Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"Winter Is Coming"

I thought I was so clever to make a 
sign to advertise my Gardening Books Sale at work

––(50 cents each! we've got boxes full, and they've barely sold in the 2 months I've been the Book Lady)––

turns out none of my coworkers recognized the meme, or even the show when I told them what it was from.

Do you know?
It's Sean Bean as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, the HBO show that's been on 7 (8?) seasons now.

Bean also played Boromir in Lord of the Rings, where he spawned another meme: 
"One does not simply [______]."

I expect some of the customers will know, even though my coworkers didn't.
As I wrote about yesterday, I work with people who have different furniture than I do--in this case, different cultural references.

For instance, a bunch of the guys refer to sports I know nothing about--US sports. 
The only sporting event I've paid any attention to is the World Cup(s--women's too), but none of the guys watch that, though a couple of the women do--women with ties to Mexico or Africa.

I work with a lot of black guys who grew up, as one of them said, "thuggin' and druggin'". They know an entirely different body of music.

The store doesn't play hip-hop & rap, it plays a lot of Motown, Stevie Wonder, even gospel, all of which I like, but one day I was tired of the same old CDs and snuck a Counting Crows CD on.

AS SOON as the first notes started to play, the lead guy in the furniture room called out,

Furniture Guy and I get along well now, but at first he was wary of me because the previous Book Lady disdained our coworkers for not reading––or so she thought. 

"She was mean," he said.

I'd hope a book person (one of my tribe) would be MORE empathetic, but of course that's a ridiculous hope. (Pre-WWII Germany was plenty culturally literate.)
I grant that she was in pain from ill health,
but she actually expressed her cultural disdain.

Anyway, Furniture Guy does read.

In fact,
he asked me if I could find a copy of Black Panthers Speak, which he read when it came out in 1970.

I immediately found the very edition he wanted on ebay (left).
I placed an order for him. 
(He paid cash.)

Then another guy wanted to order a book--something like, The Bible for Ministers
I had no idea, he's kind of a lay minister, I guess...

Trouble is, a lot of my coworkers, including the old, white Church Ladies, are not computer literate.
So their access to information is limited that way, as that's the key these days. Even to use the library, it's all computerized.

I am curious to go into work and see if gardening books have moved. I have hopes:
When I left yesterday, the cashier told me a woman had just bought six. 

These are just a few of the ones I've displayed:

P.S. I've never watched Game of Thrones, and when I started to read it, I thought, Lord, spare me from Nordic-ish/Celtic-y fantasy.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Furniture of God

Monday morning, having coffee outside on my little porch again, sitting on my new comfy chair with my new beautiful bee-&-ginko handmade mug. 

After years of not using this porch much, I realize having the right furniture makes all the difference.

I've been thinking about how we have furniture in our minds, and how much that influences how we see & interact with the world.

I'm thinking a lot about this because I work with people who have very, very different mind-furniture than I do.

Dramatic example from a couple days ago:

Twice a week, I share my workspace with a coworker––I'll call him Larry––whose section is tucked behind mine.

(Sidenote: speaking of furniture--the work flow of this space is about as awkward as you could get. I can't see anyway to rearrange it that doesn't involve moving tons of heavy things--so we just work around it.)

I like Larry--he cares about people and isn't shy about speaking up for what he thinks is right. When a coworker made a [mildly] homophobic comment, for instance, Larry told him he was wrong.

We're about the same age, but our lives have been polar opposites (as is the case with me and most of my coworkers.)

Larry's a poor, black guy from the Chicago who got his GED in prison just a few years ago. Normally we chat together pretty easily--partly because, unlike most of my coworkers, Larry takes an interest in people and asks them questions.

The other day he asked me if I believe in God.

Like most of my coworkers, Larry is a Christian––grew up Baptist, he told me––so I hesitated to go into my song and dance about being a culturally Catholic Humanist who "believes" the stories of religion contain truths, but doesn't believe in God.

I wanted to find some shared furniture to hold my answer.

Like, I thought, the Bible.

So I said, "In my way... I like what Jesus said: 'He who dwells in love dwells in God, for God is love'."

"That's bullshit!" Larry said.

I was stunned. "What?" I said. "JESUS said that."

"But do you go to CHURCH? Do you worship God?"

"No," I said. "Jesus didn't say, go to church."

Larry thought a moment. "There wasn't church then. You had to wait a while."

I laughed.
Worlds collide.

"But you don't go to church, Larry."

"No, but I'm a hypocrite," he said.

The furniture, having entirely deflated by this point, lay silently on the floor.

And––ha!––it turns out my furniture has wobbly legs. I just looked up that Bible passage, and Jesus didn't say it--John did, at 1 John 4:16.
I guess Larry doesn't know his scripture all that well either.

But another favorite passage I often quote, Jesus did say, at John 13:34 (reported by the same John who wrote "God is Love") :

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
And, in Mark 12:30, Jesus said, 
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”"

Jesus gives his stamp of approval to his questioner adding, "to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

I'm not going to get into a debate about this with Larry, but I like figuring this out and I wanted to get my mind-furniture in line.
I am confident that I can rest on this:

Jesus does [basically] say that loving one another trumps going to church.

And I'd add that it's harder to practice love than to go to church. Larry might not agree, but I think he's a better Christian because he speaks up for others than if he went to church every day.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Someone says it's her birthday.

I don't know if it's really & truly Red Hair Girl's birthday (I thought she was an Aries, with an April birthday), but she says it is. 
She may have gotten the idea from the kids' birthday party being held this afternoon, across the alley--we can hear the nice & lively Mexican accordion music coming from a big rental tent--and wanted a birthday party herself.

It doesn't really matter, the facts.
As you can see, no matter when she was actually born, Red Hair Girl and the others are all very happy that it's her birthday, today! Me too.

Sunday Morning Story Hour

bink is reading Fondue and Tabletop Cooking (Better Homes & Gardens, 1970) to the Orphan Reds this Sunday morning on my back porch. My new tiled table is just the right height for the little girls.

bink is pointing to a baguette-warmer (honest to God), and Penny Cooper is commenting that the food-warmers would work to heat swimming-pool water for dolls.


"Worth Reading Again"

New in the Books Room:
a 12-volume set of travel writing by John L. Stoddard.
I'd rearranged shelves so there was room to put up a little info about the guy too--he was a world traveler who gave lectures, illustrated with slides, around the United States:
His intellect, wit, and charisma transformed Stoddard into an extremely popular speaker on the American lecture circuit."

These are the the 1898 print copies of those lectures. I only glanced at them––they look pretty readable.
My pricing is kinda idiosyncratic... I'm still feeling my way with that. What do people want, and what will they pay?
The "Cool Old Books" I set up do sell (old books with neat covers or illustrations but often in rather poor shape, for .99–$1.99), so people do like that sort of thing. (I should take more pictures for the record.)

I priced these volumes at $4.99 each (about as high as our book prices go) because I like them and the set is a neat donation. You can find them for around that price online, so that's fair, but not a steal.
If they don't sell I'll reduce the price.

On the other end--pulp fiction! Love it, but the mid-century acidy paperbacks won't last another century, like these lovely volumes will. Some are barely holding together now.

I love that this donor had put notes on the books:
I saved the best covers of these and the rest went on the 33 cents shelf.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Saturday Morning

Going to work in 15 minutes---keep wanting to blog more but have never and still don't feel like blogging later in the day--only mornings!
So maybe I can squeeze some chat in while I'm drinking my coffee. I have one socked foot shoved half into my hiking boots, the other is naked--why did it feel like a good time to write a few lines?

OK, now I've put that one boot on.
I have to wear my good solid boots (Merrells) or my old Achilles tendon injury (from Goodwill last summer) flares up. No more fashion shoes for me.
Luckily I never wore fashion shoes.
But even lightweight athletic shoes don't have enough support.

The other day a teenage boy came with his grandfather to volunteer at the store.
He practically GLOWED with effortless strength.
None of us regulars at the store are under 35, many are over 55... a few, over 85!
I sensed we were all gazing with wonder at Wonder Boy.

Things are going very well at work.
People tell me all the time they like what I'm doing, but the other day a customer was aggressively unhappy with how I'd changed the book room.
"You think books will sell like this?" he sneered.

"Well, sales are up 50%," I said.

I definitely took the bait and got defensive after a couple rounds of this.
I managed to save the encounter though by introducing myself---that made it personal, and I think we ended OK.

Oddly, that unpleasant encounter cheered me up.  
I go around wanting to know I'm doing a good job and somewhat fearing negative criticism. Then, when it came, after while (NOT at first) I felt, 
"Well, that wasn't that bad!"

The trick, I think, is not to get too attached to the bad OR the good responses. I mean, listen to the truth in them, but step aside from the emotional hooks... of both

This guy did say a truth--the fiction shelves were half-empty.
But that's because people keep buying books! Stop it, people!

I think I may take a couple shelves from the fiction area, since I can't keep them full, even with facing books out.

I was super pleased that as soon as I set up the BARGAIN BOOKS area yesterday morning (inspired by the young street women who'd bought cheap books at Salv Army)--right away a woman bought 6 books (33 cents each).

"May as well try these," she said of some British mystery novels.
Their covers were worn and pages yellowed, but in pleasantly readable shape.

 Off to work now! First thing--mailing out another ebay sale. I find these sort of annoying, but they do make good money for the store and save otherwise overlooked items. So I don't mind too much---it's just not as close to my heart as futzing with my book section.

Have a lovely weekend, reader! XO Fresca 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Bargain Shelves

I wrote this as an email in the middle of last night:
I'm awake at 3 a.m. because I couldn't sleep, thinking about that encounter with the young women living rough who wanted books.

These women had bought beat-up books at Salvation Army downtown, 3 for a dollar---including one shabby volume of the World Book Encyclopedia.
This touches my heart so much, that someone would want a piece of an old encyclopedia.

I've been lying awake thinking about how I could price books lower at SVDP.
And I thought,
Well, why not give my book shop a set of BARGAIN SHELVES?

We box up a TON of beat-up books for recycling. It's a PAIN to box them up, and then they get moved to the warehouse--taking up more time and space.
They don't get shredded (yet)--first they're sold to a re-seller for ...something like a penny per 10 pounds? (I don't know, but not much)--and they sell them on (same as with unsellable clothes & fabrics). No doubt eventually a lot do get pulped.
While they're either pretty beat or pretty undesirable, they might go for 33 cents--or some of them might... Color Me Beautiful, from the 1980s? Not sure... 
Some I still wouldn't bother to even try putting out--computer books older than 3 years but not old enough to be kitsch (we get plenty of these) would go straight to the box.

We do have empty shelves in the darkest part of the store, around the corner from the nice books. I wouldn't have to do the work of sorting the bargain books into categories like I do the "nice" books---
I'd just dump them willy-nilly on these bargain shelves.
I'm going to give it a try.
Why not?

So... going back to bed---now I've figured that out maybe I can fall asleep. XO Francesca

Thursday, July 26, 2018



Last week at work I met the city's new Homelessness & Vulnerable Liaison officer--a good guy who hands out water and shoes and stuff. I asked him if the people he meets want something to read. (I remember how BORED I was walking for weeks on pilgrimage--I even tried to read a book in French

Anyway, he said, "Probably! I'll start asking around."

I decided I could start asking around myself.
An hour ago I was walking downtown---it's Farmers Market Day on the mall downtown--and I saw a couple young women signing for $, and one of them was reading a book!

I was so excited to stop and ask them my question:
if they thought other folks living out/rough (they were "just passing through"--you know, with a dog and backpacks) would like free books?

"YES!!!" they both said. "A lot of people out here are really smart because they're always reading," they said. "There's a lot of time..."

What would people like to read? I asked.

"Philosophy," they said. "One guy we know reads Nietszche."

And one of them read out the name of the book she was reading--she'd bought it at Salvation Army:
The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste.

I laughed. "So, like, books about . . . everything," I said.
They laughed too. "Yeah! But fiction too..."

My answer:Maybe a Charles Dickens novel--he's NOT my favorite author, actually, but he constructs long, involving plots, good for reading aloud--the setting is distant enough in time to add interest, but the human types are familiar--and his annoying flaws (some ridiculous or disturbing caricatures) would make for good conversations.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Petting Zoo & Camp for Traumatized Toys

I've been reading Dispatches [from the Vietnam War] by Michael Herr. Yesterday at work I saw some toy soldiers &, under the book's influence, I thought the toys might want to lay their weapons down & change their poses after all this time....

Naturally the small animals wanted to help too, and thus the Petting Zoo & Camp for Traumatized Toys (PZCTT) was born. 

First step--unburdening the toys of their heavy weaponry. Finished last night around 1 a.m.

Someone slept through it all. This morning on the couch, "What happened here?" 
All the small animals volunteer for this work and are highly trained as well as being naturally gifted.
So far the toys are really liking it and getting a lot of benefit from it.

In other words, it's not really a "zoo"--no one is captive there! 

But the small animals thought the name might have happy childhood associations for the traumatized toys. And they do like being petted.  (They thought a name like "healing center" might be off putting.)

All is not sweetness and light, just because the participants are very small. Someone had to try to ride the giraffe. Luckily, Spot the Giraffe sees it all as part of the healing process.

Exercise has been found to be helpful, but it’s entirely optional at the Petting Zoo & Camp for Traumatized Toys. You can go alone, or you can take a friend.
Nothing is compulsory at the PZ&CTT!

Some toys stay for extended periods, some just come for an afternoon.
All the animals are gentle and entirely used to toys with quick startle reactions. The dinosaurs look fierce but turns out they are especially tender-hearted. 

Practicing listening skills at the Petting Zoo & Camp for Traumatized Toys.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Book Displays at Work

ABOVE: Displaying, among others, several colorful books Marz donated about 1960s-70s art & design––most of them sold within a couple days.

The bear toys sold quickly, but the lemurs are still there, which surprises me:

BELOW: I rescued the mini-madeleines tin from the metal recycling and put it with the Proust book--the tin sold right away, but not the book. Who knows?

Catching Up with the Orphan Reds

Red Hair Girl pulled a beer can out of the stream below Minnehaha Falls.

RHG fell off my bike on the way to work.

Baby Red Potato announced that since she is "almost five", her name is now Sweet Potato. Sweet Potato is a Borrower. (Big-doll shoes saved from an otherwise unsaveable donated doll):

Accidental Composition (Hat & Bird)

As soon as I photographed the hat in the office of the thrift store's warehouse, I thought of "The Goldfinch" painting---(1654, by Carel Fabritius, made famous(er) in 2013 by Donna Tartt's novel of the same name (didn't care for it myself--but had liked her earlier novel The Secret History).

Finally put the two images side by side:

Thursday, July 19, 2018

At the Warehouse VI

At the Warehouse, V: Extension

At the Warehouse IV: Channel Master

At the Warehouse III: Our Lady of the Measuring Tape

At the Warehouse, II: World Champions

At the Thrift Store Warehouse/Distribution Center

At the Warehouse, I

The SVDP Warehouse is a couple miles from the store itself--it handles donated food as well as things, including things we can't use and sell for pennies/lb. to recyclers down the line (or we trash it--"one of our biggest expenses" a worker told me). 
The Big Cheese took me for me a tour this morning, then left me to photograph it.

The idea is I will publicize our Good Works on FB, and I will, but what really caught me was the beauty of the workings of the work...

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Table, Box, Sheep, Books, Father

I feel my brain resisting writing anything thoughtful these days... Is that because I'm thinking all the time at work, in a way (still pondering better categorizations and arrangements for books, as well as generally navigating new territory and personalities)
––or is it just the brain not wanting to do any heavy lifting, moving images & things into words?

Well, anyway, this morning I'm just going to chat a bit here---I do want to keep up with that.
Here I am sitting out on my back porch with my NEW ceramic-tile café table--photo taken with my laptop--I couldn't even be bothered to get a better photo by futzing with my new iPhone (another new thing my brain is working on--somewhat reluctantly, I have to say):

I had stopped in the big chain grocery store on Saturday to buy some Windex for work (to clean books), and saw these on clearance for $40, down from $160––!!!
Came with two orange, metal chairs too.

You can see why hands-on potters have such a terrible time competing with Big Box makers...
The table & chairs cost only $8 more than the WONDERFUL handmade bee-and-ginko mug I'm holding, which I love and use every morning. 
Mug by Potter Miller,
whose blog painefalls.blogspot.com makes me want to write more amusingly about my own life. (I have to accept that's not my style, but I sure do love reading her take on life.)
 I've wanted a table just like this for my tiny back porch (really, a big landing) for a long time but they were always too expensive. And too unwieldy---but now that I have a mobile phone, I was able to call bink to ask if she could use Maura's car to pick the table up--
and she could!

Of course there was no public phone in sight... 
I chatted with the general manager about that (he told me they had 6 café tables left and just want to move them out, hence the mark-down)--he said he'd give up his mobile if we could have pay phones back.
Truly, that was a big reason I got this phone too--there's no way to make calls in public anymore.

So... let's see what's on my desktop...
Oh, here.
This is the most beautiful object I've come across at the thrift store--an antique, oak folding box (stamped "Patented 1889") with dovetail joints. It holds Singer Sewing machine parts (mostly loose-- the hardware that's screwed down could be removed and the box used for anything).

I put it on ebay for $38 (+ shipping)... 
It's a pleasure to handle--it unfolds flat, and folds up again with such grace, I pondered buying it myself, but I just don't need another thing... I've brought all sorts of odds and ends home that I will probably take back. I just enjoy handling them for a little while.

Oh! And I found the perfect stuffed sheep for the haruspex project.
It's super cute, as you can see. That could be a problem (don't want to traumatize the Latin students), but I'll make a Velcro opening in the back, for access to take the liver out, so it's not gruesome like slitting open its front.
Also maybe my Latin teacher friend, Amy, can let her students know the sheep volunteered--it was waving its little furry hoof at me wildly. I guess it has a taste for theater.
 Here we are sitting at my desk (it really is that much of a mess--or worse--all over the donation areas):

And here's an interesting thing. 
This set of works by Carl Jung got donated >

They're very expensive new––and used, 
so I thought about putting them on ebay but decided to test the Jungian waters at the store first.

I priced them $5 each––a good deal, but expensive for us––and yesterday the last few sold, to one person. The books would have sold for more online, but I'd rather offer stuff to the locals, if they want it.

And they did!

Finally, a photo I took off my sister's FB---her and my father marching in some goofy parade (forget what for) in Madison. This is the side of my father I liked best--his unabashedly childlike side.

He'd been waging a war on the oregano that had taken over his yard (because he never took care of his yard), so he and his friend & neighbor made up the Oregano Eradication Party--and ran him as candidate for the president of the United States:

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Bee Burial

The Bee Burial turned out to be a Burial at Sea, or, as close to the sea as you can get in the middle of a continent: We went to Minnehaha Falls, and Penny Cooper consigned the bee's body to the rushing waters.

With Marz's leadership, we all chanted the Heart Sutra (in Sanskrit?):
"Gaté, gaté (Gone, gone), Paragaté (Gone beyond),
Parasamgate! (Fully beyond)
Bodhi! Svaha! (Awake! YAY!)"

Wade in the Water

The Orphan Reds went to Minnehaha Falls for the Bee Burial this morning, and a long ramble along the river beyond the falls afterward.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Vigil for a Dead Bee

The Little Girls found a dead bee in the windowsill.
They are keeping vigil until tomorrow morning when Mz is coming over to help us hold a Bee Burial. Mz says she knows a good thing to say at Bee Burials (something Zen).

(That's a vintage makeup powder compact.)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Rain is a good thing.

It was a muggy mid-90s late yesterday afternoon, when a huge storm blew in and blew away the heat (though not, of course, the humidity). 

I worry about the Reds getting water in their heads (where it might mildew!), but how hardhearted would I have had to be to ignore their pleas to go play on the back porch?

They had a ball and got soaking wet, and so did I.

Afterward they were wrapped in terry cloth and given hot tea, to keep their heads from stuffing up.

(Baby Red is waving at the bears looking out the window.) 
(There's a CW song "Rain Is a Good Thing" by Luke Bryan.)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Lady of Book Looks Ahead

I. "Book's"

People really do refer to me as the Book Lady at work--for instance, someone called the thrift store asking to speak to the Book Lady, with a question about donations.

My favorite was when I overheard one of my coworkers saying to another, "Tell Books to put that on Craigslist."

Six weeks into my new job, I finally took down this sign, below, which had been hanging by two paperclips from the framework of the ceiling tiles, probably forever.

It was so high, it was mostly unnoticeable, but 

1. It added visual clutter to an already cluttered store
2. I love it (the apostrophe!) & wanted it for my desk area

Here I am, the noble Lady of Book:
II. Yahrzeit

I only noticed when I saw this photo the gap in the line-up on top of the shelf--Charles de Gaulle's Memoirs of Hope used to be standing up there.
Yay! Someone bought it. $1.99.
I would have bought it for my father, who liked deGaulle (why? too late to ask now), if my father were alive. In fact, today is the yahrzeit of his death. 
And say, Amen.*

I miss my father more as time goes on. 
Not miss him to talk to--we rarely talked, and rarely easily––but just miss knowing he was there, in Madison, with his cats and his newspaper, walking to the public library with his MacBook Air laptop---the one I'm typing on now (so lightweight! I thought, until I got an iPhone), going to the gym 3x/week (he was in good health, except for the liver cancer--ha!).

Mostly, to tell the truth, I just hate that sense of No One Behind Me. (Though there's still my auntie, who turns 93 next month...) 
It's like standing facing away from a precipice, knowing you can't step backward.

III. Looking Ahead

I am happy, however. Of course we can only see through a fuzzy glass, and I am no haruspex [see below], but looking around and ahead, things look good. 

For instance, my boss checked book sales for June, my first month as Book Lady, and they were up around 50%:
In May, we sold 940 books, in June, 1400!
(Most sell for about a buck or two a piece––& half that (49¢) for kids books, which sell a lot.)
That's a lot of books--pretty good for a little thrift store, don't you think?

I am proud of my work, and pleased for the Greater Good:
I love books and am happy to spread them around. (Probably a few more left the store, uncounted too.)

And this morning, I got the COOLEST request from my Latin-teaching friend.
She wrote:

"I'm working on my lesson plans for the Roman Comedy class.  One of the things we are reading involves the taking of auspices.  I'd like to have the students act out the roles of augur, haruspex and astrologus.  For the haruspex, I'd need an animal whose liver could be inspected.  Can I hire you to find a stuffed animal that would be appropriate for Roman haruspication, clean it, and make it so that it could be opened up and some sort of liver pulled out and examined? "
I replied:
You have made my entire life worthwhile!
OK, a bit of an exaggeration, but what you ask brings together so many of my loves: stuffed toys, literature, fun ways to learn, and of course, friendship."
(The timing is just a touch of a little weird, because of the liver connection, but it's entirely wonderful--my father would have gotten such a kick out of this!)

I immediately did some research and found a model for a stuffed animal liver:
"The Liver of Piacenza"
A bronze sheep's liver found near Piacenza with Etruscan inscriptions (for divination):
 From the Wikipedia entry, "Haruspex":
In the religion of Ancient Rome, a haruspex was a person trained to practice a form of divination called haruspicy, the inspection of the entrails of sacrificed animals, especially the livers of sacrificed sheep and poultry. 

And now I am going to have lunch with my sister.
Be well, all. Take care of your livers!

*The Mourner's Kaddish

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Red Hair Girl is an Aries.

I'd mentioned that Penny Cooper is a Gemini (communicative & correct). Her sense of humor, for instance, is often about playing with words.
Red Hair Girl has a lot of Aries in her. While Penny Cooper likes to write things down with a pencil, and is currently teaching herself how to multiply and divide, RHG's idea of fun is more rough and tumble. She's a scrapper.

The first thing she did when she met this action figure Carnage (from Spider-Man) in the break room at my work was to fight with him.
From my FB Report:

 Not that she's not a storyteller: