DC Metro Moms: A Promise Is a Promise

May 22 MomSharzThis post originally appeared on the now-defunct DC Metro Moms Blog, part of the Silicon Valley Moms blog group July 5, 2010.  It has been moved to this site with their permission and put into my archives by its original posting date. 

The “blogosphere” is a strange world to enter.  There are no real guidebooks or maps.  Your starting point may be your first, “hello, is anyone out there?” post, but you have no real idea what the final destination is or what the milestones along the way are (oh, sure, you may THINK you know what they are, but you don’t REALLY know what they are).  And while there are certainly a lot of statistics (How many readers?  How many uniques?  How many subscribers? How many return visitors?  How many Twitter followers? Blah, blah, blah.), there isn’t really a great way to measure your journey through the blogosphere.

So I consider it pure coincidence and happenstance that I ran into a bunch of great bloggers at the beginning of my blogging journey, actually pre-Caffeine And A Prayer and learned about the Silicon Valley Moms Blog Group and the DC Metro Moms Blog.  Back then I only had a private, for-the-family-only blog, but I knew I was going to launch a public blog soon.  And I decided when I did, I wanted to be able to be a writer for DC Metro Moms.

Of my checklist of things to accomplish with my fledgling blog, receiving SV Moms Blog founder Jill Asher’s call was one of my most thrilling.

What I didn’t realize was that this goal meant far more than exposure and driving more traffic to my own blog.  It meant meeting a fantastic group of women.  Truly fantastic — not just because they have great blogs — but because they have an incredible sense of community and are funny and supportive and are somehow both an incredibly eclectic yet harmonious group of women.  Put these women in a room and there will be fun.  Put these women in room with food and wine and there will be a party.  Put these women in a room with food, wine, and a problem to solve and there will not only be a solution, but a lot of laughter along the way.  I have had the pleasure of attending multiple events with the DC Metro Moms and not once have I come home wishing I hadn’t gone.  In fact, I’ve come home every time craving another gathering soon.

In a little over a year, these women have taught me so much about blogging, about writing, about networking, about friendship, about women.

Therefore, it was with a heavy heart that I took the news about the Silicon Valley Moms group dissolving. I’ve enjoyed the discipline writing here twice a month has enforced upon me.  I was fearful that our local camaraderie would disappear along with the collaboration on this site.

How could I have been so distrustful?

For it was DC Metro Moms who brought us together, but the bonds formed were real.  Soon, you will see these writers working together again, under different circumstances. 

So it seems only fitting to fulfill my promise to DC Metro Moms, to write a post every couple of weeks, to send my last post on the blog’s last day, to say thank you for the opportunities, for the events, but more importantly, for the friendships I have made with local bloggers.  The blogosphere may not have any official tourguides, but you provided an invaluable “hyper-local” (as our editors were fond of saying) way station for this blogger during her journey.

DCMM: Oil-filled Tears — Watching the Gulf Spill From Afar

J0185091[1] I am an oddly apolitical person living in the political epicenter of our nation.  And though I care about the Earth we live on, I certainly do not deem myself even on the spectrum of “environmentalists” as I have not taken the time to educate myself on most of the issues.  No, I’m just little ‘ole me, trying not to ruin my own little corner of the world by recycling what I can and remembering to bring in my reusable grocery bags whenever I can.

And yet, I have been riveted… in horror… by all news related to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from the BP oil rig accident.  The sheer magnitude of it has been mind-blowing.  The long-term environmental impact inestimable.  While my hometown, Miami, is different in many ways from the gulf areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, there are many similarities as well.  A healthy love for and respect of the ocean and all the creatures in it.  A great dependence upon tourism.  And an understanding of the significance of marshlands and the fragile ecosystem that lives within them.

My heart stopped when my half-awake mind heard “…tar balls… Florida Keys… BP oil spill” come out of the TV set early in the morning one day.  Since then analysis of the 20-odd tar balls that washed ashore in the Keys has determined they did not come from the BP spill, and yet it is possible that my beloved childhood snorkeling grounds could eventually be impacted.  The experts seem to change their opinion as often as they change their socks about whether the “loop current” will bring the oil to the Keys.

Having grown up through various Everglades crises (drought, fires, introduction of non-native species), I was indoctrinated early about how important it is to take care of each ecosystem, and when I hear about every crazy plan to “protect” the marshlands — burning them, flooding them with chemicals, etc. I can’t help but feel emotional.  As I read about oyster beds potentially being ruined for generations, I weep.  The thought of what will go through the bodies of each precious piece of the oceanic food chain and the cumulative impact that will have just makes me ill.  Although I am normally very straightforward and factual with my kids, I find myself switching channels and hiding newspapers rather than trying to explain a catastrophe so large and so uncontainable that I can’t yet wrap my own mind around it, much less put it into terms for their 4- and 6-year-old brains.

I am ashamed that I still rely so much on oil and gas that fuels our cars and supports our lifestyles.  I’m very much aware of the hypocrisy and yet feel very powerless in rectifying it.  Although I’ve always been supportive of alternative fuels, until now the “oil crisis” has felt a bit remote.  Now if feels all too painfully close to home — even all the way here in DC.

This is an original DC Metro Moms Blog post.  You can read more about J.J. Newby’s views about her little corner of the world on her blog Caffeine And A Prayer.

Note:  This post was moved to my site with permission from DC Metro Moms and Silicon Valley Moms Group upon the announcement of their dissolution.

DC Metro Moms: Potty Parity Not Just a Gender Thing

J0399550[1] I originally wrote this post May 12, 2010 for the now-defunct DC Metro Moms Blog, part of the Silicon Valley Moms Blog Group.  This has been reposted here with their permission.

There’s a whole lot of potty talk going on at the federal government level.  The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a legislative hearing Wednesday regarding H.R. 4869, the Restroom Gender Parity in Federal Buildings Act which addresses the fact that most older federal buildings have far more bathrooms for men than for women.

When many of these buildings were created, women were not considered equal or primary users of the building (gasp, who could imagine women in Congress or the Supreme Court?)  According to the hearings, as recently as the ’90s, there were no restrooms near the Senate floor for female Senators, instead they had to seek relief further away and stand in line at a ladies room with the tourists.

Despite all the jokes about women going to ladies rooms in pairs and the secrecy of “what goes on in there,” access to restrooms is actually a health issue.  Women who fear that they will not have access will often try to consume fewer liquids and “hold it” which can lead to urinary tract issues, abdominal pains, cystitis and similar issues.  For pregnant women and older women who deal with incontinence, there are also the issues of stress and anxiety.

There are indeed differences in how men and women use restrooms and this leads to longer lines for women’s restrooms than men’s restrooms.  They should be constructed differently and often there should be a different ratio of toilets needed for each gender’s restroom.

As a mother of young children, I have spent far more time in public restrooms than I ever would like to.  And I’d like to throw in a few other factors to consider to anyone building new restrooms, whether in a federal building or elsewhere.

  • Women have knees.  I have no idea who designs these stalls that are so short that when you sit down you bang your knees against the door, but we do have legs and knees.  And women SIT when we use the facilities.  It surprises me that there seems to be no standard for depth of bathroom stalls.
  • If you are determined to design the stall with an inward-pushing door, consider this: we have to be able to walk into the stall, usually hang up a purse, put down a seat protector, and shut the door, remove some articles of clothing and then sit down — try it out!  Sometimes the stalls are so short it’s almost impossible to perform all the necessary acts.  Keep in mind that women are also the ones who usually bring small children into the restroom, it would be nice if we could both fit.
  • Women have elbows.  Don’t put the toilet paper dispenser so close to the toilet seat that we bang our elbow or have to hold one arm in our lap or some other contortion to prevent injury due to the placement of the toilet paper dispenser.  Also, don’t make the dispenser so low that it is impossible to get paper unfurled without it hitting the ground.  I don’t want to wipe myself with paper that’s touched the floor — do you?
  • Women have elbows on BOTH sides of our body.  Please don’t put a feminine products waste can on the other side right where our elbows will be.
  • There is a special place in heaven for designers who create sinks/soap dispensers/paper towel dispensers/blow dryers that are accessible to children.  Often these are dual purpose handicapped-accessible and child-height appropriate.  Where do you think these children are going to the bathroom?  There is no separate children’s restroom.  At the very least, could you provide some sort of step stool?  Mothers are tired of lifting heavy children up to often very wet and dirty counter tops to wash their hands.
  • Try this out — wash your hands.  Now reach for the paper towels or hand dryer.  Is water running down your wrists to your elbow?  Doesn’t that feel unpleasant? Consider changing the height of the towel dispenser or hand dryer!
  • Automatic flushers, soap dispensers, faucets, paper towel dispensers, etc. are great, but please make sure they do the job.  Many of the automatic flushers flush mid-way through the job and frighten small children so much that they will refuse to use a toilet with them.  Soap dispensers that are too difficult to “trip” are frustrating and unsanitary.  Automatic faucets that only deposit ice cold water or mere dribbles of water onto our hands aren’t hygienic.  And I hate playing the “trick the paper towel dispenser game” when it will only give me a tiny piece of paper that is not big enough or absorbent enough to dry my hand, but is set to wait a certain number of seconds before dispensing another sheet, particularly when I have two kids with me in the restroom.  Restroom designers, ask yourself — would you want to eat food prepared by someone who washed their hands in this environment?  If not, design it better!
  • There are so many more things that can be done to keep the youngest ones in mind from changing stations to the “toddler seats” that keep wriggling little ones safe in the stall while Mommy is using the facilities, and nursing sofas that provide a clean, private area for mothers to nurse their babies.  A lot of public restrooms (particularly in malls) have made great strides in these areas.

I certainly do not hold the answers for funding and finding space for more restrooms in federal buildings, but I do see the need. I hope that the decision makers on the Hill do take the issue seriously as the lack of “potty parity” has societal, health and emotional impacts.  When they construct new bathrooms, I also hope the designers will take some of my recommendations to heart.

This is an original DC Metro Moms post.  When her kids aren’t forcing her to check out public restrooms, J.J. Newby is blogging at Caffeine And A Prayer.

DC Metro Moms: Kicking Out the Other Woman

Shoes_0006_edited-1 I originally wrote this post May 2, 2010 for the now-defunct DC Metro Moms Blog, part of the Silicon Valley Moms Blog Group.  It is reposted here with their permission.

There’s another woman living in my closet.

She apparently wears size 8 shoes and a lot of pantyhose.  If I tried to squeeze my size 8.5/9 feet into those shoes, it would look like the scene in Cinderella where the evil stepsisters try to make the glass slipper fit.  Not pretty.  As for pantyhose, ha!  I can probably count the number of times I wear pantyhose in a given year on one hand.

And yet there are drawers and drawers of them in my closet — a rainbow of nudes, tans, whites, off-whites, off-blacks and jet-blacks.  Mostly control tops, but a few thigh highs and knee highs.  The sheer volume of sheer hosiery is awe-inspiring — who is this woman who requires such a selection of stockings?

Apparently a part of me that I left behind quite some time ago.
The old Corporate Me, pre-kids, pre-pregnancy-enlarged-feet.  The one who wore pantyhose and size 8 shoes to her corporate job every day — seven years ago. 

Every time I have an evening event to go to, I enter my closet, certain I have just the right satin pump or glimmery sandal, only to find, alas, not my shoes, but Hers.  What a wonderful collection she has.  Shoes in every color, of every heel height.  Whereas recent years have mostly found me in sneakers, Crocs, casual sandals and flats.

I finally decided to kick her out of my closet.  Yes, my shoe shelves will look extremely bare, but it will also help demonstrate quite visibly to JavaDad just why I need to go shoe shopping!  Corporate Me’s well-kept shoe collection is being donated, hopefully somewhere out there is a mom who used to be a size 7.5 and went up to an 8 who will be delighted by the new bounty.

As for the pantyhose, it was only as I went through all those drawers that I remembered what I wrote in a “dream job” exercise nearly a decade ago — that I would like to find a career where I could always find new challenges, be outdoors and away from a desk more, and not have to wear pantyhose every day.  I certainly wasn’t thinking of motherhood when I wrote that in my single days, but it fits the bill.  I think I’ll pare down the hosiery collection to a more manageable size and perhaps this year’s tomato plants will look a little more colorful with a variety of stocking tie backs!

Soon I hope to also kick out that woman who wears clothing in sizes larger than I like.  It’ll be a lot of fun to get rid of her clothes!

This post is an original DC Metro Moms Post.  When she’s not rummaging through her closet, J.J. Newby aka JavaMom blogs about life, family, and anything that amuses her at Caffeine And A Prayer.

Better Than a BlogRoll…

I learned about Babble.com’s Top 50 Mommy Bloggers list when fellow Silicon Valley Moms Blog network member Jessica Gottlieb was named to it (she’s part of the LA Moms Blog, I’m part of the DC Metro Moms Blog).  In fact, the original Silicon Valley Moms Blog made the cut as well (congratulations, Jill!)  There are a lot of other familiar names on the list, blogs I have been reading and some of them are women I’ve met at BlogHer or traded tweets with on Twitter.  But there are also some I didn’t know — and that’s what I love about the blogosphere — when you accidentally bump into another kindred spirit out in cyberspace. 

Babble recognizes that although the Top 50 are certainly noteworthy, that there are a lot of terrific bloggers out there, and they are letting readers nominate them, and then give a “thumbs up” if someone has already nominated a favorite.  I think that’s pretty darned cool!   So often you see the same names rise to the top (with good reason), and this is a nice effort to broaden the horizons.

A lot of the names on that list are already some of my favorite blogs, and some are going to become new favorites.  Amongst some of my current favorites are Sarah and the Goon SquadToddler Planet, Jodifur, and Wife And Mommy all of whom I have the pleasure of having met in person as well as reading their blogs and they are terrific women as well as terrific writers.   As I scroll through the list, I see more that look intriguing and I’m going to find some time to check them out and you should, too!  (Not that I want you to stop reading here, of course!)

And yes, I’m thrilled that not only did someone include Caffeine And a Prayer, but people other than my husband and mother-in-law gave it a thumbs up!  Thank you!  It means a lot!  If you feel strongly enough about Caffeine and a Prayer to add a thumbs up, it may encourage others to check it out.

In the meantime, I recommend checking out both the Top 50 list and the reader-nominated list — there are a lot of fantastic writers out there worth reading!  One of these days I’ll get around to updating my blogroll…