Friday, April 30, 2010

Bouncing for books

I wish this was a story about trampolines.

A couple weeks ago, I was the guest speaker at a writing event for 3rd-12th graders. It was great. I even saw parents nodding along with my talk. One guy came up to me afterward (a grandpa) and said, "When you put that cup of water on the podium, I thought, 'Wow, we're in for a long one.' But you kept it short and sweet--and interesting!" Big smile from the dude, and no better compliment could I have received.

After the event, I got to sell my books (which is the subject for another post--reconsidering audience). Great, right? Last week I got a note from the bank, and one check had been returned. My bank account is now out $10, plus a $7 fee, and there's the $6.50 I paid for the book in the first place. $23.50 and a free book went to John and Brenda and their daughter (I'm guessing).

Someone said, "Well, call them and ask for your book back! Or the money!" What good would that do? What if these people have no jobs, but they bought their daughter a book for $10 because she wanted it? What gets me is this: did they *know* they had no money, but they did it anyway, for her? Or was it just a gap between paydays and something came up, and they thought they could float, but they couldn't?

I've thought about this situation a lot (not that it's my biz, but writers think about things). Honestly, I am happy to give them a book and pay $23.50 for it. Maybe they really, really, needed one. Maybe they knew how happy it would make their child.

I could be wrong: John and Brenda may be complete scam artists, though none of the families at this event struck me that way. Moms and dads and everyone else were there to honor their kids, beginning writers who were proud of themselves, and the families were proud, too. I can chip in for that.

Friday, April 23, 2010

the smallest freaking random world you can imagine

When you're from Nebraska, you expect "small world" stories all the time. There's one degree of separation between people--two, max--but sometimes the degree is so close and unexpected that it knocks you out.

This morning I called my hometown to do some business for my dad, and the woman I talked to was nobody I knew--DUN DUN DUNNNN--or so I thought! I still don't know her, but it turns out she was a student of and mentored by the real Elsie Yvonne Callahan, Morgan's grandma in SKY. My actual grandma, the music teacher/piano virtuoso, who taught an hour west of my hometown before she retired.

This woman said the kindest, sweetest things about Elsie, and what an amazing gift for a Friday morning. And SO random and cool. A convo about clown cars? Or migrating snakes? More expected than this conversation.

Then, the person who answers my next phone call is a woman I babysat for when I was 11, and haven't talked to since then, who asked me kind questions about my family.

There is no place like Nebraska. I love it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Loving on the haters 4: Gunn High School

Gunn High School in Palo Alto CA had some serious tragedies: student suicides. People jumped in front of trains. And who showed up to help them in their grief, and to protest the fact that they're a diverse, inclusive school? Westboro Baptist Church, of course, since they are uber-supportive of people in times of tragedy. Margie Phelps (daughter of Fred) brought ugly signs and lots of hate, of course.

And what did the Gunn High School kids do? They sang, and protested back with LOVE. Can you imagine? The same thing happened when WBC moved on to picket at Stanford, at their temple. People just loved them instead of hating back.

I admire the hell out of this. If you can love on Fred Phelps and his crowd, well, you are a love ninja. Or a buddha. Maybe even Gandhi. So, your job for today: love on the most difficult person you can find. Enjoy Fred Phelps' "fag-loving country", filled with lovers and haters.

Old news again, I know--it happened in March. But it's worth mentioning. Photo not of the incident--it just has great examples of their signs.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Loving on the lovers 3: libraries!

Friends! This is National Library Week! And who is on the banner from the American Library Association for National Library Week? Neil Gaiman, my literary crush (who, when I saw him last September, had bedhead and frayed cuffs on his jeans, won't you be mine, Neil?, but I digress).

What is cooler than a library? Not much, in my opinion. I vividly remember my library in Central Nowhere, and the crabby Mrs. George who wouldn't let me read in the adult section (I may have been 12) until one of cool librarians did, and then I was stuck in Stephen King. When we were little, my brother and I lost tons of library books in our book closet. The moment I knew I had arrived as an author: when I found out the Hennepin County Library System (in the Twin Cities, for you non-Minnesotans), had purchased 10 copies of my book. My brain: "holy SHIT, I'm in a library! That book is real!"

Helpful folks, there in the library, helpful with research and/or recommendations. Lots of lively tomes. Lots of peace and quiet and happy patrons. I actually live down the alley from a tiny library, and I don't go there much. My vow is to re-up in my dedication. Have they asked me to speak there? No. Have I volunteered? Twice. However, I will still patronize them for their cushy chairs and their quiet.

Love your library this week, friends. A lot! BTW, the second photo is the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland (school founded in *1592!*). Look close--that's two stories of beauty and books. I got to go last year, and could have stayed for a year. Photo taken by Candida Hofer.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Loving on the lovers 2: Mormons on bikes

The other day when I was driving to school, I saw guys like the ones in the photo, Mormons out trying to spread their Word. But they weren't doing that. They were jumping their bikes off curbs, laughing, and being totally joyous. Decidedly un-Mormon-ish, far as I could tell. Spring will do that to people.

In general, I try not to speak about religions, because I don't care to offend people any more than is necessary. I honestly don't know if Mormons as a faith are loving. Not my job to speculate. But these guys were loving life, and that's OK with me.

I admire, on some level, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses (did you know Prince may or may not be a Jehovah's Witness? I used to have a JW student who knew him, and she referred to him as "Brother Nelson," his birth name is Prince Rogers Nelson, wouldn't you just DIE if he showed up on your door? I'd listen to that Jehovah's Witness for hours, provided I could get him off track from Jehovah and maybe get him to sing "Sexy MF" or something). They are dedicated humans, and they walk their talk. I appreciate that. The same could be said for Fred Phelps, of course. But he spreads hate and separation.

Go jump your bike off a curb. Spread the love.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Loving on the lovers 1: Bernice Ellis

After my rant yesterday, I decided to shape up my act. And really, that rant was mild. Monday night I scared my class when I ranted about haters (or asshats, as I unkindly called them). Last night I hated on abusive Catholic priests for a while, and made myself cry.

But no more! For the rest of the month, here on the blog: loving on the lovers. You may want to tune out if cheerfulness is not your thang.

Today's love situation: Bernice Ellis (91 years of coolness, BTW), local bowling wizard, who's been bowling since 1939 and rolled a 187 at ONE of her leagues last week. And she's blind. Her teammates have to tell her what pins she's hit. Full story here.

I couldn't roll a 187 with gutter bumpers, so Bernice, you have my utmost admiration.

Tune in soon for another appreciation moment! It's cheese wiener, I know. But I like it. And I don't feel angry.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hating on the haters

It is so tempting to hate on haters. But if I do that, does it make me any different than them? Probably not. So today is about awareness instead.

First, the folks in Mississippi faked out Constance and her date. Man oh man, this rises to a new level of unkindness--these are grownups punking a teenager. All for a woman in a tux and her girlfriend.

Second, today is a day to remember Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old boy who took his life because he was bullied about being gay. See that picture up there? That kid could play on my son's football team. And he thought his only option in the world was to kill himself. Because he was GAY. And people didn't stand up for him.

When I hear these kinds of things, I want to yell obscenities at everyone and tear out people's hair. Hate makes me feel hopeless. Instead, I try to focus on things like this quote from Constance from an article in THE ADVOCATE:

"Two students with learning difficulties were among the seven people at the country club event, McMillen recalls. 'They had the time of their lives,' McMillen says. "That's the one good thing that come out of this, [these kids] didn't have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom].'"

I am going to take a cue from Constance and see the good. I can't quite find it in Carl's story yet, but I will try. Today, when I go home and show my own 11-year-old this story, maybe he'll support a gay kid someday and stop the bullying. Maybe the circle will expand.

But oh, it's hard not to hate the haters.