Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#SOL16: If Only We Had Been Talking with Cuba


It's been several minutes that I have been staring at the same article, "20 Best medical Breakthroughs of 2016," in the recent issue of Prevention Magazine. Staring at the same words for breakthrough #3. Staring so hard, the words blur. The meaning however remains clear.

from December 2016 issue of Prevention Magazine, p. 51


A vaccine that "targets the cancer's fuel source" has been used in Cuba since 2011--well before Rob's cancer had either started or prior to it progressing. In 2012, Rob had a lung x-ray to diagnose pneumonia. It showed a small smudge. We learned about the x-ray when it was discovered that Rob had cancer in August 2015.  We know now that the smudge in the apex of his right lung would likely become a cancerous tumor if it was not already at that time. The cancerous tumor was found only in Rob's right lung (apex).  He never had another x-ray until August of 2015.

In another article (from here) I read:
CIMAvax triggers the immune system to produce antibodies that target and sequester EGF, or epidermal growth factor. Lung cancer, and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in particular, tend to overproduce receptors for the peptide growth factor.

On March 14, 1958--before I was born--when Rob was just three, the United States imposed an arms embargo on Cuba.  This was followed two years later with economic and financial sanctions. These limitations remained in place until Congress ended the travel embargo in 2010 and when President Obama reestablished diplomatic relations in 2015.  These actions paved the way for U.S. researchers to make the trip to Cuba in April 2015--five months before Rob received the diagnosis of Stage 4 small cell lung cancer.  The result of that visit is that last month the U.S. approved clinical trials for CIMAvax.

The clinical studies will be conducted with patients having stage IIIB to stage IV non-small cell lung cancer and begin with a Phase 1 dose-escalation study to determine the best dose and injection frequency for the vaccine.
The vaccine is said to be more effective with those younger than 60. In 2012, Rob would have turned 57 at the end of the year. He was 60 when he was diagnosed. 

Rob taking a picture of a sculpture made from cigarettes in March, 2012 at MASS MOCA.


So why didn't U.S. researchers have access to this breakthrough vaccine?  What did our embargo stop? Nell Patel in Wired, writes, 
The 55-year trade embargo led by the US made sure that Cuba was mostly where it stayed. 
Mostly where it stayed.
Borders and boundaries.

Tonight,  I am wishing we had open borders or at the very least, free scientific exchanges among researchers. Who knows how many lives, like Rob's, might have been prolonged, if not saved had we allowed scientists to learn from one another.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

#SOL16: What You Cannot Tell Yourself


There are two times that stand out in my memory. These are from the time Rob was diagnosed and sick. The first date is December 9. It was the afternoon Rob had a chemo treatment--the second and last one he would ever have. But of course, we did not know that then. By December, he was unable to walk, but could still stand and take a step or two so long as there was a surface he could hold on to. I had brought him home from the hospital on November 19 and we lived a rather interior life my small family and me. Yes, people came to visit, but for the most part, we remained at home. Secluded. Making the very most of the time we had. And what I could not see then was that it was easier to pretend all would be okay, when I wasn't confronted with how sad our situation had become.

Rob at home last September. Who knew he would lose the capacity to walk, just 6 weeks later?


It wasn't until that day of chemo treatment that we ventured out beyond the walls of our home. Devon had come along with Rob and me to the treatment center and he was pushing his dad in a wheelchair when we entered the crowded waiting room. As I looked around, I noticed how much older everyone was and how no one, absolutely no one, was in a wheelchair except for Rob.

It was sobering.
How could all of these older people be in such better shape than Rob?

There were quick looks of sadness made by those waiting as they took in Rob and our son, who was just 16 at the time. My husband's hair had just started to grey and Devon was still growing into his body. Sitting next to Rob that afternoon, I felt anxious as if there was something I should be fearing, yet I could not name what frightened me most.

At the end of that week, I took Rob to see his cardiologist--a man who was the same age as Rob--a man he thought of as a peer. I had left Rob in the car as I got a wheelchair from the office. I had parked in the lot below and needed to get Rob up the hill and into the building. It took most of my strength and I remember worrying that I would not be strong enough to get him up the hill. When we finally entered the office, bringing in the cold air with us, most everyone was solicitous, moving around so I could sit next to Rob. Here too I noticed that everyone was so much older than Rob and yet none were bound to a wheel chair.


Why I remember these two dates is that they were the first time I saw such looks of sorrow on the faces of others. Looks of sorrow aimed at us---the family who would know such loss. I remember feeling sick and anxious and yet not knowing why. It was as if I could not distance myself from something I had to learn that would be so very painful.  Rob would remain home with Dev and me through Christmas and our anniversary before being rushed to the hospital the morning of December 30th. He would spend the next 50 days away from home before he would be able to return. By then death would be a matter of weeks.

Some truths are hard to learn, harder even to face. These are the  lessons that must be named by others first before we can find the strength to utter what we most fear to say. What I could not bare to tell myself was apparent on the faces of those we passed. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

#SOL16: A Portrait

 And Still the Birds Came (M.A. Reilly, Leonia, NJ, 2012)


Some memories steal upon us and feel embodied. This is no different and I wonder if I might have conjured my dead husband from a spell I have known by heart. Here in the still dark morning he has dimension, a scent I have tasted, have worn on my skin. Did I form him from the deep ache in my side--bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh?

No, he is not rib. More likely I have spun him from his own ashes, like the stardust God conjured Adam. And this sighting sends me back through the years to an ordinary afternoon where we each fit side by side.


As I  enter through the front door, I see he is seated at the round table at the back of the house in our kitchen. He glances up, the newspaper spread before him, the off white mug with the image of a black lab sitting to his right. And I know without any testing that the coffee in the mug will be hours cold. The day has surely been foggy and I have been out walking through fields and woods for hours and have returned with the camera bag slung over my shoulder.

"You're back," he'll say. 

And I close the door, leaving the bag in the hallway and start towards him. The damp chill that has clung to the oversized sweatshirt--his Maine sweatshirt--unfurls like a banner, like a flag as I pull the sweatshirt over my head and drop it on a chair. Here it is warm even though the day beyond is not.

And I want to unwind this moment, to savor the very sight of him: the way his lips part as he grins, the way he looks at me over the rim of his glasses that rest on the bridge of his nose, the way his hair, that never grayed, is pulled back and tied with a leather strip. And I wonder now, was he always so pleased to see me home?

"So, did you get some good shots?" he'll ask.

"I think I got a couple of good ones," I'll say, rounding the table so I can lean down to kiss his perfect upturned mouth.


This was us.
Just this.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

#SOL16: Happy Birthday, Rob

What the Lark Knows (M.A. Reilly, 2010)

A blustery late autumn day unfolded. Darkness came too early as it does this time of year in the northeast.  A favorite kind of day for me--full of brisk wind that chills the very bones--lets you know that life is rarely for the timid.  I was born in November as was Rob and this evening in the quiet of our home I am thinking of my husband.  For the last 29 years, Rob and I celebrated our birthdays together. Even last year when I had to fight to get him released from the hospital so he could be home for his birthday, we celebrated. We did not know it would be his last, and looking back I can't even say what it was we did that day. I don't recall exchanging gifts and honestly the previous two months were spent in and out of hospitals and surgeries, and emergencies and near death scenarios. What I do recall was spending a lot of that first night checking on him to make sure he was still alive--that a blood clot had not traveled to his heart, to his lungs. It was his first evening home in more than three weeks and I was nervous about his care. The next day, the three of us were together and we celebrated his birthday and mine. I recall making him a blueberry pie and it has always been these simple gifts, so often made by hand, that have mattered the most.

When Rob and I learned we born a day apart, it felt like fate with her steady hand shaped our first meeting--shaped our destiny so to speak.  We were instantly attracted. I wanted to know who was this man who spoke like a poet--who laughed so easily--who could tell a tale with such ease. But it would not be simple attraction that bound us. For what we made these last three decades was less about fate and more about commitment.

Marriage is about saying yes in so many ways.


Rumi writes that he wanted:
"...a trouble-maker for a lover,
Blood spiller, blood drinker, a heart of flame,
Who quarrels with the sky and fights with fate,
Who burns like fire on the rushing sea."
And in many ways that was my husband. He was passionate as he was bold and joyful. He laughed often. Rob was committed to me and to our son in ways I never knew to doubt. And now I realize how all of that was a gift.

This year, I am remembering his birthday without him and the joy that framed our lives is soothing. I had wondered how I might feel when my own birthday arrived yesterday and oddly, it felt ordinary.  I worried that my birthday followed by Rob's would be emotionally wrenching, but that just wasn't the situation. All that talk about firsts didn't influence how I feel.  And I am ever so grateful for that bit of solace.

When the man you love beyond definition dies little makes sense.  I think here of F. Scoot Fitzgerald's description of loss. He writes that "[t]he loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly." And for months I did stare blankly as I put one foot in front of the next and lived.

About a month ago I sensed a change. Truly this was a moment of grace. I began to accept that nothing I did or didn't do would alter Rob's death. It was so suddenly clear.  My husband's death is beyond the care of my hands. The only thing I influence now is how I choose to live. And live brilliantly is what he told me to do.  And so I am.

Happy birthday, sweet man--bold heart of flame. I would marry you all over again and travel the road we made even the heartbroken journey of this last year.  You are with me Rob, always and in all ways.

...I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

Sunday, November 13, 2016

#SOL16: Healing

The Uncertainty Principle (M.A. Reilly, Ringwood - Devon, 11/23/2010)


For years, I worried each time Rob went out to clear snow. The first time was at the house we were rebuilding, 60 miles outside of Manhattan. That year record snowfall occurred and by the season's end, more that 100 inches of snow had fallen. We were each in our 30s and years away from potential heart failure. When we moved to our current home, nearly 15 years ago, I worried Rob would die from a heart attack even though he wasn't yet 60. He was in his 40s and 50s here. Rob would laugh and always assure me that the machine did most of the work. I suspect there was some truth to that. Nonetheless, I didn't rest easy until the snow was cleared, we were all back inside, and the tea water was heating.

We all had our parts to play, but only Rob ran the machine. Now, it's been nearly two years since the snowblower was used.  Last year Dev and I cleared the one big snowfall in late January with shovels. Neither of us could figure out how to get the blower started and finally Dev said to me, "Mom, I could have had the driveway done by now." Later that evening we rushed to the hospital as Rob was being admitted.  He had been staying at an acute rehabilitation center.  He started to convulse, was unable to communicate well and was running a fever when a doctor explained that they could not care for him. By the time I would see him, he would be delirious. Staph again--the third time in four months. By now even I knew the signs. The only place Rob did not contract staph was at home.

The trip to the hospital was difficult as a blizzard the day before had dropped nearly 30 inches of snow and though the highway was mostly cleared, that night after the sun had set it was icy and one lane was still not passable. We were nearing the exit for the hospital when we saw the strobe of police lights and then a car upside down. Tragedy happens so quickly, as does grace.

Ten days later, Rob would still be in the hospital--in and out of intensive care. He never was able to come back to himself wholly after that last bout of staph. By mid-February we would learn, early one the morning, that the cancer had progressed and he was surely dying. A few weeks later he would die.


This afternoon, as Dev and I were clearing leaves from the yard I thought about the many times I had worried about Rob and how ironic all that worrying was. Rob didn't live long enough for heart attacks to be a scare. He died so young. So quickly. One moment he had a sharp pain in his chest and the next he was diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer. It seems ironic as I never saw my husband smoke. In the nearly 30 years I knew him he was never a smoker. He had stopped years earlier before I met him. I listened as he told doctor after doctor his history. He began smoking as a teenager and stopped in his mid twenties. Every doctor would stop the recording of notes and sigh and say something like, Well, that was enough time. Just thinking about his absence, our loss leaves that sick hollow feeling to churn in my gut.

Most days, I move through time partially living.  I am waiting even when I move. It's as if there was a huge rubber band attached to my heart and though I venture out each day, there is always something tugging, some inner tension pulling at me until I remember.  It's as if I am caught in an in-between time. I watch life happen--a boat on a river passing by and I am moored to the shore. And though I do what needs to be done each day, I am ever grateful when the day ends.

Healing, I now know is tied up with desire.  It is not only the passing of days--although time does help. It is the want to live that matters. Now that the shock of his death has eased, I realize I no longer scream in the car as I drive. I haven't for months. Most nights, I sleep. Nightmares are rare. I no longer avoid Rob's office. And though the pain of my husband's death feels acute, I know now that the situation is not unusual. Yes, I am a widow in my mid-50s. Yes, I am now a single parent. And none of that is unique.

Beneath all this tumult, what remains more constant than not is how the yearning still hurts,still catches me unaware. And though it happens not as frequently or as prolonged, the intensity has not dulled.


For a moment today as we cleared the leaves, in the late light of mid-November, I looked up at Devon standing so sure and tall. I looked at him standing in the last bit of sunlight and I saw a glimmer of his dad. I stared until I had to look away.

Already, we are moving on, I thought. Already, we are making new memories. To leave this waiting room is to acknowledge life moves on without Rob.

Everything moves, even me. And, friends, I would be lying if I said this healing didn't hurt.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

President-Elect Trump: WE CAN'T HEAR YOU...

from here.


As hate crimes against people of color, Muslims, and a Trump voter escalate our president-elect is mute. This, friends is not a good beginning.

Mr. Trump, you must pivot from candidate to president. That shift requires you to be concerned for Americans--all Americans even those you disparaged during the campaign.

Tweeting this:

is just foolish.  People are being harmed.Your rhetoric sparked or at the very least gave permission to this hate.  Telling us we will unite and win?  Win what?


We need you to be:

at the very least, appropriate.

You must speak out against the hate.  Do it now.
Denounce the KKK's celebration parade in your name.

You told us you wanted to represent all of us in your victory speech. You said,

I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I'm reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.

So as one who did not vote for you (keep in mind you lost the popular vote so it was far more than a few people) I am confused when I look at the make up of your transition team. It is composed of mostly privileged white men and three of your kids. Really?

Your every action telegraphs your beliefs. Please do better.


Friends, you can tell Mr Trump what you think will make America great again (I know the statement suggests you don't think it is great now), but perhaps it is a place to voice what is on your mind.

Here's the link: https://apply.ptt.gov/yourstory/

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Eyeing Illustrations: 30+ Recent Picture Books

Here are 30+ picture books published in the last year or so that have caught my eye. I was presenting a workshop about the use and importance of global multicultural picture books to elementary teachers from Orange-Ulster school districts in New York this past week. In preparation, I compiled this list of books focusing on illustrations.  I thought I would share it more widely. 

Image result for dragonfly kites julie flett
from Dragonfly Kites. Illustration by Julie Flett (Cree- Métis)

The Bear and The Piano  by David Litchfield (2015)
Circle by Jeannie Baker (2016)
Dragonfly Kites by Tomson Highway (Cree), illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree- Métis) (2016)
DRAW!: by Raúl Colón (2014)
Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers (2014)
Float by Daniel Miyares (2015)
Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (2016)
The Girl of the Wish Garden, A Thumbelina Story by Uma Krishnaswami, Illustrated by Nasrin Khosravi (2013)

Image result for the grasshopper and the ants jerry pinkney
from The Grasshopper & The Ant, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. There isn;t anything Pinkney has done that I haven't loved. 

The Grasshopper & the Ants by Jerry Pinkney (2016)
Haiti My County: Poems by Haitian School Children, illustrated by Rogé (2014)
Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead (2016)
Jemmy Button, written by Alix Barzelay, illustrated by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali (2013)
Prairie Dog Song by Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore, Illustrated by Susan Roth (2016)
Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure by Anna Walker (2014)
The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes  by Duncan Tonatiuh (2016)
Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space by Dominic Walliman, Illustrated by Ben Newman (2013)
The Promise by Nicola Davies, Illustrated by Laura Carlin (2014)
The Polar Bear written and illustrated by Jenni Desmond (2016)

Image result for Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis
from Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E. B. Lewis (2016)
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (2016)
Sidewalk Flowers By JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith (2015)
Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People by S.D. Nelson (Lakota) (2015) 
Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox by Danielle Daniel (Anishinaabe) (2015)   

Image result for stepping stones: A refugee family's journey
    Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey, artwork by Falah Raheem
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey (Arabic and English Edition) by Margriet Ruurs and artwork by Falah Raheem (2016)
Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend by Donald F. Montileaux (Lakota) (2014)
The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi (2015)

The Tiger Who Would Be King by James Thurber, illustrated by JooHee Yoon (2015)

From Thunder Boy Jr. illustrated by Yuyi Morales 

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (2016)
Thunderstorm by Arthur Geisert (2013)
Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier (2015)
The Whisperer by Pamela Zagarenski (2015)
The White Cat and the Monk A Retelling of the Poem “Pangur Ban” by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Sydney Smith (2015)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How Did Your Neighbors Vote? White Racism in Your Backyard

The Distance Between (M.A. Reilly, 2012)


I live in New Jersey, a supposedly Blue state.  But here's the more refined truth.  I live in a town where my neighbors cast votes--the majority in each of the nine polling sites-- for Donald Trump. On every measure possible, in each polling area (there are nine), the majority of my neighbors voted for Trump and with it--white ideological hatred.

I live in Ringwood, NJ, a largely white suburb of New York City--a town that is a mix of blue-collar and professionals. And here's an important truth: well before this election, I had firsthand knowledge that this community reeks of racism and equally appalling: the lemming factor. Lemmings are little rodents that blindly follow each other off cliffs. Being polite by saying nothing in the face of racist and misogynistic speech and actions, allows for such ideology to be seen as normal and to become normal. It teaches our children very, very early that it is permissible to hurt and hate others because of perceived differences. It shows our children who, other, is. That's what the lemming factor creates. It is not only white nationalists we might fear. More so, it is the white majority's silence on matters of equality and decency that is far deadlier. By following along, lemming-like, the appalling behaviors become normalized and grave harm is done.


In the suburbs, many of us don't talk about race or racism especially if you are white and I am. More than a decade ago my son, a beautiful Korean child, started first grade here. He would learn about racism those early days of school in Ringwood, at the tender age of six. We all would.

It was early September and warm when he came home from school and asked, Mommy, where is my red coat?  He had been to school for just a few days. The red coat was a snow parka and as it was well past 80 degrees, I naturally wondered why he wanted to wear it. My son had never been to school in our town.  He went to a progressive preschool and kindergarten and this was our first encounter with the local public school.

My son told his dad and me, "I'm going to pull the zipper all the way up and disappear." He said this as only a six-year-old can. He said this as if such a thing would be a solution, rather than a horror. My beautiful boy was going to hide his face and disappear.


It seemed that some of the older, white boys on the school bus, those ignorant, mean white children, had already learned how to spew racist crap. They made my son's trip each day to first grade a misery until we put a stop by removing our son from the public schools in town. These children called him racist slurs, thinking he was Chinese. They let him know how different he was from them and how that difference--what he fundamentally was--was wrong. Their hatred was a viable, living thing that pulsed and grew with the silence of others. These sad boys didn't give up as they were committed to harming. The bus driver kept driving and the other children on the bus did what white children are taught to do: they kept quiet and bore witness to a six year old being abused and learned how to blame the victim. That's a main lesson taught in white suburbia.

And what about my neighbors?  You know them. Those moms who walk their kids to the bus stop each morning, a cup of coffee in hand. You see them waving as the bus departs. Their faces full of bright smiles and hope. Well, I spoke up immediately to the moms at the end of my street after the bus had left and they mostly dismissed what I told them. They dismissed what I said as if it such actions were nothing more than a nuisance. One neighbor told me that she was surprised the boys would act like that as my son was almost white. Another quickly said it wasn't about race. She explained how her white son had been made fun of because he was shorter than the others, and that's how some people just were.  The rest of the white women? They just stayed quiet as white people do. That day marked a defining moment for me. I would be quiet no more.


Rob and I thought we had made a tragic error moving to this town and now I know differently. This morning the election results in our county show that this misery my son learned at the hands of a group of white boys and the silence of other whites, could have been found in any of the towns where there exists a majority of white people. The voting results make concrete numerically the hatred that simmers here. If we are brave enough to look closely at the demographic evidence from this election, I suspect we will see similar voting patterns wherever large clusters of white people reside.

This is a hard truth to say out loud. But how else might we interpret this election? White people voted yesterday overwhelmingly for both a bigot and a misogynist who was endorsed by the KKK.

Yes, the KKK.


This is the breakdown in my town (from here):

                         Turnout Percentage      Clinton            Trump          LaRiva            Stein        Johnson
Ringwood 1       70.84%                         301                 389                  1                    5               23
Ringwood 2       71.13%                         296                 349                  0                   15              14
Ringwood 3       71.05%                         253                 296                  0                   11              22
Ringwood 4       66.98%                         311                 577                  2                   15              14
Ringwood 5       67.36%                         331                 392                  1                   10              18
Ringwood 6       70.09%                         303                 312                  0                    9               16
Ringwood 7       63.96%                         275                 323                  0                    8                7
Ringwood 8       70.19%                         254                 359                  1                    6               10
Ringwood 9       68.9%                           252                 336                  0                    6               20

I live in the 9th polling area where nearly 70 percent of registered voters turned out to vote. 336 of my neighbors voted for the Trump-Pence ticket and 278 did not.  If we alone were deciding this election, the Trump-Pence ticket would have won. That's sobering.

I imagine some of my neighbors who voted for Trump-Pence might offer different reasons for why they cast their vote as they did. Perhaps some were fervent anti-abortionists. Perhaps others couldn't vote for Hillary Clinton. But underneath those reasons, my neighbors had to be able to hold in their hands the KKK endorsement Trump and Pence received. They had to have been okay with that. Their vote shows they condoned Trump's wall-building, race-baiting, derogatory comments about women, and banning Muslims due to their faith. No matter what they told themselves as they cast that vote, they had to have made peace with all of that. For it is impossible to dismiss the hate-rhetoric that has been a signature of the Trump-Pence ticket.

Whereas their vote makes them complicit to the ugly ideology that is Trump, I know that my silence makes me equally so. To remain silent in the presence of racist ideology in whatever form it takes, is to condone that hatred. To be silent when the guy next store spews some ugly misogynist jokes is to condone the hatred of women. To listen silently to a neighbor down the street spew racist gossip that isolates one from the group is to approve of that hatred. To listen and not denounce the lies being told about Muslims, being told about Jews, being told about whomever is other is to condone and agree with the falsehoods being stated.

Our silence gives permission for hate to grow.


Early this morning as we listened to the announcement that Trump had won, I confessed to my son that the results scared me. During the election, each time Trump railed about the Chinese or South Koreans, I worried for my son's safe-being. Having lost Rob earlier this year, I know how quickly a life can end. I know how quickly and decidedly harm can occur.  The thought that some of my neighbors might embrace the violence as they have embraced this racist ticket alarms me.

But what worries me more is that there is a part of me that wants to be silent, that wants to not trouble the waters.

I want to believe that my silence might protect my son. Just writing this here makes me feel vulnerable especially in light of the crazy Trump followers we have all seen displayed. But I know better. The issues of race, gender, and economic inequality will not be settled by the voices of minority groups alone no matter how bravely they speak out. They cannot and should not shoulder this misery. White people must rise up and be vocal in our local neighborhoods with our neighbors. We must say that hating others, whomever other is, is wrong all the time without exception.  

There are no exceptions. 

We must fight for integration everywhere: on our blocks, at our schools, in our houses of worship. It is in joining other, that other can become neighbor, friend. I urge you to be vocal and take action. The cost of our silence is far too much for others to bear.

I am starting where I live.  How about you?


Sunday, November 6, 2016

#SOL16: An Impossibly Long Ladder

from my art journal, May 2016


I have been restless all day. Waking early and walking a bit. Unsettled and not understanding the why of it. It wasn't until I had to reset the clock and to do so required putting in the day's date that my mind realized what my body already knew: a year ago in early morning I was rushing Rob to the hospital because an abscess the size of a softball was growing out of his chest.

All that day and night I would stay with him in the emergency room until he was finally admitted. He was transferred the next morning to a different hospital for surgery. I would not bring him home until the night of November 19th and that was after significant haggling with an attending doctor who in response to me telling her that the next day was Rob's birthday told me there would be other birthdays. How wrong she was.


As I was walking earlier I was thinking how the next two months will likely be tough. November 19th is my birthday--the first one I won't spend with Rob in 29 years and the very next day is Rob's birthday. Then there is Thanksgiving, Christmas, what would have been our 26th wedding anniversary and then New Year's. I was wondering how to keep busy so as to avoid some of these land mines, but no matter what I do there will be pain I will need to stand before. Yes, stand before the pain. When we hide pain, we suffer in more subtle and prolonged ways. Rob told me years ago the only way out of something, is through it.

For the first time last New Year's, Rob and I were apart. By then Rob was back in the hospital unable to walk. He would tell me on New Year's day how he was the nurses' favorite as he was the only patient in the unit who was awake and alert at midnight.  The intensive care nurses were terrific and served Rob hot chocolate at midnight. A week later he would undergo neurosurgery on his spine and the oncologist would tell us that Rob had at least another year to live. I remember saying to Rob how I wanted to remember how positive I felt about his health and outcome when times got tougher.

On our last anniversary, Rob told me how next year we would be through this and we would celebrate in style. We all had such faith in his healing, in science. By the end of January Rob would be rushed back to the hospital from an inpatient rehabilitation facility where he had been learning how to stand. He was incoherent and feverish and we would learn that he had yet another staph infection this time from the port in his arm. Three staph infections in the space of four months. And while the doctors saw to ridding his body of staph, the cancer was growing stronger, wrapping tighter around his spine, and progressing from the right lung to the left and then on to his ribs, diaphragm, spleen, and liver; organ to organ until a few weeks later he would die.


I have never been as present in the moment as I was during Rob's last 19 days. Finally he was home as he wanted, as I wanted. It felt imperative to soothe him, to care for him, to have him know in every atom he was loved. On those late nights as I sat next to his bed, I longed to understand what he was experiencing when he would pull at the covers, mumble-talk, move his arms and hands above him as if he might be climbing an impossibly long ladder, and perhaps he was. On those rare occasions when he was lucid, his brilliance shone. The last thing he would say to me was that he had figured out how to cross over. A day later he would do so.

To bear witness to your husband's death is to confirm how the jawbone unhinges like a too-wild bird seeking its flight. It's to confirm the rattle of breath and how the grip slowly loosens. And all of it feels as crucial as breathing. I remember thinking with such fervor that my husband would not die alone--that he would know the touch of my hands, his son's hands at the moment of death and I'd like to think he did.

Such experience cannot be rendered as ideas. What I write here is mostly wrong or at least quite incomplete. There simply isn't language for it.  This type of knowing resides in the body--the same body that roused me early this morning, unsettled, wanting what it could no longer have.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

80 Poetry Books for K-3 Children

from Every Day Birds by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

  1. all the small poems and fourteen more
    by Valerie Worth, illustrated by Valerie Babbitt
  2. Amazing Faces by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet
  3. Amazing Places by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Christy Hale, Chris Soentpiet
  4. Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart by Vera B. Williams
  5. Angels Ride Bikes and Other Fall Poems / Los Ángeles Andan en Bicicleta y otros poemas de otoñ by Francisco Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
  6. Animal Poems by Valerie Worth, illustrated by Steve Jenkins
  7. Animal Poems of the Iguazú / Animalario del Iguazú by Francisco Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez  

  8. Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrations by Beth Krommes
  9. Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics, by Margarita Engle, illustrations by Rafael López.
  10. Billions of Bricks by Kurt Cyrus 
  11. Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
  12. Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak
  13. A City Is by Norman Rosten, illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg 
  14. City Kids: Street and Skyscraper Rhymes by X.J. Kennedy illustrated by Phillippe Béha 
  15. The Cuckoo's Haiku: and Other Birding Poems by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Stanley Fellows
  16. Dirty Laundry Pile: Poems in Different Voices selected by Paul B. Janeczkoillustrated by Melissa Sweet
  17. Doggy Slippers by Jorge Luján, illustrated by Isol, Translated by Elisa Amado
  18. Down by the River: Afro-Caribbean Rhymes, Games, and Songs for Children by Grace Hallworth, illustrated by Caroline Binch
  19. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López 
  20. Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O'Connell George, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter 
  21. Every Day Birds by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Dylan Metrano
  22. Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems by Georgia Heard 
  23. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
  24. Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham, illustrated by Nancy Davis                                            
    from Flutter and Hum / Aleteo y Zumbido: Animal Poems / Poemas de Animales 
  25. Flutter and Hum / Aleteo y Zumbido: Animal Poems / Poemas de Animales by Julie Paschkis
  26. Forest Has a Song: Poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley
  27. Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart by Mary Ann Hoberman and Michael Emberley
  28. Fold Me a Poem by Kristine O'Connell George, illustrated by Lauren Stringer
  29. From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems / Del ombligo de la luna y otros poemas de verano by Francisco Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
  30. Gracias • Thanks by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra
  31. Hand Rhymes by Marc Brown
  32. Here's A Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry by Jane Yolen
  33. Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Michele Noiset, Jeremy Tugeau, Kristen Balouch, Damian Ward, and Alicia Vergel de Dios
  34. Honey I Love and Other Poems by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Diane and Leo Dillon     
    from Ideas All Around
  35. Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead
  36. Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems / Iguanas en la nieve y otros poemas de invierno by Francisco Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
  37. In the Land of Words: New and Selected Poems by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist 
  38. In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall by various poets, illustrated by Steptoe
  39. In the Spin of Things: Poetry of Motion by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Karen Dugan 
  40. It's Snowing! It's Snowing!: Winter Poems (I Can Read Level 3) by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Yossi Abolafia
  41. Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems / Jitomates Risueños y otros poemas de primavera by Francisco Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
  42. Little Dog and Duncan by Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by June Otani
  43. Little Dog Poems by Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by June Otani
  44. Little You by Richard Van Camp (Tłı̨chǫ), illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree-Métis) Board book
  45. Marc Brown's Playtime Rhymes: A Treasury for Families to Learn and Play Together by Marc Brown
  46. Meet Danitra Brown by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
  47. Movi la mano / I Moved My Hand by Jorge Luján, illustrated by Mandana Sadat, Translated by Elisa Amado
  48. National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs that Squeak, Soar, and Roar! selected by J. Patrick Lewis 
  49. On the Wing by David Elliott, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
  50. Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Alexander.
  51. Outside Your Window:A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Mark Hearld
  52. The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African American Children by Davida Adedjouma, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
  53. Peanut Butter and Jelly: A Play Rhyme illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott
  54. Pieces: A Year in Poems & Quilts by Anna Grossnickle Hines
  55. ¡Pío Peep!: Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes by Alma Flor Ada, F. Isabel Campoy and Alice Schertle, illustrated by Vivi Escriva 
  56. A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher 
  57. A Poem as Big as New York City: Little Kids Write About the Big Apple by Teachers Writers Collaborative and Masha D'yans
  58. Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para soñar juntos bFrancisco Alarcón, illustrated by Paula Barragán
  59. Pug: And Other Animal Poems by Valerie Worth, illustrated by Steve Jenkins 
  60. Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young collected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Marc Brown
  61. Shoe Magic by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Teddy Widener
  62. Spin a Soft Black Song: Poems for Children by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by George Martins 
  63. Splish Splash by Joan Bransfield Graham, illustrated by Steven M. Scott
  64. A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by LeUyen Pham                                                                                                                                 
    At the beginning of the lesson, children previewed the text and recorded what they noticed and wondered as partners. They continued this practice throughout the reading as well.          
  65. Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera 
  66. Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose About Chinese Musical Instruments by Emily Jiang, illustrated by April Chu
  67. Tan to Tamarind: Poems About the Color Brown by Malathi Iyengar, illustrated by Jamel Akib
  68. Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera  
  69. Tortillas Para Mama and Other Nursery Rhymes: Spanish and English by Margot C. Griego and Laurel H. Kimball, illustrated by Barbara Cooney (Illustrator)
  70. Touch the Poem by Arnold Adoff 
  71. Twist: Yoga Poems by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Julie Paschkis 
  72. Water Rolls, Water Rises / El agua rueda, el agua sube by Pat Mora, illustrated by Meilo So
  73. We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp (Tłı̨chǫ), illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree-Métis) board book
  74. When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad
  75. Where Do They Go? by Julia Alvarez, illustrated by Sabra Field
  76. Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings by Shel Silvertein
  77. Under the Sunday Tree by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Amos Ferguson
  78. The Upside Down Boy / El niño de cabeza by Juan Herrera, illustrated by Elizabeth Gómez
  79. Young Cornrows Callin Out the Moon by Ruth Forman, illustrated by Cbabi Bayoc
  80. Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué Rico! Americas' Sproutings by Pat Mora, illustrated by Rafael Lopez