Thursday, November 28, 2013

Receiving Kindness

I have not posted much in the last few weeks, but I have a pretty good reason.

Our dear sweet Alice arrived in early September and she has kept us all busy. She is a delight, though, I must say. Such a sweet baby!

Her birth has really made me realize how fantastic our network of friends is here, and how fortunate we are to have them.

It has also made me realize how important it is to receive kindness openly and gratefully.

See, I'm independent. I like being self-sufficient. I pride myself on being able to "do it all"-- have a full time job, have a family, have time to do family and job WELL, be creative on the side, be kind on the side... etc.  (while also recognizing that the demands on women in our society are pretty ludicrous and overwhelming. So, maybe I don't "do it all", but I have my own version of "doing it all").

Both of my sons' births were pretty run-of-the-mill. Relatively quick and easy, I was feeling back to normal soon after they were born. Alice was different. Her birth was quick and easy (maybe a little too quick, in fact. She was born just 7 minutes after we got to the hospital), but I had some issues with hemorrhaging afterwards. I'll save you the grisly details, but it was not pretty. And I was not well after. My hemoglobin levels were so low that they talked about giving me a blood transfusion, but the potential negatives didn't outweigh the benefits.

Here's my point: after Alice's birth, it wasn't a question of "doing it all". It really wasn't a question of doing anything. I couldn't physically walk more than a few steps without feeling exhausted. I wasn't allowed to hold her while standing or to drive, for fear I would pass out and hurt the baby or myself.

So for about two weeks I sat on the sofa and nursed the baby every two hours. I ate and nursed. I slept. I cried. I showered. That was it.

And my friends came through for us in the most incredible ways. They took our older boys on play dates, they delivered countless high-iron meals to restore my hemoglobin, they sent flowers and cards and gifts. They were amazing.

It was a good reminder to me that kindness isn't just about putting kindness out there, that sometimes it's about accepting that you just can't do it all alone.

It's about receiving the kindness of friends with grace and thankfulness.

Today (on American Thanksgiving), I wish you not only kindness, but also thankfulness.

Katharine Owens is a writer, professor, printmaker, mom, environmentalist, amateur naturalist, and lover of all things bug.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Get Your Kindness On

One of the things I love about Facebook is that it connects me to people that I probably would have fallen out of touch with otherwise.

I mean, duh, right? That's the whole point of Facebook.

But it's still pretty amazing that because of this tool we can pick up those threads of friendship that would have likely fallen away in earlier generations. It has been 20 years since I was in college. In the pre-Facebook world, it would be hard for someone like me, who has moved many times, and lived in different states and countries, to stay in touch with people from that era. It's something that just wasn't possible in the past-- or at least not in the same way.

It was through the miracle of Facebook that I was able to learn from my friend Allison about something pretty incredible that happened recently.

A girl named Kara (who I've not met) wanted for her 22nd birthday for her friends and family to perform a Random Act of Kindness in her honor. They created the hashtag #HAPPYbdayKara and then made a video of all the things they did.

As my son said after watching the video:
"Get it, mom? Her name is Kara. CARE- ah. Because she cares!"

They delivered coffee and candy, sent flowers, made donations to MANY organizations, put change in parking meters, paid for meals for others, and much, much more.

Can you imagine-- at 22-- being that selfless and thoughtful? What a fabulous idea!

And what I LOVE MOST about this is the ripple effect.

Someone far away has a great idea.

They act on it.

They spread kindness.

Their friends spread kindness, and it grows.

And it keeps growing...

Until someone seven states away shows a video to her kids and explains to them that a girl in South Carolina didn't want presents for her birthday this year, she wanted something bigger.

That's pretty incredible.

So, get your kindness on this week.
Do it for Kara.
Do it for yourself.
Do it for someone that inspires you.
Just do it.

Katharine Owens is a writer, professor, printmaker, mom, environmentalist, amateur naturalist, and lover of all things bug.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Kindness Of Understanding

Hi Everyone!
I hope you are all having a good week and are ready for the Labor Day Weekend ;o)

So, I have one of the best day jobs ever. I love what I do, I love what I'm learning every day, but most of all I love my team. I have an amazing set of people that are rooting for me in every aspect of my life. As some of you may know, I have technically 3 jobs. I have my day job, I edit for Entangled Publishing and I write. Honestly? I love all three of my jobs and I have no intention of leaving any of them any time soon. But my team at my day job is with me the most, so it's important that they "get me".

A good team will help lift up their team members in more aspects than just what they do for the job. A good example of this is before I was going to go out on submission with a particular book. I had two people on my team ask to read it, and they gave me honest feedback and supported my choices. They are also there when I get those dreaded rejections. They may not understand the whole process, but they support me and know that it stings. There's a real kindness in that kind of unconditional support. Especially from people who you aren't married to/dating or is part of your family.

I also have a boss who loves that I edit and write. She says it even helps me in my job at our company. I know a lot of companies that may not understand having all these extra jobs, but mine does and they encourage me in these endeavors.

When someone supports you unconditionally like that? It makes a huge difference. This is something my team doesn't have to do, but it makes a big difference to me that I can share this part of my life with them.

They're also a team that raised money and walked for the American Heart Association to support me with my heart defect.

Sometimes it's the small things in life that make the biggest differences <3


erica m. chapman is a YA writer represented by Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson Associates. An Associate Editor at Entangled Publishing, founding YA Misfit, contributor for All The Write Notes, and an honorary Foo Fighter. You can find her at or on twitter as @ericamchapman.

Monday, August 26, 2013


While walking my dog the other day, I thought about how I've been blessed to be surrounded by kind people. My parents. Teachers I had. My husband. My kids. My friends. My brother (both now and growing up). Even my mother-in-law (some folks seem to really strike out in this department by the sound of it). So when I hear stories, particularly stories involving kids and teens, about people who are not surrounded by kind people, my heart dies a little.

Sixteen school-years ago, I began teaching English at a large suburban high school. I no longer teach there, but on that first day of teacher workshops sixteen school-years ago, the principal spoke to us. And one thing he said has stuck with me all these years. He said that if each student had one adult in the building who they trusted and felt connected to, the chances of that student's success increased dramatically. I'm sure he had all kinds of charts and graphs and statistics and evidence to support his statement, but I was still here:

Each student.
One adult.

You mean, that's all it takes to increase the success of today's students, those who become tomorrow's adults? Each student just needs one adult in the building they trust? Wow. Supportive parents, a wealthy school district, low-crime areas, healthy meals, enough sleep -- these things help beyond measure -- but if a kid or teen doesn't have those things (or other really helpful things), all they need is to trust one adult in their school building.

And I think the trust starts with kindness and builds from there.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Being Kind To Yourself: Exploring Creativity

This week I am taking a moment to be kind to myself by participating in a creativity boot camp at my University.

Oh. My. Goodness.

It has been incredible.

Universities struggle to engender creativity among students, especially when so much of the educational system requires traditional tests, assessments, and the like. Yet, companies and employers say that they yearn for creative thinkers when they are trying to fill positions.

In this boot camp we've been learning about different schools of thoughts on creativity, what can help us and our students become more creative, and how to incorporate creative thinking and projects into courses and across the curriculum.

It has been so freaking fun! The folks taking part are enthusiastic, talented people creative in all kinds of different ways (not just artists of all sorts, but folks from administration, marketing, economics, mathematics, engineering, and linguistics).

They are incredibly inspiring.

It's really the perfect way for me to treat myself to a little personal kindness, because I'm often so busy creating/working/obsessing that I don't take a step back to think about the creative work I do.

I don't think about the creative PROCESS and what it means in my life, SIMPLY AS A PROCESS, without thinking about the OUTPUT OR RESULT.  

What I've found is that it means a great deal to me-- that there is an intrinsic value in that process--  that it's an integral part of what makes me, and certainly what makes me a HAPPY me.

I wish the same for YOU this week--

Give yourself the space and time to explore creativity in a new way.

Take a moment to think about what a gift it is to express yourself creatively, just for creativity's sake.

Then, go create.

Katharine Owens is a writer, professor, printmaker, mom, environmentalist, amateur naturalist, and lover of all things bug.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Danger of Being a Nice Person

Most people who know me probably would say I'm a nice person. Mostly, I think I am too. Even if you're rude to me, I'm likely to smile at you. Like the lady in the hotel elevator who “kindly” informed me that "this elevator is for the executive floors only, miss," to which I actually kindly responded, with a smile, “Thanks, m'am,” and got off on an executive floor where my hotel room was located.

But, you know, whatever. That lady judged me based on some biased preconception and likely she was just trying to “help me out.” I don't mean to excuse her rude behavior, but if I got into an ugly confrontation every time someone passed crappy judgment on me, I'd be a very bitter person by now.

Except, there are many moments I regret not having stood up for myself. I'm sure we all have something about us that people get all wrong. For me, it's that people sometimes treat me as “the little woman,” the bubble-headed klutz who only cares about her hair and shopping. I'm not sure why. I mean, yeah, I care about my hair. And yes, I'm forgetful and klutzy. But so what? I can whip your tail back and forth with my knowledge of American literature--and a lot of other things. I'm smart. Sometimes clever. I can be pretty witty. Et cetera. But sometimes people assume the least of me. It's in the little things—like when I try to participate in a discussion about some recent death and get shut down with a “teasing” comment that implies I'm only interested because the guy who died was hot, and not because his death from a drug overdose is reflective of a scary issue endemic to our culture; or even when I do charity work and people imply that wearing makeup while doing it makes me somehow less of a humanitarian. It's also in the big things, when they know what I'm capable of, but strive to put me in my place, cutting me out of an intelligent group conversation entirely, only turning to me to stare at my breasts or to remind everyone for the millionth time about some funny (stupid) little thing I did on the way to the forum (or whatever). Ha. ha.

But I'm nice. So usually I just smile. Sometimes I even laugh with them. It's true that I detest ugly confrontations, but my problem is even bigger than that. Because when people aren't so kind to me, sometimes I actually feel bad that I might hurt their feelings if I point it out to them. I recognize that this is a warped form of compassion, a certain emotional immaturity perhaps. To feel so much that you feel bad calling out the person hurting you. 

Honestly, I don't know how to tackle this problem. But it wears me down. It makes me feel very small. I suppose there's a certain hazard to being a nice person. People sometimes walk all over you, take advantage. But, I don't want to be an unkind person. Or cold. Or apathetic. But I'm starting to realize something. By saying nothing when someone is treating me poorly (intentionally or otherwise), I'm teaching them to treat me like I am less than I am. Where is the kindness in that? For me or for them? Imagine the kind of relationship we could have, so true and meaningful, if we learned to treat one another with respect and kindness—and without judgment based on meaningless idiosyncrasies.

So, be kind, yes. Always. But don't let others be unkind to you. Maybe one has nothing to do with the other. Or everything.


Carolina Valdez Miller writes books about teenagers who deal with normal stuff in extraordinary circumstances. Sometimes she gives them magic. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband, Bigger Bean and Little Bean and a freakishly cute maltipoo named Snowflake Princess Buttercup. You can find her at her personal blog, Twitter, Facebook, and sometimes Walmart. Everybody goes there.