Friday, September 16, 2011

Another Day.......Another Year

Friday, September 16th, 2011 is just another day.  It is 5 days after the anniversary of 9/11 and while listening to the local radio station (KDBM) this morning several people are celebrating their birthdays or anniversaries on this day.  There will be football, some of us will be going to school, some of us will go to work, some of us will spend the day at home or out with friends.  We will go to the gym, we will eat breakfast we will watch the news.   Somewhere in the world a baby or two will be born and someone else will leave us.  We will either follow our usual routine or we  won't.  No matter what we do today it will still be Friday, September 16th in the year of 2011.

I am 8 today -- I may look and act like I am 51 (well I may at times still act as if I am 8).  But no matter what, today I am 8.  Eight years ago today I had a routine mammogram that led to some not so routine events.  Recently there was an article written about me.  It focused on my tiara collection, my costumes, my love of books and my involvement in the local business builders association and the shop local group.  It touched on my creative side and The Bookstore.  Then it talked about cancer. me that is still an odd word.  We all know what it means.  That word makes us hold our breath for just a moment.  No matter if the word is directed at us or referring to someone we know or someone that we don't know but we know someone that knows them.  It is a word for pause.   We shed a silent tear or yell and scream or sit very still saying nothing.  cancer is out there I would find it hard to believe that there is anyone that has not been touched by it in someway, either as a participant or an observer.

This is my annual reminder to get a mammogram.  It is the day that I silently thank God for the people that made this trek with me.  Not just Bill and my family and my friends and my employees and my customers but the health professionals that sat beside me and still follow me on this journey of life.

There is Betty Jo Howells, Leslie Cottom, Dr. Judy Wilson, Dr. Lou Rudolph, Dr. Shafi Shafaieh, Dennis Hatfield, Dr. Judy Schmidt, Kathy Elliott, Debbie Bolin, Bev Bishop, Ryan Black, Kevin Mackey, Deanna (the bruiser), Patty, Sue and Joni.  There are many more but these people were the ones there in the beginning.  

Betty Jo was the tech that felt the lymph node while doing the mammogram.  Leslie and Bev were there the next day quietly holding my hand.  Dr. Rudolph, Kevin and Ryan are the reason that I can read an x-ray and they looked me in the eye every time I had a question.  Dr. Shafaieh, Kathy Elliott, Dennis Hatfield and the surgical staff were there when I went to sleep and when I awoke from surgeries.  The line of professional and friend blurry yet clear.  Debbie Bolin shaved my head when I could no longer tolerate the rapid loss. The nurses Joni, Patty and Deanna dealt with my shrinking veins with valor and determination all the while making sure I was OK.   Sue provided calmness, massages and toe rings. Dr. Schmidt and everyone at Guardian Oncology took care of me physically, emotionally and spiritually.  They not only cared for me, my husband, my family and my friends but they cared about us too. 

You may not know these people but you know people like them.  We just spent time remembering and honoring heroes of 9/11.  These humans that I mention are my heroes.  They walk among us doing their jobs not expecting anything in return.  But they are my superheros, my masked crusaders. 

Today, September 16, 2011 I am 8, I am at work, I am laughing, I am talking on the phone, I am checking in books, I am taking care of customers, I am  rearranging displays, I was interviewed for a a study (about trees), I am eating a kit kat bar that was part of a pak of 8 (a gift from a friend to help me celebrate #8) I am contemplating what to fix for dinner and I am enjoying my life. 

Don't take your annual physicals, Dr.'s appointments and routine exams lightly.  Get them done.  Remind each other, go together.  And please always acknowledge the heroes in your life.  

Friday, August 12, 2011

#2 Pencils and Back to School

I am a self admitted geek.  I loved the first day of school.  I couldn't wait to be back in the classroom among the books and my friends.  I have fond memories of "most" of my teachers....Mrs. Troy, now in her 90's, my 3rd grade teacher is still a cherished friend. There was also  Mrs. Carlson (Kindergarden), Mrs. Rada (1st grade), Mrs. Tuomi (5th grade), Mr. Rhonke (Business classes and the school paper), Miss Boley (English)  and of course Mr. Wilson (history).

There is definite proof that our summer (although brief) is winding down as the soil prepares itself for the next season.  We have sunflowers and sweetpeas blooming.  The border along our fence is stunning with the array of oranges, yellows and reds and this morning the dew on the windshield was almost frost.  I still have the urge every August to purchase #2 pencils, notebooks, erasers, glue, pens, and paper.  I look forward to the county fair and I want to go shopping for new shoes, socks and underwear. 

While growing up the stores in downtown Great Falls hosted sidewalk sales during fair week.  It was always an adventure and we would hit the stores and eventually we would all meet back at my Aunt Pat and Uncle Floyd's bar (That Bar) and then head over to the state fair. 

After about the age of 12 I had my own money to spend on back to school items and the fair.  I would save my money from babysitting and it would burn a hole in my pocket all summer but it was so worth the wait to feel that independence as I shopped.  I would get books and trinkets, pick out my own clothes and pay for them.  At the fair I would get conned my a smooth talking carney and end up with a much smaller version of the prize I really wanted and a lot less money in my pocket.  There were the rides................not the best for me.  But great for my younger sisters who had no fear.   I would always end up going just because I couldn't be upstaged by them and I would end up pale and nauseous.  I really miss those days.

Now it is August and I really wish I was talking on the phone (rotary dial) to my friends about what we are going to where tomorrow while I gaze lovingly at my new stack of school supplies.  The freshly sharpened pencils, the notebooks waiting to be written in, being teased by my brave little sisters about how I am more school than cool (and secretly agreeing with them)  There is just something about the first day of school that can never be duplicated.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Family, Friends, Summer Days and of course books

What a spring.  Rainy days, cold (some times freezing nights) and then suddenly it is the middle of July and the sun decides to smile upon us.  (well smile on most of us -- I am not a fan of summer heat,  Don't get me wrong I love the longer days, I love the lush greeness that we are experiencing right now because of the rain, I can't wait to spend time with Bill on the boat.  I love the smell of barbecue when I cruise home on my scooter, and I love seeing the geology students, the customers that spend weeks here that are old friends  but the heat and the sun I don't enjoy)  The mercury is rising a sure sign that summer has arrived, and I am thankful for ceiling fans, window unit air conditioners and a basement bedroom.

Besides the in influx of geology students the summer months also mean the return of the seasonal residents of Dillon.   Many of these folks have been visiting this area for more years than I have owned the Bookstore.  I anticipate their arrivals every summer with excitement and joy.  It is  fun to see them and to catch up on their lives and to know that they wintered well.  A lot of them came here as children and teens and now have children of their own.  They bring them in to introduce them to The Bookstore and me and show them their favorite books and they discover new favorites together.   I have met some incredible people over the past 20 years and I love that The Bookstore is part of their memories and one of the first stops they make upon their return to Dillon.  (of course some of them have aged but I seem to never change................)

July also brings family.  My sister and her family are visiting from Nashville.  They spent a night with us and the boys (ages 10 and 7) worked with me in the store.  They learned quickly and soon could run the cash register without my prompts.  The 7 year old sat in the back and hosted reading time with some young customers while their parents shopped.  We had negotiated their pay before their arrival and it was agreed that they would be compensated in books.  They are voracious readers (much to my delight) and they were well paid (much to their parents dismay as they wonder how in the world they will get all those books on the airplane)

I will travel to my parents home this weekend (I am taking a long weekend) where I will get to spend some quality time with my sisters, our parents  and assorted nieces, nephews and friends.  We have a lot of plans including some fiddle playing, open mic night at my sisters bar, dancing, peddlers in the park (art in the park), stacking some firewood and we are going to celebrate the holidays that we have spent apart.
Since the kids from Nashville are rarely here for the holidays  we are planning to decorate Easter eggs and have an Easter egg hunt, we are going to bake and frost Christmas cookies, barbecue a turkey and maybe even shoot off some fireworks.   I am planning to string some twinkly lights around the patio, we will sing Christmas carols and of course their will be presents.

This post sounds like I am on one long vacation.  (well when you think about it my job is pretty awesome since I am surrounded by books all day and I encounter people that want to talk about books -- so yes I have it pretty good)  Amidst all the working and time with family and friends I have managed to read a couple of books. 

"A Discovery Witches" by Deborah Harkness is the first of a trilogy and it was fabulous.  Witches and Vampires at their best.  It had action, history,  romance (forbidden romance) literary references that made me drool with envy at the library of a 1500 year old vampire.  This is not your typical vampire/witch novel this is one of the best I have read in this genre and I can't wait for the sequel.

"Last Call:  The rise and fall of prohibition" by Daniel Okrent was a brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of America's most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the U.S. Constitution was amended to restrict one of America's favorite pastimes: drinking alcoholic beverages.  Okrent covers the gangland explosion that Prohibition triggered—and rightly deromanticizes it—but he has a wider agenda that addresses the entire effect enforced temperance had on our social, political, and legal conventions. Above all, Okrent explores the politics of Prohibition; how the 18th Amendment, banning the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating beverages, was pushed through after one of the most sustained pressure-group campaigns in our history; how the fight over booze served as a surrogate for many of the deeper social and ethnic antagonisms dividing the country, and how it all collapsed, almost overnight, essentially nullified by the people. 

"Summer Rental" by Mary Kay Andrews is a perfect "beach book"  her books are well written, full of fun and a great way to escape during the dog days of summer.  I also recommend her other titles, "Hissy Fit", "Itty Bitty Lies",  "Savannah Blues", "Savannah Breeze", "Deep Dish" and "Blue Christmas."
Her writing is funny and entertaining and you won't be disappointed.

As always I have more books on my reading list than I will ever have time to read.  I am looking forward to some well deserved days off and I can't wait to be with my crazy family.  I hope you are all enjoying the summer, reading great books and spending time doing things that bring you joy.

Until next time
Debbie "From the Bookstore"


Friday, March 11, 2011

Seed Catalogs, Gardening and memories of my Grandparents

    It is that time of year.  Seed orders have arrived.  Many seeds have been planted and tiny green shoots are reaching out from small dirt filled pots waiting to be large and strong enough for their migration to the dark earth outdoors.  I listen to my family and friends as they plot and plan this years gardens.  From flowers to vegetables some traditional varieties and always the exotic one that just might grow this year.

     When I was growing up my parents occasionally had a garden.  They always planted corn and every time they plotted a better fence to keep the deer and milk cows from pilaging that years bounty.  It didn't matter what they did the milk cows always got to the corn before we did.  My Dad would announce that the corn was just about ready and he was right but the cows (Minnie and Evelyn) always knew the minute it was ready.  I thought that was why they planted corn so that the cows could have a treat and it didn't matter the fence they would find their way to the tall stalks and crisp sweet corn and we would buy corn from the store or the hutterites.

    My grandparents lived next door in the cabin.  They had a garden (they each had a garden).  I remember when the seed catalogs would arrive the gleam in their eyes as they secretly planned what they would order.  They would sit back to back with a metal TV tray in front of each them and fill out their orders making certain the other didn't see what was being ordered.   When the seeds arrived the contest began: who would raise the biggest of this or the oddest shape of that, who would have the most peas or the best corn.  Their gardens were amazing but if you stole a pea from one of them you had better steal a pea from the other one. 

     Our neighbors are a young family with a lot of energy and strong backs.  They turn their small back yard into a beautiful organic garden each summer.  (We reap what they sow)  It is wonderful to sit on our deck and watch the transformation happen.  They plant and water and weed and prepare the food to last them through the winter.  They seek sustainablity and from our vantage point across the yard they are achieving just that.

     My friends, the Hermity Farmer Women are also itching to put trowel to dirt and begin their summer romance with mother earth.  They just brought home 3 baby goats have ordered their chickens they are planning the conversion of a childhood play house into the chicken coop.  They will have beautiful flowers and luscious vegetables and sweet strawberries and I will be invited over for tea in the garden.

     Bill plants beautiful flowers in our yard each spring.  We have cabbage roses that flank our front steps and when they are in bloom the smell is intoxicating.  (those roses have been blooming there for over 60 years) The sunflowers and sweet peas  wave to people as they pass by on the sidewalk.  His grandmothers peonies guard the back fence and the day lilies wiggle in the wind beside the garage.

     I love the winter but there is something about spring that breathes renewal. 


Books, Books, Books with my thoughts and reviews

"Twisted Tree" by Kent Meyers
I found this book to be intriguing, captivating and hard to put down.  There is a murder and there is a serial killer targeting anorexic young women.  As the author explores the nature of a rural town and its inhabitants the crime moves into the backseat leaving room for the deeper exploration of the people left standing.  This novel is constructed of short stories told by those that knew the victim (some only slightly, some very well)  Their stories are their own: missed opportunities, cruel parents, mental illness, abandonment, dreams, (some broken some still with a glimmer of hope) murder and suicide.  Meyers slowly peels back the layers of this ranching, rodeo town and exposes the raw underbelly boiling beneath the surface.   Kent Meyers is also the author of "The Work of Wolves" 

"Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand
Hillenbrand, the author of "Seabiscuit" has turned her attention to a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption.  The reviewers called this book: "Monumental, Mesmerizing, Moving, Gripping, Marvelous, Ambitious, Powerful, Thrilling, Triumphant, Amazing, Unforgettable, Harrowing, Chilling and Inspiring." They are right.  This book was our bestseller for the holidays and we continue to see it flying off the shelves.  You may never have heard the name Louis Zamperini but once you read this book you will never forget him.  You will follow our hero from his boyhood days as a delinquent to the Berlin Olympics.  He went from being an athlete to being an airman on a doomed flight.  He was flying a plane that went down then he was on a tiny raft drifting to the unknown.  We follow him breathlessly and see a man against all odds eventually find peace and forgiveness.

"Sweeping up Glass" by Carolyn Wall

This is the next book for the Treasure Club Book club sponsored by the State Bank and The Bookstore.  I have just started it and to be quite honest I am annoyed that I am at work and not home reading this book.  Following is the publishers review:

Synopsis (from the publisher-Poisoned Pen Press): 1938: Olivia and her grandson, Will’m, run Harker’s Grocery and live in the cold-water kitchen behind the store. Money is scarce; business is bad. Out back, Pap is buried near the outhouse, and Olivia’s crazy mother Ida is living in a tar paper shack. For 30 years, Olivia has loved Wing Harris, who plays a mean trumpet and owns the Kentuckian Hotel. For decades, they’ve shared only howdies at Ruse’s Cafe. This may be the coldest winter on record in Kentucky, but that doesn’t keep the elusive Hunt Club from tracking silver-faced wolves on Olivia’s strip of mountain. It falls to her and Will’m to figure out why as the hunters turn their sights on them, too.  One frozen night, Will’m’s mother comes back for him. Then some terrible secrets explode among the Rowe Street community. Now there’s blood on Olivia’s hands, and nothing is as she thought it was.  Olivia is responsible for the very people who betrayed her. While she searches for answers that might save them all, the day comes when Olivia must shatter the shackles that bind her and her community.

"Models don't eat Chocolate Cookies" by Erinn Dionne

Celeste is perfectly happy in her sweatpants and hoodies.  She knows she is "round", rounder than her best friend,  and certainly rounder than her perfect sized cousins Kirsten and Kathleen.  Kathleen is getting married and asks Celeste to be a junior bridesmaid.  The dress is hideous, it doesn't fit correctly and is a reminder of why she is happiest in sweats and hoodies.  Her meddling aunt (the mother of the beautiful cousins) secretly enters her in a Miss Husky Peach Pageant for "larger sized girls" the prize is a $5000.00 scholarship.  The 8th grade heroine is horrified and terrified of what her tormentors will say when they find out.
She hatches a plan of her own.  Deciding that if she loses enough weight she would no longer be eligible for the contest.  This notion gives her the motivation she needs to skip her favorite snacks and get out and exercise.  She has to face the prospect of losing her best friend to the very group of girls that taunted her.  Along the way she becomes comfortable with who she is and finds her own individuality.  This debut novel  told in first person by Celeste shares a good view of middle school, friendship, family and of finding ones own place among it all.

(personal note:  This book at first can appear to be fluff because on the surface life gets better as she loses the weight.  The message could be one of those with a cloudy happy ending:  informing the reader that with some determination you too can be like a model.  But the fact of the matter is that she never goes overboard with an obsession to be "perfect"  I think it is important to point out that she ends up at a healthier weight and that there are some important issues raised about body image and health as well as relationships among families and friends.  Her family may seem to be all about the looks but they really are in her corner wanting her to be healthy and happy. I will admit that I did get annoyed with some of the aspects of this book but all in all it is one that I will be recommending to my customers.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Borders Closing, Technology and and life as a Brick and Mortar owner

Recently there has been a lot of talk in the news about the demise of Borders Books.  Many have asked my opinion and all have been surprised by my response.  They have assumed I would be doing cartwheels that the big bad box store was closing it doors.  Exactly the opposite of that is true.  I sit here with a hard, cold knot of fear in my stomach.  Not fear for myself nor my business but fear of the unknown for the rapidly changing book industry.   As well as some thoughts on things I can consider doing to bring my store into this world of technology. 

As a business owner (and the owner of my brick and mortar building) my thoughts are filled with the publishers and banks that will not be paid, wondering what this means for authors and their royalties and for bookstores continuing to do business daily with these  publishers and banks.  I think of the people that are now without jobs and landlords faced with broken leases and empty buildings.  I think of the communities where these stores had pushed out the small independent bookstores and how these towns and neighborhoods are now faced with not having a bookstore.
It is no secret that I believe strongly in supporting local businesses and  that I am a founding member of Dillon's buy local campaign, a group of individuals and businesses that promote shopping and supporting the locally owned and managed businesses. You would think that I would be cheering at the thought of a chain store tumbling but I am not.  I see the bigger picture as I think of other industries facing these same challenges.  Music stores and video stores also deal with the competition of box stores, online sellers and the downloading technology.  But when a business as large as Borders files bankruptcy there will be a ripple effect and one just hopes it doesn't turn into a tsunomi.

As I sit here this morning I am contemplating the changes that I have witnessed in the book industry in the 20 years that I have been privilaged to call myself a bookseller.  I remember  trying to decide about audio books and wondering if people would want to be read to and not actually be holding a book.  I have to laugh as I recall agonizing on whether to start carrying books on CD and phasing out the cassettes. Well, Baby we have come a long way since I was the new kid on the block.

My head spins as I think of the rapidly advancing technology.  Wondering if I will be left behind in the dust and buried under pieces of discarded plastic and batteries as people lay aside the latest contraption in search of the newest, shiniest, fastest device available. I see people texting while in restaurants, accessing the internet, checking their email and facebook accounts and I have to wonder why they can't just set aside this time with friends for simple face to face conversation.  I really wonder if they may be texting each other across the table. In this drive thru society we seem to be losing our ability to communicate one on one.  We are in such a frantic search for instant gratification that I have to wonder where it will lead and what it will cost us on a personal level.

I still like to listen to vinyl records, I like the feel and smell of a real book when I read, when I walk my dog I prefer to listen to the sounds of the street and greeting people without having to remove an ear bud in order to hear their hellos.  I don't like waiting on customers that are talking on their cell phones,  listening to their Ipods or texting while expecting me to take care of them at the same time. (I actually had a woman "shush" me midsentence when she answered her cell phone and proceeded to discuss her friends party from the night before, I walked away and I did not win any customer service awards that day.)

The notion of e-books and how rapidly they are infiltrating our lives has left me astounded.  On one hand I see how exciting this technolgy is but on the other I know that for myself I will always prefer to curl  up with a book.  I think there is room in this world for both. 

I have to wonder how long it will be before someone like me will be on display at the Smithsonian next to the dinosaurs.  Will I be sitting behind glass in a rocking chair, with a tea pot covered with a cosy, wearing very thick reading glasses as I hold a book? Will I  be part of a field trip where the students  stare in awe and ask what is that?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Winter, Reading, Nascar and Hot Tea

When I accessed my blog this morning I was stunned to find 5 posts that I never finished and 3 that just had titles.  Good intentions and good ideas all saved for another day.  I spent the better part of yesterday (Sunday) mourning the end of football and preparing myself for the onslaught of race car season.  I am not a fan (no apologies)  I never have been.  At times I will sit with Bill as he revs up for each race and I attempt to nod and keep eye contact with him as he explains this "sport" to me.  After 28 years you would think one of us would admit defeat......

Ironically we met the weekend of the Indy 500.  I had won a mini-Indy contest on the radio and like any good college student I was out spending the $500.00 that I won on adult beverages.   Bill was impressed that I had won a "car race".  I think this set us up for him believing we were soulmates with a shared passion.  The truth was I had just written my name on a slip of paper and dropped it in a box.

I had every intention of spending the day of the Daytona at work.  I had made great progress in locating my desk on Saturday and had made a list of things to do that could be done on Sunday while Bill was planted in front of the TV watching history be made.  (yes I paid close enough attention to realize it was a big deal for a 20 year old kid to win this race)  But as things sometimes go my plans didn't quite work out the way I intended.  I ended up in bed with a horrific headache. 

I was tucked away under my favorite blanket with  a pot of tea, a pile of books, water and aspirin. Bill was talking to Tonka and swears our dog, (like Enzo from the book "Art of Racing in the Rain")  was now a nascar fan.

I smiled (more like a grimace) and said OK.  As the afternoon progressed I would alternate between sleep and reading.  I finished "Tick-Tock" by James Patterson (started a couple of weeks ago but kept getting put aside as I read other books)  and I also finished "Fly Away Home" by Jennifer Weiner (well,  I started and finished this one).  I also read a few pages from a new book entitled "The Weird Sisters" 

Despite the headache it was a good day.  My desk and my to do list were both waiting for me this morning.  It is a beautiful winter day. (it is no secret that I love the winter weather) That crisp air and the blue sky that only seems to happen in Montana.   I have a cup of tea and I am surrounded by books.  The headache is gone and I am blessed that there is so much good in my life.  as always I have Books Galore and So Much More.