Finding a Home for My Books

I’ve written about a Mouse, a Madras dress, Marie Kondo, my Mate’s stored secrets and Louisa Adams’ Moving adventure during our Big Move from a tri-level to a single floor. Now we are settling in. You may be curious about what happened to all the books originally stacked on the shelves of my three adjoining bookcases next to my former writing desk.

I gave away plenty. This week, Ian got my 1950 copy of The Peanut Man. He sucked in a gasp when I told him George Washington Carver was sold as a slave in exchange for a horse but bravely used God’s wisdom to find hundreds of uses for sweet potatoes and peanuts. Another book, The Power of Style became a birthday gift to my friend Carolyn, a stylish woman whose blouse underneath declares she is cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.

CarolynBookStyle

Back in May I started with three floor-to-ceiling bookcases, now condensed to just one. My other books have cozy nests elsewhere, cosseted in small spaces all around our new home.

A book rack in a corner of the great room holds books for morning meditation, including my lilac gratitude book.

BlueChairDuck

My journal for rants and other facts of life has gone missing. It has an iridescent Tiffany-style cover. If it turns up at your house, please let me know. I’m dying to have it back!

Old books, my hymn books, and a violin in-need-of-repair with the bridge missing fill an alcove in the hallway. Cathedral ceilings have amplified both glorious sounds and sour notes – ha!

PianoViolinBooks

The dining room has built-ins for china and books. On the window seat, small crocks (one from Mother) hold in place more old books, including the one at the far end on my blog banner.

WindowSeatBooks

Underneath, a long cabinet swallowed up over two dozen photo albums and about a dozen journals.

JournalsPhotoAlbums

Above the media center in the living room, a sturdy candlestick holds up Sonnets of the Portuguese, Beatrix Potter’s Lakeland, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance popular in 1995 and Alice in Wonderland, a gift from son Joel and wife Sarah, Christmas 1998. Coral from Key West separates these from another stash of antique books.

AlcoveBooksTV

Under the sofa table, brass butterflies hold some of my books by Mennonite writers, a collection by my favorite short story author, Alice Munro, one of John Updike’s novels, Judith Viorst books and The Story of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon.

SofaTableBooks

The water closet, should you choose to linger on the “throne,” offers a changing display of reading material.

ToiletBooks

And finally, I pared down kitchen recipe books. What remains has a distinctly Mennonite/Amish vibe with slender tea-time booklets at right. Most recipes are available online, so the 4-inch thick encyclopedias had to go. Besides, my favorite recipes sit snug in a computer desktop file.

RecipeKitchenBooks


Four months ago in our former home, I began with three adjoining bookcases, jammed with books. In the photo below, I had already started purging.

BookcasesKillarney

Space for my books is much smaller now, condensed to just one. Besides, it was time to let some tomes go. Looking back, I see my method for giving away or keeping has been more intuitive than rational. Autographed books, gifts from friends or family had to stay. Hardest to let go – textbooks laden with notes I had labored so long to create.

BookcaseOne

A glitch occurred as we tried to stabilize this bookcase. When the cable guy came, he angled the bookcase to hookup the internet and pushed the oak file-case forward. When he finished, he shoved the case too far to the right, so we couldn’t get it pushed back to the wall. Because it was overloaded with books and too heavy to move, son-in-law Joe and husband Cliff relayed books from case to floor and back again, so the behemoth could be moved into its final resting place. Bless them!


“I like best to have one book in my hand, and a stack of others on the floor beside me, so as to know the supply of poppy and mandragora will not run out before the small hours.”  Dorothy Parker, The Collected Dorothy Parker   (My stack has dwindled.)

Do you believe as William Dean Howells suggests

Oh, nothing furnishes a room like books.

What books are among your favorites? Which ones would you never, ever part with?

Do you have places to showcase special books?

What other room accessories do you value? More quotes about books are welcome here too ~ thank you!

Paring Down, Tidying Up – Some Tips

“Listen to this” I said to Cliff as I began reading the page on sorting papers: “Rule of Thumb – Discard Everything. ” As I continued reading the chapter on sorting papers in Marie Kondo’s New York Times best seller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I saw my husband’s eyes bug out, his jaw go rigid. I imagined his next move would be grabbing the book from my bare hands. (He didn’t.) Even though papers accumulate in our house like snowdrifts, he was having none of it.

It’s hard to dispute the dictum of a Japanese cleaning consultant like Kondo who claims that none of her clients have lapsed – and who has a three-month waiting list. She insists that if you organize your house properly, you’ll never have to do it again.

At the heart of her message is this: Keep something only if it sparks JOY in your life. And related to this: Give it away, if you think it will inspire joy in others.

So, I have divested myself of possessions I’ve held onto for decades.

Ribbons and sewing notions have gone to a church friend, Donna, seamstress extraordinaire, who has connections to talented women needing supplies.

RibbonGiveaway

Like my friend Carolyn, I have passed on items of fine dining. My wedding crystal went to my hair stylist and super hostess Jackie. Originally, I intended to donate my crystal (from The Susquehanna Glass Factory in Columbia, Pennsylvania) to The Community Hospice Thrift Shop. But before I ever got to the donation center, Jackie took a look, fell in love, and the crystal sherbets and glasses became hers.

Crystal

By far the hardest thing to divest myself of is MY BOOOOOKS! They are part of my self-hood, my identity for the decades of my long teaching career. I am not the only book lover who wrestles with such impulses. Summer Brennan writes about the heartache of such a task here. Like her, I feel torn by the lure of Kondo’s promise of the magic of recycling and my impulse to embrace William Dean Howell‘s advice, “Oh, nothing furnishes a house like books.”

I’ve given dozens of books to Angel Aid, a charity for women and children. But I feel just as good when they land in the hands of young scholars, like Matthew, who can appreciate the nerdy translation of my Chaucer texts from Middle to Modern English, pre-digital translate days.

ChaucerTranslation

­­­­Matthew took my Milton text too, and two Survey of English Lit texts. He exclaimed, “I appreciate this. I can’t thank you enough,” followed by a smiley face and book emoticon.

ChaucerMilton

I feel a certain lightheartedness at getting rid of stuff, especially if I can pass them on to people who appreciate their worth.

Grandma Longenecker can relate to such a feeling. She told me so in a letter from Rheems, Pennsylvnia in April 1975.

GrandmaRidStuffLetter

“They are busy at the shop, selling a lot of new equipment, I turned the shop over to Ray and house to Ruth, so I’m rid of that stuff.”

In other words, Grandma divested herself of two properties by deeding them over to my father and aunt. I’m guessing that she was immensely relieved of responsibilities for either property.

She continued to live in her lovely Victorian home until the day she died.

1989RuthieHouse

Coming next: A rollicking review of Marie Kondo’s book and a glimpse of the shop Grandma deeded to my dad. Neat versus messy? You decide.

Your tips for paring down and tidying up are welcome here.   🙂

 

My purple hat - Out the door!
My purple “Downton Abbey” hat – Out the door!

 

Secrets of My Blue Madras Dress

Did you wear a madras dress? Did it bleed?

Popular in the USA in the 1960s this cool summer fabric originated in Madras, India. Loosely woven cotton threads created a plaid patchwork of soft fabric that didn’t cling to the body during sweltering summer days. Some madras was made with dyes that “ran” when the fabric was washed, creating a trendy washed-out look, known as bleeding madras, according to this article in the Chicago Tribune.

I bought into the fad then with a blue madras dress, smocked, sleeveless and zippered down the back. With no cinched belt, the dress felt light and airy – cool. After it was no longer in vogue and looked worn, I used it for home painting jobs.

BlueMadrasDress

Before we move into our next home, we want to do some interior painting. Whether I will wield the brush or ask/hire someone else to do the job remains to be seen.

Soon the paint-spattered madras dress will fade into history. I will recycle it.

* * *

The Secret: 

In July 1992 daughter Crista took a time-delay shot of herself wearing my blue madras dress to complete an assignment for her Photography 101 course. “Make sure you are in the picture,” the professor had said. So, with a 35 mm camera poised on a tripod, she snapped a black and white self-portrait in our back yard. Obviously, she didn’t need my assistance, and I didn’t know about the photo until she had it developed in the photo lab dark-room. A selfie before the era of smart phone selfies.

I made one of the prints into a book mark shown here. On the reverse side, I printed a verse from III John 1:4  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still. ~ Dorothea Lange
Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.   ~ Dorothea Lange

 

It’s no secret that I have paraded a lot of (treasured) stuff on the pages of these posts, evidence that I keep things. With a move imminent, I’m in the mood now though to discard, digitize, or recycle.

When it comes to STUFF, are you a hoarder or a “throw-away-er”? Maybe you fit a different category? Do you have a dress with secrets?

 

Your opinions are always welcome here. So are your stories.

Thank you!

 

Coming next: Paring Down and Tidying Up

 

Mouse Moves House and So Do We

We are planning to move. It’s not a long-distance move to another country or across our own land. Not even to another state. And we are not retiring to Florida. Why, we’re already there. And we’re not moving to another city. Our re-location involves a move just 9 miles south in the same quadrant of Jacksonville.

But it is a gigantic step for us. We have lived in our current homestead for 37 years. Our children grew up here, and when I open the kitchen door to the garage I see pencil marks revealing Crista and Joel’s increasing heights since their ages of 8 and 9.

People in our age demographic make similar moves, often called downsizing. A Texas couple, Joe and Judy Powell, had a ranch to sell, 20-acre cattle ranch, mind you, in order to move to a nearby college town. Their move involved a huge acreage to a small property, from rural to town.

Photo credit; AARP magazine online
Photo credit: AARP magazine online

 

Of course, Cliff and I have accumulated lots of stuff, which about a year ago we’ve started sorting through, recycling, keeping the most necessary and precious. An art-creating husband and book-reading/writing wife produce/save lots of stuff.

About the Stuff 

Yes, we must cull, re-cycle, throw out, even. We have called the city for bulk recycling pickups.

To save one must value. And to throw out, one must value moving on.    ~ Mary Peacock, The Paper Garden

 

CupcakeQuotation

 

What I’ll Miss

  • My clothesline. Our new homeowners association won’t permit such. I’ll look at old videos of sheets flapping.
  • The dowager live oak tree on the edge of our property spreading its sheltering arms . . .

OakFrontDowager

  • Wall space to display my husband’s art work. Our new home has an open floor plan and limited space for drawings and paintings.

The Emotional/Philosophical Shift

Before, during and after the move, we have felt and will continue to feel out of sync. Our daily rhythms will be interrupted for a time. We’ll have to get used to operating in a new space. We’ll feel out of balance for a while, a sensation I am already experiencing.

In the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, the transition to a new home ranks # 28 on a list of 43 life events, coming far after major events like the death of a spouse, serious personal injury or illness, change in job or even retirement. Truthfully, I think I would elevate moving to a higher level. Anyone who has changed addresses recently may agree.

Writer and blogger Sharon Clymer Landis discussed an imminent change in her household last year, observing parallels between the physical and spiritual aspects of moving to a new location:

She says, “As we work our way from the comfort of the known, from the cozy nest, inching toward our edges before slipping into the wild unknown, we are usually filled with doubts, fears and dread.  How little we trust the process, or God’s great holding of us, or the drawing towards growth that results in greater love, spaciousness, and freedom.”

When we finally take flight, we realize the air under our wings is the same air that lined our cozy nest. The nest, the struggle to launch, the flying, and the very air around us is all part of the Great Holding. 

 

The Move and Story-telling

As she continues, author Landis draws an analogy between physical moves and good storytelling:

Good storytelling often moves us forward, opens a reader’s heart toward greater understanding or toward something in life’s horizon. Add the element of God, of the Divine Mystery (how do those stories and images end up right where we’ll find them when we need them?) and you’ve got a hint of how things work:  equilibrium to disequilibrium, and back to equilibrium…on and on in the cycle of life and growth – kissed by Eternal Wisdom, a God holding us in Love always. Whether we’re in the midst of being drawn to concepts or changes beyond our understandings, whether we’re dug in and resisting, or flying wild and free, we are equally loved!

 

A Story Told

“Flying wild and free” evokes the image of a bird in flight, not usually mouse movements. But a storybook mouse can go wild and move. Maybe you remember reading Mouse Moves House, a charming children’s book by Phil Roxbee Cox.

Ian's family is moving this spring, mimicking Mouse Mack.
Ian’s family is moving too this spring, mimicking Mouse Mack.

Mouse Mack, backpack in tow, appreciates his friend Jack, who helps him pack and load his stuff onto a moving van named Fat Cat.


 

How have you experienced moving?

You must have some advice for me and other readers. Here’s where to share it.