Tag Archives: cleaning

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.


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

How Did it Get this Messy??!!

Our bookshop is a tip. (That’s Scottish for a garbage dump.) I was touring Andrew, our shopsitter for Sept. 20-Nov. 20, around the place. He arrived yesterday, and as I showed him from room to room, shelf to shelf, I realized Jack and I have been a little busy with other things lately, and the shop has… um…

Well, it’s not COMPLETELY our fault, you understand; the books themselves are not helping. Sure, they like to visit other places–the science fiction volumes sneak off at night to visit Christian romances and Patricia Cornwell, as I said before. That’s fine; their private lives are their own, but we really do need them to get back to their own shelves before dawn, and they’re not complying.

Plus, how did the Nature and Travel books all get piled in a jumble below Comparative Religion, since when is Homeschooling in the History section, and why oh why is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Cookery?!

Time for a tuck and tidy, as soon as the Celtic Festival is over. Between now and Saturday life is rather like bull-riding; just concentrate on getting through it without being trampled. Come Sunday, there’s gonna be some serious order imposed on this place. You hear that, you Westerns hanging out with the Harlequins? Don’t think I don’t see you there, or know what you’re up to: makin’ little short stories set in Texas. Well enough of that; we can’t find shelf space for what we’ve got!

Although, come to think of it, if we put the Westerns with the Paranormal Romances for awhile, what do you think that would do to the werewolf phenomenon? Would a new breed of cattle ranchers emerge, ones who can REALLY keep the wolves at bay and pack the women in? Or would the vampires just drain the herd? Hmmm…

Don’t forget that Caption Contest VII closes this Monday! Scroll back to Sept. 10–or was it 12, anyway back a week or so–and put your entry in Comments. And if you’re in the vicinity, Big Stone Celtic is Saturday Sept. 22 in downtown Big Stone Gap, VA!


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA

Val-Kyttie, Quite Possibly the World’s Most Sarcastic Cat


We have a small problem at our bookstore. For those of you new to this blog, my husband and I own, operate, and live above a bookstore called Tales of the Lonesome Pine housing 38,000 books. That’s what my upcoming book is about–all the silly things we did six years ago to get this place going, and all the crazy, fun, bittersweet things happening since.

One of the things that is NOT in the book is that we foster animals at our store, offering them temporary shelter until they can find a loving forever family. Mostly we rescue cats, but we have taken in the occasional litter of puppies. With some 7,000 domestic animals euthanized in the States every DAY, we do our part to keep as many as we can out of the shelter.

Very noble, right? Except our two staff cats do not agree. Val-Kyttie, 16, and Beulah, 6, understand nothing about their brothers and sisters in the shelter needing our help. Or maybe, being cats, they understand but just don’t care. Whatever the reason, they have taken to spraying to announce their displeasure at the adorable fluffy kittens gamboling across our shop floor–to the coos and awws of customers who used to come and pet THEM.

We talked to our cats about the perils of jealousy, and explained they themselves had once been abandoned strays, so why should they begrudge poor orphan kitties a home? They remained unmoved. We threw out some fifty books before we realized this wasn’t going to stop.

Spraying is not something you want to happen in a shop where books are stacked and shelved floor to ceiling. Jack and I now know about six different ways to save a book from cat pee. (Instructional video coming soon to fine K-Marts everywhere….)

While we pride ourselves on being able to rescue just about any book–battered paperback, dust jacket, even leather embossed covers–our strategy really lies in prevention. Both staff cats now wear pretty purple collars that release calming pheromones. We buy special magic elixir ($25 a bottle, thank you) that thoroughly eradicates the smell and discourages cats from returning to mark the same spot.

And on the advice of the Internet (yes, I know) that cats dislike pine and citrus scents, I invested in air freshener stock and  loaded up on those little Renuzit cone things, smelling of oranges. I by far prefer the lavender ones, but anything was worth it to keep the cats from harming any of our inventory.

We set the cones strategically about the bookstore, and had several customers comment on how pleasant the place smelled. (I love the smell of old books: dust and ideas mingled together. Now ours had orange blossom wafting in as well.)

It was all going swimmingly until Heather, our ever-vigilant, miracle-working cleaning lady spotted one of the cats, er, spotting in the bathroom. Val-Kyttie took out a whole stack of Danielle Steels with one thrust.

What can we say; her aim was true.

Then she minced one delicate step to the left and sprayed the orange air freshener, knocking it over like a bowling pin, before turning to saunter past Heather out of the bathroom.

Heather swears that Val-Kyttie winked.

We’ve instigated a few changes in the ol’ home bookstore. We no longer keep books on the floor; they are above the “strike zone.” The cats still wear their pretty purple collars, and they seem to be adjusting to our status as a cat rescue station. Heather keeps an eye out for occasional lapses, but these are fewer and farther between as the weeks pass. Our bookstore now smells pleasantly of dust, ideas, old books, cleaning fluid–and lavender.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA