Monthly Archives: July 2008

BlogHer Revisisted: Sharing the Goods, the Bloggers and the Exhaustion.

We are finally back home. I still have bags to unpack. More laundry must be done. Another trip to the grocery store for items other than milk and bread might be nice. There are bills to pay, school supply checklists to complete, and phone calls to return.

And yet, here I sit. With my BlogHer gear spread out around me. My name tag is hanging on the wall while business cards, brochures, buttons, stickers and other various types of swag are dumped out here on my desk.

I am ready to remember my fabulous trip to San Francisco.

Or perhaps I’d like to click my heels and wish myself back there.

Some people like to call it BlogHer 08, but I like to think of it as the Magical Mommy Mystery Tour. What a wonderful, crazy trip it was.

(Be prepared my loyal readers. This post may be a doozy and even a bit too long for me to stand. But this conference, like this post, was overwhelming, lengthy, and a tidal wave of blogging information in of itself.)

It all started on a Thursday. I leaped onto a plane with my laptop strapped to my back, leaving my swirling world of mommy groundhog day in the capable hands of my husband. Five hours later I found myself in SF, being picked up by my long lost college roommate, her three boys and current boyfriend. She lives in Mendicino and lives a wonderful organic lifestyle on a farm there. We piled into the van, the smell of incense was thick, she offered me a sip of her raw chocolate milkshake. Oh thank the heavens, I was soooo not in Kansas Florida anymore.

We bounced through the city and met up with another long lost but equally wonderful college friend of mine whom I would be staying with. She’s an artist and has a piece hanging in gallery downtown. We stopped in to check it out. Art. Oh what a fabulous luxury to make, enjoy, consider and be a part of. ESPECIALLY without my children to wrangle. I have to give her a shout-out. You can find her here. She is amazing and I am so damn proud of her!

That night I reconnected with the old me. The me in college, the non-mommy me, seen through the eyes of old friends with good memories. Rejuvenated and officially back in touch with that that old self of mine, the next morning I was dropped off at 7:45am in front of the Westin-St. Francis Hotel. Again, I had my trusty HP laptop backpack strapped to my back (perhaps as my own blogging parachute of sorts) and I crossed the street to make my way into the hotel.

Deep breaths. Ok, where should I go? Is it really even here? What if the whole BlogHer thing is only a part of some online fantasy world. I mean, c’mon… bloggers? In REAL life? Could it even be possible? And then I saw a sign pointing me in the direction of registration. As I reached the top of the staircase, there I found a long line of women – blogging women – waiting, chatting, various and interesting. I found my place, got my name tag, my swag bag, and was off.

The maze of rooms, ballrooms, and hallways threw me right away. Where could I sit down? My overwhelmed brain was attracted and distracted by the flashing lights and stim from every direction. Table after table of vendors offered cool gadgets and big smiles. A group of women were playing Wii Fit in front of a flat screen TV. Smells of coffee, roombas vacuuming at my feet, computer screens flashing, laughter, women, even TV cameras and then a large blue mascot standing in front of me for some new PBS kids show… c’mon, hold on a sec, I can’t quite absorb all this… I need to eat first… where could I sit down? Finally, there was the grand ballroom filled with empty tables and I plopped down to eat my bagel.

The first two women I met were amazing. Shark Fu – aka Angry Black Bitch – to my left and Zanaru at Create It Herself to my right, the conversation was fun and light and I was so glad to meet them both. As the morning went on, I met Moosh in Indy, Mama Spohr, Susan Wenner Jackson from Working Moms Against Guilt, and Kim Sue Ellen from Simply me. I met Lucrecer from Art Slam– what a cool blog! And Allese Thomson just starting out at Behind the Make-up had such interesting things to say.

I jumped into my first break-out session: Is mommy blogging still a radical act?  Watch part of it for yourself. It was one of the best sessions. I am also now a huge fan of Polly Pagenhart, otherwise known as Lesbian Dad.

Then I went to a mommy blogging session on Parenting and Privacy. It was there I met Christine Rury from Home Team Wins– we sat and stressed over the pictures of our children on our blogs that could be photoshopped, stolen – oh man, what were we doing to our babies? Out there in mommblogger land, the kosher amount of information we share about our children seems to run the gamut. Some don’t post their children at all, some post pics and their full names. It’s a personal choice. And I realized what sort of reality show and entertainment for the masses blogging can be.

I met more cool women over food, in the halls, having coffee: Clairenation, Lara David, Spinning Yellow, Stimey (I blame you for my new Twitter addiction! Honestly, I am glad I got over it and joined. It was so great to meet you.), ShallowGal, Crummy Cupcake, Anne Fritz from The Jet Set Girls, Katherine Gray of Dirt to Dish, and Vampituidty.

But wait. I can’t forget my new friend Terri who works with HP. She helped me get my new laptop and video camera up and running. Supportive, smart and so positive about blogging, Terri was a wonderful friend to have there! And if it weren’t for Terri, I never would have gotten video footage of me meeting a true celebrity, recognized far beyond the world of blogging: Grover and Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street. Actually, what was really fun was talking to the voice behind Grover, and she caught that too. I hope to post the video soon.

Before BlogHer wrapped up for the day, there was a community keynote with about 20 bloggers reading various posts of theirs. I gather BlogHer will be posting more of the readings from that evening. Honestly, people, these speakers were AMAZING – and you can watch the first speaker here.

That night, the bloggers made there way to an uber-hip club called Ruby Skye. It was very cool but I felt frumpy. I was still in the same clothes since I did not have a chance to change. But the food was great and I met an awesome mommy blogger: Tricia from Four Plus Four Equals Ten. We chatted, compared notes on the day and missed our kids together. On the way out the door, I met two more very cool bloggers. Military mama whom I follow and had her sweet little one with her asleep on her shoulder. And then Deb on the Rocks – and she actually does rock, no doubt.

The next morning, I felt a little less peppy and a lot more weary. I sat down from some breakfast, hardly feeling exactly witty or on my “A” game. And who should make her way and find a seat next to little ol’ me? One of my fav bloggers ever: Pundit Mom.

Um, ok. How do I NOT look like a dork? How do I just chill out and seem as unstalker-ish as possible. I did my best, I really did Pundit Mom. Not sure if it worked though. But I’ll gush here because I can: I think you’re really smart and cool and it was honestly an honor to meet you. And thanks for the little Pundit Mom pin, I wore it the rest of the day. (I know I know, my friends. I am a big old nerd.)

I also met A Girl and a Boy who is now expecting a boy! Congrats to her! And then met Slouching Mom and I am now an official fan of her site too.

Revived by the cool bloggers I had met, I slung my backpack over my shoulder, found my way through the maze of hallways and pushed into the most crowded session I had been to yet: How we communicatre building traffic via content and community. I found a small spot on the floor, I could hardly see the speaker, but solomenly took notes on my laptop. It was an excellent session and I learned a great deal. Phew though, I guess I have a looong way to go.

The day continued and onto more sessions I went. My bag got heavier, the jet lag was catching up to me and I finally found myself hiding in corners just to catch up on email and try not to make too much eye contact. I had a feeling the women huddled over their own laptops here and there felt the same way too.

A quick note about the “high school”ish reputation BlogHer seems to get. Eh, I guess there was the cool crowd, the cliquish types and even the star bloggers (who are probably so nice) that I couldn’t quite bring myself to say hi to. (Julie Pippert, you’re one of them, as well as Mom-101 and Queen of Spain. WHY didn’t I just suck it up and say hi??? Silly me.) Here’s the thing. I went to a women’s college (go yoke!)and I “get” women together. Sure, you’ll have some catty stuff here and there. But I honestly think most women just aren’t used to being in an all women’s environment. They ASSUME catty stuff, gossiping and backstabbing is happening all around them. However, I’d bet if you did go up and chat to that cool group of women laughing about whatever, they would gladly have you jump in on the conversation. Women seem programmed to think other women will rip them down. It’s very discouraging. I honestly have more faith in women than that. All women environments can actually bring more strength and confidence than you can imagine. There is camaraderie, there is room for everyone to be a leader, there is no glass ceiling. It might just be hard to figure that out in a couple days, where everyone is feeling insecure and outed when they usually are somewhat hidden by the blogosphere. It certainly makes for an interesting dynamic. But enough about that.

The final highlight of the day was the Closing Keynote speakers: Heather Armstrong and Stephanie Klein. We all gathered in the grand ballroom, excited and twittering “DOOCE DOOCE DOOCE DOOCE”, our laptop screens lit up like lighters at a concert. They were great. We hung on their every word. I am not a regular reader of either but to see such successful bloggers talk about their lives in the public eye was fascinating and extraordinarily eyeopening.

That night I had a red-eye to catch home. I popped into the party over at Macy’s briefly but I just couldn’t hustle up the party-girl in me to get too fired up and stay for very long. Instead, I hauled my stuff to the lobby and called my husband. I was ready to come home.

But BlogHer had one more surprise up her sleeve for me. As I got settled into the airport shuttle van, who should I run into? But two other bloggers, of course. Not just bloggers, but panel speakers. Adele at A book Without a Coverand Shaz at Shaziamistry. We were fast friends and had an early dinner together at the airport before parting ways (Adele, I hope you made your flight! My tweezers DID make it through security, by the way…). I would recommend checking out Shaz’s website if you are a newbie blogger. She has all sorts of techie advice, especially hints about wordpress! If you want real in-depth help, she loves Starbucks (hint hint)… or I am sure she wouldn’t mind being paid for real either. But what a wonderful treat to meet such cool women on the heels of such an amazing event.

And with that, I climbed onto the plane. I popped my contacts out, said a prayer of thanks there was no “Mr. McFeely” or possible groper seated next to me to worry about, and fell fast asleep.

Friends, if you have made it to the bottom of this post, a round of applause to you for sticking out BlogHer 08 with me. And stay tuned for Grover and Abby Cadabby video coming up soon! Now I better clean all this BlogHer stuff up, it’s like I am pining away about my college days or something. Sheesh.

(p.s. Did you see the BlogHer 08 write up in the NY Times? And then I also found Pundit Mom’s response pretty interesting too.)

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Filed under Blog love, Bloggers, BlogHer Conference, Educating myself, Feminist tendancies, Travel, Twitter, Women

Bloggers are Legit… Too Legit to Quit.

During one of these “not so beach weather” days, my family and I took a drive up to Provincetown to poke around. It’s a favorite spot of mine, where you’ll find generations of Portuguese fishermen and historical homes along side contemporary restaurants and galleries. A place where you will find couples walking hand in hand down the street, in open adoration of one another, whether they be grandparents in fanny packs or gay men in assless chaps. Open, welcoming, cool stores, cute New England charm and the perfect solution for an otherwise dreary day.

Provincetown is also home to my favorite book store of all time. A far cry from Barnes and Nobles or Amazon.com, Tim’s Used Books is a little gem. A home converted into a bookstore, it is nestled off the main road, awaiting avid readers of every persuasion. I was thrilled to get a chance to visit once again. I put in my request for a quick 15 minute respite of “me time” and my dear husband took the kids to go look at boats.

I stepped through the doorway and was in my glory. As I wandered around, stacks upon stacks upon shelves upon shelves of books greeted me. There were hand written labels here and there on shelves declaring some level of organization. But really, it’s a place to wander quietly, shuffle about lost in your thoughts and find that wonderful book you’ve always wanted, gently used and reasonably price. I found two. While not book titles I had always wanted, they were of interest. Both “self help” books of sorts to help myself with two loves of mine: raising boys and writing. I knew very little about either title but they might be something to curl up with if the rain refused to cease but, miraculously, my children’s wrestling did.

When I was ready to pay for my treasures, I found a woman reading next to a very old register at the front of the store.

“Oh, you’re interested in non-fiction writing.”

Shyly (I felt a bit outed) I replied “…Um, yeah, I guess.”

“Well, the key is to use a lot of description. That’s really all it is.”

(Sidebar: Use a lot of description? Uh-huh. And if that’s what I have done so far in this post, I hardly consider this a successful tact in a blog. All this chatter about P-Town and you all don’t even know what my point IS yet, do you? My guess is that she soooo doesn’t know very much about blogging, now does she?)

And then, oh so confident, the woman at the till exclaimed that she was, in fact, a writer. And then, while she hand wrote the titles of my books in a log next to her, she read the various names of the non-fiction writers I would be reading about outloud – some of whom had been in that very store.

“Oh, well. I am kind of new to this writing thing anyway. I am actually blogging now so… I am just trying to get better… um… you know…. express myself…”

She stopped what she was doing and looked up at me.

“Oh. Blogging. Well, I don’t write for free.”

And with that, this smug bookstore keeper – oh I’m sorry – this smug writer, sent my post-BlogHer brain into a spin of questions.

Is writing for free really such a bad thing? Is there a point to blogging for free? What IS this blogging thing for? Why do I spend so much time doing this anyway? And is blogging considered a legitimate form of writing? Is it respected out there amongst “real” writers?

After all the time and energy I have focused over the past few months on blogging, where the hell am I going with this?

Now, not every blogger writes for free. During the conference, there was a great deal of discussion about how to make money from blogging. Whether that be advertisements, blogging for specific companies or snagging an elusive book deal, all of my fellow conference attendees seemed to be scrambling to learn how to grab their piece of the pie.

(Forgive me, another sidebar: I have a theory. While I went to Blogher on someone else’s dime – again thank you wonderful BlogHer women – I know my fellow conference attendees got a fair amount of crap for going to this conference. I heard time and again how loved ones asked fellow bloggers why they were spending money to attend a conference about something you do for free. So my guess is that most of the women there, while adoring their blog, felt some sense of responsibility to learn how to earn a buck while doing so and then tell their significant others that’s why they attended this conference in the first place. Shoot, I was at those sessions too, I get it.)

Regardless, even as I sat in those sessions, I know I ultimately struggled with the whole focus on blogging for money. And after reading Slouching Mom’s recent post, I am obviously no the only one. I worry what happens to the integrity of the blog once the author starts writing for money. Does it stop being a love and start being more of a grind?

…I gotta get more advertisers, I gotta get my readership up, I gotta write something everyone will like, I gotta write everyday…

If it’s that much work, it’s just not fun anymore, is it?

But let me be clear. If I could blog and be paid enough for one trip to the grocery store or one trip to fill up my Saturn or make enough to pay one monthly electric bill… cha-ching. What a glorious thing even that little bit would be. And if a fellow blogger manages to make more than that? Well, you go, more power to you. If I could be so lucky. As long as the heart of that blog remains and the money is just a nice benefit on the side, be the blogging business you wanna be.

But still, I find myself back at my starting point. Blogging for a tank of gas is hardly a job. And it’s hardly justification for the hours I spend writing, editing, thinking and hunched over my computer.

And to underscore my point, do you know how long this post has taken me to write? I have two children. I am in charge of them. THAT is my job. Blogging away hours of my day is NOT my job.

So where am I going with this? While I used to write some copy for my previous real-life job (many moons ago before kids), I have never been officially paid as a true freelance writer. Apart from my undergraduate liberal arts degree (in Neuroscience and behavior – super helpful in real life, no?) I don’t have any degrees or official documents stating that I can write. And I wouldn’t know where to begin to start as an official writer. All I got is my new used book about how to write and this little self serving blog. Where I write. FOR FREE.

I guess I am just having a bad blogging day. 

I guess I have had to explain where I was last weekend a little too often.

“What kind of conference was that?” “What exactly IS blogging?” “Where do you even find time to do something like that?” “Don’t you worry about sexual predators stalking you and your family on the internet?”

Oy.

As a quick reminder to myself, I know there are so many reasons why I blog which do justify all the time and effort I have invested here. There is no price tag on sanity, right? Blogging has given a little bit of that back to me. You all have heard it before, it has released me from the circular mommy groundhog day that I was living in. It is an extremely satisfying creative outlet indeed. So yay me. I should keep doing it. And I will keep doing it. And all the planets, and stars and signs are telling me I MUST do it.

But I think it’s ok to question it. And truly determine why it is that we do blog before we are peppered with questions about it, before we sign on for advertisements, and before we run into smug shopkeepers that don’t quite get it. Like some sort of blogger’s mission statement, we should all carve out, own and proudly display our reasons to blog.

Cripes, I think I might even write a mission statement. Anyone else interested in doing so? If you are, post it below. I need a little inspiration today.

And in my next post – which may not be fore a few days now – I hope to recapture the energy and excitement of BlogHer 08 and link (which is blogger lingo for “introduce”) you to some really amazing women I happened to meet. I need to remember and just get PSYCHED again, dammit.

Because we should not have to apologize for blogging. Even if it’s for free. Blogging regularly makes us better writers. Blogging for nothing means we truly love to write. Blogging is taking the first ammendment to heart. Blogging should never be exploited or biased. Blogging doesn’t have editors hasseling you over your every word. Blogging shoots straight from the hip and is as honest as anything you will ever find. Blogging is something to be respected – not snubbed.

Well, enough from me today. It is 4:30 in the afternoon, we leave tomorrow and the sun has finally come out. Can you believe this? Time to actually go find the bathing suits and untangle my wrestling boys on the floor next to me.

My parting words? Blog it, mean it, love it and then leave it. Now finally, off to the beach.

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Filed under Blog love, BlogHer Conference, Deep thoughts, Reality check, Self-analysis, Signs

Rehabbing from BlogHer08… but Hopped Up on Twitter.

I have returned safely from BlogHer08 and slipped back into vacation life with my family. But here I sit. Vaguely slack jawed, short of breath, over-stimmed and kinda tweaked out. BlogHer08. It got to me. It’s as if my inner blogging hard drive uploaded some monstrous load of software and now it just needs to reboot before it can function at all. There is far too much to process, too many business cards to look through, pictures to upload and blogs to visit. I’m not ready to post about it (but I will be, oh, I will be). 

And oh no. A techie analogy. And I am SO not techie. What has HAPPENED to me?

See, clearly BlogHer got under my skin. Like pouring water on a Gremlin or discovering new super hero Spidie-Senses after being bitten by the BlogHer bug… there is no turning back now. Blogging is running in my veins, has me dreaming in widgets and seeing in technorati.

And do you know what else BlogHer08 did to me? Those sneaky sneaky women. Like crafty drug pushers, all whispering in the hallways between sessions “you gotta do it, you gotta try it, EVERYBODY (there) is doing it”… I DID do it. During an insane moment at a table surrounded by women silently tweeting away to one another in a frenzy, I signed up for Twitter. For the networking possibilities, I told myself. For the good of my blog, I rationalized. Uh-huh. As the 3 R’s says, I’ve drunk the Kool-aid now. There’s no turning back. A blogging Gremlin cracked out on Twitter. Get me to rehab. FAST.

So that’s really what I am doing here. I have put myself into a little bit of Blogger’s Rehab. As I type this, I am outside at our tiny family beach cottage, enjoying the peaceful world around me. I am soaking in the silence and watching the sun in the trees while the rest of the household naps. What a beautiful world this is here. Far from the conference site, the sessions, the swag. Just me and my family, together, relaxing our brains and rebooting our inner hard drives. 

However. I can’t help but notice. The birds. Do you know what they are doing? THEY’RE TWEETING.

(….if ya wanna find me on twitter you can find me at “Morningsidemom”, i’m checking it, i’m watching it, everyone thinks I am out here with my book, with my new bff – my HP – tucked safely away in my back pack. No. I am out here, hunched over, I don’t hear the birds… but I hear a whole lot of tweeting… so so much tweeting….)

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Filed under Blog love, BlogHer Conference, Twitter, Uncategorized, Vacation

Turning 35 and Getting Over It.

A few days ago, I turned 35 and for some reason it seems to be a bit of a milestone.  35. 5 years from 30, 5 years from 40. When I turned 30, I hardly noticed. I was deep in the trenches of tending to a newborn.  A “milk making, diaper changing, ever baby holding, never sleeping” machine. I hardly noticed it was summer, let alone that I had turned 30. It seems that since I have had children, my aging, my progress forward, my evolution in any way has kind of come to a screeching halt. And that’s been ok actually. I have been able to pretend I am still 29, the age I was when T. was born. I have almost let myself believe that everything is just at a stand-still, waiting for me to come back into the game when the coast is clear and the baby gates are down.

But here we have it – I have turned 35, and I am not so sure the game is exactly waiting around. Age is happening to me, whether I like it or not. Weight has redistributed itself – things around the back have seemed to have sucked through my body and deposited themselves on the front. Except for the top portion of my front, which actually WAS sucked away -thanks to my two boys- and I’m left with gaping, “been there done that”, A cups. I’ve got some white hairs, sun damage has become more apparent, I’ve got a bunion for cripes sakes, and I can’t focus up close when I read quite as well as I used to.

The other true indication that my life is really not stopped in place waiting for my return is the fact that my children are growing up. Nothing demonstrates the passing of time more clearly than children growing before your very eyes. 5 years have gone by since I have become a mother and turned 30, and my growing children (just add water, the Chia Child that grows…. Cha-cha-cha-cha- chia!!!) have made sure I don’t live in denial about that fact.

So yup, as so many do, I have grumped my way into 35, responding with a groan when someone wishes me well. Clearly, I am feeling sorry for myself. But, ugh though. This self pity crap is really annoying, and you know I am not the only one who does it. Why can’t we accept this inevitable aging process and the milestones that come with it?  

So to change it up, and slap some sense into myself, I think this might be a good time to take stock. I think to make myself feel better and actually celebrate this mark of 35 years, I need to list all that is good about this age.  So read along as I try really reeeeeally hard to make myself feel better and remark on what a fabulous half full glass 35 actually is.

·         I can finally just relax into my own body. It is what it is. The genes are laid down, the babies have been born and left it as so. I should be good to it, appreciate it, throw pride to the wind and wear that bikini after all, accepting that what I got is what I got.

·         By now, I have to know something. I have to have enough life experience that I can safely feel some confidence about having a clue about how the world goes ‘round. And if someone asks for it, my advice could maybe possibly hold some water.

·         Being carded at 35 is a compliment. It really is. That 18 year old kid asking for my I.D. truly makes my day. 35 probably doesn’t look as old as I think it does.

·         In my twenties, I was in a frenzy of getting engaged, planning a wedding, being married, and then trying and succeeding at having babies before my child-bearing years were over. And now, (throw some confetti in the air) I’ve done it! I got that covered. Now it’s time to figure out the next steps without that crazy pressure over my head.

·         Years ago, before children, I hated to be alone. It seemed pointless and lonely and too quiet. Now, I cherish some time alone. To remember the old me, think my own thoughts, make my own choices. Granted, I still don’t want to fly solo for too too long, mind you, but the time alone I do get, I savor and cherish.

·         At 35, all radio stations are my musical oyster. The soft rock station plays songs I actually know (honestly, it’s not THAT bad). The oldies station plays my favorite tunes from high school. I still know top 40. I still jam out to R&B (I don’t care how ridiculous this white suburbia mom probably looks). Classic rock rocks, even if it doesn’t seem THAT classic. And when I am running up to the store without the kids, I’ll even blast the alternative rock station and swear I still do “get it”.

·         White hairs on blond women can be written off as “highlights”. At least I’D like to think so.

·         I don’t care what “What Not to Wear” says, at 35, I still feel like I can buy fun t-shirts in the Jr. Section and get away with it.

·         Laugh lines just mean you’ve been happy. And when you smile, well those laugh lines just make you look happier.

·         As I raise two children, at least I know that one day, I have left this world with something really really good. That alone kind of negates any said bitching and moaning about my age.

·         35 is ONLY 35.

Now for those of you smug folks who are 5, 10, 20 years my senior and are currently rolling their eyes at my pathetic little mid-life crisis (which I am constructively trying to reconcile with a harmless little blog post, mind you), just remember you were 35 too once. We all go through milestones and experience them in our own particular self-indulgent way.

Ok then. Now that I have accepted that I am the ripe, wise and proud age of 35, maybe I can stand my ground and really show how I have gotten a clue in future years. Each year forward, I want to try very hard not to dwell (“try” being the key word) on the “getting old” bit. Really, enough already, it’s just annoying. I need to get over it and keep taking stock and celebrating those achievements – big or small. And more to the point, I need to get fired up about what I still have yet to tackle, discover, celebrate and enjoy. My boys are growing up and a bit more independent – let’s get on with it, there is so much to do!

And finally, my dearest friend also reminded me that the day we are born isn’t meant for bemoaning our white hairs and droopy body parts. Remember, we were born this day. We have come into the world, done some cool stuff, made our world better in whatever large or small way and people have loved us for it. Our friends want to cheer us on and we should accept that love, light some birthday candles and get on with the party. So, happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. May I get plastered you baaa…d girl, happy birthday to me. Cheers!

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Filed under Aging, Birthdays, Growing up, Identity crisis, Self-analysis

The Son and The Stars: The Birth Story of my First Child.

I wrote this birth story for a writer’s contest in a magazine. The topic was : Describe the best day of your life. And I did. But there were many days leading up to that day that were the worst days of my life. To revisit such an overwhelming moment in my life was much more emotional than I anticipated. My poor son, T. During breaks from writing this, I would find him minding his own business and interrupt him with a slew of hugs and kisses. He was not particularly impressed, and I left him alone, understanding his annoyance but feeling unfulfilled. How could I possibly express how much I adore him and how grateful I am that he overcame the odds against him? I’ve come to the conclusion that I will never show my gratitude enough. So I peck away at it everyday, smothering him with sappy displays of affection whenever I can corner him.

But I should go and post this now. My wonderful 5 year old T. is jumping up and down on my Aunt’s pristine white couch and yelling “Beach beach beach!!!”. Vacation time (otherwise known as time spent away from the computer) beckons. My wonderful boy. He is perfect, and fine, and I thank my lucky stars every day for his health and well-being.

 

During the nine months leading up to the birth of a woman’s first child, one would assume that the most wonderful moment of her life would happen the day her child was born. Of course, May 26th is the day we hoop and holler and celebrate my son’s birthday. And like every other mother on her child’s birthday, I sniffle and take pictures and wonder where my baby has gone. But my most life changing moment occurred eleven days after my first son was born. June 5th to be exact. That day, a day which still makes my heart skip a gleeful beat, was the day we were allowed to bring our baby boy home from the neonatal intensive care unit.

 

I had a fairly routine pregnancy after a fairly easy try at getting pregnant. As my belly grew, so did the stacks of pregnancy magazines and the number of bought-on-a-whim-because-it-was-so-darn-cute onesies. I experienced the miracle of hearing my child’s heartbeat patter away for the first time. I watched him tumble about during an ultrasound. He was healthy, he was growing well, he had ten fingers and ten toes. There was absolutely no reason to think there should be any cause for concern on the day of his birth.

 

On the evening of May 24th, weary and resigned, I hauled my then 60 pounds heavier bulk to bed. I gather the fist shaking towards heaven and demands for labor were heard; I awoke a few hours later with wet sheets and the full realization my baby was on his way. With a rush of adrenaline, my husband and I giddily made that middle of the night dash for the hospital. It was finally happening; we were going to meet our first born son.

 

Looking back, I often explain that the stars just weren’t aligned right that day. My son’s birth trauma resulted from a number of smaller factors which eventually culminated into one ill-fated outcome. The first possible factor may have had something to do with the weather. You see, it was raining outside. Pouring in fact, dumping huge cats and dogs like I’d never seen. Apparently there were two low pressure systems swirling over the state of Massachusetts. “Yup, I should’ve known” one nurse clucked next to me. “Low pressure systems bring babies”. And sure enough, that maternity wing suddenly filled to capacity with women in labor. It was also Memorial Day. Was the hospital fully staffed? It was hard to tell. Nurses and doctors, distracted and impossibly busy, scurried about. Women in various rooms hollered out and my disorganized labor pattern stumbled and hiccupped along.

 

As the day wore on and other mothers had their babies, I did not. The Doctor informed me that a c-section at 6pm was probably in the cards. My heart stopped, as if a c-section was the worst possible outcome. I looked to the nurses besides me. “Don’t worry, hon.” one whispered, “We’ll get you there. We’ll keep the Doctor distracted and see if this baby comes on his own”. She indeed stayed distracted and another star aligned itself. Sure enough, 6pm came and went.

 

To progress my labor, the nurses encouraged me to roll on my side. However, at one point, the heart monitor slowed and became erratic. Then it steadied itself. But those stars were lining right up, and my son’s fate was being determined in those very moments.

 

By 10pm, against expectations, I was fully dilated. And pushing! “What a head of hair!” the nurse declared. Oh, she could see him! Another nurse casually placed a blue cap on the warmer – he should be here at any moment…

 

And that’s about when fate showed its hand. That’s when they saw the meconium in the fluid. That’s when I spiked a fever. That’s when his heart rate plummeted and remained unchanged. That’s when the smiles stopped, the whispers started, nurses began to run around, papers were madly signed, my bed and I were unhooked and I was rushed into the O.R.

 

My son was born at 12:20am on May 26thby c-section. The final star slid into place – his cord was found partially wrapped around his neck. He was not breathing. They started CPR in the O.R. and whisked him away to the nursery where he was intubated. As I laid in the recovery room, I was given uneasy words of comfort and a haphazardly taken Polaroid picture of my son. My baby. He was not well. And so, around 2am, my boy was evacuated to Boston’s Children’s Hospital across town. My baby, who I had only seen briefly in passing, covered in tubes and monitors while the paramedics rolled him into the elevator, was not well at all.

 

The next morning, pediatric doctors said the words “Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy”. In layman’s terms, our baby had been deprived of oxygen for too long during delivery. And then the seizures started. His brain was wounded and it was reacting. We had to wait another week or more for the final prognosis. Under the enormous weight of this information, I was finally wheeled over to meet my child. There he lay. My son. His arms and legs drawn up to his side (“that’s a result of high muscle tone due to brain injury”) and he was completely still (“the anti-seizure medications will keep him deeply sedated for sometime”). I wanted to hold him. Very gingerly, three nurses transferred him and his accompanying tubes to my arms. He didn’t move. I stared at him. What had happened? I had a sudden desperate urge to ask the doctors if they could put him back inside. He was fine there. Nothing was wrong until they took him out. Just put him back! But I didn’t say a word. I cried some, though. My tears fell onto his face. And he still didn’t move.

 

Over the next eleven days, my husband and I spent every waking hour in that NICU. We learned about each tube, monitor, medication and testing procedure. We took an infant CPR class (breaking into frantic giggles as the instructor demanded that we yell “Baby! Wake Up!” to our plastic dolls). We began the process of signing up for early intervention and other services we might qualify for. Words like “Cerebral Palsy” were carefully mentioned – they were preparing us. Doctors, medical students and nurses shuffled about, nodding their heads, taking notes, and moving on. And the NICU, like some subdued casino, melted day and night together with its blinking lights and beeping sounds. It hissed and hummed and carried on, while fates were determined by the roll of the dice for each child that occupied bed after bed after bed.

 

On the morning of June 4th, I stared down at my beautiful son. By the grace of God, he was no longer intubated. In fact, he was in my arms, nursing. Move aside Einstein, my son had figured out how to suck and swallow. No doubt about it, he was brilliant. But I stared at him, concerned, rocking, waiting for another shoe to drop.

That morning, we had a round table meeting where test results and my son’s prognosis would finally be shared. My father and aunt were there, acting as our voices, while we sat in our own emotional stupors. Call it denial, but I was secretly hopeful. He was alert and moving in my arms, he was nursing, and he just felt well.

 

I don’t remember much about that meeting except for one important moment. Bow-tied and stern, the head neurologist began rambling various technical terms – but the nurse besides him started to smile. Was this good news? And then, Dr. Bow-tie looked up and said, “We do not use the word ‘extraordinary’ around here very often, but that is how I would describe your son’s recovery. His MRI only shows signs of ‘normal’ birth trauma now. He is free to be discharged.”

 

Call the mayor, call the newspapers, stop traffic, declare a holiday, gather a “rolling rally” parade and have the Boston Pops strike up a celebratory concerto. My son had recovered! The paperwork began while the nurses whispered; smiling about miracles. Our boy was going home the next day.

 

June 5thwas the day. The doctors did their rounds, final checks were made, prescriptions were written and we readied his car seat. And do you know what else? Our son was watching it all go on around him. I distinctly remember him following my husband’s bright red Red Sox hat move across the room and back. Our son really had recovered.

 

Later that morning, we gleefully fled the hospital grounds with our precious cargo unplugged from the NICU and on his way home. What had we gotten away with? At any moment I expected a call to return him, a mistake had been made, he needed more care. But I am not sure we could have turned around. Like high stakes thieves, we knew we had miraculously snatched our baby from a life of potential disability and struggle. Yup, thieves we were, a regular Bonnie and Clyde, laughing madly at the bullet we had just dodged. It was the most wonderful, exhilarating moment in our lives. So, finally, the stars had moved on and re-aligned themselves, designating something hopeful. Down I-95 we sped, where promising destinies were finally awaiting all three of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Children, Destinies, Family, Health, Hypoxia, Parenting, Pregnancy and delivery

Meeting a Medium and Giving Grandma a Shout Out.

When you think “vacation”, fun images of beaches, watermelon and relatives usually come to mind. What probably doesn’t come to mind is an hour spent in a dusty third floor office in Western Massachusetts talking to a Medium. Yeah, that’s what I said, a Medium. You know, the John Edwards, Sylvia Brown, “I see dead people” kind of person that I would bet 75% of most folks think are a scam? Yup, I met with one yesterday. Some months ago, my wonderful aunt had a reading with this woman at a gathering with friends. After being fairly amazed by her experience, she signed both of us up for a reading while I was in town. So, my HIGHLY skeptical, grumbling husband (“if you guys leave there with both of your purses, I’ll be amazed…”) dropped me off for a kid -free evening of talking to those on the Other Side. Intrigued? Come on, admit you are. I sure was.

Now before I go on, let me just lay down my own kind of disclaimer of sorts. I am not into the occult or anything remotely evil. I believe in God, goodness, karma and know there is something beyond here more wonderful than anything we know here. And while I am spiritual in nature, I also don’t claim to assume I know diddly-squat about anything in God’s ‘hood. I’ve got no idea about what he’s (um… could be SHE!) is up to or what might happen to us once we are no longer living here. So I am open to anything because I am a humble enough to know that we simple humans can’t know everything, can we? No way. So, if there is a possibility that our loved ones may want to chat with us from the other side, well so be it. Who am I to stop them? Who am I to say it couldn’t happen? So, I was game and ready. A psychic reading? Bring it!

My aunt and I arrived a little early for our reading and sat down in a sparsely decorated waiting room. There were small prints of angels here and there. A water cooler, a plant, a carpeted floor, a window and one bee lazily buzzing about the ceiling. I was nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Maybe at any moment a woman named Zorba with a scarf wrapped around her head, a thick Albanian accent and long decorated nails who would swoop into the room and beckon us forward while whispering mysteriously “zeees way…”. Or maybe we’d be meeting with a “Whoopi Goldberg from Ghost” type of clairvoyant? Could be! Helllooooo Patrick Swayze, come send me a message! Or what if we were about to meet another version of the notorious  Miss Cleo, psychic reader and sham queen of all sham queens? 1-800-I’ll take your money, thank you VERY much. Oy, what were we getting ourselves into? But actually, a very nice welcoming woman came in and introduced herself. She was kind and quiet, possibly even a bit shy. Hardly a Zorba or Whoopi type, she had us follow her into her room which was small but comfortable. We found three chairs, a table stacked with various decks of tarot cards and one lone pink crystal. We sat down. She smiled. I took a deep breath. Ok, let’s do this.

She asked my aunt and I to pick some cards from a deck of our choice and she laid them out. But then, as she was looking over our cards, she almost bashfully claimed that “well, it seems that we will start with our medium reading first.” She then admited that a woman, who had already passed, had been with her on the ride over. She looked up at us and said “you two are related” (it wasn’t a question), and this woman was connected to us both – either as a mother or grandmother figure. And we were off.

Now I could go on about the entire hour’s worth of what was said, but it may not mean much to you since you would not have any reference point about their validity. But I will say that I was surprised by the strange bits of accuracy she laid out before us. My first memory of my grandmother was mentioned – a moment when she gave me a plastic butterfly which only I remember. Odd little, random details, personalities, habits, funny intricacies about people we knew who had passed all came forward. Some things we could not place or find a connection with. Other things dawned on us on the car ride home. And there were even moments that stopped us dead on our tracks. How could she know that? How could anyone?

And during those moments, when it seemed in fact my great uncle or stubborn grandmother was coming through, I felt right at home with it. It never scared me, I never felt overwhelmed by it, in fact I felt quite familiar with the whole scene. Of COURSE one grandmother would be hogging the spotlight more than the other. Of COURSE my great aunt was still gossipy. Of COURSE Uncle Bill didn’t have his pants on. Somethings never change. And I mean NEVER.

So how do I feel walking away from my experience? Do I think it was all a sham, like assuming it could only be card trickery when she popped up the “animal” tarot card right after mentioning my last dog was in the room with us? And do I think the details she gave could have been relatable to ANY family really? Or am I, in fact, sold on the science of clairvoyance and will I refuse to make my next career, financial or parenting move without the advice of my personal psychic?

No on both accounts.

Let’s put it this way, I simply feel more affirmed in my beliefs about life after death. I do think she said some things that certainly made me want to jump up and say to the empty space in front of me “What-up Grandma!” I also think there were times where she rambled on about a topic to give me comfort but wasn’t sure whose advice this was, my Great Aunt Elva’s… or hers.

However, I also think that even if the connections we made were for real (and, seriously, I think they were), I also think there is certainly a human factor influencing the reading. The Medium seemed to put her own bias or interpretation on what she was getting at times. And, of course, so did I. When she said a grandmother was mentioning “The Flintstones” being connected to a male name, the Medium kept thinking Barney or Fred or something to do with stones – and we left confused. We had had no idea what this meant. But later, as I was falling asleep last night, I remembered my father’s nickname growing up had been “Rock”. Have I made a leap here? Or was this the reference my grandmother was trying to make? The Medium interpreted that information one way and I interpreted it another. The human factor is unavoidable. So if you are able to interpret the diffused information correctly and glean its meaning, then a reading like this might work for you. If you are expecting to sit down and get a direct Skype link to your parent on the other side and chat about what you’re making for dinner, then don’t bother. That’s not how it works.

Finally, I will leave you with a few tips that she gave me. Take them for what you will, but I will only ask that you keep an open mind about this world around you. Our limited five senses do a fair job picking up the empirical information we receive. But just as we miss seeing certain levels of light or we miss hearing certain ranges of sound, we should only expect that we may not perceive all the various forms of energy around us everyday.

Tips for reaching out to your own passed on, however still pantsless, Uncle Bill:

  • A person’s spirit still keeps the same personality on the other side that they had here. The louder family members always tend to come through first.
  • If a family member was skeptical of Mediums or psychic readings on this side, they will be on the Other side – so don’t expect them to come through very quickly if at all.
  • If you are open to signs and communication from your loved ones, they will very often work very hard to reach out to you.
  • They often reach us through electricity since they are energy also.
  • If you are open to communicating with the other side, expect to receive messages from loved ones of your skeptical friends.
  • Animals pass on also and visit often.
  • There is no pain, worry, guilt or unhappiness on the other side. Our loved ones are able to resolve their troubles after death.

SO. Yeaaaah. If my more skeptical readers haven’t already groaned and Xed out of my blog never to return, I promise, I will try to get back to more meat-n-potatoes and less hocus pocus in the future, for now. (Hey, at least I DID catch up with some more relatives, however unexpected, this vaca after all.) Thanks for reading and we will now resume our normally scheduled blogging and vacation activities.  I’m off to set up the slip-n-slide.

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Filed under Clairvoyance, Deep thoughts, Medium readings, Relatives, Signs, Spirituality, Thinking outside the box

Vacation Blogging, all I ever wanted.

I am in a packing frenzy and have very little time for any mucking about. Except, I have to share this bit of advice: don’t put your packing off until the last minute. Especially, when it is just you alone packing for everyone and you have two small children nipping at your heels.

Oh, and don’t save the laundry until the last day either. Washing colors and whites recklessly because you just want it DONE, is honestly not so smart.

And I also wouldn’t decide that you don’t have enough luggage until the last day and then haul the kids out and spend a half hour hemming and hawing over the cute luggage patterns in the outlet store (“Would THIS one be cute to bring to BlogHer, what do you think T.?” Blank stare. “If I am a good boy, can I have a Popsicle?” I’ll take that as a yes…).

And then don’t STAY in the outlet store once you’ve found what you need. Whatever you do. Don’t decide that maybe now is the time to spruce up the house with some new vases from the Home Decoration section. And then after 20 minutes of more hemming and hawing, don’t then decide that there isn’t any extra money to be spending on stuff like this and put it all back. It also might not be so smart to have spent so much time accomplishing nothing, that it’s close to lunchtime, and your two year old is having a cracker throwing, sippy cup tossing, mommy kicking, red faced squealing tantrum in the shopping cart. Yup, bad.

And then, once the kids are home and fed, don’t then decide to call your neighbor and gab about the mean couple at the fourth of July party. Because that can go on forever, establishing why they snubbed you or how they were rude to your neighbor’s children (for example, when my neighbor’s daughter approached their baby to say hello, the mom yelped in a panic “Oh my son is allergic!” and scooped him up. Allergic? To what?? …Ok, ok, I’m over it).

And then don’t realize you have not ordered your son’s school uniform and hem and haw (“hemming and hawing”, it’s a true skill of mine) over which colored polo shirts to get. He looks FINE in yellow, just buy the damn shirts already.

And whatever you do, for the love of Pete, don’t get on the computer. STAY FAR FAR AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. Its eeevil. It will suck you in. It will steal hours out of that last valuable day while you ponder if the post you are composing is an utter waste of time and just a silly statement of the obvious. (Press “publish” and get on with it, girl!)

Groan. I am horrified, the afternoon is almost over! Please, if you are also heading out tomorrow for your vacation but have found yourself sitting here reading this (waste of time, stating the way too obvious) post, don’t follow my hopeless example. Please refrain from all this silly mucking about and procrastination. It will be your down fall, let me tell you. Just buck up and get packing. Spend the time preparing, read your list and check it twice, and do right by your suitcase.

Because you know what packing is all about? It’s not about having absolutely everything while you are on vacation (because, c’mon, we’re not heading into the Amazon, Wal Mart is -unfortunately- everywhere and you can always get what you need). A smart and thorough packing job, my friends, is about avoiding that certain moment in the car the next day. I am sure you know what I am talking about. After you are all packed up, and in the car (probably a little bit later than you’d like), and you’re excitedly speeding down the highway, it’s that moment when you think out loud “I feel like I forgot something.” And then, if you didn’t do a stellar job like you SHOULD have the day before, you probbaly have forgotten something. So then you need to decide if you should turn around. I hate that moment. I detest that moment. Realizing I have, in fact, forgotten something and then demanding we turn around has sent my (hates to be late) husband to the brink, let me tell you. Not such a good way to start that family vaca.

So, whatever you do, if its your day to pack before vacation: don’t shop, don’t call friends, don’t tinker and dawdle and daydream, and above all else, DON’T GET ON THE COMPUTER. Get packing and have a clean conscious that you did your best. While driving to the airport, allow yourself to laugh in the face of that “moment” and respond aloud “Well, I didn’t forget anything”, and then sit back, put your shades on and smile smugly …even if the “are we there yets?” have started up in the backseat.

Ok folks, I’m outa here. I will be blogging from the road, to be sure. Who knows where or when you will hear from me next but I will be back here, harassing you all, soon enough. Peace out.

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Filed under Packing, Procrastination, Travel, Vacation