They’re All Just Big Kindergarteners

What are we doing in this country?

Recently my daughter’s kindergarten teacher debuted a new behavior management plan for the classroom. When a child receives three strikes, a fix-it ticket is sent home. The ticket lets parents know what happened and provides a space for the student to write how to fix her behavior (or, more specifically, how to could cope better in the future).

We’ve had two tickets come home. Without prompting, Claire knew what to do and her solution was simple: belly breaths. Yes, with five year olds it’s both necessary and important to remind them to take a deep breath before doing anything else when they’re upset. The deep breaths will give her time to relax, clear her mind and refocus her attention to appropriate behavior.

I was at once surprised and, really, not so surprised by this basic response. As a parent there have been many moments when I’ve witnessed this – things almost so basic we forget they need to be taught. (And let’s not even get into how many times I’ve said things I could have never imagined saying before.)

But, then it’s not really simple at all, is it? I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to remind myself to take a deep breath to relax and respond in an appropriate manner. And there are many times I’ve forgotten to take a deep breath.

Here’s where we arrive at today.

I constantly see examples of others publicly forgetting to take their own belly breaths. As I see it, the Starbucks holiday cup fiasco is one of them. In past years, the cups were more designed or stylized but never have they been religious – no crosses, no Nativity scenes. Yet, when the cups go from a snowman to a whole-cup starburst pattern, it’s OK (both of which, by the way, are not Christmas but winter themed). But now Starbucks moves to red ombre, and they’ve crossed the line. What line? Where were the belly breaths? I can only assume that the outraged took a quick drink of their hot, fresh Starbucks and couldn’t take a deep breath lest they scald their horrified throats.

If they had been able to take a deep breath, they could have regained their perspective and realized that, yes, there are groups out there who want to eliminate Christianity. In fact, they’re kidnapping and beheading people right now. Perspective – Let’s keep it in mind.

Additionally, as many surveys are indicating, fewer people are identifying as Christian today. The vocal minority in situations like this are making Christians seem prejudiced, rigid and unaccepting. It’s turning people off from joining Churches, something most Christians can agree is not what we want.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Season’s Greetings! Happy Holidays!

Joan: A Statement on Her Legacy

As 2014 ended, one couldn’t shake a stick without hitting at least a couple annual recaps in the media. (If one is in the habit of shaking sticks.) Every one of these included a list of celebrities lost. I’ve already shared my thoughts on one celebrity – Robin Williams. But I’ve lately pondered the legacy of another: Joan Rivers.

I feel I should begin by stating that I wasn’t a fan. While mean isn’t the most appropriate term to describe her comedy in my opinion, without getting wordy it’s the best I can do. I say that not to attempt to distance myself from Rivers in case others who dislike her read this. I share that fact only to further clarify my next statements.

In my mind, more than her comedy, her lasting legacy will be her determination, dedication and good old-fashioned hard work. It would be tough to deny these things.

Not only that her career began when it did at a time when just women weren’t allowed to be what she became,  but also because she carved out her own life and career and seemed to be who
she wanted to be despite active discouragement.

Joan’s life, her work ethic – these are the lasting and most inspiring pieces of her legacy.

RIP, Robin Williams | Thoughts on Brilliance & Legacies

In recent months, Nick and I have watched Hook and Aladdin with our four year old, Claire. It was fulfilling to introduce Robin Williams to a new generation–in fact to the third generation for my family. I recall as a child watching Good Morning, Vietnam with my parents who talked about “Mork and Mindy.” I was too young to understand the movie, but it wouldn’t be long before I fell in love with Aladdin and Hook and eventually with Dead Poet’s Society and What Dreams May Come.

In his comedic and dramatic roles, Robin Williams was intense, engaging and inspiring. His intensity was palpable; his work suffused with a persistence and a desire almost for perfection.

He was entertaining across his long career. It’s almost unheard of to see an actor with his range, his ability to be both dramatic and comedic, and his ability to appeal to audiences of all ages. His movies will continue to be watched for years to come by those craving sentimentality, to be transported back to the moment we first discovered this genius.


For those of us interested in artistic pursuits–whether our own or others’–we can rattle off the names of authors, poets, musicians, artists, actors and more visionaries whose brilliance was cut short by their own hand. We mourn not only that person, but the loss of their brilliance. And we’re left wondering how much their brilliance had to do with their struggles, how their brilliance may have contributed to a tightening darkness. The brilliant genius with a dark side has become a trope, a cliche.

In The Wire, Dashiell Bennett wrote about an episode of “Mork and Mindy” in which Mork meets Robin Williams. In this episode, Williams himself addresses the curse as Mork. Bennet writes, “Yes, celebrities get money and attention, but they also get harassed and attacked and everyone who comes in contact with them makes unreasonable demands on their time and energy.” Mork learns that “if you can’t learn to say no, then ‘there won’t be no more pieces for yourself.'”

Between the demands for time and energy, the drive and the pressure to be brilliant, it seems, darkness lies. We can speculate that acting and substance abuse helped Robin Williams and others cope, but there comes a time that without treatment those things won’t work. It seems we need our own self worth to come from the inside, not the outside. But amidst the utter darkness found in deep depression, there’s almost no way to understand this, to embrace it.


This summer Williams visited Hazelden in Minnesota for maintenance at the substance abuse rehab facility. He took a picture with a local Dairy Queen employee, looking a little tired, shabby and slightly unenthusiastic–not the public Robin Williams we’ve come to know and love. But what demands we place on celebrities to be who we want them to be, to be the person we see on the silver screen. Ultimately, the demand we place on them to be brilliantly entertaining all the time.

The picture made the rounds on the local TV news–Williams had essentially hit up two Minnesota establishments. Watching the 10 o’clock news later that night in June, Nick turned to me and said, “If I ever meet a celebrity, I don’t want their picture. I want to talk to them, see how they tick, how they think. What makes them who they are on the inside.”

In our “no picture or it didn’t happen” society I thought that was an interesting approach. Last night, as we discussed William’s untimely passing, we both wondered what would have happened if more people had demanded less from him and had gotten to know and understand the inner Robin Williams instead of just taking a photo.

If you or someone you know is struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at  1-800-273-8255.

Exploring the Twin Cities: Minneapolis’ Lakewood Cemetery

We’ve lived in Minnesota for two years, but haven’t spent a lot of time exploring the area and its history. In addition to just being a general book nerd, I also consider myself a history nerd, so I’ve been a little appalled with myself for not getting out to explore more. It’s time to rectify that.

My husband took a brief tour of Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis near Lake Calhoun in April, and he’s been telling me about it ever since. It was only going to be a matter of time before we went.

IMG_8499Every blade in the field, every leaf in the forest, lays down its life
in its season, as beautifully as it was taken up. 

– Henry David Thoreau
(enscribed in Lakewood’s newest mausoleum, a must see modern masterpiece)

We toured Lakewood Cemetery on Memorial Day. There were plenty of activities scheduled for that day–horse carriage rides, trolley tours of the cemetery and the old city streetcar running between the cemetery and Lake Harriet. But on any other day, a self-guided walking or driving tour would provide a great insight to the history of Minneapolis and Minnesota that Lakewood holds.

Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota

The 250-acre cemetery is covered with trees, providing shade and atmosphere. Countless memorials–to famous, recognizable people and to others–dramatically dot the landscape.

With somewhere near 100,000 dead buried here, the monuments and headstones bely a history that can be both sordid and fascinating–those whose deaths were a scandal and those who died amid a scandal.

Lakewood Memorial Chapel Collage

Lakewood features prominent architectural styles in its monuments, but also in its facilities. The Memorial Chapel, above, is an early 1900s masterpiece that is modeled on the Hagia Sophia on the outside. On the inside, it features beautiful Byzantine mosaics (see the angels on the right top and bottom). But it also features Celtic influences, seen in the cross at the top and some love knots in the stained glass. Most interesting to me during my visit was the arts-and-crafts-style stained glass as somewhat seen in the right middle image. Arts and crafts style was popular at the time. During my visit I was reading Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. Frank Lloyd Wright included similar stained glass patterns in to his Oak Park, IL homes to provide light but filter out the neighboring houses, which he believed were inferior to his own designs.

Book Recommendation

As I heard a few of the stories of the people (or bodies) who will spend eternity near the shores of Lake Calhoun, I couldn’t help but think of one book.

We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down by Rachael Hanel We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down
By Rachael Hanel
My Review

As a child growing up in rural Minnesota south (and a little west) of the Twin Cities, Hanel spent a lot of time in cemeteries. Her father was a gravedigger and caretaker. Her mother often helped out, so they brought their daughter along with her bike to hang out. Hanel often found herself observing the headstones, considering the dashes and asking her mom to tell her the stories of the individuals buried there. Some of those stories, like the ones Lakewood holds, are full of sordid, tragic details.

Cemeteries Collage

Additionally, if how we handle death interests you, I’d recommend Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach and On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

Lakewood Cemetery and the shores of Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet are must sees when visiting the Twin Cities. You could spend a few hours to an entire day just exploring the area even if you don’t hit up any shops in Uptown. But if you do hit Uptown, make sure you stop at Magers & Quinn Booksellers and support the indy booksellers.

I’ve Got Your Oscar Fashion Right Here!

Well, unlike the pizza guy, Oscar fashion didn’t exactly deliver. (What was up with the pizza gag? It just didn’t work.)

There were others who were nicely dressed, but just weren’t best dressed material. Nice, but just not there. Kind of like Ellen’s performance.

OK. You’ve probably read enough recaps of the show as a whole and fashion in particular. So, let’s make this brief. These lovely ladies and Brad Pitt looked great last night.

Jenna Dewan Tatum: Oscars 2014 Best Dressed List | The 1000th Voice

Jenna Dewan-Tatum did look like a fairy & I liked it!

Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie: 2014 Oscar's Best Dressed List | The 1000th Voice

Angelina Jolie sparkled while breaking her own fashion mold.

Isla Fisher: 2014 Oscar's Best Dressed

Isla Fisher looked elegant at Vanity Fair’s after party.

Anna Kendrick: 2014 Oscar's Best Dressed List | The 1000th Voice Blog

Not a fan of her Oscar dress, but Anna Kendrick’s
Vanity Fair’s after party dress was hot.

Who did you think was best dressed?

Lovely Looks at the SAG Awards

I’m pleased to say that it looks like most people picked it up a little and dressed much better at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards than they have previously at the Golden Globes. Lupita Nyong'o | SAG Awards Best Dressed | The 1000th Voice Blog

Lupita Nyong’o in Gucci

Elisabeth Moss | SAG Awards Best Dressed | The 1000th Voice Blog

Elisabeth Moss in Michael Kors

Matthew McConaughey | SAG Awards Best Dressed | The 1000th Voice Blog

Matthew McConaughey in Dolce & Gabbana

Mindy Kaling | SAG Awards Best Dressed | The 1000th Voice Blog

Mindy Kaling in David Meister

Hannah Simone | SAG Awards Best Dressed | The 1000th Voice

Hannah Simone in Marchesa

Who did you think was best dressed?

Golden Golden Globe Looks

Before I’m too late to the party, I wanted to share my list of best dressed from the Golden Globes!

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a best dressed, and I’ve missed it. It’s always fun combing through the photo galleries looking at everything and really being able to assess it. There’s just no way I could sit through the red carpet shows, but galleries are a few quick clicks to the next person.

Overall, I felt like there were more bad looks here than good looks. And, it seems odd to me that none of my picks from the Golden Globes have made my previous best dressed lists. Welcome, fresh meat!

As I clicked through Just Jared’s gallery, I didn’t notice many glaring trends on the red carpet. There were some color similarities and some metallic accents, but nothing I saw enough to consider it a trend from the show. So, without further ado, here are my favorites in no particular order:

Tatiana Maslany | Golden Globes 2013 Best Dressed | The 1000th Voice

Tatiana Maslany

Usher | Golden Globes 2013 Best Dressed | The 1000th Voice Blog


Tina Fey & Amy Poehler | Golden Globes 2013 Best Dressed | The 1000th Voice blog

Tina Fey & Amy Poehler

Chris Hemsworth & Elsa Pataky | Golden Globes 2013 Best Dressed | The 1000th Voice Blog

Chris Hemsworth & Elsa Pataky

Cate Blanchett | Golden Globes 2013 Best Dressed | The 1000th Voice blog

Cate Blanchett

Lupita Nyong'o | Golden Globes 2013 Best Dressed | The 1000th Voice blog

Lupita Nyong’o

Who did you think was best dressed?

Interesting Reads: 1.10.2014

in which I share links to things that caught my attention

Say No to the Standing O
By Tane S. Danger
From Minnesota Playlist

By giving everything a standing ovation, we diminish the act to near uselessnessAre we standing because we were actually so moved we couldn’t remain sitting, or because we’re hoping to shorten the time until we get out of the theater by a few seconds?

Some excellent points, but I’ll definitely stand at Claire’s spring dance recital!

What It Means to Be a Public Intellectual
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
From The Atlantic

These are Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns”—not simply a lack of answers, but an obliviousness to questions. The awareness of this is humbling and euphoricAt that moment one realizes that it isn’t the cool facts which wise you up, but the awareness of a yawning, limitless, impossible ignorance.

As usual, Coates has provided a well-reasoned commentary on contemporary racism.

When Misogynist Trolls Make Journalism Miserable for Women
By Connor Friedersdorf From The Atlantic

Conor Friedersdorf, a man, ponders how many women have been driven out of personal journalism (blogging) due to the preponderance of mysogynistic trolls. While I‘ve haven’t dealt with any trolls, I’ve definitely heard horror stories. The terrible, mysogynistic things that women on the internet have been told is appalling.

The Hidden Ecosystem Of The Walmart Parking Lot
By Adele Peters
From FastCo.Exist

When I was a teen, my family and I would frequently pull the camper into a Wal-Mart parking lot as we were on our way to our ultimate destination. I remember waking up one morning, struck by the general oddity of doing such an almost normal thing.

Interesting Reads: 11.25.2013

in which I share links to things that caught my attention

Sarah Silverman Shouldn’t be Dirty
By Esther Zuckerman 
From The Wire

Zuckerman responds to a critic’s sexist take on Silverman’s comedy. Apparently, so she could enjoy commercial success, she should tame down her act and be more lady like. I think she’s already received considerable commercial success.

Home on the Hearst Range
By Cat Buckley
From Vanity Fair

Gorgeous photos from a new book about the Hearst Ranch surrounding the Hearst castle are accompanied by historical background text.

An Interview with Kelly Kathleen Ferguson

a little (or a lot) about Laura | Laura Ingalls Wilder | The 1000th Voice blog

Alright, Laura fans! Today is the first of at least two interviews with Laura experts. Kelly Kathleen Ferguson is an author and Ph.D. candidate in creative nonfiction at Ohio University.


My first question truly starts at the beginning. Please tell me a little about your first experience with the Little House books. How did you discover/learn about the books? Did you immediately fall in love with them?

Here is an excerpt from my book, in which I explain the beginnings of my Laura obsession.

The origins of my pioneer story began October 2, 1974, in a little house made of red brick in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. On that day my mother gave me the Laura Ingalls Wilder box set for my sixth birthday, the yellow-covered Harper Trophy Edition illustrated by Garth Williams. I don’t know what the set cost, but each book retailed for $1.50 ($1.70 Canada).  At some point I took a magic marker and wrote my name in the space provided (Belongs to _________). I scribed each letter with extreme focus, careful to remain on the line. This was serious business.

From first read, I was obsessed with my life as Laura, and set out live like her in every possible way. It wasn’t easy, proving up a claim in the suburbs. I built cabins out of Lincoln Logs and tended faithfully to my plastic mustangs. Autumn I gathered acorns and dried Kudzu berries on the back deck. Winter I braided pine straw to burn in the fireplace, watching with satisfaction as my fuel turned blue then white then withered into smoke up the flue.  Spring I plowed the centipede grass, cursing those pesky roots. Summer I sowed birdseed crops in the houseplants that my mom, sighing, yanked out. Like Pa, I dutifully replanted despite the destructive forces of nature.

Ahhh, I love that! So, it definitely seems like Laura inspired your career path. Is that correct? 

Yep, Laura has pretty much been a huge life inspiration. I was always fascinated about how she became a famous author later in life, in her fifties. So I still have time! Laura’s path was always in the back of my mind as I played in bands and bartended and renovated my old house and whatever else it was I was doing through my twenties and early thirties, this idea that it’s better to have experiences to write about. And I’ve always loved how The Books are about fearless reinvention but this sense of stability, a sense of self, at the same time. The Ingalls family had a china shepherdess that Ma always placed on the mantel—soon as Pa built one. I have a Maneki Neko (the Japanese “welcome cat.”). When I unpack it that means I’m home. Once I decided to be a writer I became a homesteader of sorts, I’ve had to move where the opportunity lies. Laura’s willingness to move and change has been with me since I was six. In a way, she’s the stability I bring with me, because yes, I still have that yellow box set and it is also a symbol of home for me.

You’re absolutely right. I’d always known Laura was a bit older when she started writing the books, but I was surprised and inspired that she has such a body of work after her “late” start in the writing world.

Taking a bit of a different turn, I understand that some readers identify and side with Mary over Laura. Wendy McClure says they’re usually the older siblings, who enjoy her bossiness. I’m a Laura fan. Until reading The Wilder Life I didn’t realize people gravitated toward Mary. I’m particularly uncharitable in my thoughts towards her because she constantly bullies Laura. So, Mary or Laura? Who’s your favorite? I’m pretty sure I know the answer!

You know it! I’m the girl who shoves too many pebbles in her pocket so it tears. with boring brown hair all restless and flutterbudgety who’d rather help Pa with the chores than sit inside. Bo-ring.  Although one of my favorite parts in the series is when Mary admits to Laura about how as a young girl she wasn’t really good, because she was showing off.

This seems like a good transition to Laura’s progeny. Rose Wilder Lane is a complicated individual who has played a controversial role in the writing of the books and Laura’s life. I think she sounds incredibly fascinating; if not at the very least a little shady. I can’t wait to read more about her and her own writings. What are your thoughts on Lane?

Unfolding the wondrous life of Rose Wilder Lane was one of the many fascinating side journeys my Laura trip took me. On my to-read bookshelf is Travels with Zenobia: From Paris to Albania in a Model T, the writings Lane kept while roadtripping with her bestie Helen Boylston. That trip would be an adventure now, much less in 1926. And who thinks to name a car Zenobia? Lane lived in San Francisco, New York, and Paris as well as extensive periods in Albania. On the night of her death she was scheduled for a next day flight to work as a war correspondent in Vietnam. Although she was known more for her fiction, I prefer her nonfiction. She had so much to write about. I don’t know that she ever found herself as fiction writer—except through her mother’s stories.

Pamela Smith Hill has written a great book, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life that examines the role of Lane in the Little House books. I think Smith Hill nails it, that Lane was an intense editor along the lines of Maxwell Perkins—meaning extensive shaping and key suggestions. Undoubtedly, Lane took her mother’s writing to the next level with her professional experience. But any time spent with each writer’s voice tells the story. Lane simply didn’t have the prose chops.

Throughout all of your Laura-related research and travels, I’m sure you’ve come across some interesting information. What surprised you most? What seems to surprise non-Laura experts?

Aside from the Rose/Laura “scandal,” which I think can get blown out of proportion, under scrutiny Laura really pans out to be who you would expect—a hard working farmer, a lifelong love to Almanzo, a great baker of gingerbread, and active member of her small town of Mansfield. And she continued to enjoy a snazzy dress or two along the way! The person from the Books whose true story surprised me the most is Eliza Jane Wilder, who is mostly known for being the mean teacher who picked on Carrie and gossiped with Nellie Oleson. But she was a pioneer in her own right.

Here’s a post I wrote about her:

From there, mostly when I talk to non-Laura experts, I have to remind them that I’m talking about the BOOKS, not the television show. People either loved the books or never heard of them.

And last thought, what surprised me the most during my travels (the “archive of the feet”), was the diversity of the Midwestern landscape. It’s easy to think of the middle of our country as a big blot of cornfield, but driving the two lane highways showed me the difference from the rolling green, almost Southern feel to eastern Kansas to the high, moonscape prairies of South Dakota.

I grew up in eastern South Dakota (my childhood dentist was in DeSmet). I went to college in western South Dakota and now live outside Minneapolis, so the very changing geography of our area of the Midwest is one I’m quite familiar with! I do think most people do misunderstand it and think it’s all flat with lots of grass. Like Laura keeps pointing out in By the Shores of Silver Lake and Little Town on the Prairie, eastern South Dakota is deceptively flat. You only have to take a walk out into a field to realize that there are bumps and rolling hills all around you, but drive an hour down the road, and you’re probably looking at an entirely different landscape.

Do you have a favorite Little House book? If so, which one and why? Also, do you have a favorite book about Laura? (Besides your book, of course. 🙂 )

1) Well, favorite always seems to be whichever one I’m reading. But the book that flashed in my head at the question was By the Shores of Silver Lake. I love Lena, and how she and Laura gallop the black ponies across the prairie. I also find compelling the juxtaposition of the Ingalls family’s final destination in this blank slate of a landscape with Laura’s turn from girl to young woman. Silver Lake is where she really comes of age, when she realizes she’ll have to teach and help send Mary to school. She has to be (gulp) grown up and hey, hold on!—isn’t that Almanzo Wilder and his brown Morgans on the horizon? I also love the discovery of the items of the Surveyor’s House. And, and, and.

2)  My fav is William Anderson’s Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography. It’s written for a young audience, and emulates Laura’s style. I loved reading bios on Martha Washington and Florence Nightingale as a kid. Sometimes I don’t want my idols “complicated” or all the dirt. I just want a good story that balances crises with a positive spin. Anderson’s Bio is large part of what launched my whole project, this idea of Laura being a real heroine I could admire, not just literary one, as well as making me think of Pepin, South Dakota, et. al., as actual places I could visit.

Thank you so much for participating in my interview! Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I suppose my parting note is that my goal is for people to pass the Books on to the next generation. Whenever I hear of someone giving the books as a present or reading them to their kids, I get a warm feeling inside.

Kelly Kathleen Ferguson is indeed a Laura fan and expert. I love how she capitalizes the ‘b’ when referring to the Little House books. Check out her book here and her blog here