Sunday, February 24, 2019

Things Not to Complain About

I lost my wallet yesterday.

Somehow (but HOW??!!) between the time I paid for parking at the Denver Family Fest, where I was signing books at the Tattered Cover Bookstore booth, and the time the delighttful events coordinator for the store handed me my parking reimbursement, my wallet disappeared.

Could I possibly have left it on the seat in the car? Oh, please let it be on the seat of the car!

It wasn't.

I retraced my steps through the dirty slush from car to venue, twice, staring down at the ground.

No wallet.

I inquired at the Lost and Found. Yes, they had found a wallet! Hooray!

But it wasn't mine.

Slowly the truth dawned on me. The wallet was gone, and I wasn't going to get it back. I was going to have to replace driver's license, credit card, ATM card, King Soopers grocery card, King Soopers reloadable gift card, University of Colorado faculty ID (which serves as my university library card), Boulder Public Library card, membership cards for the Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Art Museum, the Botanic Gardens, health insurance card, dental insurance card. . .. WAHHHH!!!

This was Just the Kind of Thing That Always Happens to Me.

This was an Omen That the Rest of Life Was Going to Be Ruined.

This was the Biggest Pain in the History of the World!

But now, the day after, I'm gradually putting this into perspective.

This is not the kind of thing that always happens to me. Instead, it's the kind of thing that happens to just about everybody who is lucky enough to have a wallet in the first place. It's an absolutely common irritation of modern living.

This is not an omen that the rest of my life is going to be ruined. In fact, it's not an omen of anything. Because there is NO SUCH THING AS OMENS!

And it's not the biggest pain in the history of the world. It is a very small pain. It's not even big enough to count as a blip; it's what I call a blippette.

I should not be railing against the universe because of a blippette.

So here is the list of things, for future reference, that I'm telling myself not to complain about:

1. Loss/damage for anything that is fully replaceable.
2. Loss/damage where replacement will cost less than $100.
3. Loss/damage where replacement will take less than 3-4 hours. Or even 6.
4. Loss/damage of anything that doesn't really matter.
5. Loss/damage of things that are commonly lost, where losing them is just a part of life and nothing the slightest bit remarkable.

That is a pretty good list. Losing my wallet is beneath the threshold for complaint on all five criteria.
It's a blippette. And just the word "blippette" makes me smile.

Good-bye, wallet! Hello, long line at the DMV to get a replacement license! (I'll take a book to read.)

And the rest of my life is going to be just fine.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Reading Across Borders

I've been in writing groups for my entire career, but I've never been in a long-running reading group, except during the several years when I teaching at DePauw University in Indiana, where I was a temporary member of the Janeites (which began each year with re-reading a beloved Jane Austen text).

Now, however, I surprised myself by becoming not only a member but the founder of a book group that is well into its second year. The idea for it popped into my head at the start of 2018, after a certain president was quoted as making a certain remark about U.S. immigration policy: that we didn't want people coming here from "sh-t hole countries." That week, in reply, someone posted on Facebook a link to an article providing a list of fabulous books by authors from just these denigrated countries. Ooh! I thought. I should read those books! Then: double-ooh! I thought. Why don't I put a post of my own on Facebook inviting other intrepid readers to join me?

Over a dozen people responded, from all different parts of my life - other children's book authors, former philosophy students, a friend from church, a friend whose daughters attended elementary school with my boys. Because most of the people in the group didn't know each other, except through me, we don't spend much time in our meetings on chit-chat. Instead we leap right in to talk about . . . the BOOK! Soon we outgrew the original "sh-t-hole-country" list and started nominating other titles, with the only proviso that we would focus our attention on other countries, other cultures, other viewpoints.

Here are the titles the New Voices Book Group has read thus far (many of these authors, listed here by their country of origin, now live and write in the U.S. or the U.K.).

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi of Kenya
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue of Cameroon
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (poetry collection), by Warsan Shire, of Somalia/Kenya
Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya of El Salvado (read in translation)
The Art of Dying by Edwidge Danticat of Haiti
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo of Zimbabwe
Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, by Native American poet Joy Harjo
The Original Dream by Nukila Amal of Indonesia (read in translation)
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy of India
Hunger by Lan Samantha Chang (whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from China)
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock (an African-American trans woman)
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (the American-born daughter of Nigerian parents)
Burnt Sugar: Contemporary Cuban poetry, edited by Lori Marie Carlson and Oscar Hijelos

Next up:
Ghachar Gochar by Vivek Shanbhag of India, translated from the Kannada language
Women without Men: A Novel of Modern Iran, by Shahrnush Parispur of Iran
Night School: A Reader for Adults, by Zsofia Ban of Hungary
Confessions of the Lioness but Mia Couto of Mozambique and Brazil

I haven't loved all these books - my least favorites were The Original Dream and Binti - but there hasn't been one I regretted reading and talking about with this little band of adventurous readers. My world is bigger now than it was a year ago, and for that I am grateful.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Too Much of a Good Thing

I love decluttering.

I love decluttering so much that I seldom even get the chance to do any, as I tend not to acquire clutter in the first place.

That said, even ardent declutterers can usually find SOMETHING more to get rid of. So in January (inspired in part by the Marie Kondo craze that was sweeping the country from her new Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo), I set myself the goal of ridding my house of 365 items for the coming year, one per day.

I ended up meeting the goal within the week, finally making myself part with some books I will truly never miss. Did I need a second - or THIRD - copy of certain childhood favorites? Did I need faded paperback copies of classic novels that are easily available in much more attractive editions from the public library? No, I did not.

But sometimes even I admit to the joy of owning something in reckless abundance. I can't make myself part with the two huge plastic tubs of Beanie Babies from the years when my two growing sons would each get a Beanie Baby in his Christmas stocking, in his Easter basket, for his birthday, and several as souvenirs on every family trip. I also couldn't make myself haul away a bunch of old pillows - though here I didn't particularly want to keep them, I just didn't want to send still useful pillows to the landfill (donation centers and recycling facilities won't accept them).

So when my two little granddaughters were here last week, and it snowed too hard for us to get out one day, I dragged down the Beanie Baby tubs from the attic.
It IS fun to have such a huge heap of them, no?

And the pillows served to make a roof for a playhouse, and a floor for a playhouse, as well as a door.
This final picture is not of my own stash of costume jewelry, but jewelry at the home of Kataleya's best friend, whose home contains more entertaining objects and overwhelmingly fun play opportunities for little girls, I'm convinced, than any other place on earth.
I remain a devotee of Marie Kondo, and I plan to revel in more decluttering in the future, but I'll give the closing words here to Mae West: "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful."