Monthly Archives: October 2011

A Note to Customers From You Friendly Neighborhood Bookstore Clerk: Please Stop Being Crazy

For the last two years, I have worked at a cozy little locally owned Christian bookstore. It has been a mostly wonderful place to work: I’m great friends with my boss and my co-workers, and I enjoy being around books all day long. I get a nice little discount, and there is a Starbucks just two stores down. In fact, my job would be perfect if it weren’t for the customers. Seriously, people are crazy. I shouldn’t be shocked anymore by the insanity, but it still unsettles me on occasion when someone is upset that we don’t sell stamps and shoelaces, or can’t understand why I won’t watch their child while they run across the street to Taco Bell. I’ve kept it in for two years, but now, as I approach my last days here, I feel the need to inject some honesty.  So here are…

11 Things Every Bookstore Customer Should Remember:

    1. Yes, I work in a book store. No, I haven’t read every book or watched every movie or listened to every CD we sell. If you hum a few bars of a song for me I will probably still have no clue what you’re looking for, but I may be rendered deaf.
    2. Furthermore, please do not come in completely unprepared and then get upset when I can’t read your mind. Telling me the cover is blue with a woman on it, and the author’s name starts with an S, and it is a love story narrows your selection down to exactly 12,396,424,980 books. I am not God, and therefore cannot possibly know which of those blue covers is the one you are looking for. The internet might, however. Just a thought.
    3. Please don’t eat while you’re perusing books. Would you want to buy a books with the crumbs of someone elses lunch in it? I know I wouldn’t.
    4. I also know that I’m only a bookstore clerk and not a rocket scientist, but please don’t treat me like I’m dumb. Most people work in bookstores because they- *gasp*- like books! I know how to spell Hemingway, and I know what an anthology is. Unless I ask, you don’t need to spell it for me while I search our stock.
    5. Also, I wasn’t born yesterday, and, as long as I’m wearing my glasses, I’m not blind. I know when a book has been read, and no, I can’t return it for you, even if you only read the first chapter. I can’t return it, and Barnes and Noble wouldn’t either, or any other bookstore in town for that matter. Target doesn’t return books under any circumstances except a publishers error, like missing chapters. It’s not me being mean, it’s just the way the book industry works. I know this makes you hate me, but it just can’t be helped.
    6. We have probably never met before, so please don’t call me “honey,” or “sweetie,” or “dear.”  I am not a gelatinous substance loved by bears, I was not made in a confectionary, and I am not dearly beloved to you in any way. If my dad or my husband would call me it, you should not. Thanks. Also, if you call me “little girl,” I reserve the right to pretend you do not exist. Seriously, try it out. I will pretend you are invisible. What? Who’s that talking? Hello! Is someone there? Marissa, I think our store is haunted!
    7. Complimentary gift wrapping is just that- complimentary. If you think the paper is ugly, then wrap it yourself. If you don’t trust me to do it correctly, do it yourself. It’s not that hard. I’ll even give you some paper and ribbon, because, quite frankly, your hovering makes me nervous.
    8. When I tell you that everything we have is on the floor, I mean it. Your kitchen pantry is probably bigger than our back room, and, as long as you have not refered to me as “little girl,” I have no reason to lie to you.
    9. No, we do not sell porn. Thank you for asking, now please leave without touching anything.
    10. I am not a babysitter, so please keep tabs on your child. This is for their own safety. They could walk out of our store unnoticed, or climb a fragile shelf and fall, so easily. They don’t need to be glued to your side, I understand that, but your child is precious, and it makes me sad when you seem to care more about finding the perfect journal than their safety. Also, we totally get that sometimes kids are loud, but when your little angle is screaming like a banshee and tearing through the isles at top speed, no one but you thinks it’s cute. We find it obnoxious, not because we are horrible people who hate kids, but because it is.
    11. Yes, all our employees, except the Boss Man, are female. Thank you for noticing. If you think one of our workers is attractive, please look at their left ring finger. If there is something on it, do not proceed to act like you have a chance at a date. Also, do not call them  “thick,” or a “shawty,” as though those psuedo-compliments will surely convince them to leave their stable relationship and throw themselves into your arms with abandon. When your compliments don’t work, please do not start spouting off your attributes; we are all very impressed that you know Nicholas Cage and can bench press twice your weight, but we are a: working, and b: not interested and/or not single. Also, do not call and ask when your intended paramour will be working and if they will be alone. That’s just pure creepiness.

I hope this doesn’t make me sound bitter or mean. I’ve actually become true friends with many of my regular customers, and 75% of people are nice, and gracious, and normal. But sometimes that last 25%  just needs to be smacked in the face with a little truth. In love, of course. Smacked in the face with truth in love.

(PS: I totally stole this idea from my friend Molly, who is way funnier than I am.)

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Filed under Books, Odds and Ends

Books, Cats, and Crazy.

After a record-breaking day yesterday (my page views grew by almost 19 times my previous highest record), I was left a little breathless. What do I do now? All these great folks liked my mini-reviews, but I can’t possibly read enough to mini-review everyday, can I? Where do I go from here?

To try and answer these questions, I looked back over my archive. What do I normally write about? I realized my entire blog can be summed up in these three words: books, cats, and crazy. I write about the books I read, the cat I love, and other events in my life, which usually just end up showing how crazy I am. I suppose a few more subscribers isn’t a good reason to fix what ain’t broke, so I’ll stick with my formula for now.

(Dear New Friends,

I’m not sure if I’m always as talented or smooth as my Freshly Pressed post. I hope you’ll still be my friends after I reveal my inner Crazy Cat Lady.

With Hope, Amanda)

Books

I am a comfort eater. There is nothing I want more in the world when I am feeling stressed or sick or frustrated than a plate of, preferably cheesy, pasta, and a big glass of cold milk, followed by something chocolate-y for dessert. It’s bad, I know. I’m working on it. As I inevitably stress about our move, I’ve only had one bag of Milano cookies this week, and no pasta. Go me! Yay for being a grown-up!

As much as I am a comfort eater, I am also a comfort reader. Whenever I’m feeling stressed or sick or frustrated, I want to curl up with a familiar, well-loved book. That book used to be Alice in Wonderland, but that was back when I was classy, and, let’s be honest, a bit of a literary snob. I’m over myself now, and thought I still adore Alice and her crazy gang of Wonder-folk, my go-to comfort books are none other than Mr. Harry Potter himself. I own paper backs of the entire series, and they are all well-loved, having been read at least three times each by myself, and at least once by Tyler. This lovely little dear will probably be my constant companion for the next week as I struggle against claustrophobia while the boxes pile up around us.

What about you? Do you have a security blanket book too? Who are your literary best friends, the books you’ve read a hundred times and still love?

Cat

I have started a trend I should probably stop, mostly because it is upsetting the cat. Also, it’s kind of weird. This is the Crazy-Cat-Lady part. Are you ready?…

I’ve started taking the cat’s name in vain.

“Holy Cambria! That is a lot of boxes!”

“What in the name of Cambria is going on here?”

You called?

You called?

Other similar exclamations have also found their way out of my mouth. I don’t know why. It needs to end for two reasons.

  1. It has, understandably, made her a little jumpy. She mews every time I do it, and I realized she probably thinks I’m mad at her. Or she thinks I’m going to feed her, and then she gets sulky when she finds out there is no turkey involved.
  2. Let’s be honest, it’s really odd. Like the old lady down the road who always murmurs old-fashioned phrases to herself like, “Heavens to Betsy,” or “Oh Lawsy,” except this one is made up and I’m not old.

Crazy

As if you didn’t get enough crazy in the Cat section, here is a little more for you: I have a new-found obsession with hipsters. I don’t particularly admire them as they seem a little vapid, and I don’t want to be one, it’s just that people keep telling me I am one. It doesn’t matter so much, except that if this is going to be a thing in my life I at least want to know what the thing is. Also, it seems to be a negative thing, so if I am to become a social pariah I want to know that too. When this first started last month I didn’t even know what a hipster was, so I started polling friends and reading Urban Dictionary. And you know what I discovered? Everyone has a different idea of what a hipster is, but there is some overlap. This is the apparent consensus:

Check it. They're even glittery. And they're real. Functional AND fashionable. Score!

Thick-rimmed glasses: check.

Vintage or thrift store clothing: check.

Snobby attitude: hopefully not.

Liking of indie music: check. I love me some She& Him. So sue me.

Counter-cultural: Um. Does being a theatre nerd in high school and college count? No? I didn’t think so.

Thank makes the score Hipster Amanda: 3, Normal Amanda 2. The points are stacking up against me a bit. Apparently I am an accidental hipster. Who knew?

What do you consider to be “hipster”? Is it a negative thing in your mind? Should I be afraid? I just don’t know. And thinking about it has stressed me out a little bit, which brings us back around to books. I am going to go read Harry and try not to think about hipsters, or boxes, or the fact that I am crazier than muttering old ladies.

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Filed under Books, Cambria, Cats, Odds and Ends

Wednesday Book Review: Floors, and a Huge OMG Moment

First, my OMG moment. Look!

That's Me!!!

That’s me on the front page of wordpress.com, in their FreshlyPressed section! I always thought it would be cool to be up there one day, but I never expected it to actually happen. I mean, most of these people are amazing bloggers, and somehow I and my crappy iPhone photo made it up there. And for it to happen with a post that came about because I was being lazy, well, that’s just ironic. Maybe I’m at my best when I’m also at my laziest…hmmmm…. They’re probably just taking pity on me anyway. The WordPress gods are probably sitting there thinking, “Poor kid suffered through half an english major and journalism, and this is all she’s got? We can throw her a bone. Afterall, it won’t cost us anything.” To which I say, thank you WordPress gods. May you be blessed for your charity.

And now, moving on to the real reason you’re probably here…

There is no better remedy for a stressed out mind than a little lighthearted adventure. And there is no better place to find that adventure than on the Juvenile Fiction aisle. And I really have been rather stressed. There’s just no two ways about it, moving is stressful, and I am in the thick of it. Thus, I turned this week to Patrick Carman’s newest offering: Floors.

It was the ducks that got me, really.

I’m a big fan of Carman’s The Land of Elyon series, but I’ve skipped out of his last few capers because, for whatever reason, they just didn’t interest me. But this premise sounded fascinating: an excentric hotel filled with wacky inventions and hidden floors? A mysterious disappearance? Ducks that could save the day? Yes, please!

One part Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, one part A Series of Unfortunate Events, and two parts pure fun, I really enjoyed this little book. Leo and his widower father, Clarence, are the maintenance men at the Whippet Hotel, a strange, fascinating place with exotically themed rooms such as a room made of cake, one that functions as a giant pinball machine, and a room run entirely by robots. There is also a park on the roof, which is home to the hotel’s six pet ducks.

It’s an idyllic life for a young boy, until his best friend, the hotel owner, Merganzer D. Whippet, goes missing, and the hotel mysteriously begins to fall apart. As Leo and his dad rush to keep things running, Leo begins to suspect someone is trying to sabotage his hotel. But who? Could it be Ms. Sparks, the grouchy hotel manager? What about the snooty Yancy’s, the hotel’s newest guests, and their bratty daughter, Jane? With so many odd people inhabiting this place, it could be almost anyone! He also starts receiving mysterious boxes, apparently from Mr. Whippet. Leo doesn’t know what’s going on, but one thing is clear: it’s up to Leo and his new friend, Remi, to get to the bottom of this, and save the hotel!

This was a really fun, quick read, and I really enjoyed it, but it wasn’t Carman’s best work. His Land of Elyon series was more enthralling, deeper, and I thought it was more original. The elevators and innumerable secret floors and rooms smacked of Roald Dahl, and though he began to touch on important subjects, like deceased or absentee parents, he never brought those topics to any fruition. But, I could be proven wrong. During the last chapter, I closed the book for a moment, and discovered that this is just the first book sin a series.

Surprise!

Notice the sign above the elevator? How it's pointing at one, but can go as high as three? How much you wanna bet that there will the three books in the series? Tricky, Pat. Tricky.

So maybe he will hit on those things in later books. He certainly left it open for subsequent editions with a clear-cut nemesis (Ms. Sparks), and a recipe for trouble (a ten-year-old hotel owner? Yeah, that’ll turn out well).

I really did enjoy this little journey, though. And ten-year-old me would have enjoyed it even more. I’m not sure, however, if I’m committed enough for two more books. We shall see.

Currently, I am still plugging away at Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, though it’s something that I find myself reading in spurts. I’ve set aside The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb for now, not because I couldn’t get into it, but because I don’t have time to move and read a full-sized novel all at once. So instead, I’m reading these two skinny books:

Coraline by Neil Gaiman, and Annie Dillard's The Writing Life. I apologize for the blurry-ness. Remember, crappy iPhone pictures?

I’ve wanted to read both of these for a while now, and I only have the time/attention span for something short right now, so it’s perfect.

What about you, friends? What are you currently reading? Have you had any OMG moments of your own this week?

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Wednesday Book Review

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

I just stumbled upon a review of this book, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die…

And now I know what my Reading Challenge is going to be next year!

I found the complete list available here, and I’ve already read a good number of them– 83, to be exact. And I’ve read parts of several of them, such as half of Crime and Punishment, and large excerpts of Anna Karenina. Not too shabby for being not-quite 25 years old, if I do say so myself. (I have to give a big shout-out to Wishbone for this. I would never have read several of these books if that little dog hadn’t paraded across my television in some pretty silly costumes. Pride and Prejudice, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Don Quixote, and a number of others would never have crossed my radar without him. And don’t even act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. You know you did it to!)

So this is what I’m going to do: In 2012, I am going to continue to read one book of my choice every week. In addition to that, I’m going to try to read 25 books from the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I’m also going to try to read 25 books from the List “1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up.”   That will put me at roughly 102 books in 2012, and 100 books from the list total. A small dent, but it’s a start!

What do you think? Too easy? Too hard? More importantly, does anyone want to join me?! Come on- you know you wanna! Fine. Whatever. Cambria’s in, that’s all that matters.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Cambria

In Which I Imagine Books Can Talk, Feel Way Too Many Emotions At Once, and Almost Turn Into Augustus Gloop, but Stop Myself.

I am depressed. It’s for a silly reason, and I know it. Maybe it’s because I’m running on little sleep and I haven’t taken in enough caffeine to make up for it (which is also responsible for the typo in my post title. Sorry!); maybe I’m projecting my feelings about leaving Hingepoint onto something that’s easier to deal with; or maybe I’m just a super-nerd and I don’t want to own up to it. Either way, I started packing up my books last night in preparation for our upcoming move to San Diego, and I got really sad.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!! I'll never let go, Jack!

I feel like I just shoved my best friends into boxes, dooming them to lonely darkness for the next several weeks. I keep imagining poor, lovely Zhivago snuggled between my worn copies of Quixote and Gatsby, feeling abandoned and trying to remember the good times…

Zhivago: “I remember once when Amanda was sick, and she curled up with a cup of tea and read me for hours. She used to keep me on her desk in case she felt blue and wanted to read her favorite book. Those were the days! *Sniffle, sniffle.*”

Gatsby: “Amanda used to read me once a year, and now I’m stuck in this musty box. I don’t think she loves me anymore, boo hoo hoo.”

Quixote: “Oh, Zhivago, remember that time in college when she was writing a paper, and she carried us around in her bag for two solid weeks! That’s when I got this wicked spine crease. *Sob* I miss her so much…”

Then Pride and Prejudice chimes in bitterly from a few books below: “Will you babies stop your snivelling! At least you got unpacked after the last move! Hamlet and I have been stuck in here since South Carolina. You sound so spoiled.”

Zhivago: “Be kind to us! Have you no heart? We’re grieving!”

Or maybe they’re just cozy and hibernating in there. Or maybe they are inanimate objects without thoughts or feelings. It’s anyone’s guess, really. All I know is that I feel almost as bad as if I had to pack, say, Tyler or Cambria or my mom into a box, tape them up, and label them, “Husband/Cat/Parent: DO NOT PUT INTO STORAGE!”before stacking them to the side.

Thankfully this traumatic stage of book-packing is almost over, but then I’ll have to pack up everything else, and I’ll have to retrieve my silly cat from the plethora of new hide-outs that an emptying apartment affords to a fuzzball of her stature. The most recent little hole she’s found for herself is in the box spring under our bed, which was, until last night, a storage spot.

I suppose this is a comfy place to chill and spy on your humans as they sweat and toil.

So I may not be around much in the next week and a half. I apologize in advance for my absence, but I will try to pop in for some updates.

And I’m still going to try to read a book each week, for my own sanity. I’m feeling so many things right now: I’m excited to move and see what’s up ahead of us, but I’m sad to leave Hingepoint, sad to leave some of the dearest friends I’ve ever known. In a lot of ways I’m grieving, even in the midst of my excitement. I have weak moments of nervousness, when I let myself think too much and I’m afraid to be lonely. With Tyler at work all day and no church home and no friends nearby, what will I do with myself? I’ve never been a housewife before, and it doesn’t come naturally to me. What if I hate it? Then I have moments of frenetic energy, when I am so ready to just be there already, when I can’t wait to find out who we’ll meet and what we’ll learn. We’ve been working towards me staying at home for years now, and I know God has a purpose in these rare days when I will be at home but without children. Who knows what I’ll get to do!

Honestly, I’m starting to feel a bit bi-polar.

Books and prayer are the two best things I know to help me focus when I start to yo-yo like this. Prayer aligns me with God, centering me on Him and helping me remember what He says, what is true, in the midst of my chaotic thoughts. Books help me remember what life is really like when I am in danger of getting too wrapped up in my mind, too in danger of becoming my own version of The Underground Man. I used to throw copious amounts of chocolate in the mix with books and prayer, but then I got chubby, so I don’t do that these days.

Don't judge me! It's genetic!

So I will still read, and I will still blog. And I will resist the urge to gobble chocolate like Augustus Gloop. But I warn you, I may sound crazier than ever. Love me anyway? Good.

What about you? What about moving is hardest for you? What’s going on in your life that you have mixed feeling about? What do you do to help yourself cope?

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Filed under Books, California Dreamin', Cambria, Odds and Ends

Caturday 10.1.11: Cambria Builds a Cat Fort, And Also, We’re Moving

Like a small child, Cambria likes boxes more than toys. She especially likes boxes that are already turned on their side so she doesn’t have to waste the effort to jump in.

Cambria is very good at being as lazy as possible while still getting what she wants. She feel’s this is a talent that should be shared, thus she wants to present to you…

Cambria’s “How to Build a Cat Fort for Dummy’s and Smart-But-Lazy People”

Step 1: Sniff out the box that is a:easiest to climb into, and b: filled with the least amount of stuff and the most sunshine.

Step 2: Try to lie in it in several positions to check for ultimate comfort.

Step 3: If/when your human tries to get you out, purr loudly and look as cute as possible. They will melt, and let you keep the box.

Step 4: Relax and enjoy your victory with a nap in your new cat fort.

And there you have it, one of Cambria’s greatest talents, along with always managing to spill her water, and somehow tunneling under the bed even though there is literally no room down there because we use it for storage. Seriously, it’s like her own personal Moria, and I have no clue how she does it.

I guess I should tell you about the second part of the blog title now, and why there are so many boxes available to Wonder Cat, huh?

As the title implies, we’re moving. What the title doesn’t tell you is that we’re not just moving apartments, we’re moving cities. Two weeks from yesterday we will be moving to San Diego, California.

Long story short, Tyler has a friend who works down there, and had been after him to move. We always ignored him, figuring that there was no way God was calling us away from Hingepoint, the church plant we moved here to help start. But his friend is a persistent little man, so after dismissing him out of hand for several months, we decided to pray about it, assuming that God would confirm that we should stay in Bakersfield. Nope. So here we are, almost four weeks later, packing and apartment searching, and already resigning our jobs.

I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet that we’re really doing this. A month ago, moving wasn’t even a thought in our minds, and now we’re off on yet another adventure. And though we don’t know any of the details yet except for where Tyler will work (and admittedly large detail that we’re very happy is nailed down), we are excited! God is doing big things, and we don’t ever want to miss out on it.

Cambria, of course, is blissfully unaware of any of this. When I asked her what she thought of moving, she just got super excited and licked my ear, because moving=boxes. And because cats are just weird like that. As long as there are boxes and tuna, she will follow us anywhere.

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Filed under California Dreamin', Cambria, Cats, Caturday, Faith, Travels