Saturday, 30 May 2009

Web Writing For Dummies

I’ve been writing for the Web for almost two years. When I started, I was an idiot. No, no. It’s okay, really, I was. I had no idea how the game was played. I didn’t understand there were rules, characters, roles, and territories. I had no idea that someone, anyone, might care if they disagreed with me. I didn’t understand about lunch tables or sandboxes. I didn’t understand it was, well, so ... high school.

If you’re new to writing for the Web or if you’re thinking about it, here are some types of people of which you might want to be aware:

1. The Drive By: This is the person who will go to the trouble to create a user name, password, and profile for the singular purpose of telling you how badly you suck. The Drive By has never commented on anything on the site before and they never will again. And here’s the best part about The Drive By: there are lots of them. Think I’m exaggerating? Take look around. The next time you’re reading a story that has a really negative comment, click the profile. I know, right? Who knew? Drive Bys used to drive me nuts. Now, I’ve decided that if my writing is so compelling as to move someone to action, I’m not going to complain about it.

2. The Handle: This is the person who chooses a user name as if they are going to chatter on a CB radio from the 1970s. You know, names like Brown-Eyed Girl or Play Misty for Me. “Breaker, breaker 19, I think we’ve got ourselves a Smokey up ahead.” “10-4 Good Buddy.” You know, if it wasn’t a good idea then, perhaps you should consider the possibility that it’s not a good idea now. And just like with CB chatter, most of the time you have no idea what the hell they are talking about. I’m sure it’s just me.

3. The Smokey: Speaking of Smokeys, this is the person who is the peacemaker. They see each side of the argument and insist on telling you so. Smokeys are hard to peg because they agree with whoever is commenting at the time. They are super conciliatory and yes, they drive me freaking nuts. Whenever I encounter a Smokey I can’t help but hear Rodney King’s voice asking, “Can’t we all just get along?” And of course, whenever one of my voices asks a question, I answer. And my answer is always, “No. We can’t. That’s why we are arguing.” Duh. Stop trying to be a fun sponge.

4. The Elmer Gantry: Yes, this person is the evangelist who tries to convert your wayward soul. If you’re an Elmer Gantry and you’re reading this, please don’t bother with me. Really. Really, really. I’m a lost cause and you’re better off moving along to lower hanging fruit. Unless you can walk on water while raising Ronald Reagan from the dead, you’re not going to make me a Republican. You’re better off just leaving my soulless, liberal ass to the Big Guy. He’ll know what to do with me.

This leaves me with my all time, super favorite, can’t live without them, wait for it, wait for it ...

5. The Gum on Your Shoe: Don’t you hate that? You’re flip-flopping your super-cute Yellow Boxes across a hot asphalt parking lot and it happens. Gum. On. Your. Shoe. You can’t get it off. You can scrape it, pull it, walk it through grass, and still it’s there. Goo Be Gone can’t get gum off shoes. You think it will wear off. Nope. You think it will get tired of being stuck to just one pair of shoes. Nope. You think it will get old and fall off. Nope. You think if you ignore it long enough it will go away. Nope. And it’s always on your cutest flip-flops. And such it is with this type of person. They attach themselves to your best writing and forever more, they are with you. After a while, you forget what it’s like to not have them there. I will say this about The Gum on Your Shoe, they are dependable and predictable. They can get an argument started on an otherwise obscure article. They can propel you to infamy and make a cell with padded walls look like a lovely vacation spot. They’re not your friend and don’t love you, but they will never leave you. In the words of the immortal Meat Loaf, “Two outta three ain’t bad.”

Friday, 29 May 2009

Celebratory Grief

I received a graduation invitation in the mail last week. This was not surprising. I typically receive two or three invitations this time of year. This is an exciting and anxious time for graduates and their families.

I expect that when my own children graduate I will be overwhelmed with pride and flooded with memories of all that has led up to graduation day. I expect that I will remember the first days of Kindergarten and how I cried as I drove away from the school and away from the tiny, chubby bodies that sat at desks that were still slightly too big for them.

I expect that I will remember my children's first soccer games. I'm positive I will remember muddy soccer cleats, skint knees, sweaty heads, and the sweet taste of seeing my children play so hard. I know I'll remember hundreds of soccer practices as a collage of images all joined and blurred together. I'll remember the game it sleeted, tiny needles pricking my cheeks. I'll remember the game it was one hundred five degrees and I was convinced we all had heat stroke.

I'm sure I'll remember my children's first days of middle school and then high school, although I've yet to have those experiences. I'm sure I'll remember their first loves, first heartbreaks, first dances, first dates, and first cars. I expect that college admission letters are in our future as well as dorm rooms and the sticker shock of college tuition. Weddings? Yes, and grandbabies. I expect all of this. I expect my children to have futures. My vision of how my life will play out from this point forward is woven into and through their lives.

Tonight, my young cousin will graduate from high school. An honor student, member of the golf team, a member of the gifted and talented program. A good kid. My family will celebrate his graduation with dinner at the marina adjacent to one of his favorite places on earth - the lake. After dinner, my family will attend the graduation ceremony at the local community college. When my cousin's name is called, I have no doubt that the entire auditorium will stand and applaud.

And weep.

It will not be my cousin who walks across the stage to receive his diploma. It will be his dad who will accept it on his behalf. My young cousin's body lays in a cemetery that is, ironically, across the street from the community college where the ceremony will take place. His grave will be no more than one hundred yards from the spot where his dad will receive his diploma. I have no doubt that my family will visit the graveside after the ceremony.

Life can be cruel, and heartbreaking, and unfair. I wish I could make this different. I wish I could make it better. I wish I could ease the grief. I cannot do any of these things.

I don't believe bad things happen to good people for the purpose of teaching us lessons. I do, however, believe that lessons can certainly be gleaned from bad things. I'm not sure what lessons will ultimately be revealed to my family by the loss of my cousin. The cruel loss of an only child and only grandchild. The loss of not just a life, but of a family's future. I do know this. On the last day of my cousin's life he boarded a boat. He did not wear a life jacket. At some point he entered the water and drowned. I have no way of knowing if he would have lived had he been wearing a life jacket. I do know he would have at least had a chance. A chance to be rescued. A chance to somehow get himself back into the boat. A chance to be the one receiving his diploma tonight. A chance for a future. A chance to live.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Seven Reasons I Don't PTA: By Mommy's Space

I invited my friend Tawnia from Mommy's Space to write a PTA piece for my blog. Boy, did she ever deliver. I've long suspected that the PTA is the same in every school. Now I have confirmation that the Stepford PTA is exactly the same as Tawnia's in Washington state. Enjoy - I certainly did! Thanks Tawnia for brightening my day with this.


So it is that time of the month again! No… not Aunt Flow… Even better, its PTA meeting time. (The thought of The Parent Teacher Association does give me cramps, and mood swings though.) They will pressure you to join, beg for your help, gossip about you , and then make you feel bad about yourself for not wanting be in their cult. Gee… sounds great! When can I start?

I have a theory about all those hormonal, two faced women in charge of all things “that are not that important” at my child’s school. I have come to believe that each woman at every PTA across America fits into one of these seven categories; Sleazy, Frumpy, Mopey, Crafty, Bossy, Scared, and Lost. I know sounds familiar doesn’t it! Mirror… mirror on the wall… which is the worst one of them all?

Sleazy: Now this harlot needs no introduction. You can smell her before you see her. She shows up to PTA meetings in thigh high boots and a tube top (so does her 7year old daughter). She could care less about making a difference in her child’s education. She is just hoping to wrap her legs around the principal.

Frumpy: This woman is the opposite of Sleazy! She looks like she belongs at a Star Trek convention. Odd and out of place. She argues her points, asks too many questions, and is intent on changing this school for the better, one PTA meeting at a time!

Mopey: This woman comes to every meeting. She sits in the back, and she never says a word. Nobody ever remembers her name, or who her child is. No one is even sure if she belongs there, or if she just shows up for the free food!

Crafty: Here she comes packing a glue gun, duct tape, construction paper, and stencils. This lady is the MacGyver of the gymnasium. She can make you a photo backdrop for the school dance out of dental floss, toilet paper, and cardboard.. Crafty and Frumpy are almost always best friends!

Bossy: This bitch runs the show. Or at least she acts like she does! She tells everyone what to do, and how to do it. You can spot her because she never shuts-up! She takes this job seriously. She has no home life, and her kids can’t stand her. Oh … and her best friend Sleazy is banging her husband!

Scared: You can find her following Bossy around carrying all her stuff and hanging on every word she says! Scared is a Bossy in the making! She’s just here to make a difference, but all she ever does is all the things Bossy does not want to do. Scared rarely has an opinion or original thought of her own.

Lost: The new girl. She is trying so hard to fit in, no one likes her, and they all talk shit about her. She has no idea what she is doing, or how to do it. She Thinks Sleazy is pretty, Frumpy is smart, Crafty is amazing, she never notices Mopey, Bossy is her idol, and she is waiting for Scared to quit so she can take her job following Bossy around!

Ladies give it up! You are a joke to the education system! The principal barely tolerates you (except you Sleazy he is waiting for you in his office), the teachers hate you, and the other parents are tired of you! You are not helping improve your child’s education by talking bad about each other, fighting for a new school mascot, and decorating for the holidays. Just go home and parent your kids!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Saturday, 16 May 2009

A Little Balance

Okay, after yesterday's Glenn (the nutcase) Beck's video I feel the need to post something of substance and importance. The is the Gen WE Declaration. If you've not seen it, please watch it. If you've seen it, please watch it again. It is important.


Friday, 15 May 2009

Good Grief

Okay, as much as I dislike those right-wing talking heads they do occaisionally provide some of the best comedy out there. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Sad Day

So it's official. My daughter has dyslexia. I should not have feared an ambiguous diagnosis. She is a classic case in every area in which she was tested. This includes a very high score on her overall intelligence level. Translation: She is extremely bright. She's eight years old. She can't read.

The irony that my daughter has a mother who passionately loves the subtle, rich texture of books, reading, and writing breaks my heart. The permanence of this diagnosis weighs on me. The words "Create a file with everything we are giving you. You will need this documentation for her in middle school, high school, college, and she may need it as an adult" echo in my mind.

Some of the saddest words I've ever heard I heard today when the diagnostician said "Your daughter does not and will probably not ever experience books like you do. Her brain is not wired in a way that will allow her to become lost in the written word. Reading will most likely always be an academic exercise." At this, I laid my head on the table and wept.

Tomorrow I will be busy developing an action plan for my daughter. Flash cards will be made. Books will be bought. A summer program will be chosen. Websites and research will be accessed.

Today. I grieve.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Confessions of a Stepford Wife

Last week a good friend said to me, via email, that she didn't think she had ever met a mom that had it all together. I nodded in agreement. Then she followed with "you seem to though". Uh oh. I've been thinking about this and feel I need to correct this gross misperception. So, my sweet friend, this is for you.

1. My house is always a mess. The window seats in my breakfast room are littered with art supplies, old newspapers, paint brushes, pencils with no erasures, a box from a cell phone I bought eight months ago, and Yuh Gi Oh cards that have kick ass damage points.

2. My truck is always a mess. I have six drink holders in the Palinmobile and never anywhere to put my diet coke for my morning commute. Twice this week trash has fallen out of the truck during carpool drop off. My poor daughter, always being last to tumble out of the truck, had to stop, pick up the trash, and throw it back in before I sped off.

3. I paid the water bill twice this month.

4. My son ate goldfish for dinner last night while my daughter and I ate Chef Boyardee Ravioli out of the can. My son wanted a grilled cheese, but I was out of cheese.

5. Night before last I went to the grocery store at 10:30 PM for milk.

6. Yesterday, my daughter removed her doorknob with the help of four screwdrivers. I took one look at it and decided I would need four screwdrivers before dealing with it. Perhaps this weekend we can hook up my kind of screwdrivers and hers and get the door repaired.

7. My son's teacher just emailed me to tell me that she caught my son researching "chocolate milk" instead of "biomes" in the computer lab. I don't know what biomes are. I will need to google it at some point today.

8. My dad asked me at 6 AM this morning if I thought all the people in the Bush Administration who were responsible for the torture program were going to "walk". I actually said, "Right now. I don't care."

9. I'm fairly certain that I actually growled at my husband this morning when he asked for sex.

10. Today I am wearing the most uncomfortable shoes on the planet. They hurt my back, my toes, and my ankles. And I love them and I have no plans to stop wearing them. They are kick ass cool and I'm willing to sacrifice a lot to be able to wear four inch heels.


Tuesday, 5 May 2009

And Then There Was Music

The day cannot be all bad when you figure out how get Pink to play on your blog. The request line is now open.


An Addition to Yesterday's Quips & Quotes

Okay, this was just too good to wait for the next installment. It didn't come from Stepford, but from Alabama and wasn't said to me, but to my Stepmom.

From my Stepmom's neighbor, "Don't let your mom get any vaccines. Obama has had the swine flu added to vaccines to get rid of all the old people."

No comment on what this might do to our infant and toddler populations.

There really is no shortage of stupid people. Of course, the mere existence of Fox News is proof enough of that.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Quips & Quotes Around Stepford

Alright, I've decided to start keeping a record of all the ridiculous stuff people say to me. Everytime someone says something outrageous I think, "Hey. That could write." But, I rarely get around to writing an entire article out of one stupid quote. So, I've decided to start a series called Quips & Quotes where I can group two or three stupid things together for a quick laugh.

Here is the first installment. Enjoy!


From my mom after her most recent overdose of Fox News, "If Obama does not stop bussing Mexicans across the border we're all going to have Swine Flu by the end of the week!"

At this, I can only marvel at all the random ways DNA can align itself. I am very, very thankful for my own alignment that has apparently placed all my mom's genes in the recessive slot behind my father's.


From my brother (who I truly love): "Do you believe in global warming?"

After my WTF pause, I replied: "Noooo. I believe in God. Science does not require me to believe in anything."


From a fellow Stepford Wife after I disclosed I had taken my daughter to see the Hannah Montana Movie, "Was it appropriate?"

I replied (genuinely confused), "What do you mean?"

She says, "Any inappropriate sexual content?"

BIG WTF pause here. I'm thinking to myself, "I did say the Hannah Montana Movie, right??? I'm pretty sure Disney isn't going to let Miley loose her virginity in a movie geared for eight year old girls."

I did mangage to get out of my mouth, "Um. No. I thought it was fine."

I walked away thinking, "Holy Shit. I'm glad I didn't tell her I took both my kids to see Seventeen Again and my son's new favorite quote is 'Use a condom everytime!'"

I mean, hey, if your twelve year old son has to have a favorite quote, at least it's one that promotes safe sex.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Background Noise

Week before last, while I was raging about the pompous, spoiled teabaggers, someone said to me, "Let that stuff go. It's just background noise. It's unimportant and not worth your time."

Hmpf. I've been ruminating about this. Is it true? Am I wasting my energy on a non-issue? Are the right-wingers so marginalized that for all intents and purposes they are now extinct? Are the Republicans about to go the way of the Wigs? Are those moderates left in the party about to follow Arlen Spector's lead and abandon their failed ideology? Has the ObamaNation successfully stamped out those who would rule exclusively in their own self interests? Has the Berlin Wall of Conservatism really fallen? Are those who have damned us nearly to hell really obsolete?


I don't FREAKING think so.

I took a trip to the Dallas County Courthouse this week. It is rare that I venture into the city, but work necessitated it. My trip slapped me hard right across the face with what it is so easy to forget when you live in Stepford. Left a bad taste in my mouth with the little realities that we in Stepford can so easily pretend don't exist. Reminded me of the power brokers in Dallas that made it possible for a man with the integrity and intellect of Bush to rise to power in the first place.

Stepford is ninety-eight percent white. The city is not. Everyone from the parking garage attendants to the security guards who rifled through my purse to the clerks who took care of my business were black. I stood in line with whites, rode the elevators with whites, paid for my parking with whites. But, the basic workings of the city are powered by blacks. When leaving the city I decided to take a residential route rather than the tollway. It was getting late and I wanted to avoid a traffic jam and I had not driven through Highland and University Parks in quite some time. I enjoy gawking at the extravagant new architecture of the homes and search out those quaint little originals whose lots would be worth more if someone had already leveled them.

At the edge of the city and Highland Park is North Dallas High School. I came around the corner and hit the school zone minutes after the dismissal bell had rung. My mouth hung open. There were black teenagers everywhere. I searched for a white student. Nada. I hate myself for being so startled. I think about the high school my children will attend in Stepford, state of the art, modern, and very white. It is from another century, another time, another universe from this school. My heart breaks for these kids. Not because they are black, or because their school has a primarily black population. My heart breaks because I know the quality of their "equal opportunity" education is anything but equal or opportunistic. I know my own children will have advantages of which these children cannot dream. The disparity in public education in Texas is shocking and shameful. I hate it.

I moved onto Highland Park and past one of the many prestigious private schools to which those with money in Dallas send their children. I could only only catch glimpses of these students through the manicured hedge rows. Bits of blond and brown hair, pale skin, and the crisp white shirts of their uniforms. It occurs to me the disparity in opportunity between these kids and my own is as great as it is between my kids and the ones at North Dallas High. I refuse to allow myself to feel my children are deprived. They are not. And I know it.

I turn onto my favorite street. On it's corner is a house I'm sure Frank Llyod Wright inspired. I want to live there when (insert publish a book, win the lottery, or strike oil in my Stepford backyard). Then I see why this trip was not a good idea. I knew I was not far from the Preston Hollow street where Bush has made his post White House home. I am still taken by surprise. Yard after yard has the exact same sign. They read "Welcome Home, George and Laura!" As if they know them personally. Then I remind myself, many do. Most probably do. They are old friends, campaign contributors, and faithful supporters. Neighbors. When George and Laura enter a restaurant in Dallas, patrons stand and clap. They are proud. Me, not so much.

Make no mistake. The right wingers may be wounded. They may be temporarily marginalized. But the rich and powerful are still with us and they are still with Bush. They are reorganizing, strategizing, and they will be back. We must stay on our guard, stay engaged in our political process and vote every chance we get. Our future depends upon it. My children's future depends upon it. The children at North Dallas High, very definitely, depend upon it.