Tag Archives: blogging

Amazing the Room

My dad always said I keep my thoughts to myself unless I think I can amaze a room.

It’s too true.

I’ve written very little this month, and there are several reasons for this. I am hampered by several factors right now, and I’m starting to envy those who blog anonymously. I always want to write authentically, but right now there are only a few things I can discuss without the cloak of vagueness. So why blog at all? I can hear you asking.

I don’t know. I have missed blogging this month. The less I blog, the more pressure I feel to amaze a room with my next post. That’s probably the worst thing about not blogging for me. I get out of the practice of writing, and begin feeling pressure the more I don’t post to ONLY come back if I have something unique, something thought-provoking to say.

Clearly I don’t have anything like that to say today.

Mostly, I just miss everyone. I know I’ve been a terrible commenter, and for that I am sorry. Blogging was always more about community for me. The sense of going to a virtual coffee shop and discussing issues at a roundtable, with smart, opinionated people.

So, since I don’t have anything earth-shattering to say, I’ll ask you guys, oh wise ones, if you are still here at my virtual coffee table. Do YOU have problems when you stop blogging restarting again? Do you feel your next post has to be so amazing that you just give up and don’t post? Would you rather post anonymously?

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Filed under What Say You?, writing

Why Blogging Matters

Whew! What a week, huh? It’s shaping up to be a pretty historic June. Like most of you, I’ve been thinking and discussing the fast-moving developments with friends and family, feeling my head whip forward, backward and forward again. I have noticed an increase in conversation, particularly in DIALOGUE, about things we as Americans don’t often talk about.

I hate to say “Mainstream Media” as if there is just one monolith of opinions by journalists (print, broadcast and online) but it IS difficult to avoid seeing these wide, vast issues reduced into in tart soundbites and simplified arguments. The Paula Deen controversy, in particular, has been boiled down to a few pungent ingredients, for example. Pun intended, obviously. Racism vs. scapegoat, obesity vs. healthy eating, empire-building vs. nepotism. The End.

Except, not. And here’s where blogging comes in. I get very cynical about blogging sometimes. It is a love/hate affair that comes around and around. And then I’ll discover a post that is illuminating and makes me think about many things entirely differently.

Because the greatest thing about blogging? It gives POWER TO THE VOICELESS.

Case in point: Michael Tweedy’s post, “An Open Letter to Paula Deen”

Tweedy makes a number of powerful points in this post about race, America and food and cuisine and language. He argues that the charges against Paula Deen (which he mostly pardons her of) obfuscate something much deeper: the real roots and collaboration (willing and unwilling) African Americans don’t get recognized for in the style of cooking she has made famous. It turns out, Southern Cooking and Paula Deen owe much more to African American traditions and ingredients and preparation than I think most of us are aware.

Don’t forget that the Southern food you have been crowned the queen of was made into an art largely in the hands of enslaved cooks, some like the ones who prepared food on your ancestor’s Georgia plantation. You, just like me cousin, stand squarely on what late playwright August Wilson called, “the self defining ground of the slave quarter.” There and in the big house kitchen, Africa, Europe and Native America(s) melded and became a fluid genre of world cuisine known as Southern food. Your barbecue is my West African babbake, your fried chicken, your red rice, your hoecake, your watermelon, your black eyed peas, your crowder peas, your muskmelon, your tomatoes, your peanuts, your hot peppers, your Brunswick stew and okra soup, benne, jambalaya, hoppin’ john, gumbo, stewed greens and fat meat—have inextricable ties to the plantation South and its often Black Majority coming from strong roots in West and Central Africa.

Not exactly what we’ve been reading about, eh?

He goes on:

We think you are a businesswoman who has made some mistakes, has character flaws like everybody else and in fact is now a scapegoat. I find it hard to be significantly angry at you when during the last election the re-disenfranchisement of the Negro—like something from the time of W.E.B. Du Bois was a national cause celebre. Hell, today the voting rights act was gutted and I’m sure many think this is a serious win for “democracy.” If I want to be furious about something racial—well America—get real—we’ve had a good twelve years of really really rich material that the National media has set aside to talk about Paula Deen. Yes Paula, in light of all these things, you are the ultimate, consummate racist, and the one who made us fat, and the reason why American food sucks and ……you don’t believe that any more than I do.

Think about that for a while. WHEW!

And yet, Tweedy reminds us so powerfully that reconciliation, learning to work side by side, is ALWAYS the answer.

If there is anything The Cooking Gene has taught me—its about the art of reconciliation. We aren’t happy with you right now. Then again some of the things you have said or have been accused of saying aren’t surprising. In so many ways, that’s the more unfortunate aspect. We are resigned to believe and understand that our neighbor is to be suspected before respected. It doesn’t have to be this way, and it doesn’t have to go on forever.

In the closing passage that made me cry and want to be a better human being, Tweedy invites Paula Deen to come to an event and co-prepare with him a traditional plantation dinner: one that includes sourced ingredients from local farmers and takes place in the one of the biggest plantations there ever was in the South. In this simple gesture, Tweedy reminds us that while history and the past are ever potent, we have a choice to make the world a better place through forgiveness and understanding. Understanding what has made us ALL who we are, but also, ACTION, not just idle talk: we can CHOOSE to be better people. Less suspect. More welcoming. More hospitable. More, well, SOUTHERN.

To paraphrase JK Rowling, it’s our choices who make us who we are.

Have you come across any powerful posts from blogs which have illuminated your view beyond the media soundbites? Please share! I’d love to read them.

And don’t worry…more “How to Dress” posts and “Project: Dreamcatcher” to come!

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Filed under Blogging, cooking?!?

The Pain Olympics

There are many types of bloggers.

For example:

A) Those out to promote themselves and their talents in specific ways (design bloggers, food bloggers, style bloggers)
B) Writers using their blogs as a platform to promote other works (novelists, non-fiction authors)
C) Experts advising on the right way to do things (nutritionists, doctors)

On the other hand, there are also bloggers writing about painful experiences they are going through. These writers are trying to find their tribe, a group of like-minded people who have gone through something similar or perhaps are suffering from a disease. These bloggers are a different kettle of fish to me. (Yes, I like my fish metaphors.) In these cases, blogs are a type of support group for people isolated by geography.

We had a really interesting discussion here about criticism. But one thing I neglected to bring up was The Pain Olympics.

What is The Pain Olympics?

I don’t know where the term came from and I wish I did, because it is such a great phase. The Pain Olympics aptly describes the following phenomenon: people minimizing your pain by comparing what you are going through to another experience.

Here’s an example. I was listening to the latest edition of the Bitter Infertiles podcast. I am a sometime contributor to the program, and I was aghast to hear that a listener was annoyed with my participation because someone with DOR who conceived twins on her first IVF attempt is unusual. The overall complaint was that the panel wasn’t diverse because the other panelists are now all pregnant. Not only were the “facts” about me wrong, but the notion that I hadn’t suffered enough to represent the community was sort of offensive. The assumption that my fellow panelists had not suffered enough was DEFINITELY offensive.

(Aside: I have heard complaints that Faces of ALI only features the “worst case scenarios” and not the Clomid/injectibles/IUI cycles, which also leave their marks on those who go through them. It’s a complaint I am taking seriously.)

Bottom line: You can’t win when you play the Pain Olympics. No one can.

Finding Your Tribe

No matter how I approach it, I just can’t reconcile people criticizing the support group bloggers. They often write anonymously, they aren’t looking for fortune or fame, they have nothing to promote. They just want someone to say to them: “You are not alone. I also have been there.” Why follow someone to their anonymous blog about infertility to say: “Your experience is not worthy of sympathy or empathy.”?

I just don’t get it. Why bother?

What do you think about Pain Olympics and blogger comments?

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Being Original

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First of all, thank you. Thanks for the incredible response and the dialogue in the comments box on the last post.

I am floored.

A lot of the discussion got me thinking about why originality matters so much, since this seems to be a key issue in this next generation of bloggers. What makes writers or artists truly a special snowflake?

I’ve been thinking about two special snowflakes in history in particular: my favorite American composer, Aaron Copland, and Emily Dickinson, whose writing was edited right after her death to fit more in with the norms of the day. To the detriment of everything that made her poetry so unique and punchy. (Thanks to Outlandish Notions for reminding me of my affection for Dickinson.)

As a writer, I am not as original as I’d like to be, in great honesty. I think Faces of ALI is probably my most “original” idea, and even it is a careful retelling of other people’s stories. There’s probably a few reasons for this. At my middle school and high school (as I’m sure was the case for most people), uniqueness of any kind was jeered and shunned. I had some mild mean girl experiences and learned to keep quiet and not make waves in order to survive. At my beach-y, paradise college, I played up my mellow, fun side to maximum effect to fit in. (Which was not terribly difficult, I must say.)

It’s fascinating for me to see a world where originality is awarded and closely scrutinized. Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, blogs: all of these places are outlets to “express” creativity, yet so few writers/artists truly do have anything new to say or show.

Another reason I have been thinking about this a lot is that my daughter shows signs of having no interest in following trends, whether it be clothing, hair, music or, well, anything really. The way she dresses is starkly different than her friends: she cut her hair into an artfully styled bob (and actually set a trend with that), she loves fashion from the 20s and 30s. I cannot dress her. She won’t let me. I try really hard to not mold her but instead allow her to heed her artistic whims. Even though my instinct is to not let her do that.

I guess the instinct to conform is itself deeply rooted in my personality. Or it was, at least, until infertility hit. By no longer fitting into the norms (all my other friends were mostly building their families according to exact plans), I became “other.” Being different was somewhat liberating. I sort of went in an eccentric and reclusive direction, becoming a mysterious figure.

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This is a small example, a seriously small example of being different, but no one I know bakes much. I was a hostess for a baby shower and I wanted to do something thoughtful and cool for my friend who is awesome. So I baked the cake and cupcakes myself, from a frosting I’ve perfected from another blogger (NOT ORIGINAL!) and I graduated the favorite color tones of my friend who was being honored into different cake layers. (Confession: that terrible photo has been photoshopped.) This is not unique either: you could argue (successfully) that if anything, ombre is on its way out. But no one at the shower could believe that I had made (BAKED!) this really cool cake. It blew their minds. It also tasted really good, so that helped. I think they thought it was REALLY WEIRD (original?) that I had made that cake.

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Anyway, I think it takes a lot of time and energy to truly think long and hard about making your work, whatever it is, stand out. Emily Dickinson didn’t have much of a personal life and lived with her parents. She rarely left her home after her early twenties. Aaron Copland traveled and studied with various muses and with different mentors, and even he struggled because his music very much went against the grain during the Depression. Emily Dickinson was never recognized during her lifetime. Aaron Copland had a very brief period in the 40s of writing brilliant music that blazed a new trail. Originality, it seems, has a short shelf life. Unless you are Picasso.

Do you strive to be original? Or do you prefer to write within accepted norms?

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What On Earth To Say?

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If you read me regularly, you’ll know this blog has been fragmented since this summer. As fragmented as the cheap kaleidoscope lens I bought my son, which was quickly broken, then lost, as most of the twins’ toys are.

The truth is, I have no idea what to write anymore. How to write. Do I craft short, escapist posts of happiness and photos or long heart-wrenching missives pouring my heart out? I’ve had some middling success with this blog in the way I hoped: as an advocacy tool, an educational mechanism. The truth is, in some ways, my wounds of 2006-2010 (two losses and infertility) have healed. The truth is, those wounds will never really fully heal. The bell has been rung, I’m forever changed by the experiences. The truth is: I’ll face worse, because I won’t live forever and this world is destined to delight and depress people and all we can hope is that perhaps we experience more delight, but that’s not a given. The truth is I’d like to write about things other than infertility, too. The truth is, I don’t know that anyone wants to hear about those other things. And, fair enough. I started off writing for myself, but along the way, I began to write for others. Those I knew. Those I didn’t know. Those I wanted to reach. Those who needed to hear stories of others, ordinary but extraordinary tales of loss and love and resilience and brokenness.

I know that some of you have been bewildered by my meanderings (Fashion? REALLY?) and probably hurt by posts about my kids, something I refrained from doing before. I understand: my audience is a mix of different people, some in the trenches, some living childfree not by choice, some parenting, some having nothing to do with infertility.

I don’t know why I feel “better”, but it’s a fragile state I don’t take for granted. In fact, if there’s one phrase that defines 2012 for me, it’s gratitude. I feel lucky. Sometimes grouchy, sometimes angry, but always grateful. Just grateful for my husband and my beautiful twins. That gratitude was always there, under the surface, but it got lost along the way as I grieved for my children who would never be, for the star-crossed road it seems I alone was dealt amongst my charmed friends and acquaintances. But of course I was not alone. Because I had YOU.

And dear, dear readers: this brings me to my question. What would YOU like me to write?

– Would you like me to finish Faces of ALI? (I had at least two more profiles planned.) Do they matter?
– Do you want me to create a separate blog for all things fashion and lifestyle? Because the truth is the other thing that has made me happy in 2012 is rediscovering the superficial side of myself that was submerged for many years. I rediscovered my old love for everything sartorial: mostly this passion was reignited by my daughter, who has taken her interest in clothes to a new level by sewing and crafting.

A friend’s father once told her that she was two sides of the same knife, one that makes shallow cuts and one that delves deep. He’s Romanian and old world and survived the Holocaust as a young child, and I think there is great wisdom in aspiring to this. For me, I think the key for surviving this world (for the time I am given) is to be both: both perfunctory and possibly profound.

I really appreciate and look forward to your comments as always. I know I have not always pleased you, you have not always agreed with me, and I am sure that some of my posts made your eyes roll into the back of your head as you clicked out of my blog 😉 But please know: I have deeply valued your time and your comments over the last two years.

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Filed under Parenting After IF, personal style, What Say You?, writing

How Do We Know What is Our Story to Tell?

One of the points made over and over at BlogHer was: “Your blog is your space. Your space, your rules.”

Another mantra I heard again and again was: “But that’s not my story to tell.”

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I guess I am a memoirist, a diarist of sorts. A writer who tells stories about my life, my experiences, my recipes, my fears, my dreams, my hopes. The lines are blurred a bit, though, because I tell other people’s tales too. I do this outright, with Faces of ALI.

But none of us live in a cork-lined flat either. (Except Proust.) We interact with others every day, sometimes only a small handful of people, but usually dozens and sometimes hundreds depending on whether we work in a city or commute, or sit in a cubicle in a skyscraper. Then there are the virtual interchanges: the Facebook updates, the blogs we read, the comments we get, the comments we make. The sometimes sharp debates and discussions we engage in. From the elevator door we hold open (or don’t) to the clueless comments we hear about “just adopting.” From the coffee barista we smile at or the customers we try to politely explain rules to. To the tweets we rush out in an attempt to be funny or relevant, which may come across to 1 or 2 or 76 of our followers as unfunny or offensive. All of these countless interactions we experience just in one day shape who we are in ways that are seen and unseen.

There’s a reason James Joyce followed Leopold Bloom through one day in that beast of a book “Ulysses.” If we truly describe all of a full day (especially an extraordinary day, as Kathy attempted in this remarkable post) we probably would have over 6,000 words essays, at least. Leopold Bloom wandered the streets of Dublin to visit a butcher and read a letter and used an outhouse and so on and so on. The internal thoughts and judgements and the niceties and the tensions of just navigating the mundane and extraordinary events of June the 16th added up to a word count of over 268,000.

So how do we separate ourselves from the interactions of others? Is that even possible?

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Blogging is a truly strange beast. Never have so many shared their thoughts, their innermost feelings with strangers. Journaling has been around for centuries, but so has the wail: “Mama! (Fill in the blank) read my diary!”

Obviously most bloggers put up walls. I don’t share the details of a lot about my life. Most of us don’t. But I don’t know if I could tell my story WITHOUT including the insensitive comments and remarks I got. (Although I don’t attribute them to specific people.) Nor could I not express my thanks for this extraordinary community, without mentioning and praising the bloggers who inspired me.

But by doing so, I am telling a story that is not mine to tell.

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I know that I have offended people sometimes with my posts. Usually, because I mentioned them or wrote about them without asking. I try not to do this anymore. (Although it occurs to me now that I didn’t run my story about Bodega’s shower past any of the writers mentioned, including Bodega. Were they offended? I don’t know.) I don’t run my writing past my parents or my brother unless they are copy reading specific, important posts. Are they offended? I meant to be funny about my brother the grammarian but maybe my story hurt his feelings? I don’t know. I didn’t ask. I probably should have. Darcy has a rule that he won’t read my posts. I talk about him, but not a lot.

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But what about those you don’t mention by name, or you imply, or they simply gather that you are writing about them? (Even if you are not.) Many fiction authors have offended friends and family who assumed that a character was based on them. And those were made-up stories! Here, we are supposed to be writing our story. Readers often DEMAND authenticity. (Not you guys. I’m thinking of criticisms I have seen about the big bloggers.)

Writing my story, my experience, has mostly been a mission of education for me: I wanted people to know what it was like to go through infertility and loss. The ins, the outs. I heard on NPR the other day that only by telling stories can we change someone’s mind. That studies don’t matter: people remember the anecdotes, the well-told personal tales. Hearing stories makes others more empathetic to someone’s plight. And God, do we need empathy for this community.

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Of course, we are a community here too. We jostle, we joke, we commiserate, we cry with each other. We learn, we open our hearts and minds to those we might not ever know IRL. And conflict is probably inevitable. Conflict seems to be a part of the human condition. There’s been an argument that women tear other women down, and I think that’s true to a certain extent. But, yes, I am reading Ulysses and it strikes me that humans tear each other down. We are in groups, communities, but those little safe havens, whether SF’s Chinatown or NYC’s Lower East Side around the turn of the century or Leopold Bloom, marching through the streets of Dublin: we are bound to come into contact with others.

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The ALI world has become my safe haven, but it’s not a utopia of course. Just like there is no utopia anywhere nor will there ever be. But I gather strength from it. It feels like a home to me, a comfy one where sometimes people bicker over the remote, but where, on rare occasion, the very walls seem to crack. (Although they seem to heal with time.) Sometimes there’s even a scary troll from without our walls, trying to hurt us.

***

I haven’t answered the question I raised in my title. And that is because, of course I don’t know the answer. I can speculate, I can try to apply rules to myself, I can frown internally if I think those rules have been broken and I can (and do) feel shame if I break my rules.

My blog, my rules.

But what are your rules? How do you know what is your story to tell?

UPDATED: I thought this was a fascinating post and wanted to share it.

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Filed under Blogging, writing

Blog Featurette: Keiko Zoll of The Infertility Voice

Me, Esperanza and Keiko Zoll

As part of my NaBloPoMo for July, I thought I’ve do some mini-features on some of my favorite bloggers. You may be following them already, but if you’re not: for your consideration, as those Oscar ads say.

Keiko Zoll wrote the featured post on the3six5 today. the3six5 is a cool blogging project: a different writer is featured each day offering a unique viewpoint.

Keiko came onto my radar when a video she made went viral: “What If?” went on to win awards from Resolve and Wellsphere. “What if?” is an incredible short film describing in poignant detail how infertility effects Keiko and millions of women.

Keiko’s post called “The State of The Uterus” won a BlogHer Voice of the Year for 2012 for OpEd.

She’s written many posts which have blown me away: they blew others away, too. PETA stopped and apologized for that offensive campaign and that Facebook meme was stopped in its tracks. She often is hilarious: this gem, about her many journals from middle and high school, is one of my favorite humor posts, ever.

On the opposing page, I talk about having the ‘flew.’ I seem to remember that was the year most of my school had the ‘flew’ and we actually closed school for a couple of days because so many students and teachers were sick. ‘Don’t give up hope,’ I wrote to myself. ‘I still know my flew will go away.’

I’m lucky enough to have met her in person with Esperanza, and we dished for hours about blogging, books, Silicon Valley, Salem and TJ Maxx. And we laughed our heads off. That was an excellent day.

Keiko’s blogging reminds me that there is power in writing, still. Sometimes a post can stop an offensive ad campaign by PETA. Sometimes a great post can help convince others to stop a terrible public policy from being put into action.

Words matter.

Keiko is offering an eClass on Fertile Living, starting July 8th and there’s a few spots left. Click here to check it out. Keiko’s blog is here.

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