Stand and Protect

I’m a parent, so I know. There is a deep-seated desire in each of us to protect our kids from all the scary things that await them out in the world.

We Want to Protect our Children

We want to protect them from bullies and mean girls. We want to protect them from failing exams and losing soccer games. And then there are the bigger things.

I will never forget the feeling I had the morning of September 11, 2001, knowing my children were innocently at work in their elementary school classrooms while the World Trade Center towers were crashing down. My thoughts: What would their teachers say to them? What would I say to them? How could we protect them?

Today’s parents and children face the same kind of harrowing moments. Bomb explosions, shootings. Emotionally bruising taunts based on race, religion, sexuality. How do we protect our children?

The Question is How?

To start, we must face the fact that children are aware of what’s going on around them. We cannot protect them by acting as though it doesn’t exist. Instead we must empower them, make them feel that they can do something about it.

Empower Them to Act

Last week I went to the Women’s March in NY. There were groups of young adults. There were oldies like me. And there were families, parents with children sitting high on their shoulders. Some wore pink knit caps. Some held up signs. I later saw a photo of a very young boy, too young to write, who had scrawled squiggly lines across his own homemade sign. These children were actively engaged. Feeling that they could make a difference.

There are so many ways for kids to take action. Sign a petition. Volunteer at a local food pantry or other social justice group. Research and present a report on an issue that is challenging them. Our job as parents? Help them face the world head on. Draw them into a conversation exploring what they can do to shape answers.

When we arm our kids with the tools to combat their problems – large and small – we make them feel they are not helpless. We protect them.

Share your stories of empowering children!

An App to Help You Stay Sane While You’re Staying Woke

Ever since the election there’s been a cloud of impending doom hanging over many of us. If you’re like me, dread has a not-so-healthy side-serving of obsession that goes along with it. I’ve gone from being a casual facebook user to checking multiple times a day, scanning for evidence that everything is going to be ok. This a big time-waster – because, really, there is never enough good news on facebook to reassure me. Just as bad — it causes a big stress buildup which is both mentally and physically harmful.

Kick the “Breaking News” Habit

So I’m going to go all out to kick the habit. But if I don’t follow the news all day – and there seems to be “breaking news” every few minutes – how will I stay woke (shorthand for: how will I fulfill my responsibility to fight for our democratic ideals)?

Get Countable!

If this dilemma hits home to you at all, I have an App to recommend that will help you streamline your efforts. The App is called Countable. It’s a great little tool that brings together all federal legislative happenings in one place. Yes!

Here are the key advantages: It gives you a weekly briefing on what bills are coming up for vote in Congress. It tells you how your senators and representatives have voted. I recently learned through this that my congressman has simply not voted on a number of recent bills – which raises a red flag right there. And it gives you a one-touch way to connect with those representatives.

There are lots of other nifty parts to this that provide more detail. You can customize to shape the info you receive. Daily postings of news articles on issues that interest you. Connections to organizations working on those issues.

Stay Strong!

Of course, in the end, gathering info, no matter how streamlined, is not enough. You gotta make those calls to your elected representatives to let them know your concerns. But take action to avoid post-election burnout. Stay strong!

Share your tools for streamlining your news.


Jackson Pollock’s birthday is this week. You know Jackson Pollock – the guy who dripped paint onto canvas in energetic but seemingly random patterns. Some are puzzeld or dismissive when they look at Pollock’s work, unable to make heads or tails of it. But Pollock himself described his work as “motion made visible.” And many people agree.

Today, I recommend a book to share with your child that joyfully makes sense of abstract art.

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

Ramon was nuts about drawing. Houses. Vases of flowers. Fish. He drew them all. But, as Ramon’s brother was quick to point out, what came out on paper didn’t look exactly like the real thing. Ramon considered giving up on painting all together. His sister had another way of looking at it. Ramon’s paintings were not exact replicas; they were “Ish.”

Illustrated with exuberant line drawings, Ish gets across to the reader the joy of creativity.

Pegged for Preschool-2nd grade.

Share your favorite books about art.

Another Snowy Day Story

I was in Montana last week. The snow was piled high on every side and temperatures dropped well below zero. Brrrr. Here’s a perfect story for that kind of weather.

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

A small child heads out into the gusting snow….and stumbles upon a baby wolf lost from its pack. The child picks up the wolf and heads further out into the deep drifts. Eventually, the wolf pack is found. But now the child is stranded in the frigid weather. How will the child find a way back home?

This ends up being a story of friendship and loyal perseverance. The illustrations are so well done that the readers feels the intensity of the situation pour off the page. Spare in language and visuals. Yet as satisfying as a full-length movie.

Pegged for ages 2-6.

Share your favorite books about snow.

The Joy of Book Browsing

This weekend, a deep freeze has descended upon Chicago and much of the rest of the country. If you’re like me, you enjoy the warmth of the fireplace and hot chocolate or tea and a soft wool blanket wrapped around your legs. But if you’re like me, you also need to get out. After hours sitting still in the warmth of the indoors, getting outside is invigorating. The crisp dry cold air as it hits your lungs, a little tingle in the nostrils – it gives me a rush of energy, brings back the old vim and vigor.

A Perfect Winter Outing

Yesterday‘s outing was a brisk walk to the local bookstore. In my pocket, I carried the Christmas gift card bestowed upon me by my college-aged nephew. Here’s the great thing about this gift – it is really two gifts in one: the gift of reading, to be sure; but also the gift of book browsing, which is its own joyful adventure.

The Joy of Just Looking

When my children were young, we had a regular weekly outing to the bookstore. As we walked through the door to the shop, a feast of lively book covers invited us in. Drawing closer, we scanned the book titles, then opened the book jackets, tantalized by summaries of stories to be unspooled on the pages that followed. There were stories of princesses and wizards, school and home, times of adventure and others of quiet.

As a grownup, I still feel that same rush of book-browsing pleasure. Histories and chick-lit, page-turning mysteries and laugh-out-loud comedies. On my outing yesterday, I looked at a novel take on the underground railroad, a story of life as seen by a spunky millennial, and Bruce Springsteen’s look back at how he got to be him. I ended up choosing a couple of nonfiction looks at the world we live in, one a classic, the other contemporary.

Tomorrow, the reading will begin. But yesterday, the browsing was the bomb-diggity.

Share your favorite book titles!

And Still We Rise. Pass It On!

A bit of news to inspire!

First the Bad

Many of us spent much of 2016 preparing with pride to celebrate our first female President of the United States. My informal survey over coffee and on social media with friends is that many of us ended 2016 shell-shocked and deflated.

And it’s not just about the presidency. The number of women in Congress did not budge. Started off as 104. Ended up as 104. And that equals just 19% of legislators. The number of women governors actually fell: from 6 to 5.

Then The Good News

But 2017 brings fresh, hopeful news. Women are not deterred. In fact, they are acting with redoubled determination. Emerge America, an organization that arms women with the tools to make a strong run for political office, reports that the number of women expressing interest since November 9 is DOUBLE what they normally see.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Following the election, my own daughter, for the first time, voiced an interest in running for office. I’ll admit — sometimes, looking at things through my experienced eyes that have seen progress ebb and flow, I can feel weary. But youth! Oh, youth! This is where the energy is, where the future is. And our young women are not defeated.

Pass it on!

Share your stories of meeting defeat with renewed effort.

Another Book for a Snowy Day

Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

I am a word person. So it is the spare but emotionally packed poetry of this new children’s book that moves me most. It begins: “In the deep woolen dark, as we slumber unknowing, let the sky fill with flurry and flight.”

And yet, the story’s power depends, in part, on the pictures. Together, words and images telling the tale of a little girl who calls up a snowstorm big enough to cancel a flight that would take her airline pilot mom away for the night.

Pegged for ages 4-7.

Curl up with your child and read!

Share your favorite books about snow.

New Year’s Resolutions: Hope Springs Eternal

The night before New Year’s Eve was no ordinary Friday night. Yes, I stepped out for a night on the town, and ate and drank accordingly. But unlike most Friday nights, this December 30 was the culmination of a 30+day food fest. Sugar cookies, pumpkin pies, candy and more candy. Home cooked turkey, mac and cheese, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. And then there was restaurant food – tacos and BBQ, tea cakes and 4-egg omelets.

When I left the restaurant last Friday, I decided that was it. NO MORE! I resolved, “I will never do this again!”

The next morning, I made my way to the grocery store and filled my cart with veggies – collard greens and spinach, leeks and mushrooms, carrots, onions, chard and…pretty much the entire produce section.

For the next two days (with a quiet glass-of-champagne countdown mixed in) I whirled around the kitchen – chopping, browning, tying up packets of herbs, chopping some more, stirring, simmering, pureeing, cooling, then filling every storage container I could get my hands on. Four savory soups, a pot of greens, mounds of homemade pesto. And then I smiled. Bring on 2017.

My opening New Year’s resolution is in the bag (well… the fridge).

Who Makes Resolutions?

Most of us make resolutions. The young and the old. Those who had a lousy year and want a change of scene. Also those who had a good year and want to challenge themselves to the next level.

So Is There a Point to Making Resolutions at All?

I think so. And here’s why:

  • Structure. Our lives are full of actions, big and small. It’s kinda like the Internet. If we start surfing without knowing (at least generally) what we’re looking for, we can spend hours drowning in all the info that’s out there –I call it getting Internet drunk – and we don’t remember a thing we’ve read when we finally shut down. Resolutions remind us what we’re looking for.
  • Hope. Springs eternal. And a new year gives us a do-over, a chance to get it right. Never mind the extra chocolate brownie we couldn’t leave on the buffet table at that last party. This will be the year! So we say January 1. And just to think it feels good, is inspiring. We may succumb to temptations again in the future. But we might be content with moderation. And without hope, we don’t even try.
  • Accomplishment…or at least Progress. Maybe by December 31, I will have developed a habit of making ONE Sunday soup each week. Undoubtedly, there will still be chocolates in my future. The point is, just a small change that catches on is better than nothing. To get there takes self-discipline. But when you do get there, it is an accomplishment. Which might get lost in the shuffle without an intentional resolution to begin with.

So, here’s to a clean slate and renewed resolve. Happy New Year!

Share your favorite New Year’s resolutions!