Watauga Festival of the Book

The Friends of the Library unanimously voted to give the book festival the green light!  Wahoo!  Before I go any further, if you are not familiar with the Friends of the Library, then you need to be.   Friends’ groups across the country are made up of volunteers who provide financial support through fundraising activities for their libraries.  This is done through a variety of community oriented events that help to raise awareness of available library services.  Funding from the Friends’ go to many special programs like adult literacy, job search support, book clubs, children’s programs, book purchases, and all kinds of activities and resources that libraries with shrinking budgets need help with.

Your membership with your local Friends of the Library organization is a very small donation with very big rewards.  In Watauga County, individual membership can be as little as $5.00.  Members receive the newsletter, which keeps them up to date on Friends’ sponsored activities at the library and they get into the big annual book sale first for a Friends’ Only Evening.  The book sale has been our biggest fundraising event, up until now.  The Watauga Festival of the Book is about to surpass that!

As Book Sale Coordinator and now, Book Festival Chair, I have my work cut out for me.  But, I cannot think of a more worthy cause nor can I think of a more perfect place.  Watauga County is located in the northwestern corner of North Carolina in the Blue Ridge mountains.   With cool summers, the High Country is known for a myriad of outdoor activities from kayaking and tubing to hiking the Appalachian Trail, fly fishing, and enjoying local music and arts festivals.  We have many part-time residents who enjoy our temperate weather.  In the winter, the population swells to include snow skiers and over 17,000 students who attend Appalachian State University, one of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges.

The Watauga Festival of the Book will be held in the county’s resort town of Blowing Rock a quaint village immortalized in  Jan Karon’s Mitford series.   It is a perfect location for a book festival with its litte park, specialty shops, restaurants, and scenic long-range views of the mountains

So, now that you know the background information, go to my book festival blog at  http.//festivalofthebook.worpress.com and stay tuned for the finer details of the book festival and mark your calendars for a trip to the beautiful High Country area of Watauga County North Carolina for the first weekend in August 2012!


Why Austria? Part I

Our upcoming trip to Italy and Austria has provoked some puzzlement from friends.  Everyone can relate to going to Italy.  Sunshine, pizza, Roman antiquities, wine, the Pope, olive oil, and of course, George Clooney lives there.    But, Austria?  It isn’t even ski season. 

If driving through the Alps, eating pastries, and cool architecture isn’t enough, and it is for me, there is also a more personal if somewhat morbid purpose.   On July 26, 1944 my uncle Richard Luebke was killed in Austria.  Of course, it was during wartime and he was a B-17 pilot, and there were plenty of other young men who did not return but throughout my youth I felt the loss of this particular soldier even though it happen over a decade before I was born.

Dick & Grandpa

My mother was only 10 when her brother died.  She had two older brothers, both enlisted in the military.  When I look at photos of my uncle Dick I can see that he was the most outgoing of the brothers.  He was a good looking fellow and in his uniform he was quite the dashing officer.    From February until spring of 1944 he flew  with 457th Bomb Group out of Glatton, England. 

I don’t know why, but I suspect that he volunteered to go to Italy.  The 15th Air Force had suffered numerous losses in the Italian campaign and were in dire need of experienced airmen to shore up crews made up of new recruits. 

The 301st Bomb Group had been active throughout the North African campaign but now based in Lucera, Italy they were in a great location for bombing runs that would take them up to the industrial areas in Austria, Germany, and to the oil refineries of Ploesti, Romania.

When the army notified my grandparents that the plane had gone down they told them that some of the crew had parachuted to safety and that it was a good likelihood that the remaining crew members were now POWs.  When the war in Europe ended and German records were checked his name did not show up.  The returning POWs waited to get fattened up at Camp Lucky Strike.  But, Dick wasn’t among them. 

There are letters to my grandmother which refer to her mounting frustration but still nothing.  The plane went down in a part of Austria that was under Soviet control for several years after the war.  In 1950 and 1951 investigators searched and found remains from other planes but not my uncle’s.   With no formal resting place the Army put his name on the wall of the missing at the National Cemetery in Florence, Italy.  My grandparents had a plaque placed at the National Cemetery at Ft. Snelling in Minnesota, where they are now buried.

Several years ago the Bookseller and I went to Italy and paid a visit to the cemetery in Florence.  Like all military cemeteries the white marble crosses stand in sharp contrast to the green grass and the deep blue sky.  I stood in front of the wall and looked out over the rows of crosses and up to the hills and the olive trees.  I thought about my mother and my grandmother.  How my grandmother rarely talked about Uncle Dick and how my mom refused to watch the movie, Memphis Belle.

A  wall in Florence and plaque in Minnesota doesn’t bring much solace.  My mother, my other uncle, and my grandparents have all passed on and maybe, if there are answers beyond the grave, they finally know the truth.  But, for me, that day in Florence sent me on a quest.


Most of us remember getting the chicken pox when we were kids.  I remember it for two reasons, first being that the obnoxious boy with the round shaved head, who reminded me of Charlie Brown, had a Halloween Party.  Most of our First Grade class was in attendance and we all got sick.  The second reason I remember it was because my younger brother and sister also got chicken pox and my mother always said that this was why my brother was quick to potty-train.  In those days kids wore cloth diapers and a wet diaper on poxed buttocks were no picnic.

Fast forward forty or so years and come to find out that the nasty virus from a First Grade Halloween Party has been lurking like a bad horror movie in my nerve cells.  The virus escapes from his cozy little nerve cell and travels down nerve axons bursting out as a viral infection of the skin in the region of the nerve.  This infection looks and feels a lot like those itchy pustules that you were not supposed to scratch when you had chicken pox.  In this situation, it isn’t just a rash.  We are talking about blisters that run along the branch-like ganglia of your nerves causing the most excruciating pain you can imagine.  Think root canal with no anesthetic.

In my case, all of this action is on the left side of my face.  The nerves affected include my gums, my jaw, my left nasal cavity, my cheek, my forehead, and deep within my left ear.  It took me about a week to realize that what looked like a cold sore couldn’t possible have multiplied and migrated up my cheek.  Nor, did I think it could ever hurt so much.  Two days before we left for a trip to France my Dermatologist diagnosed it as shingles and prescribed the  Aciclovir, which is used to treat shingles wicked cousin herpes.

Almost immediately I began to see an improvement and went on my merry way with no clue that this drama would come back to haunt me.  PHN or postherpetic neuralgia is thought to be nerve damage caused by the virus. The damage causes nerves in the affected area begin to send abnormal electrical signals to the brain. These signals may convey intense  pain and may persist or recur for months, years or (and here, I quote Wikipedia) “until death.”

For me all it takes my fragile nerves is a gust of wind, my hair on my face, or bright sunlight to set those ganglia all a tingle.   That I have learned to deal with.  It is the recurring bouts of pain on the left side of my face that make me want to track down that round headed boy from the First Grade and extract some sort of comparable retribution. 

Not really understanding the consequences of shingles and never even being aware of PHN, I have done a lot of research.  Chickenpox vaccinations have only been administered since the late 1990’s and there are no records yet on whether or not this lessens the risk of the virus laying dormant in the body.  For those of us who had Chickenpox as children there is a vaccine to prevent shingles.  We don’t hear about it at age 50 because it is more common in people over the age of 60.  Unless you know someone who has had shingles you don’t have a clue.  Now you do.

“There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away.”

Yesterday I went to a seminar for non-profits on “sustainability.”  The theme being a sharing of resources.  I am on the board of the Friends of the Library and, more recently, the Library’s Endowment Board.  Supporting what I believe is a worthy cause until I find myself  in a ballroom with enthusiastic  do-gooders who are tending orphans and caring for flood victims.  One gentleman asked me if I found it difficult to raise money for an agency that receives county funding.  In other words, “why should I give money to the library when I already pay my taxes?”

This sounds like a reasonably good question but in an age when libraries are being closed due to lack of local government funding, volunteer organized fund-raising becomes essential.   Of course, I realize that  it is ridiculous to compare my “worthy charity” with the daily vocation of someone who is working with abused women but there is something fundamentally visceral about libraries that most people “get.”

As I stood to introduce myself I made the distinction in a nutshell when I said, “ I don’t feed the poor the poor but I bet you that everyone in this room has used the library.”   What would it be like if this resource went away? 

Being as our library has a good-sized conference room that is available free-of –charge to any group, this struck home with this particular audience .   At one time or another, most people, particularly if they are working or volunteering in the non-profit world, have been to a meeting or heard a speaker in the library conference room.   

In these days of purse-tightening and austerity , libraries have become an alternative source for things we used to think nothing of paying for.  Not just the latest best sellers but movies, music, and audio books.  My library offers career counseling, tax assistance, literacy tutoring, genealogical research, the children’s department publishes a literary youth magazine, there are arts and crafts classes, small business counseling, a program that takes books to children who cannot get to the library, holiday events, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.   

Libraries can no longer be thought of as that building with all those long dark dusty shelves guarded by a prim spinster who scolds you for bringing in overdue books or  shushes the slightest giggle.   Walk into any  library today and you will see how dynamic and even rowdy a place it can be!

 The Friends of the Library provides much-needed funding for a lot of activities that enrich the lives of the community.   For children the library becomes a place where the world begins.  From the Baby Lap Time reading to playing learning games on the computer, the library can often be a place of refuge for kids.  I urge you to become a member of your local Friends group and to give generously.

Pours When it Rains

The Bookseller is always looking for projects.  With a 100 plus year old house they are not too hard to find.  As I mentioned in my prior post, we recently added a small bathroom to our book barn.  We are now in the process of adding a full bath to what we fondly call, The Little House.

The Little House was actually a chicken coop on the hill behind the barn and overlooking the house.  Although why you would want poultry living above the height of your roof line escapes me.  The former owners converted it into an art studio with a covered porch. 

Just past the book barn and up the hill to the Little House

 We added the all the stone that you see.  To the right of the Little House is a hot tub on a stone patio with table and chairs.  This is one of the Bookseller’s favorite spots!

The main of the Little House has some exercise equipment, a TV, and  a small couch.

There is a rather large separate room with windows that we used for storage and that is to be our newest bath room.  This is a project of tremendous proportions.   The Bookseller has the electric and the plumbing done.  We have put insulation in and put wall board up.  This weekend we were going to put the wall board up on the ceiling and then we had a torrential rain storm.

Don’t ask ME why the ceiling leaks.  The Bookseller has been up on the roof numerous times and even had some guys come out and replace all the nails with screws.  Hopefully, the roofing guy who has promised to come out on Sunday morning will know immediately what is wrong.  Or, we shall need to put a new roof on.  This is going to be one expensive bathroom!  Personally, I think we should chuck the exercise equipment and put in a pool table and a bar.

So, I am off the hook this weekend with putting up sheet rock on the ceiling of the Little House bathroom.  It is going to be hot so that means no yard work.  Guess we will just have to go shopping!

Bookseller Rests

Working Weekend

The Bookseller worked very hard this weekend to catch up on orders.  He also added a collection of Civil War books that we are still trying to find space for on the shelves.   When we can we like to have books on display so that people can see their jackets but that gets difficult when we have so many books. 

People ask me all the time if we have a real book store and I have to laugh because yes, by all appearances this is a real book store!   Of course, you cannot just walk in off the street, you have to drive about six miles out of town and then come up the ramp onto the deck that we built that runs the length of the front of the barn.  Once inside most of our customers just stop and stare.  “Oh,” they exclaim as they take in all the book shelves and the long glass antique display case that is to their immediate left.   This is usually followed by a low sigh, especially from the husband, as he notices that sprinkled among the books are military prints, swords, helmets, pistols, medals, and an assortment of other miliaria collectables.

The Bookseller will give the customer a little tour, orienting them to where the different subjects are.  Most customers are a little overwhelmed and unable to take it all in.   A lot of times the wives will soon find themselves browsing through the titles and unable to

Book Barn

resist  buying something too.  I must admit, that makes me smile because you can tell that they never expected to find something for themselves in a military bookstore.  But, we also have a lot of antiquarian books, genealogical titles, first modern fiction, and history.

Our book store may be in the loft of an old tobacco barn but the Bookseller had the high slanted ceiling sheet rocked, put in three ceiling fans, and lots of little halogen track lights that are always burning out.  We have carpet, heating and cooling, a television, stereo, a mini-fridge, and a nice little leather sofa to relax on.  When it rains it is nice and cozy because you can hear the water on the tin roof. 

Downstairs is my domain, the book packing area.  We are very lucky to have a great delivery guys who leave everything on the counter for me.  Paul, the postman, even picks up all the packages every morning once I get them ready to mail.  This spring we added a new feature to the book packing area – a half bath!   This is indeed a luxury and I think we did a pretty nice job even adding a huge framed print of the Eiffel Tower and fancy silver fixtures.  The Bookseller doesn’t just add a bathroom, he also puts in a glass shelf, a framed mirror, scented candle, towels, little rug, and Kiwi scented soap! 

So, yes we do have a REAL BOOK STORE and it even has a REAL BATHROOM!

Display Case

The Bookseller

I have spent a couple of days thinking about this blog and realize that , as the Bookseller’s Wife, I should really be writing about the Bookseller, shouldn’t I?  After all, I have come to realize that he has a very unique relationship with his customers.  This was brought home to me yesterday by the arrival of a beautiful bouquet of flowers sent by a customer who recently bought a genealogy book.  It wasn’t even a very expensive book but it meant something to the recipient.  And, that is what books are all about.

We have customers all over the world and many of them have been buying books for years.  We have customers who call and if I answer they are polite but it is obvious that they don’t just want to order a book, they want to talk to the Bookseller. 

Without our customers we wouldn’t have a business but when you buy a book from the Bookseller you are buying a book from a real person.  No matter how many books you buy or how much money you spend we treat every customer the same and wrap every book with the same care.  I know the Bookseller is fortunate to have found something that he loves doing.  A lot of folks think it is because he is a big reader but I will tell you a secret, he rarely has time to read.  

Nope, it is the authors, the publishers, and the customers that he talks to or emails every day (even when we are on vacation) that makes Clayton the Bookseller that he is.

Admiring his flowers, the Bookseller takes a break