Wednesday, December 16, 2009

the end of an era

Tonight marks the end of an era in my life. After nine years as a Barnes & Noble bookseller (seasonal during college, then full-time, then part-time), tonight I'll work my final shift. And after 18 years of operation in Wheaton's Town Square shopping center, my B&N store will close its doors for good on December 31st. Sniff.

Though I look forward to having my Wednesday nights back (especially now that I have a husband to go home to) I'm sad to see my store close, and there are many things I will miss about working there. I'll miss chatting with Anne, my favorite manager. I'll miss swapping "crazy customer" stories with Rick, my regular shift co-worker, who in his free time translates the absurdities of retail bookselling into really well-drawn cartoons starring a voluptuous, sarcastic llama with a killer collection of high heels and a host of other animal characters. I'll miss seeing all the new releases come out. I'll miss recommending my favorite books to customers, and having them return to tell me later how much they enjoyed the titles I'd recommended. I think I'll even miss exercising my spatial reasoning skills for merchandising displays. And, of course, I'll miss my paycheck and employee discount.

There are also some things I won't miss. I won't miss shelving. I won't miss picking up after customers who leave huge stacks of books or magazines lying about, or their empty Starbucks cup on the shelf. I won't miss parents who think their darling children do not require supervision. I won't miss the occasional prank caller, out to test my composure and professionalism. I won't miss impatient customers with unreasonable last-minute requests.

And so, Barnes & Noble, here I come for my last shift. We've had a good run.

UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune ran an article on the store's closing. Did you know that Charles Barnes and his son William (who partnered with G. Clifford Noble) were from Wheaton? They were. Which is why B&N's CEO chose Wheaton as the location for the first store in Illinois. BTW: Ignore what the reporter says about the Oakbrook store (yes, the location on Rt 83 closed, but only because they opened a megastore attached to the mall across the street).

Ode to Clementines

Just when winter's winds and ice
Have bid my heart abandon hope
That warmth would come,
     bright and sweet
I spy upon the grocery floor
A stack of cartons, piled high
They're back! I cry with pure delight
My heart feels cheer return
For those little orange orbs of
     citrus fruit
Are happiness with a peel

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas in Chicago: A Pictorial Review

There's a group of six women (five plus me) from my very first small group at Harvest, 7 years ago, who are very dear to me. Among us there's quite a diversity of personalities and interests (and ages, even), but somehow our friendship works, and thrives, and when I gather together with these women I know I will laugh harder than I have in quite a while.

For several years now we've done a "holiday hang" - a time when the 6 of us get together to enjoy a quintessentially Christmas activity and each other's company. For the past several years, a white elephant gift exchange has also been a highlight of the hang. This year, we began at the Bean in Chicago (1), then went to Russian Tea Time for tea and a scrumptious array of savory and sweet treats (2). From there we walked to the Christkindlmarket in Daly Plaza, where we enjoyed the sights and sounds of the festive multicultural outdoor marketplace (3-7). From there we went to Macy's to see the storybook window displays (8), and then back to my place, where we enjoyed a hot cider-chai infusion and carried out our gift exchange (9 - yes, that's a genuine Snuggie) with much laughter and mirth.

Here's a pictorial review of the day's festivities:



Monday, December 07, 2009

Christmas, Christmastime is here...

The Christmas season is here, and I am loving having a husband to share it with. I still marvel at the fact that we're a family, though it's just the two of us. I've been signing some thank you cards, "From our family to yours..." and still get a little thrill every time.

While we were in Michigan for Thanksgiving, Travis and I made a trip to Hobby Lobby for some of the foundational elements of family traditions; namely, stockings (made ever more exciting by the fact that we actually have a mantle from which to hang them). To the uninitiated, like Travis, Hobby Lobby during any holiday season can be rather overwhelming. We took it one aisle at a time, having the most fun in the stocking aisle where we each chose the stocking that best suited us, out of the probably 100 or so styles available, and a coordinating hook for each. We also picked out a nice tree skirt. On a subsequent shopping trip-turned shopping spree at Hobby Lobby on the way home from work one day last week I picked up some gold-themed ornaments for our tree along with various frames and pieces of artwork for general wall decor. On Saturday Travis and I had a great time decorating together. With each blank white wall we adorn our apartment feels more homey and lived in. We put up a big Christmas tree in the living room and hung ornaments from Brutus' antlers in the den. I'm hoping that by the end of the week the ribbon lights and bow I ordered online will come so that we can finish decorating the tree. Once most of the elements are in place I hope to "invite you over" by posting a few pics of the finished decor.

On Friday night Travis and I experienced the festivities associated with Forest Park's Holiday Walk and Festival of Windows (for which a number of stores along Madison Street feature live window displays, some of which we found amusing, a few slightly creepy). Saturday evening after our day of decorating we headed downtown to stroll through the Christkindlmarket in Chicago's Daly Plaza, a seasonal favorite of mine ever since I first visited a few years ago. I'm happily headed back there this coming Sunday as part of an annual "holiday hang" with one of my groups of friends. I'll have to remember to take my camera this next time and snap some shots of the HUGE Christmas tree and colorful vendor booths.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Doe, a Deer

Travis and I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Michigan with his family. Last year, the day after Thanksgiving, I went "hunting" with Travis, which resulted in our engagement. This year, the day after Thanksgiving, Travis went hunting with his Uncle Craig, which resulted in this: