Confession Time

I have a deep dark secret. Promise you won’t judge me.

Okay, don’t judge me too harshly, at least.  ‘Cause to be honest, I kind of judge myself.

Ready?

*deep breath* I’m not a member of my public library.

I know. I know.

I love the library. I do. It’s just not something I’ve gotten around to doing. I’ve only lived in my current city for…um…three years.

I know.

I’m a writer, who is not a member of the library. In my defense, I joined the library in my previous city, and I was a member of my hometown library for as long as I can remember growing up. I just never did it when I moved. Actually, this past Monday was the first time I’ve even been to the library here.

It’s really pretty, and fairly good sized. Although it seems like there are more seating and study areas and local exhibits than books. I tried to join Monday while I was there, but I didn’t have my license on me. Hubby did. My engineer husband is now a member of the library and I, the writer, am not.

But, here’s really why:

I’ve mentioned this before, but my family was pretty poor when I was growing up. I mean, my parents always made sure we had enough food, and they sacrificed a lot and worked really hard to make sure I got a good education and had a roof over my head. We didn’t have money for many extras, though. One of my favorite luxuries was books. It was a luxury, though.

Most of my books came from the library. I could spend hours there. Narrowing down my choices to the two or three books I was allowed to get was the most agonizing decision ever. I haven’t stepped foot in my hometown library in at least ten years, but I remember everything about it. At least, how it was when I was a kid. The big rug in the kid’s section, the carpeted cubbies along the back wall where you could crawl inside and curl up to read, the computer area (I could never figure out why people played computer game when there were so many books!). I remember how mature I felt when I started getting books from the adult section, and how boring the Heritage Room was. I have a newspaper clipping with a picture of me and my parents unpacking boxes for a book fair the library was having. I think I was in the fifth grade. The library was one of my most favorite places in the world.

But the books were temporary. Each one had to go back when I finished. It always made me so sad to return a book. Even if that sadness was quickly replaced by the joy of a new treasure.

Owning a book, though. Actually owning one. Wow. There was nothing like it. (Okay, honestly, the giant refrigerator box my parents let me keep was pretty awesome, but it eventually got kind of busted and had to go in the trash. Bonus, I could read in there). But not even their permanence was guaranteed. We had this great used book shop in town (actually, it was the only book store I remember going to until I got older, and even then the closest big store was a Books-a-Million forty minutes away). It was basically a maze of old shelves and tattered covers and amazing musty book smells, and was right up there with the library in terms of great locations of my childhood. Maybe even a little higher. Because I could keep these books. Well, some of them.

These books cost money. Granted, they were less expensive than buying one brand new (which was virtually unheard of and usually only happened at that fantastic wonder of wonders called the Book Fair at school. Holy crap I loved the Book Fair SO. Much.), but still, like I said, a luxury. So, like the library, most of the time if I wanted new book, I had to trade in an old one. I only kept my absolute favorites. The ones I would re-read over and over. (We also had a small collection of the books my mother taught to her classes, but those were mostly boring to a kid. Like ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN. Bleh).

What does this have to do with not joining the library? I’m glad you asked!

Itsy bitsy me promised myself that one day, one amazing day, I wouldn’t have to give books back. I would keep them, forever. In my own library. And it would be glorious! Alphabetically arranged by category, then by author last name, with my own card catalog system, and rich wood and deep, comfy chairs, and great lighting. Oh, and cats, I could always have cats in my library. Sitting in my lap in said comfy chairs.

As I grew up, each book I kept became a trophy. On Christmas and Easter and my birthday and Book Fair days I would get brand new books to go with the myriad of used ones. It broke my heart to leave them all behind when I moved away for college. Then it drove me crazy when I went home and found them in my brother’s room! (Dirty little thief). I worked in the law library in law school, partially because it was an easy way to get paid and study, but also because I was surrounded by my people–books. Then I got married, and some of my books moved in with me and my husband.

Then. Then. We moved to our current town and we bought a house. A house in which I made certain had a spare room for a library. I kid you not, on my list of house requirements was “library room.” And allllll my books finally came home with me. Even the ones my brother had thugged. The ones that fit on shelves were organized alphabetically by category, then by author last name, and I set up a card catalog to track who I loaned books to and when. Hubby is supposed to build me more shelves because I’m out of room, and I’m still working on the deep wood and thick chairs, but it will get there one day.

All these years, I have been carefully accumulating. Buying books when I had extra money. Some girls buy shoes and purses. I buy books. And I can keep them. And it is glorious. The dream of little girl me has come true. I have a library, and my books never have to leave.

Which means, I’ve had no reason to use the public library here. I worked hard in college and law school and can finally afford to buy the books I want to read and support the authors I want to support. However, I realize how important the library was for me as a kid, and how important it is for other kids who can’t afford books, and it’s high time I support my local library.

So, dear reader, I am going back to the library. This time I’m taking my license, and I’m going to get a card, and I’m going to wash this dark shadow off. Maybe, when the budget allows, Hubby and I will become Friends of the Library and support it by more than just our patronage.

Do you use the library? If not, what do you do with books after you read them? Pass them along? Or are you like me, slowly trying to accumulate a library to rival Belle’s?

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The Great Readomise

My husband and I are both readers. I don’t think I could’ve married someone who didn’t understand my love of books.

However…

We don’t always read the same things. I love mystery, suspense, horror, light sci-fi, light fantasy, contemporary, classics, literary…okay this list could go on and on.

Hubby is hard to keep up with. His tastes change all the time. Nonfiction has always been pretty consistent, but the topics vary. He went through a business book phase, a biography phase, a theology phase, a math book phase, I forget what dorky book he read last. He likes higher fantasy and more literary fiction than me, LES MISERABLES, DON QUIXOTE, ATLAS SHRUGGED.

There’s some cross-over, but mostly we keep our books separate. We’re constantly trying to get the other to read the books we love, though. It seldom works. I got him to read A WRINKLE IN TIME, I read LES MIS. But usually, we fail.

Until today.

226 years ago, our forefathers entered the Great Compromise to bring the Continental Congress together in agreement, and they ended up forming the branches of our government. Hubby and I came up with the Great Readomise to bring our books together. Not as dramatic, or important, but maybe it will bridge the gap of literary taste and tear down the walls that have divided our books for so long. (You can’t ever say I don’t have a flair for the dramatic, haha).

So here’s the deal: We each picked ten books we want the other to read. Both of us have a long lists of books we want to read, so we’ve agreed to alter between our books and the others’ picks. We have to read at least 50 pages, and then can veto. The other person then has the chance to replace the vetoed book with another. They don’t have to be read in order, as long as they’re all given a chance.

The only problem is I could have listed books all day and he only came up with five. So I stopped at six (I’d already drawn from a balance of genres and categories and couldn’t figure which one to cut, so my sixth stays in case he vetoes one).

What are the books? I’m glad you asked.

Hubby’s List:

ATLAS SHRUGGED, Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged

BONHOEFFER: PASTOR, MARTYR, PROPHET, SPY, Eric Metaxes

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

THE FOUNTAINHEAD, Ayn Rand

The Fountainhead

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, J.R.R Tolkein

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

NO COMPROMISE, THE LIFE STORY OF KEITH GREEN, Melody Green, David Hazard

No Compromise

My List:

GONE GIRL, Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, John Green

The Fault in Our Stars

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

LISEY’S STORY, Stephen King

Lisey's Story

I’ll update and let you know how this project goes. I already foresee some vetoes, but I promise to keep an open mind and give them all a fair chance. At least for the first 50 pages. ; )

You Don’t What?!

I never cease to be astonished when people tell me they don’t like to read.  I just don’t get it.  There are so many amazing books out there!  So many styles, genres, and subgenres.  You’d think there would be something that would appeal to them.  To me, there is no greater joy than curling up with a cup of coffee or a chai tea latte on a rainy afternoon with a great book.  My mother teaches English and Literature, and she hates reading.  Can you believe it?  I never could.  She reads the Cliffs Notes.  Occasionally she’ll read an actual book, but it’s rare.  To me, not reading is like not listening to music.  Or not liking chocolate.  How do you get through life without reading?

Everywhere I go, I have a book with me.  Usually more than one.  I keep one in my purse, I have a Kindle app on my phone, and just in case I’m still caught book-less, I have a copy of Dante’s Inferno in my trunk (I just can’t bring myself to take it out, you never know when you’ll need a book!).  I pull my book out constantly.  At lunch, at the mechanic, at the doctor, in traffic jams, or just waiting for my husband to get off the phone.  For really good books, I literally read every chance I get.  My husband gets frustrated when we’re at dinner and he returns from the bathroom to find my nose in a book.  When he’s out of town I read during every meal.  We were at a good friend’s wedding this weekend and my husband was an usher, so I sat on the back row reading until time for the wedding to start.  He couldn’t believe it, but what was I supposed to do?  Stare at the chairs in front of me?  (Coincidentally, that same friend is someone who doesn’t read, which prompted this post).

I would rather read than watch tv, or movies, or do much else really.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some shows and movies that I absolutely love, but it always feels lazy to me.  Like someone else is doing all of the work.  I like imagining how people sound or how they look.  It’s one reason I hate books on tape (or cd/mp3 nowadays).  I hate for someone else to read to me.  I can’t hear the character’s voice, I can’t let my imagination really play and fill in the gaps.  Which makes me wonder: do people who don’t like to read lack imagination?  Do they need someone else to create for them?

Maybe that’s it.  I myself have an overactive imagination.  It’s one of the reasons I like to write.  There’s so much going on in my head that needs to be set free.  Perhaps they don’t have the imagination to read?  Or they claim not to have the time (which is just silly, I’ve already proven there are tons of opportunities!) Or maybe they lack the attention span?  In today’s generation people have to be constantly entertained, do they find books too boring? 

Like my mother, my sister doesn’t like to read.  Every one in a while she’ll finish a book.  When she does read, she only picks up books that are close to reality.  Give her fantasy or something science fiction-y (even Harry Potter) and she’ll turn up her nose.  In her case, I can definitively state it’s because she lacks imagination.  Once, when she was five or six, I tried to pretend with her.  We sat on this rug with a picture of a house and I pretended it was a real house.  She absolutely wouldn’t budge and maintained that it was a stupid game because it was a rug  not a house.  I might add I’m fifteen years older, so I was about twenty at the time.  Twenty years old and I had more imagination than a five year old.

What do you think?  Why don’t people like to read?  Lack of time, imagination, or energy?  Something different altogether?  Or have they just not found the right book yet?

Be a Chicken

There is one person I have seen almost daily for about the past year who inspires me to do things.  His energy, excitement, and great attitude are something I think everyone could use a piece of.  Who is this person?  Why, it’s a guy in a chicken costume of course!  Yes, you read that correctly. A guy in a chicken costume.  Well, sometimes he’s dressed like the Statue of Liberty.  No, I haven’t lost my mind.

I’m a creature of habit.  Okay, let’s be honest, I have OCD, so I like routine.  Pattern.  When I go out to lunch during the week, I go to the same three restaurants and have my usual meal at each.  Two of these restaurants are on the same road and my route takes me past a small strip of stores.  Almost every day a guy stands near the road promoting the chicken place, or, during tax season, Liberty Tax Accounting (hence the Statue of Liberty).

I say he stands, but jumps, dances, runs, and does jumping jacks and push-ups would be more apt.  This guy has crazy energy.  I’ve never seen someone so happy to be doing his job.  Usually, I feel sorry for the bored teenagers or early twenty somethings standing in the muggy heat on the side of the road holding signs proclaiming “Pizza! $5.99!” or “Liquidation Sale!”.  Chicken Guy, though? Not only do I not have pity for him, I find myself envious of him.  I wish I loved my job as much as that guy loves his.  Heck, I wish I loved everything as much as he loves his job!

Every time I pass him I can’t help but smile.  I sit in the turn lane waiting for the light to flick to green and watch Chicken Guy dance around waving at cars and, honestly, it brightens my day.  I’d love to sit and talk to this dude, what makes him so happy?  What is his outlook on life?  How does he have the courage to make an idiot of himself on a daily basis?  I want to tell him that his energy and general jolly-ness make me want to have a better outlook.  I’m pretty certain that would be weird though.

Of course he could be a total Debbie Downer in real life, or just a weirdo, so maybe it’s better these thoughts stay in my head (and across the interwebs).  That doesn’t change the fact that his attitude inspires me.  I’ve also been inspired by another creature, a real animal this time. 

I just started reading a book called “Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat” by Gwen Cooper.  It’s about a cat who, due to a serious infection, had his eyes removed at just four weeks of age.  Instead of sitting on his laurels afraid to interact with a world he can’t see, Homer fearlessly plunges into the world around him.  Here is an excerpt that I found escpecially inspiring:

“Every leap from a chair back or table-top is taken on faith, a potential leap into the abyss.  Every ball chased down a hallway is an act of implicit bravery.  Every curtain or countertop climbed, every overature of friendship to a new person, every step forward taken without guidance into the dark void of the world around him is a miracle of courage.  He has no guide dog, no cane, no language in which he can be reassured or made to understand the shape and nature of the hurdles he encounters.  My other cats see out of the windows of our home, and so they know the boundaries of the world they inhabit.  But Homer’s world is boundless and ultimately unknowable; whatever room he’s in contains all there is to contain, and is therefore infinite.  Having only the most glancing of relationships with time and space, he transcends them both.”

I’ve read that particular passage three times now (once when reading chapters, a second time aloud to my husband, and a third here) and every time I am moved by it.  Call me a sap, or a weirdo, or whatever you will, but the faith and courage of this blind creature astound and inspire me. 

So what’s the point of all this?  The point is, we should all be chickens.  Rather, be like Chicken Guy and Homer the Wonder Cat.  We should approach life with the attitude they have.  Fearless, happy, courageous, boundless.  You may think I’m crazy, but every time I see that happy bouncing chicken on the roadside, it makes me happy.  Every time I read that piece about Homer, I want his courage.  So, my friends, go!  Go and be chickens!

Hang in There?

I’m currently in the middle of a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey, and I’ve encountered a problem.  The mid-book slump.  I’m just tired of reading it.  My favorite books are those I can lose myself in.  I like for a character’s life to become entangled in my own.  A plot that makes me unable to put the book down.  These are the best books, to me anyway.

I so looked forward to Cuckoo’s Nest.  It seemed right up my alley.  Bunch of psychos in a mental hospital?  Great!  Con man who weaseled his way onto the psych ward to escape a work farm?  Bring it on!  Oppressive and possibly crazy head nurse?  I’m so in!  But I just can’t get into the story.

It’s not that the writing is poor or the characters are lacking.  To the contrary, I think Kesey is fabulous.  He expertly describes the delusions, the feel and smell of the ward, the entire atmosphere.  Maybe it’s the fact the book is written in first person, from inside one of the Cuckoo’s heads.  I have to think about what I’m reading.  The narrator skips words and describes things like…well, like a crazy person.  Try as I may, I can’t get lost in a book I have to think too much about, and to me, that’s the joy of reading.

There was a good blog post over on Dystel Goderich about Virtuous Reading that connected with me on this subject.  Except, I’m not reading Cuckoo’s Nest because I think I should, or because a book club, or professor told me to read it.  I’m reading because I want to.  I’m just not sure if I want to any longer.

I hate the idea of stopping before I finish.  Perhaps I’ll come back to it at some other point.  There have been very few books I can’t get through.  Go ahead literary junkies, berate me all you want, but the “Hobbit”? Ugh, couldn’t do it.  “The Portrait of Dorian Gray”?  Dry as burnt toast.  Anything by Nathaniel Hawthorne?  Sorry, I’d rather watch grass grow.  I read two pages of “The House of Seven Gables” and put it down.  Somehow, I managed to get halfway through the “Scarlet Letter”, don’t ask me how.

On the other hand, there are books I love that would cause a lot of people to have the same nose wrinkling, I-just-smelled-a-skunk, expression I get when someone hands me Tolkien.  “Crime and Punishment”? Brilliant!  “Anna Karenina”?  Amazing!  “A Clockwork Orange?” Genius!

In the end, I guess I know what I’m going to do.  Move on to greener (more interesting, less blah) reading.  I hear Stephen King will be releasing his much anticipated sequel to “The Shining”, “Dr. Sleep” soon (jumps up and down with the joy of a new King tome for my hungry eyes to feast upon!  Click the link to hear Mr. King read an excerpt from the book).  In the meantime, my shelf is jam packed with books just waiting to be read (or re-read), so I guess I won’t be hanging in there with Cuckoo’s Nest.

Ahhh Fall

I love this time of year.  Saturday I made my husband dig my big box of fall/Halloween decorations out of the attic.  Well, he looked in the attic until I realized I’d put them on a shelf in the garage.  Oops!  Then I went down to Hobby Lobby to pick up a few extras because I realized I didn’t have as many general fall decorations as I do for Halloween. (I bought a fantastic metal yard turkey, 40% off!  I’ll post a picture closer to Thanksgiving when I put him in the yard).

This, of course, got me excited about Halloween and putting up my spiderwebs, skeletons, bats, and witches next week, in addition to the pumpkins and scarecrows I placed around the house Saturday.  I absolutely love Halloween.  I think it partially stems from my grandfather’s passion for anything that involved decorating.  For Halloween, and Christmas, he went all out.  He always had great fun dressing up as something really frightening and scaring the bejeezus out of my mother, which of course always delighted me and my dad.

Halloween is just all around fantastic.  Nostalgia rolls in like fog in a moonlit field as I reminisce about October nights spent rolling yards, stumbling through haunted houses, watching Rocky Horror Picture Show and scary movies from behind throw pillows, or dressed in some costume my mother made, pandering for candy.  The worst costume was a lady bug.  Basically, I put on a red unitard and she safety-pinned black triangles to my back, painted my face black, and put red and black stickers on my body and face.  Of course it’s only looking back that I realize how funny the costumes were.

One of my favorite things about this time of year, though, was the reading.  It started early in elementary school with books like “Stellaluna” and “Bunnicula” and poems like In a Dark, Dark, Wood.  Then it extended into middle school with “Goosebumps”, “Fear Street”, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”, and “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.”  My friends and I started a club called the Ghost Gang.  We’d nestle into the very back corner of the school library where it was dark and “scary” and read out of those books. 

In high school, my choice of reading extended to Stephen King and older horror, but those first books will always have a place in my heart.  Every time I see one in the bookstore, I can’t help but stop and read it.  I read “Stellaluna” aloud to my husband the other day and garnered some strange stares, but that’s how it’s supposed to be read.  Preferrably sitting in a rocker with your listener on a rug in front of you, but I’ll take what I can get.  What can I say?  I’m a child at heart.

So, yay for fall!  Yay for cheesy paper decorations, bad homemade costumes, chili, and wassail, pumpkins, and cool, foggy, nights.  I leave you with the poem/folk tale I mentioned.  The school had a bound version with great illustrations that I can’t find anywhere, but fortunately, I found the actual tale on Google.  Enjoy!

“In a dark, dark, wood, there was a dark, dark, path.  And up that dark, dark, path, there was a dark, dark, house.  And in that dark, dark, house, there was a dark, dark, stair.  And down that dark, dark, stair, there was a dark, dark, room.  And in that dark, dark, room, there was a dark, dark, cupboard.  And in that dark, dark, cupboard, there was a dark, dark, box.  And in that dark, dark, box, there was a dark, dark, GHOST!” – Original author unknown.