Remembering 9/11

Early this week, Charlotte said perhaps the most endearing thing she could ever say to me. In the midst of some post-bath silly conversation about mothers and daughters, she looked me squarely in the eye and said, "I hope you last forever."

I was taken aback because I know that I won't "last forever."
Today, September, 11, I am reminded how quickly that "forever" can evaporate. Seven years ago I was driving to work in Buffalo Grove, IL. I was listening to WXRT and suddenly at 7:48 a.m. CST or so, Mary Dixon (my friend and the newscaster) broke into to the music broadcast to announce that a plane had just flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. At that time, that was all she knew. They thought perhaps it was a little personal plane., an accident, a stunt.

I remember the crystal clear blue sky as I followed the highway past the Chicago Botanical Gardens and Mary and Lyn speculated about what might have happened.

A little while later, I stepped out of my car and a colleague who has worked for "a small office in Virginia," if you know what I mean, called across the parking lot to me: "A second plane hit the other Tower. It's terrorism. Get inside."

We spent the rest of the morning in a conference room watching the news. Were people really jumping off the World Trade Center Towers? Had more planes been hijacked? Where was my husband? (Safe in Minnesota where he and his colleagues were able to rent the last car in town to drive home.) Where was my brother? (Also on a business trip. He too was able to rent a car and drive home.) Where was my mother? (At a dog-related meeting in Newark, NJ, unable to leave for quite some time because the highways were clogged.)

In the blink of an eye, at 8:59 a.m. CST, the unbelievable happened, the South Tower collapsed. We truly couldn't believe what we were watching. As if to confirm what we saw, the North Tower collapsed less than 30 minutes later. Its 9 second crumbling into dust is etched into my mind. Nothing, not even buildings built to withstand the impact of a 707 airliner, lasts forever.

What I didn't know at the time was that my high school friend Jeffrey Gardner was in one of those towers. Today, as I drove home from dropping Charlotte at pre-school, I wondered about his last moments. Was he injured in the initial impact? If not, then I know with all the certainty in my heart that Jeffrey stayed in that tower to help other people and he sacrificed himself to do so. That's just the man he was.

For the past two years, I've posted a sort of memorial essay about Jeffrey. Last year, in response to my post, I was contacted by my best friend from elementary school. Even in death, Jeffrey unites people and reminds them of the light that he brought to our lives.

So, again, here's my essay. Please take the time to read it and remember that while "America [was] under attack," as Andrew Card famously told President Bush 7 years ago, very real people were being injured and murdered. The ripple effect of their loss cannot ever be forgotten.

(Originally written on 9/11/2006)

Jeffrey B. Gardner died [7] years ago today when the World Trade Towers collapsed. I had known Jeffrey for as long as I can remember, growing up in the same town (Livingston, NJ) and attending religious school at B'nai Jeshurun together.

More than a boy I grew up with, Jeffrey was a dear friend throughout my high school and college years. We were both socially conscious teenagers and active in our temple youth group and in JFTY, the Jersey Federation of Temple Youth.

Like all of the people who have signed his guestbook, I can attest to Jeffrey's special qualities--his goodness, kindness, wisdom, and sense of fun. I can also recall his pride as he listened to his father sing in the temple choir on the high holy days, his clear affection for his siblings, and his love for his mother.

Jeffrey and I, along with 20 other Jewish teens, spent a special summer together in 1982. As part of the JFTY Urban Mitzvah Corps, we lived in a fraternity house at Rutgers (later Jeffrey's alma mater) and volunteered for various organizations in the New Brunswick area. We worked with the elderly, disadvantaged children, and the disabled. In the evenings we studied and played, enriching our Judaism and bonding as a group in a way that is immeasurable. Jeffrey lived his Jewish values and he taught us how much fun (and mischief) we could have within the limits of a moral, thoughtful life.

My father had a special place in his heart for Jeffrey. Not just because they were in the same business, but because Jeffrey was respectful, forthcoming, and friendly. In business, my father could count on Jeffrey, just as I could count on him as a friend.

Since Jeffrey's death, I've learned that he continued to live those values for the rest of his far-too-short life. He read the Christian Bible and the Koran in order to understand other people's belief systems. He volunteered with Habitat for Humanity throughout the hemisphere. He worked hard at his career and prospered.

In his obituary, his sister Amy noted that he had a sun tatooed on his ankle because "a good day was as bad as it got. " Jeffrey shone like that sun. Even when we weren't in touch for a long time (we hadn't spoken for about 3 years before his death), I felt his presence and the mark that he made on my life.

On that perfect sunny September morning, a day eerily like today in Chicago, hatred hilled Jeffrey. The irony that intolerance killed a soul who embodied tolerance is not lost on me.
I dedicate today to Jeffrey--as sad as I am for his loss, I strive to live a life of which he would have been proud, to be tolerant and kind and strong as a tribute to his memory.

Rest in peace, dear friend. You are indeed Z"L (Zichrono Livracha), of blessed memory.

Book Meme

  • A meme is kind of a lame way to post when I've been absent for so long and I have so many posts in my head (they do me oh so much good there), but since my 5 readers are all book people, I figured, "why not?"

    So....Stolen from  waterowl who got it from badgerbag
    I just can't resist. Now I have a new reading list!

    These are the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing's users (as of today). As usual, bold what you have read, italicise what you started but couldn't finish, and strike through what you couldn't stand. Added by oursin: and underline those you have no intention of reading. The numbers after each one are the number of LT users who used the tag of that book (that is, last time that the algorithm was done).

    Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (149)
    Anna Karenina (132)
    Crime and punishment (121)
    Catch-22 (117)
    One hundred years of solitude (115)
    Wuthering Heights (110)
    The Silmarillion (104)
    Life of Pi : a novel (94)
    The name of the rose (91)
    Don Quixote (91)
    Moby Dick (86)
    Ulysses (84)
    Madame Bovary (83)
    The Odyssey (83)
    Pride and prejudice (83)
    Jane Eyre (80)

    A tale of two cities (80)
    The brothers Karamazov (80)
    Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies (79)
    War and peace (78) (
    Vanity fair (74)
    The time traveler's wife
    The Iliad (73)
    Emma (73)
    The Blind Assassin (73)
    The kite runner (71)
    Mrs. Dalloway (70)
    Great expectations (70)

    American gods (68)
    A heartbreaking work of staggering genius (67)
    Atlas shrugged (67)
    Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books (66)
    Memoirs of a Geisha (66)
    Middlesex (66)

    Quicksilver (66)
    Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West (65)
    The Canterbury tales (64)
    The historian : a novel (63)
    A portrait of the artist as a young man (63)
    Love in the time of cholera (62)
    Brave new world (61)
    The Fountainhead (61)
    Foucault's pendulum (61)
    Middlemarch (61) 
    Frankenstein (59)

    The Count of Monte Cristo (59) 
    Dracula (59)
    A clockwork orange (59) (Nppe. But my husband, for whom English is a third language, swears this is the book that helped him master English!)
    Anansi boys (58)
    The once and future king (57) (Nope though I remember the movie.)
    The grapes of wrath (57) (Maybe? Or am I remembering the movie?)
    The Poisonwood Bible : a novel (57)
    1984 (57)

    Angels & demons (56)
    The inferno (56)
    The satanic verses (55)
    Sense and sensibility (55)
    The picture of Dorian Gray (55)
    Mansfield Park (55)

    One flew over the cuckoo's nest (54)
    To the lighthouse (54)
    Tess of the D'Urbervilles (54)
    Oliver Twist (54)
    Gulliver's travels (53)
    Les misérables (53)
    The corrections (53)
    The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay (52)
    The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (52)
    Dune (51)
    The prince (51)
    The sound and the fury (51)
    Angela's ashes : a memoir (51)
    The god of small things (51)
    A people's history of the United States : 1492-present (51)
    Cryptonomicon (50)
    Neverwhere (50) (also the graphic novel)
    A confederacy of dunces (50)
    A short history of nearly everything (50)
    Dubliners (50)
    The unbearable lightness of being (49)
    Beloved (49)

    Slaughterhouse-five (49)
    The scarlet letter (48)
    Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (48)
    (Full disclosure time--I've read the picture book version. It rocks.)
    The mists of Avalon (47)
    Oryx and Crake : a novel (47)
    Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed (47)
    Cloud atlas (47)
    The confusion (46)
    Lolita (46)
    Persuasion (46)
    Northanger abbey (46)
    The catcher in the rye (46)
    On the road (46)
    The hunchback of Notre Dame (45)
    Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything (45)
    Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance : an inquiry into values (45)
    The Aeneid (45)
    Watership Down (44)
    Gravity's rainbow (44)
    The Hobbit (44)
    In cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences (44) (LOVED the movie.)
    White teeth (44)
    Treasure Island (44) How on earth could anyone not read this!
    David Copperfield (44)
    The three musketeers (44)
  • Current Music
    Charlotte's breathing
  • Tags

Kidslitosphere Column Posted

After more than 20 weeks of not updating this blog, I'm back. Yikes.  Is anyone still out there?

Anyway, as I do quarterly, I'm posting a link to my kidslitosphere column which is published in The Prairie Wind, the online newsletter of our Illinois chapter of SCBWI.  This time around I did virtual interviews with many of our members who blog and then posted a round robin of the interview. Sadly, some of our chapter's more "famous" bloggers (Silly Chick, Esme, etc.) were not able to participate. But, you will see answers from LJ  friends Bev, Anna, and Cynthea.

If you're inspired by their answers (and you will be, I promise), you might want to answer the meme yourself.  Why don't you peruse the questions, post to your own blog, and then link somewhere fun?  Here are the questions:


  1. Are you a writer? An illustrator?  Both? Neither? I write picture books and poems in my computer.  They stay there or my writing group hears them. I love my writing group. I wish I could play with them more often.
  2. How long have you been blogging?  What/who inspired you to begin blogging? My 70-something mother said, “You ought to have a blog.”  I said, “Mom, do you know what a blog is?”  She replied, “No. Not really. But you need one.”  Thus was born With a nod to Mr. Willems, as the Pigeon says, “True story.” Only my story is true!
  3. Where do you blog?  What noise is in the background? Be honest! I’m sitting on my red couch, listening to All My Children and my cats snoring.  On my LiveJournal blog I always note my location and ambient sounds!
  4. What is the primary reason you blog?  To market your books? To write about your writing process? Do you write about children’s literature in general (book reviews, reading, and the like) or maybe not about books at all? OK, I don’t blog about kids lit.  Not on my own blog anyway.  I blog about my daughter and her medical journey.  I blog to share her story with friends and family, to post pictures because I’m too scattered to print and mail them, and, hopefully, to reach and help other families with similar medical needs. And, I dig the fame and fortune!
  5. What has been the unexpected delight of blogging? Finding out that my husband’s colleagues read the blog. Getting comments from parents in Florida whose daughter also a congenital heart defect.
  6. What has been the hardest part of blogging? This spring it has been finding the time between my teaching gig, my daughter, and my freelance writing.
  7. Describe your day, in detail, from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. Read the blog!
  8. Have you ever been a guest blogger or done a virtual book tour? Tell us about that experience.
  9. Of all the blogs you read, what is your favorite?  Why? Check out my first column!
  10. Which KidsLit blogger would you like to meet in person? Why?  What would you ask them? Fuse#8 and Lisa Graff.  The first because she’s so darn smart.  Ms. Graff because I loved The Thing About Georgie. I’d ask, “How do you have the time to post so consistently and write such fun, engaging posts?  Seriously.  How do you do it?” I already know Anne Boles Levy, lucky me! And, though they don’t blog about KidsLit, I can’t help plugging Halushki, mommy blogger extraordinaire, and Profgrrrrl, tenure-tracking her way through academia.

Still Here & Shameless Self-Promotion

I thought I'd let all three of my LJ readers know that I'm still here.  UIC is kicking my butt in terms of time fir blogging  Charlotte's Journey Home has been reduced to 2 updates a month, much to my brother's chagrin. And I've had to cut back my kids' book reviews to nil.  I've even been replaced on Book Buds by a  far more "famous" kidslitosphere blogger as a weekly reviewer. I hope Anne will take me back one day.

One bright note, my second column for Prairie Wind, the online newsletter of our local chapter of Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, is up.  Check it out:

Also, check out for the reasons I'll probably be absent for a few more weeks.

Ta Ta for now

Back in Academia

I'm sitting in my office at UIC and thinking "What am I doing in an office at UIC?  How did I get here? And, why can't I see our lovely skyline?"

The last question is the easiest to answer:  UIC's University Hall is a 25 story tower of typical academic architecture, marked by skinny windows separated by large cement columns.  The window facing the Sear's Tower is actually blocked by a large column outside, holding the building up I assume.  It is, in a word, ugly. (See picture below.  My view of the skyline is as blocked as yours--my office is 15 stories up on the side of the building facing away from the camera.)

How did I get here?  True confessions time. I am a lapsed academic.  I gave it all up about 8 years ago because I could see that despite my publishing record (good), my teaching experience (nearly every major university in the Chicago area except UIC and U of C), and student evaluations (strong), I was not going to land a tenure-track job.  Five years on the job market, patching together a living as a adjunct faculty killed my spirit and did me in.

Then I went into marketing. Need I say more?

Last fall, in a moment of insomnia, I scanned the local univerisities to see if there were open positions in my field. Long story short, I applied for a job (and didn't get it).  In the process, I re-connected with my former academic community and made some new friends.  A new friend sent my resume to the Latin American and Latino Studies Department at UIC and here I am, teaching Gender in Latin America as a film course.  And, an old friend made sure that I was solicited for a conference paper proposal (sent off yesterday) and contributed a paper to an anthology.  Another friend, a mentor, really is waiting for a paper in a new subject area for me (blogging :)).

Unlike my friend profgrrrrlI can't be anonymous here since I've long since identified myself.  And I have no appetite or time to start a new blog (Though it would be called "A Professor? Who, me?"). But, I think I'll have a lot to say as this rollercoaster ride goes on.  So, my musings on academic life and being a "working mom"* will be honest, but cautious.  

Stay tuned.

**I hate  the term "working mom."  All moms work. Regardless of whether they get paid for it.  But, it is convenient and understood.
  • Current Mood
    awake awake

Poetry Friday

A book we picked up at the library and that Charlotte has started enjoying: Yesterday I Had the Blues written by Jeron Ashford Frame and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

My favorite phrase:
Talia says she got the indigos.
I said, indigo's the same as blue.

Talia says, uh-oh,
she got the saxophone
in the subway

The hair hangin' loose,
write a poem that don't rhyme indigos.

The kind of indigos
make her act
like the drapes.

The images, too, are poetry.  You'll have to find it for yourself, though, due to copyright issues.

As for me, today I have the blues, the deep midnight will she ever nap will I ever sleep through the night again can I possibly do my new job and be a good mom blues, the kind of blues make you want to curl up under a blankie with a cat

Poetry Friday and Restarting

Here I am again. Computer problems resolved, all data restored. Charged up to really use LJ this year. But, realistic enough to know that with my spring schedule it will be tough to post regularly.

So, my valiant beginning is a Friday Poem, found on the bulletin board at the yoga studio last week:

You have been saying that this is the 11thhour. 
Now tell the people that this is the hour.

There is a river flowing now very fast.
Know the river has its destination.  We must 
let go of the shore, push off into the middle 
of the river, keep our eyes open, our heads above water.

Gather yourselves!
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
Your relationships--are you in right 
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your truth.

Create your community.
Be good to each other.
Do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time.

Banish the word struggle from your 

All that we do now must be done in a 
sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we've been looking for.

--Hopi Eder
Oraibi, Arizona

We are the ones we've been looking for.  Indeed.  A new thought for a new year.

Lost Data

Riddle: If you accidentally spill a glass of water on your laptop, what happens?
Answer: Well, it works for a little while, hooked up to a desktop.  The touchpad and keyboard die. And then, nothing.
(Okay, I know this is not funny)

Yep, this tired Mommy knocked over a glass of water.  Now my dear laptop is at the computer hospital where, hopefully, they will be able to retrieve my data tomorrow.  We saw all the files before the Vaio died for good, but there's no guarantee.

if you're reading this (and I don't know how many of you there are out there) and you have occasion to know my email address, please drop me an email with all of your pertinent information (email, phone, etc.).  I've lost everything.

Back up your computer.  Do it now. Seriously.

  • Current Music
    Charlotte's feeding pump

Shameless Self-Promotion

Well, it's official. I'm a columnist, writing quarterly about the "kidslitosphere," or blogs that talk about children's literature. If you're interested, you can read more at Prairie Wind.

Also, I've recently begun reviewing children's books for the longest extant children's literature blog,
Book Buds Kidlit Review. My charming new editor posted my introduction and bio today and my first review will be up to tomorrow. To entice you to read more, if you click here you'll get to see a picture of Charlotte.