SORTING THROUGH MY COMMONPLACE BOOK

A paper pack rat with files and files filled with tidbits from books, magazines, television shows.  Periodically I read through and see if my perspective has changed.  I am a magpie for words, phrases, one liners.   Today I read this handwritten, in pencil, note found in the Supplement to the Toronto Star….The City….page 4. Volume 2, Number 14 but it is not dated.  it was however written by Martin O’Malley.

When he goes into a library, he gets rattled.  The books rattle him, the librarians rattle him.  Acres of books overwhelm him.  Books I could never read in a lifetime.  But its more than the futility that overwhelms and inhibits.  Ribald advice from a colleague:  “Two things in life one must never do out of a sense of duty and one is read.”

That little piece spoke to me because I have never entered a library without feeling sick to my stomach, anxiety rises and my guts roil and suddenly I need to leave as quickly as I can.  I have never been able to relax and wander and spend a lot of time searching and choosing.  Overwhelmed by choice I cannot choose.  If I go in with a list and ignore everything that is not on the list…I can deal.  The other problem with libraries is my need to possess what I read.  If I read something and enjoy it, I want to read it again.  I want to own it.  I want it close at hand, available at a moment’s notice to read again.   I won’t go into what twigs my interest in a book but I have not joined Amazon Prime for lots of cheap or free books.  I don’t gather/collect books just because I can.  I do love it if I go to buy a book and find it is on sale or very cheap but I don’t buy books just  because it is part of a bunch offered for .99 cents.  I love looking at pictures of libraries.  The big fancy ones, the tiny personal ones but it has been years since I have entered one.

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Journals like this are places for me to empty my mind and file away stuff I might like to revisit some day.  When I am writing, it is for myself alone.  I realize I am writing in a public space and yet since there is never a response or an interruption it feels private.  I was thinking yesterday about my tendency to babble on my computer.  On many of the sites people are begging for followers and get upset if no one interacts with them.  I realized at that moment that I am grateful not to be one of those.  I sometimes use these entries as memory aids and find myself going back and reading through something I wrote years ago.  Today was a perfect example.  I got on my scales and I am 180 pounds.  In my diet record book (a life time of yo yoing and it reads like a roller coaster) it says the last time I was 180 pounds it was on this day in 1991.  Twenty-four years ago…wow.  So I went to my 1991 journal and read about that year.   It was not a happy year.  I was forty-six and had been married six years and it was lousy and I was unhappy and so was my husband.  In two and a half years my mother would die and his son would come to live with us and the marriage would go on for another fourteen years.  Not all of them miserable years…time doesn’t work like that.  You have one good day to every two bad days.

There is just not enough time in life to do all the things the mind wants in every given day.   Yesterday I was reading a book in my Conant series.  It was well written and had a lot of good bits but it was hard to read and I wanted to put it aside.  Puppy mills.  I hate reading about animals in pain and suffering.  The author is not preachy but uses her books to try to fix some of society’s stupidities over animals and I like that and understand that but I cannot read about it for pleasure and that is what my reading is supposed to be…a pleasure.    I get so torn.  TV on briefly on Saturday and Blood Ties series by Tanya Huff was on and instantly I wanted to dig out my books and read the series.  I am currently on Season 7 of Buffy DVDs but haven’t watched in a week.  Was moving stuff from computer to Iconia and watched a Spuffy vid and instantly wanted to go and turn on DVD player and get back to Buffy.  I bought Fool’s Moon by Jim Butcher as an audio book read by Spike (James Marsters) and want to get to it right away but I am in the midst of a goal of finishing all the cosy mysteries I bought for my Kindle and refuse to be side tracked so that impulse is squashed.  I have my Dresden DVDs out and ready and on my list of things to do is reread all of the Dresden books and watch the series, right after I finish Buffy Season 7 and then Angel Season 5.

I watched a bunch of Spuffy vids yesterday and downloaded a large number of Mary Van Duesen’s wonderful vids and played them too.  I remembered a great vid entitled I Remember L.A. from S&H/UNSUB and tried to find it because the story by Tiger Tyger was just posted on line from the zine Lightning Strikes.  That is how I ended up watching so many vids…I could not find the one I wanted…it is on a disk in a box under bed and I had the impulse to get out all my music vids and put them in machine one by one.  So I downloaded the story to my computer and also put it on my Iconia ready to read and had the impulse to read it right then but I am not ready to get into Starsky & Hutch fandom right now.  I have a goal.   Then, while I had my machines connected, I went to X-Files and dug out a crossover series of stories Highlander/X-Files (Methos/Alex) and put them on Iconia and actually read two of the end ones that didn’t have Alex just to make sure I wasn’t missing him and the impulse to continue reading more X-Files stories right then was strong but I resisted.    My mind is a grasshopper frittering away the summer.  One or two of the vids I played were of The Professionals and I instantly wanted to read in that fandom and moved a couple favourite stories to my Iconia…Meg Lewtan’s Stage Fright and Camera Shy.   The Doctor Who vids had me wanting to put my Dr. Who DVDs in machine and watch Rose meet the ninth doctor.   I am always being pulled in a dozen directions and having to refuse to be drawn.  It is like craving sweets and forcing myself to ignore the craving and not grab the cookie.   I cannot understand people who say they are bored and don’t know what to do with themselves and need people around all the time…speaking of people who need people around all the time, I also watched Hunter S. Thompson documentary Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride and wanted to instantly go back and reread all his books that sit so lonely on the shelf or get Where the Buffalo Roam out and hope I still remember how to work the VCR.  That is another thing…..I still have a VCR but it has not been used in two years.  I have kept a number of tapes because they cannot be replaced in DVD format so it is necessary to keep the VCR.  Same thing with my desktop computer, I have a ton of CDs and when that computer dies…all that information, all those stories, vids, photos and brain fart collections will be unreachable.  Getting old is a bitch as you have to watch pieces of your life float away.

I am beginning to understand Lena’s life as each year brings more and more death into my life.  This has been a bad year for that kind of loss for me.  I’ve just gone through it again.  Andy died an unnecessary death in August and his dog was put to sleep the day after his funeral…I am sure that was necessary.   I have this friend, the first person I talked to after moving to Barrie.  She walked every morning and I used to take Beaugi to the boardwalk every morning and we would walk together and talk.  It was our only contact and when I stopped walking Beaugi we lost touch for a long time.  We met again by accident and exchanged numbers and promises and from then on I would call her before her birthday and we would meet for lunch and she would call me before mine and the same.  This year she did not call.  A month went by and I called her and found her phone was disconnected.  Instant anxiety.  This had happened before, I had an old friend Shirley that I had never met except by phone and she would send me a Christmas card every year and I would phone her at Christmas every year.  Then came the day I called and the phone was disconnected.  I checked on line for obituaries and there was none.  I checked on line for real estate and her house had been sold nine months before I called.  She lived so far away I could not go and knock on her neighbour’s door so I was left wondering.  She was old and in ill health so the assumption was…she died.  I mourned.  Again there was no obituary as this time I repeated the same steps and yes the house was sold last April.  This time I could drive to the house and knock on neighbour’s doors.  She sold and moved to Wasaga Beach.  Relief enormous.  Got her son’s phone number from neighbour and left message and she called me.  Move was stressful and busy and calling me slipped her mind.  She is well and happy…I am happy.  I have been telling all of my friends…please make sure someone in your family has a list of all the people who should be contacted in the event of your death and make sure I am on that bloody list.  Not all of us get the paper or religiously read the obituaries and, as I found recently, not every family puts an obituary in the paper and the internet is not that reliable.

Weatherman’s long range forecast says today will be the last hot muggy day of 2015, I should be out in the sun enjoying it.   This past week I took Ash-Leigh to beach and dropped her in the lake.  I got soaked as well and both of us required a shower after to get rid of the sand…a lot of work for a small moment of pleasure…the story of everyone’s life.  The following day I went to see general surgeon about a small cosmetic thing and it is covered by OHIP (happy dance) so an appointment was made to get the deed done.  Then I went swimming in apartment pool all by myself and used the hot tub…lovely.

Decks cleared, time to take dog out and get back to my Conant series.  Yesterday I caught part of 139th Westminster Dog show…connection to dog mysteries I am reading so there was some satisfaction in going from one to the other.

I have lost the ability to download/copy YouTube vids to my computer but found I can pin them to my Pinterest and access the vids on my Iconia so my favourites that I came across yesterday are stashed where I can find them again.  I am so very possessive of information of any kind.  Even if, because of time, I can never get back to something I enjoyed once…just knowing I have it accessible is almost as good as actually reading/viewing/eating/doing.  Life gets weird like that.  Spock said, having is not so good as wanting.   In my case, having is almost as good as using.

Compliments

I just realized something…like an epiphany.   I have always been uncomfortable with compliments (not that there have been an overwhelming number in my life) but I realized today that I do not believe them.  I totally discount when people pay compliments.  I judge myself.  I lost 68 pounds and when people congratulate me…I accept that as my due…they are not, after all, blind.  When they form a compliment…I accept it with reservations depending on how I view myself.  Reunion yesterday and showing off my new shape, it was nice that it was noticed because it was hard work.  However, no one noticed my new tattoo and it came to me that…if I point it out to someone they have to say nice things so the compliment is meaningless.  How can I believe the words since I actively solicited them and they have no choice but to say nice things.  In actual fact, aside from a moment at greeting and another at goodbye, I was the original invisible woman.  I sat mumchance practically the entire time listening to others.  Two of the ladies close to me spent a solid hour discussing golf…I had no input.  Several of the woman are teachers and the conversations concerned school buses and children riding same…I had no input.   It was not as if I did not look for openings to put my two cents worth in but I have no grand children, I do not golf, I am not still working/teaching, my husband is not dead, I do not travel and spend six months of the year at a timeshare, I have never been to the named stores in Florida and it has been twenty years since I have been on a cruise anywhere let alone Alaska.  So I sat and listened and ate.  When it came time for them to take photos, again I ended up at the back and disappeared behind someone wearing a big hat.   On the other hand, the weather was great, the people looked fantastic considering our age and none of us are in assisted living yet.  It was great to be back in the old neighbourhood.  If I had money I would like to rent a place in the area for a summer just to wander all the streets of my youth, go into all the stores and restaurants and boutiques on Queen Street, walk the beach, enjoy the plethora of old growth trees.  The area has grown trendy and very densely populated.  The cute stores and touristy attractions make the influx of summer visitors a nightmare for long term residents.  The cost of the housing is unreal and there are just too many people and, I imagine, a lot of frustration with traffic and parking and crowds.  We lived there in the best years during the 50s.   You can never really go home again but I would like to visit for a short while…alone to savour what is left of the area that I still remember so well.   It was a long drive made longer by a detour further east to pick up a relative but the view from the passenger window was great.  Drivers miss a lot.  Fasting today to make up for pig out yesterday…I think I will take a nap to kill time.

MORE WEIRDNESS THAT IS MY LIFE

Strange connections always seem to appear.

So, Kira called to tell me Andy died and I was so shocked I don’t remember the details very clearly. So I went on line to check how they determine time of death because he could have died any time between Sunday and yesterday or today (that part I missed when the cops broke down the door). I read about lividity and rigor and stuff like that. So then I went back to my book the final Dixie Hemingway and damned if within an hour I wasn’t reading about her finding a body in a pool of blood and the lividity of his bare legs. Now this is book number ten in the series and not one of the previous books mentioned lividity in any context. So it is another instance of the weirdness that is my life.

I wrote the above note to myself (I am beginning to keep track of these oddities).

I finished the Blaize Clement series and had planned on reading Laurien Berenson’s Melanie Travis series so I started that series yesterday before Kira called. I am now on book number two in the series and all of a sudden it hit me…Andy and his wife bred standard poodles and I had one of his black poodles (I named him Starsky). Starsky was originally named Booberry and his sister Baaad To The Bone had a kennel name of Razzberry. Razzberry went on to get in the record books as having three champion offspring. Andy and Shan used the kennel name Khairoh and I was doing online research on it today before I went back to my book and realized that this series is all about Peg who breeds black standard poodles and Melanie her niece who is learning to show a black standard female Faith. I was reading along about what is involved in showing a dog, the ribbons, the judges, the care for hair and it hit me…more weirdness of timing in my life.

I just went back into the notebook that tells me when to breathe (I stole that from Donna Andrews’ character Meg) and found this entry from July 21st. I was reading Virginia Lowell’s Cookie Cutter series and eating a cookie and thinking about the bucket of Tiffany coloured fondant I had in the cupboard. I have never baked a cookie in my life and when I got the first novel in this series it just so happened my neighbour gave me a cookie cutter for Christmas (a tiny weirdness)..it was attached, to some tea towels she was buying for me, as a decoration. Off my own bat months later I bought myself a poodle cookie cutter because I have a poodle and when I got a cat I got a cat cutter. They sat on my fridge and I was hoping my store would have Pillsbury sugar cookie dough that I could roll out and test my cutters on…there was no thought in my mind of actually making my own dough. Anyway, I was just wondering if I could roll out fondant and use cutters on it just to see what it would look like and so I tried it and it worked a treat. Not only that but I got to use my mother’s rolling pin that I have had in drawer since 1993 and never used. I then did research on line with question and learned there is such a thing as fondant cutters but it said you could use cookie cutters too…which I did. Then I got to the final book in the series Dead Men Don’t Eat Cookies and on page 13 – dead man with what looks like a cookie cutter necklace I found and one of the ladies says “it is even smaller than a fondant cutter”. This is book six in the series and this is the first mention of fondant or fondant cutters – not ten minutes after I did a search about fondant cutters. I have had that bucket of fondant for almost two years and my cookie cutters almost as long and this was the first time I connected them in my mind..of course I had been reading about cookie cutters and royal icing so the leap to doing something with my cookie cutters was not a leap but the rest of it….weirdness. I have so many instances of this…was it Jung who postulated the great unconsciousness in which we are all linked?

I have frequently joked that there are times I feel like my head is broadcasting and the world is picking my brain because as soon as I think of something…it appears on whatever I am reading or watching or listening to or someone mentions it.

MORE THOUGHTS ON BOOKS AND READING

I have never had a wide circle of friends and my family is not large. The friends that I made in my life, few of them were readers. Those that were readers never read the same books as me. I consider myself an eclectic reader. I drift from genre to genre, subject to subject on a whim or a mood. I love lists and book lists in particular. Over the course of my long life I have read most of the classics but never fell in love with them. People who rave about Jane Austen make me wonder about myself. In some ways I think that I have not read all of Jane Austen out of sheer stubbornness. I should have so I won’t…pout.

I recently read a book blog by another book crazy lady and went through her list of the books she had read in the last five years. My first reaction was …I am falling behind popular culture. So many books, so little time. Am I wasting my time on books that are not worthy? In 2015 I challenged myself to 250 books (which I shall soon increase to 300). Goodreads Challenge…I am up to 218 books. For sure this year I am reading quantity, not quality but I am also reading what comforts me these days. I no longer read books that challenge my mind, are considered ‘good’, are best sellers, are life affirming or any other reason for reading. I do not want my emotions shifted, my heart moved, my mind increased. Been there, done that. All my life I kept a binder in which I wrote the title of every book I ever read. The thing is massive because reading has always been the be all end all of my life. It is my addiction, my only true friend but that friend is not classy, overly intelligent, famous or ageless. He changes frequently from science fiction to fantasy to mysteries to romances, to biography. Books of quotations, books about reading, books about cooking (I who never cook…read cookbooks). Books of jokes and books of cartoons. I have to possess books; going to the library doesn’t suit me any more…though when I was a child it was my favourite place in the whole world. On Tumblr…pictures of book shelves and libraries are what hold my interest most. There are books I read almost yearly. I have books that I have read thirty times. Funny things can put me off, I read Lord of the Rings ten times before the movie came out and now cannot read it at all. I have had my Harlequin romance years (the early years before sex), my Barbara Cartland phase, Georgette Heyer. I did read a couple Jacqueline Susann books but no Jackie Collins. A few Harold Robbins back in the day. Patrick O’Brien series is wonderful but work so I read Dudley Pope’s Ramage or Alexander Kent’s Bolitho more often. I fall in love with writers….Harlan Ellison, Hunter S. Thompson, Truman Capote. There are writer’s whose lives are more interesting to me than their actual writing…like Virginia Woolf. I am set in my ways and time is short. It breaks my heart that there are so many books I might like to taste but don’t because time is limited and I would rather stick with my favourite ones. Still, I sometimes feel I am doing a disservice to my brain, that I am not reading up to my potential, that I am missing a lot of life. Then I listen to the news and realize…life is not what it is cracked up to be and I will continue to read stuff that doesn’t stir me to grief and tears or to nausea. In other words, reading lite…nothing too taxing. I go on binges in categories…one book leading to another as fast as I can buy and read. I do not write much on Tumblr, Dreamwidth and WordPress. I save photos on Pinterest. I have a Twitter account but do not tweet. I have a Facebook but seldom post anything…just look at what shows up on my feed. I am connected but not involved and that just about sums up my life in books I read but not much sticks. I have notebooks filled with quotes and lines that I fell in love with in books and feared I would forget or never come across again. I buy mostly paperbacks so I can underline and annotate. I can reread any of my books frequently…one of the side benefits of reading quickly and not absorbing. I love when a single line in one book or a name will send me to Google or to Amazon and off on a tangent to a new interest, a new series. I am not an adventurous reader…or at least I do not think I am. I am not that fussy about quality of writing. There are very few books in my life that I didn’t finish and of those only one I regret…Proust’s Remembrance. I think I grew too old to appreciate it and the last time I tried I realized there was no point. I am totally incapable of writing reviews of books I have read…I cannot break them down into what was good and what was bad or what was well written and what was not. I could recap with spoilers the entire thing but that is not a review. I have no discernable taste as far as I know. I have never read a book I hated or could not finish because it was awful. I also have seldom read a book I thought was absolutely fabulous. Books are either keepers or ones I know instantly I will never read again. When I am asked to rate books I am always ticked off that there are not enough stars. Often my feeling is 3 stars are too few and 4 stars are too many and my lack of discrimination makes me hesitant to ever use 5 stars. Books are like chocolate….even poor quality chocolate is great stuff.

My Scrooge McDuck-Like Behaviour

I was remembering the Scrooge McDuck cartoon of him swimming in his vault of gold.  How I behave with my books is similar.  I started collecting books at a very young age.  We were poor as church mice and I needed so many things, shoes and coats but I always asked for books.   The first visits with school class to main children’s library in Toronto was a revelation and from the very begging I always took out as many books at one time as I could squeeze out of the librarian but I wanted to own books.  I also started keeping a notebook with a list of every book I read.  As time went on my book collection grew and my list got longer and I was asking for bookshelves as gifts, I was always fingering my books, moving my books, finding places to stack books and dusting books.  More time passed and computers came and I got a wonderful software package and transcribed all my notebooks into the computer.    I now have three different software package in various stages of completion because none is as pleasing as that first DOS library programme.   I take photos of my bookshelves, I blog about books, I read other people’s blogs about books and their Tumblr and Pinterest photographs of bookshelves and libraries and feel acquisitiveness grow.   I printed out that first library software of books into a binder and kept adding to it by hand in my horrible handwriting and it is now huge and messy.  The new software will not print the same way and now I straddle because I want hard copy of everything.  I spent a lot of time in bookstores and then got a Kindle and spent a lot of time surfing Amazon.  Lists of books, tracking books, books I am waiting for, re-transcribing lists of books from one notebook to another.   I stand in front of my bookshelves and gloat and think about what I want to read next and whether I will live long enough to read them all.   I look over my list of books TBR and promise myself not to buy any books until I have lowered the pile and then go shopping.   I joined Goodreads and get bulletins on the latest books by the authors I collect, spend hours entering books I have read and own into their site and enjoying looking at the covers on all the cosies I have bought for Kindle.    The similarity to Scrooge McDuck as he revels in his gold and me fingering and reveling in my books comes home to me.

I make lists of everything and one of the things that takes up so much time is making new ones in new places, breaking down my books into categories and putting them in order.  Books fill my life and not just the reading of them.

BOOKSHELVES

I love books.  I have thousands.  Every man in my life built me book shelves to line the walls.  I take more photographs of my library than I do of my children.  I love looking at other people’s book shelves.  I love photographs of book stores and libraries.  I gravitate to shelves in people’s homes almost before I have finished greeting them.  I joined Pinterest and Tumblr to look at and talk about books and libraries (and cats and dogs).  Over time I noticed that I haven’t read many of the books, with such colourful covers, that line the shelves that people are posting.  I began to feel like I was somehow falling behind popular culture.  Not keeping up with current trends and lists of books to be read.  Despite feeling that way, I continued to reread books from my personal hoard, I continued to buy the latest book in every series I have collected for years, I bought a Kindle and started reading in a new genre and managed to start collecting 75 new authors but none of those colourful covers grace my shelves.  I am old by any of today’s standards and like many of the elderly…resistant to change.  I was saddened by that thought until today when I had a brain storm and went to Amazon to check out what qualifies as young people’s fiction  these days.  Books for teens and young adults filled the pages and there were all those colourful covers, Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue, Divergent, Hunger Games, Twilight, The Fault In Our Stars, Cress, City of Bones, Mockingjay, The Book Thief, The Giver series, The Mortal Instruments series, The Vampire Academy, The Inheritance Cycle,  The Princess Diaries, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Gone series, Gone Girl and Fangirls.   I read the blurbs on these books and realized that if I were a young person today I would have them in my collection.  I also realized that it is likely that if I had infinite time in front of me to reread all my own books and all the new books I have bought plus these new YA series, I would dip my toe and check them out but my time is finite and I really must be brutal with my choices.  So I shall let go of the slight guilt and shame at the sight of all these books that I will never read.  Libraries used to give me gastric distress as I walked in and faced choice.  I often felt like a donkey starving between two bales of hay.  It is why today my pile of TBR books is so huge.  Spock said having is not so good as wanting but to me having is almost as good as reading.  I have faith that I will get to every one of them sooner or later despite the knowledge that, when I moved from my house to my condo and had to reduce the number of books I owned by one third, some of the books I gave away were new and unread from my TBR pile at that time.  They were ones that had been in the pile a very long time and I realized that my interest in the subject matter had waned and was unlikely to come back and if it did I would buy the book again some day.  So I am feeling quite perky and will be able to view all those libraries on Tumblr with curiosity and pleasure and no longer feel I am missing something.