Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year’s Advice

As the New Year approaches, remember:

“The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.”
—James Baldwin

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Pursuit of Joy

Joy: It’s perfume, it’s dishwashing liquid, it’s rapture.

It’s also the title and subject of Zadie Smith’s essay in the New York Review of Books.

I won’t attempt to retell it—you can read “Joy” for yourself (please do). Until then, here’s a snippet:

“…I experience at least a little pleasure every day. I wonder if this is more than the usual amount?…I don’t think this is because so many wonderful things happen to me but rather that the small things go a long way.”

I feel exactly the same—“the small things go a long way”—and sometimes I’m embarrassed at how easy it is for me to experience pleasure in a world frayed by madness and thoughtlessness. Yet I’m grateful that I can, for it knits one day to the next and eases my path from the past to the future.

As the New Year unfolds, may you, too, find pleasure in the small of Life.

[Hand-carved ivory netsuke pictured is part of Edmund de Waal’s inherited collection, which he writes about in The Hare with Amber Eyes.]

How to Turn One Dollar into Two

Now that I have your attention—for who doesn’t want to double their money?—please allow me to make a plug for animals.

If you have any spare greenbacks this month, here are three organizations where your dollar will go further: the National Audubon Society, Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS), and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Each organization has a special donor or group of donors who offered to match other donations dollar for dollar up to a certain point ($150,000 for Audubon; $30,000 for CAS; $70,000 for HSUS). Even a $10 contribution on your part will transform into a $20 donation.

BUT you have to donate before the clock turns to 2013. Yes, you have only until midnight tomorrow to cash in on this great deal.

If you give to Audubon, your money could help rebuild habitats destroyed by humans and weather, collaborate with architects to develop bird-safe high-rises, or continue the collection of at-risk bird data for improved conservation and protection. Donate more than $20 and you can be an Audubon member.

If you give to CAS (the farm animal rescue I’ve described in several posts: “A Barnyard Lady Killer Bids Farewell,” “You’re Never Too Old to Start a New Life,” “If You See It, Report It”), you could be paying for hay—a farm staple whose prices continue to soar with extreme weather conditions, for vet care for animals who have been neglected or abused, or for education classes to teach the next generation how to be better stewards than we’ve been.

If you give to HSUS, your money may be used to fight for new legislation to protect animals or to provide rescue workers to natural disaster areas.

Maybe you know of another operation where your dollar will be matched on behalf of animals, but NOW is a good time to contribute a little and give a lot.

Here are direct links to each organization’s secure donation page:


[Photo of Buddy, a blind horse at CAS, by Dick Crenson. Buddy is enjoying a new and special friendship with Sioux. Photo of Brown Pelican by Roger Williams—part of Audubon’s photo contest.]

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Eastward Ho I Go?

“Well, I guess we have to move to Iceland,” my husband lamented this week.

“Excuse me?” My husband has been talking about visiting Iceland for some time now, but moving there seemed extreme—especially considering his aversion to wintry climes.

“According to this NPR story, Icelanders love books,” he explained, his trusty iPad in hand. “Books are the gift of choice at Christmas—everybody reads there.”

An entire population of readers? Hmmm. Sounded like science fiction to me. However, I was touched that my husband would move closer to the Arctic Circle so I could be with other bibliophiles. So sweet.

A friend of mine apparently isn’t as positive about my reading obsession. For Christmas she gave me a canvas bag (with which to carry my library books, she said) with this quote on it:

“She is too fond of books, and it has addled* her brain.”
—Louisa May Alcott

This may be true, but it doesn’t stop me from reading more. After all, books are more than the information and imagination they contain. Books have a life (rarely viewed) of their own:

* Actual quote is from Alcott’s Work: A Story of Experience and reads: “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”

[Pictured are tiny Icelandic horses. Photo by Marketa Kalvachova. Video is from Type Books of Toronto.]

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Best Part of Christmas?

“For it is in giving that we receive.”
―Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sixteen Candles…and Counting

Another birthday has rolled in for me; another day to celebrate life and assess what I’m doing with it. (Some Lull readers may remember that my family surprised me this year with an earlier summer birthday, but today it’s authentic. Today I’m older.)

Just in time for my annual assessment, by way of Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings, comes this wisdom—which we would all do well to take to heart:

“The life that I could still live, I should live, and the thoughts that I could still think, I should think.”
—C. G. Jung

[Photo by Robert Doisneau.]

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pre-Christmas Surprises

I woke up a few mornings ago to snow and this animated holiday card sent by a friend:

You can see what I saw by clicking on the phrase holiday card.

It’s a sweet way to begin the day—especially if you’re fond of animals or you pine for London. Happy viewing!

[Art by Jacquie Lawson.]

Friday, December 21, 2012

Skating Toward the End of the World

Remember the Ice Capades? When I was a kid, I longed to be part of all that glamour and grace.

Here’s a somewhat different version of the show—starring a cat. I figured that if the world ends today, we may as well go out with a smile.

[Art by Simon Tofield.]

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Aw Geez—Not Ruth Reichl…

Last week I started a little game. I asked Lull readers to invite a guest—living or dead, famous or not—to a dinner. The responses have been trickling in and, so far, assure us of an interesting evening of conversation.

However, someone just added Ruth Reichl to the festivities and now I’m anxious. Now I actually have to cook something fabulous.

Yes yes yes: I understand this is only an imaginary construct, but my anxiety knows no bounds. I am NOT a cook.

Did you see the film Toast based on food writer Nigel Slater’s memoir? I’m like his mother who’s so nervous of getting a recipe wrong that, of course, she gets the recipe wrong. Whenever dinner didn’t go as planned/hoped, Mrs. Slater served toast, which her family came to rely on and expect for sustenance.

As the cartoon above notes: “In the kitchen, I’m more of an aggregator than a content creator.” However, I don’t think my superior aggregating skills will pass muster with Ms. Reichl or the Lull reader who suggested her. I must put on a better show.

Sigh. What to do? I suppose I will have to take my cue from Mrs. Slater: If all else fails, make toast.

[Art by Ward Sutton for the New Yorker.]

Riding High on Christmas Spirit

Need a little help with your holiday spirit? Here are links to FREE Christmas e-books, courtesy of Project Gutenberg and mediabistro:

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
2. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
3. The Children’s Book of Christmas Stories
4. The Night Before Christmas and Other Popular Stories For Children
5. The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke
6. Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
7. Christmas Stories And Legends
8. The Christmas Angel by Abbie Farwell Brown
9. The Chimes by Charles Dickens
10. A Kidnapped Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
11. The Abbot’s Ghost, or Maurice Treherne’s Temptation: A Christmas Story by Louisa May Alcott
12. The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain by Charles Dickens
13. A Budget of Christmas Tales by Charles Dickens and Others
14. The First Christmas Tree by Henry Van Dyke
15. Betty’s Bright Idea; Deacon Pitkin’s Farm; and the First Christmas of New England by Harriet Beecher Stowe
16. In the Yule-Log Glow, Book I
17. A Little Book for Christmas by Cyrus Townsend Brady
18. Christmas Comes but Once A Year by John Leighton
19. Peace on Earth, Good-will to Dogs by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott
20. The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin
21. Christmas Tales and Christmas Verse by Eugene Field
22. The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin
23. A Christmas Mystery by William John Locke
24. A Little Book of Christmas by John Kendrick Bangs
25. On Christmas Day in the Morning by Grace S. Richmond

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

BOOKreMARKS: “Cat lovers will adore this book”

I’ve just finished reading the awkwardly titled The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas: How a Cat Brought a Family the Gift of Love by Julia Romp. It’s the perfect feel-good, breezy read most of could use to lift our spirits.

Yet I’m not sure Temple Grandin, who endorsed the book with “Cat lovers will adore this book,” got it right. Cat lovers may squirm with impatience through the first 64 pages, wondering whether the cat will ever enter the story. If all you’re looking for in Romp’s memoir is an animal story, then you may be disappointed—for it is so much more than that.

Romp, who is not a professional writer, gives us a temporary view into her world of unexpected single motherhood. We share her distress when doctors fail for years to properly diagnose her baby’s odd behaviors, we suffer her embarrassment when she’s in public with her unusual boy, and we nod knowingly as her absolute and unshakeable love for her son George motivates her to constantly seek a connection with him.

George is autistic (hence the reason Temple Grandin was asked to comment on the book). As much as the general public is aware of autism through the mainstream media, there remains a grave disconnect between our knowledge and our understanding. Romp magnifies for her readers how other people—children, teachers, strangers—respond to George and how George perceives the world he shares with them. We learn quickly that they may as well be two different planets.

If you know someone who is dealing with autism in any capacity, I encourage you to read The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas (also published as A Friend Like Ben). On second thought, you should probably read it regardless, for if recent statistics are accurate, you WILL cross paths with autism at some point in your life. And if you’re informed about autism’s effects on families, you may enhance your understanding and compassion for those families. When an autistic child starts screaming in a mall, you may refrain from tsk-tsking over his bad behavior and realize instead that he may well be in pain from the lights and blaring music or that he feels threatened by the scores of people around him. In this respect, the book deserves a wider audience.

 As for animal lovers, the book provides a terrific role model (Romp herself) of animal advocacy. Cat and animal lovers should read it if only to learn how to find a lost pet. Romp’s search for her son’s beloved Baboo (aka Ben) is a showdown of determination and desperation. As her net widens, so does her stewardship: False leads (cats mistakenly identified as Ben) get new guardians or are returned home through Romp’s efforts. She helps others along the way because it’s the right thing to do—even when her hopes of recovering her own feline are fading.

Romp writes of the cruelty that percolates during a search—the people who cursed her out for putting a leaflet on their cars, the people who simply meowed into her answering machine, the person who claimed to have Ben and said, “We’ve got him and you won’t get him back.” She writes of the loss of the small, furry family member: how it devastated her son—“I can’t breathe. I can’t swallow. My heart is coming out,” he said over and over—and how it unraveled her relationship with him.

The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas probably won’t win any literary awards, but don’t let that stop you from reading it. It’s engaging and instructive nonetheless. It’s a story of loss and fierce love—for a child, for a cat, and for the family unit made whole by each.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Tale of Two Nubbins

If it were a movie, you wouldn’t believe it. This local news story is as uplifting and melodramatic as any Hallmark Hall of Fame program. And it all started with a feisty little dog named Nubbin.

The first half of the tale started on November 28, when Nubbin chased a groundhog and ended up caught in a fence. Nubbin is the only companion of Jessie Brothers, an elderly man who survives on disability with a host of health challenges while residing in a house he may soon lose. According to a neighbor, Brothers has no family (and, may I add, no perceived purpose in life) other than Nubbin.

Somehow Brothers managed to get his Jack Russell to a nearby clinic, where a stark diagnosis would change his life: Nubbin’s leg, broken in three places, would require complicated and extremely expensive surgery. If Brothers couldn’t afford it (and we already know he couldn’t), the only other alternative was to euthanize little Nubbin.

“My dog, my dog,” Brothers moaned as he crumpled in grief to the floor. A 911 call was placed and firemen (as the first responders) arrived on the scene. When one of them, Anthony Johnson, realized the tragedy that had prompted this emergency, he made the unusual choice of getting more deeply involved.

Johnson couldn’t begin to take on all of Brothers’ problems, but he could spare Nubbin’s life by paying for the surgery, and he knew just who to turn to for the best medical care—a veterinarian he’d met during a fire inspection. The vet agreed to take Nubbin’s case as part of an instructional component of his vet students’ classwork. And when an employee of the vet clinic recounted this story to her father, a retired fireman, he offered to pay for half of Nubbin’s medical care.

While Nubbin underwent surgery, Brothers was recovering at the aptly named Good Samaritan Hospital. His neighbor, the one mentioned earlier, picked him up from Good Samaritan and vowed to help him care for Nubbin during the dog’s crucial recuperation period. (If Nubbin’s leg doesn’t heal properly, he might need it amputated.) After surgery, the clinic staff began worrying about Nubbin, though: He seemed depressed, which could impede his healing. But as soon as the pooch caught sight of Brothers, Nubbin regained his vigor. Fireman Anthony Johnson stood by to witness the heartwarming reunion, and gratitude flowed in all directions.

End of story?

Not by a long shot. Across the country in Oklahoma was a woman who had a dream.

On December 1, Carla Kinnard dreamed that she and her husband, Jessie Kinnard, had at last found the biological father he’d spent years searching for online. Thinking the dream might be significant, Carla took one more stab at trying to find Jessie’s father, whom he hadn’t seen since he was a child—a child nicknamed “Nubbin.”

You see where this is going, don’t you? Carla found the news article about Nubbin the dog. Immediately, the cast of characters expanded to include some long-lost and unknown siblings; the plot thickened to reveal a tragic past; the string of coincidences twisted into a brief time years ago when the two Jessies, father and son, actually lived within two blocks of one another. And a reunion of epic proportions was in the making.

But the story still isn’t over. Many questions are yet to be answered: Will Nubbin’s leg have to be amputated? Will the siblings accept one another? Will the old man lose his home?

Time will tell. But no matter how it unfolds, the bond between Nubbin and his companion certainly sparked the compassion of a lot of people and pulled them together, if only for a short time. If not for one little dog, one lonely old man may never have stumbled upon the happiness he experienced when his first Nubbin returned home.

[Photos by Charles Bertram.]

Friday, December 14, 2012

Advance Reading Copies and My Big Fat Brain Freeze

Earlier this month I warned you about Advance Reading Copies—what they are, where you might see them, and where you shouldn’t. I ended the post in a snit because I’d accidentally purchased an ARC at a used bookstore. And I’d paid a good amount for the book to boot.

Well. May I just say

Of COURSE used bookstores sell ARCs whenever they can. Here’s why:
1. Collectors and fanatics – You never know who they are nor which author they lust after. ARCs are delicacies for them.
2. Author signatures – Many writers sign their ARCs before sending them off to reviewers and friends. This is gold for some readers and worth whatever price tag the bookstore sticks on the cover.
3. The Process Revealed – Fledgling writers and editors enjoy comparing ARC versions to the final ones, for kicks and for education.

So there you have it. The price is whatever the market will bear.

In the case of the ARC that started all this, I was just miffed that I’d paid so much for it—even though it’s signed, even though it’s in mint condition. I bought it simply for information, and I hope the copy is at a late stage in the editorial process (i.e., has few corrections to be made). The problem was not that the store was selling the ARC; the problem was that I wasn’t paying attention!

[Photo from Chompsky.]

If A Cat Can Do It…

Fridays are one of my favorite days of the week, because Friday is recycling/garbage day in my ’hood. On Friday, I feel cleansed and new for having LESS in my home, and I feel warm and happy knowing that I performed a good deed for the planet. (I fill my big recycling bin every week, whereas it takes two weeks or more to fill a single 13-gallon garbage bag.)

The city makes it so EASY for residents to recycle. So it bothers me to see some of my neighbors dumping plastic milk containers, cardboard boxes, and glass bottles into their garbage bins rather than into their recycling bins. Wouldn’t they feel better if they recycled? Maybe not as giddy as I get, but still…

I’d like to introduce them to Norman:
(If you’re a routine FreeKibbler, you probably saw the video already.)

I realize the video is a weird blend of PSA, advertisement, and public relations, but if a cat can learn to perform a dog-and-pony show like this, surely humans can figure out what belongs in the recycling bin.

Three cheers for Norman and anyone who recycles!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Countdown Is On!

We’re only 12 days away from C’mas—after which we’ll begin the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas.


For another take on the Twelve Days, check out Linda Carson’s 7MSN Ranch. She’s dressing her critters for the holidays one by one, just as she’s done in the past. For example, pictured here is George. Click on his name and you can see his conversation with his photographer/blogger/rancher (Ms. Carson).

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

A Baker’s Dozen for 12.13.12

Thirteen words, that is, for the 13th of December.

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pictured  above is a Sweetgum fruit, from Deb’s Field Guide to Ohio Trees and Shrubs. These gorgeous, spiky little wonders of Nature fall plentifully on the sidewalks of my neighborhood this time of year. I used one as a tree-topper for a small magazine Christmas Tree; I’m tempted to collect a basketful of them and fashion them into a wreath. I can’t lay any claims to wisdom, but I’m full of appreciation for “the miraculous in the common.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

O Precious Day

Holy Moly, it’s 12.12.12! Like the unicorn egg, it’s one-of-a-kind.

What else comes in twelves?

A foot
A jury
A carton of eggs
The days of Christmas
The signs of the zodiac
The hours on an analog clock face
The animals of the Chinese zodiac
The months in a Gregorian calendar year

You’ll not see 12.12.12 again in your lifetime. How will you make the most of today?

[The Birth of a Legend by Theo Fennell was part of The Big Egg Hunt in London.]

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Look Who’s Behind the Wheel!

One of the stories I heard while visiting with my family last week involved car trouble. My sister was travelling in her powder-blue vintage VW Bug (similar to the one pictured) with her trusty terrier when the trouble began. A tow truck was called to get the Bug to a repair shop, but the driver refused to allow a dog in the cab of his truck. What to do?

The solution must have turned a lot of heads as the convoy made its way through town: Manning the wheel of the vintage vehicle (which attracted attention all by itself) was a small, buff-colored terrier—who looked for all the world as if driving a car was no different for him than fetching a ball.

But maybe driving really isn’t all that extraordinary for dogs. Check out this video from New Zealand:

Granted, it’s a crazy gimmick. Yet I hope it gets the message across about the intelligence of shelter dogs. After all, my sister found her accomplished chauffeur when he was but a pup abandoned in a parking lot.

Spread the word: Shelter dogs rock…and drive!

[Pic from Das Blog.]

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

I started Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and read this description of Sir Isaac Newton:

“Newton was a decidedly odd figure—brilliant beyond measure, but solitary, joyless, prickly to the point of paranoia, famously distracted (upon swinging his feet out of bed in the morning he would reportedly sometimes sit for hours, immobilized by the sudden rush of thoughts to his head), and capable of the most riveting strangeness.”

Boy, can I relate to getting immobilized by the whirlpool of thoughts in my head. The difference is that my thoughts aren’t changing the world.

The more I read about Newton’s quirkiness, the more I want to invite him over for dinner. And quirkiness at the dinner table reminds me of a fellow I knew eons ago in Chicago.

I was paying him (I believed) to get a job for me; he took my money to…I don’t know, coach me into getting a job myself? (This was long before life and business coaches came into vogue. I was ahead of the trends and didn’t realize it.) Our mismatched goals made for a hopeless situation.

However, the fellow—who had connections with movers and shakers everywhere—held dinner parties at least monthly that focused not on the food but on the guests. The fellow delighted in seating diverse and visionary minds of all disciplines at his table and watching sparks fly. He never mentioned names, but sometimes shared the results of these mixers with me if there was a lesson in it for me.

You probably have a long list of people—living and dead, famous and otherwise—you’d like to have a conversation with. I know I do. Close your eyes now and randomly pick a name from your list. Who is it? I’m curious about the kind of party we could have if each Lull reader brought someone from his/her fantasy list.

I’ll start the game with someone else from my list: my great-great-grandmother whose physical shape (but apparently not her world view) I’ve inherited and who performed in a rodeo.

Now it’s your turn: Tell me who’s coming to dinner. I’ll get out the Fiestaware.

[The End of Dinner by Jules-Alexandre Grün.]

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum…

My husband started receiving a magazine recently that he didn’t subscribe to. Nor is he anywhere close to the demographic the advertisers are targeting.

I threw the first issue into the recycling bin without so much as glancing at it.

The second issue, for some reason, compelled me to open it. And what did I see? A DIY method of creating Christmas trees from magazines!

Good golly, Miss Molly: At last here was something to occupy my OCD tendencies, serve as a proxy for art, and make use of an unwanted periodical. It’s all about folding—no cutting involved, so even I can do it.

In my continuing efforts to be green, I’d considered making a tree from books this year; I liked the idea of renting a tree but the closest vendor is in California. So a magazine it is.

Who knows? Maybe origami will become my next special interest.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Eyes Wide Open

“We can’t enchant the world, which makes its own magic, but we can enchant ourselves by paying deep attention.”
—Diane Ackerman

The more I read, the more I realize that the world is constantly showing us its magic—which we either don’t recognize or simply fail to see.

Cat Urbigkit, author of Shepherds of Coyote Rocks, stays on high alert. Partially she’s always watching for potential trouble around her sheep. But mostly she’s in awe of Nature and documents the remarkable when it unfolds around her.

This fall, Urbigkit witnessed what some thought to be merely legend: a coyote and a badger hunting and hanging out together. Read her account (and see more of her photographs) on Querencia.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advance Reading Copy: Not For Sale

This is a cautionary post for Lull readers who aren’t part of the publishing industry.

The title of this post—Advance Reading Copy: Not For Sale—may be found on book covers inconspicuously printed as pictured or set in a mark or sticker (see below, left). It means what it says, too. These books aren’t for sale. They’re sent to early reviewers and promoters to initiate buzz on the book. Advance copies are almost always soft cover and distributed with a warning: Don’t quote or excerpt anything from this version. Corrections are still being made.

“What kind of corrections?” you may ask.

Well, it varies. Advance copies may contain erroneous facts, typos, misattributed or misquoted quotations; they may include information that’s later cut from the book or not include information that’s later added; they may be sequenced differently than the final publication. You never know. In the case of a book I read recently, I hope to goodness the final version is devoid of the plague of typos I found on EVERY SPREAD (a spread in this context is two facing pages). It read like raw manuscript rather than a nearly finished book. And it’s the reason I’m writing about advance copies today.

Though advance reading copies find their way into the general public, you should never see one on the shelf at your local bookseller. If you do, bring it to the attention of the manager—and the publisher if you’re so inclined. Typically, you’ll find advance reading copies at rummage sales or in charitable organizations (like the Salvation Army or a church), but unless the advance reading copy is vintage, I don’t like forking money over to an individual for it. I see it as breaching contract with the publisher. It especially peeves me when the seller is a used bookstore. But that’s just me. I’m not sure what commercial publishers think about such shenanigans.

Sometimes, the path an advance reading copy takes from desk to sale is accidental. When you’re culling books, it can be easy to miss that “NOT FOR SALE” status on the cover and put the book in the wrong pile.

HOWEVER. I unknowingly purchased an advance reading copy from a library sale last month. (I simply wasn’t paying attention.) For my purposes, I didn’t mind. I would be reading that particular book for pleasure—not for research purposes—and I would be donating to an organization whose funding was shrinking.

HOWEVER. This particular book hadn’t been donated to the library for the sale. It had been decommissioned by the library and put into the sale. Meaning it had once been in circulation at the library and was now removed from circulation. This was no mistake. Not only was it a flagrant disregard of the publisher’s intent, but it showed a lack of respect for library members. This was the book I mentioned earlier with typos on every spread. For someone with typo sensitivities like me, it makes for arduous and irritating reading. For someone with lower-level reading capabilities, the book can become challenging or impossible to complete—which, considering the subject matter, would be a shame because the content is otherwise entertaining and insightful. What’s more, though, because an advance reading copy may contain factual errors, it shouldn’t be trusted. And because the general public—especially children—trusts what’s on library shelves, an advance reading copy has no place there. It’s a tremendous disservice to mix advance reading copies with final printings.

If you see an advance reading copy on your local library’s shelf, please do everyone a favor and hand it over to a reference librarian. The folks in your community who suffer from typo sensitivities will appreciate it.

* Addendum: Since writing the post above, I stopped at a national used-and-overstock bookstore four days ago. I quickly scanned titles in the animal section and chose a few I’d been wanting. I didn’t inspect the books—just the title and the price, which was decent but not the library-sale low of 50 cents and a dollar.

This morning I chose one of the books to begin reading. It’s about animal rescue work and ties in nicely with the book I just finished. As I usually do before beginning new content, I began studying the cover of the book, after which I normally read all the front matter, sometimes even the back acknowledgments and testimonials before finally reading the first page. But what do you suppose I saw that raised my blood pressure? Yes, small type at the bottom of the cover that reads:

The “NOT FOR SALE” phrase was blacked out, as it also was on the back cover. Twice.

My fault for not bothering to look at the cover before purchasing, but I never imagined that a large for-profit organization would stoop to selling advance copies.

On the other hand, maybe they didn’t stoop. Maybe someone there made the same mistake I did and hadn’t looked closely enough at the book before pricing it. I’ll find out, though, because I’d like to know where this particular bookstore stands on the ethics spectrum. I’ll let you know in a follow-up.

[Top pic from Light-skinned-ed Girl; next pic from The Oddness of Moving Things; bottom pic is the book I’m returning to the bookstore.]

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Early Bird Gets the…

In late June, a large box arrived in the mail with a warning: Do NOT open ’til July 4th!

The box was from my mother, who made a big deal of most holidays—gifts not only for Christmas, but also for pre-Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Halloween. This was a first for Independence Day, though.

But I was wrong. My mother’s brainstorm was to separate the birthdays of her daughter (Christmas Eve) and son-in-law (Boxing Day) from the holiday crush. As a child, I longed to have a summer birthday largely because I wanted to hold an outdoor scavenger hunt. However, Mother held fast to the official birth date. Until now.

Now she saw the benefits of shifting the celebration: She didn’t have to shop during the holiday frenzy, she could find colorful items that weren’t red or green, and we wouldn’t be getting yet another sweater. Now she could give her daughter what was asked for long ago. After all, there was precedence and a track record: A family friend had for decades celebrated his December 24th birthday on June 24th without incident. Plus, this shift felt tinglingly subversive.

Mother promised the early celebration wouldn’t affect our ages. We wouldn’t be getting older earlier or advance in age twice in one year. Nope, that numbers game occurred only on our real birthdays.

All good. Until now.

Not that what I’m about to say isn’t good; it just strikes me as curious. We’re celebrating Christmas tomorrow.

That’s right. We knocked off the 2 in December 25th and are just going for the 5th this year.

Actually, there’s a good reason for this craziness: Each member of my family lives several states away from one another and we rarely see each other. This week, my sister is visiting my mother and hatched a plan to meet with us halfway between the Land of Lincoln and the Bluegrass. And since it’s so close to Christmas, why not celebrate while we’re together?

Why not, indeed?

So tomorrow I’m headed for Story. You know—near Gnaw Bone and not far from Bean Blossom? Indiana, that is.

Ho Ho Ho…

[I’m hoping for a turtle on wheels like the one on the postcard.]

Sunday, December 2, 2012

BOOKreMarks: What the Dog Said

I scooped up an unexpected treasure last week at a library sale. It’s one of those “gift” books: small and easy to handle, photographs on every spread, lean on text. It’s Dylan Schaffer’s Dog Stories with black-and-white, sepia-washed photographs by Jon Weber. The stories are told by dogs from dogs’ perspectives.

I don’t often fall for such stuff. Heaven only knows how many blogs and books exist in this category. And the ones written by critters who have speech impediments or spelling challenges grate on me. (I know, I know: The I Can Has Cheezburger? captions fit squarely into this description. It took me a long time to come round to them.)

But Schaffer’s dogs are different. They’re wise and poignant and engaging. They’re a perfect holiday gift for the dog lovers in your life. Here’s an excerpt—a dialogue between a couple of Greyhounds, Merlin and Palermo:

M: What makes us dogs?

P: Why do you ask?

M: I sometimes think the things that make me easily identifiable as a dog—my bark, my smell—are the least important things about me, about us. We are unique among the species, but for reasons seldom articulated.

P: That is because we live in a borrowed world. Like all domesticated creatures we exist as a subset of the experiences of our masters. And like all slaves we are valued exclusively for those traits which make us useful: we are obedient, we are protective. But our trials, loves, hopes, and dreams, these are obscured by our owners’ need for us to be dog-like.

M: So what is the one thing that most makes you a dog?

P: I can serve without being servile. And you?

M: I can see into the hearts of those who love me.

[Photograph by Barbara Karant—professional photographer, Greyhound enthusiast, and evangelist for rescue organization Greyhounds Only.]

Sacrifices Animals Make for Us

Plenty of books blaze titles about animals who taught authors the secret to happiness, love, health, finding a soulmate, etc. News media pick up stories about pets who rescued their humans from certain peril. But somewhere in between lie the subtle acts of kindness animals perform on our behalf that we’re not quick to recognize:

[Captioned photo from I Can Has Cheezburger?]

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A View from the ’Hood

It may be the first of December, but as you can see in the photo, no one told the roses.

On a walk toward the grocery store, a tent sign stood outside near a dog groomer’s business. On one side, the sign read: Full Grooming Packages $45.00. On the other side was—well, you can see for yourself in the photo.

The groomer isn’t SELLING just any puppies but CHRISTMAS puppies! Ohsospecial. Like there aren’t enough puppies looking for homes already. I could go on about the pitfalls of trying to housetrain a pup in winter, but I’ll let it go.

Fortunately, to revive my good mood, there’s usually a splendid sunset to watch in the Bluegrass.

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