Wednesday, December 28, 2011

We recently sent our dog away to boot camp. She can be a handful (my mother would have said that "she's a pistol"), high energy, easily distracted with strong ADD tendencies. We needed help. We are pleased with her intensive training, and have been working hard with her to make sure that she knows that what she learned at boot camp actually still applies at home too. This, in addition to making sure she gets a lot of exercise and our hectic work schedules plus the holidays, have meant feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.

Today was a rough day for me. Our Christmas company had just left, I felt almost no rest from my brief (oh so brief!) day off, and today was my Monday, starting at 7am. I was feeling tired and not able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. (There is a light at the end of the tunnel, right?)

When I got home after my long day at work, I let the pupper out of her crate. Therapist had taken her out to the field before she went to work. While I knew I didn't want to do an outside runaround with her, I decided to grab the dog trick book we had and see if I could work on anything with her.


I found two tricks that sounded fun. Putting her toys away, and playing hide and seek.

We recently brought her toy bin into the living room, and have wanted to teach her how to put her toys away. This book is perfect, giving step by step instructions. Many tricks have several simpler commands incorporated in them. I used what Shelby already knows, to "Bring it back!" to bring the toy to me, and then I added "Put it away!" as I held a treat over her toy bin. When she drops the toy (into the bin!) to get the treat, voila! She's done it! She put her toy away!

Of course, it didn't go quite that smoothly, she was very eager to get the treats and got so excited that she lost focus on what she was supposed to be doing, dropping her toys way before she got to me or the bin. But since boot camp, she has been much better able to stop and refocus. Yay!

We worked on that for a while, then played on hide and seek. Shelby knows "come" and "stay", two prerequisites for learning hide and seek. I had her "stay" on her "base" (which she does quite well). Then I went into the other room and told her to "Come find me!" She raced in and when she found me, I gave her a treat. She loves any game that has treats in it. "Finding" me in the next room was easy for her.

I made it harder. I went downstairs (we live in a three-story row house) and hid in the coat closet. I left the door open a tiny crack. There were no other doors open and only an empty hallway for her to explore. I called her to "come find me!" and she came racing down the stairs. She tried to open the (completely closed) door to the guest room, and she went to the (also completely closed) door to the garage. The closet door was open about half an inch, so I could see her looking around the hallway, trying to figure out where I was. Standing at attention, turning her head if she thought she heard anything, she looked very cute. I gave no signal to let her know where I was. She decided I wasn't down there, so raced back upstairs to the main floor. I heard her run from room to room, looking for me. I called again, "come find me!" She raced downstairs again. She looked around. I opened the door another half inch. She found me! (It was only her second try, I wanted her to have success.)

Then I based her and went upstairs to the third floor, hiding behind our bedroom door, and called for her to find me. She raced upstairs and jumped on the bed (which is okay in our house). She stood at attention. Looked around. Jumped to a different position. Looked around. Didn't see me. Standing at attention, oh so cute. The door closed a little bit with a draft and, she saw me! And she raced over to me to get her treat!

This was a fun game for both of us. I needed a little fun today, and I think maybe, so did she.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Requests

One of the busiest shopping days of the two favorite customers of the day...

"Can you tell me where the zombie section is?", asked a young man with a crew cut and wearing a college sweatshirt.

"We don't have a zombie section," I said. "Though there are quite a few zombie books. There's the ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE and WORLD WAR Z, do you know about those? I think those are on a promo table over here...", I say, walking toward the table. I said. "There are zombie books all over the store." I start walking. I hand him the ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE and WORLD WAR Z. Into the humor section and I handed him JACK AND JILL WENT UP TO KILL and the ZOMBIE HIGH SCHOOL YEARBOOK. "Over this way there are a few more..." and I hand him the ZEN OF ZOMBIE and ZOMBIES VS. NAZIS."


"Wow, thanks," he said.


A woman, maybe mid-50's, shoulder length brown hair, came up and asked if I could help her find the Judy Blume books.

"Sure," I said, walking further into the children's section. "They're right over here on this endcap."

"No, not these. I want the ones for teenagers."

"Ah, those are over in this other area," I said, walking toward the teen section. As I get there I see that we are out of stock on the teen Judy Blume books. "And we don't have any in right now, I can check another store? Or order them in for you?", I tell her.

"No, that's okay," she said. "Can you recommend something for a 13 year old girl? A young 13 year old girl?"

"Sure. Do you know what she's read before or what she likes?", I asked.

"She's very religious," she said.

"Ah. Do you want a religious book for her?"

The woman shook her head no and gave me a meaningful look.

"You'd like her to have something that isn't religious?"

"Yes," she said.

"Is she very sheltered?"

"Yes," she said.

"You'd like to broaden her horizons a little bit?", I asked.

"Yes," she said, seeming to be more relieved with each question I asked.

"Well, I believe that anything a child reads that lets them imagine something different or think about different things is helpful...I have a few ideas...13, and a young 13 is a little tricky, there's a lot for high school aged kids and a lot of great stuff for a little younger kids." One that's great is THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, the boy in it is about 11, but he has some adventures. It's fun and gets kids thinking. Another great one is THE ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS. A girl is left on an island by her people, and she has to figure out how to survive. It sounds grim, but it isn't. Another great one is JULIE OF THE WOLVES. It's the story of an Eskimo girl who lives with wolves." I thought about THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, but thought that the parents of this girl wouldn't like that one, as the main character struggles against the strict confines of her religious community.


"These are great," she said. "I'll take a look at these and decide. Thank you for your help!"

About an hour later I was up at the register and she came up to check out with another bookseller. I stopped by and asked her, "So what did you decide?"

"I decided not to get a book at all. Her parents are too strict and they wouldn't like anything I'd want to pick out. Thank you for your help, though. I'm just going to go a different direction with a gift for her."

"You're welcome. Have a good holiday."

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

3 Diverse Books

I"m reading three interesting (and diverse!) books right now...

CITY OF THIEVES by David Benioff
The story of two young men in war torn WWII Russia who, instead of being executed, are sent on a strange mission. They travel through the city and the countryside on their quest. Well written, a little intense at times.


WAR HORSE by Michael Morpurgo
Soon (very soon!) to be a movie by Steven Spielberg, this is categorized as a children's book. I just want to read it before seeing the movie.


I heard the very beginning of Tom Mueller's interview with NPR's Terry Gross on Fresh Air and was fascinated. Evidently there is much fraud in the olive oil world. What is labeled as pure and virgin (or extra virgin) may very well not be. I want to know about this.


What are you reading right now?

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Katniss vs. Bella

An Asian woman, shoulder length curly black hair, came to the register with her 2 daughters, and placed THE HUNGER GAMES on the counter.


I smiled when I saw it. "This is so good," I said. "Is this for you?", I asked the older daughter, who looked about 15.

"No," the mother said. "It's for this one," she said, pointing to her younger daughter. "Is it appropriate for her? She's in fifth grade, she's 11."

"Well, it is pretty intense." I paused. "Do you know what it's about?"

"No, I have no idea," the mother said.

"It's set in the future and the Hunger Games are a competition where they choose teenagers to compete. The teenagers fight to the death. There is only one survivor. There is a fair amount of violence."

The older daughter, curling her lip, said, "She's already read BREAKING DAWN," as though that covered all the violence and intensity she might ever encounter in a book.


Looking at the younger daughter, I said, "THE HUNGER GAMES is pretty intense, it's really good, though. Are your friends reading it?"

She nods her head.

I turned to the mother, "It might be pretty intense, though she may have to read it in school at some point. Quite a few classes and schools are now having it as required reading. There is a lot to talk about in these books. It would be a really good one for you to discuss with her."

I continued, "Also, one thing I really like about THE HUNGER GAMES is that Katniss, the main character, is a strong female. Not just strong physically, though she is that too, but strong in character." Alluding to the older daughter's BREAKING DAWN reference, I said, "She's a lot different than Bella in the Twilight series. I think Katniss is a much better literary role model than Bella."

The older daughter crossed her arms and looked away, clearly not in agreement with me.

Looking at the younger daughter I said, "I hope you enjoy it!"

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Can I Help You? Um...

"Do you have a book with a picture of George Washington? When we show them a book that has a portrait of Washington, they say, "No, I want one with real photographs of George Washington."


"Do you have a book, it can be a children's book, that is a story about a donkey named Abner? My friend has a farm and she has a donkey named Abner and I think it would be really cute to give her a book about a donkey named Abner. Do you have one?"


"Do you have a book with pictures of dinosaurs (or unicorns or dragons)?" When we show them the books with illustrations, they say, "No, I want one with real photographs of dinosaurs (or unicorns or dragons)."


"Do you have a book, maybe a mystery, with a physical trainer as the main character? Maybe the physical trainer solves mysteries? I really like my physical trainer and that would be a good Christmas present, I think."


"I'm looking for a book. I don't know the title or the author but the main character is blonde. And the cover is blue. Do you have it?"


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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Customers 31

I answered the phone at the bookstore and asked how I could help the caller.

In a thick African accent, the person (gender difficult to determine), said, "I want a book. This book is called DESTROYING THE WORKS OF WITCHCRAFT THROUGH FASTING AND PRAYER. It by Ruth Brown. It flat."

"Um, it's flat? The book is flat?"

"Yes. It's flat. It by Ruth Brown."

"I can order the Ruth Brown book for you, and we'll call when it comes in, would you like me to order it for you?"


"Yes. I would."


A tall woman, dyed light brown hair, faded coral lipstick, wearing a long black coat came up to the information desk.

"There's a book by Svetlana Stalin. She wrote a book about being Stalin's daughter. I heard about it on the radio. I think it's new. Do you have it? She also went by the name Lana Peters."

"Let me look, I'm not familiar with it." I search the computer, both our store-wide search and the internet. I don't find anything in our system by a Svetlana Stalin or Lana Peters. Doing a broader internet search reveals that Stalin's daughter wrote a book in 1967 called TWENTY LETTERS TO A FRIEND and her name was Svetlana Alliluyeva. I tell the customer what I find.


"She just died last week. I thought the book was new."

"I'm thinking that the book is older, though they may decide to re-release it, since she died. It would be interesting. They probably brought it up because she died."

"Yes, that's probably it. Thank you for checking on it for me."


A woman came to the register. She had long, wavy blond hair, was wearing a blue-green shirt and sweater.

She put Laura Schlessinger's PROPER CARE AND FEEDING OF HUSBANDS on the counter, and handed me the receipt. "I need to return this," she said.


"And the reason for the return?" I asked.

"It was stupid."

I laughed. She gave a small smile. I looked up as I was processing the return.

"It didn't work. After I read it my husband moved out and left me," she said.

"Oh," I said, instantly serious. "I'm so sorry."

Her face crumpled as she tried to hold back her tears.

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