bathroom remodel - I didn’t realize any of this at all.
But somewhere in the margins of the crazy and tiring week, I had a few moments of real clarity about Library Confidential.
Writing isn’t always actual writing. If I’m thinking about my book, daydreaming about my book, pondering my book - I’m writing.
Anyways, the clarity was about having the best of intentions, and having faith in humanity. Because sometimes people have the worst intentions, and make you lose all faith in the things you once held sacred.
I’m sharing the link below because it’s real, it happened, it’s what I had to deal with for the last five years of my career, and of course it’s going in the book:
It’s pretty fucked up, no?
And it wasn’t just this director. There were others that were pretty bad, too. It’s no wonder so many on staff were chronically ill, why I got breast cancer, why my dear friend, John, died.
Energetically, it felt like the place was trying to kill me.
I had the best of intentions when I started my library career. I had faith in humanity, in the system. I believed that all librarians were good people, held to high standards of ethics and behavior, working for better communities and literacy outcomes. I felt at home and welcomed by this tribe of book lovers and civil servants, much like I felt at home and welcomed by a tribe of metalheads when I was younger.
I felt called to the profession - like many feel when called to the clergy, I imagine - to serve humanity, to stand up for books, ideas, open debate, government transparency and intellectual freedom. For free speech and human dignity and individual betterment.
I was so proud to have gotten myself an education (student loans aside) that set me up for a comfortable middle-class salary with benefits and a pension, working in a library that I loved, in a community I had lived in for years while attending ASU. I was proud to work for a progressive city that had directly elected the first openly gay mayor in the country.
And while I can rattle off facts and and anecdotes and funny stories on a surface level about being a librarian, and I can be glib and coy and wry about all of it - what I’ve been grappling with is way, way out in the deep water.
Memoir is about how you changed, your own transformation. What you were before, during, and after an experience, an event, or a time in your life.
And working as a public librarian changed me, fundamentally.
Dealing with people like my former library director changed me.
It changed my opinion of libraries, of public service, of working for the government, of working with disadvantaged communities. It changed how I viewed working motherhood and family and money. It changed my political outlook and opinions in many ways. It changed my priorities.
At the end, I understood that I was no longer built for the kind of profession it had become.
So, yeah, I’ll tell you the crazy story about the backpack full of cockroaches, the abandoned children wandering the parking lot, the dead bodies found in the bushes after overdosing, the Reference Stacks Pooper and the Purple Bathrobe Man.
But I also need to be brave enough to tell you my story. My evolution. My heartache and heartbreak. Betrayal, disappointment, grief, illness, and loss.
I had the best of intentions. I had all the faith in the world when I became a librarian. So I guess this is the story of losing that faith, surviving, and becoming something else.
I became a writer. It’s what saved me. That’s the transformation.
More on that to follow.
For now, though, it’s time to boogie. The remodel guy is laying out tile on the garage floor and needs my help arranging my pattern before starting the installation process. I have all the faith in the world in his abilities.
Sometimes people do not disappoint. Sometimes they do come through for you. I’m trying to find my faith in humanity again, and this guy is helping just by showing up and taking pride in his work.
And when humanity does kick your ass - when it gets interesting and weird and crazy - you write about it. Or you make art, or music, or dinner. You process it the best you can, in hopes that it serves others in some way. This is what writers and artists do.
With all the best of intentions, of course.
Have a great week, my friends, and keep the faith.