Friday, February 25, 2011


I have been struggling with traditions.

Two years after divorcing my children's father, my mother died. A month or so after her death, I met with my daughter who was 20 at the time. She was talking about her grandmother's death and said "...when dad's mom died..." I stopped her and said, "Listen. It was MY mom who died. Mimi was MY mother. She was not your dad's mother." My daughter gave me a whatever look and kept on talking as if she didn't hear me.

My son told me that his dad brought cranberry sauce to their Thanksgiving celebration this last year. This cranberry sauce is the spiced cranberry sauce that my mother made every year while I was growing up. I made it every year while my own kids were growing up. Even though I wasn't there, having my son tell me that their dad did something that I used to do on the holiday made me feel unneeded and unwanted.

I wanted to invite the kids over to watch the Academy Awards this year, a tradition I had before I was married, before I had kids. I invited the kids last year and the year before, but they had already had plans with their dad. I've been hesitating about inviting them, not wanting to be disappointed by them telling me they are already doing something with their dad. On the other hand, I also want them to feel as though I am including them in our lives. My partner reminded me, however, that asking them to come over for an event that their dad is also doing puts them in the awkward situation of having to choose between me and their dad. I have been torn.

I have been frustrated when it's seemed as though my ex-husband has taken over doing all of the traditional things I used to do. (okay, and pretty frustrated that he claimed that my mother was his.)


In the book 7 STEPS TO FINDING YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE, there is a chapter on ritual and tradition. Traditions, it says, are the things we do that remind us who we are.

"Traditions are the things we do over and over that remind us of our identity - culturally, religiously/spiritually, and with our friends and families. These repeated familiar actions keep us connected to our roots and grounded in our identity.

"Some traditions are elaborate and involved, such as large family celebrations. Others may be smaller in scope, such as how a specific dish is prepared, yet they are still significant. Whether large or small, traditions tell us, 'We do it this way because this is who we are.'"

My partner has been urging me to create new traditions, new ways of being with the kids that don't involve trying to make it be like it was, or reflect what the family used to do.

We are doing that. This year we rented a beach house in January and invited the kids to come for a few days instead of 'doing Christmas' on Christmas day. We had Christmas at the beach house in January. We played games, cooked and ate good food, took the dog for walks on the beach, took pictures, hung out and read.

The beach in January was great. The kids thought it was a brilliant new tradition. So did I. I love that we are developing traditions that reflect our new relationships.

My kids' dad may very well continue to commandeer holidays and traditions. I decided not to invite the kids over for the Academy Awards. I don't want them to have to choose, and I also don't want to be the one not chosen.

I still make cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. I do this for me. Preparing it evokes fond memories of my parents and the large family gatherings we had growing up. The cranberry sauce tradition connects me to my roots.

And the new traditions we are developing help me honor who I am now.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Interesting Purchases 2

A young woman, maybe early 20's, long layered brown hair, bright red lipstick, black clothes, asked a co-worker about greeting cards. He directed her toward the display. I was already there, putting cards away.

"Which one is the cheapest?", she asked.

"I don't know just by glancing at them, I'd have to look at each one, but I think the cheapest one is going to be "$2.50," I said.

"Well I want those, then," she said. "The cheapest ones."


An Asian man, late 20's or early 30's bought CREATIVE CURSING

           Creative Cursing: A Mix 'n' Match Profanity Generator


A woman in maybe her early 40's, long dark brown hair, with (who I guessed) was her teen-aged daughter came up to the register with two books. One was TOO GOOD TO LEAVE, TOO BAD TO STAY, the other was THE PORN TRAP

      Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship     The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography

I'm sure they were good choices for the woman, but should she be buying them with her daughter?

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Customers 18

A customer came to register to buy a book. She had a few questions about e-reader devices. She was in her 50's or 60's, gray blond hair and a light blue hat.

"I haven't decided which e-reader to get, or even if to get one," she said.

We have two models, a color one and one with a black and white reading screen. "If I were getting one, I'd get the black and white one. The color one does email and facebook and the color screen is really great, but I HAVE a computer. The only thing I'd want to do on another device is to read. So I'd get the black and white one," I said.

"What do you read on?", she asked.

"Books. I, uh, read books."

"Ah," she said. "I hope there are enough of you left."


A woman in her 50's, dark brown hair with a black sweater and a beaded necklace came up to me as I was putting magazines away.

"I'm looking for Clean Eating magazine, do you have it?"

I take her over to the section and hand her the latest issue of Clean Eating.

"No, that's not it," she said. "There's a different Clean Eating magazine. My friend had it, it's bigger, she uses it all the time. It might be a special issue."

"All right, let me look it up," I said. We head over to the computer. Magazines have a separate look-up system than books. There is only one Clean Eating magazine that comes up, the one I gave her. "There is only one Clean Eating the one you're thinking of possibly some sort of Clean Eating reference sort of thing?"


"Well, I think it might be a book put out by the same people..."

"No. It's a magazine," she said.

"Okay, well, there is only one Clean Eating magazine that is in our system, and this is it," I said, pointing to the one in her hand. "and you said it isn't the one you're looking for."

"It's a magazine, it's in the magazine section," she said again.

"Since no other Clean Eating magazine is coming up in the system, I'd like to look in our system for a Clean Eating book. Just in case there is one."

"All right," she said.

Sure enough, there is a book put out by the editors of Clean Eating. We have it. "There is one, let me take you over there." I take her over there and show it to her.

"Yes, that's it!," she says.

The Best of Clean Eating: Over 200 Mouthwatering Recipes to Keep You Lean and Healthy

"I have another question," she says. "There's a cookbook. I don't know the title or the author, don't you hate customers like me? I think it starts with 'L', the author's name starts with 'L'. It was over here right by Jamie Oliver." She heads over to one of the cookbook bays.

"If the author's last name starts with 'L', it would be over here, as the section is alphabetical by author. Jamie Oliver is over here..." (sort of close to the "L's" but not really)

"I think it's 'L-o-u-r-something'," she said. I want my husband to see it. It was here by Jamie Oliver.

I look in the cookbooks in all of the L's and by Jamie Oliver. I don't see anything even close. "I'm not seeing it in the L's or over here by Jamie Oliver," I said.

"It has to do with seafood," she said.

"Well, there's a small seafood section over here," I point to another bay. "And if it's say, Italian, those would be over here," I said.

"Hmm. No, it was right by Jamie Oliver," she said.

"How about I try to look it you'd spell it L-o-u-r...?"

"It's Louresant, or Lorscant or something like that," she said.

I try all sorts of spellings and get nothing on the computer. "I'm not finding it," I tell her.

"My sister-in-law told me about it, it's from a website. The website is S-N-O-O-T-H."

"", I ask.

"Yes, that's it."

I search on the internet and is a wine website, I see no books at all, cookbook or otherwise. I show her the website. "I'm not seeing any cookbooks here," I tell her.

"My husband is here, I really wanted him to see this book. Darn. I'll have to ask my sister-in-law about it and I'll have to come back in."

"That might be helpful. You can always call us, too, if you get more information," I tell her.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Trolling for Books

I ended 2010 with THE SHADOW CATCHER by Marianne Wiggins and started 2011 with THE LOVER'S DICTIONARY by David Levithan.

Since then, I've read...
   INCENDIARY by Chris Cleave
   THE ABSENT TRAVELER by Randall DeVallance
   BLOODROOT by Amy Greene
      (a few of which I'll write about in other posts)

I've really been wanting a good novel, and haven't found The Right Book for Right Now. Nothing has been looking just right.

I've started several non-fiction books, none of which are exactly the right read either. I haven't been able to settle into any of them. RUINED BY READING by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Mary Pipher's WRITING TO CHANGE THE WORLD, and Ann Vanderhoof's THE SPICE NECKLACE are all vying for space on my nightstand. I may finish THE SPICE NECKLACE, as it is about the Caribbean (where we went last year. Our chilly February weather is making me long to be in the islands).

I work in a bookstore, so you'd think I could find a book to read! However, contrary to what some people think, there isn't a lot of time for browsing while we're working. Especially being at the cash registers (where I am a lot), there isn't much opportunity to get away to go see what's in the store. People bring up their purchases, but quite often they aren't buying things that are interesting to me. Several people bought the new Donald Rumsfeld book today. And lots of people bought Valentine books for kids.

One woman yeseterday, though, was different. Among a few other things, she was purchasing two books of short stories.

      The Best American Short Stories 2010 (The Best American Series (R))      The Best American Short Stories 2009

"What have you read lately that's good?", she asked me (one of my favorite questions to ask or be asked).

"I read ROOM recently, and I really liked that," I said. "I also really liked THE SHADOW CATCHER, which I missed when it came out in 2007 and won lots of awards. How about you? What have you read?"

"I haven't been reading much," she said. "I'm trying to get back into it. That's why I'm buying the short stories. Sometimes it's a good way to get back into reading."

"Oh yeah. They are short enough that you can do one or two at a sitting with not much commitment."

"Also, you can find authors who might have written books that look interesting," she said.

"Good point," I said.

Short stories don't seem to be the right thing for me right now, either. Last night I picked up an advance reader copy of ALTAR OF BONES, a new book coming out in March by Philip Carter. Several places on the advance reader copy and in the press releases about it it says that "Philip Carter is a pseudonym for an internationally renowned author." Touted as a cross between Dan Brown and Robert Ludlum (is Dan Brown the 'internationally renowned author'???), this book is supposed to be quite a wild ride. I'll see how it goes!

          Altar of Bones

And if anyone knows who Philip Carter tell!

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Monday, February 7, 2011


There was a game at the bookstore where I work that looked intriguing. Several of us had talked about getting it, but no one had taken the plunge and bought it and played it. Until I did and we took it on our recent vacation.

Liebrary is a board game where one person is the Liebrarian. He or she reads the card with the title of a book and a brief plot summary. From the title and plot summary, the other players write what they think would be a plausible first sentence or line for that book. The Liebrarian writes down the real first line. When everyone is done writing their first line, the Liebrarian reads each of them aloud, and the players each decide which first line they think is the actual one. Guessing the actual first line moves you ahead on the board, as does having other people vote for the first line you wrote.


One of the books we were given was The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. The plot summary is as follows:

"When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover, then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime."

The first lines from the game:

"He had never met anyone like Hanna again."

"Michael walked, then stumbled, not able to catch himself from falling."

"When I was fifteen I got hepatitis."

"Michael longed for their long nights together, wondering now where she might have gone."

"He knew he needed to get home, his mother would be worried."

One of these is the actual first line of The Reader. Do you know which one?

Another book from the game was The Alphabet Sisters by Monica McInerey. The plot summary:

"As girls growing up the Clare Valley, Australia, Anna, Bett and Carrie Quinlan were childhood singing stars known as the Alphabet Sisters. As adults, they haven't spoken in years - ever since Bett's fiance deserted her for Carrie. Now, Lola, their flamboyant grandmother, is turning 80 and throwing a blowout bash to reunite the sisters."

The first lines from the game:

"They know us as the Alphabet Sisters by our names - Anna, Bett, and Carrie."

"The sisters didn't know, but they would soon enough."

"Your sister is married to your ex-fiance? Jessica's voice rose to such a pitch Bett Quinlan half expected the lightbulbs to explode."

"Lola sat in her old rocking chair on the front porch and a plan started to develop in her mind."

"We sang as one, but we also sang apart."

Which one do you think is the real first line?

And we had Jerry Seinfeld's Seinlanguage. Plot summary...

"Jerry Seinfeld muses about everything from Raisinettes to relationships, childhood to cop shows, and parents to power suits."

First lines from the game...

"Signs, they're everywhere, I tell you."

"Dating is pressure and tension."

"I never knew the places I'd go."

"People always think I'm more like Kramer than I am."

Do you know which is the correct first line?

It was great fun to be given the short synopsis of books and then try and come up with a first line believable enough for others to think it might be the real one.

Great game!

And the answers?
The Reader "When I was fifteen I got hepatitis."
The Alphabet Sisters "Your sister is married to your ex-fiance? Jessica's voice rose to such a pitch Bett Quinlan half expected the lightbulbs to explode."
Seinlanguage "Dating is pressure and tension."
How well did you do?

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