Archives for category: Books

The Gatekeepers


Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing” was the first that I recognized what the title “Chief of Staff” meant. This book really brings home that a good chief of staff is fundamental to a President’s administration.
Chris Whipple, gives a brief history of the first named Chief of Staff under President Eisenhower before looking at all of the Chiefs from Richard Nixon’s H. R. Haldeman to Barack Obama’s Denis McDonaugh.
Some were excellent at the job (e.g. James Baker for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and Leon Panetta for Bill Clinton) allowing a smooth running administration. Others (Jimmy Carter’s Hamilton Jordan) were erratic at best resulting in divided loyalties among the administration staff. Some were prima donalds aspiring to BE the president and others truly understood that ego was anathema to the job and therefore to the President and the country.
Well written. Well researched. Full of information about personalities that can be surprising (Dick Cheney wasn’t always considered to be “Darth Vader.” Oh, and don’t miss the story of Ronald Reagan and Queen Elizabeth riding horses.
Politics aside, this book is for everyone interested in the inner workings of the White House.


I don’t recall exactly how we met. I’m pretty sure it was in the diner. I had started going there so that I could read while I waited for a meal. Eventually I became a Wednesday regular because of the meat loaf special of the day.

Each of us sat alone in our chosen booths reading. I just about always had a physical book. Ron preferred his iPad or newest tablet.

We were both the perfect stranger-readers at first. “What ya’ readin’?

Pertinent information was exchanged then each of us returned to the days read.

Before too long, there were more and longer discussions, but we always showed proper book reading etiquette by asking if conversation would continue or “do you want to read your book?”

Even when I really wanted to read, I could be cajoled to spend time with my friend.

Our paths crossed at another place in town, that shouldn’t be a big surprise. The county library. I was in charge of the library book sale and was scanning and classifying tens of thousands of books. With the weekend of the sale imminent, Ron asked if I needed help. Since the Friends , who sponsored the sale, were a mostly older female group, a person who could lift copy-paper-boxes filled with books from tall shelves was eagerly welcomed.

Ron never missed a sale once he started. And he paid his dues for the honor of working with us.

After I relinquished my chairperson of the sale duties, Ron continued to help the Friends for both the Spring and Fall sales.

Our “rendezvous” became exclusively at the diner. We’d still ask if it was okay to interrupt the reading. It always was.

We talked books. I’d let him know the latest Science Fiction titles I knew about. He sent me sites where I could find free e-books.

He sold his iPad mini to me and one of his tablets to my husband. I’m pretty sure my son, who worked the same place he did, bought a device from him. Ron liked to have the latest electronic gadget.

He is the only single person I know who purchased a 3-D printer. He was always coming into the diner with something new he’d made with the printer. The last one I saw was a toy-soldier-sized Hulk. Who was yellow.

“He’s not green.”

“Yeah, well…”

Then, last fall…

He shared with me that he had cancer. He had gone in to have something removed near his right temple, something he had been through before. This time the news was not good.

He had more invasive work done and the prognosis was worst than thought originally.

He asked me not to say anything to anybody. I honored his request – in the diner, at the Friends of the Library, and at my home.

Ron started getting his affairs in order. He asked me to write his obituary. He let the library know they would receive his 3-D printer. He didn’t want his wife, Sherry to have to worry about anything.

He started Chemo.

He let others know. At the diner and the library, people came to me to see if I knew. All were shocked.

Ron’s and my meetings at the diner were never maudlin or morose. Ron had a great attitude. Thirty years ago he had had a successful heart transplant and he looked at the next 30 years as a gift. Icing on the cake, if you will.

We looked out for each other at the diner. Especially if we didn’t run into each other for a few days.

In the last month, he contacted me for a lunch “date” that both of our spouses knew about and accepted. There was a new waitress at the diner that day. We all laughed when Sherry came in and I pointed out, “She’s the wife. I’m the girl friend.”

Two weeks ago, I was just getting ready to leave the diner when the owner told me to sit back down. “Ron’s on his way in.”

I sat.

He came to tell me things were going well. He was doing well on the Chemo, things were shrinking. He was very optimistic.

I didn’t see him last week. But I sure thought about him a lot.

Today I got two calls. One from the diner. One from the library where I work. I missed both calls. The diner owner called back. Sherry was trying to locate me.

Ron died this morning.

As soon as I heard, I drove to their house. Sherry and I hugged and hugged and hugged.

I said, “I thought he was doing better.”

“He was,” she said, “But then he got the flu and his body just couldn’t take it.”

Before I left, Sherry thanked me for writing Ron’s obituary. I told her, “I don’t want to say it was my pleasure.”

I’ve talked to her several more times today on the phone. At the end of the last call she said, “Thanks for being Ron’s friend.”

I told her, “Sherry, I’m your friend, too.”

She knew, but she appreciated that I was Ron’s friend.

All I could say, “Sherry, that was my pleasure.”



I have been a member of a book discussion at my local library for a number of years. We meet on the third Tuesday of the month. The discussion meeting time is 7 o’clock. I get off work at 7 o’clock. I just move out of the work library a little faster to get to the local library across town in order to miss as little discussion as possible.
I started this month’s selection, Where’d you go, Bernadette, on Saturday. Husband was working. Son was working. It should have bee a good day to make a decent dent in the number of pages (about 325). I knew it was supposed to be funny and figured parsing it over the four days would keep the book fresh in my mind for discussion.
Well, Saturday, something interrupted reading time, but I still got a little more than 50 pages read.
Sunday, another “emergency” but I still got up to about 125 pages. Almost halfway.
Errands took a chunk out of Monday but I still got up to almost page 200. Fortunately, the book is that enticing to me and I am that invested in it.
Today, Tuesday, I had a doctor’s appointment and lunch with a friend afterwards. Still I got up to page 235.
I had 45 minutes between getting home and going to work. Got to page 260.
I went to work thinking, “Maybe I’ll just read Bernadette at work.” But I couldn’t – I wouldn’t let myself and I did actual library work. I got off at 7 p.m., the same time the Book Discussion is supposed to start with still having 60 pages to read.
“I still don’t know where the book’s going, how it’s going to end. I hope there isn’t a major spoiler that comes out during the discussion.”
I drove  directly to the library where at first I thought, “Wow, lots of people here.” then I noticed half of the parking lot had been resurfaced so that helped the illusion of lots of cars.
I walked into the library, looking to my right to see who’s in the community room and whether they’ve started the discussion but the door was closed and I could not see any light coming from under the door. It was then I refigured.
Tomorrow is my sister’s birthday. The fifteenth. “Wait! That’s the earliest date the third Tuesday book discussion could be – the fifteenth. I’m a week early!”
So instead of going to a discussion having not finished the book, I’ll be able to finish the book tonight.
I love those kind of surprises.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find out where Bernadette went.

A friend called this afternoon to ask me if I would drive her to the emergency room. I told her that I would be right there. I pulled into her drive, she got into the car and looked at me and said, “Did you bring something to read?”

I looked back at her and said, “Who do you think you’re asking?”
Then she laughed and said, “Of course you would.”
The book I’m reading is for my book discussion on Tuesday night. To her, I didn’t seem to be very far along (about 50 pages). I told her that I had read that last night before I went to sleep.
She was taken into the doctoring section while I found a quiet spot (without blaring TV) and read until I heard my name called. My friend wanted me in the room with her. She asked how much I had gotten read. I had better than doubled my count.
For the next 4-1/2 hours, my friend talked almost nonstop. I learned much about her life – stories about her late husband, her sister, our church, and people in the community I might have known. The only breaks were when she went to the restroom and when she had an x-ray taken.
It was decided she would spend the night in the hospital. Before she was taken up to her room for the night, she asked again, “How far are you now, Linda?”
I laughed and said “You’ve talked all afternoon! I haven’t been able to read much since I came back here!”
She laughed.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a tough decision to make – read my book or watch the Tony’s. (Thank goodness for commercials.)

Sometime in late 2008 or early 2009, I discovered a podcast called Books on the Nightstand. I subscribed and quickly became hooked by the discussion about books that the two hosts, Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness conducted.

The podcasts first episode was in March, 2008. Originally the podcasts were every two weeks, but, due to popular demand, by July, 2009 the podcast became a weekly must-hear-podcast.

Michael and Ann also promoted discussion on Good Reads where many BOTNS devotee left messages about books. An obvious comaraderie developed between the listeners and the hosts and amongst the listeners, too. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of us could meet somewhere.

In June, 2010, Ann and Michael, prodded by their audience, announced a book retreat in Manchester, Vermont for the following April. I was so grateful, then, that they announced 10 months ahead. I would have time to save the money.

I invited a local friend to accompany me. She too was thankful for the long notice.

On Thursday April 7, Ruth and I left our small town in a rental car (the punch line ended up being, “how many Ohio does it take to operate the windshield wipers in New York state?). We arrived after the festivities started in our Inn.

About 75 listeners, 9 authors, a number of publishing professionals and two nervous hosts took over the Inn at Manchester and two other bed and breakfasts for an experience that someone (not I) “Booktopia”.

The experience kept me emotionally high for months. Remembrances of books, new friends, the marvelous sheets at the Inn (rumors had circulated prior to the experience), the marvelous independent book store, for some that it was an outlet town, and the meals (oh, Frank’s pancakes!) almost kept us content until take two.

Another April, another Booktopia. But, also, two more opportunities, June in Oxford, Mississippi (and I thought I didn’t do heat) and then Santa Cruz, California last October (where the earth literally moved).

Each time, I met old friends (some had been the cyber variety), made new ones and hardly slept. I didn’t want to miss anything. A different friend accompanied me to Mississippi and now she has the Booktopia bug.

This week, she, Anne, and I are going to infect another friend, Deeann. The trip to Vermont starts Wednesday.

The Booktopians have been filling the Vermont Booktopia thread with comments about arrivals, the sheets at the Inn at Manchester, which author sessions they will be going to, the sheets, Frank’s cooking, the sheets, and how many of the books of the presenting authors have been read. Oh, yes, and the sheets!

My stomach ached earlier today. It truly brought a smile to my face as I remembered that every year for at least three years, I would end up in the doctor’s office just before school started because of a stomach ache. I would so excited (in a good way) about going to school I telegraphed my enthusiasm to my stomach. School is starting on Thursday.

I’ve been counting down, making Ann and Michael nervous, since day 10 by putting book covers on my Facebook page with the appropriate number of days to go in the title (yesterday’s was The Six Wives of Henry the VIII).  (And, Ann and Michael, I thought of it days before I started doing it, so I was very kind to you.)

Tonight, I also changed my Facebook photo to one that was taken last year in Vermont. I quickly received several comments from fellow Booktopians, so I shared my stomach story. I quickly received a reply from Dawn, who prescribed, “Read two books, and call us in the morning!”

How can I not love this whole experience!

Although I have many topics to write about, there is little time since this is the week of the Champaign County Library book sale, so I live the house before 8 a.m. and stop back to change clothes just before I’m due at work at 7 p.m. As of tonight, we have more books (almost 8,000) than we had at the comparable time six months ago when we ended up with 15,000 books. We should not hit that many this time since the library is not cleaning out its branch.

I do wonder about the course of books. Since I personally go through the majority of the books in the sale, I notice that some of the books are well traveled – better than I will ever be. It’s not uncommon to see books discarded by libraries in the region such as Springfield-Clark County, Dayton, Columbus, Greene County, and even my employer Urbana University library.

Seeing a book from the Toledo-Lucas County library, my native book source, piques my curiousity. “Who brought that down here?”

I’ve seen books from New York City, Maryland, Washington state, and California to name a few.

None of this paves the way for my question of the day, however.

Why is it called a “Book Sale”? We have, as previously noted, way more than one book. Why isn’t it a “Books Sale?”

Get back to me on that, will you please?

I’m up for air!

The past week or so I have been setting up for my (Champaign County Ohio) book sale. It is an exercise of love by a few volunteers, most Friends of the Library and a few volunteers (affectionately referred to as “lower case friends”) who are no less dedicated.

I have lost track of how many years I have headed this sale, but none of us have seen a sale like this one.

Much of how this sale goes is in my head. Not good unless I want to oversee this sale from beyond. At the urging of my friend and Friend Vice President, Amy B, I have started to write down sales rules. I also started keeping track of a few other things that I thought might be of interest. Specifically how many hours I put in prior to the actual sale week and the number of items in the sale. (Three weeks prior to the sale doled out in one-day-a-week dosage and 77 hours last week alone.)

For one of my early sales I put an advertisement on, a site to find library and other non-profit book sales. There was information I needed to give that I didn’t know, so I turned to the library staff liaison.

“How many books in the sale?”

I’m measurementally challenged so I didn’t question when he answered, “2500 books.”

Last Monday, the storage closet where books are accumulated for the sale, partially through library discards and partially from donations, was full. The library liaison, now the Library Director, was hiding donations from me because there was no place to put them in the closet and where he had to hide them was not easy access for anyone sure on her or his feet, let alone me. Still the closet had 7,000 books I had processed since the week after the fall book sale (we do this the first weekend in May and again the first weekend in October).

In addition to starting our set-up with almost three-times the quantity we’d thought was normal, we knew the branch was contributing to our sale. Their contribution ended up being about 2600 books or a normal, we thought, book sale.

By the time for preview sale at 5 p.m. on Thursday, we had over 15,000 books, 2600 VHS and almost 600 DVDs. We overflowed the meeting room and developed two annexes – one moving into the library area and the other dislodging the library employees from their parking spaces where we set up a tent-room of awnings. Since the weather was threatening during the course of our sale, we finagled sides with tarps.

We broke records in addition to the number of items in our sale. We now have more Friend of the Library members than ever and we brought in twice as much money as our previous high sale.

I could write and write and write about the miracles, ingenuity, mutual idiosyncrasies (are we all OCD?), and dedication of the volunteers that I worked with last week. Maybe later.

Possibly the funniest incident of the week concerned the collection of train magazines donated to our sale by a friend of mine, Sam who is married to Amy Z. The issues spanned from the 1940s to present.

I laughed out loud when I saw who was buying the train magazines – Amy Z’s ex-husband.

I knew all was friendly among those parties, so I asked, “Does Sam get visitation rights?”