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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…

Silicon Valley Moms Launches New Video Series

Silicon Valley Moms Group and Yahoo! are piloting a new web video series called A Byte Out of Life and I’m in the first episode (webisode) – Are You a Compulsive Blogger?

You can see the other ones at: http://svmomblog.typepad.com/abyteoutoflife/ There will be a new one each Monday. A second one about kids and technology is already up!

Do you consider yourself a compulsive blogger? Let me know why and where you blog in the comments section below. Or… tell me if you would watch a video series online.

I’m Fat

They Shoot Fat Women, Don’t They?  was the title of a 1989 episode of a TV show called Designing Women. In the episode the character played by Delta Burke, Suzanne Sugarbaker, always proud of her beauty queen looks, realized that she was now seen as “the fat girl” by her friends at a high school reunion.  She was awarded the “Most Changed” trophy at her fifteen year reunion, as  a snark at her physical appearance, and she accepted the award with a lovely speech letting everyone know that she was going to take it as a testimony of how she has changed from shallow beauty to a woman of intellectual and emotional substance rather than the hurtful comment on her weight gain it was originally intended.

I remember reading an article about this particular episode a long time ago, because the episode was written specifically to address Burke’s real-life weight gain.  She was a gorgeous, sexy slender woman when hired, and her weight gain became a problem on set between Burke and the show’s producers/writers.  Burke’s weight gain was due to a combination of physical and psychological issues and the more she felt pressured about it, the worse it got.  Since then, her weight has see-sawed and she has launched a line of plus-sized clothing.  At some point she shifted from running from her weight to trying to help others who were heavy feel better about it.

I’m outing myself as a fat woman.  I have been terrified of old friends seeing photos of me online in the shape I am in currently and I have decided to end the terror now.  I’m not happy with my current appearance, but it is what it is.  I continue to struggle and work on it and I’m proud of myself for the things I don’t let it affect and pissed at myself for the things I do let it affect.  I’ve really enjoyed reconnecting with old friends online over the past year and I’ve decided if I’m going to be genuine, I’m going to have to have to stop hiding.  Yes, some are going to say/think unkind things.  There is a certain ex-boyfriend out there who will certainly do so and probably thank God he didn’t marry me after all.  There’s a reason why he’s an ex.

But as I’ve come to learn over the past year, most of us really don’t give a damn how any of us look these days, we’re just glad to reconnect about the common experiences we had growing up together and then the experiences we’ve had apart in geography but yet in common in experience as we’ve moved through those milestones in our careers and personal lives.   I am so much more than my outer shell, I always have been, and I always will be.  We all are.  No matter how thin I get again, I will never look at anyone’s physical appearance the same way again. 

The Journey

All my life I have struggled with body image.  Growing up in Miami surrounded by half-clothed people, how could I not?  When I was 105 pounds in high school, I was always self-conscious of my not-perfectly-flat stomach.  Heck, I guess it started even before that, it started when I was in ballet class at Martha Mahr studio, where we were required to wear a thin, black elastic around our waist so she could see if our stomach bulged at all beyond the elastic.  I did not win the genetic lottery when it came to stomach muscles, even at my thinnest, I never had that perfectly taut stomach.  I stopped wearing bikinis for the most part at age 11.  I wanted to go wind surfing with friends in high school on Hobie Beach, but I was constantly terrified of how I would look to others in my swimsuit.  Do you have any idea of how much I would kill to have that figure and weight again these days?  That weight would not be realistic for me as a grown woman now, but I wish I could shake that insecure girl by the shoulders and say “get out there and enjoy life!  Put on that bathing suit and have fun!” I still hate wearing a bathing suit now and have many more reasons to be self-conscious, but I refuse to let my insecurity get in the way of my kids having fun at the pool and the beach, so I boldly go forth in my swimdress in public where I would not have taken my 105-pound-self before 20 years ago.

In college, I had my highs and lows, but I had to get my high down quickly as I was there to be a broadcast journalist and we know fatties were not allowed on TV — in the age of Oprah we’re a little more forgiving now. 

I was so afraid of the Freshman Fifteen that I actually lost weight my first semester. But I gained a little my sophomore year.  All it took was a comment from my steady boyfriend about his “mother being concerned about (my) weight” for me to go into a tailspin about it.  I lost the weight thanks to a very stringent diet and doctor-prescribed pills.  By my senior year I was anchoring the morning news and reporting for the evening news.

In my early twenties, I realize now that I managed to date a series of guys who wanted me to be their trophy girlfriend and who terrorized me about any incremental weight gain — a 5-10 pound weight gain was enough to threaten our relationship.  And I’m ashamed to admit that I allowed myself to buy into that.  I’m much too smart and always have been much too smart to fall victim to that.  But I did.  And I regret it.  Fortunately I never married any of those men and I was wise enough to always have a certain threshold which I would not cross — you can only step so far until I cry foul. 

In 1995 I was in a terrible hit and run accident that knocked both my knee caps out of place, cracked my ribs, nearly dislocated my neck, gave me very bad whiplash, and a prominent bruise from the seat belt that was looked like a purple beauty sash – Miss Car Accident 1995.  My car caught on fire and I was fortunate that one of the witnesses to the accident was a nurse who ran over and helped me.  I was taken to the hospital by ambulance and for the first 20 minutes or so my brain was so scrambled that I wasn’t sure what year it was, I was off by 10 years.   This accident ultimately led to three knee surgeries over a two-year period and chronic neck and back pain and the beginning of a history of migraine headaches.  This accident, naturally, derailed my walking program and did lead to weight gain.  I still have residual effects from the accident and can be perfectly fine and then one false move and can have knee pain for weeks.

One very positive thing about this accident — it in a way, led to JavaDad (still at this point, just a childhood friend) and I getting together as a couple — although it took a while.  When the pain meds would wear off in the middle of the night, 3am to be exact, and my chest would spasm with pain, he would let me call him in Miami to help keep myself calm until the next set of pain meds kicked in.  He had, already, by this point, told me he loved me, but we couldn’t quite get our act together to be in the same state yet, so we didn’t end up dating until three years after the fact.  But the act of devotion of talking to me on the phone at 6am his time while I was in pain, meant a lot to me Our wedding, 2002After the car accident, my weight went up and down, more health issues have come and gone, including two very difficult pregnancies and my son stretching my stomach muscles 5 inches apart (I need to get that surgically repaired) and my trigeminal neuralgiaBut the biggest struggle has been with my mind. I still hate thinking of myself as a fat woman.
 I tried to hide from it.  But then I had to accept it.  And I had to stop letting  it stop me from doing things. 

Which I have, except when it comes to dealing with people from my past. I never thought a fat woman could rise to the top of the Junior League, but these wonderful women saw that I am more than my weight and the League is not about appearances despite all jokes about cardigans and pearls — we are about developing the potential of WOMEN, not judging body types.  I have made many wonderful friends here in Virginia who have never made me feel conscious of my weight (although yes, I have met some women who did discriminate against me due to my weight).  But I have always been afraid of “what will people back home think” if they saw me now? Well, I don’t know.  I’m a woman whose had a successful career (two, in fact), married a childhood friend who has loved me at 105 pounds and has loved me at significantly more than that, has two fantastic kids, is involved in her community, edited a book, lauched a blog, and tries to be good to her friends and family.  And struggles with her weight.  What do the people back home think?  I’ve decided to let go of the terror and let it be.  I will no longer hold back on posting photos and sharing videos.  If you are my friend, you’ll now know that I struggle, but you’ll already know that I’m so much more than what the camera sees.  I suspect you struggle with something, too.  And you know what, I wouldn’t be any less of a friend to you for it — whether you are balding, divorced, never married, fat, too skinny, never had kids, unemployed or whatever other thing you might fear being judged for in this society where we can judge each other for so many things by the time you reach our age, take a deep breath and let it go.  Whatever it is, accept it and then move on and make the best of your situation and your life.  I’m refusing to let terror hold me back any more — I hate to think of the opportunities and joys I’ve squandered already and I refuse to anymore. 

And for everyone who is thin or athletic, I hope the next time you see a fat person riding a bike, going for a walk, working out at the gym, you’ll silently think, “Good for you for being out there and doing it!”

And JavaDad, I love you.  Thanks for loving me through thick and thin (or thin and thick).

BlogHer ’09 – Proof that Bloggers Aren’t Anti-Social Drones

My friends are divided roughly in half by those who are rabid tech users and those who barely check their emails.  I consider it an extreme compliment when the non-email-checkers tell me they’ve actually read my blog (or “blob” as some say, which I actually kind of like.) 

So when discussions about social media and the future come up, either my friends can dream up all kinds of fantastic ideas of a complete virtual world where geography is irrelevant and we all know each other it’s just in a way where physical objects are no longer a barrier or they see the year 2020 as utter doomsday when no-one interacts with each other anymore because everyone is glued to a computer screen.

It is at this point that I get a bit frustrated.  How did the “social” part of social media get lost in the discussion? 

Next week I am going to the BlogHer Conference in Chicago — which sold out of its original 1000 tickets in MARCH.  A corporate sponsorship helped open up a few hundred more slots, which immediately sold out.  Then, because there was so much clamor about people wanting to come, they actually created an event called LobbyCon where people are paying to come hang out in the hotel bar so they can watch TV screens of  the general sessions, go to the expo and go to the much-discussed cocktail parties after the seminars.   First of all, how brilliant is that?  But secondly, sold out tickets and people willing to travel and pay to hang out in the hotel bar to see only a small portion of the programming — that’s not about the content of the conference, that is about interacting with the people.  That’s about the social aspect of social media.  Real life interaction.  Human-to-human exchange of ideas, without a keyboard and a computer screen between them (I’m not saying there won’t be Pokens, iPhones, Blackberries, nettops, etc. around, but there will be actual conversations going on.)

Twitter is atwitter with hashtags about BlogHer — even people not going are talking about it.  People want to know who has a sponsor (someone paying a blogger to go) and who doesn’t.  Who is going to which after-conference cocktail parties (note the many “badges” on my sidebar — I promise my sidebar will stop looking like a tattooed lady when I return).  People are excited about what we’ll learn, absolutely, but more than anything, we’re excited to meet people we’ve corresponded with online, or have read about through their blogs and never been bold enough to comment but hope to meet in person, or maybe have even partnered with on a project but haven’t met “in real life” yet.

All around the country, people are organizing “pre-BlogHer meetups” and I was lucky enough to attend one in my area, organized by Devra of Parentopia for those of us in the DC/VA/MD area who are going to BlogHer.  And when I tell you more about it, you will see that bloggers, or at least female bloggers, are certainly social! 

Because the get together was at a swanky art gallery called Scene in Baltimore’s National Harbor, several of us from DC Metro Moms decided to carpool and through a complex set of emails and voicemails, the last set of which I was completely not part of because I was in the middle of registering my bone marrow, it was decided that Wife and Mommy and I would meet Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes outside a popular store on Andrea’s route to the harbor.  Now, Wife and Mommy and I have been to a few blogger events together, so I was fine with this arrangement.  But as she and I got out of her husband’s minivan, she said, “oh by the way, I don’t know what Andrea looks like…”  Fortunately, I had met Andrea at the BlogHer DC Reach Out Tour and I’ve seen Andrea’s picture many times, but I did NOT know what her car looked like, so there we were, standing on the sidewalk, like some sort of odd suburban streetwalker, waiting for a car to slow down and say, “hey, are you going to the pre-BlogHer meetup?”

Um, yeah, kids, remember how we told you not to get into the cars of strangers.  We still mean it.  Seriously.

DSC03313When we arrived, I was relieved to see some faces who are starting to become more and more familiar to me — several women from DC Metro Moms, including: Teach Mama (who scored major points flattering me both on a new haircut and new shoes, I think I blushed), Urban Mama, Jessica, Lumpyhead’s Mom, Linda, Tech Savvy Mama (who wields a mean skewer – don’t mess with her kabobs!), Susan, De in D.C., Laurie, Sarah (who took this great photo apparently some time after I left), Kim, Jean, Devra (our amazing hostess), Sue, and of course Andrea, and Wife and Mommy.

And those are people I’ve only known since May!  And then I got to know more people that night.  I really didn’t get a chance to talk to CaraBee (maybe in Chicago!), but I did talk to Kristen (whose BlogHer cocktail party badge I have in my sidebar), Jill (with whom I have tweeted), Jen (with the double-entendre puddle-jumper blog name), Kim (taught me a lot about Laurel), Katherine (we had a quick chat over dessert),  and unfortunately I only had very brief interactions with the bloggers with the two best names in the bunch — Zandria and Examorata.    I hope to see everyone in Chicago and if not there, at another local meetup.

I am fighting one nasty ear infection which makes me miserable at night when I write, so I am relying on Wife and Mommy’s excellent notes for the list of attendees (thanks!) so if I missed anyone…  uh, blame HER! 

While at Scene, we dined on lovely food by Chef Deryl Shouf.  Every time I thought the gallery was going to tell us it was time to go home, more food came out!  When Devra called out the names for the doorprize of the Safety 1st Air Protect car seat and other prizes from our sponsors Safety 1st and Giant Food, I thought surely the evening was over, but no, dessert was coming out.  Nothing bloggers like better than bonding over brownies.   (Say that ten times, fast.)

With our reusable Giant bags filled with Safety 1st ProGrade mirrors and rollershades, Andrea and I broke off from the party, admitting with defeat that though we may not be anti-social drones, we are (ahem) semi-middle-aged mommies of much-more-energetic-than-we-are children who were going to wake up at the crack of dawn and we shuffled off in the dark in search of the parking garage (don’t worry, we didn’t forget Wife and Mommy in some sort of middle-aged-brain haze, she opted to stay later) and unlike the people ahead of us, managed to remember to follow the directions and pay for our parking before getting into the car and reaching the exit gate.

On the way home, I sponged up all the gardening knowledge I could from her (because seriously — look at the woman’s site) and we talked about kids, and once I discovered she also played Bunko, that settled it for me, I decided like it or not, I’ve officially adopted her as a friend.

Super Why! Activities Day 4: Whyatt and Post-Assessment

This is the final Super Why!  post and the last chance to enter the giveaway for a DVD from PBS by posting a comment in any of the posts in this series!2009-05-22_super-why_0008

For today’s activities you will need:

For the final assessment you will need the post-assessment questions and your worksheets from throughout the week. 

My observations:   JavaBoy once again whizzed through the worksheets.  However, the extension exercise reminded me of a pad of paper I had bought him earlier in the year that allows you to draw a picture and write a sentence under it (apparently they are called “picture story pads.”)  This ended up leading into a lesson on punctuation rather than word switching as he had recently learned about commas and had gotten mixed up about how they were used so we… “looked in a book!” to see how commas and periods were used (he didn’t believe me that periods were used at the end of sentences, so I showed him in some of his favorite books).

JavaGirl knows the story of the Three Little Pigsquite well, but upon seeing one of her favorite animals, decided she wanted to have a big bad TURTLE instead.  Then she wanted to draw the turtle.  Then she wanted to know the turtle’s name.  And so on.  On the second page worksheet we ran into an issue because of her seeing the multiple pigs and to her, a large quantity of anything is “10.”  So we got into a debate about that.  Not that she’s stubborn or anything. She clearly delineated between the three pigs of the story and the ones on the lefthand side of the page, but she wanted to debate about how many were on the lefthand side of the page.

As for the assessment, I can’t say that I felt like there was much change between the pre- and post-assessments.  HOWEVER, I feel like that didn’t measure the changes we saw/experienced during the week.  We were all more engaged as a family in the total process by having the activities and the kids and I have been singing the songs together in the car and other places (yes, you tend to lose an inhibitions as a parent) since we’ve embarked on this journey.  I have come to learn that although I tend to like worksheets, that my daughter doesn’t.  And that we all enjoy the more full-experience type of activities like the games, dances, etc.

But best of all was when my daughter picked up JavaDad’s copy of  Bruce Catton’s Civil War and flipping through it after dinner tonight.  After listening closely, I realized that she was retelling the story of the Three Little Pigs while thumbing through the book, as if she were reading it from Daddy’s big hardcover book.  Look in a book, indeed!

Don’t forget to post a comment after this post or any in the series to put your name in the running for the giveaway!