Independent Bookstore Day


Today was Independent Bookstore Day, a.k.a. something that should be a national holiday. 10 Minneapolis bookstores teamed up to create a bookstore “Passport,” and if you got ten stamps, you would get a gift card from each bookstore for $10.

A lesser prize would have ignited the fire in me, but that certainly did. I mapped out my route and enlisted a friend to meet me along the way.

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I even printed out 6 pages of directions from place to place to ensure efficiency.

The day started by struggling to find a parking space because the area around Common Good Books (Garrison Keillor, proprietor) was bustling, but I made it there just before ten and got my copies of Raymie Nightingale just before they ran out then hopped in line to meet Kate DiCamillo and get them signed.

I don’t fangirl over everyone, but this was a special moment. Kate DiCamillo is so kind, took the time to actually talk to every person who came up for an autograph. I watched her signing and listened in while I was in line (unabashedly eavesdropping) and saw her actually paying attention to people. This wasn’t a commercial affair, which made it all the more special.

I was flying high when I left Common Good, headed for The Red Balloon, where I saw the real! live! mouse! from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (though, in reality a human in a mouse costume… but I chose to be duped).

Also spotted: the limited edition “Read-with-me” Curious George plush toys, an unattended baby who was very cute and very asleep (by unattended, I mean, it wasn’t obvious which of the nearby mothers belonged to the sweet thing), and a co-worker. I also saw a couple of the people I’d seen at Common Good… then saw them again at the next place, Subtext Books.

My last stop in St. Paul before crossing the river to Minneapolis, Subtext was a smaller but largely delightful stop. I bought Marilynne Robinson’s The Givenness of Things there because I’ve checked it out from the library twice and haven’t gotten to it before it’s due again. So now I’ll just read it on my own time.

Three bookstores in, and it wasn’t even noon.

I picked up Emma, and we went to Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, then rushed over to Birchbark Books & Native Arts (Louise Erdrich is the owner there) to see Beth Dooley (author of In Winter’s Kitchen, which I highly recommend to food writing/nature/memoir fans). Alas, half an hour after (at least, I thought) Beth was slated to be speaking, R.T Rybak was still reading from Pothole Confidential. It sounded like it was a good book, from what I was hearing, but I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to see Beth. Turns out I had the time wrong.

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Emma, saint that she is, had brought along a picnic lunch for us, so we grabbed that and sat by Lake of the Isles to refuel before heading to Once Upon a Crime.

It was a bit windy, but “We’re Minnesotans!”, as Emma put it, and we braved it and even enjoyed it though both our hands turned purple and the warm car did feel nice after that.

On to Once Upon a Crime, which we discovered was not, in fact, on the Passport. But we had a good time browsing there anyways.

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Why independent bookstores? you may ask. Why is there a whole day set aside for indies? Because buying books can be sitting alone at your computer and choosing your shipping method, or it can be visiting a vibrant bookstore where the people care what you read and the books are chosen carefully to fit a certain niche. It can be finding a book you have no idea existed and never knew could exist. And it can be supporting wonderful, literature-loving people’s livelihoods.

Also, where else would you find a book called Laying Down the Paw than at an indie mystery bookstore?

Next up was Magers & Quinn, a much beloved haunt of mine. I always find something I want to take home and read when I visit there, usually something I hadn’t even heard of previously.

On we went, energy still up, to Wild Rumpus, an award-winning children’s bookstore, where I bought a picture book that teaches life lessons in relation to cookies. download_20160430_195014

I’ll read that book aloud to anyone. You just let me know when you want, and we’ll sit down and learn about trustworthiness and respect in relation to cookies.

We took an ice cream break at Sebastian Joe’s then pressed on. There was more to see! More stamps to be had!

Next up was Paperback Exchange, where Emma took my recommendation and bought The Poisonwood Bible. That was one store I could see myself spending a good chunk of time in. Emma was amazed at all the books. So many!

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I’d forgotten about DreamHaven in my quest to map out my route, so we made a quick stop there to get the stamp before it closed then pressed on to Moon Palace, the last of the day.

That’s another I could see myself spending a lot more time in. They had the funniest greeting cards to go along with their great selection of books.

I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday. It might seem redundant to go to the same type of store eleven times in one day, but books don’t get old. Not when you’re shopping at places like these. Sure, you’ll see some of the same titles a couple times, especially if they’re new, but the thing about indies is that they all have some sort of niche and offer something just a little bit different than the others. So you’ll see books you’ve never seen before by people you’d never heard of. It’s overwhelmingly fabulous.

All in all, I think I can declare Independent Bookstore Day my favorite secular holiday.

Wattage and cosmic significance


Three light bulbs burned out in my room this week. And one at my desk at work. It is just a coincidence because there’s nothing else for it to be. How could so many the light bulbs in my life conspire against me at once?

The black tall lamp next to my desk in my bedroom went first, but I had the desk lamp and the overhead light to back me up, and the lamp on the dresser for when I need just a little light but not too much in the mornings to make sure I am putting on pants that actually are navy, not black.

Because I’m a strong, independent (ish) woman who can change her own light bulbs, I went to my toolbox and grabbed another bulb. But that didn’t work. So then I wondered if my lamp was broken. That was a bigger problem for another day. No time now, we’ll figure it out later.

Then the lamp on my desk at work went out, but the light under the cabinet and the overhead lights were still on, so I was fine. I could still see. I planned to bring a light bulb in the following week. This was a strange coincidence. Two light bulbs in one week is not that strange.

Then just a couple days ago the bulb in the paper lantern that serves as an overhead light in my bedroom popped when I turned it on. I started to wonder what was going on. Maybe the circuit was having problems, but everything else that was plugged in, my computer, the chargers, the fan, the two remaining lamps (last ones standing) were all just fine. It had to be the bulb. Or maybe all the lamps were breaking at once.

Then yesterday the lamp on the dresser popped when I tried to get a little light to see into the closet. I was down to two low-powered lamps in my room, not enough to make it through another gloomy, rainy day.

So today I finally asked my dad to check it out.

Good sport that he is, he bent down to see if they were plugged in, tried other light bulbs from lamps that were working in them, reset the ground fault interruptor (whatever that is). Turns out the replacement light bulb I’d been cycling around wasn’t good. This problem is fixable.

But four bulbs in one week? Three in the same room? He said there could have been some shock wave that went through the system. Apparently just in my room.

And at my desk at work, 16.7 miles away from home.

Some surge of power, perhaps. Maybe I had put new bulbs in all at once. Maybe I used up the wattage too evenly.

I thought about it a lot, wondered if there was some cosmic, spiritual significance to it. What do you learn when your light bulbs go out in tandem? Is this a special message? I wasn’t getting any accompanying revelation, just confusion.

So I just went to Walgreen’s and got four new bulbs. There wasn’t much else to do.

I’d like for there to be a nice parallel here, some metaphor from which I can learn a truth about how I’m supposed to live, but I think the point is that when your light bulbs go out there isn’t much cosmic significance, and you certainly won’t get very far until you replace them.

Retreating


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I went on a retreat this weekend with this group of women. And knowing me, you’ll know what I want to do with this topic. I’ll want to ask: What does it mean to retreat? Why did we retreat?

And I’ll tell you that it’s stepping back when we know we need reinforcements and can’t handle the battle on our own. And I’ll support it with Webster’s Online Dictionary.

And then I’ll say something about why it’s important to be still and rest because our world is too hectic, and we don’t do that enough.

And that will all be true.

But I figure since that’s predictable, I won’t say that. Because this weekend was anything but predictable. First off, I wasn’t planning to go. It was one of those things that was announced, and I saw it and thought huh, that’s the kind of thing I would like to do.

I don’t normally need a personal invitation to join in on all that life has to offer, but this time I didn’t really get around to deciding until Dena came up on me on Easter and asked me if I wanted to go.

Apathy sometimes keeps us from doing something that might bring great blessing. Do I need a getaway? Probably not that badly. Nothing’s going wrong in my life. Not really.

But she asked, and I said yes.

Then, during my week I started thinking about it and found that I was quite looking forward to Friday afternoon when we’d drive up north. A whole weekend without responsibility with some really lovely women who go to my church, where someone else cooks great food, where the whole point is to connect on a deeper level with each other, and in a log cabin.

I didn’t know I needed the break until I took it. A break from the hecticness, from bring connected to everyone online all the time, from being task-oriented and productive.

Instead we talked and laughed and took a walk to hold bunnies (BUNNIES! My mom can attest to my deep love for them) and played the world’s longest game of Uno. We laughed some more and settled down to share passages of scripture that are meaningful to us. Inevitably, our stories came out piecemeal, and each challenge and joy shared was met with empathy.

We’re more connected than we know.

There’s more to say about it, but I think even if I keep saying more I won’t fully encompass the connections that were made, the fun that was had, and the Spirit that was felt.

Plus, I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again. Don’t get me wrong, I’d sleep on that thin mattress again for such a wholly fulfilling weekend, but my pillow is calling.

Head colds and validation


There are tissues all over my floor. I have made it in the trash receptacle once. I told my dad last night that I’ve sneezed so many times my head feels like a Magic Eight ball that got stuck between responses because you shook it too hard looking for answers.

He was sympathetic to my pain but also wanted to know how I knew what a Magic Eight ball was. “That’s from my era.”

“I think my Barbies had one. Like the seventies Barbie.” I can’t remember her name now and inexplicably feel guilty for that.

I’m really not feeling that bad anymore. There’s just a lot of gunk in my head. I’ve been sneezing. It’s a cold. So many things could be worse.

I’m spacey when I get head colds. I think this is common. Like, I’ve been meaning to make pancakes for about an hour now and getting distracted. I can’t remember where I put my phone, either.

The phone is important because I was texting one of my friends who is still back at school. And now I can’t respond. It was a good conversation; it’s a good friendship. Like my friend who told me that I had a mouse in my glove compartment, this friend is one who makes me better.

We’re both trying to work through what it means to grow up and how we deal with feelings and thoughts and insecurities and all that. There’s no manual for this. But we both know it’s not meant to be done in isolation.

I texted her this morning and asked how her week was. I really wanted to know. I don’t bump into her on the sidewalk or at the library anymore, so it’s important to be intentional about asking.

I also really wanted her to validate a feeling. And really didn’t want to own up to it.

You know the type, where you feel like you shouldn’t feel the way you do because it’s selfish or ungrateful or discontent or inappropriate for the situation. But you still feel that way and need someone to remind you that you’re human and have to work through feelings instead of shoving them  into your closet to fester.

Some days, I don’t deal with it and shove it into the closet. But it always finds its way out for another encounter another day. So it’s best to just own up. Because the only antidote to feeling like you shouldn’t feel the way you feel is empathy.

So I told her. And she said, “That’s normal. You’re human.” And I nodded to myself, and we talked about it some more.

You’d think I’d be able to remind myself of that. Some days, I can. Some days, I need someone else to remind me.

If I needed her to, she’d validate this cold. But I can give this all the validation it needs. Somehow, I feel pancakes will help with this.

And where did I put my phone?