What’s So Amazing About Really Deep Thoughts?

I can’t seem to write lately. I couldn’t put something together for National Infertility Awareness Week. I wanted to write something for PAIL’s most recent theme because believe me, I have lots of things to say, but I worked on a post for days and was never able to make it coherent.  I have several half-started posts in draft status. I guess this is what writer’s block looks like?

Maybe it’s that I am incapable of deep thought right now.  My brain seems flighty and moody right now. I have two new books in my iBooks and an honest-to-god tangible book that I checked out from the library on my nightstand, and I can’t bring myself to start them. Instead I waste time on Buzzfeed or Twitter.

I don’t think I’m the only one in my household suffering from Flighty Brain Syndrome. Jimmy and I have given up our weekly declarations that we WILL start Game of Thrones finally. We settle for repeats of space shows (there’s some weird shit in the universe) or even an episode of Starkey’s Monarchy (we’re on Henry II and Beckett). Or an episode of Coupling when we’re particularly brain dead (three words: “Lesbian Spank Inferno.” That episode is gold).

Maybe my brain has been trained to cool off this time of year thanks to 17 years of school on a traditional calendar. Muscle memory and all that.

Today starts Daniel’s last week as a 3-year-old. One week from today he’ll be 4. Mind. Blown (apparently that isn’t difficult right now).  We’re having his first kiddie party next weekend, and I’m thinking about garbage truck cakes and herding sugar-fueled preschoolers.

And we’re going to the beach for a week at the end of June. I think all 3 of us are counting down the days.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe my brain is on vacation already.




Leaning In and Leaning Back

Next week I’ll have the chance to read Sandberg’s Lean In and review it for Liberating Working Moms.  You can’t go online anywhere without running into the book whether it is a pre-publication review (sometimes by someone who hasn’t read the book), a critique of the review, a critique of the critique and then the inevitable article about why women hate successful women. How meta.  Needless to say, I’m looking forward to actually reading the book and deciding for myself what I think about it.

The Huffington Post has been publishing a series of posts by contributors on whether they chose to lean in or lean back and why.  They are often short and sometimes not very good: I don’t think some understand quite what leaning in or leaning back means because their stories confuse the terms.

I feel like I’ve chosen to “lean in,” considering that I’m still working and continue to accept more responsibility.  I like what I do and find it challenging, interesting, occasionally infuriating and fulfilling (usually).  I can’t help but feel, though, that sometimes “leaning in” feels like being “all in” to borrow a term from poker.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about “leaning back.” My intuition tells me that more time at home and with my family could be very helpful right now, but the problem is that is that it’s not easy to “lean in” and then “lean back” without serious repercussions.  Ideally, it would be a lot easier to transition between the two states, leaning in, then leaning back when necessary and then leaning in again without hits to salary, benefits and career trajectory .  A fluid motion not  unlike that of a rocking chair, rocking back and forth with ease.

Maybe the book will have some wisdom for me.

A few interesting links I came across this week:

Online and Offline Relationships

Maybe the blogosphere has spring fever and has the attention of a high school senior anticipating graduation because it seems that recently a lot of bloggers have noticed fewer comments and less interaction and have posted about it: here, here, here, and here (oh lookee there.  I just used the Oxford comma after I told Katie I didn’t any longer).  All the posts are interesting, so I urge you to read them.  The speculation ranges from whether there is a blog/social media malaise to whether blogging is dying and ultimately ponders why we blog.

I was interested in this cross-blog conversation because it reminded me of the accusations that flew during the PAIL brouhaha in the ALI community that some bloggers were blogging for the wrong reasons and interested in the quantity of their readers and comments instead of the quality of their writing or their interactions.  Months later, that sanctimonious, distorted interpretation of the PAIL situation is the one that still stings me.  Based on the comments in the above blogs, it appears that discussing stats and comment numbers – even innocently  – is taboo because many commenters expressed that they blog for themselves, stats be damned.

So I mention this conversation to collect a little data of my own:

In your neck of the woods, have you noticed decreased action in the blogosphere or in your other social media channels?  A feeling of ennui?

Some commenters attributed any drop-off in interaction to the season, and I think there is a little truth to that.  The days are longer and nicer; there are more opportunities to spend time outside.  I know I personally have been consumed with preparing for Daniel’s transition to daycare: analyzing his wardrobe, researching food ideas, agonizing over how to prepare him.  I’m also busy at work and prepping presentations for the two conferences I’m attending this month and attending more meetings than anyone would ever want to attend.

At the same time, I have so much I want to post that I almost feel paralyzed when I think about trying to organize my thoughts and spew something coherent.  I don’t aim for profundity, only coherence.  So often, an extra day will slip between the interval I had planned because the thought of sitting at my laptop exhausts me.  It’s almost as if I have too much to say, so I don’t say anything.  And then when that extra day slips in, I shrug and doubt anyone will notice anyway (and no, that’s not a cry for validation).  And that shrug puts everything into perspective about what I’m doing in this space and what it means in the larger scheme.   But I also hate that shrug because I’m one of those people who needs to purge her mind because otherwise it builds up on top of what thought came before and I can’t move on and it threatens to drown me.

I actually started this post on Friday, and I tried to move on when I didn’t have a chance to finish it, but I keep coming back to what I wanted to say here.

As I was thinking about blogging and social media and our online relationships, I read “In the Era of Online Networking, Offline Connections are More Powerful Than Ever.”  Nutter’s point is that while we are enraptured with connecting via social media, the relationships we make offline – that take time to nurture and grow – are the ones that matter and are even more important now.  That makes sense to me.  After all, in my friend project, I’ve made friends via Twitter and blogs, but when I want to build those relationships, I take them offline.  I have actual lunch or dinner with these ladies.  We meet face to face.  Hell, even exchanging email seems more personal these days.  And it’s been true for years.  The same thing happened in the message board I was a part of: local ladies met and connected online via journals but took it offline with dinners, wedding attendance, baby showers and cookie exchanges (shout out to Fight Club!).   There’s an element of condescension in Nutter’s piece (“oh these kids today and their new toys”) but hardly anything revolutionary.

About 5 minutes after I finished reading Nutter’s piece, I came across Zeynep Tufekci’s piece Social Media’s Small, Positive Role in Human Relationships in the Atlantic.  [Side note: I just realized two seconds ago that she is a professor in former graduate program.  I think she came to UNC while I was on maternity leave or working on my Master’s Paper.  In other words, I am a moron for not realizing that earlier.]  Tufekcki argues that social media is in fact enabling more conversations between people and even deepening ties offline, something I found in my own research. I love that she has found that these online conversations save offline social lives and that online tools enable us to find kindred spirits by geography and interests in ways not available to us before.  I appreciate that Tufekci stands up for social media and the relationships we can build there. She says:

If anything, social media is a counterweight to the ongoing devaluation of human lives. Social media’s rapid rise is a loud, desperate, emerging attempt by people everywhere to connect with *each other* in the face of all the obstacles that modernity imposes on our lives: suburbanization that isolates us from each other, long working-hours and commutes that are required to make ends meet, the global migration that scatters families across the globe, the military-industrial-consumption machine that drives so many key decisions, and, last but not least, the television — the ultimate alienation machine — which remains the dominant form of media.

I certainly agree.  In addition to being able to connect to long-lost real-life friends, Twitter and the blogosphere has enabled me to connect with others suffering from infertility, coworkers, local bloggers, tech/social media thought leaders, bibliophiles and just overall cool people.  When I have insomnia, there is a conversation going in in which I can participate.  When bad weather threatens, I hear about it online before my weather radio squawks.  I am never alone and for someone who has felt alone most of her life, that feeling is priceless.

And it is powerful.  Check out her story.  Last Friday I reeled when I saw Diana’s tweet about her twin boys, and I was riveted by her story.  By riveted I don’t mean as if I were watching an accident or soap opera.  I was riveted because her story was happening to a real woman and as a mother and woman, I felt so sad and scared for her.  I don’t know Diana.  She is sort of a friend of several friends or acquaintances I know via Twitter and their blogs, but I’ve never interacted with her.  Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about her all weekend.  I was worrying for her and aching over what seemed to be the inevitable outcome.  Then on Monday she tweeted a few tweets about how badly a few doctors were treating her in the hospital and her decision not to induce her twins, and her situation went viral.  Calls and emails poured into the hospital and suddenly, Diana started to receive appropriate care. [Update: She tweeted that her boys were born this morning.  My thoughts are with her, and I hope the outpouring of love and grief she receives can somehow make her pain a little easier to bear.]

This post is not about women’s rights or whether Diana should or should not prolong what may be inevitable.  It is about the fact that online behavior and relationships can have positive offline benefits.  These relationships can be as real as those in the offline world.  They should not be minimized as Nutter attempted to do.  Those of us who spend time online should not be ashamed; we are cultivating real relationships.

These reasons are why if  there is a malaise or ennui with blogging or social media, we should resist it and press on.  We can build real relationships there, and we can impact real lives.

How do you feel about the relationships you have cultivated online?  Are they as real and strong as  your offline ones?

Friday Foolishness: Friday the 13th Edition

Happy Friday the 13th!  I actually like Friday the 13th.  Maybe it’s because I think a day associated with bad luck means good luck for me?  Isn’t that backwards?  It probably gives you a bit of insight into how I think and how I view myself and life in general.

This week has been scattered and manic for me.  I’ve had a hard time sitting down and writing the two posts I wanted to write: a book review of The Expats and the latest adventure in baking with Daniel (here’s a preview).

There is a little boy underneath all that flour

Yet, I wanted to write, so here are a few random items on my mind.  Feel free to ignore any or all of them.

  • Ashley Judd’s essay in The Daily Beast taking all of us to task for speculating about her puffy face.  After I read it, I virtually fist-bumped her.  Then I thought about it some more and decided it was a pretentious piece.  I think she used every vocabulary word she learned in the Ivy League. Ms. Judd is absolutely justified in disliking the negative comments and calling out the media for their speculation, but I question her indictment of the patriarchy for turning women into objects when she herself has willingly profited from that objectification. And it appears she wouldn’t have deigned to verbally slap us if the comments had been praise instead of negative and catty.   She can’t have it both ways.  She can’t profit it from her looks and never criticize the system and then turn around and condemn it now that she is aging.

The two biggest beauty stories lately have been Ms. Judd and Samantha Brick and they are similar in that they both are condemning the patriarchy: Ms. Judd for being judged negatively on her appearance and Ms. Brick for believing women hate her because she is beautiful and the attention it garners her.  Are these two really the ones we want to initiate a discussion about the patriarchy and female objectification?  Ms. Judd joined an industry that objectifies women and profited from it.  Ms. Brick allowed herself to become objectified because she sees everything through the lens of her own beauty.  We need legitimate voices talking about this issue, not spectacle.

  • April:  Someone apparently decided that April is the month in which we celebrate everything.  It’s National Autism Awareness Month as well as Multiple Birth Awareness Month.  In a few weeks, we’ll have National Infertility Awareness Week and this week was National Library Week.  Speaking of libraries, I went to pick up a book from a branch of my university’s library this week.  Embarrassingly, I couldn’t find the library.  I walked outside, around the building, several times, my eyes streaming thanks to the pollen.  Once I finally found the library, I must have looked like I was emotionally undone by being in the library.  *Sob* I really love libraries *Sob*  I wonder if they’ll revoke my MSLS.
  • Day Care:  We decided on Daniel’s start date for day care this week.  He’ll go for a few hours on April 26 and April 27 and then start full time on April 30.  I am excited, yet anxious.  We need to buy a lunch box for him, so I hope we can make it seem like a fun change instead of like the verboten s-c-h-o-o-l word that we can’t use because of his preschool adventure.
  • A-Conferencing I’ll Go: I already had a trip to Orlando planned in late May to attend a conference at which I’ll be presenting on my Master’s Paper.  Yesterday, one of our sister organizations contacted me about participating on a social media panel they have scheduled at another national conference in early May.  My bosses agreed it was a good opportunity, so that means another trip to Orlando.  My two trips will be two weeks apart and at different hotels, providing me the opportunity to experience all the hospitality Orlando has to offer #sarcasm.
  • The Hunger Games: A few weeks ago, I hadn’t read the trilogy and didn’t plan to.  Then one day, Jimmy asked me if I read them and admitted they sound interesting.  I admitted I thought they did too.  Next thing I know, he’s tearing through the first book and then I tear through it.  Then we go see the movie and now have his- and her- copies of the rest of the trilogy (so we can read them at the same time of course).  Our nightly ritual now revolves around the question of how quickly we can finish our chores and start reading.  I think I’m shocked by the suddenness of it all.  I’m not a book snob (or at least I try not to be; I still won’t read the Twilight series.  Ever) and I loved Harry Potter, but I didn’t feel the compulsion to read The Hunger Games trilogy until recently. Suzanne Collins is no J.K. Rowling, but we can’t put down the books.
  • Touche:  We take Daniel to the bounce house down the road every Saturday because he loves the 4-level play structure it has.  A few weeks ago I noticed a 4-year-old boy wearing an Angry Birds t-shirt and rolled my eyes at the pop culture silliness of his parents.  Does he even know what Angry Birds is? I know that Angry Birds is popular with kids but kids that young?  Well. Ahem.  This week, a t-shirt we ordered for Daniel arrived in the mail:

My-my-my Poker Face

   Who are the silly pop culture parents now?

How was your week?  What’s on your mind?

On Food and Blogging

A few weeks ago I ran across this post by Jamie Schler, “You are What You Eat: a Food Blogger’s Dilemma,” in which she expressed her disdain for the rise of food blogs that pass off meals made with packaged or canned ingredients instead of with fresh ingredients as homemade, unique and most damning of all, worth emulation.  She’s appalled that food blogging has become about big business with stats and cookbook deals dictating what food is created, resulting in shock value being valued over genuine, creative cooking.  She longs for the good old days of food blogging:

Food blogging, for many of us, began as a way to record and share favorite recipes and connect with other like-minded souls, maybe even learning something about new ingredients, cuisines or technique along the way

To Schler, food blogging has become Sandra Lee instead of Julia Child.

Then, this morning I read a post by Adam Roberts that questions whether food blogs are over.  The huge number and variety of food blogs indicate that food blogging is hardly dying out.  However, the real question he considers is whether it’s all been done.

What’s gone, as far as I can see, is a sense of discovery, a sense of danger. People start food blogs now to recreate what others have already created; very few food blogs feel new because they aren’t new. They’re doing what’s been done before, albeit with different recipes

Let me be clear: this blog is not a food blog.  I take all photos with my iPhone, and I’m lucky if the picture isn’t blurry or my thumb isn’t in the picture.  I like to cook and share recipes, but I’m not a foodie.  I could write a separate post on the elitist attitude and condescension dripping from Schler’s post (and maybe I will).  What struck me as I read both pieces is how their thoughts on food blogging could be applied to blogging in general.  When the first bloggers hit “publish” several years ago, it was somewhat radical, especially for those who became “mommy bloggers.”  Innermost thoughts, the challenges of the day, even mundane issues laid bare not in a locked diary that belonged to the person or in a dusty autobiography that was at best a one-to-one relationship but now available to anyone, anywhere and at any time. A one-to-many relationship.

It’s 2012 and now we jockey for ad revenue, sponsorships and above all, readers.  We take SEO classes and obsess over headings and keywords.  We see sleep issues, breastfeeding issues, PPD diagnoses, and illness or controversy propel bloggers from obscurity to popularity seemingly overnight.   This post isn’t a diatribe against anyone who monetizes his or her blog; it’s more of a question of whether there is room for everyone in the blogosphere.  Is there room for my mundane existence?

Schler writes:

Is it our responsibility to create content and recipes with integrity and thoughtfulness and not simply out of the desire to draw more traffic to our blog?

And Roberts:

Let’s all pledge to take more chances, to think outside the box to usher in a new era of food blogging: one less concerned about S.E.O. and one more concerned with surprising and delighting the food-blog reading public

I’m guilty.  I’m going to Tweet the link to this post because as much as I truly like the act of pouring out my addled brain onto this blog and the clarity and reflection it provides me, it is nice knowing that someone out there is reading it. I’m a unique snow flake too.

Where is the line between writing something real but perhaps not widely read and writing something crafted to obtain readers?  On the eve of Scary Mommy’s book release, will there ever be another Scary Mommy?  Or what will the next Scary Mommy look like? What will the blogosphere look like in a few years?  Does it help if you have a niche?

I don’t have the answers.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about blogging lately, and I welcome your input.

Musings on “Mommy”

I spend a decent amount of time in traffic as I commute to and from my job.  Thankfully, it isn’t the legendary traffic of Atlanta, NYC or Washington DC, but I have my share of not moving.  When stuck in traffic, I like to observe the cars around me.  I have to say it.  I’m not a fan of treating your car like it’s a family billboard.  You’ll see no stick figures or flip flops on my car.  No church memberships, honor student boasting or political affiliations.  I find that display really distasteful for some reason.

Anyway, a few days ago, I saw a license plate that intrigued me.  It said, “OtherMommy.”  I looked, and there was only one pair of flip flops on the car.  No angel flip flops or anything else to interpret the license plate.  My imagination began to run wild. To what type of mother did the license plate refer?  Was she a step mother?  Was she in a same-sex relationship with her partner the biological parent to the children?  Was she referring to her pets?  Based on the fact that she had the lone pair of flip flops on her car, I believed that if she were in a position to claim the children legally or not or if they were pets, she would have tiny pairs of flip flops to represent them.

Maybe the plate meant that she was not considered a mother traditionally but still considered herself a mother.  Based on my own sordid history, I began to consider whether she was a member of the ALI (adoption, loss, infertility) community.  Were her children deceased?  Again, if they were, would she have flip flops with halos?  Or maybe she finds those as repulsive as I do, but she still wanted to honor her maternal relationship to them.  Could she have been a successful egg donor, knowledgeable that the eggs she donated had resulted in living children for grateful couples?  Perhaps she was a birth mother who had placed her child for adoption based on reasons known only to her.  If so, the license plate suggested she was proud of that decision and firm in her belief it was the best thing to do.  Thinking of our own situation, it’s slightly possible that she might be referring to surrogacy although I can’t think of many gestational surrogates who would refer to themselves in any way, shape or form as “mommy.”  A traditional surrogate might.

OtherMommy.  The one pair of flip flops on her car seemed lonely, yet the license plate suggested a fuller life.  She was a mommy though not a traditional one.  I can relate.

What are your ideas for what the license plate might mean?