Latinx at the Library

During this month and throughout the year, library staff are working to improve access and develop more inclusive and equitable collections. National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 through October 15 and I wanted to encourage folks to check out a book from one of the library’s Latinx booklists or a music title from the Latinx music list listed below.

Libraries need diversity in books and other library materials because they can expose us to the world and to people who are different from us. The Latinx lists bring together recent book titles concerning a Latinx experience from history, heritage, and accomplishments of Hispanic and Latino Americans of past and present. These selections are by or about the people, and shine a light on the rich cultural contributions we see in our modern lives. From memoirs to cooking to popular fiction, I sincerely hope you enjoy the range of topics and formats!

Books flying in the street

Book Festivals, 2020 Style

Two years ago, my sister invited me to go to the Twin Cities Book Festival with her. I’d never been to a book festival before, but I love books and festivals can be fun, so I decided to go.

The TCBF takes place in mid-October on the Minnesota State Fair grounds. In the Eco building, there was a gigantic used book sale and row upon row of exhibitors — authors, publishers, universities, librarians, all promoting books or services or programs. Many had small activities or free publications. A calligrapher was personalizing bookmarks.

The building was packed full of people who love books. It was like a Scholastic Book Fair, but with fewer sparkly pens and more people who want to geek out about literature. And that was just in the exhibit building.

Across the street in the Fine Arts building were the event stages. There, they had author readings, Q&A’s, panels, and activities. Unprepared as I was that first year, I didn’t have time to attend any of the events, though my sister stuck around for a discussion and book signing with YA authors Neal and Jarrod Shusterman.

Last year, I absolutely wanted to go again. I planned better and attended a discussion between William Kent Krueger and Leif Enger about the art of storytelling.

Attendee looking at books at book festivalThis year, like all other events, the Twin Cities Book Festival has had to adapt to the coronavirus. It’s their 20th year and, rather than cancelling, the TCBF is going virtual. They recently released the author lineup and there’s something for every age and interest.

Am I disappointed that I can’t physically attend? Yes. Are virtual events as exciting as in person events? Not at all. But I am glad that the festival wasn’t cancelled and I’m really looking forward to hearing from Kate DiCamillo.

There’s a silver lining, too. When I looked up the Twin Cities Book Festival, I discovered many other book festivals also transitioning to online platforms. This year, you can attend virtual literary events from all over the country. Have you ever wanted to attend New York Comic Con? They’ll be streaming four days of free panels live on YouTube. I also recommend checking out the Brooklyn Book Festival events this week. Plan ahead, though; while most book festivals are free, many are requiring pre-registration.

Like everyone, I’m tired of cancelling or adapting plans. I miss spontaneous weekend trips and seeing people’s faces. I hope that next year I can go back to the TCBF in person. In the meantime, though, I have lessons in pandemic cooking and Jedi mindfulness to attend.

Books Worth Re-Reading

Have you found yourself in a reading slump? If yes, you are not alone. When the quarantine first began, I initially thought that I would get so much reading accomplished. I was looking forward to all the books I was going to finish. But guess what? It didn’t happen. After talking to a co-worker about my reading slump, she let me in on a secret. I wasn’t alone. Finding the right book can be comforting so why not return to an old favorite? Here are a few books that I enjoy reading again and again. Share your favorites in the comments below.


Quote: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."~Audre Lorde

Self-Care as Radical Action

I see you. You are tired. You do not see an end to the exhaustion. You are feeling and doing everything you can to make it from one day to the next. You are fighting battles that some do not see. You are giving and giving and feel like you might break any day now.

I see you.

This is not a fluffy and cute blog post about how you “should” do this or that to take care of yourself. Nope. Today is a radical call to action. Today you are not choosing “me time”, but simply choosing yourself. Here are some things that you can do to radically accept yourself as deserving and needing of self-care:

  • Say no! Stop saying yes or maybe when you really mean, or really need to be saying no.Quote: "Don't say yes to others if it means saying no to your wellness"
  • Savor your actions. Take deep breaths. Take a little longer shower. Slow down and enjoy your meals instead of rushing to take care of others. Savor it, and be present.
  • Stop apologizing so much! Obviously we need to be nice to others, but don’t apologize for taking time for yourself! Don’t apologize for your existence. Don’t apologize for taking up space. Be here, and fill the room with your presence.
  • Accept things as they are. Stop swimming upstream. Blow up your metaphorical inner tube, grab your favorite beverage, and ride out what is happening. Radical acceptance is allowing ourselves to accept the things that we cannot change and making peace with that.
  • Forgive. Not for other people’s benefit, but because you deserve to not carry that weight around. Choose love over fear, anger, and sadness.
  • End the war within yourself. Are you constantly struggling with thoughts that are blaming or mean towards yourself? Try this exercise: draw the strong warrior that is within you. Illustrate the epic scene of the inner you attacking and ending the war with the blaming and mean thoughts that are always trying to beat you up. Alternatively, you could write a short story about yourself taking control of your personal self-talk. At a minimum, fight back, you deserve to be kind to yourself.
  • Celebrate the little accomplishments. Cross those items proudly off your to-do list. Feeling unaccomplished? Put items on your to-do list that you have already accomplished then happily appreciate that moment and cross those items off of your list.
  • Put yourself on your to-do list every day. For everyone, this looks different. Maybe it is meditation, exercise, yoga, a bubble bath, doing meal prep for the week, time with a book, etc. Doing these actions once does not make us well, practicing them daily enhances our wellbeing.
  • Love yourself and accept the complexities that make you unique. Choose this empowering narrative rather than attacking yourself for who you are.
  • Make conscious choices. We rarely have to make fast decisions so slow down. Others can wait while we get the best understanding of what we need for ourselves.

Bottom line: Preserve yourself, make choices that take care of your mind and body, and make these choices ongoing and sustainable. Choose this act of liberation, and stop putting yourself last.

Friday, the Australian Shepherd Puppy

Puppy Love

It has been twenty-three weeks (yes, I am counting) since the state’s initial stay-at-home order. By day three, I wanted a puppy.

Now I know what you are thinking: “Ah, yes, yet another pandemic puppy,” and maybe you are right. But what better way to get through this pandemic than to bring home a lovable furball who is (mostly) oblivious to the high-stress environment surrounding her. Another creature to bring joy to our family; something to focus on other than the latest news and our lack of normalcy. And I’m not the only one! Four other staff members at LEPMPL have adopted puppies this summer!

In celebration of all these new library pups, here are some top picks from our catalog featuring some fabulous canines.

  1. Dog Man: Grime and Punishment by Dav Pilkey (Author, Illustrator) From the creator of “Captain Underpants” comes #9 in the “Dog Man” series, release date September 1, 2020, so place your hold today! What type of dog is dog man? A hound.
  2. Think Like a Dog (DVD) Oliver is a middle-school tech prodigy whose science fair experiment has a furry twist that gives him a telepathic connection to his dog, Henry. If you are wondering Cover Art of Where the Red Fern Growswhat kind of dog Henry is, he is a Labradoodle.
  3. Muzzled by David Rosenfelt Reluctant lawyer Andy Carpenter and his beloved golden retriever are back on the case in this 2020 release about a missing owner.
  4. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls A list of titles featuring dogs would be incomplete without this classic tale of a young boy and his adventures in the Ozarks with two redbone hounds.
  5. The Call of the Wild (DVD) If you want to see Harrison Ford take on the role of Jack London’s John Thornton, the final owner of Buck, a Saint Bernard/Scotch Collie mix, check out this 2020 title.

If your household has recently been blessed, (or the other, depending upon how sleep-deprived you are right now), and you are looking for some training guidelines, wondering why your puppy seems to have a witching hour at 7 p.m. every evening, or need some advice on crate training, check out this list of puppy training titles available in our system.

Happy training and enjoy those puppy snuggles!

Time Warp

Time is weird. Let’s just acknowledge that.

We experience the passing of time in odd and inconsistent ways and it shows in the way we describe it. Time flies, it crawls, it slips by, it stands still. Some months always seem to drag on (February, I’m looking at you) while others are gone in the blink of an eye (July, where’d you go?). Time seems to move slower when we’re stressed, bored, or sad and faster when we’re busy or happy. After all, time flies when you’re having fun and a watched pot never boils.

Here in 2020, time is even weirder than normal. Most of the routines, events, and traditions we use to mark time are either altered or completely gone (except bills, those are still like clockwork). The added stress combined with often monotonous days makes time slow and lethargic, but when we look back there are few stand-out events to show that time really is passing. As a result, most of us have noticed that our sense of time is a bit wonky. I sometimes struggle to remember not just the day of the week, but the month as well.

Maybe it’s the weird time dilation of this year (and maybe it’s the fact that I recently finished binging the second season of The Umbrella Academy), but I’ve recently gotten (back) into time travel fiction.

I was nine years old when I first encountered time travel in a book – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry and Hermione only travel a few hours back in time, but Merlin’s beard do they change a lot (somehow without actually changing anything at all). It was complex and mind-bending and I fell in love immediately.

Since then, I’ve read and watched all kinds of time travel books, movies, and shows. From classics like H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, to the quirky long-running BBC show Doctor Who, to blockbusters like Avengers: Endgame, there are so many different theories on what time travel would look like if it were actually possible.

Time travel has a lot of appeal. Since it’s not possible (that we know of), time travel stories are all about speculation. What do we think the world will be like in the future? What would the world be like now if we could change the past? What would the past look like from a modern perspective? Time travel offers not only an escape from our current reality but a way to imagine our reality differently or to view it in a different light.

So if you’re reminiscing about how things were last summer or worrying about how things will be in the future, I recommend escaping into a time travel story for a while. The world will still be here when you get back.

To Socialize, Or Not To Socialize

It shouldn’t have to be a question!

Though we refer to the expectation of distancing ourselves from others around us as “social distancing,” it does not mean that we have to negate all social activities we could have with others. Socializing is best in person, but that is not necessarily the only method of socializing. The modern technological marvels we have access to provide us with a means of socializing that has been historically impossible. We don’t have to be locked up without any way of communicating as our ancestors had with Spanish Influenza, so why not take advantage of the resources at hand? “What resources?” you might ask. Well, let me share a few with you.

Craving some face-to-face time with family and friends? If you haven’t heard of Zoom, where have you been? It’s free to sign up and easy to get started. You can also use the “video call” feature in Google Hangouts if you already have a Google account. You can even get creative and work in some visual games like Heads Up! or Pictionary.

Image courtesy of Tumisu CCO

Missing out on board game night? I know I am! There are so many options available out there. If you want a really genuine board game experience where you can pick up and move those pieces around the board and you enjoy the authenticity of calculating everything yourself as you play, go check out Tabletopia. You can play many games for free and play with your friends online. But be careful, the free reign of the board means you have to keep on eye on those players who like to make “mistakes.” You know who I’m talking about.

If having to do everything yourself with the board games sounds like too much hassle, check out Board Game Arena. It’s free to sign up and you can join any existing tables that have been started. Most of the games are completely free to host yourself, but the premium titles like Carcassonne and Kingdomino require a subscription to host. Though, you can always ask if someone would kindly host a game for you through the website’s chat feature.

Maybe you aren’t such a board game fan, but you really miss playing card night with the regulars. Well, there are some great options there too! If you are looking for that genuine experience, once again, there’s a website for that! Check out where you can pull in as many decks of playing cards as you like, manipulate their contents to match your game, and play a few rounds of your favorite card game. And the best thing of all, there is no need for an account! Every game receives its own unique address that you share with your friends for access. Unlike the other options in this post, all communication will require another application like Zoom, Discord, or your favorite chat app.

There are, of course, many options to play card games where the computer keeps track of the rules. Anyone who remembers the 90s will likely recall Solitaire on their computer that was a Windows staple for years. One of the most popular online playing cards resources is Cardzmania. Like, it requires no login. Anyone can host a game and simply share the match’s address for friends to join. Cardzmania will even provide computer-controlled bots to fill in if you need more players.

Image courtesy of Piotrus CC BY-SA 2.5

Chances are, if you’re a tabletop roleplayer, you have probably heard of Roll20, but this is both a reminder to the veteran players and nudge in the right direction for the TTRPG curious. Roll20 is a versatile tool that allows a group of roleplayers to coordinate via the website with their online character sheets, dice rolling, and maps to play their favorite tabletop roleplaying games online. It’s free to use the basic features for both players and the game master and provides the GM with even more tools if they wish to subscribe. It’s not a bad idea to use something like Zoom to help keep the experience genuine.

There are so many options to socialize in our “socially distanced” world right now. Take care of your social health and take advantage of the resources available out there! Social distancing doesn’t mean there is no socializing. Just socializing distantly.

Getting Things Done

My summers are usually filled with lots of fun events. Normally, we go on a road trip (or two), attend music festivals, play on a volleyball league, and enjoy our time at the fairgrounds. Now suddenly, I find myself left with canceled events and lots of time on my hands.

You’d think that I would be super productive right now and have so many tasks checked off my list. Instead, I find myself struggling with picking up a book, getting to my organization projects at home, and finding the motivation to get on the treadmill.

I decided that enough was enough and that something needed to change. I’ve been wanting to read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen for a while now. I finally picked up the audiobook and have found lots of inspiration on how to become more productive. My biggest takeaway so far has been to write EVERYTHING down. Allen describes your short-term memory like RAM (the main memory in most computers). If there are too many things that you are trying to remember, your brain will crash. Allen gives some great advice on how to process and organize all the “stuff” you are juggling. For a quick crash course from David Allen on GTD, check out this 20-minute Tedx talk from Claremont College.


Dare to Experiment

As the pandemic has kept me mostly confined to my workplaces and home, I’ve found I’ve had a lot more time to delve deep into the Internet. Specifically, I have become obsessed with three YouTube series, The Burger Show, Burger Scholar Sessions, and Strictly Dumpling. I spend my evenings with a video game on one computer screen and a video on the other. What I wasn’t planning was how much these channels would inspire me to try some new foods or cook some of the things I’ve seen.

The Burger Show and Burger Scholar Sessions showed me plenty of neat tricks to up my burger game, but my favorite has to be putting a pile of extremely thin sliced Vidalia onion strips on your burger patties before smashing them. It caramelizes the onions and enhances the taste of the patty itself all at the time! I used a vegetable peeler to get them to the right thinness. My next venture with burgers will probably be to try out the Memphis deep-fried burger!

As for Strictly Dumpling, I’d recommend not watching before bed unless you want to go to bed hungry or filled with regret from snacking. Mike Chen goes around the world trying all kinds of cool local eats. In my attempt to live a similar lifestyle, I recently ordered from a local Asian restaurant and only ordered things I had never had before. I was rewarded with everything being delicious!

However, there was one thing I saw in a couple of his videos that I couldn’t seem to find on menus around the area, and that was crispy pork belly. Queue early last week, I was at my local butcher shop and saw that they had pork belly with the skin on and I knew it was destiny. I went home and looked up a great recipe for Siu Yuk and I went and picked up all the other ingredients I needed. I was rewarded with a tantalizing dish that I can’t wait to make again!

Blocks spelling wellness

Nurturing Wellness

It is time for wellness check in. Today we are choosing to look inward and focus on ourselves, not the rest of the chaos of the world. This is not about a battle with ourselves, but rather reminding ourselves how strong and amazing our bodies are and that we can assist ourselves in doing a little better where needed. We are going to assess and work on the dimensions of wellness in our lives. We cannot entirely eliminate stress or illness from our lives; what we can do is support the different domains of wellness so that we can be better prepared for life’s challenges. This is called “coping ahead” before we hit the challenges.

The dimensions of wellness are:

Intellectual: Engaging in creative or stimulating mental activities, expanding knowledge and skills.

Example actions: Taking a class for fun/ to learn something new, watching videos online to learn something new, learning a new language, reading something different than you normally would.

Occupational: Personal job satisfaction and enrichment in your life.

Example actions: Finding ways to be fulfilled in your job or by volunteering to utilize your skills.

Financial: Comfort with your financial situation.

Example actions: Budgeting, making financial plans, obtaining a financial mentor.8 dimensions of wellness

Environmental: Being in pleasant and stimulating environments that support your well-being.

Example actions: Picking up trash, being in nature, recycling.

Physical: Meeting the body’s physical needs.

Example actions: Physical activity, eating well, sleeping well, avoiding or reducing the use of substances, getting medical checkups, wearing safety gear (masks, lifejackets, seatbelts, etc.)

Social: Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a strong support system.

Example actions: Intentionally seeking out others (have a meal, join a volunteer or special interest group), learn about other backgrounds and cultures.

Emotional: Coping effectively with life and managing emotionally healthy relationships.

Example actions: Utilizing stress management techniques, meditation, seeking out a therapist or other professional support, learning to be comfortable with hard emotions and how to safely express them.

Spiritual: Expanding our sense of purpose and meaning in life.

Example actions: Volunteering, becoming a member of a group that holds similar beliefs, being in nature, connecting with yourself, doing good deeds for others.

Let’s look into strengthening these domains. Take a moment and review each of these domains and what you are currently doing in each domain. Think about whether or not you are feeling satisfied in each domain. If you identify an area that feels like it is not as strong or not as fulfilling, write that down. Then write down what you are already doing in that domain, or what you have done in the past that has worked for you. For example, maybe you feel that your financial wellness domain is struggling, and you are not currently using a budget, but in the past that worked really well for you. Do not reinvent the wheel, utilize what has worked for you! If you are ready to try something new, and enhance a wellness area, then stimulate multiple areas of wellness by doing a little research to find out how to boost your wellness. For example, if you want to enhance your environmental wellness, talk to friends and family about their favorite eco-friendly products, or their favorite outdoor spaces to be in, do research and grow your passion for caring for this domain. By reaching out and doing research you are boosting your social and intellectual wellness while learning how to boost another domain!

Continue to focus on what is going well for you, and build off of that. If you are looking for more information on how to enhance an area of wellness, or are interested in learning something new, reach out to our staff to find materials or resources that may help you on this journey.

Be well.