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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.

In Defense of Podcasts...and Marriage

I was in Oregon over the weekend to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. Which might not seem like much—they were a regular small-town couple who raised regular small-town children and had regular small-town problems (including cars that almost never worked)—except think about that for a minute. Think about people you know who have been married for 60 years. Do you know any? My grandparents are both now in their eighties, and lots of people don’t even live that long. And of the ones who do, a large contingent don’t stay married, or at least to the same person. It really is remarkable. Of course, reaching any kind of marriage milestone (even, like, one year) seems miraculous to the eternal singleton that is me. Indeed, I’m convinced that every single committed, loving relationship is nothing short of a miracle. But 60 years? That’s a whole different level.

Book clubs have (surprisingly) never been my thing. I don’t enjoy reading books that I mostly wouldn’t have chosen to read myself. And so I certainly don’t then enjoy discussing books that I mostly wouldn’t have chosen to read myself. But a friend of mine recently recruited me for a Podcast club, and it’s pretty much the best thing ever. For starters, it’s less of a time commitment, and podcasts can be listened to while accomplishing any number of tasks. And another great thing about podcasts is they so often leave you smack dab in the middle of some kind of philosophical or moral debate. Animal hunting, the treatment of rape victims and perpetrators, the appropriateness of hope in the parents of autistic children, the vast differences in the frames of reference of American children and their much less fortunate foreign parents, the inescapable depression of the 2016 political situation, etc. I mean, these are hot issues. They are issues that will most definitely make you think—no, emote—at a level that most books do not. And what I find so fascinating is that most podcasts have the ability to make me waffle from one side to the other as the various points and perspectives are discussed. And any medium that can cause so many facets of your own conscience to come to the surface within such a short amount of time is clearly onto something.

To bring this back to 60 years of marriage, one of the podcasts I listened to this week centered on this idea of reruns; or, in the case of the married couples interviewed for the podcast, the issue of stories you hear your spouse tell over and over again, to the point of driving you absolutely crazy. I’d never really thought about this dilemma before. Again, as a singleton, I always have a new audience (a different date, a different squeeze, a different boyfriend), and I’ve never really run into this issue. But think of how this could come into play for people like my darling grandparents. “Honey, I’ve literally heard that story a hundred times.” It’s rather amusing to think about, especially after listening to the podcast, in which the annoyed spouses (the ones sick of the other person’s stories) were surprisingly unable to successfully tell the stories themselves, even after supposedly having heard them ad nauseam. On the other end of the spectrum, some of these people had gotten so used to their spouse’s stories that they believed they themselves had actually been there when they, in fact, had not. That one’s almost equally amusing—and not all that unlike my own discovery some years ago that my favorite childhood memory apparently never happened. I’d imagined it so often, every detail easy to recollect, that I had convinced myself (and if I’m being honest still sort of believe) it was real.

In any case, I guess one of the hallmarks of a red-letter marriage is that even after 60 years, you still enjoy hearing him/her tell the same stories. And you can’t wait to create more, together. Happy anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa. I’m pretty sure you two are going to make it.



Bob's Beach Books

This store hosts a Northwest authors fair each summer, and for years I've been trying to get in. Nevermind that I no longer live in the Northwest. Nevermind that I spend much more getting to author fairs than I make in book sales from them. That's not really the point. The point is me, feeling like an author, introducing my books to people and seeing their faces when they smile that "I want to read this" smile.

It happens less than you think it does. People wanting to read your books. Even when you think your book is one of the best (or at least most normal) options at the whole fair. People will still pass you over for the stapled books of poetry or quilting murder mysteries or cult vampire thrillers. People will ALMOST ALWAYS pass you over for these things. For anything. For anything else you can possibly imagine. Very rarely is your book actually going to be what someone wants to read when given a whole slew of varying options. On one hand, it's comforting, isn't it? That it takes all kinds? And while I used to be discouraged when only a handful of people at an author fair would choose to buy one of my books, I've learned to appreciate it when it happens, knowing this is the kind of person who would probably be a literary kindred spirit of mine. I mean, anyone who listens to my spiel about a jewelry memoir that celebrates the role it plays in our lives, loves, and families and then agrees to buy a copy is certainly the definition of kindred spirit. (Sidenote: this was the first event EVER where I sold more Jeweled than Schooled.)

A word about Bob's Beach Books, because I can definitely see why so many authors want to return to this event. It's remarkably well-run, mostly due to the efforts of the store manager, and, now that I've visited, it's exactly the kind of small-town independent bookstore that I would frequent if I lived there. Here's hoping I get in again next year. Because coastal air up north is so refreshing. And because Oregon has no shortage of kindred spirits. Even if so many of them do prefer quilting murder mysteries and cult vampire thrillers.




I woke up last Thursday morning to the sight of a woman at the top of my driveway putting a bag of dog poop in my trash can. And so I stewed on this for hours, feeling pissed and a little violated. What is wrong with people?

It took hearing the Roseburg news to shake me from my ridiculousness, because in the grand scheme of things, who cares about dog poop? In the grand scheme of things, who cares about anything other than the health and safety of the good people of this planet? What’s worse—or at least what hit me hardest about this most recent mass shooting—is that it happened right near my own hometown. Mere miles from both the home where I grew up and the beloved jewelry store I talk about in Jeweled. The UCC campus itself is where I attended countless dance recitals and community musicals, competed in high school choir competitions, and took yearly school exams.

And so I’ve been sad for my community, even though I no longer live there. I’ve been angered at the vulnerable situation these no-gun zones put people in (think the school in Sandy Hook, the movie theater in Aurora, UCC, etc). I’ve been inspired by the faith and hope of those who have been most affected by this tragedy. And I’ve been completely unconcerned about dog poop in my trash can ever since.


The Pacific


Ditto everything I said in my last post. There are days when it wins me over. Although I've yet to experience a day on the Oregon Coast that did not win me over.


Roots and Wings


I love living in New York, but it's hard to beat this view out your back window. Yes, I love living in New York, but I'd be lying if I said it was stress free. Au contraire. It's noisy, it's expensive, and the woman downstairs keeps whacking her ceiling as hard as she can every time my cat runs across the room. Of course, these things seem less significant when compared to all the wonderful things about living in New York, but still, there are days it wears me down. There are days when the woman downstairs wins. 

All of this is to say that I am enjoying my extended Christmas vacation in Oregon perhaps much more than I have in other years. The contrast is so refreshing. Everything is quiet and the air smells clean and piney. There are tree-covered hills in every direction. There are high school friends raising families. There is my jeweler who asked me once again yesterday how long before I am ready to buy his store. Of course, these things seem less appealing when compared to the economic challenges and realities of living in rural, southwestern Oregon, but still, there are days when it wins me over. There are days when the city can't compare.

I know, I know. A girl can certainly have roots and wings, and I guess I should consider myself fortunate that both places are so special to me. And with that, I must return to my Christmas Eve activities. There's a pie to bake, presents to wrap, a party to attend. I can promise that before stepping into the building tonight, pie in hand, I will pause, surrounded by green on all sides, and take a deep breath in. And it will smell like rain and trees. More than that, it will smell like home.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


Half of Me


In an effort to simplify and downsize my life, I've begun going through my belongings. You know the drill. Saving this, chucking that. It's a process I haven't done to this extent in the entire six years I've lived in this house. Needless to say, I've accumulated a lot of crap. OK, it's not crap. Well, some of it is crap. But mostly it's just stuff that when push comes to shove (or when the day comes that I need to fit myself and my life into a much smaller space...), I can do without.

What has surprised me though about this summer's possession slim-down is how much I own that did not come from these six years. How much of it precedes my time in Cleveland, and by quite a bit, too. Like the Birkenstocks* I bought when I was in junior high. I didn't have a lot of cool brand-name stuff back then, and my parents would never have bought me Birkenstocks, so if I wanted them (and I did, badly), it was up to me to come up with the money. The Birkenstocks--a funky pattern of blue and pink and orange and still in great shape after costing me an at-the-time small fortune of $80 back in 1996--I am getting rid of, and while I am logical enough to let the fact that I haven't worn them in years win out, I do feel a pang of loss at the thought of giving them up. Because they remind me of a much younger me and, more importantly, the feeling I had while walking home from the bus stop that first day with them. I was wearing the Birkenstocks with a pair of black Nike socks (also new) pulled up almost to my knees. A look that, believe me, was as amazing as it sounds. And to the tune of Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm," the little song I made up as I approached my house was: "I got Birkenstocks, I got Nike socks..."

Something I will never get rid of is the picture at the top of this post, which sits framed on my bedside table even today. A teenager when it was taken, it struck me this week while sorting things into various piles of crap that I am exactly twice as old now as I was in this picture. Which makes this half my life ago. Half my life. From my seat as a well-educated adult out living life, making choices, and pursuing dreams, it's sometimes hard to believe that my life as a kid at home with my siblings was only half my life ago. How different our phases of life are. How far away they can seem, even though we can recall the most trivial details as if they were yesterday (such as my Birkenstock memory). And how much we collect along the way.

*Keep in mind that in the Pacific Northwest, Birkenstocks are considered the "it" footwear brand. At least they were in the 1990s.


Thank You For Writing


I got home this evening from a very taxing day at work to find a thank-you note in my mailbox. You all know how I feel about thank-you notes. (See On Thank-you Notes if you've forgotten.) A dying art, surely, but one I feel is so, so necessary. It's just the principle of the thing. And it makes us decent.

Of course, no one is unfamiliar with the concept. You send someone a thank-you note when they have either given you something or done something for you. Which is why today's mail was a bit confusing. The woman who sent it--from my hometown in Oregon--included the following note in the card:

"I loved your first book. Always enjoy reading it. Have just read bits of your new one - just want to say thank you so much. I know I'll enjoy."

Now, you'd think from this note that I gave her a copy of my second book. Not only did I not give her a copy, but I also can't even put a face to this woman's name. I'm not sure I've even met her. Or if I have, it's been many years. But she sent a thank-you note to thank me for writing books. For giving her something to read that she enjoys so much. She wrote the note in loopy cursive, sealed and put my name on the envelope, then gave it to my mother who filled in my address and sent it on its way. The whole thing has an endearing amount of small-town charm regardless, but eclipsing this is the fact that upon returning home from a day when I managed to solve exactly zero problems at work, my spirits couldn't have been more lifted.

Unless there'd been, like, $1 Million in the mailbox. I guess there's always tomorrow.


Carols with Sharps and Flats


You've probably never thought about it before, because your family probably doesn't have a permanent slot on the Christmas program every year at church. Not that I'm complaining. I rather look forward to the Annual Picking Up Of My Violin, an instrument I played rather seriously for more than a dozen years, but now only play at Christmas. And maybe that's the problem with the annual Christmas number...that the majority of us who play ONLY play once a year. Not that Christmas carols are necessarily hard to play, but if you ever flip through the Christmas section of a hymnal, if such a section is even normal in traditional hymnals, you'll notice they vacillate drastically from key to key. And when you play them back to back, it's near impossible to remember if the song you're currently playing is the one with the E and A and B flats or if it was the one you just played. Or if the C sharp applies to an entire song or just one line. Or if this is the song where everything is normal and the next one is the one where everything is not normal. Or if this is the one where you have to use fourth finger instead of an open string for the E on the last line. Or if your bra strap is showing from all this bow-manhandling.

Somehow the annual Christmas number always turns out better than I think it will, and I know this is a strange way for me to illustrate this point, but I like knowing that in a crazy an unpredictable world, I can always count on the annual Christmas number. And I can count on my aunts, mom, and grandma to be standing right there with me. Of course I can also count on forgetting a few sharps and flats and consequently causing at least one person in the audience to wish this silent night had been a little more silent, but the point is, the annual Christmas number is important to me. It's Christmas. It's tradition, it's family, it's rosin and bows and piano and sheet music. It's also baby Jesus (I have not forgotten my previous post on sparkle), but mostly, for those few moments, it's me and my violin.

And those damn flats.



Stranger than Fiction...and Funnier, too

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, one who I grew up with back in Oregon, and she was telling me about the book she's writing. It's about her life, and as she was telling me about some of the events that will be included in the book, I was shocked. Truth is stranger than fiction, everybody knows that--or at least everyone should--and I actually found myself at one point asking her, "He really did that??" when she told me about one of the scenes from the book. I honestly couldn't believe it, to which she quipped that it would not be possible to make this stuff up.

That's why I love real life. It's why I love reading about real life. And I know I say it all the time, but I just love memoirs for that reason. It's so satisfying knowing that what you're reading about really happened. And I think the potential for grand emotions is heightened. Real life has the potential to be more heartbreaking, more inspiring, more joyful, more hilarious, and certainly more unexpected than anything we can make up. That's probably why I'm sixty pages into a new novel right now (I know! I know! What am I doing reading fiction?) and can't seem to get into it but was in stitches when my friend read me the opening pages of her hilarious memoir. Life is just funnier. Now, back to this novel. Groan. (Watch, it will turn around any second and become the best thing I've ever read and I'll be eating crow for days. Which, incidentally, would also be pretty funny.)


Guest Post!


My friend Crystal Brinkerhoff, a fellow writer who hails from the same corner of Oregon that I do, is today's featured post. It's my first guest post and I hope to do more in the future. Enjoy!!

Gotta Fight for Your Right to Write
I rolled out of bed while the house was still quiet to work on this brain child that I keep obsessing over. (Why won’t characters leave you alone once you get them down on paper?) I avoided the squeaky floorboard in the hallway. Maybe I could have a few minutes alone. I swear the 3-year old has built-in radar that alerts her when I’m awake. I started typing when she appeared in front of me. 
“It’s morning,” she pointed out the window. “Cereal?” Fair enough.
I spent some time answering emails and other boring stuff. A task that was supposed to take a few minutes grew to three hours. (When I found the immunization record I was trying to track down, half the page was ripped and missing. Was someone hungry? For paper?)
My husband called needing a book and could I please bring it to him since he had a lunch meeting. I’m proud of the fact that we love books. But I considered downsizing today.
“What does it look like?” I asked.
“I’m not sure, but it’s 8 ½ x 11.”
“You know the size but not the color? Is it green? I’m picturing green.”
Pause. “Yeah maybe.”
Lunchtime rolled around later than normal. I’d been avoiding grocery shopping. Food schmood. So I dug through the bare cupboards until I found enough food to fake it. A package of six crackers, two fruit roll ups, and a bag of carrots. If I cut the roll ups in half then they can each have one. Desperation leads to genius in my opinion.
After lunch my youngest curled up to me with a book in her hand. I kept getting a whiff of something funky. Sure sign it’s time for a bath. But first I had to clean the tub.
I got around to getting myself ready for the day which meant I could deliver the book to my husband. Then realizing we had nothing for dinner I stopped at the store. I got home just in time to make dinner, get my oldest boys fed, and send them off to swim lessons. My husband took them tonight so I could get some writing done. He’s a gem that one.
I sat down in front of the laptop. I made the mistake of looking up. Dirty dishes on the counter. I’ll just do them really fast. Then my 5-year old offered to help. I’m not about to squelch an interest in chores.
By the time we were done my 7- and 8-year olds came in needing showers and then it was bedtime. Brush teeth, use the bathroom, get pajamas on, tuck in and smooch kids, turn off lights.
At last I sat down in front of the computer. Footsteps on the stairs. My toddler. I wasn’t going up the stairs again if I could help it. I let her curl up next to me.
I’ve been fighting since waking up this morning to write. There’s finally time tonight. It’s quiet. Everyone’s asleep. My youngest is sprawled on the couch next to me while I type, breathing soft snores.
I recently finished my roughest of all rough drafts. It was agonizing. It was amazing. Not the draft. The draft is garbage. But the process is magic, like delivering a baby without the blood and tears. Even if it’s ugly, the kid is still mine.
I let my oldest read part of it. He’s eight. That’s where my courage was.
“You wrote this? It’s awesome!”
I tried to play it cool, “It still needs lots of work.”
“Yeah but Mom, you’re going to be a famous author! Kids in my class would read this!”
His enthusiasm was sweet and I won’t lie, the praise is nice regardless of the age of the source. But the proudest moment for me was when he grabbed his own notebook, sat on the other end of the couch and got to work on his own story.
He gets it.

The Pines


Or whatever they are. (Firs?) I don't really know trees, but I grew up positively surrounded by them. It's always funny to hear people talk about how "green" Cleveland is, because are these people insane? They don't know green.

I've just returned from spending the holiday week in small town Americana with family, something I do as often as I can. Shelling peas picked fresh from my grandparents' garden, attending a flag raising ceremony at the local church, the parade down Main Street, the piddly festival in the park, the community orchestra performing Stars and Stripes Forever, the late-night fireworks down by the water.

What gets to me most is Oregon itself. The greenness. The peace and beauty that is country living out there. The quiet. The deer. The lack of paved roads. And while I've always looked forward to returning to Cleveland--my life, my love, my career, my cat--this was the first time in years that I wanted to beat my departure off with a stick. I was misty to drive away from the homestead, misty to say goodbye to my parents at the airport, and usually not one to even look out the window while on a flight, I couldn't look away as the plane took off. I ached to stay. I kept my eyes on the trees as long as I could see them, until the green expanse of Western Oregon had given way to the brownness that is everything else.

Not sure why this occasionally overcomes me. I guess the excitement and adventure that is having your own corner of the world sometimes pales in comparison to the loneliness that can come from being completely on your own and far away from those who care about you. I know, I know, I need to put on my big girl pants and be braver. But I ask you, if this was the view from YOUR homestead, would you ever want to leave it?


Disasters at the Pump


I was twenty the first time I pumped a tank of gas. This is not unusual for a kid who grew up in Oregon, because in that blessed state you don't pump your own gas. Pretty sure you aren't allowed to. You simply stay in your car and say "Fill it with regular" out the window to the attendant and that's all there is to it. I've met a lot of haters in my life that go on and on about how horrible and lame it would be to stay in your car on a cold day and let someone else deal with the pumping, and I never understand what's not to love about the Oregon way.

The only disadvantage, I suppose, was the day my 20-year-old self ended up alone and on the other side of the Oregon/Idaho border. Not that it's hard to pump gas. But just because you know what to do or even how to do it, that doesn't mean you'll do it well. Or even correctly. (I related this to my first kiss in Schooled.) That day at the pump I managed to do everything correctly, or so I thought, but still no gas came out. Surely after watching me try over and over for quite some time, a voice came over the intercom for all to hear. "YOU HAVE TO PUSH THE START BUTTON!" Which they could have, I don't know, mentioned somewhere.

Last night I had to fill up my tank after leaving the office, and I know I shouldn't sit in the car while I'm waiting for the tank to fill, but it's winter. And I live in Cleveland. About the time I realized it was taking longer than normal to fill was the time I made the connection that the gushing sound I heard was my tank overflowing. How does this even happen? The clicky thing is supposed to click off when the tank is full. I jumped out of the car, rushed over, and figured removing the nozzle would force it to unclick. Au contraire. It was like a fire hose, gas shooting everywhere (over my car, over me), and the only thing I could think to do was scream. Surely something somewhere in the vicinity would spark and my car and person would blow up immediately. "SOMEONE, HELP!!" I shouted, and even though the man who rushed over to help thought I didn't know that the clicky thing stays clicked until released (and consequently thought it was my own cluelessness that had caused the problem), at least he rushed over to help. The clicky thing did eventually unclick, but not before I'd paid a small fortune for the gas now flowing toward the gutter.

And this, ladies and gentleman, is why I write books. Because these things happen to me. It's also why I miss Oregon. One of the many, many reasons. Stay tuned next time for rants on sales tax and snow.



So, remember when I said this? Well I take it back. Except the part about how I wouldn't be surprised to see him move up one day. And the part about Ohio State fans being kind of obnoxious.


The Chip Kelly Weekend

Being from Oregon, I'm a huge Ducks fan. One of my first major trials of living in Ohio was, in fact, when Ohio State played Oregon in the Rose Bowl a few years ago. It felt like me verses the entire state of Ohio. Probably because it was. Oregon lost, which was a huge blow, but even worse was enduring the taunts from Ohio State fans who really do think their team is invincible. Fans who the following year when Oregon made it to the national championship game felt---having been the last team to beat Oregon---that Ohio State was still the better team. (What kind of logic is this?) Fans who are sure Ohio State would be winning the championship this year had they been bowl game eligible.

I've lived in Cleveland for almost five years, and while the Ducks are close to my heart, I've never developed much (read: any) affection for the Browns. And hearing rumors of Chip Kelly taking the head coaching job here had me stressed out the majority of the weekend. Surely Chip has created a winning culture in Oregon that could be preserved on some level, but he himself has been a big part of why they continually win, and I, selfishly, would prefer that Oregon keep on winning. Most people in Cleveland were pretty excited about the prospect of Kelly with the Browns, and the mood this morning is a bit dreary, and I've heard more than one person comment on being baffled as to why he wouldn't want to make the jump to the NFL.

I can't speak for Chip, nor am I about to, but this whole idea of lingering in a place or position where you are happy and successful gets more flack than it deserves. I see this a lot in the corporate world as well, where it's sort of assumed that you should want to take that next promotion, move onto bigger and better things, ascend the ladder as quickly as possible. But it takes all kinds, people. Not everyone aspires to hurry to the next step, not everyone aspires to a next step at all. And while I wouldn't be surprised to see Chip move to the NFL someday, I'm also not surprised to see him stay where he is known, loved, clearly at the top of his game, and where there is no sales tax or snow to worry about. Atta boy, Chip. Looking forward to next season.

(And just so you don't think I've given up on writing altogether, I wrote 1000 words this weekend. Not a lot, but it's 1000 words more than I usually get written in a busy weekend.)


Here's to you, Longfellow

I've just spent the weekend with a large portion of my extended family. My grandparents have lived in the same house for 43 years, and small-town Oregon still serves as the meeting place for our holiday gatherings. I love everything about the town. From the lights on the small main street to the impressively renovated library (that stocks a couple copies of Schooled, I'm pleased to report), to the gravel that replaces the pavement once you get far enough away from city limits, being there with the fam is the closest I can come to being completely happy.

On these holiday weekends when we're all together, we have a Christmas tradition of caroling several houses in the area. Yes, I said caroling. As in a big group of people singing Christmas carols. In someone's front yard. Until they open the door. As we caroled the other night, I was struck by one house in particular. The woman who lived there was so touched, she put a hand to her mouth as tears welled up in her eyes. As some of us hugged her, she began to openly weep, and while it was probably just a happy, holiday spirit kind of cry, it made me think of all the people this holiday season who are sad, depressed, and lonely. In some ways, I think we all are. It's hard to live in this world and not be affected by the sea of crap that we as a society seem to be perpetually swimming in.

And so I've been thinking about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem about the Christmas bells. You may have heard it, but what you might not realize is that he wrote it out of sheer despair. His wife had died in a tragic accident, and his son had been severely wounded in battle. The most heart-breaking stanza:

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then he ends with the most powerful and inspiring stanza of all, and one that to me is a very literal reminder of the biggest source of hope we have.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

On this Christmas Eve, I hope we can each find the peace and comfort we seek, and that those of us with the resources to be of service to others will feel inclined to do so. Even if it's just a Christmas carol on a rainy night.


Reminiscing on the Hood

I was in Pittsburgh this past weekend, a city I visit fairly often. I love the donut shop in the strip district, I love that Pittsburgh houses both the closest IKEA to me and also the closest Tiffany & Co., and I love that it has the same industrial blue collar feel as Cleveland but is infinitely more lovely with all those rivers and bridges. I might live there if they had an NBA team. Yet, I digress.

While on the trip I got to meet up with a woman who is as dear to me as family. For those who have read Schooled, this woman---my former neighbor---is the one whose daughter I used to trade sandwiches with on the school bus, the one who calmed me down when my over-the-top prom hairstyle had me borderline weepy, and the one who introduced me to such luxuries as bologna, white bread, the country music video channel, and hide-a-beds, which, to be clear, were ALL things that I considered luxuries. Surely there is no one else (besides my own family) who was such an integral part of my growing up years in Oregon, and as we chatted over dessert on Saturday night, she said, "It really was a great neighborhood." And it was. But more than that, she really was a great neighbor. And I miss her terribly.

But it's funny how life shuffles things around, people too, because even though I'm three time zones away from my beloved Oregon, this sweet former neighbor lives only a couple hours away from me. I think about that sometimes; the fact that somewhere in the city of Pittsburgh is the woman who is the closest reminder I have of my childhood. I think about this a lot, actually. How most people I see (in stores, on crowded streets, in airports, etc.) mean nothing to me, but to someone, these people mean the world. And that makes me want to be nicer. To everyone. Because I hope the people who surround my loved ones in their various corners of the world are doing the same. So smile at the person in the elevator next to you. Ask how they are. Ask what they do. And if they've written a book, buy it.