Sugar & Stories

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When your mom is a Book Mom (as my daughter refers to me), you don’t just visit the neighborhood candy shop, you read a book first.

I hadn’t yet mentioned the existence of Sugar Sugar–the Kingfield candy shop–when I suggested we read Stella Batts Needs a New Name by Courtney Sheinmel next. It is a sweet chapter book about a girl who wants to change her name after a classmate makes fun of her (no one wants to be called “Smella”).  In the book, Stella’s family owns a candy shop and some of the action takes place there.  That’s where Stella and her friends decide they will all change their names to some sort of candy.

Each night before bed, I would read a chapter aloud, and my daughter and I would imagine the sorts of candy we would find in a store like Batts Confections or talk about the candy we would like to be named after.  After we finished the story, I hinted that we might go somewhere special this weekend, and my six-year-old’s eyes widened with excitement as she imagined Batts Confections might be a real pace.

Even with all that build up Sugar Sugar got just the response I was hoping for.  And why wouldn’t it? It’s adorable, pink, and filled with sweets of all sorts.  It’s a little girl’s dream–at least, it certainly is among my little girl’s dreams.  We chose our candy–sea salt caramels for me and purple rock candy for my daughter–and walked home with smiles.  I’m sure we’ll be back soon.

Meanwhile, maybe we’ll try some of Stella Batts’ favorite recipes.

Thursday 3: Picture Book Preschool Updates

Most Thursdays I post a Thursday 3 picture on my photo blog, but this one seemed like it belonged here. Now that my daughter is in school, my Picture Book Preschool posts have been retired, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about them occasionally. Here are three new picture books that might be good choices for your preschooler:

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Is it Big or is it Little? by Claudia Rueda – I explored the topic of relative size with my daughter in this post, and it was fun to compare objects. This book is about more than just though. It looks at relative meanings of various opposites as it follows a cat and mouse around.

Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light – I have already mentioned in a previous Thursday 3 that this book is a 2014 favorite of mine. It is a tour of New York City, a seek and find, and a counting book that takes us up to twenty, which makes it good for this post.

Henry’s Map by David Elliot – Who doesn’t love maps? This silly story of a neat and tidy pig trying to make a map of the farm is right on target for preschoolers. Perfect addition to this post.

Storytime Reflections

Seventy-some pairs of eyes watched last Friday as I realized I should have practiced holding up a picture book and reading it at the same time.  I was reading Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox to a storytime group at the White Bear Lake Public Library. It might seem like an odd choice of a book for someone like me to read considering I don’t have “ten little fingers,” but I’ve found it’s a good introduction to the idea of people being born with lots of different traits–only having one arm is just another possibility.  A little less common perhaps, but a possibility nonetheless.

I don’t know how much of that jived with the preschoolers in the storytime room last week, but the main thing is that we created a safe space for the sort of curiosity that people of all ages sometimes feel obligated to squash or keep to themselves.  My hope is to help people feel comfortable talking about differences of all sorts.  The more we talk, the less different we seem.

We left space for questions at the end, and at first people were shy about raising their hands. I did get a few great questions though that I thought I would answer here briefly in case you are curious too.

- Where do you get an arm like that?

I go to a doctor to get a prescription for an arm like this. Then I go to a place where they make prosthetics to get it fitted especially to me.

- How often do you have to get a new prosthetic arm?

When I was a kid, I had to get new arms frequently–at least every year, sometimes more often depending on how fast I grew. Now that I am not growing, they last a bit longer. My current prosthetic is 13 years old at this point, and I am sincerely hoping it lasts many more years.

- How do you get dressed?

This is a really common question from kids, and I have the hardest time answering it because I don’t really think about how I get dressed. I just do it. I suppose my left hand does most of the work with any buttons and zippers.

- Do you sleep with your prosthetic arm on?

No, I take it off to sleep, bathe, swim, or just relax. Prosthetics are very helpful, but not very comfortable.

- What kind of exercises can you do with one arm?

I am a bookish sort (surprise!) whose main form of exercise is taking long day dreamy walks, so I am not the most qualified to speak on this. But I will say that some of the yoga I have tried require a bit of adaptation to do them with one hand. If I were serious about fitness, I imagine a trainer could help me modify most exercises to suit my needs.

Do you have a question? Check out my FAQ or feel free to ask in the comments. :)

Welcome home

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What makes a house a home? (Or an apartment a home, in this case, I suppose.) My daughter is nearing the end of her first year of Unitarian-Universalist religious education, and that has been the focus of the program for her age group: Creating a home.

Note: If there’s ever a good time to move, it’s when your child is immersed in a weekly lesson in creating a home.  That was a happy coincidence for us.  Each week she would spend her Sunday mornings immersed in the idea that we can be intentional about our homes, that our homes are safe spaces we journey from and return to every day.  I realized as I listened to her talk about what home meant to her that moving would be easy if we were intentional about it.

We have spent the last couple of months creating a home in a new apartment in a new neighborhood.  There are still items in boxes or in not-quite permanent locations, and there isn’t much on the walls yet.  But it’s feeling more and more like home every day.

What has made this place a home for me:

  • Finding a nearby Little Free Library to adopt as ours.  It’s far enough away to be a mini-adventure and close enough to be convenient.  We’ll make regular stops there now that it’s nice outside.
  • We met our neighbors.  It turns out we are surrounded by six year old girls.  My six year old is delighted.
  • We adopted a cat and named her Disco.

Last weekend, my daughter and I cuddled in a comfy chair to watch Cosmos, and Disco joined us, purring.  That’s home.

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Choose to Act

For many people, May 1st is a day of prayer.  For a growing number of others, it is a day of reason.  Sometimes it seems that no two groups of people are further apart than these.  But no matter our preference for prayer or reason on May 1st, we can agree that action is needed to make our world a better place.  The Week of Action (April 24-29) is designed to bring people together to celebrate our ability to make a difference in the here and now.

I plan to engage in small acts of kindness for the next six days.  I was inspired by a book, of course.  There’s always a book in my plans somewhere.  The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz is a feel-good novel about the power of good deeds.  Maybe the idea sounds cheesy to you.  But to me, it sounds do-able.  It might not seem like you’re saving the world when you’re planting flowers in someone’s yard or leaving small gifts for your neighbors, but you are saving little tiny pieces of the world with every action.

 

Hopefully this is just the beginning of my own personal sense of action.  Let’s all choose to act.

Sharing the Love of Books

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There was a time when I had a whole roomful of books.  Shelves lined every wall, and they were packed with books.  I looked at my bookshelves, and I saw success.  It was what I thought I always wanted.  What book lover wouldn’t?

It took a while, but eventually I realized something.  Or perhaps something shifted for me.  I’m not sure.  In any case, I realized that I don’t get much from having books.  I do get lots of pleasure or happiness or fulfillment from sharing them, so I decided to share more than I kept.  I guess I’m more of a librarian at heart than I thought I was.  :)

My home is no longer a repository for books.  It’s a way station.  They may stay here for a bit, but then they are passed along to a friend or left in a Little Free Library.  Now when I look at my bookshelves (not a roomful anymore–just one bookcase in the dining room), I see possibilities.  I see connections.

Today I was an official World Book Night giver.  I pledged to give away a stack of books to light or non-readers along with thousands of others across the country who want to “spread the love of reading person to person.”  It was neat to see people’s skepticism (free? where’s the catch?) melt away as they realized that this was just a book for the love of it.

There’s nothing like an evening of giving away books to remind you that life is pretty great.  If you have the opportunity to be a World Book Night Giver next year, I highly recommend the experience.

A weekend of solitude

Call me an introvert if you must–you wouldn’t be wrong–but I have to admit that there are few things better than a weekend to myself.  It’s been a busy couple of months (as evidenced by the lack of blog posts), and I was more than happy to spend a couple of days re-charging from all the goings on of late while my husband and daughter traveled for the weekend.

I decided to avoid planning too much, to just do whatever I felt like doing at the moment.  It felt like the height of luxury.  I highly recommend the experience if you have the opportunity.

My weekend consisted of books, art, and writing.  Here are some highlights:

  • 20140406-184336.jpgLive-tweeting my reading of Dangerous by Shannon Hale with the hashtag #dwoh (or Dangerous with one hand).  It is the only novel I recall reading with a main character with a congenital limb deficiency, and I couldn’t help but be excited about it.  Shannon Hale has some interesting things to say about why she chose to write a character who is differently abled, among other things, in this essay.
  • Exploring the meditative quality of writing with Karen Hering, author of Writing to Wake the Soul, at a Sacred Salon at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  The Sacred exhibit and the Salon were wonderfully inspiring, and I recommend both experiences to anyone interested in meditation or Buddhist ideas.  I’ve mentioned my interested in meditation here and here.
  • Turning up the volume on my latest musical obsession: Catbath.  What says spring more than opening the windows and playing the music a little bit louder?

How would you spend a weekend to yourself with no obligations?

Mothers, Daughters, and Stories

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This past Saturday I stood in front of a very small group to read an essay that is probably the most personal thing I’ve written outside of the pages of my journal in years.  That group will decide whether I will be offered an opportunity to read my essay in front of a much larger audience as part of the 2014 Listen to Your Mother show.  I won’t hear until the end of the week whether my audition was successful.  In all honesty, I’m not sure which outcome I’m rooting for.  

Most of the writing and speaking I do these days is focused on books.  I like it that way.  It is much more comfortable to talk about books than it is to talk about myself. The essay I entered for consideration in LTYM is not at all comfortable.  There are no books.  It’s just me.  I felt a little naked up there without a stack of books to take the eyes and attention away from me.  Maybe more than a little.

My essay is about the mother-daughter relationship.  If I were to turn it into a booktalk, I would have to start with the dedication page of Dreamer, Wisher, Liar by Charise Mericle Harper:

“For my mother and my daughter–I wish we could be twelve together.  Just for a day.”

I should note that in this advance copy of the book nothing is final.  Perhaps the dedication will change before the book is published, but I hope it doesn’t.  It’s what made me pick up the book.  I can’t help but wonder what that wish would turn into for me.  

When I read What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren I felt myself getting teary eyed more than once at the relationship between Esther and her mother.  It’s a small book and perhaps a bit old fashioned, but it isn’t far off from my story.  Maybe you’ll see some of yours in it too.

If you are an 8 to 12 year old girl or just remember what it’s like to be one, you might like Dreamer, Wisher, Liar or What the Moon Said.  

Meanwhile, make a note of the date: May 8th.  Whether or not I am part of the show, Listen to Your Mother will be a good one.

Thoughts on Love

What does love feel like to you?

sonoffortuneI found this description in Son of Fortune by Victoria McKernan:

“Aiden had almost starved to death once.  Love felt exactly the same, only the complete opposite.  Starvation had scraped out the center of his bones, numbed his hands and feet and shimmered his vision.  It conjured weird, distant music in the back of his brain, and made everything he touched feel oddly unreal.  The same symptoms seized him now, only the ache in his gut was a lump of silver.  The strings that fastened his heart in his chest had come undone, so the muscle skidded around with every beat.  His lungs could never get enough air, for the air contained the breaths she had exhaled.”

I have collected more thoughts and ideas about love from books and poems in a zine that is on sale for $0.99 for Valentine’s Day week.  Love… contains quotations from Kate DiCamillo, Rainer Maria Rilke, and everyone in between.  It may make a unique gift for someone special or a little treat for yourself.  Either way, I hope you enjoy it.

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P.S. Son of Fortune is the sequel to The Devil’s Paintbox.  Both are excellent historical novels for teens.  Recommended for readers who like adventure with just a touch of romance.

6 Things I Wish I’d Known

Last year Minneapolis spoken word artist Guante posted his list of Six Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Getting Started as an Artist, and Minnesota Public Radio has taken the theme to several other career choices, like teachers, doctors, and journalism.  Now that I am over ten years into my career, I have a few ideas of things that I wish I’d known when I was a new librarian.  Here goes:

  1. Most people have no idea what librarians do or why they matter.  You will just have to get used to people saying different versions of “You need a Master’s degree to check out books?!”  Be ready to advocate for yourself politely.
  2. The library field draws book people, but it is a people job.  Learn to connect.
  3. It’s all about change.  The Internet didn’t kill libraries.  Ebooks aren’t going to do it either.  They just change things.  Be an early adopter when you can.
  4. Education matters, but experience is crucial.  Most people pursuing library science degrees have years of experience working as paraprofessionals in libraries behind them already.  Volunteer, if you have to, but get experience in a library before you graduate.
  5. The field is hugely varied.  People bring different backgrounds, skills, and interests to librarianship.  Get to know your colleagues, and learn from them when you can.
  6. Accept help when you need it, even if it’s from a vendor.  This is perhaps a somewhat self-serving comment since I currently work as a staff librarian at a library vendor, but when I was a public librarian I really didn’t know what kind of tools and support were available from book companies.  These services are often free, so take advantage of them.   We want to help. :)

Are you a librarian?  What would you add?