Posts Tagged ‘ anxiety ’

My Mommy Blogger Bully

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

I once joked that I wanted a stalker. It would symbolize that I really made it “big.” I made the joke during a hiatus from shooting my Food Network show, The Best Of. In the interim, a company hired me to host hundreds of syndicated TV segments about housekeeping and cooking tips. It was a boring studio job and we cranked them out like sausages. It wasn’t creative, but the crew and I really became tight over the years. My audio guy, Bob, became my pretend stalker. He’d lurk behind me on the set; sometimes even follow me to lunch, as only a good stalker should do.

But like most things I’ve done in television, the gig ended and I went back in the world of a has-been-that’s-really-never been. Until now.

I am no longer heavily immersed in the TV world. I am 80% mom, 17% wife, 3% blogger. I’m not even close to the top mommy bloggers in this world, and yet, yet, yet… I have a stalker. Either that or a desperately bored mommy blogger, whose literary gifts are questionable at best. Whatever her story and motive, she has chosen to take time–lots of it– to rip me (both as a human being and as a writer) to pieces. But this seems to be her MO:  bashing individuals. In other words, I don’t just have a stalker. I have a bully too.

What I’ve loved most about the mommy blogging world is the encouragement from other bloggers, whether or not you agree with the specifics of what they write.  At conferences like BlogHer and Mom2Summit, the big guns, like Liz Gumbinner (Mom-101) go out of their way to make us little people feel welcome, loved and supported. It’s not the competitive frenzy you would expect from a bunch of women. In fact, Mom2Summit’s message this year was about women supporting and empowering other women. The main focus from the sponsor, Dove, was on tween and teenage girls and how to make them feel less self-conscious about their looks. One of the saddest statistics presented was that 1 in 5 girls quit doing what they love because of self-esteem specifically related to beauty.

Clearly this woman wasn’t at the conference or if she was, she took the message and ran the other way with it. How do I know this? One of her main points was about my hair. She actually posted a picture of me and made fun of it. Can you imagine doing that? Seriously. Think about it: taking someone’s picture and publicly attacking it? Here is what she says:

7. Okay, but the hair. I can’t let it go. Homegirl has hella money and lives in Los Angeles. There is no reason for her to be using a Flowbee to cut her hair.

Perhaps more perplexing than her hair-bashing is that she is talking like a white suburban teenager who is trying to “be black.” An odd stylistic choice, especially because further down in her blog she accuses me of being a racist. (Don’t worry, you can read it in its entirety. I’ve cut and pasted the whole thing below.)

What’s ironic about the hair is that she is right. I do need a new picture up there. That one was taken on my first outing after having Emmett. It was a month after his birth and the first time I put on makeup. But is it that egregious? No. Her comments though are petty and mean-spirited.

She says she gets “sick schadenfreude” from my writing. In other words, she takes pleasure in my misery. Huh? What? I must have cut off her limbs in another life.

I have an adopted brother and sister. They are black. My mother was a crack addict at the end of her life. I describe them in a recent blog and refer to my family as a “motley crew.” Which we were, if there ever was one. For which she says the following:

Guys. Cornrows? Huge black afro? Are her step-siblings…black?! She was, like, clinically incapable of leaving that detail out or you know, refer to her siblings as siblings and not give the far more exotic title of ”adopted siblings.” See guys, she’s not all milquetoast. Also, let’s all take a sharp inhale for her describing her interracial family as a “motley crew.”

“…After all, I haven’t had such a wince-y read since I saw a student paper that referred to trans women as “shemales” and realized that everything this student knew about transexuals came from porn.”

I put myself out there and can expect people to poke away. But this seems almost like trolling. There’s a big difference between legitimate criticism/disagreement and personal attacks. I can take the former. The latter isn’t so fun.

She lists seven deadly sins of mine–all related to my bio. In it, she mocks my “Fearless” title. As those who read me know, I write about my life with absolute honesty. I’m not afraid to write about my anxiety, my struggle with depression, my upbringing and yes, people who attack me for no apparent reason. So how is ”Fearless” not accurate? I think homegirl needs a dictionary.

I would further argue that it is “Fearless” of me to admit how shitty her post made me feel. I felt demeaned, belittled, ugly and stupid. And I have a very thick skin. I am NOT asking for anyone’s sympathy here. At all. But for those few seconds that I felt shitty, it made me wonder how a 13-year old girl who gets made fun of for her bad haircut or for being fat feels like?  I don’t want to be melodramatic about this, but this woman illustrates perfectly the point we should teach our kids about bullies: they don’t matter. However, it is easier said than done.

Even though I want to, I’m not going to go through and defend every line and the flagrant assumptions she makes about me. I particularly refuse to defend the love of my children and when and why we had them.

I will say she is going to be an extremely disappointed stalker when she finds out I’m just a mommy blogger making less than the cost of 3 Starbucks latte’s for my posts. She assumes I have publicity people working with me and Parents to write my bio, take pictures, edit me, and publicize me. She calls me a rich, white woman. Does she know when I began my reporting career in Rapid City, SD that I qualified for food stamps? That I have become successful by working really hard? Does she have any clue how much I give back? No. She was on a mission to be hateful and hand-picked some of my specific posts to mold them–and me–into her cowardly genre.

Ironically, she actually asks for “donations” on her “ad-free” blog. Why not write about the Newtown parents and donate to the organization Sandy Hook Promise? Or to those who lost their homes in Hurricane Sandy? These are posts I have written about, donated to, and encouraged others to do the same. But asking for donations to her blog? Panhandling for her “wit”? Beyond tacky.

It would be easy to pick on and compare her to having 80s era porn star hair, or mock her bio for portraying herself as a cutting edge, too-cool-for-school writer but then bragging about an award from the Readers’ Digest, that radical, forward-thinking publication, in the next sentence–but that would be too easy. And too mean. So I won’t. Even though I just did. See how that happened? Clever, no? Anyway…

The thing is, in reading some of her posts that aren’t hate mongering, it seems we have the same take on some major parenting issues.  I think she just really wants to hate me. Bizarre, right?

As a sidenote: she lives in Hollywood. She knows enough about me and with all her “Los Angeles” references.  Why didn’t she reach out to go grab a coffee? I’m serious. If she’s that obsessed with me then at least attempt to get to know me before bashing me behind a computer screen. I think she would have been pleasantly surprised and perhaps dropped her diatribe mission.

She did learn something once from her computer screen. After bashing sorority girls in a post, a commenter wrote: “Indiscriminately bagging on sorority girls is lazy writing.”

I would add, “Indiscriminately bagging on individual bloggers is lazy writing.” It’s also mean-spirited, obnoxious and pointless.

One person did comment on her post about me and the general purpose of her blog. She wrote:

“I really liked your article about attachment parenting and came here via the bloggess, but now I’m wondering are a lot of your pieces about taking down other people? I’m not really into anti sites.”

That right there should tell her a lot. Sadly, it probably won’t. But on the off-chance any of this resonates with her, here’s a link to the National Bullying Prevention Center. If nothing else, her children might need it.

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Here is her blog folks, in all its glory:

I am a little bit in love with Jill Cordes, she of the “Fearless Feisty Mama” blog on Parents.com who made a“project” out of teaching her nanny about the world according to rich, white lady. It seems like I might not be the only one since I get a surprising amount of search traffic with her name, most notably with the search “jill cordes nipple.” I’d love to hear anyone’s theories of what that might be about.

There is so much that’s amazing about Jill Cordes. I mean, her bio:

Jill

Wow. Okay, so like, some things about that bio:

  1. How the hell does she think teenaged Fia and Emmet are going to feel when it first occurs to them to Google their mom and they learn that their mother never wanted them and she only became a mom because she got hammered on a little vacay with the mister?
  2. Is that bio supposed to make her sound wild and loosey-goosey? Because I’m all for wild and loosey-goosey and maybe I’m just grouchy about such things after being told my whole life that I was a “camping trip accident,” but I think it crosses the taste line.
  3. Why does she describe her children primarily in terms of their conception? Is this bio not an introduction? Would you ever in a million years introduce yourself to someone by saying where and under what degree of insobriety you conceived your children?
  4. Oh, hey. Kate Gosselin called and she wants her… No. I can’t go finish that joke. It’s too hacky. ZING! Ugh. Sorry.
  5. Can you imagine in a thousand million years if someone other than a rich white woman had that bio? Jill Cordes would have to make a “project” out of her.
  6. I would never just click around the internet and poke at moms’ bios on their blogs, but this is Jill Cordes’s bio on her parents.com blog. It’s written in third person, possibly by someone other than herself. The lady is surely getting paid by Parents and thus has an editor. Furthermore, she’s a “television personality” and must have PR people. This is not just some random “mommy blog” bio. People signed off on that. Admittedly, the whole bio is less…weird than this snippet, but someone okayed that as the bit to appear on her blog’s main page.
  7. Okay, but the hair. I can’t let it go. Homegirl has hella money and lives in Los Angeles. There is no reason for her to be using a Flowbee to cut her hair.

In her defense, there’s another fellow who blogs under her “Fearless Fesity Mama” banner and his bio includes the following sentence: “He has written the fiction book ‘The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt’ and is working on releasing a parenting humor book.” There’s a lot going on in that sentence, but let’s just stick with the phrase “fiction book.” Is that not a novel? Isn’t that what we call those things? Perhaps a novella?

There are a lot of mysterious things about “Fearless Feisty Mama.” Like, does Parents.com not have someone to install a spam filter? And does it ever bother Jill that she so often writes about her anxieties and fears but the word “fearless” is right there in the title? Or that about a quarter of the posts are written by a dude even though there’s “mama” in the title?

The reason I keep reading is the sick schadenfreude I enjoy when she reports that her hypnotist/healer tells her:

Would you rather be right…or be a mom? Because your kids are going to f-ck up a lot, and if you are wound this tight, you’re going to have some f-cked up kids.

She’s vulnerable enough to let us in on that moment and I credit her for that, but I think this one passage about going to church when she was a kid conveys what I find so frustrating about her:

My parents would pull up in a big cargo van that my mom used for her plant business. They’d open the side door and we four kids would come tumbling out. My adopted brother Carter would bounce in with his huge black Afro and my sister Tanya would follow with her neatly woven cornrows. Kelly, my biological brother, and I would lead the way.

“Come on you guys, we are going to be late!” I’d say, glad to be the older sibling/ring leader. We were a motley crew, no doubt.

Guys. Cornrows? Huge black afro? Are her step-siblings…black?! She was, like, clinically incapable of leaving that detail out or you know, refer to her siblings as siblings and not give the far more exotic title of ”adopted siblings.” See guys, she’s not all milquetoast. Also, let’s all take a sharp inhale for her describing her interracial family as a “motley crew.”

It’s this kind of tone deafness that keeps bringing me back to her blog. I kind of want to sneak into her house, kidnap her and then take her to a freshman social studies class. After all, I haven’t had such a wince-y read since I saw a student paper that referred to trans women as “shemales” and realized that everything this student knew about transexuals came from porn. Jill Cordes has an interesting background and could probably write a heckova memoir about her bipolar, crack-addicted now-deceased mother, but she just sorta fumbles right when I want her to…I don’t know how to complete a football metaphor…uh, run with the ball?

Also, there’s this troubling bit about changing her last name:

So why I am changing it? Because I feel like a partial outsider when we travel as a family. My kids and Phil all have the name Johnston. I am the odd-woman out. [...] However, I have to confess another hesitation in doing this. It’s the vain side of me. I don’t like the way “Jill Johnston” sounds. My initials would be JJ. It feels campy.

Fuck her. JJ sounds awesome.

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Photo of Nelson Muntz courtesy of simpsons.wikia.com 

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Is My Toddler Anxious? Shy? Or Is This Normal?

Monday, May 20th, 2013

I don’t get it. When Fia is at home she is the most outgoing, funny, confident 3 1/2 year old. When we have her best friend Teddy over, she is just as gregarious. One on one or with just a few of her friends, she is great. But when I take her to her preschool, she gets clingy and doesn’t want to participate. Yet, the hour leading up to preschool it’s all she can talk about. How excited she is, how she loves to nap at school, etc. And once she is there, I’m told she warms up. Though the teachers say it does take awhile and they have to push her a bit.

If it were just school, I’d think maybe the place wasn’t the right fit for her. But it’s also gymnastics. And with our cleaning ladies. And babysitter.

For example, every Wednesday Sheny and Lucy come to our house at 8 a.m. They are warm and loving. Yet it is a struggle to get Fia to say “Good Morning.” We started prepping her.

“When Sheny and Lucy come, what are you going to say?” we ask.

“Good Morning!” Fia declares with enthusiasm.

Then they walk in and nothing. She puts her head down and clings to our leg. It is somewhat maddening.

In gymnastics she’s gotten better at participating after we kept encouraging her–and a few times bribing her with the promise of a yogurt covered pretzel. But still, at “drinking fountain time,” 8 boys and girls run giddily across the room, laughing with one another. Fia walks. Now granted, she walks with a little sassy sway in her and I kinda dig that she doesn’t have to run with the pack, but I just wonder sometimes what is going on in her mind. I don’t want to project anxiety on her, and maybe she just goes to the beat of her own drum, but still…I am left puzzled.

With our sitter Michele, whom she loves, Fia greets her happily. But then she always comes to me and asks, “When is Michele leaving?” The exception is when Michele brings her twins, Maci and Cruz. Then it’s happy chaos all around. But If I am putting her down for her nap and the twins aren’t here, it’s the last question she asks before she goes to sleep and the first when she wakes up.

“Is Michele gone? Did you tell her to go home?”

I suppose part of this is wanting to know “the plan” and what is up. I can imagine in the world of a toddler, you have no control, so you crave it on any level.

We did have a breakthrough last Wednesday. We prepped and practiced for Sheny and Lucy to arrive. When they did she perked up and said louder than her usual whisper, “Good Morning!” Then she hugged them. When they left the room, Fia was beaming. I said, “How did that make you feel?” She nodded her little head, while bouncing up and down with pride. “Really good mama, really good.”

So I feel like we take a few steps forward, then suddenly will revert and go backwards again. Maybe this is just part of normal toddler development. Maybe she’s just a little shy, or it takes her longer to warm up to someone. I don’t think she likes chaos and I know at her preschool, when the whole pack is out playing and being wild, she tends to shy away. Two weeks ago I showed up and she was the only kid inside, quietly coloring. All the others were outside. On some level it hurt my heart. But again, if she’s not sad or anxious, then it doesn’t matter, and I shouldn’t feel sad right?

What do you guys think? Any insight or advice?

 

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My Fia Freak Out–Can I Be Fixed?

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

I’ve said it before: I need better coping skills. I am almost embarrassed to reveal the absurdity of my latest freak-out. But here goes:

We went on a last minute, mini-vacation to Sequoia State Park a couple weeks ago. We had a great time. As we were heading home, we stopped at this cute playground for Fia to run before sitting in the cramped car (this time we took the direct route versus our disastrous, vomit-induced one).

Phil was playing with Fia while I breastfed Emmett. I walked over and Phil says, “Do you think she’s running funny?”

I gasped. “What? What do you mean?”

“Don’t freak out,” he said through terse lips. “Jesus, can I not even have a conversation with you?”

Clearly, my anxiety has been an issue before.

I took a breath, “You’re right, I’m sorry. Let me watch her run.”

She starts to run and her legs start hobbling. She keeps falling down. They looked like rubber. So guess what I do? I FREAK THE F–K OUT.

“Oh my god, Phil, Phil,” I pleaded. “Oh my god. What is going on?”

He looked at me concerned, because he was obviously concerned too. But I could tell he was also worried about me. Or sick of me. He has said time and again to get a grip. He says I can’t react with such panic–for all of our sakes. I know he’s right.

Trembling, I got down on her level and took her shoes off. I seemed to remember thinking last week the sneakers were getting tight. She took off barefoot. Her gait was perfect.

In the 10 seconds it took to figure this out, here’s where my head went:

On our mini-vaco. These are not the shoes in question, btw.

She has a neurological disorder. A virus. It is fast progressing and eating away at her nerves. We have to rush to LA to Children’s Hospital. Something life-threatening is wrong with my daughter. If anything happens to her I will not survive. I love her too much.

Basically I had an internal panic attack. I say internal, because I did manage to hold it together in front of Fia, mostly because I was so afraid Phil would forever hate me. And of course, I don’t want to scare my kid. I know all too well from my upbringing what it’s like to have a weak, hand-wringing (then drunk, devoid of coping skills) parent. It’s probably where all this anxiety comes from.

But seriously, in less than a millisecond, my mind goes to the worst possible place. Is that a mom thing or a sign of deep neurosis? My friend Kirsten wrote a beautiful piece I posted on the art of letting go. But I justify (in my warped brain) that this is different–this is about tragedy befalling my children.

Phil was really pissed off. And I don’t blame him.  What I kept telling him was I don’t like feeling this way either. My visceral reaction truly scares me. It’s like my wires explode in my body and code red starts to ring. Then, because my body has basically been in fight-or-flight mode, it doesn’t just dissipate. It lingers. And on this day, it sat in the car for our 3-hour drive home, casting a pall on the once-boisterous mood.

If the scenario hadn’t filled me with such anxiety and dread, it would have been comical, ie: bad parenting moment: Our little girl has outgrown her shoes and mama freaked.

I spoke at length to Peter, my hypnotherapist. We did some really deep work in trying to get my brain to stop this pattern. Old habits die hard. It will take work on my part. But I have no choice.

This sh-t has got to stop.

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Should Depressed People Procreate?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

 

Before Phil and I had kids, we used to joke that with our combined genes we shouldn’t procreate.  Depression runs on both sides. Autism runs on his. Bipolar and addiction are strong on mine. And we both suffer from mild depression/anxiety ourselves. But despite these “bad genes,” what we really meant was we didn’t want kids. It was our excuse to remain selfish over selfless.

Thank god we changed our minds, because being selfless is far more gratifying. Plus, we have still retained plenty of our selfish lifestyle. We do date nights. But instead of coming home to an empty house, we get to kiss our babies while they sleep. There is nothing finer. We still take trips–we just take them with us. And frankly it’s far more fun. We still hike. Only now we each have a baby on our back (probably a better workout anyway). The things Fia sees in nature and her delight in something as simple as a spider web makes it far more interesting. But I digress. That’s not the point of this post.

In a recent interview, Sarah Silverman said she doesn’t want to have children for fear of passing on the depressive/mentally ill gene. Some called her brave and responsible for this. I call it ridiculous.  An article in Time pointed out, rightfully so, that, “the same genes that can cause depression may also encourage the sensitivity and sensibility that gives Silverman her creative talent.”

Thank you!

I caused a decent amount of controversy when I wrote about my decision to stay on antidepressants while pregnant. Some called me selfish. Others said I shouldn’t procreate. But far more people came to my defense. Many were relieved to find they weren’t alone in their decision to do the same. Plus, studies show the drugs I am/was on had no greater chance of causing birth defects than pregnant women who don’t take anything.

I hope Fia and Emmett don’t struggle from depression or addiction. If they do though, I have the resources and information to get them proper help. I also believe that raising a child in a loving, stable, and nurturing environment counts for something. In my early formative years, my home was all that. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that things got a little ugly. Even so, I still turned out fine (I think). I contribute to society (I think). In fact, I have often said I’m grateful for the hardships I experienced. It made me the person I am today.

I have no doubt my kids will make this world a better place. They already have.  Whether they end up suffering from a “bad gene” is beside the point.

Here’s who I don’t think should procreate: Abusive, neglectful people. I believe they will become abusive, neglectful parents. I’ll add lazy and inept to the list. And those who have more kids than they can afford who keep procreating because they’re probably too lazy or inept to use birth control. But a smart, witty, compassionate person who happens to suffer from mental illness, like Sarah Silverman? I bet she’d make a great mom and raise interesting, well-adjusted kids. There are plenty of reasons to not have biological children. And plenty of good, noble reasons to adopt. Or to just stay childless. But don’t make it because of a mental gene. There are far better excuses one could come up with.

 

Photo of Human Body via Shutterstock

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Hypnotherapy–It’s Working!

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

I am seeing a hypnotherapist. I found him on Yelp. Really.

I know how “LA” I sound, but I must say; this guy–Peter Bedard– is extraordinary. I decided to go this route versus traditional therapy to help me deal with my obsessions. I figured getting hypnotized would be a quick fix. However, as Peter puts it: it’s not about cleaning up a corner in your room. It’s about cleaning the whole house. Apropos considering I have a major cleaning obsession.

Ever since Emmett was born I have become increasingly uptight about our house. I literally cannot walk past a crumb on the floor without stopping to pick it up. My mind never stops racing about all I have to do. Having our gaggle of guests week, after week, after week, only made matters worse. My anxiety level reached an all time high while my milk supply went low. In short, living in my brain became exhausting.

I went to Peter hoping for a miracle. In him, I found a healer.

While I like to keep a clean house, I knew my obsession was largely about control. He took it a step further by pointing out that our bad behaviors “benefit” us in some way.  In my case, the “benefit” was my license to be angry, to be a martyr. I would storm around pissed off that Phil forgot to scoop the cat liter or take out the garbage (I have to do everything myself); I found myself angry at our friends who wanted to come visit (why are they here when I have a newborn? They should at least be getting up in the night); and ultimately angry with myself for not coping better (you suck at this).

I was reeling.

When I explained it all he said, “How’s it working out for you?” I nearly burst into tears. “Not so good,” I replied in misery. We talked at length. He threw out the old adage, “Would you rather be right or happy?” And more importantly: “Would you rather be right…or be a mom? Because your kids are going to f-ck up a lot, and if you are wound this tight, you’re going to have some f-cked up kids.”

Cue the sirens in my head: Time to avert disaster. 

Through a series of visualizations, he had me fire my “critical self”–that voice inside that keeps you spinning. Then he had me “rehire” it, but as my personal assistant. After all, it is a part of me. But I was back in charge.

Rather than controlling my environment and the people in it, he told me to visualize governing–graciously. I pictured myself in a white flowing outfit, looking out onto our beautiful garden. My arms are outstretched and my children are playing. It is a picture of happiness. Of serenity. And ultimately, of surrender.

I have had 4 sessions thus far and each time I feel like I’m making great strides. We are now working on “pattern interrupts.” Like at this moment I am wearing a purple rubber band around my wrist. When I start to spin, I snap it–hard–to jolt my brain back. The goal is to keep that personal assistant in his place (I decided it was a man). The breath of fire is another technique. The other day I was playing with Fia when I found my mind racing. I immediately went into the breathing and boom–pattern interrupt. Fia’s giggling at her strange mama didn’t hurt either.

At the end of each session we do about 15 minutes of the hypnosis. It’s really just a deep meditation. If I had to think of it as hypnosis, then the whole time I’d be obsessing and my brain would go like this: “Am I hypnotized yet? I don’t know. How about now? Now? Not sure…” and so on. But a deep meditation I can relax into and absorb his words.

It all comes down to training your brain to stay positive. As an example, I asked him how I could go into something with positive intention if I dread it, like paying bills. Without skipping a beat he said, “Be grateful you have the money.” The next day I sat down with that intention and those old thoughts of– why am I always the one to do this?– stayed away.

It’s a simplistic example, but sometimes that’s what resonates most.

In my September 11th piece I said that parenthood is a privilege. So is life. I only get one. But I gave life to two. I don’t want to waste this time controlling them. Or the crumbs.

 

Meditation Picture via Shutterstock

 

 

 

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