Thursday, October 31, 2013

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful: Happy Halloween, Anyway

Happy Halloween, Y'all.

Here in Louisville, it's soggy and we're all a little depressed because tonight it is supposed to thunderstorm.  This has thrown trick-or-treating plans waaaaay off.  Some neighborhoods around town have voted to table the tricks and/or treats until tomorrow night.  Some folks have yelled, "That's inconceivable!" because Halloween is sacred and must happen on the 31st no matter how drenched, cold, and miserable their children might be.

[source]

My neighborhood is keeping plans loosey-goosey: if it doesn't storm, we'll have Halloween tonight; if it does storm, we'll have Halloween tomorrow.  I appreciate the non-committal, no big whoop attitude, but this mother needs to plan a little.  I have chili to cook, a house to clean, grandparents to entertain.  Which night is it, people?!

So I made a personal decision: we're trick-or-treating tomorrow.  Deal with it, neighbors. My little Luke and Leia will not be denied.

I don't remember it raining cats, dogs, and if the radar is correct on the local news channel, buffalo and woolly mammoths, when I was a child.  I do remember some wicked cold Halloweens when Mom made me wear my winter coat over the costume.  That's right, my sadistic mother made me hide my adorable purple tutu under a winter coat.  Everyone knows that you wear the coat under the costume, no matter how bulky.

After my three years as a pretty, pretty ballerina, sporting two different tutus (one, oddly, in Christmas reds and greens), I started devising my own costume ideas.  My kids like to do this as well, but usually their ideas aren't so wild that I have to get crafty.  I can usually find their desired disguise at Party City or Target where we spend too much money on them and move on.  This year they are going all Star Wars on me, which my husband and I love because we are painfully trapped in our eight-year-old brains.  I bought some bun-making contraptions called Hairagami and made two perfect cinnamon rolls on the side of my little Leia's head.

When I was my daughter's age, I went from loving fantasy movie characters to realistic movie characters.  No crazy wigs, no neon dresses, no fake blood or Dracula fangs for this girl, no.  I also wanted to go as obscure as possible so everyone would have to figure out what or who I was.  This backfired on me because even when I told my friends who I was, they didn't get it.

I went as Annie Hall.

Best Halloween Costume Ever:  Annie Hall
[source]

This costume demonstrates several things about me as a child and pretty much me as an adult:

  1. I considered myself an intellectual and was therefore a snob.
  2. I considered myself an adult because I watched Woody Allen movies with my parents.
  3. I mistakenly thought I was Diane Keaton when in reality I was Alison Porchnik, one of Alvey's girlfriends before Annie, played by Carol Kane.  Annie was as White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant as they come and Alison was a Jewish bookworm.  Of course all the Jewish boys went for the WASP girls.
  4. I thought I was being clever, but I was just enjoying a private joke with myself.  Had I lived in Manhattan as a kid, maybe I would have been clever.
  5. I totally didn't understand the purpose of Halloween.
I wish I had a photo of myself as Annie Hall to show you, but you'll have to paint a mental image of a nine-year-old with buck teeth, long curly brown hair, my grandfather's brown fedora, someone's long suit jacket, a button-down white shirt and dress pants, school shoes, and a long string of fake pearls over one of my dad's ties.  Oh, and I went around saying, "La di da," as if that would clue people in on who I was portraying.  This is act-ing, people!  Work with me!

 Mike Oncley - Annie Hall poster
I lurve this poster.  "Love is too weak a word."

Thinking back on this glorious costume - one I'm sure my mom appreciated for its simplicity and low budget - I can't help but feel grateful that my kids aren't growing up too soon.  They still want to dress up as their favorite action heroes.  They still anticipate all of the candy they will get.  They're still bummed that Halloween may be rained out, but happy enough to put it off for one day.  

Candy is candy, after all, no matter which day you receive it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The ADDled Holiday Shopping Edition - Oy, Not the Hanukkah Essentials

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but Hanukkah comes early this year.  You know, Hanukkah.  What some people wrongly deem the Jewish Christmas.  For one reason, we don't have a set date for our holidays because Jews still use the lunar calendar to determine the dates for the next year.  Then there's also the whole we don't have Jesus thing.

This year Hanukkah arrives the evening before Thanksgiving.

Thanks lunar calendar.

Do you know what this means for the stereotypical Jewish bargain hunter?  You got it, Hanukka will begin BEFORE Black Friday.  This is grim news for the GNP.

Knowing full well that I need to collect my gift items earlier this year -- we celebrate our own interpretations of Hanukkah and Christmas -- I've been stashing little things as I find them in the bargain bins at Target or, and I've been doing way too much of this, I've been pinning the hell out of ideas on Pinterest.  I have a board full of gift ideas for the kids.

So, imagine my delight when I browsed my inbox this morning and found a link for "Oy to the World! Stock up On Hanukkah Essentials" on Fab.com.  "Great," I thought, "I need some Hanukkah Essentials."

Apparently, the rest of the world thinks we want this.


I'm pretty sure that store sites that are targeting Christmas shoppers are not trying to sell them Christmas trees.  You either have a plastic one in the attic that you bring down every year or you go to the Christmas Tree lot to buy one.  Same goes for Jews with Hanukkah.  We either have a menorah, or we go to the local shul to buy one.  I definitely do NOT want a neon menorah for a gift.

Another Hannukkah "Essential" is this:

Apparently, this is what we do on Hanukka
Okay, maybe she dyed her hair,
but that dude is NOT Jewish

Nothing like an ironic sweater featuring snowmen as Hassidic rabbis to say, "Happy Hanukkah, jerkwad."

And here's another one to keep the kiddos happy:

"I know you don't get a Christmas tree, honey,
but here are some anthropomorphized dreidel lights to dry your tears."

Okay, maybe I'm not being fair.  Sure, we need to ready ourselves for the holidays and may need to purchase a few decorative items ahead of time.  Sure, we like to decorate just as much (well, maybe not just as much) as any Christmas-celebrating household, and maybe you do buy your favorite uncle an ornament every year because you don't know what to get him.  Or an ironic Christmas sweater for your niece to wear to the coffee shop where she is a barista.  I'm not really sure what your holiday shopping and gift-giving habits are.

But I'm going to let Fab and other retailers who don't know how to market to their Jewish customers in on a little secret:

Jews like the same crap you do as gifts!

Know what my kids want for Hanukkah?  The same things your kids want for Christmas!  Toys and zebra-print clothing.

My guess is that Fab would do better business with their Jewish clientele if under "Hanukkah Essentials" they would offer the following:
  • Anything made by Coach
  • Fancy iPhone 5 cases
  • Chocolate (not the cheap gelt you get at shul, but the good stuff - Belgian, Swiss, Godiva, Ghiradelli, etc.)
  • A new hybrid vehicle
  • Stock in AT&T, Netflix or Apple
  • Plane tickets to Cancun
  • Anything from Tiffany's

I know, those were terrible stereotypical Jewish American Princess gifts.  I'm probably out of date with some of them because I've never been a JAP.  I've always been nerdy and staunchly middle class.

Fab, if you were marketing to this Jewish American Nerd-girl, I'd recommend you offer some of the following:
  • An Otterbox for the iPhone 5 (because I'm clumsy and will drop my phone in the toilet.  Again.)
  • Any t-shirt from Threadless, especially ones with typewriters or literary allusions. (I like this one, in case you're curious.)
  • Chocolate from my favorite local chocolatier, Dundee Candy Store
  • A gift certificate to the Subaru dealer to get my 07 Forester an oil change, body work, tune up, allignment
  • I would also take a gift card to get the car interior shampooed or exorcised
  • Movie passes
  • Anything vintage-inspired from Mod Cloth
  • Stock in Keen, Merrell, or Ben and Jerry's

Happy holiday shopping even though it's Halloween week.  The season has begun whether you like it or not!




(All images are from Fab.com.  I am simply lampooning them, not stealing them.  There are no link backs.)



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Submissions needed for ADDled's guest blog series: My ADD Rocks!

Reminder: Submit your ADD stories for my guest blog series:

My ADD Rocks!

This can be a story about you, your dad, your son, daughter, pet hamster, whatever so long as it is a positive look at ADD.  I know that ADD can be crazy frustrating, but it can also be a positive attribute. Many creative people and entrepreneurs credit having ADD to their success.  ADDled just wants to dispel the myth that having ADD means you are impaired.

Help dispel that myth.  

Send your stories to seeamywrite@gmail.com.  Please put in the subject line My ADD Rocks!

Spread the word!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Montessori Education and ADD

As you many of my readers may know, my husband and I have two elementary-aged kids, a boy and a girl.  You may also know that both my husband and I have received ADD diagnoses as adults.  Do our kids have ADD or ADHD? You do the math.

At this point, we have chosen not to have either of our children assessed for ADD/ADHD.  This is because, at this point, neither of them have any reason to be tested.  Both are succeeding academically, both have many friends, and both enjoy and often do well in their extracurricular activities.  Until we see a reason to intervene with behavior therapy or medication, my husband and I are keeping things status quo.

Things weren't always easy for me and my husband at our kids' ages.  More so, I think, for my husband because he attended a traditional elementary school and was told he had a learning disability early in his academic career, which labeled him.  But the truth of the matter is that he was a bright, inquisitive, active little boy who was not interested in sports.  He was able to read, write, and do math at grade level.  His hand writing may have not been perfect, but have you ever seen a 6-year-old boy with perfect penmanship?

Unlike my husband, I didn't attend a traditional elementary (or for that matter middle or high) school.  I attended a small Montessori school and I believe that made all the difference between my husband's school experience and mine.

Montessori schools are based on the pedagogy of Italian physician and educator, Maria Montessori.  Maria Montessori believed that education should be child-centered.  According to the American Montessori Society, Montessori education values
the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive.1
Math rug work that teaches the concept of carrying and borrowing
(photo credit: Ana Nouri)
Montessori schools use manipulatives, such as puzzles and bead chains and word cards to teach basic math, science, geography, and language arts concepts and processes.  Children are allowed to work independently and in small groups, at desks and on the floor using rugs as their work surfaces.




My daughter with her 1/2/3 teacher doing a math activity
Teachers prepare lessons for new learning concepts, but there is a big emphasis on independent learning.  And once a child masters a concept, they can move up to the next task, no matter the level of their peers in the same grade.  This is a very dynamic classroom environment.  Children are allowed to move around the room and discover.  Classrooms usually have pets and the students are responsible for their care.  Mutual respect and community is fostered.  Grade levels often mix in one classroom and students are encouraged to help one another.

I attended a Montessori school for five years and I credit it for making me a critical thinker who is still in love with learning.

Guess what kind of school my children attend?

This was an extremely important decision for me and my husband.  We knew our active children would not prosper in a classroom where they had to sit at a desk all day, where they would need to wait for the rest of the class to complete their work before moving on to the next text, where they had to sit still and be quiet.  Our kids are focused on their work because they are engaged with it, not because a teacher is threatening them.

Maria Montessori first created a classroom environment for children with learning and developmental disabilities and met with great success!2

Why do we persist in setting up our kids to fail in classrooms that don't address their needs?  I think we're trying to fit round pegs in square holes.  If more schools adopted a Montessori approach with kids who learn differently (not better or worse), then I think we might see fewer diagnoses, less pathologizing.  My kids may be active, they may exhibit slower processing speeds than their peers, but they are no less smart and capable.  Their learning environments and incredible teachers regularly support and reward my children's academic successes.  My husband, who sees so much of himself in our son, told me his own behavior as a child - behavior not unlike our son's - was corrected and he was chastised regularly.  Our son's teachers told us he is curious, funny, a good classroom citizen, and a great asset to their class.  We receive reports in his agenda such as, "he's a rock star!" and "way to go!" and he has earned nine "Do The Right Thing" awards so far this fall.  My husband wishes he had attended a Montessori school that would have celebrated his strengths.

I realize the Montessori method is not a panacea for learning disabilities or the only tool to give children exhibiting ADD/ADHD symptoms, and I realize that not all children can prosper in a Montessori setting, but I do want to draw attention to the fact that children who learn differently should not be so easily labeled and pathologized.

In fact, I think there's more wrong with the education system in our country than with our kids.

Google founders credit Montessori for their success

For a fascinating case study of the positive effects of Montessori education on a child diagnosed with ADD, go to: http://www.michaelolaf.net/ADHD.pdf

For a parent's perspective on the benefits of Montessori education, go to Denise Harold's article: Why We Chose Montessori Elementary.

For an introduction to Montessori education, this is a wonderful, inviting website: http://mariamontessori.com/mm/


1 https://www.amshq.org/Montessori-Education/Introduction-to-Montessori.aspx



2 https://www.amshq.org/Montessori-Education/History-of-Montessori-Education/Biography-of-Maria-Montessori.aspx



Monday, October 14, 2013

From Blog to Book: Guest Post by Debbie Mitchell

I discovered Debbie Mitchell's blog last spring when I was one of 807,378 readers on CNN's iReport to stumble onto her thought-provoking and powerful post, "Why I Raise My Children Without Religion." After Debbie wrote this popular and controversial iReport:  she was discovered by two editors!

Isn't this what we writers dream of happening to us?  We work diligently on our blogs, drumming up support and readership, toying with monetization, trying to decide how much self-promotion is worth the time and effort it takes just to write for a living.  Debbie has been writing her blog for ten years.  Now she has a book due out this April based on her blog.

What I love about Debbie's writing is that it is heartfelt, honest, and provocative.  If she lived in my town, I'd be having coffee dates with her on a regular basis.

Please welcome Debbie Mitchell.  Read her success story and follow her sound advice for turning your blog into a book.

my-blog-my-book.jpg

Blogging and Books
I’m thrilled to be writing a guest post for Amy’s blog. Thank you, Amy, for sharing your space!

I decided to write about a question I’ve been asked a few times: How did I land a book contract based on my blog? I’m happy to share what I’ve learned, and please feel free to ask if you have questions. But I have to tell you something up front: The subject of my book was not something I had expected to write about.

Like many of you, I have been a writer since I can remember. Although I’ve had many different jobs, when someone would ask me what I do for a living, I always wanted to shout, “I’m a writer! I’m a writer! I swear!” Before I even started kindergarten, I’d write down words on tiny pieces of paper, fold them up and stick them in my pocket, irritating my mother to no end when the laundry brought the paper out of my pockets and pasted dozens of tiny pieces to the wet clothes. 

Also, like many of you, I’m an introvert, and I’m hard-wired to prefer communication through the written word, to need quiet time to think and reflect. I find most writers I know are like this. We also have a running dialogue in our heads of things we are working on or want to write about, and we’re constantly scribbling ideas down. Don’t tell us your life story—you never know what a writer might “borrow.” 

About ten years ago, my father read an article about blogging in Business Week, and he suggested that I look into some of the sites mentioned. A few days later, I started blogging on Blogspot and Wordpress on various topics, but the only blog I maintained was one that had sprouted out of my frustration of living as a nonbeliever in a very Christian town. Although I wrote about a lot of other topics, my blog became a consistent and personal journal of my struggles with raising kids on the fringe. I just really wanted to reach out to people and find others who were in the same proverbial boat. So you know that cliché that your professors tell you, “Write what you know;” they were right. That’s where my most significant and passionate writing came from.

My next suggestion to getting published would be to send as many different essays and articles to as many different publications as possible: newspapers of all sizes, local magazines (even the ones you get for free), national magazines and Internet sites. Always include your blog address in your tagline so that readers can find you. If the subject of your blog is parenting, you might see if any relevant magazines or websites would be interested in running your work. Sometimes you’ll get paid, sometimes not. But you’ll be getting your writing out there—along with your blog address—and building your Publications List. I tried to write three to four articles a month, even when I worked at other jobs.

At the end of January this past year, I grew really frustrated with some articles that I had read on CNN and with some of the attitudes in my city. One morning, I sat down and wrote this piece. But I wanted to share it with the religion writers and readers on CNN because I wanted to say, “Hey! There are other folks out there who don’t think the same as you, who are doing something different.” So I uploaded my essay to iReports. And this is my third suggestion: Write about something that not too many people have tackled yet, or write about a topic in a dramatically different way.

That subject must have been on many people’s minds because the article was one of the most viewed of all times. Lots of people wrote to me saying, “I feel that way, too!” The article drove a lot of traffic to my blog, and apparently, a couple of editors, too. A few days after that CNN article ran, I was contacted by two publishers. One of the publishers wanted to turn my blog into a book, and the other wanted me to write a guide for parents who were, like me, raising their kids without religion. I chose the latter publisher and topic for several reasons, but I used a lot of the material in my blog to remind me of the struggles I faced over the past ten years. The book is called, Growing up Godless: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids without Religion, and it will be published in April by Sterling Publishing. I interviewed Amy for the book, by the way, and she shared a story about her family.

Honestly, I am often humbled by just how many good writers there are out there, and I will tell you that there is an element of luck involved in getting a book deal. I sent out a lot of queries over the years (on other subjects), but nothing ever materialized. It just so happened that I wrote about a topic that hit a nerve with me, and on that day, it also hit a nerve with a lot of people. I learned that you just never know when a piece of your writing will resonate with the crowd.

So don't give up. If you love to write, keep writing. It hones your skills. It uncovers your truth. It is how you speak to the world. It is your path into the fray; your armaments in life’s struggles. Keep going, if for no other reason than writing makes you a writer.

And sometimes, the best thing that comes out of the act of writing isn’t what we get for it; it’s what we become from it.  

Here are some useful links:

Why you should blog:

Blogs that became books:



Deborah Mitchell lives in Texas (for now) with her husband and two sons. She has worked many jobs, including teaching writing at a college near Dallas and working with underprivileged youth. She earned an undergraduate degree from North Carolina State University, and a graduate degree from the University of Texas at Dallas. Books, people, philosophy, religion and environmental science are a few of her interests. She blogs at raisingkidswithoutreligion.net.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

New Guest Post Series: My ADD Rocks!

In celebration of ADHD Awareness Month - all October, every October, y'all - I've decided to take the leap into guest posts.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, consider submitting a short contribution to my new series:

My-ADD-Rocks.jpg

This series will attempt to de-stigmatize the image of people diagnosed with ADD and ADHD as lazy, stupid, and the butt of many undeserved jokes.

Please find the envelope button to the right of this post and submit your contribution to me via email.  All micro essays and memoirs up to 1,500 words will be considered.

Stories about ADD and ADHD can be funny, poignant, awkward, and redeeming and I want to see them all, so long as no one with ADD or ADHD is treated with disrespect.

Thank you so much for helping me dispel myths about ADD and ADHD.

You, my friends, rock!


Amy

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

ADHD Awareness Month - October 2013

According to the good folks at ADDitude Magazine, it's ADHD Awareness Month.

Yes, that's a thing.

In fact, there is even a website called Global ADHD Awareness Month - 2013.  According to the photo on this website, I am a poster child for this month-long celebration:

No, that isn't actually me, but this lady is definitely my doppleganger.  Spooky.

ADHD Awareness Month actually is a really good thing.

Sure, it's no match for its counterpart, Breast Cancer Awareness Month - also October - but as part of its campaign for ADHD Awareness Month, ADDitude is promoting ADHD myth-busting.  As a fan of Discovery Channel's MythBusters, I can safely assure you that ADHD myth-busting will not include any explosives.

Sorry.

But I would like to pick up the ADHD myth-busting torch and tell you a few things about my ADD (no hyperactivity as far as I can tell, unless drinking too much coffee and staring into space is considered hyperactive, in which case, yes, I'm hyperactive).

What do you think of when you picture someone, especially a child, with ADD or ADHD?

I can think of several of my classroom peers from middle and high school that fit the stereotype: fidgety, loud, boundary issues, constant yammering and interrupting, and generally a nuisance.  When I tell people that I was diagnosed, most folks are surprised.  Then a curious thing occurs: people start emailing and texting me with suspicions that they - or their child or partner - might have ADD.

I discovered my ADD through my husband.  If you're new to the blog then here's a big piece of my life you should know: my husband, a successful college administrator who has 2 master's degrees and a PhD has wicked ADD.  One night we were chatting on the couch after the kids went to bed and he turned to me and wondered, "You know, you might have what I have."

Considering I don't present like my husband, who is pretty classic ADHD, this was fascinating and a real possible answer to some of my nagging frustrations: poor sleep habits since age 12, need of background white noise or complete silence to concentrate, hyperfocus on details without seeing the big picture, forgetfulness, trouble with punctuality, misplacing items in the house, clutter on every flat surface, and trouble completing projects.

I scheduled a diagnostic assessment and guess what?  I passed with flying colors!!

But here's the thing: I didn't realize I struggled with ADD until my husband said something to me at age 42.  I had been coping and self-medicating with caffeine for about oh, my entire adult life.

So let me do some myth-busting using my life as an example.

Myth: People with ADD are lazy.
Truth:  I have held down many jobs and have been highly recommended by colleagues.

Myth:  People with ADD are not smart.
Truth:  I am working on my second graduate degree and have always been top in my class.

I want to bitch slap the person who created this.

Myth:  ADD and ADHD are just excuses for bad behavior.
Truth:  ADD and ADHD are bona fide medical disorders recognized by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education.  ADHD is listed in the American Psychiatric Society's DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

If you suspect that you might have some of the symptoms that I described, don't feel ashamed and don't put off talking to your doctor or seeking an assessment.  Although I don't take medication, just being aware of my limitations has helped me feel less frustrated with myself and to employ strategies and use tools to help me be productive and successful.

Check out the ADDitude Printables on ADHD/ADD for information or go to the Global ADHD Awareness Month - 2013 website.  Both websites offer great fact sheets, self-assessments, and forums in which you can ask questions or interact with physicians, psychologists, and regular folk who might look a lot like you.