KEYNOTE: Community Keynote: Voices of the Year
FRIDAY, AUGUST 5, 2011
VOICES OF THE YEAR (Read the full list of Voices of the Year honorees)
- Annie Urban, Ph.D. in Parenting: Covering Up is a Feminist Issue (Video)
Eden Riley, Edenland: Every Little Thing
- Kate Inglis, Sweet Salty: The greatest gift you can give yourself is permission to suck and other handy tips for sucking less
- Britt Reints, Miss Britt: There's Nothing Wrong With You
- Diane Lang, Momo Fali: Invisible
- Cecily Kellogg, Uppercase Woman: Sober, 15 Years
- Darryle Pollack: Manifesto for Invisible Women: Numbers too big to ignore
- Lori O'Hara, In Pursuit of It All: The Red Underwear
- Bon Stewart, Crib Chronicles: At the Red Light
- Kristen Chase, Motherhood Uncensored: I know it so hard I can't say it out loud
- Stacey Conner, Is There Any Mommy Out There? Listen
- Alexandra Rosas, Good Day, Regular People: When Someone You Love Has A Blog...
- Jenni Chiu, Mommy Nani Booboo: I'm Pretty Sure AT&T Is Responsible for Many Deaths
- Noa Gavin, Oh Noa: Oh, Good, You Saved Your Bullshit
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>> ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, our program will start shortly. Please silence your devices. Take a seat and our Voices of the Year will be out in about 60 seconds.
>> ELISA CAMAHORT PAGE: Hi, everyone. Please Tweet that we are starting now so some of the other folks will know that we are serious about being on as time as we can.
Good afternoon. Did you have a good day? It's kind of beautiful out there, isn't it?
So welcome. Today I'm really happy to kick off both our fourth annual Community Keynote as part of the Voices of the Year program. Thank you!
And also to introduce something new, which is the Innovator Award presented by HTC which the community also submitted for. I'm going to bring up Charl Pearce, the Global Marketing Director for HTC. And she will explain about the award and why she was interested in doing this and also present the winner, one of our community who is here today to accept the award.
>> CHARL PEARCE: Thank you, Elisa.
My notes are all over here. On behalf of HTC, welcome to Voices of the Year. My name is Charl Pearce. As a woman, mom and blogger at a smart phone design company, I'm really excited to be here at BlogHer. This is my first time being here in person. I watched my girlfriends attend through Twitter, through postings and pictures. And I have been excited about it, but I haven't had my own experience. Being here in person is really big for me.
So as I mentioned, I do blog. I have a blog with my daughter called Your Mother Wears Combat Boots, but not today.
>> CHARL PEARCE: It's one thing we found in common, we could look at clothes together and talk about it. It was a really fun thing to do. One of the challenges I have is I'm mobile like most of you. I have a lot of things to juggle. I'm raising four kids and trying to stay connected with my husband with his daily chores and what he's doing, trying to find time with my girlfriends, but I'm always on the go. One of the things that connected me with HTC and why I decided to take the job at HTC is because it's a mobile company. It really helps me.
I joined HTC to lead the worldwide social marketing team for two reasons. One, I love social. It's how I recreated myself. It's how I recreated my career.
And for two, I'm mobile. It just makes sense. It's a company that really looks at people and they watch people when they are making the design of a new phone. I actually watched this. I'm always amazed at that.
I like their dedication to people and designing for people and being innovative.
So what is innovation? It is a word we like to talk about a lot. We sat down and thought about what are some of the key words. Creative is one of them. Being original, thinking outside the box; and also a twist on something old.
So when I look at BlogHer community, that's what I see. It's all about innovation here. It's all about recreating yourself, recreating your world, and just being a strong and mobile as you possibly can.
To celebrate innovation of BlogHer, we are excited to announce a new award called the HTC Innovator Award.
The award celebrates original, fresh thinking and communication within the online and mobile landscape. The winner of the HTC Innovator Award will receive a prize package including an HTC flier and an HTC inspire 4G.
>> CHARL PEARCE: Which brings us to our winner. So after careful selection we are pleased to give the first HTC Innovator Award to Cynthia Liu of K-12 News Network.
>> CHARL PEARCE: Cynthia leads a grassroots site for community members to learn more about educational policies. She describes innovation as a permanent twist on reality that sets new standards.
I love that. Congratulations, Cynthia.
>> CYNTHIA LIU: Thank you so much!
>> CYNTHIA LIU: Thank you.
>> ELISA CAMAHORT PAGE: Cynthia, you want to say a few words?
>> CYNTHIA LIU: I was told I wouldn't have to say any words. Thank you so much to HTC for creating this award and for seeing fit to pick me among many, many very vastly qualified people.
So I'm enormously honored and I just want to thank my mom who is in the crowd; the ladies I first started blogging with, who first inspired me to kind of find my voice and to get comfortable online.
So I'm really looking forward to the kinds of innovations that will come out in years to come. Thanks.
>> ELISA CAMAHORT PAGE: Thank you, Charl and Cynthia and HTC.
Now we will move on to the Voices of the Year Community Keynote. I'm going to tell this story for the fourth time. Back in 2007 Eden Kennedy from Fussy had a great idea about creating this crowdsourced keynote. In 2007 life's unfortunate timing made it so she could not actually attend. We didn't want to do it without her. In 2008 we said: Now can we do it? We thought it was brilliant.
Ever since 2008 in San Francisco we have been doing the Community Keynote. We had almost a thousand submissions this year. So we had a very intrepid committee who read all of those submissions.
I would like to bring out Eden Kennedy. This is her brainchild. She has been our host for four straight years. Eden Kennedy from Fussy.
>> EDEN KENNEDY: Hi, guys. Thanks for coming.
This year we had five categories for people to put their submissions in. We had Humor, which is self explanatory. We had Life, which is also self explanatory. We had Perspectives, which is if you had sort of a hard point of view. Or maybe hard is the wrong word, but a strong point of view about an issue you could submit in that category. Visual, again self explanatory; and Niche which is if you are blogging in an interesting but smaller area that not many people, you don't have much company in.
So that's what you'll see tonight. Posts from those five different areas.
And now I'm going to start introducing people. First reader is Alexandra Rosas.
>> EDEN KENNEDY: The name of her blog is Good Day, Regular People.
She, I asked everybody four questions and this is how she answered: Something readers don't know about her is that she has never had a McDonald's hamburger. There is a booth over there! You can do that.
Something recent that she's proud of accomplishing is she said no at the airport to the Tiramisu cake pop at Starbucks. And when she was a kid one thing she looked forward to was spending all her quarters on Hershey bars if she wanted to.
Last interesting fact we have about Alexandra, Little Joe from Bonanza picked her up and planted a kiss on her cheek at the 1965 Wisconsin State Fair.
(Applause and cheering.)
>> ALEXANDRA ROSAS: My husband predicted I wouldn't want to come home. I said no way. He was right. I don't want to go home.
And he also had nothing to do with the inspiration for this post. Not about him.
When someone you love has a blog. Loving someone who has a blog can be challenging and confusing. You may wonder what is happening to the one you chose years ago. I want to tell you that the person you love is still in there. The blogosphere they enter daily is entirely real, not just a portal. And blogging does make them happier and more productive in the end. Though bloggers don't measure productive the same way as normal people do.
>> ALEXANDRA ROSAS: So here for those with bloggers that they love, I have prepared a basic guide to help you speak to and understand your beloved blogger. When the blogger eagerly asks how did you like my post today? Do not answer: It was like an academy award speech where they had to start the music up it was so long.
How about LOL! I love it!
When your blogger excitedly speaks of people with names like mom 23 and house of mouse, do not roll your eyes, shake your head and ask why would grown women give themselves nicknames like that? Instead say: They sound so fun loving.
>> ALEXANDRA ROSAS: Realize that your blogger's mood will become hand wringingish if she posted an awesome post an hour ago and not a single comment has come in yet and it was an awesome post, too. Helpfully ask her if perhaps she forgot to hit the allow comments button. You have given her hope, if only for two seconds while she checks. Still, you gave her hope. So bless you.
If a day comes where the bloggy gods bless her with ten comments within an hour of posting, realize that you have lost her.
>> ALEXANDRA ROSAS: She will tear her clothes off and cackle in delight and no one in your home will get fed and she'll do the dance of her tribe around the screen and, that's where she will be until they stop coming in.
If the blogger suddenly appears jumpy, the most likely cause is a stalker, a reader who has just e mailed her through her private e mail to tell her she is driving straight through three states tonight to meet her.
She figured out where she lived!
So listen to her fears, do not wag a finger in her face of how you told her that the Internet world was a public world and she knew this when she got into it and now is not the type of thing to be surprised because you let her know that this existed and ... just be really nice to her at this time.
If your blogger suddenly gasps and bursts into tiers after checking the comments, do not ask her to repeat what she has just read. Please!
Your blogger has just been trolled. Rather than just clicking on the X and leaving her site, a reader has left a hot steaming pile at her place. Pick the crumpled form off the floor and show you care by reading the comment for yourself.
Immediately afterward, declare that the world is full of idiots who wouldn't recognize good writing if they saw it, and if they got hit in the head with a two by four. Ask her to visualize this.
Lord, help you, lord help you if she discovers her unrequited bloggy love commenting on another blogger's site. Clearly, the blogger she has been crushing on visits other blogs. Knows how to use the post the comment button there, just not at her place.
Do not ask your blogger when you can expect to get rich off her side bar. When the money will come rolling in. For all the days and nights she puts in behind the keyboard for free. She is blogging for the love of blogging. Much like someone who spends their time reading or exercising or the other things that the normal people do.
>> ALEXANDRA ROSAS: Do not suggest that she have T shirts made up of her site header for five dollars each and sell them to her readers for $20 each and if she sells only one T shirt at least that's more money she's made than from this blog thing she does.
>> ALEXANDRA ROSAS: Her online friends are real. They exist. Do not refer to them as your pretend friends.
>> ALEXANDRA ROSAS: Or your invisible friends. They are real. Just because you don't see them, they are there and they are there for her.
Above all, remember that your beloved blogger needs tender care and understanding like a gold fish. She puts herself out there every day for viewing, judging, transparency, vulnerability.
Takes cajones to do that. Do the right thing and show her the love.
>> EDEN KENNEDY: All right. The next reader is Cecily Kellogg. She blogs at Uppercase Woman. She's @CecilyK on Twitter. When I asked her if there's something the readers don't know about her, she said there's not much the readers don't know about me. Something recent she's proud of is surviving thus far having her mother live with her. It has been four weeks.
And when she was a kid, one thing she looked forward to in adult life is being able to swear as much as I fucking wanted to. Cecily Kellogg.
(Cheers and applause.)
>> CECILY KELLOGG: Holy crap, y'all. You look great. Okay.
December 21st, 1995, was pretty much like every day was back then. I woke up, dragged myself out of bed after not much sleep, made myself the absolute minimum of presentable, walked into my backyard and went through the gate to my neighbor's house two doors down to go to work.
My neighbors were a lovely couple named Mary and Mary Jo. They had a dog named freedom and an band called destiny. They owned and operated a balloon store. I sat in the store front selling balloons to folks who came in. I started each day by creating a balloon rainbow that arched between two parking meters in front of the door. Once done, I began to await the day's customers. Not because I liked selling balloons. Because I needed to steal the money to buy drugs.
I was 12 the first time I got drunk. I still remember it vividly. My best friend's mom was having a party and Stephanie and I managed to get a glass on a big glass of wild Turkey. After drinks it, we were giddy and drunk and eager to join in with the grown ups doing a dance on the dining room. I learned to dance the two step with a man beyond old enough to be my father who held me too closely for my age. I didn't care. I felt pretty and smart. I chased that feeling for the next 15 years.
By 13 I was drinking every day. When I moved to Philadelphia at age 18, I started drinking in bars and calling myself a writer, which meant that drinks was not a pastime but a defining characteristic. Among the like minded writers that were my friends.
By the spring of 1995, drugs were becoming commonplace in my group. At first we were sharing cocaine regularly. Not long after that, heroin. We just snorted it at first, but I had access to clean needles. It didn't take long before those two things came together. By the summer of 1995 I was shooting cocaine and heroin every day.
That October, one friend realized just how far down the rabbit hole she had fallen and went to rehab. This inspired me to quit heroin, which I did. Cold Turkey at home.
Side note, if you decide to quit heroin on your own, don't invite your mother to come stay with you while you're doing it because it will take years for her to forgive you for demanding at the end of day two that she drive to south Philly and cop you some copy.
So I switched to cocaine which was so much better, more expensive, far more addicting and demanding. You can imagine on the morning of September 21, 1995, my utter joy when someone bought a huge expensive bouquet of balloons while the bosses were out. I immediately paged my dealer who showed up soon after with the big bag of coke.
At home I could hardly wait to get started. Halfway through the evening the house was cold because we had run out of heating oil. While familiar with this problem, we turned on the oven, put on pots of water to boil and turned on a shower. I was setting up to do the coke. I was shooting up and jerked, and took a huge amount of coke in. I knew it was too much but I did it anyway.
And what happened next I don't remember. My husband told me I fell down and started having a massive seizure. It didn't stop for ten minutes. He called 911, and how I stopped breathing unless someone pushed on my chest; how he paced in front of our house waiting for the ambulance. What I do remember is waking up.
I was flat on my back and half naked because my robe came open and I was circled by my husband, three police officers, my neighbors, and two paramedics. I remember them helping me stand up. I remember them telling me to get into the ambulance. I remember putting on my boots so my feet wouldn't be bare on the December sidewalks.
I was leaving the house wearing a purple satin robe and black cowboy boots. I remember lying in the back of the ambulance watching a Christmas ornament above the rear double doors bounce as we drove to the hospital.
I remember the doctors telling me I overdosed. I remember my husband telling me that our partying days were over. We were going to get help and get sober, and we were going to do it right away.
December 21, 2010 is our 15th sobriety anniversary.
(Cheers and applause.)
>> CECILY KELLOGG: It will also mark the point at which we have been sober just as long as we drank. December 22 will begin the time when I have been sober longer than I drank. It's an amazing thing.
It might be the darkest day of the year, but it is the brightest day of the year in my heart. It is the day I celebrate life. It is a happy anniversary indeed.
Thank you for letting me share this with you.
(Cheers and applause.)
>> EDEN KENNEDY: Oh, thank you, Cecily.
Next we have Annie from Ph.D. in Parenting.
>> EDEN KENNEDY: She says my readers know me as a left wing green attachment parenting mama. They may not know I have an MBA in financial management.
Something recent that she is proud of accomplishing is the first video that she ever made got selected for BlogHer Voices of the Year.
When she was a kid, one thing she looked forward to in adult life was being a teacher. She thought she could do a better job than they were doing.
And anything else that was interesting? People are often surprised to hear that she's six foot two. Annie from Ph.D. in Parenting.
>> ANNIE: Hi, everyone. So I'm going to be showing you a video today which as Eden mentioned is the first video I ever made. It was inspired by a couple of different things that I read. The first was a blog post where a woman was questioning as many people do why breastfeeding moms can't just be discreet. Breastfeeding is wonderful, of course, but can't they cover up?
The other post it was inspired from was the remarks that most of you are probably familiar with from the Toronto police officer who said that if women didn't dress like sluts they wouldn't be sexually assaulted.
I put together this video which is based entirely on Creative Commons content along with things used with permission, the photos as well as the text. It was in English here but also was translated into Spanish and French as well.
I'll ask them to queue up the video now.
>> ANNIE: Not quite done. I hope it will continue.
Good? Working on it? Okay.
Apparently they are working on it, I hope.
(Cheers and applause.)
>> ANNIE: Thank you, everyone. Happy World Breastfeeding Week!
>> EDEN KENNEDY: Oh, God. All these things are making me all choked up.
Thank you for your forbearance on that.
Next up is Lori. You know, technology is a wonderful thing. I think mercury is in retrograde because all of a sudden my iPad is angry with me.
Lori O'Hara. Her blog, thank you, is In Pursuit Of It All. Something the readers don't know about her, she was once a finalist in a Valley Girl soundalike contest.
>> EDEN KENNEDY: Her proudest recent accomplishment, she said this is probably her proudest recent accomplishment. In addition she completed two Sprint Triathlons without aid of oxygen or search and rescue helicopter and is training for a third.
As a child she looked forward as an adult to knowing all the answers because young Lori was profoundly stupid. She lived and worked in England for two years, started out as a creative writing major before becoming a speech pathologist, and she is fundamentally defenseless against people offering her chocolate.
>> LORI O'HARA: Wow! I'm a humor writer, but sometimes other words need to be said. There's a button I'm meant to push. I don't actually see any buttons. This looks like a button.
Oh, and there it is. Never mind, I won't push anything else.
We move through our time on this earth doing a million and ten things with a thousand and one goals and tens of hundreds of to do lists, but in our minds are bigger thoughts. I want ton turn my kids into good people. I want to leave the world a little better than I found it. I want to touch someone's life.
And often in the cosmic humor that surrounds us, we raise amazing people, make things better, touch people in incredible ways, but don't know or never see.
Sarah is one of my oldest and best friends. Kay, her mom, has cancer. A really bad kind. And while holding Sarah close while she cries in anger and fear, I thought about her mom whom I have known since I was 16. It's incomprehensible to me to have a world without her in it.
My adolescence was poor. Poor is a word, so let's use it. I don't care to discuss it much now because that is not my life anymore. I'm grateful. But in this case it's relevant. So I mention it. My adolescence was poor.
And I spent a fair amount of energy coordinating escapes. And once I had my license and a car, escape I did. Often and often to Sarah's.
And although I didn't talk about much, my motivations for finding somewhere else, it was evident that's what I was doing. I was there a lot.
Thinking back on it, I know now that there's no way that Sarah's parents could have extended the generosity it took to tolerate an extra teenager in their bathroom and refrigerator without an awareness of why I was there.
It was time to leave for college. Sarah, a year behind me in school, did the best to be excited for me while clearly dreading the day I would pack up my car and drive away. In the effort to find a safe haven and to find time with Sarah as much as I could, I was there with incredible predictable regularity.
Once when I was lounging on the couch, Kay announced she had a going away present for me. In her hand was a small white box tied with a ribbon. I was touched and took the box and untied the bow.
Inside the box wrapped in tissue were three pairs of outrageous red undies.
I looked up at Kay who said simply: No woman should go off to college without red underwear.
>> LORI O'HARA: I stared at the bold, saucy under things and suddenly I was worldly. I was sophisticated. I was ready. And as complete a way as I was capable of as an 18 year old for whatever the world might throw at me. And that obviously is what Kay wanted me to have.
I think so often these days about the time I spent safe at Kay's house and how many of the things about that time shaped the me that is here now. From Kay I learned that food tastes better when served from heavy earthenware bowls than it ever will from dainty dinnerware china. Dancing with abandon is infinitely more fun than dancing with style. And the me that is unfiltered will always be more interesting and loveable than the one I put on on purpose.
I've told this story of the red underwear many times since it happened, but it occurred to me that maybe Kay didn't know the story from my point of view or that she didn't know how precious the comfort of her home was to me as a lonely teenager and I didn't want this to be one of those moments that gets lost in the universe's odd design where someone may not know how deeply they touched a life. I wanted her to know. I wanted her to know that way back in the '80s her gift of a safe warm house helped make my present liveable, and that her gift of racy lingerie made my future attainable.
I originally wrote this a few months after Kay was diagnosed so that Kay could read it, which she did. But Kay let go of her tether on this earth on October 8, 2010 in the safe arms of her daughter and granddaughter. The only thing Kay asked is for me to go to Victoria's Secret to pick out underwear for Kay to dance into the afterlife in, which I was honored to do.
If you don't have any red knickers in your lingerie drawer right now, go get some. If there's a woman in your life who needs bolstering, go buy her some. Every woman needs red underwear because there's not much we can't face if we are properly armored in a pair of audacious scarlet undies. Thank you.
(Cheers and applause.)
>> EDEN KENNEDY: Okay.
Our next reader is Darryle Pollack. Her blog is DarrylePollack.com. Something readers don't know, she does blog in her pajamas and once was a contestant on Jeopardy and lost.
Something recent that she's proud of accomplishing, getting to bed before 2:00 a.m. Ironically when she was a kid, the thing she looked forward to most in life was staying up as late as she wanted. Something else interesting, Mel Brooks introduced her to her first husband. She was in the first class of women to graduate from Yale and a pioneer woman reporter in TV news covering subjects not covered on TV before, such as creating documentaries on rape and breast cancer even before Betty Ford announced she had it in 1974. And she finds it ironic she would get breast cancer herself years later.
>> DARRYLE POLLACK: I wish I could say I'm wearing red underwear but I'll have to get some.
Very high tech here. Here is my little bit of technology.
>> DARRYLE POLLACK: I am woman, hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore.
If you are old enough to remember those words, you'll definitely get this.
And you should listen even if you're not.
Whether you fear it, lie about it or celebrate it, the number 50 seems way too big to ignore. Yet ironically, the opposite is true.
Fifty is about when women start to disappear. It ranges from a small inner voice feeling you are losing social status or sex appeal or a sense of what is possible that grows into the reality of our demographic on a large scale.
Harry Potter's invisibility cloak is imaginary, but the invisible woman is not.
There are some outliers. Susan Sarandon will always be sexy. Barbara Walters will always be Barbara Walters.
>> DARRYLE POLLACK: But most of us of a certain age are MIA. Our society's interest in aging is focused on how to fight it and that's not reality when products designed to prevent wrinkles use models who don't have any yet.
Though our numbers are growing faster than we can count, we don't count. In the eyes of image makers and marketers and more importantly in their minds when we reach a certain age we are toast, burnt toast.
Here is the reality. We are the fastest growing demographic and not just on Facebook, drive elections, spend more money, buy more technology, and yet we are invisible. In the television industry where I come from, where ratings determine everything, our demographic is not only discounted, it doesn't even exist.
Sure, getting older isn't cool and sometimes isn't pretty. Yet aging is a natural part of life. People ignoring us now will reach 50 also, if they are lucky.
And the invisibility cloak doesn't hide us. The women I know don't approach the age retirement with a sense of slowing down. I see the opposite. A sense of possibility, of potential, of power, women taking on new challenges and new chapters in their lives.
One look at the numbers predicting life expectancy is reason enough for all of us to look ahead, not back.
Yet there's no evidence that anything is changing. Unlike cultures that revere elders and benefit from our wisdom, our youth obsessed society is determined to push us out of the mainstream. So what can we do other than whine or wine?
We can't change the fact of aging, but we can change the face of aging. We can change the way people think about it. It's a choice and it starts with us. Because whether your approach is to tighten your skin or loosen your belt, age is all about attitude.
Personally, I'm not ready to fade into the sunset. So I ignore the fact that I'm being ignored. If we don't plan to spend our senior years in a rocking chair, we can rock the rules. Even when they tell us our skirts are too short and our hair is too long.
Maybe we can't change the big picture as individuals, but we can create pictures for the people around us in the way we lead our lives, lead by example, be a mentor. If you don't want to be put in a box, think outside it.
Why stop at reshaping bodies and faces when we already have the experience of reshaping the age we live in?
As the first generation of women in history to come to maturity with independent spirits, reshaping the image of age is just a continuation of what we started.
We changed the landscape for women, entering places that were closed to us, colleges, professions, politics, board rooms.
After opening so many closed doors, who says we can't open closed minds?
We can make the numbers work for us, not against us, as long as we count ourselves in and count on each other.
>> EDEN KENNEDY: All right. Next up is Diane Lang, who you might know better as Momo from the blog Momo Fali. Something her readers might not know, she used to be a lunch lady so she could be nearby in case she needed to perform the Heimlich maneuver on her special needs son in case he choked.
Something recent she accomplished: She's proud she pursued blogging even though her family thought it was the equivalent of running off with the circus. As a child, she looked forward to eating macaroni and cheese every day when she was an adult, and she could hang a spoon on her nose.
>> DIANE LANG: My post is called Invisible.
Since my son was born in 2002, I have had a lot of bad days. Watching him get taken to surgery nine times, seeing catheters shoved into places that boys shouldn't have catheters shoved, and watching him get stuck for IVs so many times that I've lost count, and seeing him almost die twice, will tend to make every day feel like a Monday.
There have been so many struggles that parents of a typical child can't even imagine. And before someone comes along and tells me that I'm fortunate that my son can walk and talk, I will say that I know we are lucky. I have spent enough time around children in the hospital to know that things could be horrifically worse.
But there have been struggles. It took 13 months before tube feeding wasn't an ever looming threat. And it took 18 months before he took his first step.
That was after weekly physical and occupational therapy appointments. And more genetics tests than even the geneticists knew exist.
He is almost nine and he vomited while eating yesterday. He can't button his own pants. We found out last week he needs hearing aids.
As a parent you fight through these situations. You modify his surroundings, buy him velcro shoes and cut his bites into little pieces.
You quite simply adapt.
But there are certain challenges where there is no fix. My son is not only medically different from his peers, but also physically, emotionally, behaviorally and socially.
He is tiny, quirky and the most unique individual I have ever known.
Most adults appreciate him for who he is. Most kids don't.
For the past six weeks my son has been enrolled in a basketball camp at his school. This was more a social exercise than competitive sport, because my son weighs only 43 pounds. My son learned how to pass and dribble and played one heck of a man to man defense. He had fun and tried his best.
He has no idea that I sat in the stands and cried this afternoon because I watched every kid on the Court look right through him when it came time to pass the teammate the ball.
My husband knew I was crying as he sat detaching himself from the situation, but I told him that it was making me sad to watch, and he replied: I know, it's awful.
I can't fault the boys. They are young and they wanted to win. They were smart enough to know that my son couldn't make a basket. If he was on the other side of the ball as a typical child, he would have probably done the same thing.
But he wasn't on the other side of the ball and he is not atypical child. I watched him holding his hands in the air, waiting for a pass for over an hour. He got a chance to dribble twice when one of the parent volunteers told one of the boys to pass him the ball. He loved those few fleeting seconds. I could see the pride in his face.
As a parent, you want your child to shine, not be ignored. You want the world to see what you see. That inside the quirky kid is a funny, smart, gentle soul. It is so hard to have a childlike mine, but it is also very special. It is a joy to see him succeed and to go to places I never thought possible. To me, he is a gigantic force in the universe.
But to the boys on the basketball court, he is but a spec.
>> EDEN KENNEDY: Our next reader is Noa Gavin from the blog Oh, Noa.
Something the readers don't know, once in Disneyland she was scared by a nonmoving ride in an attempt to escape. Her sister thought it was hilarious that she did not. She is proud that she did not kill her husband after they moved all their stuff up 35 floors by themselves. When she was a kid she looked forward to unlimited tacos and popsicles. She has an embarrassingly encyclopedic knowledge of Michael Bolton's songs.
>> NOA GAVIN: Oh! Let's go back one.
So my house has burned down before. Twice. In the event that it can and is probably going to happen again, I have a list of things to save. My safe, my photos, my computer. Maybe the cats? That's a tough one.
But I would like the rest of my shit burned. Why? Because I have survival instincts. Because I'm not a fucking hero or mentally incapacitated. Thanks to the burning house project, I now know I'm one of the few. Rest assured the photos you are going to see are beautiful, but the choices that they have made are total bullshit.
And I have once again lost my faith in an entire section of mankind.
The first few were good choices. This guy realized he's going to need his phone and his keys, but he's attached to his photos. I get it. I agree, good sir. All this can be carried in just two arms when your home is exploding behind you and you die behind your mailbox.
This guy realized he might want his passport for whatever reason, but he saved homey items that are irreplaceable. Good, shows common sense.
This is the final use of common sense.
>> NOA GAVIN: You have got to be fucking kidding me.
That is a goddamn frying pan and face cream. Do you even realize the logistics of grabbing both of those items if your legs are on fire or that they are readily available for purchase any fucking time you choose?
I'm not even going to talk about the photo collection there which is fucking ridiculous. That's a fucking tea towel, and I can't deal with that shit right now.
The sheer douchery in this photo is damned near incomprehensible. My husband is a yuppie to the core, but he'd let his suits burn in a second if it meant saving his fucking life.
>> NOA GAVIN: Yeah. Nothing about this one really sits well at all, as I'm sure you can see. This is like looking into the burning eyes of a serial killer, least of all that cat he just has wandering through there. That knife, if you haven't noticed, longer than that cat. This is Backdraft meets Deliverance. This is not good.
>> NOA GAVIN: So let's just talk about why this person chose to save two tiny redneck outfits, shall we? Is she tiny? Does she have a colony of Lilliputians in that bag. Does she keep them in line with that stick? Baffling on a lot of levels.
I don't even want to get started talking about their shoes because it's going to make my fucking brain combust. I will pull out a lighter. Don't try me.
My question is, why the shears? How are shears sentimental to you? Are you Lorena Bobbitt? Then we have larger issues than your home aflame.
>> NOA GAVIN: Okay! This is such a motley collection of twatwaffle that I can hardly contain my rage.
Favorite shirt, I'll give you that one. Why then the painting of favorite shirts?
The keys are to the S & M dungeon I assume. Twilight novel, aged 35 years, now I get it.
You know, I notice that you chose not to save pants for whatever reason. Galoshes made the list but you're going to be fish lipping it during the fire.
Thanks to this bullshit I have a new list of items I'm going to save in a fire.
>> NOA GAVIN: Tissues, candle, broken reindeer Pezz, Spotted Dick, Bic pen, used Wet Nap, some stamps, seven gummy worms, tea bag.
Not even the fun kind of tea bag.
Clearly, should this ever happen again, I'm now prepared. Burn it down, motherfuckers.
(Cheers and applause.)
>> EDEN KENNEDY: Awesome. All right.
Kate Inglis is the next reader, who writes at the blog Sweet Salty and she's proud of living on the coast of Nova Scotia.
In 2009 her first novel was published, Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods. And she's now working on a second novel. She ate a lot of crackers as a child and dreamed of having a great big notebook. She knows how to yank on a jib sheet, but only if you can ply her away from her crackers and her great big notebook.
>> KATE INGLIS: Hi, everybody.
I would like to why bother? I can't. You would never ...
People would think that ...
90 percent of all creative beginnings end here, slammed shut.
I just made that up.
>> KATE INGLIS: But I bet it's true. There's only one thing that separates the Grammy Award winners and the Giller Prize nominees from the common mutterers besides talent which is not always the point, but pretty much anyone who managed a creative life even on a small scale have all done one thing on their respective epic journeys.
They were all willing to suck. With an audience. Repeatedly.
Babies suck for nourishment. Creatively, I'm an infant. You might be, too. Right now it's our profound duty to suck and to grow. Someone might have looked at your shitty first draft and said ... I don't know. That's okay.
Finish your somewhat less shitty second draft and begin the third.
Pretend you didn't write or record or make or photograph whatever it is they are shrugging at because when you don't detach from your own preciousness, you choose to deprive yourself from nourishment. Consider that they might be right, but that's only because you're at the beginning.
Hush. The inner tantrums. Shocked that you are not yet there. The looking around at what you perceive to be the arrival of others. The whining, the knuckle biting. The oh, my God, my first draft sucks, kind of thing. Yeah, it sucks.
So does mine. That's because it needs work. Consider what you are presenting to mentors, readers, listeners, supporters, enablers and collaborators of all kinds in the context of what you want.
Take your blog. Why do you do it? What do you want from it? It's okay to want it small and cozy. It's okay to jockey for exposure, as long as you don't do it in undignified or toxic or cheapening ways that bite you later.
It's okay to want a bit of both and want an intimate salon without any intentions but with a back door. One day there's a knock at the back door and it's one of those someones that ends up being a turning point.
Would the right one be compelled to knock if they found your door? Do you go bleeeeecchh, publish. Do you indulge in petty incomprehensible crap that only means something to others who have the same thing? Do you host a Jerry Springer stage for trolls? Do you apply the same care to your handshake as you do to your art?
This isn't to disparage the raw authenticity of blecchh and petty incomprehensible crap. There aren't mean people in this room including myself who haven't gone over the top on both counts at least a few times. But if you want to create something that self propels even if you doubt your worthiness, you don't need a strategy or soulful revelation, if you want to be an artist, have a beautiful place that reflects your art, if you want to be a write, don't blog like you have Montezuma's revenge of the fingers. Take care. You never know who's out there seeking.
There's a lot on the Internet that makes inspiration or healing, forgiveness or acceptance seem like a thing to be gotten or grabbed, only if you just want it badly enough. I don't think it works that way. Inspiration is not divinely conjured or granted. It's dragging and heaving to the fridge long after everyone else went to bed. It's that blinking cursor staring at you, taunting. Blink, blink, blink.
Inspiration is solitary labor. That's all.
There's nothing romantic about it. There doesn't need to be.
Inspiration is less about fairy dust and more about brute force. 75 percent of people who begin writing a novel will never finish the last 25 percent.
One thing separates those who finish and those who tried to write a novel once. The brute force.
But you're fresh out of brute force. You've spent it all with your head down, sulking because you feel that the divine must have overlooked you and there you go, slammed shut.
Like me. I doubt that I'm ever going to do something truly good. That the effort is worth the expense, the endless absorption. I don't know about all of it. I feel ridiculously presumptuous at the same time I feel like the keeper of invisible children that nobody else can see but me. They are waiting for me to be brutish enough.
She'll get my second draft and my editor will say ... good start, but it's still kind of and she'll smile and I'll say, I know. I'm an infant. Now, to grow and to work.
>> EDEN KENNEDY: Our next reader is Stacey Conner also known as Any Mommy. Something the readers don't know, she sings show tunes in the car badly. Knows every word to Les Miserables, and she's afraid to shower unless there's somebody in the house. She is proud of producing Listen to Your Mother in Spokane, a celebration of writers on Mother's Day.
She will be happy to survive this reading without fainting and crying. She is not proud that her child can use the word "dickwad" correctly in a sentence.
When she was a child she looked forward to having a Pepsi every day. And something else interesting: She has stood on all continents except Antarctica.
>> STACEY CONNER: I knew if I wrote that down I'd have to talk about it. And I would like to qualify: She didn't call me a dickwad. She asked if another driver was a dickwad, and he totally was.
Listen. There are stories all around us. The mailman who walks with a slight limp and stops for five minutes every day to throw the ball for Hampton. The dreadlocked barista at the espresso hut and the man with metal arms who tells my kids he's a pirate. The quiet woman who gives Hampton a treat every morning at 7:05 a.m. You don't have to hear the words of the tails. You can hear the chapters in tears shed. It's written on reams and sheafs, of minutes and hours. It makes me sad when they attack a mother for decisions what became the final hours of her child' life. It makes me nauseous when extreme anti adoption advocates call me, and parents whom I know and love and cherish, slave owners. It makes me cringe when we throw around words like bigot with casual confidence in our supreme rightness, stories ripped, chapters slaughtered, real lives consumed by the slash and burn tactics of a few; entire tails left charred and cold in the bonfire of the book of life.
I used to think that giving soda pop to a baby was the poster move for bad parenting. What was to argue? I barely give my kids juice. I think the devil invented chocolate milk. Could you care less about nutrition, about chemicals, about sugar and high fructose corn syrup and useless wasted calories?
Then I met a mom. She's young, she's single. I'm her mentor in theory, though I'm not sure I qualify for that title. I learned more from her than I could ever have to teach.
She works so hard. She works hard at just making life work. She works long hours for money that barely provides their basic needs. She works at the relationship with her baby's father. She works at learning to manage money and think ahead. She sometimes runs out of diapers between paychecks and she guess to the food bank where they will give you five diapers at a time.
She works at staying a before the chaos and drama of her family's life, the 911 calls, the ER visits. She works at boundaries when the adults in her life have none. She works at staying sober when the adults in her life abuse drugs. She works at staying honest when the adults in her life commit felonies.
Every Sunday before we meet she stops at McDonald's and gets an extra large sweet tea, the super size that sells for a dollar. It's her treat to herself and her daughter. And she settles besides me at the indoor mall playground of the faded floor and gigantic rubber mushrooms and fills her daughter's sippy cup with that liquid. I watch the paint behind the cup turn brown and smile at her. You should see how her daughter runs into her arms, a solid square little thing, with a booty to die for and wild curly hair. You should see how she smiles when her mom presses kisses just above her knee. You should hear how she laughed. I mocked parents at the state fair when they gave their kids soda pop.
If you saw us at the mall sitting side by side on the grubby bench in the mushroom forest, if you passed as she handed her child the sippy cup and you Tweeted or commented, I would take you the fuck down.
>> STACEY CONNER: No, I wouldn't. I have scrawny arms. I would wrap my arms behind you from behind and hug you as tightly as I could. I would kiss your cheek and put my hands gently on either side of your face. I would look deep into your eyes and lean close to your ear and I would whisper: Shush, shush.
Let's not Tweet. Let's not talk. Let's just listen.
I'll help you, and you help me.
If we do it together, we can let go and we can hear them.
There are stories all around us.
>> EDEN KENNEDY: All right! Our next reader is Eden Riley! Yea for people named Eden. Her blog is Edenland. She says her readers know most things about her. She shares a lot. But she recently uploaded a video on to her blog of her when her temporary crown fell off the front tooth. It was very liberating. When she was a kid she couldn't wait until she was an adult because she would know everything. She is still waiting for that moment. She waited four hours in the rain on the chance of meeting Bono at the Sydney Opera House. She pretended to be on his security team and gave him her blog business card. Technically he could have been reading the blog every day since then. She has four tattoos from three different countries, and she can't decide if she writes her blog or her blog writes her.
>> EDEN RILEY: Hello. There is the clicker, good. I was worried. Hello, America. Thank you for having me.
>> EDEN RILEY: I have traveled from Australia to tell you a story.
So okay. This man isn't in the world anymore. Cancer took him away. I've known his wife for years. I found her in blogland. Whew, it was rare back then to find another Aussie. I was pregnant, and so was Vee. In March 2008 her husband, Alex was diagnosed with cancer. I felt sick for her. Two months later my husband Dave was diagnosed with cancer. She felt sick for me.
Today marks one year since her husband Alex passed away. The beautiful son turned one a few months ago. Vee has been a single parent all this time. Can you imagine?
Last November in a post called essays from the deep I wrote this quote.
The absolute worst thing about the cancer ward was the artwork. I remember holding everything together, carrying Rocco in a sling, going through it all but the artwork made me despondent. I wanted to take down some of our art from home and hang it on Dave's chemo hospital wall. I still want to, something with light and color in it, for God's sake. Imagine if I didn't ask the hospital, if I waltzed in with the canvass under my arm. And swapped it for bad art. Bad art, naughty. I think I will. Unquote.
Computer, guess what? I did. Vee and I met in the flesh for the first time yesterday at a hospital where my husband Dave had his diagnosis and surgery and subsequent chemo. Sweet memory, man.
Vee's beautiful gorgeous husband Alex, was a talented artist. We got them printed and waltzed into the cancer ward and put them up like that. I did the dirty work with my man hands. My hands are bigger than my husband's.
No permission. We left a piece of the world goddamn less ugly than we found it and I'm fiercely proud of us for that.
>> EDEN RILEY: Thank you.
If I had known I would have been doing this, I wouldn't have had greasy hair in that photo.
Okay, putting this one up was amazing. We are actually in a patient's room. That was a man lying on the room dying on oxygen.
And I put it up in his line of vision, below the clock. Seriously, who puts a clock in the room of a cancer ward. Tick, tick, tick. I chose this picture, these birdies on the wire and looked at Alex's wonderful images and tried to look at them through the eyes of a cancer patient. I wanted to take them away anywhere other than where they were.
Just before that last photo, I said Vee, we have to get out of here now. There were about ten nurses milling around by that stage. Not one person asked us what we were doing. I love Australia.
>> EDEN RILEY: Okay. This project doesn't stop here. Remember my friend Alexandra, an L.A. based photographer. She got these cards printed up and handed them out in downtown LA and Santa Monica beach.
Oh, my God, she's so cool. She's here. The card reads: Alex: father, husband, artist, lost his battle with sarcoma. From Sydney to Los Angeles, we are sharing the beauty he saw in the world.
And this post is called Every Little Thing. It was his favorite song and she wrote on there, every little thing is going to be all right.
Strangely -- look at that. I love that ring she's got on.
>> EDEN RILEY: It was this picture that made me cry and cry. It was a big world event that Alexandra somehow made him a part of.
She stood in busy LaLa Land handing these out. Who does this for people they never met yet? I love the Internet! I need to go to bed. I'm writing this out, scared I'll leave something vital out. I want you to see everything, computer, but I need to publish it before Vee wakes up. It's 2:00 a.m, I would love if you commented, if you could spare a few kind words to Vee and Alexandra. We financed this ourselves. I can now put "bumbling art manager" on my business card.
Yesterday we sat in the hospital. Vee said she can't believe he's gone. I sat there with her and my husband was in remission and her husband wasn't lucky enough to be in remission. I looked up in the hospital and thought of the new artwork and noticed three birds looking at us. Vee's blog is called Three Little Birds. She took photos of them. I knew why and she knew I knew why.
That is their son. I had to take that art away from him, but he loves his dad's art and he didn't want to let go.
Her man isn't in the world anymore, but the world is a better place for him once walking in it. He was there at Santa Monica Beach, in May 2011. That's it.
(Cheers and applause.)
>> EDEN KENNEDY: Okay.
Our next reader is Britt. Is it Reints? Yes? You might know her better as Miss Britt. That's the name of her blog.
Something that readers don't know about her, my readers assume I'm proud and brave, but I get super nervous about meeting new people, but I assume people aren't interested in meeting me. Hmm, right?
So she also shops at thrift stores not only because she's cheap, but because she believes it's better for the environment to buy used whenever possible.
Something recent she's proud of accomplishing, she sold the majority of the family possessions, gave away the car and moved into a 24 foot trailer RV so they could travel the United States for a year. It was like surviving for two months ...
As a child she looked forward to living in a big city, which she has yet to do. Another thing interesting she told me, her family was apparently a very big deal in Ireland and Australia. There is a castle with her family name, although I Googled Reints Castle Ireland and I found an article by Britt about castles in Ireland, and none of them is a Reints Castle. I'm sorry, I have bad information. Anyway, Britt Reints.
>> BRITT REINTS: There's actually less of you than I thought it was going to look like.
Have you ever asked yourself: What's wrong with me?
Why can't I just be happy? Why can't I be like everyone else?
Is there really more out there? Or do I just have a bad attitude? If you've asked yourself these questions, this is for you.
There's nothing wrong with you. That may be the most important thing you hear today, or ever, and you may need to hear it over and over again to believe it, especially if you spent a lifetime trying to figure out what exactly is wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you. What the hell am I talking about? Specifically, I'm referring to the fact that some people seem to be bliss fully content in any situation and some of us are born with a yearning for something else. There's a voice that whispers to us, telling us to search. It makes us question and seek and continually climb. It makes us constantly ask: Could this be better? We wonder about things like callings and passion and purpose. We watch for signs and listen for inspiration.
The tiny voice that no one else seems to hear is always there and it makes us who we are.
And sometimes it makes us feel out of place.
Because not everyone is asking themselves: What would make me happy? Not everyone gets that you mean something more than momentary joy when you use the word happiness.
Not everyone feels the desperate longing you do for more than content. And that's okay. You've been told since you were a child that it's okay to be different. You know this. We have short people and tall people and light people and dark people. We have talkers and listeners, musicians and mathematicians. There are dozens of differences you have learned to accept about you and people around you. This is simply one more. This is simply the way you were made.
Just as some of us are born with blond hair instead of brown, some of us are born to look at the flat world and wonder if it's round. For whatever reason, you were tapped to be one of the seekers.
Think about how hard you have worked to not search. Think about the books you have read on learning to be content, the mental exercises you've done to find happiness in small things. The pleading you have done with yourself to just be satisfied.
If it was possible for you to just shut up and be happy, don't you think you would have by now?
It is your job to listen to questions that were given to you. Or the world stays flat. I know because I was made this way, too.
And I'm okay. I'm happy in my day to day life. I find joy in the little things and I am still always moving up the next mountain.
I promise you that it is possible to be someone who searches and still have peace. And the answer is not to stop being a seeker.
Neither is the answer to make everyone else more like you. I remember when I first started trying to come to terms with the fact that I wanted to leave this little town called Parkersburg, Iowa. To assure myself it's normal to want to leave I focused on how abnormal it was for anyone to be happy in that town in the middle of nowhere. Anyone not wanting to leave was too scared to dream big per. That was my own insecurity talking. The truth is, there's nothing wrong with them either. Just like you were made to seek, they were made to be still. Some people aren't meant to, they offer security at the beginning and end of your adventures. It is easier to embrace who you are when you accept the differences in other people.
It stops becoming a rebellion, a struggle, a fight to be right so that you don't have to be broken.
I cannot pretend to know all of the roles that need to be filled on this earth, but I know that there are many.
I know enough about organizations and groups to know that we can only keep moving forward when a variety of jobs are performed and performed well.
I know that I was born with questions.
>> EDEN KENNEDY: That cracks me up.
All right. We have three more readers to go.
Next reader is Bonnie Stewart from the Crib Chronicles.
Her, Bonnie describes herself as a world class nerd. Her most recent proud accomplishment, this past March Bonnie had the opportunity to participate in her first ever spelling bee. She kicked ass. A bunch of ten year olds? She is now a proud owner of a tiara with bees on it that she slept in for three weeks.
When she was young she dreamed of becoming or marrying David Bowie. If any of these things happens, you're all invited.
Bonnie once won a belching content in her college dorm. She warns everybody to not give her beer, especially if it's beyond midnight.
Please welcome Bonnie Stewart.
>> BONNIE STEWART: Whew. It was this morning after I dropped the kids off. I pulled up at the stop light just one second too late to coast through the wake of a turn signal. Some motion. Her posture drew my attention. She was to my right in a boxy American sedan of a certain age waiting for the green. There was a booster seat in the back of the car. She was alone.
She was weeping. Rather, she was bawling, howling, self emulating in the front seat of the car. Her shoulders shuddered against the back of her seat.
Sometimes the veil between human and human lifts for a second. I mouthed words to her, though she didn't see me. I'm here, I said, kind of stupidly. Then whispering, you will get here. It was a prayer.
Then I added, I moved the bedroom furniture around last week. The light changed. And the car behind her honked and she lurched away. I watched her taillights and exhaled. I moved the bedroom furniture finally. Five years ago I drove to the paint store a few days before mother's day. The paint had been ordered weeks before. I thought I should leave the house.
I never painted a room in my life. I never owned a house before. The girl behind the counter lined up four bright cans of paint and a can of primer and issued a barrage of how toes into my gaping, blinking face. I nodded obligingly. She asked if I had any plans for Mother's Day, and I fumbled for a bank card and punched in numbers I couldn't quite see.
Somewhere in the store a baby cried. Like a valve, the pressure behind my left breast let go and I stood there, a flower of milk expanding darkly on my T shirt. I stood there holding a can of grass green paint for the nursery. For one beautiful stark moment I saw the store as a Jackson Pollack canvas splattered with droplets of milk. I wondered how hard I could throw the can and break glass. In my throat a dragon rose ready to take wing. I knew if I tried to speak them free, no words would come, only men in white coats.
So I got my brushes and cans and high tailed to it car, and then I cried myself raw until my shoulders heaved against the back of my seat and the dragon was spent.
I had given birth to a son some days before, the same day we took possession of the house. My first born, our first home, my first Mother's Day. But my child was gone. And I had only the uselessness of milk and a house full of boxes and nursery paint. And I did not give two shits whether I ever got out of that car again.
My first Mother's Day came and went. I painted a lot of the house those first weeks after Finn's death. None of it was what polite society believes is cathartic. Things found a place and we moved in. We got on with living and, for five years I have lived in this house like a truce.
Grief eats energy. Even long after you think you're done with it, you go to lift a finger and you find that one small act is just too much. A thread that unravels. Every effort you make, and you collapse back to whatever puddle you formed yourself into and you begin again from the beginning.
For five years Dave and I have slept in a bedroom that fails to be inviting or restful, but every time he mentioned changing it, I bristled.
For five long years, grief has made me weary and unable to contemplate how I wanted the damn bedroom. I wanted my child. Even after I accepted he was long gone and never coming back, I would have burned the house to the ground for reminding me of itself. For all that remained. I taught myself to clean it, refused to engage with it. If Dave brought up making it more pleasurable to live in, I turned in on myself, too exhausted to contemplate the idea.
Until last week, alone in the four walls, alone for far too long I stood in the bedroom and considered what the bed would look like on the other wall. I stopped and I waited for the exhaustion and the snark and the hurt. Nothing.
So I took a deep breath and I nodded to the house itself and to whatever of Finn remains within the walls that should have been his first home. I smiled and I started pushing into a world where bedside lamps on the other side of the bed are no longer too big a deal to think about.
Grief recognizes its own. Sometimes, though, there is no space to speak within. Sometimes you'll find yourself with nothing to offer to the suffering of somebody else except small words that trail out into silence long before they get heard.
But you will hope. Some day, lady at the red light, I hope you rearrange your furniture, too.
>> EDEN KENNEDY: All right. Our next reader is Jenni Chiu, Mommy Nani Boo Boo.
Something the readers don't know, she has a disease where she can't remember names or any sort of number combinations. Something recent she's proud of accomplishing, being the voice of eReader, and also she killed a black widow in her laundry room the other day. When she was a kid she looked forward to life where nobody would ever tell her what to do. Clearly she didn't plan to have a job or kids.
Other interesting stuff, she met Oprah. She loves the word noodle. She split her pubic bone giving birth to her first child. And the meds were so good, she plans on doing it again this time.
>> JENNI CHIU: I do plan on doing it again, just not tonight.
I'm pretty sure AT&T is responsible for many deaths. The automated voice finally heard me correctly and after punching in my account number I was put on hold for five minutes.
So I sat with my toddler and ate imaginary cake with hash browns on top.
Hello, this is Susie. How can I help you today?
I have a bundle package, but I would like to cancel Internet and cable and just keep the phone.
May I have the account number please? Sure. Number number number number number number.
I actually can't handle cancelations. Let me go ahead and transfer you to the cancellation department.
I am on hold for ten minutes and I put my son in a high chair in front of a pile of snacks.
Good afternoon. This is Gerald. What can I do for you today?
Sigh. I have a bundle package, but I need to cancel Internet as well as the cable.
Sorry to hear that. What is the reason?
Can I have the account number, please?
Number number number number number, number.
I see you have a bundle package. I may be able to adjust the channels you receive and save you ten dollars a month.
No, we don't want cable. We don't want the cable service at all.
I can take back HBO and give you Starz for the first three months.
I, twitching: We don't want cable anymore or the Internet, just the land line.
Okay, I can take care of that for you. Would you like the service to be discontinued this week?
From the other room: Mama, mama, mama, all done. Get down now, all done.
Before we do that I've just gotten permission to give you a five dollar credit on your bill for three months if you keep your cable service.
Slapping my knee just for fun. If I didn't want the ten dollars, why would I want the five dollars?
I'll go ahead and put your request in.
Can you tell me how much just the phone service will be?
Hmm, I'm with Dish service. I'll cancel your cable service, but we have to transfer you to AT&T to handle your Internet and phone needs.
Wait, I just talked to AT&T.
I'm put on hold again.
My son scoots his entire high chair across the dining room. I release him from chair jail and give him books to read.
Thank you for calling AT&T, how can I be of service?
Taking a ball point pen and shoving it under my thumb nail as hard as I can. I was transferred from Dish to cancel my Internet service.
Can I have your account number please?
Really? Because I've given it at least four times already.
For security purposes I do need your account number.
Number number number number number number number, number.
Thank you. May I ask why you would like to discontinue your service?
No, you may not.
I'm sorry, what is the reason you're canceling with us?
The Internet speed sucks. When we moved here I was told this was the only speed that was available in our area. Thought we could deal. We can't. It's like living in 1991. I want to cancel.
Hmm, it looks like that is the only speed that is offered right now in your area.
Using ball point pen to scoop out left eyeball.
Right. Cancel it.
It looks like you have a bundle package. I can help you with your Internet and phone needs, but for the cable service, I have to transfer you to Dish.
Gnawing the skin on my right shoulder.
I came from Dish. I need you to cancel my Internet.
Okay, I can do that for you but before I do that
No! Handing my bloody left eyeball to my son to play with to keep him busy.
No need to do anything before. Just cancel the service.
I can cancel it for you. I would also like to offer you a reduced price by
No! Stabbing myself repeatedly in the gut with the fork I use to eat my eggs.
Okay, no problem. I just need to transfer you to a manager to verify that you're canceling with us.
Wait, I'm getting transferred again?
At this point my son is having a terrific time playing fetch with my eyeball and the dogs. With all the blood I'm losing, you would think I couldn't focus on the fact I need to pee.
Good afternoon. This is manager sounding name. I need to verify some information with you. Can I have your account number please.
Knocking my teeth out with the toaster oven. It's number number number number number number number.
Thank you. I see here that you have a bundle package with us but would like to cancel.
Yes, I want to cancel the Internet and the cable, but not the phone. I want the phone in case of emergencies.
It looks like you have been a customer for awhile. We can
No, thank you, drawing pictures of snoopy on the wall in my own blood. Just the phone!
All righty. We'll go ahead and do that for you.
You want to keep the phone service, correct?
Okay, then. If you do change your mind.
Whimpering on my kitchen floor: Can you tell me how much the monthly payment is for just the phone service?
Sure, that will be a payment of just 19.95.
But it's five dollars on my statement.
Hmm, that's the price of the phone with the bundle package. If you would like to keep your bundle package
Whimper, whimper, whimper.
You're set then. Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Very good then. Thank you for calling AT&T.
>> EDEN KENNEDY: All right. We've reached the point where our last reader is ready to go. Her name is Kristen Chase and she blogs at Motherhood Uncensored.
Her readers don't know that she has the worst taste in music. Her theme song would be a neverending early '90s dance track. Proudest recent accomplishment, she took a shower. It's the small things.
When she was a kid she wanted boobs. And other fun facts, she lived in South Africa in the mid '80s as a kid which means she's bad at mid '80s cultural references.
Please welcome Kristen Chase.
>> KRISTEN CHASE: I like to think that there will always be down the hall from me, tucked not so tightly in their beds, those damn nighttime monsters single handedly raising our electric bill hundreds of bucks each month. It's our job to raise them so they will get the hell out and come home now and then with bags of laundry and an empty stomach, long enough for me to fold socks, stuff them with food and sending them on their way, feeling lucky if they sit down at the table long enough to suck down their meal before gallivanting off with their friends.
We are supposed to arm them with survival skills so the big bad world doesn't chew them up and spit them out. We will, parents' oath, but not without a gigantic lump in our throat, that knowledge that we refuse to swallow. The window into the future with your chairs are no longer occupied by booster seats and stains. The toys have been donated and passed along and the rooms, the bright pink walled masterpiece that she pleaded for now changed to a dull, tan office.
The scraps of paper have long been picked up, the Crayon artwork scrubbed off the walls and the once treasured macaroni necklace crumbled and tossed.
We all know it's coming. We laugh about being anxious for them to haul their butts off to college. Someday we'll embarrass them in front of their significant others with naked baby pictures. We smile at the thought of their kids on our knees.
We beg, borrow, beg some more, just to get them all in one place together.
They will leave ... sorry.
Maybe one by one or two at a time, and it will never be like it is right now.
Go look, take a snapshot in your mind and file it away carefully. I watched them, all my children all together, sometimes staring at the big bright screen from the couch, shoving cookies not so squarely into their mouths. Other times fighting and screaming over a deflated balloon and flattened box while the big shiny toy they just got, that piece of crap sits in the corner.
I dance recklessly with them as the radio blasts inappropriate club music in our basement and sit with them all crammed together in a bathtub while they wash my feet and make me bubble tea and soup. I try to soak in every single second of them being together.
All my children, all in one place. Because I know, I know it's so hard, I can't say it out loud.
>> ELISA CAMAHORT PAGE: Let's bring them all out. Thank you very much. Jesus!
Please welcome your 2011 Community Keynote Voices of the Year.
>> ELISA CAMAHORT PAGE: Please welcome once again your MC Eden Kennedy.
>> ELISA CAMAHORT PAGE: Thank you, everybody. Now if you would like to meet them all and tell them what their words meant to you, which I don't know what that would be, but the reception for these wonderful, wonderful Voices of the Year is outside to your left and around on the terrace where hopefully we will see the sunset. They need you to clear the room quickly because this is where Sparklecorn is going to be. So out on the terrace, overlooking the marina.
Thank you for being here.
(The session concluded.)