Sunday, March 3, 2019

I Hoard Books, and I Blame that Cat Who Wears a Hat--Part 2

Some of my earliest memories are visits to our town's library--a two-story 1960s era building only a few miles from our house.  Even after all these years, I can visualize the rows of tall metal shelves and the colorful spines of the books that filled them.  My first taste of independence came from choosing which books I would take home and walking over to the circulation desk for the obligatory "stamping" by the librarian.  At home, I'd put the books on the shelf over my desk for safekeeping until I could read them over and over again.

But the day always came.  The new friends I found at the library would have to be returned.  I understood the process and the concept of borrowing, but it was never easy. 

Enter the Dr. Seuss Book Club. 

I don't know where my mother got the idea, but the books started coming, two at a time, in the mail.  I'd open the package, put the books on the shelf over my desk for safekeeping, and read them over and over again. And then they stayed.  And I read them again. 

What started with The Cat in the Hat; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; and Hop on Pop; became A Fish Out of Water, Robert the Rose Horse, and Are You My Mother? Over the next few years, my little home library grew.  One shelf was full.  Then another. 

By the time my subscription to the Dr. Seuss Book Club came to an end, I was hooked.  Having my own collection of books gave me choices every day.  My visits to the library hadn't stopped, but there was a unique joy of having a book that I could keep--to read any time I wanted.  And that joy remains to this day.

Sometimes, when I look at my collection, I say, "How did this happen?  Why is it so hard for me to give away (or even sell) my books?"  But I know the answer--these books tell the story of my life.  I look to the shelf and remember the book club meeting, the grad school class, the trip we took, the garden we planted.  Not all the memories are sweet, of course, but if the book is still on my shelf, I've decided that that part of my life needs to stay part of my story. 

I trace it back to those first books--the rhyming word play of Dr. Seuss that both challenged and comforted me.  The beginning of the story that is my life.

And remember those tiny grandsons I spoke of yesterday?  On the bottom shelf of the bookcase beside the guest room, among the other treasures I've purchased recently, are some aged, well-loved, Book Club editions from the Dr. Seuss Book Club.  The story continues. . .

Saturday, March 2, 2019

I Hoard Books, and I Blame that Cat Who Wears a Hat--Part 1

The architect could tell that I had a problem.  But he staged no intervention for me.  Instead, he became my enabler.  And no matter what other problems the house design may have, I will forever be grateful to him.

My husband and I were taking on the challenge of renovating and remodeling my grandparents' bungalow in one of our town's Historic Districts.  After years of making a life wherever my husband's retail-based jobs would take us, we were establishing a "forever home." Wisely, we chose to work with an architect before we hired a general contractor.  And that contractor asked this girl a question she had always wanted to be asked:  "Can you bring me some pictures of things you like in a house?  So I can get an idea of your style and your needs?"

Those were magic words for me.  I have a 30-year-old file of magazine clippings and a Pinterest board for everything imaginable.  (Side note--Thank you, Pinterest, for curtailing the amount of paper in my house.  Most new additions to what my husband calls my "Weird File" are digital.)

I complied with my architect's request.  And during our next meeting, he said, "I can see that you like books," As he spread my pictures on the table, a theme emerged.  I was outed.  Every picture included book shelves.

I knew I had a problem.

And he became my enabler.

Deep shelves form a half-wall between our dining room and kitchen--now filled with coffee table books and old books I rescue from garage sales, antique stores, and junk stores. One side of our kitchen island is dedicated to a working cookbook collection.  Our small fireplace is flanked by tall bookcases filled with books about gardening, entertainment, history, philosophy, biography, etymology, as well as my small collection of autographed volumes.  Another column of shelves outside our guest room houses travel books, short story collections, and a growing number of children's books for the tiny grandsons who visit.  In our bedroom is a stately triple-wide, floor to ceiling beauty that is the home of spiritual topics, the fiction collection, poetry, drama, and all things Shakespeare.

I will not lie and say that is all of the books in my house.  Those are merely the built-ins--the established "put your books here" places.  I will also confess to the "to read" stack beside my bed, an "in progress" stack beside my chair, two end tables with shelves, a wine rack that holds my prized Oxford English Dictionaries (that's another story for a different day), and. . . (this is difficult to confess) three more portable units in the basement--mostly filled with textbooks, sets of books from childhood, Bible study books, yearbooks, and a collection of old dictionaries.

How did this happen, you ask?

I blame the Dr. Seuss Book Club.

(To be continued. . .)

Friday, March 1, 2019

Of God and Chicken Tortilla Soup--A Friday story

"See you this afternoon," (quick kiss)
"Bye, Dewey. Take care of your Dad today." (pat on head)

And I'm out the door.  It's Friday of a long week.  I'm usually the biggest fan of Friday that you'll ever meet.  Successfully made it through the work week.  All the possibilities of a weekend ahead of me.  But not this week. Wednesday felt like Friday. Thursday, at an off-site seminar, it felt like Friday.  So when Friday arrived, my body said, "PLEASE--pretend it's Saturday and stay in bed."

But I didn't.  I got up.  Ambled into the kitchen to make coffee, open the doggy door, and settle into my morning prayer and study time.  In all honesty, I had to move through a few Flow puzzles on my ipad and a few ounces of strong coffee before I could commit to Bible reading and journaling. Fortunately for me, Friday at my workplace is jeans-friendly.  Good thing, because I was heading in with little or no forethought for the day.

My commute time is about 25 minutes, and I spend every minute of that time checking in with my mother.  Our morning calls take place while I drive (hands free phone, of course) and she finishes dressing and making her lunch for the day. Today's conversation, mostly about her recent knee surgery and physical therapy, lasted until I was inside my office door.

So I arrived, signed in, and took stock.  So many spreadsheets.  So many schedules.  So I narrowed my task list to two rather large chunks and jumped in.  Several phone calls, emails, and visitors intercepted my flow, but somehow, I was finished by 1:00.

And at 1:00 I realized two things.  I need to walk.  A lot.  And I was hungry.  (Reference my groggy morning start.)

So I'm off to deliver some materials that I really could have put into mailboxes.  And I hear my name, turn, and see MKR.  "Come by my room and have some chicken tortilla soup.  And some orange cake." 

I play it cool.  "Sounds great.  What's the occasion?" (There really wasn't one.  She just felt like cooking for the people on her hall.)

But I am not cool.  I wonder if she can sense my sheer joy.  Someone has cooked.  And someone is sharing with me.  On a day that I didn't want to get out of my house and I have limped through prayer, showing compassion for my mother, and completing important tasks at work.  I thank her.  Twice.  Maybe three times.  Maybe I overdid the thanks.

As I return to my desk with a paper bowl of steaming chicken tortilla soup topped with classic Fritos and shredded cheese and a slice of tender orange bundt-style cake with a sweet glaze wrapped in a brown paper towel, I am actually giddy.

On this cold, damp Friday that should have been a Saturday, I feel the love. Thank you, God, for your goodness and for your gift of MKR.  Some days, you just have to show up to get the blessing.