I spent Election Day afternoon handing out kids’ ballots and I Voted stickers to the kids at my polling place. It was pretty quiet, but the kids who did cast ballots in the Kids Voting Minneapolis mock election seemed so proud to be voting just like their parents that I couldn’t help but be glad I was there.
According to Kids Voting Minneapolis, about 50% of young people grow up in non-voting households like I did. I didn’t vote at all until I was in my late twenties, and, as someone who is new to voting, I can tell you that it is intimidating to vote for the first time. That is exactly why I wanted to volunteer with Kids Voting. The goal of the organization is to de-mystify the process for kids in an effort to foster an engaged electorate when they grow up. I believe in this wholeheartedly.
It is important to me that my daughter knows that we are a voting household. We pay attention to politics, and we participate in elections. She is growing up in a household in which politics are frequently discussed and debated. Even so, I realized this year that she had never accompanied us to the polling place. We’d always voted while she was at school or otherwise occupied as a matter of convenience. That changed this year. All three of us cast ballots together this year, and I hope that this is a new tradition will continue for a long time.
I also took the opportunity to share more about the election process with my six-year-old with the book Vote! by Eileen Christelow, which I was delighted to learn was actually inspired by Minnesota’s high voter turnout and early voter education! It is a fun picture book that follows a small town mayoral race from the dog’s eye view. It covers a lot of information, and it would be perfect for a second or third grade classroom. For fourth and fifth grade classrooms, try America Votes by Linda Granfield, which even mentions the Kids Voting organization along with the note that “Statistics show that the Kids Voting program actually increases parent voter turnout by nearly five percent.”
Increasing voter turnout? Getting to see the pride of participation? Encouraging a new generation of civic involvement? These are all great reasons to make volunteering with Kids Voting Minneapolis an Election Day tradition as well.
You could still see the messages written three different languages chalked on the sidewalk in front of my daughter’s school earlier this week from the October 10th Kindness in Chalk event. The words were faded then, but they still have me hope.
I couldn’t watch this video without getting a little teary. I know I’m kind of a sucker for this kindness stuff, but give it a chance. :)
Words matter, and small kindnesses matter. I really believe that, and I believe that we need to take this message beyond Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. As always, I’m planning to spread the idea with books.
Start with some picture books:
- The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts – In this picture book, Sally notices everything, and she ends up making a big difference.
- Because of You by B.G. Hennessy – A picture book to share the idea that every person can make a difference.
- Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – Start talking about paying it forward with kids in this picture book.
You might also wish to check out the Year of Minnesota Nice blog–not to mention the Be Nice Box–for more ideas to spread kindness in your community.
Yesterday was my first ever National Night Out Block Party. The intersections were blocked off, and the neighbors had set up a couple of grills in the middle of the streets. Kids were running around, and adults were milling with drinks in hand. It turned out that we were the newbies among mostly long-time residents of our block, and we felt quite welcomed. Here were the highlights for me:
- I may have convinced a woman who lives across the street from me to give bus commuting a try. Hey, if I can commute from Minneapolis to Burnsville on a bus, then anyone can, right?
- When a neighbor expressed interest in putting a Little Free Library in front of her house, I enthusiastically agreed to help keep it stocked if she does it. You all know that I will make good on that promise. :)
- I discovered another Unitarian-Universalist family on my block. We chatted about our kids’ RE classes and about the why we chose UU. Great to have that connection.
National Night Out started in 1984 as a crime prevention program aimed at creating the community camaraderie needed to enhance safety for everyone. One night isn’t going to solve all crime issues, but it certainly represents a beginning. I was very happy to finally be able to be a part of that in our new home.
Want to keep the sense of community going? Here are some links:
We ushered in our summer with a busy weekend that was full of sun. After several days (weeks?) of rain, it was much needed sunshine–at least, it was much needed by me.
We celebrated the solstice on Friday evening at our Unitarian-Univeralist church, caught a puppet show on Saturday morning at the library (highly recommend catching one of the many performances of Molly and the Magic Boot this summer; my daughter is still singing the “hootenanny” song–though perhaps that’s not a selling point. . .), and joined ten thousand other music fans for Rock the Garden on Saturday night.
While Matt and Kim stole the show for me (even though I was not previously familiar with them), Best Coast deserves a mention for singing “Why would you live anywhere else?” Of course, they were referencing California, but on the first day of a Minnesota summer, there is no better place to be. Why would you live anywhere else right now?
Our summer has just begun, of course. In the weeks to come we will be camping, swimming, grilling, and more. What will your summer bring?
If you need some inspiration, try a picture book: Summer Wonders by Bob Raczka is a good place to start. It celebrates summer with simplicity and ice pops. What more could you want?
Perhaps at the end of the summer we will be able to make our own book of wonders.
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.
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:
- Live-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?
Live music doesn’t have to be about huge arenas and screaming fans or late nights at crowded rock clubs. Sometimes it’s about connection. I recently had the pleasure of attending an event at Torch, a new performing arts space in Minneapolis that puts the audience-artist connection at the forefront of the experience. It’s a great space with a strong vision, and I am excited to see what’s next there.
I caught the final date in the Raw Deal concert series that ran on Sunday evenings in December and January. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect at Torch, but I couldn’t help but smile when I walked in to find friendly faces and the smell of brownies baking. “Homespun” is the way it is described on the web site, and I think that describes it well. Torch has a homespun feel to it in the most complimentary way possible. This is a venue where you introduce yourself to your fellow audience members and you talk about what brought you there. It’s a venue where you can, not only meet the artist, but also have a conversation with them. When the show started, we all paid attention.
Hannah von der Hoff performed first. Her bluesy style radiated warmth and fit perfectly with the setting. There was no set list. The audience drew the song names from a couple of hats, which kept things conversational and open.
Matt Latterell closed the night with songs that told stories. His album Life on Land has been in regular rotation on the playlist at our house for a while, and my husband and I were happy to have the opportunity to see him perform in a venue like this one.
Yesterday was a long day. I was up early for last minute stapling, and then I was off to spend my day asking where people were from. Last year I asked people at the Zinefest to share a book they had read recently. This year I tied my question in to my new zine, Whereverland, which explores my here-and-there roots, with a new question: Where are you from?
For many, it was a straightforward question. They wrote their answers with confidence. Others shared several answers. “I’m not from only one place,” a woman said almost apologetically as she wrote the names of three different cities. By the end of the day, I had collected many, many places. Some came with tidbits of trivia: Did you know that Waseca, WI is the home of Cool Whip? I did not. Some were from far away (three from China, two from Germany, one from Australia), but most were from Minneapolis or very close. I loved the neighborhood pride that popped up occasionally. Powderhorn, Northeast, Bryn Mawr, and Uptown are all represented at least once.
As for me, I like to say that I’m from Minnesota, but you can read more about that in Whereverland. :)
Twenty years ago I might as well have been living in a bunker without access to the outside world for all I knew about music or pop culture. Don’t get me wrong. My family owned a television and lived a generally normal life. We just weren’t tuned in to some things. Mostly I think that was a good thing. But occasionally I find that there are gaps. For example, I would not have recognized a Beatles song until I was an adult. Not kidding.
This weekend I found another gap: Nirvana. I’d always told myself that I was too young. I was only a young teen in the early 90’s after all, but the crowd at the Uptown Cheapo store for the In Utero tribute on Saturday afternoon wasn’t any older than me. Actually many were younger. The musicians on stage spoke of memories of Cheapo, Nirvana, and being a teenager, and I found myself considering my gaps. So I missed it the first time around. This is clearly something worth going back for.
HighTV covering Nirvana at Cheapo
When it comes to books, I live in the future. The nature of my job means I’m reading books before they are released. My desk is stacked with 2014 titles right now, and it’s hard to look back to a previous publishing season to a title I didn’t get around to last year, or even earlier. If I miss something, I’ve missed it. Or so it seems sometimes.
I feel like I should conclude with something profound about balance, but I think I’ll just turn on some music.
Maybe I should start listening to The Current’s Teenage Kicks occasionally? I’ll catch up with the rest of you eventually.
Fall is for dreaming. The leaves haven’t even started to turn yet, but it seems that we have our eyes fixed on what lies ahead.
My daughter’s school sent home a blank cloud for us to share our hopes for the new school year. The new minister at the Unitarian Universalist church I’ve been attending asked the audience at last Sunday’s service to scribble aspirations for the upcoming season of assemblies on scraps of paper, which he collected and read aloud. My partner is already figuring out ways to make his fall as fulfilling as his summer was with music and travel at the forefront. It’s catching, I think. The more everyone talks about their dreams, writes about them, the more I start to imagine my own cloud filled with writing and ideas and opportunities. Thanks for the push, everyone.
Fall is in the air, and it is beautiful.
This week and next are all about zines. The Twin Cities Zine Fest is September 21st at Powderhorn Park. I’ll have new stuff available, and I hope to see you there.