I’m back!

I may have gotten a little carried away at IRA…what do you think? My dog (the black blob in the upper right) thinks I definitely got carried away…

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I had a great time and will blog about the whole IRA experience tomorrow at kidlit_central. Today I’m going to write about everything except IRA.

Anyone who knows me knows that going to IRA was really just an excuse to go visit a bunch of people.

I’ve lived in Iowa for 14 1/2 years now, so I guess that sort of makes me an Iowan. But still…my heart always skips a couple beats whenever I drive past this sign (I grew up in a small town nine miles north of this sign):

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I may be an Iowan, but Minnesota will always be home. And this particular visit to Minnesota really was a homecoming of sorts.

Any children’s author who struggles with emotion in their writing should do what I did: 1) don’t go back to your hometown very often…and 2) then when you do go back, put the music you listened to when you were a kid on your music player and take a walk around town. If you’re like me, not only will all these memories come flooding back…so will the raw emotion attached to each memory. (I won’t go into all that….)

I visited my dad both on my way up and on my way home (he was having a pretty good day yesterday):

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And my brand new niece (only five days old on this picture…she may very well be the third most adorable baby I’ve ever seen in my life):

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And my BFF:

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Just for fun, here’s a picture of us in 11th grade (look at that HAIR!!! Yes, I was in high school during the big hair craze…and here’s the proof that I really did wear make-up at one point in my life…I don’t even own any make-up now):

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I wish I could’ve found a picture of us in 6th grade…that’s when we met. The first day of 6th grade. But all those pictures must be at my mom’s. Paula and I became instant best friends because we still liked to play Barbies in 6th grade and all the other girls were into BOYS. We didn’t play Barbies to dress them up…we played to act out our stories.

Paula moved away partway into our junior year. Her leaving was among the worst things that had ever happened to me. Her moving BACK six months later was almost as bad because we had both changed quite a bit during those six months apart. But we did manage to find our way back to each other. The older I get, the more I value this particular friendship. Paula and I have been friends for 32 years. That’s not an insignificant amount of time! I’m not sure even my husband knows me as deeply as she does.

And here I am with my college roommate…I stayed with her in the Twin Cities:

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While Paula and I are a lot alike, Julie and I are total opposites. In terms of politics and religion, we couldn’t be further apart. And I’ll never forget the day I moved into her room. One of the first things she said to me was, “I don’t really like to read.” It was like sticking a knife into my gut. I could deal with her politics and her religion, but I honestly wasn’t sure I could live with someone who didn’t like to read!!! And here we are 26 years later. She is among my oldest and dearest friends.

WHY??? I think what I most appreciate about Julie is 1) Her honesty. There’s never any question where you stand with her–she will always tell you. Whether you want to hear it or not. 2) Despite the fact she has these strong religious and political views, she can accept the fact that other people have different views and she is okay with that. 3) She really tries hard to be a good person. All the time. Not just on Sundays.

When I was in high school, I didn’t have a lot of friends in my own grade. During my freshman and sophomore years, with the exception of Paula (and 4-5 others), my friends were the juniors and seniors who were on the newspaper staff. But then they graduated…and Paula moved away…and I felt like I was all alone. I had people to eat lunch with, but nobody I was really close to.

Enter “the freshmen.” Jennie and Denise. They joined the newspaper staff…and they became my closest friends. Until there was a falling out between the two of them my senior year. They both came to my wedding, but I have not seen either of them since. And if it wasn’t for Jennie, I never would’ve even met my husband. I still have no idea where Jennie is today, but Denise and I have reconnected via Facebook…and we met for lunch yesterday:

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I also went in here yesterday:

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This is the library where I worked all through high school. It was my home away from home. It was so important to me (as important as becoming an author) that on my last day there, the day before I left for college, I vowed I would not go back in there until I was a published author. And while I’ve been a published author for a while now, I haven’t been back in that library…not until yesterday. I don’t go back to my hometown real often and when I do go back, it tends to be when the library isn’t open.

But look…they have some of my books:

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(And when I got there, that Hermit Thrush Sings book was sandwiched in the middle of MY books…ever the librarian, I moved it where it belonged…)

I also met my brother at the Mall of America for dinner
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but unfortunately, I forgot to get out my camera once I actually found him in this huge place (at one point we waved to each other across this amusement park…and I was able to call home and talk to my family for a few minutes during the time it took me to walk all the way over to where he was…yes, I sort of hate the Mall of America).

In case you hadn’t guessed, I got a new camera right before my trip and have been having a little too much fun with it.


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