Sunday, September 24, 2006

Being Good Stewards

As a liberal arts graduate, I have little hope of wrapping my brain around the science of global warming. I am not equipped to really evaluate complex and conflicting reports of how much, how quickly and why global warming is occurring.

I do, however, know one thing for sure: Human beings, including and especially Americans, are not very good stewards of the earth.

Regardless of whether we have any control over global warming, we've got to make changes. Governments, businesses, organizations, and individuals all need to pay more attention to long-term priorities (preserving our natural resources) instead of routinely succumbing to short-term priorities (ease, bottom line, re-election, etc.).

I just came across what I believe is one of the most important ideas Thomas Friedman puts forth in his book The World Is Flat. On page 368 (in the 2006 updated and expanded edition) he talks about how Kennedy's push to put an American on the moon was not just about a space race, but more importantly about a science race and ultimately an education race. Having the vision of a moon landing enabled our country to buckle down and achieve a large-scale push in science and engineering, which is something we need to do again if we hope to achieve continued economic success in a flattening world.

Friedman continues (and stick with me, this is worth it!), "If President Bush is looking for a similar legacy project, there is one just crying out--a national science initiative that would be our generation's moon shot: a crash program for alternative energy and conservation to make America energy-independent in ten years. If President Bush made energy independence his moon shot, in one fell swoop he would dry up revenue for terrorism, force Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia onto the path of reform--which they will never do with a $60-a-barrel oil--strengthen the dollar, and improve his standing in Europe by doing something huge to reduce global warming. He would also create a real magnet to inspire young people to contribute to both the war on terrorism and America's future by again becoming scientists, engineers and mathematicians. 'This is not just a win-win,' said Michael Mandelbaum [a John Hopkins foreign policy expert], 'This is a win-win-win-win-win.'"

And not only all that, Mr. Friedman, it's simply the right thing to do.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


The whole time we owned the bookstore, we didn't have an internet connection at home. Now we not only have an internet connection, we're wireless. Last night we hung out in bed with Roger's laptop surfing YouTube until 1:00 a.m. Yeah, we've got a life!

To see the video that made us laugh the most, click here.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Singing in the Rain

Fall weather has hit us hard this past week. Lots of rain and much cooler temperatures. I'm mourning the fact that I've had to wear socks. I need more sandal weather before the snow flies!

Last Friday night Roger and I went to an outdoor concert at Sundance. One of our very favorite local musicians, Cherie Call, was opening for one of the big local musicians, Peter Breinholt, who we've never seen in concert. And another big local musician, Ryan Shupe, showed up to play a few songs and plug an upcoming concert. All in all, a very satisfying evening. We didn't even mind the fact that it rained the whole time because we brought a big umbrella and stayed cozy and dry!

These days we've got to make a point of paying attention and planning ahead to hear live music. No more bringing the music to us at The Read Leaf. All told, we hosted more than 100 concerts over the years!

Speaking of music, if you're not from my generation, you may be wondering where my new blog name came from. It's part of a line from one of my favorite songs, "What I Am" by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians: "Shove me in the shallow water before I get too deep." You can listen to the whole song here.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Parlez Vous Espanol?

Jack's principal recently told me that two families pulled their children from the school's new Spanish program. Their argument was that people who move here should learn English, and most of "them" shouldn't even be here anyway. So there's no reason for their children to learn Spanish. Period.


Politics aside, what kind of shortsighted message are these parents sending their children? It's so frustrating when people exhibit such ethnocentric attitudes, especially when they actively pass those attitudes on to the next generation.

It reminds me of a joke Dad told me last summer:

Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
A: Bilingual
Q: What do you call someone who speaks more than two languages?
A: Multilingual
Q: What do you call someone who only speaks one language?
A: American

In my perfect world, children will grow up believing that anything they can do to reach out to other people is worth doing. And like it or not, in our little town and many, many towns across the country, learning even a little bit of conversational Spanish is a fabulous way to reach out to others. Period.

Here's a perfect example: A few months ago, a man named Oscar came into the bookstore. He really didn't speak any English. Guess what he was looking for? CDs that would help him learn English! I really struggled to help him, wishing I knew more Spanish. I showed him the Spanish computer course I'm working my way through. His eyes lit up, and he wished me well. It was a very good feeling, connecting with him as a fellow human being and sharing a mutual respect.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


All of the school libraries in our district are standardizing on a new computer system. Some of the schools, including Jack's school, have never had their libraries computerized at all. Shocking, I know. But at least we're moving forward now!

I'm going to be helping Jack's school librarian, Jean, get her books entered into the database, but her computer system isn't quite up and running. So I called my friend Angel, one of the other school librarians in town, to see if I could help her out. Her library has been computerized for a while now, but I know she has stacks of books to enter because she stopped by our bookstore clearance sale more than once!

It felt so good to get up and out of the house to meet Angel at her school and get started doing something useful. There are a few weird design flaws in the system, but overall it's fairly simple to use and I made a visible dent in her stacks.

And now when Jean calls to say she's ready for me, I'll already know the system!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Random 9/11 Memories

Watching the news unfold on one tv, while 2-year-old Jack innocently watched Sesame Street on another. I was overwhelmed by the feeling that he would be growing up in a very different world than I had.

Doing business over the phone with people all over the country in the days that followed was charged with this sort of electricity. We rarely talked about what happened, but the mutual grief and shock seemed palpable over the wire. The customer service rep at one small publisher headquartered just outside New York City was so thankful that I called to place an order a day or two after 9/11. They were terrified that their business would come to a grinding halt.

Waking up on 9/12 and seeing the flags that the local boy scout troop placed in each of our yards. My emotional reaction caught me off guard--I'd never really put much thought into what the flag meant to me. What it meant to me that day was that we were all in this together and that we would all pull through it together.

The flags are flying in our yards again today. Even though the veneer of our unity has cracked over the past five years, I still believe that at the core of it we'll all move forward together and triumph in the ways that truly matter.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


One of my favorite sounds I have heard lately is my neighbor Merlene talking from her front door to various friends. I can hear her through my open bedroom window.

Merlene has a solid reputation as a talker. When you say hi to her, it's just a given that you'll be engaged in conversation for at least half an hour. As far as I can tell, everyone in the neighborhood knows that she loves us all and she'd do anything for us. Over the years she's given us lots of great advice, especially about growing things in our garden. We've seen her more than once giving other neighbors tours of our garden, as proud of us as anything for producing a few tomatoes and squash.

A few months ago she found out she had cancer. She's been going through treatments that haven't had much of an effect. A few weeks ago, she and her doctors decided they had to step up the treatments and be scare-the-wits-out-of-the-tumor aggressive.

Across the street from us lives Joe, father of three children all younger than our Jack. Over a year ago he was diagnosed with colon cancer and given exceptionally daunting odds. We've watched him lose far too much weight, and we've watched him walking in tremendous pain after multiple surgeries. Last week he announced that according to the results of a very sophisticated test, he is officially cancer free! He could barely speak he was so overcome by the relief from uncertainty.

I know that Joe's cancer has nothing to do with Merlene's cancer. But maybe Joe's triumph is giving Merlene hope. While I don't have any recent details about how Merlene's stepped up treatment has been going, I consider the sound of her voice through my bedroom window a very good sign.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Was It Real?

Today I drove by the building where our bookstore was. The new owners have been doing some renovations. We're especially excited to see what they do to replace the cottage cheese wall on the south exterior.

They've taken out the whole front of the store--windows, walls, front door, everything. All that was left was a big gaping hole! It was totally surreal.

Yesterday a friend asked me how I was doing with the whole thing, and I told her that I've entered this weird phase, not quite believing The Read Leaf ever really existed. Sort of like Bob Newhart waking up next to Suzanne Pleshette and telling her that he had this weird dream about being married to someone else and owning an inn in Vermont.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

It's Not Like I Didn't Do Anything

I meant to start being truly productive today. For the past couple of weeks I've piddled about, getting projects done here and there, but mostly going easy on myself, regrouping from the last few months. I kept telling myself I'd kick into gear the day after Labor Day.

Well, apparently here's my definition of kicking into gear:

I had to yank myself out of a sleep that felt drug-induced when the alarm went off at 7:50. Helped Jack get off to school. Watched some US Open tennis. Fell back asleep. Woke up a bit later. Watched some more tennis.

Finally decided I needed to get something to eat. Watched Rosie O'Donnell's debut on The View while I ate breakfast.

Had a fit of productivity for a few hours, during which I primarily did paperwork and a teeny bit of housework.

Went to the bank and then picked Jack up at school at 3:00.

Decided I wasn't up to a tennis lesson. I'm not feeling really well--achy, scratchy throat, cloudy brain--maybe allergies kicking up? Maybe an excuse for the balance of the day?

Other than making sure Jack got his homework done, was fed, and was read to for about half an hour before he fell asleep, I didn't do a whole heckuva lot.

I did watch Katie Couric's debut on the CBS Evening News. And, despite the fact that I have no less than two dozen books in progress on my nightstand, I started reading the following:
  • The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman, who, by the way, was interviewed by Katie Couric tonight on the news. I need to read this book by the end of the month for a book club discussion. It's very readable, but also very long so I thought I'd better get a head start.
  • Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, which I've been wanting to read for a long time and Roger just finished it so it was sitting out and I picked it up. Love it, love it!
  • The Book That Changed My Life ("must-read books that transformed 71 remarkable authors") edited by Roxanne Coady and Joy Johannessen. This book comes out in October and I've got an advance reader copy--boy, am I going to miss advance copies!
I must say, it feels very good to read whatever I want and not be thinking in the back of my mind, "Is this a book I can recommend to customers? If not, should I be spending my time reading it even if I'm loving it?"

Maybe productivity is in the eye of the beholder? Well, at least I blogged today.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Orator

Disclaimer: The camera Roger took this picture with is so small that it fits in an Altoids tin and slips in his pocket. We're pretty sure that if the camera is that small it isn't too distracting to take pictures while church meetings are in progress. Of course there was the time Roger took a picture of his sister Carol giving a talk and he forgot to turn the flash off . . .

Despite the fact that Jack folded his talk into a paper airplane while he was sitting in the front waiting his turn, he did a fabulous job delivering it in Primary last Sunday (Primary is the name for our church's Sunday school program for children ages 3-12). Jack is very good at speaking clearly and pacing himself well when he's giving talks.

Jack's assigned topic was how we can learn from people who set good examples in scripture stories. While we were preparing his talk, I asked Jack what his favorite scripture stories are. He said he liked the battle stories the best. There are a lot of battle stories in The Book of Mormon, especially in the book of Alma which is where Jack and I are in our reading together.

Scriptures are sure full of gory, sordid stories. I've always wondered why, and am now convinced that they are there in part to suck people in. If you can suck people in with a sensational story, maybe you have a chance of teaching them important principles, like "love one another" or "it's all bigger than this life on earth and you can have hope that it'll all be good, even after the darkest days."

Anyway, I sort of pulled a fast one on Jack. One of my favorite scripture stories is about a group of people who, when they learned about God and Christ and began to believe, decided to bury all of their weapons and never wage war against anyone again. So, weapons were involved, but I slipped a sound message of peace into his talk.

A memorable Jack story from the past: A couple of years ago Jack's assigned topic was on choosing the right. When we wrote the talk we included examples from our lives about the consequences we face when we make choices that aren't so good. Like how we might be grounded from friends if we don't get a job done. When Jack was giving his talk and got to that part, he happened to look up and caught a glimpse of Roger sitting in the back row. Jack stopped, pointed an accusing finger at his dad and said, "You! You're the one who does that to me!" Every grownup in the room just lost it.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Brand New Office

I'm blogging at this moment from my brand new office in our basement! For a basement office, it is exceptionally bright and happy and inspirational.

Lime green walls, crisp white trim and crisp white furniture, a few red accents here and there and a bit of black. Lots of bookshelves and file drawers to help get me organized. And a fabulously clear desk space to spread things out on.

I'm in heaven and starting to find some ground under my feet all at the same time. I hope I get lots of wonderful projects done in here!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Luncheons, Teas and Little Women

In between painting sessions, I've been living a very pretty life this week.

On Wednesday I went to book club at Virlie's house and she had put together a full-blown tea party in her backyard, complete with daintily arranged tarts and a collection of her mom's antique tea cups. Perfect weather, good friends, great discussion about books and about life.

On Thursday I went out to lunch with Linda, Shelley and Lisa. After lunch we stopped in at the Flower Basket, owned by Lisa's cousin, to check out their gift boutique. Lots of fun, eclectic, European things. Then we went to give Shelley a tour of Lisa's new house--craftsman style with lots of dormer windows and cozy nooks and pedestal sinks. They even have a secret staircase to the attic hidden behind a built-in bookshelf!

As a backdrop to it all, I've been re-reading one of my all-time favorite classics, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (which we discussed at book club along with March by Geraldine Brooks, one of my very favorite contemporary novels). It's actually the first time I've ever read Little Women as an adult and it's felt good to hang out with my spirited old friends.

I grew up a town away from Concord, where Louisa May Alcott lived the longest, in an old house that existed when she was alive. I must have read the biography we had of her a dozen times, imagining that she surely knew the people who lived in my house and called on them at least once or twice and breathed the air within our walls.

I know I'd have invited her over for tea! Can you imagine the conversation we'd have?