Like many people, I have a complicated relationship with food. Our relationship for the past decade has been especially tenuous as I have worked hard to unlearn a lifetime of bad eating habits and adjust to the metabolism that I really have and not the one I wish I had. As a result, I buy very little of my food at the grocery store instead opting to buy as much as possible at the local farmers market and direct from local farmers. As much as I would prefer to nosh on unlimited bags of Ruffles Sour Cream and Cheddar Chips and follow it up with swigs of ice cold RC, I know that such eating habits simply don’t work for me. However I am still a work in progress when it comes to food. Of course having an extremely picky eater keeps me humble when it comes to food since her list of what she won’t eat is three times longer than what she will eat. Whenever there is a food that she likes to eat, and will really eat it, I pretty much go with the flow.  I just keep reminding myself that my 21yo vegetarian son used to be the king of ham and chicken wings before he adjusted his views on food several years ago.

In addition to having my own issues with food, I am one of those rare people who literally sees food insecurity daily in my professional life. Currently at the agency I run, 95% of the kids registered in our programs come from food insecure households and on any given day upwards of 20% of the kids that drop into our programs, will not be going home to eat dinner because there is no dinner available to eat.

I started my social services career over 15 years ago in a program that offered meals to women in need and as hard as it was to see adults without food, I struggle deeply seeing so many kids going without. Kids in our center talk as casually about eating at the local soup kitchen with their families as middle class kids speak about the newest apps on their iPads.

Maybe it’s because of my professional background that my interest was piqued when I saw the hashtag #endchildHunger and #ConAgra a few days ago on Twitter. From what I gather there was a conference and attendees were asked to spread awareness about the issue of child hunger and apparently ConAgra would be donating resources to end child hunger. In theory this sounds great and many well-meaning folks were doing their part to spread the word…after all no one wants to think of hungry kids.

The problem is that ConAgra is not exactly going to end childhood hunger and if in this current US economy the idea of childhood hunger is not something you have heard about it, it’s because your head has been in the sand. Food stamp use has been up and while the economy is slowly turning around, for the millions of folks that were already close to the bottom of the economic ladder this supposed growth is about as real as unicorns.

ConAgra partners with Feeding America which is the largest hunger relief charity in the US and they do awesome work. They have a lot of great programs; some that I have worked with directly through my work and they make a huge difference in the lives of a lot of kids. They are also a supplier to a fair number of food banks in the US.

So what is the problem you may ask? ConAgra is helping out Feeding America and Feeding America is helping feed folks including kids, so how are they not ending child hunger? See, this is where it gets tricky. In most communities no matter how small they are in the US, there is a local food pantry. A place where people can get a bag or two of food if they have nothing to eat. In theory, the food pantry in your community should be able to get food from the food bank in your area but in many cases that is not the case. Ever notice how food pantries often have food drives? See, the reason they are asking people to donate food is because they can’t afford to buy the food from the food bank. Here in Maine, the food bank is Good Shepherd and if you run a food pantry, if you want to get food from that food bank that is getting support indirectly through ConAgra you have to pay. No money means no food for the hungry people in your town including those hungry kids that Con Agra is using social media to say they will be supporting.

Now I knew from my 1st job back in Chicago a lifetime ago that feeding programs that used the food banks had to pay. Actually part of my job at that agency was overseeing our meal program so I knew there was a cost. However at that time I worked at an agency in Chicago, which is only the 3rd largest city in the US at an agency that had a million dollar plus budget. So for us buying the food was a no brainer and affordable.

I didn’t learn until almost 5 years ago when I took over as the head of a small agency in a rural state that the economics of using the food bank means being poor and hungry in rural America sucks balls. In the county I work in, many agencies use a food rescue service (yep, its exactly what it sounds like) rather than the state’s lone food bank because they cannot afford to pay the food bank for food to give to people who cannot afford to buy groceries at the grocery store. In many small towns and villages in the US, the local food pantry is a volunteer run affair often operating in donated space with donated food and a shit load of good will.

When I learned a few years ago just how skewed social services are in rural states, it was a wake-up call for me. It meant unlearning much of what I understood about poverty and reframing it in a rural framework. In this case, if ConAgra were making direct donations and contributions to small pantry operators across the nation rather than the food bank network that exists through Feeding America, I would say hell yeah they are ending child hunger. The truth is they are nothing more than a band aid solution to ending child hunger on a wide scale in a social services system that favors larger agencies over smaller ones despite the fact that in many communities it’s the small agencies working tirelessly to meet needs in locations that sometimes are untouched by the larger agencies.

Am I saying ConAgra is evil? Not really, though I prefer to buy my food directly from folks who if there are problems with my food, I know where they live. I will say though that campaigns such End Childhood Hunger are not being as honest as they can be and that is what bothers me. Because the sad reality is even in the helping word much like the corporate world, the large folks are the winners. How many resources were spent on a campaign to increase awareness when those same resources could have actually fed folks?


PS: If you want to make a difference, donate directly to the food pantries in your community. Call them and ask them what they need, and if you have the means donate often. Real change only requires real people making a difference.

One of the hardest things about this blogging life for me is explaining the whole concept of blogging to offline friends who don’t blog or who frankly are not users of social media. A common question that has come up in the past year is why? I actually had someone tell me that blogging frankly seems narcissistic and why didn’t I just write in a diary. Funny thing is that I do actually keep an old fashioned journal, I enjoy blogging but let’s be honest do you really think I would share all my business online? Heaven’s no!

However I admit to being fascinated by the idea if all this social media and blogging is making us just a bit narcissistic? Clearly I am not the only one who wonders about such things based off this article in yesterday’s Sunday Magazine of the New York Times. Interesting that the piece is about Facebook but there is actually one tidbit that the writer mentions “The social medium of choice for the self-absorbed appears to be Twitter. The researchers found an association between tweeting about oneself and high narcissism scores.” Interesting, but I disagree.

Blogging and social media use can be narcissistic endeavors if we aren’t careful, but the reality is that as social media has evolved and become fully integrated into all areas of our lives (Jiffy Lube wants you to like them on Facebook…I’d say that is integration in our lives) it’s no longer the space of a select few. Even people who aren’t online regardless of age know about things like Facebook and even blogs, regardless of whether or not they actually use them. My Dad is a prime example; he’s had the same cell phone for 9 years, doesn’t own a PC at home yet is familiar with Facebook and Twitter or the tweeter as he calls it. Yep, social media is here to stay.

Bloggers and blogging though is a different beast since unlike applications such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc. a blogger is committing to a space. A space that they make their own, I liken it to my online home, when you read this blog or really any blog especially those of personal memoir bloggers, we really are saying “Welcome to my world”. The reasons why one blogs is as different as the individual blogger.

Personally I started my blog in 2008 because I was lonely, hell, being a minority in a very white state gets tiring, I figured maybe I might be able to reach out and find the other Black girl in Maine. I have accomplished that goal. I have found Black girls in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (the one in VT left though…boo hoo), some have only remained online pals and some have become offline friends and a reminder on those days I am losing it that I am not the only one.

I also started blogging because as writer writing for a local publication, I was hoping to expand my reach. I guess I could say that I have accomplished that too and continue to do so. For someone though whose childhood dream was to be a writer, this space allows me to do just that, I admit turning it into a profit making venture has been a bit trickier for me, but I trust that will come in time if it’s meant to be.

Narcissistic people can be found anywhere, trust me on this. Just because someone shares parts of their life online doesn’t make them a candidate for narcissistic personality disorder. In these fractured times when so many of us are far away from family & friends, blogs can serve as a familiar friend whose there when we need them. Bloggers in the past decade have created very real communities that support one another, in recent years so many bloggers have had life throw those curve-balls and even with offline support, the online support is valuable. So sure we could just write in our journals but those journals may not always help us live our dreams, sometimes people have to know about you and that little book under the bed can’t give you that exposure. It also can’t become a real life friend who you break bread with, the trick is to be mindful and not forget that life is more than these spaces, as always balance is key.

So yeah, I will keep writing my truly messy thoughts in my journal but I will keep plugging away in this space too, but if I get to full of myself, feel free to kick me in my ass offline!

Real life and traveling around the sun

This space may be quiet for a few days as I am busy celebrating another year of life, my actual birthday is on Monday but ya know how it is….a weekday birthday means weekend celebrations. It feels like a big one though it is not, 39 trips around the sun. My last year in my 30’s, I must admit the 30’s kicked me clear the fuck into adulthood, seriously, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I remember when I turned 30 and thought oh wow…30. Little did I know that my 30’s were about to make me realize what being an adult could entail. Never mind, before the age of 25 I had been married, divorced, remarried and had a kid. Nope my 30’s were like that shit was child’s play.

I have shared with regular readers in the past that it was mere months after turning 30, that my beloved mother was diagnosed with cancer. To add insult to injury, she died 6 weeks after my 31st birthday.  If that wasn’t enough my 32nd year brought a second chance at motherhood but also brought the deaths of my grandmother and a dear family friend effectively turning me into the matriarch of my family at 32. And people wonder why I often sound so much older than my actual years, losing the elders in your family and essentially become one of the elders before you are 35 will age you.  Being left with a father who is at times almost childlike when you need a parent, makes you grow up very fast when you realize you are home, that never again will you play the role of child.

Enough with the sad tales though, while I am busy enjoying this weekend and basically being the queen of the manor I was reminded yet again this weekend how the real lives we lead these days while different than 10-15 years ago is very much real life. I am speaking of those online/offline connections or what some think of as real life and online…no more do I confuse the two because at least for me they are all my real life.

Last night one of my very real friends, my dearest and closest friend in Maine surprised little ole me with a surprise party that featured some good twitter pals. I was surprised yet honored, my friend knows that I have a love-hate thing with my birthday and in recent years have talked of doing some special but I never get around to it. So you can only imagine my surprise when I found out what was up….twitter pals, you know the pretend friends actually left their houses on a cold blustery night to hang out with me. I chuckled to myself and thought of those I know who refer to online life as not real. Nope, all those around the table were very real.

The villages that we form in 2012 may not come from the traditional forms of village that we are accustomed to, but the digital village can allow us to make a new village if we are open to it.  A village that is just as real and supportive as the villages of yesterday, sure there may be some fakers in the digital village but the offline village has been known to have a few deceptive souls too.

Anyway time to get back to my weekend, relaxation, relaxation and more relaxation….oh and crafting duty with the six year old tomorrow.

PS: I do accept gifts, or better yet donate to help a blogger catch a few conferences this year.

PSS: No pressure ;-)


Babble Top 100? BGIM say what?

Posting today was not on the agenda since I am in the thick of busy at work. However imagine my surprise yesterday when sitting in my dungeon aka my office and deciding to take a quick break and check in on twitter, when I see a tweet from my husband saying something about me being on a list of top mom bloggers! For starters, I was like uh oh…he’s gone batty. So I clicked the link he had tweeted and sure enough he was right. Seems this humble space landed on Babble’s list of 100 top Mom bloggers.
To be honest, that is amusing to me, since I rarely consider myself to be a mom blogger, hell I am just a loud mouth who writes to blow off steam. Until recently I had never made a dime off this blog and even what few shekels I have made are pretty small. Let’s just say I won’t be giving up my day job or my consulting and grant writing unless I want a diet comprised primarily of rice. So as you can imagine to even end up on a list with folks like Dooce and Pioneer Woman is pretty damn amusing.
So to you dear readers, I say thank you! Whoever thought enough about this blog to even bring it to the attention of the folks at Babble, thank you so much.
I imagine for many bloggers ending up on this list is good especially in the day of brands and all that. Already I have seen a fellow blogger who is on the list tweeting that her inbox is blowing up with offers. Well my box is only blowing up with work related stuff, so I doubt that this will have any long term effect here in BGIM land. Though as I joked to the Spousal Unit last night, wonder if I can get a new stove now courtesy of someone else? I am guessing not…darn; guess I better keep putting change in the jar.

Somebody is watching you, me and everyone else!

I am zooming past the blog today, as I type this the thermostat in my abode is currently reading at a toasty 84 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s right next to an open window. I suspect it’s a tad warmer here in this alcove of an office that I have. Needless to say this post will be real short.

So are you looking for job, maybe you want a career change or you have been looking for a while, you have kept your credit pristine despite this economic downturn, you have impeccable references, good skills, top education…so why aren’t you getting any calls? Well maybe it’s because on Friday night you like to kick back with a lovely Merlot and participate in the Wine Party that happens on Twitter? Or you were up a hunting lodge with some buddies and posed in front of that snazzy gun cabinet and your buddies uploaded them to Facebook and tagged you in the photos.

I know…. sounds pretty silly, after all why would or should a potential employer ever learn these things about you, after all you aren’t telling them about your personal life. Well according to this piece in today’s New York Times, some employers are adding a social media check when making hiring decisions. That’s right a social media check! So getting good workers is no longer enough, they want to know all there is to know about you and more. Crazy times and as Rockwell sang years ago “Somebody is watching Me

It’s all about getting that cash

I have been using various forms of social media now for well over a decade now. In the late 1990’s  I discovered discussion boards, I was contemplating making some life changes and was in need of a supportive community and at that time the net was small enough that I hooked up with a couple of online communities that met my needs. Over a decade later, I have met some amazing women many who have become real life friends.

When I packed up my life in 2002 and left Chicago and landed in Maine, it was those same online communities and friendships that sustained me until I reached the point of having some local support in Maine. I guess what I am saying is I have been online for quite a while. My first husband was and still is a computer geek, back in 1991 when we married he was going online using BBS (bulletin board system) I remember back then thinking what the hell is he doing, little did I know how much that early exposure to making connections online was going to impact my life.

In the past 5-6 years we have literally seen social media go mainstream, I remember just a few years ago before sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter became household names explaining my online activity to real life friends and being looked at like I was insane. After all who communicated on a computer with people they didn’t know? By the way this was in the early 2000’s…many of these same real life friends now use sites like Facebook and others as staples in their daily life.

I stumbled onto blogs probably about 4-5 years ago, many of the early blogs I read were true labors of love. Often folks sharing amazing tales of their life, awesome writing. Back than folks often just started blogs to have an audience, another way of making connections. Take bloggers like the very popular Pioneer Woman, she just wanted a way to stay connected to the folks in her life, she had no idea that one day she would be writing books and last I heard there is talk about a movie about the story of her life. I think many women particularly mothers gravitated to blogs as a way of making connections. In Maine we have Amanda Blake Soule of the blog Soule Mama. Her blog chronicles her life here in Maine with her 4 kids and their creative endeavors.  Her daily life and adventures became the basis for the 3 book deal she later landed but from what I have heard (Maine is small, while I don’t personally know Amanda, I have friends who do) she didn’t start blogging with the intent to land a book deal. She did something she liked with no expectations and well good shit happened.

 Initially when I started this blog, I had my eyes set on achieving some level of fame that would translate into a paycheck but over the two years I have been blogging, now it’s about my process. For me it’s about strengthening my skills as a writer but also having a voice, lastly as a woman of color its about connecting with others. This blog has allowed me to connect with folks in Maine as well as outside; I have met some fellow bloggers and readers that one day I would love to sit down with and share a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

I also think that when I let go of dreams of turning this blog into a cash cow, it allowed me to stay true to myself and my creative being. I also use social media such as Twitter to promote this blog but even Twitter allows me to connect with others especially some of the most creative and free thinking minds in Maine. Just yesterday I caught lunch with a young lady of color who recently moved to Maine. So yeah money might be nice, but making human connections is even better.

I say all this to say that as a long time user of social media in all its forms I see some disturbing trends developing. More and more I read blogs or see Twitter users turning themselves into a brand…the brand of me. Twitter for many is about promoting oneself, one’s business. Look there is nothing wrong with promotion if you have a legitimate product to promote but in many cases I see complete and utter bullshit being packaged in a slick glossy package and well its empty as hell.

The problem with this new trend of self promotion is that it takes away from authentic connections. How can we truly connect if at the end of the day you are more concerned about sealing a deal and getting paid? Look maybe that works with the youngsters but for an old head like myself its a huge turnoff. I think about some of my ex favorite blogs, ones that landed the book deal or through blogging landed a great job and then the original blog lost its spark.

There is a fashion blog I have followed for a while and when the blogger initially started off, it was great. You as the reader connected because you saw a regular person putting together articles of clothing that were accessible to the masses and rocking the hell out of that shit. Year down the road, this blogger blows up, to the point she quits her job, now she attends Fashion Week, has corporate sponsors up the wazoo and basically her blog reads like an advertisement, a glossy magazine.

Funny thing is this particular blogger is one of the biggest influence in my returning to my love of vintage clothes, she gave me some great ideas. Yet now I occasionally visit her blog and feel much the way I feel when I read a fashion magazine. That what she is hawking is inaccessible, furthermore as a follower of hers on Twitter, the constant promotion of herself as a brand is making me reevaluate whether or not I should even continue to follow her.

The thing is we have a zillion books and consultants who all for some cash will tell you how to market the brand of you, giving away so-called secrets that will make you into a social media superstar and of course earn you some cash. Look, and can I be frank most of what they are telling you is bullshit. You don’t need to have a brand called you because guess what? You are you! I admit as a graduate of a masters level organizational management program, I am well familiar with consultants and having even done a brief but successful stint as an organizational management consultant, I am here to tell you most of what these folks say is designed to earn them money and leave you wondering.

I admit occasionally they may give you a nugget of truth but I believe that much like real life relationships the only key you need is to be your authentic self in all that you do. Folks like The Pioneer Woman and Soule Mama achieved a high level of success in the social media world by simply being themselves, no gimmicks or special conferences needed. When we lose our authentic selves even in an electronic medium we risk becoming a mindless automaton who is programmed for one thing, getting that cash and really aren’t we more than that.

Just a random stream of babble

I am on vacation, of course being short of cash my vacation involves sitting in my house though I may spend a few days in western Maine chilling with friends..So now that I am on vacation and still have a few days of childcare before girl child leaves daycare (by the way she is officially mad about this) it means I have time to let my mind wander which brings me to the point of today’s post.

Like many others I enjoy using Facebook, one might say I like it too much, shit I check Facebook from my Blackberry since I like to stay connected (I am working on pulling the plug) anyway I have noticed a disturbing trend, folks get really mad on Facebook. I may have mentioned it before (see I am getting old, can’t even remember what I wrote!) someone posts a seemingly innocent comment or link to a news story, well as you know it shows up in your friends feed, and humans being what they are, they respond. Are you still with me? Well some folks get mad because their “friends” post replies that bug them or their friends post updates that annoy them or even trouble them. I have recently seen shared “friends” engage in serious arguments/debates on Facebook, one woman I know has taken to proselytizing to another “friend” who is a devout pagan. Um…what the fuck is wrong with you people?

Look, the only reason I like Facebook as much as I do is it makes it easier to stay in touch with folks, I can upload pictures instead of sending a ton of emails or getting on the phone. Granted I do like getting on the phone but its not always easy, shit, I am mad that one of my two best friends is a Facebook holdout, he refuses to join, says its not his thing. People complain when their parents join and crimp their style…I wish my Papa would join, that way he could get regular pics of the family since he is such a Luddite that he doesn’t even own a computer and only uses one at work.

Anyway back to my rant or maybe its not a rant but an observation of someone who is starting to recognize that they are getting older, but life is too short to get pissed that a “friend” has political views that are not the same as mine. Unless this friend is a member of Steven Anderson’s church in Tempe, AZ which in that case there would be such a gulf I really might find it hard to stay calm but even then I believe in respecting folks and their differences. I got a few real life buddies who lately have taken to sending me right wing propaganda via email, I don’t get mad I hit delete. Occasionally I make a status update on Facebook that lets those folks know I got their emails but that I don’t agree and I leave it at that…but to start actual arguments over what we say on something like facebook is ridiculous.

It reminds me of the video I have seen a few times about how to not let facebook ruin your relationships, its the video with the predominantly Black cast and a woman yelling you been poking her all day and the guy whining about how his lady love doesn’t post on his wall.

Technology should enhance our lives and the moment it stops doing that is a point at which we should reevaluate our relationship…as for me, I am going to enjoy this last blast of summer here in Maine. So catch ya in a few days.

The hookup?

Its early up here in my little corner of the world, in fact we haven’t even gotten the girl child off to preschool yet. So I am sitting here reading my paper online, sipping a cup of hot delicious coffee and listening to NPR. This is pretty much my routine everyday, consume caffeine and consume news….the world doesn’t feel right unless I do those two things early in the morning.

Anyway this morning, I heard a report on NPR about young folks and hooking up. In case you are like me and a tad old, and not familiar with this term it basically means young folks no longer date or even have a random one night stand. They just hook up, they get their sexual needs met…by the way the hookup may or may not involve intercourse unlike say a one night stand. Though it does have a sexual aspect to it.

See, it seems dating is just notdone. You have your crew of buddies that are your friends and then you have folks you might want to get the hook up with….hook-ups apprently are not meant to evolve into a relationship. In fact they had a young man speaking about how costly a date can be, that he doesn’t bother to take a young woman to the movies after all its at least $43 to $50. Wow! It seems the women don’t expect a date either…

Look, I hardly had a vibrant dating life as a teenager since I was a Black girl in the 1980’s in a predominantly white setting and that was before interracial dating became the norm, so that meant that I rarely had any dates. However as a young woman in my twenties between husbands (remember I married the first time straight out of high school) I did have a chance to date and the norm was for a man to take you out on a date. A date consisted of a meal, some entertainment maybe in the form of a movie, a a play or stopping to hear some live music. On this thing called a date, the man paid for the date….look I am a equal opportunity woman who considers herself a womanist but at the heart I am still old fashioned and expect men to pay. Heck even my best friend who is a man pays for our outings even though I don’t expect it but he too is a old fashioned cat. The only man I ever dated whom I opened up my pocketbook to, turned out to be a less than honorableman. So yeah, I am old fashioned. If I became single today and a man wanted to go out but expected me to pay, it would not happen and if it did he would not be comsidered relationship material. He would be a buddy, not man material.

Anyhoo, back to this story..the interviewer spoke with folks from various backgrounds, Black, White, college-educated, not educated…they all seemed to agree that the hook-up is here to stay. One young woman admitted she wished for more but that was not how things are done these days.

Ok….putting on my Mama hat. What the hell is wrong with people? Look sex between two consenting adults can be a wonderful thing but generally it gets better, the better you know each other. I have  tried a hook or two type deal when I was single and as my Granny used to say…that’s for the birds. Connection is a beautiful thing. Its a once in a lifetime deal when we meet someone and connect immediately buy even those explosive types of connections are still superficial. After all you don’t know the other person. If you just need a release, get a damn toy. If you are a man, use your right hand.

What’s even more scary to me aside from the hook-up is how folks use social media to make the connection. It seems we can meet via a shared friend say on Facebook, we exchange texts and other messages and eventually we make the connection. Now if this was turning into an actual relationship I would have no issue with it, I have several friends who have met their partners online…that’s cool. No I am talking we meet online only to have sex and not even evolve into a friendship…sorry, I am officially old because that just seems sad and wrong.

No, as a mother it scares me to think that this is the brave new world my kids are in since elder boy is already there and one day girl child will be there.

So humor me…what are your thoughts on the hook-up? Is it a good thing or bad? Am I just being an old stick in the mud?