Blogging While Building a Home and Going Back to School

Stump the Librarian is branching out. This space has always been geared toward my creative writing, my work at Fairhope Public Library, and the amputees that populate my literal and figurative world. Fear not followers, Stump the Librarian will continue with two posts each month about books, movies, libraries and amputees. I’ve added “Question” and “Answer” pages to extend an olive branch to “Stump the Librarian” Google searchers. Stump the Librarian is a universal search term, so if you land on my site for that reason, great! I’ve got some questions for you and I encourage you to browse around and read more, especially if you are an amputee or a librarian.cropped-dscn1098.jpg

Building a Home Downtown Fairhope

Our builder, Delia Pierce of Lemongrass Custom Homes, has over a decade of experience and her homes in Fairhope and Point Clear are beautiful, but she knows and appreciates that we are on a much tighter budget, We went to TK Cabinets on Friday where we started to design our kitchen. We have already changed our garage location which is setting us a back a week. Thank goodness we came to this conclusion while we’re still on paper. This will give us a nice private back yard. I’ll be posting photo essays of our progress. If you want to stay up to date and “follow” our construction process go to Alan Samry. I plan to post once a week

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Back to School

Later this week I will be attending orientation for the University of Alabama’s Online Masters of Library and Information Studies program.

I’m looking forward to beginning this program, and a bit apprehensive about the amount and type of work that will be required. I’m one of 43 students in Alabama’s 11th MLIS cohort. We have self identified as “Elevenses.” (AKA Elevenzies, or 11zs) My suggestion, from This is Spinal Tap, “These go to eleven,” was soundly rejected. I’m taking two courses, Organization of Information and Introduction to Library and Information Studies. I’m receiving the Friends of the Fairhope Library Scholarship and I’m grateful that it covers the cost of one course. Thanks to my coworker Rob Gourlay (Alabama MLIS ˈ15) for letting me borrow two of his books. The classes take place in real time on Blackboard. If anyone cares to follow my educational experience, you’ll find it at alansamry.wordpress. I’m told by several people who have been through the program, there could be some required blogging for future classes, but my goal is to post my experiences about the program once or twice a month.

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Change is the only constant in the world. I’m trying to embrace it. I hope you’ll join me in the journey.

Are You Part of Your Community?

                              Morning/Afternoon

Yesterday was a day off from work, but I was at the library for a monthly Southern Bloggers Jubilee meeting. We had Pat Smitherman, Crafty Hope’s husband and KPMG Web Developer, show us a few things about HTML and CSS. I learned quite a bit, but I’ll continue to use WordPress because it’s so user-friendly. (Want to learn more about blogging, take my class, Starting a Blog, on Monday September 15, at the library. It’s priceless, as in free, but you have to sign up.) Pat the code walker was patient with us, and it never hurts to pick up a few tips in another language, especially computer speak. Some of my fellow bloggers were really digging it. A few had their heads buried in their laptops writing code like they’d been trained by Anonymous.

After wrapping up our meeting and waiting out the rain, I chatted briefly with Tamara Dean, the library director, in her office. She handed me the DVD about the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, America’s Amazon. Tamara forwarded me the number of Mango users, which continues to soar. Mango is our online language learning program, which also has a popular app version.

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Evening

After an early dinner, I stopped by Fairhope Brewing for Mobile Bay Green Drinks, “a monthly happy hour for environmentally thoughtful folks.” It’s a “get involved/what’s happening” night for local organizations and businesses. It was the first time I attended, and there was lots of information, and free stickers too. Free samples from Sunflower Cafe awaited with additional items available for purchase. As I sipped my Fairhope 51 Pale Ale, a group of about 40 people listened to speakers who stepped up to the microphone, set up in the middle of the tap room.

The Slow Bicycle Society on the Eastern Shore was represented by Molly Peterson, who serves on our library board. I’m part of this group of riders that bike locally and take regional bike ride field trips. Several Slow Bikers were in attendance and Molly also spoke on behalf of Baldwin County Trailblazers, the group behind the Eastern Shore Trail.

Others speaking up were representatives from Alabama Coastal Birdfest, taking place the first weekend in October, Pro Cycle and Triathlon, which has slow bikes for sale and for rent now too. Katy of Pro Cycle was fond of the phrase “rip your legs off,” when describing her rides. Apparently, there are paces for everyone, including people like me. I just want to keep the leg and a half I’ve got left. Alabama Coastal Foundation clean-up, a fishing rodeo, and BARC Rib fundraising events were promoted during the open mic segment.

I enjoyed a delicious creamy coconut pop from Frios, a gourmet frozen treat stand set up inside the tap room. By the way it was delicious! Until I tasted blood. I bit the inside of my cheek chomping the sweet sugary goodness. No biggie, it’s frozen, I just kept eating on that side, and a couple bites later, the bleeding stopped.

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Night

With the tropics still dazzling my taste buds, I went to the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) public hearing on their Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan. Sounds rather somber, but as a reporter I’ve covered much worse. A sewer commission meeting comes to mind.

I thought I might be a sight to stare at, an amputee coming to a bike meeting with shorts on, flashing my prosthesis. Plus, the leg was making a popping sound as I walked in the room. If they stared, I didn’t notice. They were welcoming, and I suspect happy to see another resident at a public hearing. I even saw someone from my book club, “Drinkers with a Reading Problem,” at Green Drinks and at the MPO public hearing.

The MPO staff is eager to hear from the public on what they believe the future walkability and biking needs of the Eastern Shore should look like. Read the draft report, you have until September 22, to send comments. I’ll be advocating for a bike path/sidewalk from my neighborhood, River Station, to Wal-Mart, which is about a third of a mile away. There is no plan to build a sidewalk, even though it is very dangerous for walkers and riders to use County Road 48, the major east west corridor connecting the county with downtown Fairhope. The five other people at the meeting, including two staffers were very encouraging and positive, but realistic. All the goals require funding, not all of which has been secured.

If you want to look at the 92-page draft report, there is one available online and at the Fairhope Public Library. It rests on the ledge of an easel that has an MPO map on display near the public computers. The short term goals of what pathways to build, and staffer Matthew’s “30 days on a bicycle,” are must reads.

All of these organizations, government entities, and businesses have websites, Facebook pages, or both. Check ‘em out!

                                          Full Moon

When the meeting ended, I turned east to head home and was greeted by a harvest moon. It was rising up and looked like if I kept on driving I’d crash into it. It loomed so large, you couldn’t miss it. The moonlight reminded me to say thanks to those who are engaged in what’s going on around the Eastern Shore. We need people in the community to be the squeaky wheels. I’ll be sure and wear my popping prosthesis.

 

What Makes a Public Library Great?

I spent four hours, on my day off, in the Fairhope Publlic Library with a group of local bloggers I belong to called, Southern Bloggers Jubilee. The seven of us met in the library to socialize, learn, and hopefully have a few laughs, all before we head to lunch.

We had our regular monthly meeting, and there was a shwag bag, which included an application for a Fairhope Library card, stickers, coupons, and a welcome flyer. Tamara, the director, and I led the group on a tour to show off the wonderful space, architecture, art, books, programs, classes, and study rooms.

During the tour, the bloggers took photos and made notes. Along the way, Tamara and I said hello to patrons and introduced staff members to the group. Everyone blogged about how wonderful the library is in Fairhope, and they conveyed it so well in words and pictures. Please visit their blogs to see and read everything they discovered.

We Are: Clamco

Lorraine had a wonderful photo of Worldbook, a set of encyclopedias now rarely used. She reminisced about a set of encyclopedias in her childhood home. In our conversation at lunch, Lorraine talked about how a friend of hers in Jersey, an amputee, married his prosthetist. I found it fascinating for two reasons. There are not many female prosthestists, though the number continues to rise. Secondly, pyschologists say amputees marry their caregivers. I’ve researched this all the way back to America’ s first amputee, Peter Stuyvesant. He lost his leg to a cannonball, and when he returned to the Netherlands to recuperate, he married his nurse.

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Kim learned about our genealogy collection and even signed up for a class. It was on her Macbook that the group hovered around to learn how to use Picmonkey, an online program to format photographs for your blog, specifally your header, the image at the top of the page. She took a great photograph of our head-dressed staffer Megrez.

 Crafty Hope

When I introduced all these women to Tamara, I got a little ahead of myself and almost introduced Hope, as  Kim. I corrected myself and said Hope makes  jewelry from found items, like washers, brass, copper, glass, metal from file holders, etc.  She makes crafty, creative, and one-of-a-kind bracelets, necklaces, and earings, which she sells on her Etsy site. Also, her husband is coming to our next meeting to talk about HTML. She cautioned us that he doesn’t know much about blogs and confessed, “he doesn’t even read mine,” which I didn’t believe for a second. Even if it were true, she has a real following with us, the Southern Bloggers Jubilee.

Flower Child Designs

Deborah arrived late, but was eager to contribute to the discussion. Many of us complimented Deborah on how well her painted hardwood floors turned out. She talked about the success of her “linky parties,” and I laughed because it sounded funny to me. I learned that “linking parties” are a way for similarly themed bloggers, like fashion art, and jewelry, to connect.

Fairhope Supply

During her tour of the youth services department, Leslie Anne was verklempt. (Talk amongst yourselves. The topic: Is a jubilee a lagniappe?) She got emotional as the memories turned the pages of her mind to her son’s time in the library. She also snapped a photo, the first I believe, of me in shorts in the library, showing off my sleek carbon fiber and titanium prosthesis. Did you see it? She also had me take a photo with the newest Florida State graduate. Tamara just graduated from FSU with a Master’s in Library and Information Science.

Professor Storytime

Karyn, who welcomes guest book reviews on her blog for Throwback Thursdays, was enamoured with the children’s department. Her own children’s book, Jubilee, is wonderful, and you should check it out. On her blog, Karyn has a great photo of a mom and her son reading in a window seat. During the meeting, Karyn said my blog needed a new header, and a sidebar. She also suggested I use three photos in the header. Everyone at the meeting who saw my recent post, told me to use the coffee shop photo in the header.

The Library

During our bloggers meeting we discussed SEOs, Hootsuite, how to insert the Southern Bloggers Jubilee and Bloglovin’ “buttons” into our blogs, Instagram, and gave praise for things we are doing well, and offered suggestions for ways to improve.

It’s only now, weeks after the meeting, tour, and having read everyone’s blog posts, that I’m beginning to catch what the Southern Bloggers Jubilee netted. The value of our library is in the building, architecture, art, books, and DVDs, and the beauty of our library lives in the hearts and minds of the  people who populate this memorable place.

 

9Legs, Nine Lives

Tripawds

Yesterday, my co-coworker Pam sent me a message with a photo on Facebook about something she learned during a carriage ride in Natchez Mississippi. Riding past the cemetery Pam heard about Tripod, a three-legged cat that was befriended by Natchez city workers. She included a photo of the Tripod’s Headstone for me and I thanked her of course and messaged back, “I’ll add Tripod to my list of names of leg amputees.” The list includes the famous, infamous, fictional, factual, legends, dogs, dolphins (Winter’s dorsal fin), horses, cows, and now my first cat. Anyone with a three-legged pet should visit tripawds. There are more than 6,000 animal lovers registered on the site who have pets with less than four paws.

Including Tripod, I’ve got nine legs to add to the list this week, which is the one year anniversary of my blog.

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Cow-Tipping News

On Friday, my sister-in-law Kim forwarded a link for me to check out on Facebook.

A 600 pound calf had two hind legs amputated due to frostbite. The English Charolais calf was recently fitted with two “high-tech” prostheses in Houston, Texas. Hero’s the only double amputee calf with two prostheses in the United States.  

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Aaarrrgghh-etype

I read a fantastic kid’s book on Thursday morning. Pirates vs. Cowboys, is written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by David Barneda. It’s a story about feuding pirates who go over land to bury their treasure. They run into a motley group of cowboys. But these are no ordinary human pirates and cowboys. Burnt Beard is an octopus, accompanied by an armada of sea creatures. Black Bob McKraw is a steer, with a nose ring, and he’s got a mixed up gang of barnyard animals and desert characters, including a prickly cactus in a pot.

What makes the story effective is that it’s not an archetype peg-leg character. Pegleg Highnoon is not the villain, though he is an alligator. He’s not just any old gator, but he’s the world’s only pirate cowboy. Pegleg Highnoon’s a peacekeeper, moderator, and the closest thing there is to a lawman in Old Cheyenne. I really enjoyed reading about Pegleg, as I discovered something of his character in me. I don’t want to be typecast as the angry amputee and I’m usually looking to avoid conflict by seeking common ground. Stop by your local library or bookstore and check it out.

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Infamy

I have been following the court appearances of “the fastest man on no legs” in South Africa. Oscar Pistorius is still on trial for shooting and killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.

The double amputee competed in the Summer Olympics in 2012.

On Tuesday morning, the trial stopped because the judge ordered Pistorius to undergo psychiatric testing to find out whether he was “criminally responsible” on the night he shot and killed his girlfriend. Pistorius’ infamy has kept him out of prison. Most people go to jail while they wait for a psyche ward bed to open up, but he will remain on the outside. Pistorius will also be an outpatient while he undergoes evaluation.

Prior to his arrest, I had never been so proud of an amputee’s actions as I was in those moments watching Pistorius pistoning around the track on his Cheetahs.

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Famous Fembot

I watched double below-knee amputee Amy Purdy dance for the first time Tuesday night. I was skeptical about her ability to compete against two good legs. I will say for a dancer who doesn’t move her ankles, is on her toes, and in swim prostheses, she was outstanding!  That night Amy stepped on the dance floor. I was riveted, mesmerized, and in awe of her human and hardware synchronicity.

Amy didn’t win this season’s “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC. Meryl and her partner, even to my super amateur eyes, were better.

Many people I knew said the couple deserved to win, but I think that was based on Amy’s story, rather than her dancing, which was phenomenal and nearly flawless. After contracting Bacterial Meningitis at 19, both her legs were amputated. She also received a Kidney from her father.

She’s an actress and model and Paralympic athlete. Amy is also an amputee advocate for X-Games sports like moto-cross, snowboarding and skateboarding. She’s a spokesperson for Element, a skateboard and clothing company. She was on “Amazing Race” two years ago, but got eliminated so fast I never got to know her. Her company Adaptive Action Sports helps amputees participate in these sports. She’s propelled skateboarding among amputees and I wish I knew about her for an earlier blog I wrote called, “Skateboarding Legs.”

We humans are suckers for an inspirational story, especially one so perfectly packaged for network TV. There’s no doubt Amy is confident, athletic, and an attractive person. It’s interesting that the network TV viewer that fell in love with the dancer may not know Amy the snowboarder, skateboarder, and self-proclaimed “Fembot” blogger. I’m intrigued by the edge-y, experimental, provocative, creative, and risk-taking Amy I discovered in a risqué photograph taken by Motley Crue Bassist Nikki Sixx. She’s wearing a pair of custom-made ice pick legs.

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Skateboarding Legs

Have you seen Bones Brigade: An Autobiography? Well if you’ve ever skateboarded, marveled at their abilities in a video, or want to see poetry in motion, watch this documentary.

The 2012 film is about the 1980s skateboarding team, Bones Brigade, assembled by Stacy Peralta and George Powell. This film is emotionally and physically powerful.  The riders tell their stories and we watch footage showing how they went from the vertical verve of swimming pools to the big air of ramps and how freestyle evolved into street. We see Tony Hawk as a gangly and well-padded teenager riding, sliding and grinding in an empty pool while Rodney Mullen shows off his mastery of freestyle, riding not just wheels down, but using every side of the board for his tricks. Watching footage of Tony Hawk, I realized that we might have been in the same grade if we went to school together.

I made a diamond-plated steel deck skateboard in my fifth grade metal shop at Nauset Regional Middle School in Orleans, Massachusetts. Using the band saw, with the teacher standing beside me, I cut out the deck of my new skateboard. It had a surfboard shape, pointy at the nose, and a chopped rear end. I hit the toggle power switch on the grinder and it whirred to life. I pushed it into the spinning disk and it sounded like a machine gun, tat a tat tat a tat tat a tat, and the sparks came flying off that thing like sparklers on the fourth of July. I rested my board on the table in front of the grinder and pushed it gently at first into the spinning wheels. Ggggrrrrr. Crap! I just gouged a groove in the rail, forgetting that you have to move the deck side to side. I remember putting the deck in a large vice, and I bent the kicktail to my liking. I remember it was a big deal when the wheels came in. We had been staring at the trucks for what seemed like months. In fact, I think I made a lamp while we waited for the wheels to arrive. Those polyurethane wheels were gold! No, more like rays of sunshine because you could see into them, like a kaleidoscope. They were clear. That summer my sister Lynne and I practically rode the wheels off that board, but I remember one night the best. We had fireflies and firecrackers, like every summer. I can still see those kicktail flames lighting up the end of my summer night run down the driveway into Nanumet Drive.

In their video Animal Chin, these kids are on the road sharing a hotel room and sleeping with their boards. It reminded me of Hendrix lying horizontal with his guitar, or Gretzky sleeping with his hockey stick or me with my journal open on my chest, asleep, still gripping a pen. Most people who are passionate about something seem to have spent some time sleeping with their objects of affection.

“The objects we grow up with help form our sense of the world” Elizabeth Kostova writes in the current Poets & Writers magazine article “No Ideas but in Things: The importance of First Objects.” This is true not only for athletes, and musicians, and writers, but for amputees too. For leg amputees, I’d go a step further and say, our prosthesis forms our sense of self because without we have limited mobility without a prosthesis. That said, I can count the number of times I actually slept with my leg on. It’s probably less than my ten fingers and five toes.

Many of the men interviewed from the team weep openly at the memory of the time they spent in the Bones Brigade. With his head leaning to the side Lance Mountain sheds a tear at the power of the relationships, the memories, and the experience in the Bones Brigade, a team he never felt worthy of being a part of, now or then. Rodney Mullen and Tony Hawk were called “freaks” not by their families or their teammates, but by other skateboarders. In part, they were doing things their peers didn’t understand. They weren’t just skating, they were creating and innovating. In the documentary, Mullen said we “create through controlled desperation.”

I miss my circa 1978 skateboard. It sat, mostly unused in the cellar for 20 years. Every once in a while I’d hop on it, goofy foots always, and tip back the tail, or do a 180 while looking out for the lally column to make sure if I fell I wouldn’t crack my skull open on the way to the cement floor. When we moved to Alabama, I donated it to the swap shop at the dump. I hope some kid got a few kicks, or learned a few tricks before she cut her ankle on the unforgiving steel rails.

In the film, Rodney Mullen talked about the community he had as part of the skateboarding team and how it had its own vocabulary, expression, and motion. He talks today about the importance of community, but I think they had more than community, it was a culture. Writers, Kostova says, “don’t outgrow the realm of childhood observation; in a way, we stay stuck in a sense of the vividness of things.” It is this vividness of prosthetics and the character of amputees, both in life and literature that I’ve been exploring and writing for about six years. Kostova reminds writers that” the first objects we really study in life teach us not only to see but to look.” Looking at Hawk, Mountain, and Mullen as individuals connected to the skateboarding scene, I see how my prosthesis connects me to an amputee culture. I call us The Leg Bones Brigade.