Building a Better Yearbook

Last year I took over as the yearbook advisor (adviser? This is one of these words whose ambiguous spelling haunts me) for our middle school.

I love graphic design and bookmaking and yearbooks. I do. And I was once the editor of our school yearbook — our middle school yearbook, when I was in eighth grade. (I started to do yearbook in high school, but the story of that disaster is a whole blog post unto itself.) So sure. Definitely qualified.

Well… let’s just say that we ended the year with a yearbook. And honestly, it’s not bad. Some people even thought it was good. I love the cover art, I love that there are few enough mistakes that no one has brought any to my attention yet (I’m not so crazy as to assume there really aren’t any), and I love that we got it done on deadline.

But there are so, SO many things that I would have done differently. Fortunately I get that chance this year. Some of my thoughts as I forge ahead:

  1. I still am not sure what to do about my staff, but at least I have my applications in hand. I have too many good 8th graders applying and too few good 7th graders, too many girls and too few boys. I can take them all and have an enormous staff; I can cut some excellent applicants in favor of a smaller, more manageable group. I haven’t decided and I’ve had months to do so. Sigh.
  2. I’m not going to ask the staff about the theme. I know what our theme is going to be, I know approximately what the yearbook is going to look like, and I’m not interested in reopening a yearlong debate with fourteen-year-old girls. They’ll still have creative control of their own pages, within reason, but I’m seizing creative control of the cover, dividers, etc.. Someone may complain now, but they’ll thank me in May.
  3. REALLY hoping I can have my yearbook staff at least 1-2 times a week during Advisory… please oh please… will make such a big difference in terms of communication and organization.
  4. I want to highlight some of the previously overlooked groups and activities in the school. There’s a lot going on that gets skipped in the yearbook due to other, “bigger” organizations and lack of pages. But I think I can address that this year.
  5. I need to figure out how to teach rudimentary design to really young designers — specifically the idea of working off a grid instead of plopping down pictures willy-nilly. Last year, I was really in the “let’s just get it done” frame of mind. This year, I want to get it done well. I want them to have learned something by the time they finish it. I want them to have designed something that they’ll be proud of when they graduate high school.
  6. Definitely going to be more conscious of and deliberate about photography. I’m going to do some direct instruction on photography, and now that I’ve unraveled the mystery of the yearbook cameras we’ll have much better equipment. Last year’s photography was a fiasco. This year, I’m going to be proactive and protective.

Speaking of photography! We have one big D-SLR with some good lenses that will probably rarely be in anyone’s hands but my own. Then we have a set of Nikon CoolPix cameras that are sturdy and surprisingly good. I found the Nikon interface a little confusing, so I took the newest one with me on a family vacation to master it before trying to teach its use to students. I’ll tell you what; for a smaller digital camera without the ability to swap out lenses, the CoolPix was pretty impressive! I loved playing with the epic (yes, epic) zoom capabilities; when other people reached for binoculars to spy on distant sea lions, I grabbed my camera instead.

Here’s an example. Check out this sunset photograph I took on August 7 in Bandon, Oregon:

ship1

You may not realize it, but there’s a boat in that picture. Here, I’ll circle it for you:

ship2

See it yet? You can click on the photograph to enlarge it, if that will help.

Anyone who has ever tried to photograph the moon knows that objects appear much smaller through a camera lens. I could see that boat with the naked eye, but it certainly wasn’t clear — just an obviously manmade object, moving slowly along the horizon. I decided to use my camera to get a closer look.

ship3

From this vantage, I had about as much detail of the boat in my camera as I did with just my eyes. So I zoomed in closer. (By the way, none of these pictures are cropped or zoomed in after I took them. They are original files straight from the camera.)

ship4

I love this picture, but I knew I could see more because I hadn’t even started to play with digital telephoto yet.

I kept zooming and got this:

ship5

Look at the detail, kids. Look at that. Just look at it. Wow.

And the thing is, I think I could have zoomed in until I saw the people on the boat, if I’d had a tripod. The problem with super duper zoom is that you can’t keep the subject in your viewfinder without steadying the camera, and in this case I had the added problem of a drifting subject. This is one of several different shots I took, each with the boat careening out of view, except this one.

So yeah. I’m pretty happy with these cameras. I think we can do some really good work with them this year. I’m especially looking forward to some good sports and performing arts photography.

And no, Nikon didn’t tell me to write this. But if someone from Nikon reads this and wants to adopt my yearbook staff and give us new gear, I’d be delighted to review it. 😉

Anyway, wish me luck with my yearbook staff and with doing a good job with yearbook on top of my other responsibilities. This is my year when I’m going to kick things up a notch, or at least when I’m going to try. Lots of ideas, lots of blank slates…. whee!

 

Advertisements

Yearbook 2013-14: Mischief Managed

 

 

 

As of about 4 PM on April 1, the 2013-14 yearbook was complete and sent to the printers.

bookprogress

Custom cover art by Meredith Fern Messinger:

cover

 

Spreads by a staff of fifteen, plus Ryan and myself:

yearbook thumbnails

 

At the very last minute, I discovered extra space in the 8th grade section, so I ran a report of 8th graders who had no candids in the book and went on a mission. I pulled as many of them as possible from class, convinced them to do funny poses, and took their pictures. Then Ryan used his Advanced Photoshop Ninja Skills to cut them out from their backgrounds, and I stayed up until after midnight making the page on the right below. Glad I did. They’re going to like it:

26-27b

This was definitely a “building year” for yearbook, at least for me. I got off to a late start, didn’t do the best possible job acquiring staff, and really did a lot of last-minute learning on the job. Now that it is behind me, and I have some breathing room, I have SO many ideas for the future. And I just found out that we have some money to work with, so I’m excited about updating our equipment and getting some new “toys”. I want to add a signature to our book so we have some room to design instead of just cramming as much as possible into the space we have, and I think we want to buy or build some sort of green screen for cutouts. We need a telephoto zoom, too, for sporting events. I’ve started collecting ideas on a Pinterest board and am going to get all my foundations taken care of this spring, instead of next fall, so that we can hit the ground running and do an amazing job with the 2014-15 book. That said, I’m very pleased with the way this one turned out, all things considered!

Wired!

I’m not a big “New Year’s Resolutions” gal, but there were a few things floating in my mind this month that I’d like to do to improve my life in 2014. Save a little money each month, for example. Move my part from the middle to the side of my head. You know: the big stuff.

Another thing that I knew I wanted to do fell more on the professional side of things. As a middle school librarian, I need to be familiar with more middle-level books. There are plenty that I’ve read or know a lot about, but our library is big and getting bigger all the time, and I have a lot of catching up to do. More than just reading books, though, I need to talk about them. So one of my goals for the upcoming year was to read more of my collection, and get back into the habit of writing reviews — maybe even try my hand at videos.

It’s funny when the universe conspires to help you out with things like that. (Now if only it would lend a hand on the “saving money” front!)

There’s a terrific website called Guys Lit Wire that exists to highlight books that might appeal to teenage boys. They have a writing “staff” of about 25 folks who post daily book reviews. The books don’t necessarily have male protagonists and aren’t necessarily written for teens. The contributors include teachers, librarians, college students, published authors, etc.. It’s a fairly well-known site amongst those people who are interested in YA books.

Anyway, last week they posted a notice that they were looking for new contributors. I emailed them with samples of my work, and on Wednesday evening they replied and let me know that they’d like to have me on board!

I’m elated. Not only does this support me in my goal, but it puts me out there as a reader and a writer in a professional sense, which is good for me. It will help me get to know some great people who, like me, are stupid-passionate about helping young people fall in love with books. It’s a small commitment (one review a month) with a great deal of creative license, so it’s a challenge at a manageable level for me right now with my other commitments.

Anyone who knows me as a teacher/librarian knows that biblio-matchmaking is one of my greatest passions. SO thrilled that GLW is giving me one more way to do this!

Anyway, I’ll be cross-posting my reviews, but I encourage you to subscribe to GLW if you’re interested in YA books in whatever capacity, or just want great book recommendations.

PS Big thank you to Deb for first pointing me in this site’s direction!

ANOTHER Snow Day?!

Yesterday, they were calling for a “big” snow storm in our area. Instead of snow, we got freezing rain, which differs from sleet in that it falls as a liquid and freezes on contact with anything — and everything — it touches. End result? A quarter-inch sheet of pure ice on the roads, sidewalks, and any cars unfortunate enough to have been left outside overnight.

I hadn’t dared think we’d have a snow day, but turned on the news anyway. It was nonstop traffic coverage, with the ACHD saying that the roads were just about the worst they’d ever seen. In fact, both directions of Interstate 84 was shut down all the way from east Boise to Mountain Home when I turned on the news, and the closure extended beyond that within a couple of hours — 87 miles of undriveable highway, with semi trucks stranded and unable to move on the ice rink.

picture by The Idaho Statesman

picture by The Idaho Statesman

While we watched, pretty much every school district and charter/private school east or west of Boise announced that the roads were too bad to hold classes. My district was one of the earliest to cancel. We waited. The Boise School District called in to the television station to tell them that they were not going to cancel classes. The clock kept ticking; no word from Ryan’s district. Finally, the news came in that they were holding classes as well.

Parents were not amused. Lots of angry comments online and on call-in segments on the news. Later, the BSD released a statement regretting their decision. Regardless, Ryan had to go to work, and I didn’t….

Mom came and rescued me from my iced-in house (I sent Ryan with the good car and was not about to ice skate across the street and try those insane roads in a Tiburon). We got Panda for lunch. Then, lacking anything terribly constructive to do, we went over to BRU and I showed her the stroller we registered for. After my complete incompetence operating the thing last time (hey, those things are complicated if you’re not used to them!) it felt good to be able to demonstrate all the bells and whistles as if I actually knew what I was talking about.

I was looking for some specific used books for a unit I’m about to teach, so we went to Deseret Industries (a thrift store associated with the LDS church — has a good selection of books, although not the best prices in town, and the absolute best selection of used maternity clothes). I found some of the books I’d wanted, and then found several maternity t-shirts and XL fleece jackets, all in the $3-5 range, and all things I’d been wishing I had but hadn’t wanted to spend the inflated prices for maternity clothing at regular stores. As I was trying on the tops, I kept thinking how much I liked each of them, even though several were pretty uninspired… and then I realized that what I was really liking was the way I looked in them. I really like my bump! I have (have always had) a weird sort of mild body dysmorphia, in that I usually think I look smaller/thinner than I really do. (An unpleasant surprise when a photograph pops up!) I’ve spent a lot of time in front of the mirror lately, worrying that my bump wasn’t as big as it ought to be. Well, something about this particular mirror or these particular shirts dispelled that notion! I looked every bit as pregnant as I thought I ought to look, and I loved it. 🙂

I waited pretty much all day to hear back from some people who were selling a glider and ottoman on Craigslist. It was the perfect chair for a very good price, and from my perspective they’d indicated that we could pretty much have it — but then late in the afternoon, they texted me and told me that they’d sold it to someone else. Boo, disappointment. Oh well. I’m convinced we dodged a bullet. Clearly it reeked of cat pee and was covered in dog hair and vomit stains. Clearly. But I am anxious to get a chair into the nursery. I like to be in there, but there’s nowhere comfortable to sit….

My snow day has ended with the first episode of Project Runway season 11 — hooray! — and a science experiment, a.k.a. trying out a Pinterest recipe. I substituted mixed berry pie filling because Ryan isn’t a big fan of peach desserts (I know, right? Pass the divorce papers) and may have been a little generous with the brown sugar. It has just come out of the oven and I’m letting it cool a bit, which is an enormous exercise in self restraint because this cold weather and squirmy baby have really triggered my sweet tooth.

cake

I can already see one problem; the cake mix didn’t get fully incorporated into the fruity buttery yumminess, and there are a couple of spots with just plain dry cake mix sitting there. Yuck. Either there wasn’t enough liquid in the pie filling, or the recipe fibs and I ought to mix it up a little bit. (By the way, the recipe calls this a crunch cake or a dump cake, but it really seems like a very simple cobbler to me so I’m calling it a cobbler cake.)

Heck, it’s great big and there are only two of us. We can eat around the dry bits. And it’s got brown sugar and berries and walnuts, and I’ve got a can of whipped cream wonderfulness. How bad could it be? 🙂

Foggy Road

I had been thinking something along the lines of this post for a couple of days, but (appropriately enough) couldn’t get it done, and then Neil Gaiman helped out by posting this a few minutes ago.

Sometimes [writing]’s like driving through fog. You can’t really see where you’re going. You have just enough of the road in front of you to know that you’re probably still on the road, and if you drive slowly and keep your headlamps lowered you’ll still get where you were going.

I envy Mr. G. his foggy drive right now. I really want to be writing. I have this mental itch that really wants to be scratched. I’ve got this idea that if I could just write some things, I might be able to get some things published. Little things – I’m actually fantasizing about science fiction short stories right this minute. Not worrying about novels or anything right now. I’m actually being a realist for once, and realists know that you break into genre writing – at least, sci fi and fantasy writing, which seems to be my fiction niche – a little nibble at a time.

Unfortunately, I am – as I said – being a realist for once. And the realist realizes that I have absodamnlutely nothing to write. (That was a tmesis, by the way. I’m a big fan of tmesis.)

I kind of want to write YA fiction. But I’m not sure I remember what it was like to be a YA. I’m not sure I could write with that voice – I’ve tried, and it feels forced. I’m not sure I was ever a YA reader, you know? I was reading adult lit when I was in grade school.

I feel like you ought to write things from a place of personal experience. But what do I have to share? The only thing that consumes my life and all my mental energy is teaching. And what’s there to say? Who wants to read about being a teacher? And where would I find the energy to sift through my job to create fiction?

So maybe I should write nonfiction. But again… I am just not feeling it.

So I am in this whiny, obnoxious place where I simultaneously want to write and won’t write. Ha ha! Joke is on me!

I can’t help but think that if I could go on a writer’s retreat of my own (I’m envisioning a tiny cabin, somewhere wooded but not too secluded) that I just might be able to wade through the fog and write something. And hey, if that involved tea with Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, that’d be okay with me.

Seriously? That time of year again ALREADY?

Gadzooks! Are you aware of how few days there are before NaNoWriMo begins?

I am trying to motivate myself… trying to get myself excited… and mostly, I am just EXHAUSTED. I feel extremely worn out, especially when I think about adding 1,667 words of fiction to my daily checklist.

I’ve got a story. Not only do I have a story, but I have an INTENDED AUDIENCE (always important for me), a general sense of plot, some characters, and a goal. Now I just need to fall in love with it.

These past few days I’ve been doodling thoughts and snatches of conversation in a little notebook, in the hopes of fanning a flame. Not much luck so far. I’m thinking that what I really need is just to start writing, that once I begin it’ll take care of itself.

I do NOT intend to blog my novel this year, at least not until it is finished (which ties into that “goal” thing – namely, “I want to write this as a gift for someone, and if I post it online it will be spoilt” (and yes, I said “spoilt” instead of “spoiled,” because that’s just how I roll, IN DOUBLE PARENTHESES)) so… yeah. Tough luck for the two and a half of you who care.

I am not entirely sure that I have the emotional/mental fortitude to meet my goal this year. There’s a lot weighing on me, and while I’d like to believe (as is oft recommended in NaNoLand) that I could channel all of that stuff into my writing, I doubt it’s going to work that way. The opposite danger, of course, is that I find in my story such excellent escapism that I drop some of these other brittle globes that I’m juggling…

Write Club!

writeclub

I’m excited! Whoo, writing!

I was asked to adjudicate a writing group’s casual bimonthly writing contest a few weeks ago, and it inspired me to try something similar with my colleagues. We’d talked about how we wanted to make a writing group or something, and this seemed to me to be a good way to go about it.

So now eleven of the faculty members from Columbia are all signed up, and we’ve got some goofy rules, and the first deadline is coming up in two days. I’m getting close to finishing my story, and three other people have submitted their stories so far, and I figure maybe another story or so will come in by the 1st. There’s several people with very significant excuses this month, but one of the founding tenets of our group is that it’s okay if you don’t write every time.

I’m also excited about the prize, which is better than a donut but perhaps not quite as wonderful as the keg of glory and the finest muffins and bagels in all the land. Not sure. At the very least, it requires less refrigeration. And NO, I’m not going to tell you what the prize is! Not yet, anyway. Once it’s awarded to someone, I’ll reveal its awesomeness.

I’ve also really enjoyed making a website for the group. All of this organize-y stuff is fun for me; I love the sheer joy of creating something, especially if that something is a secret club. 🙂 Hi, Brothers.

Anyway, when all is said and done, and entries needn’t be blind any longer, maybe I’ll share my story here. Who knows.

Creative Writing is Scary

Today we wrote about phobias in creative writing. I had a big list of phobias (did you know that porphyrophobia is the fear of purple?) and I put them each on a slip of paper in a big (scary) ziplock. Each student drew out a phobia and had to write a short piece. The requirements were that the name of the phobia be the piece’s title, that it play a central role in the story, but that they can’t directly mention the phobia (at least not its name) in the story. I encouraged them to try to make it scary without saying it was scary – show, not tell.

Ipulled out a phobia, too – and wouldn’t you know it? I pulled out bibliophobia, the fear of books. And if you follow that link, you can read what I came up with. (Feel free to leave comments but keep in mind that the story is posted on my teaching blog and will be seen by my students.)

A Christmas Story

I wrote this several years ago, but I dug it back up for a creative writing exercise at school and decided to share it with y’all. Merry Christmas. 🙂

More

by Kate Baker

On the 26th of December I took off my pajamas and climbed into the shower, noticing as I did a large, festively-colored bruise spreading across my left hip just above the knee. Tender as all hell, too. I couldn’t help but smile as I stood there, hot water running down my body, remembering what had taken place thirty-odd hours before.

It had been Christmas Eve night, and Ryan and I were making ourselves comfortable on an air mattress in the spare bedroom at my parents’ house after a long day of visiting, eating, and church-going. We both knew that the following day would start early – not early like it once had, when there were under-twelves in the house, but still earlier than good sense warranted – and would go long, and we were both pretty worn out.

Not so our six-month-old puppy, Paisley, who had discovered her calling as a home security alarm. Every time anyone in the house moved, she’d take off in a flying leap across the mattress and stand sentinel at the end of the hallway, barking into the darkness in the general direction of stocking assembly. We finally got our dog in a headlock, stopped laughing, and, eventually, fell asleep.

I’m not sure what it was that woke me up some hours later, nor am I sure exactly what time it was. It was dark, and the house was utterly quiet – even Paisley was softly snoring next to Ryan. But something was off – something was wrong. I crawled off of the air mattress as gracefully as I could, put on my glasses, and walked quietly down the hall into a room whose windows overlooked the front yard. The windows were foggy, so I wiped away a porthole and peeked out onto the lawn.

There was something out there. Something… familiar. Something that made me wonder if I’d really gotten out of bed at all or if I was in the middle of a particularly vivid dream.

A deer.

Now, I’ve had deer outside my window before. We lived for five or so years in a Colorado forest, and we’ve been camping in enough wild places that I’m fairly unalarmed by random encounters with wildlife. There are, from time to time, deer out in southwest Boise. That being said, this was just weird.

And so I did what any redblooded American would do under these circumstances: put on my houseshoes and went outside.

It probably wouldn’t be much of a story if all I encountered out there in the cold night was a deer, and I wouldn’t be going to the trouble to write a non-story, so you can pretty much connect the dots and come up with the fact that my deer was hardly alone. There was an entire smallish herd of the little guys – and they were little – all standing around, nuzzling yellowed grass through the old crispy snow, casting occasional expectant glances at an old man in one of those Land’s End squall parkas (red). Definitely grandfather-aged, with a bit of white scruff around his chin, and a nice knit cap like you’d wear if you were going skiing, also red.

“Wondered if you’d come out,” he said, and took a pull on a pipe that I hadn’t seen or smelled until that moment. I smelled it then, that unmistakable, exotic tang of pipe smoke.

It was pretty clear to me at that point – and maybe it’s clear to you, too, by now – who, exactly, was standing in my parents’ front lawn.

Now, I’m an adult. An eccentric adult, to put it mildly, but in all fairness I have a pretty good head on my shoulders. And even though I’ve maintained my faith in the inexplicable and fantastical as best as any adult can be expected to do, even I couldn’t really deny that a red-suited stranger did not slip down my chimney on Christmas Eve. And yet here I was, in my pajamas and slippers on my parents’ front lawn, talking to a man who simply could be no other than Santa Claus.

There were many things I could have said at that moment. “What are you doing here?” was what came out of my mouth.

He laughed, and it was such a nice laugh, not at all like some of those scary shopping mall Santas you run into these days. “I was in the neighborhood. Thought I’d stop by and say hello.”

“Hello,” I replied in what can only be described as a flash of pure wit.

He took another draw on his pipe and exhaled a smoke ring. The deer – there might have been a dozen of them – shifted positions, sought new patches of grass to nibble upon. “I wanted to thank you, as a matter of fact, Katherine Elizabeth.”

“Thank me?”

“Thank you. Do you know how many people around here still believe in me, Katydid? How many people worldwide? Why, the first graders are making fun of the kindergartners if they mention my name. They don’t even try on the television anymore. People right there on the TV – newscasters, actors, you name it – they’ll just go out there on prime time and talk about how Mama and Daddy are staying up late to play Santa, talk about how old they were when they found out I was a fraud. And the children are watching this, you know. They all watch television anymore, and they’re hearing these adults say I don’t exist, and they believe it. They believe it.”

“It’s kind of awful,” I agreed.

“And yet you’ve never stopped believing, have you, Katydid.”

“N-no,” I said, cringing just a little bit because I was sure he knew that I’d been wrestling with it, wrestling with the sure onset of adulthood against my desperate hold on childlike wonder.

“It’s okay, you know,” he said. “It has to be hard, to be a grown-up who still believes.”

“Well,” I said, because he seemed such a reasonable guy, “can you tell me – the reason why I have trouble, sometimes, in believing, is because I don’t see you in action. You know? I mean, I know that moms and dads are staying up late to put out the Santa gifts. I know that poor children don’t always get visited from Santa. If you exist – which it’s clear you do, given present circumstances – then why aren’t you doing, you know, what you do?”

He laughed again, but this time it was kind of a sad laugh, I think, or maybe just thoughtful. “You know, Kate, that’s an excellent question, and just a wonderful example of how people have the wrong idea sometimes. Not you – not just you. Everyone. Look at my sleigh.”

He gestured behind me and to my left, and I turned, smacking my leg pretty hard into a curled wooden runner.

I don’t know how I’d missed it before, but there it was – a beautiful sleigh, big enough for a man and a passenger, plus maybe a small pickup’s load of cargo.

“Does that look large enough to fill with toys for every Christmas-honoring child on the planet? Of course not, and there’s not that much magic in the world, I don’t think. Not enough magic to fill that sleigh that full. How fast do you think these little deer can pull that sleigh, anyway? Not faster than the speed of sound, Katydid. They’re mighty fast, but they’re not that fast. No, Kate, that’s not ‘what I do.’ I don’t deliver all of those gifts.”

“What do you do, then?”

“Santa Claus is a symbol,” he said, lying a gloved hand on a deer’s back. “I’m a symbol of giving, a symbol of hope. All of those parents out there buying gifts for their children ‘from Santa’ – they’re doing it in the name of giving, of love. What they can give, they give. People across this country put out barrels and collect toys and dolls and coats and blankets for children whose parents have nothing more to give, or don’t want to give, and why do they do it? They’re inspired by the idea of giving hope. They’re inspired by me, by this symbol. I remind people to give – to give material objects, if they wish, or to give joy whenever and wherever they can. To give love.”

I started to say something (I forget, now, what exactly) but Santa Claus kept talking.

“And just as importantly, Kate, Santa Claus is a symbol of faith, of believing in magic. There are so many things out there that we can’t see, that we can’t understand, Katydid. We believe in God even though sometimes it makes no sense, even though other people who believe clearly don’t believe the same as we do. We believe in other people, in their inherent goodness, even though the contrary is proven to us constantly. We believe in love even after our hearts are broken. We believe that there may be other life out beyond the stars, that there may be cures to diseases, that there were once dinosaurs on the earth, that there are more capabilities in the human mind than we can currently guess. And as children we believe in even more. We believe in the fairies that add mystery and glimmer to our world. We believe that our teeth are spirited away in exchange for coins – dollars, anymore, I guess – and that rabbits hide gifts around the house and yard at Easter time. We believe in unicorns, dragons. And we believe that, if we are good and kind and give joy, that Santa Claus will come in the wintertime and give back to us what we have given to others.”

“Until someone tells us it isn’t the case,” I said, quietly.

“That’s right. Until we stop believing. And once you stop believing in one thing… how can you believe in anything else? Everything else becomes shaky, everything else falls.”

“It’s like Jenga.”

“It is.” He patted the deer on the rump and dumped something – ash, I guess – out of his pipe. “So thank you.”

“You’re… you’re welcome.”

“Thank you for refusing to stop believing, even when it is ridiculous. Because what you’re believing in isn’t really me. It’s the idea that things will be okay, that people can make a difference. It’s faith in the more. You’re believing in that, Katydid, and you know what else?”

“What?” I asked, realizing that it was starting to rain.

“You’re not alone.”

And frankly, I couldn’t exactly tell you what happened next, except that the deer moved and the man in red moved and then they were all gone, leaving a scattering of hoofprints and runnermarks on the snow, and I was standing there in the cold drizzle looking up into the sky realizing that I really wasn’t sure at all that they’d gone skyward. And then I got cold, so I went inside and sat next to the tree until my mind stopped racing, and then I went to bed.

The next morning, Paisley woke me up with a big puppy kiss at 8:10, and I went immediately to that front window and looked outside. The rain had melted away the last of the snow, and there wasn’t a trace of any interference the night before.

“What a weird dream,” I said to myself, not believing a word I was saying, and went into the living room where Christmas morning was getting underway.