Poem “For Our World”

I wanted to post a poem on 9/11 and found “For Our World” by teen poet Mattie Stepanek. Though my memories flooded back and I wrote “Who Can Forget?”, Stepanek’s poem is as relevant now as the day it was written. The poem addresses strife in our world while, also, speaking to anguish on a personal level. On Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish year, we ask G-d and our loved ones to forgive us for our sins as we contemplate our mortality.

And. And, this year is the 5th anniversary of my mom’s and, three weeks later, sister-in-law’s passings. My mom would have been 80 and Sharon would have been 60. When my mom thought, for a brief moment, that she might live, she talked about what she wanted to do with her future. Up until her diagnosis of lung cancer, she’d spent most of her time working, with some time for reading and gardening. Granted, she had an amazing career as an award-winning investigative journalist and editor, but she lamented not finding something else besides occasionally spending time with friends and grandchildren that brought her joy. My mom said she wanted to volunteer at Stella Maris, a long-term care facility where she’d interviewed the nuns.

My mother-in-law, an 86 year old Holocaust survivor, whose health has recently declined, has also been talking about what she’d like to do in her future. When is the right time to add into our lives “the blessing of songs that grow in our hearts?”

The culmination of the Days of Awe is the fast day of Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). This is the day…according to tradition, God seals the Books of Life and Death for the coming year. The day is devoted to communal repentance for sins committed over the course of the previous year. Because of the nature of Yom Kippur and its associated rituals, it is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar.

My Jewish Learning

For Our World

We need to stop.
Just stop.
Stop for a moment.
Before anybody
Says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else.


We need to be silent.
Just silent.
Silent for a moment.
Before we forever lose
The blessing of songs
That grow in our hearts.


We need to notice.
Just notice.
Notice for a moment.
Before the future slips away
Into ashes and dust of humility.


Stop, be silent, and notice.


In so many ways, we are the same.
Our differences are unique treasures.
We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts
To nurture, to offer, to accept.


We need to be.
Just be.
Be for a moment.


Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting,
Like children and lambs,
Never judging or vengeful
Like the judging and vengeful.


And now, let us pray,
Differently, yet together,
Before there is no earth, no life,
No chance for peace.

September 11, 2001

© Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek 1990 -2004
from Hope Through Heartsongs, Hyperion, 2002

Mattie Stepanek was 11 years old when he wrote this poem on the day of 9-11.
Sadly he passed away in 2004 after a long battle with Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy.
You can learn more about his brief, amazing, inspiring life at his website: http://www.mattieonline.com/

Mental Health Highlighted, Thank You Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka, photo source cnn.com

I recently told a relative that after my mom died, I sought the help of a therapist to work through the grief. I’m not ashamed to say that as a young newlywed and mom of triplets and a younger daughter, I’ve worked on my mental health, gaining tools, techniques, and strategies to recognize my hot buttons and ways in which I can improve parenting, marriage, and relationships.

Goals? To a) better understand myself, b) live a purposeful life, c) direct my energy towards personal and professional pursuits that bring me joy, and d) find inner peace in our short time on Earth. Working through issues isn’t for everyone, but it has helped me tremendously.

So I was taken aback when that same relative threw the conversation back in my face…twice! “Did you say you saw a—-pause for effect—-PSYCHIATRIST?”

The first time, I calmly responded that, no, she’s a social worker and reminded her that, by the way, so are my sister, niece, and several friends. The second time, I was not calm. I jumped down her throat and said, “We’ve already discussed this and we live in the 21st century!” BUTTON PUSHED!

Why? Why was I so upset that the only takeaway from a prior heartfelt conversation were questions that felt like she had asked, “Did you say you’ve decided to become a real-life mermaid by undergoing surgery to remove your legs and attach a tail?!”

Hon, seriously! That’s about the only news that would warrant her titter-worthy tone!

A few reasons I was annoyed:

  • If someone has a medical problem, is it noteworthy if he/she seeks medical help? Of course not! So, why the stigma about treating our emotional selves?
  • Are there aisles of Self Help books and a podcast industry born out of the desire to improve our emotional lives? Yes!
  • Are we neanderthals who existed as hunters and gatherers? No, we’ve evolved into hunters, gatherers and listeners.

Upon further research, I discovered that counseling goes back to ancient Egypt:

Even before the written language, people told stories and parables. It’s an ancient tradition that often served as a kind of therapy, helping others heal while passing on indelible wisdom to support others. More than 3,500 years ago, references to “healing through words” appeared in ancient Egyptian and Greek writings. The word “counseling” found its way into Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath’s Tale in 1386.

The more formal term “psychotherapy” was coined in the late 1800s, which the Mayo Clinic defines as a “general term for treating mental health problems by talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health provider.” It’s during psychotherapy where participants examine their moods, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, while learning how to take control and respond to challenging situations in a healthy way.

Talkspace.com

And. And for someone who watched the 2021 Olympics and as much as I did, knowledge of Olympic gymnast Simone Biles’ need to take a step back, which called to mind professional tennis player Naomi Osaka’s own mental health journey, the questions were anachronistic and insulting.

The day after Simone decided not to compete in the individual all-around competition after withdrawing from the team finals, Better Up, a coaching resource [“helps your people identify their strengths, achieve their goals, and reach their full potential. The results? A high-performing workforce ready to tackle whatever comes their way] ran a full page ad in The New York Times.

I love it for its clever wording and for its message.


Thank you Simone.

Thank you for raising the bar without touching one.

For showing your strength without moving a muscle.

And for showing the world that taking care of yourself is never selfish.

It’s human.

Thank you for trusting your instincts as much as you trust your teammates.

Thank you for using your voice to give others one.

And for teaching us all that leaving a legacy isn’t always about sticking the landing.

Sometimes it’s about helping others just get off the ground.

You’ve shown us once again

That mental health and physical health are one and the same.

And that your courage is one of a kind.

Thank you, Simone.

Thank you, Naomi.

And all who have helped us see that everyone is going through something.

But no one has to do it alone.

As a small gesture to show our tremendous gratitude, we’re gifting athletes, coaches, and anyone else inspired to start their mental fitness journey, free BetterUp coaching. We hope that this moment turns into momentum, and we can continue to empower the next generation of GOATs.

A Trapezoid is NOT a Dinosaur! by Suzanne Morris

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Suzanne Morris’ picture book, A Trapezoid is NOT a Dinosaur, which she wrote and illustrated, debuted November 5, 2019. Though plans to promote her book were delayed by the pandemic, she has new dates on the calendar.

July 15, 2021 

Author Chat with Janette

10:30am Wayne Public Library, Wayne, NJ

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/wayne/events/virtual-author-chat-with-suzanne-morris

July 17, 2021

10:30am Ringwood Public Library, Ringwood, NJ

In this wildly amusing, unconventional shape concept book, Trapezoid is here to declare that he’s a shape, too. He’s NOT a type of dinosaur!

Shape up, shapes! Triangle is hosting auditions for all the best shapes to be in his play. Circle, Square, and Star each get a part. But Trapezoid just doesn’t “fit in.” Is he even a shape? The others think he sounds like a type of dinosaur. Determined to show off his usefulness, Trapezoid tries to act like the other shapes, to no avail. Eventually, though, Trapezoid celebrates his own distinct shape properties in order to become part of the performance. 

Goodreads

Click here to check out the free guides and activity sheets Suzanne pairs with her book. https://www.facebook.com/suzanne.morris.33/, @smorrisart

Dogs Bugging Out

Lucy wonders what I'm holding.
Lucy thinks, what is Mommy holding?

Lucy says, "How does it smell?"
Lucy thinks, how does it smell?

“When are the cicadas coming out?” I wondered.

“I can’t wait to see them,” replied a daughter. “There’s been so much hype.”

She doesn’t remember when they emerged in 2013, but will our dog Lucy? Her eyes–ummm–bugged out when she sniffed and inspected Little Miss Cicada (the one I bonded with–lol). Hubby mentioned (at dinner!) that a friend in VA shared what happened when her dog ingested a bunch of the bugs. Let’s say the digestion process did not go smoothly! Yuck! Today, I’m re-posting “Cicada City Part II,” my impressions–or should I say Lucy’s impressions?– when the cicadas were everywhere.

2013 might be the Chinese Year of the Snake, but at Bmore Energy it’s the Week of the Puppy.

Lucy “guest blogged” “Fluffy Father’s Day” and, in honor of her turning two, I’m featuring my furry sweetheart again.

In my recent post, Cicada City Part I, you met Little Miss Cicada.  What I didn’t say was how Lucy reacted to her first encounter with the large buzzing bug.  Before Lucy met Little Miss Cicada, several dog owners told me that their dogs were feasting on the cicadas. One told me she didn’t even need to give her dog kibble because he was eating so much.

Teenage Daughter #2 babysat for a family who warned her to keep their dog, Molly, inside because Molly was eating the cicadas then throwing them up.  But when Teenage Daughter #2 opened the door to let the kids in, Molly ran out and, you guessed it, ate a cicada.  Teenage Daughter #2 reported, “Molly started acting really weird.  She was twitching and gagging.  I think the cicada was still alive in her stomach!  I was just praying she wasn’t going to throw up!”

Teenage Daughter #1, who babysat for the same family, replied, “I’m afraid of throw up!  Literally, afraid.  And I couldn’t even walk on their grass because of the cicadas.  It was like step, cicada, step, cicada!  They’re disgusting!”

Cicada shells clustered in the grass.
Cicada shells clustered in the grass.

Back to Lucy.  Hon, the photos and 45 second video say it all!

Lucy's not sure she likes this big bug!
Lucy’s not sure she likes this big bug!

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter, How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars by Laurie Wallmark

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors I know whose picture books have just debuted!

Laurie Wallmark’s newest picture book, Code Breaker, Spy Hunter, How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars, illustrated by Brooke Smart, debuted on March 2, 2021.

Decode the story of Elizebeth Friedman, the cryptologist who took down gangsters and Nazi spies

In this picture book biography, young readers will learn all about Elizebeth Friedman (1892–1980), a brilliant American code breaker who smashed Nazi spy rings, took down gangsters, and created the CIA’s first cryptology unit. Her story came to light when her secret papers were finally declassified in 2015. From thwarting notorious rumrunners with only paper and pencil to “counter-spying into the minds and activities of” Nazis, Elizebeth held a pivotal role in the early days of US cryptology. No code was too challenging for her to crack, and Elizebeth’s work undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. Extensive back matter includes explanations of codes and ciphers, further information on cryptology, a bibliography, a timeline of Elizebeth’s life, plus secret messages for young readers to decode.

Goodreads

Check out Interview with Laurie Wallmark: Woman in STEM (who is NOT DEAD!) on the blog Unpacking the Power of Picture Books by Sandy Brehl to find out the very cool things embedded in the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter’s illustrations, why Laurie loves backmatter, and her thoughts about publishing many women-in-STEM picture books.

Other books by Laurie are Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics, Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life, Grace Hopper, Queen of Computer Code, and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. @lauriewallmark

 

We Love Fishing! by Ariel Bernstein

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Ariel Bernsteins’s newest picture book, We Love Fishing!, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal, debuted on February 23, 2021.

Perfect for fans of Mo Willems, this hilarious picture book explores feeling like the odd one out with bright and engaging art by New York Times bestselling illustrator Marc Rosenthal.

It’s a beautiful day, and a group of friends are excited to spend it together. The woodland creatures can’t wait to pile into their boat and go fishing! Or, at least, Bear, Porcupine, and Otter can’t wait. They love fishing. Squirrel…does not.

Squirrel tags along with his enthusiastic friends, but is there anything they all love? Or is this fishing trip already sunk? 

Goodreads

Check out Interview With Author Ariel Bernstein on Ellwyn Autumn’s Blog to find out what she finds most challenging about writing picture and chapter books, a common theme in her stories, and what she’d do if approached by an elf.

Other books by Ariel are I Have a Balloon, Where Is My Balloon, and Warren & Dragon chapter books. @ArielBBooks

Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! by Robin Newman

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Robin Newman’s newest picture book, Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt!, illustrated by Susan Batori, debuted on March 15, 2021.

Bear is tired. It is time for his long winter nap. He will sleep for 243.5 days. But Bear is a very light sleeper. The slightest thing will disturb him, so he knits ear muffs and posts signs and even chops down trees to make a sturdy front door for his den, and then he goes to sleep. Meanwhile, Woodpecker is working on the houses he builds, but he notices several of the houses have disappeared. He sees bits of them scattered on the ground and follows the trail of bits to the new front door Bear built for his den. That is where the houses went. Woodpecker tap-tap-taps on the door. Bear wakes up and is not happy about having his nap disturbed. The two get into a shouting, name-calling match. Can they resolve their differences?

Robin Newman has written a laugh-out-loud story that little ones will want to hear over and over. It is funny, sweet, and hopeful. The illustrations by Susan Batori are so much fun and filled with details that will keep little eyes on the pages. This is a real winner. Don’t miss it.

San Francisco Book Review

Check out “Interview Alert: Robin Newman” on Lauri Fortino’s Frog On A (B)Log to find out how she started writing for kids, where she finds inspiration, and why she believes picture books are important.

Other books by Robin are The Case of the Bad Apples, No Peacocks! A Feathered Tale of Three Mischievous Foodies, Sesame Street: Breathe, Think, Do with Elmo: Problem Solving for Little Monsters, and more. @robinnewmanbook

Dylan’s Dragon by Annie Silvestro

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Annie Silvestro’s newest picture book, Dylan’s Dragon, illustrated by Ben Whitehouse, debuted on April 1, 2021.

Dylan loves playing, drawing, dreaming, and, best of all, dragons! But his days and weeks are so full–with piano lessons, science club, baseball practice, karate class, and more–that when the dragon of his daydreams shows up, there’s never any time to play. How can Dylan let his family know that his busy schedule needs room for dragon time? 

Goodreads

Check out “The Picture Book Buzz–Interview with Annie Silvestro” by Maria Marshall to find out a common theme in her picture books, what she advice she’d give children, and insight into her journey as an author.

Other picture books by Annie are Mice Skating, Bunny’s Book Club, The Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains, and more. @anniesilvestro

Let Liberty Rise, How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save The Statue of Liberty by Chana Stiefel

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Chana Stiefel’s newest picture book, Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, debuted on March 2, 2021.

On America’s 100th birthday, the people of France built a giant gift! It was one of the largest statues the world had ever seen — and she weighed as much as 40 elephants! And when she arrived on our shores in 250 pieces, she needed a pedestal to hold her up. Few of America’s millionaires were willing to foot the bill.

Then, Joseph Pulitzer (a poor Hungarian immigrant-cum-newspaper mogul) appealed to his fellow citizens. He invited them to contribute whatever they could, no matter how small an amount, to raise funds to mount this statue. The next day, pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters poured in. Soon, Pulitzer’s campaign raised enough money to construct the pedestal. And with the help of everyday Americans (including many thousands of schoolchildren!) the Statue of Liberty rose skyward, torch ablaze, to welcome new immigrants for a life of freedom and opportunity!

Chana Stiefel’s charming and immediate writing style is perfectly paired with Chuck Groenink’s beautiful, slyly humorous illustrations. Back matter with photographs included.

Scholastic

Check out “The Picture Book Buzz – Interview with Chana Stiefel” by Maria Marshall to find out what inspired Chana to write this book, where she did research, what she wants kids to take away from the story, and which illustration contains a surprise historical coincidence.

Chana is an author of over 25 books for kids, including My Name Is Wakawakaloch!, Animal Zombies…& Other Real-Life Monsters, and Daddy Depot. @chanastiefel

Rissy No Kissies by Katey Howes

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Katey Howes’ newest picture book, Rissy No Kissies, illustrated by Jess Engle, debuted on March 2, 2021.

A lovebird who doesn’t like kisses?!

Rissy’s friends and family wonder if she’s sick, confused, or rude. But kisses make Rissy uncomfortable. Can one little lovebird show everyone that there’s no one right way to show you care?

Rissy No Kissies carries the message that “your body and your heart are yours, and you choose how to share.” A note at the end provides further information for kids, parents, and educators about body autonomy, consent, and different ways to show affection.

“This is an artistic gem for consent discussions, sensory-processing contexts, and anyone who champions children’s agency and bodily autonomy. Radiant.”―starred, Kirkus Reviews

Amazon.com

Want to know why Katey chose to address the important topic of consent? More about her writing process? See a printable lesson plan that pairs with her book? Like the sound of Sunflower Love Cookies?

Check out an interview by Darlene Beck-Jacobson, “Katey Howes Talks About Bodily Autonomy and Consent in Her New PB: Rissy No Kissies.”

Other picture books by Katey are Grandmother Thorn, Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe, and Be a Maker.