I’m sitting in the waiting room of the emergency vet clinic at the University of Minnesota.  The hum of the vending machines.  Folks typing at the reception desk.  Sneet falling on the skylights above my head.

Last night The Big E and I went out in search of Chikoritas.  (More about that in a future post.)  We were gone two hours.  Ace reports that Rafa stood at the back door the entire time.  Barking.  By the time I got home, Rafa couldn’t breathe.  Two hours of riled-up barking is bad for a guy with congestive heart failure.  I gave him extra hydrocodone for cough and two doses of sub-Q furosemide.  Then we sat and panted and coughed and peed until 1 am.  I went to bed, hoping he’d make it through the night, wondering if I was a bad mother for not taking him to the ER at 0100.

The pointer puppy wags her whole body while her human dad pays up.  “Can I pet the baby?” I ask.  He warns me about her sharp puppy teeth.  She climbs me with her lanky freckled paws, trying to gnaw my hair, my jacket, my hand.

We’ve known about Rafa’s heart failure for close to a year.  One of the valves in his heart is shot, so blood can’t pump efficiently.  If you feed the guy a hot dog, the salt load makes him drink excessive fluids.  And because the pump isn’t great, the excess fluid winds up in his lungs.  Just like in a person.  To confound the issue, his enlarged heart pushes on his trachea, making it even harder to breathe.

I wonder why vets haven’t banned branded materials from their facilities.  The clock, the calendar, the poster of ideal body weight, the model of heartworms threading between the cardiac chambers.  Free advertising for Big Pharma.

In November, Rafa went into acute respiratory distress.  Most of the details are fuzzy.  I clearly remember carrying him into the U ER.  “He can’t breathe,” I say, tears streaming down my face.  The receptionist calmly takes him from me – “We’ll take care of him right away.”  She fastwalks him into the back room, into an oxygen box.

He’s in the box again now.  It’s a small-dog Japanese style oxygen bar, a wall of 2x2x3 boxes.  I want to sit with him, reach my hand around the Plexiglass, scratch his head.  The vet thinks the excitement will be suboptimal.  So I sit in the waiting room, the sneet turning to drizzle above my head.

Rafa has a cardiologist.  Rafa, the Pomeranian, has a cardiologist.  Dr. Stauthammer is a lovely man – warm, smart, funny, pragmatic.  After the scare last fall, we meet with him a couple times.  I ask him to prognosticate, look into his crystal ball, see into the future of my fluffy boy.  Maybe Rafa has a year.  Maybe more, maybe less.  We’ll see.

Today I tell the receptionist, then the vet student, then the vet attending: Rafa is Comfort Care.  I do not want him hospitalized.  I want them to help him be comfortable and if he can’t be comfortable at home, I want them to euthanize him.  Sometimes my words are accompanied by tears.  By the third time around, my words are stronger.  Less wet.

How do you measure a dog’s quality of life?  Rafa has it pretty good.  He races up and down the fenceline, barking at the neighbor dogs.  He gets his pills in yogurt or peanut butter or a meatball or rice, whatever I think he might like at any particular moment.  We go on family walks, Ace, The Big E, Chester the Lab, Rafa, and I.  Rafa walks for a bit, sniffing and marking.  Then I put him in his baby jogger.  Yes, I’m one of those people.

A family comes in.  The parents carry a white box, the top tapered like a coffin.  In the box rests, I presume, a medium-sized dog.  The mother walks backwards, the father forwards, the pajama-ed children swirling around their legs.  Messages of love are scrawled across the box in multi-colored ink.  The vet techs load the box onto a red wagon and wheel it away down the hall.  The eldest daughter stands in her mother’s arms.

I, privileged.  When I check Rafa in, the woman asks “Are you aware of our emergency exam fee?”  Yes, I’m aware.  I’m aware that my geriatric Pomeranian gets regular primary care including dental work, that he has his own cardiologist, that he goes to Uncle Dennis for in-home dogboarding when we’re out-of-town in a dogless locale, that his seven-day am-pm pillbox holds an impressive, expensive array of diuretics, inotropes, and narcs.

The attending and student visit me in the waiting room.  Rafa is doing well in his oxygen box.  They gave him a couple doses of IV furosemide and a stronger cough-suppressing narcotic.  Stadol.  We debate whether a chest x-ray will alter their treatment plan and I eventually consent.  Diuretics strain the kidneys.  Do you want to breathe or do you want to filter your blood and balance your electrolytes and fluids?

Several weeks ago, I left Rafa in the car with my purse.  He opened the purse, removed the ziplock bag containing an unknown amount of dark chocolate, shredded the bag, and had himself a nice snack.  I found the evidence much later.  Rafa seemed fine – chocolate is toxic to dogs.  I decided to leave him be, not induce vomiting.  Death-by-dark-chocolate wouldn’t be a bad way for him to go.

I’m in hour three of sitting in this waiting room.  My sweetheart sits in his oxygen bar, mildly stoned, comfortable.  I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll get to take him home in a form other than elemental carbon.  I find an email from The Big E, a photo that he took of Rafa.  My sweet human boy.

Over the years I’ve grown better about setting boundaries with certain “friends.”  Cost-benefit analysis is a helpful construct.  The intricacies of human-human relationship are so much more complicated than the normal simplicity of human-dog togetherness.  If I tidy up the relationships in my life, dump all the people, the animals, the institutions into a pile on my floor and evaluate them one-by-one.  When I KonMari these relationships, I can state one thing with absolute certainty:

Rafa, you bring me joy.   


Musical Moment


Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Church Camp

We meet in the church parking lot and stuff our ratty sleeping bags into the back of a rickety school bus.  No one checks our bags.  The bus zips out highway 55, making a brief stop in Plymouth to pick up a few stray kids.

We’ll stay in the East cabin, two campers per room, girls on the near side, boys on the far.  The bus-ride is spent in intense roommate negotiation.  After Annandale, we turn left onto a dusty road.  If it’s late enough in the season, the smell of quintessential Minnesota prairie wafts through the open windows.

It’s 1984.  Most of us are 15.  I am not.

We’re crowded into one of the sleeping rooms, all of the girls.  Someone brought a tape player.  Someone else brought the tape: Purple Rain.

We listen over and over: Let’s Go Crazy, Take Me With U, The Beautiful Ones, Computer Blue, Darling Nikki, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m a Star, Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy, Take Me With U, The Beautiful Ones, Computer Blue, Darling Nikki, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m a Star, Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy, Take Me With U, The Beautiful Ones, Computer Blue, Darling Nikki, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m a Star, Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy, Take Me With U, The Beautiful Ones, Computer Blue, Darling Nikki, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m a Star, Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy, Take Me With U, The Beautiful Ones, Computer Blue, Darling Nikki, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m a Star, Purple Rain.

Standing on the beds in single-gendered abandonment, young bodies twisting, virginal brains open to our Prince.  Teach us.  Take us.

The moment shines in my memory.  No beginning, no end.  Only youth.


Musical Moment

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

There’s No Place Like –

I left for college with one bad fiberfill pillow and a quilt that I covered with two sensible blue-with-white pinstriped poly blend twin sheets.  Tommis, my girl-cat, helped me hand-tie the quilt overlay, all of us (including the quilt) lounging on the puce green living room rug.

Freshperson year, I slept on my stomach from 11 pm to 7 am, the pillow at a 45 degree angle, left arm under, right arm over.  I hitched my right knee up and pressed my left cheek to the pillow.

Times have changed.

This is my bed. IMG_3171

There are a few elements that I wish to describe in more detail, elements that contribute to the overall superior sleep experience.



1) Overabundance of pillows.  I now actively sleep with seven pillows.  With Ace in the bed, the number increases to twelve.  I flipped to side sleeping when I was pregnant and never went back.  Acid reflux during pregnancy cranked up the pillow count.  I stopped being pregnant but never quit the pillows.  And what’s a bed without a body pillow?  And one more for that behind-the-back, snuggled feeling. IMG_3172

2) Absence of husband.  Ace removed himself from our marital bed during my recent bout of catarrh and coryza.  He’ll come back after we wash the sheets.








3) Labrador retriever pawprint.  Nothing makes you feel the love like a visit from a dirt-pawed lab.  IMG_3174

4) Unfolded clean laundry and tissues within easy reach.  I can’t recommend the Trader Joe’s tissues.  They feel like 120 grit sandpaper. IMG_3177






5) Dirty socks courtesy of the labrador retriever.  He particularly enjoys retrieving dirty socks. IMG_3178

6) Thrift store cashmere waiting for end-of-season hand laundering.








7) Pomeranian.  Because no bed is complete without a Pomeranian.  Truly.



Musical Moment


Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Just Another Mucous Monday

The following is the product of a codeine-addled brain.  Consider yourself warned.


The first feature, to the tune of “I’m Still Standing,” by Elton John:


Don’t you know that

I’m still coughing,

harder than I ever did

Lookin’ like tuberculosis

Feeling like an invalid

(Don’t you know that)

I’m still coughing

After all this time

Coughing up the pieces of my lungs

The last cold left behind

I’m still coughing

(yeah, yeah, yeah)

I’m still coughing

(yeah, yeah, yeah)


Next, a bit of A-ha’s “Take On Me


I’m coughing away

I don’t have the

breath to say

I’ll sneeze the words away

Please drug me now,

at least until Sunday.


And finally, Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” – revisited


Codeine, codeine, codeine, codeine

I’m beggin’ of you please suppress my cough

Codeine, codeine, codeine, codeine

Please don’t make me turn into a sloth

Your strength it is beyond compare

Catarrh, coriza  must beware!

When mixed right up with phenergan

You make me want to live again!

Your flavor like demented grapes

I am complete with you



Musical Moment



Posted in Blog | Tagged , | 2 Comments

When Craigslist Gives You Lemons

My favorite thrift store, Steeple People, closed up shop at the end of January.  Our building, at the corner of Franklin and Lyndale in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, will be torn down and a big old condo complex will erupt like a giant pustulent zit.

The ramifications of this ending are widespread and profound.  Steeple People provided a safe, friendly space for folks to walk in and simply hang out.  And you could buy a coffee mug for fifty cents.  On a more personal level, without Steeple People, my family will relatively soon be completely naked.  If you and I are friends, like gift-giving-friends, you’ve received your last gift.  Sorry.  That’s it.  The well is dry.

Naturally, I want Steeple People to continue in some form and a small group of us are working like rabid squirrels to see if our dream can become reality.  Part of the dreaming process involves envisioning a retail space, a space equipped with stuff.

And what better place to think about stuff than on Craigslist.  Prior to a week ago, I hadn’t realized that Craigslist has an entire section devoted to free stuff.  You simply google “Craigslist free stuff,” click on the link, and a massive list of FREE STUFF pops right up!  People post new FREE STUFF literally every other moment and you can spend hours avoiding family members, neglecting the pets, and forgetting to pay bills while you scan the old couches for that Danish modern pièce de résistance.

I want to share with you the highlights of one particular twenty-four hour period on Craigslist Free Stuff, including the published item descriptions.  Be forewarned.  I am the granddaughter of a bonafide hoarder, a woman who trashed five houses and was locked out of her domicile one Christmas Eve by the Wisconsin Department of Health because her home was unfit for human habitation.  Like my grandma, I can see the potential in just about anything.  To quote Grandma: “If you put a stake in the middle of it [it being an ancient, battered, aluminum jello mold], a dog could drink out of it!”


Item #1: “Free wet insulation – I’ve got lots of it in my garage, you haul.”

I’m totes at a loss with this one.  Can anyone think of a single possible use for wet insulation?  Oh wait!  Growth media in a lab for toxic black mold?



Item #2: “Couch – free couch must go”

The presentation is really remarkable.  Dead leaves, duct tape, sand???  Not even remotely tempted by this one I’m afraid.



Item #3: “Free Bedding, Full Size / 70s Red White Blue Stripes - Free full size bedding set: Freshly laundered fitted and quilted mattress cover, with red white blue striped sheets and pillow covers, and newer bright blue bedspread. Unused since 1976. Good, soft, and clean condition. Bed pictured is gone.”

Oh, I wanted that sheet set for sure.  Probably started out as a cotton/poly blend and all the cotton is washed out, leaving that silky non-aerating polyester sensation, likely accompanied by the scent of someone’s grandpa.  I’d take the chest of drawers, too.

Item #4 (no photo): “cranberry tree approx 7 feet free but must dig up first!  Item Details-Approx 7 foot cranberry tree but needs to be dug up first!”

So here’s the thing.  Cranberries grow on vines in bogs.  The element of mystery nearly forced me to respond to this ad.  Could be Viburnum trilobum (high bush cranberry) – not actually a cranberry at all.  Could be a crabapple.  Could be a sour cherry.  Exciting!


Item #5: “Free mug – pick up anytime Friday”

Wow.  This one is just simply awesome.  Not “broken mug.”  Just “mug.”  Is it a joke?   But I could turn those shards into a mosaic or garden ornamentation or…



Item #6: “Used yogurt lids from the Philippines - five used metal (aluminum?) yogurt lids from the Philippines. You might be able to recycle them and get a few pennies back”

This post is worthy of my grandma.  You have the post-Depression mentality of using literally everything and once you’ve exhausted all potential uses, you must unite objects with the perfect next person, the one who will unlock hidden potential or (minute) financial reward.  My own thought: Christmas tree ornaments, amirite?

Item #7: “Pack n play wedge and Danny slings - Free pack n play wedge and three Danny slings.  Clean, non smoking pet free home.”

00101_bysZtivHDn5_600x450This stuff is sometimes used when babies have gastro-esophageal reflux.  Used correctly, it can be helpful.  Used incorrectly, it’s a great way to strangle or suffocate a child.  Needless to say, my blood pressure goes up when I see it up-for-grabs without an accompanying physician.




Item #8 (no photo):

“Feed Corn Organic (Minneapolis) - This was high quality Organic corn, but its contaminated with little bugs, we have 2 totes about 4000LBS. NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION. great for pigs, cattle, chickens. farm animals. Must take at least 1 tote. FREE.”

Holy cow, that’s a lotta corn.  ”Must take at least 1 tote” = must take at least 2000 pounds!  That rules out us city folk puttering around with a couple backyard chickens…

Item #9: “Ham-Dogger - No hot dogs? Shove ground meat in a tube. I personally think it’s disgusting which is why I’m giving it away” 00E0E_8hm0JuM4c2c_600x450

I really want to know more about the story.  How did this person wind up with a Ham-Dogger in the first place?  Was it a gift?  An internet freebie?  Who invented the Ham-Dogger and what were they smoking?  And gosh golly, that thing’s $27.44 on Amazon!




01111_cjLSbNRoGID_600x450Item #10: “Free, good sand (it was blessed too) - So I’ve got this sand from my wedding ceremony if anyone needs it. I’m divorced now and it brings up bad memories so don’t ask details. Approximately 1/4 cup sand….I will NOT split the sand, it is only free to the first ONE person who responds (it’s bad juju to split it up man)”

I don’t even know what to say.  The post says it all and more.


Item #11:  ”Authentic racecar body panels and wood desk - Perfect addition to Man-Cave or desk in decent shape!  In cul-de-sac just north of ___ Sinclair.  Don’t wait, could be picked up by garbage service on Thursday!”

Hm.  The description leaves me cold.  The photo, however, offers a tantalizing view of a jam-packed dumpster.


Item #12: “Hundreds of cheese stickers - Are you an artist? Do you like stickers? Do you love cheese? If so, maybe you can find a use for a thousand cheese stickers.”

Okay, so I wanted these.  Badly.


And finally, lucky Item #13: “Ace of Base free single - Giving away my only copy of ‘I Saw The Sign’ by Ace of Base. The cd is scratched so it only plays the first 23 seconds over and over but it’s too good not to share with the world (I put it on my iPod so that I can listen to it anytime I want!!)”


I had to read the description several times and consult with YouTube to fully understand what’s being offered.  I guess I could put a stake in the middle of it and a dog could pee on it.


Musical Moment




Last second addition that I just spotted when I took a quick peek before bed – it’s a FREE COFFIN!


“Tanning Bed - Free working older tanning bed. Moving and can’t take it with. It is very heavy must have straps to move and its in the basement. Two men put it in the basement.”

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

No Ga Ga for La La

Sunday Feb 26, 2017.  5 pm.  On this Oscar Eve, I plan to whine and complain for up to 900 words about something that just doesn’t matter – a mediocre movie.  And I want to do it NOW because I’m afraid that the Academy is going to reward a bunch of white people for doing an average job.  So maybe it does matter.  A lot.

Remember that thing going around Facebook a couple months ago?  Something to the effect of “State your personal nonpolitical opinion that you know will be unpopular.”  My contribution at the time was (cough) that I tried to read the Harry Potter series (twice) and (throat clearing) didn’t really like it.  Sorry.  I hope we can still be friends.

Here’s another unpopular opinion: I didn’t like La La Land either.

Ace, The Big E, and I went out, all three of us, to the movies.  This may have been the very first movie that the whole family attended.  Together.  Ever.  Crazy.  We’d heard rave reviews for La La Land, from critics as well as normal people.

What could go wrong?  I am the target demographic.  A middle-aged woman whose childhood soundtrack included Oklahoma, West Side Story, The Music Man, South Pacific, The Windjammer, Annie Get Your Gun, and I could absolutely go on for several paragraphs thank you Ken Lippin.

During the opening scene, the now-famous singing/dancing-on-the-LA-freeway scene, I waited, waited for that rush when you know you’re in for two hours of something special.  Nothing.  “How come I’m not loving this?” I thought.  Maybe Jimmy Fallon wrecked it for me, with his Golden Globes cold open that was better than the original.

I’m already 268 words in and I can see where this is going so let me turn it into a list of complaints:

1)    Mediocre dancing.  If you’re going to give a nod to the heyday of the Hollywood musical, remind yourself what Heyday Hollywood looks like, and then seek out the talent that can match it.  You could start by hiring actors who can dance.  (Yes, I know vintage Hollywood wasn’t perfect.  ”Diversity” meant a different woman on Gene Kelly’s arm and lip-synching ((without crediting the real singer)) ran rampant.)

I cringe every time I see the La La Land movie poster.  (You can tune out for a couple sentences while I get hyper-critical.)  Hand position, body position (Unless you’re doing Lindy Hop, yer bottom shouldn’t be sticking out like that – I’m talking to you, Emma.), hyperextending the arms behind the body (you again, Emma), in-toeing (that one’s on you, Ryan).  Argh!  Mandy Moore is a talented choreographer.  Here are some links that show what she can do with people who can actually dance.

2)    Mediocre singing.  Seriously?  You cast Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in singing roles?  Sure, sometimes when you put non-singers in singing roles, things turn out kind-of okay, occasionally even charming.  (think Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia)  I was not charmed.  I wondered if the music itself was bad.  Further listening suggested that no, the music’s fine.  The singers aren’t.  There are many people on Broadway who dance, sing, act, and play the piano every single night, live, in one take.  And they’re not all white.

3)    No plot.  Superficially ill-suited woman and man fall in love while attempting, in a mediocre manner, to follow their trope-ish LA dreams.  That’s it.

4)    No character development.  There is a classic children’s book called Flat StanleyLa La Land featured Flat Sebastian.  I’ve seen Gosling in other stuff and I remember that he is capable of at least a modicum of depth.  He’s definitely capable of cockiness.  Always cockiness.  Emma Stone has one shining scene where her character auditions for a role with a one-sided phone conversation.  Great acting for all of thirty seconds.

5)    Nostalgia run amok.  No one cares about LA the way Hollywood cares about LA.  The opening scene freeway provokes nothing in me – I’ve never been on it.  Ah Meryl – remember back when we were baristas across from Universal Studios?  Before you got your big break?  Yeah, that never happened to me.  If you’re gonna write a masturbatory screenplay loveletter to La La Land, show us why she’s so wonderful!  Give us more of the metaphorical Griffith Observatory and less golfcart.

6)    If your main man is a jazz pianist whose life goal is to open a jazz club, maybe you should find an actor who can play the piano.  Just sayin’.  John Legend has a tiny role in the movie.  A man who can sing, play the piano, and act has a tiny role in the movie.

7)    No chemistry.  Mia and Sebastian are supposed to be in love.  Stone and Gosling play more like roommates.  As long as we’re going for non-singers and non-dancers for a leading lady, how about casting Eva Mendes opposite her sweetie, Ryan Gosling?  At least we’d have some chemistry.  (Incidentally, Ryan and Emma had great chemistry here.)

8)     Disappointing ending.  Spoiler alert.  They don’t wind up together.  I love a happy ending.  Or a satisfyingly tragic ending.  I don’t love an average ending.  Well, we had some good times.  You go your way, I’ll go mine.  Speaks to #7.  Can a man never follow a woman who is following her dream?  Can her dream never take (at least temporary) precedence?  Note to Seb: there’s some killer jazz in Europe.

Update:  It’s 11:27 pm.  It’s over.  And thank goodness Moonlight won (after a spectacular snafu in which the award initially went to La La Land?  How does this stuff keep happening?  I couldn’t watch…)!


Musical Moment


Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hello From the Other Side – Lessons from Grammy Adele

I didn’t watch the Grammys.  I never watch the Grammys.  I vaguely remember doing laundry last night or dishes or something equally scintillating instead of watching the Grammys.

The internet was all abuzz this morning with rumors of Adele making hash of a George Michael tune, swearing, and then demanding a redo.  Naturally, curiosity won, and I found the full performance on YouTube.

Here’s what happened: Adele reconfigured George Michael’s “Fastlove” (medium tempo dance tune with driving electronic backbeat) into a moody orchestral tribute.  She started the performance way flat.  I’m guessing she couldn’t hear the sparse accompaniment well enough to accurately gauge her pitch.  Monitor issues perhaps?  And because she doesn’t CHEAT and use Auto-Tune, well, she was super flat.  About a minute in, she stopped, apologized profusely, swore, apologized some more, and asked to start again, stating, “I can’t mess this up for him [George Michael].”  She started over and delivered a lovely, moving, still slightly pitchy performance.

It’s nice of Adele to offer a teachable moment on live television in front of 25 million people.  So what can we learn?

1) People screw up all the time.  Even fancy pop stars.  One might think that tons of money and months of planning and 8926 sound checks might remove some of the error-prone variables of a massive awards show like the Grammys.  But, stuff happens.  Repeatedly.  Last year a mic fell into the piano during Adele’s “All I Ask” and apparently caused pitch troubles.  Next year, who know.  We have to do what we can to prevent and mitigate potential damage and then we carry on.

2) Adele took responsibility, apologized, and politely asked to start again.  She set a fine example of Grace Under Extreme Pressure.

3) She could have simply continued the tune, in the style of the-show-must-go-on.  Chances are good that the vast majority of television viewers and a fair number of the musicians in the audience wouldn’t have noticed.  I think if she’d been performing her own tune, she likely would’ve persisted.  But it was a song she chose to honor George Michael and she would’ve kicked herself later if she hadn’t stopped.  Our lesson is to honor our sense of integrity, to do what’s right even if we risk personal embarrassment.

4) She was rewarded with a standing ovation at the end of the second take.  Pay attention to the standing ovation and ignore the trolls.

5) If you’re in the metaphorical audience, join the standing ovation.  Next time you could be the one onstage making the mistake.

6) Perspective is everything – part one.  I’m singing “At Last” in front of maybe 80 people on Valentine’s Day at a community band concert.  I always get a little nervous before performances.  What if I forget the words?  What if I sound flat?  What if the improvised bits don’t groove?  Turns out, it doesn’t matter.  I’ll do the best I can.  That’s it.  Adele screwed up in front of 25 million people and her life will go on.  Not only will it go on, but folks were quite impressed with how she handled the whole (tiny) debacle.

7) Perspective is everything – part two.  Beyoncé performed last night as well.  At one point, the pregnant-with-twins Bey sat in a chair that tipped backwards precariously over the edge of the stage.  Nothing went wrong.  Thank goodness.


Rumor has it that Bruno Mars did a real swell Prince tribute at the Grammys.  South High peeps, pay particular attention to the maestro on the drums in today’s  Musical Moment.


Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

KidLit Resource List – Books for trying times

In the aftermath of the inauguration, many members of the Minnesota children’s literature community gathered virtually on the MN Kidlit Facebook page.  Words matter.  No one knows this more than the dedicated souls who write and illustrate for youth.

We started compiling a list of resources: books about refugees and immigrants, reading activities that increase empathy, inclusive picture book suggestions.

Here is the list.  Read the books.  Read them to your neighbors, aunts/uncles, and kids.  Buy the books from your favorite indie bookstore and donate them to your local library or school.



Jane Addams Peace Award books (1953 – present) “The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award annually recognizes children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.”:


Picture books for social justice, activists:


Picture books about Muslim or Middle Eastern characters:


Middle grade social justice novels:


South Asian and diverse children’s books:


Books that teach empathy:


Hope and Strength in stressful times – Wash Post:


The Brown Bookshelf: United in story


Feminist literature for young readers:


Refugee picture books:


Refugees and immigrants:


Empathy, kindness:




YA refugee books:


Activist biographies YA:


YA books about immigration:


Disability in KidLit:


Girl-empowering books:


Diversity in children’s literature:


Penny Candy Books (publisher):


Teaching Tolerance – a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center:


From the St Paul Public Library:

“All residents of Saint Paul may obtain a library card by presenting proof of address and a photo ID. We never have, and never will, inquire about citizenship or immigration/refugee status. Within our buildings, our resources and information are available to all, whether they have a library card or not.”

Books inspiring activism and tolerance:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, photos by Wing Young Huie

March (trilogy) by John Lewis (Author), Andrew Aydin (Author), Nate Powell (Artist)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I dissent by Debbie Levy

The Seeds of America Trilogy by Laurie Halse Anderson

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton

This Side of Home by Renee Watson

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

What Does It Mean To Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio

The Hunt (coming in 2/17) by Margaux Othats

A Gift From Greensboro by Quraysh Ali Lansana, illustrated by Skip Hill

Ambassador by William Alexander

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi, illustrations by Yutaka Houlette

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle

Recommendations for preschool storytime:

A Chair For My Mother and sequels by Vera B. Williams

More, More, More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams

A is for Activist and Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara

The Bus for Us by Suzanne Bloom

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub

Jacqueline Woodson’s picture books


Kadir Nelson’s picture books


Here are some photos of the displays I created at Addendum Books (Northeast corner of Randolph and Cleveland in St Paul, MN):


IMG_2550IMG_2551Musical MomentIMG_2554IMG_2555IMG_2556IMG_2547IMG_2558IMG_2552

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Train is a Comin’

I feel like I’m about to be mowed down by a high-speed train filled to the brim with radioactive orange sludge.  Maybe you feel the same way.  Here are some ideas for what we can do under such circumstances:

1) Cover your head and just pray it’ll be quick and painless.  No, no, no.  GET UP OFF THOSE TRACKS!

2) Jump aboard the train.  Not a viable option.  Like, at all.  Try again.

3) Check the train schedule and hope against hope that there’s been some colossal misunderstanding and the locomotive bearing down on you is, in fact, the HillBilly Express, or the San Bern-adino Ambassador.

4) Dig a hole next to the tracks, line it with leaves and grass, and hibernate for the next four years.

5) Demand an inspection of the train.  Is it truly carrying what it’s supposed to be carrying?

6) Quickly hacksaw the tracks, causing massive, explosive derailment.  Sad.

7) Rewind the earth, à la Superman, going back, oh, about two or three years.

8) Instantaneously arrange for a stationary train to suddenly appear on the very same track, preferably a train filled with raw sewage and prion disease.  And get out of the way.  Fast.

9) Donate to Planned Parenthood.  Get off the tracks first.

10) Run screaming in the other direction, preferably Northward!  To Ottawa.  (I hear they skate to work on the frozen canal.  Delightful!)

11) Utilize the “Petrificus Totalus” spell at first.  Then gather the Patroni of rational people, the incarnations of any remaining shreds of hope, joy, and optimism, and send them out as emissaries of positive change.

12) Do the hard work of hailing the train, routing it onto safe pathways, protecting people and animals and the environment and education and the Arts and healthcare and culture and spirituality and industry and innovation from the toxic sludge, and methodically work from one car to the next, scrubbing out the misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, ableism, xenophobia, and caustic ignorance.

What would you add to the list?


Musical Moment


Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Sunday Morning, Naked.

Ace gets up, agitated in his appointed role of The One Who Has To Take The Big E To Hockey.  I lie in bed and listen to the fussing and whining.  And then silence.

I get up.  ”E!  Get up!  You have to go to hockey!”  I open the shades and glance at the mound of covers.  ”Get up!  Now!”

Threats follow.  Because threats are such an effective parenting tool.  Not physical threats, of course.  We’re slightly more enlightened than that.  Slightly.

And I’m thinking Oh my gosh.  We’re raising an entitled little turkey who doesn’t realize how good he has it!  Hockey is expensive.  Hockey is a privilege.  He should bound out of bed, thrilled at the opportunity to exercise body and mind.

But he didn’t fall asleep until midnight.  What if he’s chronically underslept and that’s the root of all trouble?  

The night before, Ace (comatose in front of bad television after a bad stretch of work) said goodnight to him at 9 pm.  E was, indeed, in bed – clothed, with unbrushed/unflossed teeth, and a stack of books.  I arrived home around 9:25 and proceeded to grump out.  What do you mean you asked if he was in bed and he said yes so you said goodnight and assumed he’d go to sleep?

And when did reading become an activity in need of punishment?

How do we get him on a better sleep schedule?  Whenever he’s in bed at 9, he lies awake till 11 or 12.  Maybe I should give him melatonin.  Because drugs are the answer to everything.

E manages to stagger out of bed and much whining ensues as he struggles to even begin putting on his hockey gear.

Am I just substituting worry?  I don’t have to worry as much about farm accidents and polio epidemics and a clean water supply so I worry about sleep?

Poor me in my Summit Hill house with my neurotypical, apparently cic-gendered white son who has no chronic disease, thinking things are so rough.  Am I even allowed to complain?

Oh my gosh.  What if I just jinxed him?  What if now he’ll have a dire encounter with cops or if he develops -

Ace makes The Big E a piece of toast with Nutella.  E complains that the toast is burned and refuses to eat it.  (He later licks off the Nutella.)

We’re feeding him sugar!  All sugar!  How do we expect him to behave if he’s only consuming corn syrup?  Ack!  I sound like a privileged snorty-toot.

We have to limit his media exposure.  That’s it.  No more movies.  No more Pokémon Go.  And chores.  All chores all the time.  Does he even know how to clean a toilet?  Am I raising a pig?  I’m not setting a good example with the condition of my desk.  If my desk were pristine would he get up for hockey cheerfully?

The Big E sits on the couch, wearing only his t-shirt and cup, moping.  ”What are you doing?  Why are you just sitting there?”  He has the audacity to ask if he can take his iPad to hockey.  ”Are you kidding?  With the way you’re acting you don’t get your iPad for twenty-four hours!”  Things do not go well and I retire to the kitchen to take apart the Ventahood, ’cause nothing makes a morning better like getting down and dirty with ten pounds of rancid cooking grease.

Ace heads out to the car.

I can’t remember exactly what I said, something about I don’t care if you go to hockey half-naked, but pick up your bag and leave.  They leave.

What will happen when he goes to college?  Will he ever make it to class?  Will he lie around in his dorm room eating MSG-laden Doritos and playing first-person shooter games?  How can I even worry about this from such a privileged position as ASSUMING MY HEALTHY WHITE NEUROTYPICAL CIS-GENDERED CHILD WILL GO TO COLLEGE?!!

I call my friend, Christina, to commiserate, while eating a piece of triple-layer chocolate cake from Cafe Latté.  After the reassuring but solution-less call, I return to my greasy Ventahood job.

Does The Big E devalue homemaking?  Does he think less of me because I don’t work for money?  Does he understand the sacrifice I made when I essentially gave up my career for the sake of family life?   Don’t be so melodramatic, Anne.  You made an informed decision. But what if he never gets it?  What if he grows up to be a sexist, racist, entitled jerk who treats women badly?

I take a shower.

Did parents used to love their children less?  Did they think – Gee, there’s a fifty percent chance that this kid will die before he/she turns ten so I might as well not get too attached.   How could they launch into parenting at all under those conditions?  They had no birth control!  So they had no choice!  When will evolution realize that it would be best for everyone involved if fertility were something you elect to turn on instead of off?  

Does the GOP understand the full ramifications of defunding Planned Parenthood?  That unplanned pregnancy and abortion and cancer will increase?  The chasm between those who can afford medical care and those who can’t will further widen! 

By the time I’m out of the shower, the boys are back.  The Big E apologizes for the way the morning went, asks for his iPad back (“No!”), and proceeds to elaborate on all the ways we’ve treated him unfairly.  He then asks for his allowance, plus an additional dollar.

To reimburse him for the Doritos he purchased at hockey.

What if all the parents reading this actually have perfectly behaved children?  What if their kids bounce out of bed, responsible, thrifty, and empathic?  Maybe they make their parents unprompted breakfast-in-bed before heading off to church where they willingly serve community meals, fully understanding their own advantaged position in the world and vowing to correct all injustice.  Immediately.

The Big E narfs down the last of his cheesecake from the night before.

I will be judged a bad mother – “BM” will be my scarlet letters!  

Oh well.

I take a deep breath.  And close my computer.

Musical Moment


Posted in Blog | Tagged , | 4 Comments