Happy Thanksgiving

“As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.


November: Men’s Health Awareness Month (Sort Of)

MG-SLS1012-Movember-Campaign-Support-Icon-Mo-BlackNovember is, apparently, Men’s Health Awareness Month. Okay, that’s actually not a thing. What is a thing is two separate, independent movements to try and bring awareness to men’s health issues. One is called Movember, the other is No-Shave November. Each of them are an attempt to bring a great attention to men’s health issues.

Movember is a broad movement that highlights men’s issues of all kinds issues, from cancer to mental health to couch potato-ism. It started in 2003 in Australia by a couple of friends as an effort to bring back the mustache, a style trend they felt was disappearing among men. Given the success of using the mustaches as a conversation starter, they decided to step it up a notch, and in 2004, they established it as a fundraising vehicle for prostate cancer research. Since then it was gone on to become an enormous success, raising awareness for a broad range of issues. Since starting up in 2003, they’ve raised $649 million worldwide.

nsn_full_wideNo-Shave November highlights cancer specifically. It is a family-run charity organization that really came together as a formal movement about six years ago. It was started as a way to highlight cancer awareness, given the patriarch of the family passed away from colon cancer. It, like Movember, is trying to raise money through donations to be passed along to organizations like the American Cancer Society. And technically speaking, it’s not just a men’s health aware movement, as women can participate too, hairy legs and all. So to call it a men’s health awareness organization is a little disingenuous, but only a little. I mean, the logo has a silhouetted picture of a guy with stylish facial hair, after all.

The thing that both of these have in common is the attempt to increase awareness by showing one of the most masculine defining features a man can have: facial hair.

Movember_RulesEach of these have their own rules. Movember is specific to mustaches. They encourage you to grow your mustache, starting with a cleanly shaved face on November 1st, and letting it grow until November 30th. However, you must limit your growth to your upper lip. Absolutely no beards allowed.

No-Shave November doesn’t really care whether you grow a mustache, a beard, a goatee, a fu mancho, or let your cheek whisker grow out like a Klingon. Just as long as you hang up the razor for some part of your face.

I read about these a few days ago, but only really decided to commit to the awareness yesterday. The thing is, I like shaving. I know lots of people who don’t but I’m not one of them. Shaving is such a part of my morning routine, I feel a little out of sorts whenever I don’t shave. Several months ago, I switched over from my Gillete Mach Whatever-Number-They’re-Up-To to a safety razor. The reason? Because shaving with a safety razor is bad-ass, that’s why.

Well, maybe that’s not the complete reason.

Shaving with a safety razor doesn’t allow you to just hack away at your face to get it done and move on. It requires a certain technique, along with a little patience and practice. I actually find it to be very calming and relaxing because you have to move slower and with caution.

Several months ago, I stumbled on an article on shaving on the Art of Manliness site. (For those not familiar with the Art of Manliness, I recommend you check it out.) I was trying to find a better way to deal with razor burn around my neck. The article was entitled “How To Shave Like Your Grandpa.” I couldn’t resist reading the rest. It basically explained how to shave using a safety razor, and why it’s so much better to do so. From saving money on razors (the blades cost about $1.00 each and last 1-2 weeks), to the way it helps avoid razor burn, the article was a great introduction to shaving with a safety razor.

Then I remembered that my grandfather used to have a safety razor, and that I have it somewhere in a collection of things I received after he passed away. I always wondered how it worked and the Art of Manliness article clarified that.

Like I said, shaving in the morning is a big part of my routine, and my morning feels like incomplete without it. But here’s the thing: my grandfather passed away from cancer at the age of 67. When you’re a 13 year old kid, you don’t have a sense of age. Everybody older than 18 is ancient. I’m in my forties now. My folks turn 67 next year. That’s the same age as my grandfather was when he died. Now that I’m in my forties, I have a much clear sense of time and holy moly, 67 is way too young to succumb to cancer.

So I’m growing a bread for November. I will probably shave it off when December 1st rolls around. A beard makes me look a lot older than I’d like. It’s where all the gray is hiding. I don’t mind a vacation week’s worth of stubble, but I like my smooth face. However, this year, to bring awareness to men’s health, I’m letting it grow. What I would have spent in shaving supplies for the month will go to one of these organizations (haven’t decide on which one yet).

Men: get yourselves checked out. Get your physicals if you haven’t had one thisMovember_StyleGuide year. Mine comes up at the end of November, so it’s perfect timing for me. Get whatever cancer screenings you need for your age. If you’re feeling sad or depressed, go talk to somebody. Start flossing. (You do not, and you know it.) If your butt has sprouted roots into the couch, pry yourself up. Eat less calories if you need to. Eat more veggies (everybody needs to). Go for walks. Go for a run. Go for anything that gets the blood pumping. Make sure you’re around in a few years. For youreself and your family.

And to show that your taking all this seriously, get hairy.

NaNoWriMo: The Kids’ Edition

nanowrimo ywp

I feel very fortunate because this year, my younger daughter Maggie is doing NaNoWriMo with me. There is an entire young writer’s program for NaNoWriMo that kids can sign up for. Maggie is going to do it, and so are most of the kids in her class. And that’s my fault.

During the annual open house/back to school night that school holds for the parents of students, I got to talking with Maggie’s teacher, Patty, about people who come in and volunteer and get the kids interested in something that pertains to the lesson plan. At some point in the conversation, NaNoWriMo came up. One of the Patty’s former students participated in NaNoWriMo last year. She mentioned how she would love to get some of her kids to do that again.

I didn’t say anything at the time because I felt like I wanted to think that through. Patty had no idea I had written and self publish book (insert shameless marketing plug here) or that I had done NaNoWriMo last year. I sat on it for a bit, wondering if I wanted to mention this and offer to help lead the class in a NaNoWriMo charge. I’m not a teacher and have no training in classroom management skills. I didn’t know if I’d be a good fit to come in.

In a phone conversation I was having with Patty one night about something else, I decided to mention it, and offered to come into the class and talk about what the NaNoWriMo challenge is, and see if there are any kids who were interested. Her response was unbelievably enthusiastic, and so, last week I found myself in Maggie’s classroom talking to her classmates all about NaNoWriMo, writing, and storytelling.

I have to tell you, it was a metric ton of fun. The class is great, excited about the project, and from what Patty tells me, chockablock full of writers.

I talked about what NaNoWriMo is, and what a novel is. I talked about the kinds of ways you could write a novel, from typing right into a computer to writing it all long hand. I had one person ask if the novel could be dictated to someone, or into a into a software program. Hey, if it was good enough for Paradise Lost, it’s good enough for NaNoWriMo. I talked about the process writers use to write: some write in the morning, some in the evening, some in their bedroom, some at the dining room table, some even in the kitchen. We talked about the kinds of books the kids are currently reading, and what their favorite novels are. We talked about the Inner Editor, which I dubbed the “Evil Inner Editor”, who constantly whispers in your ear telling you to stop, or slow down, or do things differently. One of the exercises from the Young Writers Program is to draw the Inner Editor on a worksheet. Once drawn, the kids are encouraged to hide him/her away so they can’t work their evil spells. We did that in the classroom and some of the kids’ Inner Editors turned out really well.

As I said, it was a ton of fun.

Patty had already come up with the word count she is hoping the kids will hit. She’s shooting for them to complete 250 words per day, which is about one page per day. That means that the kids will end up writing a 7,500 “novel” by the time it’s finished.

I’m headed back into the classroom in the middle of November to check in with the kids and see how they’re doing. I’ll be giving them tips, most of which will be plucked from the wisdom of the NaNoWriMo community. We’ll talk about the challenges they’re having and see if we can’t find ways to working around them. Most importantly, I’ll be giving them the encouragement to keep on truckin’, and to keep ignoring the “Evil Inner Editor”!

After that, I’ll head back into the classroom sometime in December to find out how they did. There is a program NaNoWriMo has this year with FastPencil, which will help kids publish their finished work. Hopefully, at the end of the month, and maybe by the end of December, there’ll be enough kids that finish and publish that Patty will have a whole new library.

After the class was over, tweets were tweeted:


NaNoWriMo: 2015 Edition

Shield-Nano-Side-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiResIt’s November 1st. That means it’s time to kick off NaNoWriMo. And once again, I’m participating. And new this year, so is my nine year old, Maggie!

Throughout the month I’ll post various updates on the progress for both of us. Tomorrow I’ll explain how I got Maggie, and her whole 4th grade class, involved.

But for now, it’s time to write. NaNoWriMo has begun.

Aaaannnnnddddd GO!