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Month: January 2010

When you have no tribe where do you turn?

When you have no tribe where do you turn?

Right before school started in August, my daughter’s best friend moved away.   She only moved 3 hours away, but it certainly wasn’t local anymore.  I’ve watched how this has changed Gabriella.  It is in subtle ways that unless you know her, you may not see it.

She seems a little lost, I hear close friends of ours say.

She and her best friend met the first day of kindergarten and formed a bond immediately.  It’s not like they were joined at the hip 24/7, but they did a lot of things together.  When they were apart they still knew someone always had their back.  They knew that in any new situation or circle of friends, there was always someone they could count on and lean on or just simply have the comfort of knowing they would be there.

Where is my safety net to catch me when I fall or my tether to keep me grounded? I see her wonder.

I have talked to her about it a few times.  She usually just shrugs and moves on, unable to find the words to express what she feels or misses or is searching for.

I get it! I tell her

You see, Gabriella’s best friend’s mom was one of my best friends.  She was my safety net. My tether to keep me grounded.  The one I knew always had my back.  The friend where I could always and would always be myself.

She seems a little lost. They say about me.

I do for  myself what  I try to convince Gabriella to do: Branch out.  Let yourself be open to new friends.  Accept invitations to be with new people.  Let your guard down a little bit. Okay, let your guard down a lot.

But where is my safety net to catch me when I fall or my tether to keep me grounded? I don’t know anymore!

One thing she has learned even though she is only in third grade is people form their “tribe” early.  Most of the girls in her class have been going to the same school for 4 years now.  They have their best friends and their tribes.  It isn’t written but it is there.  She’s made new friends.  She’s joined new groups.  Yet, she still searches for her tribe.  She searches for where she belongs somewhat afraid to let her guard down without knowing someone has her back.  I see her searching and wish I could just plunk her down in a group and let her feel “established” there.  But, I can’t do that.  She has to find her place and her tribe on her own.  And it hurts to watch.

It is no different with me. Try as I might, I cannot fit into the tribe that I am around the most either.  I try to accept invitations (when offered), I try to join in on the laughter (when it isn’t an inside joke) and I try to open myself up and not keep them at arms length.

Apparently, I am not very good at it.  At not keeping people at arms length.  No matter how hard I try.  I can’t help but wonder if maybe jumping in the way I did was the wrong thing to do.

Maybe I am just a loner and just really put that vibe out there.

Maybe I am incapable of social interaction that lasts longer than a lunch.

Maybe it is the addict in me that doesn’t know how to just let go and get involved.

Or maybe I just really don’t fit in.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that I would give anything for my daughter to be happy and for me to figure out the secret to leaving loneliness behind and embracing new friendships.  For now, I will do what I always do…the only thing I know to do:  Smile and laugh and never let ’em know it hurts.  (Well, that and start looking at places for a fresh start.)

Live, love, laugh…remember

Live, love, laugh…remember

I was touched by the outpouring of love I received when I mentioned it was the anniversary of the day my Mom died.  People both close to me and casual acquaintances left me words of encouragement through emails, Facebook or phone calls.  I, of course, chose to hibernate the day away.  I did not want to pretend to be happy or act as if nothing was wrong.  It is just easier to do that when you only have your dog and your son at home with you.  One doesn’t ask questions and the other already knows the reason for sudden tears.

More than one person asked me to share a favorite memory of Mom to help me think of the good times and make me smile.  I love that idea.  But to choose one favorite memory would be impossible.  I suppose I would have to chose one thing I am most thankful for when it comes to something Mom ensured that my brother, my sister and I all had the ability to do without effort or falseness:  The ability to laugh no matter what is going on around us.

You want the humor?  We can bring the humor.  Sometimes it happens to be at inappropriate times, inappropriate places or under inappropriate circumstances, though.  Mom used to call those the “church giggles.”

Here is your lesson in “church giggles.”

Something strikes you as amusing (real or just a passing thought) at a time when you should not be laughing and the next thing you know, you start to giggle.  The more you try to stop, the harder it is and the more you’re giggling.  Before you know it tears are streaming down your face as your shoulders are shaking and people around you are wondering if you have lost your mind or are having some sort of fit.  The “church giggles” can strike at any time in any places.  Just know that it will be a time or place when laughter is usually not “the thing to do” at that time.  Funerals are a classic place to get the “church giggles.”  Or? When someone is giving a speech (not a funny one either) and you begin to feel the need to giggle and cannot stop it,  you should brace yourself for the full on giggles.  Don’t bother to apologize while in this state.  That only makes the laughter worse and harder to stop.

It has happened to me at, yes, funerals as well as PTA meetings, meetings with school administrators, speeches (both by strangers and friends alike), as well as just every day, average situations that do not call for laughter.

The best example of the “church giggles” was during Mary Tyler Moore on the Episode “Chuckles Bites the Dust.”  Here is a part of the show.  The giggles start around the 3 minute mark.  The clip is long but the roller coaster emotions sure do fit me to a tee on this day. That whole show with its inappropriate jokes and laughter mirror my life. Well, except knowing anyone who was “shelled by an elephant” thing.

But it isn’t just laughing at inappropriate times.  It is laughing at whatever life throws at you.  I have laughed sitting beside more hospital beds than I can count.  I can find humor in the situation.  I have laughed when it seems as if there is nothing funny.  Trust me, something is funny and can be found.  You need someone to help you find the funny, come sit by me.  We’ll laugh.

Never was it more evident than when my brother, my sister and I were all together in December.  We laughed at everything.  We laughed at each other.  We laughed at ourselves.  We laughed at our family.  We laughed at strangers.  We probably even laughed at you!  The point is this.  Mom gave each one of us something special that is unique to each of us but she gave all of us something that we can share with each other and with those around us: The ability to laugh in life’s face.  And, oh boy, do we laugh!

That’s what I remember (and carry with me) most when it comes to Mom.

She taught us…

To Live

To Love

and no matter what

To Laugh.

It’s time to find what was lost and build what was broken.

It’s time to find what was lost and build what was broken.

I knew it was happening.  I could feel it.  I could see it.  Sometimes you know.  Yet, even knowing doesn’t mean you can do anything about it.  Maybe it started when Mom died.  Maybe it started before then.  I don’t know.  But it really came to fruition in 2009.  I lost myself.  I lost who I was.  I lost the core of what made me a happy, healthy person.  I really don’t think it is important to know when or why or even how.  What matters is that I finally reached yet another rock bottom where I have to make changes.  And?  I am going to make this the year that I do it.  Why this year?  No reason except…I absolutely have to do it.  For me. For my kids.  For my husband.  For my friends.  But honestly, it is really for me.

I guess you could say I lost my way in a few areas:  Blogging, personally, writing.  They all intertwine so when one goes south, it can carry the rest with them.

I will start with the most obvious one to those of you who are reading this.

Blogging

Wow.  The face of blogging has changed so dramatically I couldn’t even find the words for it if I tried.  (And I have tried.)  You see, way back in the stone ages (like 1990), I helped my husband with a BBS.  That was what I knew of the Interwebs.  I loved it.  I could sit in the comfort of my house and actually talk to people that were in their house.  Amazing.  We had games, forums and chats.  I loved it!  By 1993, I was learning more about what was out there and saw that it was more than just for tech geeks.  In 1995/96, I learned the wonder of online journals.  (Thank you Al Gore for inventing the amazing Internet!)  I had a sleepless baby which led to many nights of feedings and surfing.  It was then that I branched away from what my husband was doing and started my own online journal.  After time, it morphed into a website with real live links to other websites.  I was connected, baby!  I kept my website and journal going in one form or another for years.

It was in 2003 that I started what you find here: Mommy Needs Coffee.  From Blogger to my own url, I had found my very own space on the Internet.  I loved it!  I wrote stories about my kids, my life, my observations on both and people came.  They actually showed up and read what I had to write.  Which of course led me to their blogs where I read what they had to say and commented.  It was a small but fun community.  A blogger get together meant you all showed up to chat and “hang out” online.  You knew that other bloggers had your back when it came to haters.  It was fun.  I knew where I fit in to the small part of the big picture.

I blogged on while others quit.

I blogged on when there was a huge controversy over whether or not to accept ads.

I blogged on when the term “mommyblogger” was synonymous with  fluff and narcissism.  I still knew who I was and where I belonged.

I blogged on through the “review or not review” controversy.  I blogged because to me it was gratifying and gave me a wonderful outlet for my writing, my thoughts and my silliness.  Through my blogging I found friends, jobs and an agent.  I also lost friends.  Sometimes the written word can do more damage than good.  But through it all, I knew who I was and where I belonged.  Though the landscape had changed, the core was the same.  Many of us who were blogging for a long time felt the growing pains but blogged on.

And then came the Big Change.  I don’t really know when the big change actually occurred or what caused the massive shift in blogging, but it shook the core of blogging to the roots.  Are you a review blogger or a writing blogger?  Are you both?  Can you be both?  Do you have content that is yours or paid for content?  Can I trust you or are you being paid to say what you say?  Where are the stories?  Where is the writing that drew me into this amazing blogging world?

More than once I tried to express myself but it was shouting into the wind.   The noise level was too high.  The chatter was too loud.  Old voices were drowned out.  At least I felt mine was.  I no longer knew where my place in the blogging world was.  I was a mom.   I blogged.  I helped bring respect to the term “mommyblogger” with both my writing and the mommybloggers.com site.  Yet, I could not identify with what was not being called “mommyblogger” in the crazy changes taking place.   It was all about reviews and blogger junkets and what trips you were invited on and what speaking engagements or sponsorships you could garner.  It was insanity.

At least it was from the point of view from someone who had been at this for so long.  Yes, I was invited on some blogger junkets.  I did go when it worked for my family.  When it did not, I would have to pass and offer up a name or two of someone who would be able to go and enjoy it.  Yes, I did reviews for products I could use and enjoy.  And, yes, I did enjoy that, too.  I am not against any of that.  It was just that somewhere in there the writing, the stories, the real life of the bloggers became over-shadowed.  I missed reading stories.

Let’s not even get into the pressure to measure up.

“Were you invited to ______  junket?”

“Did you get an invite to go to Disney?”

“Were you asked to be on this panel of experts?”

“Did you get a free ______?”

What?

Had it become a competition?  What are the rules?  Where is the master list of A-Listers who go on these things?  Do I need to pursue these PR reps or just hope they find me?  What about my SEO?  Where do I rank?  Why isn’t that company talking to me?  Push! Push! Push!  Get out there so everyone knows your blog!  Get known so you can go on trips!  Become an expert in mommyblogging so every PR firm in the country wants you!

What?

I was lost.  All I wanted to do was write and enjoy the writing of others.  Yes, of course the trips, the games, the products, the gaming systems and other things I was honored to review are an awesome perk IN ADDITION TO the writing.  But where did an old school blogger who just wanted to write and enjoy it fit in?  SEO meant nothing to me.  Getting aggressive and going after sponsorships for conferences was foreign to me.  Telling a PR rep that I should go on his/her junket felt rude to me.  Suddenly, I just didn’t fit in to the very genre that I help give a good name to when it was once just mud.  Now what?

I stopped blogging.  I couldn’t find my voice.  Do I write for the readers, the PR reps, the possible job offers?  Could I just write my blog the way I have always written my blog and not get lost in all of the noise and chaos that was around me?  I have seen good friends of mine who have been at this blogging gig as long as I have succeed.  They write a good blog and get invited to junkets and do reviews.  They found their place.  Why couldn’t I find mine?

So I stopped blogging.

Then, for reasons I will never know but am more thankful for than I could put into words, I was contacted for a blogger opportunity in DC.  I had not blogged in ages.  In fact, I almost turned it down.  Thankfully, my good friend Dave would not give up on me and just flat out booked my ticket for me.  He may never know what that meant to me.  Forced into a situation where I wanted to go and felt that I should go, I actually embraced this blogger junket with excitement (and a bit of trepidation).  I was not on anyone’s A-list anymore.  I was no longer a blogger with a name.  I was just a blogger who may or may not update that very few people really knew about or read.   But somewhere deep inside I knew that I absolutely had to go on this trip.  I had to go.

It was on this trip to DC that I met with the president of A Partnership for a Drug Free America, lobbyists on Capitol Hill, Senators, Congressman, the Five Moms (whom I have met and worked with for a few years already) and, yes, Dr. Drew Pinsky.

That one trip changed everything.  Everything.  How is it that one person (though so very qualified in his field and so very used to dealing with addicts and the bullshit and baggage they throw down) could meet me, have a few conversations with me and then say to me the very things I HAD to hear?   Not things I wanted to hear or would benefit from  hearing, but the very things I HAD to hear to move forward.  That one trip– and it came through my blog– was life changing.

And?  It made me question the things I do and why I do them.  Including blogging. (And writing.)   I can’t share what he said to me.  Not yet.  But trust me when I say that after almost 10 years in recovery, no one has ever nailed down my issues as fast, as accurately and as matter-of-fact as Dr. Drew did.  He really hit a spot that not only no one else has hit, no one else has even seemed to see it.

It made a difference.  A huge difference.

It made me stop and think.

Where do I fit in?

Do I want to fit in?

Is there a place for someone so old school as myself?

Can I still do this and be true to myself and what I want out of a blog?

Do I blog for me or for the new faces in the crowd that may be watching/reading/taking note?

The answer took a long time in coming.  (Which is one of the reasons I have been so quiet here.)

I blog for me.

For me.

Me.

If someone thinks it is good and wants to comment, I love that!   If a PR rep thinks I am a good fit for their product or junket, we will talk.  If someone out there likes what I have to say well enough to add me to some random list of  “Top Bloggers”, then that is up to them.

For now, this blog, this writing, these stories are for me.

If you enjoy them, that makes my heart so happy.  If you don’t, there are so many blogs out there I am sure you will find one you enjoy.  However, for now, I shall make this blog what it once was:  My outlet.  My place to share stories and observations on life, love and motherhood.  I hope you stick around but if you don’t, I understand.  Old school blogging and story telling isn’t for everyone.

But it is for me.

Are you ready for the ride?  I am!