Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

counting by 7s

That’s the thing about time. A second can feel like forever if what follows is heartbreak.”
~Willow Chance (character), from Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, pp. 350-351.

Though this book is written for children (approx grades 6 thru 9) and the voice is young, it is the voice of experience and the voice of genius. Willow Chance functions by information and logic, yet learns to bend and act outside that guiding structure. She meets people and touches their lives, just as they touch hers. The story is peopled by unique, quirky, and sympathetic characters. We experience them through Willow’s eyes and through their words and actions. The ultimate message of this book is that people are survivors, and that people need other people. It was charming and humorous, poignant and profound.

Here are a few more words from Willow.

“I know that I will think about this day many times.
Then I realize that it is the 7th day of the month. And I’m not surprised.
7 is a natural number.
And it is a prime number.
There are 7 basic types of catastrophes.
And 7 days of the week.
Isaac Newton identified 7 colors of the rainbow as:
Dell put people in 7 categories:
Lone Wolf
I have my own system of order.
I think that at every stage of living there are 7 people who matter in your world.
They are the people who are inside you.
They are people you rely on.They are people who daily change your life.
For me I count:

(spoiler avoided here)

I decide that when my head begins to pound from now on. I will shut my eyes and count to 7, instead of by 7s.
I see each one of these people like the colors of the rainbow.
They are vivid and distinct.
And they hold a permanent place in my heart.
…I return to the stairs, and as I sit here in a slice of winter sunlight, two small birds find their way down to the honeysuckle planted next to the bamboo.
They speak to me, not in words, but in action.
They tell me that life goes on.”

(pp. 376-378)

Sloan, H. (2013). Counting by 7s. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.


Years – Planting by Cinda Thompson


This poem can be found in the anthology “When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” edited by Sandra Martz.


by Cinda Thompson

Old people work
Side by side
She wears a hat
The old man boasts
No hair at all
She moves
And he kneels
He digs
And she nods while
He speaks
To the seed
She ardently covers
Row by row
They rise and bend
Over their garden
On earth
Sunflowers will bloom
Late summer

Years – Love at Fifty by Marcia Woodruff

love birds

This poem can be found in the anthology “When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” edited by Sandra Martz.


Love at Fifty
by Marcia Woodruff

We come together shy as virgins
with neither beauty nor innocence
to cover our nakedness, only
these bodies which have served us well
to offer each other.

At twenty we would have dressed each other
in fantasy, draping over the damp flesh,
or turned one another into mirrors
so we could make love to ourselves.

But there is no mistaking us now.
Our eyes are sadder and wiser
as I finger the scar on your shoulder
where the pin went in,
and you touch the silver marks on my belly,
loose from childbearing.

“We are real,” you say, and so we are,
standing here in our simple flesh
whereon our complicated histories are written,
our bodies turning into gifts
at the touch of our hands.

Years – Survived By His Wife by Margaret Flanagan Eicher


This poem can be found in the anthology “When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” edited by Sandra Martz.


Survived By His Wife
by Margaret Flanagan Eicher

Eyes swollen she lay in their bed —
Head covered, legs drawn up,
cold though her forehead was damp —
who had warmed herself on his warm flesh.

Now his absence was a constant companion:
his hairbrushes, his keys,
his clothes still smelling of him
in his closet, covered, like museum artifacts.

She shuddered, remembering the shoes he wore
were still beneath the bed
exactly as he left them,
as if covered by a glass case.

All of the things he had handled,
used, inhabited, and finally left
were covered or lying about
like the frames of stolen paintings left behind.

Words ~ The Desiderata

There are words that stay with us. It is a gift to unwrap them carefully from time to time, hold them gently and breath them in deeply.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927


Max Ehrmann

Author profile

Max Ehrmann (September 26, 1872 – September 9, 1945), an attorney from Indiana, was best known for writing the prose poem “Desiderata” (Latin: “things desired as essential”) in 1927.Ehrmann, who was of German descent, received a degree in English from DePauw University, followed by a degree in Philosophy from Harvard University. He then returned to his hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana to practice law. Eventually this led him to work in his family’s meatpacking business and in the overalls manufacturing industry. Finally at the age of 41, Ehrmann decided to forget such work and become a writer. At the age of 55 he wrote Desiderata, which achieved fame only after his death.
(excerpted from Good Reads, 10.29.14)