I am grateful for Rosalie Maggio and the lifetime of work she has done collecting quotes (think about how organized she must be) and writing books about non-discriminatory language, how to say it and how to write it (the right words and phrases for every occasion), and great letters for every occasion. If you’re a writer, you know how much you enjoy having her books on hand. And if you’re not a writer, well, you know how much you need to have her books on hand. Rosalie lived in our area for awhile and I was privileged to meet her. I am in awe of this women’s prodigious knowledge of language … and grateful that she shares a daily quote that provokes me to think. She is an Extraordinary Woman.
When I was in high school, a friend gave me a copy of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I could never again take the melodrama of my teen years quite as seriously. That book gave me perspective. Today, Judith Viorst is nearly 90 and she has advice for my later years: “I’ve found that a little surplus of gratitude often has downstream effects, helping us become more tolerant, less judgmental, more forgiving of family and friends when they annoy or neglect us, hurt our feelings, or let us down. It’s tempting to add up their failures and flaws and compare them with our far superior selves, but we make a big mistake if we do. For while most of the folks in our life can, on occasion, be pains in the ass, so—let’s face it—can I and so can you. Figuring out that we, like they, are in need of a lot of acceptance and forgiveness can make for a happier old (or any) age.” Read the full text of “How to Be Happy, According to Nearly 90-Year_Old Judith Viorst.” I am grateful for the wisdom of an author who made a difference in my life. She’s an Extraordinary Woman.
This morning I am listening to Jean Redpath sing and, as she always does, my heart is lifted. For many decades she was THE Scottish folksinger, troubadour, musicologist. She worked with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bob Dylan, Garrison Keillor, and Robert Burns. She researched and recorded songs, preserving them for the future. I came to know her music through A Prairie Home Companion, but she has been singing at our house ever since. I am grateful for her voice, her wit, and her knowledge. She was an Extraordinary Woman.
“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” Michelle Obama, mom, wife, lawyer, author, First Lady. So much intelligence and grace and humor and wisdom. I am grateful for her shining light … what an extraordinary woman. (Photo credit: Joyce Boghosian, Creative Commons)
I’ve been thinking a lot about the context of history in recent weeks, mostly in terms of books, but other people and events are added into those thoughts. When news arrived of Doris Day’s death, I was saddened. When I was young, her movies were considered family-friendly. The El Lago showed every one. Ms. Day produced good-hearted TV shows. She went on to dedicated work with animals. She didn’t have a smooth life, showing how effective the Hollywood marketing departments were. I’m grateful for the joy her work brought to my life and for the example she provided as an extraordinary woman … in the context of history.
I am grateful for the writing, leadership, and example that Anita Silvey has been for my life. I have long admired her books about children’s literature, the excellence of The Horn Book magazine under her editorial leadership, and her ability to hold an audience enrapt. In recent years, I have been encouraged by her example of focusing on the writing of nonfiction for young readers and especially her books about women scientists. Her biography of Pete Seeger, another one of my heroes, is the best I’ve ever read. Anita is a class act and an extraordinary woman.
We will travel to New Ulm today. At Martin Luther College, we’ll meet with teachers and librarians, members of the Southwest Minnesota Reading Council, who are gathering to hear author Aimee Bissonette speak about Everyday Heroes and Wonder Women. We are grateful for this opportunity. We admire these people who are passionate about encouraging our children to become lifelong readers. And then we’ll beat the blizzard home.
It was such a special evening. If you teach or you’re an education student or you work in a school library, you’ll want to be a part of the Southwest Minnesota Reading Council. Seriously. As I listened to their president, Dr. Cindy Whaley, welcome the students from Martin Luther College and Southwest Minnesota State University, asking them to share something about themselves, and thanking them for their commitment to the profession, I realized that this is a CARING community that dedicates part of their professional lives to educating, advocating, and supporting each other. They are so focused (you see what I did there, Jon Roux?) on making a difference in kids’ reading lives that I was brought to tears.
On a hunt through a used bookstore, nothing brings me more delight than finding a book I didn’t know existed that’s written by a favorite author. Many years ago, I discovered that Carol Ryrie Brink had written a book called The Twin Cities (The Macmillan Company, 1961).
You probably recognize her as the author of the 1936 Newbery Medal winner, Caddie Woodlawn. You may not have known that although she was born in Idaho, graduated from Berkeley, she lived in St. Paul for 40 years. Her husband, Raymond, was a professor of mathematics at the University of Minnesota. She taught creative writing while she lived here. Hamline University named her as one of twenty-eight outstanding women of Minnesota in 1954.
This book is very much a time capsule and it’s fascinating to read for that reason. With a Euro-centric view of living in Minnesota, the chapters cover figure skating, the skylines and progress of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the indoor gardens, the Winter Carnival, the Minneapolis Aquatennial, the Old Log Theatre, the anticipation of the new Guthrie Theater … and many, many more tidbits. She includes several pages about the native American tribes, all of which have a 1950s lens. Those pages are uncomfortable to read but I appreciate having this perspective on where we’ve come from.
In the chapter “Dinner and a Show,” she writes, “I remember one Sunday when friends from New York tried to take us to lunch in Minneapolis. My husband and I, like our neighbors, were unaccustomed to lunching away from home on a Sunday, but we supposed that it could easily be done. We were as surprised as the New Yorkers to find that most of the restaurants were closed, and that cocktails were entirely out of the question. The only satisfaction that our thirsty friends got out of the adventure was the dubious thrilled of finding themselves in that incredible part of the world known to them as ‘the sticks.’”
She writes about “Jim Hill” in her chapter on the “Empire Builder.” Hill advertised for settlers along his railway so goods and commerce and supplies would flow. He built a fabulous art collection. He believed strongly in education, books, and libraries, so the Hill Reference Library at the St. Paul Central Library was planned shortly before his death. In 1910, Hill published a book called Highways of Progress, in which he wanted to see beyond the present to “anticipate the needs and opportunities of tomorrow.”
It’s tomorrow. We still live in the context of our history … although we’re striving to make forward progress. I’m grateful for the discovery of book treasures like this one.
This woman has been a lighthouse for me, casting her beacon on the craggy rocks of our challenging world by speaking to truth, social action, and persistence. Her music, particularly the albums “The Joan Baez Ballad Book” and “Blessed Are,” are well loved and known by heart in this house. Heart. She has given hers to all of us for many decades. “Music can move people to do things.” I am grateful to Joan Baez for her many gifts. Read “Joan Baez: Music Can Move People to Do Things,” in The Guardian.
As a latch-key kid from 1965-1972, I had TV as a companion. Coming home after school, and while my mom worked overtime, I had the TV on while I did my homework and read books beyond my school assignments. There were three women in particular who inspired me during those years. I am grateful to Nichelle Nichols, Diahann Carroll, and Sally Fields for portraying women who increased my confidence.
As Lt. Uhura, Nichelle Nichols worked on the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise, responding quickly and competently to communications challenges. I loved that she worked with languages. Following my reading of A Wrinkle in Time, even my mother forbidding me to watch Star Trek (who knows why?) couldn’t keep me from traveling through space. Uhura was the woman who helped me understand what a woman could do as a professional.
Diahann Carroll portrayed Julia Baker, a nurse and mother who, like my mother, had lost her husband and was raising her child alone. She did so with grace and good humor. At a time when most families in my school and church had two parents and often more than one child, it was important to me to see these fictional lives as happy and normal.
And Sally Fields as Gidget? Well, she was the intrepid, clever, and well-dressed teen I wanted to be. I loved her sparkle and her sense of humor. When we moved to California for a year, she inspired me to try surfing … once.
I suspect we all have these role models. Who were yours?