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542nd Friday Blog Roundup

I am currently writing this on a cocktail of three allergy medications, so I’d like to apologize in advance if it’s complete gibberish.  None of the three allergy medications actually make a difference, but I’m scared to test that theory and stop taking them.  I am a liquidy, itchy mess on them.  Who knows how much I’d ooze across the grocery store without them.

A side note: do you know how bizarre Sherlock is in a Benadryl haze?

I need the trees to stop with their pollen making.  Please, trees.  Do it for me.

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Stop procrastinating.  Go make your backups.  Don’t have regrets.

Seriously.  Stop what you’re doing for a moment.  It will take you fifteen minutes, tops.  But you will have peace of mind for days and days.  It’s the gift to yourself that keeps on giving.

As always, add any new thoughts to the Friday Backup post and peruse new comments in order to find out about methods, plug-ins, and devices that help you quickly back up your data and accounts.

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And now the blogs…

But first, second helpings of the posts that appeared in the open comment thread last week.  In order to read the description before clicking over, please return to the open thread:

Okay, now my choices this week.

I had The Empress and the Fool’s heartbreaking post, Mother to Son, bookmarked for this week.  As much as it is about loss, it is also about the deep love that she has for her son.  She writes with such grace and beauty: “It was my privilege to feed and protect you, to watch you grow, to share this symbiosis, your cells with my cells in an ancient dance. I just wish I could have loved you from the outside.”  It is a moving tribute, one I wish she never had cause to write.

A Little Bit More has a post that shares a story of a poor decision from her childhood that illustrates how a single moment doesn’t define a whole person.  After reading about another child’s tantrum on Facebook, she tells a story about her own tantrum, explaining the impulse behind it.  And she asks important questions about public shaming — not posts that ask for advice but ones where the sole purpose is to shame the child for mistakes made.

Today’s the Day has a post about the concept of ancestors when you’re an adoptee.  It’s a post that runs so deep that I can’t really do it justice by writing about it, but I really really really (yes, it needs three reallys) think everyone should read this post.  Because you need to be witness to such an important moment of a single voice stating her truth, and it will make you think.  I promise.

Lastly, while there were many excellent NIAW posts this week, Resolve already rounded those up.  I wanted to highlight The Polka-Dot Umbrella’s post about not participating in NIAW.  It made me smile because it reminded me of that scene in Dead Poet’s Society where Robin Williams asks the boys to walk around the courtyard, and one uniquely expresses himself by not walking.  The non-walkers, or the non-writers in this case, are so important, too.  She calls it a grumpy post, but I’m grateful she wrote it and spoke up for the people who aren’t comfortable speaking up.

The roundup to the Roundup: My allergies are killing me.  Your weekly backup nudge.  And lots of great posts to read.  So what did you find this week?  Please use a permalink to the blog post (written between April 17th and 24th) and not the blog’s main url. Not understanding why I’m asking you what you found this week?  Read the original open thread post here.

April 24, 2015   7 Comments

Feeling Alone

alone

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), and it has been heartening — as it always is — to see so many posts speaking out about infertility.  I’m going to admit that I’ve been struggling with the theme this year and didn’t know if I would write anything.

You are not alone.

It is a wonderful sentiment, and it’s one that many groups — from mental illness to Parkinson’s disease — recite to their members.

On one hand, it’s completely true: you aren’t alone.  12% of the child-bearing age population stands with you in the sense that they are going through a similar situation.

And on the other hand, it is clear that people feel alone.  Or maybe they just feel lonely, misunderstood, separate from the other people around them, even if they can rationally count the number of people in the same situation.

It goes back to something we talk about often.  There has never been a time when we have been more “connected” to other people, especially other like-minded, like-situationed people.  Before social media, you were stuck gathering support from the people around you.  If you lived in a small town or an isolated area, you may have never knowingly met another infertile person.

But now, with the Internet, you’d have to stay offline in order to not meet another person going through the same thing you’re going through.  Through the magic of Google, you can immediately find other people to share the emotional burden of infertility, trade information, or help craft the questions to ask during your first clinic appointment.

So why, with all this connection, do people feel more alone?

Because that’s what I’m seeing on the blogs, though maybe you will disagree because you read other sites.  That often happens: two people, both reading blogs, walk away with two very different understandings of the community.

But my understanding of this community is that, often times, people feel alone in the crowd.  They like that they can meet another person who has also experienced recurrent loss, but they can’t help but also feel divided from the person because they’ve ended up with different endings to their journey.  Or they once felt a part of the community, but now they’re parenting and they no longer feel welcome.  Or they are a single parent by choice lesbian who finds a dearth of materials on the mainstream organizations’ sites that speak to the non-heterosexual, non-coupled experience because of exclusive language.  Or they can’t relate because the other person has mandated insurance coverage whereas they don’t have enough money to start treatments.  There are too many sub-groups within the infertility community who state that the general community doesn’t understand them.

There are too many posts where people speak about feeling alone.

And I think that is the key here.  How do we make people feel as if they aren’t alone?  Because it needs to be more than pointing out numbers.  Of course, you are not alone: there are other patients, doctors, nurses, researchers, social workers, and mental health professionals to help you along the way.  But that doesn’t mean that you won’t walk away from your interactions with these other patients, doctors, nurses, researchers, social workers, and mental health professionals feeling more isolated than you did prior to the interaction.

We need inclusivity — even as deep as the language we use to discuss infertility — so that people don’t feel as if they’ve been marginalized by their own community.  We need mandated coverage so that the burden of treating infertility is shared by the insurance company as it does for a host of other diseases.  We need more support given to all the stages of treatment and beyond so that people don’t feel as if they’ve been shunted out of their community.

You aren’t alone.  The key is making people feel as if they aren’t alone.  What can we do about that?

April 22, 2015   18 Comments

Finishing Harry Potter

The twins and I finished Harry Potter.  As in, we finished the whole series.  Our last day with the last book contained a 9-hour-long reading session and a lot of tears that culminated in a massive headache.  We ended by closing the last book and opening the first to read the opening paragraph.  And it begins again.

My friend responded to the fact that we finished by writing me the final three words of the book: “all was well.”  Three simple words, but I clung to them because I was so tired, so emotional, the whole thing was so bittersweet.  You only get one first time.  They will never read the books in the same way again.  And that’s both a beautiful thing, but it’s also a hard thing to think about because… it means that they’re growing up and they’re growing away from me.

I hope I’ve taught them well.

I know it sounds a bit silly, but I feel like I started this journey with them in Kindergarten, shepherding them across a verbal river, and now, I’ve delivered them to the other side as promised.  I got them to the end of the series without (for the most part) plot points being inadvertently spoiled.

And maybe silly as well, but reading the series aloud with the twins feels like one of the most important things I’ve done as a parent.  I don’t think it had to be the Harry Potter series in particular, but I do think that the series itself helped.  It gave me a door to talk about some very hard topics: not only how we process bullying or what we’ll do for our friends, but death and mourning and fear and love and hope.

By asking the twins over and over again while we read, “what would you do?” I learned who they were, what was important to them, how they viewed the world, and what they wanted for their future.

It made me love my children even more — something I didn’t think was actually possible — and I hope it helped them to understand me.  What I was really doing when I was reading those books was reassuring them.  That yes, the world is a big scary place, but we have each other.  And that sort of connection is unending.  No matter what.

Reading those books aloud to them allowed me to be witness to them realizing the ferocity of Josh and my love as well as make sure that they will extend that love to others in the world.

And I hope that they will always remember how deeply these books made them feel and chase that across pages of future books for the rest of their life.

April 21, 2015   13 Comments

#MicroblogMondays 34: Editing and Authorship

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

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There was an interesting post recently on Mental Floss musing that Laura Ingalls Wilder may not have written the Little House books.  Or, she did write a draft of them, but her daughter heavily edited them to the point of rewriting them.

It raises an interesting question: how much editing is too much editing when it comes to designating authorship?  If you wrote a book and then I edited it, keeping all of the same ideas but smoothing out the language, is it still your book?  What if I changed the order to scenes or rewrote a scene or two to change the motivations of the character?  Is that still your book?

The editing process is such a hugely important part of book publishing.  I can only self-edit my books so far before I hit a wall and need an outsider’s perspective on the project.  As an editor, I am always aware of not crossing over a line where my hand is too deeply in someone else’s work.

Does it change your feelings about the books if the original books Laura Ingalls wrote looked nothing like the books that ended up in the bookstore?

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Are you also doing #MicroblogMondays? Add your link below. The list will be open until Tuesday morning. Link to the post itself, not your blog URL. (Don’t know what that means? Please read the three rules on this post to understand the difference between a permalink to a post and a blog’s main URL.) Only personal blogs can be added to the list. I will remove any posts that are connected to businesses or are sponsored posts.

1. A. 16. Infertile Girl 31. Savannah (Because I Can’t Have Babies)
2. Jessica 17. Accio Baby! 32. Mali (No Kidding in NZ)
3. Jen (Days of Grace) 18. earthandink 33. Suzy
4. Shilpa 19. Laurel Regan @ Alphabet Salad 34. Mali (A Separate Life)
5. Lori Lavender Luz 20. Geochick 35. Cristy
6. Unpregnant Chicken 21. Good Families Do 36. Jess (Just A Box of Rain)
7. Persnickety 22. Just Heather 37. My Path To Mommyhood (Jess)
8. Middle Girl 23. Rachel 38. Shannon
9. Turia 24. Savannah (Countless Tomorrows) 39. Jamie
10. Solo Mama 25. torthú il 40. Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal)
11. Daryl 26. The bespectacled mother 41. deathstar
12. Gil (The Hardest Quest) 27. Junebug 42. Stacie
13. Non Sequitur Chica 28. Amber
14. Journeywoman 29. Loribeth (The Road Less Travelled)
15. Isabelle 30. Looking for a Little

April 20, 2015   23 Comments

How to Start a Book Club for Kids

This week, I’m going to be leading the entire 4th grade through a game of Quidditch at recess.  Parents donated their brooms, the gym teacher donated the hoops and substitute-Quaffle, and the principal has crossed her fingers that no one gets a concussion.  Play ball!

The Quidditch game is part of the book club I’ve been running during lunch time for the last 4 years at the school, though we decided to include the entire 4th grade for this game because why shouldn’t everyone spend an afternoon running around with a broom?

We are, obviously, reading Harry Potter this year.

After I wrote that post, someone wrote me to ask how to set up a book club in their child’s school, so I thought I’d put everything down here just in case anyone else wants the information.

You can probably figure out the first steps: check with the principal if he/she is willing to give you a space in the school during lunch, check to see how many kids are interested, and finally send out an email (or send home a flyer) to all the parents in the class to ask them to sign up.  We capped the club at 12 when they were younger, but now, in 4th grader, we’re at 16 kids.  We meet once a week, during lunch.  When it’s indoor recess, we sometimes keep the meeting going through recess, too.  I set up a listserv for parents so I could send out information.

Okay, so now that the book club is established, how do you actually run it?

We are always reading two books at the same time.  One person is chosen each month to be the host.  They choose which book we’re going to read at home, and I ask them to choose a book that can be borrowed from the library and that keeps in mind the lowest reading level for their grade so it is inclusive to everyone.  The kids have about a month to read the book.

On the day of the discussion, the host sits in the front of the room and kicks off the talk by asking everyone what they thought of the book.  Everyone must participate in this part of the discussion, giving the book a thumbs up or a thumbs down (or a thumbs sideways) and why.  This ensures that everyone speaks at least once during the meeting.

Then the host tells the group why he/she chose the book.  And finally they ask four or five questions to the group.  I make a few backup questions for the host to use just in case.  I coach the kids through hosting so it’s a fairly low-stress situation, even for shy kids.

At the end of a hosted meeting, the next host is chosen and the next book is picked, and the kids have another month to read the next book at home.

So what do we do with the other three or four meetings each month, since we meet weekly?

I choose a theme for the year — one skill that we’re going to focus on — and then pick books to read aloud that teach that skill.  The theme for the first year of book club was pretty simple: who is the main character and what do you think of them?  So each book, we kept returning to figure out who was the main character and we looked at the text to decide how we felt about the character.  Younger kids = easier task.

Last year’s theme was “how do you know?”  We spent the whole year pulling out textual evidence to support arguments.  We also talked about the concept of “girl” books and “boy” books, and I refused to tell them the sex of the author for the books we read.  Over half guessed wrong when I did the reveal at the end of the book, and I got them to admit that while there were books that would appeal (or not appeal) to them as individuals, there was no such thing as a “girl” book or a “boy” book.

This year we’re doing a close reading of Harry Potter in order to look at the use of sensory devices within literature.  They’ve had chocolate frogs jump on their tongues, taken a Bertie Botts Every Flavour Bean challenge, made wands, learned how to duel, experienced a sorting, competed for house points, and now they will be playing Quidditch.  We always pause to look at sensory descriptions, especially trying to discern things like tone of voice through word choice or using smell to figure out whether the characters are in a welcoming or dangerous place.

I read the book aloud to them, pausing to ask questions or to break down the etymology of a word on the board.  That’s what we do for all the meetings that we don’t have a host discussion.

Oh, except for the ones where we run around playing Quidditch.

Let me know if you have questions, and I’ll throw the answer in the comment section below so everyone has it.

Just a reminder, get writing.  Tomorrow is #MicroblogMonday.

April 19, 2015   6 Comments

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