What’s My Superpower?

This afternoon, we caught up on a couple episodes of Julie’s Library.

It’s been a favorite podcast of ours since early in the pandemic, and our Bug especially enjoys the stories picked out by Julie Andrews.

Today, we listened to the episode featuring What’s My Superpower by Inuit author Aviaq Johnston (link to an award-winning short story of hers–warning, it is about suicide).

The Bug is big into superpowers right now (though, being a realist, he has decided he no longer wants to grow up to be a superhero. He instead wants to be an astronaut.)

Before the Story

Before listening, we had discussed what superpowers we would like to have. The Bug said flying, super hearing and transforming into a dinosaur.

I said I’d like to have the superpower of being able to speak every language in the world.

(That’s been one of my three wishes since childhood–the other two being to read every language in the world and write every language in the world.)

Superpowers

While the story was a bit too obviously trying to teach a lesson, it was enjoyable. The author’s tone is playful and humorous, which softens the preachy nature of the narrative.

After listening, we talked about what superpowers we think we actually have.

The Bug wasn’t too engaged in this part of the activity. His idea of superpowers is still very much tied to Marvel and DC comics.

I think I know what his superpower is, though. It’s listening.

Super Listening

He said he wanted super hearing for a superpower, but he’s already got super listening.

The guy is an incredible listener. He’s inherited it both from his father and from my mother (it seems to have skipped me).

He also remembers. It has sometimes surprised me the things he retains and repeats.

For this reason, he’s merciless when it comes to inconsistencies. But he’ll also remember details of anecdotes, confidences and silly jokes.

Though sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, the kid really pays attention when you talk to him.

His great listening, combined with his innate kindness and empathy, make him a very thoughtful, sweet boy.

So What’s Mine?

Since he wasn’t super into the discussion, the Bug walked away without showing the least interest in discussing my superpower.

Sure, he’s a good listener, but he’s also five and sometimes just doesn’t give a crap.

I’ve been thinking about it, though. I think my superpower is communicating.

I’m gifted at being able to clearly communicate any message either face to face, over the phone, and in writing (and sometimes non-verbally with my comically expressive face). It has served me well over the years.

I’ve known about this gift for a long time. Hell, I speak four languages and can communicate effectively in all four of them (even German!).

The Question Is…

…What the heck do I DO with this superpower??

First Time Volunteering

Today I volunteered for the first time with the Loudoun Medical Reserve Corps.

What is an MRC?

Your town or county almost certainly has one.

It’s a volunteer program where medical professionals and other, non-medically qualified people can register to volunteer.

MRC members will be called upon to do any number of things:

  • Staff testing facilities for disease;
  • Be present at small & large public events to help with health information;
  • Man call center helplines to answer health questions;
  • Provide logistical support to medical professionals in an emergency;
  • And more.

I originally signed up for the MRC because I figured I could make calls for contact tracing from home.

A First Time for Everything

Today I participated in my first MRC volunteering activity, and I felt like the most useless, least qualified person there.

It was a door-to-door COVID-19 testing drive in an apartment complex. Earlier in the week, volunteers had put door hangers on all the apartment doors, and our job today was to make contact with residents who had indicated they wanted to be tested.

I was not qualified to administer the test, nor was I even qualified to handle the samples. I wasn’t even trained to be on the registration team, gathering people’s information before the test.

Most of the other volunteers were either experienced medical professionals or long-term volunteers who had way more training than I did.

I was on logistics: sweeping the buildings to identify which apartments had door hangers, restocking supplies when needed, and helping the testing teams move their kit to the different apartment buildings.

By the end, though it didn’t seem like I had done much, it felt like my hands had contributed to making light work.

More is Needed

Our local MRC will be called upon to continue staffing these pop-up testing sites.

Also, with early in-person voting starting on September 18th in Virginia, the elections board has asked the MRC to be present at testing sites to provide COVID-19 awareness guidance, ensure social distancing and provide hand sanitizer and face masks if necessary.

If you’re looking for ways to contribute in this time of crisis, this might be a good way.

Remember, you don’t have to be a medical professional (I’m certainly not!), and you can start off with a pretty basic level of training.

If you want to be able to do more jobs, you can always complete further training.

Planning to Return

As the MRC is called upon to help out, I will sign up whenever possible. Every little bit is helpful, and these groups need volunteers!

So please consider joining!

Am I Too Old For This?

I’ve signed up to take an exam.

It’s the Praxis exam, and it is required to become certified to teach English as a second language in Virginia public schools.

Now, I’m no newbie when it comes to teaching English. While I am by no means an experienced teacher, I have done some teaching, both in groups and one-on-one.

I also completed a CELTA certification back in September 2016, exactly four years ago, now! That was an intensive, full-time four week training, and I came away from that feeling pretty confident.

But Holy Crap…

When I started to read over the prep materials for this exam, I nearly flipped out.

I mean, we’re talking about foundations of linguistics, of language learning… All stuff I’ve learned, but haven’t really thought about in four years.

(Plus, this being an American program vs a British program, terminology varies quite a bit!)

Then, I realized that people usually take this exam after completing a bachelor’s degree in education, or even a master’s.

But if I want to try and qualify as an ESOL teacher in VA public schools, I have to take this test in order to apply for a place in a career switcher program!

That seems unfair.

Or maybe I’m just scared…

Scared of failure. Scared I don’t know how to study anymore. Scared I’m not making the right choice.

Maybe, instead of taking this route, I should just look into a TEFL or TOEFL certification? With that, I’d be perfectly qualified to teach in private schools or other private settings.

But is that what I want?

Honestly, I don’t know.

In the meantime, though, I’ve signed up and paid for the exam, so I’d better get cracking.

The Joy of a Used Bookstore

It’s been a while.

That is, a while since I walked into a bookstore (or any kind of store other than a grocery store!).

What to Read?

Today, my Bug and I pulled out my trusty edition of The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease to seek some inspiration on what to read next. We haven’t finished our current read yet, but we like to line up our next book.

After browsing around on our public library’s online catalogue and placing a couple of holds for some books that looked interesting, we got to thinking.

And we remembered this wonderful used bookstore we’d visited in Leesburg a long while ago, before the world fell apart.

Checking In

A quick Google search told me that Books and Other Found Things was open, but since I don’t always trust the hours posted on Google, I decided to give them a call.

The owner picked up the phone and when I asked, “Hello! Are you open?” he cheerfully responded: “Yes! I mean, I’m here!”

He informed me that masks were required in the store and that all visitors would be required to wear protective gloves. For these reasons, and others, we decided not to take our Bear along on the visit. He stayed home with Chico.

The Absolute Joy

It wasn’t entirely the same.

We were wearing plastic gloves (which were way too big for the Bug), and we didn’t feel like we could just relax into being there.

And yet…

It was just wonderful.

First of all, we were welcomed with a big smile and an invitation to come in from the rain, which is always nice.

And then we started browsing. Oooh the delight of browsing in a bookstore!

Careful to touch only when necessary, we poured over the shelves and shelves of books. Allen, the owner, very obligingly produced a pile of easy reader books when the Bug asked him if he had any books about the ocean.

Allen’s knowledge is vast, and he clearly knows his inventory very well. He found several books that the Bug was interested in, and I found several more on the young readers shelf that we could read together.

We didn’t linger long. Being in a mask and gloves isn’t really conducive to long-term browsing comfort. But we did walk out with a pile of books, including a boxed set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

A Slice of Normalcy

Though it was an abbreviated visit, it felt something like normalcy. It made me realize how much I miss being able to pop into a bookstore, or visit a café.

I’m so thankful that Books and Other Found Things has weathered the storm so far, and I hope Allen continues to weather it. It would be such a shame for Leesburg to lose this business.

It seems that other businesses have not been so lucky. Not far from us is Comic Logic, a comic book store that we wanted to visit, too. Sadly, their hours are significantly reduced, and they’re only open three afternoons a week. I can only assume that means things aren’t going too well. We’ll try to get there during their opening hours.

Not There Yet

We’re not back to normal yet, but today’s visit felt like a little step towards it. Like the hope of light at the end of the tunnel. I just pray that when we do get through the tunnel, the small businesses we love will still be with us.

Pizza Perfection

It’s not every day I pull off five (nearly) perfect pizzas.

But today, I (nearly) did it!

(There was just the one that didn’t slide smoothly off the pizza peel and turned out looking a bit more like a calzone, but it was still delicious!)

Using the NYT’s pizza dough recipe from Roberta’s pizzeria in Brooklyn, I have yet to make a bad pizza.

I’ve certainly made ugly pizzas, but narry a bad one!

My First Pizzas

Back in January, our Bug asked for pizza for his birthday dinner. He had meant Papa John’s takeout pizza, but since his grandfather was visiting and family friends were joining us, I nixed that idea tout de suite.

I went in whole hog. I ordered a pizza stone and pizza peel on Amazon, and started researching good pizza dough recipes.

I bought 00 flour from a fancy grocery store (turns out Giant has it, too), and made the dough a day in advance and let it rise in the fridge overnight.

On his birthday, we had guests for dinner and I was making a dish I had never made before. I was breaking my mom’s cardinal rule of entertaining: Always serve a dish you’ve made before and know you can make well!

What the hell. The kid wanted pizza.

By some miracle, the dough turned out perfectly. I put together three absolutely delicious pizzas.

Granted, the kitchen looked like it had been hit by a bomb and there was flour EVERYWHERE. But the pizzas were good.

Fast forward to today

I’ve had a few disasters between that first time and now. The fact the pizza turned out so well for the Bug’s birthday must have been beginner’s luck.

Each disaster has been a learning opportunity (don’t overload the pizza!), and almost every time I make it, it gets better.

So I was super proud of the pizza I made today.

Not only that, I was super proud of myself for being so organized that despite there being flour everywhere for the pizza making, cleanup was a breeze.

I’m really getting the hang of this…

Next time the challenge will be to sneak some vegetables onto the boys’ pizza.

What’s in a Name?

66. Name: Write a poem or short story using your name in some way or form.

ThinkWritten.com

Jane the Pain
Went to Spain;
Lost her brain
Down the drain,
In the rain.

What a shame!

Children can be so cruel, can’t they?

To be fair, Jane is an easy name to rhyme.

Even my website and (practically) universal screen name are based on a rhyme of my name (“The brain in Jane works mainly in the rain”–not entirely true, as sometimes it doesn’t even work then).

There are so many songs about Jane (album by Maroon5!) that I’m not even going to list any here.

Jane is just considered your average, white girl next door kind of name.

Sometimes I’ve read it’s supposed to mean “God is gracious” or “God is merciful.”

God has been very gracious to this Jane. And merciful.

Waiting, waiting, waiting

I went.

I listened to my mother’s voice nagging in my ear. I listened to the kind and concerned advice from family and friends.

I went to the gynecologist.

The Diagnosis

Well there wasn’t really anything to diagnose, but the doctor did have a couple of concerns.

His first priority was that I schedule a mammogram (my first). From now on, I will have to do them every year.

His second priority, upon looking at my family history, was to recommend the genetic test for the mutation of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

Luckily, my insurance covers the test and they were able to take a blood sample right there in their lab.

What This Means

First off, I have to wait three weeks to know the result. That’s hard.

And secondly, the result terrifies me.

If the test is negative…

It could mean very little. My mother tested negative, and she still got breast cancer.

Her cousin had it, and she also tested negative for the gene mutations.

According to the CDC, “most breast and ovarian cancer is not caused by genetic mutations” anyway. So getting a negative result doesn’t mean I won’t get breast cancer.

Hardly comforting.

If the test is positive…

I guess if it’s positive at least we’ll know, right?

If the test is positive, then we can start looking into options and discussing possibilities.

Maybe it would just be easier if the test came back positive. It might make things more straightforward.

A Terrifying Emotional Load

A friend very eloquently said that all this comes with a terrifying emotional load.

I couldn’t have described it better.

Knowing my family history as I do, it almost feels like there’s an expiration date stamped on my butt.

Use by June 2050

Feeling that way can sometimes spur me into action (Life is short! Grab the bull by the horns!) or freeze me into depression (Is my life already more than half-way over?).

And I can go back and forth between the two (and be anywhere in between) several times in one day.

Talk about a rollercoaster.

Is this what a mid-life crisis looks like?

Terrified

65. Telephone: Write about a phone call you recently received.

ThinkWritten.com

Most of the phone calls I get are spam bots. But I have been making a lot of phone calls recently.

Mostly to doctor’s offices. The pediatrician, the GP, the dentist.

The gynecologist.

Yup, that’s right! I’m writing about the gynecologist!

(Don’t worry, there won’t be any gory details.)

Tomorrow, I have my first gynecologist appointment in nearly three years. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have left it that long!

The last time I saw the lady doctor was six months after our Bear was born. When the following year rolled around, life was crazy. We were planning our move from Germany, and I just never got around to it.

And since then? I’ve been putting it off, I’m not going to lie.

My mother died of metastasized breast cancer.

So did my maternal grandmother. Another maternal family member has been diagnosed.

Yeah. I know.

I’m 35. It’s time I at least started getting mammograms. And, as my very best friend (who is a physician) has told me more than once, I should get the genetic test done.

But honestly?

I’m terrified.

I’m terrified that I will learn to feel afraid of my own body.

In moments of extreme worry, I think of Angelina Jolie and wonder if a doctor is going to recommend I do the same.

So, if I’m honest, I don’t think about it.

I push it away from me and call it “living in the present.” I’ve even been known to go long months without doing a quick self breast exam.

I know.

It’s probably not something I should be worrying about. But it is something I should be monitoring.

Which I have not done up until now.

I’m pretty good at living in denial. (It ain’t just a river in Egypt!) But continuing to do so would be irresponsible. I have a family. I need to be proactive and take whatever preventative measures the doctor suggests.

But I’m still scared.

And if I’m honest?

I miss my mother most at these times. Though God knows she’d administer the dope slap and tell me to get to the gynecologist.

I can just hear her. “Jane. Get over it. Go to the doctor.”

Okay, Mom, okay. I’m going.

Monday Got Me Like…

64. Sing a New Song: Take a popular song off the radio and rewrite it as a poem in your own words.

ThinkWritten.com

The following has nothing to do with a popular song on the radio. But this is what the prompt made me think of.

The alarm goes off but I hit snooze.
I want to go back to sleep but my bladder’s too full.
Might as well get up.

I stretch out the stiffness, coax my body to life.
I tiptoe to the bathroom–
Trying not to wake the boys.
Please let them sleep a little longer, I think.

After a splash of cold water on the face
Autopilot kicks in.
Monday. Right. Change the sheets.

I strip the bed, change our sheets,
Moving mechanically through the process.
My mind is far away.
Not sure where, really.

Then, I’m staring in bewilderment
At an empty laundry basket.
It was full last night… Where did the…?
Then it dawns on me.

Where is my husband?

He’s usually up before me.
I think back and remember:

After my alarm:
A quick kiss and Buenos días.
Clattering in the kitchen downstairs.
Water filling in the washer.

He comes upstairs.
The fog has finally cleared from my brain.
Hola, he says. I’ve started the chores.
Figured we’d kick-start the day.

Monday.
It can be such a bitch.

But not this Monday.

The Last Straw?

The straw that broke the camel’s back? The weight that tipped the scale?

Could this be it?

Let Me Explain

I wrote along time ago about how I was losing faith in social media.

A couple of years ago, I took Facebook off my phone altogether, and limited the time I spent on there to when I actually opened my laptop.

Now, as I am writing on a much more regular basis, I am opening my laptop more frequently. And since I post the blog articles I publish to Facebook, I end up on the platform.

In fact, in July I wrote about how being on Facebook more often makes me feel.

Then, Yesterday…

I’ve seen articles over the years that talk about the spread of negative, or just plain wrong information on Facebook.

Yesterday, however, I was listening to On the Media, a long-running media analysis show. The podcast extra featured an interview with Fadi Quran of Avaaz (a non-profit organization that focuses on identifying misinformation in social media).

The host, Bob Garfield, was interviewing Quran about Avaaz’s latest report, entitled “Facebook’s Algorithm: A Major Threat to Public Health” (link to the full report).

In a nutshell, the report shows that health misinformation spreads like wildfire on Facebook, and the company does very little to stem the tide because doing so would endanger their business model.

Not New Information

This is not new. It is not surprising. But this time, it shocked me.

I don’t know why it hit home so hard this time.

Not after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Cambridge Analytica. Brexit. QAnon. And all the shady shenanigans Facebook has failed to do anything about (or participated in).

And especially considering my own instincts! My own feelings of lethargy, dissatisfaction, and general malaise after spending any amount of time on Facebook (and, increasingly, Instagram).

My better judgment has told me for years that Facebook is not healthy for me.

Why Not Quit?

Honestly?

Because pretty much all the traffic to my blog comes from Facebook. If I were to delete my Facebook account, it would be the death knell for this blog (already on life support).

And because I can see a lot of positive uses for it, too. It’s helped me to connect to people in new places time and again (in Canada, Brasil, Germany, the U.S….)

But how do I get the positives from Facebook while also shielding myself from the insidious nature of the beast?

The feeling of being sucked in, of being trapped into a vicious scrolling cycle. Of being marketed to.

How You Can Help

I’m getting there. I’m about ready to cut the crap and just delete my Facebook account.

But I need your help. If you’re reading this, can you do me a solid?

Can you sign up for email updates from this blog? You’ll get a nice little email whenever a new article is published. It’s super easy.

But who am I kidding? We all know that blogs like mine and small businesses are why Facebook keeps afloat. We can’t survive without it.

*Sigh*

Now I’m kind of depressed about it. Time to pick up my knitting! I’m finishing up the Tempestry project I had set aside a while back. And I also owe you an article about my Weekender sweater.

Stay tuned!

(Sign up for email alerts!)