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.


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.

Wedding Stories


“I didn’t want a big wedding myself, but I love when other people do,” I said to a friend this past weekend while people bustled all around setting up, taking photos, and practicing their roles in the day’s event.

I was very early for the festivities since my partner was playing a role in the wedding, and my role was mainly staying out of the way while trying to explain to my daughter why she wasn’t chosen as the flower girl.  If I had been thinking like a librarian I would have made sure to reread Lilly’s Big Day by Kevin Henkes or some other not-the-flower-girl picture book before we left for the out-of-town wedding weekend.  But I wasn’t thinking like a librarian.  I was thinking like a romantic.

At this wedding, it seems they were thinking like storytellers.  The vows were more than promises to each other.  They were thank yous to every one of the guests for sticking with the couple through what had been some ups and downs in their history.  The bride told her story of how they met and courted, and the groom his.  Then they promised to use their strengths to take their story into the future.

The best thing about stories is that they are contagious.

On the way home from Duluth, my daughter asked for our story.  “How did you and Papa meet?”  I smiled as I thought about how far our story stretches back now.  It’s hard to believe it’s been over ten years since our meet-cute moment, and it’ll soon be nine since we spoke our promises in front of a small group of our loved ones.  A lot has changed since then, and we are still speaking promises to each other.

Since we got home, my daughter has been thinking like a matchmaker.  She’s already wondering which of the couples we know will be the next to wed and who their flower girl will be.

It was, indeed, a lovely wedding.


Photo above from A Kiss for Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.  Get it from your library or an independent bookseller.  I also mentioned Lilly’s Big Day.  Check that out or buy it.

Happy anniversary, Hennepin County Libraries

What I like about the Hennepin County Library:

  • First of all, the library staff have responded to my suggestion, which makes me feel pretty good. :)
  • The Central Library in downtown Minneapolis is open seven days a week.  I wish more locations were open on Sundays and Mondays, but I’m quite grateful that there is one I can count on for my Sunday and Monday reading needs.
  • Speaking of the Central Library, it really is a cool building.  There is even a children’s book about the construction of the new library that came out in 2006.   You can get a free tour of the library on weekends.  I have yet to do this myself.  If anyone wants to take the tour sometime, let me know so I can join you. :)
  • The Central Library celebrates Minnesota’s rich literary history in its auditorium.  Each of the chairs in the auditorium has a name of a Minnesota author on it.  I, of course, love this connection to the community.
  • I’ve been to several cool events at the library in the past couple of years, such as the screening of a documentary about children’s books, and a celebration of Minnesota libraries.  In addition to the various storytimes I’ve attended with my little one.
  • An actor plays Gratia Countryman in an old library building at a local arts festival in 2010.

    Perhaps the coolest reason to like HC Lib is its history.  Gratia Countryman, in particular, is a notable figure in Minneapolis history as the first female director of the Minneapolis Public Library and the founder of the Hennepin County Library.  She was a strong advocate for women’s rights, and she was active in various organizations in the Twin Cities.   If you have an opportunity to catch a performance by a Minnesota Historical Society player, do it. Ms. Countryman is a fascinating historical figure that deserves wider name recognition.

Read more about Ms. Countryman and local library history in this brochure or visit the Central Library during the months of July, August, and September to view the exhibit on display in Cargill Hall, For Use: 125 Years of Library Service in Hennepin County.

I recently attended the opening celebration of the exhibit, which featured commentary from library figures about the nature of public service in Hennepin County (particularly in light of the current government shutdown) and the future of libraries in Hennepin County.  The exhibit will be open the same hours as the Central Library, so you can view it seven days a week through September 30th.

Explore how Minneapolis Public Library and Hennepin County Library have worked together to achieve the vision of Gratia Countryman, who said,

“The public library is an institution so pliable that it bends to every growing need of community life; so susceptible to social needs, so eager to render all possible service, that it must by virtue of its own nature reach out beyond the city borders.”

How has your public library responded to community needs?  How do you wish it would respond?

What Fairy Tales Can Teach Us

Weetzie BatI loved Weetzie Bat from the very first moment I met her.  It was assigned reading in my Young Adult Literature class, and I still loved it.  I was twenty years old reading about magic, family, and love in a book that pushed all of my boundaries, and I knew right away that I had found something that was true for me.

Weetzie Bat taught me about family.  Missing Angel Juan got me through break-ups and reminded me of how it feels to move past fear.  I discovered that magic of fairy tales through these books, and I am grateful.

Somewhere along the way, I parted ways from Ms. Block’s writing.  Her more recent novels have delved into the world of vampires and werewolves–not my thing.  The poems in How to (Un)Cage a Girl were mostly misses for me save the “Forty-five Thoughts for my Daughter and my Virtual Daughters,” which is less for teens and more for moms.

House of DollsThen I found House of Dolls.  Block’s first book for younger readers has gotten mixed reviews, but I must agree with Booklist‘s starred review:

“What at first seems to be about the perrennial war between familial generations is expanded into a message about the global forces of pride and avarice that plunge innocents into devastation.  This is powerful, haunting, and–just when you don’t think it’s possible–inspiring, too.”

I recently wrote a blog post about talking to your kids about human rights, and I am reminded now of the power of fables and fairy tales in explaining these terrible things.  Perhaps the next time you are trying to explain war to a child, you will think of these words, spoken by one of the dolls in House of Dolls:

“War is being blinded and locked in a box, unable to see, hear, or touch you, my wildflower.  War is being reminded that you are completely at the mercy of death at every moment, without the illusion that you are not, without the distractions that make life worth living.”

More Information:

I love evidence

I believe in evidence.  Particularly when it comes to the important things in my life, I like to have solid evidence for why I do or don’t do something.  This is why I found myself with a stack of parenting books borrowed ferom the library–all with a similar claim: to provide scientific backing to parenting choices.

What's Going on in There?Some years ago, before becoming a parent, I’d read What’s Going on in There? by neurobiologist Lise Eliot, which was my introduction to the idea of evidence-based parenting, and I found it fascinating.  But I imagined that some changes had likely entered the picture since it was published in 1999.  Science has a way of changing; That’s one of the things I like about it.

Enter: Einstein Never Used Flash Cards.  This book brings the research up to 2003, and it is primarily a response to the well-intentioned trend of the time that had parents scrambling to get their preschoolers into academics to give them an early start (See the documentary Nursery University for more on this trend).  Authors Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff (both child psychologists) go to great lengths to explain why this “early start” doesn’t help kids.  They detail the research in child development and even provide “experiments” that parents can do with their own kids to see the process in action.  They urge parents to let kids play.  “Reflect, resist, and recenter,” is the advice that resonated with me from this book.

Reading this book illustrated to me just how difficult it is to talk or write about parenting.  As just one example, I have some strong opinions about responding to crying babies.  I’d read various evidence-based arguments for responding to babies’ cries before, but I still felt myself tense up as I read.  What if this book presents evidence that I don’t want to see?  It didn’t, but it was eye-opening to examine my pre-reading reaction in light of the various irrational arguments I’ve read or heard from parents about their reasons for their choices.  Are we being rational?  Am I?

NurtureshockThen we have Nurtureshock, which has probably been among the most talked about parenting books of the past couple of years.  Published 10 years after Eliot’s book, this is the update for which I had been looking.  It covers a lot of ground (especially considering that nearly a third of the book is back matter), but it is important ground to cover for parents, educators, and policy makers.  This book changed the way I give praise to my daughter, how I look at gifted education programs, and strongly increased my empathy for teenagers.  Some of my personal opinions were upheld (even more compelling reasons to respond to your crying baby!), and some were kind of shot down (spanking may not be as bad as I would like to think).  But the most interesting aspect of the book was how much more balanced it seemed than the other books I read.  The authors weren’t afraid to discuss research that didn’t necessarily provide a straightforward “answer.”  The chatty tone of the book made it feel like the authors and readers were looking at the evidence together with a “what do you think?” rather than “this is what I think.”

Refreshing, don’t you think?


Edited to Add a couple of links:

Local love

I love Minneapolis.  Other people love it too.  Here’s the video to prove it:

Why We’re Here: Twin Cities from Seven and Sixty Productions on Vimeo.

With all the possibilities around the world, what is the “it” that keeps people here in the Twin Cities? We suspected the answer to the question “Why We’re Here” was both simple and incredibly nuanced — worthy of art. We took our camera to the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul to find people willing to talk, unscripted, on film. The result is our collective love poem to the Twin Cities.

Why We’re Here: Twin Cities is a six-minute film that explores what unites us, and unites us here, in the Twin Cities. Filmed on location the spring and summer of 2010 in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, the film features an original score by John Munson of the New Standards, the Twilight Hours, Semisonic and Trip Shakespeare, camerawork by Adam Olson and editing by Sam Heyn.

Visit to post your response and tell us, with all the possibilities that exist in the world, why you’re living where you do.

Produced in association with the Minnesota Culture Club. Visit them at

I’m a Minnesotan by birth, but I didn’t spend much of my childhood here.  Somehow I found myself in the Twin Cities as an adult, and I’m not planning to leave any time soon.  I’m not sure when it happened, but this has become my home.  I feel a Twin Cities pride when I read books like Julia Gillian and the Art of Knowing and see familiar places pop up (including Magers and Quinn, Our Kitchen, Bryant Hardware, and Quang).  I feel excited to take friends or family who visit to my favorite restaurants (Pizza Luce, Nick and Eddie, or one of the many sushi places around here).  And let’s not even start on music.  Okay, fine.  We have POS, Gospel Gossip, Red Pens, HighTV (my partner’s band).  We are always finding great new local music or, in my partner’s case, making it. :)

It’s been a long winter.  I think everyone is ready for spring.  But I can still manage to feel nostalgic for the almost-winter described in Sister Mischief, an upcoming YA novel by Minnesota native Laura Goode:

Fall is a heady apple-tree season in Minnesota; the sinking feeling of winter hasn’t quite sunk, and the wind is aromatic with embering pumpkins and unpacked quilts and dirty, wet red leaves and a distinct, immodest scent of anticipation veiled over it all.

The quote is from the ARC, and the book doesn’t come out until July of this year.  I tried to wait to post it, but I was too enthusiastic to wait any longer.  The book, much like Julia Gillian, is a love letter to the TC.   I might be a bit biased to liking it given my affinity for the area.  With that in mind, I’m recommending it to you.  :)

I’m also recommending Minneapolis.  If you need more reasons to love it: Citypages offers 50.

I love blogs, and I love loving blogs

I love blogs.  Perhaps that seems obvious since this is a blog.  I also love Facebook.  And Twitter.

I didn’t always love blogs.  When a group of my friends and acquaintances started keeping Livejournal blogs circa 1999-2000, I scoffed.  Why would they want to share their “journal” with anyone?  I didn’t get it.  It wasn’t long before I was swept up in it myself.  I’d always loved writing, and here was a chance for me to write, receive feedback, and engage with people I might not otherwise know.  Soon I was seeking out blogs and communities on Livejournal and beyond.  Most of my old friends have long since forgotten the blogging craze, but I’m still here.  Why?

Cognitive SurplusPart of the answer lies in Clay Shirky’s new book, Cognitive Surplus.  He writes of creativity, sharing, and connectivity in an age of technology.  The Internet/social media has brought amazing opportunity that, coupled with the surplus of time and energy that many of us have, has resulted in projects like Wikipedia, PickupPal, and many others.  We are no longer consumers.  We are producers, collaborators, citizens.

I love this.  I loved Cognitive Surplus.  Perhaps that seems obvious since I’m a blogger, zinester, and lover of indie music.  I love the “publish” button.  I love the “like” button.  I love the opportunity to be a part of something greater than myself.  Shirky writes,

The range of opportunities we can create for one another is so large, and so different from what life, until recently, was like, that no one person or group and no one set of rules or guides can describe all the possible cases.  The single greatest predictor of how much value we get out of our congitive surplus is how much we allow and encourage one another to experiment, because the only group that can try everything is everybody.

Life is good, people.  Let’s do something.