Wednesday, October 27, 2010


We have a coworker who has been having a lot of fun with the Halloween costumes this week.

Monday she came in and wore a sticker that said, "Hello, my name is Mary" and her hair was sticking in the air. I thought momentarily that she was Mary from Something About Mary, but if you knew this woman you would think twice, like I did, and profess to have no idea what the costume meant. My first instinct was right, much to my shock.

Yesterday she came in with Smarties candies pinned all over her pants. She was a smarty-pants.

Today she had the word "book" on her face, with B and O on one cheek and O and K on the other. I looked at her and my initial idea was, this girl is a total book-head, but that was dumb so clearly not the costume.

She was getting frustrated and said, "Where is it?!"

I said, "Uh, you have book on your face."

She stomped her feet and said, "Say it the other way now!"

"OH, Facebook!"

That one was tough, in my opinion.

So, I followed Christi out to the desk today to see if she could get the costume.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Christi?

Christi looked at her and said a couple hmms, then finally stated, with no humor at all, "Oh, I get it: B.O. So you have B.O. and you're O.K. with it."

I had to sit on the floor I was laughing so hard.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Patron Questions

Patron: You know your nametag is upside down.

Me: Yeah, that’s so I can read it. How else will I know who I am?

Patron (looking at his own embroidered name on his uniform): My name is right side up.

Me: That’s too bad. How are you supposed to remember your name that way?

Patron: You’re right. I should get them to change it.

He tried to pronounce his name backward and we laughed.

I took the nametag off and put it in my pocket. I was done with the nametag, which was clearly far too complicated for my simple mind.

Me: I can’t believe I’ve been out here for hours and hours and no one told me my name was upside down. Ah, well, I don’t want anyone to know my name anyway.

Patron: I know your name.

Me: Well you’re special.

Patron: Heeee.

Patron: So, how long have you been a librarian?

Me: Well, I’ve worked here 18 years, but I’ve only been a librarian for about the last 3 years.

Patron: And you’re the naughty librarian, eh?

Me (in mock horror): ME!? Who told you about me?

Patron: Oh, no one had to tell me. I can see it in your smile. I knew it right away – yep, naughty librarian.

Damn, my cover’s blown.

Patron: Don’t you guys have a Halloween section?

Me: What kind of Halloween stuff are you looking for?

Patron: Good ol’ fashioned Halloween stuff.

Me: Oh, that kind. No. Sorry. You’re too late. We’re already prepping for Christmas now. We’re like the stores, you know? And I’m not talking about Christmas this year. We’re working on Christmas for 2011. You’re already over a year behind for Christmas, and for Halloween this year – pshaw! You should’ve seen us in April of 2009. What’s the matter with you?

Patron: I guess I just didn’t realize…

Me: Well, now you do.

Patron: Funny girl. That’s why I come to you with all my questions. And why isn’t there anything for grownups for Halloween anymore?

Me: Sure there is. Halloween stuff falls into two categories these days: little kid stuff and slutty stuff. The sluttier, the better. Costumes give women the opportunity to be total whores and just bat their eyelashes and say, “But it’s just a costume. I’m not really this slutty.” Uh-huh. So, are you looking for the slutty Halloween section?

Patron: OHMYGOD, you’re right! Costumes are getting sluttier!

Me: I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before.

Patron: Actually, I’m looking for CDs with spooky sound effects. Where would those be?

Me: Slutty spooky sound effects?

Patron: Uh, no, probably not.

Me: Kids stuff. See how it works?

Patron: Oh man, I think you just ruined Halloween for me.

Me: DUDE, it’s the sluttiest season there is. Enjoy it!

Patron (laughing): You’re right! Tits and ass everywhere! What’s not to love?!

Patron: I need some information on clarinets. The parts of them. You can look that up, but I have to go to the washroom, so I’ll be right back.

Me: You better.

He looked at me for a moment as if he didn’t understand those two simple words I just uttered and then realized I was joking and made a very lame attempt at a forced laugh.

I looked at Marina.

Me: He’s scared of me now. Bwahahaha! Score! I bet he doesn’t come back.

Marina: He may not.

He did. We spent the next half hour cracking jokes, and he taught me about why they prefer Beechler mouthpieces in Mexico.

I guess I didn’t scare him – threatening him made him feel more at ease.

My patrons are weird.

When they’re weird in a good way and we bond, I just love my patrons.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Steep and Thorny Way

Today, my friend Eric informed me that he was telling his brother about me, how much weight I’d lost and how I’d done it, what a huge feat it was, etc. I was incredulous.

He said to me, “You have to be so proud of yourself for doing that! That’s HUGE! Just getting to the point where you have the mindset to get going is HUGE. The rest, 90 pounds, that’s amazing! You have to be proud of that!”

No. I’m not. Not really. And I’ll tell you why.

Throughout the years, I’ve read all kinds of stories by people who lost a lot of weight, how it changed their lives, how they’ll never go back to what they were, and how if they can do it, you can do it too!


Fuck that shit. Those lying ho-bags left out the biggest, baddest, meanest little factoid in the whole damn story: it’s horrible!

Where they get their little happy pills, I don’t know, because I’m bitter. I’m angry. I’m not digging any of this. It’s a monster of a lifestyle change, it’s expensive, and it’s painful.

Why does no one mention how painful it is?

It’s like childbirth and raising a newborn. People want to talk about the rainbows, unicorns and gumdrops being pregnant was, and godliness of giving birth to this perfect, angelic being who can do no wrong.


Your body is invaded by an alien and you lose control of everything. Then that thing forces itself out in such a way that you have to be cut or torn to accommodate it, and then it becomes this leech on your body, not allowing you to sleep, not allowing you to have a life, and not allowing you any peace. And that’s if you’re lucky. Some people, and I’ve fwatched them go through this, develop hideous abscesses in their nipples and must have surgery because they chose to breastfeed, and others had permanent problems with arthritis, migraines, depression, and hormone imbalances. Pregnancy can forever mess up your gums, your hair, your health! And that angelic baby who can do no wrong, don’t even get me started on the massive amounts of exhaustive care and attention s/he requires. I have seen moms in a cloud of sleep-deprived insanity, and though they cannot recall their actions after they have collapsed in a coma-like stupor for a few hours, I know what I see of them in these states and they are not well. They say and do things that no drug on earth could elicit from them, and if they’re good people, they deny it later out of sheer atrocity over the idea that they could do such things. Sometimes it’s better to not tell them what they did. Those stories of drunken debauchery you have on your friends cannot compare with the dirt that baby-induced sleep-deprivation can cause. And that, my friends, is the painful truth that people don’t talk much about.

Just like with weight loss.

I did not lose 90 pounds gracefully. I fought it tooth and nail, whined, bitched, cussed, screamed and threw tantrums regularly.

Coaches at my gym can attest to the fact that I refuse to join any kind of supportive team/game going on because I don’t have enough faith in myself to accomplish any goals and don’t want anyone keeping close track of me. I’m a non-joiner. I barely speak to anyone at the gym. I grunt, sweat, pout, grumble, and have been known to curse out a machine or kick it. There is very little socializing going on, and if there is, it’s only with the coaches and not the others working out. Screw them. They’re on their own. It’s every woman for herself in there as far as I’m concerned, and I really do not want anyone to be my friend because my sole purpose being there is misery and ass-kicking. You want to help me? Bitch me out before I start my workout and that will help me. You wanna derail me? Pat me on the back and tell me how wonderful I look in my new thrift store clothes because I can’t afford regular store wardrobes every couple months. I hate getting sweaty. I hate getting up early. And most of all, I hate how hard it is. FUCK! I hate working out! There simply is no dignity involved!

So, now I ride a bike. This also means I eat an inordinate amount of bugs, sweat profusely in strange places, have sores in even stranger places, and lug around a bicycle everywhere I go. A bicycle, by the way, requires almost as much care as a baby, which, if I’d known that before I bought it, I’d be taking swimming lessons right now instead. I gave up the filthy gravel trails in my county and have shifted west to the paved luxuries of my neighboring bikers. Yet, no matter where I bike in this flat state I live in, it seems there are hills and moraines so large that they cause my quads to burn as if acid were churning through my legs and my lungs shrink up to raisins. Hills are my enemy.

It’s relative, too. Now the gym isn’t quite so miserable because at least I consider that we’re on flat land. The food sacrifices aren’t quite so severe either, because I didn’t have to bike uphill with a headwind to get fed. Anything that occurs on flat terrain now, no matter how unhappy it makes me, can always be made worse by being on a bike going uphill.

The bitter irony is that when you get good at one hill, you feel the need to go farther down that trail to the next section you’ve yet to explore, and lo and behold, there is a bigger hill. There is always a bigger hill. So true in every way. And I hate it.

I fight the hills. I grind my teeth, I gasp for air, I push my legs, I count the feet I have left until I reach the top, and I just about cry. Crying requires energy to be diverted from the muscles ascending a hill, so it’s simply not possible or I would do it every time. Swearing, too. If you’re nearby, you can often hear me gasp out a very desperate “Motherfucker!” as I crest, but only as I crest because talking requires expulsion of air, and I usually have none to spare, so no swearing until I’ve hit the top. And then the floodgates open up.

I do confess, I also can be heard giggling at the garter snakes, tee-hee-ing at the ground squirrels, and ooh-ing at the hawks as I ride. If you see me violently swerve, it’s most often to avoid the glorious grasshoppers that look just like dead leaves until you get up close, or to go around what looked like a stick, but is really a fuzzy little caterpillar. Sometimes I want to recite applicable Eric Carle books to them as I pass.

But I digress. This isn’t about the cutesy moments. This is about the overwhelmingly angry moments.

Last week I fell off the wagon completely. I abandoned my high-protein, low-carb diet and went on a Culver’s Concrete Mixer binge. (Chocolate ice cream with toppings of peanut butter and peanut butter cups, thank you very much!) It was an awful week. One I may never completely recover from emotionally, but one I need to fight my way out of now, so I had to break up with Culver’s and get back in the saddle, literally. I put on 5 pounds last week, and when I reported this to Eric (who has become my coach), he insisted I hadn’t eaten that many calories in one week and was simply retaining water. I disagreed and insisted I was retaining ice cream.

Two days of riding and I realized I wasn’t doing myself any favors because I was riding my route faster and shaving off more time with each run, which actually reduces the number of calories burned over time, so I had to lengthen my route. By adding another couple miles, I’m riding deeper into a wooded area of the trail that I’ve never been to before. That’s what sucks about weight loss. Just when you get a handle on things, adjust to the level of hell you’ve committed yourself to and you tolerate it okay, it stops working and you have to add more torture on top.

Today I met my arch enemy. It’s a hill. But it’s not just any hill. It’s a hill that I could not ascend.


Going up it, I was down to my very lowest gear, still barely able to turn the pedals, and at one point I had only the strength to hold the pedals from going backward. This toppled the bike from lack of movement, and I found myself quickly dismounting in order not to take a huge fall into the woods. So, I fell off my bike trying to get up this hill that completely immobilized me. It was a bitter defeat and I turned around and rode back to my car 7 miles away. I then drove to my usual restaurant, where I ordered a gigantic slice of pizza and ate only the topping (okay, I had a little crust, but not much), and I pouted the entire time. I whined. I texted Eric, who had recommended this part of the trail, and asked if he was trying to kill me. He insisted he could not recall such a treacherous hill on this part of the trail. That made me angry. Not only had I been beaten by this hill, but evidently it wasn’t even memorable to anyone else as a tough hill to climb. I stabbed at my pizza until it was a saucy mess and decided to go at the wretched hill again today.

The second time around, that hill was just as bad, but I made it a little farther up, with a lot less grace. Instead of freezing and trying not to go backward, I wobbled all over the path, steering into the teeter of the bike going too slow to stay upright, and after swerving all over and off the path, I realized that if I wasn’t leaning all the way forward onto the handlebars, the bike did a wheelie due to the extreme incline of the path. Okay, that did it! This was a bitch of a hill! If I had to lean to keep from falling backward off my bike, it was steep. I stopped and walked the rest of the way up. From the top, it didn’t look so bad. From below, it was like a wall. Yet, there were signs that you were supposed to dismount and walk your bike down the hill because of the speed you would build riding, on a path that was not only dark and wooded, but twisty and turny, so you could easily end up in a pond, or plowing down a hapless walker. (Damn pedestrians.) Clearly, this was not a hill to be taken lightly. As if to emphasize this was the fact that I was hyperventilating. I cannot recall a time I was gasping so hard for air. This hill kicked my ass!

And as I was thinking this, a very capable-looking rider began ascending the hill, growling and grimacing, huffing and puffing, barely able to move his legs at all. He made it!

As he got to the top I said, between gasps of my own, “I hate this hill!”

He shouted back, “THIS HILL SUCKS!”

I loved him in that moment. Comrade. Even though he made it all the way up, we were of like minds: we hated it!

So, I am not a happy, proud member of the lost-alotta-weight community. I fucking hate it. It hurts. It sucks. It beats the crap out of me. I yell. I swear. I fight it every step of the way. And sometimes, something terrible happens in my life and I submerge myself in vats of ice cream, only to have to fight harder to get out of that rut as well. I don’t even know if I’d recommend it, it’s that brutal. It completely sucks.

But if you have the fight in you and you’re up for the challenge, it’s the fight of your life, and it never gets boring.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Larger Than Life

I had a friend named Jeff.

He came to work at my library about 8 years ago, but we didn’t really start talking much until the end of 2003, when a rogue board member decided to bully the other trustees into making a new rule restricting R-rated movies to patrons who were 17 or older. During a staff meeting where we were informed of the board’s decision to ignore our objections, I took a stand and said that I was both a patron of our library and a staff member, and as a patron I would do what I had to do to fight it, even if it put my job in jeopardy. Little did I know, I was sitting next to someone who would turn out to be the greatest champion of free speech I ever met. The bond was instant.

Our friendship blossomed when we discovered how many things we had in common: atheism, book-love, liberalism, and many more. When my father was diagnosed with cancer in early 2004, Jeff was a quintessential member of the small support group I leaned on regularly. I’m sure I couldn’t have gotten through that without him. The day my father died, I drove home from the hospital in the very early hours of the morning, showered, redressed, and drove over to the library, where I stood outside the back door until he arrived at 8:45. When I told him what happened, he hugged me for a long time and then asked me if I’d driven all the way over at this fragile time just to stand around waiting to see him. Of course I had, but suddenly I was embarrassed about how much I relied on him to make me feel better. At a time when everyone was saying the stupidest things to me about my dad’s death, when strangers were trying to foist upon me their religious beliefs without regard to my own beliefs, and when I was desperate for some peace, I knew only Jeff would understand. I told him no, I was restless and had gone to the library to arrange for time off. He hugged me harder. He didn’t want to think of me standing alone outside the library in this state waiting for him to arrive. He never knew I did just that.

I work in a library like many others, full of colorful characters. Easily, the most colorful character was Jeff. I could live to be 100 and never meet anyone with more passion and love of life than he had. He spoke many languages, including Spanish, Portugese and Chinese, and adored other cultures and people. He championed many causes, celebrated diversity, and became an ordained minister so that he could marry people. The only times I ever saw him angry were when there were occasions when he was witness to discrimination, or when someone tried to say that food in Chicago was better than anything in Iowa. The man loved Iowa. Born, raised, and educated there, he had a marrow-deep aversion to anything compared to Iowa. His intellect was impressive, even in a library environment, and though he didn’t often work the reference desk, if ever there was an obscure fragment of information I needed (for myself or someone else), he was my go-to person. He was married to a woman I never got to know, though I wish I had, and never had children, though I think his worship of his cats was probably greater than any proud parent I’ve ever encountered. Jeff had a heart so big it was overwhelming. I often didn’t know what to do with all the compliments he bestowed upon me, but if you knew him, you’d know he meant every one. If he cared about you, it was 200%, never less. And the only time you ever saw him less than ecstatic to see you was when he was very sick, and then he was only somewhat muted, but always enthusiastic. Jeff made everyone feel good.

As the head of our Technical Services Department, he was in a role he seemed born to play: king of cataloging. Like many catalogers, his focus on details was exquisite, and if you dared to ask a question, he would tell you the answer down to the DNA that the answer was made of. He was precise. He told me many times that his mentor advised him that if someone asks him what time it is, not to tell them how to build a watch. While Jeff found this amusing and self-defining, I think we all (including Jeff) knew that we were going to get the watch instructions anyway. But it was okay. Because it was Jeff. And his heart was always in the right place.

Jeff was not just lovable, but he was loved tremendously by so many people, and he loved back tremendously. There was never a doubt in my mind that he was my friend and he loved me. I hope he knew the feeling was mutual. A few years ago he had a car accident, and during the chest X-ray the technician told him he had the largest ribcage he’d ever seen. This was merely confirmation that his heart was so big, only the largest ribs could contain it.

Walking into a room where Jeff was, if you said hello, how are you, he would reply, without fail, “Great, now that you’re here!” If I didn’t say hello first, he would announce my presence to anyone nearby by shouting, “LOOK! It’s the lovely and talented Nikki! Isn’t that great? Nikki is here!” Sometimes he simply would say, “Hello, beautiful,” and it was never sleazy -- it was true to him. I wish I could see myself through his eyes. He said these things to all the women on staff, but because he said them all with sincerity and flamboyance, no one ever felt it was anything other than complimentary. We ate it up, squirmed under the spotlight, and ultimately felt good.

Jeff loved food, passionately. He loved a good debate, passionately. He loved the people in his life, passionately. His laugh could be heard at a distance, and no matter the situation, he could always find a way to make it funny. Though he hated meetings at work, passionately, none were without his hilarious participation to resurrect them with life. There are very few photos of him at our library where he wasn’t making a silly face. Tonight Ann shared a story of when he worked with her mother in a very strict and unfriendly environment. If things got too quiet and serious, he’d fly a paper airplane stocked with glitter over the cubicles, crop-dusting his coworkers with sparkles. Jeff made everything better.

Over the weekend, Jeff suffered a series of strokes and died.

The enormity of this statement is still unacceptable.

If I hadn’t seen him in the hospital bed myself, I might not believe it at all. There was simply too much life in him to lose it all. He was too young. He was too strong. He was, and is still, a presence that made the world a better place. It simply does not make any sense at all.

Losing him is devastating. Knowing him was a gift.

I had a friend named Jeff. And I was honored that he considered me a friend, too.