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Sloppy Signatures

 

At one point in my life I had a flawless signature. In middle school, I dreamt of being Mrs. Faith Yu. It was fluid and beautiful. I obviously missed out on the opportunity to have a perfect signature by not marrying my crush…

That also means I’ve never really had a legal flawless signature.

It never really mattered until yesterday, when I had to re-evaluate our insurance records. My insurance agent passed over a tablet pad and pen as he said to me, “Check your signature to make sure it looks as close to your signature as the key pad will allow.” In my head I thought, Dear Sir, I am a product of my environment. Since when does the image on the screen pad ever match one’s signature? My insurance agent had me thinking, do I even have a true signature: a fancy practiced script of my name that people could read right away? Does it really matter?

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I am not alone in wondering the value of a signature in a digital world. Linton Weeks wrote for NPR in his article “The Great American Signature Fades Away” that “In recent years, however, as computers and keyboards have become more prevalent, the art — and the necessity — of penning one’s name has gone out of style. The opposable thumb is used more for clicking a button than gripping a pen.” There’s a reason that they usually take a photocopy of your ID when you sign up for a new set of documents. That has more value in contesting legal documents than signatures.

From a newly fledged writer’s perspective, however, a signature seems really important. Friends and family have been saying “I want a signed copy” ~ meaning that eventually I will have to sign my name on things that they, hopefully, treasure forever. Is this how I meet my failure as a writer?! Should I have been dutifully practicing a legible copy of my name all this time?

Sure enough, what showed up on the screen after I signed on the pad was a hot mess. I wouldn’t want to read a book by the person who penned that sloppy signature… nope… not even the e-copy.

When the agent signed on the key pad, his signature was flawless. It clearly matched the printed signature he has on the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthday cards he sends us each year. Clearly, it is my own failure at having a fancy signature that is holding me back and not the technology. I wondered for a second if I could ask the agent for tips on supreme signature handcraft, but I realized that might have been overstepping our insurance agent/customer relationship.

To rub more salt into my sloppy signature wounds:

A few hours later, I was asked to go into work to set up a digital copy of my signature very much like my insurance guy has plastered on all those aforementioned cards. I met up with my sister, Alycia. She handed me this form where I had to sign my name three times in different sizes.

I can do different sizes! It was making the three signatures look the same that was the problem. When I handed the form back to Alycia, she looked it over, handed me another form to try my three signature again and muttered, “I knew this would happen.” Signature failure Number Two.

I clearly am a failure at signing my own name, so I did some research and found out that Business Insider’s Skye Gould, Megan Willett and Mike Nudelman compiled a list of famous signatures in their article, “The 17 Coolest Signatures Of Famous People Through History.” Most of them have the feel of a signature, but really end up looking like mini sized pieces of art. On the other hand, J.K Rowling’s signature isn’t the hand crafted beauty that I would have expected, which makes me think that I have a chance at being a decent book signer someday!

Weeks argues that signatures are relevant these days largely for sentimental value. It should be considered a piece of art that signifies who you are, which is backed up by Gould, Willett, and Nudelman’s piece. It has me thinking that I can choose to look at my sloppy signature as a failure, or I can look at this new opportunity as a writer to create a signature that is uniquely me. A whole separate piece of art. Who knows! Maybe I can create such a noteworthy and memorable signature that it will one day end up on the “18 Coolest Signatures of Not-So Famous People Through History.”

Signature Pending

You’re a Published Author!

 

Ahem, I would like to make a declaration that will forever alter the history of the world as we know it.

I, Faith Allaire, am a published author.

Whew! I need to put that on business cards! Maybe make myself a name tag! Definitely change my job status on LinkedIn.

This is only a proof of the impending set of books WITH MY NAME on the cover, but it still looks and feels like a real live book! And it smells like one.. like a new book which not yet had the chance of living.

Not sure what one does with the proofs of their books, I introduced it to its new family. I think it’s going to fit in nicely as their Queen.

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For now, you can buy the E-book version at Amazon.com

Closet Readers

When I was around my daughter’s age, my parents separated, and we moved into a tiny apartment that was cozy enough for my ,mom and me. When I wanted to escape from the world, I would hide in the only closet. It had just enough space for myself, a blanket, a flashlight and a handful of books.

I remember reading one book over and again. It was a non-fiction book based off of a Gorilla who knew sign language and had a best friend that was a kitten. If you haven’t guessed it, the Gorilla’s name was Koko.

This weekend that Gorilla passed away, which made me a little heart broken.

To honor the part of my childhood she made memorable, I grabbed a book and squirreled away into a closet. I know it should have been more about honoring Koko than comparing and contrasting my childhood with my children, but ya know…stuff happens.

For example, my kids have access to five closets not including bedroom closets where they can lay out and create summer reading dens. This works in their interest because I had no siblings trying to break down the door to see what top secret activities were going behind closed doors.

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I was in the closet a total of five minutes before the youngest sniffed me out. Then she climbed in and joined in the reading with her own book. Ten minutes later the eldest found us, cramming us in like sardines and making me wish I had picked one of the bigger closets to honor Koko.

My son is a lot smarter than I ever will be. He rigged up the flashlight to hang from a hanger, allowing for a hands free experience.

I expect that by the time my grandchildren become closet readers, they will have closets with lights on the inside and locks from the inside to keep intruders out.

Summer Reading Goals

Today is the very first day of summer!

It would be something to celebrate, if we weren’t still a family of school goers for ANOTHER WEEK.

Snow days seemed worth it at the time…..

Since a week can feel like forever, we started to make our summer reading goals.

We searched the Scriptorium’s shelves for books we haven’t read yet.

Everyone’s personal choices are squished on this shelf in no apparent order, so it’s hard to say who chose what. I will say that I was not the one to choose the Shakespeare plays…..

 

Middle Grade Fiction: LGBTQ+ Community

In honor of Pride month, Scholastic listed a series of books that promote the LGBTQ+ community within middle grade fiction. It is important that members of these communities are valued and represented within our literature, especially Middle Grade Fiction where adolescents are at the cusp of displaying and understanding their identities.

 

 

In Children of the Planes, one of the themes I focus on is introducing the non-binary gender spectrum.

Jay, a twelve-year-old male is learning to communicate about his preference for displaying a gender non-conforming lifestyle.

I’m often asked, what does that even mean?

Jay knows he’s a male, but feels he wants to be a girl. He dresses in pink t-shirts and purple sneakers that light up, but his favorite past time is playing Legos. Jay is learning to put words to thoughts he’s felt for a very long time. He’s not entirely sure with what he identifies as of yet, and to spotlight this experience when he is still navigating that aspect would force us all to have to put labels onto his situation that he’s not ready to express.

Within the scope of this novel, Jay is learning to build a support network for when he does figure out his true self. His friend Zane is the first person that he has felt comfortable sharing these feelings with, so we see him in a very raw state within this novel. He gets easily frustrated and builds walls around others because it’s been easier to be alone than trying to be something he knows he’s not. When Zane supports him despite the conflict that ensues, Jay learns that he can be respected and valued even when he doesn’t feel “normal.”

As such, Jay doesn’t “come out” or any of that stereotypical nonsense, but rather we see the seeds being sown for him to embrace himself no matter what that is.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

 

A sacrifice to witches, a bog monster, and a snuggle bug dragon. Barnhill uses these elements to spin a tale of a young girl Luna, trying to cope with irreversible consequences of not sticking to a standard diet of milk and pureed peas.

This week the kids and I finished Kelly Barnhill’s “The Girl Who Drank a Moon.”

There are so many great quotes from this book that make it an engaging and soul penetrating story. Barnhill has a gift for sprinkling thought engaging quips, that I often had to stop and wonder if my life was still the same. The story is going along at a great pace and then BAM:

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As a parent, I can relate. There are things about the world that I don’t want my kids to know. I don’t want to share my secrets….to share worries that keep me up. I hadn’t really thought that there are things in their lives that they want to protect me from as well.

What are they hiding?!

By far, my favorite character was Adara, Luna’s mother. Barhnill took a very classy approach when she talks about mental illness in this novel. Although mental illness doesn’t usually have a catalyst like Adara’s does, Barnhill makes us empathize with the loss of power that is the root of Adara’s insanity. I feel that Adara had to embrace her mental instability in order to truly find her inner power, and it helps everything come full circle when her daughter Luna had to do the same. She doesn’t have to overcome the mental illness itself, which is a great concept for adolescents to be more empathetic with this situation.

 

 

You can be crazy… you can be deformed… you can be a witch…. and still be a hero.

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If your child has read these books and you’d like to engage them with the storyline, here are 5 questions that you can ask. I’ve also included some of the quotes that lead me to ask those questions:

  1. Adara, Luna’s biological mother, ends up having magical abilities of her own. In a vision, it is implied this could have been because she was a descendant of the witches and wizards who were around before the great volcanic eruption. Do you think this means that Luna was always destined to have magical abilities?

 

  1. “Their backs bent under the weight of their secrets.” Are secrets ok? When are secrets not ok?

 

  1. “Sorrow is dangerous.” This phrase is repeated often throughout the book. Has there ever been a time that you felt you were so sad that it changed the way you look at the world? What makes you happy? Does happiness have the same ability to be dangerous?

 

  1. “Compassion or Revenge? Sometimes the two were the same.” What do you think? Do you think the ending was very compassionate to the mean people in the book such as the Grand Elder?

 

 

  1. If you had Seven League Boots, where would you use them to go? Do you think they are faster than Fyrian?

 

Kelly Barnhill has a few other books available, which I hope to read with the Allaire kiddos sometime soon. You can check her out at kellybarnhill.wordpress.com.

 

If you’ve read the book, do you have any thoughts on the above questions?

 

Have a good day and happy reading!

Family Reading Time

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34348147_10211190866983306_3776500550791593984_nIn the Allaire Family Constitution, it specifically states that 7-8 p.m. is reading time. Any use of electronics at this time results in the guilty party having to cluck like a chicken…

 

 

Suffice to say, we take our reading time seriously.

I found a lot of information on why you should read to children from early infancy, my favorite being “Why It’s Important to Read Aloud with Your Kids, and How to Make it Count” by Amy Joyce, but I couldn’t really find any that showed the benefits of reading as a family once the children have already learned to read. (Joyce’s post states that older children cite reading with their parents as one of their favorite family memories).

As such, here is my list of reasons why I still read with my nine and thirteen year old:

I Get to Read Kids’ Books:

No shame in my Diary of a Wimpy Kid game. Why does middle grade fiction have to just be for kids? I can enjoy fart jokes or sympathize with a kid feeling like he may be failing math class. It reminds parents and adults that the problems children face are important to them, if they may seem small on an adult’s grand scheme of things.

Conversations: The best heart to heart moments I have had with my kids have come from situations expressed in the experiences of others. Fiction allows us to see things from another’s perspectives, especially when they go through situations that we normally could not. For example, I will never be an orphan forced to leave India and move to dreary England, but the kids and I could sympathize with feeling alone like Mary had in The Secret Garden. We talked about the power of hope and how changing your perspective can open doors you never even thought existed.

Fluency in Reading: I am often assisting in appropriately pronouncing words rather than the super speedy blurring that seems to happen when kids don’t know exactly what they are reading but still want to complete the sentence. By catching and correct these fluency hiccups, I am helping to improve my children’s fluency. I’m also learning to pronounce certain words, although I blame my mother being Scottish on a few choice pronunciations.

Time is Finite:

Learning how to manage time is an important lesson for children to learn. Realistically, there are nights where we are not at home. We are, after all, a family of four and have social lives. Reading as a family has cut down a lot of the activities that we would otherwise have agreed to do. When we plan things and I know it will run into family reading time, I’ll say, “If we do this we cannot read Harry Potter tonight,” and the kids then have to prioritize their wants. In a world of constant extracurricular activities, this is a necessary tool for a well-balanced lifestyle.

Quality Family Time:

With homework, chores, and extracurricular activities, it’s hard to get everyone in sync. Reading time has provided a time where are all together without any other distractions. The teenager thinks we’re on a mission to read a book and then see the movie based on it (if there is one), but what we’re really doing is spending uninterrupted family time. We established a goal as a family and maintained it towards success. If we did not choose to carve time out of out busy schedules to invest in this goal, it would have happened.

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I’m not advocating for everyone set a family rule to spend an hour every day reading as a family, but what about once a week? If a family were to read an average 20 pages a week of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, it could be finished in around eleven weeks. That is an impressive goal!