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Queen of the Mamas…just an average Jane or not?

26 Feb

I swear I do not hate so called Mommy bloggers but after a week that not only found me needing oral surgery (seems a piece of my wisdom tooth that was removed 10 years ago was still left in my gum and decided to abscess…so my next stop is an oral surgeon) to add to that fun I was on pins and needles waiting to learn if my breast discomfort was the big C (its not). So I need to go light and lively for a bit here. Gee, this was a vacation week too; nothing says vacation like health issues!

So last night found me taking a break from my more serious reading of spiritual matters and cozying up with Ree Drummond’s new literary gem (smirk…cough) The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. Now for those not in the know, Drummond is better known in the blogosphere as The Pioneer Woman. I must admit I am not a big fan of her blog, to be honest it’s too busy for my taste but last year I stumbled on her cookbook at the library and after trying a few recipes the Spousal Unit bought me my very own copy. So when I heard The Pioneer Woman had a book coming out, I figured if it was available at the library I would check it out…wouldn’t ya know, my library had it and I checked out.

To be honest this book is the perfect book for reading when you have eaten too much spicy food combined with chocolate, topped off with red wine and your ass is in need of the toilet for a while. Oh you know what I am talking about. When you have a case of the bubble guts and you know aren’t leaving the bathroom any time soon. When bubble guts strikes you need something to read to pass the time and The Pioneer Woman’s love story is just the book.

Look, in all honesty it’s a sweet little story, she was a big city gal (though if you are born and raised in OK and spend 4 years in LA, not sure that really makes you a city girl. Anymore than my 8 years in Maine makes me a Mainer) who fell in love with a cowboy, it was love at first sight and now they live on their little ranch with their 4 kids living happily ever after. Problem is that in Drummond’s decision to protect her family’s privacy she leaves a lot out of the book, in fact a quick Google search this afternoon revealed that her cowboy affectionately known as the Marlboro Man is really a very wealthy rancher and in fact his family is well known. Now like I said earlier I have never been a big fan of her blog but between her cookbook and the most recent book, she tries to give off an air that she is just like you and me. Just regular old Jane, problem is anyone with any type of intellectual curiosity can quickly figure out that she is not quite what she pretends to be.

This leads me to the bigger issue of Mommy bloggers and the more well known such as Dooce and Katie Allison Granju (note: I really like Katie’s blog and the fact that she has been so open in sharing about her son’s drug addiction and death makes her pretty damn real to me). In fact I just read this piece in the NY Times, Motherlode section talking about the Mommy bloggers. Look, I realize that people are only going to show us what they want to see, but the truth is at a certain point it starts to feel like what much of the bigger and well known Mommy bloggers show us is not real. After all, yes they are Mommies like the rest of us but some of these women are earning some serious cheddar, report’s put Dooce’s salary at $30-50K a month! Um…she makes more in a fucking month than I make in a year, nope we aren’t alike at all.

I don’t have issues with folks getting paid to blog, shit I wish I could but I am too lazy to take the next steps or rather with my full plate I simply can’t fit it in. Yet I firmly believe when you get to the point you are earning a living doing it, it will change the nature of what you share. I know if I were earning that type of bread, I might not be as inclined to bitch and moan about crazy parents, bills, you get the drift. Instead I would go out of my way to share the good shit in hopes that it makes you feel good. After all if you feel good, you might come back thus I get to earn more scratch. The thing is the authenticity of sharing the momma experience is lost and the blog is simply a means to earn money and get your brand out there.

I have said it before and I will say it again, the fact that there is a severe shortage (dare we say almost a lack) of women of color represented in the high earning Momma blogs also sets my radar off. When the fuck are our stories going to be worth sharing? What about low income Mommas? Most of the blogosphere’s top earning Mommies already had a foot in the middle class door.

Anyway, just my quarterly bitch fest on the lack of diversity within the top earners in the Mommy sphere of blogland.

Circle Jerk of Cattiness

15 Oct

 

Blame it on the weather (gray and rainy up in my corner of the world) hell blame it on my perimenopausal hormones. Or maybe just chalk it up to the fact that underneath my warm sunny smile, there is raging bitch that lives beneath the surface. In any event, I am greatly annoyed. We are living in crazy times, crazy politicians, crazy pseudo politicians, extreme cruelty…just loads and loads of bad shit. Yet many of us get online and wax poetic about this shit but the truth is many of us are just as guilty of being part of the madness that threatens the very fabric of our society.

We talk a good game about compassion and care yet the reality is we thrive on madness. Did you ever think about the fact that in social media the stars of this new frontier are often the cattiest and bitchiest folks? Last night I was brain dead after a really long day at work followed by an evening of math games at the kidlet’s school. After we finally got her down for the night I decided to spend some time on Twitter (my new favorite place to waste time online) and I was struck by the fact that even in cyber space we have the clearly popular folks. The folks who get a bazillion followers and follow back at best 25% of the folks following them. That’s cool, no one says you have to do automatic follow backs, hell one of my real life friends is big on letting folks know she doesn’t follow folks back.

No, what I have noticed is that the folks with the most followers are often some of the snarliest folks around, now as a person known for my own personal brand of snark and sarcasm that may be the pot calling the kettle black. Yet the reality is even in cyber space we want our tweets to titillate us. We don’t want the mundane unless its Oprah Winfrey or some other celebrity. No if it’s an average Joe we need them to get ratchet on folks as some of young superstars on Twitter say. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that yet when we look at the physical world we live in and see how folks are living or not living. I think its hard not to see the connection between the cruelty that exists in the real world and the sometimes cruel mob style behavior we can see at times even in cyber space.

Just a few weeks ago I took part in an online campaign that got crazy. People took what they were reading too damn seriously. I admit there were times I laughed but when I took a moment to stand back I was ashamed of my actions. Yes, the woman who stated that campaign may not have  been as informed on the subject matter but as a empathetic person I can’t imagine how painful it was to read folks questioning her choices, her lifestyle and hell even insulting her hair. (what the fuck did her hair do?)

What happened is that we got caught up in a circle jerk of cattiness, without bothering to think of the ramifications of those actions. Problem is that the new frontier of communication makes it quite easy to do this with no regards to the folks we might be roasting on the other side. So as a person who suffers at times from too much empathy I have accepted that my fortunes will not be made in this brave new world. While I bitch at times fact is I am pretty tame compared to what seems to appeal to folks these days.

I like to think that while my corner of the social media world is small it is very rich with connections that last more than just a few minutes. Have a good weekend!

 

It’s all about getting that cash

19 Jun

I have been using various forms of social media now for well over a decade now. In the late 1990’s  I discovered discussion boards, I was contemplating making some life changes and was in need of a supportive community and at that time the net was small enough that I hooked up with a couple of online communities that met my needs. Over a decade later, I have met some amazing women many who have become real life friends.

When I packed up my life in 2002 and left Chicago and landed in Maine, it was those same online communities and friendships that sustained me until I reached the point of having some local support in Maine. I guess what I am saying is I have been online for quite a while. My first husband was and still is a computer geek, back in 1991 when we married he was going online using BBS (bulletin board system) I remember back then thinking what the hell is he doing, little did I know how much that early exposure to making connections online was going to impact my life.

In the past 5-6 years we have literally seen social media go mainstream, I remember just a few years ago before sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter became household names explaining my online activity to real life friends and being looked at like I was insane. After all who communicated on a computer with people they didn’t know? By the way this was in the early 2000’s…many of these same real life friends now use sites like Facebook and others as staples in their daily life.

I stumbled onto blogs probably about 4-5 years ago, many of the early blogs I read were true labors of love. Often folks sharing amazing tales of their life, awesome writing. Back than folks often just started blogs to have an audience, another way of making connections. Take bloggers like the very popular Pioneer Woman, she just wanted a way to stay connected to the folks in her life, she had no idea that one day she would be writing books and last I heard there is talk about a movie about the story of her life. I think many women particularly mothers gravitated to blogs as a way of making connections. In Maine we have Amanda Blake Soule of the blog Soule Mama. Her blog chronicles her life here in Maine with her 4 kids and their creative endeavors.  Her daily life and adventures became the basis for the 3 book deal she later landed but from what I have heard (Maine is small, while I don’t personally know Amanda, I have friends who do) she didn’t start blogging with the intent to land a book deal. She did something she liked with no expectations and well good shit happened.

 Initially when I started this blog, I had my eyes set on achieving some level of fame that would translate into a paycheck but over the two years I have been blogging, now it’s about my process. For me it’s about strengthening my skills as a writer but also having a voice, lastly as a woman of color its about connecting with others. This blog has allowed me to connect with folks in Maine as well as outside; I have met some fellow bloggers and readers that one day I would love to sit down with and share a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

I also think that when I let go of dreams of turning this blog into a cash cow, it allowed me to stay true to myself and my creative being. I also use social media such as Twitter to promote this blog but even Twitter allows me to connect with others especially some of the most creative and free thinking minds in Maine. Just yesterday I caught lunch with a young lady of color who recently moved to Maine. So yeah money might be nice, but making human connections is even better.

I say all this to say that as a long time user of social media in all its forms I see some disturbing trends developing. More and more I read blogs or see Twitter users turning themselves into a brand…the brand of me. Twitter for many is about promoting oneself, one’s business. Look there is nothing wrong with promotion if you have a legitimate product to promote but in many cases I see complete and utter bullshit being packaged in a slick glossy package and well its empty as hell.

The problem with this new trend of self promotion is that it takes away from authentic connections. How can we truly connect if at the end of the day you are more concerned about sealing a deal and getting paid? Look maybe that works with the youngsters but for an old head like myself its a huge turnoff. I think about some of my ex favorite blogs, ones that landed the book deal or through blogging landed a great job and then the original blog lost its spark.

There is a fashion blog I have followed for a while and when the blogger initially started off, it was great. You as the reader connected because you saw a regular person putting together articles of clothing that were accessible to the masses and rocking the hell out of that shit. Year down the road, this blogger blows up, to the point she quits her job, now she attends Fashion Week, has corporate sponsors up the wazoo and basically her blog reads like an advertisement, a glossy magazine.

Funny thing is this particular blogger is one of the biggest influence in my returning to my love of vintage clothes, she gave me some great ideas. Yet now I occasionally visit her blog and feel much the way I feel when I read a fashion magazine. That what she is hawking is inaccessible, furthermore as a follower of hers on Twitter, the constant promotion of herself as a brand is making me reevaluate whether or not I should even continue to follow her.

The thing is we have a zillion books and consultants who all for some cash will tell you how to market the brand of you, giving away so-called secrets that will make you into a social media superstar and of course earn you some cash. Look, and can I be frank most of what they are telling you is bullshit. You don’t need to have a brand called you because guess what? You are you! I admit as a graduate of a masters level organizational management program, I am well familiar with consultants and having even done a brief but successful stint as an organizational management consultant, I am here to tell you most of what these folks say is designed to earn them money and leave you wondering.

I admit occasionally they may give you a nugget of truth but I believe that much like real life relationships the only key you need is to be your authentic self in all that you do. Folks like The Pioneer Woman and Soule Mama achieved a high level of success in the social media world by simply being themselves, no gimmicks or special conferences needed. When we lose our authentic selves even in an electronic medium we risk becoming a mindless automaton who is programmed for one thing, getting that cash and really aren’t we more than that.

Social media has got a hold on us

6 May

It’s no secret that I have a love/hate relationship with social media especially sites like Facebook which I admit while they can be useful for keeping in touch or reconnecting, are also huge time sucks. I only know 2-3 folks who can take it or leave it, for Lent the Spousal Unit actually took a month long break from all social media and now only checks in with such sites on a sporadic basis. Then there are my two closest and dearest friends, one who has no Facebook, Twitter, or any other type of social media accounts. Funny thing is, his real life job  is a DJ at a medium size radio station in Chicago, the type of gig where you think one might want to occasionally dip a toe in the world of social media. My other best friend uses sites like facebook on a really sporadic basis. She will go months, and I am talking literal months without logging on then she has a week where she is hot and heavy and then she fades away. She recently told me she did that because she knew if she logged on daily she could easily see herself getting caught up and she just did not want to deal with that in her life. I admire the hell out these three because they recognize that while these sites can be valuable they can also be dangerous.

Now for some of you reading this, if you love these sites and don’t feel they are dangerous time drains, more power to you. Maybe I am just weak and need a bit more of your restraint. I will be the first to tell you I have greatly cut down on my consumption of these sites but it still feels like its not enough and that is what I am desperately working on. Why do I care who writes on my wall? While it’s great I reconnected with Suzy from 4th grade what does it mean in my day to day life when we live 1100 miles away from each other? Why do I feel compelled to click on Sonya’s pictures, when the truth is I barely know her and why the hell did I accept her friend request?

Speaking of friend requests, lately it seems like everyone you have ever met wants to be your damn Facebook friend. We didn’t used to exchange phone numbers and our address with folks we barely knew from the coffeehouse yet we now freely accept friend requests from folks we barely know. In many cases allowing people we hardly know, a clear view into our lives as an upfront stalker under the pretense of friendship yet truthfully I find very little friendship happens on Facebook. Of course there are exceptions but how many of us have “friends” who once we accept that request or they accept our request we never hear from them again? I have about 161 friends at present and out of that about 40 are folks who I regularly communicate with, that means 120 folks out there know way more about me than they need to and we are not really friends.

Yet deleting folks in this brave new world is not such an easy thing because somewhere along the line we started taking this shit really serious. I mean if Winnie at the office realizes you deleted her, it might make for some awkward staff meetings and god forbid you delete your second cousin once removed, it could be war. Family members upset at others because of the shit they post, innocently click that you like a group and all of a sudden people are making value judgments about you complete with FB posses to set you straight. Mind you I am talking about grown folks. In the past several weeks while laid up I have seen friends arguing over unschooling, immigration reform and a multitude of other issues. It’s like Facebook brings out the worst in us not the best. How did a tool that started as a way to connect become a soap box, a way to bully one another? Yes, when we can’t accept that a friend has a different view than us, and we feel the need to correct their thinking we are engaging in a form of bullying. Why does it matter that Jennifer thinks spanking her kids is fine? As long as she is not breaking any laws or spanking my kids, its none of my business.

Then there are the masterminds behind facebook, with each “upgrade” to their program, they are giving away more and more of our privacy. Just yesterday they had a flap where it turned out so called private chats were not private…who here has not engaged in a chat talking a little greasy about someone on your friends list? If you haven’t well good for you. Now we actually have to work hard to keep our private lives private, we can no longer opt in to sharing we must opt out and how many of us remember to do that? I am amazed at the number of folks with private profiles yet all their pictures are public. I doubt they mean for that to happen but unless you take time to make the photos private I can see a lot about you. If you are like me you got on Facebook as a way to connect with folks who are really your friends and perhaps to stay in touch with family that is far away. I know I have a lot of photos posted as it allows my brother and a few others to see how the girl child is growing, yet I damn sure don’t want our family photos available to all. There have been a few reported cases of FB pictures showing up in places outside of the Facebook albums that the owners have put them in.

Thanks to the sheer number of details we give away about ourselves its no wonder we have sites like spokeo.com that can put together fairly complete profiles about us even down to our interests. I recently stumbled on to Spokeo and was stunned; on the other hand I am just giving away a great deal of details about my life. Then we wonder why identity theft is growing….hello, we are making it possible for scumbags to steak our identities! I am no criminal but how do we know that fellow blogger or other we connect with on Facebook are not? The truth is we don’t and lets just say that knowing a few details about someone is a springboard for finding out more information about someone.

Yet as chilling as this is to me when I write this out, it is still hard to walk away. Why? Because we live in a world when many are plugged in, I have quite a few friends who hate talking on the phone. They don’t do it. We make plans to get together and they are all made online, or else they are not made. It’s to the point that not only do folks not return calls or respond to emails, you must catch them on one of these social media sites.  There are folks that when I talk to them on the phone it feels awkward and I am someone who used to love talking on the phone. I still would but no one does it in my inner circle except for 3-4 folks. So it’s either connecting via social media to stay connected or no connection at all. I thrive on human contact so I stay connected despite desperately wanting to pull the plug. Welcome to 2010 and the cult of social media that has us all under its thumb.

Common sense no more

15 Feb

If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed that lately my posting is not as regular as it used to be…this is intentional. Life is hectic and crazy and while it’s also the norm in my life, one of my goals this year is to spend less time on-line. I suppose I will always blog, especially since my writing both on this blog and the column I write locally have garnered some good attention. That said, while the connections I have made on-line in the last decade have been a lifeline especially in my early days in Maine, I am reminded lately that I prefer real time connections.

I am a strange introvert-extrovert combination. I like my alone time, hell I need it but I also need human connections. Lately I have found myself thinking there are limits to online communication. Technology is a good thing but as one of my best friends expressed to me, sometimes there is just too much. In fact the older I get, I see all this connection as taking away from one thing that value dearly…common sense.

Recently I have become disgusted with all the petty bickering I see as a result of “friends” not being able to share opposing views on sites such as Facebook. Join a group and everyone’s got an opinion about it, share an article and suddenly if you don’t think like everyone else you are an unenlightened boob. At the same time I cannot help thinking if folks were actually sitting down face to face sharing their views would folks be so quick to get their panties in a bunch? I have a good friend who is a very Republican Republican, clearly we don’t always see eye to eye but for most of our relationship we have been able to overcome our differences in part because we talk about them. Yet in these rushed times where many relationships are sustained electronically as we become to busy to get together, we instead choose to discuss things in forums that often times put limits on how much we can say…160 characters anyone?

Such forums do not allow us to plumb the deeper meanings so it becomes a lot easier to say so and so just does not get it. Sorry, but it’s just too much for me. That said, I recognize these technologies are here to stay so I adjust myself accordingly but lately feel the need to take breaks on an as needed basis to maintain my sanity.

While I am pondering the lack of common sense, let me bring up another issue. What the hell is up with all this text messaging? Now we must have laws to remind people that when driving a car, maybe its a bad idea to do anything other than drive the fucking car! Helloooo! Common sense 101! Of course you ought to drive a car when you are behind the bill, what else should you be doing? For many folks as our cellular phones have become equipped with so many gadgets that we just cannot pull ourselves away, after all heave forbid we will miss so and so’s lately status update, we must check that email and cars and pedestrians be damned.

Recently my Pops shared with me that he felt more and more folks back in my hometown of Chicago walk down the street like zombies, no one can make eye contact because they are too busy texting. He shared with me that even coffeehouses and Starbucks places that used to brim with conversation are too often quiet as everyone sips their beverage and tends to their addiction of choice…iPhone, Blackberry, laptop, etc. I admit at first when my Pops shared this with me that maybe he was off base after all he is a real old guy. Well one of my bestest and dearest buddies who still lives in Chicago called this weekend and when I brought up what my Dad had shared with me, he agreed completely with my Pop’s assessment that they are all zombies. In fact B shared with me how just that day, a guy was so busy texting while walking down the street that he almost ran directly into B. B is a 6’2 225 lb Black man and generally speaking not someone you just run into…he said this sort of thing is now almost a daily occurence for him when walking down the street.

I don’t know about you, but the idea that someone could become so engrossed in their text or gadget in one of the largest cities in the US (3rd largest) that they would not pay attention to their surroundings is a tad scary. Hell, once one of uncles was drunk riding the el train and dozed off only to wake up and find he no longer had a wallet since his front pockets had been slashed. Yeah, he was drunk but as you can see not paying attention in a big city is just a bad idea…pickpockets must be heaven with folks so unaware.

Look, I like social media as much as anyone but you can best believe that there is a time and place for it. Call me old-fashioned but walking down the street is probably not the best time to send a message. I mean really how many of us have that much going on that a message can not wait?

I ended my conversation with B stating at times I swear we are starting to experience the decline of common sense to which he agreed. So I share that same sentiment with you as well…one day we will share quaint stories with the grandkids about this thing called common sense and how it kept us safe, and it will be oh so quaint. Of course we could step back and see what changes we can make now and maybe we can preserve it.

Have a great week!

Just a random stream of babble

3 Sep

I am on vacation, of course being short of cash my vacation involves sitting in my house though I may spend a few days in western Maine chilling with friends..So now that I am on vacation and still have a few days of childcare before girl child leaves daycare (by the way she is officially mad about this) it means I have time to let my mind wander which brings me to the point of today’s post.

Like many others I enjoy using Facebook, one might say I like it too much, shit I check Facebook from my Blackberry since I like to stay connected (I am working on pulling the plug) anyway I have noticed a disturbing trend, folks get really mad on Facebook. I may have mentioned it before (see I am getting old, can’t even remember what I wrote!) someone posts a seemingly innocent comment or link to a news story, well as you know it shows up in your friends feed, and humans being what they are, they respond. Are you still with me? Well some folks get mad because their “friends” post replies that bug them or their friends post updates that annoy them or even trouble them. I have recently seen shared “friends” engage in serious arguments/debates on Facebook, one woman I know has taken to proselytizing to another “friend” who is a devout pagan. Um…what the fuck is wrong with you people?

Look, the only reason I like Facebook as much as I do is it makes it easier to stay in touch with folks, I can upload pictures instead of sending a ton of emails or getting on the phone. Granted I do like getting on the phone but its not always easy, shit, I am mad that one of my two best friends is a Facebook holdout, he refuses to join, says its not his thing. People complain when their parents join and crimp their style…I wish my Papa would join, that way he could get regular pics of the family since he is such a Luddite that he doesn’t even own a computer and only uses one at work.

Anyway back to my rant or maybe its not a rant but an observation of someone who is starting to recognize that they are getting older, but life is too short to get pissed that a “friend” has political views that are not the same as mine. Unless this friend is a member of Steven Anderson’s church in Tempe, AZ which in that case there would be such a gulf I really might find it hard to stay calm but even then I believe in respecting folks and their differences. I got a few real life buddies who lately have taken to sending me right wing propaganda via email, I don’t get mad I hit delete. Occasionally I make a status update on Facebook that lets those folks know I got their emails but that I don’t agree and I leave it at that…but to start actual arguments over what we say on something like facebook is ridiculous.

It reminds me of the video I have seen a few times about how to not let facebook ruin your relationships, its the video with the predominantly Black cast and a woman yelling you been poking her all day and the guy whining about how his lady love doesn’t post on his wall.

Technology should enhance our lives and the moment it stops doing that is a point at which we should reevaluate our relationship…as for me, I am going to enjoy this last blast of summer here in Maine. So catch ya in a few days.

Maybe you should keep that to yourself

17 Aug

I am hardly a secretive person, after all I blog and at times I share things that even my best friend thinks is too much. I like Facebook and Twitter as much as the next person but I have noticed that more and more of the folks I know have a tendency to um…perhaps over share at times. Now before any of you in my real life who read this think that I am talking about you, let me state that I am not talking about any of my good friends. No, I am actually talking about folks I really don’t know well at all who use social media as a tool for letting it all hang out.

Look, I know how when you are having a rough moment it feels good to share on say Facebook, after all if you have a half-way decent friends list you may get instant replies and it feels good. But have you thought about what you are putting out there about yourself and how it could come back to haunt you? Let’s face it some companies actually do Google searches on perspective employees and I have heard of some that actually want to see your Facebook and Twitter pages. Now I will admit its a huge invasion of one’s privacy but sadly its the world we live in.

I will also say that whatever I put out in cyber space be it on this blog, Facebook, Twitter or a discussion board, I always think how would I feel if my Dad, pastor or boss were reading this? I actually have 2 of my board members as friends on Facebook and since they are essentially my bosses you can best believe I am always mindful of what I write.

So I write this quick post to say be mindful of what you put out there, because you never know who may see it and the impression it leaves. Truthfully I know some folks who based off what they post thanks to social media, I am not sure I want to know them. Yet by the same token I have met some really cool folks from online venues, a few who have become really dear friends.

So if you wouldn’t want your Mama, boss or anyone whose opinion might matter to see what you are writing maybe an old fashioned diary under the bed is a better idea.