- Real Simple online. Suffice it to say, the answers to everything in life are here. If you can't find the answer you seek, they have great recipes, including for cocktails, which, I'm sure at the very least buy time to find the answer.
- PR Squared, suggested by local buddy @briguyblock. You know those PR and social media/online marketing sites that are grasping or self-aggrandizing -- "Read ME, I'm an expert, and I can make you rich QUICK! if you follow my simple rules," -- well, this blog is not that. It's actual good, no, great, info. It's mature and a fabulous resource for anyone trying to build a brand (especially their own).
- Communication Overtones. My friend Kami hasn't written enough there lately (no pressure) but when she does, it is oh-so-relevant and enlightening. Kami's The PR Pro, and that's not just a business name.
- Greeblemonkey. Parenting. Photography. Technology. Music. Aimee Giese rocks. She's funny and real, takes great photos, and gives great post. I may have read her end of year iPhone app recap post, err, six times. And maybe spent money on her rec.
- MOMocrats. Of course. Keen information about and insight into current events and politics that affect women from some of the best writers and minds. (Note no qualifier about "on the Web" because that is the least of what these women do.")
- Everyone who knows me knows that I have a huge mom-advice crush on Devra of Parentopia and Rosalind Wiseman, both of whom continue to patiently dole out excellent advice about real, honest, successful, no-guilt, good enough parenting to help girls navigate this tough world. Recently, I added Rachel Simmons and Melissa Stanton to that list because they are fantastic. Melissa's a great lady, I like her. Check her Stay-At-Home Survival Guide and Real Life Support for Moms.
- TheMotherhood.com and Savvy Source, both of which offer, hands-down, the best opportunity for community on the Net. They are quite, quite different, which is why I love both and find each fulfills a different need in me. Savvy is local -- my area, and has great info about schools etc. as well as wonderful local and regional talk. I've met some great Texans. TheMotherhood.com is broader geographically, but just as close as a tight-knit small town -- also, I can talk parenting, recipes, and Mad Men there. There's a lot of good people at both.
- Speaking of Mad Men, there's my friend Becky, who talks about so much more but if my favorite fan to converse with about the show. Speaking of friends, there's my friend Kat, who may or may not blog more recently than October, but is always up for good twitversation. And my friend Yolanda, who is, thankfully, writing on her blog again -- she's lovely.
- My friend Noelle says you better be reading Crazy Bloggin Canuck. After a peruse, I agree. On her behalf, I say read her, too. :)
- Then there's Blog Nosh, which is awesome and so deliciously meta. I so rely on the kindness of meta these days.
- And Deb. Who Rox. And who suggests Liza Was Here, LesbianDad, Mombian, Autostraddle, Kathryn Martini, Begayaboutgirl, Cream Puff Revolution, Seeking Simone, Lelonopo, and Dorothy Snarker of Dorothy Surrenders.
- Speaking of rocks out loud, Maggie Dammit and her Violence Unsilenced.
- Long-term bloggers who I still read for very good reason (and who still read me -- thank you!): Mayberry Mom who also writes Family Fitness, Mary of Them's My Sentiments, Jeanie in Paradise, Bon of Crib Chronicles, Ed of etee, Maggalicious of Magpie Musing,and last but not least Annie.
- Oh love Mamma Loves. Slouching Past 40. Simply beautiful writing. Always. With sharp, sometimes pained, sometimes gorgeous, insights.
- And Fem 2.0 including the women behind it and the conveners (see blog roll on sidebar).
- Melisa is fun. Fun! And overall lovely.
- Robin of Pensieve I met during Tide Loads of Hope, which automatically qualifies her as a great person. But it goes beyond that.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Daphne du Maurier had that in mind when she wrote her creepy short story, "Don't Look Now." That story is what I call a train wreck tale: you can't look away. The movie, even more so. Does anyone remember that movie? 1973? Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as a young, grief-stricken couple who encounter psychics, ghosts, and serial killers in Venice? du Maurier could do Gothic. And creepy. It's kind of everyone's worst general fears all in one tale.
Isn't the creepiest thing of all when you watch a person in an everyday thing -- something you might do? -- and you know something bad is ahead?
"Don't look now!" You know something creepy this way comes. Of course, in movies and books there is clever foreshadowing, mood music or scenery, special angles, and other warning signs. Building the tension.
I'm always listening for warning signs in life -- ominous music, coincidences, irony. Somehow, though, those warning signs don't always work in real life. It can be an ordinary thing on an ordinary day, and despite signs, you miss the warning because you’re so focused on what you expect: a normal day, the same as every other time.
That’s how it was for me, yesterday, when my dog and I left our house in the morning for our usual walk. "Just once around the block, down to the park for a quick run, and straight back!" I told him. My mother was visiting for the holidays and my sister and her family were due to arrive by lunchtime. My neighborhood park is an easy jog down my street, so he and I set off.
A man stopped us and said, "Are you heading to the park?"
He was a stranger, I didn't know him or why he was asking.
"No," I said, lying.
"Good," he said, "Don't go there. Don't look." Then he left, quickly.
How odd, I thought. Of course my brain immediately did what human brains do and fixated on going to the park and looking.
As we approached the park, a police car sped by.
How obnoxious, I thought. They ticket us all the time, they should obey the laws too.
The car went by again. And again.
Then an SUV marked CSI sped by. And again, and again.
How weird, I thought.
When we arrived at the park, I realized it had not been the same cars going by -- it had been five separate police cars, a CSI truck, and an unmarked white detectives car.
My dog started to automatically cross the street, but I paused. I looked at the police, detectives, and CSI lady. She's so tiny, I thought. How funny that she's so very petite. But maybe, I thought, she just looks super tiny next to that man. He's so tall, such a really tall, tall man. How odd, such a very tall man. I kept staring. They stood in a cluster, right across the street from me, by the playground equipment where I'd brought my children to play this same time yesterday. I hadn't brought them today. I was in a rush.
The police stood together, the detective in a button up shirt, tie and trousers, writing on a big black tablet, the police standing more to his left, in uniform, and the CSI lady by the very tall man on the right. The tall man kept looking down, never looked up.
Who is he, I wondered, and why was he so casual, no uniform, just a t-shirt, athletic bottoms, and fanny pack. Did they call him in? Why the fanny pack?
Some movement further down caught my attention, two men, one dressed like the detective, the other in dark blue uniform, walked past the boy scout hut to the water's edge.
Oh no, I thought, another alligator? Another kayaking accident? Not graffiti again, or even vandalism of the benches on the dock -- too many police for that.
None of the police moved with any urgency, though. Whatever it was, it was -- past tense. Done, finished.
The police blocked the path and anyway, it didn't seem wise, after all, to take my dog for a run in whatever it was. We curved to the left and looped through the neighborhood, instead.
Arriving home was a flurry. I pulled my husband aside and said, "We need to do a big redirect for the kids, away from the park. Let's not say no park, but just say let's stay home." I knew the kids, after their cousins arrived, would be eager for a park outing. "There's a lot of police, something going on, I don't know what," I explained. He nodded and I repeated this to my mother. Shortly after that, my sister arrived. While walking out to greet her, my neighbor passed by.
If I hadn't been so distracted, I would have caught her demeanor, but it was another clue I missed.
"Were you and your dog just at the..." I gestured. She nodded. "Did you see the..." I gestured. She nodded. "Do you know what..." I gestured. She nodded. "Can I come in a sec and..." I gestured. She nodded.
After greeting my sister and her family, I darted over to my neighbor's house. She was distraught. This is my unflappable neighbor. A local leader. A voice of reason. She saves me from snakes, lack of recycling, and too much red.
"Are you okay? What happened?" I asked. There was a tragedy, a man had hanged himself at the playground. She saw it. I mean, she saw him.
A little thought niggled the back of my mind -- but she'd gone out at least an hour after me, how had she seen him but I hadn't?
"I didn't realize," she said, "I was just going to talk to the police, I knew people would ask me, you know?" Yes, I knew. We all expect her to know, also she's in leadership position, which adds to our expectations.
"I was going to ask what happened, how long the park would need to be closed, let them know I could contact people," she explained.
There was no crime scene tape, nothing blocking her access, not even the police. They waited for her to walk up to them. They stood there, by the tree, on the path.
"That's where they were when I went by, but that was nearly two hours ago now," I exclaimed, "How very odd!"
"Well the coroner just now arrived," she told me, "Just now."
"So, the hanged man, he was there, hanging, all morning? Didn't they, you know, take him down?" I asked.
"No, he was there when I walked up. They were all standing there," she said, describing the same group exactly that I'd seen. "I just thought he was a tall man. I mean, the t-shirt and fanny pack seemed odd, but I thought he was just a tall man. Until, you know I walked up to them all and...and he wasn't tall."
"Oh, oh no," I said, reaching out to her, "Oh you saw, I am so, so sorry. Are you okay?"
"Yes, yes," she said, and her husband stood there, staring down, and I felt glad he was there. She said she'd be taking it easy that day. I expressed my sympathy again, and we shook our heads over the tragedy. A young man, she said, maybe even someone home for the holidays. So sad, so very tragic. We both felt horrible for the family, for the tragedy.
"Well," I said, wondering how to end a conversation like this. "I better get to my family, they're all here..."
"Sure," she said. And we both swore it would be a while before we'd feel okay about the park.
I started to say goodbye but instead said, "Wait, a tall man, who wasn't tall -- you said he was a man, you thought he was very tall only he wasn't tall...why wasn't he tall?"
She stared at me for a minute then said, "He wasn't tall, because he was hanging. From the tree, the big one, by the path, that the kids play on -- that tree. He was hanging, not tall."
A tall man, a very tall man, who wasn't tall. Because he was hanging. From the tree. By the path. Where the tiny CSI woman, who wasn't tiny, was standing. By the man who was hanging, not tall.
"In a white t-shirt, with a fanny pack, like he was out jogging, or walking a dog..." I said.
We stared at each other, and she confirmed it.
Don't go to the park. Don't look now.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
I was standing outside my house, directly under my children’s bedroom window, in what passes for cold in Bay Area Houston. In my hands I balanced a big boom box, Say Anything style, except it wasn’t blasting music. It was blasting the sound of reindeer hooves on a roof, including snorts, and the jingling bells of their harnesses.
That’s when I knew it.
No, not that I had lost my mind; I knew that I had finally gotten my holiday groove back.
I knew that come what storms may, we could weather them, and when you have a chance to stand outside in what passes for cold blasting sleigh bells on a boom box to bring a little magic to kids, your kids, who still believe in, well, the everything sort of possibilities…you go for it, big.
This marked a huge change.
I’ve spent my life trying to find my footing during the holidays. My family had the general traditions – ham, pie, gifts, visits to family – but nothing terribly consistent. My parents had barely settled into our immediate family’s ways when they got divorced, then we had to transition into juggling two (very competitive) Christmases. That was barely settled when each got remarried and then a whole new set of traditions and expectations came into play. By the time I left home and married my husband, I was more a little confused about the holidays. I was, in fact, completely cynical.
I remember all the craziness and competition, but I also remember being in the bell choir and making beautiful music for the Christmas Eve candlelight service. I remember the year I got to be the Angel in the Nativity scene. I remember my grandmother making chocolate silk pies with whipped cream topping, just the way I liked it – and saving the first piece for me. I remember being bored one afternoon with my friends and sister and masterminding a caroling outing. I remember the man who cried when we sang, and who could barely express how much our song had meant to him.
Our neighborhood wasn’t the nicest, not even during the holidays. Nobody put bows on street lamps, and decorations were few and far between. It wasn’t the sort of place that had carolers. But that afternoon, some little girls, eight-ish and ten-ish went around to sing because we loved Christmas. The man told us we brought him joy. And hope.
That’s the magic of kids, you know? They live in a world of magical realism, impossibility, and belief. They hope. And why not?
That’s why – despite the past and the last five years – I found myself standing outside my girls’ bedroom window adding to the myth.
The last five years have been a mess: two hurricanes, both damaging; a lost job; three pet deaths; a cross-country move; losing the vast majority of all we owned in a flood; fighting two major and serious diseases; losing several friends to cancer; and more.
It’s taken a toll on us, the adults, and by virtue of that, on our kids. My older daughter is old enough to remember Before, but this life, the one we lead now, is all my littlest one knows of our lives.
For a long time, I’ve been telling myself a lot of shoulds – how I should be, what I should do, what the kids deserved and how I should fulfill that -- all of which increase in volume and frequency this time of year. I know that when you’re tapped out on so many fronts, every little extra effort seems beyond your ability, even if it’s for good. Still, I put on a front, for the kids. Because I should.
But sometimes, that fake it until you make it has a way of working out.
Last year, we laughed with true glee as we spread reindeer feed in the front yard. We laughed even though our yard hadn’t recovered from the hurricane and we still had two holes in our roof and our budget was missing in action because the insurance settlement barely covered a third of the cost. We laughed because we had a reason to be happy – we had our home, we had what mattered. We had each other.
I stood outside with those recorded bells jangling that Christmas Eve night, and I shook not with cold but with excitement and suppressed laughter.
This year, I pulled out my holiday shirts. All of them. The St. Patrick’s one, the Easter one, the Fourth of July one, the Halloween one, and yes, even the Christmas one. This year I decked the halls for every season. This year, as soon as we put the Thanksgiving décor away, we started pulling out the Christmas things.
Our house may not have lights strung all over, but it’s got two little lighted Christmas trees in the front flower bed and a homemade by children wreath on the door. My kids may not remember the individual gifts they get, but I hope – I hope loads – that they’ll always carry memories of the special times we create every year. I hope they’ll remember the night they heard Santa’s sleigh and knew his reindeer ate their feed. I hope they remember how mom cried at their Las Posadas program and tried to tell them how much it meant to see them dressed as little angels, singing about the real reason for the season. I hope they know hope, always.
How do the holidays fill you with loads of hope?
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How do the holidays fill you with loads of hope?