Tag Archives: blogging

Chat: If Our Daughters Want to Shave Our Heads, We Will Let Them (And other parenting lessons we learned from Will Smith)

Willow Smith shaved her head recently, and when Parade Magazine asked him about it, Will Smith said this:

“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”

Inspired by Will Smith (a phrase I never in a million years thought I would type), Lauren and Jen talk about setting boundaries and answering tough questions.

Lauren: So, would you let Dorothy shave her head?

Jen:  I shaved my head, when I was 19.

Lauren:  Cooooool.

Continue reading

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Fairy Garden Pinterest Challenge Complete!

Hey, remember when we did the breakthrough to 4k giveaway? Renee won the Pin Us To It Pinterest challenge, and she chose this fabulous fairy garden project for Lauren and I to complete.

Lauren and I are both ambivalent about Pinterest, though I have had some successes with recipes and art projects. I decided to use the concept of the fairy garden without following the instructions too literally. The girls LOVED this project. Continue reading

Fresh Beats, Gators, Surrender

So I didn’t do much (okay, any) writing last week. But I promise, I wasn’t slacking!

What I did:

1.)    turned in my grades

2.)    spent 2 days in professional development seminars

3.)    went to my nephew’s track meet

4.)    planted lime basil seeds

5.)    hung out with my sister and her new baby

6.)    cheered for the otters at the zoo

7.)    cheered for Margeaux when she stood up for the first time

8.)    bought a new round squishy ottoman so Margeaux has a safe place to stand up

9.)    taught D and Lucy how to use a lint brush so they can clean the cat hair off the new ottoman

10.) chased the cat around to squirt peroxide on his gross open wounds twice a day

11.) vowed to never let the cat outside again Continue reading

4K OR BUST!

ANYONE PARTICIPATING IN THE GIVEAWAY AFTER 6pm SUN APR 8 GETS DOUBLE ENTRIES!

Mama Nervosa is within striking distance of 4,000 hits. That’s 3999 more than we really expected to get ever, and certainly not in six weeks. We want to see that ticker click over to 4,000 something fierce, so all week, we’re doing a post-tastic writing extravaganza with the bonus of our first ever GIVEAWAY when we finally join the golden 4k Hits Bloggers Club, where we expect full pool privileges and free massages are standard. Every day, we’ll post a new essay or chat, and in the meantime, we ask for a little help from our readers to help us grow.

 * * *GIVEAWAY DETAILS* * *

Our first giveaway has not one but THREE FANTASTIC PRIZE OPTIONS for our participants.

Prize One:

This Kick Ass Kid-At-Heart Kit is BSC balm for your grown up crankies. Filled with joyful surprises and not a few Lisa Frank stickers, we promise this kit will be stuffed with all kinds of goodies that will bring a little light into your life, including BSC stuff you didn’t even knew existed. You know you want this.

Prize Two:

Something on your mind? Are you dying to hear our witty take on the zombie apocalypse, Twilight, or swinging? The Chat Boss prize lets you determine our chat topic for the first week of May. If you’re really nice, you might even get to participate.

Prize Three:

I know you’re dying to see me make some rainbow cupcakes, or to see Jen’s massive owl craft fail in person. If you win this prize, you pick the pin and we have to follow through. Bring on the herbed grilled focaccia whatsit and the elaborate cake decorations! Force me to make my garage look nice! Whatever! We will each complete the pin project of your choice and share our experience on the blog.

* * * TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY * * *

TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY do one (or all) of the following things:

  • FOLLOW us on twitter
  • FOLLOW us on wordpress (button on the right)
  • LIKE us on facebook
  • SHARE us on your wall on facebook

Then, COMMENT below and let us know what you did so we can enter you in the drawing up to 4 times total (for each social media thingy you do for us). The sooner we hit 4k, the sooner we’ll draw the winners. Our goal is 4k in 7 days. (If you don’t comment, we won’t be able to do all the tracking. Please comment.)

And stay tuned for a whole lotta Nervosa this week.

(Chat) PINTEREST: Thinspo-for-the-home or divine inspiration?

This is the first in a new feature on our blog, which I’m realizing as I type that we haven’t named. But whatever: it’s CHAT! Jen and I will get together once a week to talk about some topic on our minds, and then share it with you. We hope it’s just the start of a broader conversation.

This week: PINTEREST! Love it or loath it? Inspiration or desperation? Time-waster or under-ass-fire-lighter? Below, we wonder if some crafts are more like porn than creative acts, and if design boards are just thinspo-for-the-home.

We have two boards at Pinterest that illustrate our points below, one that focuses on what we like about Pinterest (where we see promise, things we may actually do) and what we dislike about Pinterest. I should note that Jen is a fairly avid Pinner, and I have dabbled but am overall unimpressed. We are not saying that Pinterest is pure awesome or pure evil, but that it’s a complex and interesting phenomenon that we find intriguing.

And now, the chat!

3:18 PM Jennifer: Hello!

3:19 PM Lauren: Hi! This is going to be funny because when people read this, our names will be Jen/Lauren and “me.”

3:20 PM Jennifer: We should probably fix that. You should know that while I am chatting, I am also feeding Margeaux overpriced squishy organic baby food.

Lauren: I do not know how to fix that. I am somewhat tech savvy. But not that tech savvy. Maybe when you save it changes the names?

That is the best kind of baby food.

3:21 PM Jennifer: I bet I could find recipes for homemade baby food on Pinterest.

Lauren: You could totally do that. We should try to do that right now.

Jennifer: But then it wouldn’t be in this awesome package that attaches directly to a spoon.

Lauren: No way, that sounds awesome.

3:23 PM Yes, I have not only found baby food recipes, but also a baby food jar chandelier, baby food jar cupcakes, and magnetic spice jars made out of baby food jars.

3:24 PM Jennifer: I should totally pin those. I’ll get to them right after I bake that 8 layer rainbow cake.

3:25 PM Or the baked oatmeal. Or the Key West grilled Chicken.

Lauren: That kind of brings together everything that is awful and awesome about Pinterest: something you might actually use, something no one should ever do/care about/use, and something to make you feel bad about the things you wish you’d do but never will.

Jennifer: I don’t even eat chicken, for the record.

3:26 PM Lauren: Ha!

Jennifer: I’ll be honest: I have never actually cooked a recipe I pinned on Pinterest.

3:27 PM Lauren: People swear by Pinterest as a way to find great recipes, but I don’t get how it’s any better than googling “black bean tacos” and reading the recipe.

3:28 PM Jennifer: I like the idea that all those recipes are there waiting for me, as though I had cut them out and stuck them in a folder.

3:29 PM For me, that’s the appeal beyond googling: the organization.

Lauren: Pinterest is full of possibility but it seems like there’s very little follow through. I’ve seen bloggers with “Pinterest challenges” where they vow to actually do projects they’ve pinned.

3:30 PM Jennifer: If we do that challenge I’m starting with Rolo cookies.

And I’m unpinning those elaborate bunk bed plans.

Lauren: I used Pinterest the most when I was decorating my daughters’ room and I pinned all this “inspiration”

3:31 PM But then the final product really didn’t resemble those pins, and in fact, juxtaposed, it looked kind of homely and embarrassing. That made me kind of hate Pinterest, because it’s a great room and was done on a budget.

But since every square inch of the walls weren’t covered in fanciful art, and I didn’t customize the knobs on the dressers, somehow it didn’t feel good enough.

3:32 PM Jennifer: I actually have intentionally stopped even browsing decoration inspiration my dream home type pins.

3:33 PM I realized looking at that stuff was making me depressed.

Perhaps because most of the people I follow are facebook friends from high school and once I started looking at those pins I became convinced they were all living in enormous beautiful houses and I hated them.

Lauren: I posted a few new boards to our account and tried to find some examples of the kinds of things I do like and don’t like about Pinterest, and under don’t like I posted a few images of people’s decorated LAUNDRY ROOMS and GARAGES.

3:34 PM (http://pinterest.com/mamanervosa/)

Jennifer: YES! I saw a bunch of those types of pins come across my account today.

Lauren: WTF? Am I crazy or is the garage supposed to be a stinky mess?

3:35 PM Where are our kids supposed to be dirty?

Where can we pile the sheets our 4yo just peed on?

3:36 PM Jennifer: In my garage right now: 2 turkey fryers Tyler uses for brewing beer, an ugly table from a garage sale, an old set of shelves with a jumble of gardening tools, 4 bikes, a tricycle, a big wheel, a cozy coupe… organize that Pinterest!

And spiders. at least a thousand spiders.

Lauren: Ha

Exactly.

3:37 PM I was thinking that Pinterest fuels lookism. Morality = aesthetics.

The better you are as a person or a parent, the prettier the things are in your life. The better your crafts, the more elaborate your tooth fairy rituals.

3:38 PM The absence of any other images — anything simple, messy, or imperfect — implies it’s lack of worth.

Jennifer: Yes. Yes. Yes.

And yet: I keep going back for more.

Lauren: Have you heard about the whole Thinspo controversy at tumblr and now Pinterest?

3:39 PM Jennifer: No. Tell me more!

Lauren: So, Thinspo is short for “thinspiration”

Which means these are boards/images that girls and women use to inspire them to be thin.

It used to be called “pro-ana” aka pro-anorexia.

Jennifer: Oooohhhhhh….. pro-ana I know.

3:40 PM Lauren: So, tumblr and Pinterest have these Thinspo boards/circles popping up

Because they are visual-intensive social media sites. And girls are using these sites to fuel notions that being thin is something to aspire to, posting their stats, posting meals/diets and challenges to lose weight, etc.

3:41 PM And I’m thinking, isn’t everything on Pinterest, sorta, Thinspo for our entire lives? Isn’t the logic that if we are good enough/disciplined enough/organized enough, we can achieve perfection (even if it’s perfection in knitting)?

3:42 PM Jennifer: I just searched it on Pinterest. This is really disturbing.

Lauren: Yes. We will not link to evil, evil Thinspo.

Jennifer: Ok. I have to stop staring at those images.

Lauren: And people are upset about it, and I think that’s totally appropriate, but what I’m saying is, I’m not sure other aspects of Pinterest are that different (except it won’t destroy your bones or kill you if you try to make that paint chip art).

3:44 PM Jennifer: Right. Instead of beating myself up about being fat I’m beating myself up about not being the kind of mom who makes string art easter eggs and dips my kids feet in paint then makes footprint butterflies and frames them.

Lauren: Right

Is it really that different from images of housewives/mothers in the1950s/60s?

3:45 PM Jennifer: No. It’s the same oppressive bullshit. Just on an iPad. And we take Xanex to cope instead of Valium.

3:46 PM Lauren: I guess what bugs me is, blogs and Pinterest are supposed to be from real people. But increasingly, they do not match up with my lived experience.

As I was looking at Pinterest today, I was wondering what the difference is between looking there and looking at, say, a fashion magazine.

Are the images any more realistic than highly edited, styled, commercialized publications?

3:47 PM Jennifer: No.

3:49 PM And I think it’s easy to fall into the hate on Martha Stewart and the skinny girls trap. That’s not where I want to land either.

Lauren: It feels more insidious to me because there’s less psychic distance between me and that mommy blogger… she feels more real, so it feels like I should be able to achieve her level of contentment and organization.

Exactly. Like, I was doing a search on Pinterest for fashion for curvy girls, and all the pins were either 1. famous people in gowns or 2. not curvy girls!!

3:50 PM Oh, I misread your point

Yes — I want to avoid black and white, us vs them stuff.

3:51 PM Jennifer: Because it’s more complicated than that. I have occasionally made delicious food and done awesome art projects with my girls. (Not on the same day.) But if you could see my house right now? It’s appalling.

Lauren: Yes.

3:52 PM I feel like I go to social media craving authentic connection with other people.

I want to share something. And I look for myself in others, and all the things we do when we seek community.

3:53 PM But I don’t see myself on Pinterest. In a weird way, it just archives our collective cultural fantasies, or at least the fantasies of middle class ladies.

Jennifer: Yes. We all want that gorgeous outfit and that enormous kitchen and those clean shiny garages and entry ways.

3:54 PM But instead I am wearing shorts from Goodwill and there are Cheerios on the floor and my kitchen is so tiny I have to fold my chairs up after every meal.

Lauren: Right.

And my laundry lives in a basket and my beds are never, ever made.

3:55 PM I guess no one aspires to that.

3:56 PM Jennifer: I make my bed sometimes. But yeah, I think we’re afraid to acknowledge that this is what our real lives look like because shame! Judgment!

Bad mom!

Lauren: It’s weird because I think the fact that Pins are images really dehumanizes our lives. We never see children making the art, or people eating the food, right? We lose sight of the sort of visceral pleasures that things like creativity and togetherness are supposed to draw out.

Instead we focus on the aesthetic appeal or the product.

Jennifer: Oooooo….. that’s REALLY interesting to me.

Because yeah, the pleasure for me is in the doing.

3:57 PM But that’s completely absent.

Lauren: I get really frustrated with craft Pins because they seem way too focused on reproducing a perfect product, rather than the process.

Right? Especially with children: I mean, there’s no way my kids could recreate the perfect owl mobile or whatever.

The adorable children’s rooms are never in use, or the clothes aren’t on bodies.

It’s very commercial in that way.

3:59 PM Jennifer: I keep pinning outfits that I fantasize about wearing when I’m done nursing and my wardrobe doesn’t revolve around easy access to my breasts. But it’s been driving me crazy that there are no people in any of the fashion pins. How do I know if I can wear that?

Lauren: YES

Exactly. Show me that shirt on someone with actual boobs so I can see if it would be flattering and sexy (good) or lumpy/awkward (bad).

4:00 PM Jennifer: Also hips.

Lauren: But I guess that furthers the notion that these Pins aren’t really for people, they’re for our ideas about ourselves.

4:01 PM Jennifer: Right. And I’ve found that I enjoy imagining myself as a person who wears stylish clothes, does crafts with my kids, and cooks elaborate desserts.

Lauren: Certainly: I love the idea of a home with eclectic bookshelves and walls with neat art, both commercial and handmade.

I guess I wish people used Pinterest to say something like “Here’s how I…”

4:02 PM Like, here’s how I found jeans that fit.

Here’s how I used some leftover gift wrap with my kids.

Here’s how I… made leftover beans into something other than fucking burritos.

Helping Pins, not Judging Pins.

4:03 PM Jennifer: Here’s how I made a delicious cocktail with Juicy Juice and some odds and ends from my liquor cabinet.

4:04 PM Lauren: Right. With a real picture, not a staged, photoshopped image.

Jennifer: Here’s how I found a style of shirt that doesn’t make me look pregnant.

Lauren: I mean, couldn’t we use an entire board of that??

Jennifer: YES.

Lauren: I’m 5’1″ and curvy, these clothes work for me — etc.

Then maybe we could take delight in our actual lives.

4:05 PM Jennifer: Let’s call it Realspiration.

Or some other catchy spiration.

Lauren: Right

This is the whole point of counterpinning.

Lives as we live them, not as we wished they were.

4:06 PM Then maybe Pinterest could be less like Metropolitan Home and more like Shape of a Mother 

(Realspo?)

Jennifer: Because it’s not that I want to wallow in the half chewed Cheerios. It’s just that the leap from where I am to the fairy garden treehouse bunk beds is too far.

Lauren: (Spo sounds so close to spooge to me. I have a hard time using it without giggling.)

4:07 PM Jennifer: HA!

Lauren: Right — babysteps.

Here’s what’s achievable!

You could really actually do it!

You could really actually paint a room green and buy some JC Penney bedspreads and make a room as cute as my kids’ room. Here are the real kids playing on the real bed.

4:08 PM Here is the reading nook where the book basket is perpetually full of play food and that’s ok!

4:09 PM Jennifer: Yes. Process, pleasure, play, possibility.

4:10 PM Lauren: They all begin with P so they should totally work at Pinterest.

Jennifer: Not owl mobile craft porn.

Lauren: YES.

It is sort of pornographic.

In the way that porn objectifies pleasure.

Jennifer: In all the worst ways.

4:11 PM Lauren: I mean, some craft posts really do seem to make kids the objects, rather than the subjects, of joy/fun/whatever.

We sort of act out fantasies of good motherhood ON our kids with our aggressive leprechaun visits or whatever.

Jennifer: You will inevitably feel dissatisfied with your real life owl mobile partner!

4:12 PM Lauren: Your kids will inevitably not make the googly eyes perfectly centered on the die-cut circles!

Jennifer: The owl always ends up looking drunk and mangy.

4:13 PM Lauren: So you Pin owl crafts all night on the internet instead of doing owl crafts with your real kids.

Jennifer: But they loved using the glue stick, and isn’t that the point?

Lauren: Exactly. I mean, there doesn’t have to be a goal when you craft with kids. Sometimes I just put shit on the table and see what they come up with. Today we use scissors! Today it’s stickers!

4:14 PM Jennifer: Resolved: in the next week I will cook a food and do a craft from Pinterest and post pictures of the process.

Lauren: Sweet!

I have a post about post-partum fashion tips in the waiting.

Jennifer: And I will do them with my kids, not alone at midnight so the owls turn out perfectly.

4:15 PM Lauren: Excellent. You should take some kind of staged shot with the clock just to prove it ;).

Jennifer: I need those fashion tips!

Lauren: They mostly involve MacGyvering breast pads.

Jennifer: Nice.

4:16 PM Okay. You should go get your darling daughters, right? I feel like we’ve definitely got something here.

Also, Margeaux just pooped.

Lauren: Yes. This is a good time to get my real children and make them campbell’s bean and bacon soup for dinner, w hich is their (disgusting) favorite.

Duty/doody calls.

4:17 PM Jennifer: Drive safe.

Lauren: I will figure out how to post this and I’ll put it up tomorrow.

Let your post breathe :).

Jennifer: Awesome. You’re the most awesomest co-blogger ever.

4:18 PM Lauren: You are the awesomest blogging soulmate in history!

Jennifer: High five!

Lauren: Top Gun Windmill

TTYL!

Jennifer: TTYL!

Clearly, our jury is out on Pinterest: there’s promise and concern – legit, we think — here. I (Lauren) left the chat with a greater appreciation for the promise of Pinterest and ways it could function differently than it does now: for example, sharing more process-oriented images, and finding more awesome art. If you’re interested in contributing to these “counterpins” — pins that focus on doable projects; real visions of women, bodies, homes; and the creative process, follow us at Pinterest or drop us an email and we’ll add you as a collaborator.

lauren(at)mamanervosa(dot)com or jen(at)mamanervosa(dot)com

Jen promises to do some process posts this week!

Here are other recent commentaries on Pinterest:

Mom-101 on the darker side of Pinterest.

NPR tries to nail down the appeal of Pinterest.

Her Bad Mother talks about Pinterest as a storytelling venue, and as a space for men, too.

Bitch Magazine explores lifestyle blogging in general.

New Domesticity tackles all these issues and more, although she hasn’t covered Pinterest specifically (yet!).

And we got the idea for a weekly chat straight from Tiger Beatdown.

So, what do you think about Pinterest? We’re interested in the diverse experiences, uses, and views of Pinterest and we’d love to hear your thoughts, here or on any of our boards at Pinterest.

Radical Thing-Doing and the Opposite Day Rule

On Wednesday, I spent 36 hours completely computer-free. I had wasted the entire weekend obsessing over the possibility of a freelance writing career. My thought process went something like this:

I could definitely do this, holy shit, $150 for 750 words? I can write that in my sleep. Really, freelancing is exactly like school, its just homework and you have to figure out what the teacher wants and I can totally do that, I’m a professional student. I could write about disc golf, I could write stories about bugs for children; I could write about being a student-athlete; how about the science of tickling. I can interview everyone I know and use facebook to annoy my former students. I can definitely write erotic stories that don’t prioritize nudity for this lingerie catalog; I could probably throw together something about CSAs or some shit for this agriculture press, and is it unethical to write for the Boy Scouts? I’m going to spend my entire spring break downloading articles from the University library so I can have the latest research on hand and then translate it for the everyday mom, who wants a sassy friend to talk to her about life without judging her, according to these submission guidelines…

This is your brain on graduate school: you get excited about using a week off from teaching to do research, alone, indoors. Clearly, being a student for a quarter of a century has worn deep ruts into the pathways of my brain, and it’s quite a struggle to pop my wheelbarrow out of those trenches (as I have mentioned). I keep trying to find something to do that feels like it matters, and my brain is resistant to valuing the work I do as a mother as enough to count as that “something” (more on this later).

I read an article by Anne Lamott about “how to find out who you really are.” She offers this advice:

 We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? … I began consciously to break the rules I learned in childhood: I wasted more time, as a radical act. I stared off into space more, into the middle distance, like a cat. This is when I have my best ideas, my deepest insights… Every single day I try to figure out something I no longer agree to do.
Read more.

I like this idea of “radical time wasting” but I don’t think it will work for me. Thing is, I’m already quite lazy. I’m already proficient at dicking around. This might surprise a lot of people who know me as one of those overachieving How Does She Do It? kind of ladies; but seriously, ask my husband or my BFF from 6th grade, whose nickname for me was “Lazy Bum” because I would rather sit inside reading stacks of Seventeen back issues than go for a bike ride.

I’ll tell you how I do it: I don’t do my homework. I’m smart, but I’m not a hard worker. I can talk the talk, but I do not walk the walk. I’ve been a hardcore dilettante, flitting from field to field and subspecialty to subspecialty without ever really digging in. I Google it; I master it; I write a seminar paper about it and then immediately get bored. I am a high-functioning academic: I hide my problem under a veneer of extreme efficiency and a steady stream of bullshit in my classes. Let me tell you about the privileged subjectivities and hidden curricula of the first-year writing classroom; let me demonstrate the ways in which the home pregnancy test interpellated women into technicians of the maternal self by bringing the laboratory into the private home.

Compound my inability to nail down a specific field of inquiry with a complete lack focus and a serious case of baby fever, and you have a student cruising for dismissal as early as my second year in graduate school. Reading through my journal, nearly every entry is a variation on the theme of I should be writing a 15 page paper and reading this giant text on post-nationalism, but instead I’m watching Veronica Mars and eating taco dip! And then the next, OMG I have so much work to do, I don’t even know what I did all day yesterday… oh that’s right, I spent the entire afternoon arguing with people about circumcision at Baby Center!!

My grad school time wasting became a cycle of self-indulgence and repentance: I can justify going down any rabbit hole, especially if it means signing up for a bunch of new mailing lists and reading pages and pages of Wikipedia entries. Bonus points if there’s a facebook group for it. BS carried me through coursework but it’s not enough to sustain me through comps and a dissertation, projects I am not remotely interested in pursuing, I’ve discovered.

So, it seems unlikely that radical time wasting might help me discover my true self, having BTDT. Instead, I will try Lamott’s broader argument, which is to go against whatever your pattern is; whatever you’ve been taught is necessary or right. To get the wheelbarrow out of the rut, don’t feverishly roll it back and forth and expect change (this is, disputably, the definition of insanity): “You take the action and insight follows: you don’t think your way into becoming yourself.” Instead of radical time wasting, I think I need Radical Thing-Doing.

Inspiration: Pippi Longstocking, Thing-finder

So, I’m instituting an Opposite Day rule. I’m doing the opposite. Whatever my habitual action is, I will do the opposite. (I’m differentiating “habitual action” from “instinct” here, although they feel very similar. It feels instinctive to try and fill the void; it feels like a primal and gut-level response. But I really think it’s just my wheelbarrow worrying those selfsame grooves, and that means it’s an action borne from fear, anxiety, uncertainty rather than insight, desire, or conviction. Beneath those habitual actions is my actual instinct, the voice that has been quietly cheerleading this whole quitting thing, encourages me to shut the laptop and pick up a book, and orders me to pick the girls up early from daycare instead of making yet another To Do list.)

Habitual Action: Spend all day trolling job sites, draft letters of application, update resume.

Opposite Day reaction: Delete files; fold laundry.

Habitual Action: Make a huge to-do list of a million things I will accomplish this week!

Opposite Day reaction: Do the dishes. They always need to be done. It’s not a fucking mystery.

Habitual Action: Write outlines for entire novels.

Opposite Day reaction: Write a blog entry; post it.

The more I try to mentally roadrun my way through this process, the crankier I am. I’ve been a total bitch to my kids for no reason, with the thought “Leave me alone, I’m working!” running through my mind, when in fact I am not doing a damn thing other than perpetually loading my inbox. On my day off from the computer, I found that the less planning I did, and the more action I took (towards accomplishments like Get all the gross leaves out of the peony bed because I think they need light to live), the clearer my mind felt.

I am actively questioning the role of online life in my ways of thinking and my deprogramming from academia. I want blogging to be a purposeful part of my rediscovery/self-invention process because I know I want to, somehow/someway, be a writer, and this blog has brought that to the forefront of my mind. But, I see how this is playing with fire a bit, and I need to cultivate some new ways of being online that mean more meaningful writing (drafting, blogging, thoughtful response to others) and less mindless reading (facebook, facebook, facebook). How do you handle this balance in your life?

By the way, thank you for all the comments, follows, shares, and positive feedback. It’s been so gratifying to be read and appreciated by people all over the world. — Lauren & Jen

This is Not a Lifestyle Blog

I just read a fantastic article from Bitch Magazine’s newest edition, “Better Homes and Bloggers,” and it deeply resonated and spoke to me to the darkest depths of my blogging soul. Freelancing mama Holly Hilgenberg (great name) writes:

Both the appeal and the unease of lifestyle blogs are centered on the fact that, unlike more traditional forms of media like magazines, television, and movies, blogs are supposed to be real… This tension between authenticity and aspiration may be at the heart of why lifestyle blogs don’t just inspire readers, they also tend to bum them out… As one reader, Claudette, recounts: “I see her fucking noodle soup. And I feel like I should do that. And I don’t feel good. I feel like I should be perfect.” Claudette, who follows many style blogs, particularly those that reflect her own modernist sensibility and obsession with fashion and design, isn’t unhappy with her own life. But, she says, “I look around my house and I like the things I own…but it can never be good enough.”

I know Mama Nervosa is merely a week old, but this is not my first trip around the blogging block. This is my fifth or sixth attempt to create a blog with more than 4 readers (Hi, Mom!) despite the fact that for all of those blogs, I followed THE NUMBER ONE RULE OF BLOGGING SUCCESS which is DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE: that is, find a niche and aggressively pursue it. I tried a budgeting blog (HA!); a mommy blog (fun for me, boring for everyone else); a hilarious TV blog (dang it, you have to actually watch a lot of TV to do that, preferably shows that are currently running and not outdated dregs on Netflix streaming); and even an aquarium enthusiast blog (it died when my fish did).

I sometimes worry that Mama Nervosa won’t be read because it is non-niche. We’ve written about screaming toddlers, grandmothers and peonies, and birth and car purchasing. OK; all of those topics have a thread of motherhood woven through them, but we promise to branch out into topics as diverse as our past lives as hippie fangirls, smokers, baristas, and teachers; crazy road trips with drug dealers and Frisbee throwers; quitting graduate school and near-death experiences; anti-hipster rants and commentaries on teen magazines from the early 90s. (So, far, though, we think the real NUMBER ONE RULE OF BLOGGING SUCCESS is USE FACEBOOK. It seems to be working.)

But the big premise behind all of this, the one thing we agreed upon when we hastily formed a blogging alliance via email after a transformative writing workshop, was that MN had to be about “messy life.” Not organized life. Not sexy mom life. Not it’s-the-little-things-and-insanely-good-taste-that-make-life-perfect life. True, real, un-light-diffused, unstaged life (past, present, and future). We think there’s room for that in the blogosphere. I’m not anti-lifestyle blog and believe me, I’ve felt deep pangs of envy when I look at Young House Love’s art wall. I’ve seriously thought that a household binder would change my life forever. It’s just that the best thing, to me, about blogging, has always been real people. The real people behind blogs interest me. My favorite blogs, the blogs that got me hooked a dozen years ago, the blogs I stayed up all night at the library computer lab to read? They weren’t lifestyle blogs. They were people’s life stories, told well, and told (mostly) truthfully.

So this is my real life, right now. It is not styled.

Ce n'est pas une lifestyle blog

These are my dishes, always. I have no solution to the enduring problem of dirty dishes. I wash dishes every day, and the damn things keep reappearing. My kitchen looks like this right now, and every day.

This is me, right now.

Pants: stretch Levi's. Shirt: An ill-fitting hand-me-down from my Mom that I wore because it was the only clean thing I had. Bra: saggy nursing bra with underwires that are poking out of the seams and stabbing my armpits; has not been washed in over a week (not shown). My underwear has two holes (not shown).

Optical illusion brought to you by unfortunate laptop placement. Note the living room chaos behind me, including a partially dismembered wagon and nicotine gum wrappers strewn about. I didn’t even crop this, y’all.

I got my glasses at the eye doctor.

Me again, close up. My face is breaking out, and I don’t wear jewelry, and is that a gray hair? It may be. I’m due. I am sure you are as excited as I am that I washed my hair last night – a triumph! Let me tell you a secret: my husband thinks I look great and really likes everything about my post partum body, my lack of makeup, and my everything. (I’m just as surprised as you are.) Apparently, sexy transcends appearance, at least in our love story.  

So what’s your real life story, not style? What life problem do you have no solution for? What life problems aren’t really a problem at all? What are your snapshots of chaos and beautiful nowness? We’ll post ‘em. lauren(dot)clodi(dot)whitehead(at)gmail(dot)com