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Blogging Joke

Know why Jesus would be great at blogging?

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

And….go!

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

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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.

Rough Draft of Chapter One

I’ve been a little absent partly because our summer is crazy and partly because I’m writing a Princess story…the main character being a girl adopted from Foster Care. Posting the first chapter since some of you indicated “more fiction!” in a way-back-when poll. Like it? Let me know. Hate it? Well…be nice, but feedback is feedback. 🙂

Wish I’d just go back to researching issues like Preventing Disruption and RAD? Feel free to let me know that, too!

Enjoy!

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Photo Credit: kermitlab

(Abbreviated) Prologue

Everybody wants to be a princess.

Well, everyone who isn’t already a princess wants to be one.

It’s no picnic, let me tell you. Except for when guards shoo the villagers away and you see thirty beautiful people carrying baskets and blankets into the meadow circle…then, right, it’s a picnic.

(…)

Everybody thinks they want to be a princess, and I’ll admit there are many excellent reasons to enjoy princessdom. Princessing? Princesshood? Perks include having people sit and listen to you even when you get off track. Like now. My apologies.

But there are two sides to every coin, and consequences to every wish fulfilled.

Everyone wants to be a princess, and it seems logical, until you understand the Princess Problem.

And here it is: Someone always wants to kill you.

I should have listened to my grandfather.

Chapter One

I am so tired of that woman. She will not leave me alone.

I just want to have peace and quiet, but no. It’s bad enough that Mom puts her nose in my school business, calling my teachers, showing up for lunch without warning, bribing my friends with cookies so they’ll like her. But that’s not enough meddling in my life. Nope. She also makes me do work. Like I’m her slave or something. If I forget, she follows me around and nags..

 

“Chores are your duty as a citizen of this great land we call our household,” she tells me.

 

Chores. Ha. More like doing her job for her. Parents are supposed to take care of the house. Moms do the inside, dads take care of the lawn and the cars and all that. Or they hire someone. None of my friends have “chores.” So much for my childhood.

 

“You’re lucky, Colleen,” mom says. “Not every kid learns life skills. When you graduate, you’ll be able to survive on your own. I know you don’t appreciate it all, but chores are good for your character. Be thankful. Your life, even when you think it’s horrible, is someone else’s fairytale.”

 

“Fairytale, ha. Emily and Madison don’t have to learn life skills,” I complain.

 

She laughs. Laughs. Like it’s no big deal.

 

“Well, when they pull their first all-pink load of laundry out of the dryer in college, they’ll wish they did. In the meantime, you still need to clean the downstairs bathroom. People are coming over in three days, and you’ve left it a mess. And then sort your laundry so we can start a load for you. I’m asking you to clean up after yourself. It’s not like you’re Cinderella.”

 

Pink clothes? What does that even mean? And no, I’m not Cinderella. If only. I’d ride off with that prince and live in style.

 

My thirteenth birthday party is Saturday. I will be a TEENager. Almost eighteen. In just five more summers, I can be outta here. A few weeks ago, I said this out loud. Stupid me. She laughed then, too.  

 

“Wait,” she said, doubled over and gasping for air, “you’re killing me. Do you remember how long it’s been since you were eight years old?”

 

I sniffed. “That’s forever ago.”

 

“Exactly,” she said. By this time she was cackling, that annoying snorty laugh she does when she thinks something is really, really funny. “You are not almost eighteen. Trust me, five years is a long time. By the time you hit eighteen, thirteen will feel like ‘forever ago,’ too.”

I’m counting the days, believe me. One thousand, eight hundred twenty-nine, to be exact. In case you’re checking my math, don’t forget leap year.

 

I head downstairs to my bathroom. It’s actually the guest bathroom, but last year I sort of claimed it. Mom said it was fine as long as I clean it. And I do. Most of the time.

 

My twin brother Kevin and I used to share a bathroom. He’s completely gross. Leaving him in his filth was one of the best hygiene decisions I’ve ever made, right up there with deciding to wear deodorant. So he has to clean the upstairs bathroom himself. Now, if we could just get him to shower. With soap. Mom said he’ll start when he finally discovers girls. Like that will happen. He’s got his head so far inside his science books, he’s lucky he remembers to eat.
I wipe the toothpaste dots off the mirror. Mom always checks. She says “no one wants to see that.” I rub the chrome until it sparkles, then flick the rag across the counter. If the chrome is shiny, no one notices the rest. After I pour blue stuff in the toilet bowl, I figure the bathroom is good enough. It’s not like party guests are going to use the tub.


Should I post more, or are you bored? 😉

Feel free to provide editing notes. I can take it. 

Blogging Brand: Who Needs One?

Back to what I learned at WordCamp.

WordCamp US 2015. In a word: FabuSuperEducatioFunExpialidociFrabjous.

“It seems very pretty,” she said…”but it’s rather hard to understand!” -Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Don’t give me that look. Lewis Carroll and Mary Poppins made up words.

And because of a ridiculous addiction to etymology, I just learned that Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, often attributed to Practically Perfect in Every Way Mary, appeared in use prior to the movie. And it’s the longest word in the English language. I love Google. 

My tenth grade English teacher informed us we could break language rules and make up words once we knew them all (rules AND words) or when we become famous—whichever is first.

Right, then…I’ve done neither, so…

WordCamp 2015 was Fabulous, Super Educational and Fun. And Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. And Frabjous.

The fourth thing WordCamp taught me is intertwined with the second.

 

Epiphany # 4: Every blog needs a BRAND.

Advertising utilizes many forms of brand. Here are a few:

Characters:

Think of the GEICO Gecko. Joe Camel (“Cool people smoke Camel”). Marlboro Man (“Real men smoke Marlboro.”) And yes, smoking is a bad idea. I’m just pointing out characters everyone knows. Keebler elves. The Planters Peanut. Ronald McDonald (a bit creepy, but recognizable).

Colors: 

Coke. UPS. John Deere. Here’s a fun little test to see if you can identify the brand by trademarked color.

Symbols: 

Amazon’s arrow/smile (“We get it to you fast and make you happy!”). FedEx’s subtle arrow (hint: it’s negative space). The Nike Swoosh. Coke’s ribbon. And perhaps the most recognizable symbol in the world, those Golden Arches.

Words:

Certain trademarked words become so famous we forget they’re brand names. No one (at least around here) says, “I cut my finger. Please get me a plastic bandage.” We say, “quick, I need a Band-Aid!” Xerox. Velcro. Chapstick. Bubble wrap. Dumpster. Fiberglass. Ping Pong (yes, really).

Some trademarked words lost previous status due to common use, like aspirin or WAIT, WHAT?!? heroin. Yes, Heroin was a Bayer trademark, back in the day. Yowza.

If you’re neurotic like me, check out this link for more. (Yep, I read them all.) The website also includes chuckle-inducing generic names. 

Here’s the point of this little advertising lesson. 

  • I need to brand my blog.

Create a character, use a photo or symbol, find a color, word or phrase. Or hey, all of the above.

Thanks to my conversation with this guy (who also has a cool blog),

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Dennis Hong speaking at WordCamp US 2015. Photo Credit: Casey Alexander, Creative Commons License

I realized the current “brand” on this blog is

  1. unrecognizable
  2. limiting
  3. confusing

and it’s time for a change.

  • The original plan: a play-by-play (and honest) description of our lives, centered around the definition of Adoption: “Adoption =” 

In other words, my intent was to illustrate a clear picture of what Adoption is. What adoption “equals.”

A blog with titles like “Adoption = Fun” or “Adoption = Difficult.”

Nobody got it.

Or, if you did, you’re astute, intelligent, and/or my mother.

Prior to WordCamp, I began using “Casey Alexander” as the brand, but Google proclaims that the most recognized “Casey Alexander” is a guy who worked for Sponge Bob.

How can I compete with a guy whose boss wears quadratic clam diggers and lives under the sea in a prickled yellow fruit? Or something like that.

Alsothere’s this.

Casey Alexander is the worst I’ve ever seen for a few reasons…wrote the absolutely BORING, HORRIBLE, BULL…

and this

So Casey Alexander (One of the worst writers in the history of Animation) has apparently stopped writing…I could go on all night with how happy I am this idiot no longer writes…

Right.

Although you may think it would be a fun prank—or a true statement (just wait until you see what I write in response, you jerk I mean, your opinion is always valid and welcome even if we don’t see eye to eye)—these were not written about me.

This is a good time to consider re-branding.

Dennis encouraged me to pick something timeless; the kids will grow up (or matriculate to Military Academy). My life, someday, will not orbit adoption. Or, at least, our adoption.

I plan to always, always, always advocate for children.

I’m passionate about adoption, foster care, fair treatment, child development, trafficking (fighting it—not participating—although…there are days…oh, HEY, sorry, did I say that out loud?), orphan care and child survival rates in developing countries…and I’m a little bit loud about all of it.

  • The new brand:

Our kids became available for adoption about six months after they moved in. We brought them into our home without the assurance we’d be able to keep them, but we were determined to ensure they received every possible accommodation—just as we would for “our own.”

Social Services didn’t like me.

Well, to be fair, OUR social worker didn’t like me.

The relationship started out a bit rocky due to my apoplectic fit. I found out the worker lost our fingerprints, delaying our approval to foster and requiring the children to live with a temporary foster family. (This, I took in stride. Shi—Lost paperwork happens.) The family was local but outside our school district.

I asked the social worker to request that the school board make an exception to allow the children to attend our elementary school, in spite of location, due to the circumstances.

Otherwise, the children would have three different families, three different homes AND three different schools in 40 days. To me, this seemed excessive. And avoidable.

But.

She didn’t want to do the extra paperwork. (Since then, I’ve made this same request in order to enroll the kids in a school with better accommodations for their special needs. It required ONE piece of paper.)

By the time they arrived at our house, the kiddos were in an understandable but horrific state of mind. Like hyenas, if you will.

Imagine: You’re married to someone for eighteen months. You get along. Communication patterns are set. It’s not perfect, but you feel secure.

One afternoon, as you enjoy milk and biscuits, government officials appear.

“We’ve determined this spouse is not your best match. And, partly due to your behavior, they don’t want you here anymore. Pack your things. We leave in thirty minutes for your next destination.”

Numb, you follow the officials as they toss your belongings into black plastic trash bags and cardboard boxes. You thought they liked you. Or, at least, tolerated you.

The officials dump you at another house, with a new spouse and no explanation other than, “You’ll be fine here.” They leave.

Four weeks later, you’ve begun to settle into the routine. You’re still bewildered but no one has bothered to clarify the situation. This family is nice enough; maybe living here will be okay. Now if you could just figure out what they did with all your stuff.

And then those officials show up again. They leave. Can you relax?

Nope. The few items you possess are packed and you’re bundled into the family’s van, where you find the rest of your trash bags. The second spouse drops you off with a third, smiling. “Have fun!”

By this time, you’re in complete confusion and more than a little angry.

Somebody better tell you what the heck is happening. And soon. Before you start screaming.

Yeah. That’s the clusterfeather that showed up on our doorstep. (Spell check says that’s not a word. It is now.)

And our little story above doesn’t even bring into play the new school, new people, new lights, new buildings, new clothes, new foods, new sensory input, new terror. TWICE.

After I figured out that the social worker did NOT have the kids’ best interest at heart, MommaBear appeared. Enter: The Fit of Historic Proportion.

These kids were obviously having a rough time, but they weren’t even in regular counseling.

With Hubby’s full support (and let me tell you, I don’t know how single adoptive parents survive—they are absolute HEROES) I got them into counseling, occupational therapy, speech therapy. Worked with the school to develop an IEP, ensuring they received appropriate support (both academic and behavioral).

Annnnnnd fought with the social worker, then went over her head and worked with her boss and the county to get a behavioral aide to stay with the boy during class (then 5 and a school-escape-artist).

I have no idea why she didn’t like me.

Speaking with Hubby (and in front of me) she called me “hyper-vigilant.”

It wasn’t a compliment.

But “Hypervigilant” is the one positive thing that woman gave me in the 16 months I struggled with her. We (THANK GOD) acquired another social worker who managed to push the adoption to completion under six months from her start date.

Vigilant: keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties

Hyperprefix  1. above, over, or in excess: hypercritical  2. (in medicine) denoting an abnormal excess: hyperacidity 3. indicating that a chemical compound contains a greater than usual amount of an element: hyperoxide

I like the third definition for “hyper” best. “A greater than usual amount.”

For our children, I watch “more than usual” for possible danger or difficulties. Medical. Physical. Emotional. Academic. Interpersonal.

Hubby and I believe in cause and effect as well as cleaning up your own messes, so if they get a bad grade or, for instance, pour glue all over a desk, we absolutely support the school in whatever consequence is handed down. The administration knows our stance.

But I work with teachers, administration, counselors, doctors—any adult who can better support our children by understanding their background and situation—to prevent and ameliorate situations before they occur. Call me Hypervigilant.

When we go out in public, I’m always aware that previous foster families and even biological family members could be one grocery aisle away. It happens. Last summer, we drove five hours to a beach, stood on a pier and recognized a friend surfing, then saw another (unrelated) family we know. All within five minutes.

I’m on constant alert, scanning crowds and restaurants as we walk. Looking for any sign of recognition from an adult I don’t know. Yeah. Hypervigilant.

On days I’d like to give up, sometimes I actively remind myself to be Hypervigilant. Don’t toss that towel. Extra attention now will pay dividends in their future success.

Hypervigilant.

  • Hypervigilant has morphed from a snide remark into WHO I AM.

After that conversation with Dennis, the name snapped into place. My brand.

No matter my life situation, when it comes to protecting kids, I’ll always be Hypervigilant.

You may have noticed the new domain name already. If not, just thought I’d mention coming changes to the blog. If you show up and things look a little different…you’ll know why. But it’s still me.

Now it’s your turn! Take a look at your blog. Does it reflect your passion? Your personality? Who YOU are? If not, consider making a few tweaks.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Side note: some guy in FarawayLandistan tried to sell me Hypervigilant.com for thousands of dollars, so…I picked the .org extension instead.  In creating your brand, research creative ways to name your domain. Here’s an older—but still useful—article to get you started. 

Where I’ve Been

This is my imagined reality: you, sitting at your screen, waiting with impatience for my next post and thinking, “Whyyyyyyyyyyy did Casey stop writing? What could possibly be keeping her from us?” 

Real reality: you, sitting at your screen, thinking, “Who’s this Casey person again? When in tarnation did I follow this blog? I definitely need to adjust those auto-follow settings…”

It’s cool. I’m fine with it. Except when the person asking how to unfollow the blog is Hubby. Out loud. From the armchair five feet away. Then…it feels just a little personal. But it’s been a long month; I’m a little over-sensitive. (Just kidding. Pretty sure he’s at least fifty-three of my followers.)

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. NOTHING is finished. I tried using the blog as my carrot. “I can write when I finish…”

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Photo Credit: Clay Junell

And yes, if I’m reaching for the carrot, I know what that makes me.

Exhausted and desperate for motivation. That’s what it makes me.

Why—what were you thinking? HEY!

Anyway, life has been nuts. WordCamp US 2015 was fabulous. I still have pending (read: I need to sit down and write them) posts about what I learned. If you’re able to attend next year, I highly recommend the experience.

I’m still working through the pictures from WordCamp because as soon as I came home, Hubby and I began demolishing our kitchen (also a planned post…more later).

I keep telling myself that I can write a post once I get through a certain number of pictures. I can edit pictures when enough work is complete in the kitchen. And the day-to-day tasks don’t go away. Laundry, school, shopping, packing for family gatherings.

The above paragraph sounds like a list of complaints. Not the case, I assure you. I’m ridiculously happy when busy.

However, I realized today that I’m getting a bit twitchy. My carrot is just a little too far out of reach. I need  to write almost as much as I need to sleep. (In fact, I’d much rather write.)

The kids have been good today—exceptional, even—and I still found myself wanting to withdraw from everyone to a dark, quiet space this evening, to write. Craving a keyboard.

Instead, I forced myself to participate in “building night.” Hubby and the boy assembled a K’nex roller coaster on the table while the girl and I sprawled on the floor nearby and snapped together an elfin Lego kit.

Three minutes in, I felt better. Spending time with the kids one-on-one (and together) has been on my subconscious “list of things that are making me antsy because they aren’t getting done.”

It’s so easy to put off the things we want to do because of everything demanding our time, and in many cases what we have to do must come first. Sometimes, though, doing something you want to do can give you the boost necessary to get through harder work.

Time with the kids, now blogging with you.

I feel the “we will never finish any of this and our house will always be a wreck and the laundry pile will never deplete and the list will only grow and…” panic dissipating already.

I am so ready for tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

Annnnnnd…we’re back. (What I learned at WordCamp, Part 2)

Here’s the #2 thing I learned at WordCamp.

Continued from this post.
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Crowd at State of the Word address. Photo credit: Casey Alexander, Creative Commons License

It’s okay to “just be a blogger.”

Which is why this blog is now BACK AT WORDPRESS.COM.

I do not have to learn code.

No need to be a developer.

Although learning about SEO is fun and I like it, I don’t even have to do that.

My Thursday train arrived with an hour to spare. Ruth (see earlier post) convinced me to join the volunteer party instead of disappearing to my hotel.

Thank goodness.

I met Dennis. In addition to being an event speaker and all-around good guy, he’s also a Happiness Engineer.

And he spoke those eight little words I’d been dying to hear.

“There’s nothing wrong with ‘just’ being a blogger.” 

Ever since the last WordCamp (around 98% of attendees were technical, not writers), I really, really REALLY tried to follow their advice. “Get a domain and self-host.”

I got a domain. (This, actually, IS a good idea.)

Joined BlueHost to have a self-hosted blog. (At least for this gal…not so much.)

Although I’m truly interested in SEO, I just want to write. Gaining a clearer understanding of search and meta and how things work isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t want to do that every day.

I’m no quitter. Not usually. But today, I called to cancel my BlueHost account.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Get your own domain. It’s your brand. I still own caseyalexanderblog.com for a year, but from here on out, you’ll be seeing hypervigilant.org as the new brand. If you’ve been around a while, you know why. If you’re new, I’ll explain sometime soon.
  2. Don’t self-host unless you enjoy the work. Self-hosting is only fun if you want to handle everything yourself. If, like me, you just want to write, you don’t need that.
  3. Get your domain through WordPress.com (no, they’re not paying me to say this). You get to keep all the cool features I lost when I went to BlueHost. There were no “reblog” or “follow” buttons. No community of readers and bloggers. I had ZERO new followers on the new blog. WordPress is where it’s at. (Yes, that’s bad grammar. Hush.)
  4. Reach out to a Happiness Engineer. Check the forums and help pages first, but if your issue isn’t resolved, check with a Happiness Engineer. Making people happy is what they do. No kidding.

So…if you’re new, welcome!  I’m Casey, occasionally called hypervigilant. I like to write. I’m a blogger.

Thank you, Dennis, for saving my love of blogging.

Also, big thanks to Dean, Praveen, Zandy, Nicola and last but CERTAINLY not least, Naoko, some of the best Happiness Engineers in the Land. In the world, for that matter. You guys rock.

Click here for #3…

Annnnnnnnd…We’re Back!

About a month ago, I read an article. The main idea keeps popping back into my mind: NO ONE CARES.

  • No one cares what you had for lunch. Stop posting the pic of your latest sandwich.
  • No one cares about your life. Stop tweeting things like, “I’m so down,” and “Ugh. Really?”
  • No one cares what you have to say. Stop blogging.

The general premise of the article was on target. Most of us really don’t care what someone else recently ate. (Let’s start a trend of photographing “what I ate two days ago,” to counterbalance the onslaught of “before” pictures. Who’s with me? What…no takers? Really?! You people are no fun.) The “fishing for sympathy” messages truly do irk me. Sometimes they’re legitimate expressions of need. In general, though, some people can’t take life without drama, real or imagined. I prefer mine imagined. On TV only. Complaining about your hangnail equals an instant unfollow.

For the last 60 days, I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging—and from writing in general. “Comedy of errors” doesn’t begin to describe our summer. The computer fiasco ended right about the time I read that article and I began questioning whether to continue the blog. Is the lost sleep worth it? (I try to blog after the kids are in bed…nothing kills a creative moment like hearing, “Mama! Should the toilet water be spilling onto the floor? I tried to use the plunger, but now it’s stuck…”)

Then, we had several more leaks in our house (yes, that makes seven). The previous owner did most of his own work and used faulty connections for the pipes. It’s been a game of “find the pipe connector before it finds us.” We also do most of our own work but—not to sound haughty—we do it right. Our son’s ceiling is now completely replaced, thanks to two separate leaks. Kitchen, laundry, bathroom…all in various stages of progress. Hubby replaces pipes and hangs the sheet rock. I do the mud (plaster) and paint. And we do a darn good job. Which also means that most nights I fall into bed, exhausted, no mental energy left for blogging.

Right after—as in, 30 actual minutes after—we finished re-piping our bathroom, the boy came out of the spare bedroom where he was sleeping until said ceiling was finished. “I think there’s a fire under the house!” I ran into Spare Oom (yes, we’re Lewis fans) and listened. Not fire. Water. Please, no.

A connector on our hot water heater was shooting a light spray onto the vent ducts under the house. At 11 pm.

Hubby crawled under the house, pointed to the pipe, then touched it. The pipe FELL OFF. Hot water splashed everywhere. We shut off the hot water, and went to bed, defeated. Right after cold showers.

We called a plumber to fix the water heater and give us a quote to re-pipe under the house. About a week later, I noticed a definite drop in water temperature. The plumber was coming out to re-pipe, so we mentioned it to him. When Hubby opened the door to the crawl space, they found three inches of steaming water under the house. Another connector had burst and hot water had been pouring out for days.

That’s just a snapshot of our summer.

But back to my original thought. Should we blog? Do people care?

Blogging is different. Very few bloggers have nothing interesting to say. When browsing random blogs, I find all sorts of amazing information, enriching perspectives and honest thoughts. Five. In over a year of blogging (and reading), that’s the approximate number of blogs not worth the time I spent reading. Even if the blogger’s ideas conflicted with my own or the content struck me as inappropriate, the ability to connect with someone else’s mind and see through their eyes created an amazing experience.

For me, blogging is therapy. I hope you Read, Follow, Love, but if not, that’s okay. I’m happier when writing. Hubby looked over at me a few days ago. “So. When are you going to start blogging again?” He had that look in his eye. No, not THAT look. The other look. The one that says, “you’re getting twitchy and irritable and I want you to stop.” He’s happier when I’m writing. The kids are happier.

So, writer of the terrible, horrible, no-good, very-discouraging article, you actually proved the opposite of your point. People do listen. People do read. Words matter. And from now on, I’ll write what I please, because even if no one else reads it, I need to write it. Consider yourself unfollowed.

Also, please find attached a picture of my dinner from three days ago.

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