My Election Reflection

I’ve been writing in my head and having trouble finding the words to say, to console, to offer hope instead of fear.

I could blame the election results on so many factors, but I’ll leave that to the political analysts. I could dream (and believe me I do) that I’ll wake up and the news will be different. That something happened while I slept to change the results and dispose of an unqualified President-elect, that so many scholars, both American and foreign warned about. I could wish something will be disclosed that disqualifies him from holding office. I sign petitions and make phone calls, knowing these efforts are probably in vain.

I had hoped that perhaps once elected, he’d put aside his hateful rhetoric. Yet by his appointments, he’s condoning attitudes and practices that threaten the core of our democracy.

I realize I live in a bubble of opinions; that half the country doesn’t think how I think. I wonder who their teachers were and what they learned in school. Where did they learn this blatant disregard for civil rights, freedom of speech, and outright racism and hatred?

I can’t change the results. So I have to stand up and join others to be vigilant, to not allow history to repeat itself, not allow our constitution to be dismantled, and not allow people to be treated badly. But, it is so hard. My children have asked where we’ll go as if we’re ready to leave. We’re not so ready to give up or give in.

Thank you, Dan Rather for your words.

He wrote:

“Now is a time when none of us can afford to remain seated or silent. We must all stand up to be counted.

History will demand to know which side were you on. This is not a question of politics or party or even policy. This is a question about the very fundamentals of our beautiful experiment in a pluralistic democracy ruled by law. “

I’ve been doing a lot of yoga and that seems to calm me a bit. The day after the election I visited an art museum and attended a dance performance in New York City; art is a balm for the soul. Throughout the entire campaign season, a la Dicken’s Madame Defarge, I knit while watching the debates, recording indelible history in the garments. I stopped into a local knitting store recently and the proprietor told me business had increased since the election. In times of stress, people want to be creative.

To quote from the musical Hamilton,  “History has its eyes on you.

It’s up to us.

As Dan Rather ends his essay:

“We are a great nation. We have survived deep challenges in our past. We can and will do so again. But we cannot be afraid to speak and act to ensure the future we want for our children and grandchildren.”







Posted in aging, commentary, Family, Grandchildren, History, Knitting, teaching, Theater, women, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Mom’s Latest Post: Faces in the Trees

When I sit at my kitchen table I witness an amazing panorama of trees through the picture window. I have the impression that most of the trees are in close proximity, although this is not so. Yet the branches of each tree appear to be reaching out to others and create the feeling of a […]

via Faces in the Trees — bestofbarbara

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Life Skills 2016

At a recent dinner, my friend bemoaned that her son, now a college freshman, never learned to write in cursive because his school district stopped teaching it to save money. She’s frustrated that her son can’t read the letters his grandmother sends handwritten in cursive.

That led me to think about life skills. I’m not sure writing cursive is one, but reading letters from a relative is. I solicited comments through email and social media, without specifying whether I was looking for concrete answers, like tying one’s shoes, or abstract ones, like being kind and humble.

Of course the times change what’s considered life skills. Using a computer is a given in 2016; yet I guess I’m old enough to believe that some skills are necessary in case there’s no Internet!

I’ve narrowed my list of essential concrete skills to: (in no particular order of importance): swimming, driving, including a stick shift; touch typing, basic sewing and cooking, first aid, using chopsticks, and speaking even a tiny smidgen of a foreign language. You never know when you’ll need these and some could get you out of an emergency.

Others offered: basic tool use, doing laundry, reading maps, changing tires, personal finance, hunting, fishing, finding fresh drinking water, building a fire and finding shelter, stopping a running toilet and how to charge a car battery.


The abstract answers ran the gamut, including references to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy as written in his 1943 “A Theory of Human Motivation.” imgres

Among the answers were: building strong relationships with people, remembering conversations, being a good guest and host, writing thank you notes, a sense of humor, resilience, persistence, courage, adaptability, self-control, critical thinking, and forgiveness.

If you think of others in either category, please let me know!




















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Rethinking Halloween

It’s time to rethink Halloween.fullsizerender-1

By now parents have raided their kids’ Halloween bags and squirreled away the goodies they like. Children have bartered their candy, swapping less desirable treats for more favorable brands between their siblings and friends.

As a nation, Americans spent $2.7 billion on candy this season. While customs vary community to community, the basic premise remains: children (often adults too and lots of teenagers), dress in costumes and go door -to -door saying “Trick or Treat.”

Don’t get me wrong. As a kid, I loved Halloween. We made our costumes and my mother would drive us up and down our rural street. As a teenager, I remember visiting thrift shops to put together costumes and going out with friends. My own children loved the holiday and I certainly availed myself of sweets from their haul.

But each year I like this holiday less and less. I grumble when older kids grab handfuls and don’t say thank you and call a mask or some make-up a costume. In one town we lived in, people would drive from all over to invade our street. It was level and well lit, so kids could hit a lot of houses in a short time. Every year we ran out of candy and I’d end up borrowing from my kids’ loot after they returned.

Now hardly anyone comes. Perhaps more people are attending community gatherings. Or our street isn’t as level or as well lit as the previous one. I still buy some candy, just in case, and deliberately select brands I won’t eat myself if left with entire bags.

It’s the leftover candy that’s the problem. Years ago, dentists began a buyback campaign, offering to pay their patients for unopened candy to reduce the increase in tooth decay and obesity. We all know we don’t need extra sugar.

They then donate the candy to charities that distribute the sweets to military based overseas who consume what they want and then give away what remains to local children.

So if all that sugar is bad for US kids, isn’t it equally bad for others?

Let’s rethink Halloween. No one collects for UNICEF (I used to) and apples can’t be given for fear of embedded razor blades. The threat of dangerous objects continues to be a concern. The day after Halloween, a New Jersey newswire reported a few cases of needles and pins found inside candy in several locations. Candy in excess is bad for our health, our kids’ health, our overseas service- peoples’ health and the health of children in foreign countries.


Posted in commentary, food, health, holidays, parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Ode to Z-Pak


The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.*

 No apple picking, bike riding
Or hiking on this cold, damp day.

I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny.
But we can have lots of good fun that is funny!*

Our son suggested we come around two
To read books and play Rummi-Q

We played with the grands,
Sharing cuddles and giggles
As they shared their snuffles and sniffles.

On the ride home I felt it at once
Like a wave over my head
A chill and a cough, and went right to bed

By morning I’d caught a full-fledged cold
Sneezing, dripping, and feeling quite old.

I’ll fight it a few days, I declared
Take aspirin, fluids and rest
Eat chicken soup, give the Neti-pot a test

Yet my energy dropped, my nose clogged
My head ached and ears rung
I worried I had gunk in my lung

The doctor thoroughly checked-
Lungs and ears all ok, but my sinuses
Seemed inflamed and infected

“This isn’t unusual with grandparents,”
she said. “We see this a lot.
Your immunity is lower
as you get older.”

I picked up the 5- pill Z-pak @
And took the first dose
By morning I raised my juice to a toast:

Praise be to drugs that help mend the sick
They’re efficient and do the job quick!


*Borrowed from The Cat in the Hat












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Fall Into Reading

When I taught middle school Language Arts, I made a bulletin board called “Fall into Reading.” As students finished books, they’d make a leaf from construction paper, write the title, their name, rate the book up to five stars, then add their leaf to the tree. Other students would get ideas for book titles, and often chose books just because someone they knew read it.

So here’s a clutch of books I’ve read the past few months. Maybe you’ll want to add them to your own book tree.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. True account of an American citizen from Syria who decided to stay in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. A painting and building contractor, he wanted to protect his home, office and several rental properties. He used an old canoe to rescue people and neighborhood dogs until Homeland Security agents arrested him. He was subjected to torture and prison, until his wife could amass character witnesses and get him released. An American dream story that proves not to judge people by appearances.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead have been paired together as new books addressing slavery and its legacy. I liked the Gyasi more but found the Whitehead intriguing. url

Along that theme, there can’t be enough stories about how the legacy of slavery informs present day race relations and challenges. I heard Ryan Speedo Green interviewed on the radio and knew I had to get his biography, Sing for Your Life, written by Daniel Bergner. Green grew up in Virginia, rebelled at home and at school and spent time in juvenile detention. Thanks to a persistent teacher who didn’t give up on him, he discovered opera and declared as a teenager he would sing at the Metropolitan Opera one day, something not many African Americans have done. He’s since returned to speak to current inmates at the center, encouraging them to find an interest and pursue it. And he’s appearing at the Met this season in Puccini’s La Boheme. The book details his life and also shares a fascinating behind the scenes look at the opera world. 51gt7whp6ol-_sx321_bo1204203200_


The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende. An elderly woman’s secret romance is discovered by her grandson. I listened to this on tape while reading at the same time. A really good story. url

And finally, my cousin Alexander Weinstein’s debut collection of short stories, Children of the New World. Alexander is my mother’s first cousin’s son so that technically makes him my second cousin. We don’t know each other well but thanks to social media and a family wedding a few years ago, we’re in touch. I confess I’m not a short story lover but I read these at a rapid pace. Alexander applies futuristic technology to some disturbing scenarios. Yet most offer hope despite the fact that the technology doesn’t seem so far-fetched. He’s on a national tour and will be speaking in Brooklyn later in November. I look forward to catching up and hearing his inspiration for these stories. fdfaea_146b3e3c3d2c4f04b3db7b71fb8e7552


I’m looking for new titles. Suggestions, please!


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Children’s Book Briefs

I visited my mentor, Dr. M. Jerry Weiss this week. At 90, he’s as sharp as ever and we discuss everything from family to politics and of course, children’s literature. He gave me a batch of books when I left. Publishers continue to send him new titles- his basement is lined with bookshelves and he seems to know where everything is.

Here’s what I got:

(alphabetical by title)

Curious George Visits the Dentist by Monica Perez, Illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)  Who can resist this adorable monkey who seems to get himself in and out of trouble? A nice way to ease a young child’s fears of the dentist, illustrated  with a multi-racial cast of characters. The Curious George industry has continued beyond the original writer and illustrator team of Margret & H. A. Rey, keeping the famous monkey alive for the ages.

Lotus & Feather by Ji-li Jiang, illustrated by Julie Downing (Disney/Hyperion)Lotus rescues an injured crane who she names Feather. When Feather heals, Lotus sends him back to his migrating flock. One day, Feather returns with his family in tow. Based on true events, the story inspires empathy. 61lnboe-bql-_ac_us160_

Henri’s Scissors written & illustrated by Jeanette Winter (Beach Lane Books)In sparse prose, Winter brings readers into the world of artist Henri Matisse, starting as a young child drawing through old age when ill in bed and no longer able to paint, he began creating collages with paper cut-outs. Have scissors and paper handy for young readers to create their own! 51-07u2rsl-_ac_us160_


Old MacDonald Had A Truck by Steve Goetz, illustrated by Eda Kaban (Chronicle Books)  And a front loader, a bulldozer, a dump truck and so on. The classic retold for the construction vehicle- loving crowd. Lots of fun sounds to act out too.

Monkey: Not Ready for the Baby by Marc Brown (Alfred A. Knopf)Monkey likes being the little brother but is thrilled when his baby sister arrives. There can never be enough books to prepare older siblings for the arrival of a new baby.

Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit by Sue-Ganz-Schmitt, illustrated by Shane Prigmore (Chronicle Kids)  The first 100 days of kindergarten set in outer space, including walking with a buddy and helping clean up alien toys. Onto day 101!  61ypqtjcmql-_ac_us160_

Platypus by Sue Whiting, illustrated by Mark Jackson (Candlewick Press) Learn about the mysterious platypus through both a lyrical narration of a platypus’ day and the scientific facts about the animal, combined in two different fonts on each page. 61btblt0fol-_ac_us160_

And finally a little self-promotion. I’ve self-published two books recently. Both have been long in the writing and have been vetted through children’s book writing workshops. I just wanted to get them out there this year!

Amanda at Bat is based on true events. Amanda is so excited to play t-ball but she never gets her turn at bat until she creatively suggests ways to change the batting order. I added a few questions at the end to discuss Amanda’s actions and the issue of fairness with young readers and listeners.Cover lo res

Clara & Her Nutcracker stems from an early love of the famous ballet and its music. I can’t remember when I started writing this beloved story in verse but kept at it for more than a decade. 9781522752509_p0_v1_s192x300


Please check them out and let me know what you think!












Bronte—how they played—writing, reading, plays , poems, stories.. creating fantasy worlds , drawing,

Tiny minuscule writing in little books. Wonder how publisher type setter managed unless told to copy over, curious how much editing was involved

Jane eyre always one of my favorites, gift from welsch pen pal when about 11..

Still have and have watched sereral variations of the movie.. still love original w/ orson wells and joan fontaine (and a very young Elizabeth taylor the best

Black and white brought out the cold moors and even colder boarding school cruel

Feminist—no man or woman, author.. is our reading biased by gender of author?

Rest of treasures of morgan library- guttenbuerg bible.

Posted in art, Books, commentary, Education, Grandchildren, Music, Nature, parenting, Reading, reviews, teaching, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments