Sunday Promise

Monarch Chrysalis

Hello and Happy Sunday! Waking up on Sunday mornings have always been a happy place for me. The start to a whole new week and all that lies ahead. Sometimes when I wake up, the week’s agenda waits outside my Sunday Morning like a customer eagerly waiting for a shop to open for business. She peers in the window and taps on the glass. Sorry week! We don’t open till noon! I keep the door locked and pour a cup of coffee.

The picture at the beginning of this post is of our new pet. We are taking name suggestions if you have any! This monarch pupa was a gift we picked up attending the Monarch Watch Open House yesterday. Isn’t it exquisite? In this chrysalis, a quiet transformation is occurring. A silent promise hanging from our window.

In a way my Sunday Mornings are my silent promise, a still moment before the journey starts.

How do you like to start your morning?

We like to listen to blues most morning in our house. Here’s a recent favorite of mine to start your week:

Have you seen this New Horizons Tribute? New Horizons reached Pluto and to celebrate, NPR set those images to Ray Bradbury’s poem, “If Only We Had Taller Been”:

 We’ve had some wild storms pass through last week. A friend of a friend caught this storm brewing over western Kansas and it’s mesmerizing:

I’m off to pour another cup of coffee.

Have a great week!




Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning - The Golden Gang


We made it!

Was it just me or was last week a tornado? A can’t-catch-my-breath-remember-my-name-the-day-month-or-year-sort-of-week? So happy for this new week starting with this new, blue Sunday morning.

If you follow me in twitterland, you might be familiar with these natural arrangements I create ever so often from found or foraged remnants of a walk of wandering. The photograph in this post is from a walk yesterday. Sunflowers tower overhead in the alleyways and we fall over looking up to meet their gaze. They can be seen running wild and free in packs on the outskirts of the town recruiting goldenrod, compass flower, willow leaf, and black-eyed Susans for an unruly gang of gold. Along with matured corn fields and the gleam of September sunrises, this pack has the whole town glowing.

I’m planning to play catch up with an old friend and also do quite a bit of writing today, so you will see me again tomorrow and later this week.

“Nature is particularly important on Sundays” from “People On Sunday“, an essay pulled from a collection of Joseph Roth’s essays.

This video should be a children’s book in the making.

And I love these reimagined WWII era photos via This Is Colossal.

Oh, and have you seen these lovely, lighted cardboard boxes via The Artful Parent? How magical would it be to assemble an entire village of this whimsical project?

It made my day when the lovely Dana and Lindsey from Jbrary shared a video they created of my mentor, Jane Johnston’s, “Pumpkin Chant” rhyme. If you have young children or work with young children, it’s the perfect playful song about pumpkins. Here’s an old post of how I incorporated the “Pumpkin Chant” into storytime. Pumpkins, pumpkins, fall is almost here!

Have a great week!

On repeat: “Sunday Morning” by The Velvet Underground





Last Sigh of Summer

Last Sigh of Summer

Summer always seems to come and go faster than all other seasons. The past few summers we either moved down the block or to another state and back, so it’s been a fleeting, transitional season. But let me tell you… It feels so good to be home. All the boxes have been unpacked and we’re finally settling into a rhythm. So much change is behind us and so much is ahead.

How was your summer?

I’ve been playing the “what if” game a lot lately. Lying in bed, listening to baby snores in the next room and louder husband snores next to me, I’ve been thinking. I’ve been planning. There was a long pause here on Sturdy for Common Things, but now that the dust is settling you’re going to see me here more often. Quite a bit more often, at that. Like a gardner who let her garden go unkept for a season, I’ve started pruning and digging, and finding a place to grow again.

School started back up for my math teacher husband and my 1st born baby. As of last week, Lorelei is now in kindergarten. Kind-er-gar-ten! She runs with the big kids now and is a full-fledge elementary schooler. People always warn you when you have kids that this growing up thing happens fast. When they’re wee babes it seems like these milestones are light years away, but those clichés are spot on. Blink and you’re there. My Mira is now a little person and loves to make me laugh. I’ve shed a few tears with all these growing pains lately. I try not to in front of the kids, but sometimes I can’t help my heart. If Mira happens to witness one of these spells, she immediately says, “Mama? Mama!” and then makes a silly face and I laugh with wet cheeks and dry my eyes. You want so much for your kids not to see you upset.

This was and is my summer. This is me today. I’m at an intersection of possibilities; both exciting and terrifying.

What else?

Are you on Instagram? I cleaned out the cobwebs of my long-time private account and went public. I’m @lovesreading if you’d like to follow along on my photo journey. After I read this post by Joy the Baker, and as someone overwhelmingly intimidated by this social media platform and all its pristine photo ops, I felt more comfortable to take the plunge. So, here I am.

More Instagram inspiration comes from reading this Art from an American Backyard feature from National Geographic about an artist who photographs nature small bits of nature in a  20th century-esqe scientific documentation format and they’re stunning.

I haven’t slept much lately and when I’m up late at night, I do a bit of reading. Lately,  I read a lot of Brainpickings. That is some serious soul food. I get lost in articles for hours, which doesn’t necessarily help the insomnia, but provides just enough encouragement to lay my head down and dream. This article and this article have especially resonated with me lately. Oh, and not to forget this outstanding feature of The Artist’s Library by Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer, founder’s of The Library as Incubator Project just this past month! A round of applause! Yippee, Laura & Erinn!

That’s all for now. More later.

Enjoy your last sigh of summer!

On repeat: “Dressed Up In The Light” by Taylor Holenbeck




Plans Have Changed

Sturdy for Common Things

Spring is synonymous with change. Some change is effortless. All of the sudden you look outside and green leaves cover the once bare trees, the world has transformed, it seems, overnight. But this spring has been unstable. Winter lingers like a guest overstaying a visit; fog and snow and changing winds. The sunlight is crystal clear and then disappears for days and days and days. Not to delve too much into seasonal symbolism, this spring has been reflective of weeks of soul-searching and transition and transformation. Now through the thick of it, plans have changed.

We’re moving back to LFK.

As I write this,  I’m in the room I’ve been staying in at my in-laws’ house in small town Ludington, Michigan. My computer is on a little folding table along with notes and books and a few treasures found on a walk the other day, (weathered drift wood, a skipping stone, a goldfinch feather). The window is cracked and a soft breeze rustles the papers now and then. The day is gold and green with morning sun. Will, my partner, is home after being gone for two months finishing up the school year teaching in Chattanooga. He’s playing with the kids outside. I can hear them whooping and laughing. Ever since we sold our house in Chattanooga in a matter of days in February, moving out early March, I’ve been taking care of the kids solo here in Ludington. But this weekend we’re finally together again.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I think we should put Lawrence back on the table,” he said a few weeks ago over the phone. “Think about it.”

We had already made our decision, an emotional decision, and Michigan was our destination. We had a plan laid out. But maybe he was right.

My first day working at the East Lansing Public Library was supposed to be yesterday. It was a fresh start filled with promise. Making that phone call to them several weeks ago was very difficult.  I’m still sad about it, but it’s comforting to know we made the right decision. We’re going back home.

As of this week, Will has a new teaching job there and we have a teeny house to rent that we’ll move into this summer. Nothing was lined up when we decided to move back, but it’s all coming together quickly. I will continue to be full-time mom and have a small seasonal project facilitating a nature-based program for kindergarteners in the fall. Maybe I will work more, maybe I won’t. It will depend on how things go. There will be more time for writing again while finding our rhythm.

Ludington will always be a home for us. We love Michigan. How lucky we are to have two places where we have wonderful friends and family. A friend joked the other day that we should probably invest in a yurt, since we move around so much. But I think this journey of loop-de-loops and curly-cues has led us to our haven.



DIY Black Light Booth Provocation

black light booth painting 5

Looking for a fun way for kids to explore a variety of senses playing with light and color? I made this Black Light Booth on a dime and it has been a favorite indoor activity in our home ever since. It’s portable and durable, so it is also a great feature in a classroom or library. I’ve had a lot of interest in how I made ours since posting about via Twitter, so here we go!

Black Light Booth Materials:

Making the booth takes probably 10 minutes max to assemble.

black light booth 3

Attach the black light to the top of the container. Attach the mirror to the back (bottom) of the container with duct tape. Boom. Done.

black light booth 6

black light booth 4

black light booth 5

I set our Black Light Booth on a chair, but a short, secure bookshelf or table will also do. Then, I draped a piece of black fabric over the both to block out light, turned on the black light, and that’s it. After that bit of construction is done, the possibilities to explore and excite the senses are endless! Here are a few kid-approved provocations we’ve explored…

black light booth pom poms 2


black light booth pom poms

White gloves

black light booth pipe cleaners 2

 Pipe cleaner construction

black light booth book

 Reading a glow-in-the-dark book. Here we are reading The Game in the Dark, by Herve Tullet.

black light booth highlighter

black light booth highlighter 2

black light booth highlighter 1

 Drawing and writing with highlighters.

black light booth molding dough

Sensory crafting with glow-in-the-dark foam modeling dough.

black light booth paper

black light booth paper 1

black light booth paper and highlighter

black light booth paper 2

black light booth paper highlighter glue

Experimenting with neon paper cutting, glue, and highlighters.

black light booth halloween

black light booth halloween 2

 For Halloween, I bought glow-in-the-dark stickers and poster for some spooky holiday fun in the Black Light Booth.

black light booth painting

black light booth painting 1

black light booth painting 2

black light booth painting 3

black light booth painting 4

black light booth painting 6

black light booth painting 7

Last but not least! Painting with neon paints.

Really, any materials that are neon, white, or glow-in-the-dark are fair game. Many of the materials I found I already owned or purchased at my local dollar store. Using the Black Light Booth has been a great way to dive into the science of florescence, light, and color. It’s an excellent prompt to spark creativity and inquiry and most of all, it’s a great way to light up playtime.



Moving to the Mitten

Moving to the Mitten

Change is on the horizon. We’re moving to Michigan a.k.a The Mitten a.k.a the land of my husband’s people (seriously, the place is crawling with family). This spring, we’ll pick up our not-even-a-year-old roots here in Tennessee and head north. The Chattanooga experiment did not work out how we had hoped and while it has been a humbling experience, we’re thankful for the dose of perspective and are optimistic about our family’s new adventure. Time here has proved rife with invaluable learning experiences. It has been rich with challenges and eye-opening discoveries in making sense of the multiliteracy needs of the young Chattanooga residents. My primary goal when arriving was to assess the needs of the community and let that guide my focus. I hope in my time here I’ve helped build bridges where there were gaps and inspired creativity and self-discovery. It was a privilege to work with and serve the Chattanooga community and the group of caring and creative librarians in the Children’s Room at the Chattanooga Public Library downtown. I will never forget their kindness and passion.

In January, I accepted a position at the East Lansing Public Library as a Youth Services Specialist with the primary duty of developing youth programming. I will start my new role there in June. We put our house on the market this week and my last day at work will be next week.  Our friends and family have been nothing but encouraging in this decision making process. We are grateful for the positive vibrations sent from near and far. 

And dear reader, in many ways you are my mainstay. Your collaboration, support, and reassurance here is appreciated more than you’ll ever know.

The kids, the cats, and I will move in with my husband’s folks while we sell the house and Will finishes up the school year teaching. This will be another big change, but we are giddy with excitement. We are going home.




First Month: Here We Go

Chattanooga Card Catalog

Less than a week after moving to Chattanooga (with a rendezvous family wedding in Michigan miraculously pulled off in between) I started my first day of work. It was a Monday. My husband drove me to work with both kids in the back. It was my first time going back to work since having Mira, so I was feeling a bit sad about leaving them and also excited for everything the day held. “Here we go!”I said more to myself than anyone as I hopped out of the car and kissed my family goodbye. That morning, I was asked if I would help host a maker party for the mayor in celebration of National Maker Day on The 4th Floor on Wednesday.

Chattanooga Public Library Maker Party

Augmented Reality Sandbox Chattanooga Public Library

And that happened.


Etsynooga The 4th Floor Chattanooga

On Thursday, a handful of us at CPL met with Etsy and the local Etsy community, Etsynooga, to talk about how the library can assist in their efforts as small business owners and craftspeople.

My first week pretty much sums up what it’s been like working at Chattanooga Public Library this past month.

A lot happens. Fast.

The next week, I opened up the shades as wide as the would go in the Kids Room and looked at the space with fresh eyes. I’ve been talking with the people who visit and doing my best at digesting everything that comes my way. Justin, my manager, is my translator and cheerleader.

Spontaneous Storytime

As a way to introduce and immerse myself, I started doing Spontaneous Storytime. When I have a spare moment, I wear a sign around that says, “Ask me to read you a story!” The moments have been sporadic with so much going on lately, but every time I wear the sign a child or caregiver takes me up on the offer. To be continued.

Sure I have times I miss my friends. I doubt myself. I miss being home with my kids. I feel like THIS on occasion.

But then I have days that I feel confident and gutsy and more at ease in my new library home.

Our End of Summer Party, wrapping up CPL’s Make.Play.Read.Learn program, was a hit. Hundreds of patrons came out to visit the Downtown Library’s 2nd Floor. On the tween/teen side, there was a full out “Fancore Finale” with cosplay, My Little Pony, Disney, Tim Burton… All the good things run by Megan and Jessie. The Kids Room had science experiments, games, a dance party disco with the Frozen soundtrack on repeat, a “Make a Thingamajig” table with various recycle items, among many other fun and engaging activities.

Record Player Art

Spin Art

Salad Spinner Art

I organized a “Spin Art” station, which included record player art (an idea I borrowed from my daughter’s former preschool in Lawrence) and salad spinner art (a tried and true favorite project).

With summer in the rear view mirror I’m finally able to start digging into the programming goals I hope to implement. The other day I covered for my coworker’s Lego Club at the last minute. I started having the kids dictate their stories of what they were making to me. I have done this with my daughter for awhile now and my co-conspirator and library soul sister, the brilliant Cate Levinson (Storytiming) has been doing something similar in her library. As I wrote down these imaginative narrations, magic happened. The kids who were playing individually, started playing as one, blending their stories into one.  In that moment, I felt connected to my young patrons and full of possibility. A librarian I very much look up to said something I think about every day at work. She said, “Start with the community and their points of need and let that guide the agenda.”

Here we go.



An Ode to LFK

Mass Street

My intention was to write this before leaving, but as many of you know… When you move NOTHING ever goes according to plan. And once you get to where you are going, it takes awhile to find your footing. We moved in early June to Chattanooga and this is me finally sitting down to write my farewell to Lawrence. Or as so many of us from the area endearingly refer to it, LFK.

What I  will miss…

South Park Lawrence Kansas

The people

The best part of Lawrence. Hands down. Compassionate, creative, laid back, and proud of where they are from. We fell in love with our friends here.

Summer in LFK

Summertime in Lawrence

When the students leave town for the summer and the dust settles, the townies come out full-throttle. The Annual Sidewalk Sale mob scene, Tad’s shaved ice, Play Days at The Replay, cooling off at the Wading Pool in South Park, the farmer’s market, Wednesday evening music in the park, cold ginger beer from the new soda shop… It’s my favorite time of the year in Lawrence.

  Lawrence alley

Alley Walking

Locals walk the alleys to get to where they are going. It’s our own secret passage to get to where we are going without having to mingle with the “other folks”.

Free State Beer

Free State Beer

Oldest brewery in Kansas. Best beer ever. Hands down.

Sunflower field

This Sunflower Field 

The anticipation of waiting for that perfect day in September when Gritner Farm’s sunflower field is in bloom.

The Dusty Bookshelf Lawrence

The Local Bookstores & Literary Scene

Lawrence has an awesome presence of indie bookstores. The Raven, The Dusty Bookshelf, Signs of Life, The Toy Store, Astrokitty… All stellar in their own right. My buddy Rachel wrote a great article a month ago for Bookriot about the literary scene in Lawrence.

East Lawrence

East Lawrence

My hood. Where people prefer dandelions and chickens running around to neatly mowed yards. This pretty much sums up East Lawrence.

James Turrell at the Spenser Museum of Art

The Museums

For being a town of  a little under 90,000 residents, Lawrence sure does have a lot of awesome museums. The Lawrence Arts Center, The Watkins Museum of History, The Spenser Art Museum, The KU Natural History Museum are just a few of the favorites we’d often visit on cold or rainy days.

KU Relays Downtown at The Sandbar  

Mass Street Culture

This could probably be an umbrella for a lot of the above. But I’m going to list it here anyway. Mass Street is the heart of Lawrence. Everything you need is in several blocks and neighboring streets. Liberty Hall, the Pig, Love Garden, AstroKitty, 715, The Toy Store, The Sandbar, stellar bookstores, The MUSIC! The ART! All of it! I could drink it up in one big gulp!

  KU Basketball Lawrence

The Basketball

The place where college basketball was born. The energy that fills the air in February and March (and let’s be real, October, November, December, January too). Rockchalk Jayhawk.

Lawrence Public Library

The Library

This goes up with the first category of “the people”. There are some really incredible people with good hearts that work in this joint. I’ve been cheerleading from a distance as the remodel comes to a close and Lawrence Public Library will welcome the community back into it’s building for the first time in a couple years. I wish I could be there to see the patrons’ faces. Good luck to you all on the new venture! Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you or the library families that are so incredibly supportive.

I will end this by quoting Pooh. The Winnie the Pooh. That silly old bear has a way of summing up all my feelings into one thought.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

And the Langston Hughs words that are in front of City Hall:

“We have tomorrow / Bright before us / Like a flame.” 

I love you, LFK.




Chattanooga Here I Come

Chattanooga Library

BIG  NEWS! I’ve accepted a position as children’s librarian at the Chattanooga Public Library, with the (unbound) directive of making awesome things happen with kids ages 0-7. I’ll also work a bit with the older kids too. The Dunn family will be booking a one-way ticket to Tennessee this summer.

Why Chattanooga Public Library?

After meeting THE Justin Hoenke last summer, Chattanooga has been on my mind. All kinds of innovative library happenings have been coming to fruition at a rapid rate at the Chattanooga Public Library. They aren’t afraid to try new things, and because of it they’re leading the future of libraries.  Chattanooga is the perfect climate for learning as well cultivating seedling ideas for youth services. So when Justin asked if I would come work with him and his team, how could I refuse?

For those of you who aren’t in the library industry or may not be familiar with Chattanooga Public Library, here are a boatload of wonderful things going on as of late:

Read about what’s happening on the Chattanooga Public Library’s 2nd Floor (devoted to kids 0-18) and other events throughout the library on Justin’s blog HERE and radical tween/teen librarian, Megan Emery’s blog HERE.

Chattanooga Public Library Director, Corrine Hill was named Librarian of the Year for 2014

Chattanooga Public Library was featured in What the Library of the Future Will Look Like

Making Room for Innovation highlights The 4th Floor, Chattanooga Public Library’s community driven tech space

CPL’s Muse of Fire Project highlighted on Library as Incubator Project

These are only a few recent highlights. So, SO MUCH to list!!! I’m so excited to work with these folks!

Why Chattanooga?

Chattanooga is in a place of transition, full of opportunity. It was a city that had been in a dark place for awhile, but has turned a new chapter and is becoming a place that fosters technology and new business. We are looking forward to being catalysts for this movement of change. Another plus I found out early on is people who live in Chattanooga, love Chattanooga. Not one person I had spoken with, whether they were transplants to the area or have lived there for thirty years, said otherwise. The city has so much to offer and I am excited to be a part of it.

Goodbye, But Not Farewell to Lawrence

Moving to Chattanooga was a tough decision. My family and I love Lawrence. We love the community and the friendships we have here. I have had the privilege to work with a few incredible people at the Lawrence Public Library who have shaped who I am as a librarian, and I will carry that on forever. Many of you LPL’ers I consider family and have become surrogate grandparents, aunts, or uncles to my children. You are a big reason why my daughter has such a strong love for the library. We are leaving people and a city we love dearly, that’s for sure.

Lawrence will always hold a special place in my heart.

Ad Astra per Aspera.

Looking forward to this new adventure! Chattanooga, here I come!



Fairy Hunt

Going on a Fairy Hunt kids

There has been quite a big hype in the news lately over the Rossendale Fairies, photographs taken by British professor John Hyatt of insect-like creatures that extraordinarily look like fairies (!), currently on public display at the Whitaker Museum in Rossendale.

Rosendale Fairies


As a girl, I was a believer in all magical things and I had a particular affinity for fairies. I used to regularly go on searches hoping to catch a glimpse of the wee folk. When I first read about the Rossendale Fairies yesterday, my adult brain automatically determined that theses pictures were probably an unidentified species of insects, but there is a part of me, that little girl deep down inside, that remains hopeful. I showed the Rossendale Fairies to my daughter and we both decided that later that day we would conduct our own Fairy Hunt. So, I strapped her baby sister in the carrier, packed the camera, and we headed off to the local nature center hoping to catch a few on film.

You won’t believe it.. BUT WE DID! Lorelei photographed a few in the early spring thickets preparing for summer! If you look *very* carefully you will see them (but I’m warning you, most adults might not be able to).

Fairy Hunt

fairy hunt

fairy hunt

fairy hunt

fairy hunt

If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the warmer weather, go on a fairy hunt! But I must warn you…. Kids usually have a better eye for finding fae, so you might want to take one or two along. You’ll yield more results if they’re in charge of the camera, too.


Source of Rossendale Fairies images.