So we’ve been cooped up at home for quite some time now due to the pandemic. For us adults, the use of technology plays a pertinent role in maintaining our social connection to the outside world. But for the little ones whose main form of socialization stems from the school environment, this can be especially difficult.
Social distancing keeps our children physically safe but how do we ensure they don’t socially wilt during this era of isolation?
Here are some simple ways to help your child stay connected to family and friends and develop important skills while doing so:
Phone conversations – This form of communication seems to have gone by the wayside with the increase of smartphones (talking has been traded in for texting) but it can be quite beneficial for our little ones who are still developing their oral communication and social skills.
Talking over the phone helps children learn how to start (and end) conversations, engage in a back and forth dialogue (understand the reciprocity of communication), improve attention span, increase vocabulary, build empathy, give insight into other’s lives, develop oral language skills (speaking, listening, questioning, clarifying, rephrasing) as well as build and maintain friendships.
Video chatting (i.e., WhatsApp, Zoom, Meet, Skype) – Just like speaking over the phone, this form of interaction is quite valuable as well. The added bonus here is the ability to see the other person’s expressions and reactions during the conversation. Reading body language is very important in understanding non-verbal communication. Learning to read gestures, tone of voice, posture and facial expressions can tell us a lot about our listeners. Are they attentive, bored, relaxed, happy, excited, confused? This can help young ones navigate the conversation better as they start to understand the give and take of communicating with others.
Video chatting can also allow children to introduce another branch of topics into their conversation. We all know from Show and Tell that children love to talk about their favourite toys and share their work with others. Video chatting allows for this kind of engagement more readily (and gives you a bit of a break).
Social Games (Roblox, Fortnite, Mindcraft, Maker 2) – Although you may to limit the amount of time your child spends on video games, certain games can provide your child with the opportunity to interact with friends virtually.
Just as physical exercise helps in improving and strengthening muscles, cognitive games can help with cognitive functions. It can help improve coordination, memory, attention, concentration, as well as problem-solving and social skills.
Writing Letters – Despite the prevalence of emails and text messages, everyone has to write letters at some point. Encouraging children to write letters from an early age will improve their communication, social and handwriting skills. It will also teach them how to structure letters. Letters can be valuable keepsakes as well.
Letter-writing does not only help children stay connected, but also reinforces important literacy skills and concepts. Writing letters can also be a lot of fun, especially if you can include different kinds of stationary, writing material, decorative stickers, stamps, and photos. The more creative children can get, the more they will gravitate toward this form of communication.
To introduce my students to the format of letter-writing, I wrote and shared a new poem with them, titledI Wrote a Letter.
The poem highlights the five elements of a friendly letter in a fun and lyrical way. If you are interested in downloading a copy for your personal use at home or in the classroom, please head over to my TPT store HEREto get the complete package. It includes three letter-writing templates (to accommodate different writing stages) and a sample page with headings.
Everyone loves to get mail, especially a nice note addressed just to them. Introducing this form of communication to your child will open up a new world to them, especially in today’s technological age where this is becoming a rarity.
Hello everyone – happy Monday! I wanted to share my latest poem with you.
Yes, I Can! was inspired by a lot of self-defeating comments I’ve come to hear over the last 18 years teaching. Truthfully, if I had a nickel every time I heard a student say I can’t do it, I’d be off on a yacht somewhere right now (nah, maybe not – I get sea sick). Joking aside, the reality is that none of us are perfect. None of us can do everything. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we still don’t master various things – and that’s okay, at least we tried.
It’s when students give up before they even try that it’s NOT OKAY. That’s the point I’ve been trying to make with my students last week. Yes, some things are hard. Some tasks will challenge us. But the attitude we have toward challenges is what determines the outcome. It is this mindset, over time, that will shape and condition our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. Our mindset consists of our thoughts and attitudes toward ourselves and the world around us. These beliefs shape how we perceive and handle everyday situations. Do we look at challenges as opportunities to grow or do we fall prey to self-defeating thoughts?
Yes, I Can! is a poem I wrote that celebrates what children can do, as well as embraces that which they cannot, yet, do. Teaching children to have a “Growth Mindset” is crucial in helping them become better learners. After all, in order to succeed at anything, we must persist and push ourselves forward, despite the challenges. Positive self-talk is what helps children persevere and not give up. Yes, I Can! encourages children to adopt positive self-talk. Instead of focusing on ‘I can’t do it!’, it re-frames their thinking, ‘I can’t do it, yet!’
Along with the poem, I created a follow-up worksheet (rehearsing high-frequency word can) and a mini-book that is co-authored with me (my students were thrilled with the idea). It invites students to fill in a missing high-frequency word, as well as add a skill or task they can complete successfully, as well another skill they aspire to learn, reminding them that their mindset is the only thing in the way.
In all the excitement to teach children that our mindset is not a fixed state, I created a visual anchor for the classroom. Feel free to download a copy for your personal use by clicking on the image below.
To download a copy of the poem, Yes, I Can! along with the follow-up activities, click on the image below.
Whoever said sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me surely didn’t know what they were talking about!
Bones heal, but left unchecked, the pain caused by words can linger for years.
We can all relate, I’m sure!
A word uttered that stayed with us too long. A word spoken we wish we could take back. A word unsaid we yearned had come to life. Whether we heard it, spoke it, or wished it to be said, one thing is for sure – words, or lack thereof, have a profound impact on our well-being and the way we see ourselves in relation to the world.
Words can build and shape our self-esteem or just as easily tear us apart. The world can be seen as a loving place or the world can seem cruel.
What takes only seconds to utter can leave an imprint for a lifetime.
Over the last couple of weeks it became my goal to share this message with my students. We read many books about friendship, kindness and the power of words, beginning with my very own picture book, Words. Since its original publication in 2015, I have had the pleasure of speaking with many parents and educators who used the book to springboard discussions with children around its various themes: belonging, fitting-in, bullying, friendship, making positive choices, character education, growth mindset, building a community, empowering others, etc. This list is not exhaustive -depending on the angle and your students’ age group, Words can be used to build on many important learning skills and themes.
I’m happy to share these ideas with you in my updated Words Companion Kit,
consisting of classroom lessons and activities, as well as teaching resources.
ACTIVITIES TO TEACH THE IMPACT OF WORDS
Think Before You Speak – Prior to the lesson, cut out an outline of a person (gender-neutral). To avoid race-specific figures, you may want to steer clear
of skin colour construction paper.
Begin by introducing students to their new classmate (you may want to use a number as a name in order to avoid associations with students). Ask students to think of mean and hurtful things they may have heard before. You may want to start by giving an example (i.e., “I once heard …”). Then invite students, one at a time, to come up and direct mean statements at Eleven (i.e., “You look funny” or “I don’t like you”).
Each time a student makes a hurtful comment, ask them to rip off a piece of Eleven’s’s body and hang onto it. Continue until Eleven is significantly torn up. Then challenge students to reflect on how Eleven must be feeling based on what transpired. Eleven is obviously really hurt. This is where I like to interject and point out phrases we often use to convey wounded feelings, such as feeling torn up, having a broken heart. The emotional context gives these words powerful meaning.
Next, encourage students to think of ways to make Eleven feel better. Certainly an apology would help. Invite the students who insulted Eleven to come up and apologize, while taping its torn limb back with a band-aid. When all the tears have been bandaged, ask students reflect on how the new student looks (better than before but still damaged, broken, hurt, wounded).
This may be a good time to decipher between physical wounds and emotional ones. Invite students to reflect on the saying, Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. What does it mean? Is it true? Can we change that statement to be reflective of the truth? You may want to collectively write up a revised saying and hang it alongside Eleven. Place Eleven in a visible place around the room as a constant reminder to always think before we speak. As a follow-up, you may want to have students write a reflection about what they learned from this activity.
TAKE-AWAY: Words cannot be unsaid. No matter how much we apologize, their damage cannot be reversed. Though band-aids help with physical ailments, they cannot be placed on a person’s heart. Hurtful words create scars inside us, and if we let them, they can last a lifetime.
Words are like a Tube of Toothpaste – For this lesson, you will need a tube of toothpaste and a plate. Begin by asking students what toothpaste is used for. Brushing our teeth keeping our mouth healthy. Point out to students that toothpaste is very much like words. Invite a volunteer to squirt toothpaste onto a plate. When he or she is done, ask them to put the toothpaste back into the tube. Obviously this will not be possible. The idea is to demonstrate that much like toothpaste, our words work the same way. When we use the right words to empower others, they bring people joy – just as the right amount of toothpaste does to our teeth. However, if we are not careful with the toothpaste, and we squeeze a lot out, we can easily make a big mess. The same is true with our words – if we’re not careful and if we don’t think before we speak, we can hurt others with the things we say.
TAKE-AWAY: Once a word is spoken, it cannot be taken back no matter how much we apologize and try. While we may forget what we’ve said, the person on the receiving end will remember it for years. Invite students to share experiences and examples of this, and perhaps even share your own stories.
Wrinkled Hearts – For this lesson, you will need to prepare a large cut-out of a heart and select a book that is driven by a character’s unfortunate interaction with others (The Rat and the Tiger, Words, Chrysanthemum). Tell students that you will read a story that shows how important it is to treat each another with respect and kindness. Hold up the heart and explain that each of us has a heart, which holds our happiness and our good feelings.
Tell students that we will pretend that this heart is the main character’s heart. As you read the story, invite students to come up and crumple the heart each time the main character experiences something hurtful. By the end of the reading, the heart will be crumbled quite a bit. This is a great way to demonstrate how our hearts feels when we get hurt by mean words and actions. Invite students to come up and say nice things to the main character, trying to smooth out its heart, a little each time. Students will quickly notice that no matter how much they apologize and flatten the heart, it will never be the same again.
TAKE-AWAY: It’s hard to fix a wrinkled heart! Mean words leave sad feelings in our hearts, which last for a long time. Bandage the heart and post it around the room as a reminder to always choose words wisely.
Words in the Classroom – There are many powerful picture books that lend themselves beautifully to teaching children about life’s many important lessons. Words is one of them. It is a simple, yet high concept picture book that strives to empower children to make positive choices in their daily interactions with others. A big part of life is, after all, based on the relationships we have with one another. In writing this book, it became very important for me to empower children, to show them how impactful they can be. With this understanding, I can only hope that they use their power for good, for creating loving relationships, through their words and actions.
Words explores universal themes of discovery, relationships and the need to belong, with an underlying message about bullying. As a lonely letter that sets off on a journey to find meaning, it encounters various letter combinations and soon discovers the power it holds. It is confronted by two distinct paths and must make an important choice. Words is an evocative tale about how letters become words and words create meaning – meaning which could ultimately build or destroy. Get your copy here.
Depending on your students’ age group and the dynamics of your class, Words can be used to teach a wide array of concepts. Below I have outlined various discussion points and lesson ideas to complement the various themes in the story. Feel free to use them as you see fit in your classroom. Please note that these are just some of the ideas included in the kit. For more lesson ideas and free templates, download the complete kit (link of the bottom of the post).
Building Literacy Concepts – letter identification, letter sounds, word formation, word meaning, sorting words.
Making Connections: Relating to the Text – Have you ever felt alone? What did that feel like? What do you compelled Little e to set off on a journey? What was it seeking to find? Have you ever had to make a difficult choice? How did you solve your dilemma?
Words and Emotions – What role do words play in our emotions? When is this a positive experience? When is this a negative experience? Why? How can we use this knowledge to improve communication with others?
Exploring Literary Devices – Look for examples of literary devices in the story (allegory, metaphors, personification, symbolism, foreshadowing, imagery). How do these literary devices shape the story line? How would the story go if Little e was a boy or girl?
Word Web – Choose a concept or idea that you’d like to explore with your students. They can be found in the book. See these 2 pages, for example.
Write the focus word on chart paper and invite students to brainstorm their thoughts, feelings and ideas relating to it. Example:
What does it look like? How does it feel? What is its purpose? What are its ramifications?
This activity may be used again and again with subsequent readings of the story, while focusing on a different aspect each time.
Words Depicted – Words are heard and felt. One of my favourite follow-up activities to the book involves inviting students to depict words in an art form (music, drama, dance, photography, etc). Examples include creating a collage to depict PAIN, acting out a scene relating to GREED, demonstrating SELF-ESTEEM in a visual art piece, making a diorama to show BROKEN, etc. You may want to assign various words to students or let them choose a word independently. Since words can sometimes mean different things based on their context and people’s personal experiences with them, it’s interesting to see how the same word can evoke different emotions and therefore be represented differently.
I should note that it is not my suggestion that certain words are ‘good’ while others are ‘bad’. A word could be neither. The meaning we give a word is often based on our personal experiences; changing from person to person, from situation to situation. Let’s look, for example, at the word bold. On its own, it is neither negative nor positive. However, in various contexts it can be used to implore daring, fearless, impudence; while in other contexts, it can be shaped to mean confident, straightforward, courageous. Again, neither category being straight-out good or bad. Words aims to explore the feelings and ideas that are generated by word concepts and the meaning behind them.
Classroom Book – Invite students to reflect on what it means to love, on a daily basis. How is it shown in our day-to-day interactions with others? Bind these reflective pieces into a class book that the students can enjoy throughout the year. Students love seeing their work in the classroom library.
This word experiment on apples was inspired by Dr. Masaru Emoto’s experiment on water. Dr. Masaru Emoto, was a Japanese scientist who revolutionized the idea that our thoughts and intentions impact the physical realm. For over 20 years, he studied the scientific evidence of how the molecular structure in water transforms when it is exposed to human words, thoughts, sounds and intentions. TAKE-AWAY: Your words have the power to build a person, to empower them, to promote love. Your words also have the power to destroy a person’s spirit, to torment, to spread hate. Words are impactful – choose wisely.
ACTIVITIES THAT ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO BUILD EACH OTHER UP
Character Web – Place all your students’ names in a jar. Invite each student to draw a name and create a Character Web about their selected classmate. Depending on your students’ age, you may want to precede this activity by brainstorming adjectives and have a list of them accessible around the room. Ask students to think of as many uplifting words as they can to describe this person. Read over the webs prior to presentation and hang them around the room for esteem building and to help enforce a positive classroom climate.
Name Poems – As an alternative to the Character Web, the activity above can be modified for use as an acrostic name poem.
Praise Words – Brainstorm a list of Praise Words and hang them around the classroom. Encourage students to refer to the list throughout the day and use them as much as possible when interacting with others. Some example include: “I like the way you…” “Thank you for…” “I appreciate when you…” “You are really good at…”
To download a personal copy of Words Companion Kit,
click on the image below.
Words can heal or hurt. They can encourage creativity or dampen a person’s spirits, they can boost self-esteem or destroy confidence, build understanding and compassion or build barriers and apathy. What comes out of our mouth can do a lot of good but conversely a lot of damage. Let’s teach our students to be compassionate, to be kind, to use our words lovingly, always to build.
I’d love to hear your lesson ideas and inspiring literature around this topic.
Hello everyone! I was delighted to be featured in Story Monsters Literary Magazine this past week.
I’d like to share my interview with you.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Israel and moved to Toronto when I was 11 years old. My family had just emigrated from Russia when I was born. I grew up weaved into a mix of cultures which taught me to have an appreciation for differences. But I can honestly say, having lived in Canada most of my life, I feel very much Canadian at heart.
What were some of your favorite authors and books? I loved (and still enjoy) Shel Silverstein’s color-outside-the-lines style of poems and stories. One of my absolute favourite books by him is The Giving Tree. Also, I’ve always enjoyed fairy tales (but didn’t we all?). Charlotte’s Web, The Babysitter’s Club series and The Outsiders were some of my other favourites when I was growing up.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was 5 years old. At some point that changed to wanting to become an interior designer, a lawyer, and even a psychologist. I finally opted for my first love and chose a career in teaching.
Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer. Some years into my teaching career, I began writing poems and stories for my students. I guess you can say that writing became a calling after I began to see how important storytelling was as an educational tool. But then, I also learned that books added a fun element as well. I’m delighted that I had a built-in audience before I even published my first book!
How did you get started writing? I wrote quite a bit as a teenager (mostly poetry) but found an audience for my writing in the classroom, writing mainly to support areas of study at school. I eventually discovered a terrific outlet to share my work with others—on my blog (wordsonalimb.com) and associated social media. This allowed me to create a digital library of some of my classroom content. In fact, several years ago, I wrote a poem to teach students about the power of words and their impact. It began to receive positive feedback from students, parents, colleagues, and online subscribers. It soon took a life of its own as an animation and eventually as my first a picture book, Words. This was the breakthrough that marked the beginning of my writing journey.
Why do you write books? I love taking an idea and molding it to life with words and images. I also love being able to convey important messages through literature. These notions shine through in my book Freshly Baked Pie. It is a simple story, based on a poem that I wrote, that, through effective illustrations and whimsical writing, both gently teaches a lesson and entertains readers.
What do you like best about writing? I love the creativity and flexibility that writing offers. Anything and everything can exist in our imagination. Real life may have boundaries, but stories, not so much. I revel in seeing a concept, that exists only as a mental sketch, come alive through words and images. I also appreciate the way an author can arrange letters, words, and sentences into a composition that evokes strong emotions—joy, sadness, surprise, wonder or inspiration. I also feel that picture books give me the freedom to take a lyrical form of writing, like poetry, and transform it into a story that can be enjoyed at bedtime. There is something unique about being able to create art from a simple idea.
What do you find the most challenging about writing? Writing requires commitment, dedication, and most of all, discipline in order to take it beyond a hobby. So I have learned to carve out time from my busy schedule to meet self-imposed deadlines. Sometimes I find that ideas flow through my head faster than I have time to devote to them, and that can be quite frustrating.
What do you think makes a good story? I think a good story has a redeemable value, something the reader can take away, all the while being entertained. Also, a good story has an element that the reader can relate to, whether it be a character or an event. That connection between literature and real life experiences make the story more meaningful to the reader.
Where do you get your inspiration? My inspiration comes from working with kids,
my students, and my children. Sometimes an idea strikes amid a busy, noisy day. Other times a vision sneaks up in quiet moments of contemplation. My book, Lucky Me, stemmed from a theme we discussed in school. It was around the time of Thanksgiving and we had a great conversation about gratitude and things we felt blessed to have in our lives. This inspired me to write a poem for my class, and eventually I wanted to share this message of gratitude with a wider audience. Regardless of where in the world we each came from, and what stories we each had to tell, we had one thing in common—a sense of gratitude. This element inspired me to incorporate thank you in many languages. Several arduous months later, we published a truly global and memorable, sweet picture book. It was a hop, skip, and a jump from conversation to message-filled pages.
Tell us about your latest book/project. My most recent title, The Three Witty Goats Gruff is a modern adaptation of the fairy tale, Three Billy Goats Gruff. Once again, the idea came from a simple math lesson about measurement and patterning. My students loved learning math through this story of the three goats! The math unit became my best-selling teacher resource package on a website I love to contribute to, called Teachers Pay Teachers. Once again, I felt compelled to transform this simple lesson into a book that can both teach and entertain kids all over the world. In my remake of the story, I proposed an alternative way for the goats to solve their dilemma—rather than using force to subdue their bully, they use their wit to outmaneuver the greedy old troll. As well, I incorporated a female goat as the heroine of the story as girls are seldom depicted as the hero, and I felt it was time to turn the tables! The book also contains plenty of fun learning opportunities for young children. I am so pleased to have completed and published this title.
What’s next for you? I am currently working on a compilation book that features many of my poems and short stories that I composed throughout my writing and teaching career. Obviously not all of them can make it into a full picture book! But I wanted to share them in the shorter format just the same. I feel this book will be a landmark piece on a personal and professional level. Sometimes writers can feel vulnerable when they compile an anthology of personal thoughts in words. For me, it is especially the case since I will be sharing work that spans from my early years as a writer to some of my latest poems and short stories. We are currently deciding on the illustrations and book design, but it won’t be long! I am also working on converting my published books into a digital format so parents all over can swipe through my stories on their tablets before bedtime.
Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like people to know about you and/or your books? I want your readers to know that, like many authors, my books are very personal to me, creations that I have nursed from their infancy until they are shared with the world. Readers will find that they can enjoy my stories on many levels: as literal stories, symbolic allegories, educational tools, and of course, bedtime treats.
Many of us now find ourselves singing, whistling, humming along to our favourite holiday tune as we walk around town, excited about the season, the gift-buying, the work parties, often having too many sweets and being covered by the sparkles from all the holiday greeting cards. At home, decorations are up, and plans have been made with family and friends. Kids are ecstatic, the promise of treats, toys, games dancing in their heads.
There is something intoxicating about the holiday season – nothing in the year matches it. No matter your faith, you can find something to celebrate – oftentimes drinking in the joy like a rich, creamy eggnog. But, in the midst of the holiday crowd you can also find pain for many. This time of year can also be a reminder of broken relationships, hard times, less than successful attempts to live the dream of a better life and maybe the empty chairs of loved ones that may have left us too soon.
I recently came across this ad, which struck a cord…
So how do we create a balance, an equilibrium between the joy in our own lives and the lack thereof in the lives of others? It seems the answer is found in our own communities. Why not find a moment to assist those who cannot respectively share in the holiday cheer. Maybe as we scurry through the grocery aisles picking up all the last trimmings for the our special dinners, grab an extra couple of items for the food banks that, during this time, are often under strain serving our needful communities. After all, what is the holiday season without giving and sharing? It only takes a moment, but it can make a great difference in someone else’s life.
Many years ago a beautiful song came out called, “Do they know it’s Christmas”. It often plays in holiday concerts and festivities around this time of year. There is one particular line that stands out for me, “Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” It is a reminder that there is a world outside our window, and it’s not always joyous. It made me think of something we often overlook, especially as we get all caught up in holiday preparations, and that is acknowledging and being grateful for what we have, however big or small. After all, there is always something to be thankful for.
So amidst all the celebration, the family, the music, the presents, the cheer, let’s take a moment and count our blessings, find something to celebrate – whatever it is that completes our little corner of the world.
I am most honoured and excited to introduce my latest picture-book, Lucky Me, which centres around this concept of gratitude, shedding light on all the small miracles that we sometimes forget to be thankful for. I’d love to recommend it to you.
Lucky Me celebrates the concepts of thankfulness as it explores the world with a series of evocative, one line descriptions of situations wherein a child (or adult), might be inclined to thank one’s lucky star. The extraordinary book shares 36 of these celebrations, each exquisitely illustrated by Jan Dolby.
Whatever is beautiful, whatever is meaningful, whatever brings you happiness, may it be yours this holiday season. May your days sparkle with moments of love, laughter, and goodwill, and may the year ahead be full of contentment and joy.
Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Holiday season and a blessed New Year!
Recently I was contacted by Jackie who shared with us that her husband’s mom had passed away, and as they went through the probate process, she began to feel like her husband and she hadn’t done enough to plan for the future.
She further shared, “Sure, we have a retirement plan and a will. But I worried that we hadn’t done enough to ensure our child on the autism spectrum would have a caregiver into adulthood. I realized I wasn’t clear on whether our home could be passed on to our children if something were to happen to us. And these concerns spun into others.”
So, she did tons of research, and with every new thing she learned, she began to feel better. Here is the piece she wrote for us to help bring more awareness to proper financial planning. Thank you Jackie for your insight.
It’s a tough subject to tackle, but I hope hearing about it from someone who until just recently felt equally overwhelmed will be helpful to those who just don’t know quite where to start.
“Financial planning” sounds a lot scarier and more complicated than it actually is—and in fact, putting it off could ultimately land you in an even more frightening and complicated situation. The sooner you get organized and prepared for the future, the better. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Establish Your Goals
It’s true that you can’t predict everything the future will bring, but you can start planning for the things you hope will happen. Sit down (with your spouse, if you have one) and lay out your goals and a tentative life plan. Perhaps you’re hoping to move up in your company within the next five years, or you hope to move to a new city as soon as it’s feasible. If you have children, consider how much you’ll need to put aside for their college education. For children with special needs, account for any home modifications they’ll need: both in the near-future and far. You should also include vacations you want to take or family events you’ll need to travel for like weddings and reunions.
Account for the Unexpected
Cars break down. Natural disasters strike. Illness and disease occur without warning. The fact is, there are a lot of variables in life, and it’s important to consider odds you might be up against. If you have an older home, it may need updates to ensure it’s a place where you can age in place safely and comfortably. Or if Alzheimer’s runs in your partner’s family, you’ll want to be sure you have funds set aside to cover the care they may need in the future. Even if your worries turn out to be wrong, it’s better to account for them in case they’re right.
Think about your own circumstances, as well. What would happen to your family if you passed away suddenly? Would they have a financial cushion? What would happen to your property? In addition to a will, some states offer a special kind of deed that automatically transfers control of your property upon your death. If you’re a single parent, this can be especially important because it can allow you to ensure your child will have a home should anything happen to you. Be sure to go through all your options of what’s available and legally sound in your area, and choose what’s best for your family’s needs.
Set and Stick to a Budget
You might be a pro at handling money without a set financial plan, but a budget allows you to actually look at how much you’re spending on what and where you should shift priorities. For instance, if your family eats out twice a week, sitting down and evaluating that total monthly cost is nearly identical to what you should be putting into your retirement fund. Once you’ve established how your money should be handled, make the commitment to stick to your budget each and every month. Don’t let yourself skip putting money in savings because of an unanticipated large purchase—perhaps you had to replace your vacuum this month, for example—and instead always make your contributions for the future a priority. Only pull from savings for emergencies and designated goals.
Check In and Reevaluate Your Budget Often
Though it’s important to stick to your budget as much as possible, that isn’t to say that you should never change it. Your needs and situation will change multiple times throughout your life, as well as your goals and needs for the future. Evaluate your budget quarterly, if not monthly, and assess how you’re doing on making progress toward your goals. If you get a promotion and begin making a higher salary, plan carefully for how you’ll spend your extra money each month. Perhaps you’re no longer interested in relocating your family, or you’re looking to enroll your child in a more academically-challenging private school. Talk to your partner about any changes you think should be made in your budget, and make sure the decision is one you are both comfortable with.
Don’t put off planning for the future. Keep these tips in mind for your financial planning and never forget: it’s better to be safe than sorry!
It takes courage to speak openly about our personal struggles, to invite the world into our private space. But sometimes, those brave words are just what another silent warrior might need; to feel that they are not alone, their experiences are not crazy, they are not just imagining things. They too, matter.
Thank you Julie, for your candidness and willingness to share your story. I hope your New Normal will empower another woman struggling with Endometriosis, to redefine Hers. You are one strong, beautiful, remarkable woman!
MY NEW NORMAL: LIVING WITH ENDOMETRIOSIS
by Julie Anna
You know the feeling of being diagnosed with a disease that 1 in 10 women worldwide has but never having heard of it in your life?
If not, I can tell you that it sucks.
As someone who is heavily vocal on female issues, here I was listening to a doctor tell me that I have endometriosis. Endo what? Slowly, I learned I was not alone. For a disease that plagues so many women, it is astonishing how little awareness there is. The short definition of this disease is that it is a disorder in which tissue that forms the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, which develops into lesions. For women with endometriosis, the blood and tissue shed during menstruation has no way of leaving the body, resulting in internal bleeding and inflammation which can cause a series of problems to follow.
For years I thought the pain was normal. Ridiculous when you think about it. Pain? Normal? I thought every girl was like me suffering through brutally heavy and long periods, constant nausea and fatigue, back pain, drinking a drop of water and instantly needing to pee, bowel pain, and the list goes on. Since my early teens, I was told that that’s “life for a girl” and it is nothing out of the ordinary. It was taboo to speak about it. Culturally, a girl’s reproductive health is uncomfortable for people to speak about – a reminder of how we haven’t evolved as much as we think we have. Doctors, the ones who I entrusted and believed in, never took me seriously. “See how it is in the next few months and if it persists come back”, I would be told. I’d come back. Once again, the pain was “normal” and to them, I was over exaggerating. Perhaps I was a hypochondriac. My pain tolerance may be too low, I was told. I had a few small cysts sure, but that was normal. They would go away. We would keep an eye on it but it was “normal”.
That was a word I kept hearing and because of it, stopped caring for years. In the summer of 2016, I began caring once again. At first, I blamed myself for getting to the state I was in that summer (if you’re new to the party, I wrote about it here). I told myself it was my fault I stopped going to the doctor. My fault I stopped following up. My fault I started ignoring pain and going on with my day. My fault for neglecting my health.
But it was not my fault. I was told I was “normal” and so I continued. Normally.
Needless to say, last summer I learned I had endometriosis (and a cyst approximately 10 cm in size chilling in my right ovary and another burst, no biggie) after my first laparoscopic surgery to remove my appendix, which didn’t even need to be removed but after all my other misdiagnoses through the years why not throw appendicitis in there. Ultimately, this was a blessing in disguise because that is when I learned after all those years my pain was in fact not normal. I was suffering in unbearable silence up until that very moment, feeling weak, confused, and helpless. I was suffering thinking that I was small and weak because I couldn’t handle being a woman. I was suffering. Silently. Because pain is not normal. And I was told it was.
You know what the thing is with the pain? You don’t get used to it. I hoped after all the years I would. I’d get used to the pain. At my lowest, I hoped that maybe it would get so bad it would just go numb and I wouldn’t feel it anymore. That is when you know you hit your limit. When you just want to feel numb.
My diagnoses helped ease things. Not that it made the pain better. However, it was as if the puzzle started coming together. Every piece of research I found clicked more pieces together. I found the right doctors and started taking my health in better control. I stopped feeling weak and helpless and upset with myself. Instead, I started to feel strength. Understanding. Pride.
I was a freakin’ warrior.
I battled through the pain, the fatigue, the bladder and bowel discomfort, the mood swings. Oh, the pain. The crouching on the bathroom floor in tears until the pain went away so I could get out and continue on with the day so no one would know – not my friends, family, peers or colleagues. For years. That was “normal” and so I told no one, did nothing. Battled silently and got through every cycle. I felt like I was lazy because no matter how much I slept I was tired. I was always exhausted and justified that with my anemia. I took painkillers like candy and people that noticed it started judging me. Stop taking pills so much, they would say, it’s bad for you. You should only take it when you really need it, they would say. Little did they know I always needed it and in contrast to the pain, barely used it. The teachers that wouldn’t take it seriously when you would feel ill because of your period. The judgment of being too tired to go out, of canceling plans last minute or being late constantly, the persistent need to find a restroom, the random mood swings – sometimes that was worse than the physical pain. I battled.
I’m not alone.
1 in 10 women. 1 in 10 that have no cure. That’s right – no cure. Let that sink in. If you’re thinking to yourself, “how could that be, I’ve never even heard of this disease”, you aren’t alone either. There’s such a lack of press and awareness on the disease and one comes to think why? Is it because of the societal taboo that comes with talking about these issues?
I remember first-hand coming back to my daily routines post-surgery last summer. My first surgery performed in August was easy to talk about. When people asked, I said I had my appendix removed, avoiding the topic of everything they found when they went in. My second surgery performed in September – not so much. Telling people I operated on my reproductive organs was different. Telling them it took an extra few weeks of sick leave because of postoperative pelvic complications made them squeamish. The words uterus and ovaries were uncomfortable. Not for me. For them. And they made it seem like their uneasiness speaking about the topic should shame me.
No. This was my battle. I am strong. I’m a fighter. I have nothing to be ashamed of.
But for many women with endo, it seems like we should be. Most men don’t get it – anything to do with lady bits made them feel awkward and some are downright cruel, acting as if this is just another thing women are whining about to play the ‘victim’. Seriously?! Other women, surprisingly, don’t always sympathize either. In their minds, they have periods too. They know what cramps are like so they sometimes struggle to imagine the higher intensity of endo pain. Then there are the people that would look at you and say things like, you’re too young to feel this way. That is probably my favorite. I’d look at them frustrated, shrug and think, thanks for your input I’ll let my chronic illness know that I’m too young for it to do this to me.
It was difficult. As soon as I was diagnosed the first word to pop up during my google search of endometriosis was “infertility”. I wept. Suddenly, at 22 years old, something I joked about never wanting I was suddenly being told could be snatched away from me. I was heartbroken and I didn’t want to admit it. Many women with endometriosis are able to have a natural pregnancy but that doesn’t take away the potential implications.
I used to be fine with needles and giggled when people said they were afraid of them. Now? The sight of a needle makes me tense, and I look away with tears in my eyes at yet another vein being poked into. I was told I have a higher risk of ovarian cancer. I was presented with different methods of treatment, none of which cured the disease. Temporary fixes from the birth control pill to an IUD to Lupron. Injections that induce menopause. At 22.
Every day I learned more. Every day I reached out to different women in different forums. Found books and videos and articles (side note: I have provided a list of some of the resources that helped me at the end of this post). That’s when you know you have a community of women with a chronic disease: you form some kind of online family. I knew this disease was now for me to take care of. It has no cure. It goes misdiagnosed. In fact, through other rough experiences of other tough ladies, I learned that often this disease is diagnosed by ‘accident’. In my case, supposed appendicitis. The research, the knowledge, the awareness – that is what would empower me. I fought my shame of speaking about such a taboo issue and decided I had to talk about it. I didn’t start talking freely about my endometriosis for pity, attention, or sympathy. I don’t want any of it. I felt a duty to speak about it for the girls that don’t feel comfortable. The girls that struggle silently even after diagnoses from shame. To inform, explain, educate, and spread awareness. To benefit research to one day find a cure. I now know what to go to doctors with. I now know what normal meant. The normal doctors and others told me I was going through. It wasn’t “normal” in the sense we are used to.
It was a different normal. I get abdominal pain that can flare up at any time. It’s exhausting. It’s the feeling of thorns growing in my pelvis, multiplying every month, wrapping around like vines. It affects me financially, mentally, and physically. It affects my dreams, my desire to go back to school, my career aspirations. It affects my relationships and friendships. My family who watches me struggle. My work life. My quality of life. It’s poison affecting my organs, taking me prisoner at times and all I can do is fight. Fight like a girl. Because ladies, we are badass. We are strong. Tough.
It was my different normal. All cases of endo are different – I have spoken to women who have it but don’t feel it as drastically and others who had to quit their jobs and completely shut out from the world because of it. The stages (there are four) do not determine the pain. Most women, like myself, refuse to let this control our lives. We refuse to let it win. So we go on every day, doing everything in our power to attempt a sense of normalcy. People we interact with daily have no clue. They don’t see how distorted we look inside. How angry we are that our own body is betraying us. We put on a brave face and live as normally as possible. It’s a devastating disease, an invisible one, that requires respect, understanding, patience, and support. When you tell people about your chronic illness, and they tell you that they looked it up online, you feel incredibly touched that another person cared enough to do so. You feel happy that at least one person learned about it – awareness is being spread.
It is my new normal.
A normal with endometriosis. A normal with more bad days than good. A normal where I do things at pain levels others refuse to leave the bed at because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have a life. A normal where I’ll get up and crack jokes, laugh, dance, and stuff my face. Where I’ll live my life. And it doesn’t always mean I’m having a good day. Rather it means that I was able to be stronger than the pain at that moment. Freakin’ warrior. Because this is not the flu. I won’t wake up one day and it’ll be better. But I’ll laugh it out. I’ll spread awareness and march for a cure. I’ll connect with my endo sisters. I’ll form relationships with people that are important enough that they will support me. I will live my normal.
A normal in which endometriosis does not defeat me.
“Endo What”: This film is one of the best resources I came across. My local library had it, to my surprise. I watched it with my boyfriend and again with my mother. It’s an incredible film and I would suggest it to everyone to watch.
Etsy: Not a resource, but they have amazing endo keychains such as this one which is a nice reminder to yourself that you are in fact a warrior and a fighter. Just bought mine today. You got this.
Passionate. Creative thinker. Dynamic storyteller. Avid reader. World changer. Coffee addict. Julie lives in Toronto, Canada, and is the mastermind behind Beyond Bossy, a multi-niche lifestyle blog that discusses everything from life and relationships to finances and wellness.
Anyone who has ever spent a day in mommy-mode, knows just what a demanding role it can be. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, washing, after-school activities, laundry, homework, you name it, the list is endless. But for many of us, our day’s work doesn’t begin and end there. Add a full-time career into the mix, and you’ve barely got time for yourself.
Here to give us some tips on keeping it all together is Jennifer Raskin. Jennifer is an internationally-published writer and blogger. She and her husband have two darling daughters. When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys reading, wine tasting, dining, shopping, and weightlifting at the gym.
Feel free to share your thoughts, or a tip or two, on what best works for you, in the comment section below. Have a fabulous week workingmoms (and dads)!
Six Tips to Balance Work and Home without Completely Losing Your Mind
Working moms are the hardest working people on the planet. Not only must we go into our jobs and give it our all, but when we get home we’re clocking into our other job as Mom. It’s exhausting but rewarding, however no matter how rewarding, it can be draining. If you feel like you’re being ripped apart at the seams, here are some tips to help you bring a little more balance into your life so you can do your best in every role you play.
1. Get organized and prioritized
In both work and at home, make sure you’re organizing everything that needs to be done and prioritizing those things. Does it need to be done immediately? If so, put it on your daily list and handle it like a boss. If not, add to your weekly list so you can handle it when the more important things are finished. By managing your time effectively, you’ll find you have more time to do what you want and less stress.
2. Leave office work at the office
Don’t take work home with you. Leave the drama at your desk and start fresh each day. You owe it to yourself as well as the people you love at home to focus on them instead.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff
So the kids made a mess in the living room. Just chill. It’s not the end of the world. Enlist their help in picking up. If they resist, maybe it’s time to offer an allowance for doing chores.
4. Delegate whenever possible
You might be Super Mom, but no one likes a martyr. Both at work and at home, make sure you’re delegating tasks that someone else can handle, leaving you to take care of the bigger things that only you can do.
5. Take some shortcuts
No one says you need to come home from a busy day at the office to make a 5-course dinner. Make it a taco night, or better yet, use your slow cooker to have dinner waiting when you get home. It will give you extra time to relax.
6. Make time for yourself
It sounds selfish, doesn’t it? But it’s not. Not at all. You need time to yourself to refresh and recharge so you can be your very best. Running yourself ragged and overlooking your own needs is not good. Whether it’s curling up with a book, taking a nap, soaking in the tub, going for a run, or gabbing with a friend, make that time to unwind each and every day, even if it’s only 10 to 20 minutes. You’ll feel so much better!
If you’ve been feeling like a circus clown trying to juggle everything in your life, take these tips and incorporate them so you feel more fulfilled. Everyone will thank you, especially yourself!