Monday, September 23, 2019

Every bookseller, every librarian, every teacher and many individuals have had a discussion at one time or another about the appropriateness of a books content.  In the 28 years that I have been a bookseller I have had MANY of these conversations.  I have testified at state hearings regarding proposed laws that would limit our freedoms regarding free speech.   I have been asked to attend school board meetings, I have spoken in college classrooms on the subject of censorship and I have been told that "they" will protest in front of my store.
     The threat of a protest was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had at The Bookstore.  We were setting up for a midnight release Harry Potter party.  I had 3 phone calls (before caller ID was common) warning me to be prepared for problems that evening.  I laughed and asked each of them if they would like coffee and doughnuts or if they would prefer butterbeer with Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans?  They did not find me nearly as amusing as I found myself.  FYI:  We had the street blocked in front of the store:  hosted a street dance, had broomstick races, a face painter, a station for coloring pages, had a costume parade, had the books locked in a vault guarded by the three headed dog, kids could decorate a spider cookie and at the the midnight hour Hagrid arrived on a pink scooter (we took creative license here) and delivered the first copy to the first person standing in line.  For the record we had 0 (ZERO) protestors.
     When I am asked about a book or asked to assist in the removal of a book (which always surprises me that folks think I will be willing to help promote censorship) I ask them if they have actually read the book (you would be alarmed to know how often I hear "No, But I have heard......" I tell them the following story:  A woman (a good customer) was angry that I would be selling Harry Potter books in Dillon.  She thought I was a better person than that (yes, she said that) We had the basic conversation - I am not forcing you or anyone to buy the book, I believe people have the right to choose what they read and yes I respect and honor all thoughts on the subject and if a parent has specifically asked me to lead their child to a book I do my very best to work with them on this quest.  She was getting angrier and more demanding.  I honestly thought we were alone in the store when a young man (aprox 7 maybe 8 years old)  slipped up next to her and put his hand in hers.  She and I were both startled.  He looked at her intently and then very quietly said "Excuse me, but you do realize Harry Potter isn't real, don't you?"

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Pansy Bradshaw, it is your birthday today -- I miss you EVERY day -- but I miss you most on Saturdays. I miss our not so impromptu lunches, have yer gurl call is simple I miss you. 
September 6th, I knew this day was coming it always does.  It has been a day for celebration and continues to be so, only now the celebration is bittersweet.  Filled with memories, laughter, love, loss and joy.  Happy Birthday dear friend. You were my mentor, my spiritual advisor, my co-worker and at times my cohort. You knew when I needed a shoulder to cry on or when I needed to be told to snap out of it. But most of all you were my friend. 

As I placed a book order with a publisher yesterday, I thought of you.  There were so many titles on the list that brought you to mind.  Books I knew you would have to have, books that would make you roll your eyes.  Books for you, books you would want to give to others.  Books that you and I would share.  Books, beautiful books.  The new season of Dances with Words starts tonight.  I feel the loss of you strongly at these events.  You were always with me, carrying the books, supporting the authors, laughing with me, sharing an unspoken word as our eyes met when the words shared by these authors moved us.  You were there.  I miss you. 

You challenged me spiritually.  Taking me to a higher level of  understanding theology.  Helping me find my place of peace in this chaotic world.  Guiding me to find my own answers to my questions and doubts.  Showing me that your faith never wavered in a world where there were some that damned you to hell for being who you are.  You showed me how to close my eyes and let my soul tell my hands what to paint and create.  I love you for that and so much more.

Bill misses you too.  We miss our Sunday dinners and watching Six Feet Under.  We miss your presence in our lives. We miss you.  I see bits of you in the kids you helped raise.  They are all amazing and you sparked so much creativity in each of them.  You let them find themselves and helped them develop minds that seek and speak the truth.  They are walking this earth with you beside them.  We all are. 

A friend said it best "Life is just less interesting without you"   I hope you and my Mom get together in heaven and share a good hearty laugh and an egg salad sandwich. You left us too soon.

Friday, July 8, 2016

It's All About The Books........................The Books (with apologies to Meghan Trainor and Cameron Zane Freebury)

 In spite of my crazy schedule I am able to finish 4-5 books a week.  Some are a delight, others I feel obligated to read and every once in awhile I am reminded of something my Mom said years ago.  It was during the heyday of "The Bridges of Madison County".  My little bookstore had sold over 100 hardcover copies of that book. (Harry Potter books outsold Bridges by a large margin) I had not read the little novel by Robert James Waller and finally sat down one evening and polished it off.  It took all of 2 hours and I was underwhelmed and thought to myself well......maybe Mom would have a different take on this since she was from a foreign land (Scotland) and found herself married, the mother of 4,  living on a ranch in Montana.  I shipped it off to her a with note saying I would love to get her opinion.  She called before reading it and said "Thanks, I have heard a lot about this book."  We spoke the next morning she didn't even say hello before stating "Why did you have me waste 3 hours of my life on this tripe?"  "I am here to tell you the last thing a wife and mother is going to do when her husband and kids head off to the county fair is hop into the bathtub with a traveling salesman."  (she didn't care that he was actually a photographer) she continued by telling me,  "You dream of being able to take a bath with the door open, a drink in one hand and a book in the other, all the while being uninterrupted."  So every now and then I do come across a book that my Mom would consider tripe.
          I have spent many wonderful hours disappearing into a world separate from my own, into the pages of a book (many books) discovering pieces of me as I respond to the words.   I love recommendations from my fellow readers.  "All Things Cease to Appear" by Elizabeth Brundage, was a novel shared with me by a favorite customer and is a story with twists and turns that left me stunned.  After reading that book I binged on a couple of her other titles:  "The Doctor's Wife" and "Somebody Else's Daughter" with "A Stranger Like You" waiting in a stack of books on my nightstand. 

I am savoring "First Women" by Kate Anderson Brower, a look at First Ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama.  I devoured Fifty-Six Counties by my friend Russell Rowland.  I have been in trouble the past 2 days because I am reading at my desk -- I should have warning lights on my shoulders to alert customers to approach with caution.  (I try to avoid eye contact and sigh heavily if it turns out I must set the book down and take their money..............not a good plan if I want to be in business another 24 years.)  "A Shooting in Bannack" by R.J. Harrison (also a friend) is beckoning me from beneath a pile of papers.  I am reading a cookbook manuscript penned by local women and will get my hands on the real book soon. 
      I still have warm feelings when I think about any book by Sarah Addison Allen.  The book "The Girl Who Chased the Moon" made me wish I could glow in the dark..................I suggested to Bill that we should paint our house in luminous paint (he ignored my request probably to the relief of our neighbors) I have many books waiting to be read:  (these are just a few of the titles in one of the many piles in our home)
Waltz Against the Sky - Glen Larum
Book That Matters Most - Ann Hood
Barkskins - Annie Proulx
Nest - Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
For a Little While - Rick Bass
Genius of Birds - Jennifer Ackerman
and I can not wait to get my hands on the New Harry Potter book.

and sooooo many more.  It really is All about the Books!

Monday, July 4, 2016

      Here I am................................... It has been awhile since I have visited my blog.  The last entry dealt with the death of my Mom and my  friend, Pansy.  Time has passed and as my Dad said "I don't know if gets any easier but it does get different." 
     When Bill and I had been married a few years his Mom was helping us move from an apartment to the home we still occupy. (this was at least 30 years ago)   I was in a different room filling boxes when I overheard this conversation. "Mom we will pack all of them."  "Mom, seriously we have to box them up exactly as she instructed."  by now Bill's voice was starting to sound a little bit panicked.  Then his final argument was "Mom if we don't pack her books and move them you may as well put my stuff in your car and move me back in with you!"  I have a feeling she decided it would be easier to move my books than live with her 30 something year old son.

Recently a couple of friends have pointed out that I love what I do.   One observed that I never seem to burn out and another very matter of factly stated that the difference between so many others and me is the  that I really love my job.  Bill recently retired after 25 years of working for the City of Dillon.  A job that provided well for us, a job that allowed me the freedom to be self-employed without the worry of bringing home much of a salary.  (But we are rich in books)  He now has the freedom to explore other things.  He wasn't retired very long when he went to work for Roxi's Greenhouse and Nursery.  He was in heaven.  People were happy to be there.  He was fueling his inner gardener and our yard looks amazing.  (we are now almost as rich in flowers and trees as we are in books)  As things began to slow down there he was able to begin a new journey as a shuttle driver for Frontier Anglers.  He is referring to the summer of 2016 as his endless summer.  Life is good as we adjust to a different schedule and we are ready for this new adventure. 

     My friend, Tim, loaned me a book that made my soul open up and sing with joy.  It was a memoir by
Wendy Welch.  This book, about a couple daring to open a bookstore in a town that had never boasted a bookstore mirrored my experiences,  it may be a different town but the people, the relationships the joys and the sorrows remain the same.  "The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap" was a wonderful read.  The author was on my shoulder observing the past 24 years of my life as a bookseller.  She beautifully put into words what I get to feel everyday.  It was a simple reminder that as a small independent business owner I don't just occupy a place on the street but I am part of a community.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


It has been a long time since I have visited my blog and even longer since there has been a new update.  But something happened last week that moved my fingers out of my pockets and onto the keyboard.  A friend died.  When I was asked to write the obituary in my head I screamed "NOOO."  I thought "I can't"  the caller sensed my hesitation but didn't ask for an explanation instead she pushed forward suggesting people that could help.  We share a deep unsettling grief at the loss of this friend.  Instead of saying no I weakly told her that I knew the essence of our friend but I did not know the history complete with dates and a chronological timeline.  Her reply was simple "it is the essence that matters."  I was terrified and for the next several hours I was numb unable to even come up with one word that could open the floodgate to a completed tribute of this man, my friend.

 I haven't been able to write, really write since June 29th, 2013.  On that day everything changed in a heart beat or in this case when a heart stopped beating.  This was the day my Mom died.  It is still strange to say those words.  She died, that was 16 months ago.  She was an amazing woman.  Crazy, fun, filled with life and light.  She was my Mom and my best friend.  We, her family and friends, orbited around her, she being the bright star. In the days leading up to my Mom's funeral I wrote my part of the eulogy and assisted with her obituary.  Tasks that were shared with my Dad and my sisters.  I was not alone and I am not alone.

I have gotten up every day.  I have moved through life doing the things I need to do.  I have gone to work, read books, attended meetings, chaired committees, sent out obligatory notes, made phone calls, returned phone calls, laughed, cried, received hugs, given  hugs, traveled often between my two loves, Dillon, Montana and Augusta, Montana.  I have rejoiced at the births of new babies and cried at funerals.  I have written face book updates and I have jotted one liners in a gratitude journal on a semi-regular basis.  I have written letters of recommendation for people that I truly believed deserved the recognition.

But I have not written from the heart.  I have not written a single poem or story.  I have not worked on that elusive novel that lives somewhere inside of me.  I have not written.  I have kept journals since I was old enough to put two words together in order to form a sentence.  I have notebooks filled with poetry (good and bad)  I have short stories and outlines and ideas on paper that fill the shelves in my art studio.  But nothing has been added since that day over a year ago. And now I feared I would never add anything more to those archives.  You see this friend was my writing mentor, we shared our love of words, we shared each others rough drafts, acting as editors and sounding boards.  He was the only one that knew I had not written anything of personal importance in a very long time.

I hear of and have read many tributes that people write during a period of mourning.  I couldn't and I didn't. My husband's favorite Uncle passed away a few months ago.  Bill and his many cousins lost their bright star.  They lost the one man that was there for them when others were not.  His cousin, a gifted artist, recently shared that she was having a hard time painting since the death of her father.  She shared a painting that she is working on and stated the one way to honor her father is to continue to create art.  Her talent is a gift that she and her Dad shared, the artist gene had been passed from father to daughter.  To let that light dim is a disservice not only to his memory but also to her.

Things changed.  On October 23, 2014 I lost another someone that meant so much to me and I was being given the honor of writing a tribute to him.  I was afraid I would fail, afraid to let my grief guide me, afraid I would disappoint his family and friends.  I was afraid.  I don't believe in Hell but I do believe in an afterlife.  I do believe that those that leave the earth remain with us.  I let go.  I let my grief envelop me.  I cried and screamed and swore.  I sat down and what I thought was a rough draft was a love letter.  I had help.  We put words on paper and it felt good.

There will be more blogs about books but for today it is about life.  Life is a story, there is a beginning, there is a middle and there is an end.  And somewhere amidst all of that we live, we laugh and when we are very lucky we love.  We experience it all the joy and the tears.  That is what makes us human. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

books to read books to share books nothing but books

     I love books.  I love how they feel, I love how they smell.  I love the  illustrations, I love the wonder I feel from looking at the words. I love the art of choosing a book (or having it choose me) I love the ritual of opening the cover and running my hand over the first few pages without reading the words but rather absorbing them onto my fingers.  Those first few moments with a new book (or an old favorite)  I forget to breathe, I get goosebumps in anticipation of the words that are ahead of me.  I love that everyday I get to share this passion with others that are equally passionate about books.  I have come to realize over the years that in the world of book lovers we are diverse in our views but we are united in our desire for stories (real and not so real) and our need for words (no matter the subject) written on paper.
    I have amazing conversations with people, covering every topic imaginable and oftentimes I probably know more about a person than anyone else.  (including their therapist)  There is  a recurring theme among my customers that share their lives with children.  Children of their own, their grandchildren, a niece or nephew or the kids next door.  They are asking me to recommend good books to read aloud and share with these moppets.  I am happy to oblige: (in no particular order)
Homer Price - Robert McCloskey -- is a fun collection of short stories
Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown -- a classic for the very young
Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan - E. B. White
Little House on the Prairie series - Laura Ingalls Wilder (9 titles in the original set)
Secret Garden, Little Princess, Little Lord Fauntleroy - Frances Burnett Hodgson
Harry Potter - JK Rowling (7 titles in the series)
Peter Pan - James Matthew Barrie
Hatchet - Gary Paulsen (there are 3 companion books to Hatchet)
Tucket's Travles - Gary Paulsen (first 5 of the Francis Tucket books)
Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo
James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Danny and the Chocolate Factory -Roald Dahl
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L. Frank Baum (there 14 Oz titles written by Baum)
Rootabaga Stories - Carl Sandburg
Winnie the Pooh, House at Pooh Corner - A. A. Milne (the orginal books)
Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Black Arrow - Robert Louis Stevenson
Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
A Long Way from Chicago - Richard Peck
The Borrowers - Mary Norton (there are 5 books in this series)
Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis (seven book set)
Heidi - Johanna Spyri
Strawberry Girl - Lois Lenski
Ramona - Beverly Cleary (actually all of her books)
My Side of the Mountain, Julie of the Wolves - Jean Craighead Jones
From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - E.L. Konigsburg
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle - Betty Macdonald (several titles in this series)
Magic Treehouse series - Mary Pope Osborne
and many, many more.  I could include Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Junie B. Jones, How to Train your Dragon, Inkheart and the Rangers Apprentice series.  There are so many picture books that make wonderful bedtime stories.  The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury is an incredible collection of stories and I personally feel that book is a must for every home library.  It has complete stories with the original illustrations included.
     As a child I remember a book that had a story for everyday of the year.  January first had a story about baby New Year and the illustration showed the familiar baby in a diaper.  I recall Valentines Day and cupid.  I think the book was simply called 365 bedtime stories.  But I have never been able to find a copy.  (there are many books with that title but they don't have the stories that remember) By the time my younger sisters were being read to from the book it was tattered.  I hope to find the book someday. 
     I love storytime at The Bookstore and have enjoyed reading to many children over the years (especially my nieces, nephews and God children)  Read to a child today and create memories for you and for them.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday, It's all about the Books

      Today is Thursday.  It is book day.  I love Thursday's at The Bookstore.  It is the day of the week that the special orders arrive.  The books that customers can't wait to get and the books that we can't wait to put on our shelves.  Every Thursday is like Christmas.  Boxes waiting to be opened, books waiting to be held, the breathless anticipation of the possible back ordered book arriving today among the books that are expected. 
     Thursday is a good day.  I often find myself with boxes half opened, books strewn across counters and my desk.  Me with my elbows perched precariously on the edge of my desk with a book cradled in my hands.  Reading.  When I should be taking care of my customers needs.  I honestly shouldn't read when I am at work.  I tend to become engrossed in the words and ignore everything else.  Including the customers, I have even let the answering machine pick up phone calls because I was being held captive by the images the words have evoked.  
     But more scandalous than any of that is the fact that I have talked customers out of buying a book because I decide it is the book I have to have that day......... I am honest (to a point) when asked about the book.  I tell them I haven't read it, that I haven't heard much about it and that I am hesitant to recommend it when I myself am unsure of its contents. All of which is true I just don't admit to them that I am planning on reading that book the minute they leave the store.  I then work hard (very hard) to find them a book that I know they will love (if only to appease my conscience).
     Today will be no different.  The boxes will arrive.  I will start to open them.  I will promise myself that all customers orders will be dealt with prior to me opening the covers on the books specifically ordered for me. 

 They arrived.  The first item to land in my hands:  The Deck of 1000 spreads:  Your Tarot Toolkit, followed by The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, Life Code by Dr. Phil McGraw, One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard, Healthier Without Wheat, Treat your Own Back and the 13 Clocks.  All of which are special orders for customers.  In spite of the misbehavior I admitted to previously in this blog I won't take home a book meant for a customer.   They will be called and notified that their book has arrived.  In the meantime there are more boxes to open and more books to be seen so there is still the possibility that I will be caught hidden behind the stacks of books reading, ignoring the phone and not making eye contact with people.............I am hopelessly addicted to books and I hope never to be cured.