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Mommy Blogs Made Me a Real Girl

November 4, 2017

“Reaching women on multiple platforms with quality content is vital, Reese Witherspoon said, adding, “And I’m not talking about mommy blogs and 14 ways to cook a turkey.”

Dear Reese Witherspoon,

I just want to type “Take a hike,” and hit publish, but I have a bit more to say.

I’m not a mommy, or a mom, or a stepmom, or any other kind of mom. I’m childless. Childfree. Barren. A spinster. I chose not to have kids and didn’t really spend much time around children or even around people with children.

When I started blogging in 2005, and when the novelty of simply publishing wore off about two weeks later, I started looking for blogs to read.

“Read Dooce,” the internet advised. “She’s hilarious.”

I read Dooce. She was hilarious, but I also felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. She wasn’t just hilarious. She was real. In a world where it seemed like everyone was bullshitting me about motherhood, either talking about the experience with sugar-coated, pastel-tinged, Hallmark-branded breathlessness, or, alternatively, making motherhood seem like a rocky path to post-feminist hell, Heather was doing something radical. She was telling the truth.

I called my sister, Laura. “Read this,” I said. She called back a few minutes later.

“This is good,” she said, quietly. My sister and I are both given to flights of hyperbole. For her to simply say something was good meant it was better than good. Like me, she was a bit stunned.

I started reading everyone Heather mentioned. Jen B. Fluid Pudding. Alice Bradley. Melissa Summers. Those blogs led to other blogs and other blogs.

Each gave me a little glimpse I hadn’t seen before. These were people talking about their lives in the purest form I had ever seen, free from editing, free from advertising. This was what people usually talked about in small groups of intimate friends – but it was out there for anyone to see.

Of course there was a backlash. I lost count of the disparaging editorials and NY Times Style Section pieces on the passing fad of mommyblogging and the silly mommies who bothered to put their dumb little thoughts down in pixels as they exploited their progeny for page views.

Meanwhile, we formed a community, first a small one, then a big one, then a zillion sub-communities who meshed and intersected and cheered each other and fought each other and tore each other down and hashed things out in public in a way that was sometimes terrible and sometimes thrilling.

Other stuff happened along the way. Mommybloggers (and other women bloggers) started businesses like Cool Mom Picks and BlogHer and CLEVER (whose services you could probably use, Reese, if you’re trying to build your brand). They wrote best-selling books. They founded businesses to teach each other the craft. One even created a multi-media lifestyle brand that dwarfs your own, Reese.

In other words, mommybloggers started out producing quality content and kept producing quality content and have never quit. So shut up about mommy blogs and cooking turkey. You know who wants quality content about cooking a turkey? Well, easily more people than saw your movies “Rendition,” “Vanity Fair,” and “How Do You Know?” combined. Yeah, I said it.

As for me? Childless lonely old spinster me? I got an education and a bunch of dear friends. I got over the notion that women were different from me just because they had kids. I got my heart and my mind opened. And despite my odd quirky weirdness, I got loved. Bloggers took me in and loved me and told me it was ok to be who I was. They listened to my stories and responded. They called me and texted me and gave me someone to visit every time I travel, pretty much no matter where I go.

Finally, like the Velveteen Rabbit, they made me real. And to me, that is some damned good quality content.

“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

 

Try Again Next Year

November 3, 2017

No, this post isn’t about the Dodgers (snicker). (I’m sorry, I’m just not a sportsballfan).

This post is about how it is only the 3rd day of November and I have already managed to screw up NaBloPoMo.

Ah, no matter. It just saves me from disappointing myself later in the month.

I think I completed NaBloPoMo. Once.

You know what’s amazing? Lisa Rae Page Rosenberg of Smacksy has posted every day since 2009. That’s NaBloPoWhoa, am I right?

In other truly exciting news, I went and got ramen tonight for the first time in forever. My favorite Japanese NOT SUSHI restaurant (they are pretty emphatic about this – their uniform shirts say NO SUSHI on them) Gotetsu has ramen weekend once a month, and they actually have vegetarian ramen, which is as rare as a sunny day in June in Ventura (trust me on this one – it’s not sunny).

I got my bowl of ramen and had to kind of laugh. It was topped with a hard boiled egg and a shiitake mushroom. Both are in my pantheon of most hated foods. I’d rather have a piece of pork than a hard-cooked egg.

But I shoved that stuff aside and slurped my ramen like a pro. Even something as gross as a hard-cooked egg can’t keep a girl from her noodles. Fukai ajiwai desu ne.

 

It’s Not Real

November 1, 2017

Question: why do old people put things in the back windows of their cars? I mean on that shelf under the back window of sedans. A lot of times it is hats. Or stuffed animals. Or decorative kleenex boxes.

Does some memo go out with your Medicare sign-up letter? “Please put something in your car window to signify that you are now One of Us?”

Anywhoozle, I was sitting at a stoplight today and saw an egregious example of this in the back window of one of those early 2000 Lexuses.

It was a stuffed animal, but a really rough-looking one. Slightly matted fur, lumpy, fat flattening out around the edges. The world’s ugliest stuffed cat in the back window of this car.

“Why?” I wondered at the red light. “Why?”

The light turned green, the car accelerated…and the cat turned its head.

The dang cat was real. A fat, old, very sleepy long-haired Siamese riding as calmly as Queen Victoria in a carriage.

“Why?” I wondered. “Why?”

The Green Sauce

October 31, 2017

I should probably put this over on my food blog. In other news, holy cats, I forgot I have a food blog. Oh, well, what’s a little 4-year lapse between posts?

Here’s a recipe. No photos, no videos. Imagine pesto. But not basil-y.

The Green Sauce.

You can put it on anything. Meat, veg, chips, potatoes, rice. Whatever. It’s that good.

1/2 small or medium onion or a shallot. What-have-you.

1 clove garlic

Massive bunch of parsley (say 2-3 regular-sized bunches. 3 is better)

Massive bunch of cilantro (see above)

Leaves from a big sprig of oregano, if you have it on hand. If not, a sprink of dried oregano or just forget it, no matter, it’s still good.

A goodly splash of olive oil. 1/3 to 1/2 cup or so

About a tablespoon of mild vinegar. I use rice wine vinegar, but cider will work, or even white, in a pinch.

Salt, pepper, blah blah

Instrucciones:

With your food processor fitted with the s-blade and the motor running, drop in the onion and garlic clove. Voila, instant choppage.

Open the food processor and stuff the herbs inside. You washed them, right? If not, what the hell is wrong with you?

Pour some olive oil over. Just some. You can’t put too much, so don’t worry. Add a glurg of vinegar. Salt, pepper. Replace the lid.

Turn that puppy back on. If the herbs aren’t getting chopped, add more olive oil until they start moving.

Process until the greens are a fairly smooth pesto-ish paste. Taste, add more vinegar and salt and pepper if needed.

If the texture is squeaky, put in more olive oil and process a bit more.

That is it. A lovely green paste that is a spread, a dip, a sauce. My dad would say “It is good and good for you.”

Enjoy.

 

It’s Not Just the Ass-Grabbing

October 27, 2017

Yeah, #metoo. Sexual harassment is all over the news. Harvey Weinstein broke the floodgates open, then half of Silicon Valley flowed out, along with much of Hollywood and even old Grampy George H.W. Bush.

Meanwhile, women have been saying #metoo. Some women are talking in detail about their experiences. Stalkers, gropers, inappropriate drunks, catcalls, rapes. Other women are quiet, wondering how much to say and what we will contribute – or what we will face – by coming out now.

Less skillful voices are weighing in, too. It’s a “witch hunt,” it’s “McCarthyism,” it’s “getting on the bandwagon” – as if something being horrible and common somehow makes it less horrible.

What’s the big deal, the grabbing, the groping, the staring, the comments, the “Can’t you take a joke?” chortles and sniggers?

I’ll tell you what the deal is. It’s not just the ass-grabbing. It’s the dreams dying. It’s hopes being abandoned. It’s creative projects never reaching fulfillment.

For every woman who has toughed it out and learned to ignore, to look away, to never be alone, to be blank-faced – there are five women who have stepped away.

They have decided that they can come to work, put their game face on, sharpen their talents, be creative, follow their dreams, try hard – but they can’t do all that and simultaneously face a hostile environment that reduces them to being sex toys for grown boys.

So one day after realizing they have gotten drunk every night for a month to try and forget the abuse and harassment they have to deal with each day, they stop showing up to work.

They take a lesser position somewhere else. They stop speaking up. They try to fade into the background. They put their dreams away and focus on just getting through the day. The world needs every woman’s dream and every good idea. We are all poorer for the loss of these dreams.

Meanwhile, their harassers go on, getting praise and promotions and moving up the ladder, all the while crushing dreams as they go. They don’t mind – in fact, they enjoy it – treating people as playthings is part of their reward for doing so well. After all, they’re just having fun.

Did I ever tell you about the guy I reported for exposing himself to a female co-worker? No? I just checked LinkedIn. He’s the boss now. I wonder where our co-worker is.

Here’s the rule: it’s not fun unless everyone is having fun. And if people are walking away with their dreams in dust and tears in their eyes, they’re not having fun.

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling Mercies

October 20, 2017

After four long days (full-speed from 6 am to 10 pm every day) at a work meeting, I was burnt to a nubbin and ready to go home on a Friday afternoon. All that stood between my and my comfy chair in California was a taxi ride, check-in, airport security and a 1900 mile, 5 hour flight. Oh, and a 90 minute drive home. Ok, kind of a lot of stuff.

The Lyft driver was very nice, up until the point I wanted him to drop me at my actual terminal, which he had missed. He refused to go around (“It takes a long time, like 5 minutes!”), so he dropped me 3 terminals down from where I belonged and I schlepped. It was of course under construction, a holiday corn maze of plywood and duct tape and cables.

When I went to check in with Delta, there was a problem with my flight. A problem I don’t want to talk about because it was all my fault. A problem created by not being able to tell the difference between AM and PM. Yes, I my flight was at 6 am and I arrived at the airport at 2 pm. While I was trying to get this sorted, someone set off a piercing, 95-decibel alarm that no one seemed to know how to turn off. It went on, minute after minute, everyone just looking around like stunned mullets.

I stood there thinking I was probably going to have to pay something like $1500 out of my own pocket to get home. Then I remembered my company travel office. The alarm thankfully shut off. I called the travel office, and 15 minutes and a $75 change fee later, I was in possession of a seat back to California.

While I was on the phone, I was smushed in a corner of the terminal with some potted plants, a German family of four, and an elderly couple. We were adjacent to the Lufthansa check-in, which wasn’t open. A young man came out and began to carefully arrange the stanchions and belts that made up the pre-counter maze. He arranged and arranged. He removed belts, straightened them, and put them back. He moved stanchions an inch one way, then an inch back. He lined everything up. He adjusted. He re-lined.

It was such a lengthy performance and so precise that I began wondering “I know the Germans have a reputation for precision – is this that, or OCD?” Then I looked over and the German family and the elderly couple were also staring with barely concealed glee at the young man’s determination to make a perfect grid-like maze. He went on and on. And on.

All of us began glancing at each other and glancing sideways at him, as if to ask each other silently “Are you seeing this craziness?” We began bonding in our wonderment, which made an otherwise isolating airport seem less lonely. We began to chuckle, then laugh, then guffaw. And all that time, the young man never glanced our direction.

I had to go to security, or I might have gotten to see if he ever opened the sales desk. For all I know, he might still be there.

 

Practicing Defense

October 15, 2017

 

I have been doing some stuff. Going on the defense against the voices in my mind.

I had four-day work meeting in Florida and was waaaaaaay nervous about it. The crowd is super accomplished, smart, fit.

And then there’s me.

Dreamy, schlubby, largeish. Clutching a degree from a not-very-good state U.

So I went and bought work-appropriate clothings and let the ladies talk me into matching jewelry, something modern – large and shiny and bold but not kooky.

I got my hairs did. Cut AND colored some, just enough to take the crazy level of grey out. Foil was involved. And the handing over of large wads of cash.

I got shoes. Lady shoes.

Then a mani-pedi, first in my life. I have had the mani part but not the pedi. I hate people messing with me in general, so I had to talk myself into it.

The mani was standard. Pedi, they strapped me into an electric recliner, put an eyebag over my eyes, and went to work. The electric recliner was supposed to be a massage chair, but it was really just a thing that poked me in the back, lumbar, sacral region and butt. Poke, poke, poke.

I thought about stopping the massage, but then my butt got used to being poked every 10 seconds. It was enjoyable, sort of. Then I was done. I left with Pepto-pink nails, pumpkin spice toes.  I handed over more cash.

This self-confidence thing is expensive. But I’m glad I did it. It’s bad enough to feel like you’re not as on-the-ball as everyone else without looking like it, too. I don’t think I looked fabulous, but I blended in, which is about what I aimed for. I just didn’t want to embarrass my boss, for whom I have great respect.

I still felt like an odd duck – a quirky, creative person in a sea of people who deal with the concrete and quantifiable. But I imagine most of them felt like odd ducks in their own way as well, because I think 95% of us do – we imagine we’re the only ones who feel like kids playing at adulthood, when we really all just want to go home and get in our jammies.

Before I left, I set my intention to love these people, and I think I largely succeeded. I had a few eye-rolling moments and a few impatient sighs, but for the most part did what I wanted to, which is to make people feel like I was glad they were there.

When I picked up Abbie Lynn (my dog) yesterday, she was happy to see me. For about 10 seconds. Then it occurred to her that she was going to have to leave her best friend, Shelby, who runs the dog boarding place. I could see her look back and forth between us. Shelby got a long goodbye hug and off we went. Now we’re chilling in our jammies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just me, my dog, and the turquoise glow

October 1, 2017

For the past few days, people in Ventura have been talking about bioluminescence happening at our beaches.

Red tides, which often contain harmful algal blooms (HABs), are caused by chemical reactions that occur between algae and other substances. Red by day, blue by night, this colorful ocean phenomenon is a relatively rare natural occurrence…Visible only in the dead of night, phytoplankton emit a soft bluish glow when disturbed, due to a specific chemical reaction that takes place between the algae and surrounding oxygen. Similar to the glow of a lightning bug, the algae glow can be seen within crashing waves, following boat movements and other disturbances in the water. All that is interesting.com

I didn’t know what it would look like. I imagined glowing blobs in the water. Last night, I found out as Abbie and I walked down by the harbor after dark.

It was one of those things where you feel like your eyes are deceiving you. I saw a wave crash glowing turquoise blue in the moonlight and briefly thought “Do they always look like that?”

I walked closer and got my answer. No, no they do not. The waves were full of flashing blue, like soft turquoise lightning under the water. A wave would break and a line of blue would race down the shore along with it. And the boats in the harbor were followed by streams and pools of light.

It was magical. I’m not exactly sure why, but it gave me hope.

I have been so horribly depressed since the presidential election. Each day brings some new crudeness, some new horror, some new assault on freedom and decency. I go about my days feeling like I am going to crack. I feel worn out by it all, like I can never get enough rest, and the rest I do have is shallow and ineffective.

But those blue lights, they showed me a glimpse of another world, a place beyond laws and borders and hatred. A place of hope for something different.

This all made it worth it when I landed flat on my face when I fell into a hole about 2 feet deep someone had dug in the sand. I had been looking at the waves and it was really dark and then…boof. Down she goes.

But I got up, brushed myself off (though there is still sand in my crossbody bag), and kept walking, eager to see what more magic the night would offer.

On the Metra

August 13, 2017

I got on the train by myself to go from Joliet to Chicago. The Metra train cars are cool – regular double bench seats down below and a second story of single seats along the edges, with an opening over the aisle so you can see the first floor. Of course I had to sit up top!

Two teen boys got on the train, sat down below, and flipped the train seats so they could put their feet and bags on the seats across from them.

The conductor, a man about 6’3″ with an imposing beard, walked through.

“Feet off the seats, boys,” he commanded. There were signs, too.

The boys took their feet off the seats and put them back up as soon as the conductor left the car.

He reappeared about 30 seconds later.

“How many tickets did you buy?” he asked them.

“We bought tickets,” they said.

“How many? Because if you want a seat and your feet want a seat, you had better have four tickets. If your bags want a seat, that is six tickets.”

“Why can’t we put our feet on the seats?”

“I just came through and told you to keep your feet off the seats and you put them right back up. There are signs that tell you not to. But you ignored them.”

“The train isn’t even full.”

“I don’t care if the train is full. I care about the safety and convenience of the customers.”

“We’re customers. We bought tickets.”

“You bought tickets? Or your parents bought your tickets? Do you have a job? Do you live under your own roof? I think your parents would agree with me. Now keep your feet off the seats.”

They took their feet off the seats. And I took the opportunity to give him a thumbs-up from my perch upstairs.

1 More Reason You Don’t Want to Be My Neighbor

July 20, 2017

Warning: a post about poop.

By way of explanation.

I never go out into the back yard. It is a narrow strip of dirt and concrete behind my house, maybe 10 feet wide, 40 feet long.

First of all, the dog pees and poops there, so ew. Thankfully she confines her poops to a small area over on the north side, so I can quickly locate and dispose of her waste.

Second, it is either in the direct sun or deep shade, and I have a nice porch with a semi-translucent roof upstairs on the north side, where I can sit and enjoy the fresh air, so who needs the back yard?

Third, the back yard is lower than the adjacent parking lot, so if I were to sit out there, I’d have the uncomfortable feeling of being gazed down upon by all the random car-parkers.

And lastly, the pot-smoking neighbor is out in his back yard ALL the time, emitting vast clouds of really stanky pot smoke many times a day. I’m not sure how high you need to be, but this guy is higher than that.

All this by the way of excusing myself. Because.

Ok, I’m going to tell you.

I had been dutifully cleaning up the dog turds in Abbie’s spot to the north and ignoring the back yard. The other day I looked out the back door on the south and…horror.

Abbie had switched spots. There were piles upon piles of nasty dried leavings. If anyone had looked down there, they would have thought “Wow, a really nasty person lives here.”

And I suppose one does.

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