Passion in a Pocket Part 2

I was a civil employee early in the year 1988. I worked as a humble book-shelver in our city’s public library. It was heaven. I was there the day we closed the doors for three weeks, which is just unheard of. We then, meticulously by hand, one single book at a time, put every item in that library onto the new-fangled barcode system. It was a massive undertaking, custom-made for a detail oriented OCD person like me. It was probably the only time in history that every book was put into its proper place and stayed there. Imagine.

I wish I had had the chance to take home one of the card catalog drawers. Maybe J-K, fiction. They are a piece of history now, which makes me worry terribly about the future of paper books and libraries themselves. And my “murky future” bookstore.

How will I sell you a book that you actually have to turn the pages of?

Before that, I worked at the mall across the street from my high school at Waldenbooks. I took incoming shipments of books out of boxes in the back room and placed them out on the store shelves. No one wanted this boring part of the job, and what was their loss was my heaven. I briefly read the covers and backs as I worked, and sometimes the middles if I could get a 15 minute break.

The funny part was, that if a customer walked in and said, “My daughter is reading a series with a dog, a grapefruit and a ship in it…” I knew right away what series it was and could put my hand on it. If a customer came in with, “My mother is a Nora Roberts fanatic and it’s her birthday but she already has all the Nora Roberts in the whole world….” Then I knew which authors her mother was going to love. Studying to pass your GED? Got it right here. Need to find exactly the right toddler book involving a duck? Yup. If we didn’t have it, I could get it. We did have a computer then. Nothing like today when you tap over to and have instant gratification. But it felt fulfilling all the same.

So far the best book gig, hands down, has been as “Mommy”.

I read to my kids before they were even born.  I love reading aloud; I do all the voices, as Jo says in Little Women, and I have had every awesome kid’s book worth reading. Bookcases were my signature furniture decorating style.

My youngest is 13 now, and we moved houses, so almost all of our books were donated between the elementary school, the local library and the library resale shop. Out of an extensive collection, I have reduced my personal library down to about 200 that I cannot bear to part with.

Books were meant to circulate, not sit on a shelf, and we had moved on, literarily, to Dickens, Kipling, Dumas, Twain and the like. It’s not that I can’t borrow them from the library whenever I want to. It’s just comforting to know I can put my hand on one and be instantly in India or Rohan, on a whaling ship or rafting the Mighty Mississippi.

The other day, I went to the library and borrowed a stack of old friends, from Eric Carle to Amelia Bedelia.  My older, sophisticated techy kids sat down and had a heyday,  reminiscing about all the warm quilty cozy feelings of being three years old, sitting in Grampy’s lap, listening to “Three Bears. One with a light, one with a stick, one with a rope…”


Passion in a Pocket Part 1

In my distant and murky future I see a brilliant little jewel. It’s a vision of me owning a bookshop that also serves tea and sells pretty little frivolous trinkets. There’s definitely a kid’s corner. I can’t imagine any one bit without the other. It should have candles and flowers for sale too, and a cat who lives in it.

I might even live in it. Why would I leave?

The smell in a bookshop is amazing. I love the smell of paper. There is a very particular smell to new coloring books and another for new crayons, as there is for play dough.  However, a book smell carries nuances of possibility and anticipation and singularity that nothing else comes close to.

When I went into my son’s high tech high school “library” I almost fainted. Where were the books!? There were round couches around round tables full of electrical outlets facing huge whiteboard walls. Kids sat down, plugged in their iPads, downloaded their books, projected essays onto the walls and started reading. Treason! Heresy! And a distinct odor of ammonia.

At the moment, I volunteer in my church’s library, where people donate old worn books from great-grandparents’ shelves. Some ancient tomes have crumbling leather binding and spidery hand written notes on the flyleaf dated 1902. They were treasured keepsakes and respected writings. The scripted signatures are pieces of art in themselves. Penned with proper ink. That’s before keyboards people. And texting. It’s called penmanship and it was a sign of educated upper-class folks. They could read Latin. Can you? No, Googling is not allowed.

Books and I go way back. Not to 1902, wise guy, but back there a bit.

I grew up in a tiny house in a tiny neighborhood under the supervision of a fairly over-protective mum. The only place I was allowed to go on my own was a (yes) tiny library which sat at the top of the tiny hill of our tiny street. Librarians are always wise, are they not? Ours was a tiny lady named Pearla (I’m not making this up folks) who saw a little girl with big dreams, and put the right books into my hands.

Thank you Pearla.

I clearly remember studying and practicing ballet from a book, in our kitchen, holding onto the back of a chair. If you cannot afford ballet lessons, and you want to be the next prima ballerina, you grab a book and get going. When I finally took my first ballet lesson at the tender age of 35, it occurred to me that my dream was much more brilliant than its reality. Oh well.

But the reality would not have been attempted had not a brilliant dream preceded it. And while we wait for tomorrow’s conclusion, I’m wondering…what’s your brilliant little dream?

Dust Bunnies Beware

I am the proud owner of an industrial size regulation yellow janitor mopping bucket. And I’m not afraid to use it. I’m sure it horrifies my family when I go to town on the floors; maybe it’s the way I tie up my hair, roll up my sleeves, and put on my game face. My German roots rejoice over the shiny clean awesomeness of it all.

Yay! It’s so springy. In So Cal we have lovely weather year round but once the last of the frost is gone, we tend to get as crazy as everybody else. We toss open the windows and toss out the kids. Go digging in the garden and digging through new recipes. We have the annual rounding up of the dust buffaloes.

Our home sports mostly tile or wooden floors which is genius for heaps of people trekking through. When the floor is clean, you know it. When it’s dirty, you know it. The tiny dust bunnies scamper along, multiplying slowly beneath the radar. They curl up under the couch and behind the beds, enjoying their long winter’s nap. Come spring cleaning madness, though, the little things are no longer wee baby bunnies.

They are gi-normous dust buffaloes with attitudes!

They hear the approaching sound of doom and shrink into the corners: my cowboys are coming with the vacuum to bring them to justice.

Not many escape.

Speaking of vacuums, my faithful zoomer broke off another piece. This one might be important, it appears to hold the front wheels on. It’s the world’s best vacuum and that’s no lie. It’s got two clear plastic chambers and a spinning air filter that picks up everything in its path and holds it captive until I go tip it upside down over the trashcan and shake. What comes out is enough hair to make an actual buffalo and maybe two cups of filth. It’s better than using the old paper vacuum bags. You never know what’s going on in there until it blows! So when I go to buy a new one, it will be exactly this same model.

I found out you’re not supposed to use the vacuum on hard wood floors because of the rotating brush, so I have a huge dusting mop for those. I push it around and in two minutes, the room is swept. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or if I’m getting gypped. I see the kids who work in the grocery stores and they get to push them all up and down the aisles instead of doing real work like restocking the always-empty salad racks.

Rounding out the list of my weapons of choice is my very wonderful feather duster. You need one, you really do! Only get one with real ostrich feathers; the oils in them suck up dust like you won’t believe and grab on till you walk outside on the balcony and whack it firmly against your palm over the neighbor’s back fence. They should also have the opportunity to dust, I’m only sharing the love.

I’d like to close by mentioning two of my favorite people, persons who come to mind when I’ve got microfiber cloths in one hand and the Lysol in the other. Inspiration for the joys of hard work that isn’t actually hard, and the excellent attitudes behind it: and our elementary school janitor, Mr. Calvin.

Now that I’ve dropped names, someone go clean up that mess.

Not Again!

It’s time to Spring Forward. Twice a year we move the clocks, replace the batteries in our smoke detectors, and get our teeth cleaned. Gooood times.

How was your week? Mine’s gotten better since I filled my camelback with espresso.

Everything has been coming at such a fast pace, I fall into bed exhausted each day only to smack the alarm clock across the room the next morning.

I have jet lag and not even a vacation to remember for it.

Every time our wonderful government changes to Daylight Saving Time the chickens and I go on strike. We plan on making hay while the sun shines, and not one minute before it does.

I always thought we invented this lovely little torture device to help out farmers. So originally, I was okay with it. I can put up with some inconvenience if it helps them feed America.

But then I actually pushed a couple of Google buttons, and do you know what? It’s a lie. Turns out, farmers were the biggest opponents of the idea. They have to wait for the dew to dry on crops before they can harvest them, while the market runs on, hours ahead of them.

I won’t be telling my hens about the movie I watched the other day.

It said the mass market for eggs compels some chicken ranchers to keep their hens in artificially lit henhouses on timers. Eggs are produced with greater regularity and business booms because ranchers are outsmarting the finicky creatures. Hens lay eggs during warm daylight hours, and when the sun or the temperature goes down so do they.  What motivates these ladies is a 12-hour-a-day year-round simulated vacation in the Bahamas.  Sounds great until you realize this can only go on for a couple of years before the exhausted things are turned into pot pies.

Believe it or not, cows are not interested in moving their milking times around in the morning just because the dairy moved the clock hands forward an hour. I imagine the dairymen are not going to house their cows in giant artificially lit stadiums, though.

Not so surprisingly, the grilling and golf industries voted two enthusiastic thumbs up, convincing our government to stretch DST from six to our current eight months long.  I suppose they don’t think about where the chicken and beef on those barbecue grills came from?

And if you had a choice between an extra hour of sleep and an extra hour of golf, which would you choose? I know, right?

Research shows our risk of a heart attack surges by 10% on the Monday and Tuesday following our big Spring Forward.

That could be from the alarm clock shrieking into our ears in the dark.

It could stem from our attempt to defeat the jet lag with gallons of caffeine and sugar.

It could come from reading about how the egg industry treats chickens.

But I ask you: Are we going to keep putting up with this nonsense?

When I want to be healthy, wealthy and wise, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, get off my roost!

Is it Too Late to Mail a “Happy March” Card?

I feel the need to apologize to everyone who didn’t get a Christmas card from us this year.

That would be all of you. Sorry.

It was all mapped out in my head and on the calendar. In my world, that’s a slam dunk.

My favorite part of Christmas is the cards. I love to receive them, thank you! And I love to send them. We may or may not get a tree. We may or may not get cookies made. The tinsel can get tossed any-ol-where. But addressing cards and sorting photos and buying pretty stamps are my cup of tea.

Can you believe there was a time when the kids were little and we made a family project of it? They hand decorated each card with a drawing or their name and we learned how to address an envelope correctly. Someone licked the stamps. Someone licked the envelopes. We used ink and rubber stampers to decorate the back. And drove to the post office.

Along the way, I learned the trick of using a damp sponge to seal the envelopes instead of the “lick em and stick em” routine. Even the stamps aren’t the licking kind anymore, thank goodness. Anyone else out there remember the joys of “tacky tongue”? Please tell me I’m not the only one. Please.

If I we had a very eventful year, I typed up a little insert. It was usually letting you know we had (once again) added onto the family or had (once again) added onto the house and everyone’s age, school doings, blah blah blah. Things a grandparent would want to know, but bore your single girlfriends to death.

The advent of the Costco photo greeting card was just in the nick of time. The older the kids got, the less they wanted to sit for an afternoon of card making. And I realized that I could order glossy cards pre-signed with everyone’s name and age. I could add a photo that was worth a thousand word newsletter!

Now they just had to pose for an afternoon of photo taking. There were haircuts and outfits and location scouting. There was bribery. There was begging. There was Kodak! There was the sun in their eyes. There was a bee in the grass. There was junior about to fall out of the tree before mommy could get into camera position.

Fast forward to the Christmas Card of 2012. There we all are, grouped together smiling in the den. Such a lovely family. Ha.

What you don’t know is that eldest son’s girlfriend was taking the photo, causing him to ruin the first ten shots with ridiculous faces. My arm is around youngest son’s waist: and squeezing. He’d better be taking this seriously if he knows what’s good for him. Both daughters are behind us, the only willing participants in the shot although half of the time one or the other of them are rolling their eyes at all the brotherly antics going on. Child number four wisely posed on the other side, far from my reach. The camera will show another dozen shots where he felt the need to only insert half of his head. Hubby’s smile is fixed between admonishing everyone else to smile. Our cheeks are starting to ache.

Out of some 30 shots, the one you got was the only one that worked.

When I asked the family to sit together for an impromptu photo this last Thanksgiving, they scattered faster than roaches when the light turns on. They wouldn’t sit all in the same room again until January.

My card tradition may take a necessary detour.

I realize not everyone does cards anymore. I have a brilliant artsy girlfriend who is a graphic designer, photographer and witty mommy. She emails a full color photo card/newsletter right to my inbox that knocks my socks off. Of course I’m jealous. She’s saving trees. But I have a hard time hanging it on the fridge.

There’s a good nine months to think this card crisis over. I’m considering everything from Photoshopping their heads onto some lined up bowling pins to candids of them asleep, drooling on their pillows.

“Visions of Sugarplums” I’ll call it. Oy vey.