Safe Rose Spray Recipe

My mother loved to garden. Her roses were lush, hearty, and fragrant, and their maroon and pink petals were as soft as velvet. Before I walked to elementary school, she’d cut stems, crinkle tin foil around the bottoms, and tell me to give the flowers to my teachers. I’d walk the whole way smelling sweetness.

Irises and strawberries were also abundant in my mother’s garden, while my father cultivated tomatoes and cucumbers. I’d pick wild raspberries and blackberries which grew on the hill behind my childhood home. Needless to say, roses are my favorite flowers.

Though I share my mom’s love of writing, I did not inherit her green thumb. If the garden in front of my house were my mother’s, the roses would bloom large and healthy. My roses are not. I prune them regularly, cutting off spent blossoms at an angle, and though they smell sweet, their petals are thin and their leaves are being eaten by garden pests. What to do?

I came across this organic pesticide in the article Safe Rose Spray Recipe That Really Works by Meghan Shinn in Horticulture.

Hon, do you have any tips for keeping roses healthy?

More than 5,000 rose bushes grow at Hershey Gardens in Hershey, Pa., where the gardening staff works hard to keep them free of pests and diseases. They use a chemical spray in the main garden, but they did not want to use this spray in the dedicated Children’s Garden. Instead, they came up with the following safe rose spray recipe, which they’ve found to be very effective.

Horticulture

RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon dish soap
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (or any other cooking oil)

Directions:

Mix vinegar and water, then add baking soda, dish soap and vegetable oil. Stir mixture into one gallon water. Pour into spray bottle and spray on roses’ foliage. Reapply every seven to ten days or after a rainstorm.

Memorial Day Poem

I’m re-posting this poem, a prayer, from last Memorial Day with an added line.


In this year,

an historic year

of a global pandemic,

economic and educational disparities,

racial and religious hatred,

ideological and political divides,

innocence and freedom terrorized,

and our beautiful, irreplaceable earth

in deep trouble,

remember those who have served our country

and those who still do,

sons and daughters

whose families long to embrace them

and welcome them home.

Amen.

Angelic Voices, Precious Lives

Hon, you know I like to post happy things with occasional contemplations. But.

But my heart is heavy after yet another school shooting amidst a spate of violence in a disease that has infected the United States. Thoughts of horror in classrooms invades my mind and I tell myself to think of the ocean, the forest, the mountains and sky.

Throughout the year at the preschool, we drill for emergencies: fire, shelter-in-place, and active shooter. The morning after the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas we drilled.

My co-teacher had taken three children to the bathroom, so I was alone in the classroom with six two year-olds when we were heard “Active shooter in the building!” Should we stay in the classroom or run?

I blacked out the window on our door, bolted the door, and told my kids to get down and stay quiet. It was hard for them. Was Miss Naomi serious? She never speaks in that tone. My tone said Now! I mean it! Shhh!

As soon it seemed safer to run, we did. My toddlers are little and their wobbly legs can’t run fast without tripping and falling. I scooped up one, held hands with three, and teachers who were running with their students through my classroom scooped up the others and ran holding them.

We gathered outside. One teacher didn’t know it was a drill.

The critique from our security guard? Run much, much farther.


I posted the video of the New York City Children’s Choir singing Holy Night December 15, 2012, the day after the horrific Sandy Hook School tragedy. At the time, my youngest wanted to know if December 14 would become a national day of mourning. We’d have to add February 14 for Parkland and many more.

I can’t stop thinking about the precious children whose eyes tear up when they look at their teachers for reassurance. Is this a drill or real?

Spring Sings Hope

Hon, I’m currently in Spain and will have lots to post when I return. Hubby, one of our daughters and our son are visiting another daughter who is studying abroad this semester. We spent two and a half days in Madrid, then took a high-speed train to Barcelona. I’m so grateful to be on this trip!

Wifi isn’t the most reliable so I’m re-posting these pretty pics along with “Hope” by Emily Dickinson. The rhythm of the words gives this poem a “melody,” and the first two lines illustrate how I feel when my literary agent sends me a list of editors to whom she’s submitting my manuscripts.

Missing our Matriarch, Poem on Grief

We can’t avoid the saddest part of our humanity and though we know we’ll have to deal with it, as my husband’s Aunt Pauline said, “It never gets easier.”

I haven’t posted in awhile because Cecile Gruer, my 86 year-old mother-in-law and matriarch of our family, passed away last week. There’s so much to say about her decline, measures that were taken to try to restore her health, and the month she spent under hospice care. The last time she celebrated a happy occasion with the family was her granddaughter’s wedding in September 2021. Even then, she wasn’t truly herself.

There’s much more to say about Cecile, who as a young girl in Poland, ran with her parents and siblings from the Nazi’s during WWII. She spent years in Siberia, freezing and starving. After the war ended, she was a teenager in an Austrian displaced persons camp. Her immediate family eventually moved to America, first to St. Louis and then to New York. She met Morris, another Holocaust survivor, in Brooklyn, NY and they married and built a home and family. So much to say…

The outpouring of sympathy from family and friends illustrates the importance of community. It may sound cliche, but it’s crucial to support each other when a life starts and when it ends.

Hubby and I are exhausted from the many months of Cecile’s decline, reeling from witnessing her personality change, saddened by her loss of communication, and grieving her passing. A tribute post will have to wait. Though Cecile didn’t die young, Jon Pineda’s poem on grief strikes a chord.

My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up the Task was published in The New York Times Magazine January 16, 2022 with commentary by Victoria Chang. She said, “I first read this poem on Twitter, and even though it’s a simple poem about grief, it stayed with me. I’m fascinated by the way that it discloses so much in its title, showing how a title can get important information out of the way so that the poem can breathe on its own. Yet the reader doesn’t know what the ‘task’ is until the third stanza. The poem is an example of how abundant emotions can be conveyed by stripping language down to the bone.”

My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up the Task

A basket of apples brown in our kitchen,

their warm scent is the scent of ripening,

and my sister, entering the room quietly,

takes a seat at the table, takes up the task

of peeling slowly away the blemished skins,

even half-rotten ones are salvaged carefully.

She makes sure to carve out the mealy flesh.

For this, I am grateful. I explain, this elegy

would love to save everything. She smiles at me,

and before long, the empty bowl she uses fills,

domed with thin slices she brushes into

the mouth of a steaming pot on the stove.

What can I do? I ask finally. Nothing,

she says, let me finish this one thing alone.

Poem for Grief, On the Death of the Beloved

It’s been two weeks since Lucy died and it feels like I’m walking through sludge. One of my daughters said we have no ways to mark the death of our sweet, four-legged guardian angels and she’s right. There’s no funeral, shiva, or memorial service. Maybe that’s too much to ask since we enfold our furry companions into our families knowing we will outlive them, but still…

Lucy was also beloved by friends, neighbors and community, and the outpouring of sympathy is a tribute to her big, brown, expressive, soulful eyes and loving spirit. Those eyes. They talked to you. We went on so many adventures together. She brought us closer.

We miss her terribly.

On the Death of the Beloved

by John O’Donohue

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again. 

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” and Kindness

Image source, BBSMI
Flags fly at Liberty State Park.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Kindness is the theme at preschool. Kindness is taught all year, but this week it’s emphasized with child-led acts of kindness. What can young children do?

This poem by Edgar Albert Guest is thought-provoking and meaningful. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech is timeless and needs to be read, repeated, studied and proclaimed now more than ever.

Transcript of speech by 
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
August 28, 1963. Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. 

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. 

Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beckoning light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. 

But one hundred years later the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. 

One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. 

One hundred years later the Negro is still languishing in the comers of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. 

We all have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to change racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice ring out for all of God’s children. 

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted citizenship rights. 

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. 

And the marvelous new militarism which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers have evidenced by their presence here today that they have come to realize that their destiny is part of our destiny. 

So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.” 

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood. 

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. 

I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. 

I have a dream today. 

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its Governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. 

I have a dream today. 

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and before the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. 

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the mount with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the genuine discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together; to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom forever, )mowing that we will be free one day. 

And I say to you today my friends, let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the mighty Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! 

Let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Colorado! 

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California! 

But not only there; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia! 

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee! 

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. 

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”

Starting the Year & Ending it With Hope

HOPE sculpture in Manhattan by Robert Indiana

At the start of 2021, I shared art from a visit to the MOMA in “Sorbet for the Soul Series,” and I’m ending the year with a similar feeling of contemplation. Hon, here are three masterpieces that invited me to stop and study, think and feel, and to hope.

This is the last of the “Sorbet for the Soul Series,” at least for now. I hope to get back to the MOMA, the MET or any other place where creativity, inspiration and peace of mind resides. Shout out to Lyn Sirota who shared a September 13, 2019 program on TED Radio Hour NPR called “How Art Changes Us.”

Marc Chagall, The Lovers, Oil on canvas.

Gustav Klimt, Hope II, Oil, gold, and platinum on canvas.

Pablo Picasso, Guitar and Clarinet on a Mantelpiece, Oil, sand, and paper on canvas.

Manifesting a Grasshopper?

Bonding with a striped-leg grasshopper.

One of my favorite sounds is the nighttime chirping of grasshoppers and crickets. Summer chirping lulls me to sleep the same way as ocean waves. Right about now, in mid-October, I pay close attention to insect mate-calling. There will be a night when the air is filled with nature’s stereo, and the next night the record’s put back in its sleeve. Though I love autumn, it makes me melancholy to bid an official farewell to perfect-temperature-nights, warm-sand-days, and a summer’s promise of possibilities.

As I continue to work towards my writing goals, I’ve added something to my thought process–manifestation. I concentrate on my goals; what they are and what it would feel like to achieve them. If you see me gazing at the sky, know that I am sending my independent-minded characters, lyrical writing, and layered stories out into the universe, hoping they find champions who will bring them to life.

Did I know that when I read the poignant poem Postlude, I was also manifesting a grasshopper? I did not, but there he was, away from his lawn forest, a striped-leg, little guy who let me scoop him up. When I opened up my palm, he hung out and studied me with his five eyes. Then, he hopped out of my hand.

Do you think it’s a sign? A coincidence? A message from the universe that my-work-my-heart-my-passion to share the wonder in the world by writing Kidlit is traveling on both puffy white clouds and waving green grass? I pray so.

Stay by the hearth, little cricket.
Cendrillon

You prefer me invisible, no more than
a crisp salute far away from 
your silks and firewood and woolens.

Out of sight, I’m merely an annoyance,
one slim, obstinate wrinkle in night’s 
deepening trance. When sleep fails,

you wish me shushed and back in my hole.
As usual, you’re not listening: Time stops
only if you stop long enough to hear it

passing. This is my business:
I’ve got ten weeks left to croon through.
What you hear is a lifetime of song.

by Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize winning poet