Category Archives: home improvements

The Things You Learn Tidying the Children’s Room

messSo I spent last weekend tidying our children’s book room – something every bookstore owner lives for the opportunity to do. It’s so much fun to rediscover old classics, things you loved as a child. That’s why it takes so long to do a kids room reset; you have to allow twenty minutes of every hour for reading favorite bits.

It was pretty bad. Every Halloween we give out books at the annual afternoon merchant’s trick or treat, and you can imagine what 300 kids traipsing through the place in the space of 3 hours does. And no, it hadn’t been tidied since then. Don’t judge. We’re busy.

There was nothing for it but to start to the left of the door and work my way ’round. (That or a flamethrower, Jack said.) So I separated the Math from the English homeschooling books, Animals Fiction from Animals Non-fiction, and America from All the Other Countries, back into their appropriate shelf bins.

This is where the problems began. One doesn’t want to be part of the problems America is experiencing right now, and I found myself suddenly stymied, standing stock still (heh, get it, stock? Never mind) in the middle of the children’s room, holding a book of Native American folktales in my hand, looking to the right at the All About America shelf, to the left at the Read To Me section……

It was the beginning of the slippery slope. Did The Story of Martin Luther King go in Biography or America? Did Intelligent Design go in Science or Christian Homeschool? Suddenly, I was making political decisions left and right. All I wanted to do was tidy up……

The dangers grew worse. The Natural World was a big book lying in a dusty corner; when I picked it up, one spider sitting astride it was just finishing off another. I guess she’d had enough of his empty promises about watching the egg sac. (I took them outside so she could finish her meal in peace, and then set up housekeeping elsewhere. It’s good to move in the Spring.)

Dead ladybugs from the November invasion (they come every year), a plant that had grown through one of the windows where it hadn’t sealed properly, books wedged behind shelves where they’d fallen–on and on I went, shelf by shelf until by the afternoon Day 2 I had reached Adventure Fiction.

Smack in the middle of the adventure books were two self-published erotic fantasy novels.

Good thing not many kids read adventure these days. I sent the strays back to their home turf with a stern warning not to return, and congratulated myself on avoiding a lawsuit. It’s not like they were illustrated or anything, but can you imagine some kid coming out of the room saying, “Mommy, what does e-j-a-c…” It wasn’t going to end well.

By the end of day two, the books stood upright in their correct locations; I had abandoned the idea that a child’s world could be split into a Christian versus general worldview and had put the All Other Countries Besides America books in Social Studies. This means a board book of Minnie Mouse in Spanish is next to Learning about Others Grade 4, but hey, they look happy together.

The final piece was labeling everything. After some consideration, we created a tag called Parental Guilt for all the “You’re doing it wrong” titles about how to make your kid smarter, stronger, faster, safer than s/he is now. Someday I’m going to snap and divide Parental Guilt into “Need to Know” (Ridlin and ADHD, Autism assistance, etc.) and “Don’t Be Ridiculous” (teach your pre-schooler to get straight A’s etc.)

And so it goes. The room will stay clean for a few weeks, and I have blocked all the places where ladybugs, spiders, and Triffids – ehm, plants – can get in. It smells good, looks good, and is well-organized according to my brain.

Heh heh heh. Yeah. C’mon down. We got the Erotica out.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized

…And Then You Sneeze

For weeks, I have been writing on Little Cathouse (the working title of the next fun book) finishing up edits on Fall or Fly (the foster care and adoption journalism storytelling book with Ohio University Press, less fun than intense) and moving offices at the college, where the Graduate Medical Education Consortium I run is headed to the local hospital to operate as an independent 501c3. All good stuff, but busy.

So I had kind of set my clock that the second week of April, as soon as the big conferences were over and I’d sent the final edits of Fly and the working draft of Cathouse, I would get to putter around the bookstore. The Classics room looks like someone threw a keg party. The Mystery room appears to have been the scene of a crime. And the Children’s room looks . . . well, as though kids were in there.

They all need straightening. It’s good Zen. I like to have my hands on the bookstore even when other things call me away. So I was so looking forward to this weekend….

….and then the sneezing started. I’ve gone done with one of those “I don’t care what happens next” illnesses, where your hair hurts and your brain curls in on itself and you can hear the blood in your ears. What isn’t flowing is waiting for its chance, and there isn’t much in the universe of interest.

So the shelves will wait another week. Right now, the shop could tumble around my ears, the books start their own major league baseball teams and head out on a bus, and the cats take over the cooking–and I wouldn’t notice.

I’m going back to bed. Next week.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Cat-mint Juleps on the Screened-in Veranda

Hazel House, the sojourning spot for rescued cats awaiting furrever homes, is getting its porch screened in this week. Yeah, I know, that sounds soooooo sexy and interesting, but this means the house will have three fully operational rooms for cats without the danger of them slipping out the door as we bring in fellow sojourners. And that the kitties can sip cat-mint juleps on the screened-in veranda.

Thanks to the kindness of friends (Jon and Beth and Cheryl, specifically) it is also beginning to look downright snazzy. The neighbors like the updo, and no one has complained about the hammering or creative swearing emanating from the property. We have a pileated woodpecker to the south and a retired miner to the north, both of whom have been very pleasant.

So here are the photos of the team, gettin’ er done, along with a few of the fuzzballs for whom we do  it.

Marla loads yard sale stuff. Come out to the Little Bookstore of Big Stone on March 31 and April 1 to snag some bargains!

I’ve always liked Jack’s bum.

Again, that bum thing…. oh, but doesn’t the porch look good?!

Maeve is adoptable, and has four equally adorable siblings also available.

Insert screwing joke here….

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, home improvements, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

A Different Kind of Porn – Nope.

doily-coatJack and I did some shelf rearranging this week, to aid me in my final week of book edits avoidance therapy. The adjustments meant losing about half a bookshelf’s worth of space, so I started looking at our diet and exercise, aging, and women’s health books.

And got really, really angry. So many books about how women can keep themselves from looking older – not being older, not keeping themselves well, just not LOOKING older. So many books on what to wear after fifty. So many books on how to be skinny – not healthy, skinny.

When Jack and I opened our bookstore, we got some books in from Playboy. We discussed whether to sell “porn,” and decided we’d go with a simple definition: if we felt like the books would harm our friends Teri and Gary’s three daughters (at the time ages 4-12, more or less) we wouldn’t sell them. (Teri is the one who traded us photocopies for free books when we first opened, for those who have read Little Bookstore.) That made it fairly easy to know what we felt comfortable selling.

So I applied the same rule to these “women’s health” books, and threw away 200 of them. Because if the girls had lived by their rules, they would have been beat down, joyless consumerists. Peh.

Here are the rules, Mollie, Maeve, and Millie: wear what makes you feel comfortable, sexy, happy, or powerful–whatever your moment or mood calls for. Put on make-up or don’t – and if you want to make your own we kept a few books on natural cosmetics and color choices for hair and skin tones. Be healthy, be that plump, skinny, middle of the road, or whatever else you and your doctor agree is working for you. Look after yourself mentally – don’t read books that try to tell you  how many of anything you should own. Don’t fall for the sale of fear.

And, as one of my favorite snark signs says, “Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. That’s expensive. Drag them down to your level. It will make them happier, too.”

Enjoy life, girls. We are enjoying the extra space in our bookstore – gained a whole shelf of space by tossing the porn.

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, home improvements, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Leveling with Friends

Jack’s Wednesday guest post –

There’s a real satisfaction in taking part in a construction project being led by someone who really knows what they are doing. I had that experience last weekend and this is my report.

Wendy’s friend and colleague Beth, and her husband Jon live up in Blacksburg and last Friday Jon left home at 5:30 am to drive down here with a full load of lumber and a magnificent array of tools, ready to completely re-build the front deck of ‘Hazel’s House’ (our new cat rescue center).

house-aff-004

How she was before

Jon reckoned it could be done over three days, so Friday, Saturday and Sunday were set aside and he was down here and started by 9 o’clock on Friday morning. I had volunteered to help and Wendy and Beth came along later that day as well.

Just to set the scene – the house was built in 1917 (so exactly 100 years old) and is single storey, with a porch running the full width of the front. The porch has an overhanging roof with four pillars supporting it (all of them had shims underneath added at some point in the past).

The first job was to install temporary supports from the ground to the front of the roof beside each of the pillars to take the weight. Then we separated the pillars from the deck and began removing the old deck slats. Once they were removed we could see the state of the underpinning joists and foundations and that revealed some problems. The biggest one was that the front joist had rotted and split and had to be completely replaced. Jon built a 28 foot long, 12 inch wide and 4 inch thick joist by laminating six boards together and Saturday’s big job was four of us maneuvering that into place! To our utter delight it fitted perfectly, although it chose to rain just as we were committed to the task, so we all got soaked.

The center of the deck had gradually sunk by almost two inches over the years (hence the shims under the pillars), so the next job was to get that part raised back to the correct height again. Once that was done it was time to re-install the deck slats and we decided to fit new ones in the center section then use the old ones as much as possible for the outer areas. Poor Beth got the job of removing all the nails from the old boards! Finally it was time check all the levels, re-fix the pillars to the new deck and remove the temporary supports supporting the roof.

hazel-house-after

And how she is now

As I suggested at the start, what made the whole experience so satisfying was the way Jon had thought through the job very thoroughly beforehand, measured everything carefully ahead of time and brought lots of really useful tools and equipment. He had even thought to bring an additional power driver, knowing we’d both be re-fixing deck boards at the same time. We only had to make one run to Lowes over the whole weekend and that was just because we couldn’t reclaim as much of the old decking as we’d hoped.

Next month Jon will be back, when we will add partitioning to make the porch and deck ‘cat-proof’ so no kitties can make a break for it when we’re transferring newcomers into the house. I’m looking forward to once again being his laborer and apprentice!

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, home improvements, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized

Couples in Triplicate

couples-blogJack and I joined two other couples for a weekend in Asheville, to celebrate the end of 2016 (which has been a real mixed bag for all of us) and the wine-and-laughter-soaked start of 2017 with its blank calendar squares of hope.

It is fun to watch three couples interact with others while being their two-unit selves. You have the individual; you have the couple; and you have the team. Sometimes the difference between any of these borders is blurry; at other times they can be uncomfortably non-opaque.

One person forgot essential meds; another dropped a bag that held a bottle of hard-to-get wine, shattering it and soaking some rather delicate Christmas gifts in alcohol – sadly, not an improvement in this case. Spouses tend to be harder on internal errors than anyone else, yet protective of those who make them. It is okay for one of two to say “you idiot,” but not anyone else. Not that anyone else would, you know, because what makes us exhausted inside couples is no big deal outside. It’s all new; it’s all good.

There’s a quote about marriage that says partners are like the blades in scissors, always moving separately and even in different directions, yet always working together and quite capable of punishing anything that comes between them. I think of that quote often watching sets of two:one interact with larger numbers.

Perhaps it’s like reversing those long algebra equations where you’re meant to prioritize the relationships inside the brackets first; fail that, and your mathematical answer will be wrong. But in human interaction, outside the brackets we add up grace, empathy, and laughing first, so that the sum of the parts becomes simple and fun and gestalt. Inside the brackets where the math can be tighter and more complex, maybe you’re tired of talking it over, had it with being the spouse who looks after things. But as you walk down the street in your big group of giggling friends, your spouse reaches for your hand, or tuck yours into the crook of his arm, and the rest dissolves. It’s all right.

Because marriages, like friendship weekends at New Year’s, celebrate not just the hopes to come, but the good and bad past memories that shaped the brackets you live in and made you the happy two:one you are.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The (w)Rites of Laundry

laundryIn a fit of pique, or perhaps inspiration, I have reduced my clothing to one five-drawer dresser, one half of a hanging wardrobe, and a milk crate (underwear; no need to fold, just reach in there and grab what ya need).

Sick of trying to “stay organized” I reckoned up just how much of my writing time was ebbing away via clothes management, including but not limited to: laundry, what passes for folding at our place, stuffing things into drawers, and finding items when I needed that certain turtleneck or some such.

A lot of time got devoted to this. No. No no no. I’m working hard on my next book, and laundry doesn’t factor in.

The problem with that is, Jack and I tend to wear clothes until you can hold them up to the light and read through them. Things with holes go over contrasting colors for that special layered look. The trousers that feel comfy get worn ad infinitim (cotton ones with drawstring waists, to the chagrin of my fashion conscious friends who have to go out in public with me dressed like that). The smart, tailored ones get stuck at the bottom of the drawer. Now that I’ve reduced to one dresser, I’m gonna have to start wearing the slick ones with buttons. Sigh.

It’s a fair trade. I’m busy, and managing clothing over-consumption doesn’t factor in this year. Of course, there are moments.  Jack and I did a book club in Abingdon last week, arrived early at the rendezvous, and went to the thrift store at the end of the parking lot. I came out with a sweater.

It was a really nice sweater, hand knit, 100% cotton from Peru……

Anyway, my New Year’s Resolution: the little stuff is not gonna fritter time away from the big stuff, and a woman who wears elastic waist trousers under her hand knit thrift store sweaters can freely admit that clothes are little stuff. Avaunt, away, ye loads of brights, darks, and whites. Color my world with metaphor, allegory, and using just the right gerund.

Merry Christmas to all and to all Tidy Whites!

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch