Friday, March 15, 2013

new address

i have moved to  please join me there!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

pull yourself together

i am having a tough time lately. strictly speaking, i'm way past middle age, as i doubt that i'll live to be much older than 80 or so. my energy level is so low that i have to check my pulse periodically to make sure i'm still among the living. it seems that i'm past the age of full-time employment, and though i love my job at the book shop i still struggle to figure out what the hell to do with my life. other than my 8 year old arthritic dog, there is no one to take care of and i can't seem to get my ass out of the house for productive pursuits. 

i spent a couple of weeks with my sister recently and we realized that we feel more inspired and creative when we're together. unfortunately, we live 2,428 miles apart. our dream is to live next door to each other and share a creative space to do our work together. it's a wonderful thing to envision, but the fact of the matter is, we're running out of time for such dreams, so we have to make the most of our once or twice a year visits and pretend they are enough to keep us going. 

elizabeth taylor | Tumblrit was a luxury to have someone i could talk to about anything and everything, no waiting. as i result i didn't feel the urgency to write while i was gone. having an interested, supportive person to talk to was great, but in her absence i realized that writing is equally important and necessary to my mental health. not writing for several weeks makes me feel like i'm starting all over again. i feel unhinged and unfocused and out of sorts. and cranky.

so what do i do? ms. taylor's advice seems sage at this point. certainly whining doesn't help. i've allowed myself to boo-hoo about being back to my regular life for too long and now it's time to get back on the proverbial horse and move forward. i'll throw myself completely into my bookshop gig and stay awake and aware for all of the opportunities to interact with people. i'll be kinder to my friends and my family and to those i don't know. i will continue to write to figure out my world. when you think about it, what more can any of us do?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Energy In, Energy Out

the prompt for the first day of the new year is "where do you get your energy?" those who know me probably would never think to ask that question. if you were to peek in at me on any given day you would most likely not catch me being energetic. i'm actually quite slothful much of the time. but the question stands and is a good one to consider as this new year begins.

energy begets energy and, while i enjoy lazing around with my dog, my knitting and my books, i have always respected the importance of exercise (especially to a woman of advancing age like myself) so i make it a priority to get some almost every day. i don't don any fancy exercise gear, and i normally don't squeeze myself into a crowded class with the spandex crowd to hooty-hoot and holler, but i do appreciate a hike in the woods, a brisk walk or a hard (solo) workout at the gym. in addition to feeling better physically, my emotional and psychological energy is boosted as well, and that is the energy that is most important to me at this time of my life. the biggest payoff of exercise for me is that i gain energy for writing and creating and engaging with others as well as the ability to climb stairs without groaning.

when my physical, emotional and social energy wanes (and it wanes more quickly these days) i need to sit quietly, with no companion but my dog. sometimes i knit, a zen experience for me. turning skeins into balls, patiently untangling the yarn when necessary, gazing at nothing in particular while my hands work, is centering and calming to me. as an introvert, i need that time alone to build up my reserves of energy again. tuck me into a corner and leave me with my dog and my yarn and some music and the needle in my tank begins to rise. or leave me to a good book and a few quiet hours and, before i know it, the tank is full. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

People Who Need People...

the other day i heard someone tell a friend, "you have a beautiful smile!  you should be on a christmas card!"  how great to experience someone taking the time to give another words of encouragement!  it occurred to me in that moment that all too often we are in such a hurry, or in such a self-important fog, that we rarely notice the people around us, let alone compliment them.  too often in our self-absorption, in our demand for attention for our own actions, we completely miss an opportunity for interesting, meaningful interactions with others. 

when i was young i was what people called a bleeding heart, someone considered to have their head in the clouds who thought they could make a difference in the world. i believed that in order to help others and improve the world i would need to get a degree in social work (which i did) or social psychology or a higher discipline and it'd involve a lot of long hours of study and practice. my education has made my life richer in many ways, but now that i'm older it's clear to me that to begin to find meaning in life and the way to spread hope for the future is to be kind to one another. period. there is great strength and power in the one-on-one approach to understanding and communicating and listening. we can't all be policy makers or politicians or legislators, but we all have the capacity to connect to another.

each day i feel the benefit of taking the time to connect with someone i don't yet know. people are so interesting, and everyone has a story to tell and a life to share. some days it takes a herculean effort on my part to be aware of others, but i am never sorry when i set aside my petty concerns in exchange for the opportunity to hear someone else's story. if one is open, there is treasure to be found in those you see at the post office, the grocery store, the line at the bureau of motor vehicles. 

this is not just a resolution for the new year, but for each day of however many years i have left.  there are so many interesting and wonderful people yet to meet and learn from. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

save the owl!

i work at an independent bookstore in the middle of main street in a fairly small town in ohio. contrary to the way many independents have gone recently, the learned owl has been able to get through its struggles and rough spots to remain in business since 1963. in spite of the big box stores and the evil online empire, we are still alive and kicking. 

the building, built in the 1860s, is relatively small, but we have three floors of books, cards, puzzles and the occasional knick-knack for all ages. there is many a nook and cranny, surprises around every corner, and it is not unusual to see children on the floor in front of the shelves with a favorite book or an adult poring over an intriguing cookbook or coffee table tome. it is, in short, a respite from the hectic life we all lead, a calm in the storm of our everyday lives. we have been known to hear people sigh, and breathe more easily, once they walk through our door; the presence of books has a calming affect on people.

of course, it might also be our dear book shop dog, ruby, who greets folks when they come in, unless she's napping in the middle of the floor, which is actually a frequent position for her. but not to worry - she is not fazed by people stepping over and around her, and loves having little ones snuggle in next to her for a visit while parents and grandparents do their shopping. 

the owner of the shop has been working her magic in town for 29 years and recently decided to pursue her many other interests. she is looking for a buyer for the shop, someone who will continue the legacy of the owl. there have been several interested parties, but no one has yet met all of the criteria.  

i am fortunate to be able to work with people who share a love of books and who enjoy delighting in them, discussing them and recommending them. our customers are the best in the world and being able to help them find the perfect book for themselves or for friends and family is what we live for as booksellers and having them return to tell us how much the book was loved is even better! there are customers whose parents shopped at the owl for their school books who are now buying books for their own children. there are customers who have moved away and who come back whenever they're in town to visit, commenting on how much like coming home it is to be in the shop. and there are people who stumble in more or less accidentally, who have lived in the area for a while but never knew we were here, who become regular customers and book club attendees and dear friends.
this brings me to my pitch, something i generally am uncomfortable with. i never even liked to collect for unicef on halloween when i was a child, as i am uncomfortable asking people for money. however, the learned owl is very important to our town, and to me. none of us can imagine what it would be like if the learned owl was not here, and our events coordinator has decided that she is ready to take the reins from liz and so has launched an indiegogo campaign to raise money to purchase the business. all of us who work at the learned owl, and i dare say most, if not all, of our customers are 100% behind her. please consider a donation in support of the learned owl and small independent businesses in general at   we thank you in advance.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

with thanks, through tears

two years ago today my dear mother died. this morning, very early, i awoke briefly, almost two years to the minute that she died. perhaps she whispered to me on this, one of the last days of autumn, her favorite time of year. perhaps her sweet spirit reached out to touch me on a day that i have always connected with her - thanksgiving day.

it is a blue sky, sunshine, cool breeze day here. the resolute leaves that still cling to their branches are golden, and shimmer in the breeze. yet another memory of mom, who taught us the poem written by christina rosetti in 1947 - "who has seen the wind? neither i nor you, but when the leaves hang trembling, the wind is passing through. who has seen the wind? neither you nor i, but when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by."

on my walk this morning several flocks of geese flew overhead, soaring and even rolling playfully as they exchanged places in their formation. i stopped and watched them, and as they passed directly overhead the sound of their wings as they propelled themselves forward reminded me of the sound the freshly-laundered sheets made when mom snapped them off the clothesline. i could picture her standing in the backyard in her well-worn yellow/blue/white plaid summer dress, her navy blue keds on her feet. she would walk from one piece of laundry to the next, unclipping the clothespins and dropping them into the cloth bag hanging on the clothesline by a metal frame. she'd snap the  sheet and fold it carefully, laying it in the basket at her feet. when the basket was full, the clothespin bag hanging heavy on the line, full of weathered wooden pins awaiting the next load, she would bring the clothes smelling of fresh air inside and put it on the big oak pedestal table in the center of the kitchen.

this is the first year since mom's death that i have been able to allow myself to think about her this much. i am still overwhelmed by the realization that i will never see her again, never hold her hand or lean into one of her wonderful hugs, never hear her say my name again. it simply can't be true, i think. how can someone with that much goodness and love and kindness be gone forever? how can i keep going from day to day without being able to tell her how dear she was to me, how much i loved her?

today, as i stood at the kitchen counter chopping vegetables and beginning to prepare our thanksgiving dinner, i felt a whisper (but only a whisper) of peace as i sensed her spirit with me. i thought about her slim, beautiful hand holding the knife with me, removing the pan from the oven with me, calculating what time we should put the turkey in to insure that it would be done by dinner time. there was always such a wonderful energy in the kitchen on thanksgiving day. we would get the turkey out of the fridge and rinse him in the sink, and then one of us would sit him up on the edge of the sink and cross his turkey legs, engaging in playful puppetry until one of us remarked on the poor fellow having to get trussed and baked. 

the leaves for the table in the light blue, sun-filled dining room were retrieved from the closet and we'd tug and pull the table apart, place the leaves like puzzle pieces and push the table ends back together, our feelings of excitement and appreciation expanding like the table as we looked forward to the family coming later in the day. the table would be laid with the light blue tablecloth and mom's everyday china, white with delicate blue and yellow and pinkish-purple flowers along the edge, with just the slightest bit of gold, not too showy. upon opening the box in which she kept the good silver the smell brought back memories of thanksgivings with grandparents and cousins when i was a child in connecticut, and in minnesota. it was a comforting smell, a smell that connected me to my past, that reminded me of the child i was. i laid the silver at each place, two forks at each place in honor of the special day and the special menu. special water goblets were set out, though mom always took the smaller one that didn't match the others. it was as though she wanted to be sure that we all felt special and included, but it was a subconscious action, not a contrived one. 

i would taste the gravy and mash the potatoes and sprinkle the french-fried onions on the green bean casserole, put the rolls in a small paper bag and sprinkle it with water so it wouldn't catch fire in the oven as they warmed up. how funny that we never thought to use tin foil, but we never did. the bag worked just fine, although sometimes there'd be a roll or two that had an especially browned spot if we forgot about the rolls in all the excitement.

we all sat around the long table then, mom at one end, dad at the other, their children and eventually spouses and grandchildren between them, the bountiful feast in the center of the table. though we didn't say a traditional grace before eating, it was obvious in the light in all of our eyes and the smiles on all of our faces that we knew we were blessed and loved and we all gave thanks for the gift of family in our own individual ways.

now mom is gone, our father suffers from alzheimer's, and we are all miles apart from each other. we haven't shared thanksgiving dinner together for a long time, but the invisible connections forged in the past remain strong and the memories of years gone by comfort me.  there is still much to be thankful for. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012


i am elated with the results of the election, having supported president obama for the past 4 years. he is a man of the people, all of the people, in this country. he was elected by men and women of america who know the importance of working in their own back yards to effect change, who know that just sitting back and complaining about the state of the world means denying themselves the right and privilege of involvement we are all entitled to. we have the opportunity here to speak our truths without fear of punishment and to work for the greater good. 

when we react to disappointment that our "team" didn't win by mud-slinging and denegrating another's character, what do we accomplish? what are we teaching our children and our grandchildren? do we want them to learn respect for others, or do we want them to learn to label and define people based on their street address or their bank accounts? one of the tenets of a free society is that each and every individual has the unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. don't we want to be a society of integrity, understanding and compassion for one another? to what purpose blaming and impugning those with different ideas? aren't we all in this together? 

i'm not a person who spouts scripture, but i've spent enough time in churches to remember some that may apply here. jesus is purported to have said "...i tell you the truth; when you refused to help the least brothers and sisters you were refusing to help me." is helping the least of these something you only have to do sometimes? was he suggesting that we can decide to choose only some of the least of these? or is it the expectation that we remain open and aware of all of the least of these around us and help each other to the best of our abilities? it is within the realm of possibilities that any one of us could find ourselves in that category at some time in our lives. the golden rule applies to everyone, doesn't it?

and how about "bear one another's burdens" or "as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another? (thanks to google for laying out these passages for me. ) one of my favorites is the beatitude "blessed are the peacemakers". how can we not live that one out? 

it is time to walk the talk and put those words into action to work together to make the world a better place, starting in our own backyards, one interaction at a time. toss the pebble and watch how far the rings extend outward. ditch the division. increase the inclusion. reach across the street, the aisle, extend yourself to another in the spirit of connectedness, because we are connected. each of us has a story worth listening to and each of us has the ability to make a positive change. 

be the change you wish to see in the world.  gandhi