Friday, June 30, 2006
This weekend, Jack and I will fly to Chicago and drive almost two hours north to one of my favorite places on earth: Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. I'm going to work myself into the ground for the next two days, and then we will leave it all behind for an entire week!
We are going to swim and sail and hang out with family and hike the shore path and read and jump on the trampoline and watch fireworks and sleep, sleep, sleep. One of the things I'm looking forward to the most is just being with Jack without having a huge to do list hanging over my head or having to tell him that I have to finish with a customer before I can pay attention to him.
I hope that I will come back from the lake restored and ready to face one last month of working at The Read Leaf. Which I will especially miss, by the way, for the random connections I make with people.
The other day one of our regular customers, Deb, was in with her daughter, who happened to be visiting from Chicago. I said, "Oh, I'm flying to Chicago next week. Well, actually we're heading to Lake Geneva." And they just lit up and exclaimed that Lake Geneva was one of their favorite places and that they often visit good friends there. It turns out their friends have a house 1 1/2 miles up the shore from our cottage. I know exactly how far it is because they live on the exact same street I turn around at when I hike the shore path for a 3-mile round trip.
The three of us took a moment to breathe deeply and smell the Lake Geneva air. Then Deb wrote a note for me to give to their friends next week. It will be so fun if they end up being our friends as well!
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
So much has been building up over the past months and I know I should cut myself some slack, but I also know I need to work harder to keep emotions from getting the best of me. And I need to get things into perspective.
Here's what I've been dealing with lately (sympathy and understanding welcome):
- An overwhelming, pretty much impossible, number of things to do in the coming weeks. Thankfully, though, the bishop just released me from my girls' camp responsibilities, so that's a relief even though I'll miss going.
- A complete lack of sleep. I can't go to sleep at night, and I wake up really early in the morning. Both of which are highly unusual for me. I've been out on the front porch at 3 am noodling around on my guitar more than once lately.
- Uncertainty about our financial future, even though we do have a plan and we are working it. Roger is going to start library school in August and has already started applying to jobs. I've got projects lined up that will lead to income eventually if not immediately. And we will come out of the business with at least part of our nest egg intact.
- Uncertainty about whether we'll have a baby soon, and if we do, when he will be born. And do we need to hop in the car at a moment's notice and drive to New Mexico? And how long will we need to stay there? And how are we going to get all of the paperwork, including home visits and doctor appointments, together in such a short amount of time? Don't get me wrong--all of the work and uncertainty is worth it. But it sure adds a stressful element to our lives right now.
- Lots and lots of wacky emotions about closing the store. Could we have tried harder to make it work? I'm trying not to feel a sense of failure because in the end we didn't make it work (although I am damn proud that we broke even in a business as tough as the book business in a town as small as Springville and that we really did make a difference in our community). I've got all kinds of guilt about letting people down (including Jack who is very mad about it) because we're making The Read Leaf go away--some of them have actually come in shaking with anger and some have even cried. I know I should focus on the fact that they're mad/sad because we meant something to them, but I'm totally wired for guilt. And I love our customers.
- Anxiety about selling all of our inventory in time. If you're reading this and you're anywhere near Springville, please, please, please come shop at our store! And please, please, please spread the word. We've got some great deals!
Monday, June 26, 2006
I've always loved to play tennis, but have played sporadically over the years. Now I've got a whole group of friends in the neighborhood who are up for a game! I'm feeling good about my strokes, and our instructor has been teaching us lots of strategy. I'm clearly more capable of paying attention than I was in high school gym.
Whacking a tennis ball around and laughing with good friends in the cool early morning mountain air. It is good for my soul.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
In all of the madness of our lives right now, it was a real blessing to take a few hours out of the middle of the day to go to the temple and to spend time with Roger and Jack away from everything.
Not only was it a joyful occasion that was an honor to be a part of, it was an opportunity to stop and breathe and focus on what's truly most important in my life. My family, my friends, my faith and my spirit. How I move through this world and how I connect with people is where I measure my success. Having integrity, for example, is far more important to me than having stuff. Having a true friend is so much more valuable than being admired.
Shelley and her family sure know how to throw a party! Lots of tasty treats, lots of fairy lights and candles, a great swing band and a dance floor all in their back yard that borders Hobble Creek.
Just as we planned, we borrowed our neighbor's golf cart, tied some balloons on it and shuttled people back and forth between the house and the church parking lot a couple of blocks away. It wasn't a necessary service (though we did help one little girl who didn't feel well and her mom get back to their car), but it sure was fun! And Jack was thrilled to help Shelley's brothers decorate her car.
All in all, it was a magical day for Shelley and Trevor, and the magic spilled right over onto the rest of us.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
One of the reasons--in fact the main reason, really--that Jack's birth mother came to see us a couple of weeks ago is that she is seven months pregnant, her engagement to the father exploded, and she will not raise another child as a single parent. She's been there, done that, and does not want another child to have to bear that.
She was hesitant to come to us because there is a chance there will be custody issues with the father. She didn't want us to get our hopes up only to dash them if it doesn't work out. But she is committed to this course of action (and based on our experience with her I believe her when she says she's made up her mind), and she wanted us to have a chance to mentally and emotionally prepare and get our paperwork in order.
We're really okay with the uncertainty in this and are pressing forward with plans. We're at this place emotionally where we had decided that we were pretty happy being a family of three, and that we weren't going to pursue adoption anymore. Perhaps a tinge of guilt or concern that Jack is an only child (see http://mlayton.blogspot.com/2006/06/only-child.html). We definitely haven't been pining for another child, and I think that puts us in a position where we might end up disappointed, but we do not risk devastation. And whether the baby stays with his birth mom or comes to be a part of our family, he will always be Jack's brother and will be a part of his life on some level.
We've had a few phone calls back and forth since that first meeting, and I'm putting the chances of the adoption going through at about 80% (oh, like I can put a number to it!). Regardless of how sure the birth mom is about placing the baby with us if it were just up to her, I want to give her the space to (1) decide that she wants to keep the baby even if it means raising him on her own or (2) reconcile with the birth father and go back to the dream they had of being a being a family together.
If the adoption doesn't go through, this whole experience has reassured us that Jack's birth mom is clearly happy that she made the decision to place him with us. That feels very, very good.
A happy aside: Many of you know that Jack was born on Roger's birthday. Well, this baby is due August 12, but the birth mom has a history of early delivery. In fact she is currently taking medication to prevent labor. Wouldn't it be wild if this baby was born on July 29, my birthday?
Sunday, June 18, 2006
When I was 16, a small, surprisingly serious bookstore opened in my suburban town (not too many years later, once it had fed me the proper food, it closed down, leading me to believe with a combination of ego and superstition that it came into existence specifically for me).
It started me wondering what sort of impact our bookstore has had on individual people, and whether they'll remember us years from now.
Here are some of my favorite memories of customers:
The young girl who walked into the store about ten feet, stopped, breathed deeply and sighed, "Oh, I love books."
The frantic father who finally found his son and his friends at our store, where they'd been hanging out for hours. Even today, the father comes in and beams with pride at the memory of his son choosing to hang out at a bookstore!
The young boy who plunked a ziplock bag full of change on the counter and announced that he wanted to spend the money he'd earned to buy a book for his brother.
The mom who called up one day to say that her daughter intended to spend her honeymoon at The Read Leaf.
The woman who told us she'd overheard a couple of teenage boys arguing in a grocery store in the next town over about whether the name of our store was pronounced "red" leaf or "reed leaf." [And by the way, we pronounce it "red," but we answer to anything.]
The woman who burst into tears when we had a copy of a book she'd been hunting down for 20 years.
The woman who had me in tears as she described how much a book we'd recommended had helped her stepson start to deal with his father's suicide.
I know we're doing the right thing by selling the store. We truly can't sustain it financially over the long term. Roger has to find a job, and I am not up to running it and being a good mom to Jack. As it is, I'm working 40-60 hours a week, with Roger right beside me at the store and being a dad. But even though I know we're doing the right thing, and even though I know the new owners will do a great job consolidating their toy store with our bookstore, it makes me so, so sad to see the essence of what we've built go away.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
The author delved into the culture of women during that period--their relationships with each other, with family members, with men; the roles they were traditionally expected to play; and how they would find ways to avoid being completely oppressed, like developing a secret written language called nu shu to communicate with one another. (By the way, have your eyes started to glaze over reading this--yawn--book review?)
The ancient tradition of footbinding was, of course, a major element in the book. As I read the detailed narrative on what the girls went through to reshape their feet into "golden lilies," I was increasingly astounded at the lengths that people will go to in the name of beauty, of tradition, of social status. What put me clear over the edge was that mothers were willing to inflict years of excrutiating pain on their daughters for something totally superficial.
Why are we--especially women--so obsessed with appearance that we are literally willing to die to achieve a certain look, however arbitrary?
Now people who know me can attest to the fact that I would benefit from paying a bit more attention to my appearance. My wardrobe pretty much consists of jeans and t-shirts, on a good day a skirt and a blouse. I really should try harder to find clothes that look better on me. And I really do need to lose weight (amazingly I haven't blogged about that yet, but just you wait!).
I also don't wear makeup. And you know what? I will probably never wear makeup. I don't have a problem with other people wearing makeup, but for me it's just a big, expensive pain. Even as an impressionable teenager, when I read in an article about preparing for womanhood that we should wear makeup "because even a barn looks better painted," I instinctively knew that it was a load of crap.
So while I do want to put my best foot forward (and mine is a size 9, thank you), I can't even begin to tell you how glad I am that I haven't tortured myself all these years with impossible standards of "beauty."
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
We are, we are, we are.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
I've been wanting to add more pictures to my blog, but wouldn't you know that as soon as I started blogging, Roger's digital camera decided to take a vacation. It's already come back repaired once, but we had to turn around and send it back again for more repairs. So for the moment we are photo impaired. Trust me, that is a big deal for our family.
So this is one of my favorite pictures of Jack from this week in June 2003.
It's Art City Days here in Springville. Parade, carnival, fireworks, live music, Kiwanis Club scones, the works. One of the things I love about living here is that all of the towns take turns having a celebration (Strawberry Days, Onion Days, Steel Days) throughout the summer. Pretty much any Saturday we can find a good fireworks display. You can't get much better than that!
Here is one of the reasons I am so glad that we opened the bookstore and have kept it open for the past seven and a half years, despite living in fiscal denial. People and community are truly at the heart of what we’ve tried to accomplish with the store, and the following helps me believe that we really accomplished something worthwhile.
From the blog of our friend, who is also one of our booksellers, Shelley:
“If the Read Leaf weren't to change, I don't think I'd ever look for another job. I'll always be able to look back at my time here in such fondness, and it's given me so many good skills. . . . And it's not just occupational/work things I've learned, I've gained so much from spending time with Margy and Roger. They've really taught me how to be completely unbiased and optimistic in my outlook on life. They've taught me how to keep a truly open mind. They've also taught me what it is to be really un-materialistic. Margy's always saying “I’m such a bad capitalist!” but all I can think when she says that is “No - you are just one of the few people on this planet who truly does not see money as the number one priority.” Wow, I am so lucky to have had this job and this experience!”
PS: Though I am somewhat unmaterialistic (owning a bookstore, by the way, is not like owning any other kind of store--books are not "stuff" the way other things are "stuff"), for the sake of full disclosure, I have to confess that (1) in January we bought a dining room sideboard that I have coveted for two years but really had no need for until I realized that it would be a perfect tv stand for a big screen tv and that (2) in February we bought that big screen tv and shamelessly put it on our credit card.
Friday, June 09, 2006
I've got lots of fun ideas spinning around in my head. I'm looking forward to starting work on this project!
Thursday, June 08, 2006
By the way, you can check out the website for the new store at http://www.funfinity.com. It's not an active site, and they don't have the book side of the business integrated in yet. But you can see the logo and get a sense of the feel they're going for.
I am working hard to shape the inventory in the direction they want to go. We're doing some publisher returns, cleaning up the database, putting some sections on clearance, planning sales events, etc. It's a lot of work! And the school fiscal year closes at the end of June so I've been scrambling to get a bunch of last minute school orders processed. We're also full into our summer reading season and keeping up with inventory reorders is a challenge, especially because I'm trying to play it close to the bone (is that the right expression?).
I'm on an emotional roller coaster--in mourning one minute and excited about future prospects the next. I've been spreading the word that I'm going to have time to spare come September, trying to drum up some projects to get involved with (hopefully some that will pay). I'm terrified that if I don't keep up many of the connections I've made and line up things to get involved in that I will spend my days in my pajamas watching Gilmore Girls reruns.
Jack is having a hard time adjusting to us selling the store. I welcome any advice about how to help a seven year old deal with a big change like this. I suppose it's a bit like moving to a different town. A couple of times he's said that we're selling the store just to be mean to him, so we're definitely dealing with a very narrow world view here. Help?
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Dear customers and friends,
We are both excited and a bit sad to announce that we will be selling The Read Leaf Bookstore this coming August. What an amazing adventure it has been!
While we will truly miss being a part of the community in such a unique way, we are pleased to be putting The Read Leaf in the capable and fun-loving hands of Jimmy and Ruth Morrison, the owners of My Fun Family [a toy store across the street from The Read Leaf]. We are anticipating great things as the two stores come together and reopen as Funfinity at The Read Leaf location.
Here are a few important things we hope you’ll keep in mind as we make this transition:
- Springville won’t be losing a bookstore (in fact, we can’t imagine living in a town without a bookstore!). Funfinity will continue to have great children and young adult sections, along with select titles for grown-ups. And they will continue to be able to order in pretty much any book you’ll want at no extra charge.
- We’ve got a great plan in place to minimize any interruption in service. We will try our best to keep The Read Leaf open right up until Funfinity opens its doors. But if you happen to see the store closed on a regular business day, don’t panic—it won’t be for long! Also, Funfinity will continue to accept Read Leaf gift cards. So you can continue to shop and place orders with confidence.
- Over the next two months, The Read Leaf will have fabulous clearance prices on many of our books. Watch for more details, or better yet, stop by often to check out the great deals!
Thank you so much for your ongoing support and for your friendship over the past seven years. We’ve loved it!
Jack knows about M, but since he hasn't seen her in years he really doesn't have any memories of her. We talk about her from time to time, and we often include her in our family prayers, but we want her to be real to him. And we want him to know his two older half-sisters, too (especially since he has been an only child his whole life). It just seems right and good to us.
So Jack and C bonded immediately. First sword fights with Johnny and Benny at The Read Leaf (arms and shields made from cardboard, popsicle sticks and packing tape are staple entertainment here). Then bike riding, rubber band battles and light saber duels at home while the grown-ups talked.
C's a great kid! And it was neat to find out how much Jack has meant to her all these years. M says she often begs to come visit us. When it came time to leave, C gave Jack a big hug. And Jack, a pretty typical seven-year-old boy when it comes to hugging girls, gave her a big hug right back. I have no doubt they have a special bond that will last a lifetime, and I will never again think of Jack as an only child.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Even though I often lose faith in it (and why is that anyway?), serendipity consistently plays a very important role in my life. Serendipity struck again today, and I am giddy with anticipation.
Vern Swanson, director of the Springville Museum of Art (http://www.sma.nebo.edu/), was in The Read Leaf today. We were chatting about all sorts of things, and on a whim I asked him if he’d ever consider mounting an exhibit of original artwork from children’s books. The museum focuses on Utah artists, and there are quite a few nationally published children’s illustrators who live or have lived in Utah.
He was thrilled with the idea! Before our conversation was done, he’d asked me to curate the exhibit and work with a publisher to put together a book. He thought we’d aim for Fall 2009. He’s going to announce it in his staff meeting tomorrow. I’m thinking it’s really going to happen (we’re pretty sure that if Vern is on board with something, it’s a done deal).
I can’t even begin to describe how good it feels to have a surge of creative energy like this!
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Someday I'm going to have a house with a real front porch. Not a pretend porch tacked on the front of a house just for looks that doesn't even have enough depth for a couple of comfortable chairs. Our friend Brad--a much more serious architecture junkee than me--took this picture of a house in an old neighborhood at the mouth of Provo Canyon.
I'm a little sleep deprived at the moment, so this is going to be a fairly lame railing against our society's seeming inability to value good design in our buildings. Not that everyone has to want a well proportioned front porch like I do, but it feels like form and function and the relationship between the two are simply afterthoughts anymore (if they're even thought about at all).
Case in point: Has it even occurred to architects and builders to even try to address the fact that many of us have rolling garbage cans parked in our front of our homes on a permanent basis? And why haven't we, as consumers, risen up to demand a functional solution that is also pleasing to the eye?
I need a nap.