Stick a fork in it

LIfe is full of surprises.

Sometimes it’s the wadded cash found in a pants pocket on laundry day.

Sometimes it’s the sudden whoop-whoop-WHOOP of a sirenflashing lights in the rear-view mirror, oh-crap-what-did-I-do-now? variety.

And sometimes, like today, it’s the oh-hey-it’s-you type.

It’s no accident that today, Nov. 30, also the last day of National Blog Posting Month, found me without a post idea and a drafts folder scraped bare. What to do? What to do?

Bloggers to the rescue.

A week ago I agreed to attend a child-focused PR event hosted by blogger Melissa of Rock and Drool. After introductions, filling out standard release forms, chatting briefly with the organizers of the event, Girl from the East ran to play with the other children and I with a fresh coffee in hand, sat down to wait. Within moments a woman, who looked vaguely familiar and her children, who also looked familiar, walked in. Clearly, she knew Melissa. She must be one of the other local bloggers. But who?

Then it hit me: our daughters were in gymnastics class together this summer. I looked down at her shoes. Converse. Yep, it’s Cardiogirl. I walked over to reintroduce myself. She recognized me, too, but couldn’t figure out the connection or what I was doing at this event. We eventually connected the lines and dots and had a wide-eyed, oh-my-god moment.

I don’t think we ever said more than “hello” to each other during that whole summer gymnastics session. Maybe once we noted that our daughters had the same style sandals. We were strangers in the real world, but walking the same warm and friendly road on the Internet.

I’m happy to say we had plenty to talk about this time. Blogging is an interesting world of people who may lead very different lives on the outside, but all share the same need to write and interact online.

This happened to me last summer, too, when I finally made the connection between a woman I saw at my temple and a blogger I adore who looked just like her. Turns out it’s the same person. (It’s funny how I never noticed all the Detroit references on her site.) It took me a few weeks to gather the courage to approach her for the secret blogger handshake.

More and more, bloggers are stepping out of the shadows of my life. They’ve been there all along, right next to me, sitting a few rows back, just around the corner.

I’m glad I’m done with this 30-day marathon. I’m glad I didn’t give up on this site, on writing, and on blogging (in spite of really depressing stats). I’ve made some wonderful connections and continue to do so, when I least expect it, and in the most unexpected places.

Carry on.

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Letter of complaint

Dear Dearest NaBloPoMo,

It’s just not the same the second time around, is it? Is it you? Is it me? Is it just us together, a pot of hot chemistry when we first met and now nothing but a tepid bowl of funk?

I think it’s me, mostly. I was working it to get that quiet, studious guy, NaNoWriMo, (You know, the one who looks a little like Harry Potter on steroids?) to take me on a monthlong odyssey. I mistook a friendly tip of the hat for an overture. When midnight struck, his white carriage was not waiting at my gate.

I felt stood up.

I think it might be you, too, Mr. Rebound Guy. We bumped into each other by the gate. You had room on the bus. I said yes.  We ran through the grass hand-in-hand for days before we looked each other in the face and jumped back in fright.

“Oh, it’s you.”

It’s like this: You keep me up way past my bedtime too many nights to count. My husband is getting steamed. He says that if I’m going to have you on the side for 30 days, I need to do it on my time, out of his sight.

You distract me on a daily basis, forcing me to evaluate every chance encounter, change in wind direction, twitch of a cat’s whisker, as a possible post. I’m forced to carry a big notebook and several pens with me everywhere I go, in the event of a word hemorrhage.

Sure, I knew what I was getting myself into with you. You’re insatiable, demanding and thankless. But you’re also a disciplinarian and you’ve helped me carve bouquets of flowers out of piles of dirt.

You have beaten me senseless, stripped me raw, stolen almost all my ideas and thoughts.

And yet, I can’t — won’t — quit you. We are in this thing together for another 13 days.

Promise me one thing? When this is over? Don’t kiss me. Don’t leave a note. Just go. We’ll pretend it never happened.

Love always,

Me

 

 

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I’ll say it again

 I know this is cheating, particularly during NaBloPoMo, but I am spent today. I am leaning in to what needs to be done now. Part of that is being offline for most of the day and attending to family and household matters.  See you tomorrow for Week Two.

KEYBOARD CONFESSIONAL
(Originally published in November 2008)

I was raised in Religion X.

My whole family, both sides, belong to Religion X.

It is expected that you marry someone who is also a member of Religion X.

Religion X dictates everything: where to worship, where to send your kids to school, and how you are to conduct your life down to the most intimate details. These intimate details are dictated by old men in robes sequestered in ornate buildings far away from the unwashed masses.

Some in the family go so far as to screen caterers and other service people to make sure they are of the proper religious leaning. I mean, you couldn’t trust someone outside of X to prepare and present your food, right?

Call me a wild child. I don’t even ask my dry cleaner where he worships. I take those kinds of risks with my clothing.

As soon as I was old enough, I jumped the fence and left the flock.
Truthfully, I never really was in the fold. Call me a junior wolf in sheep’s clothing. I went along with the herd. Inside, I was asking questions and doubting what I was hearing. Twenty eight years later, there are those still waiting at the gate to let me back in.

They send out messages periodically, veiled attempts to lure me. There is an Armageddon theme in all these trinkets and baubles.

I say any group that thinks they are the most worthy, that those who aren’t with them are automatically against them and somehow destined for hell, damnation, or at least inferior catering services, is not a group to which I want to belong.

As a child, I wondered about all the people in Religion Y or Religion Z. They seemed fine to me. They didn’t look like doomed people. And what about all those people on the other side of the world who have no religion? Well, I was told, if it seems like life is rough for them, we know why don’t we?
But it just didn’t seem right somehow. How could all those people be wrong? Who decided that our thinking is the only correct interpretation? Maybe we are wrong and they are right. Where would that leave us?

The adults would tell me I should feel bad for the Ys and Zs and the no religions. They said that until they found the way, they would not be saved.

Being the bad girl I was, I rejected this. I went on a quest and visited houses of worship all over the alphabet, even a cultish kind of place. Mostly people were the same. I even learned a lot of people don’t like Religion X.

Lately, I’ve kind of invented (or maybe found) my religion. It suits me fine. I won’t be shoving it down your throat anytime soon. Make that ever.

 

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Wordless Wednesday:
waning autumn

Day nine of National Blog Posting Month, affectionately known as NaBloPoMo. Considering that I’ve posted more in the month of November than I’ve posted in the last two months, I need a breather. If you also live in a temperate climate, enjoy these last days of fall. (Picture taken at Maybury State Park, Michigan)

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The new normal

rshartley via creative commons

Forget about setting schedules, syncing calendars, or crafting some semblance of normalcy in my life. It’s not going to happen. Even though my soul craves order and organization, the universe thinks otherwise.

After giving myself a month to just relax and enjoy life home alone, October was the month of getting back into it — whatever “it” is supposed to be. I was going to polish the résumé, network a little to find freelance jobs, go to the career center for advice, research graduate degree programs, sign up for job retraining, reinvent the wheel.

Yeah, right.

Here it is Nov. 3 and none of those things happened. The networking event? Ended up falling on one of those teacher planning days. Training session last week? Had to cancel when Girl from the West’s car died in a far-off subdivision. I’ve been the go-to parent for the last few weeks while husbands and fathers traveled to far-off regions for their work. Seems as though every time I make a plan to move forward, the universe makes another plan.

Did I mention I took on a big project with a short deadline?

My inner wonder woman refuses to concede defeat. I keep thinking if I do things differently, they’ll come out in my favor. Is it any surprise that I have relapsed?

This is my new normal and I’m just going to have to accept it for now. Swimming against the current just gets me sick and crazy. I don’t want to be sick.  I have two sick kids in my house now. I don’t want to be crazy. I want to buck the family trend.

So, in a big middle finger to the universe, I’m participating in National Blog Posting Month for the second time. My first NaBloPoMo began while on a junket to Vegas with full-blown pneumonia, why not do it again with a raging case of the hives?

Life is good.

 

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Pulled apart

Are these the end days of this blog?

I’m not sure what to do. I don’t even like the name. I regret ever putting “mom” into the URL. It’s a deal killer for some people, you know?

I do not regret blogging. I’m proud of what I’ve written here. I’ve met a few of you and it’s been a gratifying experience connecting a human being to powerful words. When I jumped in five years ago after trading my career for stay-at-home motherhood, I did so because I missed writing, being part of a creative team, being with grown-up people who collected paychecks.

I thought this blog was the start of “something.” I had hours to fill. I was lonely. I needed a focus outside of diapering, feeding, and housewifery. I thought writing about my life would be enough. It took a long time to make connections and earn readers. Sometimes I wanted to give up.

But, I persevered. Luckily some folks noticed, made me feel I had a reason to keep posting. I learned that blogging is like dating. Sometimes you’re hot. Sometimes you’re not. How many times have I developed a crush on one of you only to wake one morning next to a cold pillow?

Five years later, as I prepare to send my baby to kindergarten, as my oldest daughter spins farther out of the family orbit, as my husband and I figure out what to do with our 2012 plan to move to Colorado that will have to wait a few more years, my blog sits in the corner begging for attention and pressure builds to find something to do with myself.

I’m split. My head yearns for new projects, challenges, stimulation. My heart is heavy with the knowledge that my baby will be in the hands of the education system, leaving behind a silence in the spaces we occupied for a thousand or so days. My hands and feet itch to move about freely during the day without concerns of child care, feeding schedules, nap time, and never-ending messes. My nerves jangle with the upcoming projects and commitments to which I’ve already said yes.

Will I go back to work? To what? My industry imploded a few years ago. What remains are shards reflecting very little of what I knew, what I learned. I’m outdated. The debris of its ruin are fashioned into something new, something I’m not sure I really want to take part in anymore. I’ll need retraining, schooling, updating.

I’m torn. I’ve gotten to know my community and not just live in it. I volunteer. I’m thinking of joining the community farm. I’m part of a network of families and friends who hold each other up.  In spite of all my efforts to keep a safe distance — since we knew we were relocating thousand of miles west of here — I’ve opened my heart to this town and its people. My heart is no longer safe. Yet, another part of me stirs with longing to move on.

Right now my Girl from the East is playing dress up. She twirls on the hardwoods in her purple tutu and sparkling shoes, a magic wand keeping time to Sonic Youth. She’s enjoying her last days of spontaneity. I’m enjoying my last days of winging it as I please, too.

My heart all at once aches for the impending changes and flutters with excitement of the unknown.

Reading the various posts from BlogHer ’11, one of the barometers of this medium,  I feel I’ve steadily become irrelevant in a blogging world I never really fit into. I’ve yet to  brand myself (I did burn my forearm on the iron last week. Does that count?) I’m just writing, and anonymously at that, not selling, promoting, marketing or collaborating. Maybe I’ll come out of the closet.  In six months it won’t matter.  My custodial agreement expires. I can fuck the universe if I please and I won’t have to worry about answering to an officer of the court.

If nothing else, this blogging experiment, whether I keep it as it is, reinvent it, or put it away with the baby things, was part of my stay-at-home motherhood. I’ve created a historical record. And a few people actually took the time to read it. Thank you. That’s still amazing to me.  I didn’t find fame or fortune. I didn’t become a household name. Does it matter, really?

I’m torn. I’m split. I’m going in all the directions.

Thankfully, I know how to sew.

 

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IRL

Here's a picture of me all by myself in Santa Monica. I do not have a picture of my meet-up with Chris @ Dharma Bum because I am lame like that.

So, who is this person you’re meeting with tonight?

My husband is asking this, in our hotel room in downtown Los Angeles, as I’m slipping into heels and grabbing my cell phone to go out alone to met this guy, whom I’ve known online for the past three years.

Actually, my husband knew exactly what I was doing. When I decided to tag along on his business trip, I had a goal of meeting at least one, if not more, of my California blogging friends.*

Mostly he was teasing me, that husband of mine. The whole reason we were in California was social media and building online relationships.

He wrote a book about it.

He gets it.

Still, this was something a bit different. It wasn’t a blogger shindig or even a small gathering. It was just two people from opposite sides of the country. This was new territory for me.

Preparing to meet someone who up until now was a two-dimensional image, a string of words, an illusion in some ways, was totally unnerving. But also I’m a bit of a thrill junkie, so doing this seemed all kinds of fun and challenging at the same time.

Have fun on your date, my husband says as the door slips closed behind me.

As I wait for the elevator, I consider the dynamic of online relationships. Are they authentic relationships? What is the difference between an intimacy of words across the miles, and  shared space and experience that maybe does not include deep dialog? Is one more valid, more enriching than the other? Do I know some of my online friends better – perhaps more intimately – than the friends I have in real life? You bet. There is safety in distance. Could I have the same one-on-one fun and ease of self in real life with online friends I’d just met, especially without the benefit of a big blogger event? That is the unknown quantity.

When I started a blog almost four years ago, I was on a quest to change the course of my life. I had no idea where the road would take me. Chris’s blog — Dharma Bum — was one of the first few that caught my attention. (Thank you, Foolery. ) He has inspired me in some wildly unexpected, life-changing ways. He continues to do so.

The nature of personal blogging is to share, vent, educate, inform, illuminate — you name it –something with your readers. If I crack open my carefully sealed shell and reveal some things about myself, in return, my online friends do the same and thus if we find common ground, something builds.

So, you ask, how was my Internet date – the first one involving air travel and a leap of faith?

Pretty damn fantastic.

Thank you, Chris, for not being a serial killer or some false persona. Thanks for asking the questions and listening to the answers. Thanks for the inspiration, the motivation, the ideas, and the great dialog. Thanks for feeding my crazy caffeine habit.

I think I found a kindred spirit.

California was pretty nice, too.

*MamaMary Show and San Diego Momma, damn the distance and clogged freeway systems. I do hope our paths cross someday.

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Home. Homey. Home-ish.

Thank you, Collette.

Home is on my mind.

This week marks 10 years of living in our house, which has become over time, experience, buckets of sweat equity if not actual financial equity (thank you, recession) a home. When we took possession of the property in April 2000, we were giddy soon-to-be-married lovers. Everything we did was a romantic moment. Our first meal in this house was Middle Eastern takeout.  We sat cross-legged on the scuffed hardwoods, scooping tabbouleh and hummus onto our plates. Between bites of stuffed grape leaves, we chatted and laughed and listened to our voices bounce around the bare walls.  We discussed changing the paint color, improvement projects, where my then 6-year-old daughter would sleep, where our *gasp* future children would have their bedrooms. This modest brick bungalow was the blank slate of our future.

After a wedding ceremony, a pregnancy and miscarriage, an adoption process that resulted in another girl child in our home, endless home projects, parties, illnesses, spilled paint and shattered dreams, a parade of Christmas trees, birthday party sleepovers,  financial heights and economic lows, power outages, infestations, and the first green sprouts of renewed hope, we are still here. Our marks add to the collective history of this little house built in 1941. While I may resent the moldy basement, the dingy siding, the windows that don’t open, I also have a deep gratitude for these sturdy walls, floors and the roof. The bones of this place have held up. They’ve  given us shelter from the heat, the cold, and the economic storms. During the darkest hours of our despair, I’ve  felt comfort in this house as it held me in its quiet embrace.

I’ve been thinking about  my hometown.

No, Detroit is not a travel destination. No one drools with envy when I announce I am from Detroit. However, I have the pleasure of knowing as friends and as acquaintances a number of people from all over the world who are happy to make Detroit their home.  These people  left behind their cosmopolitan cities, their colorful cultures, their mountain views and beachfront vistas to come here to this (insert latest media catch phrase). They like the cultural diversity, the music scene, the abundance of water, hunting for and discovering the hidden gems amid the ruins, and the niceness of the people. Despite our crime statistics and widely reported corruption, people here are nice. Really.

Do not believe everything you read and hear about Detroit. Read this transplant’s blog post to gain a fresh perspective on national and international reporting on Detroit.

I’ve been thinking about  local bloggers.

I was thrilled to open The Detroit Free Press today to find two of my favorite Detroit-area bloggers featured in a larger story about, well, blogging. I’ve met Melissa of Rock and Drool. She is a beautiful and dynamic woman who doesn’t hide behind a persona or false words. She dishes it out straight. I love that about her. I’ve not met the other Melissa who writes Suburban Bliss, but I’ve been reading her blog for years.  I found her by accident when I Googled “MOMS Clubs in my neighborhood.” It appears she saved me from the special hell of organized play groups.  At the time, I was a former career woman sitting alone in my house wondering how I was going to get through another day. How was I going to find other stay-at-home mothers who were like me? Suburban Bliss helped me realize I was not alone. Not only did I start blogging shortly after that, but I also formed my own play group.

I’ve been thinking about my home on the Web.

I have neither the numbers nor the controversy surrounding my site to gain any attention, so the media will not be knocking on my door anytime soon. Whew! Whatever it is I do, another fellow Detroit blogger, Collette of My Babcia’s Babushka, gave me a pat on the back and declared my blog all home-like, or homely, or home-ish or something like that. Thank you, Collette, for the props.

Home is on my mind.

Trouble in Blogville

This is what happens when you decide to save money on a decorator and do it yourself.

First, you try to update your existing blog template and end up taking out a load-bearing wall. Oops.

Next, you decide to pack up and move to an apartment while the repairs are under way.

At the walk-through, you fall in love with scenic view, the simplicity of the layout,  and the freedom and flexibility to upgrade and redecorate. So, in a moment of passion, you sign the lease.

On the big day, you slide the key into the lock, turn the knob and step into your new home and — it’s all wrong.

Somehow the great view was a trick. The mountain vista is really a pile of trash covered in moss.  None of the outlets or appliances work. The doors stick. The landlord won’t return your calls.

You’ve invested money in custom paint, rugs and window treatments.

So, you have a dilemma: Don’t unpack, cut your losses and keep looking for a new home, or make the best of it, hire a professional to fix the problems.

I’ll be deciding in the next week whether to stay or go. Bear with me here.

On a related note, there is also some trouble with the phone lines in Blogville.

I’m unable to comment on some of my favorite blogs because the comment system locks me out.

In one case,  I don’t know what the frick is wrong. I’ve upgraded my site, made adjustments, and so have they. Yet, my words are trapped in some comment limbo.

Some of it is my doing. I have three Google e-mails. So, if I comment using the Google/Blogger ID system, I’ll be identified either as MOM without the accompanying URL link to explain it is MomZombie and not the woman who gave birth to you, or MY REAL NAME (not an option and you still wouldn’t know it’s me), or a string of numbers that will make no sense to anyone outside my family.

For whatever reason, I cannot comment using the Open ID system or by selecting WordPress. There aren’t enough hours in the day to resolve these issues.

The best way for me to comment on a Blogger blog is to select the NAME/URL option, which many of you provide as an option. Thank you. Whether or not you want to adjust this for little ol’ me is up to you. But consider this: There may be others out there who love your blog, too, but cannot comment due to these restrictions. And you may not know it unless they take the time to send you an e-mail or a message through Twitter.

So, there it is. There are bugs in the walls. There are leaks in the pipes. Yet, in spite of all these inconveniences I keep blogging.

I must be crazy.

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Meme Monday: the Honest Scrap edition

honest-scrap
To complete the trio of awards bestowed upon me recently, here is the Honest Scrap award from Lorna the Bathtime Blogger.

Lorna passed this on to me for what she called “my heartfelt writing.”

Thank you, Lorna,  for thinking so. I try.

Nevertheless. This meme requires me to do the unthinkable: list 10 honest things about myself.

Holy crap.

Well, since I’ve done a number of these in recent weeks and revealed a bunch of mundane stuff, I thought I’d take the sprit of this award and delve deeper. Here goes:

1. I never meant for this site to be an anonymous blog. When I set it up more than two years ago, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it.  I thought I’d somehow work my identity into it, but I never got around to it. Now? I really don’t know how to break out of this pattern or if I should.

2. People who should have taken care of me in my childhood hurt me. People in positions of trust. So, I have trust issues, particularly when dealing with people in one particular profession.

3. The people who did these things largely got away with it because I didn’t say anything until many years later, when it was too late. It’s fair to say that some members of my family do not believe my stories.

4. I was on antidepressants for three years. I kept it a secret (big shock!) but quit for two reasons: I gained way too much weight and I didn’t cry at my grandmother’s funeral. I could not shed a tear. I loved that woman with all my heart. I was her favorite granddaughter. Here she was dead and I felt — nothing. I decided to wean myself off them when my prescription expired. I have better ways to deal with my demons. I don’t fault anyone who takes them. I fault greedy doctors who push them on patients and never inquire afterward about how they are working or ever suggest maybe it’s time to get off them.

5. I am not easily honest. You can imagine the amount of gut wrenching involved in hitting publish on this post. It’s not that I set out to lie. I do not like lying.  I just like to protect the truth, even if there is no good reason to be so secretive. Lately for the purposes of not letting history repeat itself, I’ve been more forthcoming.

6. It has taken me more than two years to realize a lifelong friendship that ended badly needed to end. It was toxic. Always had been. I had so much guilt over it. Then one day I realized: I deserve better. Magically, I have made countless new and wonderful friends. I’ve also learned to treasure the longtime friendships that are healthy.

7. I just replace one addiction with another. As a child: nail biting. As a teen and into my late 20s: cigarette smoking. In my 30s: exercise. Today: Food.

8. I don’t like a lot of fuss about anything. Once, when I was quite young and on a class field trip, I climbed into a wooden fort, fell through an opening in the floor and plummeted into a mud puddle below. I didn’t utter a peep. I just stood up, waited for the swirling stars to stop orbiting my head and joined the group as if nothing happened. Are you starting to see a pattern here?

9. I am not now and never was a flirt. I figured if guys were interested in me, they could have a real conversation with me. I am not interested in bullshit banter.

10. I am an (almost) daily meditator. After searching for a number of years, I found a community and a practice that met my needs. My life is so much better because of this discovery and a commitment on my part.

Well, there you go, my  guts are on the table, steaming and stinking for all to inspect. It’s taken me a long time to get the courage to post this.

I’ve met some folks in the last year or so who’ve opened my eyes to the idea of a more authentic life, one in which I walk around wearing robes of my own design and follow the path less traveled. If you are so inclined, pass this along to any blogger or writer you feel speaks from the heart.