After graduating in a class of 38 , going to Arizona State University, a school of 29,000, was a major culture shock. There were very few minorities in my area of Maine in the 1960s, so living in a dorm where the guys next door were Navajo and Hopi, my first friend was from South America and there were Mormons everywhere, opened my eyes pretty fast. Swimming in am outdoor pool on New Years Day, eating oranges and grapefruit right off the tree and discovering Mexican food were further eye-openers. Live concerts, football games and radical politics were further indications that my life before college was pretty sheltered.
One of my most memorable childhood experiences occurred during the four summers we hosted teens from the Middle East as part of the International Farm Youth Exchange. Three young men and one young woman stayed at the farm and immersed themselves in our culture, while sharing theirs for six weeks. Two were from India, one from Pakistan and another from Iran. Getting to know them and their culture helped me realize there were interesting aspects to everyone’s life.
After completing a research paper on the economic aspects of the air war over North Vietnam, I realized the conflict was not only unwinnable, but immoral. I spent the last two years of college actively demonstrating against it. Having my cousin, a navy medical corpsman, blown to bits by a mine, further reinforced my antiwar feelings.
I started drinking in high school because I was shy and awkward around others. Unfortunately, alcoholism runs in my family and it took until I was 32 to get sick enough to decide I couldn’t live that way any more. I walked into my first AA meeting on October 16, 1980 and have been sober and grateful ever since. I still go to meetings and, as part of my early recovery, I took patients from AMHI to meetings 7 days a week until family responsibilities had me cut back a bit. I lost my younger sister and my father to the disease of alcoholism. My mother got sober shortly before I did and remained so until she died 29 years later. Having a parent in recovery created a special bond that allowed us to talk about anything and everything. One of my proudest accomplishments is the fact that neither of my daughters ever saw me drink.
Recovery also helped me realize I wanted to accomplish more in life. I went back to college and earned a masters degree in adult education from the University of Southern Maine. In 1994, when the University of South Carolina brought their masters in Library Science to Maine via interactive TV, I applied and was part of a graduating class of 127 that has since changed the face of libraries across the state. I have since mentored others in both the USC and University of Maine library programs.
Discovering that my father and another relative were gay, coupled with having been an AA sponsor for gay and lesbian alcoholics over the years has given me an empathy and understanding of the challenges LBGTQs face, especially in a rural area.
I read like a fiend, often finishing a book a day, that has given me an appreciation for how important it is to encourage children of all ages to discover the magic in books.