Friday, September 24, 2010

I Read Banned Books

I love books.  I love everything about books.  I love looking at them, holding them, reading them and I especially love how a brand new book smells.  I love the sound of the pages turning, I love cracking open the cover and getting lost in the story.  I love how books make me think and how they make me feel.  I have been in love with books my entire life.  I began reading at the age of 4 and not once do I remember being told there was a book that was inappropriate or that I couldn't read something for any reason.  Censorship was a foreign concept for me.
Censorship is real and it happens more often than we realize.  I support anyones choice not to read a book for their own reasons but I will not tolerate someone telling me that I don't have the right to read what I choose for myself.  I have traveled to Helena several times defending my rights as a bookseller to sell books to you and to uphold your rights as citizens to have the choice of what you read be your decision and not decided for you.

I am always amazed at the books that get censored.  I think the most ridiculous one was "Snow White".  I don't recall where this happened but it was pulled from a kindergarden classroom.  The reason:  There was one woman living with 7 little men.........I am sure every kindergardener in that school breathed a sigh of relief that the book was gone and no longer available to them.  Of course every year the banned book list has the usual suspects, "Harry Potter", "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", "To Kill A Mockingbird", "Bridge to Terabithia", "Of Mice and Men", "Catcher in the Rye", "Lord of the Flies", "The Color Purple", "The Golden Compass", "Go Ask Alice", "The Bible", "Scarey Stories in the Dark", "A Day no Pigs would Die", "Wrinkle in Time", "James and the Giant Peach", "Grapes of Wrath" and "Cujo".  Roald Dahl, Stephen King, Chris Crutcher and Judy Blume are authors that make the list often.  Judy Blume has received letters from readers responding to the censorship of her books.  Often times the writer is a young reader wanting to know where the bad parts were in her books because they read them and couldn't find it.

On Saturday, September 25th, the literary world begins celebrating Banned Books Week in the United States.   The goal is to draw attention to the pitfalls of censorship in America.   So I encourage you to rejoice in your freedom to read and to go forth into the world and read whatever you want.  Not just this coming week but everyday!  Be Free Read.

Banned Book Week sponsored by the American Library Association go to this link to learn more

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Celebrating all that is Good and Appreciating the Rest

Celebrating all That is Good and Appreciating the Rest

September 16, 2003

Seven years ago today I went in for a routine mammogram.    I remember being really busy and fretting that I was having to take time out of my day for something so annoying.  I actually thought about calling and cancelling, then I realized I wouldn't have time until after the holiday season to reschedule.  So I sucked it up, left work and went for the exam. (plus it had been 18 months since the last one)

The mammography tech had warm hands, we chatted, she was professional, and focused.  I didn't pay attention when she took extra pictures.  They always took extra pictures.   When I got home that night she called from the hospital requesting that I return the next morning.  I thought it odd that she called my home after 6:00 p.m. and promptly put it out of my mind. 

Those warm hands from the afternoon before had detected something.  The mood in the room this time was quieter, still professional but quieter and involved more people.  The next week I had a biopsy - it confirmed what the professionals already suspected -  cancer.  The week after that I had a double mastectomy we now knew cancer had invaded the lymph nodes and exactly one month from the mammogram I began chemotherapy.

This isn't about that part of the journey.  This is about here and now.  This is about taking time to reflect on how lucky I am, this is about being thankful for everything and everyone in my life.  This is about celebrating living.  We are all survivors of something and I was just fortunate enough to have my life altered in such a way that I see things differently, more clearly and with a joy that goes beyond a moment.  Don't get me wrong I don't walk around in a Pollyanna state, I live in the real world with real problems, real mood swings (menopause is grand) with real moments of being out of sorts.  Yet I know that I don't take these things quite as seriously as I once did.  But I do take the good times much more seriously and try not to take anything or anyone for granted.

Cancer showed me that I did have time for things beyond the Bookstore.  It showed me that people are amazing and complicated and giving.  It showed me how to say yes and when to say no.  It showed me how to laugh when crying would have been easier.  It taught me to look and think outside of the box. I learned to accept help from people that wanted nothing in return and learned that I have the best family and friends in the world. 

When I looked at my calendar and saw the smiley faces and hearts drawn all over todays square I  paused holding my cup of tea and smiled.  It was 6:00 am and our puppy was bouncing around waiting to be taken for a walk (correction: he walks me we are still learning the rules of the leash) Bill walked by, looked at the calendar, touched my shoulder and squeezed my hand.  He made oatmeal, I took Tonka for his walk and we both went to work. 

Today is just a day, I didn't let cancer define me then and it doesn't define me now.  If I had a choice would I do it all over again? No ( and I hope I am never faced with that choice).  Am I angry that I had cancer?  No.  Am I glad that cancer  introduced me to some wonderful people? Yes.  Am I glad that cancer allowed me to understand myself and those around me better?  Yes.  Do I get sad and angry when others are diagnosed with cancer? Yes.

Today is just a day. I am waiting for the book order to arrive on the wonderful UPS truck, contemplating lunch, knowing I have to go to the grocery store after work because Tonka the Terrible ran out the door this morning with our last roll of toilet paper in his mouth, I will work out at the Y  and when I get home I will be greeted by my husband and our puppy.  I will have dinner and sit in my favorite chair with a cup of tea and finish one (possibly two books)  I will go to bed, say a prayer of thanks and wake up tomorrow morning and start all over again.

Had I had the mammogram earlier would the outcome have been different?   I don't know and I don't waste time asking that question.  But please my friends don't skip your check ups, don't let your wives, your girlfriends, your grandmothers, your nieces, your mothers, your aunts, your daughters, your friends miss a mammogram it just takes a minute.


Friday, September 10, 2010

A Few of My Favorite things....................

Originally this post was going to be about my favorite books.........or rather about me trying to define those books that stand out among my favorites.   It turns out that is an impossible task.  There are those few titles that always rotate to the top, such as Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird", Mildred Walker's "Winter Wheat", Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist" or Pete Fromm's "Indian Creek Chronicles."  But then I read "A Reliable Wife"  and find myself recommending it to customers daily as well as "The Rabbit Factory" (a funny mystery, first in a series, that is odd enough to appeal to those that appreciate dark humor) right now I find myself captivated by "Cutting for Stone" which is one of those books that I can't speed read, I want to read every word yet there are times I want to avert my eyes because the scene coming off the page and entering my consciousness makes me uncomfortable -- but I can't stop reading it nor do I want to.  Carl Hiaasen always makes me laugh and Stuart Woods tells a great story. I remember the first time I read "Gone with the Wind" and wanted to read only books about the Civil War or the phases I went through reading books about dogs and horses.  I had a Russian History fascination and loved reading books about British Royalty.  Charles Dickens is another favored author as are Dashiell Hammett, Robert Louis Stevenson and Alexandre Dumas.
     I am an eclectic reader gravitating toward books of all kinds.  As a child I read all of the James Bond books (I was in 4th or 5th grade)  I found 007 by accident.  I had just finished "Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang" by Ian Fleming (not to be confused with Chelsea Handler's new book "Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang) .  I went looking for more books by Fleming and I happily discovered the Bond books on the bookmobile.
     I loved the bookmobile.  I anticipated its arrival with uncontrolled excitement.  It was wonderful when my hometown of Augusta, Montana finally had its own library, but I have to admit I missed the bookmobile  visits.   This library on wheels brought me Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, My Friend Flicka and books about Scotland and Lewis and Clark.  I read every book by Marguerite Henry and Will James.  In third or fourth grade I devoured "The Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler", "Strawberry Girl" and most of the  "Wizard of Oz" books." About this same time, much to the dismay of my parents I also read "Go Ask Alice" and "Alive".  I realize now how fortunate I was that no one, not my parents, my teachers, the librarians nor the driver of the bookmobile stopped me from reading.  I was encouraged by them, no book was off limits these amazing people helped nurture me into the reader I am today.
     I have to admit that I don't read a lot of Science Fiction.  However in high school, a sometime boyfriend and most of the time friend introduced me to some classic SciFi and it is to his credit that I discovered Robert Asprin and his "Myth Adventures" series.  In fifth grade my teacher, Mrs. Tuomi, led me to a love of John Steinbeck.  She gave me my first copy of "Travels with Charley" and she was the one that instilled in me that as long as you have a book you aren't alone.  I may have taken her sage wisdom too far when I had a book with me the night of the senior prom and took 3 books with me to the senior kegger ;o)  You never know those events could have gotten boring!  Usually you will find a dictionary in my purse.
     If I was forced to pick a favorite genre it would be biographies.   "John Adams" by David McCullough is easily one of my favorite non-fiction titles.  It is one of the books that the minute I finished it I started reading it all over again.  I also own volumes of letters written by John and Abigail Adams what amazing people from American History.   I was intrigued with "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond, to the point that I think this book should be required reading in high school.  Along those same lines I think everyone should take a look at "Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present" by Michael Oren.  I also have to admit that I love to read biographies about old Hollywood film stars, I enjoy peeking inside a world that is filled with glitz and glamour. 
     I tend to avoid horror books and to be quite honest if a book frightens me too much I put it under the bed.  "Silence of the Lambs" spent about 6 months under there.  I have done this since I was a kid. I honestly don't know why but eventually I pull the book out and finish reading it.  One book that didn't go under the bed was "The Heart Shaped Box" by Joe Hill (the son of Stephen King) What a  book and one that I highly recommend but don't plan on sleeping the night you start it.
     I read a lot (average 5 books a week) and I will never have enough time to read all the books that I have waiting on the nightstand, the coffee table nor the floor of our home.  Everyday I hear about at least one book that I have to read.  I get nervous when a customer is looking at a book that I possibly was planning on taking home.  It is not beneath me to strongly suggest other books for fear that they will take the copy I wanted.  I am not ashamed of this behavior (although it horrifies Bill and makes him worry about our businesses bottom line.........)  He wishes I would bring the books back to the store after I read them.  But I can't part with them.  Although he may not understand this behavior he honors it.  So he carefully plans the next bookcase to be strategically placed so that the foundation of our little house remains balanced.  He is an amazing carpenter and a man that doesn't pretend to understand my obsession with books.  He lives with me, honors my quirks and every now and then adds an antique dictionary to my collection.  I am a lucky woman.  Now if I only had a little more time or didn't need to sleep every night I might be able to polish off a few more books each week.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

How it all Began

How it all began
     As I sit down to compose my second writing as a blogger I am in awe as I realize how strongly my life has been influenced by books.  I can't remember not reading.  I can't recall a time where I didn't get a thrill of anticipation at the thought of a new book. 
     For me owning a bookstore can be equated to an alcoholic owning a bar.  When I purchased the Bookstore in 1992 it wasn't for sale.  In fact the owner made it quite clear that it wasn't for sale.  But that didn't stop me from pursuing my dream.  I use the word pursue the former owners called it stalking...........I called, I inquired, they answered, the answer was no.  I called again, again the answer was no.  Not one to give up easily I took one more end run at them and this time I phrased the question differently: "Hi this is Debbie, Wait don't hang up.  I understand that The Bookstore is not for sale but...if it were for sale how would you go about selling it?"  There was a long dramatic pause, a deep intake of breath and a terse reply "We would hire the prospective buyer as a a manager with no guarantee that we would sell and no expectation that they would want to buy."  I quickly said "When that time comes give me a call......."  She called me the next day.
     At the time I was employed with an insurance agency.  I knew nothing about running a business.  I just knew that I loved books and I loved reading and if I was having a bad day I would find myself at The Bookstore.  Where I would embrace the feeling of coming home, where I would straighten the books on the shelves as I wandered around the store.  Where I would daydream about rearranging the window displays and moving the counter.  I just knew that I felt good when I was there.
     My husband had just begun working for the City of Dillon where there were good benefits, health insurance, a retirement plan and a regular paycheck.  All the things needed by at least one of us in our household in order for me to live my dream.  After meeting with the owner, over a 2 hour lunch, we had ironed out a deal.  I had yet to tell Bill about my harebrained adventure.
     I took Bill out to dinner, laid out my plan, he was speechless (for just a moment) Then the comments and questions began:  "Sooooo, you are quitting your job, giving up a regular paycheck, health insurance, weekends off and paid vacations to buy a business.  As their manager your take home will be 1/4 of what you were making, and we both know you will take home Zero dollars because you will owe them at the end of the month for your books........................"  I said "Yes, to all of that" Then he asked the next question -- "on top of all of that you are going to put us thousands of dollars in debt and how are you paying for this?"  I ordered him another drink, smiled sweetly and said they are carrying the balance and I just need to have the down payment up front..................and I thought we could take out a mortgage on the then he needed that drink.
     Hard to believe that was over 18 years ago.  In that time we have paid for the business, bought the building and burned the mortgage.  There have been many changes yet in some ways no changes at all.  I love what I do.  I still get paid in books and that is fine by me.  Thank goodness I am married to a very handy(and understanding) man that builds bookcases almost as quickly as I fill them.