Archive for February, 2012

Moving ahead…I want to hear from you

It’s been no secret that in recent months, I have looked at ways to monetize this blog. I work in the non-profit sector and while I love my work, it’s not exactly a big money maker, so supplementing my income is a good thing. I love blogging and enjoy the process and while this blog has grown over the years in terms of readers and recognition, for the most part my attempts at monetization have failed.

Oh, I tried Blog Her, but it simply wasn’t a fit, and while I do have a relationship with EdenFantasys, most of the rewards aren’t financial. I have offered direct advertising but the downside of not having a true niche is advertisers are hesitant. I can’t say I blame them.

Even direct appeals don’t exactly kick up a lot of support except with the most die hard of readers. Right now I am still looking to raise the cash to hit a few conferences this year and that is looking more and more like a dream yet again.

I get it! For many,the idea of paying for something like reading a blog doesn’t sit well either due to lack of ability or desire. Why drop a few bucks in my tip jar when you can read someone else’s blog and not have to worry about it. Believe me I understand. So I am playing with some ideas that one of my favorite bloggers gave me for monetization but before I go that route, I would like to hear from you.

So I am asking today, if you might take the brief survey that follows this post, so that I can get a sense of what my readers want and are willing to support. I would great appreciate hearing directly from you.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Someone’s child, someone’s mama

Unless you have been under a rock for the past 48 hours, surely you have heard the news of Whitney Houston’s untimely demise at the tragically young age of 48. I have to admit that I was not much of a fan of Houston’s music, it was more that her music served as the soundtrack of my life from my early teen years on.  I remember when she burst onto the music scene, she had an amazing voice but I think more importantly to me as a young Black girl, a woman who was my color who people clearly saw as gorgeous. So while I can’t tell you all her songs aside from the one that I swear for a number of years were sung at every graduation. I did admire the hell out of her.

Sadly, as time went on Houston made some choices that may or may not have been great. She was pretty upfront over the years in admitting she battled drug addiction and I will speculate like many that her marriage to Bobby Brown probably was not the best choice, but it’s not my place to judge.

Interesting thing though once news broke of her death and it was clear this was the real deal, media reaction has been interesting to say the least. Many feel justified in calling her a “crack head” or having no pity because she made the choices she did. For starters it’s too early to know if her addictions played a role in her passing and if they did the reality is addiction is an illness, just like cancer or diabetes. Yet for some reason when we learn someone’s “choices” did them in, we feel like there is no need for compassion.

I admit as a non-fan fan, I had no intention of writing anything about her passing until I read a report that her 18 year old daughter collapsed and needed to be rushed to the hospital less than 24 hours of finding out her Mom died. That broke my heart, see Bobbi Kristina is a member of the club I joined almost 8 years ago. It’s called the motherless daughter club and while if natures plays out the way it should, eventually all of us will lose our mothers before we die, the fact is our relationships to our mothers are often one of the longest ones we will ever have. Owing to the fact that women typically outlive men. Most of us if we are fortunate don’t even have to start imaging a life without our mom until we are damn near middle aged or older.

Losing your Mom early though fucks with you, see Moms whether they are loving and our best friends or evil hags that we loathe, serve as a compass in our own development. For women, Moms are either a mirror image we strive to be like or an image we run far the hell away from. Yet when your Mom is gone and you are still learning yourself, it’s a hard road without that compass. So when I heard that Bobbi Kristina collapsed I thought, of course she did, fuck, I nearly lost my shit when my Mom died and I didn’t have news reports blasting it 24/7….poor girl, I can only imagine.

Add in the fact that Whitney’s own Mom is still alive, I know from seeing my own Grandma when my Mom passed, that to lose your child, fucks with the natural order of things. When you bring a child in this world, provided you are well adjusted mentally and emotionally, you typically want the best for them. That would include said child living longer than you. Burying your child breaks you.

So think whatever we want of the choices Whitney may or may have not made despite her fame and wealth, she was more than a pop star. Hell, she was someone’s child and someone’s mama and while her passing may be fodder to us to pass the time away, I can assure you that to her mother and daughter, what they feel is a pain that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Almost V-day…be sexy for you!

Tis the season for love and romance with Valentine’s Day just mere days away, are you ready? If you are anything like me, past a certain age Valentine’s Day does absolutely not a thing for you. I mean can’t you let me know you love me all the time? Why do we need a “special” day to share that love? Let’s just love each other all the time, though I will say I do appreciate the chocolate covered strawberries that are available on Valentine’s Day.

Seriously though, after the early dating years and first few years of marriage, I told the partner man to not worry about V-Day.  That said I am all about ways to feel sexy and attractive just for the hell of it. When I was younger and not carting around a few extra pounds, a saggy belly and less than perky twins, sexy was more external, sexy meant a sleek outfit and heels. I am in a different place in my life now, for starters, heels make my feet hurt, and if I want to look sleek I need either a corset or my nemesis otherwise known as Spanx. No, sexy at this stage in my life starts with me and is less about being sexy to anyone other than me. Granted a sexy state of mind will generally radiate outward regardless of what one is wearing. We all know that gal who is sexy and we can’t figure it out. She is walking around in old Danskos and faded yoga pants but something about her makes us want to have a girl crush on her.

So while a positive state of mind can lead to sexy, there are a few other things I like to use when I want to be sexy. Remember learning about kegels when you were pregnant? If you were anything like me, you probably learned about kegels and promptly forgot about them too. Of course a few years after the kiddos arrival you find yourself wishing you had paid attention and learned those kegels. Well, have no fear, it’s not too late.  You can tighten up below and add a little spark in your daily walking around by using ben wa balls or even jade eggs. EdenFantasys, my favorite place when I am in the need of some adult toys for my personal toy box carries ben wa balls.  The beauty of ben wa balls is you can strengthen your vaginal muscles and make yourself smile; if you are feeling really bold, you can head out for the day with ben wa balls in place and leave everyone wondering why you have a big smile on your face. Kids making a mess, no worries!

I admit this probably sounds racy or even a tad strange, but seriously stuff like this which I do strictly for myself, makes me feel good and when I am feeling good, damn it, I am sexy. So sure maybe you want to do something for that special someone in your life on Valentine’s Day but how about doing something for you?

This post is sponsored by EdenFantasys

Sex toys - EdenFantasys adult toys store

Sickness has taken over here in BGIM land; I am down for the count with a nice old fashioned cold. The kind that just takes everything out of you, coupled with the fact it’s been crazy at work, my energy level is about a negative one. Needless to say blogging wasn’t on my agenda but I saw this video, which then sparked a twitter discussion with my son and well I had to post.

You have to watch the video, go ahead and watch it if you haven’t already see it. In the event you can’t let me fill you in, a Dad basically snaps and loses his shit. It seems his 15 year old daughter was tired of his shit and decided to make a Facebook post telling her pals that she was tired of his shit. See, Dad expects her to do chores and whatnot. It also seems that they have had some issues over the use of Facebook previously that if I understood correctly resulted in her being grounded previously for several months. By the way Dad is not one the kid’s Facebook pals. However the kiddo had her Pops who is an IT guy upgrading her laptop and well Dad decided to hack into her Facebook page and that’s when shit got crazy.

As my son pointed out rightly, the Dad did invade his daughter’s privacy. Many years ago when I was a wee lass back in Chicago, my dearly departed Mother read my diary. I was 14 going on 20 and doing things I really should not have been doing. Obviously I did not share any of that with my mom so she decided to violate my privacy which lead to me no longer doing those things. For years I stopped writing in a journal or diary, because I felt my private thoughts would be invaded. It’s taken a lot of years of maturing to realize, that in hindsight she invaded my privacy to keep me safe. In my case I was lying about my age to boys who were much older than me (older than 20) and my mom’s violation of my privacy, may have saved me from making some dumb mistakes.

That said as a parent, I have always respected my kid’s privacy, granted my son made it easy, and right now I have no idea how things may turn out with the now 6 year old. I imagine these days hacking into your kid’s Facebook page is almost equal to snooping around and finding your teenager’s diary or journal. It is a huge violation of trust but sometimes as parents do the ends justify the means?

When I saw this video, I saw a Dad who was fed up and at the end of his rope. My son pointed out that the Dad’s actions seemed more like revenge than discipline and after looking at the video again, I agree with my son. Basically we see a Dad who is smoking, littering and ranting like he is having a break from reality especially when he decides to take a pistol to the kid’s laptop.

The interwebz is abuzz with folks who are talking about this guy; it seems he is either seen as an abusive Dad who needs to be taken down or a parenting hero. Frankly I think he is neither, he actually is an example of the fact that parents are people and that sometimes we don’t know what to do. Too many times in modern day parenting, parents are “supposed” to know the answers and we don’t. In many cases it’s easier to know the answer when our kids are younger, but sometimes there comes a point when we simply don’t know. I suspect when things have cooled off, this Dad will realize he went over board and realize that punishing his daughter for expressing herself was not the answer. Personally I am a believer in allowing my kids to say whatever they need to say provided they do it in a respectful manner. That said, I hope the daughter realizes that respect is a two way street and that parents get tired of shit too. As for shooting the laptop, well frankly he could have packed it up and given it away or simply taken it away. After all what did the poor laptop do?

The decision to raise a child is a journey yet unlike many journeys, raising a child can have many twists and turns that can bring us our highest highs and our lowest lows. For most of us we only want the best for our kids but as flawed beings that best does not always come out.

I admit I may not be the best person to be giving advice on this thing we call blogging, after all my blog is small and despite being on Babble’s list of 2011 Mom bloggers, I don’t exactly earn a living with this gig. It’s a good thing that I am pretty damn good at my day job and despite some dreams have no intentions of giving up the day gig.

That said, can I just be honest and say I am so tired of reading tips on how to make it as a blogger.  It’s at the point that most of the so-called tips and suggestions sound like a rehash of every other article written on how to make it as a Mommy blogger. First off, I am not a fan of the term Mommy blogger, I am a woman who happens to be a Mom and yes, I do blog. I personally don’t have a niche which a blogger I look up to suggested may be holding me back. I agree that is entirely possible and I am okay with it. One of the reasons that I started blogging in 2008 was that I was tired of writing that required that I fit into a box. I have been writing for publication since 2003 and most of that work is focused on diversity, as a paid writer/columnist I have guidelines and word counts that I have to adhere to and frankly it can be a drag at times.

Blogging allows me to be me, and I can say as little or much as I want to say. I mean shit; this is my space, my slice of the interwebz.

The thing is that with over 3 million blogs that fall under the Mommy genre, let’s get real for a second, we can’t all think we are going to find our fortunes as Mom bloggers. Despite what the blogging/social media experts tell you, I don’t think there is enough room for everyone to cash in. In fact at a certain point I feel the so-called experts are selling us on these dreams so we keep them employed. Let’s face it, and believe me I am right there with you, but would blog conferences like Blog Her and the others be so popular if we weren’t all hoping we might be the next Bloggess or Dooce? Of course not! I mean how many of us beg, borrow or do whatever to attend these conferences to learn valuable tips? I mean hell, I have a tip jar on this blog in hopes that maybe I might actually attend a conference this year. Yet will I even make an amount equal to what I will pay out to attend even one conference? Probably not.

Yet we dream.

The thing is after blogging now for several years and reading blogs since 2004, can I tell you that there has been a change in blogging. As more and more of us are striving to earn a living or some parts of a living via our blogs we are following the formulas and I am not sure it really works. One of the things that made the big bloggers big is their willingness to be themselves, they told us a story, and they shared their lives and became our pals. When the girl child was a baby, I used to love grabbing a minute to look at SouleMama’s blog and dream that I too could be crafty like Amanda. As if by the simple fact we were both Mamas in Maine that would turn my two left fingers into crafting fingers. Sure, it was silly but I believed and bought her books. (Probably should give em away)

Yet the newer bloggers in following the “rules” no longer share so much of themselves. I have started trying to search out the work of newer bloggers in part because I want to pay it forward. I still have no idea who brought my work to the attention of Babble and while I admit in the past I have had issues with Babble and their lack of diversity, in 2011 I felt they made an effort to change things. However in my search to pay it forward, I have found very few newer bloggers that resonate with me. I want a reason to come back to your blog, share yourself. I need more than three hundred words and a shiny picture. I know…attentions spans aren’t what they used to be. That’s bullshit. People will read if you give them a reason too! No, you don’t have to give me every tidbit of your life but don’t be afraid to be real, to be yourself and have fun.  For me I love bloggers like Liz at Siz Year Itch and Mamapundit…why? They are not afraid to show us who they are. Showing who you are does not mean you have to get messy, look some of us do messy with no problems and some don’t.

I think that while blogging has become a business, the reality is it started to grow because readers liked the stories they read. If you stop having the stories, you stop having the readers. Yes, social media helps but if you are a Twitter gal, don’t worry then about Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube or anything else. Pick the media that you like best to help promote your blog and stick to it. Granted I think the best way still is reading other people’s blogs and commenting. Sure a thanks on twitter is nice but who doesn’t like seeing comments?

Furthermore blogging should be fun. Despite the fact that my job is pretty intense and I have a family and life is crazy. The reason I keep blogging is because I enjoy it.  Would I like to make money, sure, I am not rich but that is not why I blog. I blog because I am a loud mouth who enjoys it.  My advice to anyone looking to blog, is keep writing, find your voice and trust that the rest will come. Don’t allow yourself to become so formulaic that you lose the you in your blog.

Cancer sucks and knowledge is power

The world is a little less bright tonight; a fellow Mom and blogger Susan Niebur lost her battle with breast cancer today. I only recently discovered Susan’s blog but read through it in a few days. She leaves behind a husband and two small children, she was also an astrophysicist! Susan battled inflammatory breast cancer which she was diagnosed with at 34 and fought for 5 years.

I didn’t know Susan and only recently became familiar with her story but it resonated deeply with me because of my own scare last year. At the time I wasn’t interested in sharing it publicly but I did share it with friends and family. Like many women during a monthly self-check, I realized something wasn’t right with my girls but there was no lump.  Due to a family history that my Mom had shared with me early in in life, I knew that I always needed to be vigilant about my breasts. In the end, I consulted with several doctors, had a mammogram and saw a specialist before we were comfortable ruling out that there was no problem. Yet at 38, I was told I will now need a mammogram yearly.

I remember sharing this with a few friends who seemed surprised due to my relative young age and even had a couple suggest nothing could possibly be wrong. Ladies, breast cancer does not always present as the lump we are told to look for and age does not exclude one from getting breast cancer. In fact looking back in the past several years I have known more than a handful of women who have lost their lives due to breast cancer and they were all under 40. The sad reality is often times breast cancer is more aggressive in younger women and inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive breast cancer.

I guess this is a bit of a PSA and something that was on my mind after hearing of Susan’s passing, but ladies it’s important to not only know our bodies but if something seems amiss get it checked out. If your healthcare provider isn’t taking you seriously, get a second or even a third opinion.  Your very life may depend on it.

Twenty years of parenting

Twenty years ago today, when my peers were off enjoying their first year of college or finding themselves I was getting ready for one of the biggest jobs ever, bringing you into the world. Looking back now it doesn’t surprise me that you like to take your time, marinate on ideas and even stroll slowly. I have become a big believer that the way we enter this world drops clues about who we may eventually become…yeah, Momma is being woo-woo excuse me.

 

You signaled that you were ready to become earth side on a Friday night and arrived Monday night.  Rush, you did not.

The past 20 years have been a journey for not only you but me as well. I could not imagine that night twenty years ago, that you would be the young man that you are today, especially now looking at how rocky and unorthodox the journey has been. Four states, thirteen schools and two parents whose only point of agreement was our love for you, many would say how jarring but you thrived and continue to thrive despite the madness.

 

Recently when you were home I was struck by the fact that you are no longer a boy, or even a teenager, you are truly a young man. I know I bug you when I ask a million question and worry too much but despite the fact you are 6’4 and well-traveled, in my mind and eyes you are still my baby.

 

Happy Birthday Son!

Safety net…oh you mean the safety string?

Mitt Romney’s foot in mouth moment has inspired me to take a few minutes to post, since today being a half day of school for the wee lass and a full day of work for me means this is a long day. Yet when the guy who looks like he is going to be the GOP nominee starts uttering ridiculous shit, well I have to say something.

In case ya missed it, yesterday Mitt Romney basically stated that his focus is on the middle class, not the very rich (for obvious reasons) and not the very poor because the very poor have a safety net. Really? They do? Mittens you are talking an area where I know the deal, see I guess you’d say I have been in the helping poor people business now for 15 years and let me tell you the safety net is not a net. It’s a few strings at this point.

Can we start off with the fact that half of Americans are technically poor or low income, in other words they are making less than $50,000 a year. Now depending on where you live and how you live, 50G’s will keep you fed and housed but as far as building wealth or any of that shit, it’s not happening.  Thing is a lot of those people in that classification are living off way less than 50G’s a year, hell some may barely have any money at all. Someone asked me the other day, don’t all families with kids get tax refunds, I said no…and it’s true, the earned income credit phases out in the upper $40,000’s but thanks to what I am calling the poorification of the US., it means an whole lotta folks do get these credits and subsequent refunds. They aren’t getting tax refunds because they have kids; they are getting them because they are poor or low income. When so many people with kids are getting tax refunds that it’s perceived that they are obtaining them due to the kids but it’s really because they are broke, that says a lot!

In America we don’t talk money, it’s not polite but the reality is more of us are sliding into economic despair and hardship and frankly a lot of formerly middle class folks are learning we have no nets in this country. The only real net program we have is food stamps or SNAP benefits as they are called these days. Yet guys like Newt Gingrich sneer and call President Obama the “food stamp” president as if Obama is standing on street corners passing out food stamp cards. If more people are on food stamps than ever before it’s because people cannot afford the ever increasing cost of food.

The safety net is barely there, in states like mine the governor wants to cut people off the Medicaid program because we can’t afford it. Never mind most of these people are on it because they for starters they meet the income qualifications which last I knew in Maine could be near $40,000 a year. Sure that sounds luxurious but if you have a family of 3-4 on 40G’s a year and your employer doesn’t offer you coverage, how else do you get it?

When people like Mitt Romney and well-meaning but clueless people say there are safety nets they are talking out of their ass. Government assistance to the poor is limited and drying up, again using my current state as an example; heating assistance to low income folks was slashed and in a state that heats with heating oil that is bad news. Average Maine family will go through at least 800 gallons of heating oil in a winter and with prices starting at damn near $3.50 a gallon and up and the  average allotment of assistance coming in at $300 tops that means someone will be cold. Hell, someone could die.

Programs for housing have waiting lists across the country, when I last lived in Chicago; the waiting list to get on Section 8 was closed, even in Maine it can now take upwards of 3 years to get into subsidized housing. Three years is a long time to scramble for affordable housing. Let’s talk food, even with food stamp assistance; it takes creativity and ingenuity to make your benefits last all month. Despite the tales of carts laden with junk food, steaks and lobsters, the reality is not everyone who receives food stamps gets hundreds of dollars for some it may only be $100 a month; it’s based off individual economic circumstances. For many, local food banks, pantries and soup kitchens are the bridge to eating all month. However they too are hurting. I just took a call a few days ago from a local food pantry asking for help with a food drive, they are now seeing over 100 families a day when they are open, the demand is greater than the supply. I am seeing more hungry kids at my center and there is nothing worse than asking for help to keep kids fed and being met with a lackluster response. Local agencies and churches can barely keep up with demand.

So we have the government who in recent years has reduced its programing to the poor, we have local agencies that simply do not have the means to help everyone and we simply have more people in need of help. Now where is that safety net?

To Mitt and anyone else who thinks like him, I say you need to get off high street and come on down to commoner lane and spend some time talking to people who are struggling. You may learn a thing or two.

Dear State of Maine,

You and I have had a love-hate relationship; of course you knew this all along. The truth is I did not enter our relationship freely of my own will. Life circumstances over a decade ago required that you and I enter a relationship, so I had to accept that you needed to be a part of my life. Initially I planned to leave you as soon as humanely possible, after all what did we have in common? I, of the darker hue, very urban; you, oh so pale and oh so rural. Yet over time I started to develop feelings for you and well sometimes in life settling is not a bad thing, I went from hating your guts and resenting you to truly caring about you. I am pretty certain on some level I even love you. How could I resist your charms? Your natural beauty is hard to ignore, while you are oh so pale, I learned that your paleness could be overcome…maybe I did fall in love with you just a little bit. Yet we both know deep down, my heart will always belong to Chicago. Then again, maybe you do have a slice of my heart too.

However Maine, you have some ways that make me hate you. Maine you are a bit backwards in so many ways. I know you have character, and I have learned to accept that you require a slower pace of existence. Maine, you are a four season state, yet you lose your mind in snow, why is that? Maine, why can the snow not be removed in a timely fashion? Maine, why do you have so many snow days? Chicago is colder than you, gets a lot of snow too but my great love Chicago, does not buckle or bend to snow. Maine, you are not nearly as hardy as legend would have us to believe. I’m sorry to tell you. It’s okay though, I have learned to adjust to the fact that you don’t take snow well.

Yet Maine, where you really piss me off is your car inspection sticker racket. Maine you require your cars to have valid inspection stickers, as you want to keep the cars safe, I get it. The problem I have Maine is that you allow auto mechanics to be the ones to determine the so called safety of the cars. Now Chicago my one true love requires cars to have emissions testing, but Chicago and Illinois handle it themselves, yes the state handles it so there is no ambiguity. Maine, you allow any Joe to get licensed to offer this testing that is only a mere $12.50, but you and I both know that not all mechanics are honest.

See, yesterday Maine, I made sure to get our car to the mechanic so that we would not violate your laws since yesterday was the last day of the month and our inspection sticker was good until the end of January. However my mechanic declared that in order to obtain your stamp of approval I and the Spousal Unit would need to pony up over $600 to get that little sticker. We did not believe that to be true as the car just had work done a little over a month ago, sure enough the Spousal Unit took the car to another place for a 2nd opinion and sure enough our car was deemed road worthy and only in need of a light to get that much needed sticker. Lest you think I was trying to play you, I would never do that, in fact the place that deemed our car road worthy did fail the customer ahead of us. So no concerns that this mechanic wasn’t doing his job, he was.

In the decade that we have been here, we have dealt with this car inspection racket where mechanics under the guise of following your rules, rob us for exorbitant amounts of money to obtain that precious sticker you demand of all your cars. Surely you are not so naïve as to think the mechanics you anoint are all honest and trust worthy. I have heard many others complain about this ass backwards system. Maine, you must change this, set up some state run sites or something.

Now Maine, I won’t go into it fully but I also want you to know that your health insurance laws aren’t right either. You created a monopoly where if one is not insured through their employer which many are not due to jobs not offering it, that if they try to purchase coverage on their own, they cannot afford it. Did you know that bitch Anthem charges over $400 a month for a family plan with a $30,000 deductible…we both know that’s not right? Then that moron you have running this sweet place is wondering why so many are using Maine Care…duh, how else will they get health care? Think about it sweet Maine.

Anyway Maine, I am sorry to dump on you, and I hope you can forgive me, but I just had to get this out. Let’s continue to like each other.

Warmly,

BGIM