Posts Tagged ‘ blogger ’

“Ramshackle Glam”: A Great Book, a Great Guide, a Great Gift–All in One

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

I met Jordan Reid on a TV shoot about moms, called MomTales. This is how we bonded:

Me: You know, when I’m not with my kids, I miss them terribly and I just want to be with them. Then as soon as I’m with them, I want them back in preschool.

Jordan [nodding]: There are only so many hours in the day you can spend playing Triceratops Versus T-Rex. At some point, you really just need a good trashy magazine and a margarita.

From there, we never stopped talking, except when the director told us to pay attention to the shoot.

This is a woman who runs a million miles and hours with a smile on her face, high heels (though she disputes that in her new book), and a wit about her that makes you instantly relax and laugh.

She has a 2-year-old boy, 2 dogs, a husband, and a full-time career as a style blogger on her site, Ramshackle Glam. Which means she also does TV appearances, goes to conferences, meets with advertisers, and somehow manages to post numerous times a day. With pictures. I’m lucky to get 2 posts out a week. Now she just came out with a book, also titled Ramshackle Glam. Where she gets the time to juggle all this is beyond me. Oh, and did I mention she’s pregnant with her second child?

People like her both inspire me and give me a much-needed dose of mom energy. But what I really like about Jordan (and her book) is that she keeps it real. She’s so relatable; she’s the kind of mom friend you picture having a glass of wine with and talking about how you may have accidentally-on-purpose thrown a remote at your husband last night because he forgot to tape The Bachelorette. Or how all your hair — no, but seriously: all of it — fell out six months after you gave birth. (Except for the hair on your legs; that’s holding on just fine, and you know that for a fact because you cannot for the life of you remember to shave it.) [This is a true excerpt from her book, fyi.]

I tore through it in just 3 nights. Then passed it on to a friend who is expecting her first child. It’s a super fun, entertaining read that also gets to the core of why motherhood can be so damn hard, heartbreaking, heartwrenching, and heartwarming at the same time.

Mother’s Day is around the corner. Know anyone expecting? Or a new mom? This is the gift to get them.

Here is my interview with Jordan about her book:

What inspired you to write a book?

I’ve wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember — since I was about four years old — but after I had my son in 2011 I realized that I had a lot to say about motherhood, and especially about the judgment that can so often color a new parent’s experience. Before I had my son, I would not have called myself a “maternal person” at all (and honestly, I still don’t know that I would; I mean, I adore my son, but I’m not one of those people who’s just awesome and natural and amazing around kids), and I was very, very nervous going into motherhood.

I was frightened that having a baby would take away some fundamental part of me, that I wouldn’t be able to recognize myself anymore once I was a Mom. But what I discovered is that having a baby changes a lot, but it doesn’t change everything. You can still do all those things — from wearing the clothing that makes you feel good to connecting with your partner to having a house that feels like a home instead of a Baby Zoo — all that you used to do “before”…but you just might have to be a little more creative, that’s all.

How would you sum up your book? Is it for expecting parents, new parents, old parents?

The advice in the book is tailored towards new moms, but really, the fashion, beauty, home decor, and entertaining tips are only a small part of the book. What Ramshackle Glam really is, is a memoir of motherhood, and I think that the stories about marital struggles, guilt over your parenting choices, and the challenges of making friends as a mom are things that every parent — young and old — can relate to.

What has been the hardest part of motherhood for you?  

For me, the hardest part of motherhood has been figuring out how to live in the moment, and to not worry too much about “how fast it goes.” I can’t tell you how much that stressed me out, hearing from everyone on the street, “Oh, it goes so quickly, they’ll be grown and gone before you know it!” But over time I’ve discovered that while of course you miss every stage when it passes…the stage that you’re in right this very moment is almost always the most fun and exciting of all.

What about pregnancy? Have the challenges changed from your first to second pregnancy? 

With pregnancy, I’d say the hardest thing for me the first time around was just wrapping my mind around what day-to-day life would look like a few months down the road…because I had no idea. I couldn’t fathom how I’d get my stroller up the stairs to my walk-up apartment, let alone how I’d actually, you know, raise a human being. And that’s part of why I wanted to write Ramshackle Glam, to let people who may feel similarly get a peek into what’s-to-come, and to know that yes, it’ll be hard…but it’ll also be okay. The best ever, actually.

With this pregnancy, the hardest thing has been the fact that there’s really no “chilling out and enjoying the experience.” There’s no downtime to rub oils on my skin or meditate on the life we’re bringing into the world or play classical music to my stomach or whatever it is that we did when we were expecting our son — I can’t even remember; it feels like a lifetime ago. So honestly, when this baby arrives it’s going to be a bit of a shock. Fortunately, we’re also a little more prepared this time around, so hopefully that will balance it out.

You are a woman who is all about how to funk up your style, your “glam”…how do you feel in this regard about having a daughter? 

You know, I actually wrote about this the other day because I had a few friends say to me something along the lines of, “you must be so excited to be having a girl!” And what they meant was that I must be excited about the girly stuff that comes with having a daughter…dresses and such. And of course I am excited about those things — I’ve certainly spent my share of time in Baby Gap over the past couple of months buying little cheetah-print outfits — but the truth is that while I certainly am looking forward to all the things that come along with having a daughter…what I’m most excited about doesn’t have anything to do with her gender at all.

She may be into dresses or she may be into board shorts or she may be into things I can’t even imagine, and all of that is just part of what makes having a child so exciting. I know that who I’m raising is not a “little girl,” but a person, and our experience as parent and child will be as individual as she is. The style stuff is fun, of course, but when it comes down to it the most important thing I can do — the only thing I can do, really — is to support my daughter and be there for her whoever she may be and wherever she may go.

How the hell do you have time to do your life? You seem like superwoman. Tell me your secret. 

Ha! Thank you. Does “constant, massive anxiety that propels you into action” count as a secret? That, and the fact that I keep obsessively detailed lists of every single thing in my life in my iPhone — that helps.

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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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Taking Antidepressants When Pregnant

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Enjoying the beach with my baby

Enjoying the beach with my baby

Full disclosure:

I take antidepressants.

I will continue to take them through my pregnancy.

I took them while pregnant with Fia.

Internal conversation:

I can’t believe what you just revealed. Hurry. Duck and run for cover!!

No. I’m not going to. It’s time to get this conversation on the table.

You sure? You will be nailed to the cross on this one. Judged and deemed unfit for motherhood.

I don’t believe that. I think women are terrified of talking about this. I think many will feel relief that I’m admitting my own dirty little secret. They may carry the same secret. And it’s okay.

Do what you will but don’t say I didn’t warn you…..

Alright, it’s out there.  And I’m not shying away from it. It is my truth.

In my post about my dying mother, I mentioned her bipolar disorder. I breathe a deep sigh of relief that I don’t have that. But I do struggle with depression. And anxiety. For years I just “dealt” with it. With herbs and holistic medicine; with therapy and exercise; with meditation and yoga. Didn’t matter. Nothing changed how my chemical brain worked. I still do all those things, but now I take a small white pill everyday.

When I began taking it I felt this huge cloud lift. I felt less anxious. And far happier. I didn’t become an emotionless zombie. I became much more present in life–not in my head.

I went off of them a few times to see if perhaps I was “cured.” It can happen. Not me. That familiar dark cloud would start to drift into my periphery and I knew the storm was coming.

When I got pregnant with Fia, I struggled with my decision to stay on my meds. I even tried to wean off again. I felt the pit coming almost immediately. So I made my decision and stuck to it. I had to stop googling all the horrible things people talked about. I know it’s a risk. So is breathing the polluted air of NYC. So is going through the x-ray machine at the airport. So is my secret love of Taco Bell’s #3 with a diet Pepsi.

What I will say is more studies need to be done so women can have the facts. For a variety of reasons, there is just not a lot of conclusive data out there on taking antidepressants while pregnant. As an article in the NYT points out, pregnant women often aren’t part of drug studies. Therefore, a lot of the data is inferred, not proven. And even the most ardent studies have holes in them. I have an excellent OB and psychiatrist, both of whom agree: going through my pregnancy depressed and dark is far more dangerous than sticking to what works. (Also, during my pregnancy with Fia, we moved to LA for a bit. I saw 3 different OB’s/specialists. They all had the same unanimous opinion.)

What is proven is that some people have chemical imbalances. It’s in their genetic makeup.  And sometimes medicine is the only thing that works. Yet when taking those meds, the judgment from others can be severe. I guess that’s why women like me don’t disclose this. But today I’m feeling brave.

So there you have it.  Anyone else out there who wants to talk? I’m here.

Side note: I was recently informed about a study being conducted at Columbia University Medical Center exploring some of the issues around antidepressant use during pregnancy. If you are interested, and live in the NYC area, you can contact the study coordinator, Michelle Gilchrist at (212) 851-5175 OR mag2241@columbia.edu.

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Blogher 2011

Monday, August 8th, 2011

I used to get high on travel by doing things like climbing Mt Kilimanjaro or driving around Iceland. How far I’ve fallen since becoming a mom. Now my biggest source of excitement (particularly when going away alone) includes black out shades, central air and a soft puffy bed. Ahhh…the joys of a comfy hotel room.

I basked in that luxury this past weekend in San Diego. I was at the big BlogHer convention where 3000 women—many of them moms–left the husbands and diapers behind to descend upon the town.

I’ll admit I was a bit hesitant to go. Parents asked me if I would be their “blogger” representative, and of course I said yes. But the closer the time came, the more I got in my head. Who will I hang out with? What is my purpose in going? All strange thoughts, considering I’m one of the most social people I know. But since I’m a newbie to this blogger world I did have some insecurity (though as my husband points out, not something that is typical of my personality. He begs me to be more humble). There is also this fear that a bunch of women thrown together will equal petty behavior, cliques, jealousy, gossip, etc. Especially because if we’re all bloggers aren’t we all competitors too?

I couldn’t have been more surprised. It was just the opposite. Granted, I’m only speaking for myself and my experiences, but I found the women I met to be open, gracious, generous and excited to welcome me to their world.

I am especially grateful to my old friend Liz Gumbinner, many of you know as Mom-101. She took me under her wing, invited me to a bunch of fun dinners, and got me out dancing past 1 a.m.  (Click here to see her pictures).

Not only that, but the women kicking it up on the dance floor thought of this brilliant idea: a purse circle. By the end of the night it was a huge pile of purses all safely placed under the watchful eyes of “moms gone wild.”

The Purse Circle

The Purse Circle

At any rate, I met amazing people, got completely inspired by the women there, and stayed out WAY past my bedtime. When I did crash, I had that lovely hotel room to come back to–with blackout shades that allowed me to sleep in.  Heavenly. A far cry from my Africa adventures, but in many ways, just as rewarding.

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