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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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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Bossy in Detroit

When Bossy stuck a strategic push pin on Detroit (I felt that!) declaring it part of her six-week, nationwide (No)Book Tour, I just knew I had to be a part of the day somehow, some way.

I’ve adored Bossy’s blog ever since I first stumbled onto it three years ago. She had me at “sister mercy.” As she worked out the details of her (No)Book Tour with her publisher bank account,  I wrote her a poem and begged her to come to Detroit, where she could skate on a real ice rink and not a frozen puddle on the street.

When I realized that she’d be here on a Monday night, my heart sagged a bit. Of all nights, Mondays are the toughest in this household. Mondays are long and taxing affairs. They feature sweat pants, dark glasses and multiple trips through the Tim Horton’s drive-through lane.  There are no meet-ups, nights out, glam or, god forbid, cameras pointed at me on Mondays.

I made an exception this Monday. I’m a little sore from moving the planets, but I got them aligned just in time to meet Bossy and a group of Michigan and Ohio bloggers. We claimed a cozy corner in a wonderful micro-brewery inside a historic building in a Detroit suburb. We drank things like “Clementine Lemon Thyme Wheat Ale” and “Cherry Hard Cider” and ate copious amounts of hummus, fattoush and tzatziki on pita. At one point, we were asked by a group of subdued dudes behind us, “Who are you people?”

We are Bossy’s people, silly men.

Ms. Bossy and MomZombie at the (No)Book signing

Now, for a few questions:

Is Bossy as stunning in real life as on her blog?

Oh, my, yes.

Is Bossy as funny and nice in real life as depicted on her blog?

Even more so. Especially considering her hectic schedule for the last month. Would I look so fresh-faced, stylish and chipper? Would you?

Am I glad I gave up sleep and my Monday night workout for this?

Absolutely.

To Bossy and all the great women bloggers*  I met yesterday: It was a pleasure to eat, drink and be merry with you. Please be kind and Photoshop the parsley out of my teeth before you post pictures. I know it’s there!

Mommy’s Martini

Unmitigated

Just Juli

The Suniverse

@grandemocha — look her up on Twitter

It Is What It is

Table For Five

Mommy's Martini, Suniverse, Unmitigated and Bossy

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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.

Greetings from America's Left Hand

I am on Bossy’s (No) Book Tour

I’ve reduced myself to begging. When I read that Bossy was planning another cross-country odyssey to promote the book she didn’t write and meet other non-published bloggers to exchange autographs and rinse their mouths with high-quality vodka and micro-brewery beer, I had to find a way to lure her to Detroit.  Good news: She’s been here before. Bad news: She’s been here before.

How to lure Bossy, whose hair curls the most,

Statuesque Bossy who lives on the East Coast,

Bossy with the big, big dog,

Bossy of the funny blog.

On my knees I’ll plead and beg,

and if she shows, on my face an egg.

For she has written a fabulous (no)book,

and I have lured without a hook.

Since a handful of other Detroit-area and Michigan bloggers have secured coveted pinpoints on her proposed travel route, why not add the humble MomZombie to the itinerary? What could bloggers in sunny Southern California or the Mighty Rockies offer Bossy that we couldn’t here in the fabulous, calloused left hand of America? Could it be the 2 a.m. slider run on the last visit that perked Bossy’s nose in our direction?  Stay tuned for all the exciting details.

I’ve met some Detroit-area bloggers, such as Teacher Mommy of Diapers and Dragons, and Melissa of Rock and Drool. Discovering the person behind the persona is an experience in itself. Reading your blog, I learn your pet peeves, hopes, joys, sorrows and dreams. Sitting across from you at a table , I learn how tall you are, if you look 10 pounds thinner in real life than on your blog, what your voice (and your laugh) sound like, if you bite your nails and if we click. If the divine Ms. Bossy comes to Detroit or a nearby suburb I’ll probably faint, and when I come to, with a lump on my head, I’ll shake her hand and utter awkward, inappropriate things  until someone calls the police or pours water over my lumpy head. And that will be a very interesting blog post for the future.

On a less-than-happy note: Thank you, readers for your words of encouragement about my terminally ill friend. I’m still slamming into brick walls. At some point I may have to accept that I won’t be able to say good-bye to her. I understand that you can know a person for many years but stay a total stranger to her immediate family.

Two months old

11 months old

My kitten is now a cat and has settled down. In fact, he bears almost no resemblance to the cat we plucked from the shelter. No more toppled planters and shattered lamps. The curtains remain hanging on their rods. The scars have healed and faded. We all can sleep at night. The surge of feline testosterone that fueled his frenzy has slowed to a trickle now that the neutering has finally worked its magic.

Speaking of trickles, work comes my way in drips and drops. I’m grateful to take on anything I think is reasonable, but waiting 30 days or longer to get paid just sucks. I now understand the stories of the dirt-poor lottery winners who blow their millions in a matter of months on fuzzy pink guitars, cases of Cheetos and more lottery tickets. When I do get some money in my pocket, I have no desire to stash some into my deflated retirement accounts. Nope. It’s  off to the mall or hair salon or liquor store.

Patience and determination pay off in the end. My husband and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in a few months. This is the longest relationship either of us has logged on our odometers. Since this is my second marriage, I’ve worked hard to make it work as the odds are stacked against us. I’m happy to report that marrying the right person for the right reasons makes a difference. That and a little begging now and then.

'I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together'

happy

Photo by MZ

I’m not sure what Christmas means to me anymore.
To my children it’s a wonderful time of year filled with wishes and cookies and Santa Claus and sparkly things.
To me, it’s a Dickensian mix of shadows cloaked in chains, bacchanalia, sprigs of holly and Tiny Tim’s enduring hope. Christmas music, particularly Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite” and Vince Guaraldi’s  “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” wet my eyes and stir memories of childhood innocence.

In my mind’s eye, Christmas is a room aglow with flickering candles, a crackling log burning in the fireplace and a sparkling tree. It’s waking up to sunlight bouncing off a fresh layer of snow.
In reality, it’s a time when triggers of past hurts and traumas lay ahead of me like a minefield. Tonight, as my family baked cookies and wrapped gifts, I recalled my own family’s Christmas Eve tradition: Midnight Mass. After a heavy meal, gift opening and merry-making brought about largely by excessive alcohol intake, we’d while away the hours until it was time to slip on coats, step into boots and stumble in the station wagon for a quick, dicey ride to St. Something or Other. You had to stay awake for Midnight Mass but there was no rule about staying sober. Just ask the fence.
And thats where the happy memories fade and shape-shift into darker times. That’s where the shadows live.

I don’t want to give up Christmas. My inner world has shifted away from these early constructs. But I need to live in the outer world, too. I just need to make peace with those ghosts of the past.
In spite of my efforts to simplify the present, to make the holiday something meaningful on my terms, much of it really is beyond my control. Whether or not I embrace the religious aspect of the day, it’s a cultural institution and a seasonal rite.

With that in mind, to all of my wonderful blog friends, thank you for this community.

Thank you for making me laugh and making me cry.
Thank you for sharing a slice of your life with me. Thank you for taking an interest in my world.

Some of you are local and maybe I’ve met you a time or two or we’ve become friends.
Some of you are far away and I hope to someday meet you in real life.
Some of you have had a tough year. I wish you well in 2010 and will continue to follow along on your journey.
Some of you lead lives I’ll never know but am fascinated to observe from afar.
Some of you I’ve followed from the beginning. Some of you I’ve just discovered.
No matter what we celebrate or how we choose to do it, we have something in common.
I am he as you are he and you are me and we are all together ….(Lennon and McCartney)

Jolly ChristmaKwanzaHanukkah!

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Detroit blogger meet-up 1.0

MZgoesout

MomZombie goes out to play

No one is sure how it started.

Maybe I tweeted the idea of meeting other Detroit-area bloggers. Most certainly rockanddrool.com took the idea and made it a reality (thank you, thank you, thank you). It doesn’t matter. We planted a seed. It sprouted.

Last night we reaped the harvest: Five of us Detroit-area bloggers came together to chat, have a drink or two, chat some more, laugh, eat, take pictures, tweet about it as it happened, and go home feeling like we made new friends and learned a thing or two.

Five bloggers is a nice start.

I’m glad I said something.

I’m glad the right person came along to make it happen.

I’m glad others showed up.

It’s good to step out of the box once in a while

It’s one thing to hide behind an Internet name, a persona, and if you are me, a Little People character (which, by the way, I brought with me as an identifier since I blog anonymously). It’s quite another to step out from the shadows, tell people your name, let them see you in bright light and without the aid of Adobe Photoshop. It’s quite another thing, too, to hear the voice and see the three-dimentional version of the person you’ve been talking to online, who was nothing more than an avatar and a name with the @ prefix before the meet-up.

Personally, I am thrilled about this.

I took home with me little bits and pieces of the amazing life story and world travels of diapersanddragons.blogspot.com a.k.a. TeacherMommy;  it was wonderful to meet the beautiful, warm woman behind rockanddrool, a.k.a. Melissa, who has so many great ideas in development; I wish I had more time to talk to Todd J. List, avid Twitterer, who is in the process of developing his own Web site and who, if I meet him again, I promise to be quiet and let him do some talking;  and Rachael of www.warmheartshappyfamily.com who strives to strike a healthy balance between being a young mother and a successful businesswoman. What a positive bunch of people.

I hope I got that right, guys. As for the rest of you out there in the blogosphere, if you’re nearby, join us next time, please. If you’re not nearby but are curious about it all, fill up the tank, stop by anyway. We’ll buy you a drink. What’s the worst that can happen? You talk to a grown woman who plays with toys? Your picture ends up on the Internet?

What’s the best that can happen? You can hang out with us. You can take your own pictures. You can write your own version of the event. You can make a new friend.

 

ltbloggers

Name tags on, left to right: MomZombie, Todd J. List, Teacher Mommy, Melissa of rockanddrool and Rachael of warmheartshappyfamily.

WABbloggers

Name tags off, left to right, Todd J. List, TeacherMommy, MomZombie, Rachael of warmheartshappyfamily and Melissa of rockanddrool.

 

Blogger meet-up in the D

detroit

Most of my readers are not from Detroit.

They’re from Russia. They’re robots. They leave me long, detailed comments about things like Viagra and practices that are illegal in this country. Their comments often don’t correspond with what I’ve posted, but that’s OK. They love me.

But a few readers are real people and they live in nice places with beaches or mountains or other panoramic views. They’ve not once mentioned erectile dysfunction to me in a comment. These real people living by these nice views also have blogger get-togethers on occasion, which I’ve always envied. I wondered: Could we have one here in the D?

I’m not sure how to arrange a Spam party. Do you actually serve slices of SPAM? And, is sharing drinks with robots considered infidelity?

Thanks to Twitter, which is a nice little bird and not a robot, I don’t have to worry any more. I’ve connected with some real people here in Detroit. One thing led to another and now we have our first official blogger meet-up in July.

Ours will be a small affair. Just a handful of us willing to meet on a weeknight, have a drink or two and chat.

Knowing me, I’ll want to ask a lot of questions. I’ll want to take pictures.And I’ll want to write about it. Chances are, they will do the same. 

I’m sure the robots will have something to say about it, too.

Yin and yang of motherhood

fun

Mary, who runs the whole operation over at the Mama Mary  Show tagged me on this one. It’s the brainchild of another blogger, Her Bad Mother,who is trying to fly this one around the globe. So, I’ll do my part and then pass it on.

Five things I love about motherhood:

  • The bond of love between mother and child (The privilege of being both a biological and adoptive mother makes me appreciate this one immensely. This connection is taken for granted with a child born to you. I had to earn it with Girl from the East, who came to me at 10-1/2 months of age.)
  • Built-in excuse to play like a child (Think: swings, slides, running through the sprinklers)
  • The awesome responsibility of leading by example and leaving a legacy
  • Holidays are so much more fun with children involved.
  • Getting a fresh take on the world around me through my child’s eyes
  • Five things I don’t love about motherhood:

  • Lack of sleep (I don’t call myself a MomZombie because I like movies about the undead.)
  • The stereotypical mom look: overgrown hair, baggy clothes, practical shoes (Despite my best efforts to fight it, often I’m too tired or busy to look my best.)
  • Pregnancy was an interesting experience, but it didn’t clean up after itself. (I’ll never wear a bikini again.)
  • The disconnect of parental bonding during the teenage years.
  • Expectations of perfection: There is so much pressure on mothers from society, from extended family, from the media, from ourselves to do it all perfectly every day.
  • Since I’ve only connected with two bloggers — who are also mothers — in other countries, I’ll tag them and get on with my day.

    In New Zealand: I Love Retro Things

    In Canada: Tanya at I Should Be Napping

    Oh, and by the way, I’m from the United States, specifically, the soon-to-be Third World State of Michigan.