Category Archives: home improvements

Organizing the Westerns

westernAbout a week ago I realized that our Mancave needed cleaning. We call this the Guys with Big Guns sections, housing Westerns and War novels. It was dusty and hadn’t been culled or realphabzetized in some time.

Dealing with Guys with Big Guns is not something we as Quakers want to spend our time doing.  Although we don’t read these genres, we certainly sell a lot of them, so last Saturday, there was nothing for it but to bite the bullet and move in.

It’s enough to make a bookslinger cynical, I tell ya. First of all, the  expressions on the faces of the cover art guys are the same (grimacing with determination). Also their posture: they lean into the action but slightly away from the gun. Yes, they’re all holding guns, but here’s where it differs. Western guys hold six-shooters (I think) while the War people vary: post-apocalytpic weapon of choice is a Bazooka. Go figger. The spy guy  ranges from little pistol-ma-bobs to those huge rifle-esque guns you see flashed from the backs of Toyotas in countries where things are not going well.

Guns I don’t know much about; the alphabet I can handle. That’s what I was trying to do, organizing them by author. Some, like Terry or William Johnston(e) or good ol’ Louis L’Amour, move fast. Others go at about the speed of cattle crossing the Great Plains. So it’s important to keep them sorted, but at a certain point, whether First-time Author Hoping to Break Into the Genre or whoever is covering L’Amour these days wrote Shootout at Wherever gets old. Did you know that about half of all Western titles start with Shootout, Gunfight, or Crossing? Go ahead, check it out.

It seems to me that Westerns are Romance for Men. In fact, I once put a bunch of Native American romances back there in the mancave, mixed in with the other Shooters, and sure enough, they got scooped up. A word to whoever is designing the covers: a girl with big heaving bosoms and a guy with gritty determination in his eyes will do; you really don’t have to worry about anything else. Near as I can tell, in the Westerns she heaves in the background as the guy covers her with his big gun, while in the Romances she heaves in the foreground as the guy, again…. Anyway, you get the (cover) picture.

It took several hours, but our Westerns and War sections are now relatively dust-free. Jack did suggest I leave a bit, for atmosphere. “Guys want a little True Grit,” said my husband.

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing

That Line between Hoarding and Recycling

The grandchild of two women who survived the Great Depression, I grew up watching my paternal grandma stick straight pins into a potholder on her stairs. No matter how bent, she would hammer them straight if necessary, and into the little blue felt heart (made from scraps of another project) they went. She had a jar of thread balls. Meanwhile, maternal grandma “Nanny” cut plastic milk jugs into scoops or used them to store well water against drought. Both hoarded bread wrappers and the plastic bags inside cereal boxes.

Maybe that’s why I’ve never found the line between hoarding and recycling. Plastic storage containers with no lids? Heck, I can start tomato seeds in them come Spring. Books from 1970 about education policy? Craft time, baby!

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Except, it never is craft time. Neat stacks of “things I’m going to make as soon as I have time” turn into spider condominiums in the garage. Boxes of one project get pushed to the rear behind other projects.

Still, I persist in refusing to throw things away, because gosh darn it, we all need to reduce our footprint on this planet. It feels more gracious to save the string too short to be saved in an old mint tin, then throw the whole thing away when a mouse starts nesting; now it’s a health hazard rather than my wastefulness.

(I would have set it out for birds to use, but FB says that’s bad for their health….)

Old bottles I can figure out; paste funny slogans on the side of them with scrap paper: Tincture of Smarm, Diplomacy syrup, Integrity Supplement. These are on a shelf in my office, and they amuse me. But there’s only so much room on the shelf.

Ziploc bags get rewashed and reused, but when I tried to make ice by freezing water in one the other day, it had pinholes and all the water leaked out into my chest freezer and now there’s something of a defrost crisis out there. And sometimes people edge away at the pool when they see my sun hat is crocheted from plastic grocery bags.

I was unraveling a sweater to save the yarn, and the big hole up its back meant every piece was about six inches long, but I kept tying them into the next string until Jack physically took it out of my hands and said, “Dear. Really?”

Save money, save the planet, but they never tell you how keeping stuff loses time–the other American failing. Saving time is a virtue in our society, perhaps more important than saving ourselves?

Having been a student for 12 years, every late July/early August, the urge hits to reduce my belongings to what can fit into a Toyota hatchback. It’s a grad school thing. It’s not good for marriages. But it does keep me from becoming a permanent hoarder, when my grad student side fights with my grandmothers’ DNA.

Should I throw away the box of envelopes stamped with an old professional address, or keep blacking them out with a marker and writing mine below it? Will I take that bag of mismatched socks to the trash (but they’re great for stuffing crocheted animals!) and give up ironing wrapping paper? Can I deny the penny-pinching miser I am for the sake of a home where I’m not tripping over stuff that will come in handy someday?

It’s a dilemma – to save or not to save, that is the question. Whether ’tis better to pay up at the store or feel like you’re beating the man and saving the Earth every time you stuff another box of weirdness into a closet?

Simplicity was never this complicated in Nanny’s day….

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

A Walled Garden

19206160_1634797773197947_1339798747_nIn the city, space is a commodity. I’ve always thought of cities as incongruous lonely spaces – so many people, so little humanity interacting.

But we are staying with friends in downtown Edinburgh, not a mile off Princes Street (downtown) and they have a walled garden…..

I love walled gardens. Your own little bit of marked off territory for just sitting, thinking, being quiet and contemplative with a book and a cup of tea, or loud and boisterous with instruments and a bottle of wine and a handful of mates.

In the middle of the city, you can find the greenery and the fountains and the people who actually live in the cities, whose lives are rooted like the gardens they plant in their little secret places.

Perhaps my fondness for gardens stems back to the day after Jack’s mum died, and I was away from home in Ayrshire, in Wigtown, Scotland’s book city, and had nowhere to go to be by myself and have a good cry. And I spilled my guts to say as much to one of the bookshop owners, at Ceridwin’s Cauldron, and she took me back to her garden and brought me tea and told me to stay as long as I wanted. I spent an hour back there composing myself and being nothing but alone. Ever since then, walled gardens have been a special space.

The garden here at Barbara and Oliver’s has been a jolly place, shared for music and reminiscences and politics and the mystery of the noise coming from somewhere nearby. (Jack cracked that; it was a two-note sound not unlike the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS alien five-note theme, and he found the sewer pipe in the apartment next door was letting off gas, one note opening, the other closing. A farting building, in essence.)

Walled gardens are lovely, and every city has such little tucked-away spaces. Explore them when you can, with friends when you can. They are the heartbeat of humanity.

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The Monday Hero

HH13I got Jack up early this morning, and we headed for Hazel House in order to catch the six vestal virgins (as we incorrectly call them; three of them have had litters) therein. I overturned furniture and explored new ways of stringing invectives before he cleverly used geometry to project the exact ricochet of the last capture-evading cat off the wall, straight into the waiting carrier.

I get home from a hard day’s adulting involving talks with a lawyer and other fun stuff to find that some jobs that volunteers were doing for Appalachian Feline Friends, didn’t get done. One of them not getting done has caused a rift with some very smart, very kind people. I am unhappy.

Jack reminds me that adulting is hard, and an organization made up of volunteers has to roll with the punches. He then tells me to go ahead and work on the lawyer-and-jobs things while he cleans the guest room–which is a nightmare because we’ve been storing everything we needed to get Out Of The Way for the past month up there. But now we need it because a friend is coming to town. A friend we’ve been looking forward to having with us for three months or more.

Then Jack comes downstairs and makes us supper. I rise from my computer blitzkrieg to eat, and then take leftovers out to the garage to freeze.

The garage is underwater.

Jack waded into the water, turned off the machine, got me to pull the breaker, and then found the problem. The hot water hose to the washing machine has broken. Since he was knee-deep in getting out information to those going on the Scottish trip, we agreed that tomorrow was another day. About ten minutes later, my long-suffering husband said, “I think I have the part I need for that….” left his computer and went back to the garage.

And fixed the washer by 8:30 pm.

Sod you, Monday. I have a superhero for a husband!

 

 

 

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

Everything’s Coming up Roses – –

It’s Jack’s Wednesday guest post – and it’s on a Wednesday for a change!

It’s that time of year again – When we can watch the grass grow and try desperately to stay ahead of all the yard work.

We had an abnormally cool and rainy spring here, so the transition to days of sunshine and temperatures in the 80s has been rather abrupt this year. But we didn’t have the usual late frost, so we will have a very abundant apple and pear crop. Even the sad old peach tree, although on her last legs, will have a crop of some sort it appears. Apparently peach trees have a limited life and just die naturally then have to be replaced. On the other hand, the apple tree I thought I might have pruned to death a couple of years ago has recovered well – swings and roundabouts.

Our good friend David came over from NC recently and prepared our front garden so Wendy has been scattering flower seeds there, while our heirloom tomatoes are ready to be planted along the back yard fence. We couldn’t possibly have grown tomatoes outside in Scotland, far less the peppers we will plant out front here.

But summer here also brings fairly regular thunderstorms that test the efficacy of our gutters. I already know that a couple are sagging in the wrong place, so that’s another urgent job that will have to be fitted in between mowing and weed-whacking. At least we now have a weed-whacker that actually starts and runs happily as well as having the easiest string replacement system I’ve ever come across. We have another two in the shed that never worked properly!

Wendy and I have an old friend in Scotland (who lives in a house that features regularly throughout the ‘Outlander’ TV series) and he sends end-of-the-year newsletters annually that are always full of doom and gloom. Reading back through this post it looks a little like that, so – –

Just for the record, I’m very happy to live where the summers are warm and mostly sunny and the winters are no worse than Scotland!

I just remembered I need to get gas for the mower – – –

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

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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…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