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Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you be my neighbor?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of the Internet and how creates strong communities. Well, at least that has been the word that has been used so much lately. I suppose now the word community is more appropriate it. But there was a time when that seemed too formal. Too “organized” for what organically came to be back then. I started officially writing online in 1995 with an online journal on Live Journal. That was pretty much just throwing words out there. But in 2003 I started this blog. (Happy belated birthday, blog. You look good for 14 years old!) That is what in the blogging community considers an OG blogger. When we blogged, it was just blogging.

We weren’t Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagramming, etc. To see what was happening with one another, we’d hop online and read each other’s blog. We’d leave a comment and move on to our next friend’s blog. To me, it was more like a neighborhood. We would visit one another’s home, catch up,  and then we’d go catch up with another neighbor. It was close-knit. If someone was going through a rough time, we rallied around them. If someone wasn’t going to be “home” for an extended period, we would house-sit for each other. ( Also known as handing the keys to your blog over to another blogger so they can guest blog for you so you never had an empty day on your blog.) On weekends, we would have a neighborhood block party where we would gather and drink *kook-aid (*not a typo) and chat with each other in our version of real-time. If you put out the call for help, it was there. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through my Mom’s long, horrible hospital stay and her death without my “neighbors” and their support. They lifted me up and reminded me I wasn’t alone.

In 2005 I was introduced to a tiny little grassroots company and new community named BlogHer. I almost didn’t go to their first conference until a long conversation with one of their founders, Lisa Stone, who not only talked me into going but into speaking on a panel. It was the best decision I could have made. From the conference, I began to work for BlogHer as a writer, helped kick-off their ad network and did whatever they needed behind the scenes for their ’06 conference. (Not to mention speaking at three of the conferences and being a part of a morning keynote.) I wouldn’t trade those early days working for BlogHer for anything. It was amazing watching many of my neighbors become part of that community of BlogHers.

I met many friends through my neighborhood and the many communities I have belonged to over the years. In 2007, BlogHer exploded into a conference that had huge numbers of attendees and vendors and parties etc. It was exciting to see the growth, especially when I was there watching from the grassroots level. (I am so thankful to have beenworking there at the very beginning and grateful I wasn’t there at the end.) I  got to know so many new bloggers through BlogHer. It was in 2007 that I met a handful of bloggers I’m still friends with today. Real friends. Not just computer friends. Heart friends.

Almost two weeks ago, Anissa, an OG blogger died. Anissa was hilarious, kind and my kind of crazy. I first met her on a BlogHer trip to the Ford plant in Chicago. You see, there were six of us who had “alternative departure times” and therefore we were late getting to the bus. So, the big fancy charter bus was full, so the six of us rode in a small charter-ish bus. Best outcome ever! We all laughed until our abs hurt. Anissa and I had a similar sense of humor and riffed off of each other perfectly. It was a blast. (I made some awesome friends on that bus that day that are still real, close friends today.)   Every time Anissa and I saw each other after that at BlogHer, we always shared at least one or two smart-ass remarks. We weren’t close but we had moments that made me laugh. So, when I heard that she died, I literally began sobbing. Right there is the waiting room of the eye doctor with the girls. Someone who has survived so much and who has a personality that is larger than life and is so young isn’t supposed to just suddenly die. Not someone so loved, so needed by her family, so adored by her friends. It’s so hard to wrap my mind around it. It just hit hard. It hurt hard. My heart has so many things I want to say but I honestly don’t know how to say it. The quote on Anissa’s about section by Erma Bombeck is one she lived by and I hope I live up to as well.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and I could say, “I used everything you gave me.”

That week wasn’t over with me yet. There are so many things going on, rushing to force  themselves out of my brain through my fingers, and I am having one hell of a hard time trying to sort through them. Trying to figure out what to share and what not to. I found a friend from school died. I’m not ready to talk about that yet. But that was within a couple of days of Anissa’s passing. I also struggle with what is medical to help you understand me a bit better and what is boring medical and what is scary medical. (Most recently, I had a bad reaction to medications I was taking. Not only was it making things worse, it made me insanely angry, irrational, and suicidal. Not a good combo with the things in my Universe at the time.) Also?  You know how when you look really sad and kind of lost people will tell you look like you lost your best friend? So, that  actually did happen. I’d tell you it’s a long story and share it but in all honesty I don’t know the story so I can’t share it. My take away is that I won’t let anyone use a certain word as a term of endearment for me again when it is used one week before walking away with ease … hell, I have no idea. However, one of the best gifts Anissa could have given me was helping me work through serious issues & things happening on my own. That was a blessing in disguise.

Anyhoo, while looking for the picture of the six charter-ish bus gang, I went back and looked at pictures from BlogHers from years past. From ’05 when I walked into a conference where I only knew people I  had read online. And seeing how I found a tribe that got me. I still love those ladies I made friends with that year. It was a new and wonderful experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And then came ’06. Oh, BlogHer ’06! I laughed my ass off all weekend. I danced even without music. I “hugged” statues. I took a nose-dive into a hot tub. All of which was caught on camera. I laughed so hard looking at those pictures and remembering how it all came with such ease even though it was such a hard time for me. Then ’07 where I finally met THE Busy Mom. We can sum  up ’07 with one word: CHEESE. Enough said. I could go on and on. For years this was BlogHer for me. I am so grateful for the many friends It brought into my life. The community that brought me neighbors, so to speak.

There is so much going on  in my life right now. Some good and some that is too hard to really talk about here or now. But I am glad to be back. I’m just going to go about dusting things off around here. Rearranging the furniture. Take down some old pictures that don’t belong on the walls anymore. Put up some new ones without 80’s hair. It’s time to clear out the cobwebs, shake out the rugs, and get back to me & writing.

 

 

 

On blogging and Facebook

On blogging and Facebook

 

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Today was one of those days that kicked my ass. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. It brought me to a place where I thought “I want to blog about this.” But then I thought, “No, I shouldn’t. I may upset so and so.” Or “My blog has been down and I doubt anyone reads it amymore.” Or “Why do I even blog anymore. Do I still love it? Does anyone?” So I took the question to Facebook.

Oh, there was a time I never would have done that. It would be blog first always then maybe a link on Facebook but that would be a second thought. Today it was my first that and the blog didn’t come to me until after I read over 90+ responses to my question: “Does ANYONE blog *just* for the love of blogging anymore? Not worrying about stats, SEO, reviews, readership numbers, ads? Would you blog simply for the love of blogging? Or is that a relic of the past? Is that kind of blogging dead? It’s a genuine question. I want to hear your thoughts.”

I loved the variety of answers. Some blog for the love of it only. Some for money and passion. Some for work. Some only when they think about it. Some have quit. Every one that answered had a different reason for blogging. And I loved that. I really wanted to know if anyone still loved it because after more than 11 years (and many bumps, bruises, blood, sweat and tears), I wasn’t sure if I still did.

During the day (after I posted that) I noticed that I had 2 comments I had previously left on 2 pages were deleted. Maybe coincidence. And? Only one comment got me wrapped around the axle. It made me wonder…with the instantaneous ability to comment, question or debate someone on Facebook, are people more  likely to question something you write there than to come to your house (BLOG) and do it there. Say for instance if I asked that question here, first of all, I know I wouldn’t get over 90 people responding. Secondly, would people be likely to expound on their thoughts? Dig deeper than on Facebook? Maybe start a dialogue? I don’t know. It just made me wonder if people act/react differently in a community like Facebook than they would in you home like a blog.

Do you respond differently on Facebook than on a blog? I’ll be honest. There are times I do. It’s an easy knee jerk reaction when you see something scroll by to immediately respond. Good or bad. I’m open to both. I just want the dialogue. I have LOVED the conversation my question started. Absolutely loved it. Whether your answer was “Nah, don’t have time with all my work SEO etc to have the love” or “I love it so when I feel it, I write” or even “I hate this question. It makes me uncomfortable.” I love that it make you think. Or at least react. Thanks.

On looking back on the past

On looking back on the past

A few days ago an old friend posted a picture of some young band geeks. It was me and my high school friends. It was an amazing time to take a trip down memory lane. We laughed over hairstyles. Mocked the notes on the chalkboard. Checked in on where everyone was these days. Teased about how we’ve aged but not really but totally. It was exactly what I needed. It was from my favorite year in high school. Oh, the laughs we had that year. My “soul mate” friend, Harvey (*he knows who he is) was as always by my side. We were all so young, so happy, so innocent as to what life would bring our way.

I’ve always said I’d never, ever go back to high school again. But after seeing that picture and looking at each and every face, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would go back… for a while. I could share a story with you about every person in that picture. Some would be bittersweet. Some would have you rolling in laughter. And, yes, some would have you rolling your eyes calling us geeks. And I’d love each and every story.

Sometimes you don’t realize the best stories of your life are happening while they’re happening. It’s only after they are long gone and  you look back and smile that you realize, “Wow, we sure did have one hell of a good time, didn’t we?”

Band Geeks 87
Band Geeks 87
On going to bed and other misunderstandings

On going to bed and other misunderstandings

After being married to the same person for almost 25 years, you learn where your strengths and weaknesses lie.  Areas where you are strong and also where you are incompatible.  I have to confess something to you.  There is an area of incompatibility that Clint and I have suffered through for years.  Come here so I can whisper it to you.  Shhhh…it’s in the bedroom.  Oh, whatever!  Had you going there, didn’t I you gutter-minded people!  Not like “in the bedroom”, but in the room in which the bed happens to be.

You see, it all begins with 4 little words:  “I’m going to bed.” Oh, sure, on the surface they seem innocent enough, but in truth, they are words that can strain even the best of marriages.  You see, to him “I’m going to bed” means, I am going to go get in bed, turn out the light and go to sleep.  I KNOW.  Totally weird!  I don’t get it either.

For me “I’m going to bed” means:  I am going to:  go check email one last time; check on the kids; get a drink; make sure everything is turned off, locked or put away; grab a book–maybe a DVD depending on how tired I am; grab my notebook; brush my teeth etc; make sure I set my alarm; crawl in bed and then…well, I read, watch a DVD, type on the laptop or want to talk.  Honest it is most often the talking.  Love the talking.  Such a weakness, I get that.

Can you see the incompatibility here?  (Yes, I know.  HE does make things difficult!)

Here are just a few things that I have found that my beloved does NOT find amusing when we accidentally hit the bedroom at the same time.

1) Poking him after he has turned off his light because I am cracking up and then insisting he read the warning label on the bottle of sleeping pills that says May Cause Drowsiness because that is just too funny.  He really doesn’t want to read it and probably doesn’t think it is funny.  Also, the giggling about it for a minute or so will not change his mind on this.

2) Watching anything on my tablet that will make me laugh is forbidden because–if you know me, you know this– I do not have the little demure “how cute” laugh.  If something is funny, I laugh all out, balls to the wall and have even been known to snort a time or two.  Even if I retell the scene that I am laughing about, he still does not find it funny.  (Oh, and shoving the tablet into his face does not help the situation.  In fact, it usually gets the tablet taken away.  I’m just sayin’.)

3) Just because he is quiet, that certainly does not mean he is opening the door for me to explain my ENTIRE day in excruciating detail right up to the moment he joined me in the bedroom.  To him, quiet means going to sleep. Like I knew that?!  Quiet means:  “Okay, now YOU talk.” Duh!

4) Nights when I am in a silly, babble-assing mood, I really, really, reeeeaaally need to learn to dial down the crazy.  He is not impressed by  “Omigod! You are totally not going to believe this, but…” followed closely by “Today, in People magazine I read…” That will get me the glare of death or the “punch the pillow in exasperation” thing.  Both…not so good.

5) I really should only listen to calm, soothing music on my playlist when I am trying to fall asleep because he REALLY does not not not like to be awakened to the screeches of me singing KISS’s Rock and Roll All Nite.  I mean, he REALLY does not like that.  At all.  Not one bit.  I’m just sayin’.  Oh, and even if there is no singing involved, head banging, hip tapping, and bed dancing are also unacceptable.  And singing Cheap Trick’s I Want You To Want Me is NOT foreplay.  Who knew?

6) Finally, when he suggests that perhaps I go to bed a good hour earlier than he does, that does not necessarily mean that he is worried that I am not getting a good night’s sleep.  Oh, no sir, it does not.  It actually means that he is hoping against all odds that all of the insanity that occurs after I utter the words “I’m going to bed” will have died down and I just might actually be asleep or nearly there by the time he gets into bed.  Silly, silly man.  Does he not know that as soon as I hear him come in, I am more than ready to talk or sing or poke at him.

I mean, that is what marriage is all about, right?

Oh this is just perfect….he just now this very second gave me:

7) I really should NOT read my blog entry to him when he comes in, gets into bed and turns out his light.  He won’t think it is funny.  Won’t laugh.  And REALLY will not appreciate the genius that is late night writing.  In fact, as I type I am getting the glare AND the pillow hit.  Awwww, I just love this man.  But really, I am totally about to lose my laptop if I don’t go.  Now.

Besides, I have all the seasons of Gillmore Girls to rewatch on Netflix.  Which will violate #2, but I like to live on the edge.  Might even fire up the old Spotify just for fun!  (Yes, it actually IS okay to feel sorry for him.  Just don’t tell me about it.)

Moms of teens don’t blog. Oh wait! Yes, we do! So why are we so under represented everywhere?

Moms of teens don’t blog. Oh wait! Yes, we do! So why are we so under represented everywhere?

I have a ten year old. By definition now, she is considered a tween. In addition to her I also have two teenage boys. A senior in high school and a sophomore in high school. Teenagers. Teens. Those who are not babies and not yet adult people. They are those who still live at home.

So where are the websites, resources, and “expert blog sites” for me? Does parenting end at 8 or 9? I proposed this question to someone who was touting their new blog farm as “The Go To Site For Parents of babies, toddlers and beyond!”  But I am guessing “and beyond” means up to 8. (Surprisingly, I got no response when I asked about their huge missing demographic of teens.)

In 2005 I spoke on the first mommyblogger panel at BlogHer. My kids were 10, 8 and 3. Today’s dream demographic for blogs and marketers! There are websites, blogs, magazines etc all dedicated to those ages. But guess what happened. Go on. Guess.

Did you guess they grew up? Bingo. Those kids are now the teens and tween. You see, these adorable babies and toddlers and young grade school kids grow up. And you want want to know what there is out there for the parents of these now older kids.

Not a damn thing. Squat. Nada.

Busymom wrote about it.

Cursingmom wrote about it.

JoanneGlenniaBeth,  Deb, and I sat and talked for hours at BlogHer’11 about how under represented parents of teens are online. How much marketers, magazine blogs and the latest in “blog farms” are missing out by ignoring such a huge demographic. (Trust me when I say I spend a helluva lot more on my tweens and teens than I ever did on the kid toys. WAY more!)

With one post on Busymom’s site commenters (parents of tweens and teens) agreed how sad it is to have such little representation out there.  I am talking about well known, long time bloggers like LizMelisa, Headless Mom, MelissaShannon, Cheryl,  Robyn, Babybloomr…those are just a few moms who piped up in agreement.

A big “argument” about why there are not many sites about teens is because our children no longer want us to write about them.(Your precious little one probably doesn’t you to be writing about them either, but that is a totally different topic.)  I am not talking about writing about their lives like we did when they were children without a voice to tell us to stop. I am talking about resources, advice, support.  When  newborn cries, there are usually only a handful of things that can be wrong. (I know there are exceptions.) With a teenager? Oh for the love of all things moody, hormonal and life changing there could be a million things. But even if it isn’t “What’s wrong?” there are things that we– as parents of teens– would love to have support with.

  • School.
  • Driving.
  • Health.
  • Dating.
  • Parties/gifts.
  • Changing relationships.
  • Jobs.
  • Cars.
  • College.
  • Etc, etc.

Unless you have a support system, you are on your own figuring it out.

I have also heard that marketers are trying to directly hit the teen market rather than go through parents. I call bullshit on that one. Where do they think these teens and tweens are going to get the money? It’s called the bank of Mom and Dad. To try to bypass us is ridiculous. And very, very short sighted. It doesn’t help when a company who is trying to reach out to parents of teens use parents whose children haven’t even hit the double digits as spokespeople. Isn’t that kind of like asking a man to tell  you what labor feels like?

I actually got an email from a PR rep that first mentioned that “even though your kids are still very young….” (tuned out right there) blah blah blah “and I have found there are so few bloggers with teens these days.” The hell? What Internet have you been on. I can give you a list of over 70 and still not have a complete list.

Those little kids on the adorable mommyblogs are going to become tweens and teens. Those adorable little Pampers wearing cherubs will become moody little strangers. Then what?  To quote cursingmama, “The Internet is no place for parents of teens.”

What do you think? Do you want your voice heard? Do you want more resources? Do we storm the gates trying to get the current market to listen or do we do it ourselves?  Just as we had to fight the whole “mommy bloggers aren’t worth our time” situation almost 8 years ago. (Now? They are are holy grail of bloggers. And yes, I am going to say that those who now have tweens and teens did help pave the way to that reality.) Is this our new stand? I’d love to hear from you! Share your blog. Share what you want to see. What do you think about the representation of tweens & teens– or under representation?

If they aren’t able to meet our needs,  do we do it ourselves and pave the way for the Pampers generation to come? Again?

How email brings friends together again and brings back the laughter!

How email brings friends together again and brings back the laughter!

Thank you to Yahoo! Mail for sponsoring this post about staying connected. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Email. When you have been blogging as long as I have you tend to get a love/hate relationship with email. On a typical day I receive hundreds of emails.  Some days it can get overwhelming, but some days it can bring people into your life that have been away for so long.  I admit there are times that I have let relationships drift away. In fact, I have let that happen entirely too frequently. Yet, there are times when you least expect it you receive an email that brings you such joy you actually laugh out loud. I am blessed to have friends who can come to me through an email– whether they live down the street or across the county. When I’m really blessed is when old friends are brought back into my life through email.

Take for instance one of my dearest friends from high school. I’ll call him Harvey.  We were kindred spirits.  He was even in my wedding. Time passed and we lost touch. I thought about him often but I had no idea where he was or how to reach him. You see there wasn’t a person on Earth who could make me laugh like Harvey. In fact, people used to be around us just for the laughs. No matter how bad things were, we could laugh.  You know that comedic duo that can just play off of each other all the time? That was the way we were. We hung out on weekends, during school and pretty much anytime we could. Many times I would come home to find him there with my mom laughing and I wasn’t even there. We were just that close.

It had been well over a decade and I had no clue where Harvey was or how he was doing. Time had passed. Life had been lived. I now had three kids and lost my Mom. These are things he should know. He would love to hear about the kids and would remind me how funny Mom always was and how much she loved him. He would laugh at my motherhood predicaments and cry with me over my Mom (if I needed it) but mainly, he would make me laugh just by being the man I adore. I missed Harvey. I really wanted him in my life again.

Then, one day in my Yahoo! email box- as I am scanning through so many emails I need to attend to– I see the subject: “Harvey sends his love!”

I knew it was my dear sweet friend. I immediately replied. That started a chain reaction of emails that kept me laughing, crying and feeling so close to my dear friend. Email brought us together again.  Now, we will send each other emails, chat or just remind each other that we will always be in each other’s lives now that we found our way back to each other.

For that, I am forever grateful to email. Yahoo! mail brought my comedy BFF Harvey back to me.

This video is more about people in love being brought back together, but when Harvey was brought back to his Vicky, all was right with the world again.