blogging

When Is A Blog Too Much?

by Becky on May 30, 2013 · 2 comments

in Meta Blog, Parenting

So I’m taking a break from our travels for a minute in order to take up a theme every blogger will resonate to:  when/what is too much?  For example, when does a fashion blog cross the line, becoming an excuse for the blogger to display her fabulousness,  prompting the rest of us to want to swallow down that last bit of arsenic because we cannot ever (for love or money) get skin like hers, or we cannot afford Chanel bags (I mean, who can?–are bloggers selling body organs to finance such purchases?), or we cannot manage to summon the DNA needed for thinking up/putting together outfit posts that look adorably effortless.  (My ‘effortless’ is men’s pajama bottoms and a Hanes men’s V-neck.)

(I know, I sound a little strident.  Just stick with me.)

My answer?  When a blogger’s having a ball, then the blog works.  Which is why Miss Lavender (a fashion blog junkie) and I never get sick of Design Love Fest, for example, or Wendy’s Look Book.  Yes, endless pictures of Bri Emery adorn Designlovefest.  And yet it never seems to get old because she is SO tirelessly imaginative, that you just look at her blog and think, HOW does she come up with all this fun stuff?!  And Wendyslookbook?  Have a look-see, and you’ll get it.  Every photo features Wendy, yet she never leaves you wondering whether she’s self-obsessed.  Or if in fact she is, you can forgive her that–because she’s imaginative.  And very good at what she does.  Her How-to-tie-a-scarf-twenty-five-different-ways video is off the hook.  Yes, it’s her, her, her doing nothing but messing with a scarf in a video on YouTube, but she is having so . . . much . . . fun!  And eighteen million other people have been having fun right along with her.

Observation number one, then:  having fun with your blog is a huge plus (fun-ness effectively mitigating self-obsessiveness).  And fun-ness works even better when a blog has a strong sense of voice.  Emma and Elsie come to mind:  abeautifulmess offers vintage-inspired/homemade fun and a distinct sense of blog identity as well, all in a venue loaded with photos of both sisters.

So what about mom blogs?  When does a mom blog cross the line into Look-at-how-precious-my-kids-are?  But wait!  Stop.  EVERY mom blog has a strong element of Look-at-how-precious-my-kids are.  Right?  Moms wouldn’t blog if they weren’t invested in creating a register of their kids’ (who are precious to them!) comings, goings, triumphs, challenges, outfits, projects, etcetera.  That’s what mom blogging understands itself to be.  That said, I have to confess that I find myself going back over and over to certain blogs whose tone appeals to me, either because it’s drily humorous or touchingly confessional or brutally straightforward or just wonderfully informative.

Observation number two.  Blogs are like people:  you naturally want to visit with the ones who have stories to tell and authentic voices in which to tell them.  And if lots of photos accompany the stories?–hey, I’m down.

So if you’re wondering what prompted this post, I’ll tell you.  Miss Lavender came to me this morning, wondering whether some of the people she knows had begun to feel that her blog had become self-obsessed.  She showed me a Facebook post, where someone she knew had mentioned that (and I’m quoting very loosely) some people’s photos were merely about self-obsession.  So, let’s clarify first.  This person was talking about no one in particular, though in her own mind she may have been thinking of someone specific.  But Miss Lavender wondered, Was this individual talking about her?  Miss Lavender’s blog is indeed a collection of pictures of her, as most young people’s blogs are.  However, I pointed out to Miss L. that, in her latest post, she was happily unafraid to be ironic, goofy, and distinctly un-fixed-up.  Moreover, she included pics of the landscape and of an iron shill of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza out in front of a restaurant.  Plus, she speaks.  She tells.  She’s exercising her voice.  I thought the post was just cool.

My point?  Miss L. loves blogging and hopes at some point down the road to monetize her efforts.  As a potentially remunerative form of self-expression, a blog says, This is my face, this my story, and I am okay with trading on both.  But it also says, Let’s converse, let’s build a community.  In other words, compiling ideas and photos and putting it all out there:  that’s what a blog is and what it does.  And if you know that that’s what you’re about and particularly if you have a sense of ‘mission’–what you ultimately want to accomplish, let’s say–then deploying your-self as currency, so to speak, no longer sounds as, well, as self-obsessed, especially considering the fact that you’re your own brand.

What are your thoughts?  Particularly about your teens who blog or who spend time on Facebook, a platform that also trades in photos and self-expression?

Really curious!

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Why Girls Need Their Girls

by Becky on November 12, 2012 · 2 comments

in Design, Fashion, Fun, Parenting

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I happened to give birth to two girls. One is now seventeen. The younger, born on the same day as her sister, is fourteen. At the moment, both happen to be on the community bed (my bed, in other words), where one is sifting through fashion blogs and the other is pinning.

But here comes the cool part. The older one says to me, “Mom, I love this blog! This woman works for J. Crew. Half her outfits are J. Crew . . .” And she scrolls and oohs. “Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh,” she exclaims, having collided once again with a great new style blog.  And the younger one says to me, “Mom, you have to see this! Look at these steps!” And she proceeds to show me a DIY she’s found on Pinterest, a cement-mixing effort that involves creating small steps for a garden walkway, each one stamped with leaves, their delicate outlines and intricate vascular systems permanently imprinted on the newly dried stone.

The point isn’t that one girl dies over J. Crew and the other swoons over hardscapes. It’s that my bed has become a staging area for Big Dreams, with a viewership of one–i.e., me.  One thing our move has given me is more time to be a tribe of three.

Sometimes I used to stretch out on my mother’s bed.  She’d be neatly tucked in the way I am tonight, the difference being that while she always wore a white cotton nightie, I’m in a Hanes men’s v-neck and my men’s pajama bottoms (a wardrobe article so comfy and so essential I often consider never taking them off).  And I’d tell her things everyone else would have found meaningless but that she would listen to with quiet delight.  And now here I am, the mother, my girls pointing out all the things that get their hearts racing while I listen.  I used to think I prattled on and on and that my mother was simply indulging me.  Now I know better.  Now that I’m the one in pajamas, I get it.  The important thing is that, whatever my girls are saying, they’re saying it to me.

Girls need their girls, which, translated, means that if you’ve got two “x” chomosomes and a nearby mother or daughter, you should immediately go to the nearest bed, hop onto it, burrow in with your books and gadgetry, and get ready to exclaim to your heart’s content.  Mothers, prepare to be in your element.  Girls, do likewise.  Chocolate, optional.

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Yikes! I’m Being Blog Stalked!

by Becky on November 12, 2012

in Parenting

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So I found out recently that a few of my older daughter’s friends read my blog.  Often.  The news came as a huge surprise.  Why would teenage girls get on my blog?  Well, one reason was obvious.  They’re hoping for pictures and news of their friend, something I often provide, though not necessarily with the goal of scrapbooking our life.  But the other reason, I think, is because they may feel a little bit like, when they see her, they’re with her.

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I want to speak to that “with” theme for a moment.  (Are you listening, girls?)  Moms ache for their kids to have good friends.  I mean, it’s a physical ache sometimes.  We want them to connect with other young people who will inspire them to want to be their best selves, with all that implies.  In the friend department, this daughter of mine scored.  No, really.  She won the lottery.  Her friends (scooch a little closer so you can hear this, everyone) are highly intelligent, unfailingly kind, gut-bustingly funny, and totally loyal.  Laurel, Courtney, Emily, Brigitte, Caitlin, Bri, and the rest of the Edison crew:  you’re ah-mazing, all of you.  I love you like you’re mine!

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And don’t give up on your girl. She may be here with us, but believe me, her little heart is so often with you.

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Abrazos and besitos,

Eleven O’Clock Mom

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Last spring, I packed up a few colorful outfits, some not-so-sensible shoes, grabbed my laptop, got on a plane, and flew to Miami, where the Mom 2.0 Conference, at the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne, was happening. I had decided I wanted to start blogging, and I knew nothing at all about how one went about it. I’d done plenty of writing. But blogging?

What I did know was that I wanted to reach out to moms of teens. That demographic, I felt, was underrepresented in the blogosphere, probably because we were all busy assembling meals for tweens and teens whose staggered schedules meant that the kitchen stayed open around the clock. Or we were helping with homework until 2 am. Or running this child or that one or all of them to/from ballet or voice lessons or track practice or a study group or a friend’s pool party or an orthodontic appointment or an MUN (Model United Nations) conference, etcetera, ad infinitum. Moms of kids in the (roughly) eleven to eighteen range, you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? I mean, how would any of us have time to blog, of all things?

Nevertheless, I checked in at the conference, and so began an interesting weekend, where mom bloggers of all stripes, authors, speakers, marketers, advertisers, media groups, and purveyors of very nice swag came together for morning plenary sessions, panel discussions, Q & A’s, lunches, a highly anticipated Twitter event, a reception at the Versace Mansion (skipped it, too tired), and on it went. Lots and lots to collide with, take notes on, process. Lots of networking to do, which is tricky if you have no business cards. Gals were handing them out like they were candy, and believe me, some serious thought had gone into the design of those cards.  As I was cardless, my line was, “I’m just starting out,” a confession which prompted one or two magnanimous smiles from women who were no doubt writing me off.

And there was plenty of “Reach out to me” talk going on.  One woman, a well-heeled rep for Macy’s, herself the mother of a teenage daughter, was telling me about her weekend in the Carribean with Rachel Roy and Martha Stewart. “Reach out to me,” she said coolly, passing me her card, and I was thinking to myself, “Mm, you probably don’t drive a Suburban that smells like the family’s last camping trip, do you?” But I smiled blithely, thanking her for her little compliment about my chevron-patterned knit skirt, which I’d picked up at a consignment store a few days earlier.  I doubted she frequented consignment stores.

On the one hand, I thought, what is all this?  On the other hand, I thought, why not?  Why not reach out, connect, build communities?  But I wasn’t sure my voice was sufficiently tuned, and that seemed to be the key feature of the blogs I resonated to–a strong sense of voice.  At the end of the weekend, I collected my things, got back on a plane, and flew back to Orange County, California, where the family waited to see how it had gone.  “It was cool,” I told them.  “Very interesting.”  Which it was.

And that was that.  Summer came.  The extended family met in Budapest to start a European river cruise, a gift from my parents.  My son was getting ready to embark on his own grand, two-year adventure, and I probably wrote five blog posts between May and September.

Then we moved. Out of the country. And I dusted off what I could recall from Mom 2.0 and started thinking again about blogging for real, about trying to connect moms of older kids, whose work is more fraught and rewarding and complex and gratifying (shall I go on?) than anyone can imagine. “We’ve got to be talking,” I thought, and realized I really wanted to try to kick start that conversation.

To that end, I thought I’d share my take aways from the conference. First, if there was one thing that became clear to me, it was that mom bloggers have reach. They have bandwidth.  I figured that out the second I visited momitforward, for example, one of the really amazing blogs referenced in a panel session I attended.  Up to that point, I had no idea that women could mobilize like that!–taking up themes important to moms of all kinds, creating communities, and making great things happen.  Second, while the business of connecting with your tribe through your blogging efforts takes the kind of boundless persistence I would have thought only Olympic athletes or candidates for political office were capable of, even small steps forward invite good things.  I talked to all kinds of other bloggers who were steadily building their communities and having a great time doing it.  Third, if you focus on content that matters deeply to you, eventually you’ll find traction.  Over and over I heard this, and now I guess I’m challenging us all to prove the idea solid.

Finally, I thought I’d share a story that continues to inspire me.  One of the panelists that weekend was Lee Rhodes, of glassybaby.  A lung cancer survivor, she wrestled to get her company going in spite of the fact that naysayers popped up everywhere.  Wasn’t going to work, everyone told her.  No one would ever want to pay a premium for handblown glass votives.  But the light of candles had always kept her going during the dark days of her illness, and she felt so sure of her uniquely artisanal product and its mission that she pushed forward.  Take a look at what glassybaby is doing today, in spite of the fact that when the company was still just an idea, no one thought it could work.  Her message to everyone at Mom 2.0 was that all kinds of “you-can’t-do-it” folks will show up right when you’re ready to start something new and noteworthy.  They’ll tell you why it’s a bad idea.  They’ll tell you not to waste your time.  Do it anyway, was Rhodes’ message, because you might be about to connect with your right life.

For me, that was the big take away from Mom 2.0.  Whatever your own (or anyone else’s) hesitations about your blogging efforts and mission, do it anyway.  Because plenty of people are listening.

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I have two daughters, both in their teens, both tall and statuesque.  (I know, I know, forgive me while I dote.)  Each is lovely in her own distinct way. Each has her own unique strengths and tastes. One adores vintage style and dreams about being an industrial designer. One listens to Bach while she does homework and occasionally breaks into song in cathedrals. My point: they’re different. As a result, sometimes they have to work to understand each other.

Which brings me to a phenomenon I’ll call “love” blogging. My older daughter, she of the waist-length hair and patrician features, stumbled upon an interesting blog recently. A Blog About Love chronicles the journey of a highly interesting couple whose first marriages ended and whose second marriage–to each other–has brought them not only happiness but wisdom, the pearls of which they share with those lucky enough to count themselves among the blog’s readership. But while it tends to focus on married love, the posts resonate on many levels. Indeed, my daughter has found the overall theme so inspiring that she now has resolved to be more loving and understanding, starting with her younger sister–a blue-eyed wisp of a thing who could easily have stepped out of a Celtic myth.

It’s impossible to overestimate the bandwidth of the love blog. Last night, for example, we were all sitting around as a family after finishing an exercise in Spanish reading and pronunciation (we’re living in Spain until next summer), and when my older daughter had an opportunity to get frustrated at something that might normally have prompted frustration, she turned to me with a smile, touched me lightly on the arm, and affirmed that she was choosing not to be bugged. “Since I’ve been reading A Blog About Love,” she reminded me, “I just want to be more loving to everyone.”

I know, right? The moment sounds almost cloying–like it could be fake!  But it wasn’t cloying.  And it most certainly wasn’t fake.  The evidence:  a seventeen-year-old girl chose love.  Because of a blog.  Naturally she was the greatest beneficiary.  After all, the kind of forbearance informed by the intention to practice love instead of something else always benefits the practitioner more than anyone else.

Thank you, authors of A Blog About Love.  Your message has currency, not only with the second-time-arounders but also with a much younger crowd as well, including a beautiful girl whose views of love have broadened as a result of having collided with you.  She, like your other readers, is gaining confidence that love is a verb–i.e., anyone can practice it with success.

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For highly personal reasons having to do with its rather miraculous healing properties, my daughter Tessa feels a strong attachment to lavender. The scent is perhaps her favorite. So when it came time to decide on a name for her blog, she settled on A Lavender Sea, the name being a metaphor for the vast ocean of desirable objects–mostly of the vintage variety–out there waiting to be discovered by some enterprising young woman–i.e., her.

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Her love of all things vintage makes me smile, as does her new blog, which highlights her quest to search out the old, the forgotten, and the beautiful–by turns.  Notice the vintage glasses, plucked from a store in Vienna this summer, then fitted with prescription lenses.

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Our new blogger, seated in a dainty, pink chair on Riera Baixa, a street laden with vintage stores in the Raval district of Barcelona.  She particularly loved a store called Lailo, about which she blogged.

Do your kids have aptitudes and passions that might lead them toward a degree or a vocation? Or even their right life? Let’s get our kids involved in efforts that both reflect and fuel their interests. And by all means, let’s share ideas! Click on “comment” and let me know.

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So I decided I’m going to blog. About blogging. About my teenagers. A meta blog! So postmodern, isn’t it? So early two thousands. So bourgeois.

So self-important.

Oh well. Regardless, I’m going to cast myself as the mom who conquered the blogosphere by blogging about it. A blog within a blog! Kind of like Inception, except not about wildly cool dreams imbedded in deeper, equally cool dreams. And not about Leonardo DiCaprio. And without the mindblowing special effects. And also without the surreal box office success. I know, bad comparison. Okay, better one: blogging is like driving an ice cream truck. You wind around and around the same neighborhoods, day in, day out, your quirky little tune getting lost on the breeze, and you’re lucky if two people stop you for one of the treats you’re peddling. But hey, at least if you talk about the journey, you can fool yourself into thinking you’re getting decent gas mileage.

Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. First, to what I’ll call the L1B, or Layer One Blog. The inspiration came to me one day after I’d seen some disturbing stuff here and there on the web, written by (understandably) hysterical moms of teens. According to these women, their kids were completely out of control: on drugs, having sex, disrespecting their families and themselves and God and thus–like rogue tornadoes–generally cutting wide swaths of the acutest misery through the lives of everyone connected with them. Geez, I thought. Is this all that’s out there? Is no one saying a single positive thing about these not-yet-adults? Granted, teenagehood is tricky, everyone acknowledges that. Those of us who survived our own teenage years still tend to stutter when rehearsing the tales. (Say “still tend to stutter” four times, fast, while imagining yourself as a twitchy high school sophomore whose lips keep snagging on a mouth laced with orthodontic chicken wire.)

Anyway, I decided it was the tone of the web chatter that puzzled me most. So full of contempt. I’d grant them fear, these mom bloggers. Anyone could see why they would be afraid, given the stories I was seeing. I’d even grant them anger, considering some of the shocking things their teens had said and done. But I could not grant them contempt. Which got me thinking: was anyone talking about their teens with (semi) equal parts concern and affection? Or humor?? Was anyone talking about the strange extent to which our teenagers’ fitness for stirring us up may be directly proportional to their wonderful complexity? I mean, they’re interesting, these teens! And yeah, exasperating, here and there. And sometimes frightening. (I’ll grant myself that.) But darn it if every one of them isn’t thoroughly unique, a fact that requires us to put aside our own parental prejudices long enough to suspend judgment, thereby qualifying us to see the beautiful snowflake patterns, as it were, before adulthood tries to dissolve them.

You see, I wanted to talk about the complicated but brilliant business of raising teens. Why? Because my kids bump up the color of my world, all the time. When one of them starts deleriously riffing on something that happened at school–like, say, falling asleep in AP biology and hearing later that the entire class thrust their collective chins toward their drooling classmate when the teacher asked whether she was present–man, I LOVE those stories! I love that drooling, sleeping girl who studies her brains out! Or when one of them receives a special award for having started a service club on campus, an effort that involved making tray favors for hospitalized children, sending donated goods to troops in Afghanistan, and raising money for prostate cancer (I’m not sure why it wasn’t breast cancer, but still), I’m convinced that the applause could never possibly be loud enough. I love that tall, blue-eyed, tray favor-making Fundraiser!

So essentially, my blog was going to be me, in my ice cream truck, blasting my little song about the sangfroid of my teenage offspring. And I am blasting away. I am now Eleven O’Clock Mom. I live at http://www.elevenoclockmom.com. Go to my home page if you don’t believe me.

On to my L2B, then. (Layer Two Blog, if you’re wondering.) This is where I dive deeper, to blog about my blog. In short, this is where I chronicle my life as a mom-of-teens blogger. So far, I’ve learned two things. One, if I take myself too seriously, it will potentially hurt my ice cream sales. Second, if people discover that I don’t look like a top-tier blogger (Samantha Ettus comes to mind), it will hurt my ice cream sales. Thus, I will have to learn not to care what anyone thinks about my middle-agedness and also not to eschew the use of photo-altering technology to conceal the fact that I haven’t had a lip wax since 2011.

Stay tuned for more L2B-ing. In my next post, I plan to talk about why trawling the web in search of other successful mom bloggers in order to tease out their secrets makes you want to crawl headfirst into a pre-heated oven. Stay tuned as well for more of my L1B, where the real substance is. (Because it’s where the kids are.)

Ciao!

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