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Harry Potter Can Make You a Nicer Person

I would just like to highlight (cough, cough) the fact that PEOPLE WHO READ HARRY POTTER ARE MORE EMPATHETIC.  It’s science.  No, I mean, literally, it’s the subject of a scientific paper.  According to Mugglenet (yes, I read Mugglenet too):

In a paper published online in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology this week, researchers from Italy and the University of Greenwich report that students who read the Harry Potter series are less prejudiced against stigmatized groups than those who have not.

Methinks that my love of Harry Potter keeps me from being a total dick.


Today is Neville Longbottom’s birthday followed tomorrow by Harry Potter’s birthday.  One of my favourite lines from the book is in reference to Neville Longbottom: “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”  It’s hard to call people on their shit, especially people you love that you don’t want to hurt or offend.  But… sometimes we have to speak up.

The kids had this great third grade teacher who imparted a Neville Longbottom-ish message to them throughout the year: learn how to stick up for one another because you’ll be in middle school sooner than you think.


In other words, if the 50 or so kids in their grade all make the promise to stick up for one another when they see someone being bullied, they will know as they mix with the sea of kids in middle school that there are 49 people in the school who have their back.  49 people having your back?  It’s brilliant.  Who is going to bully a kid who has 49 other kids supporting him/her?

So, I pass it along to you.  Kids don’t always need to be fantastic friends.  They don’t need to harbour deep wells of love for one another.  But having each other’s back?  That is such a simple thing to do, especially if you know in speaking up to a bully that 49 other people have your back in turn.

Happy birthday, Neville and Harry.  Thank you for teaching us so many valuable lessons.


The ChickieNob often asks questions as we read Harry Potter to which I have no answer, so I turn these two over to the collective brilliance of the Internet.  Onward!

(Uh, though first a warning: question one contains a spoiler.)

Question One: Bellatrix has her wand taken away when she goes to Azkaban, which we know happens to every Azkaban prisoner.  Yet when she escapes Azkaban, she has a wand.  And she not only has a wand, she has her wand (which I know is only clear in Book Seven, but I shared that small fact with the ChickieNob as she was sussing this out).  How did Bellatrix get her wand back?  In fact, all the escaped Death Eaters seem to have wands.  Are we to understand that these escapees were not only lucky enough to escape BUT they also were able to get their own wands out from whatever protective measures were being used to store wands in Azkaban?

Question Two: This one is a bit more subjective.  You see, the ChickieNob is very concerned for her brother when it comes to their acceptance to Hogwarts.  She has a strong feeling that she is going to get an owl when she turns 11, and it would follow that her twin brother would get one too.  But he is a very picky eater.

She wants to know what happens if you don’t like what they’re serving at Hogwarts?  She asks (nervously): “What if they only have two vegetarian options and you don’t like either one?”  Though, have you EVER seen any vegetarian options at Hogwarts?  A vegetarian protein option?  I haven’t.

Yes, parents can send care packages, but at no point in the series do you see a kid reject the meal before them on the table.  In fact, no one at Hogwarts seems to be a vegetarian.  Or keep kosher.  Or keep halal.  Isn’t that a little odd?  I mean, yes, it’s England, and I get that Christianity is the dominant religion.  But really?  No vegetarians at the very least?  Picky eaters?

Do you have an answer to either question?

July 30, 2014   8 Comments

Being Brave

I read Kaui Hart Hemmings’ new book, The Possibilities.  It’s about a mother mourning the death of her 22-year-old son in an avalanche, and the book begins with her reentry into her regular schedule; returning to work and relationships.  There were a bunch of lines that I noted in Charlotte, but the one that I wanted to unpack with you comes on page 88 when she is in a conversation with another mother who also lost her child in an avalanche:

“I think it’s wonderful that you’re back at work.  I know it really helped me.  It takes a lot of courage, a lot of strength.”

Is she complimenting me or herself?  I hate the unearned kudos.  People get shot in the head and are called brave when they recover.  People lose a son in an avalanche and they’re suddenly admirable.  I’ve done nothing.  I have no courage.  Courage is only possible when you choose to do something.  I didn’t choose to lose him.

In other words, continuing to live life when shit happens isn’t brave.  Bravery comes from seeing danger and choosing to move forward regardless of that danger instead of turning back, which is equally a choice.  But the main character — Sarah St. John — doesn’t see continuing to exist after something horrible has happened, continuing to get up and go to work and eat meals, as courageous because what choice do you have?  To simply stop?  And if one does stop, would the character above call that cowardly by the very fact that it is the opposite of what she calls brave?

This idea obviously struck me because within our community, we deal with a lot of shit.  And there are a lot of days when it feels pretty brave to get out of bed and keep moving despite everything you privately know inside your head and heart.  Just because there is not a real choice in the matter — since stopping is just a fancy way of taking you on a fast track to death — doesn’t mean that it isn’t brave.  She didn’t choose to lose him any more than any of us choose infertility or loss.  But… I don’t know.  It feels pretty brave sometimes continuing to interact in a world where the object of your depression is all around you.  There is no way to move about the general world and not encounter babies, pregnant women, small changing tables hooked to public bathroom walls.

Is it only courage when you choose to do something?  Or can it be courage simply to live with the situation you’re dealt?

July 29, 2014   12 Comments

Finding Names

After my aunt died this winter, I continued to work on the family tree on my own.  It was slow-going and frustrating.  I had filled in everything I could find on my own, and now I was just randomly Googling combinations of names with the hope of finding an obit or some synagogue announcement that would give me another of the missing ones.  There was one flimsy branch of the family tree which was barely filled in.  It bothered me.

My cousin sent me a large stack of his mother’s papers a few weeks ago, and I started to sift through them.  And there, as if I was getting to have one final conversation with her, were the names I was looking for.  I started sobbing, feeling such a huge sense of relief that I had a few more names; certain that it would be an easy search to bring me more.

Of course, that wasn’t the case.

I Googled for a few hours and then stopped, and then Googled some more the next day and stopped, growing more and more frustrated that no one was alive anymore that would know this information.  I kept walking away and returning to pick at the tree, and finally, last week, an obituary popped up, listing one of the people I was trying to find.  The man had died a few weeks ago.

There was no wife listed and no children; only his parents and sister who predeceased him.  They listed his degrees and his former position as a professor.  I found his old address online.  He lived alone in an apartment, which was probably now filled by someone else.  I read his former students’ critique of his teaching style.

I ended up calling his department at the university, where the sympathetic secretary passed me along to HR.  Yes, they knew him.  No, they couldn’t tell me anything about him.  They promised they would get someone in touch with me who could answer my questions, but no one called me back.

I waited a few days and used my last idea: I called the funeral home.

The funeral director looked through his papers and told me that the executor of the will arranged the funeral.  There were no children, and only an ex-wife that he divorced decades ago.  There were no other names he could give me because there were no other names written in the file.   He promised to pass my number to the lawyer who arranged the service.  I’m still waiting for that call too.

Each time I call one of these ridiculous places such as the university or the funeral home (do I really expect his old workplace to be able to name his cousins?), I feel this need to explain that I’m not crazy; I’m just sentimental, and I hate the idea of these people not appearing on the tree as if they never existed.  Part of me agrees when people say that I’ve done a great job; I’ve collected hundreds of names.

But all I see are those missing spots on the tree, the names I didn’t collect.

Any other ideas from people who are skilled at finding obits or marriage records?

July 28, 2014   4 Comments

IComLeavWe: August 2014

Welcome back to IComLeavWe. It stands for International Comment Leaving Week, but if you say it aloud, doesn’t it sounds like “I come; [but] leave [as a] we”? And that’s sort of the point. Blogging is a conversation and comments should be honoured and encouraged. I like to say that comments are the new hug–a way of saying hello, giving comfort, leaving congratulations. Here is the vital information, pure and simple (a more detailed set of rules follows below the list):

  • The list opens the 1st of every month. It remains open until the 21st. You can add yourself at any point. The list is open to everyone in the blogosphere–blog writers and/or blog readers.
  • Add yourself to the list by filling out this form after adding the icon below:  August 2014. I will move the information from the form into the post (usually within 24 hours).
  • Click here to cut-and-paste this bit of code to add to your sidebar (if you have the old code from another month, remove it and replace it with this one). You need to add the icon or a link to the current list on your blog (see below) and will not be added until it’s up.
  • Commenting kicks off every month on the 21st. Please mark it somewhere (calendar, post-it note taped to your computer…), though I will be sending out an email reminder on the 20th. Commenting week runs from the 21st to the 28th. Every day, leave 5 comments and return 1 comment for a total of 6 comments. You are highly encouraged to choose the blogs you comment on from the participants list below, but this is not required.
  • I will send a second email on the 28th to remind you to remove the icon from your blog.
  • Read below if you want to find out about Iron Commenters.
  • The commenting ends on the 28th. We catch our breath and the whole thing starts again the next month on the 1st. Drop in and out according to what is happening in your life between the 21st and the 28th.

The August 2014 List

  1. Stirrup Queens (twins, books, writing)
  2. In Due Time (faith, waiting, health)
  3. No Kidding in NZ (childless, childfree, infertility)
  4. Breathe Gently (pregnant-through-IVF, FET, toddler-mum)
  5. Four Years Later… (secondary infertility, stillborn baby, IUI)
  6. Climbing the Pomegranate Tree (FET, hysteroscopy, MFI)
  7. An Engineer Becomes a Mom (adoption, relationships, infertility)
  8. Add yourself by filling out the form after adding the icon…
You have questions…I have answers:

Q: What if I miss a day?

A: Catch up the next day by doubling your comments–12 comments instead of 6.

Q: What if I have two blogs? Can I sign up twice, listing both blogs?

A: Yes, but you also need to double your comments. If you have two blogs listed, you should be leaving 12 comments per day.

Q: What is an Iron Commenter?

A: Not for the faint-of-heart. People who wish to be an Iron Commenter and be entered on the Iron Commenter honour roll need to leave a comment on every blog on the participants list (exceptions are blogs that require you to have a special log-in, such as some LiveJournal accounts or other similar situations). You can spread out this commenting any way you wish over the whole week, but the final comment needs to be left by midnight on the 28th (EST). Reaching Iron Commenter status is done on an honour system. Please email me if you earn Iron Commenter status so I can add you to the wall of honour.

Q: Why do I have to add that bit of code to my sidebar?

A: The code is the latest icon (the icon changes colour every month so you know that you’re on the right list). This month, the icon is purple, the next month it will be yellow, etc. The reason is two-fold: (1) it enables more people to find out about IComLeavWe and (2) it gives you easy access to the current list once the commenting week actually begins and better ensures that you’ll use it. Too many times, people sign up and forget to actually do IComLeavWe and this icon gives you a daily reminder (with the dates on it) every time you open your own blog. The icon is linked back to the current list. On the 28th, remove the icon from your blog. A new one will be created for the next month.

Q: It’s the 23rd and I just saw this for the first time on my friend’s blog! I want to join the list–why can’t I?

A: Because IComLeavWe happens every month, once the list is closed, it’s closed. If you’re finding out about this on the 23rd, you can’t join the current month. But leave yourself a note to check back in a week on the 1st and you can sign up for the next month.

Q: You said the list closes on the 21st. Well, it’s still the 21st where I am. Why aren’t you moving my information onto the list?

A: All dates and times are U.S. Eastern Standard Time (UTC/GMT -5 hours). The list closes around 11 p.m. EST on the 21st.

Q: What if no one comments on my blog and I have no comments to return?

A: Well, that really doesn’t happen for the most part, but in that case, simply choose another blog and add an additional comment. The goal is to hit 6 comments daily as a minimum. Going over that is fantastic and encouraged.

Q: Mel, my question wasn’t covered at all. What do I do?

A: Email me; I’m quite friendly. It helps to place “IComLeavWe” in the subject line. You could also check this post which contains the history of IComLeavWe and see if you can glean anything there.

Looking for the comment section? It has been closed on this post. Use the form in the directions to add yourself to the list.

July 27, 2014   Comments Off

No IVF For You: Cutting Off Infertility Treatment Coverage for LGBT and Single Women

I am somewhat stunned when ethicists propose policies that discriminate against groups of people.  The job of an ethicist is to hold society to a standard; to ensure that we’re comporting ourselves in a way that is just and humane.  So I question when any ethicist, such as Cristina Richie, asks society to create policy that would target removing services from certain segments of the population.  Such as… oh… I don’t know… proposing that fertility treatment coverage be denied to those in the LGBT community or single mothers by choice.

Richie published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics this week and in the abstract stated, “Second, I will recommend that policymakers eliminate funded ARTs for those who are not biologically infertile.”  Why does she believe that only those who have a documented medical reason for not being able to conceive should receive the state mandated coverage (she lives in Massachusetts) of their infertility treatments?

Because she wants to create an incentive for those in the LGBT community and single women to adopt.

Since, you know, adoption is easy-peasy when you’re a lesbian or a single woman.  And it costs the same amount as insurance-covered fertility treatments.  And… oh… wait.  I guess it’s opposite day.

I’m not sure how ethical it is for ethicists to propose that the way to tackle environmental problems is to choose two historically oppressed groups and deny them the services that other people in their state are able to utilize.  Where does it stop?  Is the next step for Richie to propose that only those who are able to conceive without assistance be able to build their family?  And really, why should those who can have sex and create a child be allowed to have sex and create a child?  Wouldn’t the world be better and the overall carbon footprint reduced if humans stopped reproducing altogether and we allowed people to die off within the next hundred years or so?

And yes, I know that there is a whole movement of people proposing that brilliant idea.

But why stop at fertility treatments?  I mean, you have to allow non-smokers access to cancer treatments, but smokers?  Think of the dent we could make in our carbon footprint if we told smokers that their cancer treatments weren’t covered.  And why should obese men have their insurance shell out money when they have a heart attack?  I mean, it would be cruel to not treat lean vegetarians, but beer-drinking, meat-eaters?  They brought it upon themselves.  Maybe if they knew that we weren’t going to cover their medical treatment, it would encourage people to stop smoking — which contributes to the destruction of the environment — or eat meat — which certainly affects the earth.

But that isn’t how humans treat other humans.

I guess I’m just disappointed that Richie’s proposed solution to our environmental crisis is discrimination.  I expect a little more creativity and a little more humanity from those aiming to change the world.

July 26, 2014   16 Comments

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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