Diverse Middle Grade Book Recommendations

Algonquin Young Readers is hosting an #ILoveMG week on Twitter this week and of course I couldn’t resist playing along. Today’s theme is diverse middle grade book recommendations. Although I talked about my two-week massive Middle-Grade Reading Holiday last month, I want to focus in on some great diverse reads that you should check out (and share with your children). Only good things can come from the books on library and bookshop shelves representing the diverse people we see outside those bookshops and libraries every day.

Diverse Middle Grade Book Recommendations

So here are just a few of the diverse middle grade book recommendations I’ve accumulated over the past year. These recommendations show us exactly why we need (even more) diverse books:

This breathtaking and magical account of a young girl’s fight to survive Hurricane Katrina should be required reading. It poignantly capture the devastation of the neighborhoods in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, but it does so while maintaining what most middle-grade readers crave in even the scariest stories: Hope.

 

 

 

 

This is the first book I’ve ever read told from the point of view of a transgender middle-grade girl. Eye-opening, heart-felt, and containing a beautiful hat-tip to one of my all-time favorite books, Charlotte’s Web, this is definitely one to read and then discuss with your children.

 

 

 

 

A novel in verse with absolutely astonishing voice, PLUS basketball? Yes, please! I particularly enjoyed listening to this one on audiobook because it made Kwame Alexander’s stunning characters come alive even more!

 

 

 

 

One thing I love about the We Need Diverse Books campaign is that it doesn’t just focus on a  particular race, religion, or ethnicity. It includes those who are neurodiverse as well. Ali Benjamin recounts how one neurodiverse girl deals with the unraveling of a lifelong friendship and a terrible tragedy. The sprinkling of science throughout this stunning book made it one of my favorites last year (and my daughter Lily’s too!).

 

 

 

 

This story of how a Jewish family deals with chronic illness and death is on the darker side of the middle-grade books I read last year. But the characters are drawn so beautifully that it’s worth letting it break your heart.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m currently reading Hoodoo and within the first few pages, Ronald Smith drew me completely into the world of 1930s Alabama. Fans of the creepy and supernatural will love this scary, but beautiful, story.

 

 

 

 

 

This award-winning book contains several stories in one as the author recounts a fairy tale based in part on her Mexican grandmother’s experiences in an American labor camp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are so many more that I could have listed. What were your favorite diverse reads of 2015? Any you are looking forward to in 2016?

Pain-Free Coffee Detox

WP_20151007_07_58_23_Pro Ever since my daughter, affectionately known as The Amazing Non-Sleeping Baby, entered the world, I’ve started my day with coffee. Although I love the stuff, especially now that we live in the land of Stumptown, it doesn’t love me. Between tension headaches, insomnia, and lactose intolerance, I can’t enjoy the coffee without some pretty serious side effects.

So I decided to start the new year with a big old detox, Whole30 style. One catch, though. Recent studies showed the risk of heart-disease increased because of Ibuprofen (which I take like candy when I’m in the throes of the tension headache/insomnia/overcaffeinating cycle) made me want to add Vitamin I to the detox list too. And with a writing deadline looming, I really couldn’t afford to have all fifteen of these nasty caffeine withdrawal symptoms for two weeks while I let my body adjust to the lack of caffeine.

If you’re looking for information on why caffeine is bad for you, read this Forbes article that summarizes a John Hopkins report about how caffeine affects cognitive function or this article on caffeine withdrawal being reclassified as a mental disorder. I fall into the category described in this Mayo Clinic article as “caffeine sensitive,” so I get the jitters and can’t sleep with a much lower dose of caffeine than some people. I estimate my daily consumption (which varied based on whether I drank espresso or press-pot, and whether my pot of tea was green or black tea) to be in the 170-220mg per day range. Safe according to Mayo Clinic, but not working for me personally.

There are oodles of plans out there from stopping cold-turkey (which I’ve tried before and found really painful) to step-down plans that take three weeks to wean the body off of caffeine. Yeah, I’m too impatient for that. So I basically did a 7-day plan based off of the detox steps outlined here. And I promise you, it works! I’m now on day 3 with zero caffeine AND zero headaches. Note that I am downing tons of water, taking a multi-vitamin, as well as taking L-Tyrosine and DLPA amino-acid supplements for mental clarity and alertness, which I believe helped me with the detox.

Here’s what it looked like for me:

New Year’s Day – Coffee. Because champagne and staying up til midnight the night before. Duh!

January 2 – One cup of coffee (instead of the two, plus an afternoon pot of tea I usually drink) in the morning.

January 3 – No coffee, but started the morning with black tea. At this point, I didn’t really notice a difference.

January 4 – Started the morning with a pot of green tea (only one tea bag). Felt a little sluggish, to be honest.

January 5 – Repeated previous day since I didn’t feel great the previous day. Glad I did because I went to the dentist that day, which always gives me a massive headache.

January 6 – Waited until lunch to have a pot of tea. For me, the two signs of physical dependence on caffeine I have are being fuzzy-headed in the morning and having an energy slump in the afternoon. So I thought I would tackle the morning fuzzy-headedness first by making myself start my day with no caffeine.

January 7 – Waited until lunch and had a pot of tea. I had a busy, out-of-the-house day planned, so I couldn’t afford a major afternoon slump.

January 8 – Waited until lunch, had a kombucha. FELL ASLEEP FOR 20 MINUTES AT 11am. I consider this the biggest fail of the detox because I was supposed to be working, not napping. But overall, not bad.

January 9 – present – Caffeine free. *confetti cannon*

I’m alert, head-ache free, and getting productive work done this week so far. Oh, and I haven’t murdered anyone in my immediate family. So I’d call that a success, wouldn’t you?

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll stay off of caffeine for the rest of my days. But for at least the next month, I plan to. After that, I may go back to green tea in moderation, but I think my coffee-drinking days are going to be extremely limited. Sorry, Stumptown!

Screen-time Detox and Other Goals

I’m not big on resolutions because I’ve usually forgotten them long before I reach the end of the year. But I am big on starting new habits at special times (the first of the month, the first of the week, the first of the year, the first of the season) because then it’s easier to say “I’ve been doing it for x weeks/months” and keep plowing onward.

So we’re doing a variety of what I’m calling detoxes to start the New Year. Some as individuals, some as a family. Gabriel and I are doing a Couch-to-5k (and if you haven’t checked out the app, do! It does all the timing for you!). Matt and I are doing a Whole30 (although I think he’s close to accusing me of spousal abuse). I’m doing a very gradual, head-ache avoidance caffeine detox, and man, let me tell you, that is rough for this coffee-drinking girl.

And as a family, we’re doing what is perhaps my favorite detox: a screen-time detox. I’m not banning screen-time for the month because I think the minions would rebel. But I am suggesting other things (mainly books, art, and games) each time someone asks me if they can watch TV or play Xbox. Youtube is also banned for a month because too often the kiddos are watching videos when they’re supposed to be reading.

Anyhow, as part of this effort, Lily found an old “Birds of the US” memory game that I hadn’t thought about it ages and the four of us played it. It’s been a hectic first week back to school/work after a lovely restful holiday and I think we were all pretty tired and cranky when we started playing. Gabriel even tried to quit when he fell behind in the beginning. But by the end, we were all laughing together a lot more than we would have been if we’d spent the time doing our usual, watching Cutthroat Kitchen or Mythbusters, or Agents of SHIELD.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re all anxious for the return of Agents of SHIELD and I’ve been toying with the idea of introducing the kids to the older Star Trek TV shows, so we’re not going media-free by any means. Just trying to be a little more intentional about it and make sure we’re spending the rainy winter days doing something more than staring at a screen. So far, so good.

Are you trying to start any new habits in the New Year? 

Kugelhopf Recipe (Alsatian Sweet Bread)

WP_20151224_14_56_45_ProNever share a foreign-language recipe on social media unless you’re prepared to offer the translation to your friends 😉 For all who asked, here is my (translated) Kugelhopf recipe.

  • 500g white or cake flour
  • 150g softened butter (you want this pretty soft!)
  • 100g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 25g fresh yeast (or 5t dried yeast)
  • 250ml warm milk
  • a pinch of salt
  • 50g slivered almonds, plus whole almonds for top
  • 50g raisins, dried currants, or a mix
  • 3T Kirsch (cherry brandy) or other brandy
  • powdered sugar
  1. Mix the yeast into the warmed milk and set aside.
  2. Pour kirsch over dried fruit to rehydrate.
  3. Add flour to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add beaten eggs to the yeast mixture, mix, and add to flour.
  5. Mix until flour is moistened, then add butter and sugar to the dough.
  6. Knead until the dough comes together—it will be wet, but should come away from the sides of the bowl a bit. You may need to add a bit more flour if it’s too sticky.
  7. Dust dough with flour and leave under a damp towel to rise for one hour.
  8. Then mix the kirsch, almonds, and fruit into the dough and knead to evenly distribute.
  9. Butter a bundt pan, place blanched almonds around the bottom of the pan, and arrange the dough evenly in the pan. The smoother you get the top of the dough in this step, the nicer the kugelhopf will sit on the plate.
  10. Cover and leave to rise 90 minutes or until the dough fills the pan.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped.
  12. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with mimosas 😉
This brioche-style bread is delicious on its own, but leftovers also make a mean French toast.

This brioche-style bread is delicious on its own, but leftovers also make a mean French toast.

Where do stories come from?

The cover of Mauri Kunnas' <em>The Canine Kalevala</em> In 2010, my husband, two preschool-aged kids, and I packed up our house and our geriatric cat and moved from Colorado to Helsinki, Finland. Not long after we arrived, a colleague of my husband’s brought my children a copy of Mauri Kunnas’ The Canine Kalevala. She explained that The Kalevala was a very old epic poem about the creation of the world, and, more specifically, Finland.

Having always been a mythology geek, I looked up the full version of the poem (in translation, since my Finnish never quite progressed from ordering off a menu, buying bus tickets, and very basic conversational small-talk). I read in the introduction that The Kalevala was one of Tolkien’s influences as he created Middle Earth and right then I knew I had to write a story about it.

But shiny new story ideas catch my eye like tinfoil attracts a crow, so I ended up writing another novel before I finally came back to The Kalevala in late summer, 2014. And my inspiration for the two heroes of my story, siblings Kai and Freya, had nothing to do with Finland or magic or obscure epic poems. In fact, Kai and Freya were originally Henry and Lauren Rollins, because what led me to their family was a “what if?” question: What would happen if a guy obsessed with Henry Rollins (of Black Flag and spoken word fame) named his son after his hero? Although I’ve expunged every kooky Black Flag reference from the manuscript (because, come on, I write for kids and most adults don’t even know who Henry Rollins is), Kai and Freya’s Dad still hangs on to the punk rock glory days of his youth and I always picture him in a faded band tee.

Kai and Freya’s dynamic, which is central to the plot of the story, is based on my little brother and I, who are great friends now, but who tortured each other regularly when we were Kai and Freya’s age. Unlike my main characters, my own kids are best pals and filled with horror at the idea that one of the more violent moments of the book–a vicious fight between the siblings–is based on something that really happened between my brother and I thirty years ago.

We returned to the United States in December 2014, just as I was finishing up my first draft of QUEST FOR THE KALEVALA. So I like to think of my story as a love letter to a country we happily called home for just over four years. Some of my favorite haunts, from Cafe Tintin to the children’s international school, to gorgeous Lapland in the far north, have roles to play in the story, and through it all, I’ve woven in details from The Kalevala in hopes that kids and adults alike will move beyond the ever-popular Norse and Egyptian mythology to read what Finns had to say about magic, creation, and the songs of power.

If you’d like to read more origin stories from the amazing writers participating in Pitch Wars 2015, visit Vanessa Barger’s blog.

GRUDGING by Michelle Hauck – Cover Reveal & Giveaway!

cover_reveal_rockstar

Today Michelle Hauck and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover for GRUDGING, Birth of Saints Book One series which releases November 17, 2015! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to win a copy if the eBook!

On to the reveal!

Grudging

 

GRUDGING by Michelle Hauck

is published by Harper Voyager Impulse and will be released November 17, 2015

 

Find it: Amazon | Barnes & NobleiBooks | Goodreads

 

A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.

The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.

The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power.  And time is running out.

A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.

michelle_hAbout Michelle:

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.

Her epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The Elephant’s Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer’s Double Edge. She’s repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

Website | Twitter | Facebook page | Tumblr | Goodreads

And now, for the giveaway!

3 winners will receive an eBook of GRUDGING.
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Revising for Story Structure

a photograph of my writing desk

Outlining tools (tea & Sharpies mandatory).

Almost a year ago, I wrote a guest post for Book Country called The Five-Line Outline with some advice for pantsers* hoping to prepare for NaNoWriMo. (* A “pantser” is someone who writes by the seat of their pants as opposed to doing detailed plotting/outlining in advance). If I knew then what I know now, I might have offered some different advice.
I wrote three novels using this “pantser” method and although two of them are good stories (let’s not mention the first one, which will be locked in a trunk forevermore), I knew something was missing. Agents consistently complimented of my concepts, my voice, and my writing, but ultimately passed on representing my work.
CPs started giving me feedback along the lines of needing to get to the action sooner, keeping the plot moving forward, and building tension. At some point this summer, I realized what my problem was: structure. And I started reading: The Plot Whisperer, Save the Cat, endless blog posts. Then, with the recommendation of my amazing Pitch Wars mentor, Juliana Brandt, I started in on Story Engineering.
Before you Begin
The first step is to find a methodology that makes sense to you. Although I think Larry Brooks’ lengthy diatribe against pantsers in the introduction to the book is off-putting to much of his target audience, once you get past that, Story Engineering is a great master class on story structure.
But if you’ve already got a completed manuscript, as I did, how do you go back and fix structure problems? It’s not easy, but it can be done.
First, read these articles, which have great information on story structure:
Ultimately, each writer will have a different approach to preparing to write and/or revising. The key here is coming to understand story structure and the tight link between plot and character that will allow you to write an emotionally satisfying story, no matter how much prep work you do in advance.
Step One – Identifying the Four Parts of Your Story
Story Engineering suggests that each story has 4 parts that are about 25% each–with only Part 1 having the potential to be a bit shorter. This structure is based on the 3-act structure used by screenwriters (featured in Save the Cat, among others), but with Act 2 broken into two parts.
It’s really easy to get bogged down creating an outline or filling out a beat sheet when you’ve got 60 or so chapters like I did, so the first thing I did was just to try to divide the book into the four parts from Story Engineering.

My favorite part of this methodology is the way the character arc (orphan-wanderer-warrior-martyr) ties to each of the four parts of the story’s plot. It gives you a no-nonense guide for how character arcs progress in a way that makes the arc stuff contribute to the plot tension, which in turn makes the ultimate resolution more satisfying and pretty much guarantees that the internal and external conflict resolve at the same time. Pretty cool.

So before I outlined, I created a Scrivener label for each of the four parts of the story and color-coded my chapters. This helped me look quickly at the word count for each of the parts and also gave me a visual reminder of what was supposed to happen in that section. Mine were called Part 1 – Setup/Orphan, Part 2 – Response/Wanderer, Part 3 – Attack/Warrior, and Part 4 – Resolution/Martyr. Those key words are the names of the parts, followed by the names of the stages of character arc evolution.

Step Two – The Beat Sheet
The main piece of advice I’d give pantsers who are looking for a little more structure in their stories is to at least understand and complete a beat sheet before you start writing. I found the Save the Cat and Story Engineering beat sheet to be the most useful, but there are lots out there. Filling out a beat sheet means you’ve identified the major plot points (things like Inciting Incident, First Plot Point/ Catalyst, The Midpoint, and The Second Plot Point/Eureka Moment) in your story and it gives you a fairly structured guideline of where those plot points should fall in the arc of your story.
Step Three – The Dreaded Outline
Once I had a firm grasp of what my story needed to look like, outlining was slightly less painful. I used the beat sheet I filled out in Step Two as the template for my outline and started plugging in all the chapters–one Excel spreadsheet line per chapter. Here’s where I started to identify where my plot points were happening in the wrong place or where I needed to make cuts. I figured out pretty quickly that I needed to get to the action A LOT faster and that my first plot point needed a better introduction to the antagonist, so I started shifting stuff around.
Keep in mind that I had done all of this without touching a word in the manuscript. As hard as it was to not jump in and start shaking things up, I outlined for three solid days before I started the revision.
I highlighted the word count column any place where I deviated a great deal from the suggested word count and I highlighted chapter that I thought should be cut in a different color. I used a third color for chapters that I moved and used a 2-3 word reminder in ( ) after the chapter name if I knew I had a big change (like “cut Ukko” or “add more mythology” or “make Joukahainen creepier”).
Step Four – Write it!
With an outline in place and a solid idea of what needed to happen, I dove into the manuscript. I cut whole chapters, removed a beloved character, and moved things around until I had things in roughly the order I wanted them to be in.
As I worked, I realized I needed more details than what the spreadsheet would allow, so I made notecards too. The notecards used the same color-coding as the Scrivener labels (see those cute little Sharpies in the picture above?) and included chapter title, POV character, a list of “functions” or purposes for that particular chapter, a note about where we we were in story time (because I moved so many plot points around that I needed to keep everything straight), and a note about what the “hook” is that’s going to pull the reader in to the next chapter.
I only did a few notecards at a time and I gave myself permission to update that outline as many times as I needed to until I had it just right. For me, that meant I was adding and moving and changing right up until the last chapter of the story, and that I only worked a few notecards ahead of where I was in the revisions so that I knew where I was headed, but wasn’t locked into anything.
Step Five – Think About Structure In Advance Next Time
With the Pitch Wars Agent Round fast-approaching, I didn’t have time to beat myself up about the fact that I didn’t look at story structure in more detail before I wrote seven drafts of QUEST FOR THE KALEVALA (and many more drafts of FINDING GIB, which will be getting a structure-related revision next!). I just had to get on with it and you should too. Although I doubt I will ever create a detailed outline before I begin drafting (I am, after all, a pantser at heart), I will definitely make sure I know all my major beats and understand how the character will move through his or her arc as the story progresses, before I write a word.
What other resources do you find helpful when thinking about story structure?
Check out Lisa Lewis Tyre’s post on word count as part of her Writer Wednesday blog party!

This Week’s Kidlit Book Recommendations

I am deep into revising Quest for the Kalevala, but I wanted to pop in and tell you about three kid lit books that came out in the past week that I’ve been really looking forward to. There’s something for everyone here, because one’s a spooky picture book, one’s for middle-grade (ages 8-12) readers, and one is for young adults. But who are we kidding? They’re all really for me, me, me (and you, you, you)!

 

Never Never by Brianna Shrum

Because you can never spend too much time in Neverland…

I love retellings that turn the original story on their head, and Neverland is ripe with possibilities. So I can’t wait to read Never Never by Brianna Shrum, a young-adult novel that tells the story not of Peter, but of Hook.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Hook's Revenge, The Pirate Code by Heidi Schulz

The only thing better than boy pirates is…GIRL PIRATES!

Lily and I loved Hook’s Revenge, so we were excited to see book two come out this month. A hilariously-wry narrator, a daughter bent on revenging the death of her father, Captain Hook, and the amazing setting of Neverland make this one a hit for ages 8+.

 

 

 

 

 

 


I Want to Eat Your Books by Karin Lefranc and Tyler Parker

Finally a picture book for our littlest zombie-lovers!

Just in time for Halloween comes a book about a zombie that eats books instead of brains. Will the children be able to save the school library before the little zombie goes on a real book binge? A fun and not-too-scary zombie book for young (pre)readers.

The Silver (Haired) Lining

A photo of Julie with long brown hair

Me, in curly-headed, brown-haired glory a few years ago.

Around this time last year, at the tender age of 39, I had to admit defeat in my battle against gray hair. I was at the point where even coloring my hair every 5-6 weeks wasn’t enough to keep me from having the dreaded silver stripe down my part. For a while, a little voice had been whispering “go natural, go natural,” but it’s surprising how many louder voices drowned it out for a while. It will age you. People will think your kids are your grandkids. What will your husband think? Color isn’t as toxic as it used to be. Just keep doing it.

But I’m sort of stubborn, and so is that little voice. So I talked to my stylist and came up with a plan. For a few dying cycles, he did progressively lighter shades of my natural brown to see if that would help with the white stripe at my part & although it did, it was still bugging me.

photo of Julie with dyed hair

The last dye job. January 2015

I knew we were moving back to the states in December, but to a place where I didn’t know anyone. I was never going to have a better time to transition. So I chopped my hair off in late September and stopped dying it soon thereafter.

By February, I had enough root growth to cut the rest of the color off into an ultra-shot pixie. The lady in the chair next to me at the salon, who was more than ten years older than I am, made sure to comment on how brave I was, while mentioning that she could never do it herself in the same breath.

I’d like to say that I don’t know what the big deal is. But I do. Women are still judged so much for how they look, how they “keep themselves up” and I think deep down there is a belief that looking older might somehow make you feel older too. Well, it doesn’t. I’m 40 and I have gray hair. Big deal. I still want to be Peter Pan when I (never) grow up. I still write kids books, color in coloring books, and make mud pies in the garden. I still act like the child that I am on the inside. Just ask my kids. And my husband hasn’t left me for a 25-year-old (or a 40-year-old trying to look like a 25-year-old). Probably because he knows I’d put a hex on him if he did.

A photo of Julie Artz

Photo (c) Gail Werner

The good news is that I can just pretend I’m on the cutting edge of fashion as starlets the world over embrace gray hair. Before you get too excited about us making progress toward stamping out this little bit of ageism in the fashion world, though, the trend is called “the granny look.” Well, I guess I always wanted to be Granny Weatherwax anyway.

Anyhow, my Mom, new hairdresser, & bff loved the pixie. I didn’t, so I’ve been letting it grow ever since. Almost a year later, the curls I had to chop off are coming back and my hair is just barely long enough to tuck behind my ears. And it’s as silver as the summer day is long, with only a hint of brown left along my neckline.

I don’t think it makes me look older. Or maybe I just don’t care any more.

Unexpected Loss

Last spring, my daughter came home sad because her friend had been called out of class to learn she’d lost her grandma. I remember that feeling, both as the friend watching someone I cared about getting the bad news and as the child, stepping out in the hallway to hear news that will change her life forever. My trip to the hallway came in sixth grade when my mother’s mother passed away after a long illness. It was sad, but expected. We were prepared, but it still hurt. It was still scary.

Watching others go through loss is the only preparation we get for the loss. If we’re lucky, we start off small with the loss of a pet, or the grief that comes when a friend moves away. Most of us lose a grandparent in grade school. It is sad, but familiar, territory.

But the unexpected losses hit us the hardest. The loss of friends, taken too young. Of family, departing before their time. Nine years ago this month, the loss of my Dad to a freak accident struck me with a pain I thought for several years I might never escape. A few years later, sitting beside my best friend as she said goodbye to her infant son, I realized I had passed through all the expected losses in my life and into the unexpected ones. The ones that shock, that take us to our knees. The loss of a spouse, of a brother, of a child.

Today, my beloved cousins are experiencing this devastating loss. Early this morning, they said goodbye to their father, my Uncle Chuck. We called him Uncle Chuckles when I was a kid and the name fit–he had a smile and a joke for every occasion. My aunt is experiencing the unimaginable loss of a spouse after many decades of happy marriage. A loss that I watched my own mother go through after my father died, and one that I would wish on no one, even as I realize its inevitability.

All of this is on my mind as I write this morning. I’m thousands of miles away, but I still feel like that little girl watching her friend getting called into the hallway to get the devastating news. My heart is tender this morning for my family as they suffer through and for myself, because each loss carries with it the memory of those that came before.