Heartbroken but GRAYtful

Last week, my family had to say good-bye to our elderly kitty Edison Gray, aka Grayboy, aka Pinkles, aka many other nicknames. Gray and Grayboy come from the fact that his fur was gray. Pinkles comes from the fact that his jelly bean toes were pink.

Grayboy was a stray boy when he showed up at our house in fall 2006, and he officially joined our family the day before Thanksgiving. We have been thankful for him ever since. If the prolonged snuggles he gave his humans in the last few days of his life are any indication, he was grateful for us too, and hopefully pleased with his choice of us for a family.

During the years we had Grayboy, I learned about wearing many hats. In my graduate Museum Education Program, we frequently discussed how museum educators have to wear many hats; in fact, one class presentation involved a group of students bringing in a variety of hats and stacking them on the head of a classmate who volunteered to help illustrate their point. (We were all about the object-based learning.) Later, as I transitioned to a new career path altogether, I saw the ways that one individual can wear different hats over a lifetime.

Grayboy, too, wore many hats, along with costumes that often took the form of a box he could put himself in. He wore the hats of gift givers and helpers (Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, elf, reindeer), just as he tried to help his humans by lying on our half-completed jigsaw puzzles and walking on our computer keyboards. While he was always an entertaining creature, he was especially entertaining when he dressed as an entertainer, like a jester or a fool.

Handsome gray cat sleeping on top of spread out jigsaw puzzle pieces

Grayboy helping us put together our Smithsonian puzzle

When he wore a king’s crown, he reminded us of what a leader he was, squeaking brilliant ideas that we wished we were smart enough to understand. Sometimes he wore the hat of an animated character (Sven, Jolteon), and sometimes he dressed as a character from a children’s literary classic (the Mad Hatter, the Wardrobe).

As a pumpkin on Halloween, a bunny on Easter, and the sun on the occasion of 2017’s total solar eclipse (his siblings were the moon and Earth), Grayboy personified the different hats worn by Mother Nature. He sat in boxes in order to be a playblock and a snowman, he took naps in his Easter basket, and he insisted that open egg cartons are a comfortable place to lie down. Family game nights involved Grayboy in the game box, if not on the actual board or cards or dominoes.

Grayboy will always be remembered as a sweet, talkative, silly creature with green eyes, a long tail, and puffy gray fur masquerading as big cheeks, who liked to spend time and snuggle with his humans on his own terms, and whose humans love him to the end of the universe and back times infinity.

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Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (June 2018)

June’s words were: bell, bird, bride, live, none, river, some, town, when

I went on a family vacation for half of June, which gave me lots of extra time to read – on planes, in airports, in four different unfamiliar beds. Since we traveled to Italy, that country is the subject of some of the below readings. Many other articles relate to the separation of asylum-seeking migrant families, a crisis that was unfolding and unraveling back home while I was on vacation. (My experience of trying to explore and enjoy Italy, the horrors at the border always on my mind, will likely be the subject of another long blog post.)

Other items I read in June are relevant to my interest in museums, or have something to do with my current job, or were written by or about authors on the recently announced 2018 National Book Festival speaker list. Or, in other cases, I just saw a link on Facebook or something interesting in a little or big library.


Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Vita Nuova by Magdalen Nabb

Short Stories:

“Cold Little Bird” by Ben Marcus

“The Origin of the Birds” by Italo Calvino

“Lucy Lives in a World of Infinite Possibility” by Roxane Gay


When My Brother Was an Aztec” by Natalie Diaz

When the Beloved Asks, ‘What Would You Do if You Woke Up and I Was a Shark?’“ by Natalie Diaz

“Why I Don’t Mention Flowers When Conversations with My Brother Reach Uncomfortable Silences” by Natalie Diaz

“A Wild Zoo Life” by Natalie Diaz

“Blue River” by Keith A. Gilkey

Articles/Essays/Editorials/Blog posts/etc.:

Asian Art Finds a Home on the Blue River Parkway – a year-old article about a new art gallery in Colorado.

the vr experience ‘lube river‘ is undoing the stigma around sex toys – No, this is not a case of mistyping the close anagram “blue river” as in the previous article. This NSFW piece by S. Nicole Lane discusses “a cross between experiential gaming and art installation” brought to New York City by artists based in the New Museum’s artist incubator.

A family was separated at the border, and this distraught father took his own life – amid the news of a couple of recent high-profile suicides, we also learn of one tragic ending to the traumatic events happening at the United States border.

‘New York Is a Union Town!’: MoMA Union Demonstrates Outside GalaArtNews reports on efforts by the Museum of Modern Art employees’ union on a number of issues.

Sailor museum exhibit reveals stories of life-saving pigeons, morale-boosting dogs, mascots – article about an exhibit at Illinois’s National Museum of the American Sailor.

UNO Student Tackles Bucket List With 6 Months to Live – a heartstrings-tugging story out of Omaha, where a college student living with cancer is determined to continue studying, visit France and Germany, and play Pokémon Go.

New Bell Museum to have bird-safe glass – a natural history museum in Minnesota will be in compliance with state law, which “requires bird-friendly design for buildings funded by the state” beginning in 2013.

Saving lives in her plan: Gaby Baack uses planning skills to organize blood drives – highlighting a Nebraska high school student who wants to give something Baack.

The Right Way to Run Out the Clock at Work When You Can’t Leave Early – because sometimes, you need to find a way to give your brain a break and still be productive.

7 Unexpected Ways to Boost Your Creativity (Even if You Think You Have None) –  I actually think I have a lot of creativity, so I found it interesting to read these suggestions (most of which I already do, quite a bit) from Jimmy Okuszka at themuse.com.

How to Ask to Pick Someone’s Brain—Without Being Annoying – five tips on the elusive informational interview, including not suggesting coffee.

Give A Pint At Audubon’s Red Cross Blood Drive, And You’ll Receive A Pound Of Birdseed – I love that this nature center in Jamestown, NY is offering an incentive directly related to their content area and mission. A typical blood drive provides snacks for blood donors, but this one also provides snacks for the birds.

Parks and Rec Aquatics Division honored by the American Red Cross for excellence in lifeguard training – probably the happiest thing I’ve read about Texas all month.

On Hawaii’s Big Island: Near Kilauea volcano, life ‘normal for none of us’ – recent sad news from Hawaii.

70 Different Email Sign-offs (for When You’re Sick of Saying “Best”) – I sent this list to a coworker, since she and I have also spent time brainstorming creative, often alliterative ways to end emails. I’ve personally never been a fan of “Best.”

How to Be Friends with Someone Who Works for You – I am pretty sure I could not be like Einat: In her role, Mariah often knew information that would impact Einat’s job, including possible layoffs and promotions. Even though they were close friends, Mariah had to keep this sensitive information confidential. Mariah trusted that Einat would understand the constraints on transparency because of their roles at work. When I talked with Einat, she did understand and called it her “suck-it-up muscle.”

Red Cross Safety Town Returns this June – an educational opportunity for kids in Greenwich, Connecticut, with classroom components as well as tours of emergency vehicles.

The Horror of Inhumane Immigrant Family Separation Demands We Cut Trump Supporters Out of Our Lives – I can’t agree with, and found it very uncomfortable to read, this Alternet piece, which demands a different kind of family separation.

Life Inside D.C.’s Motel Homeless Shelters – in recent local news, the conditions at motels serving as homeless shelters are pretty ugly.

17 Real-Life Would-You-Rathers I, a Woman, Have Had to Ask Myself – Isabella Giovannini’s piece at McSweeney’s clearly resonated with female readers, if my Facebook network’s newsfeed is any indication.

Madeleine Albright on Her Life in Pins – an interview with the former Secretary of State in Smithsonian Magazine, on the occasion of the 2010 exhibit of her pins.

(About that) Water is Life – information about a 2017 exhibit at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts curated by poet Heid E. Erdrich.

What the dip in US life expectancy is really about: inequality – a deeper look into a somber trend of overall life expectancy declining for Americans uncovers the widening gap between life expectancy for the wealthy and the poor.

Rep. Maxine Waters Goes On Live TV And Reads Actual Quotes Of Trump Inciting Violence – because the “lock her up” crowd suddenly wants civility. I am so confused.

Ajo, Arizona: A Small Town Pushed to the Brink, and Coming Back – Deborah Fallows discusses how an economically struggling town embraced art as a way to move forward.

What’s a Land Artist to Do When His Living Sculpture Starts Dying? David Nash Comes to Terms With the End of ‘Ash Dome’ – a British artist planted trees in a secret location with the intention that they would outlive him, but a fatal fungus has thwarted this goal.

We Wake Up When the Bombs Come Home – a thoughtful and prescient 2015 blog post from the brilliant Nerissa Nields.

When accountability looks like abuse: a call for trauma-informed social justice – something that has often been on my mind but that I’ve never been able to articulate this well. “And so here we are. Re-enacting our trauma on each other. And we’re letting it slide (or not seeing it) because our society isn’t trauma-informed. Including our political discourse. Even in social justice. For some us, the trauma we experience turns into mental illness.”

In Trump, some fear the end of the world order – a Washington Post article on the G-7 Summit held in June.

Gena Turgel, Holocaust survivor known as Bride of Belsen, dies – a moving obituary of a concentration camp survivor who helped care for Anne Frank in her last days and later dedicated her life to teaching new generations about the Holocaust.

Ark, lifeboat or something wilder? Future of zoos under debate – discussion of what role zoos should serve now and in the future. One question that must be considered, as ethics continue to move to the forefront of such conversations, is the well-being of species versus individuals.

The 5 Places Where People Live the Longest and Healthiest Lives – the common denominators seem to be unprocessed plant-based food, time for exercise as well as rest, a strong community, and a sense of purpose.

Why A Pro-Life World Has A Lot of Dead Women in It – in discussions of the complex topic of abortion, it is important to remember the financial and health risks of having a baby in the United States.

Bowie’s benefits touted on live local television broadcast – article by Capital Gazette shooting victim John McNamara.

Teen of the Week: South River senior is budding entrepreneur – article by Capital Gazette shooting victim Wendi Winters.

Rome’s Sparkling Fountain of the Four Rivers – A travel blog’s description of one of the sights I saw during my June trip to Italy.

Donald Trump only heeds “the law” when it comes to separating immigrant families. – From not defending the Affordable Care Act to ripping up documents to everything being investigated by Mueller, all these examples paint the portrait of a president who believes he is above the law.

When Justin Trudeau Asked How Canada Could Be a National Security Threat to the U.S., Trump Brought Up the War of 1812 – Jordan Weissman concludes that “Canada’s leaders have been wielding a catchy but slightly bogus argument to criticize America’s obviously insincere but perhaps legally sound justification for starting a trade war.”

When a Day in Court Is a Trap for Immigrants – Steve Coll’s New Yorker article explains, “Most often, ICE agents target criminal defendants who may be deportable, but they have also arrested people in New York family court, juvenile court, and specialized courts devoted to the prevention of human trafficking.”

When the White House Can’t Be Believed – NPR’s David Folkenflik argues that the Trump administration’s untrue and contradictory statements about the family separation policy fit right in with the president’s history of lying. Folkenflik concludes from Trump’s rationalizations, “It’s OK, apparently, to deceive the public as long as it’s through the nation’s leading newspaper.”

The Red Hen owner is right. Stop defending decorum and do something about Donald Trump. – Jason Sattler argues against the “We go high” approach that I’ve generally embraced, saying that to be civil is to “go on acting as if everything is normal as anti-immigrant smears turn into what many experts call child abuse.”

What Happens When Parents and Children Are Separated At The U.S.-Mexico Border – Transcript of an NPR interview: “There is an immigration attorney with the ACLU who described kids clinging to their mothers, having to be physically separated and parents telling the older ones – be brave; be brave.”

When ICE Tries to Deport Americans, Who Defends Them? – another New Yorker piece by Steve Coll. The stories here further confirm what I’ve come to believe after five years in the legal field: to the extent that the legal system can work at all, it only works when both sides have access to counsel. Period.

When you look at Melania Trump’s ‘I really don’t care’ jacket, remember the President’s worst crime isn’t family separation – “But take a closer look at that executive order, and it turns out Trump’s most horrible crime to date isn’t even locking children in cages – it’s having the balls to try and trick us into thinking he’s actually going to stop doing it,” argues this opinion piece.

Louise Erdrich discusses her new novel, ‘Future Home of the Living God’ – the author talks about one of the novels I read in June.

Scientists Pinpoint the Secret Password That Unlocks Cowbirds‘ Self-Identity – “…the auditory system generally associated with recognizing birdsong is divided into two components. One part helps them to identity other cowbirds using the chatter password, and the other enables them to learn songs from those cowbirds once they have joined a flock.”

None of the old rules apply’: Dave Eggers travels through post-election America – so eerie to read this November 2016 article in June 2018. “Would he really try to build a wall? Would he really try to exclude all Muslims? Would he actually appoint a white nationalist as his chief of staff? And did 42% of American women really vote for a man who threatened to overturn Roe v Wade and who bragged about grabbing them by the pussy? Did the white working class really elect a man whose most famous catchphrase was ‘You’re fired’?”

Southern Bells – blog post by Elizabeth Thomas about material culture she encountered and contemplated in her research on her ancestor William Holland Thomas.

When in Rome…Go Birding! – I can’t say I “went birding” in Rome, though I did see plenty of birds, in real life and in art.

Agnone, the bells’ town – a town in Italy known for its “ancient papal bell factory.”

Rome seals off roads caked with droppings from birds that binged on olives – fortunately for me and my family, this happened in January 2016, not in the last few weeks.

This Town Has a Plan to Protect Kids From ICE – Mount Pleasant, Iowa and its First Presbyterian Church are determined to keep its resident families together.

Everybody’s got the right to live: Living wages and housing – Just as in the above article, it’s always interesting to see other religions (in this case, the United Methodist Church) advocate for similar ideals as my own.

Beyoncé’s control of her own image belies the bell hooks ‘slave’ critique – Roxane Gay responds to hooks’s calling Beyoncé an “anti-feminist” and a “terrorist”.

9 Genius Ways To Change Someone’s Mind, According To Science – the ideas in this listicle cover a variety of situations, such as pitching a project proposal at work and trying to change another person’s beliefs.

Nazis separated me from my parents as a child. The trauma lasts a lifetime – “We can expect thousands of lives to be damaged, for many years or for ever, by ‘zero tolerance’. We can expect old men and women, decades from now, still suffering, still remembering, still writing in the present tense.”

All four living former first ladies condemn Trump border policy – No support for the policy exists among the bipartisan group of former first ladies alive today.

How can America sleep at night when families are being torn apart? – asks Jessica Valenti, rhetorically, in The Guardian.

How to sleep at night when families are being separated at the border – answers Alexandra Petri, satirically, in The Washington Post.

What’s Really Happening When Asylum-Seeking Families Are Separated? – lots of details on what has been happening at the border, including the difficulties migrants face in reaching the ports of entry where they are technically allowed to present their asylum cases (“So if you cross any other way besides the bridge, we’re prosecuting you. But . . . you can’t cross the bridge.”) as well as the two separate agencies tasked with detaining children and adults, respectively, with no system to reunite the two.

Sarah McBride: ‘Queer To Me Is Not Just My Identity. It’s An Action.’ – interview with trans writer and activist Sarah McBride. Happy belated Pride!

Audiobook whose print version I read years ago and fell asleep listening to in June:

A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul

Movie version I watched of a book I read years ago:

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

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Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (May 2018)

May’s words were: pearl, flower, clasp, pale, mountain, one, never, dog, around

Here’s what I read and listened to:


On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard A. Hunt


Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng


Asleep! O Sleep A Little While, White Pearl!” by John Keats

Pale Grace and Ashes” by Robin Niendick

The Clasp” by Margaret Cavendish, which the poet wrote, in the 17th century, about my life (“For I did walk, and think, and break my brains.”)


Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’ Is a Masterpiece of Racial Metaphor” by Mimi Wong at Electric Literature

One-third of American households have struggled to afford either food, shelter or medical care” on MarketWatch. Survey results add yet more evidence of a grim new reality.

Teenage Vandals Were Sentenced to Read Books. Here’s What One Learned.” – article in the New York Times, about a local museum-and-book-related case in Loudoun County, VA.

Millennials born in 1980s may never recover from the Great Recession” by Tami Luhby on CNN’s website. Ugh. I was born in the 1980s and was hoping to recover maybe in time to retire someday?

Dog Always Brings A Leaf To ‘Buy’ Himself Treats At The Store” – this story from The Dodo is adorable.

No one is an ‘animal’ “ by E.J. Dionne Jr. in the Washington Post, arguing that it is never appropriate for the president to use dehumanizing language.

We read every one of the 3,517 Facebook ads bought by Russians. Here’s what we found” is a chilling USA Today article.

One French Museum Just Discovered Half Its Paintings Are Fake” in Fortune discusses an unhappy discovery at the Terrus Museum.

Museum Discovers One Of The Largest Eggs Ever Laid Mislabelled As A Model” at iflscience.com regarding the Buffalo Museum of Science is perhaps the flip side of the same coin as the previous article.


Around the world in 15 minutes” – a 1992 broadcast from the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Books that I read start-to-finish in the past, for which I listened to parts of the audio versions in May 2018 (and slept through other parts):

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – plus I watched the movie in May

The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard


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Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (April 2018)

In April, I received doctor’s orders to listen to podcasts, so this list includes pieces that I read (with my eyes) as well as items I listened to (with my ears).

The key words for April were: clear, rain, lily, basket, out, gather, valley, all, cross


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Young Adult Novels:

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah


Rain in Summer” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In the Valley of Cautertz” by Alfred Lord Tennyson

‘Yes, I loved those nocturnal gatherings – ‘” by Anna Akhmatova

Flower-gathering” by Robert Frost


Check Out the World’s Largest Archive Digitally Preserving At-Risk Heritage Sites” in the Smithsonian Magazine details this digitization project, which features 27 heritage sites so far, including three I have visited (the Lincoln Memorial, Taos Pueblo, and Teotihuacán).

The new Bible museum tells a clear, powerful story. And it could change the museum business.” A review of DC’s new Museum of the Bible in the Washington Post discusses how the museum’s underlying assumption of the Bible being absolute truth would be received differently by believers as opposed to atheists, agnostics, and adherents to other world religions. I am also curious about how the messaging would be interpreted by members of religions whose holy books have some overlap with the Bible, as well as Christians who believe in the Bible as metaphor but not literal history.

We do not all ‘have as many hours as Beyoncé’” by Bobbi Dempsey in Quartz: “You never know what’s going on in people’s lives—and if you come at them with a shaming attitude, you likely won’t ever find out, because nobody is going to open up to someone who treats them in that way.”

Unsellable 196-Foot Picnic Basket Marked Down to $5 Million” on Gizmodo gets a handle on the woes of Longaberger’s giant basket-shaped building as of September 2016. (The building eventually sold in late 2017.)

Not everyone feels welcome camping out in ‘third spaces’ like Starbucks” is an NPR article that I found on whyy.org. The headline should not be surprising to anyone who’s been following Starbucks in the news of late.

Podcasts/audio articles/etc.:

You Cannot Go Out” on UU World

We Have All Been Charged” on UU World

The Audio Book Club Squints at All the Light We Cannot Seefrom the Slate Audio Book Club

Museums at a Crossroads with Rainey Tisdale” at Museum Archipelago (okay, maybe it’s a stretch to count this as having two different words from the challenge)

The Red Cross Task Force” – a 1964 broadcast from the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross

Basket of Deportables” on This American Life; the episode starts out as a tearjerker, then segues into how haphazardly, and with how little coordination with experts and government agencies, the travel ban was put into effect in January 2017.

Scientists Seek To Save Endangered Western Lily” – a short recording from WBUR in Oregon

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Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (March 2018)

Here are the March keywords in the Monthly Key Word Challenge: green, luck, great, shout, hope, wrong, rope, carry, into

I should preface my March reading update with noting two things related to my reading that happened during the month. First, I experienced the limitations of the monthly keyword reading challenge not only in terms of the selection (the title must contain one of nine specified words) but also in terms of the timeframe. March ended with a couple of books only partly finished, and according to the rules, I can’t finish them in April since I now have a new set of nine words. I ended up finishing only one actual book (and not a long one at that), in addition to reading a slew of shorter pieces.

Second, and somewhat related, I considered the question of quantity, or volume, of my reading. I do not consider myself a fast reader, and the flip side of that coin is feeling that I’m never reading enough.

But was there any amount of news and written pieces that I could have read that would have changed my vote in November 2016? More to the point, is there any single thing out there I could have read that would have overcome the absolute deal-breaker of calling for a ban of all Muslims from the country? Or that would have in any way aligned my values with such gems as “I like people who weren’t captured” or “Grab ‘em by the pussy” or “Lock her up” or keeping the birther conspiracy theories alive?

Nonetheless, I thought I’d get out of my bubble a little bit by reading articles (with the monthly keywords in the headlines!) from right-of-center news sources with some degree of being considered reputable (no Breitbart or Infowars, obviously).

I read Rod Drehrer’s “Finding Hope In Europe’s Most Atheist Country” in The American Conservative which combined food and travel descriptions which some dog-whistle language. What most struck me was the use of the word confusion (as in, the concerns about confusion in the church, confusion in society) where my best approximation would be the word complexity.

Additionally, I read “Citigroup Takes Gun Control Into its Own Hands” in the National Review by Jack Crowe. I am not a regular reader of this publication, but I can only imagine that it takes what is known as a pro-business stance, of which this bank’s exercise of autonomy and values must be a perfect example.

Listed below is everything else I read.


Carry Me Across the Water by Ethan Canin

Short Stories:

“The Wrong Side of the Planet” by Joe Schembrie in the October 2005 issue of Analog

Rope” by Katherine Anne Porter in Women & Fiction: Short Stories By and About Women

“The Greenward Palindrome” by Barry Duncan in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012


“Striving for Greatness” by Andrew Rigefsky in the Spring 2009 issue of Wooden Teeth


“Dip Into Happiness” by Hana Zeric, from The Best Teen Writing of 2013

“Julien Green: The End of a World” by Francis-Noël Thomas in the July/August 2012 issue of Humanities

“Cross My Heart and Hope to Die” by Doug Muder in the Spring 2016 issue of UU World

“Committing to love and hope” by Michele David in the Summer 2016 issue of UU World

Hope for the heartbroken” by the Rev. Sean Parker Dennison in the Winter 2016 issue of UU World

“War Rugs: Woven Documents of Conflict and Hope” by William Charland in the November 2011 issue of Art Education

“Shades of Green: Growing Environmentalism through Art Education” by Hilary Inwood in the November 2010 issue of Art Education

“Potlucky” by Sam Sifton in The Best Food Writing 2010

The New Yorker’s ‘Cat Person’ Story Is Great. Too Bad the Internet Turned It Into a Piping-Hot Thinkpiece.” An article by Laura Miller in Slate, on Kristen Roupenian’s “Cat Person”.

At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions.” This Washington Post article from November just recently popped up in my Facebook feed. Spoiler alert: when people feel safe, they give more liberal responses; when they feel threatened, they give more conservative answers. I would be interested to see how these variables interact with demographic data, i.e. to what degree a respondent occupies privileged or marginalized positions in society.

Everything we think about the political correctness debate is wrong,” writes Matthew Yglesias in Vox, discussing how the data counter the notion of free speech being destroyed by political correctness run amok on college campuses.

Making America great again, one ruined family at a time.” A piece in the Boston Globe questioning both the “sense” and the “moral currency” in deporting a tax-paying, law-abiding (aside from one speeding ticket years ago) father who is in the pipeline to be approved for a green card.

New York Museum to Aid Green-card Holders in US Citizenship Quest.” On the subject of green cards, this initiative by the New-York Historical Society sounds so cool: “The program will include free workshops and classes, paired with displays and a scavenger hunt at the museum on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, all linked to questions on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization test — the final hurdle to citizenship.”

Escaping Poverty Requires Almost 20 Years With Nearly Nothing Going Wrong” by Gillian B. White in the Atlantic, reviewing the book The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, by Peter Temin.

Shout Out: Warren Mueller, a Barrington Hills resident who volunteers at American Red Cross” –  It was a bit of a challenge to find the word “shout” in a title or headline, but I did find it in the context of “Shout Out” in this short Chicago Tribune interview.

At the Prado, Love That Now Dares to Shout Its Name” – And then I found this June 2017 article on an exhibit in Madrid displaying art relating to themes of diverse sexualities and gender identities. The show, according to the museum’s director, “should probably have been done 10 years ago, but it’s never too late.”

A Shade of Green: Ten Practical Steps for Museums” is a 2017 guest post by Joshua Lichty on the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice’s blog.

How Cambridge Analytica turned Facebook ‘likes’ into a lucrative political tool” by Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison in the Guardian, spelling out the creepy and dystopian turns our world has taken of late.

We’re Teaching Grit the Wrong Way” in the Chronicle of Higher Education posits that it is more effective to teach students to harness the power of positive and socially constructive emotions, rather than setting up a vicious cycle of trying to suppress (and thus exacerbating) negative ones.

Baltimore Cops Carried Toy Guns to Plant on People They Shot, Trial Reveals” packs a lot of damning information into a short article.

Roommates made their friend’s room into a poorly researched museum” – what a combination of inspiration and lamination!

Husband Saves Wife by Administering CPR as She Went Into Cardiac Arrest Weeks After Giving Birth” in People is a story with a happy ending.

In aftermath of marathon bombings, two men turn tragedy into triumph”. Amidst the many stories about recent tragedies, this article discusses the aftermath of an attack that happened nearly five years ago.

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Valentine’s Day at the Zoo

Last year, a family member adopted a young cat, and thus the most playful cat in the world became a part of my life. Last month, I searched pet supply stores for a Valentine’s Day-themed cat toy for him, surprised by how difficult it was to find anything. I could have bought something online, but I was worried it wouldn’t arrive on time. Finally, on a tip from a friend, I went to a small store that was selling little red hearts filled with catnip. I picked up two of the hearts, a couple other tiny toys, and a red food bowl.

After the gift was given to the kitty, he found the discarded gift tag I’d put on the wrapped present and played with that (in addition to playing with the toys themselves). Of course, he didn’t care whether his toys were Valentine’s Day-themed, being a cat. This particular cat doesn’t even care whether his toys are toys. The insistence on finding a seasonal gift was all my doing, to keep in the spirit of the holiday.

Similarly, the cats (and other animals) at zoos around the world need enrichment in their lives, but the fact that so many enrichment items took the form of red and pink hearts last month made no difference to the animals. The Valentine’s Day-themed objects are a hook to get humans engaged – and to give visitors a chance to learn about the ways that enrichment keeps the animals physically and mentally active throughout the year.

The Oregon Zoo and Banfield Pet Hospital put together this Cat Enrichment Guide showing examples of stimulation and novelty for zoo felines, and the corresponding version for the housecat. As cat owners know, pet cats like scratching posts, toys that dangle, and window perches that allow them to see outside. Big cats benefit from interesting smells and herbs, elevated perches, and live crickets. Cats of a variety of sizes enjoy boxes and catnip.

Among the recent enrichment given to cat species in zoos were heart-shaped blood popsicles for lions at Potter Park Zoo, a large heart cutout for the clouded leopard at the Nashville Zoo, and a pink and white decorated box for the snow leopard at the Philadelphia Zoo. Enrichment isn’t limited to cats, and a variety of critters took part in activities designed for their species.

I hope you had a happy and enriching Valentine’s Day!

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Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (February 2018)

February’s words were: pink, snow, heart, arrow, point, right, holiday, walk, and


Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (also The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam)


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Short stories:

Hearts and Hands” by O. Henry

Cupid’s Arrows” by Rudyard Kipling

Articles and essays:

UK museums’ right to charge image fees is called into question” in The Art Newspaper discusses the legal aspects of museums’ charging for images of works of art no longer protected by copyright.

Cop suspended amid rebel flag dispute at civil rights museum” about a recent incident at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

Candy Heart messages written by a neural network” by Janelle Shane. I love this stuff, as long as it’s all fun and games.

The Only Good Thing About Winter Is This Story Written in Snow shares Shelley Jackson’s unique work with Electric Literature readers.

Donald Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity.” Besides all the seedy details, my main takeaway from this New Yorker article was the ability of the press (albeit a tabloid, in this case) to suppress rather than report the news. The result is that Karen McDougal now has been silenced from talking about her own life.

From Bellingham To Tallahassee Students ‘Walk Out’ Demanding Gun Reform.” This NPR story highlights a teen from my congregation among the many around the country who marched.

The Slave-State Origins of Modern Gun Rights” is a 2015 Atlantic piece that remains relevant as ever.

“The Pink Sari” by Pooja Chandrashekar, from The Best Teen Writing of 2013.

Why Swedes Take At Least 5 Weeks Of Holidays” from Business Insider. “I’d be hard pressed to count the number of times American friends have expressed hesitation about using what few vacation days they’re allotted. Some of the common fears appear to be fear of seeming less loyal, falling behind career-wise or lowering the productivity of the company. Even with this corporate-centric outlook (which is a sad outlook to have on life), however, it turns out skimping on vacation is actually bad for productivity.”

Fake news sharing in US is a rightwing thing, says study.” This Guardian article discusses a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford.

Dow falls more than 1,000 in biggest daily point-drop ever” reported Sylvan Lane in The Hill in early February.

Yes, and… Comfort and Discomfort in Museum Guide Programs” by Karleen Gardner in Museum Education Roundtable discusses the question of how paid and volunteer museum guides can facilitate interactions on difficult topics while also making visitors feel comfortable in the museum.

Human rights exhibition is first of its kind” – this article discusses a new permanent exhibit at the Sydney Jewish Museum. The exhibit is the “first of its kind” in Australia.

Posted in 2018 Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge, Articles and Books, Museums and Holidays, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment