Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Great Snap of 2010

Everything was going great.

That's how I should have known things were about to become very wrong.

Almost two weeks have passed since that Saturday, the rainy one, the Saturday that followed days of rain, enough that I thought: This is going to end my determination to be fit! I know--I'll be like in a Nike commercial again, and run in the rain! Running has already drawn blood, so how bad can rain be?


Although it didn't feel too bad, not when I did my traditional stretches, drawn from various yoga poses that work the legs, arms, back, and neck in order to prevent me from hurting myself. It didn't even feel bad when I started "warming up" which is when I walk around the house quickly several times.

Then I ran, and it felt nice. The little bits of cut grass were sticking to my skin, but that was nothing terrible. I ran.

I cooled down, again by walking.

I did more stretches, just in case.

All done, I went back inside and removed my shoes. I got the grass bits of them and off the backs of my legs. I got a glass of water, I took a bath--we don't have a shower, unless you count the one in the basement, which is inhabited by spiders as big as my hand--I don't go down there a lot.

The basement is a scary place. One Sunday morning, I was ironing a shirt when I saw one of the evil Hand-Spiders. Taking inspiration from a Garfield comic, I grabbed a broom and smacked said spider with it, killing the giant creature--or killing it just enough that it couldn't flee, after which I put the empty fish bowl over it so it couldn't come back like a zombie and kill me in my sleep like a camel spider.

Unfortunately for me, the broom happened to be the spider's favorite hang-out, since that was where it had laid its eggs, which had already hatched.

Billions of little baby Hand-Spiders showered all over the ground, some shooting away as far as the staircase.

There was no escape.

By now, panic had set in. I screamed.


But, since this was my house and my family is used to little outbursts that indicate extreme fear or extreme pain coming from all corners of our home and all issued by me. So they did what they always do when I hurt myself or nearly die or am being attacked by something possessed by the Forces of Darkness.

They ignored me.

A solution had to be reached quickly. I was outnumbered, and they could see what I'd done to Mommy Hand-Spider. I mean, I had even set up a display case for them to walk by and see the carnage for themselves. It was like going to the Field Museum in Chicago and seeing all those lions from The Ghost and the Darkness, which was a true story, staring at you with glassy-dead eyes, looking about as deadly as they did in life, but without as much movement.

I turned to the only source of spider-killing literature I'd ever read. That same Garfield comic.

Glimpsing the remnants of the last painting attempt made in my household, I grabbed the nearest paint roller. I jabbed on a roll--hardened by dried paint-and put it against the basement floor. Rolling it along, I crushed all the spiders in several smooth motions. It was like painting a wall, only with more death involved.

Then I ran, because in case you were unaware, Hand-Spiders don't actually die. When you kill them, they liquidate and then split off into two Hand-Spiders. That's how you know they're made of the dark powers of True Evil.

And that's also why I don't go downstairs for any reason except to put laundry in the washing machine and/or dryer.

The next morning following my rainy run, I got up and got dressed. Then I thought, "It's going to rain again today. I know--I'll run now!"

So I did.

But this time, I didn't get very far. See, there was this pain in my knee when I ran, a pain that could almost be described as stabbing. Except that there was also some grinding involved. Like my bones were no longer protected by something as foolish as a joint capsule, but instead were grating against each other like my Microplane does with Parmesan cheese. I stopped running.

The next day, I thought I was going to die. Walking hurt. But it was no big deal.

Until two weeks later, when the pain has not waned but waxed, now finally evident by the swollen nature of both knees, the localized pain, the random snapping noises as my ligaments and tendons twang like rubber bands against each other and against my once-whole bones.

"Go to the doctor," said Rachel at work.

"Go to the doctor," said various Loose End-ers at knit night.

"Go to the doctor," said Mom, Dad, and Paul. Separately.

In fact, April, both student workers, and the remainder of the library staff all told me, separately, to go to the doctor.

I'm not going.

This is why:

In case you haven't noticed, I complain. A lot. I also get hurt, all the time, and most of this pain is temporary. I have never broken anything--except possibly that toe that doesn't bend anymore--and I don't think I will until I hit my mid-thirties and the family curse of osteoporosis decides to let gravity bring me all the way down, by letting the simple pressure of the air crush my bones like saltine crackers.

I know what my doctor will say.

He will poke the part of my knee that hurts. He will have me bend it in various ways. He will proclaim it unbroken (I would have noticed that) and then he will smack it with the reflex thing, just in case something freakish is happening. Since there are no marble-shaped things under my skin, he will announce that I have not torn any ligaments or tendons. I would have noticed that, too. And no way did I rip any cushion-y things inside the joint, because I would totally have noticed that too.

My brother's roommate back in college once turned in his computer chair. Part of his leg went with him. The other part of his leg stayed right where it had been.

Lots of screaming and swearing were involved there, and Jerome was way more hard-core than I am. He actually did athletic things like in the Nike commercials, not just the bleeding.

The doctor would tell me to ice it, to take ibuprofen when I needed it, and to not run. He would also tell me to take that stupid brace off of it (I found one in the closet and it kept my knee from not holding me up and causing me to topple over).

I don't need someone to tell me any of those things. I took physiology classes for that back in college, with the students who were doing some kind of sports-injury studies. I learned how to feel if something vital has broken off. It comes in handy.

Meanwhile, internet isn't so much working at home. No, not so much. And it isn't our ISP, it's my laptop. Blast it.

There goes my main distraction.

But yesterday morning I crawled out of bed and my knee (the one that hurts the worst) made this loud snapping noise.

I froze, waiting for the wave of agony to overtake me.

And no agony actually came.

This was brilliant news. I went to work. And as I walked around, I noted that I wasn't in torturous pain any more, just bearable pain. Without the brace.

So Rachael, guess what? I'm not walking like a duck anymore. I'm hardly even ridiculous, but that can change at any time.

For the moment, I'm planning on enjoying my new found mobility and celebrating. But not with exercise.

So why should I spend money?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Have Never Laughed Harder...

...then I did when Paul played me this video!

Two of the funniest things ever made: the original Star Trek--yeah, you know you laugh at this--too many years have passed (not to mention the advent of women's lib) for this to be taken seriously--and Monty Python, linked together. I can now die happy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Please Make the Hurting Stop

Did any of you watch Eek the Cat? And, if you did, do you remember The Terrible Thunderlizards?

I apologize in advance for the horrible quality. There are no good recordings of this show, just old ones taped from the TV back in the early 90's.

See the little caveman? The one who suffered? His catch phrase was always, "When will the hurting stop?" Which as a child, I found utterly hilarious.

Adulthood, however, has taught me that the hurting indeed does not end, even if your friends aren't accidentally trying to kill you.

Example? When I made Mom her mother's day dinner, I left the kitchen, walked over to her knitting spot on the couch, held out my arms, and said, "These second-degree burns symbolize my love for you."

But the worst pain comes in a very different form. This is pain that we all try to avoid at all times, even as thousands of health professionals urge us to indulge, to allow this pain to wash over us. This is the pain that is thought to make us live better, longer lives.

I speak, of course, of exercise.

It has never made sense to me that some people just crawl out of bed in the morning and say, "You know what would be great? Running for no reason!" Or, "Hey, I'll lift heavy objects just to put them back down, not because I'm moving! Weights, here I come!"

This makes no sense.

In the World of Laura, you run because you are about to be killed and eaten, whether you are pursued by bear, lion, zombie, or Jack the Ripper.

In the World of Laura, you lift heavy things because you can--but only when they need lifted. Like shelving books, moving boxes around so Mom can decorate the house for various seasons, or so that you can vacuum under your bed because the dust looks pretty thick down there.

In the World of Laura, sweating is avoided. Why? Because sweating is gross.

In the World of Laura, the only thing more fun than cooking is eating.

See the problem?

Back before I became Mostly Dead, I used to eat lots and burn it off through sheer force of will. All that stress increased my heart rate--it was like cardio without the treadmill. But then I got asthma and my lungs said, "Meh, do what you want, we're just going to sit here and rest," causing me to do the same.

A few weeks ago, I made the mistake of looking at myself as I was dressing.

Never do that.

Nothing good can come of it.

Really, I mean that.

So I decided it was time to do something, because the average American, according to some TV doctor who probably got his statistics from Wikipedia, gains ten pounds a year.

Slowly, we become fatter and fatter, until we resemble giant puddings.

I have made myself a goal. I shall not ever allow myself to go above a certain size. No 31 for me. Nope. I will stick to by 29's, perhaps even slowly making it back down to my 27's because that's where I ought to be.

I do this because I don't want to spend money on pants that are long enough--it gets expensive. And the way it's going, I'll have to buy all new pants. All. New. Which is lots of yarn money down the drain. I want pants because they look trendy, not because I'm too fat to wear the perfectly nice ones I've got.

I have started running.

This is unpleasant, because I most certainly sweat while I'm doing it, and sweating is gross. Also, because my legs kill me if I run on hard surfaces, I have to run around our property, which isn't so much level. So that's annoying.

I run now. I do about a mile every time, although I find this nauseating because I get very overheated.

Thursday, something happened. I was running and I felt this pain, right? And I thought, "Whatever, Laura, you knew this hurt when you signed up for it," so I kept running.

When I finished, I went back inside and pulled off my running shoes, and noticed something else.

I was a real-life Nike commercial. Or Gatorade, whichever fits.

How so? I had caused myself bodily harm by running, and while still bleeding, I ran, making myself look like a hard-core runner instead of the wimpy girl I am.

What happened? My skin was too delicate for my shoe, and it cut the back of my heel. It wasn't a blister, the shoe actually cut me. And it wasn't even sharp.

I am such a wimp.

If I live through the next mile, you'll hear from me again...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Once more, I give you the Book Banning Thief of Florida!

Hey, want a laugh?

How about joining me in mocking Tina Harden of Orlando, Florida? The mom so ingenious that she decided stealing books from the library would make it impossible for children to read them, therefore skipping that troubling step of book-banning.

See, if it's not really banned, than she isn't evil. No, not at all. She's just a thief.

Let me explain why taking books out of libraries makes me so mad.

A book is, fundamentally, an idea.

Telling people their ideas should never be seen or heard is a violation of that person's right to freedom of speech (in that little section of amendments to the Constitution that people keep trying to ignore).

Telling people they can't express their ideas is illegal and, to use a Palin-esque turn of phrase, Un-American. Because it violates our Constitution. Which is the basis of what is and isn't American. See?

Here's why it's stupid for her to steal a book to keep kids from getting a copy: When someone steals a book, we all grumble. Then we buy another copy (It looks like those copies are pretty roughed up, so they probably had them on order when she took them. Unless she's been enjoying them behind a locked door when her children are at school...). And the new copy goes right out on the shelf where the old one was and gets read just like the old one was--or more, because someone is moronically complaining to media outlets. If you were wondering, complaining to media outlets about how "dangerous" ideas are only makes you look like a fascist and encourages reluctant readers to pick up those scary books.

Lesson 1: If you tell a teenager not to read something, they will read it. The same goes for telling a teenager not to do something. They do it anyway. Ask any teenager.

Lesson 2: If you tell teenagers that books are filled with dirty words and sex and drugs, they will want to read them, because it means said books are not boring.

Lesson 3: Stealing from the library is super-wrong. Not because you're stealing "from the library" but because you are actually stealing from your friends and neighbors. So, this woman totally stole from all the residents of her community.

The lesson we learn from Tina?

Be a parent. Control what your kid takes home from the library (which Tina failed to do) and be responsible for keeping them safe. It isn't the responsibility of the school, the library, or the police to teach your children to be polite and well-behaved or to keep them safe from the horrible parts of the world (like NFL players that have a disturbing hobby of...rape). It is your job.

My advice for the media: We--you--need to stop giving people like Tina Harden an outlet where she can proclaim all her fundamentalist views without also offering the counter-argument. So grab a civil rights attorney and have at it, or leave Tina off the front page. Unless you want me to write scathing blogs about how evil she is, which I am happy to do. I like ranting. I think it keeps me young.

Here is my advice for Tina: Pay your fine so your neighbors and your librarians don't grumble about you being a book-thief (and not the good, Markus Zusak kind). Then do your job, be a mom, keep your kids safe, and let other people do the same. If you really like book banning, you're a little late. I hear that guy with the funny moustache over in Germany already died.

Now if Library Journal stops sending me these, I'll stop ranting.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"The Right to Never Be Offended by Anything"

In which I get a little rant-y. Again.

Last week a kind, elderly woman came up to me to check out more audio books. She often does this, preferring to listen to a narrator rather than to read the book herself. I usually end up laughing with her, chatting about the weather and what book she'd just finished, and then she goes off with her new picks and I go back to shelving things and telling children to stop playing in the bathroom.

But last week was a little different. The woman had brought back two audio books, both from our YA collection. One was an innocent sort of book with the major theme of wildlife protection. In it, two young people attempt to protect a certain species of owl from the epically evil corporation that wants to drain their habitat and build some kind of shopping center. They flee from corporate goons (and sometimes from local law enforcement) to get their job done. It's called Hoot, and it won tons of awards--then was made into a movie, which is likely how you've heard of it. The other book was a National Book Award Winner, but I forget the name.

I've read both of them (I remember thinking that when I accepted the CD cases from her), and they were both good. In fact, Hoot isn't even really a YA book--it would be good from ages eleven and up, I would think. The age of the protagonists fits. Also, that's the age when you start defining what you believe in, getting involved in clubs and the get the picture. Innocent book with a good message, in my opinion.

But, as she normally does, this woman told me what she thought of the books in question. Gesturing to Hoot, she said, "I really was getting into this book, until they started swearing."

I get that. Not everyone likes to hear language that might be questionable. But she continued.

"I know you try to keep things like that off the shelves," she said. "So I thought you should know."


We do...what?

Excuse me?

I turned over the books, and pointed out that they were YA--upstairs--and therefore weren't considered children's books. A more mature audience would be reading/listening to them. Also, I said, the books had both won the most prestigious awards for their particular age range, which means they're amazing books for young adults, according to, for example, the American Library Association--not to mention all the other groups of literary amazing-ness that read scores of books as they come out and condescend to award those considered worthy.

The woman then, considering me (as I'm certain she did) to be a high school student like the young woman standing next to me, informed me that she didn't get that art stuff, and if a book had naughty words, it wasn't art. I held my tongue, but what I was thinking was this:

No. Sorry. Nice try. Sometimes, and I know this blows your mind so bear with me, a book has naughty words in it because it makes sense for the character to, at that time, be angry, hurt, alienated, withdrawn--you name it. Sometimes a book has sex in it to show us that this person, whoever they are, associates connecting with his fellow man as a sex act, and through the remainder of the book, he learns that sex isn't the way you connect with people. You can have friends, too.

One of the best books I've read during the year I've worked at the library was Sherman Alexie's novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The second chapter of this book is all about masturbation. The narrator, Junior, talks about how he thinks that people are born with thumbs for that purpose alone. He continues talking about the merits of self pleasure for several pages, then he moves off that subject and talks about the members of his family and his friends from childhood.

Alexie didn't write that chapter to stand alone as The Masturbation-ists Manifesto. In fact, he wanted to show how Junior, Junior's friends, and Junior's family all cope with the huge struggles they deal with every day in different ways--primarily through either avoidance/escapism or through violence. His sister moves from her room into the basement and never leaves the house, following her eighteenth birthday. His mother and father drink excessively. His closest friend takes out his anger physically, fighting anyone who is foolish enough to confront him. Junior then talks about his expulsion from school following an outburst--he discovers how old his geometry book is, after having looked forward to studying geometry for years--then throws the book as hard as he can. The book hits his geometry teacher in the face.

The remainder of the novel shows us how Junior pulls himself out of the destructive cycle so many people living on the reservation are caught in.

You could argue that the masturbation chapter, or at least the pages in which it is featured prominently, are unnecessary. However, the chapter shocks us a little, and makes us think: Why does Junior love this so much? What could lead him to feel this way?

That's when we read about the other members of Junior's family and discover our answer. I would argue that the most controversial section of the book--judging from the incidence of challenges involving The Absolutely True Dairy of a Part-Time Indian--is also the most integral. It sets the stage for the rest of the book.

What tends to frustrate me is that so many people decide to be offended by something in the first few pages, when in many novels, the protagonist is at his or her worst in that first chapter, before they're able to move on from what's hurt them or cope with the terrible situation they're caught in. Take Ink Exchange, a paranormal fantasy popular with many of our readers--reading the first few chapters could lead you to believe (if you're so inclined) that the novel is advocating an under aged person getting a tattoo. Maybe you find fault with that.

But read on, and you discover that the protagonist comes from a broken home. She lives with her alcoholic father and her older brother who invites his friends over often. On one such occasion, one of her drug-addict brother's friends came into the girl's room and raped her. She wants the tattoo so that she can reclaim her body--she's taking control of her life.

We talk a great deal (literature geeks, I mean) about the way one reads a book. The majority of us read for pleasure. We pick up a book, Jennifer the edges of the pages by crinkling them constantly (it's better than a bookmark!), we sit by the pool or in a waiting room and read that 20th James Patterson novel just because we can. Others of us have a pencil or a highlighter and we read a novel so we can pick it apart, noting all the symbolism and what-not we can so we'll get a good grade on our essay. One book I read--Reading Literature Like a Professor--advocated reading a book three times. Once for plot (what happens to who and when), Once as we mark whatever we think looks interesting or what we don't understand, and a final time to analyze using the information we've gathered.

That will never happen. I'll tell you why.

The human brain is built to look for connections everywhere. We see coincidences, like H.H. Holmes taking inspiration from Jack the Ripper as he murdered women in Chicago in the years following the Whitechapel murders, or that Walter Sickert lived and worked near the sites of the Whitechapel killings, he drew women who appeared to be dead (though alive) that he wrote on paper with the same watermark as the Ripper letters, and therefore Sickert must have been Jack the Ripper. Circumstantial evidence, no matter how unreliable, still is powerful enough to convince us that a dead man who cannot defend himself was one of the most well known serial killers on record.

What does that have to do with books? When we read, our brains pick up bits and pieces of information and connect them without conscious effort. When we train ourselves to read analytically, we analyze automatically. So not even literature professors read like "literature professors"--how could they? They would be bored out of their minds.

Tangent over.

I would argue that some readers pick up books intended for their children and read them not to analyze, not for entertainment, but in order to discover anything and everything that can offend them.

They read to discover every bad word, every sex scene, every homosexual friend or male neighbor who wears dresses, every racist comment (even in a work of historical fiction intended to deter racism by informing readers who didn't live through it), every bit of slang or "inappropriate" humor, every paragraph that might mean that this book was too mature for a reader who wasn't old enough to drink, even if they are old enough to be sent abroad to die for no reason. Then they bring the book in, shake it (I'd imagine) and proclaim that no one should read that particular book because they don't want their child reading it.

The funniest instance of this is also the saddest--a children's series of books titled, "Let's go to ___" that included Vamos a Cuba! The book was, according to the complainant, not an accurate portrayal of life in Cuba (I must add, this took place in Florida). Why? The little boy showing off his homeland to other children was too happy to actually be Cuban. No, he ought to have been suffering, just a little. The book was ruled to have a political slant and it was removed from the library in question. Then the decision was upheld in the district courts. It's still being fought.

I read an article today by a popular children's writer Dan Gutman, and you should read it too. I think it just about sums my life (and the lives of many librarians) up.

I particularly like the quote from one of my favorite writers, Bruce Coville (Go Nina Tanleven!): "Somehow the idea seems to have gotten loose in the country that in addition to the rights of speech, religion, and the press we now have a new constitutional right: the right to never be offended by anything."

Go Forth and Read!

Monday, May 3, 2010


I think by now some of you (those who check here with some frequency--Jennifer) may have noticed the new little black whatsit over in the sidebar thingie.


I always swore I would never do Twitter. Why?

It has really nothing to do with the idea. I mean, aside from having to take the time to tweet, what's not to like? It's basically just like status updates or wall posts on Facebook. No huge difference.

Why, then, would I avoid it?

Because 140 characters isn't long enough for me to get my point across. Or, more specifically, I believe I cannot be adequately funny in 140 characters.

But, when sitting through an hour of Twitter Talk at my ILF (Indiana Library Federation) conference last Friday, I decided maybe it was time to re-try Twitter for the YA blog. Then I thought, "Gee, screwing that up would be a professional failure, not one that you and your friends could laugh at like that prom dress thing from Saturday night that you have pictures of and are kindly not posting because you don't want your friend Jen to be embarrassed about even though there's nothing embarrassing about them."

So I went to Twitter and fiddled around with it, tried re-tweeting and then decided to see if I could hook up my phone with it, something I couldn't do the last time I tried.

It worked.

Then I started to enjoy getting updates from people I find interesting (like Rachael and Stephanie Pearl McPhee), and I replied to them (which was fun). And now it seems to be here to stay.

I put a dealie on the blog so that you could mock me. Yes, that was the whole reason. Also you could see how many times a day I think about yarn. It happens a lot.

And the next time Paul or Dad or Mom says something I find hilarious and want to share with the world, I can. Like that time Mom was trying to entertain Darcy while we went to church (Darcy was just a puppy). Mom came to the car and announced, "I stuck a Hebrew-Dog up her Kong!" Totally unaware of the way that would sound to me, Paul, and now to the rest of you.

We'll see how this experiment goes. Pointers would be appreciated.