The moment that Decemberley was created was one of my most favorite inspirational moments of the year. It was back in October, and our Children’s Librarian was using an Ed Emberley book to draw a skeleton on an activity table. I commented to her as I walked by that I loved what she was doing, and then that I was still trying to come up with a theme for December. A few seconds later “Decemberley” popped into my head and I laughed so loud that I think I scared my team.

And thus, Decemberley was born. This truly has been one of the funnest themes that we’ve had. And what’s better is that it isn’t holiday-specific! I had a goal to keep our library as holiday-neutral this year as possible, and with Decemberley, I think that we’ve found an annual winner. I mean, I don’t like repeating themes and such, but Ed Emberley’s work is so diverse that I think that we can come up with a new take on it every year.

So this year’s Decemberley celebration came together when I discovered this fun snowman printable (it’s the one at the bottom of the page) from Ed Emberley’s blog. I tweaked the original for our displays to have green and blue colors.

I then noticed the little circles he used to represent snowflakes and I had an idea that really excited me. I had pinned this a year ago, and I could just see it translated into 2-D punched-out circles. But what would make it more Emberleytastic? Fingerprints! Shimmering blue fingerprints! I made every single one of those “flakes” with each one having my unique fingerprints in unique patterns. Besides emulating Emberley, I liked how fingerprints and snowflakes share the every one is different quality.

Can I tell you how very much in love I am with these snowflakes? I ADORE THEM! They twirl, shimmer, and shimmy and just make me happy. I have seen many children coming in the door who seem a bit transfixed by them, and that makes me so very happy. In my mind, they’re being transported into an Ed Emberley book. I also love the fact that we show parents that crafts and decor don’t need to be store bought. They can make really cool things with everyday around-the-house objects.

For marketing and displays I chose what I considered to be an “Emberley-esque” font from The biggest use of this font was for our winter/holiday book display. I printed out large versions of the letters (the front side blue, and the second reverse letter white) and tried our own version of this. It worked out fabulously (but I had to take down the “Wintertime” letters after the first day to reinforce the “W” which had gone floppy overnight).I wish that I had the photography skills to capture how fun these letters are. They are so very dynamic, and very different than anything we’ve done before. And yes, each letter has more shiny blue fingerprints. For some time I had wanted to do something with the lonely endcaps that face our DVD collection. I saw this on Pinterest and asked Brittany to come up with three unique snowpeople for our endcaps, and she did! These snowpeople make me smile every single time that I see them. They have also been a delightful surprise for many patrons who aren’t used to anything special in that area.

To drive the Ed Emberley theme home, I hand-drew the 16 steps to make Emberley’s snowman, and put them up on our whiteboard. Above that is a sign encouraging kids to make their own version of the snowman, and then we could take a picture of them showing off their creation. Finally we’d take that photo and put it on our kids’ webpage. It’s been awesome. I also included the snowman directions as a handout by the activity tables since Emberley is beyond awesome and lets teachers/librarians use his printables.

To continue the snowman theme, I couldn’t help myself, and I created a “Put Olaf Back Together” passive scavenger hunt. I used the free Disney printable for the Olaf parts, did my “laminate it with packing tape” trick, and then created half-sheet “I Built a Snowman” worksheets.Here is where I found the font. The download for it is in the upper-right hand corner of the page.

Honestly, there were three reasons I opted to do this particular program: 1. Frozen is just a weensy bit popular, 2. it was crazy-easy, and 3. I really really really wanted to see kids take a crack at drawing Olaf (and that part hasn’t disappointed in the least).

For our Great Wall-o-Pun this month, we tossed around quite a few snowy puns, but nothing really caught us. Then Brittany got an evil glint in her eye and said, “What if I drew Grumpy Cat, and then had the word ‘s-NO-w’ next to her?” Five minutes later, after I stopped laughing, she got to work on it. And here Grumpy Cat is, in all her Dickensian glory:All of the books on display have to do with holidays, snow, ice, weather, cold sports, etc. To touch base briefly on this, since it seems to be on a lot of librarians’ minds this year: I chose to use generic words in our displays not just to be considerate of others, but mainly because, as a small library, it allows us to put more items on display. If we used “Christmas” in our displays, then the displays would have to remain empty once those books were gone (and they go very fast in our community). With a word like “wintertime,” we get a lot more bang for our buck and can display a greater variety of items.

We were smart (yay!) and saved both the yarn snowballs and game stand from last year’s snowman snowball toss. Insta-passive program that fits the theme! And boy, does this remain a popular activity. Even without the snowballs out, toddlers love to open and close the tri-fold in a peek-a-boo fashion.Finally, I saved the most popular thing for last: our front windows. Brittany designed and prepped everything for each panel, and then I had the fun task of taping them up – and truly it was fun. Our goal was to have a very simple front window that was still eye-catching. What we didn’t expect was how much the children would love it.

I hadn’t even finished the job when the first preschooler came bounding up to the front door, excitedly tapped on the glass, and exclaimed “SNOW!!!” And that’s been the general reaction from the preschool-on-down crowd. I think the only other time we’ve had such an enthusiastic response to our windows was when Mary created abstracted versions of popular kids characters.To add a little uniqueness to the windows, we encouraged kids to help us decorate the front windows during a downtown holiday event that occurred a week after we put up this window. I pre-punched a bunch of white circles, and then put out a shimmery blue ink pad, along with a sign giving parents and children instructions. When the snowflakes were finished, they could bring them up to us, and we would add their snowflakes to our windows.It wasn’t the wild hit I was hoping for, but still 17 kids proudly brought up snowflakes to use for our decorations. I hope that this month any time that they go by our library they will get a sense of pride that they helped make our place look special.

Ed Emberley inspired library celebration called "Decemberley." | On the image above you can see the level of detail I tend to have when doing displays (be afraid, be very afraid): that’s packing tape that’s holding each snowflake up. I’ve trimmed each piece of tape to be a rounder shape, as well as removed the ragged cut edge. All it takes is a box cutter, fingernails, and patience. The 20 minutes it takes to do this saves me a month of seeing something that would drive me crazy: something that looks slapped together.

And there you have it: our inaugural Decemberley! This was a rather epic post, so I didn’t go into extreme detail on how we did some of this. Feel free to ask in the comments or shoot me an email at

Happy Decemberley, everybody!

The Chronic Librarian

This is one of those rare “Life ‘n Stuff” posts – so feel free to skip it if you’re here for the decor and general library stuff. Seriously – you won’t hurt my feelings.

I actually debated for a few weeks on whether or not to address what was going on with my health on my blog. But then I read the amazing Jen’s post about her agoraphobia on Epbot, and I thought that through sharing my struggles, I could maybe help someone else out there going through a similar struggle to my own. I also think that this is a form of therapy for me: getting it out there so it feels less like an issue.

About three years ago, I had several health setbacks: I had four consecutive bouts of strep throat and then within a month or two I came down with a terrible case of mono.

When I say it was terrible – it was terrifying: both my spleen and liver almost ruptured. After surviving that, I never felt good. I put on 70 pounds and felt like I still had a light case of mono. I tried working out again (prior to my illness I was a lean-mean workout/running machine), and the workouts seemed to sap my strength vs. invigorate me. I would also radiate heat like a furnace.

I could break down the next two years where I struggled to live an okay life, but then this post would be five times as long. So, to escalate it even quicklier: I changed doctors and she discovered I had hypothyroidism. She ignored some new symptoms (all over body pain and exhaustion), and old symptoms (my overheating, which made no sense with hypothyroidism), and put me on a crazy diet. I felt worse.

I found a new doctor and he adjusted my medications, put me on some pain pills, but then the pain came back worse than ever. He then sent me to a rheumatologist. And after chatting a few minutes, then poking/prodding me a bit, he had a diagnosis for me: fibromyalgia. He called me the poster child for fibromyalgia – between possible triggers and my symptoms, he could check off “yes” to almost every single one.

It was a shock to get my diagnosis, but it was also a HUGE relief to know what was wrong and that it wasn’t going to kill me. However, it was likely a life sentence of pain and fatigue being given to me. Only around 25% of people with fibro go into remission – not great odds, but by golly, I’m going to hope that I’m in that quarter-percentile group.

I also have to say that I’m extremely lucky that it took less than a year from when my fibro truly flared to when I was diagnosed. Many patients go for years and years and from doctor to doctor doing tons of tests to eventually get to a proper diagnosis.

The other thing I’m very grateful for is that I have this during a time when fibromyalgia is acknowledged as real, and not just “in your mind” in the medical community. I think that if a doctor had told me that the pain was in my mind, I would have tried to get their license pulled. All-encompassing/debilitating pain during one of the happiest times in my life being all in my mind? Not so much.

So, I’m still figuring out how to manage my new reality. My mother, who has a different chronic condition, has been such a huge support and teacher in terms of handling something like this. Thankfully, I also have an amazing job filled with amazingly supportive people. I wrote a frank email to everyone explaining what was up with my health. And since then, if I’m doubled-over in horrible pain (all it takes is one joint in one finger to flare – which my pain flares feel like the repeated full impact of the body part getting slammed in a car door for a minute or so), then whoever’s nearby makes sure that I’m okay, and that the library keeps functioning normally.

What things would I say to someone going through uncertain health issues?

Trust yourself. Don’t go crazy on “web doctor” sites and freak yourself out. I always suspected something else was wrong beyond my hypothyroidism. I actually said to my newest doctor “this is what I would imagine fibromyalgia would feel like” over a month before my diagnosis.

Also, find someone or a group of someones to support you. My family was a great help during this time, but Bruce was my constant helper/cheerleader. I tend to err on the side of being stoic, and he’s really good at seeing through that wall I put up (and then gently/considerately nudging at its foundation).

And, of course:

General notes about what’s helping me with this syndrome (that might help you if you’re in the same chronic boat):

  • Tai chi, tai chi, tai chi! I felt immediately better after doing Gaiam’s AM Tai Chi (and no, they are not paying me for this endorsement). I actually was questioning if I’d taken my Tylenol the first morning that I did it – and that was amazing. Tai chi is like a moving meditation – it’s wonderful. I’ll be getting a few more DVDs and I’ll be sure to update this post on whether or not I like them too.
  • Yoga’s good too, but it doesn’t have the same effect on me. But with everything I do in terms of working out, I look at it as a necessary medication. I do it, and I usually will feel better. I don’t do it? I’m not going to feel better.
  • Meditation. Stress can be a trigger for flares, and so I’ve begun practicing more consistent meditation. I bought several cds (neither one is worth mentioning here) that mainly focus on stress relief and breathing. They do help some, and breathing is one way that can help me through a sudden spike in pain.
  • Visualization and other bizarre techniques. One medical paper I read suggested that patients with fibromyalgia should view their energy as pennies and that we have a daily piggy bank to invest those limited pennies in. This has really helped me determine what’s worth my energy every day. Is it worth running around like crazy to get the reshelve cart reshelved? Usually the answer to that is no – I can take my time, and if it doesn’t get taken care of today, then there’s always tomorrow.

    (^^^super-ultra-nerdy Doctor Who reference – sorry non-Whovians)
  • In terms of my personal bizarre technique: many times when I’m aching or there’s a body part that I can tell might start acting up, I begin talking to it in my head. Usually with cartoon voices, or other famous actors. One of my favorites is a variation on Madeline Kahn’s “burning” monologue from the movie Clue. I think this sort of distracts me from the pain, and sort of derails a possible downward spiral.
    There are a lot of other “body sense” and mental tricks that you can learn/do pretty quickly in terms of pain management. There are some great blog articles on Psychology Today‘s website that I have found helpful.
  • Low-impact cardio! Bruce and I went out within a week of my diagnosis and bought the cheapest treadmill we could find. The rheumatologist told us that cardio can reduce the pain by 40%, but not doing cardio could increase the pain by 20%. Let me tell you: pain relief is one of the best motivations for working out I’ve ever had.
  • Space heaters! I was having a rough day at work: the aching was getting progressively worse in my forearms and calves. I was about to take Tylenol when I decided to put on a space heater since there was a chill in the air. In less than two minutes, the pain was completely gone.This trick hasn’t worked every time, but it generally helps a great deal.
  • Sleep and having a regular sleep schedule is super-important. I’ve never stuck to such a regimented schedule since becoming an adult. I think that it definitely does help, and it also helps me know when my body is actually fibro-ing vs. me being a night owl. 2 mg of melatonin has also helped me get to sleep faster (my mental wheels tend to do a lot of spinning as I try to go to sleep and the melatonin stops them in their tracks).
  • Cymbalta – it’s more than an antidepressant, it can help with fibro pain. This is what my most recent doctor put me on a few weeks before I got in to see my rheumatologist, who then told me to up my dose. It definitely has helped a ton.

    I want to bring up this specific medication because I had a scary side effect that I couldn’t find a whole lot about on the web: muscle spasms/tremors. They were disruptive and kind of freaky – I tried to make light of them at work (singing “shake it like a Polaroid” if I got an especially noticeable spasm) but I was worried that they’d never go away.

    I mean, from what I could find, about 900 out of 42,000 people have this side effect – and nothing indicated that the shaking would go away.I want to put it out there that this side effect went away for me (both after my initial dose, and then the upped dose) after about 3 weeks.

    Right now I only get a little shaky if I’m under a lot of stress, and even then it’s nothing like it had been during the second week of Cymbalta. So, if you happen to stumble across this post looking for someone’s personal experience with this side effect, then please know that there is hope.
  • Last, but not least, like I mentioned above, having some sort of support is so very important. Having Bruce there to listen and support me was priceless. When it was nearly impossible for me to drive, he drove me to my doctor appointments. When I was overheating yet again, he gently would point out that I should really find out why my body was doing that.

    (^^^some of my favorite pics of Bruce: his suave senior photos – they make me smile every time)
    Like I mentioned before, having watched my mother go through a much more distressing chronic disease diagnosis, and her speaking with me about it, has also been invaluable. She went through, and is still going through some rough times – but she has shown me how not to give up, and how to keep living better than ever when faced with a life sentence. She’s also taught me about how much humor can help. She’s my hero.

    Also, something quite coincidental happened during the time right before I was diagnosed with my condition: I was taking a fabulous Youth Services Managment continuing education course led by Marge Loch-Wouters, and one of the final discussions was about keeping it zen at work. Without knowing it, everyone who shared a technique in that discussion was supporting me. I appreciated those suggestions when I first read them, but less than a week later I had my diagnosis, and those suggestions became precious.

    So, try seeking out advice from people who seem to let stress roll off their backs. Or do some internet searching. I was really touched when this post on Mindfullness in the Library recently came up on the ALSC blog.

This is a lifelong journey that I’ll be sure to update from time-to-time – I really don’t want to make this condition a focus in either my life or blog. I mean, the pain is already vying for most of my attention, and most days I stubbornly keep going. I’ve also gotten better at knowing when I need to throw in the towel and be prone at home. That said: the rare days where I feel good – like pre-illness/conditions good – I deeply appreciate those times more than I ever did before.


Re”meme”ber This One

I’ve been trying to be better about keeping track of important dates that might pertain to the library (I made a Pinterest board for it and that’s massively helped me).  So I was very aware that September is National Library Card Sign-up Month.  However, I hadn’t made any real plans to promote it since I thought I’d have time, and then I was unexpectedly away from work for two weeks.  Eep!  So by the time I got back, my boss had posted information about this month online, and reminded staff to talk it up.  I was going to let it go, but then I saw this awesome library campaign: Benefits of a Library Card.  I mean, that’s just beyond crazy-awesome.

I really do hope to do something in the future as classy as what Pinal County Library District did, but my mind tends to lean towards the sillier side of things.  And thus Re”meme”ber That It’s National Library Card Sign-up Month was born.  I hope that in the future I can post a meme to our social media sites for every day in September, but until next year I’ll be happy with half-a-month.

And as luck would have it, I was looking up who had done the amazing Penguin Classics campaign to link them to this blog when I stumbled across Andy Woodworth’s blog Agnostic Maybe where he had declared it National Badass Library Card Month. He also was adding fantastic memes and other things to his Tumblr for every day in September.  I knew that my idea likely wasn’t original, but this still took a little bit of the wind outta my sails.  However, I’m choosing to look at it like great minds think alike (Wait. He beat me to a Nyan-library card cat – and his is animated?! GAH! I mean, good for him!) and I’ll definitely follow what he’s up to.  After all, in writing this post, I was hoping to share these with the library world at large so that others could use them – so maybe I’ll end up on Idea Lab.  That’d truly be crazy-cool.

So there’s all that.  Now onto the images!  Again, please feel free to copy/paste them, use them, adjust them for your needs, and just have fun with them.

A "Hey girl" Ryan Gosling meme for National Library Card Sign-up Month. To-the-point and gorgeous.

And that’s it for now!  I do plan on adding more as I make them (because I still have a lot in mind), but I definitely have enough for the rest of September.  And I think I really need to start using my Tumblr account (which I did – I did finally start to use Tumblr – using the unexpected name Hafuboti. It only took me about a year to do so).