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Category Archives: writing

Blogging Joke

Know why Jesus would be great at blogging?

If you correctly guess the answer, I’ll write a post involving your blog. ūüôā

And….go!

Hint: he’s got lots of what every blogger wants!

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Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

This week, the girl participates in her first annual testing session since we’ve been homeschooling.

It is less a test of her abilities and more a measure of my prowess as a teacher.

I’m a bit nervous. Possibly more than she is.

I actually had trouble sleeping, which is not unusual, but I don’t usually worry myself awake. Most nights, my brain spins stories or posts destined to never see an audience because I fell asleep halfway through.

Before we adopted, I didn’t understand when my friends bemoaned their children’s test anxiety. You’ve heard the phrase “pulling out my hair” in frustration…I’d never seen it in action until one of our little friends showed up with no eyebrows. He was anxious about testing and pulled them out, bit by bit. (There’s a disorder called trichotillomania, but they ruled that out and said it was just anxiety.)

I’ve always loved school and am a geek-tacular stay-up-all-night-crammer. My test grades were rarely less than stellar. (Not bragging—just explaining why I didn’t understand how tests might be scary. I just saw them as a challenge.)

Might not remember any of the material a week later, but as long as my grades were high, everyone seemed happy.

None of my peers ever talked about test-taking anxiety. On occasion, someone admitted being nervous about passing a certain test or achieving a certain grade, but no one was pulling out their eyelashes.

When my friends discussed their children’s test-taking anxiety , I thought it was hyperbole.

And then we adopted our kids.

The boy has no such thing as test-taking anxiety, mostly because he doesn’t care.

He likes good grades, mostly due to sibling competition. He doesn’t like it if his sister’s grades are higher than his, but he has an innate ability to both put in minimum effort and get fairly decent grades. In general, he displays an incredible lack of concern about school (the exception: history studies…the one time he has the legitimate ability to learn about war in a setting in which discussing weapons is taboo).

Our girl, on the other hand, wants to “get everything right the first time” and doesn’t understand why memorizing information requires so much effort on her part.

She should be able to assimilate it by osmosis, of course.

I’ve tried to help her understand that very few people can view text once and remember everything they need to know, but I am—thus far—unsuccessful.

Her expectation of perfection frustrates her. It often trips her up during testing, because the moment she sees a question she doesn’t know, she starts freaking out. She doesn’t necessarily have any external physical reaction, but she begins making mistakes and overlooking obvious answers.

Any information she might have known flies away like pigeons from a coop.

To prepare her for the upcoming annual test, I gave her a practice test 3 grade levels below her own. I thought it would bolster her confidence.

Instead, she stumbled over one question and spiraled from there. She ended up answering one-third of the answers incorrectly.

She KNEW all of the information.

I asked her the questions verbally and she answered all answers with 100% success.

But put that paper in front of her, and she freezes up.

Hoping to alleviate her fear, I explained the test doesn’t matter. The results are less about what she knows and more about highlighting anything I still need to teach to keep her on par with her peers. (Or, if I have my way, to get her ahead of her peers…but I don’t say this. No pressure. We’re still catching up. But I tell you, this kid is brilliant.)

I keep telling her I don’t know of anyone who takes standardized tests for a living.

None of it seems to sink in.

I am a bit concerned that the test results won’t be accurate because she may miss answers she truly knows after confronting a difficult question.

I’m fighting my own version of test anxiety,.

I want her to do well for her own sake. I want to show her that she can do well on a test. I’m hoping to help her overcome the stress induced by the public school system yearly testing.

I’m not on a witch hunt and don’t have anything against public schools but they put so much pressure on the kids with constant drilling, remedial groups before and after school, prizes for doing well and promises of ice cream for those who participated well in prep exercises.

One mother opted for her child not to take the test, which is allowed, and the school tried to fight her. Her daughter is extremely smart and would have done very well on the test, reflecting positively on the school and raising their scores.

I didn’t even know skipping the exam was an option until it was too late.

Because they drilled the importance of testing into my daughter, her already perfectionist personality can’t handle an error. Once she knows question is incorrect, it’s over.

I’m praying she does well, but to be honest, I have personally seen her growth this year and found that she is much smarter then they gave her credit for.

She just needed to hear things in a different way. Sometimes I have to explain things more than once, but once she gets it, she gets it.

I’d like to instill in her that the point of school is not to get good grades but to learn the information we need to be able to do well in life and to interact with others in a positive way.

Math is important. Most of us will never use trigonometry, but basic math, algebra, and geometry are all important for most careers.

Language is one of the most important subjects. You might be an amazing genius, but if you can’t communicate your ideas, no one will care.

History is her favorite subject and I’m so thankful for this. Learning about history and taking it to heart gives us compassion for others, helps us recognize dictators before they take over, and allows us to see the mistakes we as people have made in order to avoid repeating them.

Hubby and I also want to give our kids a love of science. Curiosity and willingness to problem-solve are key to lifelong learning and success.

We were fortunate to find a fabulous art class this year, in which she studies some of the masters and has an opportunity to try to paint in his or her style. She likes to sketch and color but has never shown much interest in painting until now. She’s very talented.

I was in grad school by the time I realized the point of school was not to cram one’s way to the highest grade possible, but to ingest and comprehend the greatest amount of information to then translate into real-life application.

Creativity, curiosity, problem-solving ability, and the knowledge that you can find the answer to pretty much any question if you look hard enough: this is what I want my daughter to learn.

Testing this week won’t even affect her by next week.¬†The true test will be life.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to find out what she has learned and what she still needs to know to keep up with her age group…or surpass them.

But I know that this test will not measure her ability to live a happy, successful life.

For that, we will have to rely on the test of time.

 

Making Time

Photo by Michel Curi

 

Sometimes, real life interferes with writing.

Writing is my self-prescribed therapy; the hectic days, weeks and months I have the least amount of time to sit with my laptop are the days, weeks and months I need it most.

Lately I’ve been writing a lot in my head, but haven’t found time to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, in this case).

It’s killing me.¬†

Speaking of writing…I’m on a rather spammy email list from a prolific actual (read: published) writer.

Sometimes the nudge to join his newest master class or buy his latest book feels a bit too pushy. My mouse often hovers over the “unsubscribe” link, but at the last second my finger declines to click, because in that moment I find the gem.

In the last email, he spoke of having no time to write. Of setting up a typewriter on a board across two chairs in his living room. Of carving out time in the evenings after his children were in bed. Of declining the allure of evening television or the seduction of a soft bed, of instead parking himself in a chair and writing.

Of Making Time.

Making Time is difficult, but not impossible.

Finding Time is improbable, at best. Lost minutes will never be recovered. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve come to a sudden awareness I have nothing to do.

“Carving” Time is essentially the same as Making Time but seems so much more appropriate in terms of my life. I wedge a blade into the calendar and plunge it between appointments with savage and ruthless abandon.

Ruthlessness is the only way, because otherwise my life overwhelms my intentions and conspires to drown me.

Tonight, I’m feeling a little ruthless, a bit cutthroat. Life is too overwhelming; I must make time to write, even if that means cutting out something else.

For now, I’ll cut whatever was going to happen in the next half hour.

Join me. What will you write?

 

P.S. Anyone recognize the photo?

The Dream

We agreed for a little girl to live with us while her parents sorted things.

Dad is in jail, mom was on drugs but is trying to get clean.

She is ten, with thick, frizzy brown hair pulled back in a low ponytail. Round, sweet face, eyes made owlish by thick glasses with dark purple frames.

She wears a purple puffy jacket, which should be my first clue it’s a dream.

Those went out of style decades ago. Then again, trends cycle. Maybe she’s ahead of the curve.

We meet at a small, family-owned restaurant with a store attached. Evidently this is where she has spent her after-school hours starting back in pre-school. Her babysitter used to work here but is long out of the picture.

“She was such a good little girl” that everyone else agreed to jointly keep an eye on her until her mother sent a ride home or wandered in to pick her up. Someone noticed she wasn’t growing much in kindergarten and they started providing after-school snacks and a hearty dinner. The undernourished waif grew into a hale and healthy ten year old.

The last few months, they’ve been giving her rides home at closing. A light was always on and she had a key, but finally the cook decided to walk her to the door and found mom sprawled on the floor in a drugged stupor.

She called the police, who called social services. Our small town had no other foster homes available. Since the cook claimed to be a distant cousin and had a clean record, they let the child stay with her for 48 hours while the social worker looked for a foster parent.

These people have been her family for six years. None of them are happy to learn I live clear across town.

“You have to bring her back to see us. Come for dinner at least once a week. On the house,” the owner cajoles.

The cook chimes in, “yes, please do,” in a tone I recognize as, “I’m asking nicely but you can expect a consequence if you don’t comply.”

The child has gone back to her small play area in the rear of the store to tidy up. I follow.

As I pack her things into a plastic green suitcase, the social worker calls my cell. Mom entered the rehab program. This may be a very temporary placement.

For their sake, I hope so, but I won’t mind if this sweet girl stays with us longer.

Suddenly I realize we never finalized sleeping arrangements. I guess we’ll put her in the guest room for now. I wonder if our two will be jealous she gets the big bed.

For that matter, how will they all get along? Will a new addition send them into a tail spin?

Should I put her in class with one of them or in one of the other 5th grade classes?

It’s getting late. I haven’t even thought about dinner. I tug her heavy case toward the door, starting to feel overwhelmed. Will she even like us?

I pause by the door, ready to call her name and realize I’ve forgotten it.

The cook gives me a piercing glare.

“What?” I say.

She replies,¬†“nothing,” but I feel her eyes on my back as I turn.

I shake my head, stress washing over me.

What was I thinking, taking this on? I just started a new job. My kids may not respond well and I forgot to tell them about it. Hubby’s out of town for a week. Wait, who is with MY kids? I suddenly can’t remember.

The girl reappears, hugging the staff as she makes her way to me.

“I’m ready,” she tells me, pushing past through the wooden screen door to the country porch.

I follow, panic rising, and stop, face to face with a huge young buck. I eye his antlers, uneasy with the proximity, and glance around for the girl.

He snorts, demanding my attention, and stomps his hoof on the echoing porch floor boards. He touches his nose to mine, huge brown eyes glaring.

I wake, wild-eyed, stressed and panting, nose-to-wet-black-nose with my German Shepherd.

He needs to potty. He snorts and stomps his paw on the bed once more.

I shake my head and let him pull me out of bed.

Thank God, it was a dream.

Later that day, I pull up photo listings on adoptuskids.org, searching for a round, sweet face with owlish eyes.

#AmWriting

OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

It is so good to have a few moments to write.

Even better: hours.

I have hours. I’m away from the house. Cannot hear the dirty dishes in the sink nor the clothes to be folded calling my name. I have nothing but my laptop and am choosing to ignore my phone and social media.

BLISS.

If you are also a writer, you know what I mean.

And by writer, I don’t mean famous, or published, or even, “manuscript completed and rejected fiftyish times.”

Do keys tapping in a satisfying click-tick rhythm make your anxiety melt?

Words fascinate and enthrall you?

Sentences with perfect balance give you deep satisfaction?

Alliteration, onomatopoeia and entire-paragraphs-sans-adverbs bring you joy?

That’s what I mean.

Writer.

Hans Splinter

Photo by Hans Splinter

 

 

Goal 3

I really thought I’d be able to keep up with a goal of posting once a week. I even planned time tonight to sit down and write.

PLANNED.

This is new, because most days are helter-skelter, what with the new job, the kids and the random acts of renovation.*

*In the last eight weeks, in addition to regular busy life, Hubby and I have repaired and painted walls and ceilings.

So tonight, I planned to take a break and write while Hubby was at a late meeting.

But then I thought, “if I get the bathroom painted, Hubby can install the new porcelain sculpture…” (yes, we’re replacing the toilet). So instead of writing, I listened to a great audio book and painted the potty.

This brings me to

Goal 3

for this year:

Finish the doggone house.

If you’ve followed the blog these past two years, you’ve seen the mess seven leaks can precipitate.

We are almost finished with final repairs (which we stubbornly insist on completing ourselves because, well, we are stubborn). This is the year we DO IT.

So I finished the bathroom in record time. I thought, “great, I still have time to write,” and simultaneously wondered, “what IS that ridiculous noise?”

It was the sound of our clothes washer NOT draining.

Determined to ensure this did not become leak #8, I drained it manually then cleaned out the pump filter.

Only took me an hour.

And now, I write. 

What goals have you set—or met—this week?

 

 

 

 

Goal 2

I ran through my follower list today and realized it’s been a while.

Goal 2: Read something on every follower’s blog by June.¬†

See you soon!

 

What’s your goal?

Not sure how to begin? Read my easy guide to goal setting.

A Page from Your Book

As a young girl, I heard an adult tell his friend, “I took a page from your book.” Avid reader and lover of all things in print, I misunderstood his statement. Annoyed that anyone would rip a page from a book, I determined not to lend my books to anyone without first ensuring they agreed to leave all pages intact.

Later, I learned this was simply a phrase meaning, “I did something you would do.” Reading other blogs, I often find my recent thoughts mirrored. I’m not sure if this is because we tend to gravitate to others similar to¬†ourselves (in physical life and online) or simply coincidence, but I feel as though we are having a conversation. I thought something you would think.¬†

I’ve been thinking lately about what I’ll leave behind. How only a moment—just a breath—can take us from one reality to the next. What a sheer curtain hangs between now and forever. Seems like you’ve been thinking about the same.

Just so you know, I took a page from your blog.

 

When you don’t have an artifact which will save you in your afterlife, don’t give value to your artifacts in this world! РSP

 

You are not alive in memories
but that is the place I find you,
so I fan the small fire,
inhaling deeply,
remembering
today. – LL

-JRLZN

I don‚Äôt fear death anymore; I fear looking back on my time here on this earth and realising that I missed out on so many wonderful opportunities because of such a na√Įve notion of allowing apprehension of the inevitable to destroy the wonderful gift of life that I have been presented. I don‚Äôt want to grow old having squandered my time, or having lived an un-lived life.CN

 

Back in the Saddle

Hey, everyone!

I’ve missed you.

In September, I accepted a part-time job. In October, I agreed to work full time when my supervisor said those two little words I can never resist:¬†process improvement. Almost nothing makes me happier than finding better ways to do…well, pretty much anything.

The downside is a sharp decline in free time and I’ve really missed writing.

Tonight I listened to a goal-setting webinar led by Michael Hyatt. I chuckled a little bit when he talked about his own goals. Maybe one of his goals for the year is to sell a lot of the “5 Days to Your Best Year Ever” program he offers at the end of the webinar.

Sales pitch aside, I learned (re-learned) a few things:

  • Goals must be written.¬†
    • I believe the statistic on the webinar was around 40% more likely. I found a couple articles with statistics up to 80%. The point isn’t really HOW much more likely we are to hit our goals, but that we ARE more likely to do so. Check out some of the articles on the¬†Forbes¬†site.
  • Goals must be measurable.
    • “I need to lose weight,” is not specific enough. “I want to permanently lose that stupid ten pounds I keep regaining,” is better.
    • Instead of “I want to be recognized at work,” a more measurable goal is, “I will meet or exceed my assigned metrics every week,” or “I will read three industry-related articles each week and discuss ways our team can utilize what I’ve learned to improve our processes.”
  • Goals must have a deadline or time frame.
    • Deadlines provide urgency. I’ve been “working” on updating spreadsheets for the past few weeks but never seemed to finish. Other ¬†When the top brass informed us (yesterday at 6 am) that the analysts would pull a report for a presentation at 3 pm today, guess what I finished by 2:30.
    • Deadlines provide the ability to draft a timeline—and again, writing the goals improves our chances of finishing.
  • Goals must be realistic.¬†
    • “I will run a marathon next week.” Written, measurable, deadline. And crazy, unless you’re an avid runner. For most of us, “I will walk to the mailbox instead of driving to get the mail,” or, “I will stop circling the grocery parking lot to find a spot three spaces closer. Instead, I will park at the far end of the parking lot,” are realistic goals.

 

Most of that is old news. Michael said a few¬†things¬†I’d never really considered.¬†

Goals should be visible.

Post goals somewhere we’ll see them daily. Make a list or, like the picture here, find a creative reminder.

15971657049_304ae3d93c_z

Photo Credit: Marcia Furman

Goal lists should include no more than seven to ten items.

Bonus if we¬†can pare it down to four or five.¬†A¬†goal list shouldn’t be twenty-five things because our brains can’t track that many items, even in writing.

Goals should be passion-driven. 

If a goal isn’t exciting, why is it on the list? I never before realized that goal-setting is different from “the list of things I need to accomplish around the house this year.” No one is passionate about painting the front porch steps (on the other hand, I take great delight in plastering sheet rock…but still, not a life goal).

Our goals should make us uncomfortable. Even afraid. 

If we’re comfortable, we won’t grow. We won’t take risks.

So.

I plan (IN WRITING) to spend time this week (TIME FRAME) thinking about goals for the upcoming year. I know, it’s a little earlier than the traditional “it’s a New Year; I must revamp my life,” but I invite you to join me.

Let’s choose four or five goals (MEASURABLE) fired by our greatest passions.

Goals that freak us out a little.  

Let’s talk about what we’ve accomplished this year and where we want to be next month.

I’ll start.¬†

Goal One: Even when working like mad at the job I love and working like crazy for the Hubby and kiddos I love, I will I WILL

I WILL

I will  (this is in writing) make time to post at least once a week (measurable and realistic) for the rest of the year (deadline).

Your turn! What’s your goal one? Comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

About the About Page

I updated the “About” page. Is this better, or worse?

(And yes, I found the Text Color button…to save your eyes, I tried not to get crazy.)

Trying to make the site more readable; I appreciate your feedback.*

*Like, seriously. If you hate the page, please tell me how to make it better. ¬†ūüôā

 

Nutshell if you’re in a rush:

Hi, I’m Casey.

Hubby and I adopted two very traumatized kids through foster care. Our social worker called me hypervigilant (because I wanted her to do her job*) and now I write at Hypervigilant.org.

Resources for families of adopted children proved difficult to find; once we were right-side-up again, Hubby urged me to share our experiences. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Find HOPE here. And also lots of cyber-hugs. 

*No offense if you’re a good SW. I know good ones are¬†out there and we appreciate all you do.

Details of our story if you have a minute:

Hubby and I adopted two wild hyenas and lived to tell about it (and so have they), and now I’m sharing the saga with you. I share personal experience and¬†thoughts from adult adoptees (some of the best resources EVER for figuring out how to help kids).¬†

I started writing for anyone involved in adoption, but adoptive or not, consider yourself invited.

Stay a while; speak your mind.¬†I love hearing your perspective.¬†Some of the best parenting advice comes from people without¬†kids, because their brains aren’t fried on square pants and the Lego movie theme song.

If you have no personal connection with adoption, but you read this blog and think “Geez, why doesn’t she just try _____,” please share suggestions. It takes a village to raise an idiot—I mean, child.

Similarly, it takes a blogging community to keep the child’s parents from singing EVERYTHING IS AWESOMMMMMMMMMMMME to the bank teller.

Everyone needs hope and the occasional laugh. I try to provide both by sharing the truth about adoption with an honest picture of our wins and mishaps. I also write a little fiction on the side. These are my favorites.

Alternately, you can¬†read Adoption = for the same reason Hubby watches Cops: “Well, at least we’re not THAT¬†crazy.”

Find hope here, whether you are in a beautiful moment of triumph, in the middle of ongoing battles, in the throes of a nervous breakdown or wishing you could just give those kids back to someone. Anyone.

(No, this does not make you a bad person. You WILL get through it. Please do not give your child to the grocery clerk with the kind eyes.)

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m happy to give you what I’ve got. If Hubby and I can endure HellonEarth and keep two kids alive (which is sometimes a bit harder than it sounds), so can you.

If you are in the¬†circle of an adopted child or adoptive parent, sometimes you will feel like walking away. Please don’t. They need all the help they can get. You’ll see what I mean. There’s a LOT they aren’t telling, because they don’t want you to run away screaming.

Adoption can feel very isolating. Almost like Witness Protection.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for hanging in with me. Tenacity is an excellent quality for dealing with adopted children. Also,¬†you’ll need patience, empathy, and the ability to open a big ol’ can of whoop-a—oh, sorry…I mean…the ability to guide darling children through extremely difficult emotional ups and downs.

Actually, the can of whoop will likely be necessary for the social worker or other adult standing in the way of what your child needs. Keep it on hand.

Our kids will choose our nursing homes. I, for one, do not plan to end my days living in a storage unit with a bare bulb for heat. Especially now that we have to use those energy-efficient ones.

Let’s get this right.

Happy reading,

Casey

Casey Alexander writes and lives with her amazing, talented Hubby and two wonderful (and sometimes very weird) adopted children, along with three dogs and six outdoor cats. And also a hawk, who hangs around hoping to steal a cat (as the kids have grown too large). 

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