Why Blogging Feels Dumb and Why I Do It Anyway

September 28, 2014

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It was a pathetic joke that Barney blogged on How I Met Your Mother. And that was how many years ago?

barney blog (2)

The “actual” Barney Stinson Blog is here, and it’s fun. But I’m still mad about how that show ended. Boo, HIMYM!

From August 2008 to April 2013 I published 294 blog posts at LaFamigliaD. Today, like reading a bad 10th grade term paper, I roll my eyes at a lot of what’s there. Including the site’s title.

But Mustapha Hamoui, writer of Geek Blog, talks about Why the Blog Still Wins over the microblogging-style posts of Facebook and Twitter.  His beef with Twitter – mine too – is that writing in 140 characters can be brief and disjointed. It doesn’t “leave you in a strong relationship with the source”. And regarding that life-suck that is Facebook? We all know an algorithm decides who and what we will see, all the time. I’ll get into my dysfunctional relationship with Facebook some other time, when I can stay up and rant. It’s a school night.

By contrast, the personal blog is not owned or controlled by a company. I don’t even use sidebar advertisements here.  I’m so old-fashioned. Maybe someday I’ll decide to creep out my half dozen readers with banner ads for whatever product they last searched on Amazon. The difference between little status updates and a personal blog is control; your writing is your product, you control what of you is viewed, and social media just ships it out there.

Blogging is the act of writing about whatever you want, for everyone and no one but yourself. You keep in mind your audience and your own standards. You try to express yourself as artfully as possible.  You accept that whatever you publish is “out there”, for every eye in the world. You also accept that NOBODY could ever read it. I used blog a lot. I wish I did more of it. I also used to write Star Wars fan fiction in 4th grade, but you don’t see me doing that any more.  And this was 1990; Star Wars was not even cool again until ’99.

So… Lately I get asked, “Why are you blogging again?

Well, to be honest, I have no concrete reason. This feels kind of dumb. Oh God. I am Barney. For a while (10 years ago…) it seemed like everybody had a blog. Then it was just that every Mommy had one, and they were all about recipes and how cute or unique their kids are.

The scary and wonderful part is that anything you write, 140 characters or 600 words, makes you vulnerable. I second-guess many of these posts, publishing and deleting them 10 minutes later. Then I have a little drink and pray that no one saw.  I worry that I’ll offend somebody with an outrageous statement. Or worse, that I’ll bore them with a perfunctory one.

I actually wish more people did this. I love reading real people’s writing, when it hasn’t been edited and sanitized for mass marketing. It’s pretty easy on WordPress or Blogger, people give it a try!

So, why blog?

Remember my love of bulleted lists…

  • Because I’ve always loved writing.
  • Because my kid loves writing and I want to show her that you can keep enjoying it, for life.
  • Because there’s some pretty cool stuff in this world, and blogging gives me the illusion that I get to share it with you.
  • Because life is about the connections we make.
  • Because we get “Amish TV” (no real cable, on purpose), and House of Cards doesn’t come back to Netflix until February.
  • Because I’ve always loved writing.

Oops. I said that last one twice. 🙂

 

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6 Reasons Your Kid Will (Probably) Turn Out Just Fine

September 24, 2014

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1.  Walking home in the rain because you forgot to pick him up from soccer just means he’ll have one good “When I was your age” story to repeatedly tell his children.

2. Show me a mom with a dirty house and I’ll show you a couple kids with some great antibodies.

The-only-thing-I-hate-more-than-having-a-dirty-house-is-cleaning

3. Cropped shirts & pants, and the “distressed” look are very in nowadays, and have nothing to do with you forgetting to go clothes shopping.

4. Soft spots close faster when repeatedly poked by older siblings.

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5. He was too young to remember that time you dropped him and your iPhone simultaneously. Or that you dove for your phone.

6. The fact that she could sound out all those “fancy” words in the copy of Fifty Shades she found in your nightstand just proves she reads above grade level.

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I’m sure they’ll be just fine.

Or they’ll need a little therapy. But that just makes them more interesting, right?

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To the Moms of Many, I’m sorry…

September 21, 2014

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…for thinking you’re batsh*t crazy.

In the past, I would occasionally witness women I knew, with three or more children, go on to become pregnant with their fourth or fifth. I wrongly assumed that, though I may like and respect this woman, she had one or more of the following major problems:

  • Her health insurance didn’t cover birth control.
  • Her husband was an heinous neanderthal who was trying to keep her in the kitchen, barefoot, and etc.
  • She was trying to catch up with Michelle Duggar.
  • She was totally batsh*t! crazy.

I know. I said in the title, I’m sorry. 

Obviously she couldn’t watch all of those kids at the mall, the playground, and throughout their little paths in life! How could she be so unfair to her older children, saddling them with the caretaking of one or more babies?  And how could she leave her little one in the care of *gasp!* upper elementary-aged kids?  I know children in this age group who couldn’t keep a pet rock alive.  Most tragic of all, how could she do that to herself? Doesn’t she want a life of her own? A moment for her?? So sad.

However, viewing the larger family from the 70’s Mom goggles,  I realized…I’m an idiot.

One day at the playground I was talking to a mom with four, count ’em, FOUR kids…double my count. WOW, four! And the youngest was under 1 year old. And she wanted more someday. “How cool!” I said. “How the hell are you even able to stand here talking to me?” I thought. “Lack of sleep has made you delirious, you poor woman.”

I then noticed that her older kid was helping her baby down the slide, way over there. They both seemed fine. The baby made it down the slide alive. The two middle kids were…somewhere. It was a big playground. It’s not like I could pinpoint my own offspring’s whereabouts at that moment either. But I only had two.  My new mommy friend wasn’t even looking around. Dang, the confidence.

playground

Playgrounds: A real-life ‘Where’s Waldo’ adventure for your 30’s. Go.

Several generations ago, the older children caring for the younger ones was not only normal, it was survival. Kids were, to be blunt, actually useful. While I’m not suggesting we repeal child labor laws, the change in attitude is something to think about. Only since the invention of leisure time and “Parenting Experts” are children are commodities to be guarded and helped through life. Before that time we needed them to make the family run.

The good 70’s Mom would probably understand that rather than precious flowers to shield, kids are clay that we’re to mold into big, helpful, productive, self-sufficient people. Yes, I just did the MommyBlog “kids-are-clay” metaphor. Blech.  First and last time, I swear. Kids will, no doubt, need the skill of caregiving in their bag of tricks someday. We are all caregivers at one point. Likewise, that baby on the slide over there will also learn that care comes from other places, besides Mommy. Mommy will therefore be able to hang with a new friend at the playground and sip her coffee.

Oh.

I’m sorry, Moms of Many, I didn’t know.

Also, please accept my condolences on what I’m assuming must be an epic laundry situation at your house.

piles-of-laundry

At least until you train the oldest to do it. Wa ha ha.

(Dear 7 year old…you have until you can reach the dials on the machine.) 

Parents of all-size families: Do you ever feel like your choice of child # is being questioned?

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Dear NFL: REALLY?

September 16, 2014

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So can we talk about the NFL? Sorry, I must be on the wrong blog…*door slam*

Can we talk about why they think it’s totally forgivable for their players to beat up people smaller than themselves? Wait. Isn’t that everybody? 

But really, NFL? Really? 

  • Carolina Panther Greg Hardy was finally dropped this month, after being convicted of assaulting his girlfriend – and throwing her on a pile of automatic weapons – in July. Wow. There’s a stable guy you want representing you. Quick work there, boys. 
  • Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was indicted for criminal neglect for beating his four year old son with a switch. He was deactivated Sunday. But he played Monday. This is not his first time defending himself against child abuse allegations. I guess someone in charge of the NFL (is there someone actually in charge anymore?) had a change of heart. If they have one…? Just asking. *After this post was published, Peterson was again deactivated until the child abuse charges are sorted out. Glad to see the NFL reads my blog…ha.
  • And then there’s the Ray Rice mess ridiculouslness atrocity  …thing?

Damn it, Ray, if there was one team I actually felt a tie to, it was the Ravens. We used to have band camp on the college campus where they held pre-season training.

Professional football players are the best in the sport, in a very high-pressure game. They worked very hard to be where they are. I’m going to be naive and assume they deserve all their success. But it’s my feeling that they should be held to a HIGHER standard of personal conduct. Not a lower one. Whether they (or the league) like it or not… whether they should be or or not… they are societal icons. And when one of them behaves in a way that would be (hopefully) inexcusable for a normal man, the NFL instead knowingly shelters and basically forgives violent behavior. Because…money.

In this Washington Post Article: 16 female senators are calling for a one-strike-and-you’re-out stance on domestic violence for NFL players. Some readers commented that senators should not be trying to interfere with business policies. Personally I feel that these women have every right to call for action, as high-profile citizens. Besides, it’s not drafted legislation related to football; it’s a letter:

(excerpt)

We were shocked and disgusted by the images we saw this week of one of your players violently assaulting his now-wife and knocking her unconscious, and at new reports that the NFL may have received this video months ago. …Tragically, this is not the only case of an NFL player allegedly assaulting a woman even within the last year. …If you violently assault a woman, you shouldn’t get a second chance to play football in the NFL.”

I will readily admit that I don’t understand the nuances of business policy and law. I also don’t understand football beyond its association to marching band, chips, and beer. But is it not a privilege to play here? Isn’t this the epitome of a career in sport? Yes, it is a highly competitive and stressful life, and counseling should be readily available. Yes, therapy and education can go a long way.  These are very ‘nice’ offerings by the NFL’s new female-fronted counsel for preventing domestic abuse. You know what else goes a long way? Knowing that, if you get caught smacking a woman unconscious, you don’t play for the NFL anymore.

As of August 28, League rules stood like this: The first offense would mean a six-game suspension, without pay. The second would lead to immediate banishment from the league. There are, sadly, caveats: the first suspension could be shorter or longer, depending on “mitigating factors”. Anyone who is kicked out after a second offense will be able to apply to the league to play again, after a year.

You know what? Nevermind. I get football just fine; There’s a ball. There are “downs”. There’s nachos.  Combine the above crap policy with THIS:

jersey

…and THIS is what I really don’t understand about football: The NFL has a huge line of clothing, jewelry, nail polish colors, even  $500 designer handbags with team logos – marketed directly to women. Women are also usually responsible for buying junior his kiddie NFL gear. Women are clearly important to the NFL’s income. I know lots of girls who don the jersey and jump up and down when the Eagles score.  So how the heck are we women content giving our money to an institution that allows one of its stars to be convicted of beating his wife or indicted for abusing his child, and a short time later walk back onto the field like a hero?

I have to say WELL DONE to the Radison Hotel chain, who pulled their sponsorship of the Vikings today. More businesses should cut their association with the NFL, to show respect to their customers, until the league gets its policy correct and consistent.

A person commenting on a story in the Washington Post about Mr. Rice’s shorter-than-unconscionable suspension, listed as Anthony_McCarthy,  said: “What a shock that men who were raised in a game that consists of brutal violence, who are praised, lauded, worshiped, privileged and paid fabulously for it sometimes figure they are entitled to do the same in life.” 

Guess what? Someone who they might listen to *AHEM, Commissioner*  needs to decide that they are not. If they do, they are done.

If players are beating people off the field, they shouldn’t be on the field at all. If the NFL keeps forgiving players who do, for the sake of the dollar…

rue-la-la-nflshop

…their fans and sponsors need to send them a message.

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#donthatetheplayer

September 9, 2014

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“Mommy, do you want to play with me?”

It is the 4 year-old talking. I just sat down on the couch.

“No thanks honey, not really.” And I’m not coming over there, so get back to your My Little Ponies.

“Ohhhhh. Why?” …Why?

  • Cause I still have a sorta-bad knee from a pep rally dancing-related accident (Yes, that is what I said). I don’t love sitting on the ground.
  • Cause you repeat the same mini-songs over and over while playing till I wanna put on my headphones and curl up into a ball.
  • Cause I find it unjust that you dictate what we play, and how we play, and for how long. Maybe I’d like to decide. Yes I know you’re 4.
  • Cause I really don’t like playing with you.

Look, I realize you’re a bright kid for your age, and I should be encouraging your vocab/self-esteem/emotional development. But…

No. #badmommy


Hi. My name is Meg, and I hate playing with my children.

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Now Hear This: “American Pie”

September 7, 2014

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Despite spending a torturous 3 weeks in a “graduate level” music history course this summer…

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Don’t know what this is? Neither do I.  And I did it.  

…I am not all that great at regular Music History classwork. My head still hurts from July. However:  I find the cultural events and personal stories behind the music fascinating.  You’d think we would still get VH-1.  So, let’s listen to “American Pie”.  Yes, we all know this song, it’s been covered by several singers- thanks, Madonna, that was really necessary.

Don McLean released “American Pie” on his album, titled the same, in 1971 .

American-Pie

There’s a hilarious unfortunate line of teen-humor movies by the same name, so watch what you Google. And then there’s Weird Al’s parody version, “The Saga Begins“, a re-telling of “Star Wars, Phantom Menace” that’s way more interesting than the actual “Star Wars, Phantom Menace”.

In the original, with metaphorical references to popular music, politics, and events, McLean gives his personal account of a decade.  It’s common knowledge that the song’s refrain refers to the February 3rd, 1959 plane crash and death of singers Buddy Holly, Richie Vallens, and The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson). But there’s a lot more there.

My “research” for this post (I could hang out for days with rock.genius.com and YouTube) is completely incomplete. It’s mostly based on message boards, wikipedia, user comments, and what my dad told me. I am placing the most value in the last of these sources, because when I was a kid, the man had a pretty epic collection of vinyl.

You can look up the whole song on Wikipedia here, or visit Rock Genius and click on each section of lyrics for an explanation here. However, my favorite explanation of “American Pie” is this video by Lone Star Sound & Pictures.  There is So. Much. History here. Someone could write a small book on the cultural references behind this song. Someone could. Not me. This post took too long as it is. Before you check it out (or at least start the video and get bored), here are some extra special points that aren’t exactly covered. Remember: This is all theory, I’m a nerd, and you love me so you have to at least entertain the following possibilities:

  • The end-of-an-era feeling that McLean references on “the day the music died” is big, but probably late. Music was already moving away from its clean-cut state in 1959.
  • 2:56: Jester is Bob Dylan, with “a voice that came from you and me”. McLean eventually moved away from rock and embraced folk music. Pete Seeger was his hero. Dylan lived somewhat hypocritically, as a folk singer, because of his mainstream success.
  • 2:59: The King & Queen are JFK & Jackie O. in the video, but we know who the real “King” was, right?
  • 3:07: The Jester has become more influential than Elvis. That’s kind of a big deal.
  • 4:21: The Jester  was “on the sidelines in a cast”. Bob Dylan had a relatively minor motorcycle accident in July 1966. Although he was not hospitalized, he later said the recovery gave him a chance to get out of the business for a while and mentally recuperate.  Meanwhile, other artists tried to advance to fill his place. The Beatles’ enjoyed constant success, but their music, notably from the ‘Sargent Pepper’ album (band uniforms, anyone?) wasn’t the dancing type anymore – “we all got up to dance…the marching band refused to yield”.

 picture

  • 5:47: The Altamont Freeway Festival is referenced in pictures. This concert was termed “Rock & Roll’s Worst Day Ever”. This day clearly disturbed McClean, possibly influencing his preference for Folk.  Four deaths and much violence were occurred, and Hell’s Angels were offered beer in exchange for providing loose “security”. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones is (probably) the devil McLean is talking about. “Sympathy for the Devil” was being played at the time that a possibly racially-motivated murder took place close to the stage. Holy crap, I’d be disillusioned too. 
  • 6:36: Janis Joplin is obviously the “girl who sang the blues”. The change in accompaniment when she is mentioned suggests sadness at her early death due to a possible accidental overdoes of heroin. McClean seems to think she knew something we didn’t, or had more to offer, because “She just smiled and turned away.”
  • 7:19: The “Is God Dead” cover of Time Magazine from April 1966 and the perceived decline in religion in the country are possibly the source of the line “The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” lyrics. However, there the holy trinity being referenced here are actually thought to be JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. They are pictured in the video. But, this ‘trinity’ idea is also intended to remind us of the three deaths in the 1959 plane crash. And bring us back for one more chorus…

There is so much more here too. To quote a expert (Ok, to quote my dad) Don McClean was a troubadour-type. There’s a lot of story to tell.  Feel free to add interpretations of these and other lyrics below. I’ll be happy – I love this stuff. I realize I may be the only one in my vast audience of readers who finds 1960’s pop music history interesting. Don’t worry, I’ll post snarky mommy stuff later this week. I guess sometimes we bloggers do write for ourselves… #easilyentertained

Don McLean – The Meaning of American Pie Video

In later interviews McLean refers to the song as a “dream” in which music and political culture run in the same “trough”.  I’m not sure they do today.

So, what would an “American Pie” look like for the current generation’s music?

Let’s all give ourselves a moment to cope with the fact that Miley Cyrus and just Bieber would probably get a mention. 

 

 

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7 Tips for Back-To-School Success

September 1, 2014

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We are a two-teacher household, and we do not “work” in the summer. We keep busy with summer rehearsals for school-year ensembles, curriculum writing, prepping classrooms for the next school year, I’m taking courses towards my Master’s, blah blah blah…Oh yeah and we do have the kids. So yes, “It must be nice to have all summer off.” You know what? It truly is.  It’s reparative and rejuvenating.  Without summer, most teachers would burn out twice as fast, do half as good a job with their students, and quit. Everybody knows that, right? Good. 

In teacher world, the last week of summer means one thing: DO ALL THE THINGS.  It’s an understandably huge checklist of Must Do This Before September, so as to delay the inevitable transformation into a tired, crazy person once the year starts throwing its punches.

Being an immature and slightly irresponsible person (my husband patiently calls it “spontaneous”), I get a different urge that last week: Go places and do fun stuff, because life is for the living and the tired crazy person thing is gonna happen anyway.  It’s like Jekyll and Hyde for educators.  We rode the train and ate and drank in Philly, went to playgrounds, went out, had friends over, swam, slept in, did absolutely nothing, went on a pirate ship

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(Did you think I was kidding? This is my new mental happy place to go to when in-service meetings run long…)

So here we have this, From Parent Further, Back-to-School: A Parent’s Checklist. Isn’t it great?

“One month before school starts, do this…Three weeks before school starts, do this….”  Yeah. “Great”, as in, “Haaaaa, I laughed so hard, that was ‘great’!”

I have my own special check list for you, guaranteed to bring you back-to-school happiness. Feel free to print and post on the fridge for your own convenience, as we return to school this week in New Jersey. If you’re already back… my condolences.

  • Children who watch a maximum of 2 hours of TV and eat a balanced diet including 5-7 fruits and vegetables a day do better in school. Encourage your child to sit near one of those kids.

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