A Day in the Life

It’s morning. How did that happen? It seems like moments ago I was chuckling at Letterman’s monologue. But I’ve heard the shower running and smelled the coffee. It’s morning. I never set an alarm clock because Jim is an excellent one with a much kinder voice than that gleaming, screaming little black box. Into my robe and slipper, I shuffle (battling plantar fasciitis in my feet) yes, shuffle down the stairs and go directly to the coffee pot. Favorite mug in hand, I nestle on the couch to watch the morning bird activity. Wood ducks, Mallards, Wigeons and lately Ring-necked Ducks are bopping around the pond. Skillful in the water, they shuffle like I do when they walk on the ice. The goldfinches are glad Jim found them some thistle seed at the co-op last week. Twenty-five pounds in reserve. There are so many birds on the feeders that they have to take turns hanging upside down to eat.

I read a bit in my Bible, journal a little and read a page from The Spiritual Disciplines Devotional by Valerie E. Hess. When I turn on my computer, I usually check my email first and I might shoot an answer to one of our kids or respond to a customer’s email order request. I check Facebook, too. That is just the greatest way to know, by way of a one-line report, how and what your friends and family are doing. I just love it. Now, back to the emails. Every morning I read the Publisher’s Weekly daily email learning about new books out this week, the state of the publishing industry, which author Oprah will feature this week, and I browse through the bestseller lists. I then read three more bookseller emails and blogs that are great to keep me up on the latest hot reads. I make lists of things we need to order and things I want to read. I read many, many reviews every day – trying to get a feel for whether the next great book is really a great fit for our store. Our new cat enjoys this routine and I struggle to keep her drooling self tucked under my arm instead of on my lap or worse, my keyboard!

Off to the treadmill. I found this image on Google – it was called Mature Woman on Treadmill. I hope to look like this in another 50,000 or so miles. I’ve been walking at least 3 miles per day. Then to the shower after starting a load of laundry, paying some bills, standing by the fire, having my daily granola and yogurt with another cup of coffee and cleaning up the kitchen. Hug and kiss for Jim as he heads off to his own busy day.

Cat out. Something thawing for dinner. Gather up my things. It seems that I always go out of the house with an armload of books and come back in the evening with an even bigger one. Garage door down, I enjoy the short drive to work in every season. Often, I have a stop at the accountant or the cleaners on the way to the store. My great staff takes care of opening every day, getting computers up and running, checking voicemail and greeting our first customers at 9 a.m.

Park and lock. Give a glance of gratitude around the little park-like mall we call home. This time of year, I pick my way across an often slippery strip of ground and I near the front door, often gauging how busy we will be this morning by how full Starbucks is. I never open this door without being awash in gratitude for the store and all the people who have made it such a great place! I greet two employees already hard at it. Turning on my computer, I grab the order board, glance at the clock and quickly consider which publishers and distributors I will order from today. It generally takes me until after noon to finish ordering from three distributors and taking care of the orders than need a little special handling – direct from the publisher, an out-of-print search or a call for clarification. We are so fortunate that our books usually arrive in just one day – something that gives us a competitive edge in customer service. The staff generally screens my calls in the morning, giving me uninterrupted time to get the orders finished.

During this time, boxes of books have started to arrive and one staff member receives and unpacks them onto our cart where they will be shelved throughout the day as staff has time. We usually get from 4 to 8 boxes per day of books, new gifts and cards, and during Christmas it was often twice that amount. Also during this time, the phone rings. A lot. I love watching staff members listen to each customer’s request with patience and then watch them skillfully meet whatever need it may be. A book, a gift, an order, some advice and sometimes just a friendly visit from a customer – these all make days at the store interesting as people look to us to help provide their literary nourishment. I may wait on a customer or two while others grab their lunch and then it is back to my desk.

I often try to combine my lunch with a run to the bank or another errand, but since I’m trying to limit my fast food intake, today I will heat up a Lean Cuisine in the microwave. Regardless of what I eat, I don’t generally take lunch until 2 or 3 p.m. I talk to authors to set up readings and signings, looking at several local author’s works each week to determine if we will carry their book. We often do off-site events and we are currently planning to help the Yakima Regional Library with their next staff training event with Jane Kirkpatrick. In October, we will provide books for the Washington Library and Media Association (otherwise known as school librarians from all across the state) when they come for their convention downtown. Keeping our calendar full and interesting is a challenge.

I write checks for merchandise we purchase from various publishers, distributors and gift vendors. I generate statements for the school districts purchases, pay quarterly taxes, write payroll checks for nine employees, keep an eye on my email, open mail, go through endless publisher catalogs, and talk about store plans with various employees.

All the while, my wonderful staff is doing the Dance of the Books. Each one has multiple special tasks that they take care of. These include, gift choosing and buying, magazine buying, receiving books, shelving, writing reviews, helping customers, pricing merchandise, smiling at babies, cleaning the bathroom, taking care of consignment sales, setting up chairs for events, researching materials for teachers, editing the inkspot newsletter, updating the website, making signage, data input, developing new displays, buying and pricing used books, keeping the bestsellers stocked, and endless other tasks that keep things running smoothly. And then, they’ll do it all again tomorrow. Each one is an integral member of the Happy Dance and is essential to keeping things running like clockwork and keeping toes from being stepped upon – both customers and fellow staff.

While this little glimpse into a bookseller’s life may sound somewhat boring, it is anything but boring. Because books both follow and lead culture, books come and go with the current political, social, religious or self-help wave but history is often made by books even as they record history. One of the ways people mark time in their lives is by what they read at any given time and we are given the privilege of weaving in and out of their lives, marking time. I love helping make that happen.

I try to take time to have a cup of coffee with a friend, make a phone call and especially READ a little each day. In the midst of all the aforementioned, there is a good bit of thinking and planning, some daydreaming, a few false starts as I forget what I was going to do next, some laughter, some surprises , a few frustrations and worries and some disappointments, but I can’t think of another career that would offer me the joy this one does. I’m proud to be an independent bookseller.
Usually head for home between 6:30 and 7:30 to make a late dinner for my sweet husband. More emailing, catching up on home chores, a little reading and my nightly appointment with David. Letterman.

Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 3:16 am  Comments (3)  

Curious Case of Benjamin Button

My Stars. Hey, that is a nice title for my own movie review system with 1 being poor and 5 being fantastic. Anyway, I say it again. My Stars! Rex Reed says, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a monumental achievement—not only one of the best films of the year, but one of the greatest films ever made.” Come on! What is the driving force here? We went to see the movie last night. It was good, but certainly not the best movie I’ve ever seen – not even a runner up. Brad Pitt is usually pretty easy on the eyes, but not always so in this movie. I will admit that he did a great job in this film as did Cate Blanchett, but the chemistry wasn’t perfect. I did love Taraji P. Henson who played the part of Pitt’s “mother” loving him without reservation from the first time she unwrapped the bundle on the steps that was Benjamin and looked into his creepy little face. It is interesting to contemplate what life would be like if it was not always linear, but instead we crossed each other both growing older and younger. The changes in relationships, the sadness that would permeate life, the confusion it would cause would be very painful. I did like the fact the movie was life affirming both for the young and the old, but I really wasn’t that impressed. I have not read the book that the movie is based on, but my friend Mimi felt that the movie is based also on a similar book, The Confessions of Max Tivoli. Both books are about a man who ages backwards, but according to many, there are more similarities to Max Tivoli than Fitzgerald’s book. I know many will undoubtedly disagree with me, but I’m giving this one a 3. My stars!
Published in: on January 25, 2009 at 4:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Movie Review – Australia

“Australia” is a big-screen movie. Go now. Don’t wait for the DVD. Sweeping landscapes, thundering cattle and the endearing face of a little half-caste boy are so great on the big screen. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman are thrown together as unlikely lovers in this epic tale of cattle barons at the beginning of World War II. Government capture of half-aboriginal children, “for their own good” and a villain who is as dirty-rotten as they come, played by David Wenham are some of the obstacles that the Kidman/Jackman duo must overcome as they fall in love and battle the elements and the bad guys in the Outback.
Oh, yes, and here is the endearing face I spoke of earlier – he really makes the movie. Fabulous little actor, Brandon Walker. Movie is long, nearly three hours, but it kept us riveted.
4 1/2 out of 5 stars.
I apologize for the formatting problem. I edited it about 10 times and it still reverts back to this hard-to-read version. 😦
Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 10:45 pm  Comments (2)  

…and a partridge in a pear tree

I have been upbraided, admonished, berated, castigated, chastened, raked over the coals, reprimanded, reproached and chewed out. I have received the message and I am, therefore, penitent, abject, apologetic, compunctious, contrite, regretful, rueful and just plain sorry.

I chose to have a Twelve Days of Christmas sale BEFORE Christmas, knowing full well that the Twelve Days of Christmas are really the Twelve Days AFTER Christmas, leading up to Epiphany. I chose to use the phrase within the context of a Christmas retail sale rather than the traditional Christian usage referring to the days between the birth of Christ and the visit of the magi bearing gifts.

For two reasons, I accept and agree with the recent newsletter subscriber who told me of his disappointment in me that I would use the phrase in the wrong way. First, I am a Christian and I know the terms have historically been used to describe the timeframe leading up to Epiphany. Second, I believe words are important. Words convey meaning. They convince, defend, instruct, encourage, persuade and educate, therefore they should be handled with care. In the midst of the busy season, I was not feeling particularly creative so I grabbed a common and easily understood, though erroneous phrase. My business deals in words. I must be more careful. I, therefore, repent (though not in sackcloth and ashes).

As a side note in this whole debacle, I’ve learned a lot more about Epiphany, including the proposed meaning behind the gifts mentioned in the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. Here is an interesting website where you can find the same information. http://www.cresourcei.org/cy12days.html

So, now you have my formal recantation where I hereby annul, back off, backtrack, call back, countermand, disavow, disclaim, disown, renounce, repeal, rescind and otherwise unsay what I said before. The Twelve Days of Christmas at Inklings Bookshop shall be forevermore, only after Christmas, but do keep an eye out for next year’s Christmas Countdown!

Published in: on January 3, 2009 at 4:52 am  Comments (2)