Saturday, December 28, 2013

If you give a ferret fudge...

(Disclaimer: I love Laura Numeroff's picture books. This parody is done with all the love in my heart.)

If you give a ferret fudge, he's probably going to get sick because ferrets can't eat fudge.

When your ferret gets sick, you'll have to call the vet.

When you get to the vet’s office, your ferret will get worse.

When the vet asks what happened to your ferret, you'll look like an idiot because, seriously? Fudge? What were you thinking?

While you’re looking like an idiot, your ferret will die.

When your ferret dies, the vet will call animal control to report you for cruelty to ferrets. The police will come.

When the police arrive, they will collar you like the ferret-killing criminal you are.

When you go to trial, your defense will appeal to the jury: you’re too pretty for prison! The jury will agree, so you’ll be put under house arrest instead.

When you’re stuck at home, you’ll sink into a depression and self-medicate with internet shopping. Your home will slowly fill with clothes and books you don’t need, and with ferret-themed memorabilia from Ebay.

When your case worker stops by to check on you, she won’t be able to get in the door. She’ll have to call social services.

When the social services worker sees the sorry state of your home, he’ll have to report you to the city. The city will condemn your house.

When your house is destroyed, you'll slip through the cracks of the system and end up on the streets.

When you end up on the streets, the other homeless people won’t be friendly with you. Nobody likes a ferret killer.

When you’re friendless and alone, you’ll wander aimlessly, finding yourself on the very edges of civilization.

When you forsake civilization, you’ll free yourself from the artificial trappings of society… or maybe descend into paranoia and deluded conspiracy theories. Who can tell the difference?

When you’re on the run from “the Man”, you’ll live in the wild, under trees and in caves. To survive, you’ll steal food from camp sites and hunting cabins. Maybe you’ll even find a nice little tent.

When you’ve lived in the woods long enough, the wildlife will become accustomed to you. You'll befriend squirrels and rabbits.

When the other woodland creatures are comfortable with you, you may even meet a ferret.

And when you do, chances are… 

You'll end up giving the ferret some fudge.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Season's Greetings

Actual Christmas cards that I actually sent, 2013 edition.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ways We Run the Library: A Speech

(This speech was delivered to the library staff and board of directors at the staff appreciation dinner 12/13/13. It's longer than my normal posts and may be boring to non-library people, but I wanted to put it here since I spent so much time on it.)

Some time ago, Eric asked if I’d be willing to speak to you all during the staff appreciation dinner tonight. “I’d like you to highlight what you and your coworkers have done to keep the library going while you’ve been between directors these last few months,” he said.

At least, I think that’s what he said. This was during the tailgate party at Greater Andover Days, and everything gets a bit hazy after the nice ladies with the book carts pushed that third margarita on me. At any rate, I hope that’s what he wanted, since that’s what I wrote about.

I’d like to take these next few minutes to talk about each of us individually, in no particular order.


First up is Cheri. In the absence of a director, Cheri, as Assistant Director, was required to attend all the director meetings. There were board meetings and boring meetings, friends meetings and other sorts of meetings, GAD meetings, hometown Christmas meetings, and city meetings. With so many meetings to keep track of, nobody questioned Cheri’s need for a vacation. Likewise, while she was gone, no one questioned Benjamin’s brilliant plan, sent to us by email, to disassemble Trixie, the mannequin, and hide her body parts all over the library along with a set of clues that would lead Cheri from piece to piece.

For three days, we each fought over the best hiding places and struggled to write clues that rhymed. We debated the merits of hiding things in the attic versus in the back of Cathy’s supply closet, then, undecided, hid an arm in each. We had a head in the freezer, a leg in the server room, a hand in the suggestion box, a torso in the oven, and a kind letter of apology for the janitor. We checked and double checked the clues to make sure we hadn’t skipped any pieces by accident.

Upon her return, Cheri laughed heartily at the jest, then cornered me and Tiffany at the desk and said, “Very funny, guys. Now just tell me where all the pieces are. I have a meeting to go to.”

So, for continuing the run the library even as every other librarian was literally playing with dolls, here’s to Cheri.


While Cheri was busy going to meetings, it fell to Karyn, as administrative director, to keep a firm hand on the tiller. All half-cocked questions and hair-brained ideas had to be run by Karyn before they could be acted upon (or, as was often the case, summarily vetoed). Likewise, Karyn is in charge of handling every … “issue”. Let me walk you through a typical day:

“Karyn!” we cry, “The light’s burned out again! There’s no more tape! Karyn, we’re out of neon green printer paper! My computer has a virus! Karyn, the roof’s leaking in the gallery, but only when no one’s looking at it! The doors are squeaky! There’s no change in the register! Karyn, the fire alarm is going off again! The toilet’s clogged! Karyn, you missed a call from Protection One, and one from Cybertron, and two from City Hall. Karyn! We have a passport question and the applicant only speaks Vietnamese! We don’t know any Vietnamese!”

We cry helplessly to her on evenings and weekends, calling her at home and saying “Karyn! The server is down! What do we do? Karyn, there’s a buzzing! Something’s buzzing! Help us, Karyn!!!”

As we have been short staffed, much of our staffing burden has fallen to Karyn. Every time one of us asks for a day off to attend our mother’s cousin’s sister-in-law’s elderly great aunt’s neighbor’s funeral – which happens every other week on a Saturday – Karyn juggles the schedule to make sure the library is adequately staffed, usually by staffing it herself. “I guess I’m working Saturday,” she says, in much the same voice that Eeyore says, “Thanks for noticing me.”  

For all these things and more, here’s to Karyn.


Through all of this, Kathy Pyles has been a pillar, a work horse, coming to work in the evenings after already working a full day at the elementary schools, putting in extra hours on the evenings and weekends when the ILLs are backed up, even coming in on days the library is closed to empty the return bin. Benjamin and I have often discussed the possibility that Kathy is actually a robot. Frankly, we’ve discussed it right in front of her, and she’s never denied it. We never see her eat or hear her complain.

In fact, I’ve only ever seen her flustered once. Kathy recently texted Benjamin on a Friday afternoon to ask how many ILLs the courier had delivered that morning. Benjamin counted, then said, “Wouldn’t it be fun if I doubled the amount just to mess with her? There’s 28 here.”

“Maybe if you said 48, so there’s still an 8 in it, then you could at least pretend it’s a typo,” I said.

“Or 58,” said Tiffany. “Heck, 68. Go big or go home.”

“82!” I said, as if I was bidding at an auction. “Switch the numbers around! It supports the typo claim.”

We cackled like the witches in Macbeth as he texted “82” and hit send. “Oh, she’ll be so surprised when she arrives in the morning and there are only 28! Bwahahaha!”

Imagine our surprise when Kathy showed up in a panic five minutes later. “Oh thank God!” she said. “I was afraid I’d have to start on them this evening! I was ready to work through the night and cancel all my plans for the weekend!”

Yeah, she’s a machine. But she’s our machine! So here’s to Kathy!


Cathy Catt has been handling things very well without a director. At least, I assume she has been, since she spends most of her time in the children’s section and I never go there. Even when there are horrible noises from that direction – no, especially when there are horrible noises from that direction – we let Cathy handle it. “Shouldn’t you check on that?” a patron once asked me after a loud crash that I knew from experience was the sound of a child knocking all the DVDs off one of the spinning racks.

“I don’t think so. No one’s screaming so it’s probably okay,” I said. “Unless they died.” In which case, I was pretty sure Cathy could handle that too.

At the best of times, the children’s section is a little overwhelming. The shelves need constant attention – for one such as myself, who can’t even keep a basil plant alive on the kitchen counter, this level of commitment is daunting to say the least – but at the worst of times, it’s like the non-Euclidean cities described in the works of Lovecraft. The books are not confined to the shelves – they lie up, down, sideways, and between dimensions. Everywhere puzzle pieces and bits of building block form the jumbled huts where plastic dinosaurs live, and Cathy is their queen, reigning over her crooked kingdom with the saintly patience of one who chooses to make her living working with children.

We can only assume that her work with said children instills in them a lifelong love of reading and not that she is secretly training up an army to enforce her rule because, as I said, we never actually go over there and check.

Here’s to you, Cathy.


I really think Benjamin in particular has thrived in this director-less environment. “Wait!” he said once. “We don’t have a director! We can get away with this!” There is a running joke among the library staff that someday Benjamin will be president, and we debate about whether or not we’ll vote for him. I, for one, may not “vote” for him, but I’ll definitely support his hostile takeover and won’t argue with him much about national policy. Last year he regaled me with tales of his role-playing history class: “It was regrettable,” he said, “but I had to declare war on Pakistan.” Later he outlined his career plans as, I quote here: “Taking over the world! On a budget! Because if taking over the world wasn’t hard enough, we decided to do it by the third quarter and for less than a hundred million!”

My time at the desk definitely passes more quickly with Benjamin around. Wednesday and Friday afternoons, when our shifts overlap, are my favorite days, no matter how much our coworkers may dread them. Discussions of time travel are not uncommon, along with random google searches for bizarre wildlife, serious conversations about dinosaurs, and elaborate (though as yet unacted-upon) plans to buy to a llama for the library.

But lest you think his time with us is all whimsy and no substance, let me remind you of how helpful  Benjamin is and has always been around the library. His mercenary attitude towards working more hours whenever we need him has been a godsend. He’s up for anything: shelving, emptying the return bin, helping Kathy with ILLs, putting up holiday decorations, moving heavy things, climbing on ladders – basically, all the things that need doing that no one else particularly wants to do.

So here’s to Benjamin.


I had a little trouble finding anything to say about Kristina. Since she and I are friends outside of work but rarely work the same shift at the library, I don’t personally have any bizarre library stories about her. I asked all my coworkers what they thought I should write. “Well, she’s just the cutest thing,” they said. “With the best fashion sense ever.”

Tiffany said, “Whenever I ask her where she gets her cute clothes, she always tells me she borrowed it from her sister. Like everything is borrowed from her sister. I don’t know if she actually owns any clothing.”

What I do know about Kristina is that she’s the quiet one. Every comedy troupe needs a straight-man, and Kristina is ours. If you don’t know Kristina, I’ll tell you now that you have never met a more easy-going individual. With a heart of gold, vintage fashions, and a soul minted in the Jazz-Age, Kristina classes up the circulation desk just by being there. When Benjamin throws out obscure scientific ideas, you can count on me to banter with him, Tiffany to ridicule him, and Kristina to smile and agree. Later, she’ll quietly look up whatever it is on the internet and slyly ask me clarifying questions about the topic.

“I never know if she’s being serious or sarcastic,” Benjamin says. “She’s so straight-faced the whole time.”

Naturally, she’s also straight-faced with the patrons. She greets them all equally with a glowing smile, answers their questions – no matter how peculiar – to the best of her ability, then waits for them to leave before turning to her desk mates and saying, ever so quietly, “That guy was weird.”

So here’s to Kristina!


Coming in during the last week of summer reading this year, Tiffany responded like one thrown into a war zone: a panicked flurry of motion, trying to get us all caught up on everything. Never believing our tales of the life of leisure we led when we were fully staffed, she’d shelve a cart every morning, spend all day processing and spine labeling books as fast as Cheri could catalog them, then shelve another cart in the afternoons.

Within a few short weeks of working here, Tiffany had established a rhythm for herself, a fast, dance-hall-techno rhythm. She can process whole stacks of books in the time it takes me to make a cup of tea. I would suspect her of cutting corners, except that every few days Cheri says “I just want you two to know how NICE the processing has looked lately.”

“Oh thanks,” I say. “We, the two of us together, have sure worked hard on that.”

But this steady rhythm did get Tiffany in a little trouble recently. While “in the zone” as it were, doing all the processing in a Zen-like trance, Tiffany carelessly tossed aside the post-it note on the front of a new audiobook indicating that Karyn wanted to be the first person to check it out. When Karyn discovered the processed item on Cheri’s cataloging shelf, sans post-it note, Tiffany got a lecture, complete with the post-it note fished out of the trash can and labeled “Exhibit A”. “Someday, you’re going to want something,” Karyn told her, “and that post-it note is going to mysteriously disappear. You will not know when.”

So here’s to Tiffany, who still lives in perpetual fear of Karyn’s revenge.


Eric told me I had to talk about myself as well, so here it is.

You may recall that early on I said I was going to talk about what I’ve done to keep the library running while we’ve been without a director, but the truth is, I couldn’t think of anything, except that I kept coming to work. The fact is I love this library. Sure, all libraries, libraries in general, bookstores even, but mostly, on top of it all, or running underneath it all, THIS library – and of course my personal life occasionally suffers from my prideful and biased belief that the whole thing will collapse into kindling if I’m not sitting at that circulation desk every day.

When I’m not feeling well, “Take a sick day,” my husband tells me.

“Are you crazy? I can’t do that! I have to be there!”

“I have a vacation day I should use,” he says.

“I’m pretty sure I don’t,” I say.

“Take a long lunch and have a lunch date with me sometime,” he says.

“Can’t do it,” I say.

But for a year now, I’ve been struggling with a minor medical problem that culminated in the need for surgery – two surgeries, to be precise: one to find the problem and one to fix it. Both resulted in a lot of sick days, and I had to learn to let go. “Don’t even try to come back before you’re ready,” Cheri said, and when I did anyway, Cathy didn’t hesitate to send me home.

“Don’t overdo it!” everyone said. “Because we need you!”

It’s nice to feel needed, even if what I’m needed for is just to sit at the desk.

So here’s to me.


And now for the newcomer, Tom.

The first time I met Tom was when the board brought him in for a tour of the library followed by a job interview. Each of us was supposed to tell him what we do, and I was told that I needed to show him my work with the website. “Do you have any questions for him?” Jennifer said when he was standing in front of me. Now, I thought about asking something serious or professional, but I figured the board had that buttoned up already. No, this was my chance to get to really know what kind of person Tom was, so I asked the most important question I could think of: “Star Wars or Star Trek?”

Tom’s response, Doctor Who, told me everything I needed to know. The other candidate, whose answer was “I really don’t do science fiction,” seemed nice enough and I could have worked FOR her, but I knew I could work WITH Tom.

So far, I have not been disappointed. Tom hasn’t even blinked at our antics. In fact, he seems rather like a grown-up version of Benjamin. I get the feeling not that he doesn’t HAVE Benjamin’s crazy ideas but that he’s probably already tried them and is viewing our shenanigans through the wisdom of experience. “Oh, foolish youths,” I imagine he says. “Soon you will learn the folly of this plan… and I will watch.”

We hope you enjoy watching this show for a number of years, Tom. Here’s to you!


In closing, I’d like to say that since this summer, we’ve all had to curb our expectations and change up our routines in order to keep the old girl going. If there’s one thing we all learn early and well working at the library, it’s how to buckle down and get things done. Those who can’t are quickly lost beneath the ever-growing piles of books.  (We lose more shelvers that way and we’ll never find the bodies.)

But the Andover Public Library is unique among other places of employment – even among other libraries. Unlike other efficient, well-oiled machines of business, we still manage to have fun while we buckle down and get it done. As it happens, we all share the same deplorable sense of humor and we all (more or less) enjoy each other’s company.  We know how to laugh with each other, at each other, and at ourselves.

So here’s to us and the fun we’ve had, but mostly, here’s to us!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Getting Old

I don’t party. I don’t stay up late. I take naps on the weekend. I don’t drink when I go out. I do relaxing yoga. I’m on first name terms with my chiropractor. My idea of a fun is to stay home and watch movies, maybe have friends over for board games.

I worry what this says about me.

Or, I will worry, after my nap.


I’d missed it the first time around, so I figured it was time to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Netflix thought I’d like it, and I’d always meant to watch it eventually. Ten minutes into the first episode, however, Matt had had enough. “I can’t do it,” he said, abandoning me on the couch. “Sorry, babe, but I can’t take it seriously.”

“What do you mean? Is it because they’re angst-driven teenagers? It’s not as bad as Twilight so far.”

“Huh? No, it’s not that. It’s the clothes! The hair! Those computers! This show is just so… so OLD.”

Alone now, I frowned, looking at the show more closely. I honestly hadn’t noticed. The clothes weren’t that bad, were they? And the computers! Why, those looked perfectly normal! Just like the ones at my own high school…

I checked IMDB. When did this show come out? 1997?! That was the year I started high school!

Oh my gosh! I thought. These angst-driven teenagers are my age!


“Let me get that for you,” Benjamin said, single-handedly hauling a ladder I could barely move.

“Thanks,” I said, grimacing as I flexed my slightly arthritic left wrist. Handy as he is to have around, sometimes it’s hard having a younger friend. Listening to him talk about staying up late. Helping him suss out his term papers. Watching him eat 1500 calories in a single sitting. I constantly wonder, “Was I ever that young?”

“I saw your parents at the party,” I told him after he’d put the ladder away. The party had been an official thing: the library board had been there, and I had to dress up for it. There were cocktail weenies.


“Did you realize, as far as age goes, I’m like halfway between you and your parents?”

He nodded, cradling his chin and looking thoughtfully toward the floor. “Hmm… Right, I guess that’s true…” Then he shrugged. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, you act more like my friends do, with the gaming and immature conversations.”

“How is that supposed to make it better?”

“Well, you also own your own home and pay your own bills, so there’s that. Oh, and you usually pay for the pizza.”


“I know exactly what you mean!” said my friend Bill* when I told him about it later. “I was at the store recently and there was a mom and daughter out – looked about 20 and 40. And the daughter was pretty cute – like, if I were unwed, you know? – but then I thought… The mom’s hotter… and I was like, Oh my God, what just happened? I’m old!”

“By the way, if you ever blog this, just leave out my name please.”

*Name has been changed.


“What are you thinking now?” Matt asked me at breakfast.

“I was thinking…”


“You know the bit in Star Wars where Yoda tells Luke, ‘When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not’?”


“If we took a picture of Mark Hamill from back then and compared it to how he looks now, and then we used a computer to age him another 870 years along the same lines, I bet Yoda was right.”

Matt sighed and patted my shoulder. “Yoda is already right.”

“Oh, be nice,” I said. “We may not look that great in 900 years either.”

Though I do plan to.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

My taxes pay your salary.

He wasn’t the rudest patron I’d ever encountered, but he was certainly the rudest one that day. After he left, I sighed heavily and leaned against the library counter where my coworker Kathy congratulated me. “I thought you handled that very well,” she said.

“Thanks,” I said, “but someday someone is going to come in acting like that and I’m NOT going to handle it well. I’m going to lose my shit. And when I do, that person is going to demand to see my supervisor. And when that happens, I’m going to tell them I AM the supervisor, and you guys are going to back me up. Deal?”

“Sounds fair,” said Kathy.

“Oh, yeah, sure. You’re the supervisor,” said Karyn, who is technically my supervisor. “I hate dealing with them when they’re like that. I think the rudest patron I’ve ever had was a lady who demanded to see the supervisor, which was me, and after she yelled at me for ten minutes over a book we were charging her for, she came out with ‘My taxes pay your salary,’ and I just said, ‘You know what, ma’am? You’re right,’ and I took the charges off her account.”

“So she got away with it?” I said.

“I just didn’t know what to say to that. I mean, it’s technically true.”

Okay, yes, fair point. But if a rude patron ever tries that on me while I’m pretending to be the supervisor, I’m prepared. Here are my top ten responses to the statement, “My taxes pay your salary.”

10. “You should contact the IRS about a refund: Mentally unstable individuals such as yourself qualify for all sorts of tax breaks.”

9. “Unless you're secretly one of the 1%, your taxes don’t trickle down this far.”

8. “Actually, I'm a full time volunteer. Nice try, though.”

7. “Let's pretend that's the bit of my salary I use to pay MY taxes, and call it even.”

6. “An evil overlord, are you? So will the beheadings be now or later?”

5. “No, ma'am. We used your taxes to fix our leaky toilets last month.”

4. “Maybe you should take this issue up with your accountant, then?”

3. “And pointing out how little you pay me is a crappy way to get better customer service.”

2. “So do mine, and we're neither of us paying me enough to be treated this way.”

1. “If I pay it back to you, will you go away?”

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Last Thanksgiving

We sat around the table, my husband and I on one side, across from my mother and brother, with Dad at the head. As we partook of Mom’s chicken and dressing, my brother Josh, the college rugby star, went on and on about a player he likes on the U.S. rugby team. I smiled, politely feigning interest, though I didn’t understand most of it. “And he’s ridiculously quick. Like, no one can catch this guy. I could watch him all day.”

Matt chuckled like a middle schooler. “You could watch him all day?”

Josh nodded, oblivious to Matt’s tone. “Especially when he scores!”

Now my dad chuckled as well. Matt waggled his eyebrows, then said to Josh, “You like to watch this guy score with the balls?”

Josh’s mouth became a thin line. “Really? You just went there?” but then he laughed. “Oh, that’s nothing. Rugby’s got all kinds of bad-sounding words. Like after he scores, he might scrum all over the field. And I like to see guys rucking all day. Later, we might have to pull out of the hookers.”

“Wow…” I said, eyes wide. “I had no idea rugby was so… explicit…”

Our mom only sighed, apparently having heard it all before, but she glared sternly at Josh as she passed the potatoes.

“You always know how to add a certain amount of class to any situation,” said Matt.

“Why, thank you, sir.”

“I didn’t say which kind of class,” Matt muttered.

“Tell me more about this girl you mentioned. How did it go again?” Dad said.

“Oh, right!” Josh said, continuing a conversation they must have started earlier. “She said to me, ‘I don’t like your boots,’ so I said, ‘I don’t like your personality.’”

“Joshua David!” Mom said, breaking out the middle name. “You shouldn’t talk to ladies that way!”

 “Trust me, mother. This was no lady.”

“Then what were you doing in her company?” Mom said accusingly.

Josh smiled winningly and raised his glass to our mother. “Oh, Momma! You know I’m always saying my goal in life is to drink enough vodka that I could pee on a cat and light it on fire.”

Mom wasn’t having it and swatted his shoulder. “Didn’t you read 1984?”

A line of concentration appeared between his brows. “Yeah, in high school.”

“And remember they had the lottery where they could win the women?”

Josh looked to me for guidance, but I shook my head. “I don’t think we read the same book,” he said.

“Where they all wore uniforms and the men were in charge?” said Mom.

Everyone turned to the librarian. I thought about it and said, “It’s possible you’re thinking of the Handmaid’s Tale, but I don’t recall a lottery.”

“Oh, yes,” said Mom, “and Charlton Heston ate the green crackers?”

Soylent Green?” said Dad.

I giggled and did my best impression: “‘The Green Cracker is people!’ No, that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.”

“Maybe the recipe came from that cookbook in the Twilight Zone,” said Matt, rubbing elbows with me.

“Cooked by Sweeney Todd!” Josh added, gesturing with his fork for emphasis.

“It’s priest!” I sang. “Try a little priest!” (It’s my favorite song from that musical.)

“Now, really!” Mom said with a sharp tsk. “I was going to make a point but now I don’t remember what it was!”

“Do let us know if it comes to you later. This, I would love to hear,” I said.

 “If you two keep treating your poor mother this way, Karma’s going to get you both,” Mom said, shaking her finger at my brother and at me in turn.

Josh laughed. “Who’s Karma and why is he coming to get us?”

Mom tried to be stern, but although she took a drink to hide it from us I could see the edges of a smile behind her glass. “Because you’re so sexy,” she said.

We all laughed.

Then, “Is there cranberry sauce?” I asked. “The kind that looks like a can?”

Mom smiled. “I got it just for you, baby.”

And so the meal went.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Women are from Mars

I try not to look at the library books. 

I’m too easily distracted, you see. If I look at them, I’ll wonder what they’re about and I’ll take them home and I’ll feel obligated to read them. I’ll end up with seventeen of them on my bedside table, a precariously-balanced safety hazard resulting in my untimely demise. “Suffocation,” the death certificate will say, or, “Blunt force trauma, by books. Very tragic.” And it would be, so I don’t look at them.

When the new books arrive, I process them mechanically. I do not read the titles, or the dustjacket summaries, or the reviews on the back. Robotically, I stamp them with the library’s address, pencil the date of arrival discreetly inside, and flip through the pages until I find the barcode, which I then peel from its slick backing and stick to the front cover.

It takes something special for a book to catch my attention, the perfect storm of colorful cover art, catchy title, and clever keywords displayed in just the right font size.

Or it takes something like this:

I saw it out of the corner of my eye as I searched for the barcode. “Hang on…” I thought. “That’s not right…” 

“What are you looking for?” Tiffany asked, as I flipped through the pages again.

“Thought I saw something weird…” I said, finding it again. “Yup, I wasn’t imagining it. Here it is.” I held the book out to her.

Her eyes widened as she looked where I pointed. “What?!” she said, pulling the book from my hands. “What is this?”

“That’s what I thought too.”

“But… How?” she spluttered. “And how have I not heard of this before? It says it’s normal! Have you heard of this before?”

“No, but I have several friends with kids who are going to have to answer some uncomfortable questions.”

We sat side by side, staring at the book, reading the offending paragraph over and over. Eventually, Tiffany said, “Where would you even put it?”

“There’s a ‘Total Recall’ joke in here somewhere.”

“I’m serious! Is this even real?”

“I’m not about to Google it,” I said, having learned long ago never to do an internet search with anatomical keywords. 

So, ladies, is there something any of you want to tell me?

Saturday, November 9, 2013


“And I'll see you tomorrow,” I told my coworker friends on the evening shift, at the close of the all-too-brief hour at the end of my day when our schedules overlap.

“What were we doing tomorrow?” said Kristina. “Oh, I remember: For Fro-Yo.” She dragged out the syllables, imitating a snooty accent.

I laughed. “You know, I had never heard it called that before we hired Tiffany. She always says it just like that, like she’s making fun of the name.”

“I'd heard it on Gilmore Girls,” Kristina said. “They had ‘Fro-Yo socials’ at their school.”

“Well, we never had those at my school,” I lamented. Not that I would have gone, as I was a social outcast at that age.

Kristina sighed. “Mine either. Probably because there wasn't any Fro-Yo for miles around back then.”

I nodded, thinking of the popularity of frozen yogurt bars in the area over the past few years. “It must be one of those trendy things that started on the coasts and has worked its way toward the middle.”

“That makes sense. Gilmore Girls is on the East coast.”

Benjamin scoffed. “I'm sure it could just go away.”

We looked daggers at him: foolish boy, coming between a girl and her Fro-Yo! “What do you have against frozen yogurt?” I said, as Kristina hissed, “It can never go away!”

Benjamin held his hands up defensively. “No, no! I meant people who call it Fro-Yo can go away. Imagine if we didn't have any frozen yogurt! That would be awful!”

I considered this. “Well, we wouldn't know what we were missing if we never had it...” Nor would I constantly crave it, I thought.

“True, yes, but what if it was taken away?” Benjamin said.

Kristina and I exchanged glances. “Who would take away frozen yogurt?” she asked.

“The Fro-Yo Nazis?” I suggested.

“And it would be outlawed!” Kristina said, with a romantic gleam in her eye. “Secretly traded on the black market!”

“A whole criminal underground will emerge based on the acquisition and sale of frozen yogurt…” Benjamin said, obviously calculating how he might come out on top of this new economy. I instantly pictured him in a dapper suit, running a Fro-Yo speakeasy with a dozen thuggish underlings.

“And a resistance led by the Fro-Yo Freedom Fighters...” I said, to much laughter from my compatriots. “Except ‘fighters’ would need to be spelled with a Y.”

“And the battle would later be immortalized by both an epic movie and a band,” Benjamin said.

We really need to lay off the young adult post-apocalyptic dystopian novels, I thought. But still, he’s right: It’s a brilliant name for a band.

Fro-Yo Freedom Fyters.

Punk. Rock.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Schrödinger’s Blog Post

“I’m just saying,” Cheri was just saying, “We should have a fashion show! A party! Just some sort of event where people get to wear the formals they have hanging in their closets from prom or whatever.”

I nodded along. It was a slow morning at the circulation desk. Listening to Cheri plan things we wouldn’t follow through with was a great way to pass the time.

“I still have all of mine,” I said.

Cheri narrowed her eyes at me. “Are they in boxes?”

“No, I still play dress up with them,” I said.

But Cheri carried on in a tangent as if she hadn’t heard me. “See, a lot of people still have their old formals and wedding dresses, and they keep them in little boxes in their closets that look like baby coffins, like they’re keeping a dead baby in their closet.” 

“Gosh,” I said.

“[My friend], for instance: I saw her wedding pictures once and I said she should get the dress out and show it off, and she said, ‘Oh, I just couldn’t take it out of the box.’ Can you believe that? Why not?”

I considered this. “Well, obviously, it’s because of moths.”


“Moths eat things like that, wedding dresses and such. Maybe they’ve already eaten the wedding dress and now they’re just feeding off the remains of older moths in a disgusting circle of life. Maybe you’ll open the box and find a wedding dress, or maybe you’ll find a self-sustaining moth nest,” I said.

Cheri pursed her lips in thought. “So it’s Schrödinger’s wedding dress?”

“Yes,” I said.

Perhaps you didn’t know Schrödinger wore dresses. It turns out Schrödinger was into a lot of things you probably aren’t aware of. Sometimes, it seems as if I live in Schrödinger’s house.

For example, when I wander downstairs in the morning, still sleepy with no plans for the day, I am greeted by Schrödinger’s guitar sitting on a stand in my living room, both in tune and horribly out of tune at the same time. I could play for awhile, but I won’t know which it is until I pick it up. Tuning is not my strong suit, and most days I’d just rather not know. 

I turn on the TV, anticipating Schrödinger’s DVR, which both has and does not have new episodes of my favorite shows waiting for me, until I look at my subscriptions and collapse the wave function. Reruns it is, I suppose.

Schrödinger’s tea fills the thermos I mindlessly grab off the end table. Either I really did bring a fresh cup with me or it’s been sitting here since yesterday. The cup’s design prevents me from knowing the temperature of its contents without sipping them. Perhaps I’m not in the mood for tea after all…

Rather than risk it, I head toward the kitchen. On the counter, Schrödinger’s mail is either a stack of bills or a stack of handwritten letters containing wondrous good news. Opening the mail would spoil the surprise. A shiny circular among the letters catches my eye: Schrödinger’s store may or may not have good deals today. I try to decide if I’m going shopping or not. I suppose I could check my (Schrödinger’s) bank account first, currently both flush and wanting. 

Scrounging for breakfast, I notice Schrödinger’s Tupperware sitting forgotten in the back of the fridge, the leftovers within simultaneously still good and swarming with black mold. I toss the entire unopened container into the trash, thinking “Lord, forgive my wasteful ways.” 

I turn at the sound of a crash, which is either, both, and neither my cats breaking something in another room and/or nothing at all. I do not bother to look. 

While tea steeps, I stand by the window but do not look out. On a Schrödinger’s day like today, when the sun is shining and the birds are singing – unless it’s dismal and the birds have already migrated south – why would anyone open the curtains and check? 

When the tea (definitely fresh this time) is finished, I place a Schrödinger’s snack on a plate without looking at the nutrition label, thereby allowing myself to continue imagining that it’s not entirely bad for me. I carry them downstairs, past Schrödinger’s library books with interesting-looking covers but whose contents are both wonderful and terrible until read, past Schrödinger’s Netflix recommendations and Schrödinger’s used video games picked up for a song at Gamestop. 

I carry the tea and snack into my office and turn on my computer. Ignoring Schrödinger’s news, both good and bad, I open a blank document and type up a few Schrödinger ideas, which persist in ambiguity inside my head but will be either brilliant or banal once I take them out. 

I think about cats and boxes and physics and tea, and I write about dresses and funny Austrian names and other things besides, and I wonder what happens to a life (which is many things at once, including impossible to measure) when it’s observed. 

As I wonder, time passes and the tea devolves into Schrödinger’s blend again. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Attack of the Middle Class Mom

Calling the holds is a mindless task, joyful in its simplicity. Each of the books in the stack at my elbow holds a printed receipt that says, “Hold (this item) for (this patron) until (three days from now). Call them at (this number).” I casually cradle the phone with one hand and browse the New York Times bestsellers with the other, checking the online list against the library’s collection and submitting the occasional purchase request to our cataloger.

I can get through two, sometimes three titles as the phone rings on and on before triggering the patron’s voicemail. At the sound of the beep, I intone, “Good morning. This is Tori at the Library. I’m calling for (patron’s name). I wanted to let you know an item you requested is available and we can hold it for you until (three days from now). Thank you and have a great day.”

Then I hang up, check the name on the next receipt, dial the number listed, and browse some more. So simple. So beautiful. This repetitive motion elicits a state of zen, a mental lull similar to what one might achieve through yoga or tai chi.  I am but a cog in this efficient machine, comforting in its regularity.

Beep: “Good morning. This is Tori at the Library. I’m calling for (patron’s name). I wanted to let you know an item you requested is available and we can hold it for you until (three days from now). Thank you and have a great day,” all in one breath, without pause. Hang up. Check name. Dial number. Browse. Beep: “Good morning. This is Tori at the Library. I’m calling for (patron’s name). I wanted to let you know an item you requested is available and we can hold it for you until (three days from now). Thank you and have a great day.” Hang up. Check name. Dial—

Check the name again.

Oh, crap: It’s her.

Panic! Why is it always her? Frak!

Stay calm! Maybe she won’t pick up? Yeah, that’s it. Maybe she won’t pick up.

Dial the number. It’s ringing. Still ringing. Please don’t pick up. Please don’t pick up…


It Beeped! Oh, thank you, baby Jesus! Quickly now! “GoodMorning. ThisIsToriAtTheLibrary. I’mCallingForMumbleMumble. IWantedToLetYouKnow—”

Muffled static followed by, “Hello?”

No! No! I was so close! Why, God?

But I speak with calm composure and professional courtesy. Just get through the speech, Tori. “Good morning. This is Tori at the Library. I’m calling for (patron’s name)…”

She interrupts me, “This is (patron’s name) speaking.”

I sigh, and continue. “I wanted to let you know an item you requested is available and we…”

“It must be the one for (older child)! Can you tell me the name of the book?”

I look. “It’s (extremely popular middle school book). We can hold it for you until…”

“Is that the one from (that series all the kids are reading)?”

“No, ma’am. It’s the one from (the required reading list at the schools).”

“Are you sure? I don’t remember requesting that one.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Let me just ask (older child) if he requested that one.” I hear her hand muffling the phone as she yells across the house. I don’t even bother to browse books while I wait: the rhythm is gone. “(Older child) says he didn’t request that book. Can you double check my account and tell me if we’re still in line for (that series all the kids are reading)? We placed it on hold (after they announced the impending movie) and that was weeks ago and we haven’t heard from you guys yet.”

I push the stack of holds aside as I pull up her account: I won’t be getting back to those anytime soon. “I’m showing that you’re still in line for that book. It’s just not available yet.”

“Really? But that was weeks ago!”

“Yes, ma’am, but now there are only two people ahead of you. There were probably more before.”

“Great!” she says, and I brace my soul against the coming onslaught that I sense on the other end of the line. “Now can you tell me what else I have out and when it’s due? I lost the due date receipt and I think it was on a Thursday but I’m not sure. I’d like to renew those, if possible.”

“Yes, ma’am, there are five books and…”

“They were late, weren’t they? Can you tell me what my fine is?”

“Actually they were…”

“Can you also look up (older child)’s account and tell me how many books he has and how much his fine is going to be and does he have any items on hold and where is he on the list for (other extremely popular middle school book)?”

“Okay, it looks like he’s…”

“Would you tell me which phone number you have on file for him? In fact, let’s check the accounts for my other children while I have you on the phone. I don’t have their cards handy so you’ll have to look them up. They have a different last name than me. It’s ‘M’ as in ‘Mary’, ‘A’ as in ‘Adam’, C-Z-E-P-(other letters that all sound alike over the phone).”

“Could you repeat the…”

“Actually, I’m glad you called. I’ve just remembered: can I get on the list for (book that came out yesterday)?”

“Well, that’s…”

“How about (book that comes out next week)?”

“We don’t…”

“You don’t have that yet? Can you tell me if you’ll be getting it?”


“How about (book that comes out six months from now)?”

“I’m not…”

“Can you tell me if you have (book that’s out of print)? Can I make an Inter-Library Loan request for it? Do you know how long that will take?”

“It usually…”

“Oh! Wait!”

I wait. It’s a long pause.

“I remember now! That book you called about? It’s not for (older child) after all! It’s for (woman, I don’t know your children and don’t care who it’s for)! How long did you say you could hold that for me?”

I hesitate, waiting for the next question, but there isn’t one. “Three days from now,” I say.

“Wonderful! You’ve been super helpful. Thanks a bunch!” she says.

“ThankYouAndHaveAGreatDay!” I say, then I quickly hang up and leave the desk in case she calls back.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Grinch for All Occasions

In Whoville one day, in October or so,

At the library, where all the hippest Whos go,

The librarians informed all the patrons and Whos

That in only three weeks all their books would be due,

And librarian Tori was ecstatic that day,

For, you see, Halloween was just three weeks away.


“Halloween’s almost here!” Tori squealed with delight.

“We can dress up in costumes and stay up all night!

We’ll eat pumpkin spice chocolates and pet the black cats

And stream purple streamers from our pointy witch hats!

With hay rides and hauntings and pumpkin décor,

Halloween is a treasure I simply adore!”


She smiled at the patrons and spread her good cheer

Until just after lunch when two Grinches appeared.


After giving the library a cursory look,

They came to the desk with their stacks of good books


And librarian Tori, who checked them out neatly,

Passed them their stacks and she smiled at them sweetly.

She told them “These books are all due Halloween.”


The Grinch wife sneered sourly. “What’s that s’posed to mean?”


“Isn’t this America?” the Grinch husband spat.


“That’s Satan’s high holiday. We don’t celebrate that.”


“Nevertheless,” Tori said as she smiled at the two,

“That is the day all your books will be due.”


The Grinches stormed out, both hateful and dour

While the little librarian seethed for an hour.

And although she recovered her cheerfulness later,

She would never forget this Grinchy behavior,

For there was something about it that bugged her by inches:

“These people,” she thought, “didn’t have to be Grinches…”

Each day we’ve a choice to be Grinchy or not,

And some people don’t always choose as they ought.

We’re surrounded by Grinches no matter the season,

When people act Grinchy for any old reason!


It’s not just at Christmas that Grinches are found:

Grinches are everywhere, all the year ‘round.

When people are smiling and in a good mood,

It’s just downright Grinchy to say something rude,

Regardless of what you might think or believe

About Halloween, Valentines, or next New Year’s Eve.


If you’re out and you hear “Happy Holidays” said

But you think “Merry Christmas” should be uttered instead,

(likewise if you feel the reverse to be true),

Get over it! Don’t to be a Grinch to those Whos!

No one deserves to be treated unfairly

When their greetings, at heart, were both “happy” and “merry”.


It's possible you might feel Grinchy sometimes,

When you're paying the bills or you're standing in line

At the DMV or at some other place, 

And it's tough at such times to keep a smile on your face,

But unless your heart is two sizes too small, 

Don't be a Grinch! There's no need at all!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Tea Shop Dream

As I do every morning, I set the scale in the middle of the bathroom floor and graced it with my touch. It rewarded me with disappointment. Not like that dream I had, though! That wasn’t disappointing at all. I had to tell someone about it! Luckily, I had a captive audience.

“Last night I dreamed I owned a tea shop!” I said to my husband, conveniently cornered in the shower.

“Hmm,” Matt said over the sound of running water.

I sat on the edge of the bathroom counter and combed my hair. “Yeah, it was great! We sold fabulous organic loose leaf tea and people could buy the tea leaves or they could drink it there…”

“Sounds nice.”

“Only I had a huge problem with squirrels, 'cause, like, they wanted the tea...”


“Not to drink, though. The loose tea, because of all the delicious nuts and herbs in it. So the shop was constantly besieged by this army of squirrels and it was really bad for business.”

“I’m sure.”

“But then one day I noticed that the squirrels had trouble with the raw tea because some of the nuts were really hard on their teeth, and so I told the commander of the squirrel army—,”

“Ooh, boy...”

“Did you say something?”


“Hmm. Anyway, I told him, ‘You know, those would be softer if you brewed them first. And by the way, have you ever actually HAD tea?’ And it turns out, squirrels really like tea—I mean, to drink—but also the brewing thing worked well for their teeth.”

“How nice for them.”

“Then I started an exchange program where people could bring in their used tea leaves! The squirrels bought the used tea (cheaply, because squirrels don't have a lot of money), and the people who brought in the used tea got a discount on their future tea purchases, and everyone was happy!”

In the shower, the water flowed steadily. I might have heard sighing. “I love you, my little psychopath. Please don't kill me,” Matt said.

I scoffed at his attitude. “It's not crazy! It makes sense!”

“No, it's totally crazy.”

“Also,” I said, getting to the best part, “the squirrels would eat right out of my hand and that was awesome.”

“That’s great,” Matt said, turning the water off and snagging the towel from the bar on the wall.

As he slipped past me into the bedroom, I could tell he wasn’t impressed. Maybe it really was crazy. It had made so much sense in my sleep. I wondered what it all meant. “The dream interpretation guides probably don't have much to say about squirrels in tea shops,” I mused, taking his place in the shower.

“I'm guessing penis envy,” Matt called from the other room.

I gasped in offense. “How do you get penis envy out of squirrels in tea shops?”

Standing in the bathroom doorway so I could hear him over the running water, he said, “I’m just telling you what Freud would say.”

I sighed. Maybe I needed to find someone else to tell about my dream, I thought. Or maybe it was crazy after all.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My Limited Governance

There’s a story my grandma tells:

While she was babysitting three-year-old me, I wanted to play pretend. She asked what we should pretend. I said we should pretend I was Queen of the Spider Women, which amused my grandma to no end. At which point I said, “And you shall be my servant. Kneel, servant,” and she was less amused.

After playing along for a time, fetching things for me and preparing my meals to my exact specifications, grandma grew tired of the game and, seeking an easy out with which to end the charade, said, “My queen! The peasants have risen against you! What should we do?”

“Kill dem,” I said, with the adorable speech impediment that went uncorrected until third grade.

“Kill them?” said grandma, shocked at my callous disregard for the lower classes.

“Yes, kill dem,” I clarified. “Dey have disappointed me.”

As much as I admire three-year-old me, that right there is one of the reasons I’m not in charge.


I tried to understand the government shutdown. I really did. I read articles about it, both from reliable news sources and from Fox. I watched videos, both from reliable news sources and from Youtube reports. I listened to the complaints from friends and neighbors, both in person and in bad infographics on Facebook, and I felt really bad for the 1 (one) friend I have with a bad case of “the furlough”.

Then I got distracted by cute cat pictures on the internet.

So that’s another reason I’m not in charge.


 “Would you look at this?” I held up the library book so my coworker Tiffany could see that, while trying to remove the year-old “New Books” sticker, I’d ripped another cover. “Every time! Why can’t they give these things better covers?”

“The publishers certainly don’t make books with libraries in mind,” Tiffany said, nodding sympathetically as she layered plastic laminate over a paperback children’s book to make it last longer.

“Well, they should!” I said. “In fact, when I’m in charge—‘cause that’s totally going to happen someday. It’s a given—when I’m in charge, all the publishers will have to tow the line. First, better covers. Then, standard sizes for all the children’s picture books: I hate all the different heights and lengths! And they’re going to clearly state on the spine of the book whether it’s part of a series and which volume number it is. I mean, the name of the series needs to be bigger than the title, alright? And let’s bring back subject headings on the copyright page! They still do it for nonfiction, but in fiction? Don’t make me read the summary to figure out which genre sticker I have to put on this thing!”

“It all sounds wonderful,” Tiffany said. “You’ve given this a lot of thought.”

“Yes,” I said. “Mine will be a chaotic rule, as no one will collect the taxes and people will be starving in the streets, but at least the publishing industry will be sorted out.”

This seems like a perfectly valid reason not to put me in charge.


“Goodnight, you guys!” I told the evening shift on my way out the door on Wednesday. “I’ll leave you to solve all the world’s problems in my absence, okay?”

“What, all of them?” said Benjamin, exchanging a look with Kristina.

“Yeah, it might take you an hour or two. Just try to focus: I know how easily distracted you can be,” I said, turning to leave.

“Wait!” Benjamin called after me. “Is there a moral or ethical standard we should start from?”

“Oh, heavens no,” I said. “Ethics just complicate things. Have fun!”

I shouldn’t have been surprised on Thursday afternoon when they proudly proclaimed they had the solution. “But you won’t like it,” Kristina said.

“Spill it,” I said.

Benjamin went into full-on Rant Mode: “Well, in the absence of moral standards, everyone agrees that there’s no afterlife and no purpose to living, and it’s all meaningless and—”

Kristina cut him off: “Benjamin advocates mass suicide.”

“That’s your answer?” I said, looking his way. “Try again, but this time devise a solution in which I get to live.”

When Benjamin and I were closing the library Friday afternoon, he said, “I think we’ve really got it this time.”

“Okay, shoot.”

“If we still don’t care about ethics, what we should do is close all the prisons. Just shove all the inmates in a hole or a pit somewhere and use the money we would have spent on them to solve all the financial issues.”

“Oh, that’s marvelous!” I said. “I like it!”

“Wait,” said Tiffany. “Why not an island?”

“Because Australia,” said Benjamin. “You put all the criminals on an island and eventually they take it over, start breeding, maybe even prospering, and the next thing you know they’re cutting down all the trees and building ships and you have an armada of criminals sailing in to repopulate the world after the apocalypse.”

“That’s… not quite what happened in Australia,” I said.

“Still, no islands.”

“Okay, but let’s think this through. Last time we threw a bunch of criminals in a pit, one of them got out and Bane destroyed Gotham!” I said.

“Are you seriously going to protest this plan based on a fictional example?” Benjamin asked.

“So far, it’s a fictional plan, so yes.”

He sighed. “Fine.”

The last patrons of the day were checking out their books. I checked the clock on my phone to see if I could lock the doors yet.

Then Benjamin said, “No, it’s a good plan! Bane didn’t climb out of the pit! He was rescued!”

“That fixes everything!” I said.

And this would be but one of the many reasons I’m not in charge.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

House of 1000 Corpse Poses

On December 29, 2010, I made an early New Years resolution to do twenty minutes of yoga every single day no matter what. I have since kept that resolution, and this past Monday marked 1000 days of yoga practice in a row. In honor of this accomplishment, I have decided this week to answer your yoga questions. Keep in mind that I am not a certified yoga instructor, nor do I play one on TV. I am merely an enthusiastic yoga practitioner with a desire to spread the good word of yoga. Without further ado, here are your yoga questions:

Have you seriously done yoga every single day no matter what?
Yes, I have.

How do you do that?
Sometimes I practice in the morning, sometimes afternoon or evening. I’ve practiced in an airport, in a campground, and in our ren fair booth before the fair opened, with and without spectators. If I have a busy day ahead of me, I plan to wake up early. If I’ve had a busy day already, I do a relaxing routine before bed.

What about when you’re sick, injured, or recovering from surgery?
In the past 1000 days, I have experienced each of those things. At such times, I have practiced in three to five minute increments with long breaks in between until I hit the twenty minute mark, or used props like yoga blocks, rolled up blankets, foam rollers, and stability balls. Always remember there is a pose called Shavasana, or “corpse pose”, which consists of lying on the floor. This still counts as a yoga pose.

You’re only able to do yoga every day like this because you don’t have kids.
I’m not really seeing a question here…

What are the benefits associated with regular yoga practice? 
Regular yoga practice is great for calming the mind, stretching the muscles, and impressing other people when you tell them you practice yoga. It doesn’t matter if you’re overweight, unorganized, or frequently unZenlike: as soon as you say, “Oh, sure, I do yoga every day,” people reassess their opinions of you. It’s the easy way to be a hipster. You can either cram your legs into skinny jeans and listen to indie music no one likes, or you can do yoga and drink pumpkin-spice lattes.

What's a good way to control my breathing during yoga? 
Try my personal creation: Karyoga, or karaoke yoga (patent pending). Create a new playlist of familiar songs with words you remember. Name it "sing-along". Play it. Do the hardest sun salutation you know while singing like you have a drunk and forgiving audience. Karyoga is great for group practice, provided your group agrees on musical preferences. You can also take turns being the drunk and forgiving audience.

Yoga mats are expensive! What's the best way to take care of my yoga mat so it lasts a long time?
Don't do yoga on it.

I'm thinking of starting a meditation practice. How do I do that?
Congrats! Thinking about meditating totally counts as meditating! Remember to bow and say “Namaste” afterwards, as that makes it official.

How do I keep up a yoga practice while traveling?
That's actually impossible. You'll have to stop traveling for at least twenty minutes.

Can I practice yoga with my toddler? 
Yes, but it would probably be better to find a certified yoga instructor, or perhaps a video. Toddlers tend to be naturally flexible and are therefore harsh yoga instructors with unrealistic expectations.

What makes a good yoga routine?
A good yoga student.

What part of my body is likely to be most affected by yoga practice?
The psoas muscle. Yoga literally works muscles you never even knew you had. Only yoga practitioners can have entire conversations about the psoas muscle, because no one else knows what it is.

Why do all yoga routines seem to end in Shavasana? 
Because it’s really hard to start a routine in Shavasana. No one wants to get up afterwards.

Is there a time of the day that is best to do yoga? 
Yes, right after you finish it. It never seems like a good time before you start.

Do I need to be in good shape to start doing yoga? 
No. In fact, if you do it right, you’ll be in terrible shape when you finish. If you’re already out of shape, you’re actually ahead of the game.

Will doing yoga improve my sex life? 
Only if your lover is into that sort of thing. Otherwise, a better way to improve your sex life is to go have sex.

I’ve heard I should practice on an empty stomach or wait at least three hours after eating. Is this true? 
No, you always have the option of practicing on a full stomach and taking a vomit break in the middle. It’s a matter of personal preference. Try it both ways to see which works best for you.

What’s with all the funny foreign words in yoga? 
Yoga poses have Sanskrit names, but many instructors will talk you through the poses descriptively so learning the names is optional. Feel free to make up your own names, particularly for the poses you don’t like, if that helps you remember them better. I often struggle with Pretzel Pose, Slasher-Victim Pose, and The Exorcist Pose, but your own practice will vary.

Do you have any other advice for a yoga newbie? 
Forgive yourself when you can’t do a pose, but be sure to try the pose again tomorrow.
Never underestimate the power of a great pair of yoga pants.
Always remember that Corpse Pose still counts as a pose.

If you have any other yoga questions, be sure to post them in the comments. Then go practice yoga while I have you thinking about it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Five Day Forecast

You’re going to have to deal with weather. All the weather. In fact, those are the only certainties in life: death, taxes, and weather.

Some days, there will be rain.
You know that bit in Lord of the Rings when Gandalf says "This foe is beyond any of you"? On rainy days, you may feel that way about your hair. The rain will fall up, around, sideways, and through obstacles in order to get to you. Not everyone else, obviously: just you. So you can skip the hair dryer. There will always be at least one person in your life who says "I just love this weather," and rather than look like a drowned rat, her damp hair will appear perfectly groomed, resembling what the magazines call "beachy waves". You will be tempted to throttle this person. Resist.
Tomorrow will be better.

Some days, there will be fog.
Particularly, any morning after you’ve stayed up all night watching monster movies and reading Creepy Pasta, there will be fog. Thick fog. Ravenloft fog. Not the kind of fog that comes in on little cat feet, but the kind that rolls in on Silent Hill right before the scary nurses come out. It will move mysteriously, like wisps of smoke, reaching for something, perhaps…seeking something. On your morning run or your morning commute, you will be terrified: every shadow, every movement, will look like Slenderman, coming to get you. Fear not: Slenderman is not real. Probably.
Tomorrow will be better.

Some days, there will be snow.
And at the first blue blip on the weather radar, everyone becomes a mindless shambling beast with an irresistable craving for brains.
Did I say brains? I meant French toast. Zombies obviously crave French toast because when the ravening horde descends on the grocery store for supplies, they clear out all the milk, eggs, and bread. If they don’t get their French toast fix, they forget how to drive. A thin patina of powdered sugar on the ground, and suddenly everyone has selective amnesia that only targets their long ago memories of Driver’s Ed.
You know what else powdered sugar is good on?
French toast.
Tomorrow will be better.

Some days, there will be humidity.
But you’ll know, on account of how it will knock you over when you open the door. You won't sweat so much as condensate, because at 98.6 degrees you’ll be the coldest thing in the room. In your perpetual dampness, you will become one of the swamp people—not the quaint Louisiana bayou kind you might have seen on reality TV, but the black and white sci fi/horror b-movie kind. And can we talk about your hair again? Forget it. In fact, everyone else will forget it too: all of society will go around with eyes downcast, politely avoiding one another's hair.
Tomorrow will be better.

Some days, there will be sunshine.
It will beam out of the ether like the loving caress of an angel. I mean, like, a sexy one. The temperature will be perfect, the birds will be singing, the flowers will be blooming among the green hills. The trees will sway in a light breeze and you will be miserable.
Because allergies.
Because the floral department is trying to kill you one mucus membrane at a time.
Just think about sneezing. If you think about sneezing, maybe you’ll be able to sneeze, and if you can get one good sneeze in, maybe it will all turn out okay.
And if sneezing doesn’t help, just hold out for the next sneeze.
And keep holding on, because tomorrow will be better.

Tomorrow will always be better.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Farmer Tori's Almanac

Almost two weeks after a minor surgery, when I started running again, I felt good despite the massive hit  to my normal running pace. “It’s important to get back out there,” I told my husband as I stripped off my sweaty running clothes. “My goal is to run a ten minute mile.” Ambitious, since my average before the surgery was twelve.
“I believe in you,” he said encouragingly. “You’ll get there someday. Just not today.” He thought about it for a while. “Or tomorrow either.”
“Right,” I said. “Tomorrow’s a rest day.”
“In fact, it’s not even in the five day forecast.”
“Gosh, really?” I said, dripping contempt.
“Maybe sometime next year?”
“That’s not like a weather prediction at all. That’s… that’s an almanac.”

Farmer Tori’s Almanac 
A Guide for Geeks and Introverts
Fall and Winter 2013

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Today, I have essential information to help you live right through the upcoming harvest and holiday seasons.

First, the Weather Predictions:
According to the time and temperature sign at the school, on 1/1/70 we can expect a brisk minus 196ºF. This is either a computer error or an uncanny prediction of our post-apocalyptic future. If you plan to be around in 2070, play it safe by stocking up on important supplies now. I suspect blankets will be a hot commodity (or at least a less cold one), so go ahead and splurge on the zebra-striped throw you’ve had your eye on.
This winter looks to be a comfortable 73 degrees every day—provided you’ve done the annual maintenance on your heating system—with highs in the mid-80s on any days you plan to use the fire place. There will be days you will actually have to go “outside” over the next few months: these events are unavoidable but don’t have to be unpleasant. Dig out your winter gear now and check for spiders. Have a shoe handy in case you find any.

Which brings us to our next topic, Useful Science Facts:
Reader Cassie recently asked Farmer Tori, “How do you tell the difference between good spiders and bad spiders?” This is an excellent question, Cassie, but the answer is simple: If it’s INSIDE the house, it’s a bad spider. If it’s OUTSIDE the house, well, those bastards could go either way. Approach with caution and carry a big shoe.

Household Tips:
Tired of the state of your home? Dishes and laundry piling up? Try this clever household tip passed down by older generations: just do the dang chore. Right now. Get off your butt and do it. There, was that so bad? You can easily apply this simple bit of homespun wisdom to other onerous chores, like running errands, going to the grocery store, or working out. Give it a try! Like right now. No, really: get up.

Science and Technology:
Is your computer mouse behaving erratically? Try flipping it over. When you find the layer of grime so thick that it’s growing fur, scrape it off. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards! Your mouse should now be as good as new.

I have been informed that almanacs are also supposed to talk about natural cycles such as tides, planting dates, and seasonal phenomena, so let’s discuss Tides and Things:
Recent tests involving clumsy bloggers on treacherous stairs confirm that gravity still works and definitely pulls in a downwardly direction. Do keep this in mind while you go about your daily business. Be especially attentive in the act of traversing stairs.
Tides exists. They are most certainly there. Use that information in whatever way seems best to you.
A reliable source tells Farmer Tori that runners who are slow who keep trying may eventually get faster. This process will not be pleasant.
The peoples and cultures of the world who frequently go “outside” will have finished all their gardening by now. Expect the big box stores to put important gardening supplies on sale to make room for their Christmas decorations. Now is the time to stock up on potting soil to re-pot the cactus that thrives on your benign neglect. Any day is a good planting day when you have such easy-going houseplants.

Astronomical Data:
According to IMDB, the stars are all over the place these next few months. Expect a convergence in November, when Ender’s Game, Thor 2, and Catching Fire all come out within weeks of each other, forming a wallet-sized black hole. Try to save enough money for The Hobbit in December.
Many TV shows will soon return from their summer hiatuses, including Castle and Big Bang Theory later this month, and Supernatural already in progress. Jensen and Jared say Season 9’s going to be a good one: Apparently, there are demons!
The Walking Dead returns after that, in October, and looks to be a great season, considering they finally killed off that one character you didn’t like—you know the one.
The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special premieres in November. Now is the time to be extra nice to those loved ones who have BBC America and a DVR. Continue to be nice to them through the holidays, as Sherlock Season 3 is tentatively set for January 1.
But while you are busily looking forward to so many things in the future, remember to live for today as well, because Game of Thrones Season 4 does not come out tomorrow. Not for a lot of tomorrows.

I shall now leave you all with a Proverb:
Remember, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush - but only if the bush is thorny and the bird is very calm.

This is Farmer Tori, ladies and gentlemen, wishing you well for the upcoming months.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Ride of the Wild Ideas

I wanted to write a blog post about blogging, because I’m meta like that, but I didn’t know how to start.

Then I remembered it didn’t matter how I started.


When I heard that the movie World War Z is nothing like the book (which I love), I didn't bother to see it in the theater. It’s a sigh-worthy situation.

Every time I read anything, my own personal movie plays in my head. I can't help but wonder, What was so hard about this, Hollywood? The story, the characters, all the makings of a good script were already there. You obviously didn’t end where you thought you would when you started. Did you get lost?

But I'm too hard on them, I think.


“It’s not that they’re not paying attention,” said the speaker during the extra credit lecture in college, as she described a Myers-Briggs type that – I promise – sounded nothing like me. “We call it,” she said, “an ‘Uncle Fred’s Bicycle Moment’.”

The speaker explained, “Say you’re in a room full of people talking about public funding. Public transportation comes up and someone makes an offhand comment about bicycles. 

“You immediately remember that Uncle Fred used to ride a bicycle, a red one. He loved that bicycle. He would ride it into town every day. Uncle Fred was an odd bird. He had that lisp, you know, and people used to make fun of him for it. That was so sad – he didn’t deserve to be treated that way. 

“As you have these thoughts, the conversation about public funding carries on without you, until finally, while everyone else is discussing property taxes and other very important things, you blurt out, ‘Why do people make fun of people with lisps?’”

Almost everyone in the lecture hall, myself included, pointed and laughed at the gawky ginger in the front row who was infamous for such outbursts. One of his friends couldn’t breathe from all the laughing and had to excuse himself, which only set the rest of us off again.

Smiling, I looked at the desk to my right, where my husband sat, straight-faced, cocking an eyebrow at me. “And just who are you laughing at?” he said.


There’s a series of children’s books about giving things to other things, and the trouble it can cause.

For example, if you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want milk. You’ll go to the kitchen and discover you’re out. You and the mouse will trek to the store for milk, and you’ll decide to pick up some other stuff while you’re there. As you wander the aisles, the bleach will remind you that you need to treat the stain on that white shirt, so you’ll do that when you get home because you wanted to wear that shirt to the party next week that you still need to RSVP.

Or did you do that already? So you’ll get on Facebook to check the event page but instead you’ll see a cute cat picture, laugh at it, and spend an hour chatting with whoever else is online.

What were we talking about again?


One time, I wanted to write a post about my struggles to clean the house. Somehow it became a diatribe about robots (link here). After editing it down for the blog, I had three pages of unused notes about housecleaning and two more about robots which became another post on housework (linky), another on how frustrating it is (click here), and another about robots (click here or Skynet wins). You would think I’m running out of ideas by now, but each of those posts generated more notes which are waiting to be turned into still more posts.

I know I’m not the only person this happens to. Entire movie studios have this problem. We start with an idea or a book or a design, set out in good faith to foster and feed it and watch it evolve like a good little pokémon, and at the end of the day we have no idea what we’re looking at but we know it’s not a Charizard.

Somewhere, we got lost.

Somehow, the idea got away from us. It’s what they do.

People are always asking writers, “Where do you get your ideas?” and writers invariably respond with “Ideas are everywhere! You just have to look for them.”

But it’s not a matter of finding ideas: it’s a matter of taming them.

Sometimes I start with a perfectly sound idea, write for an hour or three, and end with a finished product: the idea gets used up and magically transforms into a story or a blog post or a newspaper article, which is generally very satisfying for me. I have tamed this idea.

Other times I write and come away with both a finished product and the original idea, pristine and unused, ready to be attempted again on another day. Surprisingly, this outcome is not as satisfying as the previous one.

I’m left scratching my head in wonder as the wild idea rides laughing off into the sunset astride Uncle Fred’s bicycle.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

100 Word Increments: September's Journey of Self Discovery, Part II

(Click here for Part I.)


“I’ll ask the twins,” thought September.

August and January were the smartest, most organized people he knew. Full of fire and resolutions, she was the start of the calendar year, he was the start of the school year, and both ran their lives by lists.

“We could help you become special,” said January. “But it won’t happen overnight!”

“There are steps, you know,” said August.

“Procedures,” confirmed January.

“Supplies to buy,” said August.

“You might have to take classes.”

“And start waking up earlier.”

“Are your finances in order? This won’t be cheap.”

“I’ll get back to you,” said September.


“I’m thinking of taking steps,” September said, at a backyard barbecue with his big brother July and July’s wife, Sunday, “to be more special.”

“Who said you weren’t special?” July asked, looking at September over the propane grill. “Do I need to have a talk with them?”

“No,” said September hurriedly.

“Because you are special!” said July, motioning with the barbecue tongs. “Don’t let anyone tell you differently!”

“Temper, dear.” Sunday smiled, serene as always.

“Okay,” said September. “How exactly am I special?”

“You’ve got…” July frowned, flipping a burger, then said, “Ask February. He’s better with words and things.”


Over wine and a plate of expensive cheese at a posh restaurant downtown, February spoke eloquently (mostly about himself, but he mentioned September a couple of times).

“I love your style, Sept,” he said. “You may not wear suits, like me, or office attire, like the twins, or anything memorable, like October, but you do your own thing.”

“Thanks,” said September. “I think.”

“If you want people to like you, give them chocolate, or flowers. Send a card! I’m brilliant with cards. Sometimes I put poetry in them! For example-”

“Look at the time!” said September, “Thanks for the cheese.”


September headed to May’s garden to clear his head. Unfortunately, the garden was not tranquil at all.

“I still have to till the southeast bed, get these roses in, and finish by 5 to take mom to dinner. Give me a hand with that mulch.”

“I just needed a place to think,” said September. “Do you ever feel like you’re not special?”

“I’m too busy for that. Who cares if you’re special?”

“Well, I sort of care...”

“No, you’re fine. April, though? Who knows what that girl does with herself. Talk to her. I bet you’ll feel remarkable by comparison.”


What September found at April’s cozy cottage only made him feel worse.

“What’s with these postcards from Japan?” he asked.

“I’m sort of popular there during cherry blossom season.”

“And all these books?”

“National Library Week!”

“What about this box of practical jokes?”

“I did some fooling earlier,” said April. “Want to borrow the fake dog poo for your next dinner with February?”

“Yes. No! I mean – Sis, this is frustrating. I’m the only month who isn’t special at all.”

April hugged September tightly. “Somebody out there needs a month, Sept,” she said. “You just have to find your people.”


And so instead of trying to make himself special, September searched for people who needed a month like him. He found people who weren’t looking forward to winter and took them boating on the last hot days of the year. He rescued people who had been hiding from their allergies since spring. He invited people who didn’t get along with the summer months for long walks in the cooling evenings.

“It’s working!” he told April, “Though it’s slow going.”

“Try having a holiday,” she suggested. “I know some librarians who want to celebrate controversial books. Maybe you can do that?”


“Wow! Holidays are easy!” said September. “Let’s have another! Everyone, why don’t we take Monday off and go to the lake?”

Workers everywhere cheered and patted his back.

“We would like a holiday too,” said some pirates. “Is your house available?”

“Come on in,” September said.

By the time he saw October again, September was exhausted. “Do you feel special now?” October asked.

He nodded, looking around at the photos now covering his walls, of smiling faces at parties and picnics. “It’s easy to be special when people need you.”

“You were always special,” October said. “But now you know.”

The End

Saturday, August 24, 2013

100 Word Increments: September's Journey of Self Discovery, Part I

Once upon a time there was a month. A month is like a man with days on, and just like ordinary men and women, each month is unique. This particular month was named September. September had eleven brothers and sisters – most months do – and September’s siblings were all beautiful, talented people. One day, as September flipped through the family photo album, looking at pictures of his industrious brothers and sisters hosting holiday parties and posing in front of vacation landmarks, September began to feel sad.

“Look at them,” he said, “with their holidays and celebrations! There’s nothing special about me…”


Because he needed to tell someone about his sadness, he visited his oldest sister. November was very domestic. She loved to cook, bake, and host huge family dinners in her impeccably decorated house. She always wore beautiful red and orange and gold sweaters. September sat at November’s grand oak table and poured out his worries.

November patted September’s shoulder, served up some pumpkin pie and said, “Don’t lose heart. My family makes me feel special. You’ll find something that makes you feel special too.” She sipped some hot cider, considering. “Why don’t you ask your sisters what their secret is?”


September knew just which sisters she meant. He started with December, the star of the family, who was hardest to catch. “I’m afraid I don’t have time for company today,” she said. “I’ve shopping and baking to do before my cocktail party with Wednesday, and gifts to wrap for the white elephant exchange. I’m sure I’ll see you at the family dinner for Christmas. It’s on my schedule, or maybe my calendar. It’s written down somewhere. Anyway, terribly busy at the moment. But it was so nice to see you! I love you, and I’ll call you later! Kiss, kiss!”


September’s sister October was almost as popular as December, even though she was a middle child and kind of weird, with her dyed black hair and black fingernails, and with bats on most of her t-shirts, but she had lots of friends and was great with kids. She took September to a carnival, where they rode the carousel and ate corn dogs. She said, “You’ve just got to find your niche, Sept. Not everyone is going to like you, but the people who do will like you for who you are. Just try to have a little more fun, okay?”


To learn how to have fun, September sought out his younger brother March, a burly jock who loved to play sports and go out with the guys, Monday and Saturday. He had a lot of friends in a little place called Ireland, and a reputation for being rather wild. All the ladies loved March’s infamous spring break parties, and it was at one such party that September found the high-spirited month.

“Can we talk?” he asked.

“What?” said March over the party noise as March’s pet wind barked excitedly.

“Talk!” September repeated.


September eventually excused himself and went home.


June called to check on him. “March said you left his party early. Is something wrong?”

September tried to tell his most laid-back sister how he just didn’t feel special.

“We’ll soon fix that!” she said, and drove over to pick him up.

They had a lovely picnic on the beach in June’s favorite tanning spot, followed by seaweed massages at a fancy clinic. Later, there were ice cream cones. “Don’t you feel special now?” June asked.

“I’m sure there’s a difference between feeling specially treated and feeling personally special,” he said.

“Only if you’re doing it wrong,” said June.


(To be continued...)

Saturday, August 17, 2013


“I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet

As a teenager, I was always rearranging my bedroom furniture. I would wake up one morning and decide I was tired of everything in my entire life and needed a change in a big way. Other teens went in for black lipstick or spiked haircuts; I moved furniture.

Most of my furniture was shelves, where my books and strange collections were constantly on display. I hadn’t discovered decorative storage boxes yet at that age: everything I owned was out and visible at all times. I didn’t even have doors on my closet.

Every time I moved the furniture, the shelves too were rearranged. The Lord of the Rings trilogy could go with my grandmother’s music box, while my childhood teddy bear could sit with my writing books. I might keep a pokéball with my video games, a pinwheel in the cup with my pens, and a small porcelain panda with my Japanese dictionaries, or maybe the panda would stand by my incense burner or in the pokéball or next to the small painted pumpkin. Whole evenings and weekends were spent placing things and stepping back to consider the placement of those things.

“Maybe someday I’ll find ‘the right way’ to arrange everything and then I’ll stop,” I told my family. “But I doubt it.”

My grandma, whose opinion I respect, said, “I like your room.”

“You do?” I asked. “Like, right now? Or the way it was before?”

“All the time,” she said, running her hands over a fossil from my rock collection. “I imagine it’s what the inside of your head looks like.”


 “What are you writing?” my husband asked before sunrise one morning as he drove the two of us to the gym.

Frantically scribbling in a notebook, illuminated by the meager dome light of the car and the occasional streetlamp, I said, “I had a thought, and I thought it might be a blog post, but it was just a thought, so I almost didn’t write it down, but then I thought that thought went with some other thoughts I had last week that went with some thoughts I had over Christmas and I had to write it down so I can put them all together later.”

“That’s a lot of thoughts,” he said

I nodded. “Sometimes the thoughts are organized and they fall out of my head as fully formed essays, but other times they’re in pieces like Lego bricks and I have to put them together. Other thoughts are nice, but they’re too small to go in a blog post by themselves. I have to wait until I have a collection. In the meantime, they just get stored in my brain while I wait for more to turn up.”

“I’m sort of sorry I asked.”

After more scribbling, I said, “Sometimes, I go digging through my head and I find these old boxes of thoughts that I haven’t looked at in forever and I’ll say, ‘Hang on! This thought matches the one in that jar, and they both go well with the one on that shelf in the corner!’ and I polish them up and hang them on the blog.”

“Let me just see if I’ve got this,” said Matt. “Your brain is full of shelves and boxes and weird jars in dusty corners and sometimes there are Legos?”

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.


Rumer Godden said “Everyone is a house with four rooms: a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual.” BBC’s Sherlock talks about his “mind palace.” I have an attic crowded with shelves. It doesn’t seem so far fetched.

Some mornings I wake up and decide I’m tired of everything in my life and I need a change in a big way. Other people turn to drink or drugs or buying things they can’t afford; I move the furniture.

On shelves made of opinions and experiences, every thought I’ve ever had is a colored glass bottle, freaky specimen jar, fossil, sock monkey, rubber duck, or small porcelain panda. Every memory is a souvenir snow globe or postcard. I display them next to The Lord of the Rings and the other books I keep with me always, while my religion and my upbringing sit in pieces on the work bench, the better to fiddle with the cogs and gears.

Maybe someday I’ll find “the right way” to arrange everything. But I doubt it.