Where everyone knows your name.

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.

Taking a break from your worries, sure would help alot

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same, you wanna go..”

I may have a bit of Cliff Claven in me as I am known to spew out random factoids,  and I have a bit of Norms love of quips and his singlemindedness, but lucky for me, my happy place is not a bar and my solace is not a beer.  It was a sunny, muggy Sunday that needed a breath of cool fresh air, and I had some presents for July birthdays and an anniversary waiting at the special order counter,  so of course I made my way with my roommate to my own version of Cheers yesterday, a local bookstore.

Now my metaphorical barstool is parked at “Changing Hands” in Tempe, AZ (http://www.changinghands.com/) where I am afraid I spend as much money though less time than Cliff or Norm did. Changing Hands has everything a Sunday afternoon could want old books, new books, red books, blue books; the gift section has quippy bumper stickers and smell-tastic scents of candles, incense and wholesome body products, eclectic magazines of every ilk and racks of cards and all this bounty shares space with Wildflower Breads bistro where I and my newest conquest can get to know each other one chapter at a time over tea and crumpets or soup and salad, and the people there know my name. My “Cheers” is Changing Hands, so I sing it highest praises, but any small bookstore worth its salt can become everything promised in that famous 80’s theme song. Bonus points if they also buy back used book buddies and give credit to meet new print potentials like Changing Hands.

Now there is a science to buying back books that I am not privy to, its mysteries are as complicated as dating. So let it be said here and now, that I cannot predict which and what will leave a bag or box to garner credit and which will return again home to try their luck somewhere else or perhaps be left when one is taken at some coffee shop somewhere. Still some books once read just won’t be read again, and deserve to try their luck with other readers, not hoarded and neglected on the shelf just to prove someones literary prowess, and well used books and used book prices mean I can try authors I am just wondering or pick up missed backstock titles on my personal favorites.

Usually I leave Changing Hands with one or more books I had not even heard about before, maybe one I had heard about but was undecided on its purchase until one of the knowledgeable and friendly associates waxed poetic on its charms and I was compelled to make it mine, and one or two books they have ordered for me. Yesterday I (as always) had a budget and presents to purchase, and one book whose author I had heard on NPR but I could not remember the title or the guys name. That’s what else the associates at Changing Hands excel at, getting me exactly what I want, when all I remember is that it’s this big (insert appropriate hand motions), blue and recently reviewed on _______(fill in with radio or TV show). O.K.,  yesterday I actually said to the gentleman helping me (who is Changing Hands version of Woody), “Just came out in paperback,  Zone something I think, zombies?” and he took me right to the shelf.

“Unfortunately too soon for a used copy,” he said with a smile, “and you really should go to NPR and check out his interview.” I like that, they do know me there, know I am a book glutton so every book I buy used is a few more dollars to get my fries-with-that backstock paperback of a classic or a new favorite author, and they know that I love to listen to authors talk.

I have sat at Changing hands and listened to numerous authors I already loved and knew like Christopher Moore and James Owen, and met new authors I now follow rabidly like Kevin Hearne.  If you live in the East Valley or you will be visiting our area, their calendar is always chock full of delicious little goodies for all flavors and ages of readers.

All this being said, it is truly the talent at my bookstore, yes I do think of it as mine, I buy from them first if possible in all instances for print and e-books, that make my visits feel as warm and complete as an Emmy winning Cheers episode.  I started to list their names and the books   and authors with whom I now had real relationships with because of Changing Hand friends; you know the kind that’s not just a one book deal, but you keep coming back each time they publish, wanting more than they can give, the kind that keep you up late night with characters that populate your sleeping dreams and monopolize your waking hours, and five hundred words later and not nearly finished I realized I was forgetting two very important names,  because I am not the best at names, better at faces, so I deleted the specifics, but many of the books and authors have appeared or will appear in the coming weeks on this blog. But you know who you are, and I do indeed thank you. You make lives better one book at a time!

Now its time for the closing credits and another commercial or two http://changinghands.com/  and not because its related, commercials do not have to be related, but because it is the most awesome blog,  especially today 7/22/2012  http://whatever.scalzi.com/ and because two of the books I bought yesterday were his books. “Rough Guide to the Universe” is a5th anniversary present to my son and DIL who always shoot for the stars and manage to help others along the way see the stars within themselves (and who happen to own a really nice telescope) and I also left with yet another copy of “Old Man’s War,” I always give mine away it seems, because I,  like the staff at Changing Hands, share the joy found in a perfect first sentence followed by an even better story line and always want to share it.

If you don’t live local, they ship and sell e-books, but better yet find the local place you can make yours at http://www.indiebound.org/indie-store-finder.

 

“God bless us everyone”

Happy Holidays.

Here’s hoping all of you readers made the best of small business Saturday and Indie Friday,  and got fabulous gifts for those on your list while keeping your money working hard in the community.  If not, it is not too late. Phoenix area residents can find something for everybody they love at the little strip mall at the corner of Guadalupe and McLintock. Changing Hands has books, amazing scent and skin care products, beautiful textiles and the best trinkets for tickling the funny bone as well as superb customer service. Then two doors down, Hoodlums has Vinyl, CD’s and music memorabilia to finish the list with equally awesome customer service (and I recommend always buying at least one CD for yourself, to listen to on the way home of course). Also in that same parking lot is a Trader Joe’s to pick up some tasty holiday treats.

Now, all this talk of shopping fun has me feeling my empty wallet again.

I know it is a tough season for many, myself included. Scarcity looks so different to so many people, and its face changes from person to person and even in the same life from day to day.  Scarcity for some of my friends is not being able to buy the latest tech toy on release day, or having to take coach on a plane, or booking an inside berth on their cruise. Scarcity for others  that I only know from news stories or volunteer work, is holding their hungry child in their arms not knowing when they will eat again or where they will sleep tonight.  For me, and most of us in America, it is somewhere in the middle of those extremes.

Three weeks ago scarcity  for me was realizing that I had to pare down my gift list to just family (chosen and blood), forgoe any medical care or massages and just pick one charity and then absolutely stick to my budget so I could pay the most important bills and still do Christmas too.

Then over Thanksgiving the check engine light came on in my car and a wee bit of metal began to show in the tread. Suddenly scarcity was all about keeping my car on the road and paying the rent. Presents not yet bought would be made, and I scrambled to pull up some extra work to meet mandatory expenses. But scarcity was still what answers for abundance most places in the world.

Then last week my baby sister died. She lived in Tennessee. We had been estranged for awhile due to lifestyle choices.

Today scarcity is somewhat about not being able to afford to help enough with the funeral or travel east to say good-bye; but mostly today, scarcity is about a world without her jokes and piano playing or any chance that she will ever find her way back from the dark places her choices had taken her. Money only crosses my mind these days if I am actually trying to pay a bill or put gas in my car. Scarcity today is the universal experience of one more permanent absence of someone loved.

We weren’t close these past few years, addiction of any kind and hers was flowering, creates a scarcity in our lives of love and integrity that makes maintaining relationships impossible. I am a little bit angry with my sad, angry she chose the pain and violence and high over hope and struggle and dailiness.

Our lives are the culmination of consequences of good and bad choices, so my choice today is to forgo the anger and instead to remember when we were little.

I remember when I was nine and she was in preschool and very afraid of the dark. At night I would tuck her giraffe into bed with her top bunk and climb into my roll-away and compose just for her stories about princesses and time travel and sea beasts; frequently featuring prominent pieces of whatever book I had just finished reading but always, always, always a story where goodness and love won.

I would tell stories until she was alseep. It kept her from crying and kept the real time monsters that inhabited our childhood from hearing her and hurting her; sometimes I sang and the words or music created a bubble of light and safety and happy.

I remember us as a young teenager and tween making music and spinning fantabulous stories, she had talent. I had enthusiasm. Music and jokes were her weapons and during the black periods of my early adolescent angst, she could always make me laugh. Music and words were again our bubble of safety and light.

I choose to remember us as adults finding a swing set in the park and singing our childhood ditties at top volume while playing “swing high as you can and jump,”  and making up stories about  exaggerated adventures of family members and old friends trying to out funny each other. We sang and spun our tales and jumped from the swings for hours in the dark (without breaking anything, all part of why I believe in magic) until neither of us could breathe we were laughing so hard, safe as always in our bubble of music and words.

She is not the first death of someone I love this year. Not even the second.

So scarcity this Christmas is not about what I am getting or what I can afford to give, it is mostly about those to whom I won’t be sending a Christmas card or buying a present because no postal service delivers beyond the grave..

But the dead aren’t gone completely. It wasn’t just my own early travels into the world of words my sister and I shared, it was stories others had written. So this Christmas I am re-reading again Charles Dickens, and Madeleine L’Engle, and Jules Verne and remembering telling her the stories, and helping her get through the first time she read them to herself, and hundreds of walking trips together to the library.

I am listening to Christmas Carols and remembering her learning to play them on the piano while I fiddled with our Dad’s ukelele; singing beside her in the church choir, even the year I wrote the script and she was Mary with the swaddled stained plastic baby doll from the Sunday School nursery (the real baby cast was extremely cranky that day and we had to substitute at the last minute). In music and books she will always be alive to me safe and happy.

And finally I will remember my baby sister every time I here Linus’ song and see the Snoopy dance.

Perhaps that is why my go to gift for those I love is books and music, because once they are shared they become a time capsule in which those sharing the experience can return to when they need a time of joy.

My family tree is large and a bit more Kudzu than tree and cancer or cumulative bad choices have ended many mortal sojourns; those who remain are often far in travel distance, but memories of shared times are as close as my Ipod, bookshelf or DVD player, and the fact is I have all three of those and the working brain power and senses to appreciate them.

This Christmas my tires are changed and my check engine light back on, my bills a bit late, and gifts not bought before the vet bills, doctor bills and car repairs wiped out my cushion will either be made by my hands or bought with the proceeds of whatever writing jobs I may still scrounge up but I no longer feel the scarcity of things so much as the presence of so many people and pets I have had the opportunity to love.

And yes, I am sad too. A positive approach to life begins with admitting the existence of suffering and its acceptance. Loss and death and grief are our mid-winters and cycle around for every warm summer season of love.  Which also means that every dark time is not only temporary but able to be lit just a bit by the candles of music and words and the tinkling multi-colored lights of loves traditions.

And that is why I do not feel so much scarcity as gratitude this morning, and finish again with Tiny Tim, “God Bless Us Everyone.”

Monday, monday….

I am chagrined to realize I do not have that song on my Ipod. In fact, I cannot even find my Mommas and the Poppas Greatest Hits in my CD’s. It has apparently joined various books, socks, articles of jewelry and clothing, CD’s and DVD’s in the Borderland or maybe the NeverNever. I am convinced that my own love of Wild Magic affects my belongings and that they animate at night and relocate themselves. Hence the inability to find my keys or a certain pair of socks, or in this case a much loved OooooLD CD.

Maybe there will be a wonderfully and reasonably priced used copy at Hoodlums this morning……

Ok, back in reality and the burning question *read in serious radio announcer voice, circa 1930 “Will this Slow Old Fat ‘Try’athlete actually achieve her preliminary goal of completing a Sprint Tri in October”

That is the burning question but on this front what’s burning this morning is my calves and feet. Yes I did swim last night. I swam two sets of 200 (4 laps), and did 150 on the board. No break between the first two laps, short break, lap, short break, length, break, length was the rhythm of it and I really worked my legs on the second and third board laps.  Didn’t get to the pool until 8ish, then not home till 10pm and tried to stay up to see the news. Fell asleep on the couch for about an hour. Into bed in the firmer guest room bed because I need to reconfigure the mattress situation in my room during my days off work this week. Slept until 6 AM, with only one bathroom trip so I give my sleep last night a five.

I give the pain I am in this morning a 9/10. Awoke to the long missing and not at all missed neuropathy in my feet.  The neuropathy is officially listed as a side effect of a long series of medications that allowed me to live long enough to complain about the side effects so I had pretty much determined it was just something with which I would have to live. This year I started going to Backfit Chiropractic for my “nurses back” and amazing bonus in the treatment box, my neuropathy disappeared.

I have done a lot of things over the years to minimize my chronic pain. It was a decision to shift paradigms and truly focus instead on maximizing my amazing and miraculous health that got me moving forward on this Triath journey and got my butt through into Backfits door.  Like a chemical catalyst, the massages and adjustments took to my organic, vegan food choices and increased exercise (which I had tried before by themselves in fits and starts always dragged back to the couch by fatigue, SOB and pain) and exploded them into a well being I couldn’t remember feeling in years.

Then I had a minor health glitch to the tune of ~1400$ (FTR, I am pretty much uninsurable at this time unless I become disabled so everything is out of pocket and triple cost) and my dog got sick and I am still glad I spent the money even though the answers were not the ones I wanted to hear (for another ~1300$ ) all out of pocket and I blessed the universe for the writing jobs that I thought would carry me through the chiro treatments for almost covering the two unexpected expenses. Bills got late and short story long, due to money constraints, I gradually decreased my trips to Backfit and now I have gone over two weeks without a massage or adjustment. What a difference it makes. All the little quirks and idiosyncrasies of surviving are back again, not as bad as before I started any treatments, but like my own little “check engine” light definitely here with a fitness moral.

The moral of the story for me is, even with continued exercise and stretching and good diet I need at minimum one massage and adjustment per week. Other moral is that I need to increase my willpower (more won’t power) for my Kryptonite – sugar, if I want to truly optimize the life I have been gifted. The neuron damage from the treatments are like frayed wires, so when they are all crossed and jumbled the shorts occur; adjustments and massage straighten and arrange my frayed wires so they don’t cross and cause little fires. Animal products, sugar and white flour are little drops of water I sprinkle over the whole thing and fan the flame.

It’s not just the neuropathy and back ache that Backfit treatments improved, other things these adjustments have done for me besides just being the pain reducer/energy booster I have just discussed is decrease my dependence on poise pads, and decreased my embarrassing gas and “digestive disorders’.

I cannot recommend enough for someone reading this Blog and then thinking that if it wasn’t for their pain or their weight or their incontinence or *fill in blank* they would love to start an exercise program, maybe just walk, or swim or run, to start it by going to a local reputable Chiropractic office that offers massage,physical therapy and adjustments (bonus if they have a homeopathic doctor also) and start there. If you live in the Mesa/Gilbert/Chandler area I TOTALLY recommend Backfit at ValVista and Warner. http://www.facebook.com/BackfitGilbert

And no, I don’t work for them; they worked for me!

Anyway back to today’s training diary I am having a bowl of oatmeal with mixed berries for breakfast and coffee with organic honey and soy milk, 6 oz cranberry juice and multi-vitamin.

I will walk the dogs. Shower and stretch.

Write two or three stories for Thursday deadline. Have a salad lunch.

Go to the bank. Reward myself for doing my plan with a trip to Hoodlum’s and Changing Hands and Trader Joe’s.

Backfit apt.

Home to write some more for my Thursday deadline.

Run 2 miles.

Watch Ashton Kutcher in Two and a Half Men and knit and go to bed. Yes, Virginia, my life has gotten small. All I talk about these days are training and television. I am reading and meditating still but no one wants to talk about that and otherwise, my life has become very, very small…..hmmm, I think I prefer the word “focused”.

Why I have been silent…..though maybe Just being wise…

 There was an old owl lived in an oak
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard
O, if  we were all like that wise old bird!

What time for writing I have had has been spent on my dystopian fantasy/sci-fi mash-up novel for this years nanowrimo. 

This message is In case anyone is missing my rambling blogs and thinks maybe it is my usual unhappy silence. Its not. I am happy.

Really.

Happiness was visiting my favorite local places yesterday. Yup. I swung into Hoodlums to pick up some mood changing music and Changing Hands where I scored a classic for under 5$  yesterday. Even the air there is somehow sweet with independence….

OK back to writing.

And in case you don’t know who Hoodlum’s Music is yet…go read my October 31 entry. Or better yet, head to the SW corner of Guadalupe and Mclintock in Tempe.  Do yourself a favor and start at Changing Hands. I like to browse the classics and the sci-fi sections but this week I recommend you visit Fiction and pick up a copy of the latest novel by Jasper Fforde.  After purchasing it,  read the first couple chapters over a bowl of tasty autumn soup at Wildflower Bread Company. Now with body warmed and mind stimulated mosey south past the Pub to Hoodlum’s for a little euphonius sustenence for the soul. If you don’t leave there with at least two new CD’s, then you are either deaf or broke.

Now really back to my nanovel….