Sunday, May 3, 2009

Naming Names

TODAY'S THE BIG DAY!!! Come here to see us talk live with Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother, at Noon EST.

Those of you who have followed my journey here this year will know the name Ayelet Waldman. You'll know how I wrote about her controversial essay in the New York Times that landed her on Oprah. You'll know how we corresponded and that she was generous enough to send me an advance copy of her new book, Bad Mother. You may even have seen me read from it in my film, The Lark.

Well Bad Mother is back on my radar. It hits shelves and virtual shopping carts May 5th, and I can't wait to start talking about it with all of you.

I pulled it off my own shelf and started reading it again. It's A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace. It's about how we talk about moms, with names like good mother and bad mother. It's about how when we describe a good father, the discourse is sparse. The archetypes few. But when we talk about good mothers, omigod do we have thoughts, and more importantly, names for what she should be.

It's about why that may be the case, and becomes increasingly more the case every day. It's about lots of interesting things like how we use spectacle and "bad moms" like Britney Spears and Andrea Yates to soothe our private fears of bad mothering.

It's about, mom-on-mom crime and how grown women are also guilty of playground bullying. It's about how flipping the paradigm and becoming an openly bad mom, a confessaholic one might say, isn't quite the answer, either. Though it's fun, and you've all seen me do it here and on Twitter often, and you KNOW how I love me some Bombeck, as Waldman says "there is no inherent nutritional value in the antidote to poison." God, I love this woman. One smart cookie.

Most importantly, it's about understanding that in the daily question of Am I a bad or a good mother? Is she a bad or a good mother?, we are wasting precious time looking inward, that could be spent watching our children, and just being curious about them.

This book will make you think about the way you think. And then guess what happens to all the names you've given yourself and all the selves you've become to different people at different times, and to all the names they've given you?

They . . . fall . . . away.

And you can just stand there, and say what you think. Ophelia wades out of the water. The fractured girl collects her parts—the daughter, the sister, the mother, the wife, the reader, the writer, the good mommy on the playground, the bad or sad mommy alone in her home. She gathers them all together, finds where they overlap, and says, "Yes, I like HER. Whatever her name is." And furthermore, I want my children to meet HER.

And I want to talk about that with all of you. So please, say something. Ayelet Waldman is saying something. ModernSingleMomma is saying something. Ria Sharon is saying something. Suzanne Tucker, ZenMommy, is saying something. Leigh Caraccioli, Fleurdeleigh, is saying something. Many of you are saying something on Twitter, by adding #badmother to your thoughts. You can join any of us on Twitter, by finding our Twitter links on our sites. Please keep talking.

I want to hear you say something here, too. But no name calling. Okay?

And if you want to hear us say something live, with Ayelet Waldman on Monday, May 11th, Noon EST, pop in here and watch.
Sign up below and we'll remind you that day, and send you the first chapter of Bad Mother immediately, so you can join the conversation. I can't wait to hear.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Have Struck Land

Today, I ordered a landline. Tomorrow, by 10 in the AM, Eastern Standard Time, I will hear the sweet music of an audible BRRRINNNNNNNGGGG throughout the ENTIRE house. I am giddy. For some reason, I have attached all sorts of romantic nostalgia to having a REAL phone in the house. It’s like it’s Christmas, but the 1950’s version. I can already see myself standing in the kitchen, phone pressed between ear and shoulder, wiping flour from hands on red pintucked apron, half bent in laughter at friend Suzy or Jane or Rita's incredibly witty joke, Golden Retriever passing through, rubbing against me and getting half tangled in the cord as I lovingly extricate him. And then I remember—I don't have a dog. And I don't have a Suzy or a Jane or a Rita, witty or otherwise. And I don't have an apron, pintucked or otherwise. And I don't rightly know what pintucked means or if it's even available in red apron-wear. And, perhaps most importantly, I don't have a phone with one of those cord thingies. And do they even make those anymore? And why in God’s Green Earth am I working so hard at moving backwards in technology when it's doing nothing but make me yearn for smelly dogs and flour-covered aprons that are tucked with pins?

Well, I think it's this. It's not that cell phones don't rock, because they do. But they, well, CHANGE the home-time dynamic. Don't they? A landline in the house means no more tearing through the house and (that's only if you actually hear the thing) digging around in a Texas-sized purse for a muffled Justin Timberlake ring tone. Ever flipped open your phone to "Bringing Sexy Back," only to hear your mom's voice saying "Hi, Honey" an instant later? I wouldn't recommend it. Also, what about the lost art of intercepting calls intended for other household members and keeping them on the line way past the appropriate welcome and greetings by telling them about how much you paid for gas that day as compared to the day before that, and the week before that, and the year before that, until they have a veritable spreadsheet of gas prices embedded in their brain. C’mon. Those are good times.

The weirdest thing is, when I ordered the line, the guy didn't try to upgrade or sell me ANY extras. He asked if that was all, a bit incredulously, and then got me the hell off the phone as soon as possible. Young punk. And then it hit me. I'm that guy who takes the fifty-year-old pipe fitting into a hardware store and gets handed the one dusty replacement relic they have in the back along with a sour look and a "Don't worry about it; we can't charge you for it cuz it's not even in the computer, Pops." I'm him. That's me.

And that’s okay. Hey, does anyone remember how to make your own phone ring? You know, how you punch in a few digits and then hang up and then it rings? Remember that? Will be doing that A LOT tomorrow. Who wouldn't love a landline? Who?

Maybe next week, I can order a very cool number. Will have to call the young punk back and see if I can get myself something more along the lines of "Pennsylvania Six Five Thousand." And then maybe I can sign up for service with these girls and not have to talk to the young punk ever again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Here Is Where We Meet

This is the title of a John Berger novel. I love it, and recently picked it up to read again. I know I'm rarely serious on here. What's my ratio of cynicism to sincerity? Anyone counting? In real life I'd say it's roughly 5:1. On here, probably 25:1. I like it here best. See, that was sincere. Damn.

At any rate, here are two of my (sincerely) favorite passages. I dare you not to cry. I dare you.

"Lisboetas often talk of a feeling, a mood, which they call saudade, usually translated as nostalgia, which is incorrect. Nostalgia implies a comfort, even an indolence such as Lisboa has never enjoyed. Vienna is the capital of nostalgia. This city is still, and has always been, buffeted by too many winds to be nostalgic. Saudade, I decided as I drank a second coffee and watched a drunk's hands carefully arrangeing the accurate story he was telling as if it were a pile of envelopes, saudade was the feeling of fury at having to hear the words too late pronounced too calmly." pg 13

See? You're crying aren't you? I told you.

"And I wondered how many times in my life I had taken part in the ritual of men showing to women the special little risks they run while working. (When the risks are large they don't show them.) They want to impress, they want to be admired. It's a pretext for holding the women to show them where to step or how to bend. There's another pleasure too. The ritual exaggerates the difference between women and men and in that expanded difference there is a fluttering of hopes. For an hour or two afterwards the routine feels lighter." pg 66

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Twitter Current Theory™

(Brace yourselves, people. This is a long one. But stay with me.)

I talk about running a lot on this site. I think I do so because it's a huge part of who I am. Many things in our lives begin with a single choice of action. In this case, it all started with one stride. I remember that stride clearly. I was nineteen and frustrated with too much thought and too little action. And that stride, though wholly unrelated to all the plans in my head, was an action. And I've never stopped. I think of how different my life would be now had I never stepped onto the road that day. I think about the miles I've covered, all over the world. I run wherever I go. It's often how I introduce myself to a new place. I unpack my suitcase, put on my shoes, step out of the hotel, look both ways, and just start going wherever my feet lead me. It's taught me so much. Endurance. Distinguishing which pain you should push through and which pain means you should stop. It's taught me when it's safe to wander off and when it's time to stay on the beaten path. But mostly, it's taught me that action is the only conduit for thought. Before I ran, I had perfect theories, all trapped in my head. Running taught me that an unsuccessfully applied theory that has moving legs under it can become anything, including more successful than you ever imagined, if you just keep it moving forward.

And now, much to my surprise, I'm talking about Twitter the same way. I was tempted to replace the word "Twitter" with the more inclusive "Social Media." But I can't bring myself to do it. Why? Because it's not true for me. No other form of social media has had agency in my life like Twitter. It's such a funny word, isn't it? Twitter. Say it with me. Twitter. And I can assure you that a cynic like myself has not missed the irony of speaking about such a silly word in such grandiose, romanticized language. But it's genuine—I can assure you. Doubting Thomas becomes a believer.

Twitter is linear. And therefore, like running, it encourages forward motion. Nay, it insists upon forward motion. No loitering allowed. Grab your hat and hold on tight. No time for 'but what if' or 'let me just think about this for awhile.' And that dynamic is excellent for training yourself to be decisive. Shoot from your hip. Make a mistake, post something stupid (not that I ever have), it's gone before you can come to a full blush. Ironically, the fast pace forward makes the present moment, the right here, right now become very vivid and powerful.

Sometimes in order to understand an intangible, I close my eyes, think about that thing, and watch to see which familiar images come to my mind. With Twitter, I think of a fast current. A river driving hard and deep. But you have to jump in fully for it to do its magic. You have to engage. And let's face it, engaging means leaving Doubting Thomas behind. It means making yourself vulnerable to rejection. Chris Reed, of the phenomenal team at Talent Revolution boldly says, it means "doing any number of other things that actually require signing in and proclaiming your existence." Or as John Haydon bravely says on his (professional) site, "Let’s be honest, we all have some fear about opening up and being ourselves - especially when we’re going through an emotional shitstorm. Like I just did. . . But this is who I am." Provocative? I think so. It's such a rush to finally say, this is who I am. Take me or leave me. Say that out loud just once. Take me or leave me. I guarantee your shoulders will raise a full inch. You'll sit up straighter. Chin raised.

As with running, I clearly remember standing at the edge of the Twitter stream, feeling the pull of the current, and somehow intuiting that it would soon take me on a wild ride, forcing me to spend less time reflecting and more time just getting myself moving and "out there." My very first tweet: "Have just thrown all my balls into the air." I typed the words, and pressed the button: Update. @Ev, if you're reading this, I think you should change the button to read: Engage.

Lately all I read about social media tries to privilege one site over another. It's taken on its own partisanship. An us versus them. But I wonder why? This IS social media, people. I assume it derives its name from its human element. So why in God's green earth would we assume that one site fits all? People are, dare I say it, different. And I personally love that these sites have become weeders, filters of sorts, that funnel like-minded people with common goals into places where they can more efficiently communicate and achieve said goals. I am at a point in my life where I want fast and furious forward movement. It's not that I dislike Facebook, connecting with people from my past, or finding random pictures of myself from high school being passed around (thanks for that, btw). It's just that I'm not "there" right now. I have too much more road to cover before I sit back and reflect. My rocking chair will wait—my dreams will not.

Charlie Wollborg, Chief Troublemaker of Curve Detroit@CharlieCurve, a very savvy dude on Twitter, said it best, "Facebook reconnects your past. Linkedin connects you to your present. Twitter connects you with your future."

I dig that breakdown. And though I can't speak for him, I'm comfortable with the fact that different people choose to "be" in different places, at different times, for different reasons. That's fine. And I genuinely hope they allow me the same choices.

I've been on Twitter, as what I call a full-timer, for two months. When people ask me what Twitter is, I say it's a driving pulse of people who are game. People who wake up every morning and say, BRING IT. People who not only get what I mean when I say I'm an "expert at shenanigans," but are pushing me hard toward making it a paid gig. It's the feeling you get at the end of a hard race, where complete strangers are running beside you and cheering you on—but it's constant. It's thousands of 140-character injections of powerful endorphins.

I've been noticing lately how many people on Twitter are endurance athletes, dancers, skiiers, hikers. Especially runners. All people who like to move—and quickly. And when you get us all together (grin spreading across my face as I type), look out, world. Cuz we're bringing it.

The more you engage on Twitter, the further down the bank you wade, the faster and more powerful the current gets. And I have a Twitter Current Theory™, that somehow it takes you where you're supposed to be, and to those with whom, in all this wide world, you share unnervingly common ground.

Just look at who I get to begin and end each day with. Each post alone may not seem like enough to cause the power of movement I've described above, but put them together and let them wash over you daily, again and again, and they'll carry you away to places you've only been thinking about going, for way too long. Jump in. Engage. And we'll catch you. I promise.

JPeterman If you haven't stayed in touch with your dreams, the good news is that it's never too late to reclaim them.

fleurdeleigh Chasing my to-do list around the house with a lasso. It's mine!

unmarketing I have met more incredible, caring and smart ppl on Twitter, than all other online/offline places combined.

SarahRobinson Good morning everyone! Bizy day corralling this maverick life I lead - yikes! Hope you all are setting your intentions for a GREAT one.:)

RedHotCopy (to) @marieforleo You rock, Marie! Was getting overwhelmed & remembered what u taught me bout living in the moment. Ahhhh. #tweepletuesday

mistressmia (to) @redhotcopy you have inspired some mistress mia mischief. can't wait to tell you all about it.

shannonpaul Tomorrow afternoon I'm crashing the New Media Bootcamp in Austin. Let's see if @justinlevy and @chrisbrogan try to stop me. ;-)

balemar (to) @missive Dude, I'm so pumped! :)

MelindaLouise never grew out of the "so excited I can't sit still" phase.

marieforleo (to) @SarahRobinson @MissIve Hey Ladies! Do I need to get in here & start spankin?? Shenanigans r 100% necessary for biz success :)

sandygrason Stop. Breathe. Reconnect. Ask: "What 1 thing can I do today that will have the greatest impact on my life/business?" Go do it.

michelle7814 (to) @MissIve Advice: Go to bed. Set alarm for 4 am and walk straight to dining room with Sharpie. Do not brush teeth. Do not Twitter. It works.

riasharon Hey, that's my strategy!!! :) RT @sethsimonds Don't be afraid to tell somebody you love them if you really do...

And my very favorite Tweet of all time . . . because it gets right to the heart of can do and decisiveness.

c_reed (to) @MissIve Yes.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

(originally posted July 2008)

I'm leaving for a trip tomorrow, and my first stop is in Seattle to see my mother. Last night, as I was packing, I remembered something that happened when I lived with her for a short time in undergrad.

It's early spring, March-ish, we've just gone shopping and I'm supposed to drop her off at an appointment. She abhors lateness. It is unseasonably warm for a Michigan March, and when we pass the high school, we see all the kids without their coats, even though it's still probably not more than 50 degrees out. Remember doing that?

Then we pull up to a stoplight and a carful of kids pulls up next to us. They have their windows down and the boy in the passenger seat has his bare feet hanging out the window.

Mom: What is wrong with those kids?
Me: They're celebrating the sun.
Mom: Well it's freezing.

I take the next left turn, in the opposite direction of her appointment.

Mom: What are you doing?
Me: I'm not taking you to your appointment until your feet are bare and hanging out that window.
(I hit the power button and roll her window all the way down.)
Mom: Are you crazy?
Me: You raised me. Do you have to ask?
Mom: This is no time to joke.

I look at her, dead serious, with the face she knows too well, and point out the window.

Yelling, screaching, and lots of utterances of my entire-given-name ensue.

And then her bare feet go awkwardly out the window—accessorized, mind you, with a scathing look of death.

And then she smiles. And then we laugh.

Me: Remember that feeling?
Mom: Vaguely. (looking at me) Thank you.
Me: Anytime. Now get your bloody feet inside the window because I'm freezing.

And now she lives in Seattle. Because for her entire life she wanted to live in Seattle. So she got up one day, shortly after our fridged-foot incident, quit her job, sold her home, and moved to Seattle.

And I miss her. And I think it might be all my fault.

Bloody window.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dumpster Diving


I'm about 10. My two sisters and I have just finished helping my parents set up the tent, which means we're free to take the bikes off the rack and "stake out the territory." First stop, all bodies of water in the vicinity. Next stop, the camp store.

I spotted it near the back, leaning against the campfire pie molds. A child's bamboo fishing pole, complete with plastic bobber and fish gutter. No reel. Just a put-it-together-and-drop-in-the-creek sort of a pole. Three dollars and sixty cents, which was exactly three dollars and sixty cents more than I had.

On the bike ride back to the site, I plotted. Then I pitched. (Not the tent. That was already up, remember?)

Me: I found something I want at the camp store.
Dad: What is it?
Me: A fishing pole.
Dad: You can use mine.
Me: No. I want my own.
Dad: Need some money?
Me: No. Mind if I go for a bit?
Dad: That's fine. Can you be back in two hours?
Me: (Running the numbers. Thirty-six cans divided my three girls, only one of whom is wholly invested in seeing the stunt through.) Yes.
Dad: Go ahead.

Then I had to pitch it to my sisters. Lilu was almost thirteen (tricky). Jaime Lynn, almost eight (Like shooting fish in a barrel).

Me: (to Lilu) Wanna?
Her: (brushing hair or something of the kind) No.
Me: Did you see the guy working the counter at the camp store?
Her: (putting down brush) Yeah.
Me: It involves two trips to the camp store. And you can hand him the bottles. Some of them beer. You'll look way old.
Her: (dropping brush and hopping on bike) Coming?

Me: (to Jaime Lynn) Wanna?
Her: Yep.

(Cutting to the retelling, from my father's POV, the next day, and for years to come.)

Dad: Her mother and I were driving back into the campground and approaching the row of dumpsters. We saw a bike leaned up against the side of one of them, and two children hoisting another one over the edge, until everything disappeared but her flailing feet. Then her mother said to me, "What kind of parents . . . ?"
And that's all she got out of her mouth before she realized WE were the parents in question.

(Back at the campsite, slightly mussed and certainly not smelling my best, I prepared for my defense.)

Dad: Mind explaining?
Me: (unloading bag as I spoke—I've found that spectacle always helps the defense) I have exactly 36. In less than an hour and a half.
Dad: You climbed into dumpsters.
Me: Yes. Yes I did. But time was an obstacle. And you said less than two hours. But you never said NO dumpsters. So I erred on the side of efficiency.
Dad: (grinning)

Upon examining the cans closer, I realized that 24 of the cans were from Canada. No refund. I still remember how it hurt my pride to take that money. But the coffee grounds on my outstretched arm consoled me. I'd earned it.

I caught a bluegill about an hour later. On my very own rod. It's a bummer that I didn't know how to get it off the hook, though. Poor thing made the whole ride back to my site with me, still on the hook. And he was scrappy, like me.