Judy Blume

Judy Blume is everywhere right now. With her book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret being turned into a movie, there are articles, a short film on Netflix, and more. I watched the Netflix show and felt surprisingly emotional. She talked about how many letters she’d receive. I recalled that I’d written her and received a form letter/brochure in return with her signature. Reading her letter I’m impressed how open and forthright she was, but that’s how she was in her books as well. I think she was the first author who I truly loved. She put into words many thoughts, concepts, embarrassments that I wouldn’t have uttered out loud even to myself. Her quote above references her young readers asking, ‘But how do you know all our secrets?…” Thank you, Judy Blume for the impact you had on me and so many others.

My library story

I’ve been a reader since before I can remember. And, I have loved libraries just as long. As a child, I rode my bike to our local library tucked into the city hall on our town square. I’d spend hours digging through the stacks to find a pile of books to bring home. For a while when a neighbor girl worked there, I volunteered shelving books. One day I opened a fusty book to discover my dad’s name scribbled on the checkout card. After some brief calculations, I realized he had read the book when he was younger than I was.

College years were spent studying in university libraries. Besides their role as a place to research, libraries at that time represented respite from distractions and the only truly quiet spot to write papers.

But it wasn’t until I moved to a teeny town in the far northwest corner of Minnesota that the library became my connection to the outside world and to the strangers who were my new neighbors.

Shortly after I moved to town, I took a temporary job at the city filling in for the office manager who was on maternity leave. I had recently quit my first job out of college working with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Later that year I would be going to graduate school. Adjusting to the move was a challenge. I knew my in-laws, but few others. I wasn’t that excited about living in such a remote village. At that time, there was no internet, streaming services, or social media. It was lonely.

One of the frequent visitors at the city office was Jeanette, the librarian. She would trek into the basement of the city hall to use our copier. Jeanette and I talked while she made copies for the library. She was open, friendly, and interesting and she wore Birkenstocks. I instantly liked her. And so, I started to visit the library. The culture at the library was different than what I’d experienced before. There was no shushing. Everyone was welcome. There were overstuffed chairs and a well-worn leather sofa that served as a gathering spot and encouraged visitors to stay awhile. And there were foreign films on VHS, books on tape, and bestsellers, classics and soon-to-be discovered favorites crammed onto shelves. I met interesting characters and made friends. One woman who had lived in Africa and ran the New York Marathon at age 50 taught me to knit. I joked with old men about politics. Jeanette became my closest friend, even though she was older than my parents and I was younger than all her 6 kids. During graduate school, I requested journal articles and books for my research, making it possible to work from a remote location. Not long after, I joined the library board and eventually became the chair, which I still am. 

Years passed and after starting a campaign to remodel, we secured funding to expand the space. Later, I introduced my own book-loving kids to the library.

My commitment to the library is as strong as ever. I have volunteered with countless tasks — fundraisers, book sales, shelving books, writing grants, attending city council or county board meetings to ask for funding, reading at story hour – you name it. Today like most libraries, there are public computers, WIFI, digital books and magazines, and the library offers all kinds of programming, like theater, Flamenco dance classes, jewelry making, or presentations about craft beer. We’ve hosted more Minnesota authors than I can recall, including me after my own book was published.

The library has changed a lot, but it’s still THE welcoming spot in Hallock. When I meet newcomers,  I ask if they’ve checked out the library. It’s where young kids flock to story hour or retirees camp out and exchange stories or read the newspaper. It’s where you can discover your new favorite author. It’s also where you can meet your best friend or find your place in an uncertain world.

Hallock in the News

We’ve been busy in Hallock applying for grants and taking on projects to improve our charming city. Because of this, we’ve gotten lots of good press.

Northwest Minnesota Foundation Annual Report

Articles about our branding process, our city, and our pollinator garden were in the Grand Forks Herald, Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Growler Magazine and more…

See below:






Pollinator Garden

I recently had the opportunity to participate in planting a pollinator garden around the gazebo downtown Hallock. The garden is one of Hallock Main Street’s (our downtown development group) community efforts to improve the quality of life downtown by enhancing our natural resources and green space.Here’s a brief rundown of how it happened.

The garden grew out of a Northwest Minnesota Foundation grant that was awarded to the city through the efforts of Hallock Main Street. The Northwest Minnesota Regional Development Partnership Board provided funding and a connection to University of Minnesota Crookston Associate Professor Eric Castle and his Spring 2018 Landscape Design Class who drew up plans for pollinator gardens in four different locations throughout Hallock. Student MacKenzie Cochran created the plans for this garden. C&M Ford held a Drive 4 Ur Community Event to raise matching funds from Ford Motor Company to purchase the plants. They also provided a tiller and staff time to prepare the area. Darcene Burgess of Burgess Greenhouse worked closely with the city to modify the plans and secure the plants. The Two River 4H Club and their parents planted the garden. Master Gardener Mary Cooney lent her expertise by coordinating the plantings and directing the 4Hers and parents. Cooney and Jeanne Cooney will also be donating the mulch. Farmer Mike Gunnarson provided a water tank to water the plants during the planting. Other volunteers include Brent Donaldson and Tom Cooney.

Truthfully, I complained a lot beforehand. I had written the grant and then got stuck leading the efforts to get the garden planted, which took a ton of coordination and wrangling and finding matching funds, etc. But, I felt heartened when people stepped up to get the project done as it got closer to planting. I loved planting along with the 4H kids. Most of the time I worked with two sisters — one who wore a Vikings cheerleading costume while she gardened. They struck up conversations as we worked. One asked me what my favorite car was. I said, “well, I drive a Taurus and I really like it. How about you?” She replied, “I don’t drive.” The kids all worked hard and they stayed focused . We didn’t think we’d get the 200 plants in the ground that afternoon, but we did.

This truly was a group effort where many volunteers and funders stepped in make it happen.

What is a pollinator garden anyway?

Besides natural beauty, a pollinator habitat garden was chosen for a few reasons. Pollinators, including bees and butterflies, and other beneficial insects have been declining in recent years. Food production and farming rely on pollinators. These plants contribute a vital role in the production of crops. Pollinator gardens also tend to require less maintenance.



Kittson County Adventures

Nothing to do near the Edge of the World? Hardly. Last weekend our friends Darcey Engen and Luverne Seifert of Sod House Theater came to Hallock. They put on a free acting workshop.They’ll be back in July with a group of professional actors and will be performing An Enemy of the People with the help of some local actors.







After the workshop we drove to remote Caribou for a rummage sale and then to a Ukranian Church.





We stopped to find some morels and discovered a nest of eggs.

Not pictured: our stop at Far North Spirits and Revelation Ale. And, then home to watch The Americans.

Let him know that aprons fit men, too!

My mom kept a cedar chest and a few boxes of mementos from high school, 4H, college, her wedding showers and beyond. I discovered a pile of “Congratulatory Telegrams” where wedding shower attendees wrote their advice. I included names when I could, and funny, but I know a number of these people.Times have clearly changed.

Advice for a bride in 1963:

Let him know that aprons fit men, too!

Don’t spoil him! Make him help with some of the housework, especially cooking. Peggy Chapman

Mary and Don – May all rosy years and darling ones new always be yours.

I think the word “Togetherness” is the most important thing I can tell you. Don’t spoil him too much, and in turn don’t expect too much! Terry Raap

Be sure to get up and get his breakfast and always have meals on time.

Don should always prepare the breakfast.

If supper is going to be late, set the table and put the bread and butter on anyway. It will fool him for awhile.

P.S. I hope you’ll share the advice you get and I’ll give you more in a couple of weeks. Nancy Wise

Always have Don help with the dishes. Lucille L

Dear Mary and Don, Since I don’t know either you or your husband very well I’ll start off by saying good luck. The first few weeks are the most glorious of all. If you were like me, the thing I worried about the most was cooking for him, but if he loves you enough he won’t care what he eats. Best Wishes

Dear Mary – “Be slow to anger, quick to forgive.” Aunt Abby

Best wishes, good luck, Just jump when he calls and baby him. He will love you.

Mary –: I will only say Best Wishes. How can a spinster give advice to a bride! CAROL

Mary, Don’t let Don buy a dog. MAP

Don’t go to bed with your hair up in rollers!

Congratulations! Always start each day by having breakfast together. Shirley Pierce

Train him right. No breakfast in bed. No picking up after him. Let him wait on you now and then. Joan Donovan

Keep smiling. Das ist gut!