Tuesday, December 1, 2015

#SOL15: Writing, Agency, and Colonization

Blue Ridge Mountains III (M.A. Reilly, 2009)

This morning I withdrew an article that required some revision before being published.  Originally the article was 12,000 words and I whittle it down to about 8,000 at the insistence of the editors who have been patient and the peer reviewers who have been somewhat helpful.  And although I have never not returned a manuscript that was accepted or accepted with revisions prior to this morning, I did so today.

With Rob's care and my responsibilities, priorities shift and time feels far more constrained.  I do plan to revise the essay again as I want to see it finished and see what it is I must learn. I realize though that presently such work will need to wait as I just do not have the clarity of thought to write academically and I know that this work is far from done.

I don't know what I most want to say and so I have said a lot of things not worth reading. As John Cage might say, "I have nothing to say" and unfortunately I am saying it (over and over). I do realize that there is something there that is important and I am missing it, for now.


I think about this authorial freedom to wade into a work or set it aside and think about my son in high school where such options are rarely afforded, if ever.  Yes, I am confident his teachers would make exceptions for him especially now as he struggles with all that is happening at home--but the agency would reside with his teachers to a larger extent and that is highly problematic--especially for writers, thinkers, doers.

Good writing requires thought.
Better writing requires agency.


Agency is more important than the myriad of lessons taught via mini lessons, focus lessons, workshop lessons and the like. The right to determine the trajectory of a work is a large part of the writing.  I wonder where that happens at school in these days of Common Core, non-organic workshops, and those units of study that come pre-made, written for teachers to enact as if teachers and students were interchangeable cogs.  This is the very definition of being colonized.

Hopefully there is some young writer in some US classroom testing his or her agency, helping the teacher to understand that the more important lesson is one we do not teach directly.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Noli Timere

What is Written (M.A. Reilly, 2010, Sant’Anna in Camprena, Pienza)

Noli timere. (Do not be afraid).


There is no emotional preparation for death.

There's nothing that will soften the pain or let loose the frenzied despair that seems now to form the marrow of my bones. Pain is elemental and what I most wish to distance my son from cannot be had. No amount of preparation, no amount of bartering, no desperate late night promises to God will ease our loss.

I know this even as I try not to.


Years ago I sat in the back seat of a limousine with Rob who wrapped his hand around mine. We were stopped at a light and I spent those minutes looking into the windows of cars, fascinated by the ordinary lives of others.  It was a wild animal desperation that seized me, urged me to covet the imagined lives of those passing by. I wanted to loose my body in those moments and become someone else, anyone else, anyone but myself.

Too frantic to sit in my own skin, I shifted as the car started and the truth is that it was only Rob's hand wrapped around mine that tethered me to the earth as we made our way to the cemetery to bury my mother on a too beautiful, too spring day in early May. I simply did not know how to be in the world with her no longer here and my husband's touch was an anchor I could not know I needed.

Touch matters.


Loss can not be preempted.

This is a hard truth I learned at 40 and an impossibly cruel one to learn at 17. My son  is two months shy of that mark and as I watch him I wonder if he is too young to bear the weight of such loss. I want to gather him to me and tell him to prepare, but I don't do this as those words are more for me than him.  I have left the here and now--the place where hope is still kindled and have traveled to a darker, distant time where no amount of preparation can soften what the heart cannot decipher.


I resist the mistaken urge to caution him about matters of death and loss and instead reach out and hold his hand.

We will hurt, I think.
And this pain will reveal the many ways we have been loved.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Primary Grade Text Set: 70+ Winter Guided Reading Books, Part 2

from Over and Under

Level B: Literature
  1. Mayer, Mercer. (2009). Snow Day.  Paradise CA: Paw Prints. (BR, 2/B)

Level D: Literature
  1. Meister, Carl. (2001). Tiny the Snow Dog (Puffin Easy-to-Read, Level 1). Illustrated by Rich Davis. New York: Penguin Young Readers.  (6/D)
  2. Crews, Nina. (1997). Snowball. New York: Greenwillow Books. (190L,6/D)
  3. Medearis, Angela Shelf. (2002). Best Friends in the Snow.  Illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max. New York: Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. (60L, 6/D)
Level E: Literature
  1. Medearis, Angela Shelf.  (1996). Here Comes the Snow! Illustrated by Maxie Chambliss. New York: Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. (8/E)
Level F: Literature
  1. Ernst, Lisa Campbell. (2008). Snow Surprise. (Green Light Readers: Level 2). New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. (10/F)
  2. Hoban, Julia. (1993). Amy Loves the Snow. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. New York: Scholastic. (10/F)
  3. Remkiewicz, Frank. (2011). Scholastic Reader Pre-Level 1: Gus Makes a Friend. New York: Scholastic. (10/F)
Add caption
Level G: Informational
  1. Wallace, Karen. (2000). A Bed for Winter (Level 1).  New York: DK. (240L, 12/G)
Level G: Literature
  1. Armstrong, Jennifer. (1996).  The Snowball (Step-Into-Reading, Level 1). New York: Random House Books for Young Readers. (100L, 12/G)
  2. Briggs, Raymond. (2015). The Snowman and the Snowdog (Step-Into-Reading, Level 1). New York: Random House Books for Young Readers. (110L, 12/G)
  3. Briggs, Raymond. (1999). The Snowman (Step-Into-Reading, Level 1). New York: Random House Books for Young Readers. (70L, 12/G)
  4. Capucilli, Alyssa Satin (2011). Biscuit's Snowy Day. Illustrated by Pat Schories. New York: Harper. (12/G)
  5. Farley, Robin. (2014). Mia: The Snow Day Ballet. Illustrated by Olga Ivanov. New York: Harper Festival. (12/G)
  6. Scieszka, Jon. (2008). Snow Trucking! (Jon Scieszka's Trucktown). Illustrated by David Gordon. New York: Simon Spotlight. (12/G)
Level HInformational
  1. Marzollo, Jean. (2000). I Am Snow. Illustrated by Judith Moffatt. New York: Scholastic. (14/H)
Level H: Literature
  1. Buehner, Caralyn.  (2002). Snowmen at Night. Illustrated by Mark Buehner. New York: Dial Books. (14/H)
  2. Fleming, Denise. (2001). Time to Sleep. New York: Square Fish. (310L, 14H)
  3. Lakin, Pat. (2002). Snow Day. Illustrated by Scott Nash. New York: Dial Books. (BR, 14/H)
  4. McNamara, Margaret. (2015). Snow Day. Illustrated by Mike Gordon. New York: Simon and Schuster. (240L, 14/H)
Level I: Literature
  1. Drummond, Ree. (2013). Charlie's Snow Day. Illustrated by Diane deGroat. New York: HarperCollins. (250L, 16/I) 
  2. Harper, Lee. (2010). Snow! Snow! Snow!  New York: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books. (230L, 16/I)
  3. Keller, Holly.  (1991). Geraldine's Big Snow. New York: Scholastic. (16/I)
  4. Rocco, John. (2014). Blizzard. New York: Disney-Hyperion (2012 Caldecott Honor Book) (16/I)
  5. Scotton, Rob. (2013). Splat the Cat: Blow, Snow, Blow (I Can Read Level 1).  New York: HarperCollins (360L, GR Level 16/I)
  6. Seuling, Barbara. (1998). Winter Lullaby. Illustrated by Greg Newbold. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. (610L, 16/I)
Level J: Informational
  1. Bauer,  Marion Dane. (2016). Snow (Ready-to-Read, Leveled 1). Illustrated by John Wallace.  New York: Simon Spotlight. (440L, 16/J)
  2. Gibbons, Gail. (2006). Valentine's Day Is. New York: Holiday House. (410L, 16/J)
Level J: Literature 

  1. Barkly, Bob. (2002). Winter Ice Is Nice!  Illustrated by Carolyn Bracken. New York: Scholastic. (16/J)
  2. Beck, Ian. (2002). Teddy's Snowy Day. New York: Scholastic. (310L, 16/J)
  3. Biggs, Brian. (2012).  Everything Goes: Henry Goes Skating. Illustrated by Brian Biggs and Simon Abbott. New York: HarperCollins. (16/J)
  4. Carle, Eric. (2000). Dream Snow. New York: Philomel Books. (300L, 16/J)
  5. Ehlert, Lois. (1999). Snowballs. Boston: MA: HMH Books for Young Readers. (16/J)
  6. Figueredo, D.H. (1999). When this World Was New. Illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez. New York: Lee & Low Books. (440L, 18/J)
  7. Keats, Ezra Jack. (1976). The Snowy Day.  New York: Puffin Books. (500L) (1963 Caldecott Medal winner) (500L, 16/J)
  8. Rylant, Cynthia. (2012). Poppleton in Winter. Illustrated by Mark Teague. New York: Scholastic. (16/J)
  9. Rylant, Cynthia. (2011). Annie and Snowball and the Wintry Freeze. Illustrated by Sucie Stevenson. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  10. Rylant, Cynthia. (2000). Henry And Mudge And The Snowman Plan. Illustrated by Sucie Stevenson. New York: Simon and Schuster. (350L, 16/J)
  11. Yee, Wong Herbert. (2010). Mouse and Mole, A Winter Wonderland. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (410L, 16/J)

Level KInformational
  1. Bancroft, Henrietta & Richard G. Van Gelder. (1996). Animals in Winter. Illustrated by Helen K. Davie. New York: HarperCollins. (380L, 18/K)
  2. Branley, Franklyn M. (2000). Snow Is Falling (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science, Stage 1). Illustrated by Holly Keeler. New York: HarperCollins. (320L, 18/K)
  3. Fowler, Allan. (1992). How Do You Know It's Winter?  New York: Turtleback. (18/K)
  4. Moore, Eva. (2005). Magic School Bus Sleeps for the Winter. Illustrated by Carolyn Bracken. New York: Scholastic. (300L, 18/K)
  5. Zoehfeld, Kathleen Weidner. (2002).  Manatee Winter. Illustrated by Steven James Petruccio. Washington D.C.: Soundprint/Smithsonian. (18/K)
Level K: Literature
  1. Chardiet, Bernice. (1999). The Snowball War. New York: Scholastic. (18/K)
  2. Colandro, Lucille. (2003). There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow! Illustrated by Jared Lee. New York: Scholastic. (18/K)
  3. Levinson, Nancy Smiler. (1995). Snowshoe Thompson. Illustrated by Joan Sandin. New York: HarperCollins;. (330L, 18/K)
  4. Rogan, John. (1998). Biggest Snowball Ever. New York: Scholastic.(18/K)
  5. Van Laan, Nancy. (2000). When Winter Comes. Illustrated by Susan Gaber. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. (630L, 18/K)
Level LInformational
from National Geographic Kids Winter Wonderland
  1. Esbaum, Jill (2010). National Geographic Kids Winter Wonderland. Washington, DC: National Geographic. (20-24/L)
  2. Neuman, Pearl. (1989). When Winter Comes. Illustrated by Richard Roe. Portsmouth NH: Heinemann Library. (20/L)
Level L: Literature
  1. Burton, Virginia Lee. (2010). Katy and the Big Snow. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. (420L, 20/L)
  2. Giff, Patricia Reilly. (2013). Fiercely and Friends: The Sneaky Snow Fox. Illustrated by Diane Palmisciano. New York: Scholastic. (270L, 20/L)
  3. Kroll, Steven. The Biggest Snowman Ever. Illustrated by Jeni Bassett. New York: Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. (580L, 20/L)
  4. Morgan,  Allen. (1987). Sadie and the Snowman. Illustrated by Benda Clark. New York: Scholastic.(540L, 20/L)
  5. Neitzel, Shirley. (1994). Jacket I Wear in the Snow. Illustrated by Nancy Winslow Parker. New York: Greenwillow Books. (20/L)
  6. Prelutsky, Jack. (2006). It's Snowing! It's Snowing!: Winter Poems. Illustrated by Yossi Abolafia. New York: HarperCollins. (20/L)
  7. Tresselt, Alvin. (1988). White Snow, Bright Snow. Illustrated by Roger Duvoisin. New York: HarperCollins. (1948 Caldecott Medal winner) (840L, 20/L)
Level MInformational

from Pink Snow.
  1. Cole, Joanna. (2004). The Magic School Bus Lost in the Snow. New York: Scholastic. (260L, 24/M)
  2. Dussling, Jennifer. (1998). Pink Snow and Other Weird Weather (Penguin Young Readers, Level 3). New York: Penguin Young Readers. (300L, 24/M)
  3. Moore, Eva. (2005). The Magic School Bus Sleeps for the Winter (Scholastic Reader, Level 2). Illustrated by Carolyn Bracken. New York: Scholastic. (300L, 24/M)
from A New Coat for Anna
Level M: Literature
  1. Adler, David.  (2005). Cam Jansen and the Snowy Day Mystery. Illustrated by Susanna Natti. New York: Puffin Books. (550L, 24/M)
  2. Brett, Jan. (1999). The Mitten. New York:  G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers. (800L, 24/M)
  3. Bunting, Eve. (1994). Night Tree. Illustrated by Ted Rand. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. (620L, 24/M)
  4. Florian, Douglas. (1999). Winter Eyes. New York: Greenwillow. (24/M)
  5. Klein, Abby. (2015). Snow Day Dare (Ready,Freddy! 2nd Grade)Illustrated by John Mckinley. New York: Scholastic. (28/M)
  6. Tresselt, Alvin. (1989). The Mitten. Illustrated by Yaroslava. New York: HarperCollins. (840L, 24/M)
  7. Ziefert, Harriet. (1988). A New Coat for Anna. Illustrated by Anita Lobel. New York:  Dragonfly Books. (690L 24/M)
Level NInformational
  1. Messner, Kate. (2014). Over and Under. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. (30/N)
Level N: Literature
  1. Klein, Abby. (2011). Ready, Freddy! #16: Ready, Set, Snow! Illustrated by John Mckinley. New York: Scholastic. (500L, 30/N)
  2. Miller, Pat. (2010). Squirrel's New Year's Resolution. Illustrated by Kathy Ember. New York: Scholastic. (450L, 30/N)
  3. O'Connor, Jane. (2008). The Snow Globe Family. Illustrated by  S. D. Schindler.  New York: Puffin Books. (660L, 30/N)
  4. Van Allsburg, Chris. (2015). The Polar Express: 30th Anniversary Edition. Boston, MA: Houghton. (1986 Caldecott Medal winner)  (30/N)
  5. Ziefert, Harriet. (2008). Snow Party. Illustrated by Mark Jones. Maplewood, NJ: Blue Apple Books.  (510L, 30/N)

Level O: Literature
    from SkySisters
  1. Alarcón, Francisco. (2005). Iguanas in the Snow: And Other Winter Poems / Iguanas en la Nieve: Y Otros Poemas de Invierno (The Magical Cycle of the Seasons Series). Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez. New York: Lee & Low Books. (34/O)
  2. Thaler, Mike. (2014). The Snow Day from the Black Lagoon. Illustrated by Jared Lee. New York: Scholastic. (700L, 34/O)
  3. Waboose, Jan Bourdeau. (2002). SkySisters. Illustrated by Brian Deines. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press. (34/O)
  4. Yolen, Jane. (1987). Owl Moon. Illustrated by John Schoenherr.  New York: Philomel Books. (630L, 34/O) (1988 Caldecott Medal winner)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Primary Grade Text Set: 60+ Winter Read Aloud Books, Part 1

Read Aloud Books

from Once Upon a Northern Night
1. Biography

  1. Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. (2009). Snowflake Bentley. Illustrated by Mary Azarian. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. (1999 Caldecott Medal winner)

2. Picture Books - Narrative

Winter Moon Song
  1. Baker, Keith. (2011). No Two Alike. New York: Beach Lane Books.
  2. Berger, Carin. (2012). A Perfect Day. New York: Greenwillow Books.
  3. Brett, Jan. (2007). The Three Snow Bears. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers. (680L)
  4. Brooks, Martha. (2014). Winter Moon Song. Illustrated by Leticia Ruifernández. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Press. 
  5. Bruchac, James & Joseph Bruchac. (2012). Rabbit's Snow Dance. Illustrated by Jeff Newman. New York: Dial Books. (640L)
  6. Camcam, Princess. (2014). Fox's Garden. New York: Enchanted Lion Books. (Wordless)
  7. Clark, Joan. (2006). Snow. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Press. 
  8. Hader, Berta & Elmer. (1993). The Big Snow. New York: Aladdin. (1949 Caldecott Medal winner) (710L)
  9. Fleming, Denise. (2012). The First Day of Winter. New York: Henry Holt. 
  10. Garoche, Camille. (2015). The Snow Rabbit. New York: Enchanted Lion Books. (Wordless)
  11. Gay, Marie-Louise. (2000). Stella, Queen of the Snow. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Press. 
  12. Girel, Stépanie . (2011). A Bird In Winter: A Children's Book Inspired by Peter Breugel. Illustrated by Hélène Kerillis. New York: Prestel.
  13. Gravett, Emily. (2015). Bear & Hare Snow! New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 
  14. Jenkins, Emily. (2015). Toys Meet Snow: Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-loving Rubber Ball. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. New York: Schwartz Wade Books.
  15. Johnston, Tony. (2014). Winter is Coming. Illustrated by Jim Lamarche. New York: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books. (330L)
  16. Joyce, William. (2015). Jack Frost. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. (870L)
  17. Judge, Lita. (2011). Red Sled. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  18. Keats, Ezra Jack. (1976). The Snowy Day.  New York: Puffin Books. (500L) (1963 Caldecott Medal winner) (500L, 16/J)
  19. Laminack, Lester L. (2010). Snow Day! Illustrated by Adam Gustavson. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers. (350L)
  20. Lindgren, Astrid. (1997). The Tomten. New York: Puffin Books.
  21. Lindgren, Astrid. (1997). The Tomten and the Fox. New York: Puffin Books. (310L)
  22. Lumbard, Alexis York (2015). Pine and the Winter Sparrow. Illustrated by Beatriz Vidal. Bloomington, IN: Wisdom Tales.
  23. Matthews, Caitlin. (2015). Fireside Stories: Tales for a Winter's Eve. Illustrated by Helen Cann. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books.
  24. McCarty, Pater. (2015). First Snow. New York: Balzer + Bray.
  25. Pendziwol, Jean E. (2013). Once Upon A Northern Night. Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Press. 
  26. Rocco, John. (2014). Blizzard. New York: Disney-Hyperion (2012 Caldecott Honor Book) (16/I)
  27. Rueda, Claudia. (2006). No. Illustrated by Elisa Amado. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Press. 
  28. Rylant, Cynthia. (2008). Snow. Illustrated by Lauren Stringer.  Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc. (840L)
  29. Sakai, Komako. (2009). The Snow Day. New York:  Arthur A. Levine Books. (370L)
  30. Say, Allen. (2009). Tree of Cranes. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. (470L, 38/P)
  31. Schulevitz, Uri. (2004). Snow. New York: Square Fish. (A Caldecott Honor Book, 220L)
  32. Spinelli, Eileen. (2015). Cold Snap. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman.  New York: Dragonfly. (790L)
  33. Steig, William. (2011). Brave Irene. New York: Square Fish. (630L, 40/S)
  34. Tresselt, Alvin. (1989). The Mitten. Illustrated by Yaroslava. New York: HarperCollins. (840L, 24/M)
  35. Tresselt, Alvin. (1988). White Snow, Bright Snow. Illustrated by Roger Duvoisin. New York: HarperCollins. (1948 Caldecott Medal winner) (840L, 20/L)
  36. Usher, Sam. (2015). Snow. New York: Templar.
  37. Van Allsburg, Chris. (2015). The Polar Express: 30th Anniversary Edition. Boston, MA: Houghton. (1986 Caldecott Medal winner)  (30/N)
  38. Waboose, Jan Bourdeau. (2002). SkySisters. Illustrated by Brian Deines. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press. (34/O)
  39. Yamashita, Masako.  (2012). Snow Children. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Press. 
  40. Yee, Wing Herbert. (2007). Tracks in the Snow. New York: Square Fish.
  41. Yolen, Jane. (1987). Owl Moon. Illustrated by John Schoenherr.  New York: Philomel Books. (630L, 34/O) (1988 Caldecott Medal winner)

3. Poetry & Rhyming Texts

from Iguanas in the Snow: And Other Winter Poems / Iguanas en la Nieve: Y Otros Poemas de Invierno
  1. Alarcón, Francisco. (2005). Iguanas in the Snow: And Other Winter Poems / Iguanas en la Nieve: Y Otros Poemas de Invierno (The Magical Cycle of the Seasons Series). Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez. New York: Lee & Low Books. (34/O)
  2. Hopkins, Lee Bennett (Selector). (2014). Manger. Illustrated by Helen Cann. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. (Poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Joan Bransfield Graham, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, X. J. Kennedy, Jude Mandell, Marilyn Nelson, Jane Yolen, Ann Whitford Paul, Prince Redcloud, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Michele Krueger, Alma Flor Ada and Alicia Schertle)
  3. Prelutsky, Jack. (2006). It's Snowing! It's Snowing!: Winter Poems. Illustrated by Yossi Abolafia. New York: HarperCollins. (20/L)
  4. Rogasky, Barbara. (1999). Winter Poems. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. New York: Scholastic. (50/U)
  5. Sidman, Joyce. (2014). Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold. Illustrated by Rick Allen. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. 
  6. Van Laan, Nancy. (2000). When Winter Comes. Illustrated by Susan Gaber. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. (630L, 18/K)
  7. Yolen, Jane. (2005). Snow, Snow: Winter Poems for Children. Illustrated by Jason Stemple. Honesdale, PA: WordSong. (40/S)
4. Informational Books including Narrative Nonfiction

from Over and Under

  1. Bancroft, Henrietta & Richard G. Van Gelder. (1996). Animals in Winter. Illustrated by Helen K. Davie. New York: HarperCollins. (18/K)
  2. Berkenkamp, Lauri.  (2014). Explore Winter!: 25 Great Ways to Learn About Winter. Illustrated by Alexis Frederick-Frost. White River Junction, VT: Nomad Press. (840L)
  3. Branley, Franklyn M. (2000). Snow Is Falling (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science, Stage 1). Illustrated by Holly Keeler. New York: HarperCollins. (320L, 18/K)
  4. Cassino, Mark. (2009). The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. (870L, 34/O)
  5. Gerber, Carole. (2009). Winter Trees. Illustrated by Leslie Evans. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
  6. Gibbons, Gail. (2012).  It's Snowing! New York:  Holiday House. (790L, 34/O)
  7. Gibbons, Gail. (2007).  Groundhog Day! New York: Holiday House. (900L)
  8. Jackson, Ellen. (1994). The Winter Solstice. Illustrated by Jan Davey Ellis. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press. (850L)
  9. Markle, Sandra. (2013). Snow School. Illustrated by Alan Marks. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishers. (890L)
  10. Messner, Kate. (2014). Over and Under. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. (30/N)
  11. Pearson, Carrie A. (2012). A Warm Winter Tail. Illustrated by Christina Wald. Englewood, Cliffs, NJ: Sylvan Dell Publishing. (2013 Gelett Burgess Award, 730L)
  12. Pfeffer, Wendy. (2003). The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice. Illustrated by Jesse Reisch. New York: Dutton Books for Young Readers
  13. Rockwell, Anne. (2009). President's Day. Illustrated by Lizzie Rockwell. New York: HarperCollins.
  14. Stewart, Melissa. (2009). Under the Snow. Illustrated by Constance R. Bergum. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers. (780L)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Displaced: The Will to Live

Displaced (M.A. Reilly, 2014)

And I dreamed I was flyingAnd high above my eyes could clearly seeThe Statue of LibertySailing away to seaAnd I dreamed I was flying
                              - Paul Simon 


Watching my husband these last 3 months has taught me a thing or two about fighting for your life. As many of you know, Rob was diagnosed towards the end of August with Stage 4 lung cancer. He just spent the last two weeks in the hospital after having surgery to clean an abscess from his chest caused by a staph infection. He's spent nearly 30 out of the last 90 days in the hospital. Throughout this he has remained grateful for the quality and consistency of care he has received from doctors and nurses, family and friends.  Alongside this horrific illness there have been countless lessons about love--gestures so sweet they bring tears. And it is love that most fuels my husband's commitment to do what must be done in order to live.

Love fuels. Fear debilitates.


I think about Rob's drive for life in light of the horrible decisions that politicians, like the one from the state where I live, are making. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is being ridiculed for his callous and frankly irrational comment that the United States should not accept refugee orphans from Syria younger than five years old because they have no family here.  Christie asks, "How are we going to care for these folks?"


He adds he distrusts the current administration to vet the refugees and claims that the safety of you and me would be in jeopardy if Syrian refugees were admitted to the United States, even those who are orphaned babies.

Fear debilitates. Love fuels.


Surely the governor has lost his way. For is there no one as innocent as an orphaned baby? Is the face of the orphan now the face to fear?  Our safety is not in jeopardy by refugees--be they 3 or 33. The good people from Syria are doing what we all would do--what I see my husband doing--fighting to live.  We must respect that and help, not turn away people who are in such need.

The knee-jerk reaction of Republicans, like Christie, shames us all. and requires us to act--to send our elected politicians that turning away Syrian refugees is immoral, wrong.

Love fuels. Fear debilitates.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

#SOL15: Being Present - The Value of the Moment


The first chemo treatment. 10.30.15
It's been nearly 90 days since my husband was first diagnosed with late stage lung cancer. During that time he has spent one-third of those days in the hospital. Most of that time has been spent not treating the cancer, but rather diagnosing and fighting staph infections caused by the insertion of a contaminated port into my husband's chest on the early morning of September 14. 

As I write this, Rob is 30 miles away on the fourth floor of Morristown Medical Center recovering from surgery to remove and clean an abscess that formed in his chest. More staph. He's been there for 12 days. Yesterday he waited for the technicians to whisk him to the imaging center to have an MRI of his brain made. No one arrived. We have been trying to get the MRI done since September--to see if his inability to walk unassisted is due to the cancer spreading to his brain.

Waiting gives rise to counting. 

Out the window of the hospital room we have been living in these last days, a murder of crows lifts from a field, winging sharply in an odd synchronization that forms and breaks. Against uncertainty, quantifying the bits and pieces of life offsets some of what we cannot know.

Early today, the MRI was done and now we wait for the results.


Your body, like mine, has trillions of cells. If cells could be counted like coins, it would take more than 31,000 years to count just 1 trillion and you have far more than that in your body. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. In Rob's body, old cells don't die like they do in healthy bodies. In his body, cells grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. Some time ago these cells amassed and formed a mucinous cystadenocarcinoma in the apex of his right lung. While the cells amassed, we continued to walk through the days, ignorant, until this August when time folded in on itself like a poor house of cards. 
All around us, life as we knew it began to slowly collapse and we were none the wiser, nor were we able to wake ourselves from this trauma.  
It was 8:16 a.m. on August 20th when the doctor phoned. I remember later thinking how odd that such news arrived before the morning papers, before the first sip of coffee.  It was a day we had planned to sleep in. Work was over until September and we were planning a quick end-of-the-summer trip to Maine. What makes lung cancer so deadly is that the patient is often asymptomatic until the cancer metastasizes elsewhere in the body. For Rob it was acute chest pain that sent him to his doctor who said, "Let's be safe and get a picture of your chest." That picture led to a CAT scan and then an MRI and finally to a VAT procedure of the lung and a needle biopsy of the lesions that were found on his spine. And that morning, as I paced in our bedroom listening to Rob's voice, i tried not to piece together a possible story of cancer.

It's always a matter of life and death. I had forgotten that.


Last Friday in Paris, 129 people were murdered and another 352 were injured by terrorists. Ordinary people going about the business of living.

I think of those killed and wonder what each might have done differently that Friday the 13th knowing that in a few hours their lives would end.  It's tricky to live with knowledge of your mortality not as some distant, unformed end, but rather as that which is potentially more imminent, more present. Living deliberately is best expressed in the small, innocuous acts that typify an average day. For example, earlier I bought some tissue paper that I intend to use to wrap the few gifts I've gotten Rob for his birthday. I took time selecting what I wanted, imagining a small pile of gifts wrapped in this rainbow of colour. In the past, such acts were more like tasks to be checked off rather than opportunities to be dwelled in. This deliberateness, this odd gift of being present in the moment, gives definition to the mundane.

Some days it is easier to forget the mortality that signals our impermanence, dogs our steps.  Others less so.

It's how we live in the moment, in the here and now, that matters most.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

#SOL15: Earths You Here for Real

One Man (MA. Reilly, 2012, Massachusetts)

Your bare foot on the floor
Keeps me in step; the power
I first felt come up through
Our cement floor long ago
alps your sole and heel
And earths you here for real.

                   -  Seamus Heaney from In Time


Late day and the muggy morning gave way hours later to a cool autumn evening. I was alone there on a suburban street walking beneath leaves turning silver by the wind--walking briskly away from the hospital in order to take just 60 minutes to get beyond these hospital walls and breathe.

And as I walked I realized that I had forgotten about the necessity of poetry. So caught up in time, I had forgotten the poetry of breath. I had forgotten how the poem so often shows the conceit of time as if time was a currency we actually hold. I thought about all of this and of you lying still on a cold steel table being cut once again and beneath that fear and certain sadness there was Seamus Heaney--my go to poet. I walked, recalling poorly those lines from "In Time" that Heaney penned. Recalling little but, Earths you here for real. 

I never quite could hang on to that line until Rob was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Earths you here for real is more about love than loss.

And so even though the surgeon told me it would be a quick procedure to extract the port put in two weeks earlier--the very port that was contaminated with bacteria causing the staph infection to run through my husband's battered body--I've learned that doctors, especially surgeons, can be masters of hyperbole.

It would not be 30 minutes. Not even 60 minutes. 
Hospital time is slower than home time. 
And two hours later I found I was sadly correct. My phone has still had not wrung.


It's so late that even in this darkness I know that in two hours I'll be driving to work, squinting against the orange yellow rise of the sun. Three weeks have come and gone and the staph infection seems to have been tamed, eradicated by the daily dose of antibiotic that I dutifully fed into the picc line in Rob's upper arm each evening. 

Some mark time by Vespers; we mark the turn to evening by flushing the picc line.

So on the lat night, Rob and I are talking in a house so quiet that there can only be the now; the earths you here for real moment when I see him seated opposite me, know he is here and take solace in that simple fact. 

This night Rob is explaining to me how time is an illusion.  He's been reading Palle Yourgrau's A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein. As I listen to him read a loud I think how so much of our courtship and marriage have been marked by the many texts he has read aloud. 
Sometimes poems. 
Sometimes logic. 

And it is nearing 4 a.m. and neither of us have been to bed when he reads this to me:
"The consequence of his discoveries for Einstein’s realm was not that relativity was too weak to encompass all that is true about time, but rather that relativity is just fine, whereas time in the intuitive sense is an illusion" (Kindle Locations 2303-2305). 
I'm quiet wondering how willing I am to hear those words.  I have so much to unlearn I think as I climb the stairs to sleep.  Most of the metaphors that (in)form my life are time-based--and I sense these metaphors are a delicate trap wrapping me in time and fear. 


The next day when I arrive home, Rob says he has a present for me. I open Alan Watt's The Way of Zen and feel the love in his gesture as surely as I now feel these keys beneath my finger tips.