Monday, August 25

I *HEART* My Public Library

I really do. I buy a lot of books, but books are expensive so for the most part I stick to buying authors who are tried and true and will reside on my keeper shelves. That is, I buy the books written by the authors, not the actual authors themselves. Not that I wouldn't love to have them residing on my keeper shelves, cranking out books just for me. Some of my favorite authors seem to insist on having lives and doing things outside of creating books, like raising kids, visiting relatives, etc. I might argue that they could increase their output by doing away with that trivial stuff, but do they listen to me? No.

But I digress. My point is, books are expensive so I try to limit my purchases to those that I know I will return to time and again. Fortunately we have in this great country of ours something known as the public library. Now, just in case someone out there has missed this concept, a public library exists for the sole purpose of providing books for people to read free of charge! It's FREE. How can you beat that? For no charge whatsoever they will let you browse their extensive collection, which rivals some bookstores, FYI, and you can pick any book completely at random and they will let you read it. Most of those books they even let you take out of the library for up to three weeks at a time. This means that not only are you allowed to read this book without owning it first, you can do so in the comfort of your own home, or anywhere else you desire. All they ask is that you bring the book back at or before the end of the three week period, preferably undamaged, so that someone else can have the privilege of reading it. They will probably charge you a small fee if you bring the book back late or damaged, but as long as you abide by the rules, it's all FREE.

Now, I know what you are thinking. There must be a catch because nothing in life is free. Well this whole public library thing has been going on for some time now and if there is a catch nobody else has found it. I, myself, have been doing this "read for free" thing my whole life and haven't found a flaw in the system yet. As near as I can tell, the modern idea of a public library came about in the 1800s. There were libraries before then, but they were known as "subscription libraries," which required a modest regular fee. It was still probably a pretty darned good deal if you read a lot. But today's public library, at least in the U.S., is free to anyone and everyone. Everyone. They don't care who you are, what you like to read, how old you are or whether or not you are well educated. They don't care. They will let you read their books ABSOLUTELY FREE! I remember mentioning this to my then 10yo nephew on a visit many years ago. He looked at me and asked "how can they do that?" Of course he knew, in theory, that the library was free but it's one of those things that people take for granted, not giving any real thought to. Free. Is that amazing, or what?

You may be thinking that this is a bad thing for people who make their living writing books, but I would argue that ultimately they do benefit. Most of the books I have purchased are by authors I first discovered in the public library. My first Dorothy L. Sayers, Rex Stout, Ellis Peters and Agatha Christie were borrowed from the library. I discovered Margaret Maron, Jane Haddam and Parnell Hall while randomly browsing the shelves at the library. I've since acquired many of their books for my own collection; but without the library, I would never have known what I was missing in the first place. I think this is generally true. People are more likely to spend money if they liked the free sample. If not, they weren't going to anyway.

Getting back to my nephew's question, though, the "how" is through our tax dollars and through donations - of both books and money - from people just like me and you who want to keep this wonderful idea going for future generations. I think you'll agree that it's a pretty good deal. You don't have to be an avid reader to appreciate it. Probably at some point you will want to know "how to" or "what happened" or even "why." And you can find out inside your public library, because available books are not just limited to fiction. So if you ever find yourself with a few dollars that you would like to do something nice with, something that would profit future generations, something where you can actually see what is being done with your charitable donation, think about your local public library.

Thursday, August 21

For A Limited Time Only

This morning I got an email notice from one of the big chain bookstores. I think I have a discount card for them which is probably why I'm on their email list. Anyway, the email was touting an "online exclusive" that would allow me to get this very nifty messenger bag absolutely free. And it does look like a nice bag; probably it would be great for my daily commute. So I decided to check it out, being aware that its "freeness" was dubious at best. The bag, FYI, is a $17.95 value. And it can be mine absolutely free if I add $100 worth of items I would like to purchase to my cart. All I have to do is put $100 worth of merchandise into my virtual shopping cart, that's all. Then, I can also add the $17.95 bag to my virtual cart and - here's the kicker - when I proceed to checkout, the cost of the bag will be deducted. Notice how they carefully don't say that the bag is free only with a $100 or more purchase? As if I'm not going to notice that I'm paying $100 or more for an $18 bag. No, I did not order it. It isn't that I'm not capable of racking up $100 in books. Hardbacks ain't cheap. But my purchases are sprinkled throughout the year. I've probably purchased that much or more (well, there was the trip to Portland - home of Powell's. 'nuff said) already. See, that's my problem; I buy books when I actually want them. If I had just waited, I could have taken advantage of an exclusive offer. That'll learn me.

It reminded me of the going out of business sale a local furniture store was having years ago. The splashy tv ads made it clear that all their stock had to be liquidated and I should act quickly to take advantage of the amazing savings because at those prices the merchandise was going to go quickly. I think the ad ran for 3-4 years. So glad I rushed right down there ... not.

I resisted, but I don't claim to be immune to temptation. If the minimum order for the free bag had been more reasonable, I'd have given in. But, please, $100 is a lot to ask for a $18 dollar bag. $50, that's my final offer

Monday, August 11

Food Is The Only Thing That Falls Into Your Lap

There's this person I know, whom I'll call "Nancy" because I don't actually know anyone by that name, who has had a rough life. Nancy was a good little girl and married young as girls did then and per her parents' expectations. It didn't work. Eventually she entered into a "commited relationship" which also didn't work. Then she got married again and, you guessed it, it didn't work. To be fair, initially she was just following the expected pattern for her generation. The idea of a woman being financially independant is pretty new. Unfortunately, Nancy continued to repeat the pattern of finding someone to take care of her. And now she is reduced to doing unskilled manual labor in her late 50's and clinging precariously to an uncertain and unstable financial situation - and still looking for someone to take care of her. To make matters worse, she pretty much raised her daughter as she had been raised, and now they are both in the same boat. Nancy is a good person. It would be easy to say that she doesn't really deserve such a hard life. And yet, she hasn't done anything to make her life different, either. She could have chosen to learn from experience and hedged her bets while still young. Instead she kept looking for a shortcut, an easy way out.

This post isn't really about Nancy, though. It's about all the other people out there, people I know and probably people you know, too, who keep trying to find an easier way. Sometimes they learn; sometimes they don't. There is no easy way. You work for what you want and you plan for things to go wrong because they will. If, instead, you sit around waiting for good things to happen just because you're cute/blonde/friendly/manicured - pick one - please have the grace not to whine when life doesn't go according to plan.

If this sounds harsh, well that's how I'm feeling. I'm tired of being resented because my life seems less problematic than somebody else's. I'm tired of having to test the air before I can share whatever blessing comes my way. I earned my life, and what I have is a result of decisions I made. Nothing just fell into my lap.

I am cute as hell, though.

Thursday, August 7

Waiting For The Lull

When you are a true Reader of the obsessive variety, the story playing out between the pages of a book is as engrossing, and even more intimate, than any viewed on the big screen. I once missed my stop on the subway going home because I had only two pages to go and didn't want to close the book. I got off at the next stop and waited for a train going back, reading the whole time. Why couldn't I just close the book and pick up the story where I left off once I was home? I just couldn't that's all. In spite of knowing, logically, that the words on the page were static things and not about to carry on without me, I was convinced that, if I closed that book before finishing the story, something would happen and I would miss it! And that's not the only time that has happened.

I was reminded of that incident recently while reading Clive Cussler's Sahara. I have issues with Cussler's writing; that book in particular could have used a better editor, for one thing. But he's hard to beat if you want a story with lots of action and heroic feats of derring do. During the evening, if I had to stop reading for any reason I found myself giving my mother a blow-by-blow of what was occuring in the story at that point. "Okay, they haven't found the sub yet; but Pitt and Giordino have just escaped the clutches of the evil billionaire and stole his helicopter. Then they crashed it into the river to put the bad guy pursuers off the scent, and are now stealing the evil general's antique car." How's that for action-packed? And that's after blowing up the yacht and ... well you'll have to read it yourself, if you want to know. And although I didn't get the book finished that night, I did keep reading long after I should have gone to bed. I had to wait until the good guys were safe before I left them. Mom, being an obsessive Reader herself, understood perfectly.

Monday, August 4

Burrowing In

After spending a good part of the last year running to and fro and having a darned good time in the process, I've finally worked it out of my system, I think. One might even say that I achieved Inner Peach. I had a grand time and am looking forward to more grand times yet to come. But I am, by nature, a homebody, a nester.

That seems to be the phase I'm in just now. I'm burrowing in at home, cleaning house and getting more organized. We're not talking about a whirl wind of activity here. Whirl winding is not my natural state, although I can do it for a while when necessary. My natural state is a lot more thoughtful and cautious. My natural state likes being tidy, but also enjoys curling up quietly with a book. My natural state doesn't like to rush. I asked it, and it said, quite clearly, "No hurry, whenever." In fact, my natural state embraces quiet time. I am Getting Things Done, however.

Take, for instance, the closet cleaning the other weekend. I also finally got the ugly, broken old shade on the front window replaced with new blinds. And I've started on the cupboard under the stairs. That's going to be a longer project because it's more about better organizing the space than just clearing out. That's okay, all in good time. And one of these days I'm going to actually get the hallway repainted. I even got some paint chips a while back. Probably it's going to be green. Yes, definitely green. Which particular shade of green requires a little more thought. I don't like to rush into these things.

And the plumbing in the basement toilet needs replacing. A new flapper isn't going to do it this time. Since it is the basement toilet and doesn't get used much, there is no urgency. But it's on my list.

Also, I need a new deck. The old one has suffered the elephants for more than 20 years and it shows. Boards are badly splitered and/or warped. It's not a hazard at the moment but it will be if I don't do something about it. I think that will have to be my priority project for next year. And no, it will not be a DIY project. I don't mind weilding a hammer, but I draw the line at hauling lumber. And, because of the landscaping behind my back fence, probably the lumber will have to be brought in through the house. Oh, that will be fun.

This fall I'm going to prune back the shrubs in front of the house. Those shrubs have not looked good for a long time and, in truth, probably need pulled out and replaced. But (a) replacing will cost money, and (b) I have no idea what to replace them with. If it's taking me forever to choose paint for the hallway, you surely don't think I'm going to rush on landscaping, do you? In the meantime, they need cut back so that some sun can get to the ground in front of the bushes. Then I'll put down more seed and possibly get grass growing there again.

And while I'm at it, I might take care of the tree limbs that are reaching for the gutters. The trimming I did a few months ago focused on the lower branches on the sidewalk side of the yard. For the other branches I'll need to break out the ladder. And probably have someone handy to spot me because reaching overhead with a long pole whilst balanced on a ladder is not something that should be done without assistance. I'll get to it. Eventually. It's on the list.

At least I have a list. It's a good start.