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Have you ever had a day
when things didn't go your way
from the moment you woke up 'til twilight fell?

Well it might just be the case
you had such a frenzied pace
you forgot that eating chocolate makes things well.

(or alternatively)

It could very well be true
that you didn't have a clue
a piece of chocolate on your tongue would make things well.

Free Cycle and Naomi's Song
Recently, I discovered this new Yahoo group called FreeCycle, organized by locality.  People advertise stuff they want to give away instead of throw away, and other people advertise stuff they would like that just might be sitting around in someone else's attic or basement.  So far I have given away a computer swivel chair and a microwave oven.  I have received a bed frame, a camp trunk, a lap desk with a detachable purple pillow, and a queen-size bed skirt.  These are all things I was about to go out and purchase or had already purchased and could take back. What an awesome idea!  And the purpose is environmental--to keep more "stuff" out of landfills.  It benefits everyone except the retailers. That's not the best thing for booksellers, but I'm a not a huge book buyer to begin with. I use the library several times a week.  

This week I have checked out recent Cricket, Spider, and Ladybug magazines and am reading them to get a feel for what each one publishes and why.  I'm noticing that Cricket and Spider generally have a theme around which many of the articles, poems, and stories are centered. Ladybug has a regular feature about two kids, nice stories, and simple, rhyming poems.

I am considering sending Bubbe's Mice to Spider or Cricket.  It would go well with an issue on superstition, Jewish tradition, or grandparents. I may write a poem on superstition and send them both with a suggestion for a "superstition" issue.  I don't know if that's acceptable--maybe it is even presumptuous--but I have found the Carus editorial staff to be open to questions and suggestions before. Once I had a story rejected from Spider and wrote back to ask the editor why.  She wrote me back that the story didn't have enough action in it.  I was glad I had asked.

I'm reading a very good book called Naomi's Song, written by Selma Kritzer Silverberg, who is no longer living. She wrote the book, which is based on the biblical character Naomi and what her life must have been like before she met her daughter-in-law Ruth.The author wrote the book in the 1950s and finished it in the 60s but could not find a publisher for it.  In the 80s she wrote a dedication to her five granddaughters, but the book was not published until 2009, four years after the author's death and the rediscovery of the manuscript by her daughter.  

I am enjoying the way the author gets into the biblical characters' heads by using her own imagination and creativity.

I had a bit of good news this past weekend. My 14-word contest poem on the subject of wings was chosen by the editorial staff at Crow Toes Quarterly as one of ten poems to be published in the June issue.  The contest was called, "We're just winging it here," which is exactly what I did in the 15 minutes I had to write the poem.  I literally sent the entry a few minutes before the 12:00 midnight deadline.  It starts off, "Whose wings these are I know I know,".  For the rest (six words), see the June 11th issue of Crow Toes Quarterly.  Oh, and did you know "Poinsettia" doesn't have a "t" in it?  I always thought it was "Pointsettia."  Live and learn.

Books I've just read
Savvy by Ingrid Law.  Very enjoyable middle grade; satisfying, sweet, suspenseful, fun; character-driven.

Hannah's Garden
by Midori Snyder (YA, fantasy) ; first fantasy I've read in a very long while.  I liked it, but not as much as realistic YAs.

First Rain
by Charlotte Herman (pb).  A book about a family who makes Aliyah (moves to Israel), and the relationship between the main character and her grandmother who remains in the States.  Enjoyable (albeit atypically long). I read it to a bunch of third and fourth graders in my Hebrew school class, and they enjoyed it.

I was  planning to take a day trip to the Richard Michelson Galleries in Northampton, MA, but I wanted to combine it with a visit to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, which is in Amherst (very near Northampton), and the latter is closed on Mondays. Since it is about a 2-hour drive, I have decided to delay the trip until sometime next week.  Anyone want to join me?

Writing again
Trying, that is.  I have a new idea for a picture book. It is still materializing, and I'm writing a little every day.  It's turning out to be rhyming, although it didn't start that way.  Sometimes I wonder if the reason most of my writing turns into rhyming writing means that rhyming is truly my strength and I should just stick with it.  But then again, I love Bubbe's Mice and Bubbe's Mice Escape, and they are not written in rhyme. On the other hand, they're not published. 

Life is still complicated and throwing obstacles every which way, but I'm just trying to concentrate on the moment and write a little each day. I'm trying to lower expectations for myself, which is not easy because I want so much to have a finished product. But I'm trying to allow myself the time, preparation, and hard work this requires.

I'm thinking of starting another blog, which will be more writing-focused. But to do that successfully, I'll have to spend more time on other writers' blogs and on children's writers' sites.  

I'm also hoping to start submitting again, even if just poems to magazines.  It has been a while since I've submitted anything. The people in my critique group (The Prose Shop) are getting published one after the other.  Congratulations to Lynn Pisano for getting a pb into Scholastic last week!  Diana Murray is also on a roll, with several poems slated for publication in the coming months and several pbs up her sleeve. My friend Gail is putting the finishing touches on her middle grade novel, and then there's Mindy, relentless Mindy, who practically has an agent's offer in the palm of her hand for her middle grade. (I've never heard of an agent who spends so much time on someone who is not yet a client.)  

This week, my second cousin, Barbara Bietz, author of Like a Maccabee (Yaldah publishing, hardcover 2007; paperback 2009), was visiting this part of the country and came over to my house. It was great to see her again after 15 years and get to know her better. Turns out we have a lot in common. Now if I can only get a book published, that will be one more thing we have in common.

Going to check out Wordpress and Blogspot.  Good day!

And life goes on....
No, nothing bad happened. It just feels like time is passing and slipping through my fingers.  The boys have almost fully acclimated to their back braces. They are sleeping in them; they are wearing them to school.  They have even been able to play softball and basketball in them.  I hope they will improve the boys' back curvature.

We have less than a week until our March of Dimes walk for babies. I put together a team that has raised over $1,200. We have our t-shirts and our hats, and we're ready to go. Our team has about 25 people, including seven or eight children who were born very premature. (between 27 and 34 weeks).  These include Shai and Nadav, of course.  Watching them grow taller (both are taller than I am) gives me much pleasure.  Just as you would be proud of a tree that you planted and nurtured and watered and fertilized, and the tree grew tall with many branches and healthy green leaves and maybe even some flowers, so it is to be the mother of these now big boys who were born so tiny and vulnerable.

My back and neck pain is no better, and I have finally decided to go to physical therapy.  X-ray shows some vertebra degenerative disease. Advil helps, but I don't want to make it a permanent part of my daily diet.  Not being able to work out properly due to this neck and back pain has contributed to my gaining three pound in the last three weeks.  Also eating too much.

Not being able to write has been really hard for me. I constantly  think about writing and about all of my finished stories.  If only I had a clear head and the time to tackle the submission process again.  I have written some good stuff--it's just that it takes almost full-time dedication to make the stories submission-ready and to find the right publisher for each.  I have one story with Highlights right now, but it doesn't have much action in it, so the chances they'll want it are slim.  It's called Marcy's not Moving, and it is loosely based on my own personal experience of moving next door when I was 17 years old.  The MC in my story is more like six years old though.  I have another story that really needs to be revised significantly and then submitted to S.L. at Disney Hyperion.  But when to do this is the challenge.  I no longer know how to use my time well, how to take the time I need, how to clear my head and focus on the task at hand.  There is so much interference....


The things on my mind
Social work.  Worked today. Started working with a 20-year-old single mom of a four year old with muscular dystrophy.  She has no one to talk to, no one to advise and counsel her, no one to help her get things she needs like health insurance, food stamps, and medical taxi rides.   She doesn't know how to talk to her daughter about her disability. She feels guilty because she doesn't spend enough time playing with her daughter. She has 15 stairs up to her apartment--she carries her daughter up and down several times a day. She works nights and her friend comes over to sleep. She is very alone. She didn't want me to come over in the beginning, but I don't take no for an answer.  After an hour of talking, she invited me to come back next week.  Maybe I can help her.

My mother-in-law  Sick in the hospital in Israel for over a week and a half now. She survived the Nazis and is as much of a fighter now. She has leukemia and heart problems, but it was the pneumonia that put her in the hospital. However, the pneumonia is gone, leaving her with damaged lungs and a constant need for oxygen, but not robbing her of that fighting spirit. She's still kickin', and my husband is still there cheering her on.

Income tax  We had our taxes prepared. The envelope arrived today, but I have yet to open it.

Water in the basement  Still.  Again. However you prefer to describe it. There's a big puddle in one of the corners, but no other seepage apparent, despite the relentless rain today.  But who wants a permanent puddle in her basement? Now all my junk and suitcases have to hang out in the garage. And my house smells of Chlorox. Overwhelming, almost.

The Imminent Back Braces  The boys are getting them in a week and a half--Tuesday of vacation.  The braces will significantly restrict their movement.  They won't be able to play 15-minute basketball games in comfort like they're used to. But maybe they'll learn to play with the braces on.  Maybe they won't mind the braces as much as I fear.  But then again, maybe they will. Maybe they'll say the braces hurt and make them uncomfortable. I can hear the arguments already. How will I insist that they keep wearing them if they say they are in pain?  Oh the joys of motherhood. Oh, the burdens. Oh, the sorrows.  Let's hope the latter two stay small.

My neck pain. It's from the laptop, I'm sure. One-sided and very annoying.

The fact that my son takes longer showers than the rain showers we had for three straight days last week.  He stops the water only when it gets cold, usually after 25 minutes. I'm so tired of nagging him about everything. Tonight I'm just letting him stand under the water. I don't have the energy to go up and turn off the bathroom light. I might tell him he can't take a shower for the next three days because his shower tonight was worth three showers in water.  But then I'll have to deal with his b.o. 

My car. It's been making funning whooshing or barking sounds for the past three months. It eats gas.

My to-do list. It just keeps getting longer and longer.

My writing. It's not happening. It's on permanent hold, like a library book you have on reserve but never quite get around to picking up.  Passover came and went, and I didn't even pull out Bubbe's Mice or Bubbe's Mice Escape. Maybe I just don't have that creativity any more. Maybe it dissipated.  Maybe it's gone.

The book I just finished:  Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter. I enjoyed it.

Lack of sleep.  Goodnight.

The Great Coffee Spill (and water in the basement, again)
Today started off fine but began to go south around 4:00.  First, my morning coffee, which was still in my thermos at 4:00, spilled all over everything in my book bag.  It soaked and stained all of the contents, including my work papers, notebooks, two greeting cards already stamped and addressed, and two brand new children's books that I ordered especially for my workplace.  See the end of this post for more about these books.

Just after I finished blotting and blow-drying the soggy and permanently-stained papers and opening the greeting cards to rescue the checks (gifts) inside, my son's favorite team in Israel began to lose its 20-point lead.  Soon enough, all hell broke loose. He had been listening to the game in Hebrew on the internet, and the Israeli announcers couldn't have made things worse if they had tried. What disappointment, disgust, humiliation, and general misery they projected in their voices over the team's slippage and loss of ground.  I'm quite sure this (and a propensity for losing it) is what put my son over the top (the opposite of over the moon).  The next 20 minutes or so were quite upsetting, and all that behavior over a first game in a series.... It doesn't even matter in the least that they lost.  I wish my son could see it that way, but those announcers acted like Israel had come to its apocalypse. And my son sucked right up to them, whirling himself right smack into the eye of their hurricane of misery.  Jerks.

Well, just as I was getting ready to take my other son to religious school, I peeked down the basement, and Wonder of Wonders, there were new puddles. Big ones.  Never mind that my parents are coming in two days for almost a week, that I'm having people over for second Seder, that I might actually have to do laundry at some point in the near future.  

At 9:15 I realized I don't have an arrangement for my daughter tomorrow (it's a half day due to parent-teacher conferences) after school. It's too late to start calling people now.  AHHHHHHH!

So anyway, the books that were ruined by my irresponsible coffee catastrophe are Two Homes, about a kid who lives half the time with Mommy and the other half with Daddy.  The book is very simple, yet appealing. "I have two bathrooms," "I have two beds," "My mommy loves me wherever I am and wherever she is, and the same for Daddy;" (approximately)  and Something Terrible Happened, in which an animal character experiences symptoms after a trauma (the reader can imagine for herself what the terrible thing was), learns to talk to a trusted adult about his feelings, and then begins to sleep better, eat better, and have better social experiences. Very good. But now very wrinkled with curled pages. Does anybody out there know if you can iron a book?

Why I don't write (cont'd): Flooded basement
 At last measurement, there were 7 inches or 18 cm of water in our basement. Our fuse-ball table's legs are in the first stages of rusting. I can't get to our laundry machines without the kind of boots you'd wear on a dairy farm.  My fingers are cold since there is no heat in our house. That's because the furnace shut itself off.  Nobody likes to be under water, furnaces included.  

The hardware stores sold out of sump pumps last night.  The fire department "doesn't do that kind of work unless it's an emergency."  We turned on our space heater this morning, hoping it would be sufficient to warm me enough so I can tackle my pb revision, but guess what happened. The space heater blew a fuse--all the lights in the living and dining room and the coffee maker!  So hubby put on his flip flops and braved the cold water to get to the circuit board which is at the other end of the basement.  He couldn't manage without his coffee--lucky for me.  

Then a phone call from a friend who saw my "flooded basement" post on FB--she just discovered six inches of water in her basement and wants to know how to get it out.  I told her to try to get a sump pump but not to be surprised if she can't find one in any store.  I also told her to call the town to see what the people there might suggest--that is, if she can get through because obviously the line is going to be busy all day. What a stellar friend I am.  Then the landlord came over and said she had been the first one in line at Home Depot--they're out of sump pumps and there is a waiting list of over 100 people. So she called her pool company--maybe they will come over and suck all the water out of our basement.  Their pumps probably won't even know it's not a real pool.

I was going to try to rewrite this picture book while doing laundry. But now I have to go to the laundromat. It's probably warmer there anyway. At this very moment, hubby is stuck on a flooded highway with under a quarter of a tank of gas and under a mile to go to get to his office.

Have I mentioned our sons' behavior yesterday when we discovered the water and had to haul all of our suitcases and various other semi-water-damaged objects out of the basement in a hurry?  Our 10-year-old daughter put on her pink rain boots and waded toward the stuff, handing piece by piece to her father who was still on dry land (the stairs).  As for the boys?  Let's just say that the Celtics were playing Cleveland. You can probably figure out the rest.

While I'm here, I'll just mention the last book I read. It's called Miriam's Well by Lois Ruby, a YA from the mid-nineties (Scholastic) about the ethical conflict between freedom of religion and access to medical care.  I enjoyed it--here's a brief summary:  Super-Christian girl and Jewish boy in Kansas are paired for a poetry project. She gets cancer, but her people don't want her to be treated with conventional medicine--they think God will heal her.  Poetry boy falls in love with her, visits her every day, and has to deal with the fact that his lawyer-father is representing her and her people in their case against the hospital.  The title is a biblical reference and the end of the book.  I'd recommend it.

Mothering 15-year-old premature twins
But they were premature when they were born. Now they are 15 and a half. No longer premature, but always so . . . . Just recently I have been thinking about how being Shai and Nadav's mother has profoundly affected my life.  Almost everything I do, think, plan for, and even write, has to do with their birth and development. Stuck in the past? Maybe a little. Because otherwise, why wouldn't I stop giving their birth weights in the first fifteen seconds of a conversation with a stranger? They are no longer one and two pounds--both of them are well over 50 times their birth weights.  See? I did it again. Maybe it's a touch of PTSD.  I should add they are doing well--public school, average or above intelligence, fabulous memories (especially when it comes to sports statistics--I can't even imagine where in their brains they store this completely useless information, like the half-time score of a game that took place in 2004 in some obscure European city).  

Are there remnants of their prematurity? Yes, many. Maybe I'll blog sometime on this subject. But there's a caveat--we can't blame everything on the prematurity, although we tend to anyway.  Like this week they have a new diagnosis from a spinal specialist:  Schuurman's Disorder (convex upper back, concave lower back). This is more likely genetic than anything else, but could there be an element that is connected to the prematurity?  We'll never know.

Anyway, I have never really tried my hand at fundraising, but living near a big city (Boston) provides multiple opportunities to walk for your cause. Last year I happened to see the march for babies, organized by the March of Dimes, by coincidence--I was fishing with my family on the Charles River--and there they were in their March for Babies t-shirts, finishing up their three-mile walk.  "I should be part of this march," I thought.  So this year, I decided to form a team. I'm still in the process--right now my only registered team members are myself and my husband.  But I've spoken to another couple who has 4-year-old twins born premature, and they're interested.  And my good friend and neighbor had a 27-weeker (10 years old today), so I'm working on her to march.  My goal is 20 adults marching, many many children, and $1000 in donations from anyone who understands how important this organization is and what it does to prevent premature birth and to support, encourage, and educate parents-to-be and parents who have already given birth.

Here's my personal March of Dimes website.  Any contribution will be well-used and much appreciated.  http://www.marchforbabies.org/Hollyboker    

Random stuff and good (writing) news
Well, the kids are off, finally, but it wasn't easy.  There was a two-hour (rain) delay for the boys, and Shai still didn't get up on time, still had to rush, and then said his THROAT hurt.  ARGHHHHHH!!  But he went because I told him there was nothing I could do about his sore throat and we'd deal with it tomorrow. Who ever said procrastination is a bad thing?  (There wasn't time to make tea.)

Hadar went to school on time but still has sinus problems, even though she finished her antibiotics this past weekend.  Nadav had his own issues this morning, but I think it is inappropriate to discuss them in a public forum (however "public" this is--chances are no one is reading it except me).  Let's just say that he spent a lot of time in a certain room with a sink and a shower.

The good news is that I actually wrote a picture book last night--the shortest one I've ever written (282 words) and it is not in rhyme!  Here's an excerpt:

If . . . 
a zebra didn't have stripes
a lion didn't have a mane
an elephant didn't have a trunk
a camel didn't have a hump . . . .

then . . .
the zebra could be a horse
the lion could be a zebra
the elephant could be a lion
the camel could be an elephant . . . .

There is a first person main character (a child, of course) who in the end "could be" a bumblebee. This child buzzes around, makes honey, and then uses the honey to stick the stripes back on the zebra
the mane back on the lion
the trunk back on the elephant
the hump back on the camel . . . . 

It still needs some work, no doubt, and I am sure my critique group will have interesting and productive changes to suggest when I post it for critique.  The main thing is that I wrote.  It had been over ten months since I'd written anything new.

I would like to have a place in this blog where I list the books I've been reading. I think I need a paid account in order to get this "list" feature. Well, anyway, I just finished Jodi Picoult's Change of Heart.  This is the third book with that title that I have heard of or read.  The first Change of Heart was written in the 1980s by Nancy Yanes Hoffman, who is my friend Jennifer's mother.  It is about Arthur Ashe's heart bypass experience. The second one to be published is Jodi Picoult's, which is about a death row inmate who wants to donate his heart to the girl whose sister and father he allegedly killed, and the third one, written by Shari Maurer, is coming out in the spring of 2010.  It is a YA novel about a girl who is a champion soccer player but needs a heart transplant.

I also recently finished Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, an excellent and important book about a girl's suicide that I'm sure is going to become required reading in many high schools.  But that is the topic of another blog entry.