Tag Archives: style

If Mama Nervosa were talented photographers instead of bloggers…

“The stress, the chaos, and the need to simultaneously escape and connect are issue that I investigate in this body of work.  We live in a culture where we are both “child centered” and “self-obsessed.”  The struggle between living in the moment versus escaping to another reality is intense since these two opposites strive to dominate.  Caught in the swirl of soccer practices, play dates, work, and trying to find our way in our “make-over” culture, we must still create the space to find ourselves.” Julie Blackmon, Artist Statement

My lifelong friend, Steph, pointed me in the direction of Julie Blackmon’s photography, and rather blew my mind. I love her domestic scenes and I feel like the tensions she explores — between self and child, beauty and chaos, escape and connection — match up so well with the questions and themes we sometimes explore on Mama Nervosa.

“The expectations of family life have never been more at odds with each other.  These issues, as well as the relationship between the domestic landscape of the past and present, are issues I have explored in these photographs.  I believe there are moments that can be found throughout any given day that bring sanctuary.  It is in finding these moments amidst the stress of the everyday that my life as a mother parallels my work as an artist, and where the dynamics of family life throughout time seem remarkably unchanged.  As an artist and as a mother, I believe life’s most poignant moments come from the ability to fuse fantasy and reality:  to see the mythic amidst the chaos.” Julie Blackmon, Artist Statement

Blackmon is one of 9 children and a mother of 3. Her photographs are inspired by the domestic scenes of Jan Steen, a 17th century Dutch painter whose ribald scenes of boisterous families are so archetypical that they actually use the phrase “Jan Steen household” to describe messy homes with kids running everywhere. (So, see, my house is like art.) That she can connect these very modern images to art of the 17th century illustrates her point that family dynamics seem “remarkably unchanged” over time. In other words, our worries and issues aren’t news! But isn’t that intriguing?

Where can I begin with what I love about these images? First, I love the settings: beautiful, stylized interiors that feel like they’re from the past. Any of these interiors could be used for a lifestyle blog, right? They’re gorgeous. But the scenes are scattered and often cluttered (see the patio above — numerous balls, the unfurled hose, the brown grass). It’s confusing and exhilerating: can a beautiful space be messy? Seriously, can it?

These images flirt with danger: a child standing in the high chair that’s supposed to keep him safe so an adult can mop in the next room; a child playing with egg shells; a baby standing on the table. The kids aren’t in obvious danger but considering how paranoid modern culture is about child safety and supervision, they are taboo. Is this benign negligence? What would DHS think about children playing near an open fire while Mom has her head buried in an oversized fashion magazine? What do you think about it?

Adults are peripheral, distracted, and preoccupied in Blackmon’s photos. This reminds me of Jen and I discussing children’s television shows in which parents are absent: we enjoy the idea of the home as child-centered, parents as incidental to the dramas of their lives. Blackmon’s photos focus on the children’s experiences and emotions. Often they are naked, messy, and serious: these are not your professional portraits where kids play grown up; these kids mirror adults in expression and complexity. She does not sentimentalize childhood as particularly joyful, innocent, and magical.

Adults are permitted to be self-focused, even indulgent. We’re interested in, even comfortable with that, but when we discussed these shows on facebook, other parents were disturbed by shows that do not feature parental supervision.

This image is called “playgroup” and look how it focuses on the women’s interactions rather than the children. I know that my playdates/playgroups are organized so I can interact with grownups, with my children’s play incidental to that! At the same time, these adults are infantilized a bit, through the elaborate costume dress of the standing woman and the woman curled up on the ground looking up at her (it’s hard to tell, due to the angle, if she’s a grown up or a kid) and the sprawled legs of the woman on the left mirrored by those of the baby. Aren’t we all playing grown up, kinda? She depicts these adults without judgment. Blackmon isn’t taking a stand about the right or better way to parent, but representing tensions in modern parenting culture.

For balance, here’s “Merry Family” by Jan Steen:

I could go on and on analyzing and commenting on these images. What do you think?

Fashion Tips for New Moms: How to MacGyver Your Way Into Being Publicly Presentable

In the spirit of our repudiation of lifestyle blogging and our interest in representing life as we life it, rather than as we wish we live it, I bring to you my New Mama Fashion Tips. These can work for any mama, but are especially useful to mothers in that transitional time after birth, when your body is lumpy, your boobs are leaky, and everything feels exposed and uncontainable and uncertain.

I’m not a fashionista, or even a nice-clothes-ista. On my first date, at age 16, I wore Mom jeans and a boxy, striped t-shirt. I kid you not. My idea of dressing up was brushing my hair and putting on lip gloss. I’ve never developed a personal style or look or signature accessory. I don’t even have pierced ears (I decided in jr high I’d rather spend my money on CDs). Motherhood has only made this aspect of my personality worse, because it’s the best reason to not look nice. First of all, no one faults you for wearing the same jeans every day when you sleep less than 3 hours at a time and have enormous, leaking breasts and look like you might cry. They are not worried about your jeans at that moment. Second of all, there’s absolutely no point in wearing that nice sweater because it’s going to get puked on or peed on, or jelly-fingered, or snot-wiped, before you leave the house. I never struggled against this inevitability, I simply assumed/hoped no one would notice.

Each year in my personal journal, I write a Year in Review survey that includes a question about my “fashion concept” for 2001 or 2009 or whatever. Here are the responses I’ve had over the years (my daughters were born in ’08 and ’10):

2008: Comfortably frumpy? I’m really unhappy with my overall look. Big t-shirts, pajama pants. 

2009: Frumpy evolving into pajama wear.

2010: “Is it obvious that this is a maternity shirt?”

2011: “Can anyone else smell this stinky bra?”

Note the emergent themes of pajama pants and concerns that my lack of appropriate daywear might be obvious to the rest of the world. Fortunately, my audience for daily attire is usually tuned-out eighteen year olds who spend more time looking at their phones than they do me. And I know the Walgreens guy has seen way worse, so.

If you’re a woman for whom personal style is really important, this will probably sound horrifying. Motherhood fucks with our identities in myriad ways, and our ability to maintain cleanliness, let alone style, is profoundly challenging. Even a mama with an underdeveloped sense of personal style can feel bad about wearing an ill-fitting green shirt for the third day in a row because it’s the cleanest thing available. You will look in the mirror and not recognize yourself. I promise it’s a phase. This too shall pass.

In the meantime, I have developed some guerilla mommy clothing tips that I will now share with you. These tips will not make you look nice, but they may help you avoid some embarrassment, and I’ve never seen them mentioned elsewhere.

Tip #1: The roll-top stretchy skirt

I have these in multiple colors and multiple lengths, and usually get them on sale at Old Navy. Roll-top skirts are kind of like yoga pants: stretchy and very comfy, and with the right accessories you can trick people into believing they’re career wear. A nice sweater and a pair of boots makes you look dressed up, but they also look cute with flip flops and a tank. It’s an easy upgrade.

 

Roll-top skirts come in all cuts, lengths, and colors. You can't have too many.

Not only can you wear roll-top stretchy skirts through an entire pregnancy, you can also wear them throughout the entire year (with or without leggings), and you can roll the top over your tummy and backfat when nursing and babywearing (and nursing while babywearing).

See how the top can cover any gap between shirt and skirt? If she was on the front and needed to nurse, I could pull the skirt up completely and lift my shirt, too.

(Sorry about that gross mirror; that’s just how we roll.)

 Tip #2: Cardigans

A nice cardigan turns any saggy maternity shirt into a decent outfit. It turns a t-shirt into something passable for work. Cardigans hide the spit-up stains on your shoulder, and the milk leak on the front. Hide a nice cardigan in the car and put it on after you’ve changed, dressed, fed, and transported your children. You won’t have to worry about hidden boogers or syrup smears.

Find, save, or buy a comfy, ratty cardigan to sleep in, especially if you co-sleep and nurse at night. Your arms and back will never be cold, even if your shirt is up for most of the time. I love my sleep cardigan. (Try to go for buttons, rather than a zipper. Your boobs will thank you.)

This is my sleep cardigan. It is pilly and missing all but 2 buttons.

Tip #3: Scarves

Scarves hold all the potential of cardigans, but with slightly less warmth and coverage. They’ll mask leaked milk, shoulder stains, enormous bra straps, or just give you a more covered and secure feeling. Plus, they feel fancy, and add color to my typically neutral palette. Pair a scarf with a non-sleep cardigan and you look downright pulled together. Target clearances scarves all the time. I have about 10.

 

Note the fantastic boob coverage.

 

Tip #4: MacGyvering Nursing Pads

Maybe this is a less generally useful tip. Maybe some of you have nursing bras with padding, or diligently wash and reuse cloth nursing pads, or are smart enough to squirrel away nursing pads in every conceivable location (purse, pants, car, office, backpack, kitchen, coffee shops, etc) you might need one. Maybe you don’t leak; or maybe you don’t have a bad case of the porn nips after nursing for four years straight.

But maybe you’re like me and the only nursing bra you can convince yourself to buy is a fairly cheap (but supportive and functional!) Medela with no nip coverage, and you flake out on nursing pads all the time. If so, then this tip is for you. As a new mother, I was especially self-conscious about my breasts. If I didn’t feel like I had everything locked down and was definitely not going to accidentally squirt my students in the face with milk, then I felt uneasy, awkward, and distracted. But, I often ran out of pads and needed backup, and had only the stuff available in the office supply closet to work with. Since a paperclip bomb won’t approximate modesty or absorbency, I have used these things instead:

–       Toilet Paper: Fold it up, tuck it in. It won’t absorb much but it will mask your nipples. Facial tissue works well, too, and has the bonus of being softer.

–       Paper towels: see above, plus more absorbency. The better quality the towel, the better this works. Even the scratchy brown public restroom towels can work.

–       Panty liners: These actually work VERY well, and for awhile I just used Kotex instead of the pricier nursing pads. The sticky backing holds them in place, and they are absorbent (though if you leak in waterfall mode rather than dripping faucet mode, they may be overwhelmed). These are EXCELLENT NIGHT NURSING PADS, because you can line a sleep bra with several so you have coverage no matter where your nipples roam as you toss and turn.

–       Bandaids: Yes, I have done this. Provides excellent, smooth nip coverage, not great absorbency though. Not so convenient if you’re doing a lot of nursing at the same time. You may need more than one Bandaid.

–       Baby socks or small baby hats: These are functional but look lumpy. Best if paired with a scarf or cardigan to mask those.

 

Brawny, I need you in so many ways.

Tip #5: Cut your hair

We all want to be Tami Taylor. We want to rock the long locks. I mean, I’ve wanted hair like that since I was 6 and saw Crystal Gayle on TV.

I want to be her in every single possible way.

But when you bathe twice a week and only have a glance in the rear view mirror at a stop light for the purposes of self-styling, long hair just doesn’t work. There’s a reason Moms cut their hair off. For me, long hair gets stringy and I end up pulling it into a ponytail all the time. With a bob, my hair looks shiny and full even if it’s day 3 without a shower. It frames my face, which is more flattering than a severe bun. I do nothing to it other than wash it.

If you’re a new Mom, give these tips a try. Sometime soon, you’ll wear makeup again, and you’ll brush your teeth twice a day again, and you’ll begin to see how Moms live day-to-day with a baby and it will feel doable. Promise. In the meantime, I’m rockin’ some Brawny pads and a brown scarf that yesterday, had poop on it, but Mama thought ahead and did me some laundry. Look out, employees of Lowe’s: you’re about to notice neither my nipples nor the blobs of oatmeal on the neck of my sweater. BOOYAH.

(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.

Clutter Represents Possibility — Yeah, We Like That!!

One of our readers, K, submits the following to our real life/not style “This is Not a Lifestyle Blog” series.

K's House

I just took this picture of our house, and my husband and I had the following conversation:

E: (suspicious) What are you taking a picture of?
K: Our house.
E: …You’re not going to post that.
K: No. (not on my facebook page or website)
E: Good. Don’t. (he totally knows I am up to something that involves shame)
K: Why not?
E: Somebody will see it.
K: And?
E: We could get in trouble.
K: (What, like the Pinterest Police will show up with a warrant to remove to Mexican sugar mold that is behind all the piles of binders?) Don’t worry, you have to have, like, cat poop on the floor before CPS will take your kids away. Clutter on the credenza is insufficient grounds for removing children from the home. 
E: I still think we could get in trouble for it.
K: (laughing so hard I nearly snort)

He is lucky — if I were a truly evil wife, I would take a picture of his office. Think: trash compactor scene in Star Wars, but recreated with books, paper, and empty beer bottles awaiting recycling, including bonus items like D&D statuettes, a large papier mache volcano, musical instruments, a long cardboard tube that looks like the pipe Luke is holding in that picture, and a framed doctoral diploma.

Star Wars has nothing on us

Lucky for him, I kept it to the sideboard and my desk — my only “personal space” in the house aside from the one drawer of our dresser that only opens 5 inches before it is blocked by the foot of the bed. The desk presents a perpetual avanlanche risk, and this is better than it looks sometimes. I bark at the kids, “That is MOMMY’s space. Do not touch anything on there. It is all MAMA’s.” They are pretty compliant, save the times I have found that my address had been stamped on my desk, or when my keyboard was decorated with pencil and red pen. I do often find toys up there. The sideboard was clean two weeks ago, and now it has art supplies, a box of postcards, a pair of Doggles (our dog has been DEAD since October, and hadn’t worn said Doggles since 2004), empty photo frames waiting to be filled and hung on the wall, notebooks from my A&P classes, two piggy banks, and some tchotchkes and a lot of books on pregnancy and childbirth (this is actually their current storage location – great dining room decor, right?)

My old boss, Sara, said she read in a book that clutter represents possibility, and a too-orderly house is a sign of a person who isn’t up to anything interesting. Not sure if that’s true, but it’s a nice story to tell your messy self, right? Actually, in my case, the stacks and folders represent my classes, current and past doula client folders (the currents are in a particular spot up high on my desk and don’t filter down to the bottom), books I am reading, artwork from the kids, correspondence from family and DLSS. So, it is true that they represent all the activity and forward momentum of my life.

Thanks, K!! If you want to contribute pictures, images, or stories of your real life (not styled), send us an email at lauren(dot)clodi(dot)whitehead(at)gmail(dot)com. To see more in this series, check out our This is Not a Lifestyle Blog category to the right, or the page above.

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