Columns

Dangerous creatures, Marie Kondo and books

Author Lisa Kleypas famously wrote, “A well-read woman is a dangerous creature.”

If that’s true then there were at least a dozen dangerous creatures at Lilac City Law on Friday night. No, we weren’t seeking legal representation. Our only crime was loving books maybe a little too much.

I blame Marie Kondo. My friend Sarah, fell under the organizing guru’s sway and launched an epic tidy-up, de-clutter spree.

I’m all for jettisoning clothes no longer worn, dated household decor and duplicates of kitchen items. As a newlywed, I was given a piece of advice that has served me well while rearing four sons in a cramped house. My friend told me to follow the “something in, something out” rule. Buy a new blouse? Get rid of an old one. Your kid gets a new toy? Donate one he no longer plays with.

While it’s kept our clutter at a minimum I draw the line at books.

There’s no way the “something in, something out” rule could ever apply to books. Why, choosing which volumes to jettison would be like choosing which kid you no longer love. It seems positively immoral.

It’s not even that I buy a lot of books. I don’t. I’m a devoted library groupie and every month I check out a new stack of books. But sometimes I fall in love with a novel and I simply must possess it, so I can read it again.

And as an author, I’m a huge believer in supporting other local authors. I love to line my bookshelves with titles by Inland Northwest authors. Every book purchase says, “Good job! I believe in you! Write another one!”

Of course, friends and family know I’m a bibliophile, and delight in feeding my addiction on my birthday, or Christmas, or sometimes just because they spot something they think I’d enjoy.

I don’t keep every book I buy or that’s given to me. If it’s by an author I didn’t enjoy or something I don’t want to read again, I stick it in the “donate” bag in my closet. But to be honest, few books make it to the bag.

Then Sarah started Kondo-sizing her library by posting photos of her books on Facebook and offering them free to a good home.

Such a great idea! It took the guesswork out of trying to figure out which friends would like which book, it was more personal than a thrift store drop, plus she got to experience the joy of re-homing a volume with someone she knows.

Then her friend Randi Johnson saw the posts and offered to expand the idea to a wider audience by hosting a book swap at her downtown law office and the Well-Read Women Book Swap was born.

The idea was simple. Bring in whatever books you’re willing to part with and maybe discover some you’d like to take home. Whatever books were left would be donated to the Friends of Spokane Public Library.

Friday night we gathered at Lilac City Law. Randi provided light snacks, wine and soda, and well-read women met, mingled and browsed the book table set up in a conference room.

A delightful variety of novels, nonfiction, children’s books, bestsellers and old-favorites spilled across the table.

Though I promised myself I wouldn’t bring anything home, I spotted “The Magpie Murders” by Anthony Horowitz. It’s been on my to-read list since it came out. I had to have it.

Then I picked up “George and Lizzie” a novel by librarian/author Nancy Pearl, who just happens to be coming to Spokane to appear with local author Sharma Shields at the Bing Crosby Theater on March 13.

Finally, I saw “The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath.” I discovered Plath my freshman year of college and her dark, brooding, confessional poetry perfectly resonated with the dark, brooding persona I was trying on at the time.

Sarah, noting the Plath collection in my hand, asked, “Does that spark joy?”

One of Kondo’s most well-known tenets is “The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.”

I held the book and remembered my earnest 19-year-old self.

“Yes” I said. “Yes, it does.”

The inaugural “Well-Read Women Book Swap” turned out to be a fabulous event – one I hope dangerous creatures all over the city will replicate.

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War Bonds

She found love in the right place

When Janet Hegdahl, 16, found out her family was moving from Portland to Spokane in the fall of 1955, she didn’t jump for joy.

“I’d just gotten a job at the library,” she recalled.

She’d also discovered boys.

“I was really interested in boys, a little too interested,” Janet said. “I was looking for boyfriends in all the wrong places.”

Her unhappiness about the move melted away the first Sunday her family attended Trinity United Presbyterian Church. That’s when she saw Jack Arkills singing in the choir and thought church just might be the right place to meet a guy.

Jack noticed her as well and made a beeline for her as soon as the service ended. He was the youth director and Sunday School superintendent, and he wanted to invite her to the youth meeting that evening.

“The Italians have what they call a thunderbolt,” Jack said. “It’s when you see someone, and it’s instant recognition.”

He smiled at Janet.

“It was instant for me,” he said.

She felt the same way.

They both attended Lewis and Clark High School and saw each other between classes and after school. On one of their first dates, they saw the movie “High Society,” and when Bing Crosby crooned “True Love” to Grace Kelly, it became their song.

From their Riverview Retirement Community apartment in Spokane, Jack sang, “I give to you and you give to me, true love, true love …”

Jack already had a connection to Bing Crosby – he’d caddied for Crosby at Indian Canyon in the late ’40s.

“Bing was a big tipper,” he recalled.

In May 1957, Jack dashed into the downtown library where Janet was working. It was the day of the Armed Forces Torchlight Parade, and he was scheduled to march with his National Guard unit.

It was also Janet’s 18th birthday.

“I had a ring in my pocket,” Jack said.

He proposed.

She said yes.

And off he ran to march in the parade.

Jack had graduated from high school and was working for the Great Northern Railroad.

“I wanted to go to Whitworth and be a minister, but pretty soon I was making more than my friends who were teachers,” he said.

Janet had received a scholarship to Eastern Washington University, so they married March 21, 1958, during spring break.

She sewed her tea-length lace wedding gown, and they said their wedding was the last one held at Trinity United Presbyterian, which soon closed its doors.

They settled in an apartment in Browne’s Addition, and almost a year after their wedding, their son, Chris, was born.

“We had a 2-week-old on our first anniversary,” Janet said, smiling.

Thirteen months later, son Scott arrived and Janet’s college education was put on hold.

Daughter, Amy, completed the family in 1962, and they settled into a house in the Garland District.

The family made First Presbyterian their church and it quickly became the center of their lives. Janet became the church librarian, a position she still holds, 55 years later, and Jack joined the choir, and yes, he still sings in it.

Their lives took a drastic turn in 1966 when Jack was severely injured in a train derailment. He was on top of the train to tie a handbrake and got knocked off during the derailment.

“I landed on my back on the track,” he said.

He broke his arm and had six fractures in his sacrum. For two long weeks, he had no sensation in his legs.

“They said I’d never walk again.”

Janet, 25, didn’t know how to drive, but a neighbor taught her during her frequent trips to the hospital.

With three children, a mortgage and her husband’s recuperation uncertain, Janet returned to work at Spokane Public Library. She ended up working at all three Shadle branch locations, as well as the Indian Trail branch.

“I’ve always been addicted to reading and to studying,” she said.

Indeed. She started night school, picking up a class here and there, until 25 years after she began her college career, she graduated from EWU.

Meanwhile, Jack was able to return to work on the railroad. Not only was he able to walk, he started to run. And run. And run some more. Eventually, he ran five marathons.

The family moved to the South Hill in 1979, and when the kids flew the nest, Jack and Janet built their dream house – a passive solar home on Moran Prairie.

In 1987, Jack was diagnosed with polymyostis, a rare inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness. He retired from the railroad in 1991, though the disease eventually went into remission.

He’s always been the head cook in the family.

Janet laughed.

“I’d put something on and go off and read and wouldn’t you know it? It burned,” she said.

She retired from the library in 2004. Her career spanned the years from handwritten check out cards, to bar codes. From card catalogs to digital catalogs, and she relished every minute.

For many years, the couple have been members of Friendship Force International, a nonprofit organization and hospitality service with the mission of improving intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy, and intercultural competence via homestays.

The Arkills have traveled across the globe, including stops in Australia, France, Germany and Tasmania.

“We love to travel,” Janet said. “We’re both extroverts, so we love to host people here, too.”

Jack survived a bout of esophageal cancer, and 14 years ago they moved to Riverview, where they continue to be active and involved.

Janet marvels that the move to Spokane which she so despaired of, ended up giving her the love of her life, and she sees the hand of the Divine at work.

“The Lord led us together and He’s kept us together,” she said.

Looking at Jack, she smiled.

“We’re best friends.”

As for Jack, the thunderbolt that hit him more than 60 years ago, hasn’t worn off.

“So many couples say they fall out of love,” he said. “I don’t get it. I guess I never fell out of love.”

Columns

I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can

Lately, I seem to be in the groove. I even mosh-pitted!
Boogie on, friends 😉

My feet are tired. Lately, I’ve been dancing as fast as I can.

In early October, friends Craig Heimbigner and Karyn Christner offered us tickets to see Arrival From Sweden, an Abba tribute band.

The music of Abba dominated my middle school years. The fact that their songs still get continued radio play shows the staying power of classics like “Dancing Queen” and “Take a Chance on Me.” In fact, I’ll wager you’re humming those songs as you read.

The Broadway musical “Mama Mia” and the movie that followed means new generations have been exposed to the music of the Swedish band that broke up in 1982.

That multi-generational impact was visible on October 7, as I scanned the crowd packed into the Coeur d’ Alene Resort. Rows and rows of gray-haired folks sipped their drinks as we waited for the show to begin.

“Oh my goodness,” I whispered to my husband. “Do they know this is a rock concert?”

He stared at me.

“This is not a rock concert,” he informed me. “This is a pop concert or a disco concert, but is absolutely, positively, definitely not a rock concert.”

Whatever.

Then I did some mental math, not my strong suit I admit, and figured those gray-haired folks were probably around for the heyday of rock-n-roll and could certainly handle the raucous strains of “Knowing Me Knowing You.”

As the band worked its way through the Abba oeuvre, dancing broke out across the room– most notably in front of the stage, the area cleared for such moves.

“I’m going to the mosh pit,” I hollered at Derek as the crowd swept me away.

“That is not a mosh pit!” he yelled.

I don’t care what my husband or the features editor of this newspaper say, I most definitely mosh-pitted that night.

By the time the band concluded with “Dancing Queen” we were packed together tighter than an unopened roll of Life Savors. I had a great time, even though I didn’t feel “young and sweet, only 17,” the next morning.

Thankfully my dancing shoes got a break before the Spokane Public Library Trivia Championship on October 19. That’s when Linn Parish, deputy editor at Spokane Journal of Business, and I resumed our roles as dancing scorekeepers for the event.

I must point out that when Sarah Bain, director of development for the Spokane Public Library Foundation, asked me to do this for the inaugural competition; there was no dancing in the description of scorekeeping duties.

Believing no journalist should do math alone, I convinced Linn to share the scorekeeping stage with me. Our responsibilities involved making hash marks on a white board and knowing how to count to 10. The dancing came about because Sarah instructed us to make scorekeeping “not boring.”

Making math “fun” and “exciting” can be hard on your dancing shoes.

This year, Sarah lobbied hard for costume changes and feather boas. Linn and I declined to stoop to such silliness, and shimmied and shook our way featherless to the final round.

In the end, The Spokesman Review team triumphed, proving beyond all doubt that journalistic knowledge remains trivial.

My toes got a bit of a break before a concert billed as “Hot Rockin’ Blues” at the Bing on October 22.

When Derek saw the opening act was Peter Rivera, he snapped up tickets for the whole family. We are huge Peter Rivera fans and the headliner, Paul Nelson, was the longtime guitarist and friend of legendary blues musician Johnny Winter. We love blues and Johnny Winter, so we eagerly anticipated this concert.

As always, Rivera didn’t disappoint. The 72-year-old former Rare Earth singer/percussionist was in rare form. His energy, showmanship and skills had us on our feet. Well, Derek and me anyway. Our sons are not fond of dancing with their parents in public. Go figure.

I wish I could say the Paul Nelson Band followed Rivera’s dynamic lead, but they didn’t. The group may have been rockin’ but they were not hot, nor did they play blues. Unless you consider a rather horrific version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” blues music. While some of the crowd stayed up front to dance, many people voted with their feet by leaving the venue after a few songs.

So, October has boogied on by and I’ve returned my dancing shoes to their box on the top of my closet shelf. When I complained about the lack of winter grooving opportunities to a friend, she said, “Well, there’s always ice dancing.”

My heart leapt. I’ve always wanted to wear one of those glittery costumes and glide across the ice! I mean, I’ve never actually ice skated on purpose or anything, but suddenly winter seems to sparkle with possibilities.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

War Bonds

Authors, libraries and books– what a great combination!

I’m delighted to be partnering with Spokane Public Libraries this summer for a trio of War Bonds events.

Auntie’s Bookstore will be on hand to sell copies.

Really looking forward to this opportunity to engage with readers!

Here’s a snippet from the Library’s newsletter:

Peggy and Harold Smart celebrate two anniversaries– the day they married and The Fourth of July. They met in high school and though Harold was an older man, he thought he’d have a chance with the beautiful Peggy. “I am 39 days her senior,” he confided.

—Cindy Hval, from her book, War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation, Chapter 22, “Peg O’ My Heart”

Cindy Hval – War Bonds
July 18, 4 pm at Shadle
July 28, 6 pm at South Hill

August 7, 5 PM at Downtown

More information here.