The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.
When I first heard or read that phrase I could not find the sense in it. If the Queen is dead, then how could she live long? But somewhere along the way, either reading or watching a movie about British royalty, I understood. The old queen has died. The new queen reigns. Got it. I wonder if that was said when Queen Elizabeth II learned of her father’s death while she was on safari in Kenya? She was at the Treetops Lodge, an amazing safari resort at which I am excited to say I have stayed. You actually sleep in a treehouse, and stay up all night and watch lions and elephants and waterbuck and warthogs and baboons all come to the water hole below. But when Elizabeth was there in 1952 (amazingly, the same year I was born), her safari was interrupted and her life changed forever. One minute she was heir apparent, and the next, at age 26, she was Queen. The King is dead. Long live the Queen. And, oh my, she has certainly managed to live long.
So, what in the world has any of this to do with my blog? Simply put, a queen of my life has died and another now lives. I am retired.
No, I have refired. Someone told me that word, and I have embraced it. Until it happened to me, I thought of retirement as a time of no work, quiet contemplation, occasional outings with friends, and time spent looking through photo albums and old letters. Gack! That is so not me. So when I began contemplating ending my profession as Youth Services Manager at Deschutes Public Library I knew I could not leave the amazing world of children’s literature for photo albums. I could not give up bringing the joy of books to children through storytime read alouds and replace it with sitting on my patio to watch the bird feeder. (Well, actually, I quite enjoy watching my bird feeder, but not all day.) I could not let go of performing stories that sing to my heart and soul. So, I refired myself. Long live the Queen.
I am now an early literacy consultant. A storytime skills workshop leader. A storyteller. I am doing what I love to do, sharing the power of stories. Read all about it here. heathermcneilstories.com
Shortly before I retired a new picture book came across my desk (I am SO glad not be sitting at a desk all day anymore) entitled I Am A Tiger by Karl Newson. It was the perfect book at the perfect moment of time. It is also hilarious. A quick summary: A mouse informs his friends, a raccoon, a bird, a snake and a fox, that he is a tiger. They are, understandably, skeptical. He remains adamant, even when a tiger appears, which he insists is really a mouse. There is a brilliant double page spread in which the tigermouse points out the characteristics of each animal and declares their true identities. While pointing to the yellow snake draped across a branch the tigermouse explains, “Thin. Pointy. Hangs in trees. This is a banana.” Ha! Finally, the tigermouse skips away–“Now, I really must be going–my lunch won’t catch itself!” When he sees his reflection in a pond he is at first horrified to discover he is not a tiger at all. He quickly recovers, recognizes his attributes, and declares, “I am a crocodile!” He is refired.
So what will this refired librarian be doing? Is she a tiger or a mouse?
According to Retire Happy retirement is in three stages. The first is “Go, go.” That is the stage I am delightfully embarking upon. Based on 40 years of experience, I am:
- Offering interactive workshops about the six early literacy skills and the books, songs, rhymes and creative activities that enhance those skills.
- Leading workshops on storytime skills, and how to make weekly storytimes lively, participative and focused on early literacy.
- Performing as a storyteller, bringing to life folktales and traditional tales through creative interpretation and presentation.
- Writing another book for ABC-Clio, entitled, Bringing Heart and Mind Into Storytime: Using Books and Activities to Teach Empathy, Tenacity, Kindness and Other Big Ideas.
I’m also embracing the time to serve my community. I’ve become a more active member of Moms Demand Action, doing public presentations about the importance of gun safety and the Red Flag law in Oregon. I have offered to help out Think Wild Central Oregon with educational outreach presentations about their work to rehabilitate injured or orphaned wildlife, and promote awareness about human impact on wildlife. And I am part of the Fireflies literacy program at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon, raising money in order to fill backpacks with books in the summer for children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
Retire Happy identifies the second phase as “Slow Go.” I imagine I’ll get there someday, when my calendar becomes too full and I miss watching the bird feeder. The third phase, “No Go,” well, I hope to keep my health and attitude in a positive place for quite a while yet.
I thoroughly enjoyed many parts of my years in the library profession. I loved the children, their enthusiasm and simplicity and complications and resilience and openness and giggles. It was a mutual adoration society. I was proud of saying, “I work for the library,” for twenty years in Colorado, and twenty in Oregon. People always responded with something positive to say about their relationship with the library. I took great pleasure in the courage of library staff, as they stand up for equity and inclusion and free speech.
I know I am very lucky to be able to start a new career, one that means making my own schedule, having days that are diverse, and being focused on what I am passionate about. I hope to see you somewhere, with books in hand and stories to share.