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Kindness Is Free

Ordinarily at this time of year I throw a fit about Thanksgiving Day shopping. It probably won’t come as an overwhelming surprise to you that I’m not a fan–it takes all my concentration to deal with the concept of Black Friday (I’m down with the sales, but think 4:00 AM is too early to be doing anything and people getting into fistfights over a television is exactly what’s wrong with the world today), but starting the Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving Day itself is just beyond the pale. It is one day–one day–when the idea is to spend time with people you love, expressing gratitude for the things you already have. And apparently that’s too much somehow; apparently being grateful is just a thing to check off the list on our way to our next bout of relentless consumer frenzy.

I digress.

I usually throw a fit around this time of year about the whole Thanksgiving Day Shopstravaganza, encouraging people to opt out and stay home and remember that 10% off towels is no excuse for taking people away from their own families to come open a cash register for you. And every year I get howled down by the legions of dedicated Turkey Day Shoppers–interesting how this phenomenon has only been happening for a few years, and already there are people who cannot bear the thought of going without the opportunity to carb-load then grab a shopping cart–so this year I’m giving up. I surrender. Behold my white flag.

Instead I’ll say just this: if you’re going to shop on Thanksgiving Day (the advice applies to Black Friday shoppers, too), please be unbelievably kind.

Not like “say thank you to the cashier” kindness, or “minimize the number of people you kick in the face over a Lego set” kindness. No, we’re talking about “go out of your way to be the nicest person in the history of niceness”-level behavior here. Be so kind that you become a legend among the store employees who interact with you. Be so incredibly, spectacularly, overwhelmingly, relentlessly, unfailingly kind that everyone around you gets a little kinder just by association.

Here’s the thing:

A frequent argument for Why It Is Our Civic Duty to Shop on a Federal Holiday is that some store workers are getting paid overtime for working that day, so they sign up voluntarily to work for the extra pay. Even overlooking the fact that it’s a little sad that we live in a first-world nation where there are still people struggling so hard that they will surrender holiday time with their families for a few extra bucks, there’s also the fact that many companies have a rule that for every X employees who are working, there must be Y number of management on-site as well. There must be Z number of janitorial staff, or maintenance crew, etc. There must be W number of folks at the customer service desk, or the customer support call center. I can guarantee you with 99.999% certainty that not all of them are there voluntarily–somewhere in that chain is a person who is only there because corporate policy requires it and their choices are either to show up or to lose their job right in the middle of the holiday season. So since you have, in your undeniable need to save 30% on linens, forced someone to give up time with their family so you can come pick out new pillowcases, then the absolute least you can do is be supremely pleasant.

And in addition to the employees you’ll meet, the fact that you exist in the world and are out and about means that emergency personnel must be on duty. Someone has to be there to resuscitate your slap-happy self when you get all loopy on your DEALS DEALS DEALS and wrap your car around a parking meter. Someone has to hose down the toy aisle when you find the PERFECT GIFT OMG NOW THEY WILL FINALLY LOVE ME and spontaneously combust in the middle of the Barbie section. Someone has to come break it up when you get into a full-tilt West Side Story-style rumble in the parking lot over who gets the space closest to the door. So since all of those people also have to be away from their families to come save you from yourself, the absolute least you can do is be conscientious of that and behave accordingly.

And remember, we’re not just talking about throwing people the barest crumb of human politeness here. We’re not going to stop at doing the obligatory mumbled “thank you” or “happy whateverdays”. No, we’re going out of our dang minds with graciousness.

For example:

You can park at the whee lordy end of the parking lot and hike. It’s good for your health, and completely eliminates the parking lot rage aspect of your day; plus it lets someone else get a really good spot, which means they’re in a slightly better mood going in.

You can wipe down the sink in the restroom after you wash your hands. You don’t have to steal a bottle of Lysol from housewares and scrub the place down, but we all know how irritating it can be to have no place to set your purse because the counters all look like they’ve just emerged from the bottom of the sea. Take two seconds and give ’em a little dry-off.

You can try generally to avoid your phone, or at least get off your calls as quickly as possible; sure you may need to check a size or something, and we get that, but be done by the time you hit the cash register and for the love of all that’s holy, don’t be the person wandering aimlessly down the middles of the aisles, chatting away about their personal medical history while inexplicably cart-blocking every single thing anyone else in the store could possibly want.

You can observe the people around you, and take little opportunities to do things to make their lives easier. Move your cart if it’s between them and the toy they’re eyeing. Pick up the mitten their toddler gleefully threw down. Offer to let the guy carrying a 10-lb sack of potatoes at Target cut ahead of you in line–he’s probably on a WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T GET POTATOES YOU SOLVE IT OR I WILL MURDER YOU RIGHT NOW mission, and your cart full of stocking stuffers can wait.

Be kind, is what I’m saying, and then be a little kinder. Start being holiday festive now–if you can start your holiday shopping now, you can also start your holiday cheer. Be so full of peace on earth and goodwill to all that it makes people around you stand a little taller. Be the person who is so ludicrously kind and sweet that you leave a trail of kindness behind you wherever you go.

Be the loving, gracious, glorious you that I know you can be, gang. I’d prefer that you not shop at all on Thanksgiving Day, but if you absolutely must, please be so amazing that the stores you visit send you a thank-you note and a personal invitation to come back and shop again next year.

You’re amazing and we both know it; now get out there and show it. Kindness is free, gang. Go fling it around like you’re in a little one-person shopping parade.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

Have a Seat at My Table

First a little background information: I used to work in childcare. Specifically, I was the lead teacher in an after-school classroom; my kids ranged from kindergarten to 12 years old, so while they were generally past the “how to function at a survival level” stage (how to eat, use the restroom etc), they were firmly in the middle of the “how to be human” stage. You remember what elementary school was like: half dumping in facts and data, the other half figuring out how to interact without too much bloodshed.

As a result, most of the disciplinary incidents could be resolved with a brief rules reminder or a bit of clarification–“walking feet, please”, or “we keep the cars on the carpet so people walking past don’t trip. Please take that one back onto the rug”. But every once in a while someone would have a super-rough day and need a break; you could call it “time out” if you want, but really the goal was something less punitive and more just removing the kiddo from the situation until they could cool off. The table nearest my supplies cupboard worked best for that–it was farthest from everything else in the room–so when someone was Hulking out, they were instructed to go “have a seat at my table” until I could clean up the calamity, stop any bleeding, console anyone left weeping, and come see what had set off the shenanigans.

Now here’s why I told you all that: yesterday some truly awful things happened in Paris. You’ve probably heard about them, and folks around the world are responding admirably and beautifully. But as with any truly awful thing, there are also some staggeringly insensitive responses coming from people who should absolutely know better (can you pick your own words to form a sentence? Then you can pick better ones and make better sentences. Try again, jerkfaces).

And initially, this post was going to be a full Buffalo Tantrum about that. I was going to scream and holler about people making racist statements, refusing to fact-check, lumping together groups of people who are literally on exact opposite sides of the problem, and so forth; and my rallying cry was going to be “All of you may have a seat at my table”.

But then I stopped and listened to those words: all of you may have a seat at my table.

And it occurred to me that I was about >this< close to committing the same sins I was railing against–lumping people together, refusing to hear where other people were coming from, declaring that any viewpoint other than my own was automatically wrong–when the truth of the matter is that I actually don’t understand what’s causing folks to say some of these things. At a guess there’s no small amount of fear at the bottom of it; but I don’t know backstories, don’t know histories, don’t know whether they (for example) lost someone on 9/11 and are now deeply scarred and reactionary about these sorts of things.

But perhaps if we have a seat at my table and talk about it, we can sort some of it out. We can brainstorm different solutions. We can look for similarities among the differences. We can pass the cookies and juice, and figure out why we’re using such angry words and whether there’s a better way to express the things we truly need.

Look, I’m not saying all responses are appropriate to share right out there in front of god and everybody. I’m not saying there aren’t people floating around who are just plain racist, just plain hateful, just plain malicious, just plain trolls. But I am saying it’s unfair of me to assume that everyone who has expressed an opinion that made me grate my teeth is automatically a bad person.

So maybe I should invite them to have a seat at my table. Maybe I should be willing to dialogue with people instead of dismissing them out-of-hand because of something they said during a frightened moment. Maybe I can insist on a model where my table is for cooling off and talking, not for sending people to sit in time-out until I’m tired of being mad at them.

And for the folks who have a seat at my table, and we talk, and I find out that they’re the sort of vitriolic hate-mongering fear-mongering jerks who will never be part of the solution?

Well, I guess they can go back to playing with the other kids, and I can keep on watching ’em like a hawk and praying that their grownups will come pick them up soon.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

Nothing Much But Love

So there’s this guy I know, and today is his birthday, and it occurs to me that something should be said about him. But all the things I want to say have already been said; so I apologize in advance if this seems a little copy/paste-y, but y’know, when someone else already found the right words, sometimes it’s best just to shut up and let them steer the ship.

So this guy.

They say that you can tell the quality of a man by the company he keeps, and I reckon that’s true. So what do you say about a guy whose friends include social workers, musicians, poets, playwrights, costumers, service personnel (both active-duty and retired military, police, fire, and EMS), parents (whose children include biological kids, adopted kids, fur kids, step-kids, and kids who aren’t even technically in their lives anymore but they still check in on ’em from time to time), sign language interpreters, doctors, healers, domestic violence survivor advocates, suicide prevention hotline volunteers, and–fer cryin’ out loud–people who foster puppies?

They say a man’s character is revealed by how he treats those less fortunate, or those who have nothing to offer him in return. So what conclusions might you draw about a guy who, with a group of friends, adopts a needy family every year at Christmas and then completely loses his mind and all self-restraint when shopping for their presents? Or who also sponsors a Back-to-School Buddy each year, providing new clothes and shoes and school supplies and so many “fun extras” that it usually takes a half-dozen bags just to bring in all the stuff he tossed in the cart? And who does “just because” food deliveries for a widow a couple towns over, and donation drives for the local pantry, and takes cases of cat food to the local pet shelter, and chips in whenever possible for families who need a little cash boost to get through a tough time? He offered to buy a gal a house, y’all; to be fair, the idea is that it’ll be a duplex and we’ll live in the other half of it, but still. A house.

They say dogs can spot the good people a mile away, so you should trust a dog’s judgement. Behold:

*swoon*

*swoon*

They say you can tell a lot about a guy by how he treats animals in general:

The kitten booped him on the nose, so of course he adopted her.

The kitten booped him on the nose, so of course he adopted her.

They say you can tell a lot about a guy by how he does with kids:

We're not going to talk about how old the baby in this picture is now. *cries*

We’re not going to talk about how old the baby in this picture is now. *cries*

They say the good ones help their neighbors:

The fact that this particular neighbor lives 45 minutes away is't anyone's fault.

The fact that this particular neighbor lives 45 minutes away is’t anyone’s fault.

I guess a good way to sum up this guy is by quoting a friend of his, who said that “he’s the Higgs particle of human awesomeness – he not only has awesome in and of himself, he makes us all more awesome by his presence” (love ya, R. Hope you don’t mind my outright theft just there). This guy builds people up. He believes in them even when they don’t believe in themselves. He is kind and gracious and generous and funny and smart and sweet and sure, sometimes he’s thoughtless or forgetful or sticks his foot all the way in his mouth, but when that happens he apologizes and makes sure it doesn’t happen again. He is impeccable with his word, honest and clear, says the things that needs saying and lets the little things pass. He works hard to see everyone’s side even when he can only understand them academically, and he goes out of his way to make other people’s lives better.

Also he's dead sexy. Which doesn't say much about his character, but still. YUM.

Also he’s dead sexy. Which doesn’t say much about his character, but still. YUM.

Basically, he’s the sort of guy you can’t help but love…and the fact that I get to love him every day makes me officially the luckiest woman I know. Which is totally bragging, and I’m not even a little bit sorry.

So happy birthday, Moon Man. I flatly refuse to imagine life without you, and I am so, so honored to be married to such an incredible human being. Thank you, on behalf of all of us who know you, for being you. I–we–love you more each day.

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Not My Croissants

Ok, I have to confess something here, and I’ll totally, totally understand if you come after me with pitchforks for it: I’ve been holding out on you guys. I have been selfish and un-sharing, and I’ll turn in my Commie ring if I need to. I get it. Mea culpa.

See, there’s this blogger whom I ran across a while back. And by “ran across” I mean “with whom I survived Introduction to Practical Self-Loathing and Applied Fat-Shaming 101, aka high school gym class”, and by “a while back” I mean “approximately 1994”. We’ve drifted through each other’s orbits every so often since then, and since I’d recently decided that what I needed to do was take up bellydance (this is also a thing that drifts through my orbit every so often, so don’t start marking your calendars for my grand dance debut anytime soon or anything like that) and I was given to understand that she had also done bellydance and perhaps would have some Helpful Resources for People Looking to Shimmy Their Jiggly Bits, I did a bit o’ googlin’. And found her bellydance videos (she’s got two of ’em! SCORE), but also found her vlogs.

Which I have been watching for like the last three days straight.

And not telling you about, until now.

/hangs head in shame, sends self to corner forever

But here’s the thing, y’all: I found this video of hers today, and … well, look, just watch it, ok?

/blinkblink

/notices hand is numb, looks at it, realizes it’s been raised to Jeebux for the last 5 minutes

/notices tongue is dry, realizes jaw has been hanging open for the last 3 minutes

For those of you who couldn’t watch it right now for whatever reason, here’s the jist: Krista was eating her breakfast and noticed her husband’s savings-club-sized box of croissants on the table. Without really paying much attention, she opened it and started eating from it…then realized that these were her husband’s  croissants. They weren’t her croissants–she didn’t pick them out–and she didn’t even particularly want one. But they were there, so she was absentmindedly eating them, because that’s what you do when there’s a Tasty Foodstuff(TM) right there in front of you. And it hit her that she was participating unconsciously in someone else’s habit–that she was letting her day’s diet include a choice someone else had made–and that maybe she didn’t need to do that. Maybe she could just, y’know, not eat her husband’s croissants.

/goes fully Shug Avery walkin’ to her Daddy’s church and singin’ “Maybe God Is Trying to Tell You Something”

Here’s the thing, y’all: how many times (lord, lord) have I eaten someone else’s croissants? How many times have I let someone else’s choices become part of my day without it ever occurring to me that I had full control over whether I wanted to be part of them? How many times (glory, hallelujah) have I let old versions of my own self determine what I would do today (you better preach, sister)?!

I get antsy sitting at stoplights, because I used to have a car that in its final days would just, y’know, up and die sometimes. Particularly at stoplights. And since my then-fiance had failed to pay the bills for several months, taken all the money I’d given him for said bills and spent it on god knows what, then run off with a 19-year-old voice major, I couldn’t afford to do anything about it. Eventually the car completely died for real, and we sent it off for scrap and I was on foot until I could (with my parents’ assistance) get another cheap beater lined up. Stoplights made me nervous because if the car died there, there wasn’t a dang thing I could do except push it to the side of the road and pray that it started again. But now my husband has a good job, and I have a good job, and we both got raises within the last 6 months and have roadside assistance and reliable vehicles. If the car dies at a stoplight, we can afford to get help. But somehow I’m still antsy about them because I useta couldn’t afford to fix the car 10 years ago? A decade later and I’m still eating the same old croissant?

My father was a smoker. There were always cigarettes in our house. When I became an adult, I started smoking, because smoking was a thing adults did. To be fair, there’s an element of addiction here…but at the core, 18 years later I am still smoking my father’s cigarettes (fewer now than before–I’m babystepping to being nicotine-free). 18 years of eating the same smoky croissant? Really??

Doctors scare the bejeezus out of me–not because of the sticky-poky-pinchy part, but because of the judgey-shamey-belittling part. I got the Your Problems Would Go Away If You Just Lost the Weight lecture when I was being seen for a broken finger. I got the “you are clearly exaggerating for the sake of drama” response when I was underreporting how spectacularly bad my menstrual cycles could be. I threw my back out once, saw a chiropractor, then got a lecture from a General Practitioner about how chiropractic is straight-up quackery and how if I wasn’t going to make my situation better (read: lose the weight immediately, preferably via bariatric surgery) the least I could do is stop making it worse. So I have tended to avoid doctors, because I don’t need to hear again how I’m a horrible person…but I’m not a horrible person. I’m a mighty fine person, and my body is just my body, and if the doctors I’ve seen historically have had epic fat-hatred issues, that’s pretty much their own damn croissant to eat.

So y’know, it occurs to me that maybe I can do something about this. Maybe I can just, y’know, not eat somebody else’s croissants anymore. Maybe I can sit at the stoplight or go see a doctor or leave the cigarettes at the gas station and say “actually, those are somebody else’s croissants, and it is not my place to eat them”. I can say “I don’t even really feel like eating a croissant right now, thanks”. I can say “I am full and do not need this croissant”.

I can just not eat other people’s croissants.

Holy cow. I can not eat other people’s croissants.

Krista Kubie, you’re a genius and I love you. And to those of you who are just finding out about her for the first time, I am so, so sorry. You can pelt me with croissants later if you need to. And I can choose not to eat a single one.

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Will You Go

I need to tell you about this friend of ours.

The first time I met him–or I suppose I should say “the first time I remember meeting him”, because there was a period there where I met a lot of people in very rapid succession and tend to jumble things up a bit–he was sitting in the corner of Star’s living room with a guitar.

(Side story: I went to Nerd Camp–not its official name–during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. The year I attended it was held on a college campus in the middle of nowhere, and the first several people I met were variations on the Cheerful/Perky/Chipper/Future Greek Pledge theme…and at that point I was firmly into my grunge-angst-meets-hippie-DamnTheMan period, so I felt pretty out of place. So I went on a walk, and ran into another attendee–a long-haired guy who looked like Jesus, wearing an ankle-length crushed velvet skirt, sitting under a tree and playing the guitar. We became fast friends and are friends to this day, some 20 years later. I have good luck with Guys With Guitars.)

…So this guy was in the corner of Star’s living room with a guitar. I was there because Star was throwing a party, and while I now look back on Star Parties with a great deal of nostalgia and fondness, at the time they were a source of full frontal terror: everyone there knew each other, most of them having been friends for periods ranging into the decades, and I was the new kid. The new, socially awkward kid. The new, socially awkward kid who doesn’t like to be in situations where she doesn’t know most of the people (but they sure do know each other), in a new place, in a new city that was about 10 times bigger than her comfort zone really allows for and apparently populated by drivers who believe it’s Thunderdome all day every day around here, who gets overwhelmed pretty easily by a) large groups, b) new places, c) loud situations, d) heavy traffic (did I mention Star lived right off one of the main roads?), and e) being the odd man out. Whee!

So this guy was in the corner of Star’s living room with a guitar, and because I was about ten seconds from shutting down completely and maybe going to the bathroom to cry for a little while but because I knew from experience that Guys With Guitars are usually safe places for me, I went and sat down. And Moon Man came and joined me, and someone called for a tune, and somehow or another (there’s a certain amount of grey, Overwhelmed Just Existing Please Don’t Ask Me Anything time in here) the guy with the guitar ended up playing “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” from Sesame Street. Doing a passable Ernie impression to boot, I should note. And I sat there and listened and within about two bars had sunk beneath the surface of the music and shut out everything and was mouthing the words and holding back tears and holding Moon Man’s hand and the only things in the world that existed were the sound of the music and the pressure of Moon’s hand and suddenly, easily, everything was ok. There was a Guy With a Guitar and a voice that resonated at exactly the right frequency to open the peaceful places–carefully, oh so carefully guarded–in my heart, and everything was ok.

Eventually we became friends with this guy and his family, and we get together sometimes to do social things or we go see him perform. And while he’s not exactly playing Shea Stadium–he’s more in the “coffeeshops and occasional private parties” circuit, including playing at our wedding because he’s also a damn good sport about driving 45 miles to Topeka for a tiny private ceremony on the day after Thanksgiving–his music always, always takes me to that place where everything is ok. Even when everything is most decidedly not ok–I went to see him once a couple of weeks after Dad died, and those two hours were the first time in 14-ish days that I believed that I might actually be able to get through this. I played his CD for Little Bit, my feline best friend of 16+ years, while Bit was dying–it calmed him down, and calmed me down, and didn’t change the fact that I was holding my little buddy while he died, but it made it possible to believe that things might be ok again later.

And y’know, it’s just this thing this guy does. He just, like, plays the guitar. And sings some things. He also makes clothes and builds decks and does something complicated with computers and fixes dinner and raises children and, I dunno, tells inappropriate jokes sometimes and grumbles about the price of things. He’s just a guy with a guitar, doing what Guys With Guitars do.

But as it happens, he was the guy with the guitar in the place where I was at exactly the time I needed a Guy With a Guitar. And he’s been that for me more than once, which makes me a little extra glad we both happened to agree to go to that Star Party in the first place.

And here’s the thing, y’all: being a guy with a guitar is just part of his day. If he’s going somewhere, he takes his guitar with him just in case there’s some music that needs playin’. And it occurs to me that a lot of us have That Thing We Do–we have words, or we have music, or we have interpretive dance or underwater basket weaving or being a kung fu master or being a rocket scientist, that Thing We Are Made Of that we do just because it’s in our soul to do it–and I think that sometimes the most important thing we can do is to do that Thing. Even if we’re not making money at it, even if it’s not our main occupation, even if we never get more than a few hundred hits on our blog post or a slightly overfilled coffeeshop for an audience.

Because you never know when someone in the room is going to be in desperate need of a Guy With a Guitar…and if she’s there, and you could fill that need, why the hell would you leave the guitar at home?

Love ya, brotherman.

Love ya, brotherman.

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Resolute

Confession: I am not so big on the New Year’s Resolution.

It’s a–well, I’m gonna go with “charming and utterly lovable quirk”–of my personality that I start strong but am a little shaky on the finish. I get super-ramped about a new project, then come back three months later to put its component parts in a box (this is why I’m a huge fan of things I can tackle in less than an hour). I concoct complicated and minutely planned schemes for That Next Amazing Thing I’m Going to Do, then the fun wears off by the end of the plan and the actual doing never quite materializes.

I write a blog, then let it sit for three months (ahem).

I leave the last load of laundry in the dryer. When Moon Man strangles me for that, it’ll be totally justifiable.

So every December 31st, I think about things I should Really Truly For Realsies This Time Do in the Coming Year: I should focus on losing weight, eating healthy, doing for-the-love-of-god any exercise at all; I should take up a new skill/hobby/academic pursuit; I should decide what I want to be when I grow up; I should spend more quality time with the dustrag. I should teach the dogs to do some actual tricks beyond “lie there” and “be a lump” and “beg for whatever I’m cooking at the moment”. I should teach the cats some manners. Heck, I should teach myself some manners (/eyes the pile of as-yet-unwritten thank-you notes from Christmas).

And this year it’s no different: it’s December 31st, and here I am brainstorming the things I should Really Fo’ Shizzles Get Around to Doing. But we all know the punchline to this joke, so I’m executively deciding to skip the What To Do step and going straight to the How To Do It:

ALL things. 100% of the things.

ALL things. 100% of the things.

Look, y’all, I can’t even begin to pretend to predict what I’m going to get around to doing this year. I’ve got some plans on the table–we’re fixin’ to head to Alaska to watch my friend start the Iditarod, for instance–and I’ve kinda-sorta set some things in motion, like having lost nearly 40 pounds so far. But who knows? Maybe we’ll win the lottery this year and Plan A (sell the house, find something we love more) will turn into Plan B (…on our own private island). Maybe something catastrophic will happen (Zombiepocalypse) that makes both Plans A and B a little obsolete. Maybe we’ll just keep on keepin’ on, like we always do, with dust on the shelves and a whole lot of good intent in our hearts.

But the one thing I am absolutely planning on, beyond all others, is doing everything I do with love. Everything. Literally every thing.

One of the best compliments I ever received was from a friend who came to visit; we hadn’t seen each other in a while, and he came in, looked around, and said “this place feels like a home“. So I’ll start there: I will do all things inside this house with love. I will dust (when I actually get around to that) with the intent that it’s nice for guests to be able to come visit without sneezing, and it’s a loving gesture to make one’s home welcoming to guests. I will cook food that nourishes the body and soul, and make sure there’s always enough for an extra person should one drop by (if no one comes, there’s leftovers for hubby’s lunch the next day). I will try to keep things tidy enough that people feel comfortable coming in, kicking off their shoes without fear of stepping in anything unsettling, grabbing a beverage from the kitchen without having to wash a cup first, and settling in on the sofa without having to move anything that’s not independently sentient (what can I say, the cats do love playing “I was here first; you go sit over there”).

I will wash clothes not because it’s a Chore That Needs Doing, but because Moon Man doesn’t always hear me when I tell him he’s attractive–but we all have those outfits that make us feel a little extra swagger-y, like we know we’re dang cute, and I can help his confidence by making sure those outfits are clean and ready to wear on a day when he needs a boost. And that he doesn’t have to think about underpants before coffee.

When I leave the house, I will choose a parking space that leaves something close open for someone who needs it more. I will take a cart from the corral outside, so the attendant has one less cart to chase down and drag inside. I will return the cart to the store instead of the corral when possible, and I will continue my habit of sorting the carts inside the corral (when I’m President of the World, people who put the little short carts in with the full-size carts so they don’t stack right anymore will be summarily executed). I will buy a little something extra to toss into the food bank donation bin. I will use my turn signal. I will not text and drive.

I will go out of my way to tell people that I love them, I appreciate them, and I am glad that they’re in my life. I will do the little things that make them smile, just because it’s nice to make people smile. When I pay bills I will congratulate myself on helping the folks who work at the various utilities keep their jobs, rather than grumbling about the price of cable these days. I will sometimes take cookies to the fire department.

And I will direct this love inward, as well. I will speak to myself in the same way I would speak to someone else. I will not work to lose weight because I’m somehow unacceptable the way I am, but because I’m an awesome human being who deserves to have a long life full of adventures, and I’m building a body that supports that in the same way that a person who wants to be a soapbox derby racer builds a soapbox derby car. I will congratulate myself on learning from my mistakes when I inevitably make them. I will celebrate my victories.

Basically, I am committing to spending 2015 increasing the amount of love in the world by exactly one person. It’s all I can ever be asked to do–I can’t control anyone else–so it’s what I’ll do. And I’ll do that, even that, with love.

Happy New Year, ‘Tracters. I love you, and wish you the best, brightest, laughing-est, great-story-building-est, succeeding-at-what-matters-most-to-you-est, singing-and-swinging-and-getting-merry-like-Christmas-est, loving-est year yet.

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That’s How We Roll

Ahh, Kansas. One of these days we’ll stop doing the little things that make us look bad to all the neighbors, and I’ll be so shocked I’ll have to sit down for a spell.

But that day is not today. Well, not a week or so ago, anyway; because it was about a week ago when the story came out that Leawood, one of the towns in the Kansas City metro area, was making a resident take down their Little Free Library. For the record, the little free Leawood librarian is nine years old.

/sigh

A little free library, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, is basically the “have a penny, leave a penny, need a penny, take a penny” of books–they’re boxes, built to withstand weather, usually shaped like adorable wee houses, and inside are free books. Want one? Come get it. Got some books you’re not reading anymore? Leave ’em inside, and the magical library fairies will pick them up and add them to the rotation. There’s a certain amount of work and upkeep involved–culling books that nobody ever takes home, keeping new and interesting titles coming out fairly regularly so people don’t give up on ever finding anything they want there, making sure the box itself stays sound, etc–so it’s a labor of love for folks who want to run one, but the word on the street is that it’s a hoot and a half, because you end up getting to connect people with free books and have wonderful book chats with your neighbors.

There are plans out there for building your own, but you can also buy premade Little Free Libraries through the organization's site. How adorable is this one?

There are plans out there for building your own, but you can also buy premade Little Free Libraries through the organization’s site. How adorable is this one?

Leawood’s argument against the kiddo who’s trying to run one is that these charming little boxes are prohibited by city regulation, as they’re free-standing structures unattached to the house–and those are banned, because they’re eyesores that bring down property values.

Please scroll back up, look again at the picture of the adorable blue bookhouse, and tell me how that’s an eyesore that brings down property values. /eyeroll

So you had to know that all of this was going to kick my Damn-the-Man/Hulk-Smash/Ain’t-Nobody-Got-Time-For-That self into overdrive. I mean, c’mon. It’s books.

So I looked into the bylaws of our own Homeowners Association (I have strong thoughts about even having an HOA, let alone what their bylaws say, but that’s a topic for another time), thinking that perhaps I should set up a nice solidarity Little Free Library in my own yard, and lo and behold–we also are prohibited from having any free-standing structures. Especially storage structures–they make a huge point out of that bit–so I’m guessing this won’t fly here either.

So, y’know, I did a bit of table-flipping and tantrum-throwing and generally making myself a nuisance to our critters, who were just trying to nap. And over the weekend we went to visit my BFF, and I vented about the whole ridiculous thing to her for a bit.

And as I was talking with her–about how perhaps I could still set up a Little Free Library and just, y’know, move it every day, bring it inside at night, put it in a different spot on the lawn every afternoon, etc–I stumbled upon what I’m reasonably sure is one of the smartest ideas I’ve ever had.

Are you ready for this? Hold onto your hat.

We talked a couple years ago about how Moon Man and I had started going to a nearby beach (by which I mean “lake”–we don’t so much have “beaches” here in the middle of the continent). This quickly became our Official Sunday Afternoon Activity, and as you probably know, these sorts of outings tend to come with a pretty good pile of accessories, towels and blankets and coolers and books and sunscreen and such. And since the parking area for our favorite beach is a good quarter-mile away from the beach itself, we soon grew weary of hauling everything via straps and handles and backpacks and things. I mean, c’mon, this is supposed to be relaxing.

So we went and got ourselves a wagon.

This wagon.

This wagon.

I bet you see where this is headed.

It occurred to me, as I was talking with BFF, that free-standing unattached storage structures are prohibited in our subdivision…but ain’t nobody got any problems with wagons. Besides, if I’m ever going to go on a dogsledding adventure (more on that another time–it’s been a while since we talked, so we’ll have some catching-up to do), I really do need to start getting into shape. Training for it, if you will. By, oh, I dunno, walking.

Around the neighborhood.

With, say, a wagon.

Full of books.

/grin

So there we have it: the birth of the idea of the Little Free Bookmobile. I still need to go through my bookshelves and pick out the first round of inventory, and I should really see if anyone I know can make me a nifty sign for it (I feel like a hand-lettered posterboard sign simply will not do for this endeavor); but once that’s done, Operation Circumvent Your Ridiculous Bylaws can commence.

I mean, really, I reckon somebody has to do something to balance out Kansas’s shenanigans, and this time it may as well be me. Watch for me, then come on out and borrow a book–or bring some of yours to drop off! If I’m on the big hill at the end of the neighborhood, the break will be especially welcome.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Share the Toys, The Bibliophilic Buffalo