Tag Archives: introverts

The Monday Book: THE MOUNTAINTOP SCHOOL FOR DOGS AND OTHER SECOND CHANCES by Ellen Cooney

mountaintopschool-bookThis is kind of a stream of consciousness book, but it has three of my favorite things in it: cool characters, dogs, and a redemption theme. Evie leaves her drug rehab program without completing it and lies her way into a job at a dog rescue, run by four ex-nuns at the top of the mountain. At the bottom is Mrs. Auberchon, a basket case in her own right, who is the rescue warden and runs an Inn. She’s a hoot. You kind of wish you didn’t like her.

The dogs are their own characters, each with a story of how she or he was liberated or dropped to the rescue. What might sound like it would be predictable as a plot is written in such a quirky way, you really can’t always tell what’s going on. This is one of those edgy books that doesn’t even get close to sentimental because it’s too busy startling you.

Here’s a quote to give you an idea of Cooney’s weird, wild writing style: “Sometimes when dogs greeted a returning soldier, they’d go over the edge. They would have to take a few moments to run crazily in circles around the human, or around a room or a yard. I’d have to take a break from watching, so my brain had a chance to absorb what I was seeing: that there is such a thing as joy being bigger than the container that holds it.”

Two paws up, no opposable thumbs.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing, YA fiction

Bucket List vs. Sieve List

If bucket lists exist, then there must also be “sieve lists”–things you never planned to do that suddenly stick in the mesh as life’s waters rush by. Here are a few of mine that stick out:

We’ve been to the Revolutionary War cemetery in Dandridge, TN

It was an accident. One crisp fall weekend Jack and I did an event requiring a hotel too near Dollywood, and when we got up in the morning, access to the freeway was so clogged, we took off down a side road and navigated by map. When we got to Dandridge, we stopped just because we’d never been to Dandridge, found the cemetery, and spent a pleasant hour on the self-guided tour, picking out Scots and Scots-Irish settlers. Jack and I often comment about the difference between “old” in the US and UK: we’ve visited 1200s ruins there, and functioning 1400s hunting lodges. But here was an “old” cemetery with real people who had done significant things, whose names had been lost by wind, time, and weather to everything but the printed tourism brochure. Jack and I have had a lot of moments like this, when Plan A gets tossed at the last second and we come up with a Plan B on the fly. Sure, we wind up with the occasional disaster, but more often we get magic moments like that day.

Sieve list lesson: don’t be afraid to strike out down the side road

I spent several hours in a school shooting lock-down

It turned out the gunman was a hoax called in by a deranged student. But those of us who spent that January night listening for footsteps beneath howling winds comingled with sirens didn’t know that. I’m not recommending expectation of death as a mental exercise, but a surprising amount of clarity lingers when fear dissolves into a second chance.

Sieve list lesson: second chances are unexpected gifts of grace; take your best shot when you get one

I taught students that thinking was grounded in, yet different from, knowing facts

Teaching Cultural Geography et al was first for fun, then for money, and then for love. Finally I stopped because the politics of adjuncting overwhelmed the joy. But I had no idea how much I would love teaching until I saw students–mid-lecture or classroom exercise–connect with whatever concept we were covering. Sure, every teacher is excited by students who really wanted to learn, but sometimes who got hit upside the head with a new perspective was as startling to you, the teacher, as to them. Kids shuffling toward mediocrity would suddenly blink, and you could see that, willing or not, the moment of truth had captured them. I’m sure some of them pushed these epiphanies back down under the latest recreational diversion, but a wave of understanding still swamped their world, creating empathy, forcing awareness. Dear God in Heaven, I loved those moments. I miss them.

Sieve list lesson: good, right, best, and ethical are tricky negotiations; do the best you can

I got a book published

Writing was always on my bucket list; publishing, not. To paraphrase my friend Jane Yolen, publishing isn’t something writers get to be in charge of; we write, and the chips fall. The process of turning writing into publishing proved to be fun hard work that really did change my life–mostly because Little Bookstore was about such an integral part of my life. Publishing enriches you with money sometimes, but more with people. As an introvert, I was at first nervous when readers traveled to the bookstore wanting to chat, but my extrovert husband showed me what a gift a different perspective brings. It still amazes me how differently the people who loved Little Bookstore think from each other in terms of politics, religion, what life should be like, etc. And sure, it’s a quick ego stroke when people like your book, but then it flies past ego and comes around full circle to a kind of grateful bewilderment, even true friendship sometimes. A lot of interesting, cool, fun people hang out in the word world.

Sieve list lesson: what you think is the core (or payoff) may not be; be surprised by joy

What’s on your sieve list?

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