Thursday, December 31, 2009

In a Better Mood

Leave it to PFunky to set me straight--and some uplifting words from Laurie to put me on a better track.*

I've been pissed off all day. On Twitter I was reading about all the "GREAT" and "FANTASTIC" plans people have for the new year. Everyone was so freaking chipper. Apparently I only follow the uber-achievers whose sole purpose in life is to make me feel like a big gigantic loser by comparison.

Where am I going? What am I going to do next? What have I accomplished so far? What do I have to show for my time on this planet? Why was it again I went away to college? And moved away from home? How the heck am I going to make the changes I really want to make in my life?

Oh yeah, and I'm going to be 40 in 2010.

It wasn't a pretty day.

Just moments ago, I was reminded that we are putting another decade on the books (I mean I knew this, but I didn't really THINK about it), and then I started to think about my life 10 years ago.

The roof that is over my head? Didn't belong to me yet.

The kind people I work for now? Hadn't met 'em yet.

The three crazy, rambunctious, big-hearted boys who make me want to both pull out all my hair and laugh hysterically every single day? One just went back home to live with his mom and the other two were a vague concept.

I may not be world-famous (yet). I may not be the hottest mommy in town (yet). I may even still have that nasty Diet Coke habit (let's not get too hasty with our resolutions), but I do have a life I couldn't conceive of just ten years ago.

Makes me wonder how I'll look back ten years from now.

*I hope you know how much your words meant to me today--always.

Post-Holiday Stress Disorder

I'm not sure what it is--the letdown after the holidays, looking back at a year, anticipating a new one. Whatever it is it has me in a foul mood and wondering if a good, snot-filled cry would make it better.

While everyone else is excited for a new year and new resolutions, I'm sitting here this morning filled with anxiety and wanting to hide.

Being responsible for your own happiness is overwhelming sometimes. There are so many things I have to pretend not to see or feel that it becomes exhausting--like playing a role eight days a week.

Fake it till you make it?

My stiff neck and nasty zits say otherwise.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Playing with my Baby--My Lensbaby

As someone whose attention is piqued whenever photography is discussed, I'd heard the name Lensbaby thrown about quite a bit. The company has been good about using social media to market, but I didn't know quite what to expect.

I asked for one as a lark for Christmas (as I try to decide if I'm going to pull the trigger on my f2.8 24-70mm).

The day after the big day was sunny, so I went outside to play.

I'm not sure yet how I would use the lens in a professional sense, but it's definitely fun to play with. The accessory kit is a must for the fun aspect of the lens. In addition to a wide angle and telephoto lens and a macro kit, it comes with disks you can design yourself to create different spectral light shapes (star and heart included in kit).

There is some fine print on the Lensbaby site about it not talking to a variety of Nikon cameras (mine included) which made me think twice about using the lens, but don't be dissuaded. If you shoot in manual, you know all you need to to work with the lens. My biggest concern was that the internal light metering wouldn't work, but it was just fine.

So in the end, I'm looking forward to experimenting more with my new Lensbaby. Do you have one? What do you like the most about it? What do you use it for (you know, other than taking pictures)?

This post is not sponsored. I received the lens as a gift from my husband and was in no way compensated for my words. And the fact that I have to write this on my own's you a$$holes who will blog for a free coupon who ruined it for the rest of us.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'd Wish You a Merry Christmas if I Wasn't so Freakin' Tired

Holy cow!

I had no idea how exhausted my mother must have been during the holidays when I was a kid.

I have my three boys, the husband, my parents and brother in town. Not THAT many people, and I'm bushed.

My mom worked as an ER nurse when I was Santa-believing age. She regularly hosted twice as many people in a smaller house on a much smaller salary and never let us see her crack--not even once.

I am not worthy.

I'm 39 years old and it's taken me this many years to get all of my presents wrapped before Christmas have a dinner prepared the night my parents arrive (what? I take them to restaurants with cloth napkins!).

Mom hasn't had to cook one thing so far this holiday (sure she just arrived this afternoon), I have all the groceries purchased for meals through Friday (even stuff for lunches) and I'm almost done with my cooking (yeah, so I'll be up REALLY late).

But I'm kinda proud of myself.

I also can't see straight let alone carry on a conversation with anyone.

So if you don't hear from me for a few days, it's not because I don't love you. I do. But the torch has been passed and I'm the "mom" of the family now, and pretending to be organized is EXHAUSTING.

Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Woke to #snOMG

So the other night I had a few quiet hours--a calm before the storm if you will.

Last night I was out trying to cram in some errands before the snow hit.

It started a little earlier than the meteorologists expected.

At midnight, the roads were littered with people who spun out, drove into ditches or couldn't get up a hill. My 13 yo and I toodled around picking up detergent, getting gas, watching the light show at the gas station (seriously. You tune into a specific radio station and all the lights are choreographed to the music. Without the music it just looks like a 3 yo is in control of the nobs.)

We probably had 3 inches on the ground by 1:00 a.m.

This morning I woke up to this.

(the last two were taken UNDER my car port)

The kids couldn't believe their eyes.

We haven't had much snow in the past few years, but the accumulation overnight was nothing compared to what it was by 4:30 p.m.

I tried to take a few of the same shots so you could see the difference.

It's dark now, but I just let the dog out--our 70 lb black lab. The snow is up to her back. Poor thing didn't know where to pee. Once she figured it out though, she was off bounding through the snow.

Little P asked me if the snow was going to be here when he woke up in the morning.

I think it's a pretty safe bet.

Hope you all are keeping warm on this December night.

If you'd like to see the rest of my photos from today, hop on over to my Flickr page.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Still Hours

I love this time of night/morning--3:41 a.m.

One week until Christmas. Family plans to organize. Work projects to finish up. The next seven days will be crazy.

But now...right now. Everything is still.

I can hear the deep sigh of the dog, the muffled mumbles of a child deep in his dream. When I step outside the air is clear, the stars are crisp and no cars or wind or animals are heard.

We're expecting a big snow storm tomorrow night. The kids will be home with wet boots and jackets thrown everywhere. I'll be running to the store to finish my shopping; beginning my cooking for the family that will arrive soon.

But now...right now. Everything is still.

Friday, December 04, 2009

And Again

Most of you are just waking up.

I'm still wearing the same clothes I put on after my shower yesterday morning. I couldn't sleep last night.

A bunch of good friends came over last night. I had a little get together. I didn't stress about it. I didn't freak out about the way my house looked. I didn't even worry about the food. Everything came together just fine. People arrived. We laughed. We had great conversations. New friendships were formed. It was a fantastic evening.

I checked my Blackberry after everyone left. I like to look at my calendar for the next day before I go to bed--to make sure I didn't forget anything.

There were six missed calls on my phone.

I wasn't able to get back in touch with the callers. It was late. But, I was able to get a little information. The thing is my parents were already in bed.

The news could wait until morning.

My mom could have one more peaceful night's sleep before we start the whole routine all over again.

We've done this so many times before.

I'm just not used to my new role as the one who breaks the news.

And the fact that I'm not there to support them...I think that's even harder.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No Mammography until 50?! Tell it to Her

The thing about the perfect best friend is that you want everyone you know to meet her.

Forget that she loves you even when you're a bitch. Forget that on a visit to your family's she walked your infant nephew all night long--while sick as a dog--so that you could get some sleep.

Don't even consider that she knows all the words to every 80's song and will sing them with very little prodding or alcohol when you can't remember the words. And don't even take into account her phenomenal dancing skills that would have secured her a job as the spotlight dancer on Solid Gold (that again will be performed with no prodding or alcohol).

Those aren't the reasons you wished she lived next door.

It's her heart and her smile and her laughter and her kindness that make her your number one gal.


My best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer this year at the age of the 37.

You know why?

Because she had a mammography at the urging of her new physician just to establish a baseline.

A baseline!

The growth was the size of a grain of rice. One, tiny, little growth that led to a bilateral mastectomy, drains, chemotherapy, hair loss and the inability to lift her three small children (all 5 and under) for extended periods of time this year.

That baseline mammogram at 37 is what allowed doctors to catch her aggressive form of cancer before she even felt a lump--before it spread to other places in her body.

And now the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued a statement indicating that women don't need to consider regular mammograms until age 50?!

There are no words to convey the rage I feel about this--so I direct you to my friend's feelings on the issue.

The American Cancer Society IS NOT changing their recommendation that women begin regular screening at the age of 40. (I couldn't be more proud to be part of their blogger's council.)

I am so afraid that women will believe this government entity--that insurance companies will believe them too.

The thing about my perfect best friend is that she is with me today--and will be for a long time thanks to an early mammogram.

You don't need to rely on figuring out when your mammogram is due. Check out this tool to get reminders to schedule yours.

If this makes you angry too, get involved! Check out the More Birthdays Campaign.

Books! Books! Books!

The Kirtsy book comes out today!

Why am I excited about it? Maybe because a number of lovely women have their writing, photography and general online fantasticness profiled in this anthology of women on the web.

You another reason?

I'm one of the contributors! (I know. Can you believe it?!) I'm even attending a book release party on Thursday night and will have a Sharpie (have you seen their gallery?) on hand to sign copies (and will be looking over my shoulder for Candid Camera the whole time). You're invited to the party if you're in the DC area. Seriously.

The piece included only came about because of my addiction to Twitter (who says all addictions are bad?!) and the very cool people I regularly interact with there (are we following each other? If you're human and not spamming, I follow back--social media is all about relationships, yo). Since it wouldn't have been possible without them and because you can't click on a link in a book, I'm rerunning the post here and hope you'll click away on the links below.

Oh and buy the book too (I don't make anything off of it). Mine is only one of many resources and eye candy you'll find in it.

Twitter Speaks: More Than 50 Books that Have Had an Affect on Us
(originally posted August 9, 2008)

It's summer and I'm on a reading binge again. Our annual trip to the beach followed closely by a weekend of relative solitude (*gasp* imagine?) has given me the chance to get through a few titles at a much faster pace than regular life allows.

Right now I'm finishing up Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins and there are so many great passages/great lines that have made me stop to think about which books have spoken to me the most.

I subscribe to the belief that different books can mean different things to you depending on where you are in your life. Additionally, books can have varying impact on people reading them depending on the events going on in the world or the timing of the publication. For example, while I think On The Road must have been groundbreaking when it was written, I wasn't as blown away by it having had the experience myself of traveling without a plan--which is a far more common experience today than it was in the Fifties.

This thinking about reading and "the classics" led me to wonder what books had most influenced others. (My favorite section in Newsweek is A Life In Books... the brief interview with an author and the list of the author's favorite books and the book they felt was most overrated.) With trusty Twitter at my fingertips, I asked the following question to my Tweeps.

What book have you read, other than the bible, that has had the greatest impact on you?

Folks on Twitter (if you're not on there, you should be) were tremendously forthcoming with titles--so much so that the following list will keep my reading for years. While 140 characters didn't allow for much more than title and author, I did receive a few notes about why people had selected certain titles. I'm hoping that folks who contributed to the list (or others inspired by this post) might consider writing a post explaining why the book they listed had such an impact on them. I'm fascinated by these stories and always looking for good recommendations.

Someone did come back to me wanting to know which book most influenced me and I do feel an obligation to share that information. Unfortunately, I can't point to one particular title that has had the most influence. I love books. I always have. Each on it's own has affected me in one way or another. Do I have favorites? Absolutely. But even those that were difficult to get through have increased my love for words and added to my ability to think in words.

So without further ado, I give you...

Twitter Speaks: More Than 50 Books that Have Had an Affect on Us

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald Mama Tulip

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb Mama Tulip

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb Send Chocolate & Mama Tulip

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides MamaTulip

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck Karoli SoCalMom

Happy Hooker by Xaviera Hollander SoCalMom (you wouldn't believe how it could scare a 14 y.o)

Lamb by Christopher Moore Anissa Mayhew

The Pact by Jodi Picoult Jodifur

19 Minutes Jodi Picoult Jodifur & Hip Mom

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith Jessabean

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Whit & GraceD & Dooblehvay

A Heatbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers Whit

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison Isabel Kallman

Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill Rumford

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott Flutter & Hip Mom (this had a huge impact on me too)

Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn NoirBettie

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser Neilochka

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron Lola Goetz

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger Devra

Foundation by Isaac Asimov YatPundit

Rebecca by Daphne DuMarier Casey Moosh in Indy

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby OpenBookJen

Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde Redneck Mommy

Leaves of Grass* by Walt Whitman Redneck Mommy

Lucky by Alice Sebold Flutter

A Separate Peace by John Knowles Samanthia & PunditMom

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxyby Douglas Adams Crunchy Carpets

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon Kiki Laughs it Off

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens Kiki Laughs it Off

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell Kiki Laughs it Off

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice Kiki Laughs it Off

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle Kiki Laughs it Off

Mullet Madness by Alan Henderson Undomestic Diva

Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera NOLANotes

A Sense of Honor by Jim Webb Gunfighter

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood Jodifur

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman Jodifur

The Princess Bride by William Goldman SueBob

A Course in Miracles SueBob

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White Assertagirl

Intermediate Man John Locks tag

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou GraceD

Laura Ingalls Wilder books GraceD

Bias by Bernard Goldberg Kiss My Gumbo

Evidence of Harm by David Kirby To Think

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley SoCal Mom

1984 by George Orwell SoCal Mom

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut SoCal Mom

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien PaullYoung

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn khylek

Death Be Not Proud by John J. Gunther Slouchy

Atonement by Ian McEwan Slouchy

Superior Women by Alice Adams CharmingDriver

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino Linseyk

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard FairlyOddMother

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen Cindy Fey

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie Mike Driehorst

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner Pundit Mom

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles Pundit Mom

Edited on 8/12/08 to add the following titles originally left off because, well, I'm just a dope.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell Julie Pippert

Children of God by Mary Doria Russell Julie Pippert

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett Julie Pippert

*This book of poetry was given the highest recommendation when Redneck Mommy explained that it virtually got her through the death of her son. It will be next on my list for a number of reasons and I will think of T's beloved Bug as I soak up Whitman's words. Thank you T for being willing to share him with us.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You from the Bottom of My Heart

She was due to give birth to her first baby in June.

He had been honorably discharged as an officer in the Air Force for health reasons, but he felt such a duty to his country he enlisted as a private in the Army. He was on base away from home getting ready to ship out with his company.

A wise, compassionate company commander knew that Morgan's wife was about to give birth. He also knew that once he sent Morgan over seas there was a good chance he might not come home. That gentleman risked his own military career to ensure that another man had the chance to meet his daughter--if only for one day.

My mom was born in mid June 1944. My grandfather spent exactly 24 hours with her and set sail for Europe.

The company in which my grandfather served was sent to France for the D-Day invasion. Many of his buddies did not survive.

Because of an incredible commanding officer, my grandfather missed the invasion by a few weeks and though he waited two more years to see his daughter he lived to hold her and raise her and love her, her sister and two grand-daughters to follow.

I was just four when he died, but I know he loved me like only a grandfather can--like only a man who loved his country so much he went back to serve when he didn't have to can--like only a man who loves his fellow man enough to risk his own career to allow another to see his daughter can.

For those men, for the men in my grandfather's company who didn't survive, for the men and women who serve today I am eternally grateful.

Come back tomorrow to read about a veteran of an entirely different sort.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Too Many Roads Not Taken

The new year may mean the beginning of a new business for me.

I know I can start it. Resources abound for getting it going. I'm pretty sure I can even get a client or two.

What is holding me back is fear of failure, fear of making a bad decision, fear of hitting a wall.

Intellectually, I know it takes hard work and trial and error to become a success. I already live with the regret of roads not taken for these same sorts of fears. The conflict inside is making me feel sea-sick.

I want to move forward. I think it's a path I'm supposed to explore. I know the fears that are creeping in are the usual ghosts trying to sabotage my progress. I even know how to name them this time, and yet...

When my dog tries to jump on me, I turn around. I deny her attention and she gets the message quickly. Can I turn my back on these voices--the voices telling me I'll never have the talent, the voices telling me I'll never be more than a hack?

No way to know unless I try. And THAT? That is scary.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Best Blog Post Ever

I had the best idea for a blog post as I was lying (or is it laying--I don't feel like Googling it) in bed last night. It occurred to me to get up and make a note about it, but it was such a perfect idea that I was sure I would remember it.

I didn't.

I want to say it had something to do with my mom, or motherhood, or being a queen, but I could be totally off. Maybe it had to do with the importance of reading to your children or how the Yankees threw last game so they could win the Series in their new stadium. It might have been a treatise exploring the finer points of a frozen Snicker's bar or a PSA about not drinking six Diet Cokes during the day if you plan to sleep at night.

Hell if I know.

Most of my profound thoughts really can be conveyed in less than 140 characters--not that I share all of them on Twitter, but it makes me a little hesitant to throw them out there and count them as a post.

Maybe I should start carrying around another Moleskine just for my incredible thoughts and ideas and then I can serve up a bunch at a time for your viewing pleasure. What's one more Moleskine, right? I mean there's the one I have for work, the one that has my older random notes and Christmas lists, the one I'm using for current journaling and then another small one that found it's way in my bag. Shit. I have a Moleskine problem.

I guess that's better than a mole problem--or a skin problem.

Actually I have a skin problem, but you're probably not interested in my eczema or the latex gloves I wore at work the other day so I could apply the prescription ointment I have for said eczema so I wouldn't rip all of the skin off my hands nor get the ointment on my keyboard. No one seemed to notice them until I began to use hand gestures during an emotional conversation with my boss at which point she stopped in her tracks which was actually a good thing because the conversation was getting way too heavy for the both of us and we needed that moment of comic relief--you know like when Olympia Dukakis offers up Shirley McLaine for Sally Fields to hit during the funeral scene in Steel Magnolias. I mean every damn time I watch that movie I'm a sloppy, snotty mess as Sally screams that it was supposed to be her in the casket and then here comes Olympia. Thank goodness straight guys had the innate sense never to watch that movie with me, because the boogers... Though that did seem to work for Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally--well at least until the uncomfortable silence when it was all over.

Hmph. Nope. That wasn't the idea for my post either.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bottles on a Shelf

I've been listening to your personal jam session with Rock Band for the past hour and it makes me want to bottle you up so I can enjoy this moment over and over. Oh the shelf that bottle would sit on! It would be nestled in among thousands of other tiny glass jars--the ones holding the sounds of your baby giggles or the one that holds the image of your smile the day of your first tball game.

If only I could have a shelf like that. One that I could visit any time to relive those experiences again and again.

Tonight you're five. You haven't mastered reading yet, so you sing the words you know by heart and fudge the rest adding in woots and yeahs as you see fit.

No stage fright. No performance anxiety. You haven't discovered those yet.

There are tears in my eyes and my heart feels like it's ready to burst just listening to you sing without a care in the world. I wish I could keep the world this way for you forever--the way it is right now. But I can't keep those bottles on the shelf and I can't stop you from growing up.

My hope however is this: No matter how old you are you'll always sing with abandon and be exactly who you want to be regardless of who is watching.

Monday, November 02, 2009

I Googled Him Today

We haven't talked in such a long time. It's been even longer since I've seen him.

If you ask me, I'll tell you that I don't have any feelings about him at all.



I can summon nothing.

He is part of my past like kids from elementary school who moved away, like that shirt you had to have in 7th grade and only remember now when you leaf through the photo album at your mom's house.

He was there one day--such an integral part of my life--and the next he was gone. The pain in the beginning was fierce, but when it subsided the relief erased everything. No more drama.

So why? Why today?

Why was the last thought I had before falling asleep last night one that suggested I should google him today?

I felt dirty just typing his name. I was embarrassed. What if someone found out I had looked for him? Was I really "looking" for him, or just wanting to know if he was still out there?

My upper lip is pulled up in a scowl as I type this now. I'm disgusted that I did it. Thinking that by admitting it here I will cleanse myself of this thing--this act of typing twelve letters and pressing Enter.

You'd think by my description there was abuse. There wasn't. Well, unless you consider abandoning your 10 & 12 year old daughters with no notice abuse. Most days I don't. I've often considered it a favor.

He just walked away one day.

His name doesn't deserve to be uttered. It most certainly doesn't deserve to be written. And I think that's why I'm so repulsed by the fact that I did. I think I'm worried that just by mentioning him by name he will somehow manifest from thin air, and I REALLY don't want that to happen.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

So Many Interests, So Little Time

My desire to learn about so many things and to master (okay become proficient) a number of skills has reached epic level.

And this whole oh yeah I'm a political consultant thing can get in the way some days.

Plus? Sleeping?

How am I going to become a world famous photographer/knitter/gardener/well-read/self-actualized/uber-Mom/social media maven/baseball parent with all this work and sleep taking up my time?!

I've already given up the laundry, cooking and most of the cleaning (until my parents come in town or I'm hosting a real party), and still there is never enough time. This doesn't even take into account the roots and eyebrows that constantly require maintenance.

Oh and also I should have added "organized, beautiful home-owning and fabulously fashionable" to my list above.


Guess we're all going to have to settle for friendly chick.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lessons Learned This Weekend

In the Kitchen

You can cook by candlelight as long as the stove, oven and refrigerator aren't on the mysterious circuit that blew in the middle of making dinner and refuses to come back on.

Two trays of lasagna are put together. One is in the oven, the other is waiting its turn. I'm patting myself on the back for making a dish ahead of time for the week--and there's even another one to go in the freezer for next week or the week after.

(I wouldn't normally show you a photo so blurry, but I was taking it by candlelight and my tripod was in the car. You can see my dilemma.)

So I'll remember later, one box of noodles is enough for two trays. You need two large containers of ricotta, one and half large bottles of sauce (come on, I didn't have any lights in my kitchen!) or three regular sized bottles, two pounds of ground meat and one package of mild italian sausage and one HUGE bag of shredded mozarella.

There are so many incredible websites out there with recipes that could keep me cooking for the rest of my life. This site was one I found this week. I'm gonna try the bread pudding from this post first.


Shooting babies is hard.

Even a giant picture window and turning all the lights on in the room aren't going to give you the light you need to shoot without a flash (and a bunch of post-processing) on a rainy day.

My friend was so kind to allow me to practice on her gorgeous six month old yesterday. Little Faye has this incredible red, curly hair and the chubbiest cheeks.

You can get enough light to shoot outside on a rainy day as long as you have covered place to shoot.

Can you believe the eyes on this one?

And him? The youngest of four and a personality to make sure he doesn't go unnoticed.

Another terrific friend threatened me if I didn't come shoot her kids was willing to let me take some shots of her kids so I could do some portfolio building.


There might be a link between perfectionism and shame. I don't know what it is yet, but I've downloaded I Thought it was Just Me because of the cool read along project the author set up on her blog.

I've long known that I've missed out on exciting adventures in my life because I was too afraid of failure. When I noticed that same trait emerging in one of my sons recently I wanted to find out how to beat back the beast. I so want for my boys to live lives filled with adventure.

How was your weekend?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Maybe You Haven't Seen Me

Conventional wisdom among blogging gurus is the key to a successful blog is finding your niche and concentrating on that.

What if you don't have a niche? Would I have more readers if I did? Am I writing for readers? Is this blog about me or you the reader?

When I talk to people about social media I too stress the importance of putting out information that is not about you, but about them. Now I'd argue that can be done in different ways. What I mean when I say it is don't just tweet links back to your blog or RT what others have said (though RTs are a sign of good citizenship), but take part in a conversation--or start one.

The emphasis here is on the social part of media.

Social, to me, is about community and conversation and sharing of ideas. It's about having a discussion rather than spamming each other so that neither of us hears what the other is saying. I'd argue that our world would be a much better place if this happened more often.

So what does this have to do with what I put out on my blog?

Well I clearly don't have a niche. I write about my kids (but not only them), I share some of my photographs (but I'm not a photo blogger), there is the infrequent insertion of politics (I live in DC after all), when a cool offer comes along I like to share that too (but you're not coming here for coupon codes). And then there are the days I tell you a little something about me (but do you really know who I am?). I like to make you laugh. I feel like I owe you that--or at least a grin--for lending me your eyes, but I'm no Jenny.

So who am I here? Why am I here? Why do I put out my words for all the world to see, and why do I like it when people are compelled to add their thoughts to my own?

I think I like to know that I'm not the only one. Sure I'd love to be an original, but I like to know too that my life resonates with yours.

That's the "social" in social media to me.

I've been subscribing to new blogs left and right lately. I'm adding disparate sites that speak to me, to who I am right now. I've subscribed to Scientific American, m. writes, design crush, zen habits and the fat girl's guide just to name a few.

Pretty varied that group--sort of like my posts.

I want you to see me. I want to be honest here. And if I admit something that to me seems ugly, I'd like people to be attracted to my writing. But with interests as varied as mine, how do I find a niche?

There are personal questions I'm asking myself these days. It may be the impending big birthday. I feel like I'm on the cusp of change. I'm going to be taking you along with me as these questions flesh out. I hope you find something in my words that speak to you. And I hope you'll add your own to them--even if it seems I'm all over the place.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

All Fired Up!

The great thing about the blog medium is you can post immediate responses to breaking news or events.

Sometimes providing an immediate response is not the best idea.

If I were to publish a post tonight about The White House and moms and about using new media tools to create the appearance of concern about the opinions of a particular segment of society--a segment that makes the majority of family financial decisions in this country, a segment that is disproportionately effected by the global economic crisis--but follow-up with partial actions and behind schedule, I would not be diplomatic.

And if I've learned anything in my 16 years in DC, it's that diplomacy is appreciated by those in power.

So tonight I will go to sleep and let my blood cool down. Tomorrow however...

Monday, October 12, 2009

DC Acronyms Attack--FDA, TSA, CFPA

If you live in the DC area long enough, you get used to the myriad of government acronyms. I have friends who work for the CIA, DEA, ICE, BATF, IRS, DOT, OMB, FEC, DOJ and a host of others.

I learned about yet another new acronym today. Emily and Cooper over at The Motherhood pointed me to a recent announcement by the White House calling for Congress to form the CFPA or the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. You can read more about it here and here.

The White House, in an effort to expand online engagement, is reaching out to a variety of online communities--including mom bloggers--to take our questions about financial regulatory reform.

FINALLY, someone who wants to talk to me as a mom blogger about something besides diapers! And its The White House no less! I couldn't be happier that our elected officials are beginning to understand the role of mothers (all parents, really) as financial decision makers and the effect stable markets have on our day to day life.

Upon Emily and Cooper's encouragement, I submitted the following questions.

1. What effect will the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) have on current regulatory agencies? Will regulators and rules be consolidated under this new umbrella? Which agencies in particular will be moved? How long will it take to streamline the process? How will overlapping regulations or loopholes be closed if contradictions exist?

2. Which, if any, provisions will be put in place under this new agency to protect those Americans who practice fiscal responsibility? In other words, which specific provisions will be put in place to make it more lucrative for financial institutions to conduct honest business with financially responsible clients rather than what they can stand to gain by exploiting those who are in desperate financial situations?

Tomorrow, the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Dr. Christina Romer, a mom of three herself, will answer our questions directly by video.

I wonder if mine will make the cut. You know I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Eco Wo-Man! Eco Wo-Man!

I'm hoping you sang the title of this post to the Wonder Woman theme song. Go ahead. Go back and do it. I'll wait.

There's a lot of introspection going down for me these days.

In addition to attending this amazing workshop, I enrolled myself in Mondo Beyondo for this month's session.

I've cracked open The Artist's Way and while I haven't started on the morning pages yet, I'm seriously considering them. (If I tell you that the book has been sitting on my shelf for the last 15 years, the fact that I'm considering doing them will all of the sudden seem like a giant leap forward.)

Last weekend I spent time in the desert with these incredible women participating in the Brand About Town Advisory Board retreat.

The scenery brought me to tears.

We hiked.

We talked.

We laughed.

And despite this photo, we quite noticeably ignored technology without any prior agreement.

The desert is quiet to a girl like me who lives so close to the city. I returned a bit tired, but emotionally renewed. (Christine does a very good job of explaining much of it, but I'm pretty sure I've also discovered some primordial Jim Morrison need for a regular peyote-induced dance in the desert.*)

This is all a long-winded way of getting around to the point that now that I'm looking all inward and thinking about doing morning pages and stuff, I'm clearly becoming more green.

Case in point. I haven't quite reached the Diva Cup stage, but this morning I remembered to recycle an empty tampon box.

Mamma Loves the earth and the earth loves me.

*Mamma Loves, nor Brand About Town, endorse the use of peyote. Reference to peyote above does not represent actual usage of peyote, but is used solely for comic effect--unless of course you have some peyote and want to go to the desert with me to dance. Be prepared however to listen to a LOT of 70's disco's just about the best music for dancing when you're high on peyote. Not that I've ever done that. As far as you know.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Want to Get Your Small Business up on Social Media?

It seems like many people I run across in the social media world are thinking about starting up small businesses or have already started one.

As you probably know, I've been an editor with Kirtsy for some time so I'm pretty excited to be involved in this new project.

Kirtsy is bringing a lot of us together in October and November to get our hands on small business… and give practical advice, instruction, and application to rock out some of our favorite free online and social media solutions.

Theyʼre joining up with the cool, smart people at Microsoft Office Live to do 100 Hands On Small
sessions in October and November.

100 sessions! 100 FREE sessions.

You heard it here (you can thank me later). Seriously. Weʼre talking 100 fun, practical gatherings of goodness to show you and yours a few new easy things to take up online.

Itʼs true. Women (and hey the brothers are invited too) across the country will be coming together this Fall for the October and November Hands On Small Business (#HOSB) series — all brought to you in by the Politics, World and Business section of Kirtsy and the very good people of Microsoft Office Live.

All of the 100 gatherings will be held October 5– November 22 in 20 areas across the country including:


Each session will be hosted and led by Kirtsy editors, Kirtsy founders and Kirtsy friends, who just want to get together to show you some new (and maybe not so new) cool things that will help make your online life easier, smarter and definitely more interesting.

So if theyʼre coming to a city near you, please plan to join in on the fun! And bring your laptop if you have one!

Not in your city? Well, darn. You have two options:

1. Let them know where your city is, and theyʼll try to put it on the list for the next round of fun.

2. Get yourself to one of these cities on the scheduled dates. Go ahead. Plan a field trip.

You can find out all the info you need to know at the Hands On Small Business site. You can find out all about the awesome instructors (yep that's me all the way down under DC). The excellent variety of dates.

So get ready, and get set to go save your spot in your favorite site.

Feel free too to pass this info on to others you think might be interested. No need to be a blogger or even have any social media experience. This is truly a 101 course.

And tell me what you think about it--that is unless you come to my sessions and you think I suck. Cause then...well let's just say we're working with a fragile ego here people.

Monday, September 28, 2009

When Everything Comes Together

When a one line email arrives in the middle of the night, point your nose into the breeze and take in the winds of change.

You may be too tired to grasp all that the email portends at the time, but stick it in your wallet like a Chinese fortune. I promise you will look at it later and marvel at the accuracy of its prediction.

Three months ago, Aimee sent me an email (not an actual cookie, though that would have been good too) with this message.

That was all it said except for the inclusion of a link to this.

I've been carrying around a camera since the late 70's. I still remember my very first one. It was a cheapo 110 that Santa brought me to take pictures on my upcoming trip to Disney World (a huge gift from grandmother). I was nine. All of the pictures from that trip are off-center because the viewfinder wasn't lined up with the lens. I can still smell the scent of the burned out flash bar.

The 110 was followed by a series of point and shoot film cameras, an SLR, a couple of digital point and shoots and finally two years ago a digital SLR. I thought everyone owned a camera of some sort or another. It wasn't until I posted a bunch of old photos on Facebook recently (much to the chagrin of many friends) that I realized my assumption was wrong.

You'd think after all of those cameras I'd know a thing or two about photography. But I didn't. Not really. I knew that I liked to capture moments. I was ecstatic when a photo actually came out sort of the way I imagined it would. But I'll let you in on a secret: it was all just a matter of statistics. If you shoot enough, you're bound to end up with one or two you love. Despite a desire to take a photography class, I still hadn't gotten around to it.

Over the past year or two, I'd been lurking around blogs with beautiful photography. I actually wound up the nerve to ask Yvonne and Aimee for a few pointers. Yvonne pointed me to this book (which I bought immediately--she said it changed her photography completely) and Aimee provided me with constant encouragement--that is until she sent me that link.

I knew of Me Ra through reputation. I knew other bloggers spoke her name in hushed tones. The workshop seemed like a bit of an investment, but photography was really becoming a hobby, so I signed up for the workshop.

And then I freaked out!

I was going to sit in a room with this amazing photographer and 19 other women who knew about aperature and f-stop and shutter speed and probably the Pythagorean Theorem--some of them even had their own photography businesses!

What the f*ck was I thinking?! I was going to embarrass myself.

Last weekend arrived, and the moment I met Me Ra my fears disappeared. I believe it's impossible to be around that smile, around her light and not feel inspired.

Yes she taught us how to leave the automatic settings behind and shoot entirely in manual (ENTIRELY IN MANUAL! You can do it too!), but that was such a small part of our weekend workshop. The very first note I took had nothing to do with photography at all.

"Anytime you can speak in front of people about what you do, the better."

And my second:

"What you have is enough."

Yes Me Ra is a published writer and an incredible photographer, but she is so much more. Me Ra was put on this planet to inspire women. Her artistic talents are just the tools she uses to speak to our hearts.
"Step back from your images and see what your soul is trying to tell you."

I've had a copy of The Artist's Way on my shelf for 15 years. I don't know that I've ever gotten further than the Table of Contents. That was until Me Ra started our workshop reflecting on a quote she pulled out of her well-worn copy.

I smiled as I looked at the book laying on the table in front of her. The cover was faded, the binding floppy and a rainbow of sticky notes adorned pages like ceremonial feathers. It reminded me of my copy of Let's Go Europe that still sits proudly on my shelf almost 20 years after that great trip.

My copy of The Artist's Way is no longer on the shelf but now sitting next to my computer where I can easily grab it when I can steal a few minutes to be inspired. I was so euphoric after the workshop I was mad when I had to return to work the next day. All I wanted to do was take advantage of the light outside, play with my photos in my free trial of Lightroom and spend the rest of my time reading and continuing on my path to creativity.

Oh yeah, I have a family and a job and house and...and...

But you know what? It's okay. Because last week I came across this post by Leo Babauta.

"Holding ourselves back is often considered a bad thing, but it’s not. It’s the best thing we can do, if we want changes to last. When we start a new change, often we are full of enthusiasm. But then we go all out and use up all of that enthusiasm, and run out of motivation or energy or get distracted by something else. But when you hold yourself back, you build up enthusiasm and keep it going for much longer..."

How did he know I needed to read this?

I'm the queen of charging full-steam ahead and burning out just as fast. I don't want to do it this time though. All this confluence of events and ideas and skills and encouragement, it needs to be treated differently. I know this moment is special.

I am full of anticipation with what will come. I am already seeing changes.

As of tonight, I'm not sure what my soul is trying to say through the images yet, but I'm liking what they are whispering.