Falling in Love…

Today because of some news, I pm’d a friend a mine that I had questioned last week about something. I wanted to reassure her that no, it had nothing to do with the news at all. She understood and had never thought that, but I am me.

I then babbled about Denise, and offhandedly mentioned that I fell in love with her community skills, before I fell in love with her. I then promised to tell that tale at some point. I forget that it has been a long time. I forget that many of the first hand observers are still forged in our relationship, in some cases stray children who were old enough not to know they were stray until they had us as mommies, in some cases the yoda like advisors who talked me down from the ceiling and talked me into a crazy mushroom dish. Some of you just keep popping into our lives, as Internet grows, changes, and stays the same.

This will be a WAYYYYYYYYYY back story though. You see, when I worked for iVillage, I sometimes got sent on projects codenamed in my house “Siberia” –officially called a competitive set. Usually this coincided with me having too many questions, opinions, or being just generally useful at this thing called Internet Community. In the very beginning, it was mostly the last. I could go look at a community and give a read on it, write a report, and hit all the right points. So, I would wander our competition and check out their communities. Women.com was one of them. (No state secret there) I would go and poke around and look at their numbers. I would open their message boards. I would analyze what was going on.

I would duly pan their message board layout. I would talk about their numbers. Then I would add in that they had a great community moderator whose message boards just sang. They were lively, had great numbers, and really connected. It was beautiful community. That moderator was Denise. I was still better and had a bigger empire (in my mind) but wow. What a catch she would be and Women.com was lucky to have her.

Things happened. Women.com got sold to iVillage. Denise had left the company, I don’t remember those details. Then she showed up on iVillage as a CL. (volunteer community leader–they were the lifeblood of iVillage IMO) At that time, I was the Message Board Coordinator at iVillage. (or as some said “Message Board Godddess) I tended boards. I did major flame war management. I took over difficult boards. I turned around slow boards. I taught the CLs how to do the same. I did great work. I loved it. But, I was the only game in town really. At that time the world was small for community management.  But this upstart cl caught my attention. I saw her taking over and getting great numbers from boards that were…slow. I started talking about her in the weekly phone meetings. “Have you seen this CL-Smiely?”(we all had weird names then.) Maybe we can find a job for her. Then she showed up on my behind the scenes coaching board for message board cls. Suddenly the board blossomed. And it blossomed with a lot of competition from the two of us. Not the ugly kind, but the challenging each other was stimulating to me. (no more coasting with Denise saying “so why don’t you…”) And I became ever more desperate to get her a job ANYWHERE in iVillage or somewhere else, before someone noticed that not only was she good, she was maybe better than me. Or maybe, just because she would be an asset in any online community.
WebMD came along and gave her a cool job there. She did amazing things with that community.

Then Lisa Stone came calling and after much crazy decision making, Denise became the Community Manager at BlogHer. She was worried on her first day that she wouldn’t find enough to do. She did…and has for the past 7.5 years. In the past 14 and a bit years, I have watched her work. I have seen her flow with changes. I have seen her make things that looked unworkable–work great. And still I am in awe of her work. Every damn day. Because…she is better at it than me. I could be better than her…but I am not. I am not the only one that thinks so. I can’t really tell you how many people have come up to me and gushed about how great it is to work with Denise, how smart she is, how patient, how intuitive, and more. I agree.

Sublimely Sixteen

Elizabeth is sixteen now. It is easy to get lost in thought while trying to come up with something coherent to say about her. I’ve pondered talking about her birth story. About her active nature even in the womb. I want to talk about how she knew how to get the attention on her from the very first minute of her very first day.

You see, Elizabeth bears herself with power. She owns that power and doesn’t let anyone forget it. Yes, she’s sixteen and has her angst. She also cuddles like a fiend. She is beautifully active–from riding her bike to school and everywhere else to swinging from some silk at the top of the Actor’s Gymnasium.

She’s lively. I see her light up a room with a smile. I see her stick up for the underdog. As she get older, I see more and more empathy for the disadvantaged and care about the forgotten. Yes, I still tell her to check her privilege–but not as much as I do the other children.

Elizabeth combines her confidence and power with extraordinary intelligence. She sometimes hides that in her efforts to spite people she does not respect. Yes, of course, that is cutting off her nose to spite her face, but it is how she does things. You are left in no doubt that she COULD do something if she chose to do it.

An example: Elizabeth, like her siblings before her, like her mother, chose to learn to play an instrument. Unlike her siblings and mother, she actually set forth and practiced for hours. She taught herself entirely–no lessons, no class, no “you need to practice if you want to be any good.” She decided to play. She looked up how to do what she wanted to do. She keeps at it. That strength and determination will get her far.

Even though you might think this house is a battle zone sometimes, with all the kids willing to blame Elizabeth for being a “hellspawn” and a “brat” there is also an intense love for her. Part of that is because she very much typifies “I am allowed to say and do everything I want to my family, but say one word truly against them and you are done.” There is a lot of love in Elizabeth. She is fierce in that love.

Lizzy and RJ Cuddling

Speaking of love, she has her first “real” boyfriend this year. She seems to be handling the relationship with far more maturity than I had at her age. She is clear on her limits. She didn’t freak out when I gave my standard know why you are having sex and do you remember how and what and when you need to use birth control. She brings the boy over and exposes him to her family. Not only that–he seems to have the character to not only tolerate it but seems to enjoy it. That is far rarer than you might think. By the time you’ve raised five out of six kids to young adulthood, plus some strays, you see a lot of love interests come and go. It does my heart good to see that raising a confident, smart, young woman can mean attracting kids who have some of the same values.

Elizabeth also loves the dogs with a passion. She will yell that they are wild. Crazy! Eat her stuff. She tells me we have too many and in the next breath she says “we should rescue more.” She’s also a big fan of cats, hedgehogs, oh, pretty much every animal.

Yes, Elizabeth is challenging. She is hot-blooded. She is sometimes the child that makes me laugh and cry at the same moment because she is right–but not right. I want to scoop her up and keep her cuddled next to me always…but also know that of all the children–she is the one most uniquely qualified to take the world by storm, on her own terms, and be the amazing change we all want in the world.

Happy Birthday Elizabeth. Anything. Anywhere. Anytime. I love you Little Bit.

 

Nudity? What my kids think drives traffic

So, in light of my desire to increase traffic to prove I can do it–I surveyed the kids, actually just the 18 yo and 16 yo, about how to increase traffic. These are their ideas:

  1. Nude Celebrities (maybe photoshopped with food?)
  2. Nude Food Bloggers
  3. Female nudity should just be “boobies” because “no one” wants to see nether regions.
  4. Me nude interviewing celebrities and/or chefs
  5. Me nude interviewing nude food bloggers

Considering these are children who freak out if I am changing my shirt in my own bedroom when they barge in, they seem to think I need to get naked on the Internet in order to get traffic.

This makes me wonder what they are looking at on the Internet. It also makes me wonder why they believe traffic is always about nudity. Remember–these aren’t young children. These aren’t children who grew up without a view of the Internet.

Little do they know that most of my traffic is to a post about Brim Coffee. No nudity there…just a lost product that helped people who didn’t like acidic coffee.

Brim

The Pronoun Game

Once upon a time, not so long ago and a lifetime ago, Denise had a job where she had to play the pronoun game at work. Those of you who are straight probably wonder what that means. It means that each sentence that referred to me or our family was carefully constructed without “she/her/girlfriend.” It was soul sucking and yet what she had to do in order for comfort. Everyone at her job knew me and us. It was just the forward facing part that was a problem.

I’ve thought a bunch about that since March 27. You see, I have been playing the pronoun game about one of my children. My first born. For those keeping track: Denise gave birth to three–the three oldest. I gave birth to three–the three youngest. The oldest has been referred to here as College Boy, boychild, the prince, and lately as first born.

Why? Because on March 27 that child texted me. “In other news–surprise, I am trans.” Yes. Instantly. After 20+ years of being the mother of a son, I had another daughter. The sudden change from son to daughter may not seem like that big of a deal. It is still the baby I gave birth to, the one I fell in love with, the one I love still. But, I am no longer a biological mother of a son.

Stop! Right now. Don’t tell me that she is lucky to have such an accepting family. Don’t tell me it is wonderful. Don’t for a second think this is any easier, just because she has queer parents.

No, we didn’t disown her or yell. Ok. That’s who you are, how are you going to handle this?  I changed son to daughter on Facebook (but non one noticed). The child gave me permission to blog that same week, but I didn’t.

The whole mommy thing is hard. (Yes. I know. Far harder to be TG. Got it. That’s her story. Mine is being the mother.)  The name change is hard. The being a different mother is hard. The pronouns–hard to remember. Yes, I’ve had nearly 4 months. Ava (the child’s new name) is not here a lot. College, summer job, adult with friends in town. I will get it.

In the meantime, for various reasons, the little girls didn’t wait to get their ears pierced until their first period and their stepmother took them. I missed out on a big rite of passage with them. When Ava told me she was trans, I grabbed the chance. “If you decide to get your ears pierced, promise I get to take you.” I never really thought it would happen. Ava hates needles. Turns green. Faints. Vomits. Always has.

But, tonight we went. She got her earlobes pierced. I got my cartilage pierced with a matching earring.

I took a selfie. One of the few I’ve taken in the past few months. Just in time for BlogHer. No more pronoun game. a mother and child selfie. Me. My daughter Ava, I am so glad to welcome her to this spinning world.

My Daughter and Me