COVID Chronicle #3

I shared some good things last time. I’m not sure I have any to share today.

It’s been a struggle with virtual school, particularly math. My daughter is struggling, the extra help is not helping much and honestly listening to her math teacher day in and day out — I can see why she’s not learning as she should. This teacher honestly has no patience and she speeds through the lessons and it is clear my daughter is not comfortable asking questions. This is not the ideal environment for learning long division or even multiplication. School is on my mind. I want her to do well, but if I push her like her teacher does, I suspect the learning will completely stop.

I did find a multiplication game website to help her learn her multiplication facts, so they come quicker to her. That I hope is helping and feels a little less like school and pushing her. We also found another website with similar lessons to help supplement her lessons in math — thanks to her reading teacher. Yes, I asked her math teacher for help, but received zero response other than get her flash cards. Yes, you heard that right. Very frustrating.

Reading for pleasure has been very slow, but I managed to finish 2 audiobooks this week. I have a ton of poetry submissions to read through for the Gaithersburg Book Festival and the high school poetry contest is getting entries, but at a slow rate. I’ll have to do more outreach soon. Probably this week.

With a long weekend and a couple days off from work, my plans are minimal. I am hoping to resubmit some poems to journals, since i received 3 rejections this week. No new acceptances, and an acceptance from a few months back was never published and it seems the lit mag is MIA — having not published the last 7 months. I signed a contract so now I’m wondering what is to become of the poems they accepted, since they were not published. I’ll have to review that too to find out what the next step is.

This seems like a super long post already, so perhaps I’ll end with this light of my weeks. We were able to go to Gaver Farm and cut down our tree, which I wasn’t expecting because of COVID, and it is now decorated. I feel a little more in the spirit. And our Elf on the Shelf, Spark, has been roaming around the house and getting into some high places this year.

Please share your struggles and your light. I’d love to share and support you.

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (audio)

Source: Purchased

Audible, 6+ hours

I am an Amazon Affiliate

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, narrated by himself, is a look at his 50 years of life and his outlaw code and how he’s lived his life and what he’s learned by living it. If you’re looking for gossip, this is not the book for you. I did like his approach to Hollywood and rebranding himself as an actor — that was definitely a risk and it panned out for him.

His career is one of luck, perseverance, hard work, and self-examination. Unlike many people, he pauses to think about where he is in life and analyze why he feels stagnant or unsatisfied when he seemingly has everything he could ever want. Like those of us who strive to learn and grow, he pauses to examine his life and make changes he thinks will lead him where he wants to go. As he says, sometimes there are red lights in life and sometimes there are yellow and green lights — he notes that a red light at one point in your life might turn green eventually later on. You have to be aware enough to know why the lights are red, move forward and return to those lights to see them turn green when it is the right time.

His early years with his family and his stay in Australia were very eye opening and I can say I applaud him and his upbringing for tolerating that Australian family like he did. I think I would have lost it. He does include some “prescriptions,” bumper stickers, and poems. These are what he considers some insightful advice, which it could be for those who haven’t experienced these teachable moments or who need something to articulate what they’re feeling in a succinct way. It seemed like he was shouting these sections at you in the audio, which got more obnoxious as I listened (but it might be less annoying if you don’t listen to it too long in one sitting). My one main issue here is people will probably take this as life lessons for them, and these will not work in every day people’s lives because they have obligations that are bigger than these seemingly easy fixes he talks about.

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey is a series of stories that are likely a bit inflated (at least one had to be hyperbole). It was entertaining, but not life affirming or life changing. And while the stories are fun and sometimes outrageous, they are by no means that deep and tell us little beyond what we know about McConaughey and his “outlaw” look at life. I use the “outlaw” term very loosely here. Judging on his performance alone (which was stellar) would be a disservice to the content. I do admire his self-awareness, and that’s something others should take note of and try to incorporate into their lives.

RATING: Tercet

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd (audio)

Source: Publisher

Audiobook, 10+ hours

I am an Amazon Affiliate

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd, narrated by Elizabeth Grace, is a delightful collection of short stories written by some of the best Jane Austeneque writers — Joana Starnes, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Karen Cox, Christina Morland, Elizabeth Adams, Beau North, J. Croft, and Leigh Dreyer. From historic pieces and those set during the time of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice to modern stories in which Elizabeth is an electrical engineering student in a male-dominated field, these authors explore the inner workings of Elizabeth. We see her prejudices and preconceptions, but we also see her flaws, as well as her self-analysis of her own actions and those of others.

Elizabeth Grace is a wonderful narrator, breathing light into each of these Elizabeths and situations. She’s an admirable narrator who becomes a one-woman cast.

“Resistive Currents” by Karen M Cox is one of the more modern tales. Here, we see conundrum of a teaching assistant Mr. Darcy drawn to an intelligent electrical engineering student, Elizabeth, bent on proving to the male-dominated field that she’s a capable student who just wants a fair shot — the same as her male colleagues. First, the title of this story is brilliant given the content, and I love how it plays on the electricity between Elizabeth and Darcy as they navigate the relationship of student and TA in a world where Elizabeth feels she has to continually prove herself worthy. Like this story, Christina Morland’s “Atmospheric Disturbances” explores the tensions that are bound to rise up between two passionate and strong-willed people in love. Every moment of the drawing room is meant to build the tension between these characters that barely know one another — a tension borne of a lack of knowledge between them.

Elizabeth Adams’ “Something Like Regret” brings to life the thoughts of Elizabeth on her visit to Pemberley after her rejection of Mr. Darcy’s proposal at Rosings. It’s a time when many have speculated that she would accept Darcy because of his fortune or because his housekeeper praised his disposition, but as a rational and passionate creature, Elizabeth must make a more intelligent and deeper examination of her rejection of him and many of their exchanges. I love this introspection as she walks about the house and the gardens and how Darcy appears. It is a beautiful story. I love her observations of the changes in him upon first seeing him. She’s so observant here, despite the shock of seeing him. “The Last Blind Date” by Leigh Dreyer is a delightful modern story that reminded me of those awkward dates you have and the tentative exchange you have as strangers until you realize there could be something more. Darcy is not talkative, and Elizabeth is quick to judge, but rather than call the blind date quits, they move ahead with it, tentatively.

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd, narrated by Elizabeth Grace, is another anthology winner, hitting the stories out of the park with a range of angst, love, prejudice, and pride, but what I loved based about these sweet stories is that we see Elizabeth in all her turmoil and introspection. She’s forced to rethink her past actions, her current actions and behavior, and she forces herself to apologize on more than one occasion. These stories are deep, emotional, and about the roller coaster ride of young love when it is first budding.

RATING: Cinquain

The Haunted Library: The Ghost at the Fire Station by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant

Source: Purchased

Paperback, 128 pgs.

I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Haunted Library: The Ghost at the Fire Station by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, is the sixth book in this series that pairs a young elementary school girl, Claire, with a ghost boy, Kaz, and sets them off on haunted mysteries to solve. Kaz has a case of his own, tracking down his lost family, and throughout the series he’s had a little bit of luck, but there are more missing members of his family to find.

C&K Ghost Detectives, however, are called to work on another ghost mystery — this time at the local fire station. Some of the firefighters have heard moaning and their blankets have been stolen in the night. Sparky, the fire station dog, also seems to sense where the ghost is in the station, refusing to enter the TV room and sometimes the main garage where the fire trucks are. Is the dog a ghost detector or is his strange behavior due to something else? That’s what Kaz and Claire are there to find out.

My daughter loves the humor and fun in this book, as well as the antics of Little John, Kaz’s brother. This is a series that is fun and full of adventure. The illustrations are great and there are some new characters introduced who we’d like to see in future books. The Haunted Library: The Ghost at the Fire Station by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, is a delight with fresh mysteries and stories to carry the books into the next. We definitely recommend reading these in order.

RATING: Quatrain

Mailbox Monday #608

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

Man on Terrace with Wine by Miles David Moore.

Miles Moore’s poems sing and think at the same time. Theme, vision, and form coalesce into fluid work never far from humor, always seeking the truth. Man on Terrace with Wine teaches us how to survive in this trying world. It is a magnificent collection.

Pablo Medina, author of The Cuban Comedy

Miles David Moore is back with his best book of poetry yet. Man on Terrace with Wine is a dark but always hopeful carnival that juggles both sonnet and emoticon with the ease of a poet who has been at it for a long time. This is life in the center ring, with all the tenderness and sting that comes along with it, from Godzilla in 3D to a lonely ride on an intercity bus, from Elvis in heaven to Hitler in hell. You may not know whether to laugh or cry, but that’s precisely the point. Miles Moore is a master, and Man on Terrace will stay with you long after the show is over.

James C. Hopkins, author of Ex-Violinist in Kathmandu

Miles David Moore is one of the hardest-working poets I know. Each of his poems is carefully crafted with a keen eye on a lucidity of language enriched with a deep diversity of emotions ranging from the commonplace to haunting, deeply personal recollections of times past. These poems read like a map of a tireless soul’s celebration of moments, places, and people we clearly recognize in our own lives. I recommend Man on Terrace with Wine without reservation.

Steven B. Rogers, Ph.D., historian, and editor of A Gradual Twilight: An Appreciation of John Haines

Raising King by Joseph Ross.

Poetry. RAISING KING urges readers to walk beside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Montgomery to Memphis, past police dogs, mobs, and fire hoses. Listen to his thoughts, hopes, and fears. You’ll also hear from heroes including Abernathy, Shuttlesworth, and Coretta Scott King.-Joseph Ross

In his beautiful collection of poems evoking the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, Joseph Ross offers his readers hope and inspiration for our own difficult times. These poems call us to revive our courage, moral convictions, and belief in the ultimate redemption of humanity.-Susannah Heschel

What did you receive?

Guest Post: Annette Libeskind Berkovits Shares a Poem from her Collection, Erythra Thalassa

Erythra Thalassa by Annette Libeskind Berkovits is an autobiographical poetry collection that unites around the powerful image of the Red Sea as a dual symbol for both fear and larger-than-life hope.

Learn more about the book below and stay to see a sample poem and a bit of inspiration from the poet.

Book Synopsis:

Libeskind Berkovits’ words are accessible and raw in their honesty, etched from the sorrow of a bereft mother who, despite her decades-long science background, was helpless when her 46-year old son, a devoted and engaged father of two young daughters, suffered a devastating hemorrhagic stroke on an otherwise ordinary day. With her poems, she immerses the reader in the Red Sea—her Red Sea—a pulsing, emotional voyage from the very first uncomprehending ride to the emergency room, through ICU’s, tests, procedures and pain, recounting hopes raised, then dashed, then restored, later becoming an elderly caretaker for her son.

Throughout the collection, readers will be heartened by the promise of survival, the faith in science, the mystery of the human body and, most of all, the courage that remains after tragedy.
Matthew Lippman has praised the collection as “not afraid to confront the break in the body and to head straight into the red.”
And Story Circle wrote in their review, Some of the poems are meditative; others, cries of anguish–but all capture a mother’s inner struggle with the realities of the imperfections of life…. a wonderful book for anyone, whether serving as a family caregiver in overwhelming circumstances, or merely needing to be reminded of the temporal nature of what it means to be alive on this earth.”

Please welcome Annette Libeskind Berkovits:

1-800-Please- Help

There weren’t any virgins.
Not 72, not even one, but
I clearly saw them:
angelic telephone operators
at an old-fashioned switchboard,
sitting in neat rows
far enough from one another
so their wings didn’t tangle.
Through the buzz and celestial
interference they strained to hear
the earthly pleas, but maybe,
maybe, I thought, they’d hear mine.
‘Just let him open his eyes’
At first I whispered shyly,
didn’t want to overwhelm
them with my greed.
Didn’t want to say plain and
simple: I want him back
whole, the way he was,
seeing as they already granted
him life. Then I got bolder,
more urgent.
I shouted, then screamed
but they still refused to hear.
Just kept fussing with all those
cords, keys and jacks,
as if they really meant
to be helpful.

When my heretofore perfectly healthy and robust 46-year old son suffered a massive brain bleed—a hemorrhagic stroke—I could not sleep. The few hours I had to rest, after spending days and nights in the hospital, I lay awake, dreading that should I fall asleep, I’d miss a call from the hospital that the unimaginable had happened. If I did fall asleep, I’d wake up in a sweat and run to make a phone call to see how my son was doing. For weeks on end, the answer was “He is still in a coma.” Well, he’s still alive, there’s hope,” I’d console myself and return to bed to rest, sleepless, for a couple of hours. The sleep I wished for rarely came, until one day.

I awoke with a start, my eyes still closed, trying to tether the dream I had had to my conscious memory. Even before my son’s traumatic brain injury, dreams came to me rarely, if ever, and the ones that did, evaporated on waking, like dew on a sunny day, no matter how hard I tried to remember them and analyze in the light of day. But the dream that stuck with me vividly for six years is the one I memorialized in the poem 1-800-Please-Help.

I saw it as if it were a movie, so real I could swear I was physically there, with all the sensations, the light breeze on my skin, the cloudless sky and the expressionless Stepford wives faces on the angelic telephone operators. I struggled to make sense of it.

REM sleep, the sleep cycle in which one dreams, occupies only 15-20% of your sleeping time and since I had been sleeping so little, that vivid dream might have only taken a few minutes, maybe less. And yet, it was there, planted as firmly in my memory as an old oak tree. I knew that research has shown that dreams help you deal with stress and I surely had plenty of it, so I took having a dream as a good sign, if not the actual contents of this particular dream. Though it wasn’t of a nightmare quality exactly, it promised neither hope, nor help. It didn’t frighten me, but it increased my anxiety. I had to decipher its meaning.

It turns out that according to dream researchers, it was an epic dream in which I eventually came to a realization that unless I myself do things to help, no one is going to help deal with the tragic situation. It convinced me to act, to find ways of helping my son and his struggling, inconsolable wife.

I found the symbolism of the dream particularly interesting. Angels in dreams imply a deep spirituality. This surprised me because I am not a religious person. Could there be an inner me I know little about? Telephones, too, have particular meaning in dreams. They deal with communication. The fact the angelic operators simply fiddled with the wires without placing the call could have been suggesting I am unable to express or convey a message to someone. I don’t know.

After a while, I did not want to analyze the dream any more. To pick it apart logically seemed as if I were destroying a work of art. I just wanted to preserve the image, neither fully understood, nor diagnosed to maintain its poetic quality.

Thanks, Annette, for sharing this poem and your emotional journey.

About the Author:

Scientist, educator, conservationist, and author, Annette Libeskind Berkovits, was born in Kyrgyzstan and grew up in postwar Poland and the fledgling state of Israel before coming to America at age sixteen.

Culminating her three-decade career with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York as Senior Vice President and recognized by the National Science Foundation for her outstanding leadership in the field, Annette spearheaded the institution’s science education programs throughout the nation and the world.

Despite being uprooted from country to country, Berkovits has channeled her passions into language study and writing. She has published two memoirs, short stories, selected poems, and completed To Swallow the World – a debut historical novel.

Erythra Thalassa: Brain Disrupted is her first poetry chapbook/ memoir about her emotional response to her son’s stroke. It is available on Amazon, or can be requested through your local bookstore.

Her stories and poems have appeared in Silk Road Review: a Literary Crossroads; Persimmon Tree; American Gothic: a New Chamber Opera; Blood & Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine; and The Healing Muse.

Her first memoir, In the Unlikeliest of Places, a story of her remarkable father’s survival, was published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press in September 2014 and reissued in paperback in 2016. Her second memoir, Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator, was published in April 2017. For more about Annette and her other books visit her website.

African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song edited by Kevin Young

Source: NetGalley

Ebook, 1170 pgs.

I am an Amazon Affiliate

African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song edited by Kevin Young is a compendium like no other, exploring the wide breadth of African American poetry from songs to poems and much more. There are eight sections in this collection and there are the familiar, often anthologized poems we’ve come to know, but there are also the unfamiliar poets who have been obscured by American culture for far too long. The struggle is real and it continues 250 years later, and it will likely continue into the next several decades (I’m being optimistic — I would like to see less struggle sooner).

“For African Americans, the very act of composing poetry proves a form of protest,” says Kevin Young in the introduction. From Phillis Wheatley and Lucy Terry, whose untitled poem “Bars Fight” was first composed orally and shared for generations before being in print, to the present day poets, Young says the collection covers those who experienced bondage first hand, modernist movement, the Harlem Renaissance, the Chicago Renaissance, wartime and postwar poets, Beat poets, political poets, poems about ancestry, and so much more. Young says the collection contains “poems we memorize, pass around, carry in our memory, and literally inscribe in stone.” Folk songs, ballads, and poems that have never been published. You can imagine the treasure trove within these pages.

Normally, I would share excerpts from this collection but I prefer that you discover these for yourself. I want you to journey into the African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song edited by Kevin Young on your own without preconceived notions of what you’ll find there. There is so much more than Langston Hughes. This is a collection that should be brought to classrooms as young as elementary schools. These are the poems and truths that need to be taught so that we can learn from the past and move forward as a nation to a brighter future.

RATING: Quatrain

Cold Moon: On Life, Love, and Responsibility by Roger Rosenblatt

Source: publicist

Hardcover, 98 pgs.

I am an Amazon Affiliate

Cold Moon: On Life, Love, and Responsibility by Roger Rosenblatt is an undulating wave of stories that the author uses to illustrate the lessons: appreciate being alive, recognizing the gift and power of love, and exercising responsibility toward others. Rosenblatt relies on the image of the Cold Moon, which occurs in late December as winter solstice arrives, as a symbol for the later years of his own life. He reflects on the stories he had written for Time magazine and other outlets and what they have taught him about the resiliency and love that is still present a world that sometimes seems cold and unwelcoming.

“The only thing I’m certain of is my uncertainty.” (pg. 27)

So much of life is uncertain for all of us, despite the plans we make or the directions we wish to go. Like these times of isolation and social distancing during COVID-19, Rosenblatt’s words ring true. “And to the little mechanical hand of the self-defeating box? In the few-second interim from when the time on becomes off, why don’t you learn to play the mandolin?” (pg. 28) He also reminds us that like termites, we’re dependent upon one another. We are responsible for our survival and that of those around us, even if it seems as though we are separate and unlike others around us.

Like writing and music, life happens between the noise. Cold Moon: On Life, Love, and Responsibility by Roger Rosenblatt is a meditation that reads a little disjointed, but the messages are sound.

RATING: Tercet

Mailbox Monday #607

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

Cold Moon: On Life, Love, and Responsibility by Roger Rosenblatt

The Cold Moon occurs in late December, auguring the arrival of the winter solstice. Approaching the winter solstice of his own life, Roger Rosenblatt offers a book dedicated to the three most important lessons he has learned over his many years: an appreciation of being alive, a recognition of the gift and power of love, and the necessity of exercising responsibility toward one another. Rosenblatt’s poetic reflections on these vital life lessons offer a tonic for these perilous and fearful times, and attest to the value of our very existence. Cold Moon: a book to offer purpose, to focus the attention on life’s essentials, and to lift the spirit.

Political AF: A Rage Collection by Tara Campbell

Unlikely Books is thrilled to release Political AF: A Rage Collection by Tara Campbell. The past few years have been fertile ground for work in the field of protest writing. Political AF: A Rage Collection is a hybrid chapbook of poetry and prose. The collection focuses on topics such as race, corruption, gun violence, police brutality, Confederate monuments, reproductive freedom, and the sexual harassment and abuse of women. While the current POTUS and his league of enablers are addressed in some works the bulk of the collection is, sadly, evergreen.

Brain Candy 2

So you know that the speed of light is fast: 229,792,458 miles per second. But what does that really mean? It means that at the speed of light, you could reach the moon in 1.3 seconds. How long to travel to the sun? Just 8 minutes. And in 4.6 hours, you could reach Pluto at 4.6 billion miles away! If you like seeing far-out facts in a new light, the second book in the colorful Brain Candy series takes a deep (and delicious) dive into numbers, fun facts, and cool trivia on all kinds of topics. It’s a novel approach to feeding kids smart snackable bites about the world and is sure to be an addictive addition to the bookshelves of Weird But True! and Just Joking fans.

The Coolest Stuff on Earth: A Closer Look at the Weird, Wild, and Wonderful

Did you know that dogs can shake off a pound of water in less than a second? That some sand dunes whistle and sing? That the U.S. dollar bill is full of hidden symbols related to the number 13? Our world is filled with strange, bizarre, and weird happenings. But what do they mean? WHY are they important? And what secrets are behind them?

These secrets and MORE are revealed through cool stories, action-packed photos, fantastic infographics, and exciting Q&As with in-the-field experts. Discover the secrets of sharkskin, the mysteries behind incredible island animals, the power behind lightning, how a rare gemstone changes color, and more. Kids will be captivated by this fresh way of looking at our amazing planet.

What did you receive?

Happy Thanksgiving