Whine of the Wild Librarian: Owww

Wild LibrarianMy library branch is currently closed for recarpeting and renovation and will remain closed until the day after Christmas.

This is a good thing, as all the nonfiction from the second floor is now on rows and rows of tables in my department on the lower level, fiction is filling up the first floor elevator bay to the children’s department, Horror is in YA, and most of the furniture in the building had been gathered or stacked in great piles to be broken down or assembled, respectively.

Shifting the library

The visual answer to the question, “But why can’t YOUR department stay open?”

I spent my day helping to transfer books from ranges to carts, deliver the carts for unloading, and take the empty carts back to the ranges.  I also tagged shelves, which involved tearing pieces from two rolls of identically-numbered sticky tape and slapping matching numbers on the first book on a shelf and the shelf itself.

This is necessary and saves reshelving everything after someone realizes after finishing the Ms that we forgot a cart way back in the Bs.

But since the tape is ancient—so old I couldn’t even find an image of the rolls—and very sticky, I had to scrape and pinch the pieces off the roll, which meant I repeatedly jabbed my thumbnail into the tip of my forefinger, for two hours.  It also meant doing a series of very slow toe touches at each section of the ranges, for two hours.

It was difficult to move this morning.  I may have cried, just a little, when I passed my stationary bike and remembered that I owe it some time tonight.

They never mentioned this in Library School. I didn’t have to shift books for the final.

It was bad enough to learn that librarians don’t actually sit around and read books all day, if at all, and that math is required on a daily basis—but this is adding injury to insult.

And next week, we’re going to have to put  everything back.

But it does have to be done, and who better to do it than people who care about the books and about being able to find them again, once all this is over?

So this morning I put on my favorite tee-shirt,* comfortable jeans, and my old, broken-in Adidas, and packed myself a nice Advil sandwich for lunch.

Bring it.

. . . slowly . . .






Paper Trail

paper nest

I seem to have developed a latent cleaning compulsion as a response to stress and/or writing avoidance—I’m as surprised as you are—and spent the weekend cleaning and rearranging my desk and going through my overstuffed file cabinet.*

So far, I’ve found research for abandoned and active stories, clippings, half-written first chapters, short stories, shipwrecks, dialogue chunks, outlines, plot bunny droppings, frankendrafts,** essays, extremely questionable poetry, and various other scribbles of a fictional nature.***

Some of the fiction writing dates back to my college days and some is older. There are dot matrix printouts in there, wide-ruled notebook paper written in pencil, floppy disks^ and a lot of adolescent angst.

So, I’ve been hauling this stuff around since I was at least thirteen,^^  keeping it as close as Smaug did Erebor’s net domestic product and defending it with as much sanity as Thorin hoping to uncover a publishable Arkenstone—or a certain protoHobbit searching for his birthday present.

This hoard of mismatched wordsmithing is my work.  It’s my precious.

But, you know . . .

Those drawers are packed so full that they’re useless, and it’s getting to the point that . . .

It might be time to. . .

I mean, it’s possible that some of this stuff isn’t . . .

And it’s not like I really believe I’m ever going to finish that story about the . . .

I don’t even remember writing that scene and it’s just a single loose sheet of paper so there’s no context for it, so there’s no point in . . .

But what if I need it . . .

It’s been more difficult than I thought to pare it all down—it’s painful.

Because I have four drawers (and several cartons and binders) full of clinkers and clunkers

Coal Scuttle

but I can’t help seeing each one as a you-know-what in the rough


that might, if I just applied myself, turn into something fantastic.

Diamond Ring

Except that’s not true.

There may be a few diamonds among the dross, but only a few—and as time passes, they tend to disappear.

I’m not the same person I was when I started making stuff up and putting it down. I don’t think the same way, feel the same way, or express myself in the same ways. My imagination may be a tad slower, but it has a lot more raw material to work with.

And these drawers and cartons full of words and thoughts,  ink and flattened fiber pulp were instrumental in that development.  They aren’t failures or wasted potential—but their work here is done and they’re blocking my way.  Literally and literarily.

They’re a collection of dull, abandoned, heavy carapaces from a series of scintillating insects that flew off a long time ago.

And to be honest, some of ‘em need to be shredded before anyone else can get a good look.  Especially the children.

So I’m taking it a folder at a time.   Reading, recognizing, wondering, wincing, saving, shredding.

Acknowledging. Honoring.  Releasing.

I’ve done a desk shelf and two and a half drawer.  So far, my Keeper stack is smaller than my recycling pile.

It still hurts a little to let go, but I think I have the hang of it now.

I’m still planning on sedation, though, when the time comes to tackle my bookshelves . . .


*Ever see one of those commercials where a pile of folded sweaters approximately the height of Hasheem Thabeet is crammed into a plastic bag and vacuum-sealed down to the width of Giselle Bundchen?  It’s the same principle, except I used wooden drawers and brute force.

**You know—the drafts cobbled together out of typed and handwritten pages, scrap paper, envelopes, post-its, napkins, images, and digital files saved . . . somewhere.

*** Along with ancient and presumably paid bills, medical assessments, paycheck stubs from a job I left twenty years, school papers and deathless art generated by my kids, not to mention my old IQ tests from ages 6 and 11 which were, in my opinion, a tad optimistic.

^The 3½” ones, thank you, so you can keep your age-related technology jokes to yourself. We who were born before the invention of the Internet and entered the workforce when ASCII was king do not appreciate them. Mouse dependent whippersnappers . . .

^^Though some of it had been archived for decades in my childhood home, until it was dumped on passed back to me by Dad during one of my folks’ U-haul-themed Thanksgiving visits.


Image of the coal scuttle by Lajsikonik is shared under creative commons license via Wikimedia Commons.

 Image of the rough diamond is from the United Stated Geological Survey and is in the public domain.

Image of the diamond ring by TQ Diamonds  is shared under creative commons license via Wikimedia Commons.

Chairstung lips

I managed to horizontally split my lower lip  this morning by bending down in a dark room to pick up my laptop’s power cord and bashing my face against the edge of the backrest of my wooden desk chair.

Once my brain came back online, more or less, I was in considerable pain.  There was blood and puff and loosened teeth, and a half-awake husband—on whose behalf I hadn’t turned on the lights—asking me if I was okay.

Bee stung

Because I couldn’t find a picture of a chair holding a pencil, that’s why.


So instead of a writing a scintillating post, I’m holding a bag of ice cubes to my lower lip and telling you all about it with one hand, while trying to decide if I really want to risk coffee, since I’ve used up all the ice.*

I’ve always wanted fuller lips, but this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.  I’d imagined more admiring glances and less jaw pain.

At least I’ll be forced to think before I speak, which is never a bad idea.

I’ll bet ten dollars against anything you like that my least favorite co-worker will ask me if I had collagen injections, and then imply that I should press charges against my “desk chair” for domestic abuse.**

That last one sounds good about now, but once they carted it away, as its legal guardian I’d probably be forced to spring for the lawyer, and worse, type standing up until its arraignment.  And I’m already suffering neck pains from whiplash—or sudden stoplash?

Or a very mild concussion.

Through my face.

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to explaining all this multiple times throughout the day via my amateur ventriloquist skills, which up until now I’ve only used to issue dire threats to my children when they act up in public places.  So at least I’ve had a lot of practice.

My friend Cha-cha suggested that I take the opportunity to make up a cool backstory:

“Like you were saving an endangered owl from a feral grey wolf when a rogue poacher, trying to bag the wolf, grazed your lip with a wild arrow.”

I like this one, because it makes me sound bravely stupid instead of the regular kind.

Anyone else want to try?

I’d do it myself, but I have to search out a bail bondsman who’ll take a chance on juvenile, feral furniture.

And maybe find some more Tylenol.



*Update: drank it through a straw, which is a strange experience, but beats trying to drink a diet Pepsi through the threaded neck of a bottle.  Ow.

**Update: Called it.  Send your sawbuck to your local public library or to the Peace Corps Nigeria Alumni Foundation, which offers scholarships for Nigerian girls (PCNAF c/o P.O. Box 65530, Washington, D.C. 20035)—help fight terrorism with education.


The One Sure Sign of Spring

The one sure sign of Spring

It’s not the mud. It’s not the rain. It’s not the colored eggs or the gefilte fish.

It’s this:*


“See those trees?” I said, driving down our street, which is lined with trees that have recently, and literally, burst into bloom. “Those trees are trying to kill me.”

“Maybe they know that every plant you touch dies,” Jane said. “Maybe they’re just trying to save the other plants.”

“A preemptive strike? Makes sense to me.”

“What’s a pre . . . pre-empty strike?” Sunny asked.

“Preemptive. Hitting first, before someone can hit you.”

“Like Janie does me.”

“I  do not!”

“Owwww! Mommy, she just—“

“No being pre-emptive in the car!”

“What else can you kill by touching it, Mommy?”

“Just plants. I’m very good at fish and small mammals.”

“Sunny’s a small mammal.”


“And I’ve kept her alive for seven years.”



You, on the other hand, might not make it to twelve . . .”

“Oops. Sorry, Sunny.”

“That’s okay. Just don’t pre-empty me anymore.”

“Pre-EMPTY? That’s not even a word—“


“—I mean, what’s that even mean?”



“Nope. Try some pre-empty listening, next time.”


*To get the full effect, imagine a muffled WHUMP, as if thousands of sinus cavities suddenly imploded and then collapsed in silent, throbbing pain.

Skating Past


I remember being eleven.  Dreams start revving up, self-esteem heads down, and emotions are as stable as a game of Jenga played on a roller coaster.

So when Jane was absolutely, teary-eyed afraid that none of her friends would bother  to be able to come to her birthday party at the skating rink, I told her that if fewer than five kids showed up, I’d skate with her and we would have a blast.

You? On skates?”

Yes, me.  On skates.  What?

To hear my mother tell it, she had me on skates before I could walk, and I grew up zipping around our basement,  spending a lot of weekends at the roller rink with my friends, and rolling around the lake paths at the nearby park.  I was never a fancy skater—forwards without falling was always enough for me—but I had a fair turn of speed, even over rough ground; once you’ve survived the broken, patterned linoleum in our basement, uneven pavement was a breeze.

It was  one of the few things, in my loop-the-loop Jenga days, that I knew I could do in public without (much) fear of humiliation.

“And besides,” I added, mostly to myself, “Bumbles bounce.”

Jane rolled her eyes. “Mo-om!”  But having a Plan B seemed to settle her a bit—she stopped making scathing comments about her relative popularity and started reminding me about my promise instead.

I spent the next two weeks with my fingers crossed.  Because bravado aside, it had been sixteen years since I’d laced up a set of wheels and I was fully aware that this Bumble bruises fairly easily these days.

Luckily, seven girls RSVP’d, and though Jane informed me that I was still on the hook, once the party started, she was too busy having fun pay any attention to me.

I was safe.

Except . . . the  lights were flashing as the skaters sped by our table.  The music was playing in time to the sounds of wheels on the gleaming floor. My feet were moving a little in a barely-remembered rhythm.

And I really wanted to try, just to see if I could, just to know that I had.  For old times’ sake.

Plus, as my husband kept reminding me every five minutes, we did have extra free rental tickets and he’d be happy to watch my purse.  And the kids had disappeared into the arcade, so there were no witnesses who knew me.

So . . . I went  and traded in a ticket for a set of basic skates.  And laced up.  And stood up.  And headed for the rink.  Sort of.

Skating, as is turns out, is not like remembering how to ride a bicycle.

Skating is like remembering how to ride four, small, homicidal bicycles on an extremely hard, slick surface.  Using muscles that I’d long forgotten I’d ever owned.

I stuck to the rail, stiff-legged, unsure, trying to loosen up my knees and remember the motions that had felt a lot more natural while I’d been sitting down.  I’d forgotten somewhere along the way that roller skates can’t snowplow, and it took more effort that I’d expected to keep my feet pointed in the same direction.

I wish I could say it got better, but it didn’t, much.  It hurt, and I felt like all my old times were now.

It was a relief when a partner-only skate was called, just as I reached the end of the rail—I’d been dreading crossing the gap to the next one—so I stepped off onto the carpet and followed the wall on the outside of the rink all the way back to the table.

“How did you do?” my husband asked, as I fell dropped onto the bench in an undignified sprawl.

“Not good,” I said.  “But I wanted to try and I did, so there’s that.”

“Are you going out there again?”

Was I?

The arrival of pizza and kids and chaos made the question moot for a while, but by the time the call came for all the birthday kids to spin the Party Prize Wheel in the center of the rink,   I’d decided to turn in my skates and try my luck at the arcade with Sunny—my wicked Ski-Ball skillz have never let me or my prize-hungry children down.

But first, I waited to see Janie—who has only just learned to let go of the rail herself, sometimes for seconds at a time—move up for her turn to spin the wheel.

Halfway there, she lost her balance, skidded in place for a second, and landed flat on her back.  In front of everyone in the rink.

I wrenched off my skates in preparation to help rescue a terminally-embarrassed pre-teen and her father was already moving—

But then my beautiful girl got up, brushed herself off, and spun that wheel to great applause.

And won a pair of bright pink skates.

Jane came back to the table as I finished putting on my street shoes.  Her face shone.  “I won!  I really won!”

“You really did!” I’d tell her later that I didn’t mean the skates.

“Oh, no!” she said, as Sunny tried to yank me toward the arcade. “Did you already skate?  Did I miss it?”

“Today, you did,” I said.  “But we have a bunch of free passes, and I want to try inline skates next time.  Will you help me?”

Her arms strangled me and she rolled over my foot, but the hug was totally worth it.  “Thanks, Mom,” she said.

“Thank you, honey.”