current events

Almost One Year Later

It’s been almost one year since a lone gunman murdered 26 teachers and students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  After the tragedy, I thought surely this is going to be a wake-up call to our legislatures.  Despite the fact that a majority of Americans want to see gun violence prevented, nothing has happened.  While some states (e.g., Connecticut and New York come to mind) have tightened their laws on the state level, NOTHING has happened other than partisan bickering at the federal level.

In the meantime, approximately 11,000 more lives were cut short by gun violence since the shooting at Sandy Hook.  11,000 people have been murdered by guns!  Do you know how many people have lost children, spouses, parents, cousins, siblings, and friends as a result of those 11,000 lives that are no longer with us?  It’s just too hard to count how many people have been impacted by the untimely passage of lives.

I went to Washington, DC in 1995 as a college student.  I volunteered in the White House of Office of Women’s Initiatives and Outreach.  I believe in the political process.  Despite the opposition, I still believe something can change, which is why I participated in Faiths Calling today.  I called my sentators this afternoon to remind them, as I have done on numerous other occasions in the past year, that there are those of us who believe in universal background checks, a limit on magazine sizes, and increased funding for the mentally ill.  I got an automated message at Sen. Casey’s Office and left a detailed voicemail.  The person who picked up my call at Sen. Toomey’s office wouldn’t connect me to the staffer who works on gun violence prevention (that didn’t shock me), but she logged my phone call.  I can keep calling… and so can you.

The world is not a safe place.  I cannot put a bubble around my child to keep her safe.  However, as an ordinary citizen, I can do my part at making my voice heard.  I will continue to stand up for what I believe.  And I really do believe we need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.  It is my sincere hope that something will give in Washington next year so real change can take place.

board books · current events · Jewish

Repairing the World

Tikkun Olam Ted_tnGoing to the mailbox is a big deal around here.  Isabelle watches me nearly every day.  She gets excited when she has mail, which happens maybe once a week.  (If she doesn’t officially have mail, then I bequeath a catalog to her.)  Today she had mail from the PJ Library.  I figured it was a book about Shavuot.  As I opened the envelope and presented her with the book inside, I was shocked by the title.

Tikkun Olam Ted,” I announced!  Tikkun Olam Ted? That doesn’t sound like a Shavuot book!  “Do you want to read it?” I asked.

She nodded her head.

I popped a squat on the floor next to her and began reading the story of a boy, Ted,  who spends every day of the week, except Shabbat, repairing the world.

His family calls him “Tikkun Olam Ted” because he wants to help fix the world and make it a kinder, better, place (2).

And that was when I knew this book was the perfect book for what’s going on in the world right now.  I cannot comprehend senseless acts of violence that rip limbs off of bodies and tear apart families.  The bombings at the Boston Marathon sought to terrify people from gathering and celebrating the preparation and conditioning that goes into running a 26.2 mile race.  So rather than focus on what was lost on Monday, I am prepared to focus on the light in the world.  And the way to find light in the world is through acts of kindness.

And that’s where books like Tikkun Olam Ted come in.  As a Jewish parent I want to teach my daughter what repairing the world looks like.  It’s hard to instill that sense into a young child.  They have to see their role models being kind to others in order to show kindness to others themselves.  But, just like anything we can teach through literature, tikkun olam is no different.  By learning about Ted and how he recycles, walks dogs from the animal shelter, waters the plants, and feeds the birds, my daughter can learn simple ways she can work to repair the world we live in.  If we can teach our children how to make their corner of the world a better place, then perhaps this world won’t feel as broken as it does right now.

Tikkun Olam Ted is written by Vivian Newman and illustrated by Steve Mack (Kar-Ben, 2013). Isabelle enjoyed the story and “read” it by herself after I finished reading it aloud to her.  It is my hope this becomes one of her favorites.

current events · slice of life

My Advice to New Moms in the Wake of the Terror in Boston.

I was chatting on my home phone with my friend Emily in Boston while both of our daughters, my toddler and her less than a week-old, were napping yesterday afternoon.  Suddenly my iPhone buzzed.  I read the NBC Breaking News alert.

“How far away are you from the finish line of the Boston Marathon?” I asked.

“A few miles,” Emily responded.  “Why?”

“A bomb supposedly just went off at the finish line,” I said.  I read her the alert.  Nothing was confirmed yet so we went right on talking.

Ten minutes later she interrupted me mid-sentence.  “Stace, I’ve gotta go. Philippe just texted me that two bombs went off at the Marathon. He’s fine, but I have a friend who lives around the corner from the finish line.  Let me go.”

“Okay.  Stay safe.”

And we hung up.

I turned not the TV instead of turning my attention to the work I should’ve been doing on for upcoming presentation.  When the screen came alive I was met with video of the bomb blasts.  No one knew what was happening, how many people were injured, or who did this horrendous act.

My mind went back to January 8th, 2011, when my daughter was a few days old.  That was the day of the shooting at the Safeway in Tucson where Congresswoman Giffords was holding a meeting with constituents.  There I was, hormonal and sleep-deprived, watching the terrible events unfold again and again on CNN.  It was tragic.  But as I sat in my bedroom, pumping several times a day, I watched the news.  I couldn’t seem to turn it off despite the fact that I bawled constantly every time I heard about someone who died or who was injured.  What I needed someone to tell me was this: TURN OFF THE TELEVISION.  But no one did.  So I watched and cried as many times a day as I pumped.

So I dashed a note off to Emily a few hours later.  I said this:

I can’t believe we were on the phone when the bombs were exploding in Boston this afternoon. Try to stay away from the news as much as you can.  (The Gabby Giffords shooting happened when I was a few days postpartum.  I watched way too much of the coverage and was bawling my eyes out since I was so hormonal.)  I know it’s happening much closer to home than the Tucson incident, but it’ll probably make you more upset to have the TV on constantly.

I’m not one of those moms who likes to tell other moms how to raise their kids, what to buy, etc.   I’m really not simply because I don’t like being intrusive. However, as someone who read too many articles and watched too much television about the shootings in Tucson, I know how helpless it left me. Here I was, a new mom who just brought new life into this scary world.  Everything was new to me. Simple things like diapering and feeding my newborn felt complex back in those days. Adding a national tragedy into the mix made being a mom of a newborn harder.

So, my advice to any mom of a newborn who is sleep-deprived and healing from birth is to turn off the television. If you must watch, limit yourself to 30 minutes away from that precious baby of yours.  And then, turn off the news and shut out the rest of the world.  Smell his/her heavenly scent.  Feel their soft skin.  Give your child lots of kisses.  And that’s it.  Just go and be a mom.

current events

Our first of #26acts of kindness.

Ann Curry encouraged the masses to commit 20 random acts of kindness in memory of the children who perished at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Many people have upped the ante to 26 random acts of kindness in order to remember the heroic teachers and staff members who died on December 14th as well.

DSC_6172I decided I wanted to participate in the 26 acts of kindness with my daughter.  She’s almost two, which means she’s too young to understand what the meaning is behind these acts.  (Clearly, I’m NOT talking about the shooting with her.  I’m just talking about doing nice things for people who we may or may not know.)  Today we did our first act of kindness, which was working together to send thank you cards to the helpers who were the first responders.  While I embellished the front of the cards with quotations, stickers, and ribbons (and wrote the note), Isabelle participated by coloring on one of the cards.  For me, that was enough.

When she woke up from her nap, we began our second act.  She watched me prepare dinner for a friend’s family who just had a baby.  We’ll deliver it tomorrow.  That will be our second of 26 acts.

I won’t be blogging about all of our acts. I don’t feel the need to make everything we do public.  That’s not who I am. However, I know if I commit to 26 acts publicly, then I will follow through with Isabelle in tow.  It may take us awhile to complete 26 acts together, but we’ll do it since I know it will add a bit more light to the world and perhaps will also start to teach her what it means to repair the world.


If you’d like to send cards to first responders, then here are the addresses where you can mail your cards:


Monroe Police Department

7 Fan Hill Road

Monroe, CT 06468


Newtown Police Department
3 Main Street
Newtown, CT 06470

Connecticut State Police
Public Information Office
1111 Country Club Road
Middletown, Connecticut 06457

current events

Showing and telling kids you love them.

It’s Monday. That means I should be crafting a post about the books Isabelle and I are reading now. After all, I got back into the Teach Mentor Texts’ Challenge a couple of weeks ago. But yet, today, I cannot seem to craft a blog post about books. Everything from Friday morning’s shooting in Newtown, CT is still too raw.  So, no, today’s post won’t be about books.  Instead it’s about heroism and the concept of show, don’t tell, something we teach young writers how to do as one way to help them write well.

SHOW:  I was moved to tears by an ABCNEWS.COM story, Newtown Teacher Kept 1st Graders Calm During Massacre, about first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig who barricaded herself and her students in a bathroom to keep them safe during the shooting.  And when the police came, she demanded to see badges and have them unlock the bathroom door.  She showed extreme respect and caution by demanding that the first responders were who they said they were.  She showed her kids they were safe when they were hiding together since she stayed in charge the entire time.

TELL:  What really moved me was that Kaitlin told her students that she loved them when they were hiding together. She did this because she didn’t want the gun fire to be the last thing they heard if they died last Friday.  Instead, she wanted their ears to hear words of love. In her interview with Diane Sawyer she questioned whether that was the right thing to do. Yes, it was.  The fact she had the idea to tell them she loved them so she could fill their head with compassion and kindness was exactly the thing to do.

Katilin’s communicated to her students a message of strength, bravery, and courage at a time when it could’ve been easy to just shush the kids and stay silent.  I’m amazed by Kaitlin’s bravery and willingness to show AND tell her students how much she loved them through her strong actions and precise words.  She is a teacher hero.  Furthermore, she’s an American hero.

This tragic event makes me realize that we have the power to communicate our love to our children and our students. While inappropriate to tell students “I love you,” on a daily basis there are so many ways that teachers can wield incredible power by communicating their love for the children they teach by showing them they’re loved. Creating a climate of respect where everyone gets what they need (not wants) is a way to communicate our love for students. Classrooms where bullying isn’t tolerated also shows students we love them and value them.  Making spaces where the social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum is yet another way we show students we love all parts of them.

However, I am taking what Kaitlin said and have thought about how I can translate that into helping my corner of the world be a better place.  And what I’m thinking is this: I can call my Senators every day and I might not get anywhere.  (And yes, I called today and got a recording at one office and a response about a lack of position re: the renewal of the assault weapons ban from the other.) However, I can raise my daughter in a way that helps her know she is loved. I can show her that she’s loved by feeding her healthy food, playing with her, helping her discover the beauty of the outdoors, providing her with rich books to read, and by taking her to visit new places. I can tell her she’s loved every day, multiple times a day. I can tell her with my words, with kisses, and with hugs. By showing and telling her I know I am going to help her grow up knowing, without question, that I treasure her. And while there will be days, in the future, where I’m sure she won’t like me and I won’t like her, I never want her to doubt that she is loved.  Not even for a minute.

So, thank you, Kaitlin Roig. Not just for your incredible acts of heroism, but for the message of love you gave them and for the reminder that you gave all of us that one of the most powerful things we can do is to communicate our love for others.