It’s Otterly Good

These places are time machines, spaceships, story-makers, secret-keepers. They are dragon-tamers, dream-catchers, fact-finders, and safe places. They are full of infinite possibilities and tales worth taking home. – Jen Campbell, The Bookshop Book

It’s been almost two months since my operation and I’m happy to report that I’m starting to walk normal. Still feel like a zombie in motion but each day I know I’m walking better. So exciting! So relieving! Just have to make sure I don’t push myself like I tend to. 

I was recently interviewed for Middlebury College’s newspaper, The Middlebury Campus. I had a great conversation/interview with Florence Wu who asked questions that I generally don’t get asked. Thought provoking quesetions. She took amazing photos of the store which, I feel, captured the soul of the store. You can read the article here: https://middleburycampus.com/56567/local/barbara-harding-i-bought-a-bookstore-and-quit-my-job/

One picture she took was of me standing. I first looked at it and thought but that doesn’t look natural. I was shocked and dismayed in how I looked. But then I looked again and realized, no, she got me in the early stages of healing. I’m standing straight! I’m standing without leaning on something or favoring my right leg.  I’m standing on both feet. How exciting. I am starting to shelve again! (And lose weight!)

The store is doing well with new arrivals. Storage area and boxes are getting emptied. Life is going well!

Hold up your head! You were not made for failure, you were made for victory. Go forward with a joyful confidence.George Eliot

Ottering….

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore.  

I’m not comparing my life to any of the characters in the above mentioned novel but to my long ordeal worrying about my leg and then it becoming a hip issue. And other factors currently going on in my life. I will survive because I will. This chapter of my life. I’m ready to move on and get it behind me and walk forward. To leave my cane behind and walk upright as one should.

I will be reporting to the hospital soon. I’m looking forward to it. To when I can walk up/down steps perfectly, and going for hikes or my ‘clearing my head’ walks that I’ve been doing many, many years. I miss all that. Even to, or maybe especially to, walk around the store carrying an armload of books to shelve. To sweep or mop without going into agony. To do things one tends to take for granted.

I will be away from the store August 21-30, back August 31. Returning to hopefully dancing and skipping in the store’s aisles. Or at least in my head until I can.

I have been working on my stack of books to bring for my overnight stay in the hospital. I’ve cut it down to five. Well, I just don’t know what my mood will be so I have to cover all emotions. I know a number of you will understand. I’ve extra batteries for my booklight because we all know what happens when it goes out and you are stuck in the dark. Especially in a hospital room when you already know you won’t be getting any zzz’s. Snacks. Just simple little chocolate things to perk up my spirits. And flowers. For the joy they will bring.

For my home stay I already have books stacked at my bedside. Yes, there will be different stacks. Again, many of you will relate and completely understand. And food choices. I will spend next week preparing my menu that will make me happy and feel good. And after some time my diet will begin. With limited exercise my weight, well, will just leave it at that.

The store will be open while I’m recuperating. And in very capabile hands. Carrie, David Mumford (DM) and, of course, Hannah will hold down the fort.

I want to thank all those who have talked to me about their hip replacements. I appreciate all the stories and advice. It is encouraging. And easier to face.

And I want to thank those who have accepted the flexible store hours I’ve imposed. Some days it has been hard to make it to 4pm or to even sit. I hope to return to regular hours when I return. Or soon afterwards.

Thank you all!

Used Books

In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. – Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive. – James Baldwin

Owning a used bookstore is everything you’d think it would be. And then some! I say and write that all the time. It is so amazing. Because, if you think of it, all these books, are mine. I thought of that one day. I own each and everyone of these books. If I were to close up the store tomorrow I get to choose which books are coming home with me.

Fortunately I don’t think that way. I am excited to be the holder of books until the rightful owner comes along. Sometimes the customer finds the book they want. Sometimes it is the book who finds the customer. Have you ever experienced walking into a bookstore and all of a sudden spy the book that looks so interesting? So delicous that you have to pick it up and devour it? It could be the title. The cover. The dust jacket. But something says to you, “Read me!” I hear so many examples of that and it warms my heart.

Shopping in a used bookstore is a good thing. Owning a used bookstore is a good thing, too.

He calls books freedoms. And homes too. They preserve all the good words that we so seldom use. Leniency. Kindness. Contradiction. Forbearance. – Nina George, The Little Paris Bookshop

Change is Good. Otterly Good.

What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain. – Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

Change is good. I’ve always told myself. And I still believe it. Good. Bad. If it’s bad, it’ll eventually turn into good.

So what are the changes? First, I’ve broken down and started using a cane. Ok. I didn’t really break down. The doctor ordered me. So I hobbled to the Medicine Chest and left with a blue cane that is now to be my best friend. And I’ve started a program to get my leg healed correctly. There’s a lot of hiking I need to do this summer. So the cane thing will be short lived.

Another change is Carrie. Carrie will be coming in to help me out. Huge! It’s hard to maneuver with a cane and an armload of books. If you’ve been in the store recently you will understand this. There are so many boxes that need to be sorted, cleaned, priced and ultimately shelved. Regular sweeping has been neglected as well as dusting. So I cried UNCLE and Carrie responded. Actually she is a good friend of Hannah so she’s part family. And she has a young son who might join her some days to add to the fun.

Currenty the store is showing local artist, Alice Eckles. I’ll have more information on her later. She just recently hung pieces throughout the store found on ends of bookcases to tucked into empty wall spaces. Perfect timing! Perfect uplift.

Cheer up, Crips, and keep smiling. That’s the thing to do. If you go through life with a smile on your face, you’ll be amazed how many people will come up to you and say ‘What the hell are you grinning about? What’s so funny?’ Make you a lot of new friends. – P.G. Wodehouse.

Otterly April = Spring!

Well, here it is April. The last few months have gone by somewhat fast for me. During March I had several weeks off. A staycation though it wasn’t suppose to be. It was to be a wandering trip but well, things happen so it was a stay at home time. David Mumford, the remarkable one that he is, manned the store, with Hannah covering Saturdays. While at home I did nurse my leg and relaxed. Got a lot of reading in. And I did manage to scout out some books, bookends and other used bookstore fun stuff.

I’m back in the store and I believe that the books have mulitpled while I was gone. I returned a couple of weeks ago and during this time have been accepting books, cleaning, sorting and shelving. The endless task which I thoroughly enjoy. But the store is certainly exploding. A lot of fiction, Vermont, Civil War, music, biography, poetry, and everything in between. It never gets old.

I’ve been trying to get myself to keep the store open until 5pm but with my leg situation by the time 4pm comes around my leg is screaming out and it zaps my energy so I need to leave, go home and elevate it. I try to not walk around the store as much but yet, the books aren’t jumping to shelf themselves. So I plot out my steps, load my arms, and make a round of shelving. If you look around my desk you’ll see stacks of books ready to go but I wait until I’m generally alone in the store so I won’t make anyone uncomfortable. In a couple of weeks I’ll find out more regarding my leg. Until then I thank customers for being patient with me. It’s been a long haul but my fingers are crossed it’ll be healed soon.

“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.” – Helene Hanff, Q’s Legacy: A Delightful Account of a Lifelong Love Affair with Books

Ugh! February!

So that means it’s time for the
I HATE FEBRUARY 50% SALE!
All books half off. 50%. Yes, all books. And yes, I hate February and will always hate the month.

Don’t bother handing me chocolate, flowers or any of that nonsense because I do not like February and there is no changing it. And I understand February is the shortest month. When you hate it as much as I do it becomes the longest month. If that doesn’t sound reasonable to you well, that is how much I don’t like February.

So let’s get through this month together. I’ll provide the half-off books, and chocolate. Maybe I’ll spring for flowers for the desk too. I certainly could use some cheering up.

🙂

“Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?” – Shakespeare

2021….

Trying to figure out what to write. There is so much to be grateful for and so much troubling. 2020 wasn’t all that crazy in the long run. I’m closing out the year not so badly. Back in April I wasn’t sure if the store would still be open. But it is. Here I am. I have been working on this page since mid-December. Every time I sit down at my desk to finish it I find I just don’t want to type. I don’t want to express my thoughts because, frankly, I don’t have any. Crazy. I know. I don’t know what to think about this coming year. So I’m taking it day by day and will just let it be.

It’s been nice having people in. Even those who just wander in, walk around and thank me for the opportunity to connect with books. A form of some normacy. Actually they are the ones who fuel me. I recognize the store offers a comfort to those who appreciate books. Particularly, used books and their familiarity.

I am currently not buying books. Books that have come in are from very generous customers who donate them. I do not know what the future will hold. Will there be another manatory retail shutdown? I went into the first one with money set aside. I am prepared if we have to again. I won’t start to buy until I am confident the economy will bounce back. I feel my store is on edge to stay open or close entirely. I’d like to write that closing isn’t an option but then again…

I follow a business model that I have created over the fourteen years owning OCUB. It isn’t the one I orginally planned. I’ve adapted it numerous times. I like the model I currently have. I am a brick and mortar shop. My inventory can be seen inside my door. You have to come in to see what my shelves hold. I liken it to what used bookstores use to be. You know. Before the internet. Before Amazon came along and mucked up searching for books. Frankly I feel, they ruined the whole used book world. It’s all about the hunt. Hunting online is a form of cheating, right? Would OCUB be more financially secure if I sold online? Sure. Not doing so is my niche. Come inside. See what there is.

I do have news! I will be closed for three weeks in February/March. Not sure of the dates yet. I’ve missed out on little excursions to renew my soul.

Another piece of news is that this will no longer be a blog. I just can’t handle it anymore. Maybe I’ll get it back but I don’t think so. I’m going to use this page as I do for Facebook and Instagram. I’ll feature a book or two from my shelves. That takes the pressure off me. You’d be surprised how many drafts I have started but never finished. Owning a used bookstore is suppose to be fun and no pressure. Remove the pressure! Done! Anyways this blog was suppose to be a holder until I could afford to buy a database program. Guess that didn’t happen.

Thank you! Now, here’s to 2021 and well, whatever happens, we have used books.

Vintage outdoor OCUB sign with store elves

Otterly Amazing. 14 Years. Thank you all.

“Thank God for books and music and things I can think about.” – Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

“Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.” – Steve Martin.

“Sometimes we need all the glue we can get, just to hold ourselves together.” – Cecelia Ahern, Thanks for the Memories

Preview(opens in a new tab)

What a crazy year 2020 has been. I started it so happy. The store had made it. I was so confident final goals would be met. Then BAM! Everything dropped out. What the hell was going to happen to the store? The books?

I hung in. Every single day. I hung in. Stevie Nicks, John Mellencamp. Rearranging shelves. Customers who have become friends checking in on me. Knocking on the door. Calling me. Texting and emails. Leaving bags of books ordered outside for pick-ups and waving through the windows. Mailing boxes across the country and even to a few Vermont towns. All. All helped me get through a tough time for this used bookstore lady all alone in the shop. Heat off. Lights off. Saving money. Heading out to the car to warm up and taking a drive off the beaten path to connect to something. Nature. The world. Vermont. My familiar.

When the Governor gave retail the okay to reopen I did. I did delay a bit because I had boxes, ladders, stacks of books scattered around. I organized somewhat and unlocked and propped the door open to show the world OCUB was open and ready to do business.

Social distancing. I’m not sure those who don’t shop in used bookstores understand but that’s what us used bookstore people do best. We like people. But around books we want to be alone. Particularly in a shop.

The other thing I’ve been dealing with, all during this, is a torn ligament in my leg and the road to healing has been a long one.

So all-in-all, I’m hanging in. The store is hanging in. Received a Grant from the government and a small loan so I was able to pay rent. I also received a generous grant from the National Bank of Middlebury. That has given me the confidence to continue on and indeed I am.

On Saturday, Novembr 28 I will have owned OCUB for 14 years! It’ll be a quiet celebration but it will involve cookies from Sweet E’s, an up and coming bakeshop in Middlebury. Mmmm, cookies! Books!