Dear Bookstore Friends,

Gayle Shanks I've been thinking about how fragile life is and how we often don't have a clue about what tomorrow might bring—both the good and the bad. We can wake up to soft rain, open the windows and smell the desert as I did earlier this week, or we can suffer severe chest pains and end up having open-heart surgery as one of my fellow booksellers did a few weeks ago. Fortunately he is recovering, but didn't expect in his 40s to be debilitated, unable to lift his beautiful three-year-old daughter, or be forced to temporarily close his store in San Diego while his wife (who's also his bookstore partner) helps care for him. The good news in this story is that fellow booksellers from the southern California area pitched in, ran his store, kept it open, recommended books to his customers, rang the register. I only wish I could have spent a few days working there, too. If any of you readers want to help with medical bills for an amazing indie bookseller, there is a GoFundMe campaign you can send a few bucks to.

The Empy Bowl So, how do we spend our precious days not knowing what tomorrow will bring, is my question. Attached to our devices? Exercising to keep our bodies moving and pain-free? Drinking enough water? Watching children play in the park with such abandon that we can hardly remember those feelings any longer? Tidying up our living spaces and consuming less? Working to make the world safer for children and immigrants? Feeding the homeless at a shelter or attending the Empty Bowls soup kitchen, a fundraiser that feeds the hungry all year long? Putting solar panels on our homes to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and helping with global warming issues? Connecting with our neighbors? Making time for the friends who enrich our lives with their presence—really knowing who we are, sharing deeply their joys and sorrows, adding immeasurably to our days? Reading books that open up new worlds to us, lessen our daily stress, comfort us, humor us?

We have choices. Friends of mine have been feeding and housing families who have come across the border seeking refuge in the United States. These people have 'sponsors' but need to reach them now that they have crossed the border. A church in our community collects food, clothing, backpacks, and arranges for people to feed them a warm meal, provide a shower, a clean bed for the night, friendship, and a drive to the bus or airport. If you'd like to help fund any of these efforts, you can use this link. The name of the church is not revealed as, sadly, they receive too many threats.
Our Tempe councilwoman, Lauren Kuby, had a rescue dog named Sadie who, as the mascot for NextGen Arizona, helped register hundreds of youth voters. Sadie also encouraged thousands of students waiting to vote on Election Day to stay the course. She was a member of the resistance.

Read Better Be Better Two of my wonderful employees work tirelessly for Read Better, Be Better, an organization that is targeted towards breaking the cycles of poverty and social injustice through a curriculum of good reading and good thinking skills. Books and learning hold the key to doing well in grades 4 and above, where students must start reading on their own to learn. It is at this critical juncture that the poor readers turn away from school, or earn barely passing grades until they drop out. Literacy holds the key, and studies show that third grade is the precise moment to change their trajectory. If by chance you haven't donated your state tax credit for Qualifying Charitable Organizations and want to help local children at the same time, this would be a great time to help RBBB.

So many choices; so little time; so much time. I've committed to staying off my phone for the first hour of my day and turning it completely off when I'm with friends and family and when I'm reading. At least two hours every day are spent curled up with a book, more if I can manage it. I enjoy working in my desert-landscaped front and back yards, pulling over a thousand weeds in the past month (but who's counting?). By cutting my schedule back at Changing Hands each week, others on staff are moving deftly into the space I've opened up. I am planning to travel to see friends and family regularly, drink more water, eat healthy food, exercise, and meditate every morning.

Please come visit us and tell us what fills your days and what else you might like them filled with. As Mary Oliver asked so brilliantly in her poem, The Summer Day:

Questions or comments? Email Gayle at