KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Thursday, December 20, 2007

'Never Mind!' Yeah, Right

Never mind! We didn't really mean to perpetuate the stigma surrounding children's mental health and neurologic disorders.

That's in effect what the New York University Child Study Center is now saying about its controversial ad campaign about such disorders, which it has canceled. Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, the center's founder and director, is quoted in today's New York Times as saying that though some parents of children with the targeted disorders (autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [AD/HD], Asperger syndrome, bulimia, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder) liked the ads, the center "heard from some parents who are working day and night to help their children, and the way they read the ransom messages was that they weren’t doing enough."

You betcha that's the way we read those ads, doc! You conveniently forgot to say anything about how those ads perpetuated stigma and made parents—and the children who might have seen the ads—feel hopeless. I guess you thought that that part wasn't worth mentioning.

But your center will be planning another awareness-raising campaign, and I'm afraid I don't have much faith that the new ads will be much better. I get the strong impression from today's Times story and from last week's story that you enjoy publicity, even if it's negative, and that your attitude toward children's mental and behavioral disorders is stuck in the dark ages.

Hey, doc ... this mother of a teenager with AD/HD and depression, wife of a man with AD/HD, and daughter-in-law of a man with AD/HD will be watching you. Make sure that you get it right this time.

Updated at 1:39 p.m.: Here is the study center's statement about the discontinued ad campaign.

Updated at 9:10 p.m.: New York Times columnist Judith Warner, whose opinions as expressed in her "Domestic Disturbances" column I often agree with, pinpoints why so many parents of children with mental health and neurologic disorders were so outraged by the ad campaign. Here is my comment on that column.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Going Too Far to Make a Point About Disabilities

What the hell were they thinking? Do the people who created these ads, and the people who approved them, have any children with disabilities?

NYU Child Study Center ad about ADHDMy gifted 13-year-old son with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) and depression is not a "detriment to himself and those around him"! And my beloved husband, who also has AD/HD, is a shining example of just what a benefit to society someone with AD/HD can be.

Yes, the New York University Child Study Center ad campaign is meant to grab viewers' attention and make them realize that psychiatric and neurobehavioral disorders in children are serious and require treatment; they're fake ransom notes to parents that are "written" by the disorders who are holding children "hostage."

The ads are attention-getting. But will they also achieve the study center's goal of "generat[ing] a national dialogue that will end the stigma surrounding childhood psychiatric disorders"? No; they will perpetuate that stigma. Take a look at the ads for autism, Asperger syndrome, bulimia, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. And are AD/HD, autism, and Asperger syndrome psychiatric disorders? No; they're neurobehavioral disorders.

But what's really important is how the hell children who have any of these disorders will feel if they see the ads. Will adolescents—whose emotions are already strong because of hormonal changes and because they're busy trying to fit in—who have one of these disorders think that their life prospects are so bleak that they should just stop the pain now and kill themselves?

You can implore the study center to stop its misbegotten ad campaign by signing this petition.

If this is the best our society can do to "help" children with disorders and disabilities, we've got a long, long way to go.

Hat tip to Redneck Mother


Monday, December 10, 2007

Why Bias-Free Language Is Vital

I'm madly, crazily busy with work, but I wanted to send you to this terrific post on why bias-free language, now often pejoratively called politically correct language, is an absolute necessity in both writing and speaking.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Turning Down Low-Paying Work

Whenever freelancers get together, they often talk about whether they should accept low-paying projects.

Some of us with many years of experience advise not accepting such projects, even if you don't have a project at the moment, unless the financial wolf is at your door or it's for a cause you support. The main reasons behind this advice are (1) that the time you spend doing this work is time you could be spending searching for better-paying work and (2) accepting low pay can get you pigeonholed as someone who'll always accept low pay.

Here's a real-life example: My husband, Ed, has just started his own cabinetmaking company; he's a subcontractor. A former fellow subcontractor who is now a contractor and is a friend of Ed's called today with an offer of work. One of the subcontractors this man is working with needs an additional cabinetmaker for an installation in a home. It would be a day's work, and the subcontractor told Ed's friend that he'd pay $X for the day.

Ed, who has learned that he doesn't think fast on his feet in situations like that, thanked his friend and said he'd call him right back about the offer. Ed did the math and realized that the offered pay is quite a bit lower than what he needs to earn per hour to make a profit. We discussed the situation. He does have some project bids out right now, and he's very likely to be awarded at least a couple of the projects. But at this very moment, he doesn't have work. The wolf is not now at our door, so he doesn't have to take the gig. He would like to work with this contractor, though, so we discussed what amount of money he'd be willing to take for the day. He lowered it just a bit from what he wants to earn. He called the contractor back and said he'd be happy to do the work, but at a higher amount than the subcontractor had offered; he didn't say what his hourly rate is because that's proprietary information and because he always adds in a fudge factor to cover project glitches.

The contractor said that he was sorry, but the original amount was all that the subcontractor was willing to pay. Then he added that he was happy to know what rates Ed was willing to work for and that he'll keep Ed in mind for other projects. He didn't reject the idea of working with Ed just because Ed wants decent pay. Ed's okay with earning a little less from that contractor than from others because the contractor is much closer to home than most of his clients are, and he knows that most of that contractor's clients are middle-class home owners who won't pay for the high-end work that he does for the rest of his clients. Gigs from that contractor will be good fill-ins between projects from larger and better-paying contractors.

I'm proud of him for (1) taking the time to think the situation through rather than panicking and grabbing at whatever he could get and (2) sticking to what he thinks his skills are worth. Here's to all freelancers who do the same!

Updated at 5:10 p.m.: It's come to my attention that some freelancers don't understand how anyone can negotiate with a potential client without revealing their hourly rate. It's simple: You don't have to charge an hourly rate. You can charge a project fee or a per-page fee that works out to be what you want to earn per hour. Lots of freelancers operate this way; most cabinetmakers do too.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Love Note

The love of my lifeIf you can't stand mush, this post isn't for you. Everyone else, read on.

I am madly in love with my husband, Ed.

We've been together 15 years, 14 of them married, and I'll never get tired of him. He's good-looking, sweet and gentle, funny, silly, cheerful, dedicated, talented, enthusiastic, and a terrific father to our children. He's my best friend, and it's wonderful having him around more, now that he's self-employed.

It's gray and windy outside, but I could not possibly feel happier or more loved than I do right now.

Monday, December 03, 2007

In a Spruce, Darkly

Our blue spruce in 2006, alight for the holidaysIt's just after midnight. Do you know where your life partner is? Mine's up a tree ... the 45-foot-tall blue spruce in our front yard. It's way taller than our house. What's he doing? Obsessively finishing what he started yesterday, same as he can be found doing in early December every year.

Me? I'm going to go to bed and try to avoid having nightmares of him falling out of the spruce. I expect that I'll still be worrying about him in that tree for 20 more years. He's 46 now and still climbing like a monkey. My hair's already mostly gray and can't get too much grayer. Maybe the worrying will make it fall out completely. If you should ever encounter a bald woman with a balding, bearded monkey of a mate, that'll be us.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Dangerous New Lung Disease

As a medical copyeditor, I feel that it is my duty to pass along this link to information about a serious new lung disease to which I hope none of you fall victim. Please be sure to follow the Update link at the end on that page.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A New Mentee

I am so, so pleased with my latest mentee: my cabinetmaker husband, Ed. Newly self-employed, he's diving right into doing all of the things I advise my other mentees, who are all freelance editorial professionals, to do:
  1. He got his business cards and letterhead professionally designed and printed.

  2. He's continuing his research into who, beyond his former employer and a couple of other ready-and-waiting-for-him clients, he wants to become his clients.

  3. He spent a large part of yesterday and today cold-calling potential clients from his list. He introduces himself, states any connection, however tenuous, that he and the prospects have, and lets them know that he'll be sending out a letter of introduction to them because he wants to find out how to best meet their subcontracting needs. Now, he's gregarious, so he enjoys talking with people, but just like many freelance editorial professionals, he doesn't enjoy cold-calling. So he asked me to help him come up with a script, and he modified it as needed for each contact. Cold-calling still isn't his favorite thing, but he's developed a rhythm and is relaxed while on the phone.

  4. He mailed a small batch of those letters today, with several business cards attached (for recipients who want to pass along the cards to staff members or colleagues). He'll be mailing small batches for a few days.

  5. He has plans for a brochure that he'll use in future mailings. Guess who gets to write the copy. ;-)

  6. He has calendar entries set up to remind him to recontact in a few weeks the people to whom he's sent mailings.

  7. His web site is under construction.

  8. He carries plenty of business cards with him wherever he goes, and there are extra stashes in our car and our minivan.

Not many cabinetmakers, especially solo practitioners, do marketing, so they end up with long spells without work. Because of that, Ed's name should stick in his potential clients' minds, which will help him keep the income coming in. And one of today's cold calls resulted in his getting a request to bid on a kitchen job. Yessss!

Moral of the story: If my guy, who's not used to this "marketing stuff," can make it work, so can freelance editorial professionals.

mentors publishing

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Putting the (Bus) Wheels in Motion

I've managed to prod my school district's board of education into action on the bus-bully issue! Go ahead, faint. I'll wait till you come to again.

[Hums while she waits patiently ...]

I've been trying to get the Three Village Central School District to do something district-wide to ensure that children aren't bullied on school buses. Right now, each school principal or assistant principal handles each reported incident after it happens; there's no systemwide action taken. Two weeks ago, I attended a school board meeting and asked the board to consider either hiring aides to ride herd on the kids or installing video cameras so that the kids would know that their misbehavior was being recorded.

I went back to the board last night and asked what the board was going to do. The superintendent of schools began dissembling, saying that the school district takes the issue seriously but that the board didn't "have the sense that there's a problem [with bullying on the buses]."

And I said, "So the board isn't going to do anything?"

The board president said that the board could request a proposal from the bus company for installing cameras, so that the board could see what the cost would be. A trustee said that such cameras cost $2,000 apiece; other trustees said that that was expensive. The vice president said that the district wouldn't have to buy a camera for each bus but could just install the camera shells on every bus, buy a few cameras, and rotate them among all of the buses so that kids would never know when cameras were actually recording.

Another trustee said that she'd like the proposal to include the cost of having DriveCams installed on the buses too. One male trustee said, "Oh, well, you could go hog wild on some of this stuff!" I loved it when the trustee who wants DriveCams stopped him in his sarcastic tracks by saying, "Not really. DriveCams are pretty much standard equipment these days." She said that with DriveCams, you can see who's at fault in accidents and see when the bus drivers are driving safely.

The president then directed a trustee to contact the bus company and see what capability it already has for cameras on its buses. The president said that he believed that the company operates several bus yards and may already have some capability in some bus yards other than the local one.

The proposal from the bus company will be due when the board is working on the 2008–2009 budget; that starts in January, with the budget vote scheduled in May. I won't show up at every board meeting from now on, but I will monitor upcoming meeting agendas on the board's meeting web site and will attend any meeting when the cost of bus cameras will be discussed.

Now, the board could very well decide not to include cameras in the final budget if it thinks that they're too expensive and that taxpayers won't pass the budget with the camera costs in it. And no board member even said a thing about the possibility of hiring aides to ride the buses. But I didn't even think that the board was going to issue a request for a proposal; I thought I'd just be blown off. Last night was at least a start in the right direction.

Moral of this story: Get out there and speak up for what's right. One person can have an effect!

Updated at 6:07 p.m.: Our first-grader was reprimanded by the bus driver this afternoon for pounding on the back of the bus seat in front of him. Jared told my husband and me that he hit the seat out of frustration because a child who was in that seat didn't stop hitting the seat himself when Jared asked him to. We told Jared that just as we expect the other kids on the bus to behave, we expect him to do so too and that the bus driver was correct in reprimanding him. I think Jared was mostly embarrassed about being called out by the bus driver, but he was none too pleased with his parents either. We're so mean. ;-)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What I Give Thanks For, 2007 Edition

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for many people and things. Here are just a few, in stream-of-consciousness order:
  • My granddaughter, Anastasia (aka Ana). She's usually cheerful, she loves to play with and be held by her grandparents, and she's gorgeous. Also, she goes home after a visit—at 48, I'm so done with parenting babies. ;-)

  • That the catastrophe that is Dubya will eventually be gone from office.

  • My husband, Ed, who is gentle and sweet and patient (with me and with our children but not with completing tasks that he thinks should go quickly), makes me laugh, is my best friend, and always cheers me on.

  • Rebecca, my daughter, and Li, my son-in-law. They are both gentle and loving and are great parents to Ana. Rebecca's laid-back. I admire laid-back people, mostly because I've always wanted to be like them. ;-)

  • My son Jared, who is learning to read, looks just like his mom, and has his mom's facility with words. (Note to self: Scan and upload his first-grade photo already! You still have his kindergarten shot up!)

  • My son Neil, who is maturing into a more self-confident young teenager, looks just like his dad, and is learning lots of cool do-it-yourself skills from his dad. He wired some of the new huge fluorescent lights in Ed's wood shop yesterday! I don't think that too many eighth-graders have that skill. (Note to self: Again with an old photo! C'mon, poky!)

  • All of the people who have helped or are helping Ed set up his new business, Master Cabinetworks, Inc., including our longtime accountant, Martin Wertheim; our attorney, Elena Villafane; graphic artist Lisa Grabowski, who designed MCI's logo (and the Copyediting-L logos, at my request, and is our very good friend); Glenn Court, my friend and colleague who is a whiz not only at copyediting but also at web-site design and who will be building Ed's business web site (what you see there is just a placeholder page that I made); my freelance colleagues, whom I know from subscribing to editing-related e-mail lists and who are business owners themselves and so have plenty of great business tips; and Ed's cabinetmaker colleagues, who have generously given him tips on being a subcontractor and several of whom are giving his contact info to contractors they work with. Thanks to all of them, Ed's business is getting off to a great start, and he's so much happier being self-employed than he was as an employee.

  • The health-care providers and bloggers who inspired me to lose weight and who cheer me on as I continue to lose pounds.

  • My sons' stupendously talented and caring teachers: Terry Kalb and Maryetta Durden (Neil's) and Michael Dragotta (Jared's). The boys are so lucky to have them.

  • Clients, old and new, both for the income they bring me and for the intellectual stimulation that editing their writing brings me. Because of them, I get paid to read—in my home, wearing T-shirts and pants and clogs, away from meetings and office politics. What more could a person want from life? ;-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Pre-Thanksgiving Note of Gratitude

My cabinetmaker husband Ed, newly self-employed, has been taking a huge load off my shoulders, and I'm grateful.

He very much enjoys being the one who, most of the time now, walks our 6-year-old son to the school bus stop in the mornings and who meets him at the bus stop in the afternoons. Ed and I now do the get-ready-for-school routine together each weekday with our 6-year-old and and his 13-year-old brother. I had to do it alone all the time when Ed was an employee, because being self-employed, I was always available. And most times now, he is responsible for supervising our 6-year-old during homework time. I'd been the homework supervisor for years, starting when our now-13-year-old was in kindergarten.

It's so great to have much more of the nitty-gritty of the parenting workload shared these days, though Ed has always been a much more involved father than many fathers I see in our community. And guess who the boys most often choose to go to with homework questions these days: Ed. I feel a tiny twinge of jealousy because they say he's more relaxed about homework than I am. But that doesn't mean that I want all of the responsibility for homework supervision back. ;-)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Reactions to Our Quest to Stop School Bus Bullying

In the previous episode, I asked my school district's board members to place aides or video cameras on district buses to stop bullying, and Newsday, Long Island's giant newspaper, wrote a story about it that appeared online on Wednesday and in print yesterday.

My first-grader, who'd been picked on by two different children, tells me that at the end of the school day yesterday, his school's assistant principal, the school administrator stuck—er ... um ... tasked—with dealing with bus problems, boarded his bus before it left the school. My first-grader, who'd been picked on by two different children, tells me that yesterday, his school's assistant principal, the school administrator stuck—er ... um ... tasked—with dealing with bus problems, pulled from class every child who rides his bus and took them to the cafeteria. She informed them that the bullying has to stop and that they now all have assigned seats on the bus. But she hasn't contacted my husband and me to tell us this. I hope that they're doing assigned seating for all of the buses, but I doubt it very much. What I suspect happened is that she and/or the principal got a phone call from the school board saying that my son's bus situation must be handled immediately. After all, this is the shiny-bright wealthy school district that doesn't want its image tarnished.

My husband talked with our son's bus driver this morning, and he was thrilled about the news story. He says that all of the drivers would love to have aides ride herd on the 40 or so children on each large bus.

We'll continue to press the school board to resolve the problem district-wide. For us, this issue is about ensuring that our children and everyone else's children in the district don't feel unsafe or ostracized. We want them to rise to their full potential, without fear, because the world will be in their hands one day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Taking On the Enablers of Bullies

Remember my post about the bullies on my first-grader's school bus? I spoke at the school board meeting, handed out copies of news stories on other districts that use video cameras on buses, and asked that the board look into either hiring aides to ride district buses or installing cameras on the buses.

Here's the news story (or here).

I'm very pleased about the story. The school district, a wealthy one, absolutely hates bad publicity. (My husband Ed and I aren't wealthy, but that's another story.) The school board members sat in stony silence after I spoke and had nothing to say. But as the story makes clear, Ed and I are not the only parents who want the bullying on buses to stop. Other parents have said that the school district has had the bullying problem for years and wants to pretend it doesn't exist; we're very much hoping that that's not the case. But even if it is the case, Ed and I will continue to appear at school board meetings and ask what the board is going to do about bullying, until we get an answer.

We will not disappear.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Courage to Say What He Thinks

My eighth-grader, Neil, was given one of those school assignments this weekend that is typical for Veterans Day: write a short essay about what the day means to him.

This was hard for Neil, who is a shy, private guy. After years of catching flak from other kids and from adults because of his less-than-perfect social skills caused by his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), he tends to want to keep his sometimes nonconformist opinions to himself. And writing doesn't come easy to him; he's a science geek.

He kept telling his father and me that he couldn't think of anything to say. But his tearing up and his seeming anger told me that he could. After I did some gentle prodding, he confessed that he thought that he might get in trouble at school for what he wanted to write. I told him that he should write what he truly felt, because truth is a valuable quality. I also told him that he isn't required to echo his teachers' beliefs, his father's beliefs, my beliefs, or anyone else's beliefs.

With lots of struggling, he wrote:

What Veterans Day means to to me it that it's stupid, and who cares about all the people who died? I hate it. It's only good for the draft. War sucks. We're wasting all our tax money on all the wars. It puts people into poverty. Because of the wars, the damn gas prices go up. It's just about money, money, money. War doesn't resolve any problems. It's just stupid!

I doubt that he doesn't care about all of the deaths caused by wars; he doesn't want to have to think about death. I'm so proud of that boy for swallowing his fear and being true to himself. He thinks a lot more about the big issues than he often lets on in conversation.

Today, Dr. Seuss; Tomorrow, Dostoyevsky

Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and HamTonight, 6-year-old Jared read Dr. Seuss's entire Green Eggs and Ham aloud to his dad at bedtime. He didn't need to ask for any help, and he is tremendously proud of himself. We all cheered for him.

Today, Dr. Seuss; tomorrow, Dostoyevsky!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Never, Ever Piss Off a Mother

Never, ever piss off a mother—especially one who is an editor, a writer, and a former journalist.

Remember the first-grade boy who bullied my first-grader on the school bus? There's a third-grader who apparently gets her jollies by clawing the hands of any kids in her vicinity; she clawed my son on Friday. Yes, if I contact the school again, the assistant principal will track down the scratching girl and have a talk with her and her parents.

But this one-by-one process won't be effective in the long run, because there will always be new or different kids to do the hitting, poking, scratching, and tripping. So my husband and I will be attending the school district's board of education meeting this coming Tuesday night to request that the board either hire aides to ride all district buses or require the bus companies to install video cameras. Many U.S. schools use video cameras like this.

To help make sure that we don't get patted on the head and told to sit down and shut up, I've written a press release that I will be faxing to the area news media tomorrow. If the news media show up, the board members will likely behave better.

I've posted the press release here, redacted for privacy issues.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Fruits of Friendship

My heart is overflowing just now.

FedEx dropped off a package at my front door. I figured it was tools or equipment that my husband had ordered for his business. But it's not. It's a large box packed full of organic fruit:

  • Bananas

  • Pineapples

  • Persimmons

  • Clementine mandarins

  • Satsuma mandarins

  • Mineola tangelos

  • Blood organges

  • Navel organges

  • Valencia oranges

  • Cocktail grapefruit

  • Ruby grapefruit

  • Fuji apples

  • Braeburn apples

  • Red and gold delicious apples

  • Gala apples

  • Granny Smith apples

  • Jonagold apples

  • Pippin apples

  • Bartlett pears

  • Red Bartlett pears

  • Green and red Anjou pears

  • Asian pears

  • Bosc pears

  • Star crimson pears

  • Comice pears

  • Warren pears

These delights are a gift from a dear friend whom I've never seen in person. We became friends a few years ago through an editorial professionals' e-mail list; I went on to work on a project for her when she did an in-house stint as a developmental editor for a publisher. We follow each other's lives and cheer each other on. She knows me well enough to figure out that because I've changed the way I eat in the last 4 months, organic fruits are the perfect gift.

Anyone who says Internet friends aren't real friends has no heart.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Doin' the Corporate Victory Dance!


Why, no, I'm not at all excited that the officers (that would be my husband, the president, and me, the secretary-treasurer) of newly established Master Cabinetworks, Inc. were notified moments ago that the company's loan application has been approved. And no, I don't think it's at all weird that I have the sudden urge to order such items as a Hinge Mate butt hinge jig, several Gross-Stabil KF2 edge clamps, a Hoffman doweling machine, a Kremlin Airmix 10.14 pump, the König Ko 660 Advanced Kit for touch-ups, and a Makita 10" dual slide compound miter saw with laser and fluorescent light and dicker for better prices than those listed on the companies' web sites.

Ed, my husband, started his first gig as an employee of Master Cabinetworks yesterday. Today we're sending out, by express courier, our application for a home-improvement contractor license to the township where most of his gigs will be located; all such applications must be turned in to the town board by this coming Friday so that they can be on the agenda for next Wednesday's meeting. As company officers, we had to put our mug shots on the application. We also had to include a certificate of liability insurance, which Ed obtained yesterday.

Now we can get a new health insurance policy. And now Ed can once again bring in income and I can get back to spending nearly all of my work hours with KOK Edit. I'm giddy from the exhaustion of working for both Ed's company and mine these last few weeks.

Updated at 8:29 p.m.: We celebrated with champagne toasts at dinner to Master Cabinetworks, Inc.; to each other; to our accountant of 14-plus years; and to my blogging friends and e-mail listmates, who had tips on surviving the two-freelancer lifestyle and on questions to pose to our accountant.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Environmental Alert

An environmental official from Long Island, New York, has issued an alert regarding impending aerial dissemination of biohazardous materials:
"It has come to my attention that human gray matter may shortly be disseminated across mid Long Island, especially in the East Setauket area, with danger for those exposed to it of being covered with organizing and editing cells," said Geraldine Witherspoon, a local EPA supervisor, today. "We do not yet know whether these cells will cause people to become more organized and to write better, but we believe it's best that everyone take cover, just in case."

Witherspoon said that the source of the gray matter in question called her office early this morning to say, "If I don't stop working such long hours on such dense manuscripts, my head's just gonna 'splode." Witherspoon said that the EPA has not confirmed the identity of the caller, but other sources have divulged that they believe the caller to be area resident Katharine O'Moore-Klopf, who is said to routinely engage in an extremely hazardous occupation known as copyediting.

Witherspoon advised area residents to avoid thinking, reading, and learning, activities that would make them even more vulnerable to the effects of the gray matter if it does indeed explode.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

There Ought to Be a Law!

Just caught my husband, who cannot spell his way out of a paper bag, using my copyeditor tea mug. Sacrilege! Impersonating a copyeditor!

There will be retribution. I'm gonna swipe one of his cabinetmaker mugs. That'll show him. I can't build cabinets or furniture.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Roaring Mothers Get Results

An update about the bullying of my first-grader, Jared, on the school bus:

Friday (26 October) morning, Jared's teacher, Mr. D, talked with the assistant principal, Ms. E. The two adults pulled Jared and "Joe," the other boy, out of class briefly to hear both sides. Jared confirmed what was happening, but being reluctant to get Joe in trouble—because he likes Joe when Joe isn't hitting him—he said that the bullying had happened only recently, instead of since September.

That afternoon, both the teacher and Ms. E called me. Ms. E told me what Jared had said, and I told her that no, the bullying had been going on all school year. She called Joe's parents and spoke with them, stipulating that if Joe hit, poked, or tripped anyone on the bus, he would no longer be allowed to ride the bus; his parents would be required to drive him to school.

My husband Ed spoke with Joe's parents face-to-face Sunday, and it went well. (Ms. E had warned me, however, that in her experience, nearly all parents react defensively in these situations, even more so when speaking with the parents of the alleged victim than with school officials.) The parents promised to have a long talk with Joe about not hitting Jared or anyone else. Joe's older brother, "Tim," volunteered to his parents that he had seen Joe pick on Jared several times earlier in the school year. (Tim himself has been a victim of a school-bus bully in the past; instead of talking with the bullying child's parents or with the school, Joe and Tim's parents simply stopped letting Tim ride the bus and started driving him to school.) Ed says that the entire conversation was calm and not defensive or accusatory. We felt that because Ed had befriended Joe's father through past walks in the neighborhood, he should talk with him in addition to Ms. E calling the parents; we didn't want to put the entire burden on the school to handle the situation. Plus, we like to set an example for our children about speaking up for oneself civilly.

This week on the bus, Joe has not hit, poked, or yanked on Jared until Jared fell off the seat. Jared is happy and is now pleasant, rather than growly, when he gets off the school bus in the afternoons.

Jared did admit to us that he hit Joe back once in the past after Joe hit him. We explained to him that hitting someone won't stop the other person from hitting, that we do not approve of his hitting anyone, that the proper response to being hit is to ask the other person to stop and then to tell the bus driver (if applicable) and his teacher, and that if he does hit back, that will likely be the time that the bus driver/teacher turns around and sees what is going, thus landing Jared in trouble.

Jared is very grateful ("because Mr. D sticks up for kids"), and so are Ed and I. We have e-mailed Mr. D, with a copy to Ms. E, to tell him so.

Updated at 2:31 p.m.: As soon as Ed and I found out about the bullying, I had a very strong urge to find a way to ride the school bus with Jared and put a force field of protection around him just by virtue of my being there and being identified as his mother. Not that my being on the bus would be allowed, mind you.

Jared's being bullied pushes so many buttons for Ed and me. We were both misfits, in different ways, as children in public schools, he here on Long Island and me in Texas, and we were both bullied in school. And I was bullied by my parents, as were my siblings. Ed and I are determined to stop the cycle of violence, at least for our family. We'd like to stop it for others too.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Anecdotal Evidence Regarding the Persistence of Capsaicin

Dangerous to delicate membranes
I can confirm that it is a very bad idea to touch delicate bodily membranes, such as those contained in human eyes and noses, within 24 hours of dicing jalapenos or chili peppers of any kind.
Dangerous to delicate membranes
I ordered some chili peppers with the last batch of groceries, wanting to include small bits of them in my daily huge plate of salad. They're quite tasty additions. But know that even two surgical-style scrubbings of the hands after chopping chili peppers does not completely erase the capsaicin, the "heat"-producing substance in them, from the fingers. And know that until the capsaicin dissipates a couple of days later, you should touch neither the caruncula lachrymalis nor the nostrils.


Breastfeeding Does Not Cause Breasts to Sag

If you've ever thought that once you give birth, you won't want to breastfeed because it will make your breasts sag, physicians have news for you: Breastfeeding does not cause sagging breasts!

At the 2007 conference of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, results of a recent study were
... breastfeeding alone has no impact on a woman's breast shape, according to a first-of-its-kind study. ...

"Many women who come in for breast surgery tell us their breasts are sagging, drooping or are less full because they breastfed," said Brian Rinker, MD, ASPS Member Surgeon and study author. "Although the amount of sagging in the breasts appears to increase with each pregnancy, we've found that breastfeeding does not worsen the effect."

The study examined 93 women who were pregnant one or more times prior to having cosmetic breast surgery. Fifty-eight percent of patients reported breastfeeding one or more of their children. The duration of breastfeeding ranged from 2 to 25 months, with an average of nine months. Fifty-five percent of respondents reported an adverse change in the shape of their breasts following pregnancy.

As the first study to examine what impacts breast shape in connection to pregnancy, plastic surgeons found that a history of breastfeeding, the number of children breastfed, the duration of each child's breastfeeding, or the amount of weight gained during pregnancy were not significant predictors for losing breast shape. However, body mass index (BMI), the number of pregnancies, a larger pre-pregnancy bra size, smoking history, and age were significant risk factors for an increased degree of breast sagging.
It's genetics, ladies, not breastfeeding, that determines how much your breasts will sag.

I can't wait till researchers prove that bra-wearing doesn't prevent sagging. I wore bras for decades, and they did nothing to prevent sagging. Trust me—I'm middle-aged and large-breasted. Enough said.

And I hope mainstream researchers soon prove what I've long suspected: that bra-wearing may cause cancer. I read the book Dressed To Kill: The Link between Breast Cancer and Bras a few years ago, and though the researchers who wrote it have not found acceptance of their findings by mainstream medicine, what they found sure makes sense to me—enough to make me stop routinely wearing bras. But that's another post.

One less excuse for feeding babies formula! Hooray!

Hat tip: Katie Allison Granju.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I Am Mother, Hear Me Roar

Don't bully this childOur 6-year-old first-grader, Jared, told us last night that he has been being bullied on his school bus for some time now.

A boy I'll call Joe, whom Jared says is a first-grader, has been tripping Jared, flicking him with his fingers, and hitting him in the chest. Jared has a lump near his temple because, he says, Joe grabbed Jared's legs on yesterday's ride home, which made Jared fall onto the bus floor between the seats and hit his head on the metal back of a bus seat. Jared says the leg-grabbing happens quite often. He says that occasionally, the bus driver sees what's going on and tells Joe to stop but that Joe just starts up again when the bus driver doesn't see him.

My husband, Ed, remembered that Mr. D., Jared's teacher, said at the school open house that he detests bullying and will do anything he has to to put a stop to it, and he wanted parents to let him know if their children are being bullied. So I e-mailed Mr. D. this morning and asked for his help. I mentioned that Ed and I would like to see two adults be paid to ride every full-size school bus to keep the children safe and to make driving safer for the bus drivers. He responded immediately:

I am on the case. Would you like me to inform the assistant principal? She will be right on top of this. She is wonderful with the bus situations.

I also e-mailed the chairperson of the safety committee of the school's PTA (Parent Teacher Association). She wrote back:

I am sorry to hear your son is having a hard time. I highly recommend that you immediately contact [the principal] or [the assistant principal] yourselves. I know that they take the matter of bullying very seriously, and would want to hear from you.

As far as your proposal for aides to ride the buses, I am sad to say that in our current budget climate, this is not at all likely to happen. Programs and instructional staff are being cut left and right. I do not think a PTA meeting is the right forum for your concerns. I urge you to call the principals about this, as it is really, really beyond the scope of the PTA's safety committee. We are asked only to provide support on school grounds for snow days, early dismissals, concerts, etc.

Not the right forum?! I'm sure that if it was her child having his head banged into the bus seat, she'd think that the PTA was the proper forum. I think I feel an urge to attend a school board meeting coming on.

Updated 31 October, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ana's First Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

My husband and our sons Neil and Jared and our 5-month-old granddaughter, Ana (Anastasia), are back from the periodic neighborhood trip to a local farm for picking pumpkins. Ed says Ana is one easy baby. I know he's right; I had her all to myself one day when Ed, the boys, and our son-in-law, Li, went fishing on our boat. (Click on any thumbnail to see a larger version.)

Ana riding pumpkin trip bus

The bumpy bus ride puts Ana to sleep

Ana riding on Grandpa in a sling carrier and wearing Grandpa's capAna enjoys her first hayride
Ana's first pumpkin, which is really a gourdUncle Jared, left, and Uncle Neil enjoy some pre-Halloween candy

Jared and Neil with their pumpkins

P.S. Those aren't tears of sadness coming out of Ana's one eye in the top photo. She has a immature tear duct, which her pediatrician says should eventually stop leaking on its own.

The Good Grandfather

Grandpa feeding Ana

Ana sleeping on Grandpa

While I'm working today, my husband, Ed, and our sons will go pumpkin-picking at a nearby farm, and they'll take Ana (Anastasia), our granddaughter, with them. Our daughter, Becky, and her husband, Li, dropped Ana off at 9 this morning because one of Li's cousins is having an early-morning wedding. Of course, just an hour before it was time for Ed and the kids to go to our next-door-neighbor's house to catch the bus for the neighborhood pumpkin-picking trip, Ana got sleepy and hungry. Here are two adorable (if poor-quality) photos of Ed rocking Ana and feeding her breast milk that Becky had pumped and of Ana asleep after eating. She's out like a light right now.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Actual Good News About Health Insurance

Here's a happy-Friday update to all of the ridiculousness that my husband Ed and I have had to go through to have health insurance coverage.

Ed spoke directly with the New York State Insurance Department. Yes, it is legal for an insurance company to immediately cut off employee coverage as of the date that the employer specifies as the employee's last day of work. Because my husband's former employer wanted to cover us through 31 October even though Ed's last day there was October 4, the boss assumed that COBRA was the way to go and so told the insurance company that Ed's last day was 4 October and had Ed file for COBRA. But COBRA doesn't apply, even with New York's special exceptions, when there is only 1 employee in a company covered by the insurance company in question. So even though I would like to avoid giving HIP (the HMO) any credit (because they usually mess things up to our disadvantage), what they did was correct in this instance.

But Ed's boss shouldn't have assumed and should have asked the insurance agent who handles all the policies he offers his employees to check into this special case. The insurance agent was asleep at the wheel, too; if she'd taken 5 seconds to look into her files, she'd have foreseen a problem and alerted Ed's former boss.

The good news is that the boss has now filed paperwork saying that oops, he meant to put down Ed's last day at work as being 31 October, so we are now covered again temporarily. The mail-order prescription medication service that the HMO requires us to use, however, still has to put us back in the system so that we can order all the maintenance medications that we need to right now.

More good news: As soon as we get the official paperwork in the mail from the State of New York showing that we are indeed incorporated—and as soon as we obtain an EIN (employer identification number, aka taxpayer number) from the IRS, which our accountant can get for us within 1 day of requesting it—we can obtain the same exact insurance plan, so we won't have to change physicians. And the monthly premiums that we will pay will be just about exactly the same that Ed had had taken out of his paycheck as an employee.

He is now well on the road to being fully self-employed; he's already produced estimates on two projects and is the subcontractor of choice for a third, even though he hasn't yet bid on it; it's a refinishing job that he needs to see in person first. He's in demand, so we will do okay financially. The wood shop has just about been completely cleaned out, along with the barn where he does lacquer-spraying and three—yes, three—attics. His parents, who share our home, have managed not to spontaneously combust over having to get rid of some of their junk. Ed and I have adjusted to each other's work styles, and our almost-13-year-old son has adjusted to his dad's schedule. The only one who's still working on adjusting is our 6-year-old son, who wants to glom Daddy's time the instant that he (the son) gets off the afternoon school bus.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Keeping an HMO Honest

One of the agencies I e-mailed about the health-care insurance problem that my laid-off husband and I have encountered is the New York State Insurance Department. I e-mailed the department pretty much the same thing I posted here on Monday. I got this response today:
In order for the carrier to terminate a member, the request has to come from the employer. We have forwarded your e-mail to our contact at HIP [the HMO through which we had insurance] to address.
This is excellent, because my husband's former boss did not request that he be "terminated." (Sounds murderous, doesn't it?) Now HIP knows that the New York State knows what it did. [insert evil cackle here]

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