Wednesday, June 29, 2016


That's just about all I can say.

I just got back from the American Library Association Mid-Summer meeting in Orlando. We stayed an extra day so we could enjoy a baseball game with our son, who's interning with the Tampa Bay Rays. We also went there a day early so I could spend my birthday at Harry Potter World. In the three days in between, I had--I just counted--coffee with an editor, lunch with a writer friend, a drink with more editors (I'm blessed with editors), an official Newbery-type dinner, brunch with editors, a book signing, an awards ceremony, a fancy drinks reception, a full-on big-deal awards banquet with a receiving line after it that last three hours, another book signing, another awards lunch, another awards ceremony at which I gave a speech, a short reception, and another official dinner.

I am whacked.

I am wildly happy; I love everyone, especially my fellow writers; I met in person many people I've been friends with online for a good long time, and liked them all better than I hoped to; I feel personally called to be an even better writer after all this. My family was with me and my Newbery Dress was the bomb. It was wonderful. It exceeded my already high expectations.

Whacked, I tell you.

Yesterday's schedule: (after arriving at a St. Petersburg hotel near my son's apartment at 11:30 pm following that last official dinner)
9:45 wake up
10:15 breakfast
11:00 go to post office, mail home 48 pounds of books garnered at the convention. These include ARCs, books my fellow awardees personalized for me, and a lovely presentation copy of The War That Saved My Life.  (No, scratch that--I put the presentation copy in my handbag. It's specially bound in black and orange cloth (Penguin's colors) and has Newbery Honor 2016 embossed on the front. I didn't know this was a Thing. I will treasure it all my life.) Anyway, mail home 48 pounds of books.
11:30 visit Haslam's bookstore and buy another book. Yup. Not kidding.
12:00 lunch with my son!
1:00 personal tour of the Tampa Bay Rays' offices and ball field.
1:30 nap
4:30 wake up
5:15 go to son's apartment, and thence to ball game.

I imagine I might feel quite rested if I hadn't had to wake up at 4:45 to make my plane home. Still, I'm home, and I'm itching for words. The first thing I did was sit down at my computer. I don't have a novel to work on--I swore on several holy things that I wouldn't so much as glance at my sequel until my editor gets her notes to me next week--and while perusing the internet caught sight of my new copy of Lily and Dunkin, and dove in. I tore myself away to go say hi to my horse, and now I'm slightly scratching this writing itch, and then it's back to reading.

All ALA my husband remarked that in quiet moments I tended way more than I usually do to get completely absorbed in my phone. I was conscious that I was doing this, too: I told him I thought it was an introvert's reaction to all the noise and fanfare. I could go away into my phone for five minutes and recharge. It wasn't until I'd gotten on the plane for home that I realized what else made my phone so temporarily attractive: it was where the words were. It's very, very rare that I go five days without even starting a book. At ALA I was surrounded by books, but didn't have time to read, except on my phone, for tiny snippets of time.

I've already made up for that. As I was packing the box at the post office I threw one book into my purse instead: Richard Peck's latest, The Best Man. I finished it just as we got to Atlanta. Let me tell you, this may be the best Peck yet. Now I'm off to enjoy Lily and Dunkin. Lots more convention thoughts in the days to come.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I Did It!

"I did it!" has become a catch-phrase in my family. Last 4th of July weekend, my very small nephew Louie got a little overstressed by lack of sleep and the excitement of so much family. On the last day of his visit he was playing some age-appropriate games on my sister's iPad. He yelled "I did it!" every time he completed any task appropriately. He Did It! approximately 20 million times.

That's how I feel today.

Tomorrow I leave for ALA.

Yesterday I finished, and submitted, the latest draft of The War I Finally Won. I've been working hard on this. Can't tell you how relieved I am.

In light of yesterday's success, today I let myself go to yoga, where, two days before my 49th birthday, I did a full, real, handstand, for the first time ever. Doing a handstand before I turned 49 was a goal I set about 6 months ago.

I did it! I did it! Hooray!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Newbery Dress Saga: The Final Chapter (The Embarrassing One)

So I came home from NYC with a lovely Newbery dress that just needed to be hemmed a tad, and this was no problem. I'm short-waisted enough that a lot of my clothes need to be altered to fit correctly. We may have several competent people who alter clothes in Bristol, but the only one I know, and the only one I've ever used, is a woman named Valentina. She's from Croatia, and she's lovely.

I had another dress that needed the shoulder straps taken in (this is where my clothes usually need to be altered) and my daughter had her white dress for Class Night that needed alteration. We procrastinated, the way we usually do, so by the time we got to Valentina's it was early May and Valentina had a hand-written "Valentina is not taking any more alterations at this time" sign taped to her shop's front door.

We went in anyway. It was Prom Dress Heaven. The whole place, prom dresses everywhere. I hid the bag containing my dresses, which I didn't absolutely need right away, and pulled out my daughter's white dress.

"No, no," Valentina said. "No more dresses."

"We don't need it until after prom," I said.

She raised her eyebrows. "After all the proms?"

"Yes," I said, so she marked my daughter's dress and agreed to fix it. I picked it up the day of Class Night, and, at the same time, dropped off my dresses.

When I pulled up to the shop Valentina saw me coming. She laughed and stuck the "no alterations" sign back on the door. Then she took it off again. "Very nice dress," she said, about my Newbery dress. "Where this Macy's? Johnson City?"

She marked both dresses for me. This was about the 20th of May. I told her I didn't need the dresses until mid-June. She replied that she was going to Croatia for all of June, so I would have to pick the dresses up next week. I thanked all my stars that I hadn't procrastinated to the point that I'd gone looking for Valentina in the first week of June, and I left.

A week later she called to say that my dresses were ready. I put "pick up dresses" on my mental to-do list. Clearly I should have put it on my physical to-do list, because my mental to-do list is crap, and I forgot.

Until I was stretched out with a book on the back porch of our mountain retreat, in North Carolina, late Friday afternoon of Memorial Day Weekend. Valentina called. "You coming now for these dresses?" she asked. "I close at five."

Uh. "Can I come Tuesday?"

"Tuesday I fly to Croatia."


"Monday I am like chicken without a head. I not opening shop on Monday. Maybe I can call you, meet you there for ten minutes. I don't know."

I could not in any way blame Valentina for my issues. I had planned to stay in North Carolina through Monday evening; I could got back early and wait for Valentina's ten minutes, but it sounded painful for both of us. So I did what any self-respecting Southern woman would do, and I started calling the friends I have who can rescue me from my own idiocy without letting it damage our friendship.

Friend #1 wasn't answering her phone. Friend #2 laughed and said, "Kim, I'm in Ohio." I was flipping through my mental Rolodex (only slightly more reliable than my mental to-do list) for more people who would be in town and not at work at 4 pm on a Friday when my daughter, who'd overheard enough to understand what was going on, said, "Mack."

It was the obvious solution. Mack has worked for me for the last 18 years. At first I was only one of many people whose lawns he mowed. Eventually, however, I bought a farm, and then a tractor. (On the day the tractor arrived, Mack asked if he could "hop on and give it a try." He got off it five hours and 15 acres later). As Mack's grown older he's slowly given up all other jobs and now works for me, in good weather only, mowing everything I've got, which is a lot. He also mends fence, spreads manure, weed-whacks the creek bank, and in general saves my bacon. Also--this is huge--Mack is family. He loves me, and he loves helping me, even if it's by picking my Newbery dress up from Valentina at the last minute on a Friday afternoon.

To really appreciate the humor of this situation you have to know something about a certain type of older Appalachian redneck. I can't adequately explain Mack. But I will say that my directions sounded like this: "Her shop's on the little street between State Street and the post office--"

Mack: "Tennessee side?"

Me: "Yes, right down from the post office--"

Mack: "Sixth Street?"

Me; "I have no idea. Just go to the post office and head straight from there to State Street, and you'll see it on the left. Down from the pizza place--"

Mack: "By the post office?"

Me: "Put Linda on the phone." (That's Mack's wife. She knew what I meant right away. Please note that I now give directions like a native Bristollian, mostly devoid of street names. (State Street doesn't count. State Street is the main street of my hometown, and also the state line between Tennessee and Virginia. Everyone talks about State Street.) The only way I could have made this more authentically Bristol is if I'd used the phrase "used to be." As in, you know where the post office used to be? Right, go from there to-- ) "Mack? Call me if you have trouble. Oh! You'll have to pay her!"

"That's all right, Miss Kim. You can pay me back."

Mack called half an hour later. "Got your dress. It's real pretty, Miss Kim. Where you wearin' this?"

"To the Newbery dinner. Thanks, Mack. Thanks so much."

"Miss Kim, you know I'd do 'bout anything for you." And aren't I lucky that's true.

The End.

Monday, June 20, 2016

My Newbery Dress Saga, Round 3 (Shoes)

Shoes to match the Newbery dress.

This one was easy. We were still inside Macy's, the big one in New York City, and that store devotes about 500 acres to shoes. (The only store I've seen with more shoes is Galleries Lafayette in Paris; the difference is, I can afford AND I can walk in most of the shoes from Macy's.)

Anyhow, I wandered among the shoe fields until I found the room devoted to shoes that went with ball dresses and wedding gowns. Like everywhere else in Macy's that day, it was packed. A group of elderly black women tried on wedding shoes on one side. A group of young women wearing headscarves tried on prom shoes on the other.

I was overjoyed to learn that the exact same company that made my dress also made shoes. There were two strong candidates to go with my gown: one silver, one midnight blue. Both covered with beads, which made them awesome. I asked to see them both.

The silver shoes were lovely. The blue shoes were lovely. Both fit well, I could walk in both of them. Eventually, trying to decide, I put the silver shoe on my left foot and the blue shoe on my right foot. I reached into my shopping bag, pulled out my dress, and held it up to me in front of a long mirror.

The other women in the room sighed. It's that kind of dress. "The blue shoe, honey," one of the black women said. "Blue," the Muslim teens agreed.

So I went with blue. Like I said, easy. Then I took the dress to be altered and ran into some trouble.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Where I'll be at ALA

Hi guys!

I'll finish up my Newbery Dress Saga soon. Today I got my official schedule for ALA, that is, the American Librarian Association summer conference in Orlando, and it's a doozy. Lots of fun and excitement. I know many of you are also attending so I thought I'd post where to find me.

On Saturday my daughter and I will be trolling the floor for free books. I'll also attend the memorial service for victims of the Orlando shooting at 8 in the morning, but don't plan to stand out in the crowd. At 9:00 I'll be reading in the Banned Books Readout Booth, I hope from The War That Saved My Life, though I don't think it's been officially banned anywhere so I might have to choose a more subversive book, like Harry Potter or the Bible.

Sunday I am signing free copies of TWTSML from 1 to 2 at the Penguin Young Readers Booth. I don't necessarily anticipate a crowd, but I can not stay late as I have to get to a Schneider Award photo session, so if you're dying for a book come early.

At 6:30 on Sunday is the big Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet. I'm told something like 1000 people attend. Tickets may be available? don't actually know. A "receiving line and cash bar" follows. I will be wearing my fabulous princess dress.

Monday I am signing free copies of TWTSML from 10 to 11 at Children's Plus, booth 1313. Again I can't stay late, as I'm off to the Schneider Luncheon. At 3 pm I'll be attending the Odyssey Awards Presentation, where I'm giving a very brief speech I haven't written yet.

Phew! Please do come, get a book, shake my hand, whatever. I'm so glad to be doing this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pony Club, Love, and Orlando

As I type this, it's very early in the morning on the third and final day of pony club camp. I have a dozen mostly-teenagers sleeping in my basement. In an hour or so, they will wake themselves up, select breakfast from the food I've laid out for them, stuff their sleeping bags into my car (I'll drive it over to the barn) and then set out across the fields to the camp barn, laughing and chattering in the early light. Our club does camp exceptionally well. Every year I marvel at how these kids learn to work together, learn to truly be a team.

Eleven years ago my son captained a team at quiz rally, an unmounted regional pony club competition. His team won, beating something like 11 other teams, mostly due to the fact that they'd come to trust each other and work together. I can still picture their faces when at the end of a very long day they found out that they'd won. I can still remember their joy.

One of the children on that quiz team, now all young adults out of or near the end of college, is gay. One of those children, who is gay, posted yesterday on Facebook how scary it was to be singled out in hatred because of something intrinsic to their very being. My heart is breaking for that child, now a fine adult, for Orlando, for us all.

My novel For Freedom tells the true story of a 16-year-old who fought the Nazis in the French Resistance during World War II. Of the 23 people in her group, 2 survived the war. She knew those odds from the start. She fought, she told me, because she never wanted to look back and admit she had not acted against the horrors of Nazi Germany. She fought for her own freedom, for freedom of conscience.

I think that gun control is a complicated issue in our country--we've got an awful lot of guns on the street already, and no matter what we do they aren't going to disappear. I think we have to work toward gun control anyhow. We have to at least try something, at least make it a little bit harder to acquire the means to shoot a hundred people in a crowd.

I'm also going to keep standing up for humanity: for gay people, for straight people, for transgender people. Black people, white people, Latinos, Muslims, Catholics, Jews. I watched the Tonys on Sunday because I love the musical Hamilton, so got to see Lin-Manuel Miranda recite an incredible sonnet that paid homage to his wife, his musical creation, and the victims in Orlando. It ended,

We chase the melodies that seem to find us 
Until they’re finished songs and start to play 
When senseless acts of tragedy 
Remind us that nothing here is promised, not one day, 
The show is proof that history remembers; 
We live through times when hate and fear seems stronger, 
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, 
Remembrances that hope and love last longer.
And love is love, is love, is love, is love, is love, is love, is love, is love. 
Cannot be killed or swept aside. 
I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story. 
Now fill the world with music, love and pride.
Every one of the people in that nightclub was loved. Every one of the people in that nightclub were worthy of love. We are all of us put here to love.

Friday, June 10, 2016

My Newbery Dress Story: Part Two

So after the Nordstrom's in Nashville proved a bust, I took my Newbery-dinner-dress-shopping self to New York City. (You can not find a ball gown in my hometown, Bristol. You can rent a tux or buy a prom dress, but only barely.) The trip to New York was actually my husband's Christmas present--tickets to Hamilton, and yo, it's as good as the hype--but fortunately my generous husband did not mind at all spending the morning finding me dresses. He's lovely.

New York has Bergdorf's and Neiman-Marcus and lots and lots of swank boutiques, but while I was looking for an amazing dress I was not looking for an amazingly expensive one. So we went to the flagship Macy's, and it was the ever-loving bomb. Lots of New York women buy ball gowns. Lots of them were there that specific Saturday morning to buy ball gowns. I snagged a dressing room early, and I held onto it while my husband brought me more and more dresses to try on, and that was lucky, because even though they had over two dozen dressing rooms they had a line of women waiting for a chance at one.

Macy's had hundreds of dresses. All sizes, all colors, everything you wanted. The dressing room was a wild melting pot of Polish babushkas, Latina teens trying for prom dresses, elegant matrons, half a dozen different languages. We helped each other with zippers and cheered each other on. At one point, a child gleefully yelled, "Everyone come look at my Mama! She's beautiful!" A dozen heads popped out of dressing room doors and we all applauded a plump, comely young woman who did, indeed, look beautiful.

I tried on a parade of dresses. Disney princess was out. Bare midriffs were out. The very trendy dog-collar design: out. (I have broad shoulders and a perpetual farmer's tan.) Dress, dress, dress. Out, out, out. I'd step outside the dressing room and display each dress to my husband and a group of people waiting on their relations. Pretty soon we all got friendly. I'd come out, and the people would all shake their heads. I'd hang the rejects on the clothes rack by the door, and my husband would bring me something new.

Then we found it. Midnight blue, covered in beads, slithering elegantly to the floor. Scoop neck and short sleeves. Fits me like it was made for me. I don't look like a Disney princess in it, but I feel like a princess. I love that dress to pieces.

One of the babushkas helped me with the zipper. I stepped outside the dressing room. The whole waiting group nodded in approval. A stout woman with a Middle Eastern accent said, "That's it, honey. That's the one."

Next in the saga: shoes.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

About Being #1 On The New York Times Bestseller List

Wow. Fun day here at the Bradley house. 2016 is turning out to be a pretty fine year, and June an excellent month. My son is working in the business office of a professional sports team--his dream internship--my daughter is preparing to start at her first-choice college, my husband is restoring sight to the blind with his customary skill and kindness--and the paperback edition of The War That Saved My Life just debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Also I've been writing well, the Little Free Library at Bristol Faith in Action is soaring, the sun's shining, the dog hasn't peed inside the house so far today, and a girl I very much like is coming to ride my elderly horse whom I adore. I'm not sure days get better than this.

#1 on the NYT Bestseller List. The War That Saved My Life. (It's the June 19th list, not the one coming out this Sunday.)

I don't even know how to write about it. My sister asked me last night (after expressing her joy): what do you get for that? I told her, 1) they will frame a copy of the list and the cover of my book, and hang them in the conference room at my publisher's offices [this is true] and 2), for the rest of my life, they'll type "#1 NYT bestselling author" before or after my name. I offered her the following example, via text: "The #1 NYT bestselling author is contemplating another glass of wine." She wrote back: "The #1 NYT bestselling author's sister is dying." along with some hysterical-laughter emojis.

The #1 NYT Bestselling Author knows that an enormous number of things in publishing, including how well her books sell and whether or not they win awards, is way outside her control. The #1 NYTBA understands that having a book published will not make you smarter, thinner, or less likely to commit embarrassing social gaffes, such as introducing yourself to someone you've already met twice. Nothing about writing a well-received book will make your hair smoother, more elegant, or less grey (though you can still fix that). Nothing about starred reviews turns you into a nicer, taller, les- annoying person. It doesn't make your pets behave better, your pants fit better, or your laundry magically do itself. It won't fix your relationships. It won't prevent you from failing next time.

On the other hand--this is the good part--writing a badly-received book won't consign you to a life of misery. It won't make your children into jackasses, your husband any less loving, your sweet princess self less charming or deserving of good things. It's a small little part of your life, whether your books sell. Whether you can make art that's meaningful. You can always try again.

Last week I listened to a podcast from New Zealand that was two adults discussing my book. They kept praising it more than they meant to. "Well, I'm not sure a child would love this--I mean I couldn't put it down, but I wasn't sure why-" At one point they moaned about the fact that the story includes a pony, so trite, then said "A pony named Bu-ttarh, oh he's perfect, I loved him." They said that the spy story was completely utterly unnecessary "but of course children will love it, it's straight out of Enid Blyton, and obviously an homage to Noel Streatfield--" It went on like that and I loved it.

I wrote a book children want to read. I created characters children care about.

I was the kid staying up all hours to read the adventures of Pauline, Posy, and Petrova. I can recite lines still from the novels I read over and over again. I love books. I live surrounded by books. Now I create books. It's the best damn thing in the world.

Being on a Bestseller List is awesome, here's why: there are children like me finding out that there are children like them. We connect through books. Hallelujah.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

My Newbery Dress Story: Part 1

I've got this fun little dinner party coming up in a few weeks. It's the American Library Association's Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Awards banquet, where I'll be receiving the Newbery Honor for The War That Saved My Life.

I found out about the Honor last January, and, naturally, the first question that sprung to mind was, "What will I wear to the party?"

Readers who actually know me are ROFL right now. I'm not much of clothes diva. ON THE OTHER HAND, if there were ever an excuse for a party dress, this would be it. I may never get another big ALA award, and I am going to make the most of it. I'm making my husband dust off his tux.

"What are you wearing to the banquet?" I asked Carole Boston Weatherford, in February. We were eating lunch together after both being honored with the Josette Frank Award. Carole's book, Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, also won a Coretta Scott King award, a Caldecott Honor, and a Siebert Honor. It's a good year for Carole and me.

"I haven't even thought about it," Carole said. (We both looked good for the Josette Frank ceremony. We both wore stylish dresses, heavy tights, interesting jewelry and good footwear. All without coordinating with each other first. Her bracelet was super cool.)

"I want to wear a ball gown," I said.

"Then you must wear a ball gown," she said, instantly and very firmly. I really like Carole.

"Full Disney Princess," I said to the saleswoman at Nordstrom's. It was mid-March and I was in Nashville with my daughter. The Nashville Nordstrom's had a small and very select array of ballgowns. Each style came in precisely one colorway and size, to ensure, I suppose, that the elegant women of Nashville never accidentally wear matching gowns to the same soiree. This made things difficult: if a gown wasn't my size, or my color, it was out--and there were only about a dozen gowns to choose from all together.

The first thing we realized was that Full Disney Princess was out. It turns out that if you wrap a wide poufy skirt around what is already the widest and poufiest part of me, the overall effect is unflattering. It works for Belle, but not me.

Undaunted, I took a lovely blue sheath off the rack and tried it on. It didn't quite fit--wasn't quite my size--but the overall look was very nice, and the gown itself felt lovely. Wonderful heavy fabric. "Perhaps I can order a different size," I said to my daughter. We checked the gown's price tag.

Eight Thousand Dollars.

Uh-uh. No way. My husband later pointed out that, technically, I COULD afford to buy an eight thousand dollar dress. I mean, if it were necessary to save my life or something. Possibly if wearing that specific dress were the only way I was going to allowed into my audience with the Queen. But probably not even that, I mean, really. There are some things that are just not right, and me, who can't reliably eat a meal without spilling something, wearing an eight thousand dollar dress is one of them. I spilled red Jello down my wedding dress. (The flowergirl, my sister, was only two years old.) I've acquired eight good horses in my lifetime and only one of them cost more than eight thousand dollars. I once bought a car that cost eight thousand dollars, and I drove it for nearly a decade.

I eased my way very carefully out of the eight-thousand-dollar dress. I left Nordstrom's. My daughter and I headed off to our favorite bookstore, Parnassus, with light hearts, unconcerned--because I had an ace in my hand. The very next weekend, I was going back to New York City. I was pretty sure they sold nice dresses there.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Let's Discuss Sex, Rape, and Brock Turner

K, guys. I'm having a bit of a hard day on the internet. I keep reading comments about convicted rapist Brock Turner, a Stanford university swimmer sentenced to six months in jail (when he could have gotten 14 years on the charges proved against him) and how sad it is, how tragic that this fine upstanding young rapist's life has been affected by his criminal actions.

His father wrote a touching letter to the judge about how his son shouldn't be punished for "20 minutes of action." That's an actual quote.

His friend wrote a touching letter to the judge about how having sex with unconscious women is WAY different than being a "real" rapist.

Comments on Stanford University's campus newspaper website include:
--that white men who rape deserve shorter prison sentences than black men, because they're less likely to do it again
--that the victim was dressed in "whorehouse" attire.
--that because the rapist was an Olympic-level swimmer, he was probably using steriods, which ABSOLVED him of responsibility because he was probably raping due to "roid-rage."
--that because the victim was unconscious she could not be traumatized (say what?) and that therefore having sex with unconscious women could not be considered rape. Right. Knock 'em out first, and dude, you're clear.
--that despite the fact that the man has been convicted of three felony charges, he was only "alleged" to have committed them, and that the victim is probably lying.
--that the fact that the victim's name has not been released to the press (as is standard in sexual assault cases) means that no one knows who she is and MAYBE SHE DOESN'T EVEN EXIST.

Maybe it's all a conspiracy against privileged white guys!

I kid you not.

I really think my head might explode.

Let's review.

There is NO SUCH THING as "consensual sex." Sex is by definition consensual. Non-consensual sexual activity is known as rape.

Consent requires consciousness. Unconscious people are incapable of consent. Anytime anyone anywhere has sex with an unconscious person, they are committing rape.

Drinking alcohol does not absolve you of rape. I've been drunk before. Never raped anyone.

Wearing short skirts does not mean you deserve to be raped.

Being white? Hey, you can still be a rapist! Athlete? Sure can! Frat boy? No excuse--I know plenty of frat boys that don't. rape. anyone.

Ima gonna be an activist about this. I'm sick of the culture that allows this shit to continue. I. Am. Done. Forget rants: I feel a whole damn book coming on.

Meanwhile, a moment of respect for the heroes of this pathetic story: the two men who saw the rape, pulled the rapist off the victim, chased him when he ran away and held him until the police arrived. And the victim herself, who read a long, strong letter to her rapist in court. It ends with these amazing words:

" girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you."

Thursday, June 2, 2016

One-Dog Night

There was a time in my life, not that long ago, when I had four dogs, total weight about 240 lbs, and had no dog backchat at all. Now I'm down to one dog, 8 years old, less than 20 pounds, and she's trying to take over the world.

She has one weapon: persistence. You are never gonna wear this dog down. Usually at home she sleeps in her crate. She feels safe there with the door latched, to the extent that she insists we latch the door before she'll eat (we can leave food in her dish all day, and she'll ignore it until we latch her in with it) and gives us very dirty looks in the morning if we ever go to bed without latching her into her crate the night before. She mostly only wants to sleep in her crate: when I was in Florida, my husband tried to get her to sleep upstairs with him, only to have her sit bolt upright and staring beside his head until he gave in and took her back downstairs.

However, she dislikes thunderstorms. She could tolerate them when our other indoor dog was still alive. Now that she's alone, nothing doing. A storm brews up, and she begins to howl. She howls nonstop until either my husband or I get up and start down the stairs. We open the crate, she follows us back upstairs, and she sleeps our bed, usually on top of my feet.

We spent Memorial Day weekend at our house in the mountains of North Carolina. The dog loves the mountain house. It must smell fantastic up there, because she's all about sniffing through the woods for hours. We have a crate in the pool room--not a room with a swimming pool, a room with a pool table-just off our bedroom, and she used to be perfectly happy sleeping in it. Then we had guests staying in the room above the pool room, and she didn't like that, so she howled. Nonstop. Until we took her into our bedroom because we couldn't let her torture our guests.

The dog liked that. We've got a little armchair in the bedroom there, and the dog curled up on it and slept peacefully, disturbing no one. All was well for everyone even though the dog decided that the armchair beat her crate all hollow, and she was therefore going to howl every night until we let her sleep on the chair.

Can you see where this is going? We were fine with the dog sleeping on the chair. We even pondered getting a small dog-friendly chair for our bedroom at home. The dog, on the other hand, wanted an upgrade. Last weekend my husband put her on the chair. She jumped onto the bed. He moved her back to the chair. She jumped onto the bed. He moved her back to the chair. She jumped onto the bed.

We could see who was going to win this one. It wasn't my husband. "Maybe there's a storm coming," I said. The dog lay heavily across my feet. We left her there.

Next night, same thing. Third night, and my husband just picked her up and put her onto the bed. She settled down with a contented sigh.

Last night it stormed so of course she was in the bed with us, but I'm really wondering what tonight is going to bring.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Early on the First of June

This is the first Wednesday I've gotten up when my husband's alarm went off for a long time--perhaps years. He goes in early every Wednesday because he operates every Wednesday; the children didn't need to get up so early and I got up with them. Today I really wanted some time to write before I went to Faith in Action--my usual Wednesday job--also, I'm wondering what the post-apocolyptic empty-nest version of my schedule should be. Sleeping in every day while my husband heads to his office is perhaps greedy of me. Also I write best in the mornings.

Anyhow, it was quarter to six when I took the dog out and walked down the hill to pick up our newspaper. The sun was rising, the air smelled of honeysuckle, and something like a million birds were singing all at once. I can't remember hearing birdsong that loud. (Faint among the chorus: my neighbor's rooster.)

It was a fine way a to start the day.