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.