…And Not, When I Came to Die, Discover That I Had Not Lived

Good afternoon, hooligans! Today’s post is going to be another Audience Participation one, and I’m going to need you to grab a few supplies so you can play along. So I’m going to go refill my coffee cup, and while I’m gone, please gather the following:

1. A notepad and pen/pencil/marker/crayon/fancy quill/etc

2. A spray bottle with plain water inside

/pours coffee, adds cream

/stirs

/sips

…Are we all back now? Yes? Good.

At the top of your piece of paper, let’s start by copying down the following quote:

Come Alive

Now beneath that, we’re going to make a list. Here’s what goes in it:

  • Your favorite hobbies, activities, etc. The things you do “just for fun”
  • Those moments in your life when you were having so much fun you felt like you were getting away with something–the moments people describe in books as “So-and-so thought she must surely be dreaming, and pinched herself”
  • Things you could get paid to do, but which you would be just as happy doing for free (think “dream job”, think “volunteer efforts”, think “if they stopped paying me, I’d still keep showing up anyway”)
  • Things you enjoy so much you’re totally willing to pay other people so you can do them (for instance, Moon Man is taking flying lessons. These are not cheap, but he enjoys them so much I’m pretty sure he’d sell his organs on the black market if he had to, to keep going with ‘em)

Once that’s done, sit with the list for a minute. Just…sit with it. Look at it, smile wistfully, think things like “ahh, if only I had all the time and money in the world”; shake your fist a little bit at the rude disruption that is your normal life; idly consider buying a lottery ticket; let your thoughts drift to whether you remembered to set up the DVR for that show you want, or whether you’ve got time to mow the grass when you get home before running the kids to Scouts. Think about the reasons you’re not able to do all the things on your list: finances, time, other commitments, social expectations (“that’s not a very grown-up thing to want to do”), etc.

And as soon as you’ve got the Reasons Why Not fixed firmly in your brain, I want you to pick up the spray bottle, say “NO” in a firm voice, and spritz yourself directly in the face. Y’know, like you’d do with a cat who’s trying to eat your begonia.

Look back at the list, think about your excuses again, and repeat: NO (spritz).

Here’s the thing, y’all. I get it, I really truly get it, that part of Being a Responsible Grownup(TM) means that you have to make choices, you have to prioritize things, you have to make decisions based not just on your short-term happiness but also on your long-term solvency. It’s ok; we’ve got a mortgage too, so I’m certainly not saying you should just ditch everything and go try being a professional snowboarder full-time (though if you want to and are able to, I’m also not saying not to do that).

But what I am saying is that we get in this habit somewhere along the lines, where we have these things that we love–lovelovelove–to do, but we train ourselves out of wanting them by doing a sort of call-and-response kneejerk listing of all the reasons why we can’t do them anytime we start to think about them. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time, or the money, or the freedom; we tell ourselves that other people will be disappointed in us; we tell ourselves that there are much more productive/important/useful things we could be doing instead.

In other words, we teach ourselves to associate our passions with Things We Cannot Do Because of Reasons…and when you think about it that way, doesn’t it seem just a little bit backwards?

Rather than listing the Things We Have to Do instead of pursuing the things we love, perhaps we can think about the things we can release that are standing between us and our bliss. Perhaps we can look at our budgets not as roadblocks, but as opportunities to practice conscious spending so that we can clear space for the things that make our soul sing (look at it this way: if your kid was a natural dancer, utterly passionate about it, and the only way to pay for his lessons was to kill cable, would you seriously still be watching Friends reruns? Or would you call the cable company right the heck now and tell them to come take the box away?).

Perhaps we can reevaluate how we spend the hours of our lives, and choose to put our bliss ahead of, say, the dusting.

Now look, I’m not saying everyone should run out and quit their jobs tomorrow and go become surfers or macrame artists or whatever. Some of you adore your jobs, and if you’re getting paid for your bliss, then good on you; and for those who aren’t so much desperately in love with their job but who, like me, are pretty strongly attached to the safety of knowing the lights are going to stay on, then by all means, carry on.

But stop letting yourself be the thing that’s standing between you and coming alive. Stop drafting a narrative in which you are prevented from your bliss because you’re following some made-up rules about How Grownups Are Supposed to Make Choices. Break the “I want to but I can’t” thought process–use a spray bottle, if that’s what it takes. Instead, start figuring out ways to clear time, clear funds, build opportunities for yourself. You are the only one who can give yourself permission to be wildly, blissfully, “I’m having so much fun I’m pretty sure I’m going to get in trouble for this” alive–so spritz yourself in the face until you’ve killed the habit of killing your own desires.

Try this: pick up that list you’ve made, and number the entries. Guess what? You’ve just made yourself a to-do list. And as a Responsible Grownup, you’re supposed to do the things on to-do lists. So come alive, get out there, and start crossing things off.

The world needs people like you.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

Remarkable

Yesterday my friend became the 61st person to sign up to run the 2015 Iditarod. The Iditarod, if you’re not familiar with it, is a dogsled race that travels more than 1,000 miles through the Alaskan wilderness–just you, some dogs, and a whole lotta distance between yourself and the finish line–and it’s run each year in March. AKA, the dead of winter. In Alaska. Temperatures of 50-60 degrees below zero are not uncommon, and last year’s champion set a new record by finishing it in slightly more than eight days. The last musher to cross the finish line took just shy of two weeks to finish. Y’know, just a nice li’l snowy vacation-length jaunt with some doggehs and the frostbite-within-30-seconds cold. NBD.

(ahem)

Now, here’s the fun thing about Steve (did I mention his name is Steve? His name is Steve, by the way): this “I think I’ll go run the Iditarod” plan isn’t the only spectacularly remarkable thing on his “been there, done that” list. Heck, depending on how you look at things, it may or may not crack the Top 5. His Iditarod musher bio blurb is…well, follow the nice link there at the beginning of the sentence and you’ll see what I mean. I recommend you sit down first, and maybe grab a nice bracing beverage.

/waits

/files nails

/wonders if anyone else would find it funny if she started referring to him as an “OveraSTEVEr”

…So that’s Steve. Hold onto him for a second–we’ll be back around for him shortly. In the meantime, please enjoy this video of Drew Drechsel, whom I do not personally know but who seems like a Very Nice Fellow.

There we see the lad competing (in a qualifying round) on a program called American Ninja Warrior, which is based on the Japanese Sasuke, which is essentially a great big ol’ super-insane obstacle course. It consists of 4 stages, each more difficult than the last, and as of this morning, Sasuke has been run 30 times with a whopping 3, yes three, people completing it (one fellow has finished it twice, which is just crazycakes). 100 people try each time, gang, so that’s a pretty, um, noteworthy failure rate. And the American version is on its 6th running, with zero completions so far (though last year one guy almost made it through stage 3. Alllllmost). People don’t run this thing because they think they’re going to win it–they run it because they want to try.

And Drew, as it turns out, is actually the fellow who provided the quote that kicked off this whole post in the first dang place: a few weeks ago, over on his Facebook, he posted the question, “What awesome thing should I attempt today?“.

And y’know what? I love that.

Here’s the thing, y’all. Every year a sizable number of Iditarod mushers “scratch”: they withdraw from the race partway through for one reason or another (dogs get sick, mushers get injured, sleds break down, the weather tries to destroy them–last year’s frontrunner had to scratch when a storm kicked up and tried to blow his dogs to Canada). Ninja Warrior competitors have a staggeringly low completion rate. But every single one of them, from the folks who come in first to the folks who come in dead last to the folks who don’t make it past the first checkpoint on the race trail or the first obstacle on the course, every single one of them tried to do something amazing.

To borrow a line from John Green,

tumblr_n38gusYzv41tn18ozo1_1280

(John there, if you’re not familiar with his work, is a novelist who has written a handful of books, won awards for dang near every one of them, and has most recently become insanely famous for his YA novel, The Fault in Our Stars, which became a bestseller and got made into a super-successful movie and now he’s a kaspillionaire. And he runs a grassroots movement that mobilizes his fans and puts their collective shoulders behind various philanthropic projects. I imagine his calendar is terribly complicated.)

Look, y’all, we can’t all win the Iditarod. Heck, I can’t currently win a race with the dogs to catch things that fall off the counter while I’m making dinner. But Steve is going to try, and who knows, he might go down as that Rookie Who Caught Everyone Off-Guard. We’re not all going to win Ninja Warrior, but Drew straps on his shoes every season and takes a whack at it and maybe this will be the year he joins the very, very short list of finishers. My friend, Funky Peacenik, is not going to singlehandedly feed everyone who’s hungry, but she’s making a heckuva good attempt. My friend with the Red Purse is not personally going to be able to connect every person with health care, housing, and food assistance, but she’s getting about 300 folks per week, which ain’t shabby.

What you are driven to do–what you are driven to try–is probably not going to be the same as what I want to take a shot at…and that’s ok, because what matters is that you find something remarkable that sings to your soul, and you go for it. You don’t have to succeed on your first attempt; heck, you don’t even have to come very close. We’re not all going to end up with biographies that make other people want to reassess all their life choices. We’re not all going to do insane flippy-runny-jumpy-soary things. We’re not all going to save the world.

But it’s up to you to decide that today is the day you’re going to take the first steps toward a life that you’re proud of. If you’ve already taken the first steps, then it’s up to you to keep going. If you haven’t picked a dream yet, it’s up to you start brainstorming.

So choose the way in which you’re going to be remarkable, and go for it.

We’ll be here, ready to cheer you on.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

Buffalo Tantrum: Hobby Lobby

So. Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, saying in effect that a corporation is able to have religious convictions–and that if those religious convictions oppose, for instance, providing birth control as part of their employee benefits package, the company can say “nope” and get out of doing so.

And y’know what? If I were a pastor right about now, I’d be furious.

I think RCRChoice summed it up quite nicely in the following tweet:

Here’s the thing, y’all: when I think of a religious community, or a congregation, or a gang of hooligans who happen to share a faith, or whatever mass noun you want to use here, when I think of this group of people, the first word I–were I a pastor–would not want to think of is “excuse”.

I would not want to think “cop-out”.

I would be hoppin’-up-and-down, spittin’, red-eyed, steam-comin’-out-my-ears mad if people thought “easy way out”.

Building a congregation is work, y’all. It takes time and effort and dedication. You don’t just open a church and people show up and you’re done. There are sermons to write and passages and references to double-check and cross-check and pray about. There are recent events to follow and sort out what your god’s opinion on ‘em would be, then figuring out a way to present that to the congregation so that half of them wouldn’t immediately bolt for the door–because you know full well that that opinion isn’t always going to be popular.

There are grieving families to comfort. There are parishioners to visit in the hospital, and prayers to be said over people who are probably not ever going to go home again but it’s absolutely your job to give people a little bit of hope to hold onto. There’s explaining to six-year-olds why we can’t ever see grandpa anymore, and trying to make “he went to live with Jesus” sound like something that’s neither scary nor a punishment. There’s answering questions like “Is it because Jesus is mad at us?” on the fly.

There are communities torn apart by “acts of God” to rebuild. There are sidewalks to be shoveled out when the snow comes in while services are in session and ain’t nobody needs Miss Sophia to break another hip. There are endless repairs to the church building itself that need to be financed–which usually means trying to squeeze more financial blood out of the spirit-is-willing-but-the-checkbook-is-weak flock–and volunteers who won’t actually nail themselves to the window frame this time to line up.

There are wedding ceremonies to write, and baptisms and christenings and confirmations. There’s couples counseling, and if your denomination permits it, divorce counseling. There are funerals to perform, trying your best to hold it together while you say goodbye to the nice fellow who smiled at you from the second pew, third seat from the right, every Sunday morning for the last 25 years.

You work your tail off for these people who have been entrusted to your guidance, is what I’m saying. If your congregation is really nice, you might get some casseroles every now and again, or your lawn mowed, or a card on Pastors’ Day (it’s the second Sunday in October, if you want to drop a hint or two from the pulpit), but for the most part you do it because it’s what you’ve been called to do. It’s your passion, your love, and your mission. It’s the reason you’re on this earth.

So to have that reduced to a bargaining chip? To have it turned into a political ploy so that a company, or perhaps more appropriately, the owners and chief profit-reapers of a company, can make some big statement about who is or is not the boss of them? And to have all that happen with a company who has itself invested in other companies that manufacture the very products they’re suddenly so up-in-arms against?

I. Would. Be. Enraged.

This is not what you work for, y’all. You don’t go out of your way to try to make your congregation an open and inviting place so that some corporation and its supporters can turn around and say “If you don’t like being beaten about the head with our particular brand of religion, you can get out”. You don’t take meals to your housebound members so that your faith can be mockingly compared to a sale on model airplane glue and crochet hooks.

You don’t spend hours praying for a sign–any sign at all–that you’re doing this right just so that your convictions can join menstrual cramps, sick grandmothers, and “I don’t think last night’s sushi agreed with me” on the list of Nebulous and Difficult to Prove Reasons to Get Out of Doing Things One Doesn’t Want to Do.

This is not what you signed up for, gang. Yes, having a sincerely held religious belief occasionally sets you up to be the butt of jokes, and you knew that going in; but having your sincerely held religious belief trotted out as a Get Out of Jail Free card for a company who wants to make some big political point (which appears, for all intents and purposes, to be “we don’t like the ACA and by golly, we are NOT going to participate in it”)? That was never supposed to be part of the deal.

Now look, it’s not up to me to tell you whether you should agree with Hobby Lobby here. If you do, by all means, carry on with your day, and keep on doing the good things that you do–whether I agree with your reasons for doing them are irrelevant, and we can agree to disagree on some points.

All I know is that if I were a pastor today, I would be flipping tables left and right. Jesus chased the moneychangers out of the temple; it’s just a cryin’ shame that they seem to have set up right next door with a sign claiming that they’re still his BFFs.

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

Antoinette

(or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Erosion of My Moral High Ground)

 

In retrospect, I suppose I should have seen this day coming when Moon Man bought me a computer.

We’d been together for…heck, I dunno, a year and change?…and I was moving out of my beloved hometown into the Awful Subdivision of Awfulness in the Awful Town of Awfulness where he lived (and where we still live to this day. Thanks, inertia!). He’d suggested that I should perhaps consider getting a new computer, because mine was becoming obsolete, but as I’d pointed out to him numerous times my computer was perfectly serviceable, thankyouverymuch, and there was simply no need to go running out to buy a newer-faster-shinier simply because it was newer-faster-shinier. And sure, mine had one of those tremendous monitors that required buttressing the table it sat on; and yes, the computer was a hand-me-down from a Czech linguist who was moving back to Prague, so the default language on it was Czech which I could not technically read so error messages were a fun puzzle; but Moon Man had installed a handy IM program for me so we could chat, and I knew how to access that thar interweb thingie, and I could create documents and type things and as long as I remembered more or less where various commands were in the English version of the dropdowns, I could do something like formatting it. I could italicize, y’all, thanks to the magic of keyboard shortcuts. What more did I need?

So I showed up at his house slightly before moving day–y’know, to get a sense of which of his decorations would simply have to go–and discovered that all unbeknownst to me, he’d slipped off and bought me a shiny new computer. Well, new-to-me, anyway, and it was in English, and had a flat monitor. And it was zippy! So very, very zippy. I was sold, and thanked him effusively, and relegated my old computer to the garage on move-in day and I’m reasonably sure it’s down there still. Maybe someday I’ll make it into art.

The problem, of course, is that this set a dangerous precedent. Without meaning to, I’d managed to teach Moon Man that yes, I would resist technological advancement (or as I call it, “yet another dang way to try to separate people from their money by setting up manufactured status markers”), but if he kept at it, sooner or later I’d cave, and probably end up admitting begrudgingly that he was right.

So a few years later, when smartphones were becoming allllll the rage, we ran ’round the racetrack again. He was 100% in favor of getting us smartphones, because our contract was up for renewal so it was Free Replacement Phone o’clock, and for a small charge we could upgrade to smartphones and just look how fancy they are! I pointed out that a phone is for making and receiving calls, and that is all I would like my phone to do, though the ability to send text messages was certainly a bonus. He countered by pointing out that smartphones could play games; I stared meaningfully at the closet full of board games until he caught my drift. He noted that smartphones could receive email and access the internet, and I reminded him of the computer he’d bought me against my wishes, by the way, and he eventually sighed and got himself a smartphone and I just replaced my old phone with a newer version of the exact same model I’d had before.

And because we were traveling a lot at the time for his old job, we spent a lot of time in the car with an outdated GPS and a shiny new smartphone with Google Maps right on it, and I realized that ok, maybe they weren’t completely a ploy of Satan to destroy us all, but I certainly didn’t feel any obligation to spend hundreds of dollars on what was effectively a road atlas wedged into a telephone.

And then he found one of those limited-time-only, We’re About to Roll Out the Next Generation of This Product So Please Help Us Get Rid of Our Surplus Stock, sales…where the smartphones which we both now have were going for a penny. One penny. One one-hundredth of a dollar. Even I couldn’t argue with that. So I caved again, and we got the phones, and now mine follows me around the house more dutifully than our dang dogs, who are supposed to follow me from room to room. I love that I can communicate with people using whatever media they like best. I love that I can read (and disregard, but still) my email from anywhere with coverage.

God help me, I love Temple Run.

So a little while later, he started extolling the virtues of the Kindle his parents had gotten him for…his birthday? Christmas? one of those gift-giving occasions. But this time I was not-I-repeat-NOT going to be swayed. Books are made of paper. They have a cover. They are bulky and awkward and if you read as much as I do, you get weird hand cramps from holding them and you have to be careful with them around water and…

…you see where this is headed, don’t you.

I blame Joe Hill, frankly. I had started following him on The Twitters, and he kept talking about this new novella he was releasing–and how it was only going to be available as an e-book. And I had recently read his NOS4A2 and loved it, and I wanted to read his new book, and I hate reading long documents on my computer screen in my office, and…well, I guess it was inevitable. So I happened to be thinking about e-readers, and without even realizing what I was doing I let slip to Moon Man that I was thinking about e-readers…

…and then it was my birthday…

…and that’s how Antoinette, my sexy little Kindle with the spiffy purple case, came into my life (yeah, I name inanimate objects). She’s only slightly larger than my wallet, but already has hundreds and hundreds of pages of books loaded into her. I can read her at the grocery store while I’m waiting in line. I can read her in the car when traffic gets scary and I need to look away while Moon Man plays Death Race with the other drivers.

Ain't she purty?

Ain’t she purty?

I can hold her in my right hand and read her, y’all. Pick up a book like you’re gonna read it. Notice how it’s probably automatically in your left hand, because you turn pages from right to left and it’s more convenient to hold it on your left side? When you’re reading an average of two to four hours a day, that hand gets tired. Especially when you read a lot of big thick books. But Antoinette? She’s perfectly happy in my right hand. Or lying flat on the table, which is just a joke if you’re reading a thick printed novel, unless you have a book bar or a clip or a cat who’s willing to nap at the top of the page and doesn’t mind being interrupted for a page turn every minute or so.

Shown here, lying flat and open roughly halfway through Hugh Howey's 500+ page "Wool" omnibus.

Shown here, lying flat and open roughly halfway through Hugh Howey’s 500+ page “Wool” omnibus. Look, Ma, no hands!

Now, before you panic, allow me to assure you that I am absolutely not even a little bit interested in considering the possibility of thinking about pondering the option of maybe under some rare circumstance getting rid of my paper books. BOOKS ARE MADE OF PAPER. If you ask someone to draw you a book, they don’t draw a thing that looks like an oversized smartphone, they draw a book. I love the feel of books, the smell of books, the texture of their paper, the option of having strong opinions about their fonts.

But I’m willing, because I am a strong and amazing human being, to admit that maybe–just maybe–Moon Man was right. Maybe I can also love e-readers.

‘Cause lord knows I do love Antoinette.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, The Bibliophilic Buffalo

Hide It Under a Bushel? No!

Hey, guys?

It’s come to my attention that perhaps it’s been too long since we covered this, so today we’re going to have a little reminder session, ok? In the interest of streamlining all of our lives, it would help if you’d grab a piece of paper and a pen right quick, and write down the following:

I am amazing, and I deserve to behave in a way that lets other people recognize this.

If you’ve got some free time, feel free to make your note as colorful, decorative, or fancy as you like. Use stickers and stamps if you’ve got ‘em. Cross-stitch it into a sampler. Tattoo it on your arm. Whatever works for you.

‘Cause here’s the thing, gang: the world right now, for a whole lot of people, has gone all flappitybats crazy. Some folks are chalking it up to various planets being in retrograde; some declared it to be fallout from that Friday the 13th we had; some figure it’s just another burst of chaos because that’s what chaos does; and frankly, I don’t much care which explanation you choose to roll with. Whatever it is that’s behind it all, the net effect is that for a lot of us, things have gotten…a touch on the hectic side.

And while it’s true that many people will let their fight-or-flight lizard hindbrain take over in situations like this, I know that you all are too awesome for that. You all are not the sort of folks who hide your light under a bushel; instead, you’re people who look at chaos and hear Mr Rogers speaking softly in your soul, reminding you that when things get scary, you should look for the helpers because there will always be someone helping–and if you don’t spot the helpers immediately, you take the opportunity to become one. You are the people who join the incredibly long line at places like the DMV, sit calmly with your book or your phone or your tablet while you wait your turn, and who are friendly and smiling and making little jokes to lift the clerk’s spirits by the time you reach the head of the line.

You are the people who see someone crying and immediately want to comfort them (or find someone else to comfort them. That’s ok–we’re not all great with grief). You see someone injured and want to patch them up. You see someone carrying a heavy burden and either offer to help shoulder the load or suggest resources that would be more helpful than you can personally be.

You hold the door for people.

You tip your server.

You file your nails while you wait for your call to be answered in the order in which it was received, and you talk to the person on the other end of the line as though they are an actual human being with their own set of fears and worries and stresses and problems and you want to be remembered as the Nice Caller of the Day.

And as a result, you are beginning to see the karmic payout from this. You’ve noticed that you don’t seem to have as many rough conversations with clerks as other people, because you smile at the clerks and the clerks smile at you and while every once in a while you get a cranky one, for the most part they’re generally lovely people who just want to help you get through your business and out of their line. You’ve found, every once in a while, that your bartender has “forgotten” to include a round of your drinks because that was the round when she seemed really harried and you told her you were in absolutely no rush and tossed an extra coupla bucks in her tip jar so she’d remember that not everyone is as demanding as the guy at the end who should probably switch to water for a bit.

Sometimes people just spontaneously show up at your house with an adorable wee critter another friend has knitted for you, or a gorgeous ceramic dish with an outline of a child’s hand in it that they bought at a charity event and thought you’d love, or a jar of their strawberry-lemon jam, or a bouquet of flowers and a hug.

Sometimes people write you thank-you notes or group poetry that make you cry.

Sometimes people go out of their way to track you down at their niece’s wedding reception, or they send you a Facebook message out of the blue, or they bound across a room full of people at a party to hug you and tell you that something you did or said or wrote made their day/week/month and that they are so, so grateful to have you in their lives.

And if you’re not to that place yet, if you’re just starting out on your journey of being That One Amazing Person Who Was in My Checkout Aisle (or That Delightful Fellow Who Helped Catch My Receipts When I Dropped My Folder as the Wind Was Picking Up, or The Only Person Who Remembered My Birthday This Year, or what have you), then that’s awesome, because you’ve got all sorts of random blessings to look forward to.

It’s one of the things I love about you hooligans: that you are amazing people who want to be more like Mr Rogers’ helpers and less like Loki With a Chip on His Shoulder. You are folks with a near-infinite capacity to change the lives of the people around you for the better. You are people who treat others not “as you want to be treated”, but “as we all deserve to be treated”.

You are people who understand that you deserve to let people see you at your best, because perhaps it will inspire them to do their best, and we all do better when everyone does better.

And if that ends up netting you a free margarita every now and again, well, that’s just one of the perks of being the amazing folks you already are.

Love you hoodlums. Now go love on each other.

Every person you meet

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

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

No, You Can’t

Hey, guys? I need you to trust me for a minute here. I’m going to ask you to do something, and I promise it’s going to make sense by the end of this post. Ok? Here goes:

1. Please stop whatever you’re doing and get a piece of masking tape, or a sticky note, or a piece of paper and some clear tape, or whatever you have handy that enables you to make a sign that you can affix to something else. It doesn’t need to be big or fancy, though you’ll be able to make it as ornate as you want in step #3.

2. Grab a pen, or a Sharpie, or a crayon, or whatever writing implement you happen to have nearby. It can be any color you want.

3. On your masking tape/sticky note/etc, please write–in great big, highly visible, as-fancy-as-you-want-them-to-be letters–a single word or short phrase that represents the person, place, or thing that is most critically important to you in the entire world (yes, you can have more than one. I’m not about to ask you to choose between your children). It can be anything you want: a loved one’s name, a concept like “freedom”, a destination like “the lake house”, anything at all–just aim for something that is so important to you that you would punch a charging rhinoceros in the face for it. This is the step where you can decorate your sign if you want to. Be as plain or as fancy as you like; it’s your art project, after all. You’re in charge here.

4. Now take your spiffy new sign to your car. If you’re being a naughty ninja and reading this at work, it’s ok to wait until your next break; but at the very next opportunity, go immediately to your vehicle with your sign in hand. Do not wait until tomorrow. Do it now.

5. Affix your sign to the interior of your car in a super-visible and easily reachable place. Your dashboard will probably work well for this.

Got it? Is your sign in place, or conveniently located so that you can go put it in place at the very next opportunity?

Good. Now here’s how you use it:

The next time you are driving your car and your cell phone rings, I want you to touch that sign you just made and say aloud–right out loud in front of god and everybody– “You are more important to me than this phone call”. Then let the call go to voice mail. If it is important, they will leave a message. If it’s not, your caller ID will let you know who it was. If it really is a call of critical importance, such as the hospital calling to ask you for your medical proxy decision about a loved one, they will understand if you wait until you can pull into a parking lot before calling them back. Heck, if the caller is a decent human being at all they will understand if you wait to pull into a parking lot before calling them back.

Here’s the deal: the other night, Moon Man and I were heading home from having Grand Adventures (usually this means going to dinner, seeing a movie, playing games at a coffeeshop–our sense of adventure is really pretty tame). As we drove down the street, we noticed that the driver ahead of us seemed to be drunk–they were weaving all over the place, having a heckuva time maintaining a consistent speed, etc–and as we passed them during one of their doing-20-in-a-45-zone stints, we noticed that the driver was on her cell phone.

/splodeybrain

Let’s get really honest with ourselves for a moment, gang. We’ve talked about this before, how I think one of the highest forms of respect is prioritizing safety over my text message, and that post got circulated and reposted and people were all “YEAH THIS IS TRUE PREACH ON I AGREE WOOOOO”…but seriously, if you’re really, truly, totally honest in your soul, how many of you actually ignore your phone while you’re driving? How many of you absolutely refuse to respond to your ringtone while you’re behind the wheel? How many of you truly never even peek at the text message?

Google “adults more likely to text and drive” if you’ve got a sec. See those 283 million results? Yeah, they’re pointing to something important: we spend all our time telling our kids and telling each other to hang up the phone, but somehow we’re all so convinced of our own superiority that we don’t think the rules apply to us. We tell ourselves that unlike the 16-year-old, we can totally multitask. We can have a conversation while we drive with no problem. We can absolutely answer one quick, easy text message, because we are grownups and we can handle it.

But you know what? No, you can’t. The lady swerving all over the road demonstrated that. The people in those PSA commercials demonstrate it.

The Mythbusters proved it, guys, that driving while talking on the phone is as dangerous as drunk driving. It didn’t even get a “plausible”–it got a full-on “confirmed”. You know it’s a big deal when the Mythbusters prove it.

So make your sign, and stick it somewhere visible in your car, and the next time you’re tempted to think you are the one and only person on the road who can truly handle being on the phone while you’re behind the wheel, think again. Then touch your sign, get your priorities back in order, and let the call go to voicemail and the text sit unread.

Thank you in advance for enabling me to get safely back to the person whose name on my own sign. I promise I’ll do everything I can to enable you to get back to the person named on yours.

Here's mine. ;)

Here’s mine. ;)

1 Comment

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