Monday, November 28, 2011

The Birds and the Bees

Charlotte Canelli is the Library Director at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood.

As my husband would say, it’s all about the birds and the bees. Okay, wait! Before you think that I’m revealing too much, we’re talking about Gerry Canelli’s hobbies. He has many of them, including photography, golf and wine. Yet both birds and bees are fun to talk or write about.

Soon after I met Gerry, I was introduced to his collection of carved wooden shorebirds lining the walls of his home. And, as you would guess, he had me at the Piping Plover.

I mean, there is something so endearing about a man who adores beautiful creatures, especially birds.

In May of last year, I wrote a From the Library column titled “Saving the World and Other Backyard Projects”. In it, I described Gerry’s first month as a beekeeper in 2010. Shortly after the column appeared, the several thousand bees in the hive multiplied to over sixty thousand. In the summer months our backyard hive was a buzzing frenzy of activity and an amazing adventure.

Clothed in his white beekeeper suit cinched at the ankles and wrists, Gerry tended his hive armed with a smoker, thick gloves and a netted bee hat. He began a blog and posted photos and videos of his bees in action. There were up-close and personal views of flying worker bees, pouches stuffed with mustard-yellow pollen. There were male drones twice the size of the female bees. And there was that fabulous queen.

A hive of 60,000-80,000 bees has only one queen. She is impregnated once by multiple drones but she remains fertile for life and lays up to 2000 eggs per day eight months of the year. She can live for 3-5 years.

The other female bees, or worker bees, live for only 6 weeks during the busy summer months and four to five months the rest of year. These worker bees take on important occupations. They clean house, dispose of the dead, guard the hive, build the honeycomb and nurse the young. Just 21 days into their careers, they begin to forage instead and to collect the pollen (food for the colony) and nectar (for honey) from up to eight miles away.

Nursing bees tend to the young in embryonic forms or as tiny, fully-formed baby bees. That summer Gerry shared amazingly clear photographs of the various first stages of the honeybee – first deposited in the cell as tiny as a broken grain of rice. Only days later it is plump and swollen, squeezed into every space of the cell. Soon, that larva is capped with wax to await development. This process takes about 21 days from egg to bee. (Queen bees take less and drones take longer.)

Gerry worked hard that first summer making sure the bees had water during the hottest August days. He peered out our window waiting for active flight after the first sun of the day had warmed up the sides of the wooden hive. Like a proud father he noted how many bees were still buzzing into the hive at sundown.

In late August 2010, Gerry took steps to fight off the dreaded Varroa mite – the scourge of honeybees. Yet, despite all of his dedication and hard work, sometime late in autumn Gerry lost his hive. It was a sad day when he finally realized that the hive had dwindled to a few thousand bees. It was most likely due to the loss of the queen – whether through accident, disease or parasite. We’ll never know. In the next couple of weeks in December the hive was empty of life.

A focused Gerry forged ahead this winter. Armed with more information, more supplies and a second hive, he installed two new crops of bees in our Norfolk backyard in early spring. Since April they have flourished under his loving care.

Mid-July we excitedly collected several pounds of delicious sweet amber. I was delighted to scrape aside the waxy comb and watch cups of honey drip in our kitchen. Later we harvested another twenty pounds. We are keeping our fingers crossed – in the last week of November, with mild and sunny days, the bees seem happy, active and ready for their winter rest.

No one quite knows what is happening to world’s honeybee population. Colony Collapse Disorder (or CCD) was is a phenomenon that only became known to the world of beekeeping during the years 1996 through 2006. It has become depressingly widespread in the five years since. It varies around the world, but on average 40% of honeybees hives don’t survive the year.

Various theories include the deadly spread of the Varroa mite or our reliance on poisonous pesticides. Additionally, genetically-modified crops may be to blame. More likely, it is a deadly combination of all of these. No one knows for sure.

What we do know is how rewarding it is to raise bees. There are even rooftop beekeeping associations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx where some beekeepers have to break the law to keep hives.

The documentary DVD, “Queen of the Sun: What the Bees Are Telling Us” (2011) will arrive at the library sometime in January and we hope to screen it for interested patrons. This “engaging, alarming and ultimately uplifting film weaves together a dramatic story that uncovers the problems and solutions” to this crisis in nature.

Another documentary DVD, “Vanishing of the Bees” (2010) is available now at the library. It chronicles the demise of the honeybee, the relationship to honeybee commercial ventures in this country and the struggle of those who rely on the honeybee for their livelihood. Most of all, it informs us that we are all in trouble if the honeybee does not find its way back to health.

Remember if our DVD is not available or if we don’t have a copy, you may request it from any of the 42 Minuteman libraries online. Reference librarians can find most items at other libraries within Massachusetts or New England. If you need help finding materials at the Morrill Memorial Library or within the Minuteman Library Network, please call the Reference or Information desks (781-769-0200) or visit the library in person.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Diane Phillips is the Technical Services Library at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin this week.

I came home from work the other night and was greeted by a stack of mail on the kitchen counter and various family members’ shoes, coats and bags strewn on the floor and chairs. It didn’t get much better when I stepped into the living room. Toys were scattered on the floor, the tables and the couch. Magazines, newspapers and books were in multiple piles around the room. I went to seek refuge in my bedroom. I turned on the light and saw clean clothes piled on the chair, waiting to be put away, and laundry piled on the floor, overflowing from the clothes hamper. I couldn’t relax. All of the stuff was not just cluttering my house, but it was also preventing my mind from relaxing. I had to take action, a different kind of action than what I’d pursued before. Usually, I run around picking up everything and putting it somewhere. I needed to solve this problem once and for all. I needed to get organized and stop the clutter from coming back.

I started thinking, “I’m a librarian. I organize and categorize things for a living. I can do this. I have the knowledge and the skills to make this happen. I just need to apply what I know from work to our lives at home.” However, it’s not just my stuff or myself in the house. My husband and son live, work and play there too. They also possess some impressive organization skills, having sorted their Lego bricks by size and color. We’ve established that we have what it takes and that we want to do this; but how do we get started?

We needed some fresh ideas for how we can turn this chaos into order. We’d much rather spend our time together doing fun things rather than wasting so much time straightening up the house. I decided to take a look at the resources available at the library. So much has been written on the subject of organizing.

I got so excited by looking through the books in the library, I checked out all of the ones listed below! My husband, son and I snuggled up with the books, with cups of coffee and hot chocolate and began to read about how we can work together to organize our stuff and enjoy more spare time.

While reading through the books, a common suggestion was for the reader to tackle different areas of clutter one at a time. Trying to tackle everything is overwhelming and makes it nearly impossible to achieve your goal. A few areas I needed to deal with were the kitchen, living room and bedrooms. I focused on specific issues in each of these rooms rather than attacking everything at once.

In the kitchen, I decided to address the mess of the daily mail and how it can occupy my entire kitchen table. In The Organized Life: Secrets of an expert organizer, Stephanie Denton suggests getting an inbox to store new mail so that it all goes in one compact space. The inbox should be in a convenient location when you walk in the door. When you open the mail, you should ‘move the papers in some way’ and don’t just put it back to deal with it later. You can create two piles: ‘keep’ and ‘discard.’ Immediately review the ‘keep’ pile of papers and file them.

Another tip I gathered from multiple sources, which helped address the coat, shoe and bag mess, was to assess our storage space and create storage where we needed it. For instance, our coat closet wasn’t doing us much good because it’s by the front door and we use the side door. I got a coat rack and a storage bench to use by the side door. Now, coats are hung up and bags and shoes are stored in a convenient spot.

I moved on to the living room. Toys were strewn about the floor and furniture. We assessed our toy storage and got a shelving unit with cubbies and different colored bins. Each bin now contains a particular type of toy: red for toy cars, blue for stuffed animals, yellow for games, etc. One suggestion I read about in Pretty Neat: the buttoned up way to get organized and let go of perfection was to make a game out of cleaning up the toys. We had a race to see who could pick up ten things the fastest. Once we had the ten things, we worked together to put each toy in its proper bin.

The bedroom was the next stop. Clothes were everywhere. In Unclutter Your Life In One Week, Erin Rooney Doland advises a complete review of your closet. Take everything out and look at each piece of clothing to determine if you should keep it. Does it fit? Is it flattering? Do you wear it? She also suggests asking a friend to help since a lot of us have an emotional attachment to clothes and it’s hard to make a decision. During the review, you create three piles: keep, purge and undecided, which you may take more time to think about whether or not you’ll keep those items. After reviewing the contents, look at the closet itself to see if you need to add lighting, shelves, hooks or other sorting solution. The hardest suggestion to follow is to only keep what you can store in the space you have. I’m still working on this one!

For some good tips and motivation to get started, take a look at some of the titles below:

  • Lighten Up: Love what you have, have what you need, be happier with less, by Peter Walsh
  • One Year to an Organized Life, by Regina Leeds
  • The Organized Life: Secrets of an expert organizer, by Stephanie Denton
  • Organizing for Life: Declutter your mind to declutter your world, by Sandra Felton
  • Pretty Neat: the buttoned up way to get organized and let go of perfection, by Alicia Rockmore & Sarah Welch
  • Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life: a four-step guide to getting unstuck, by Julie Morgenstern
  • Unclutter Your Life in One Week, by Erin Rooney Doland
  • Unstuff Your Life! Kick the clutter habit and completely organize your life for good, by Andrew J. Mellen

The library also has some great choices for children:

  • Clean Up, Grumpy Bunny! By Justine Korman Fontes
  • Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom, by Eric Wright
  • I Don’t Want to Clean My Room and Other Poems about Chores, by Hope Vestergard

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dogs' Tails

Charlotte Canelli is the Library Director at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood.

Frogs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails. That's what little boys are made of.
Popular nursery rhyme

If anyone had looked into a crystal ball and told me that I would be raising a teenage boy in my sixth decade I would have certainly laughed. I’d have surely protested and said “Oh, no, no! I’ve already raised my family of girls, thank you very much.”

Mothering my daughters in the 80s and 90s was an absolute delight. Oh, our lives were fraught with ballet carpools, a zillion sleepovers, bad hair days and wardrobe meltdowns. However, if you ask me, it was all a delicious piece of cake.

Please understand. It wasn’t that I didn’t WANT sons. I just didn’t give birth to any.

And so, the story goes, I met my second husband, a widower raising his then eight-year old grandson in 2006. And that is how five years ago I embraced this little boy as my own and promised him my love forever.

He was sweet and sometimes kind and he was hurting from the death of two very important women in his life 
within two years – both his mother and his grandmother. He had an impish but genuine smile and an adorable sense of humor and he stole my heart. He had me, quite simply, at hello.

And so, the next year he turned nine and then he turned ten and I managed to like some of his movies and he managed to make room for me on the family room couch and trust me with the remote. He turned eleven and then twelve and I learned to find books he liked to read and he learned to like my homemade macaroni and cheese, fresh-baked bread and quiche.

Then he turned thirteen.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I delight in watching his friends make disgusting noises especially when they laugh at all the wrong jokes. After sleepovers I clean up their left-behind dishes and soft drink cans. I wait for please and thank yous which might never come.

I patiently wait for him to remove the ear buds from his ears so that we can talk. I listen to the busy signal endlessly when I try to call home. I stand in the hallway and smile when he practices his electric guitar. Loud.

Both his grandfather, Gerry, and I train him every day. We coax him to hold doors open for adults, to shake hands on greeting and we remind him to wash his hands, brush his teeth and change his underwear.

We are not always successful. But we are on our way. Most of all, we remember that our mission in life is to help raise a young, noisy and awkward boy into a compassionate, educated and gracious young man.

If you need help raising a boy, there are more than enough books out there. For those of us with a sense of humor there is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Raising Boys” by Laurie and Barron Helgoe. The Helgoes were parents of teenage boys when they wrote the book. In a positive tone they discuss the issues of discipline, puberty, bullies and girls. The Everything Guides includes one on raising boys, “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Raising Boys: A Complete Handbook to Develop Confidence, Promote Self-Esteem and Improve Communication” by Cheryl Erwin.

Many of these books written about raising boys have a spiritual theme. Among them is serious reading with a light-hearted twist such as Rachel Balducci’s own experiences mothering five, count ‘em, five boys in “How Do You Tuck in a Superhero?: And Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys.” In “Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys”, Stephen James and David Thomas (and fathers of five boys) explain the five stages of boys, including the explorer, lover, wanderer, individual and warrior.

Well-known psychologist, James Dobson (founder of Focus on the Family) wrote one of his books focused on raising boys, “Bringing up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Men.”

Michael Gurian is the founder of the Gurian Institute where his research and professional consulting has been focused on developmental characteristics of gender differences of childhood. He positively focuses on those differences when raising either boys or girls. Among his twenty-five books is a trilogy written between 2005 and 2010 including “The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life”, “The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors and Educators Can Do to Shape Boys into Exceptional Men” and “The Purpose of Boys: Helping Our Sons Find Meaning, Significance and Direction in Their Lives.”

In 1998 another clinical psychologist, William Pollack, wrote the bestseller “Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood” which gives parents practical advice on the emotional, psychological and physical needs of boys. In 2000 he added “Real Boys’ Voices”. In it, readers can hear boys “speak for themselves” and share their views on depression, girls, drug abuse, spirituality, school and parents among other things. In 2001 Pollack and Kathleen Cushman included a workbook which helps “crack the boy code.”

Other books to check out are “Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different – and How to Help them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men” by Steve Biddulph and Paul Stanish, “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys” by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, “It’s a Boy!: Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18” by Michael Thompson and Teresa Barker and “Boys Should Be Boys: Seven Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons” by Margaret J. Meeker.

Remember if our book is not available or if we don’t have a copy, you may request any book from any of the 42 Minuteman libraries online. Reference librarians can find the book at other libraries within Massachusetts or New England. If you need help finding a book at the Morrill Memorial Library or within the Minuteman Library Network, please call the Reference or Information desks (781-769-0200) or visit the library in person.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blogs, and Twitter, and Facebook, Oh My!

Written by Kelly Unsworth, the Head of Children's Services at the Morrill Memorial Library
I have never been the life of the party, but I have always been reasonably adept at socializing. A few good friends, hiking partners for sporadic weekend activities, and the occasional running partner kept me busy. When my daughter was born, my socializing shifted to her circle of friends and interests, and I found myself hanging out with horsewomen and barn mothers, and spending long weekends in tents at 4-H shows.

My daughter is older now, and prefers to get together with her friends without her mother’s interference. This shift in position has led me to take a look at my social life and upon quick inspection, I have realized that much has changed in 15 years.
To begin with, I am quite possibly the only person I know who doesn’t belong to a book group. I know of book groups that have been meeting for 15 years, book groups for young moms, empty nesters, widowers, and my personal favorite, a wine and chocolate book group. But I have never found the time, or allowed myself the time to join one. I am a book group wanna be, and as I took stock of my social status, it only got worse…much…much…worse.

According to anyone younger than I, social status is defined by the number of followers on ones’ choice of social networking sites. I decided to jump on board, and tried twitter first. My username had the word “book” in it, and my first post mentioned both the library and laundry in the scant 140 words. It was my first, and last, tweet.

Next up were blogs. I know of a woman who met her best friend on one of the first chat rooms 14 years ago. They were comparing their symptoms and stories of pregnancy, as both were expecting their first child around the same time. They had much in common, including the day that they went into labor and had their first child. Every year since, they have gotten together for a birthday celebration, not the kids, just the 2 of them, reminiscing about one of the most important days of their lives.

So I tried blogging, and encountered 2 substantial roadblocks. The first is; I don’t have much to say. Ever. I prefer to speak when I have something reasonably important to say, and felt the same about blogging. I wasn’t interested in sharing small details about a topic, and found that I really didn’t care what “Debbie in Scituate” felt about the topic, or what loveybear2 had to add. I know it sounds harsh, but I just...didn’t…care…

On to Facebook. Everyone who is anyone uses Facebook, right? Wrong. Although I have seen wonderful use of the technology, mostly keeping in touch with family members that are in far corners of the earth, or simply out of weekly visiting range. Seeing the immediate picture of the most recent grandchild, priceless. But to post the live birth online, tacky. My new motto: just because you can share it doesn’t mean you should.

My daughter has most recently begun to use Tumblr and had a quick suggestion for me: forget it, it’s too complicated. All of this is not to suggest that I am computer illiterate; I use computers all day at work, I download eBooks, cook from recipes off my iPhone, voraciously text and email, shop and bank online, plan my vacations, found my pets online, search for medical information, and have been saved by the maps app on my phone too many times to mention. I have even made it to the second level of Angry Birds! But socially, I am an online misfit; awkward and confused.

Driving home the other day, I heard an ad on the radio for an online dating site. The ad stated that 1 in 6 married couples met their spouse using an online dating service. As a recent divorcee, I was horrified. Let me try to explain it this way, when some dogs see a TV, they will bark at the image of another animal. But most dogs do not recognize the image as a real dog; there is no scent, no physical social cues, no meet and greet. If I were a dog, I would be in the second group, for me a photo of a person with text just isn’t the same as a real meeting, or a real date. Besides, we all know that the photo was taken 15 years ago when the person was in much better physical shape and still had hair. For now, I will stick with the supermarket on Friday nights, the bookstore on Saturdays, and museums on Sundays and I’ll see if the statistics are as good as online dating.

If you are interested in finding out more about social networking sites, I recommend the following books, all of which can be found at the library.
  • I Love You, Let's Meet: Adventures in Online Dating by Virginia Vitzthum
  • Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob by Lee Siegel.
  • Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle.
  • Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger.
  • What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly.
  • You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier.
  • Facebook for Dummies by Carolyn Abram and Leah Pearlman.
  • Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser.
  • The Digital Mom Handbook: How to Blog, Vlog, Tweet, and Facebook Your Way to a Dream Career at Home by Audrey McClelland and Colleen Padilla.
  • How To Find a Job on Linkedin, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Other Social Networks by Brad and Debra Schepp.
  • I'm on Facebook, Now What???: How to Get Personal, Business and Professional Value from Facebook by Jason Alba and Jesse Stay.
  • Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, Universal Consciousness and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution by Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson.