There was a time when I was a mom home with babies, and all sorts of ideas and thoughts about the world were rolling around in my head. But I had no where to go with these thoughts. No one to share them with. No community for a thinking mom. Just diapers to change and baby vomit to wipe off the floor. And such is parenting. There would be time for thinking later.
Jump ahead to the year 2008. I was a very new blogger. I had just discovered (and started stalking) all sorts of mom bloggers and political bloggers and – gasp – political mom bloggers. One in particular rose to the top. Her name was Joanne, otherwise known online as Pundit Mom. And when she wrote, I just… got it.
That summer fate stepped in and determined my path as a blogger I very randomly won a contest through BlogHer to go to the BlogHer conference in San Francisco. It was my first overnight away from my children and I arrived there wide-eyed and ready to stalk myself some amazing bloggers. I listened intently to Lesbian Dad on a panel and pushed my way to the front to meet her. I fell off my seat laughing, tackled, and forced an introduction on Deb on the Rocks. I cried listening to and (via a couple glasses of wine) jumped in front of Moosh In Indy to tell her that she was so F-ing brave. And then, it happened. The last morning, at breakfast, Pundit Mom happened to sit down at my table. We introduced ourselves. She gave me a pin with her logo on it. Oh. My hero. That conference had officially been made.
Since then I have come to realize the power of the internet and the many super amazing smart women who live there. Pundit Mom and the Momocrats and various writers at BlogHer gave moms like me at home with their babies access to real politics happening in the moment. Before heading onto CNN to debate some topic or another, Joanne would tweet and ask what questions we had for the panel. The Momocrats would ask their readers what questions we had for Hillary Clinton before heading into a press conference. Moms, just like me with no way to be where they were, had access. And a voice.
And, since that morning over a bagel, my friendship with Joanne has grown. More conferences came. More conversations over meals. More shared ideas and ideals. More smart women, both online and off. She had a book she was writing, she said. I was thrilled for her. Could she use one of my blog posts? Oh my goodness, of course.
Honored is not even enough of a word to describe how I felt.
Joanne’s book has recently been published and in it she describes the extraordinarily influential political space women are carving out for themselves through social media, preconceived notions of women and mothering be damned. And she does it with the help of an incredible network of women she calls “Mothers of Intention”. Mothers, like me, who are not official political experts but actually, whoda thunk it, HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY.
This morning I opened up a PDF file from Joanne. It was the final draft of the book. My hard copy was in the mail. And there I was, amoungst these unbelievable women whom I have looked to as my conduit for change and voice and action for years. I am only one voice amongst so so many. But, once again, SHE MADE MY VOICE COUNT.
Do you see what this must mean to me? She changed my perception of motherhood. I, like a crazy woman, thought parenting meant my ideas and ability should be back-burnered. I thought you can’t parent AND think. She switched that all around and made me realize that, as a parent, I had a unique and important perspective. I had the same concerns as many mothers and we should pick them up and put them out there and get them heard, dammit. We are raising this country and that actually matters. She spelled it out quite clearly to me that mothers are kind of a big deal, even way over on Capitol Hill.
So. The book is in the mail. And I’ll be back here, of course, to freak out about it some more when I have resting here next to my laptop. Until then, check it out on Amazon. And, of course, you know… buy it. And maybe find your inner Mother of Intention. She’s in there. I swear she is.
I didn’t expect to find Christmas goodness in Walmart.
Broken carts, grumpy people, concrete floors, lines, yellow rollback smiles posted above askew stacks of unoriginal, over-produced, 100% rayon stuff, yes. But not true goodness.
A couple weeks back I was stuck in one of those Walmart lines with some little girl ramming a cart into the backs of my heels while I waited. My four year old was waiting with me too. Bored, he snatched up a toy from the racks of junk lined along the checkout aisle. I didn’t pay much attention to it. It was my turn to pile my stuff up on the belt and pay.
(And yes. For the record, I knowingly pay for all of these budget-changing savings in small soul seeping increments. My dollars are supporting another superstore yet again.)
So anyway. I pulled out my bankcard to sell my soul to the devil pay, when I heard my son whine very predictably, “I want this!”
He was holding a small toy camera. It was blue. It had “Toy Story” characters all over it. And naturally, I responded with a very decided, “No.”
He was not happy. I stood my ground, I paid, he whined some more and kicked at the bagged groceries in the cart with him, and I wheeled out to the car. Same story, different day.
This weekend, I sat the boys down to to write their letters to Santa. (Because my children REFUSE to sit on some strange fat man’s lap. And for $20 a picture, I can absolutely live with that.) Instead I use this letter writing time as an opportunity to gauge what they want – and perhaps carefully lead them towards or away from anything more or less realistic. Thankfully, it worked out well again as I implied that Santa doesn’t bring PlayStation 3s to seven year olds who already have Wiis. But he might bring a game? That’s when I turned to ask my four year old what he wanted from Santa.
And what topped his list? What did he ask for without any hesitation but with a sweet, hopeful twinkle in his eye?
“I want a blue ‘Toy Story 3’ camera like that one I saw at the store.”
Ok. I figured there had to be one in every Walmart checkout aisle – plus it couldn’t cost more that a couple bucks. So sure. Fine, let’s write that down. Fantastic idea. He was thrilled.
Today I went across town to that very Walmart to do my soul-selling shopping. I assumed I would find it without any trouble. I was wrong. After wheeling all over the place and trying every toy aisle and craning my neck to see down most of the checkout aisles, I finally asked someone. The man I spoke to was very nice and took a moment to look in a couple aisles himself. But it was the young employee standing behind him who jumped to attention and scampered down the checkout aisles searching, one after the other.
I had given up at this time. Maybe I would find it somewhere else. But she chased me down.
“Ma’am? I know exactly the one you’re talking about. I see it all the time – but I can’t seem to find it here. Can you wait a minute so I can check the toy aisle?”
Sure and I wheeled after her. She really didn’t have to go out of her way. This thing couldn’t have cost more than $2.00, maybe $3.00. Her time had to be much more valuable than this little toy.
But again, no luck. And she felt so badly.
“I can’t believe this camera is at the top of his list! Ugh. We have to find one, we have to…”
But I had to go. I was trying to make her feel better about it. No biggee, really. And thank you. But she wasn’t done. She asked me if I felt comfortable leaving my number. She was off at 7pm and she would keep an eye out for it for the rest of the day. Oh sure! Yeah, here you go. And I left.
At 6:55pm tonight, my cell rang. It was her.
“Well, I’ve looked through this entire store for the camera. My manager was even on the case. But no luck. So I called three Walmarts in the area. And guess what! One of them has one! Go there, you should have no problem. I’m so glad we found one for him.”
I was amazed. I was touched. I was a little speechless. I thanked her profusely and told her I had already filled out an online comment card about her (I had) and, really, I was so so appreciative of her taking the time and thanked her a gabillion times again. She wished me “Merry Christmas” and was gone.
So I drove right over to that other Walmart. (We have many here in Florida.) And I walked right up to Customer Service. I told them my story. They were fairly impressed – but not nearly as moved as she was. They said they didn’t hold anything for customers so I would need to look myself. Understood, I was anticipating another search. I had begun to turn away when another girl working in Customer Service blurted out a very sudden “OH SNAP!” And took off. Two minutes later she emerged WITH AN ENTIRE TRAY OF BLUE TOY STORY CAMERAS.
“I just put them back there about an hour ago. Can you believe that?”
I selected one and thanked and thanked them. I even kind of teared up as I handed over my $3.29 for the total POS, rattly, plasticky, checkout-aisle-parent-trap toy a Walmart employee had searched high and low for her ENTIRE day. But she had understood that THAT particular POS just happened to be at the top of my son’s Santa list.
Goodness, people. It happens. Everywhere and anywhere.
Even in a superstore.
Even in an employee who has been busting her ass during a brutal, consumer driven, holiday crazed season where customers hardly offer her even a smile as she itemizes, restocks and checks out. She must see the backside of humanity on a daily basis. She must swallow mean and indifference with every “Have a Nice Day” she offers. But she took her day to make MY son her priority for some rinky-dink “Toy Story” camera that will probably end up in the toy box where my kids’ stuff usually goes to die and be forgotten. She cared about my baby boy. Today.
Goodness happens. It appears out of no where and it lights on our day. In a moment, one warm heart reaches another, regardless of place or time or what anyone really deserves. It gives, it overwhelms and is suddenly gone without any expected return.
Goodness. It happens. And I believe.
So slap a bow on THAT, my friends, and color me yuletide. My faith in goodness has been renewed this holiday season.
And I’ve been caught off guard by how deeply her death has moved me.
Maybe it’s because she was a mother. And after being diagnosed with breast cancer so many years ago, she had to face the knowledge that she could be leaving her children motherless. Which, of course, is every mother’s nightmare. She must have lain awake nights wondering if anyone would know her children the same way, understand them, help them, and love them quite as much.
Maybe it’s because my heart is breaking for her children. I don’t care how “prepared” they were for this, they are without their mother now, days before the holidays. They will be affected by her death forever. They will be rocked to their core. Their loss is immeasurable.
But I also think it is because the world lost a really good one. A woman who genuinely seemed to affect those around her in a positive, constructive, selfless way. She was scary smart and politically savvy. She stood as an example, spoke from her heart and, through all of her trials, remained strong, honest and resilient.
She should not have been so graceful. Not when she lost her son. Not when the cancer returned. Not when her husband left her side.
Still. She would regroup and stand back up again.
Over her 61 years, she took what was handed to her and she DID something. Her voice was important. Her example changed lives. Her work made a difference. Her mind reworked policy but her heart made people listen and put it all into motion.
She was a mother who affected real change in this country.
She was the kind of woman I could only hope to be.
My heart is heavy this evening. Peace, healing and love to those mourning her life tonight and in the years ahead.
I went away this weekend. I got to be with friends on an beautiful beach with warm white sand, rustling palm trees and orange sunsets. I know I only traveled an hour from my house, but places like these always seem part of some far-away Tom Cruise Cocktail inspired Never-Never Land in my mind, where drinks always have umbrellas and reggae plays in the distance.
I saw umbrellas in many drinks. And I heard reggae drift over the sand dunes.
Needless to say, it was pretty much exactly what everyone in the whole wide world needs what I needed to regroup a bit. And as we sat there wrapped in towels poolside, with dripping hair, scarfing down messy platters of nachos and sharing stories from our childhood – my soul sighed and put up her feet.
What a rare, magical thing to find a self-indulgent moment of time to connect with people like this. Smart, comfortable, confident, funny, kind women ground me and inspire me. They always have and they always will. I am besides myself with gratitude for the 24 hours I had to recharge with each of them.
And then, after hours of endless conversation late night in our hotel room, we finally headed to bed. And that’s when – oh yeah – I decided to check my phone. There was a message with this picture attached.
My seven year old had lost another tooth. I panicked a little. Did my husband have the whole Tooth Fairy gig down? It was well past everyone’s bedtime, so it was too late to check in. What to do. I just had to assume he had it covered. Ok. So I put the mommy guilt aside and tucked myself in for a rare restful night’s sleep without children sneaking in besides me to steal pillows and twirl my hair.
(…Of course, I had a stress dream about my high school headmaster yelling at me for not getting a certain assignment done in time – which is about right…)
The next morning, my husband relayed with confidence (and the teeniest bit of swagger) that he had, in fact, donned his imaginary fairy wings with pride and made magic happen. He even had our seven year old write the Tooth Fairy a note.
So while I “just let it go” this weekend (just like the Tradewinds Resort logo insisted), my husband made sure to capture a small moment of little boy wonder.
And I thought I would share it with you of course.
There is magic everywhere, if you look hard enough.
I have been watching the Chilean miner rescue today. Each man hauled up onto the surface seems like some kind of dusty, pulled from the ashes, impossibility. And it has taken my current list of worries, shaken them right out and put them exactly into perspective.
Not as if an amazing feat of miner retrieval will make my worries go away. But it reminds me that my family is healthy, that we are here, and that we are together.
These are such good things.
Right here on this computer screen as I type, a father folds his son into his arms after months trapped deep deep down below. After he somehow found his way out of a hole only 22 inches wide but dug as far down into the earth as two Empire State Buildings.
This is what makes our spirits dig and push and understand exactly what human nature is capable of. I hope I can be all that I am capable of. Truly.
The other day I saw this butterfly in my backyard. There was actually an impressive alligator sunning himself on a distant bank too and maybe I could have snapped a grainy pic of it in the evening sun. But I was compelled to bend down to my feet and look closely. This butterfly had caught my attention.
It wouldn’t fly away. Maybe it was hurt, I’m not sure. But I lay in the grass and snapped pictures. Because it was beautiful and something special. Then I carefully let it crawl onto my fingers, a game of baseball was in play and it had no hope if it stayed there in the grass.
And I set it on some butterfly friendly flowers in my small garden.
Have you ever been to New York City? There is something very special about that place. Maybe it’s the concentration of people, voices, talent, needs, ideas, power, drive, hope, movement… I don’t know, whatever it is, New York City has it’s own inner energy and momentum, creating, self-sustainable, humming and alive. Visitors satellite around, are pulled in, overwhelmed, and spun back out into space.
And BlogHer was here this year.
I arrived with my father actually. While I was at the wheel of his Jeep, he read the Garmin’s instructions patiently. Through it all, Bob Marley played the entire way. Cars cutting me off, speeding parkways, death-defying lane changes, traffic, traffic, traffic. Every little thing was gonna be alright.
We rode the elevator to the 41st floor, my ears popped while we watched CNN on a small monitor. New York doesn’t want you to miss a thing it seems.
I said I would be back in a minute, I just wanted to go down to register for the conference. But as soon as I stepped off the elevator, I heard it, I saw it, I felt it. That crackle of NYC’s potential seemed focused into this very space. Women everywhere, reuniting, talking, screaming, laughing, walking, running, dancing, snapping pictures, flip cameras out, chatting in line.
I waited for my turn, not quite ready to take it all in yet. Not sure where to hop into this intensity. After I was registered and had collected myself, I made an awkward leap. And landed somewhere into the mix. I was along for the ride.
I spent four days orbiting within this experience. I connected with dear friends and met wonderful new ones. Blazing stars and inspiring voices whirled about me, radiated before me – encouraging me and then went shooting by. There were so many hugs, so much surprising enthusiasm, so much “Wow, Morningside Mom, Hi!!!”. (Huh?) So so much unexpected generosity. These people became much more than their words read usually at a safe distance. And these people were brilliant, almost blinding.
I have more to say, of course. But I needed to get this post out of my system. I needed to explain what the vibe was in that space. Why simply walking into a room overwhelmed me so intensely, it sent my system far into the red. The recharge room wasn’t even enough. So often I would stagger back to my room, lie on my bed, and stare.
I’ll also admit that I was a bit lost in this experience. I wasn’t sure where to look next or how to hold tight and stop and find people. There were a lot of people I never saw. A lot. This might have been my biggest regret. I think they were spinning right by me but I couldn’t always see them in all of it. So when I did grab one and tried to slow both of us down just to connect, a hundred others seemed to rocket by. I even had friends outside of BlogHer that were there that I never saw. Even my poor father could only reconnect with me now and then. He was overwhelmed by it all too.
So I’ll be back with more. But really. For those who weren’t there. Imagine this concentrated, spinning, exploding, energized space filled with thoughts and voices and differences and debates and ideas and personalities that dared you to hold on tight, to somehow stay in orbit or else find yourself launched into the periphery. It was a challenge but I held on and had quite a ride.
But now I am here, back in my own quiet rotation, far from the Mothership. And I’m processing, thinking, reconsidering and hoping I’ve become a better person, blogger, writer and friend out of all of it. I hope.
A year ago today my world was rocked by news about a little girl I had never met. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you probably remember that time well. On the other side of the country, another blogger’s daughter – a little girl named Maddie – had passed away. However, in the wake of her death, her community reacted. And this enormous outpouring of love and connection created something bigger than any of us ever expected.
If you are only now being introduced to Maddie, I suggest you jump over here and learn more about her. This child’s story has touched thousands and thousands of people. She put a beautiful face on an important cause and moved bloggers and families everywhere to act immediately. And we did.
Last year, Maddie’s team raised more money for the March of Dimes than any other family team. I was proud to be part of that team – my family walked with other bloggers here in Tampa. Shoot, little ol’ me raised almost $600 for the March of Dimes. Maddie made me do it, I swear.
Today, Heather Spohr is mourning the loss of her daughter one year ago. One year. Without her sweet baby girl. My heart is with her, my heart is with her, my heart is with her.
This spring here in Florida, we’ve had a crazy outbreak of purple wild flowers. Everywhere. I’ve lived in Florida for over 6 years and I don’t remember seeing these flowers before. For days, I’ve been passing fields of these flowers. Of course, the small patch that popped up in my back yard inpired me to snap a few pics. They are tiny, they are many, they are gorgeous. And do you know what all that purple has been reminding me to do?
She loved purple. And purple stands for the March of Dimes. And I had better not forget that.
So I’m here to share these flowers here so that you won’t forget either. And perhaps you might consider donating to Maddie’s team this year. I’m walking with somefabulouswomen. And we’ll even be wearing tu-tus (here’s why). Come on, don’t you want to be a part of that? How about this. If I raise a lot of money, I’ll post pics of me leaping through the streets of Tampa, rocking that purple tu-tu with pride and passion.
(Come on, who are we kidding? I’ll post pics of me doing that anyway.)
So donate. Anything. Coins under couch cushions are accepted.
And please remember Maddie today and all that she stands for. Thank you.
I remember sitting in a room during a break out session about sexual abuse in college and watching the majority of women in the room raise their hands and admit to having been assaulted, abused or raped at one time in their lives.
I remember my friend telling me she had been raped on two entirely different occasions.
I remember a few friend’s telling me they had been raped. Or, as they put it, having sex even though they said no. But maybe he didn’t hear them. Maybe it was their fault for being so drunk. Maybe they shouldn’t have gone to that party anyway.
I remember my friends not telling me what had happened to them but still unraveling and struggling internally and working through what they could at weekly therapy sessions.
I remember my college friends setting up an “underground railroad” of sorts for a fellow classmate trying to escape her abusive husband.
I remember slipping what money I could to another friend who was trying to leave her abusive partner with children in tow, unsure of where to go or how to start over.
I remember assuming that abuse and violence just kind of eventually happens to everyone. And I wondered when it would be my turn.
Maggie Dammit, a fantastic writer and blogger, started a site a year ago today called Violence Unsilenced. And I am just one of many bloggers giving her and her site a shout out today.
Violence Unsilenced gives women (and men) a place to go and tell their story. It teaches, shares, connects and empowers each of its writers and readers. If you want to tell your story, read about those with stories similar to yours or support those who have experienced some level of violence in their lives, please visit and continue to support Violence Unsilenced.
Please watch this amazing video created by Maggie in honor of this site’s one year anniversary.
So raise your hand if you are up to your eyeballs in Christmas shopping. Yeah, me too.
But I was hoping maybe I could ask you to set aside $30.oo for an important cause.
My blogging friend Anissa is still struggling to recover from a life shattering brain bleed a few weeks back. While she’s been in the ICU trying simply to respond to those asking her questions, her husband has been doing all that he can to take care of their three children on his own. How is he doing this? You can check up on them here.
But he’s doing all of this, and also thinking about his children’s Christmas without their mother, while facing hospital bills and costs they never ever dreamed of. Well, maybe they have. Since Peyton, their youngest daughter, has spent plenty of time in hospitals already. But I’m betting they never dreamed they’d be facing these sorts of hospital bills with one parent being the one in need of care.
So, Melissa Wardy at Pigtail Pals, has created these T-shirts for Anissa. 100% of the proceeds go to support her family.
And what’s with the “Team Anissa” thing? If you know Anissa, you KNOW she loves Twilight. And Edward.
(On a quick sidebar, I keep thinking she NEEDS to see “New Moon“. I have these wild ideas about writing the movie production peeps and seeing if they could give her a private screening in her room somehow. I know she’d hear it. I know she’d love it. I KNOW she’d respond. And probably cat-call too.)