Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is self-promotion always shameless? Maybe.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of designing, marketing, and pimping my blog.  Magnets, necklaces, new cards, media kits... holy shit - my head is spinning.

Marketing strategy 1.

Networking with gifts.  Yay.

This may not be that impressive - but I designed it and got it onto the blog myself!

In a few days, these endless conference posts will stop, and I will get back to pontificating about playground etiquette, big strollers, and photoshopped models.  But this is what is going on right now:
Blogher 12.

Blogher 12 is the biggest Blogging conference for women, in the world.  This week, nearly 5,000 women are descending upon New York City - to network, market themselves, and learn from the pros.  I will be one of them.  As luck would have it, it is in my city - so I don't have to pay for travel, lodging and all manner of other stuff that I cannot afford.  Thank you, universe.

So, I'm writing this post to say, that if you are a reader and enjoy what I do here (minus all of this week's shameless self-promotion) please visit my Facebook or Twitter page and become a fan or follow - or subscribe to the blog on the right column of this page.  Do all of those things, and you will be my cyber BFF.  These numbers apparently mean something to all of the media outlets I am trying to connect with.  I think they want to know that people actually read what I write.  Go figure.

These links will take you right to my pages.  Yes, I am shameless.  But I will basically do anything to craft a life for myself that doesn't include pouring other people wine, working endless hours, and still not being able to afford to send my child to daycare.

If you are going to Blogher - see you there.  If you are waiting for these endless Blogher posts to stop -  bear with me and see you next week! 

Photobucket Photobucket

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What Not To Wear - Blogher '12 Edition.

Update:  Who cares.

The President is speaking, I am about to meet some fantastic people... and all I can say is woohoo!


Is anyone else's child obsessed with doors?  And on a completely unrelated note - gum should be illegal.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fifty shades of...

Okay, so I've said it before, and I'll say it again...

I'll never understand the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey.  I just won't.

My first published article as Guerrilla Mom appears on Mommyish.com today.  Guess what it's about?  I call bullshit that it is mothers that are making this book so wildly popular.  What do you think?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Silence is Golden.

When I was 21, I had my first, big break-up.   I was laying beside him in bed, and just thought, I'm not in love.  It's easier to leave when you are young.  And that's what I did.

Even though I wanted it to end, I was still heartbroken.  I did what I always did when I felt bad in my early twenties in San Francisco - I jumped on my bike and rode it to Ocean Beach.

The ride to Ocean Beach from where I lived in lower Sunset was a gradual, uphill battle.  By the time I got to my destination - the vintage arcade that rests on the cusp of the beach - I was out of breath, tired, and tear-stained.  I hopped off of my bike and  looked at the familiar entrance to the arcade.  Laughing Sally was inside, and I needed her.  25 cents, and she would grab her belly and guffaw.  She had been making me laugh since I was a child.

A few more tears dropped from my eyes.  I looked up, and a funny-looking old lady stood before me.  She was short, with crazy, curly white hair and the most amazing ice-blue eyes I had ever seen.

Don't cry honey. 
I looked into her eyes, but didn't say a word.
I come here every day to visit my husband.  We had such a life.  He loved this place.
My brain was putting pieces of her life together.   I was thinking things, but couldn't seem to muster a word.   I couldn't avert my glance from those incredible eyes.
You don't know now, but this is nothing.  It goes by fast, and there will be more.  Don't be sad.  There will be so much for you.  You don't know now.
And again:
I come here every day to visit my husband.  We had such a life.  He loved this place.  I have to go honey.  Don't cry.

I watched her walk away.  Suddenly, it was so loud.  The sound of the ocean, the speeding of the cars along the Great Highway, the laughter of the children on the beach - it was as if someone had turned the volume button way up as she disappeared around the corner of the arcade.  It was definitely on mute while she was speaking.  There had been no sound as she stood in front of me, but her funny, happy, shaky little voice.

I followed her around the corner.  There was nothing there but an amazing view of the ocean, and a low wall.  My tears had disappeared and a smile stretched across my face.  I don't know where she came from, or where she went, but for a moment in time - that silence was ours.  We were in another world.  It's easier to believe in magic when you are young.  And that's what I did.

I brought my quarter into the arcade, dropped it into Sally, and laughed.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blogher '12 - Guerrilla Mom's NYC Survival Tips

There have been tons of blog posts strewn about the Internet lately, all about what Newbies need to do to get through Blogher '12.  Well, since I am a Newbie, I obviously can't contribute to that discussion.  I can, however, teach even old-school Blogger's, some quintessential points about navigating NYC.

Listen up, ladies.

Guerrilla Mom's NYC Survival Tips

1.  Never hang your purse on the back of a chair.
Never, and I mean never keep your stuff out of sight in the Big Apple.  If you don't have your eyes on it - it will disappear.  Having worked for a decade in Brooklyn bars, I can attest to that.  Trust me.

2.  Pronounce things like a native. 
If you decide to check out Soho, there is a main thoroughfare that you will most likely be asking directions to/from.  It is spelled Houston.  It is pronounced How-stun.  Get it right.

3.  Don't be shy at the deli.
Deli etiquette in NYC is not for the weak at heart.  When entering a deli, do not waste your time looking for the end of the line.  There isn't one.  Whoever walks to the counter gets served.  Period.  Walk up to the counter, place your order, and hang back waiting for it to be ready.

4.  Don't block the sidewalk.
Yes, the skyscrapers are huge.  Yes, it is a beautiful city.  Yes, Banana Republic is having an awesome sale.  Under no circumstances should you dilly dally in the middle of the sidewalk appreciating any of these things, though.  You will be shoved.  It won't be pretty.

5.  Handle cabs with confidence.
If you hail a cab, and it slows down for you - open the door and get in.  Don't tell the driver where you are going, through a crack in the window, and wait for his response.  If you do that - he will know you are a tourist, and probably gouge you.  New Yorkers know that cab drivers are not allowed to refuse fares, and jump right in when they stop.
On the same token, if a cab driver ever asks you which way you want to go, respond like so:
What am I, a fucking GPS?  The right way, motherfucker.  And don't even think about trying to take the scenic route because I take this trip every night, and know how much it costs. 

6.  Do not take a double-decker bus tour.
That is just stupid. 

7.  Don't be gluten-free in NYC.
For the love of God and everything holy, have a slice of pizza and a NY bagel.  Gluten-free don't get you into heaven.  But tasting both of these things will be a religious experience.

8.  The revolving bar at the top of the Marriott hotel in Times Square is awesome.
It really is.

9.  Don't follow any weird whispering men into a back room on Canal Street. 
The back room knock-offs on Canal Street are just that - knock-offs.  Don't bother.

And last, but not least - if anyone wants to skip their afternoon nap in the hotel, ride the subway over the Manhattan Bridge, and walk through Brownstone Brooklyn - let me know.  I'll be taking this trip on both days to drop off my swag and put on some cute shoes.

See you there.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How many words does your child have?

I was at the park the other day frolicking in the sun with Lucien.  A fire truck drove by, and a little boy, around 14 months old, looked in its direction and said, Teh.
Mother responds, Truck!  Yes, that's a truck!  You are so smart!
How many words does your son have?
I look around, a little confused.  That kid definitely did not say, "truck."  Me?  I mean, him?  I'm confusedly pointing at my own child.
Yes!  He's adorable.  How old is he?  And again she asks, How many words does he have?

This is why I love the internet.  This baby looks really smart.

He's 20 months.  He says "Mom" and "Dada", and I think, "kitty."  He says "meh", when he sees milk, so maybe he "has" that, too.  He babbles constantly, but who really knows if he's saying actual words, right?  I mean how much of baby vocabulary  is really just us projecting legitimate words onto the grunts they make, right?  Am I right?

Um, sure.  Well, Bye!  Clearly that's not what she wanted to hear.  I need to learn to play along better.  Next time, I'll be ready with something more interesting to add to our conversation about early childhood development.  It will go something like this.

How many words does your son have?

He said, "ahh" while pointing in the direction of a wedge that holds our front door open, which I'm taking to mean "Isosceles Triangle," because it really looks like one.  He is part Greek after all.  In other things Greek,  he's also exhibiting that he doesn't have an affinity for debt management, as he still hasn't payed his ER bill from 3 months ago.  Also, while we were reading his "first words," book the other day, he looked visibly bored, and said, "enn."  I'm taking that to mean "Encyclopedia Britannica," and have ordered the complete set for his reading pleasure.  That will be waaaay more stimulating that these "First Words" bullshit board books, don't you think?  Imagine how many words he'll have after perusing those!

I'm sure it's just harmless chit-chat, but I don't really get what the "what is your baby doing" questions are all about.  Isn't that why we have the Internet and Babycenter?  They both provide endless charts and graphs that, A) assure us we have bred a fully capable being, or B) convince us all that drug use in our early twenties is actually making a baby we had 15 years later learn things slower.

Basically, what I am saying is this:  Lucien didn't crawl until he was 7 months old, walk until he was 14 months old, and now he is 20 months old and has his own, wonderful babble-language.  He is fully engaged, and incredibly happy.  I honestly don't know how many words he has.  But, like everything else, he'll have them when he's good and ready.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Wonder Clock. Ugh.

Every wonder how much time you have left until your ovaries shrivel up, and you are rendered a spinster, forever?  Well, worry no more!  Mira Kaddoura has created the first "downloadable biological clock" to take the guesswork out of your fertility angst.

The Wonder Clock’s name is artfully ambiguous. Instead of a tense countdown, it instigates more a sense of curiosity. What could happen as this clock counts down? Maybe children, but also self-empowerment, innovation and exploration. This app brings an ever-present pressure to light while implicitly encouraging women to fill their lives with their individual wants and needs.

Wow.  Well, I didn't get any of that out of it, but before we go on, let me show you what it looks like:

Instead of a tense countdown, it instigates more a sense of curiosity.   Really?  How?  This is a clock.  That is it.  It has no other function, than to countdown.  This isn't a choose your own adventure app.  The only element you enter into it to receive your personalized version, is your birth date.  At best it's a completely non-scientific guessing game, and at worst - it's horrifying.  I almost bought it just so I could see what it would say about my biological clock, but I didn't want to give this she devil $1.99. Here's what she has to say about her creation:

I created this clock to face my own fears. To
beckon the elephant in the room so to speak. To
release my own power, my own choices. To open
a dialogue with other women about fertility, 
empowerment, and loving ourselves. We are women,
and we are ticking. But we are so much more.

She's obviously not a she-devil.  But, something tells me that if her biological clock said something like one year, one month, 13 days and no minutes - she would be less likely to think that this app was so empowering.  I looked on her twitter page, and the only women that seem to love this thing are women for whom the ticking of the clock is a distant worry.   Like these girls:

And then there are the random men that think it's "funny."  Like this guy:

I don't think she's a horrible person.  I don't.  But I do think she has created a gimmick - that's all -  not a tool for empowerment.  Frankly,  I'd rather a woman make money off of this than a man, so more power to her.  But I also feel that if a man had created this, we would all be calling it what it is - useless.  Fertility is a sliding scale, not an infinite number.

Good for you Mira, for developing an app that is catchy enough to be picked up on by the news media.  But do us women a favor, and don't act like you're doing something to empower us all.  You're not.  If you think you are, talk to me again in nine years, four months, and 25 days.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Deconstructing Cosmo

For the past few months I've been on the receiving end of a free subscription to Cosmopolitan magazine.  It's like the universe is calling me an old lady.  Fuck you universe.  I am not buying a sky blue eyeshadow wand.  You can't make me.

At first, I just flipped through the inane articles, had a good laugh, and set it out for recycling.  But the more I started studying the issues, the more depressed I got.  If our young ladies are really taking any of this garbage to heart, the future of our civilization is doomed.

Here are a couple of the grossest cover headlines for August:

This is a compilation of makeup tips, so the title is a little deceiving -  until you start reading the article.  The gist of the whole piece is that you should wear red lipstick, blush, and use conditioner.  But they don't just say that.  That would be boring.  Instead, the fine writers at Cosmo turn a few makeup tips into a tutorial on fertility and desire.

He can't resist racy red lips.  Besides looking smoking hot... studies show that just seeing the color red raises a guy's heart rate and blood pressure, riling him up.  Women's lips darken when they hit puberty, the time baby-making estrogen levels peak, so the hue acts as a fertility announcement...

Jesus Christ, weirdo, are you even reading the shit that you write?  I hit puberty at 11, so yeah - gross.  Is our intention now to raise a guy's heart rate and blood pressure, riling him up?  Can't wait to hear the new version of the Twinkie defense:  She was asking for it.  The red lipstick made me do it.

He can't resist a flirty flush.  Research suggests that you are perceived as very trustworthy and easy to get along with when you're flushing... qualities men look for in a GF.  Revved-up circulation also makes you look vibrant, and again, fertile - two additional subconscious seducers.

I always thought men wanted to spend their early 20's having fun and not being tied down, but I guess I was wrong.  They just want to spread their seed all over the land.  Fertility rules, ladies.

Whatever might this be?  A copy of Emerson's, Self Reliance?  An image of suffragettes marching for the vote?  Maya Angelou's, Phenomenal Woman?  Um, no.

Keep a pair of hot red stilettos under your desk, and slip them on for an instant boost.  It sounds silly, but tweaking your appearance in a bold way can make you feel much better.

Let me get this straight.  If I'm feeling overwrought and intimidated in the work place, I should slip on a pair of red hot stilettos?  Yes, that will solve everything.  Fantastic idea.  I'm sure all of the people who work with me will be thinking, Wow, confidence!   Or maybe they will just be thinking, What the hell is wrong with Maria?  Why did she slip on stripper shoes before that meeting?  

I worked a private party for Mayor Bloomberg earlier this year.  His handlers were pretty interesting.  It was a group of about five ladies, all in their early thirties.  One of the ladies was in charge of the very important detail of deciding where exactly the peonies would be placed on the tables (Mayor Mike's favorite flower!), and making sure that we put the humus in arm's reach ( He loves humus!)  She was very detail oriented.  Right before the dinner began, she slipped off her sensible black pumps, and slipped on a pair of five inch heels.  The heels were made of lucite.

This is the actual shoe she put on.  Jimmy Choo makes stripper heels.  They are $2400.

At no time did I think, Wow, she must be really confident and able!  What I did think was, Is that woman out of her damn mind?  Why did she just put those plastic shoes on?  

As usual, I digress.  The point of this whole post is that Cosmopolitan is ridiculous, and they are doing their female readership a huge disservice by writing this crap.  I don't see why you can't have some smart things to say and sell makeup.  But that's just one, fed-up feminist's opinion.

By the way, I didn't buy the sky blue eyeshadow wand, but I did buy the brown one.  Advertising really works.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Doing things.

I went to the movies yesterday.

This may not seem like an epic event to most of you, but I have been to exactly three movies since Lucien was born, so it's kind of a big deal.

My sister and her husband came to visit, and movies are their thing.  They throw an Oscar party every year, and see pretty much everything worth seeing.  I almost didn't go with them yesterday, because it was hot as hell outside, and I was reluctant to leave my air-conditioned cocoon.  But then I thought, Jesus, Maria.  Get off your ass.  You never get to go to the movies, and more importantly you never get to hang out with your sister.


About five years ago I went on vacation with my friend Tina.  We were roommates at the time, had both had a particularly hard year, and decided we needed a break.  We chose Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Actual photo from our trip.  Not taken with Instagram.  You used to have to do some pretty involved stuff to get this effect.  This picture was taken by shooting slide film, over developing, and processing it as if it was regular film.

Vieques is the perfect place to go if you like to vacation the way I do.  By that I mean, lay on a beach all day, take a break for a beer, go back to the beach, eat something, have another drink, and go to bed. We spent four days doing this, and it was awesome.  On day five, Tina revealed that she had bought tickets to the bio luminescent bay tour.  I was not thrilled.

You did what?  You know I hate tours.
Don't worry.  It sounds incredible.  You'll like it.

We drive through a dark creepy mangrove forest, and arrive at our destination.  The air is so thick with mosquitoes you can hardly breath without inhaling a few.  There are kayaks and life preservers lined up next to them.  Someone hands us a communal bottle of Skin so Soft, because apparently it helps deflect the swarms of bloodsuckers that are surrounding us.

This is gross.  And what the hell are those?  Kayaks?  You're kidding.
It's gonna be fun!
This better change my fucking life.

They line up the kayaks, and ask for an expedition leader.  I raise my hand.  Don't ask.  I have a weird habit of doing things like that.  So we kayak off in sets of two, onto this mosquito infested bay, surrounded by a creepy mangrove forest, in the middle of the island of Vieques.

As soon as we get away from the shore, the mosquitoes diminish, and it's actually really beautiful.  The water is still, dark and quiet.  We get to the middle of the bay, and our guide ties our kayaks together, and implores us all to touch the water in some way.   I dip my arm in the water and circle it around.  The movement of my hand has caused a reaction with the bio luminescent organisms, and the water begins to glow.  I take a handful of water and pour it over my arm.  Now my arm is glowing.  People start jumping in the water, and the space around them is glowing.  They look like swimming fairies, or something.

It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced.  Thanks Tina, it did change my fucking life.


Yesterday we saw Safety Not Guaranteed.  I won't give any of it away, because you really should see it yourself.  But I will tell you that it is one of those rare movies where you can see a piece of yourself in every character.  Or, at least I could.  The movie made me feel things.  Think about things.  I really almost burst into tears at the end because I thought it was so beautiful.  And to think I almost didn't go.

The moral of the story is, it's never too hot for a movie.  Also, if you are ever near a mangrove forest and kayaks, travel out onto the bay.  But really, if you ever have a choice between doing things, and not doing things - it's a no-brainer.  Definitely do things.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Friday, July 6, 2012

The kid is cool.

I always loved bragging that The Ramones was the first concert I ever went to.  That is a pretty cool first concert, if you ask me.  Lucien's already out done me.  

His first concert was last year.  He was about 6 months old, and we took him to see George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.  Number two was last week.  Fishbone played a noon show in our neighborhood.  I love Brooklyn.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Not that day.

Did you hear that?
 Yes, of course I heard it.  It was a little difficult to decipher, with the flurry of activity going on around me.   One doctor pulling an oxygen mask over my face.  Another frantically turning me on my side.  The faint sounds of my mother panicking in the hallways.  Everything was muffled.  It made me think of things that don't belong.

I thought about my best friend from childhood.  We used to sit on the bottom of the pool and "talk" to each other.  It was all bubbles and muffled sounds, but we would pretend that we understood each other, carry on a conversation, and giggle wildly.

It was like that - but without the giggling.  I was hearing everything that was going on.  I was there.  I was awake.  But everything was underwater.  Slow motion.  I was observing it all.  Studying everyone's reactions.

Of course I heard his heart stop.  I'm sure I was the first to hear it, actually.  I was the only one in the room that had been frantically searching for it - daily.  The miscarriages guided my decision to buy a heart monitor and faithfully check to make sure it was still beating.  I performed this task every day, for about six months.  I had even done it the night before.  It was beating faster than usual, but I thought nothing of it. 

Honey, the baby has to come out now, okay?  We are taking you into surgery, okay?


Bad things happen to people, I thought, as I stared at the ceiling.  Bad things happen to people,  I thought, as I struggled to remain still while they put a needle in my spine.  I thought it again, as they hefted my immovable body onto the operating table, and one more time when they finally let my husband into the operating room and he sat down next to me.

And then I heard my child cry.  The giant incision had sent my body into shock, and I was shaking uncontrollably.  But I could hear him cry, and it wasn't muffled at all.  My child was okay, and I was back.  The chattering of my teeth, the conversation of the doctors putting me back together, the screaching of my baby - my head was above water and I was hearing it all.

Bad things happen to people - but not to me.  Not that day.

This is clearly a departure from my usual posts.  I am working on my writing chops, and following a prompt at the yeah write summer series.  I meant to submit it, but my family is here from out of town, and I forgot.  Oops. 

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I'll never be a pageant mom.

Parenting was not simply about raising a child, it was about transforming a child, force-feeding it like a foie gras goose, altering, modifying, modulating, manipulating, smoothing out, improving.
– Nora Ephron

When I found out we were having a boy, I was a little surprised.  I had always assumed I was going to have a girl.   I'm not really sure why.  Maybe it's because my mom, my sister and I were alone for so many years- the three of us were a family unit.  There was a whole lot of feminine energy in that house.  Female is what I am.  Female is what I know.  I was certain I was breeding a future feminist.

Fast forward to our 20 week ultrasound.

Oh look!  It's a boy!
Are you sure?
Yeah.  See that - right there?  It's a boy.
Are you sure?

Ultrasounds are Rorschach tests.  They are.

This was new territory for me.  I had already picked a girls name.  I had already found a This is what a feminist looks like onesie.  I had already decided that she would be a little bad ass.  In my image - of course.  But she wouldn't be in my image.  She was a boy.  Now what?  People always say I don't care if I have a boy or a girl.  I just want a healthy baby!  Of course, it was of paramount importance to me that I have a healthy baby.  But the other part?  I was definitely leaning towards girl.  I just was.

I was still bartending at six months pregnant.  It was pretty funny.  I was Carla incarnate.  If you knew the bar where I worked, you would understand why this was okay.  It was a neighborhood staple.  My husband worked there, too.  Everybody knew our story - and treated the pregnant bartender right.  One night, my friend Randy was sitting at my bar.  He said:
I wish someone would take my baby name, since I clearly am not having one - ever.
What's your baby name?
Lucien. (pronounced lu-shen in case anyone has ever wondered.)
Hmm.  Lucien.  I said it aloud a few times, looked at my husband, and we nodded our head and agreed.  Lucien it was.

Usually - when a parent chooses a name -  there are lists, and polls and sleepless nights.  The fact that I was able to hear this name once, and decide to bestow it on my first born was truly amazing.  I thought about that, and immediately decided Lucien was to be his name - because Lucien was his name.  That makes more sense in my head.  What I mean is, Lucien has always been his name.  Yes, I am getting all metaphysical on your ass.  Let's see if I can explain this better;
Lucien exists, because he exists.  Not because I am his mom.

When Lucien's name came to us via my drunk, gay, friend at the bar -  it became clear to me that the universe was sending me a message.  (Cue thunder and amplified God voice...)
Maria, this baby is not you.  He is not another form of you.  He will not accomplish all of the things that you didn't accomplish.  Don't project any of your shit or your unfinished business on this little being.  He is his own person.  Get it?  Got it?  Good.

Now, you're probably saying to yourself, What the hell does that Nora Ephron quote have to do with any of this? 

Figure it out for yourself.

Rest in peace, Nora.  You were a really smart lady.