Friday, July 29, 2011

Customers 25

A woman asked me to try and find a book. She thought the author's name was Michelle Mitchell. She said it was a book about people who'd abused animals and when they died, they met St. Peter at the gates of heaven and he sent them back to Earth as animals, to live with the families of the people whose animals they'd hurt. I searched our in store search and I searched on google, using every combination of key words I could think of and didn't find anything even close. She heard it from a receptionist at her doctor's office. She has another appointment next week with that doctor. She'll ask the reception then for more information.


I hung up on someone today...I answered the phone like I usually do..."Thank you for calling [our business], this is [my name], how can I help you?" The caller said, "I'm looking for some gay porn. [my name], I need you to help me find out more about this. Tell me what you have in gay porn." I said, "We can't help you with that," and hung up on him.

This brought up a discussion among us, there are people who call, who seem to like to make us uncomfortable about sexual things. One man calls and if a female bookseller answered would ask about a book (and yes, this is a real book) titled, A Hand in the Bush, (and yes, probably whatever you're thinking it's about is correct). He'd ask the bookseller to read the back cover to him. "Twyla" never fell for it, and was disgusted that he'd even ask. She would tell other booksellers that they didn't have to read sexual descriptions to callers. Not part of our job description.


A man calling the store asked for a book titled (I thought) Life Without Limbs. I started looking it up and the caller said..."The title is Life Without Limits." I looked it up and found the book called Life Without Limits. It's about a man who doesn't have any limbs, Nick Vujucic.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Contented Dementia?

At work the other day I was pulling expired holds off the shelf. One book caught my eye, CONTENTED DEMENTIA.

       Contented Dementia [Import] Publisher: Ebury Press; Reprint edition

The title alone intrigued me. Contented dementia? My mother had dementia and early on my mother was contented at times, though she was distressed more often as the dementia progressed. Contented dementia sounded like a great idea. I wanted to know how they thought that could happen.

I read a few pages...and I liked it.

It made so much sense. They talked about how people with dementia cannot store new information, even something they did two minutes ago is not in their memory, because it never entered their memory in the first place. People with dementia do remember things from long ago, however, and this is where they say to direct any conversation.

People with dementia are often frustrated and scared with their current daily situations, because most people try to orient them to the present, which is almost impossible for them. They don't remember why they have the umbrella or if it's appropriate to have tea. Keeping them oriented to their past anchors them to somewhere they can function competently. Are they functioning in the present world as we'd like them to? No, they aren't. They are not able to interact with us right here right now. The authors' premise is that it's caregivers and families expectation that they do so that causes them so much distress and us frustration. This book helps us relieve their distress by allowing them to be, in their minds, where they are most comfortable.

Even though I didn't know about the process presented in this book when my mother was alive, I tried to do this some with my mom (with a lot of help from Therapist!). If mom brought up something from the past, I'd just go there with her in the conversation, even if it didn't make sense to me in the present. This did seem to help her and calm her.

I wish I'd had this book when she was alive. I don't know if we could alleviated all her distress, but I think we could have done more. And I would have felt more competent having this extremely helpful guidebook.

And family? MY family? Anyone who is going to be caring for me when I get old and decrepit? If you are reading this please note, if I ever get dementia, I want be cared for in this way.

Note: I am still selling Susannah Charleson's SCENT OF THE MISSING for the 100 book handsell challenge (and it's doing really well!). I may add CONTENTED DEMENTIA as a second title. The only problem is, there aren't even 100 copies of this book in warehouses in the U.S., perhaps because the authors are from Britain. I hope this book gains more exposure here. I'll see if I can help with that.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dementia - And a Mystery...

       Turn of Mind

In TURN OF MIND, Dr. Jennifer White, main character and narrator, is a 65 year old woman. She is accused of murdering her best friend. She has dementia and doesn't remember doing this. Did she do it and just forget? Is she capable of murdering her best friend?

Written from Jennifer's point of view, it was a little hard to get into. Perspectives and points of view changed frequently, so keeping track of what was going on took some attention - just as, I'm now thinking, it is with a person with dementia.

I was interested in the premise and wanted to see how it played out. It took me several tries to get into it, partly because of the fragmented narration, but mostly because reading it brought up feelings and memories of my own mother's dementia.

Though my mother died three years ago, Jennifer's inconsistent remembering, her gradual yet inevitable forgetting of who her children were, and her almost constant confusion mirrored my mother's. LaPlante did a good job of depicting a person with dementia, as well as the people in her life.

That aside - and I realize those were a couple of strong paragraphs of what was hard about the book - I enjoyed the story. Alice LaPlante crafted the narrative with skill, a challenging task when working with a character with dementia. She kept the mystery going, as well as letting us get to know her and the people in her life. These are people we got to know, even as Jennifer was losing her connections to the people she loved.

Did she murder her best friend? That I'll leave you to find out when you read it!

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Customers 24

Dr. Johnson (see May 17, 2011 blog post, Customers 22) came in. As usual he was nicely dressed, a long overcoat (yes, it's July and yes, he needed the coat) and a bowler hat and a cane. B. saw him as he approached the counter. As he does to many customers, he offered a compliment and said, "You look snazzy today, you look good."

Dr. Johnson looked B. up and down, never meeting his eyes, sneered at him, made a sound of disgust and walked away.


A stooped woman, early to mid 70's, short, slept-on grey hair, a light blue pullover shirt and jeans, comes up to the counter, faces this book toward me as she puts it on the counter.

       The World Encyclopedia of Rifles and Machine Guns - An Illustrated Guide to 500 Firearms

"Do you have music?", she asks.

"We don't have a full music department, we do have about 30 different CD's on the display just behind you," I answer.

"You don't have music, but you have THIS," and she gestures to the book on the counter.

"Is this important? Is this good for America?", pointing again to the book. "Is music good for America? Yes it is. So you don't have music, but you have books like this." She shakes her head. "If you think you're getting my business, you can forget it," she says, walking away.

Twenty minutes later she comes up to my counter and purchases a calendar, saying nothing about music or guns or America.


A man came to E's. register. He held up his hand and slowly passed it in front of E's face. "You will give me 30% off of the item of my choice," he said, in an Obi-Wan Kenobi "These are not the droids you are looking for" voice. Unfortunately he wasn't a Jedi, so he didn't get the discount.


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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tantric Sex...for Dummies?

A man, in his early 30's, dark hair, long dark mustache, came up to the Info desk. "Twyla" was there.

"I'm looking for a book, TANTRIC SEX FOR DUMMIES, do you have it?"

Twyla looked in the computer, "I don't see that exact title..." she said.

"Oh," he said, disappointed. "Are there any other books about tantric sex?"

"There are, right over here," she takes him to the section and leaves him to browse. About ten minutes later he came back up to the desk...

"You were right! There wasn't TANTRIC SEX FOR DUMMIES, I was wrong about the title, but this is the book I was looking for, the IDIOT'S GUIDE TO TANTRIC SEX, not TANTRIC SEX FOR DUMMIES! Sorry I was wrong about the title, but this is it! Isn't this great?!"

       Complete Idiot's Guide to Tantric Sex

"That is great, glad you found it," she said.

"This is perfect, just what I wanted, see? Look at the pictures!", he leaned in to show her.

She quickly leaned away and busied herself with a stack of books. "I'm glad you found it," she repeated. "You can pay for it up front at the register."

Sometimes people want to share way more than we want to see.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

What Did She REALLY Want?

J. was walking in the front of the store and saw a woman standing there, seemingly looking for something.

"Can I help you find something?", she asked.

"I am looking for Ann Coulter's new book and I don't see it. I looked in Current Affairs and her other books are there, I looked on a New Arrivals table and it wasn't there. I can't believe that because she's conservative, you don't carry her newest book."

"Well, actually, we do have her new book, and we carry her books." She points to the Best Seller bay, picks up Ann Coulter's book, DEMONIC, where there are about 20 copies and hands it to her. "It is a best seller."

        Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America

"It's 30% off!", the woman says surprised. "You're not even charging full price for it?!"

"Ann Coulter's book is one of our best sellers. All of the best sellers are discounted 30%."

The woman literally harrumphed.

It seemed that the woman wanted to confirm her ideas about bookstores being slanted politically more than she wanted to find the book.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We've got the Bipolar Disorder

Before my partner's mom had a stroke, she helped her husband manage his bipolar disorder and OCD. Now that she is impaired from the stroke, his condition has been rearing its ugly head.

Compulsions, black and white thinking, badgering, anger...these have all been permeating the house, changing the focus away from mom's recovery from the stroke to having to focus on him and his emotional volatility.

I end up feeling frustrated and helpless.

And so I turn to my friend, Julie Fast.

I met Julie in a writing group, where we worked together for over a year. She wrote her first book, LOVING SOMEONE WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER during that time. She is herself suffers from the illness and is unable to take most bipolar medications. She has spent years figuring out how to manage living with the illness. She developed a treatment plan that is adaptable to everyone's own individual situation, which she discusses on her website, (isn't that a great name?)

We've lost touch over recent years, my own mother had a stroke and declined in health, the writing group disbanded, she's doing her writing and work, and I'm doing mine. I did buy her books as they were released, buying them to support her as an author. I never planned on using them myself.

But here we are, with bipolar disorder in the family, and I have been combing her books for guidance on how to deal with this disease.

In one of her books, TAKING CHARGE OF BIPOLAR DISORDER, Julie has a chapter about The Bipolar Conversation.

        Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder: A 4-Step Plan for You and Your Loved Ones to Manage the Illness and Create Lasting Stability

She talks about how bipolar disorder affects people's brains and how they interact with others. When people with bipolar disorder are 'ill', they might get depressed, and say that life isn't worth living. Or they might get angry and lash out. Or they might get paranoid and think that people are after them. Their emotions are uncontrollable. The words they say aren't an accurate reflection of their lives, rather they are an expression and indication of their unmanageable emotions.

Her point in the chapter is that reasoning with people when they talk this way doesn't work. Trying to explain that nobody is after them, or that their life IS worth living does nothing to help the person get out of that mindset, nor does it help the person doing the rationalizing.

The person with bipolar gets stuck going around and around confirming what they said and the person trying to talk with them gets frustrated because they perceive the other person's conversation as unreasonable. Frustration all around. Sometimes, she says, relationships are lost or broken because of this difficulty in communication.

Her suggestion in this chapter is not to try to argue with the person about the specifics of what they are saying - their life isn't worth living (yes it is!), they don't have friends (you have lots of friends!), but instead to focus instead on the illness. This is how the person talks when bipolar disorder is unmanageable and they are 'ill'.

Better, she says, to say things like "This is how you sound when you're depressed. (or feeling paranoid. or manic.) Let's see how we can help get you out of the depression" (go for a walk, see a movie, go out for coffee).

One of the keys (and I don't think this can be emphasized enough) is to talk about this with the person with bipolar disorder BEFORE they are 'ill'. Before there is a crisis. Before something triggers their spiral into depression or anger or paranoia.

My stepdad in-law had a pretty major trigger; his wife had a stroke. It's not surprising that his illness is harder to manage at this time, that he's lashing out with anger, that he is obsessing about certain topics.

We have tried to work through logistics with him, seemingly simple things such as having their church deliver meals to them so they don't have to cook. This has caused him to obsess about diet and religion, two things he obsessed about before the stroke. When we tried to talk to him about this (and other things), he's gotten angry and unable to talk about it. We've been reduced to tears repeatedly, and he's carried his anger with him in the house like a scythe.

We've been trying to navigate the stroke recovery, AND his turbulent emotions. It's been hard to figure out how to help them as he alternately thinks he can do it all (he cannot), and realizes that he can't do it all but won't accept any help.

We've spoken to his daughter on the phone, who advised us to stop trying to reason with him, it doesn't work (that's for sure!).

When I read Julie's chapter on The Bipolar Conversation, I saw that that was what she was talking about too. Rational, reasonable discussion is impossible when his emotions are so turbulent.

Julie Fast's books are proactive and positive. She is realistic about the difficulties and challenges of living with bipolar disorder, and she gives concrete guidance. She stresses how important it is to work with the person with bipolar before there is a crisis to come up with ways to deal with the volatile emotions before they rage out of control.

This is not possible right now, we are right in the middle of it. So now we're trying not to trigger more emotions by not talking about his current trigger topics and doing problem-solving and logistics planning on our own.

Thank you, Julie, for all your help!

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