Monthly Archives: December 2013


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Wow. I just looked up “hogtied” to make sure my pun was working, and my goodness did I just get an education. Hint: in modern contexts, it has nothing to do with animal husbandry. Or at least I really hope it doesn’t.

chrisPI feel threatened by year-end lists. They make me feel inadequate, as with the Best Books lists, of which invariably I’ll have read almost nothing, or the Top Moments Of lists, which serve to underscore exactly how culturally obtuse I really am, i.e., I have only the vaguest notion of what twerking is. Though honestly I’d really rather keep it that way. I think possibly it has something to do with animal husbandry.

And there’s an artificial feel to reflections brought on by the end of the year. I get that the changing of the calendar is a powerful symbol, but it’s important to be reflective year-round, and to make resolutions year-round.

So in the spirit of full hypocrisy, here are some reflections and resolutions as we enter the final week of 2013:

I started volunteering at Asheville’s day shelter for the homeless in late 2012, but the bulk of my experience came in 2013. It was easily one of the best things I’ve ever done. I became a better person for it. You don’t get a chance to say that too often, you know? Once you reach adulthood, it usually takes a significant change (becoming a parent, moving overseas, going to college, joining the military) to force you to grow in a meaningful, lasting way. Volunteering face-to-face with people in desperate circumstances is a convenient shortcut.

In May I started exercising. I’ve been exercising faithfully since then, doing cardio and strength-training in addition to a bit of yoga. I’ve also been exercising with intensity: on several pieces of equipment at the gym, for instance, I am using the heaviest weight setting. And just last week I surpassed 300 pounds on the reclining squat thingy machine. At the same time I started paying closer attention to my diet. It had already been healthy, but that was when I began tracking nutrients and calories and weighing my food in grams. 

So the good news: in 2013 I got way fitter. I have more muscles and a stronger heart than ever before. Don’t have any bloodwork to back me up, but I am certain I have never been this healthy.

The bad news is that I’ve gotten fatter. Despite the blood, sweat, and tears (figuratively, literally, and literally) of my diet and exercise, I am pudgier. Some of the weight is muscle, but my pants fit tighter and my face looks puffier. This is not fair and I completely resent it.

For the first eight and a half months of 2013, I was unemployed, or nearly so. My only income was from some contract writing in library-land. I did not have health insurance or job prospects or a livable income. When I was not volunteering or throwing around weights, I was hunting for jobs. There was too little time for reading or writing or vegetating.

The plus side is that I was living in Asheville. Western North Carolina will always be home to me. I might deign to eventually acknowledge other locations as home, but they will be supplements, not replacements.

In mid-September I was offered a job as a Collection Development Librarian with the Mid-Continent Public Library. I had to leave my beautiful mountains and my nearby parents. In compensation I got to start a job in which I spend 40 hours each week buying books, movies, and music, in exchange for which the taxpayers give me a comfortable wage and health insurance and vacation.

I am still not really sold on the whole Missouri concept, but in addition to the whole financial stability thing, there is one other noticeable perk, only I’m not going to talk about it here so nevermind.

Also this year: I gave up my intellectual crushes on The Oatmeal and Neil Gaiman. I’m over you guys. Both of you. I mean I’ll still read your stuff but we’re pretty much through.

So that’s 2013 in review. As for resolutions:

  1. I will find a witch doctor to make me skinny. Traditional medical advice isn’t cutting it. Needs must.
  2. I will read more. (This year’s appallingly low book count will be addressed on January 1. Stay tuned.)
  3. I will write more. As in, I will write more for pleasure. For years I have been satisfying my itch for creative writing with this blog, but I need something new. I swear I have no idea how to write fiction, but that’s what I  want to do and that’s what I will do. Or I’ll stare at a blank screen. I don’t care. One or the other will happen.
  4. I will blog less. I want to to carve out time for more reading and more writing, but more importantly, I’m no longer sure why I write here. I guess it’s because sometimes I want to express myself in essay form, and the New Yorker hasn’t come calling for me. Jerks.

I have no intention of taking this site down. I like having the archive of my old writing. When the mood to essay an essay strikes me, I will post here — just maybe not too often.

I’ll definitely be back in a week, though, to publicly disgrace myself with the paltry number of books I read in 2013.

Meanwhile, Happy Christmas


Winter is coming

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When I make purchasing decisions for the library, I care about whether the product is of good quality, whether it serves a need for the patrons, whether it will be in demand. I care about vendor websites that work smoothly. I care about good customer service. I care about breadth and depth of selection.
I do not care about being wined and dined. If you are a sales rep and you buy me lunch, I will enjoy my meal and express sincere thanks, and then I will go right back to thinking about products and service and selection. Your tiramisu will not sway me.
But it seems to be the norm for sales reps to foist food on library purchasers — and hey, I’m not complaining. I like eating.
When some sales reps bid us adieu the other day, my department had an entire leftover pizza. For reasons I cannot reconstruct, that pizza wound up going home with me.
Now as I have just explained, I am a big fan of food. But as I do not want to become a big fan of food, I reluctantly decided to forfeit the whole pizza. I’m not so good with the moderation concept, food-wise. I’m fairly certain I would have inhaled the leftovers in one sitting.
So even though I have huge misgivings about wasting food, I decided to throw out the pizza. Only I didn’t want to toss it into my own trash can, because my trash pickup service is run by baboons — it’s the only explanation that makes sense. They keep forgetting to collect my trash and recycling. The whole time I’ve lived here, they’ve only once managed to get both bins two weeks in a row.

Now I am deliriously happy about the cold weather we’ve been having, but I still didn’t want pizza sitting in my trash can indefinitely. Even if it didn’t get all ookey, it would serve as my tell-tale heart for the sin of wasting food. But no problem, because I was going to the gym, right? I would just find a public outdoor trash can and dump the illicit pizza there.

Drove on over to the gym, and finally saw the homeless guy. I’d seen his sleeping bag on the sidewalk before, but this was the first time I saw the man himself. Well: it was a nice resolution for the pizza dilemma. I walked over and offered him the leftovers. He was in bad shape — speech difficulties, unbathed, some kind of skin disease, and it was nineteen goddam degrees outside. He doesn’t even have a tent.

I offered him the pizza. Then I went inside the gym and cried for the whole workout. Tried to vent some of the horribleness into the weights. I lifted heavier than I ever have before, stretched deeper than I ever have before, and drove my heartrate up into frankly dangerous territory on the bike.

And even typing this I’m kind of disgusted with myself. Look how I’m casting it: oh no, I saw a homeless man and it made me sad, I had to go and work out EXTRA HARD because I was so SAD, it’s so difficult being me, I actually CRIED while I worked out, please notice how SENSITIVE I am.

Because it’s all about me, not about the man who might freeze to death.

It was this time last year that I started volunteering at the homeless shelter in Asheville. I miss working there. That experience made me a better person.

ImageTo be clear: before I started volunteering, I already had compassion and sympathy and perspective. You probably do, too. Some people are either 1.) shits or 2.) very sheltered, but the rest of us care about our fellow human beings and can practice basic empathy. Volunteering at the homeless shelter did not teach me the true meaning of Christmas. I was already pretty good on that count.

Volunteering forced me to grow. It forced me to do uncomfortable things. It forced me to act responsibly in dangerous situations and to rein in my own unflattering tendencies — shyness, anxiety, irritability, timidity. My morals were already in fine shape; my ability to apply abstract morality to real life was not.

Somehow it is December already. I do not understand how this happened. I’ll try to post again this year, but even if I get too busy with holidays and work and other personal endeavors, I promise I’ll have my annual Book Rundown posted on 1 January. Won’t be as impressive as I’d like (it’s amazing how holidays and work and personal endeavors can interfere with reading time), but though I don’t write here as often as I’d like, I can at least deliver the goods on the new year.