It’s Friday: Watch out!

I’m connecting dots.

Today, I saw a recommendation on the PBS Facebook page (like) for a new book about an old event:

“The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral—and How it Changed the American West” by Jeff Guinn.

Hmmm, “Changed the American West.” Intriguing. I adore non-fiction that sheds new light on or gives a new interpretation of familiar subjects.

So, my dots:

  • Gunfight
  • Guns
  • Winchesters
  • Winchester, Simon—author of
    • The Professor and the Madman
    • The Map that Changed the World
    • Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883
    • A Crack in the Edge of the World

among other books.

But these are four that I own, and I love, and which are now occupying position #44 on my 250 Library list. Four books, one position. That’s what I said.

I could have connected the O.K. Corral book with other dots, say, to a truly wretched episode of Classic Trek: Spectre of the Gun. This time, aren’t we all glad I went with classy non-fiction instead of Classic Trek (see #42)?

Well, most of us.

More downsizing to follow.


March Time


Thanks, Phil!

For all my fussin’ and fumin’ about summer, I adore the Fourth of July!

I love fireworks and watermelon and John. Philip. Sousa. Oh yeah, I love a march. That handsome lad in uniform? He’s Philip J. Eberly, my nephew-in-law, and he plays the euphonium (or what I call a tubini- sorry Phil) in the Navy Band.

The real deal United States Navy Band.

That blows me away, as does his talent.

Great music on the Fourth of July– that’s an inalienable right. Actually, music and movies. I pulled out my favorite holiday DVDs:

  • The Musicals, of course:
    • 1776
    • Music Man
  • The Obvious:
    • Independence Day
    • Jaws
  • Sure, but why not:
    • Apollo 13
    • National Treasure

I used to pull out the remake of The Parent Trap, what with the summer fun and a different take on an American/British rivalry. But then Lindsay imploded and Natasha < gulp> died. I’m looking for more upbeat holiday fare.

So, Jaws?

Well, I don’t do The Patriot. Too gruesome; too Gibson.

So, Jaws.

No Gibson!

Plus I added the annotated book of the musical 1776 to my 250 Library. And that’s enough digitizing for a holiday.

Hope you enjoy some music, your favorite holiday-themed movies and some watermelon. And remember: Safety First with those fireworks.

Happy Birthday, America.


Me in my head (from Summer by Alice Low)

Why I Hate Summer


It's 90 degrees out. Am I mad?

Urgency Day 106

500 Things Item 391: Winter Coat

  • History: c. 1999, I meant to un-possess it last winter
  • Value: It’s a good warm coat which someone will enjoy
  • Parting Pain: Embarrassed that I have so many coats, so no parting pain
  • Un-possessing: Donation

I hate summer.

I take a lot of abuse for saying this.

I also receive a fair amount of support.

Summer seems to be a more divisive topic than you might expect.

If you’ve been so kind as to take notice of the 250 Books list I’m methodically compiling, you may have observed a wonderful children’s book at #23, Summer by Alice Low. Occupying position 23 on my list should not suggest it is my 23rd favorite book; that is merely the order in which it was added. Actually, this little picture book is probably one of my top 5 favorite books.

It’s a sweet, funny tribute to all the things I used to love about summer-time, back when summer was about time: Time off, time to relax, time to do absolutely nothing. Summer-time is quantifiably different from other-time.

And it’s ridiculous to say we did nothing in summertime. We did everything in summertime!… except go to school, and that made summer the absolute perfect time.

Being done with school now, the lack of school doesn’t make summer perfect anymore. That’s not what is missing for me. The beach is missing for me. Has been for years now, and I miss it with an ache as potent as the loss of a soul mate.

But wistfulness is not hate. And I hate summer.

  • I hate the heat AND the humidity:
  • I hate perspiring glasses and people;
  • I hate that panicky space of time between shutting the passenger door on your buckled-in child or panting dog and dashing around to the driver’s door to start the car and crank up the air conditioning;
  • I hate air conditioning;
  • I hate when the air conditioning breaks;
  • I hate spider veins, month-old pedicures, self-tanner stains, bikini waxes, needing bikini waxes.

And there’s the ugly truth. I hate that aging means I’ve become high-maintenance in summertime. It’s not the aging; it’s the maintaining.

Summer used to be about a tank top, a pair of shorts and maybe some flip flops. Not anymore. Now, I need time to be presentable; more time than in the wintertime; too much time, to present myself comfortably, and I hate wasting time.

What am I working toward in this project?

Less stuff, more time!

And I don’t want to do nothing anymore; I want to do everything! Except preen. What a waste of time.

But that’s what it’s come to for me: Self-consciousness. I hate that.

Ditto, summer.

Words Matter



Morning meditation


This morning over coffee, my friend Janet shared a great story about her college-age son. He’s dating a woman whose first language is Japanese and who still struggles with English.

“Well, how do they communicate?” we asked.

Very well…” she demurred.

With a wink and a nod, we three women, with collectively over 75 years of marriage lingua frankness, were reminded of the subtle language of young lovers.

“Of course, you know, 90% of communication is non-verbal,” I said, as we grinned like a clowder of Cheshire cats.

I know we all know what we’re getting at here. <ahem> However, I’m not sure I believe the statistic. 90%? Really? Does that imply that words don’t matter?

I couldn’t disagree more with that statement.

Here are just a few reasons why saying words don’t matter bothers me:

  • I’m an English major, a reader, a word addict
  • My family and friends are also word-nerds
  • Remember the recent library video, “Libraries Will Survive!” (enjoy another peek)

Words matter.

For example, here’s a great word: Nepotism. Well, the word is interesting, even if the action is often maligned. Accepting that I am guilty of nepotism, I want to call your attention to a new blog called Words Matter. When you visit, you may recognize the writer. He’s the one for whom I save over 90% of my non-verbal language.

You can check out Paul’s blog by clicking on “Paul’s site” over there on my Blogroll.

Watch for his sentence of the week. I’m on the hunt with him, paying even closer attention to what I read and listen to, hoping to catch another sentence that is especially expressive, artful, or funny. Or truthy, if we’re watching Colbert. Our friend Andrew Amelinckx pursues a similar interest. While you’re communing with the words, check out his blog, The True Sentence. It’s a shiny new addition to my Blogroll.

Speaking of updates, I added a few books to the 250 Books list, which I realized I had been neglecting. (I’ve committed 39 to my list now, and I’m already second-guessing myself.) At some point, I will have to categorize the entries, or at least alphabetize them.

Words matter, but so does organization!

Save our Libraries!


Hey! I know those Librarians!


As seen on the World Wide Web and Chicago’s own NBC5!

The librarians at the Central Rappahannock Regional Libraries in Fredericksburg, VA have made a video and have become overnight YouTube stars!

They don’t just think they can dance;

They can!

Here’s why you should care:

  • You love libraries, no matter where they are.
  • You love librarians, because they do the 1st Amendment heavy lifting.
  • These actual librarians are some of my Very Best Friends in the World! (Okay that’s why I care, but I’m just so proud.)

I’m not even going to give you the link to the edited version. Pop some corn, grab the family and take 10 minutes to love on some amazing people doing important work on a vanishing budget.

PRESS below to watch now:


They MUST Survive!

Mind the Ghosts


Measured in certain "units:" priceless

Urgency Day 350

500 Things Items 143-151: Set of 9 Books (not shown)

  • History: Details can’t be revealed because they are to be a present
  • Value: The bindings match and have made a lovely addition to my shelves
  • Parting Pain: None– I love the eventual recipient
  • Un-possessing: Christmas gift

Do you believe in ghosts?

Even existing outside of a purely doctrinal construct, I do.

What happens to discarded books? I have dozens and dozens awaiting their eventual fates. Will they go directly to good homes? Will they linger on used-bookstore shelves or in the sorting space of our local library in anticipation of the Friends of the Library book sale? Right now, they are in actual Limbo piled on my basement floor.

One book expressed its discomfort last night.

I’m reading Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger’s follow-up novel to The Time-traveler’s Wife. I adored Time-traveler’s Wife— the book NOT the movie– and it became something of a phenomenon in our house: widely recommended and even earning a featured role in the infamous Sean Turns Forty! video gift. I remember when Fearful Symmetry came out being very excited to read it. Until I read the reviews.

Every author I know personally—and you two know who you are—is groaning right now. And they should be.

I count on book reviews to do several things for me: First of course, give me a sense of whether I should add yet another book to the toppling tower on my bedside table, but second and more importantly, help determine whether I am constitutionally capable of reading the reviewed book. Ask John Gilstrap—almost-family member and well-known author of popular action thrillers– how many of his books I have actually read. That would be zero. Why? In a word: wimp. As in, I am one.

So when the review of Her Fearful Symmetry revealed that it is a ghost story, I sighed and chose to read something else. (What did I read instead? I wish I had an index of all the books I’ve ever read such as the comprehensive one my sister has kept since she was a teenager, so I could pinpoint exactly what I read instead. Alas, not all the family’s organizational genius went to me.)

But recently, I was at the public library picking up another bushel of college admissions guides, when I noticed Her Fearful Symmetry. Why not? I thought. I really have gotten tougher since I’ve watched Battlestar Galactica (just to repeat: NEW not 1970s version). I can handle a few ghosts and ignore a less than glowing review. Why not?

Soooo, cut to the chase. I am really enjoying Fearful Symmetry. And you would think that was my point.

Um, no.

Last night, lying in bed with a non-Earl related storm howling outside and reading this spooky story, I was reminded of another ghost story I have enjoyed. In preparation for my family’s trip to Scotland in 1996, I bought Sam a cute picture book called The Ghosts’ Trip to Loch Ness by Jacques Duquennoy. Four little ghosts decide to make a journey to Loch Ness to see the famed monster, and much Highland fun ensues. It’s such a delightful story, and after Sam actually spotted Nessie on our trip (and we have the official Certificate to prove it), quite the requested bedtime tale.

Something about the Niffenegger book and the rattling windows and the vagaries of firing synapses caused me to leave my comfy bed last night to locate this little ghost story. In my basement. On a dark and stormy night.

The hundreds of books I identified way back in July for sale and donation have not been moved since. Sam’s band practices around them, the guys who bought Asteroids stepped over them, and the cat has graciously ignored them in her quest to eat everything she possibly can. But I know, even if the piles of books had been disturbed in the ensuing months, I never did and never would include The Ghosts’ Trip to Loch Ness for un-possessing.

Why, then, was This One Book I went downstairs to find, of all our books, lying near the pile of discards? Not on its appropriate shelf. Not open as if recently consulted. Just nearby, but not safely stored.

Ghosts. That’s why.

Appearances of supernatural phenomena are thought to have many perfectly reasonable explanations and, on certain cable “reality” shows, are even “scientifically” measured in “units.” Mostly, I think it all has to do with Regret. I try so very very hard these days not to linger on regret. It takes a lot of energy– trying so hard– energy that can probably be measured in units: Regret units. Finding this little ghost story lying inexplicably on my basement floor was a gentle if somewhat mysterious reminder:

Keep the memories; lose the stuff.

And the regret.

Urgency Day 413

500 Things Items 85-88: 127 Books (yep, 127)

  • Purchase, rinse, repeat
  • Tons o’value, fun and weight!
  • Pain associated with expense not with parting
  • Dispersal undecided

We passed like ships in the night. Probably a dark and stormy night, to be even more clichéd.

When we first moved to Naperville in May of 2006, there was an amazing used bookstore a little over a mile from our house. BookZeller— a play on book seller and book cellar I imagine–was a playground for word nerds such as me and my loved ones; a basement rabbit warren of room after room containing shelf after shelf of used books. And this was no specialty affair catering only to prowling genealogists or wan science fiction fans: every genre was represented with depth and discernment.

Alas, it didn’t last.

It did last long enough for our friend Sean to go missing several times during the infamous 40th Birthday-Weekend-Laminated-Extravaganza! for Sydney.

Sample passing inquiry:

  • “Where’s Sean?”
  • “Uh, I think he might have gone back to BookZeller’s.”
  • “Again?!”

But as I said, alas. By November, 2006, it was all over. Not exactly out of business, but certainly gone, reinvented as a used book wholesaler, operating only out of a warehouse and on the internet.

With my on-going effort to reduce our accumulation of books, I called BookZellar to see if their used book buying service would be a good option for my goals of decluttering, making a little money and not losing it all to postage costs. The gentleman I spoke with was quite pleasant and said they would be happy to look at the inventory of books I had compiled, and that they typically pay 50 cents to one dollar per book.

Quick calculation: I have inventoried 127 books so far. Let’s say they were interested in about half or 60. Say half of those were paper and half were hard covers. That means I would make $45 for selling 60 quality books.

I don’t feel great about this.

I know that’s better than I could do at a yard sale where books typically go for 25 cents/paper and 50 cents/hard cover—if that. And I investigated selling books on Amazon, but that seems to require the same blithe disregard for spending all your earnings on postage that eBay selling requires. Plus you have to deal with the Ohmygawd Crazy People.

[Disclaimer: I will reveal the outcome of my eBay “figurine” sale  (I don’t want to use any details that could potentially be tracked through a search engine) only to trusted family and friends through a password encrypted exchange. I am serious. That guy scares me.]

Where does that leave me? Good question.

First of all, it reinforces my commitment to not buying books, unless, UNLESS they are really truly forever and FOREVER books—a calculation made through a series of physical and mental challenges and arbitrated by Paul. And he’s tough. He was a mountain man who could only bathe once a month.

So that keeps the future book problem from expanding like black mold on a mountain man. But what do I do with the books I am ready to relinquish? Relinquish– but for which I would like a bit of compensation?

I’m open to suggestions.

BookZeller’s former space has been reconceived as a hip clothing boutique/sometimes punk-music venue called No Exit. I’d like to think the new name is a nod to the ghost of Jean-Paul Sartre. I suspect, however, it’s a reference to local law enforcement’s most frequent justification against allowing large crowds of moshing teenagers into a one-flight down, claustrophobic firetrap.

No Exit is also feeling like a very literal description of my old books.

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