Thursday, January 25, 2018

The GOP Immigration Offer

Liberty and the Fire Boat (M.A. Reilly)

Donald Trump and the GOP want to eliminate family-based migration and instead have potential immigrants prove their worth in order to be admitted. Family-based migration allows family members living in the United States legally to bring other family members to this country. Trump wants to do away with that process and instead enter immigrants based on merit.

The merit-based system would select immigrants based on education, skills, work experience, language proficiency and age.  The concern is substantial given the belief that these factors which would be weighted and allocated specific points fail to consider the unknown trajectory of any person’s actual life and the process decries basic American values. Further the plan crafted by Stephen Miller, a nativist, privileges wealth and completion of high level science/technology/engineering/mathematics (STEM) education as if these two factors represented the ideal immigrant.

And isn’t that the problem? There is no ideal immigrant. There is simply immigrants. 

When I came to America I had just turned two. I came from an Irish orphanage in Dublin. There was no way at that time to determine how profitable I might be for my new country once grown. In fact, if conservative sociologists were to be believed, my IQ by virtue of having lived in an orphanage should have been 8 points lower than the average at four years of age. The United States took a chance on me and my two older brothers as it has done for others. Fortunately, I was allowed into the United States and three years later went to court and became a naturalized citizen at the age of 5. My son too was adopted and he arrived in the States at 5 months old and became a naturalized citizen 13 months later. On that August morning, the judge celebrated our son’s naturalization and I still have a photo from that day of Rob, Devon, my dad and me standing with the judge. We were all bright smiles. 

Under Trump’s merit system the majority of Americans who are citizens would likely not be admitted. To be admitted, the potential citizen would need to earn 30 points. The proposed point system favors a particular type of person (wealthy and/or STEM educated) and that is what is most unethical and anti-American about the plan. 

So how do you amass the highest points in each category? First, think young. You need to be young, preferably between 26 and 31, highly educated in a STEM subject—Ph.D preferred, wealthier than the median income of the state you plan to live in by 300 percent. If you lived in New Jersey as I do that would mean that you would need to prove an income greater than $260,000.  If you wanted to live in Mississippi, you would need to demonstrate an income of $120,000. The only place you could live with an income under $120,000 is Puerto Rico. But be warned: if the island is crippled by a hurricane, don’t expect the Unites States government to help. You are on your own. Last, it would be advantageous to have earned already a Nobel prize (you’d be awarded 25 points) or its equivalent.  

So do you think you would qualify? I’m guessing you don’t!  By the way if you are 50 or older you would earn 0 points in the age group. When I examined the criteria, I thought a lot about what was being valued. Given the absence of compassion among Trump and his advisors and a xenophobic attitude about other, the proposal is not too surprising. These folks want to establish the United States in their own image.

Merit is troublesome as whatever is deemed preferable is of course potentially problematic when seen in another light. What would a country of 26-31 year old wealthy people act like?  What about a country of people with advanced degrees in STEM subjects? What about a country where its new citizens largely bought their way in by investing at least $1.8 million in an America based project that the applicants list as their primary jobs, similar to the the Jared Kushner-Chinese investment scheme that was attempted earlier in the year. That alone would net you 12 of the 30 points you need.  Why is someone who has large amounts of cash better than the hard working immigrant that built this country?  My mother’s mom came to America and raised 6 children. My father-in-law’s family worked hard as new immigrants living on the lower East side. They built a profitable company and raised kind children. For Trump and Miller wealth, STEM education, and capacity of speak English are all privileged. No tired huddle mass here. The Statue of Liberty would bow her head and weep at such deplorable gimmicks.  Frankly, we should too. 

When I think about the proposed ‘immigration’ bill Trump just forwarded that pits the DACA kids against the GOPs Wall and nativist immigration policy, I am reminded of the wisdom in Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” where the speaker aptly states:

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.

The problem though with the GOP and Trump is they never shy away from giving offence.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Cider

Delicious tasting.

Apple Cider Butternut Squash Soup 

This butternut squash soup tastes fabulous and is easy to make. The recipe, which I have changed just a bit, comes from Martha Drummond’s (2014) Paleo Slow Cooker Cookbook.   I have made several recipes from this cookbook with great success.


2 cups of apple cider, no sugar added
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 14 ounce can of coconut milk
1 carrot, washed, peeled and finely chopped
1 butternut squash, cut into cubes ( I bought already cut up squash and it saved a lot of time)
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
2 gala apples, washed, cored, peeled and diced

  1. Roast the butternut squash in oven at 425 F for about minutes.
  2. Place the apple cider, coconut milk, carrot, squash, cinnamon, nutmeg and diced apples in your slow cooker.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours on low.
  4. After cooking, process the soup in a blender until it is smooth.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Recommended K-4 Children's Books for Parents

A client recently asked me for book recommendations and so I passed these brochures along.  I thought I would share them on my blog.

You can download the brochures here.

For Kindergarten

For First Grade 

For Second Grade

For Third Grade

For Fourth Grade

#SOL18: After Great Loss Comes Acceptance

Moon Over Field (M.A. Reilly, 2012)

For the first 18 months I was very, very careful. It wasn’t as if I understood the care I took. Rather, it was something that felt essential.  I lived by some adages those first months after Rob's death:

Ensure Devon is well protected, well loved.
Stay healthy.
Minimize risk.
Avoid drama.
Be positive.
Fill life with what is most good. 

I avoided mishaps as best I could because each problem felt so devastating regardless of the problem's actual weight. After such a loss, the smallest concern would derail me. There’s a vulnerability to being sick, to having problems that exacerbated my sense of loneliness.  Each sniffle, cold, or disappointment triggered a feeling of loss. In the aftermath of great loss, life is more tenuous than reliable.

Like water through splayed fingers, that protection slipped greatly these last six months. Acceptance took hold even when it did not announce itself. It came after a challenging fall when I had been sick much of October, November and December with blinding headaches, congestion, and difficulty breathing. I had been seen by an ENT, suffered through a lung x-ray to rule out lung cancer, and swallowed several rounds of steroids and antibiotics that failed to even temporarily fix the sinus infection. It wasn’t until the second ENT said, “Something isn’t right. I want you to take the medicine I’m prescribing and after you finish it, get a CT-scan. Something is causing this infection to resurge.” A day after the scan the doctor phoned and told me there were no blockages and that he thought the source of the infection was an abscess tooth.

“My tooth?”
“I’m not a dentist so I can’t say for sure. But it does look like that on the films. Upper right.”
“I have a tender tooth there. I figured that was because of the sinus infection.”
“When were you last to the dentist?”
“Six months ago. I had a full set of x-rays, no cavities and my teeth were cleaned. I guess I need to make an appointment.”
“Yes, as soon as you can. I’ll have the office put aside your films so you can bring them to your dentist. Let me know what happens.”

A week later my dentist confirmed the abscess and a week after that I had root canal. I returned to the ENT who confirmed the infection was still present and he prescribed more antibiotics and a steroid and told me to come back in two weeks. I returned to have another CT-scan and was able to see the extraordinary difference between the first set of films and the second.

I cried easily those three months, missing Rob deeply. I tended to isolate myself at first because I felt miserable and then because the isolation felt like comfort. What I did not know was I was saying goodbye once again to my husband.  By the second year, Rob was more memory than body.  He was removed from my day-to-day life.  Life resettled and hope once again felt palpable. Acceptance wasn't a decision as I first thought. It was more a process that arose in time.

That adage about time healing all wounds feels wiser these days.

Friday, January 12, 2018

America, we can be better than this

Roland and his mom, Myra Gregory. from The Takeaway.

16% of US children live in poverty. That may shock you as you begin to compute the millions of children that percentage represents. Keep in mind this: this percentage represents a ten percent decrease largely created during President Bush's tenure and President Obama’s tenure. Why the decrease?  What happened?

Government happened.

Government policies and practices helped to lower the percentage of children living in poverty. The market and trickle down economies did not help to lower the percentages of children living in poverty. Government helped. 

Presidents Bush and Obama are of course, gone from office. So too are responsible and ethical budgeting. In an article from The Huffington Post,  Alon Ben-Meir, a Senior Fellow Center for Global Affairs at NYU wrote (Oct. 27, 2017):

"Here is the glaring cruelty of Trump’s budget cuts. Over the next 10 years, $190 billion is being cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), and $616 billion cut from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In addition, the cut from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare) is $21.6 billion. There is a proposed cut of $40.4 billion from earned-income tax credits and child tax credits."

The very programs that helped to lower the poverty level are being drastically reduced by the GOP and Trump. Instead of ensuring children have health care and food, we are building a wall that is not needed, nor will it be effective. Consider this:

"In each year from 2007 to 2014, more people joined the ranks of the illegal by remaining in the United States after their temporary visitor permits expired than by creeping across the Mexican border, according to a report by researchers at the Center for Migration Studies." (from NYT, 3.6.17)

Trump's deluge of tweets suggests that market gains represent the best indicator of what makes America great. This isn’t too surprising given his wealth and the insulation that such wealth often presents. For him and other 1%ers the stock market is a fine and accurate measure of success. CNN Money (2017) reports that "88% of those making more than $1 million are in the market, which explains why the rising stock market tracks with increasing levels of inequality" (from here). Consider that "On average across the United States, only 18.7% of taxpayers directly own stocks." For average Americans and certainly for Americans who suffer from poverty, the stock market is at best an indicator of the increasing divide between the wealthy and everyone else. The stock market gains that Trump boasts benefits the richest Americans, like him. 

There’s something rather amoral about budgeting decision of the Trump administration and the GOP in Washington. 
They have cut government to better ensure their own financial gains and to forward their social values. 


At the beginning of January (2018) Pence and his wife hosted "faith leaders." For these people, abortion is considered evil.  I wonder though where their outrage is for actual living children--those no longer in the womb? Where is their fight for those 9 million children whose health care is not being funded (CHIPS).  A month ago I heard a story on The Takeaway about a mom (Myra Gregory) and her little ten-year son, Roland, who has stage IV lung cancer. Because Congress has not funded the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), her boy has had no scans since last summer and his very necessary pain meds are no longer guaranteed. He’s fighting what my husband died from at 60. Rob said the pain from the tumors on his spine was like an ice pick being driven into his back over and over. Imagine that kind of pain  being felt by a child? Pain that could be managed if Congress could find CHIPs.   

The stock market will never be my measure of economic success in America. A better measure of economic success is when Roland and all other child are well fed, have steady places to live, and have access to health care that rivals Congress. 

Come on, America—we can do better than this. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

#SOL18: Trump’s ‘shithole countries’ Comment Reveals the Racist

Crossing Brooklyn Bridge (M.A. Reilly, 1.10.18)
"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Trump said, according to these people, referring to African countries and Haiti. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met yesterday. (From: The Washington Post, 1.11.18) 

Yesterday  I worked at MS 88 in Brooklyn all day. It’s an amazing middle school and when I was leaving about 6 pm, the halls were still filled with students. It’s a school where the energy of learning is so prominent. I caught a ride to Penn Station from a local car service (thanks Ailene) and enjoyed an hour long conversation with Muhammed, who hails from the west coast of Africa, from the country of Gambia.

“It is the smallest country in Africa,” Muhammed told me. “A most beautiful country.  Our coast is so lovely. Few here seem to know of it.”
“I would like to visit,” I told him.
“You must.”

Our conversation eventually focused on learning and I told him a bit about my day at MS 88: the inspiring teachers and principal, the dynamic young people, and the joy of learning.

“I have the best job,” I said laughing. “I get paid to work and learn with other people. I swear I learn far more from them than I suspect they learn me. It really is a privilege.” 
“Your words. They inspire me,” Muhammed said. “I have been thinking about what I want to do. Your stories give me ideas.” 
“Like what?” 
“It is hard to say.” 
“What are you considering?”
“In two years I want to return to my country. I will work with young people like you do here. I too would like to teach.” 
“It is such satisfying work.” 
“I will work hard to be able to do it. This gives me purpose.” 
“Working with others makes me happy. But I think you’ll see that working alongside children is the best.”  
“Yes, I think so too.”

This morning I thought of Muhammed when I read The Washington Post article that recounted Trump’s course language while revealing his racist dogma. Imagine a president who speaking publicly refers to other countries as shitholes where the dominant race is African while suggesting we allow more Norwegians, where the dominant race is white, to immigrate?  I thought Muhammed is a man Trump will never know and frankly we are all the worse for it.

How very sad and tiresome it is to toil beneath the weight of this old, angry white guy who a minority of voters elected. How stuck we are. It is also frightening when I consider that this very unstable imbecile is one of the most powerful people on the planet. His small, little bubble of like-minded white men denies him access to other. Without encounters with other, we are likely doomed to repeat mistakes and to think our current reality represents the whole of the world. 

At the very least we ought to demand a president who is (other)wise. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

#SOL18: MaryAnn’s #OLW, Reduce

Lake in Fog (Reilly, 2015)

This year I want to keep in mind the benefits of reduction. Not only is less more, but so too is the act of reducing. My one little word to keep in mind this year is reduce.

Two years ago my husband was alive. He began January in the intensive care and would undergo neurosurgery, rehab, a third staph infection, before returning again to the hospital where the prognosis would become terminal. He spent fifty days of his last 8 weeks of life in the hospital before coming home to die. We did not know he would not live to see spring.

In the space from then to now, I have emptied and filled my life with activities and necessities that often masked the awful waiting I have courted.  Acceptance is the dance partner of waiting. Acceptance is less graceful than I thought it might be. But I am standing in 2018 accepting that Rob's death does not define my life. 


Pain seeks response. For the last two years I have sought to reduce pain through clutter and stillness. I have filled my days with any number of things to do, places to go, and art to make happen alongside sitting very, very still and waiting. You might ask, waiting for what? It’s a fair question and one I find difficult to answer.  It’s what Samuel Beckett knew when he wrote Waiting for Godot.

          VLADIMIR: Well? What do we do?
ESTRAGON: Don't let's do anything. It's safer.
Waiting feels safer than acting at first. It feels familiar, while the world I knew so well felt less so. feels less so.  Mostly, in between doing and going, I have waited for time to pass and courage to rise like a familiar friend I could beckon. I have waited to accept Rob’s death, the death of a life I thought I would have, and my responsibilities to life.


Reduce the distractions for becoming is always an act of living, not waiting. Understand that the loss of Rob was also the loss of me and make note of the life emerging.

Waiting and remembering are twin acts that mask living.

Reduce the noise, the distractions.
Stand up.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

50 Books You Can Count On

Image result for counting crows appelt
from Counting Crows
  1. Anno, Mitsumasa. (1977). Anno's Counting Book. New York: Crowell.
  2. Appelt, Kathy. (2015). Counting Crows. Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
  3. Atinuke. (2017). Baby Goes to Market. Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
  4. Aylesworth, Jim. (1988). One Crow: A Counting Rhyme. New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  5. Bang, Molly. (1996). Ten. Nine. EightNew York: Greenwillow.
  6. Baker, Keith. (2004). Quack and Count. New York: HMH Books.
  7. Berkes, Marianne. (2007). Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme. Illustrated by Jeanette Canyon. CA: Dawn Publications.
  8. Black, Birdie. (2017). Warthog. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. Somerville, MA: Nosy Crow.
  9. Blackstone, Stella. (2006). My Granny Went to the Market. Illustrated by Christopher Corr. New York: Barefoot Book.
  10. Bloom, Valerie. (1997). Fruits: A Caribbean Counting PoemIllustrated by David Axtell. New York: Henry Holt.
  11. Boynton, Sandra. (1984 ). Doggies: A Counting and Barking Book. New York: Little Simon.
  12. Brown, Anthony. (2013). One Gorilla. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
  13. Calmenson, Stephanie. (1995). Dinner at the Panda Palace. New York: HarperCollins.
  14. Carle, Eric. (1998). 1, 2, 3 To The Zoo. New York: Puffin Books.
  15. Cave, Kathryn. (2003). One Child, One Seed: A South African Counting BookPhotographs by Gisèle Wulfsohn. New York: Henry Holt.
  16. Clark, Emma Chichester. (2003). Mimi's Book of Counting. Charlesbridge Publisher.
  17. Crews, Donald. (1975). Ten Black Dots. New York: Greenwillow.
  18. Cyrus, Kurt. (2016). Billions of Bricks: A Counting Book about Building. New York: Henry Holt.
  19. Dahl, Michael. (2004). On the Launch Pad: A Counting Books about Rockets. New York: Picture Window Books.
  20. Edwards, Pamela Duncan. (2000). Roar! A Noisy Counting Book. Illustrated by Henry Cole. New York: Katherine Tegen Books.
  21. Ehrhardt, Karen. (2015). This Jazz Man. Illustrated by R. G. Roth. New York: HMH Books.
  22. Elhert, Lois. (2001). Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On. New York: HMH Books.
  23. Falconer, Ian. (2002). Olivia Counts. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
  24. Falwell, Cathryn. (1995). Feast for 10. New York: HMH Books.
  25. Feelings, Muriel. (1992). Moja Means One: Swahili Counting Book. Illustrated by Tom Feelings. New York: Puffin Books.
  26. Fleming, Denise. (2012). The First Day of Winter. New York: SquareFish.
  27. Giganti, Paul. (1999). Each Orange Had 8 Slices. Illustrated by Donald Crews. New York: 
  28. Golub, Matthew. ().  Ten Oni Drummers. Illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone. New York: Lee & Low Books.
  29. Isadora, Rachel. (2009). Twelve Dancing Princess. New York: Penguin.
  30. Isadora, Rachel. (1998). A South African Night. New York: Penguin.
  31. Jackson, Ellen. (2016). Octopuses One to Ten. Illustrated by Robin Page. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  32. Katz, Karen. (2003). Counting Kisses: A Kiss and Read Book. New York: Little Simon.
  33. Lazar, Tara. (2017). 7 Ate 9. Illustrated by Ross Macdonald.  New York: Disney-Hyperion.
  34. Lessac, Frané. (2005). Island Counting 1 2 3. London: Walker Books.
  35. Lin, Grace. (2008). One is a Drummer. Illustrated by Roseanne Thong. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
  36. Luján, Jorge. (2014). Numeralia. Illustrated by Isol. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books.
  37. Mannis, Celeste Davidson. (2005). One Leaf Rides the Wind. New York: Puffin.
  38. Merriam, Eve. (1996). Twelve Ways to Get to 11. Illustrated by Bernie Karlan. New York: Aladdin.
  39. Morales, Yuyi. (2003). Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
  40. Nagara, Innosanto. (2015). Counting on Community. Berkeley, CA: Triangle.
  41. Otoshi, Kathryn. (2014). Two. KO Kids Books.
  42. Otoshi, Kathryn. (2010). Zero. KO Kids Books.
  43. Otoshi, Kathryn. (2008). One. KO Kids Books.
  44. Pinczes, Elinor J. (1999). One Hundred Hungry Ants. New York: HMH Books.
  45. Root, Phyllis. (2001). One Duck Stuck. Illustrated by Jane Chapman. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
  46. Sendak, Maurice. (1991). One Was Johnny. New York: HarperCollins.
  47. Shannon, George. (2015). One Family. Illustrated by Blanca Gomez. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  48. Sturges, Philemon. (1997). Ten Flashing Fireflies. Illustrated by Anna Vojtech. New York: NorthSouth.
  49. Thong, Roseanne. (2014). One Is a Drummer: A Book of Numbers. Illustrated by Grace Lin. 
  50. Walsh, Ellen Stoll. (1995). Mouse PaintNew York: HMH Books.