Thursday, December 5, 2019

Stick a Bow on It

Yesterday morning I texted some of my girlfriends that I thought it likely I could meet them for lunch. Then I went on to the school where we were finishing up our free book fair. Tracy, my captain (my captain!) and partner in crime, walked in and laughed at me. "Lunch?" she said. "That's optimistic. But for sure you're not going without me."

Then we went to work. We gave away books to kindergartners and preschoolers, stopping fights over copies of The True Stories of the Three Little Pigs ("you can both chose it!") and consoling one small boy who wept when we put the books he chose back onto the table (because we're ordering the children their own copies; he didn't understand, and kept saying, "but I wanted them to be mine.") by giving him a Very Hungry Caterpillar temporary tattoo. After the children had chosen and I'd inputted their orders and we'd rounded up the older children who'd been absent the day before, and had them chose, and then I'd ordered their books, and I'd corrected the orders I'd screwed up the day before, Tracy and I went through each class's book lists. Tracy made copies of the lists for the teachers and color-coded them so the teachers would know where the books were coming from (some we had on hand, some would be shipped direct to the teachers, some--mostly the kids who had been absent and my corrected screw-ups--would be shipped separately) and we made sure all the books in the teachers' boxes were correct. Then we sorted and packed the remaining books and put the room back to rights, and it was 3:30, we'd worked without a break, and Tracy was laughing at me. Lunch. Because she knew it was going to be like this, and I, blithely and predictably, had planned all the giving out books part but skipped the organization that needed to happen afterward.

Tracy and I are an excellent team.

Also, at about 1 o'clock in the afternoon, one of the lunch ladies brought us each a banana. I really appreciated that.

The lunch ladies were very enthusiastic about our book-giving. Their children and grandchildren go to the school.

My husband came home grumpy for valid reasons of his own. We set up the new television we'd bought the evening before. There was nothing wrong with our previous TV except that it was, suddenly, on December 1st, too old to receive Netflix. I don't really understand how this could happen, but it had. We'd gone in search of a TV that would fit in the cabinet in our family room--most TVs now are exactly half an inch too wide--and found one, and made very sure that it was a Smart TV, which is the kind that can still get Netflix. (I discovered Netflix a year ago, late as I am to most technology. I love it.)

We bought the TV and took it home. Last night we carefully unwrapped it and plugged all the cords in and messed around with the remotes and tried to activate Netflix, and lo, we hadn't bought a Smart TV. We'd bought the Stupid TV that was sitting right next to it.

I spent a bit of time online trying to figure out how to turn a Stupid TV into a Smart one. (Answer: put it back in the box, drive to the store, exchange.) My husband--already grumpy, remember--huffed and stalked off to the mudroom, and came back even grumpier, waving something and saying, "This is no good. Look at this!"

It was a piece of artificial garland for our stair rail--a new garland, because the old one wore out last year. Fresh from the shipping box it looked flat, fake, and unappealing. My husband sighed and muttered and began to work his Christmas magic. A half hour later he had the garland fluffy, well-lit, and hung with pine cones and glass balls. It was beautiful. He added a huge red grosgrain ribbon bow to the newel end of it. "Lipstick on a pig," he muttered, but he was smiling again. We sat down to dinner I'd made and watched Notre Dame get creamed in basketball, something we didn't need Netflix for at all.

It was a very good day.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Giving Tuesday: The Free Book Fairs Begin!

I've got ten minutes to compose this before I'm out the door. I just logged on to my email, and it was full of requests--Giving Tuesday is apparently a Thing.

Which is ironically excellent, since I'll be giving away books ALL DAY. It's the first of what will be ten (at least) days of rampant amazingness. We are descending on an elementary school right here in Bristol, Virginia side, and giving each and every student three brand-new books of their choice.

This joy comes courtesy of a whopping OMG Book Grant from First Book, and also from my wild audacity--when it came time to write the grant, I went big. And they gave big. And now we're going to give big, too.

The school in question earns a C+ grade in national rankings, which puts it squarely in the middle of the Bristol, Virginia, elementary schools. Ninety-eight percent of its students receive free lunch. It's a big old hulk of a building without much charm, but the teachers are doing a great job of educating their students. Yesterday some of them dropped by the room where we were setting up. (Five tables: picture books, early chapter books, nonfiction and graphic novels, two tables of chapter books. It's about 170 titles total. We're heavily in to free choice.) "Wow," one teacher said, "These aren't leftovers. They're good books."

Damn straight. New, shiny, gorgeous. Diverse. Interesting. We've got everything from Noisy Night to Dinosaurs A to Z to the graphic-novel version of Crossover. The Night Diary and The Bridge Home and Power Forward. Happy Hair. Judy B. Jones. All fourteen volumes of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

283 students. 849 books. It's gonna be a fine, fine day.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


Today is my sister's thirty-third birthday. She was born on a Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving; I was in college, and remember it like it was yesterday. As it was, pretty much. She's expecting her fourth child, and her three boys and my brother's two are the crazy joys of the past decade of our family.

I am grateful today for a thousand million things. For my husband, who holds our lives together. For my children, both flying home tomorrow. For my dad, who's recovering from a serious illness, and my mom, who's recovering from seeing him through. I'm grateful for the book I finished in the past year. I'm grateful for the dog on my lap as I type this. For the silly black horse we unexpectedly brought into our family, and the glorious two we lost since this time last year.

I'm very, very grateful for my friends.

Flush toilets, washing machines and dishwashers, not to mention a safe and reliable water supply. Food and good meals. The pearly quality to winter sunrises on our farm. A sense of adventure, and adventures to go on. The losses that taught me to savor each day.

So many things.

I am grateful for the gift of words.

I learned a lot this year about words and their power. I thought I knew plenty already--I've been a writer for a long time--but between the seven and a half drafts of Fighting Words and the steady progress of my nonprofit, Appalachian Literacy Initiative--well, I now know more.

Did you know that in this country poor children are two and a half times less likely to read at proficient level than their more affluent classmates?

Did you know that reading proficiency at the end of fourth grade is the most powerful predictor of whether or not a child will graduate from high school?

Did you know that three out of five low-income children have no books at all in their homes? Or that the number of books a child has access to is the only thing that directly correlates to their reading success?

Give kids books = give kids a better future.

Last school year  my friend Tracy and I started ALI, earned 501(c)3 status for it, and gave out nearly three thousand books to 578 low-income fourth-graders across Appalachia.

Last year, one of our schools saw their fourth-graders' reading proficiency rise from 23% to 96%.

This year we've enrolled 1000 students in that same program. Each child gets four new high-quality books of their choice; their teachers get classroom libraries of 30 books.

This year we've also given Girls Inc in Bristol, Virginia, 120 books for their library. We've been able to buy books for the children enrolled in Boys and Girls Clubs in Bristol, Abingdon, and Wise.

Thanks to an amazing one-time grant we received from First Book, we're going to be able to offer "free book" fairs at all four Bristol, Virginia elementary schools and Bristol, Virginia Middle School. Every single child in every single grade will get to choose 3 books to keep.  Those book fairs start next week, Tuesday and Wednesday at Stonewall Jackson and Thursday and Friday at Highland View--if you live nearby and want to help, let me know. We could use more hands.

We could do so much more. Appalachia is a big region--there are far more isolated, low-income schools we long to help. If you'd like to join us, please do. Thanks to First Book and our corporate partner, Parnassus, we're able this year to buy more books with your donations. Last year it cost $32.50 to enroll a child in our program. We won't know our final numbers until the end of the school year, but so far we're on track to be close to $20.

$20 for one child for the year. $150 for the teacher's classroom books. $500 to sponsor an entire class. For donations of $1000 or more we'll put special bookplates in the books honoring the person of your choice. You can send checks to Appalachian Literacy Initiative at P.O. Box 3283, Bristol, TN, 37620. You can use the donate button on our website. Or you can click the Facebook button, above.

Thank you so much. We are so very grateful for you.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A Post for Leslea, and Everyone Else

I was going to write about some other stuff today--a combination of weird dumb things I've done lately (ask me where my car is parked right now; ask me why) (oh, okay--blocking the barn doors, because I left the lights on while doing an hour's worth of chores and ran the battery down, and that was a week ago and I still haven't bothered to jump it) and my plans for NCTE this weekend (all I will say there: ARCs of Fighting Words at 2 pm Saturday at the Penguin booth), but I got a little derailed by something, and it's bothering me.

Two somethings, really. The first is small: I continue to notice, when I look at the statistics on this blog, that the most-read post is whatever is the most recent one, which makes sense. The second most-read post is always, always, "A Touch on Lesbianism," a post I wrote in January, 2015. To find that post you'd have to search for it. Apparently a lot of people do. So apparently it's still a Thing.

The second thing bothering me is much bigger. The Nerdy Book Club posted an interview of me on their blog last week, about Fighting Words. The day before, they posted an essay by my friend Leslea Newman. (Her first name ought to have an accent on the a--it's pronounced Les-lee-ah, not Les-lee-- but I can not figure out how to put it there. I'm sorry, Leslea.) Leslea is a more accomplished and gifted writer than I am. She's published over 70 books in every genre--adult fiction, nonfiction, children's picture books, middle grades, YA, poetry for all ages--and she's a talented, compassionate teacher. She's Jewish. She grew up in Brooklyn. She's married to a woman.

Leslea structures her school presentations around sets of her books and a central theme. She offers lots of options for different ages and topics--easy to do when you've written so many marvelous stories. Recently she was scheduled to speak at two conservative Jewish schools in Brooklyn (where Leslea herself grew up) about her Jewish-themed picture books, including her recent Gittel's Journey: An Ellis Island Story, which is based on Leslea's own family history. A few days before the visit, the schools called to reconfirm that Leslea would only be talking about her Jewish books. She agreed that yes, she would be.

Then the schools cancelled anyway.

Leslea is also the author of the picture book Heather Has Two Mommies. She's also the author of October Mourning, a teen book about Matthew Shepard.

The schools were afraid she was going to talk about gay people. Or represent gay people. Or simply be a gay person that the students might come to like and respect. I'm not sure which. But Leslea wrote an essay about it, and it made me furious, on her behalf and on behalf of all the kids who missed out on hearing her. Who missed out on an important book about family and courage and Jewish identity. Who missed out on learning how to turn history and facts into poetry and beauty. Who missed out on meeting a woman they would like and respect, whom they might discover, at some point, was gay. Or not.

There are gay children at the schools who cancelled Leslea. There are children with gay parents at the schools who cancelled Leslea. There are children who will someday have gay children at the schools who cancelled Leslea. To pretend otherwise is to ignore truth.

We as a society have got to stop being afraid of gay people. Homosexuality isn't smallpox. You can't catch it from other people. It isn't syphilis. There shouldn't be any shame attached. You can belong to a religion that doesn't allow gay people to be married in your church, and still affirm the rights of gay people to be married under civil law and to be generally as decent as straight people. You don't have to hide their existence from your children. If your children haven't already figured out the existence of gay people, they will soon enough: all they learn from silence is shame. What's that Taylor Swift lyric? "Shame never made anybody less gay." But it might make them suicidal. Pushing another person toward suicide, that's a sin in any faith.

Most of the one-star reviews I get for The War That Saved My Life are from people outraged that I say that my character Susan Smith is gay. (It's not explicit in the books.) What might crack me up if I didn't find it so incredibly irritating is that the reviews often contain an edge of self-righteousness--"I don't hate gay people, I hate sin." Susan, not once, not ever, in either of my books featuring her, commits a sin of sexuality under any definition you could offer. She does not date nor seek to date nor have any sort of romantic or sexual relationship whatsoever. She does not pine for one. She's mourning someone who's been dead three years. For all any reader can tell, Susan may be planning to remain celibate the rest of her life--I myself don't know, because I'm not writing about that--which would render her, in any faith, spectacularly non-sinful. And still. This isn't something children should be exposed to? I can't understand the logic.

I also can't understand the hate. I read my Bible. Among other things, Deuteronomy forbids wearing mixed-fiber clothing, women cutting their hair, tattoos of any sort, and eating owls. Owning slaves is okay. Jesus never once talks about homosexuality, but he forbids divorce a whole bunch of times, and we're all okay with ignoring that.

I'm imaging a world in which a large percentage of the population hated anyone with red hair. Thought red hair was sinful. You could, of course, dye your hair so no one would know. Pretend to be raven-haired. Parents would sit down with their babies and swab their roots. Carefully dye each little eyebrow. Puberty would complicate matters--there's that private hair. You'd have to step up the concealment, or never reveal your private parts to anyone. And your hair would still be red. No matter what you did.

Leslea's website carries the tagline, "Changing the world, one book at a time."

My friend, I certainly hope so. Mazel tov on your work so far.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Requiem for the Best Horse

Every night since he died I've dreamed of Gully. I have a thousand memories, all of them good.

Some of them were only good in retrospect. The day he and his best friend, Syd, got loose at a horse trial, dive-bombed the adult beginner novice warmup area, then cavorted on the cross country course for half an hour before being caught? I was fairly ticked off at the time. Now, though, I remember the glee on Gully's face. I remember my daughter collapsing across a hay bale with silent laughter. It was a dozen years ago. I remember it like yesterday.

Before I got Gully, I had never evented, but I wanted to. My children were 5 and 2 when I had to retire my honest horse Trapper; we already had my son's cheerful pony Hot Wheels. We had just started building our house and barn and really I had no business getting another horse. This was still in the early days of the internet--when people sent you actual videotapes of sale horses instead of putting them online. I started looking at Connemaras--an Irish pony breed, known for their intelligence and athleticism--just, of course, for information's sake. For education.

Did I mention I had no business buying a horse? Did I mention I knew very little about eventing?

I'd look at horse tapes and think, nope, not that one. Until I saw Gully.

On the tape he was in an indoor, under Western tack. He'd had exactly six weeks' work under saddle, and then his owners, who lived in Alberta, had thrown him back into the field. He was three years old. He'd not been started over fences. He'd not been ridden English.

I loved him instantly. Couldn't tell you why. Which was when I had to fess up to my husband--oh, by the way, I've been looking at sale horses and I found one I want, and he's so far away that going to try him doesn't seem feasible, and also I'm not sure how much sense it would make since he knows very little, and I want him. He's my event horse. He's perfect for me.

You can see how much my husband loves me.

When I told my soon-to-be-neighbor and already good friend that I planned to buy a horse I'd have to board a least a year while we finished the house, she said, "Think about this. Light fixtures--or horse?"

"Horse," I said.

She frowned. "LIBRARY BOOKSHELVES--or horse?"

I flinched, but said, "horse."

"Wow," she said, "I clearly don't understand this horse shit at all."

Years later, when I was training with some of the top women in eventing, they'd ask how I came to find my wonderful horse. Their response when I told them was always the same: a look of total incredulity, a shake of the head, and a "wow, were you lucky."

I was so lucky.
I loved him so.

He loved cross country. He loved to jump. He was honest and brave, crackingly smart, oh so good.

Seven years ago I retired him due to a mysterious persistent lameness. We thought it was navicular, but it wasn't, because after two and a half years of turnout he became once again entirely sound. (There's a bit more to the story, but not much, and no clear answers.) I was competing my new mare Sarah then, and didn't have time to keep two horses going,. My daughter had her fabulous Mick. Gully wanted a job, and my young friend Caroline needed a horse to ride. I thought they might be a match. They were.

The very first time Caroline rode Gully, out in our seven-acre field, he tripped on something, fell to his knees, and tossed her. (I don't think it could have been the only time she came off him, but I can't recall another.) Later, in the barn, Caroline said, "Afterward he wouldn't stop apologizing. He kept saying, 'I'm so sorry!' and I kept saying, 'Buddy, it's alright!' He'd say, 'I didn't mean it!' and I'd be like, 'Accidents happen, I understand!'

My daughter stared at her. "He TALKS to you?"

Caroline looked embarrassed, but held her ground. "I mean, um, yeah--he was totally talking to me. I mean, I could understand everything he had to say."

My daughter said, "Because that horse only ever talks to my mother."

Which up until then had been true. Gully only ever loved me, until he met Caroline. Then he loved us both. He carried her for three years without ever a cross-country fault. They were fifth in our region in the year-end standings a year ago, when age caught up with him and we retired him once again.

For the past two months he'd been ill, and lame, and then better, and then not, and then the problem looked fixable, and then even though it should have been getting better it wasn't. Gully was cheerful in his stall, eating, happy to see me, but putting less and less weight on one leg. My vet needed to take an xray but her machine was broken; on Monday, as soon as it was fixed, she came out to the farm.

I was two states away. I could hear the dread in her voice when I picked up the phone. No way to save him. No choice.

My husband offered to drive us back immediately but it would have taken at least eight hours. I called Caroline. "I'll be there," she said. "I'm going there right now. I am on my way."

Any gift I ever gave her, letting her ride my lovely boy, was more than repaid in that moment. Caroline showed up with a whole bag of his favorite cookies. She Facetimed me and my daughter at college to let us say goodbye. Gully was surrounded by love through the end.

Every night I dream of Gully. All the dreams are good.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Where the Magic Happens

I'm in Pasadena, California, for the day. I flew here yesterday, leaving on the 6 am flight out of Bristol, landing in Burbank late morning. This afternoon I'll be pleased to receive the California Young Readers Medal for The War That Saved My Life at the California Library Association conference's Rose Tea. Tomorrow I'll fly home, arriving there at midnight. It's a peculiar sort of trip because it's a lot of flying for only one thing--no other events tied to it. The time change didn't help--you could either say I woke up at 4 am yesterday, and went to bed slightly before midnight, Eastern time, or you could say I crashed at 9 pm last night, Pacific time, but woke up at 1 am the same day. Either way I slept as long as I could and was wide awake in my hotel room at 6 am local time. By 7:15 I was in the only open nearby coffee shop, where the three white customers in residence, including me, all had fresh shower-slicked hair, and all the customers, including the two black ones, were hunched over cups of coffee, reading books. I felt very at home.

I read two books on the flight here, both for review, and after coffee and superb avocado toast I came back to my hotel room, where I am now, and wrote both reviews. There's not much else to do in Pasadena on Saturday before 8 am. I suppose there's probably a farmer's market somewhere, but I can't haul a bunch of fresh veg with me on tomorrow's flight home. At breakfast I was reading the book I picked up yesterday, at Vroman's, a wonderful independent bookstore here in Pasadena: The Body, by Bill Bryson. I like Bill Bryson always, but I think this topic is uniquely suited to his wry, gentle writing. " is surely astounding to reflect that not once in the three billion years since life began has your personal line of descent been broken. For you to be here now, every one of your ancestors had to successfully pass on its genetic material to a new generation before being snuffed out or otherwise sidetracked from the procreative process."

Last night I had dinner with Christine and Amy, two teachers here in Pasadena. Christine picked me up at the hotel; when I got in her car, she said, "Do you often get into cars with total strangers?" I replied, "Only if I've met them on the internet."

Christine was the first teacher who ever wrote me about The War That Saved My Life, the actual week of its publication. We've been Facebook friends ever since. Usually when I go to conferences I have busier schedules, and know lots of other people there. But this isn't a school library conference and there are almost no other kid-lit authors here. Nor do I know many people in Pasadena. But I did know Christine, virtually at least. She was bold enough to want to spend time with me, and I was bold enough to want to spend time with her. As such, and with the addition of her friend Ann, we had a really lovely evening, and now I have two new real-world friends.

Despite my chattiness I am not at all an extrovert, and sometimes it feels foreign to me to go out and look for company and friends. I find, though, that when I do I am always glad. Realistically a seventh-grade English teacher in Pasadena is not likely to be an axe-murderer, no matter what she says. The biggest risks to last night were that Christine and I might find each other boring, or offensive, or I'd hate the restaurant she chose, and those were actually pretty small risks compared to the chances of having a very nice time in good company, which I did.

Slightly outside my comfort zone: it's where the magic happens, every time.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

In Which I Go To the Farmer's Market, At Last

Early this year, or perhaps late last year, because that's the kind of planners we are, my husband and I looked at our 2019 calendar and blocked time off expressly and only for staying in our mountain house.

We've had a second home on the high slopes of Grandfather Mountain for some 13 years now--incredible, but true--but especially in the past few years have not been very intentional about spending time here. It's only a 75-minute drive from our home in Bristol, so we tend to think we can just be spontaneous, when the truth is we rarely end up with time in which to be spontaneous in. I plan as far in advance as I do because otherwise I end up never fitting in the most important stuff. So this year we blocked a week in July, a long weekend over Labor Day, and a week in October.

What I didn't block is time away from my own work. Until this year, especially when my children were small, I tended to work very part-time in the summer. I slacked way off. It was fabulous.

This year rolled around a little differently. I finished the fifth draft of Fighting Words on June 26th. (That was its deadline.) Then, even though I knew the book was being "launched" by marketing, and I knew it wasn't quite done, I felt so happy about the draft that I threw caution to the winds. I accepted a short story assignment and several book reviews, and made ambitious plans to write some crazy grant applications for my nonprofit, Appalachian Literacy Initiative. Then my editor assigned the sixth draft due August fifth. Along with all the other stuff.

I had a little bit of vacation that week in July, but I worked a lot more than I usually do, and when I wasn't working I was fretting or thinking or planning. I wasn't a whole lot of fun. Still, I made all my deadlines, and I was happy, really happy, about the work I'd done. The short story was fun, the grant applications completed, and the sixth draft was much improved. Which, quite frankly, it needed to be.

So there. Big breath, done. Right?

Wrong. On August 12th my editor told me that the seventh draft would be due September 3rd, also known as the Tuesday after Labor Day Weekend. I pointed out that, haha, that was a perfectly ridiculous deadline, especially as I would be overseas over 8 of those 21 days. She replied, haha, look at you traveling, have fun and also get the seventh draft done by September 3rd. We want ARCs by NCTE.

ARCs are Advanced Review Copies and NCTE is the National Council of Teachers of English conference, at which I'm speaking. So phew. It was insanity with a higher calling.

I had been speaking to my husband lovingly about my plans to go to the Watuaga County Farmer's Market, in Boone, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, while he golfed, but when we woke up that Saturday I shook my head. I was going upstairs, to my writing desk. No farther. He said, "But you love the farmer's market." I said, "I love meeting my deadlines, too, and trust me, I can't have both."

I worked my tail off and made it. Draft seven-and-a-half was due September 16th. Then there was some back and forthing about a few specific scenes, and then the book flew through copyediting in two days, I kid you not, and I corrected the copyedits in between sessions at another conference, and all of a sudden, here we were, a week in Linville in October and me with no deadlines at all.

We drove over after Bart got off work Friday evening. We had a lovely dinner with friends. We slept deeply. Saturday morning I dropped my husband off at the golf course and headed to the farmer's market.

We hadn't stopped at the grocery yet, and there wasn't much to eat in the house. We were even out of cereal. My husband spread peanut butter on some crackers, but the cracker box had been open all summer and the crackers were so stale they folded. He found some very old yogurt in the fridge. I ate nothing. I was waiting for the biscuit truck.

I have a method regarding the Boone Market. I walk the entire length of it before I buy anything. At the near end, at the biscuit truck, I buy a loaded (that is, with cheddar cheese baked in) biscuit with egg and bacon. They fold the wrap so that I can eat it while I stroll through the market. I admire everything. At the far end is the coffee truck. I drop my biscuit wrapper in the trash can and get coffee. (Saturday, when I got in line, a young woman in front of me grimaced and said, "They're already out of nitro brew.")

I sip the coffee and start to shop. Enchilada sauce--I try some on a chip, and it's got a stronger bite than the stuff from the grocery. Into my bag. Some new potatoes and sweet potatoes--just a few of each. Then turnips, zucchini. The jalapeno pimento goat cheese I always, always buy. A whole bag of heirloom tomatoes. The hot weather lately has been annoying but at least we still have tomatoes.

To my surprise, a few late ears of sweet corn. Some peppers so bright and lovely I want to paint them. Then at a stall selling fall-themed wreaths I fall in love with a door swag--evergreen shot through with small berries of orange and purple, and tweezles. It's gorgeous. I can't carry it back to the car along with all the other vegetables so I ask the woman who made it to put it to one side for me. I'll be back.

I head to the car. On the way I get a bunch of flowers--dahlias and sunflowers and basil as greenery. They're lovely. And some apples--a small bag, of mixed oddball varieties.

As I'm walking back to the market, having unloaded my vegetables, I'm stopped by a polite young man with oddly expressive eyebrows. He's holding a clipboard. "Friend," he says, "are you registered to vote?"

"Yes," I said, "and I intend to do so." He smiles

I'm wearing a sweatshirt with a deep pocket. At the beginning of the morning I'd taken some twenties out of my wallet and stuffed them into the pocket. I keep paying for things from the money in my pocket and stuffing the change back in--I'm not really keeping an accounting. I go back for the swag (later I hang it on my front door. It's gorgeous) and some lettuce and a small bag of basil. Then, because my life is so ridiculously privileged, because I have just gone through the farmer's market buying every lovely thing to eat, I stop at the desk near the biscuit truck. The Avery County Food Pantry collects donations every week, and uses the money to buy fresh vegetables for their own shelves. I empty the contents of my pocket into the jar. I'm not sure how much it is. I don't stop to count.

It is a glorious day.