recently, i have found myself easily irritated by the way other people act: the way they drive, they way they treat me in customer service, the way they treat our employees. the apparent lack of respect some people have for other people is bothersome.
my frustration with these things comes as much from these actions actually existing (and me witnessing them) as i see them in myself: quick to judge, critical of others, slow to admit fault, impatient, stubborn, and selfish.
i can get grumpy (my husband knows this). i am most certainly impatient. i get easily annoyed, as it is. perhaps it’s my fault and my blinders for good are on. but, at least recently, i’ve been aware of how we, as society, certainly have a knack for living for ourselves.
however, on my way to work one friday evening, i was listening to NPR and there was a story on about martha mullen. she’s a woman who has nothing in common with tamerlan tsarnaev (the older brother of the two boston bombers) but who went out of her way to find a burial spot for him. convicted by her faith and the belief that all people –regardless of actions, background, religion, etc– deserve a final resting place –to be returned to the earth from where we came– sought to find someone that would provide a plot of ground for the terrorist.
listening to the interview, i was suddenly struck w how selfless her act was. she did this for a man who is most certainly despised by what i can easily imagine is the far majority of the united states of america. she wasn’t condoning or excusing his acts. but, feeling it necessary to give him one last gesture of love as we all would hope to receive in our death, put her name and reputation on the line.
i’m crying listening to this, certain i would not do the same she did. and then a bunch of cars slowed down in front of me on a very busy thoroughfare into denver. as i neared, it became apparent that at least two or three cars had stopped to help a (very) old woman whose car had broken down (or run out of gas). they were either pushing her car or using their cars to help redirect fast traffic so that everyone involved could get themselves and this old woman to a safe spot.
then i wept.
for in my cynicism — which perhaps came from being too tired and having to juggle too many things and feeling a bit isolated– these people on the radio and in the cars popped up into my hearing and vision and demonstrated two very brave and selfless acts. they demonstrated that while life is not perfect and awful things happen (and always will) and people are grumpy (including me), the world is good.
photo by @frankiebushell
the fine people behind the denver bloggers’ association asked me to speak at their most recent meet-up about how my blog has gotten to where it is since i first started it in 2009. it was interesting for me to reflect on my little space on the interwebs and rather exciting to speak in front of an audience (i haven’t done that since college!).
below is the gist of what i spoke about.
my blog has always been a space for documenting personal experiences and thoughts — it started out as a place to dump photos and update family members who didn’t live close by. as i got to know the blogosphere, i discovered a whole other world and realized that the sky was the limit as far as what i could write about, what blogs i could read, how i could make my space unique, and who i could connect with online. not everyone knows my blog, obviously. it’s a little thing i have going on over here. but i’ve seen my readership steadily grow, had some great opportunities come my way, met really wonderful people halfway across the world, and have even made a little bit of beer money — all while still being able to continue documenting my personal experiences and writing what i want to write.
here’s how i think you can do it too:
1. invest in a website you’re proud of.
- your website homepage is the first impression you give to people who visit. when people land on your site they get an immediate idea of who you are and what you are trying to convey. make sure that your website is showing and telling people who YOU are. because, especially in personal blogs, your personality IS YOUR BRAND.
- i wrote for the longest time on a basic, free wordpress theme (and on blogspot before that). this was when i was writing for myself and family members. but as my audience grew and i realized i could be doing lots more with my claimed space, i started to understand that i could actually lose readers due to the blah-ness of my site. it wasn’t me and it gave people no reason to want to get to know me. sure, i was proud of my content. but attention spans are short and people, quite frankly, want to dwell only in beautiful places.
- you can learn code and personalize a website yourself or you can hire someone to do it. i went the latter route and contracted the kin collective to make me something well-designed, intuitive, and distinctly me. together we went over what i loved about blogs i enjoyed reading and what turned me off on various websites. they put these things together, added their expertise, we all tweaked some things and, voila!, my new space was born.
2. find your voice.
- people come to your blog bc they want to hear what YOU have to say bc they most likely like the way you say things. so speak honestly, write what you want to write about, have confidence in what you have to say, and stop trying to please people.
- on that note: you cannot be something for everyone. so don’t write to please the masses. write w one specific reader in mind and you’ll likely capture the attention of lots naturally.
- i write about my daughter, my husband’s and my businesses, denver, bragging rights, our backyard farm, places i’ve eaten, my favorite products, whatever the hell i want to write about. i write about these things bc they are interesting to me and what i want to fill my blog with — otherwise i wouldn’t want to blog. but i know full well that there are lots of people who don’t want to read about this stuff and couldn’t care less about my life. but then the fun part is that there are some people that do care! and they keep coming back and reading and affirming me in what i’m writing about. and that is really cool.
- not everyone will love you and that’s ok! it’s more important that your space is your space and it’s a place you like contributing to.
- do not be afraid to promote promote promote yourself.
3. make internet friends
- don’t be anonymous! comment on blog posts you enjoy. reach out to bloggers you admire. make some friends.
- give shout-outs: favorite products, places you enjoyed, props to people doing cool things, a well-curated blog roll of must-read blogs.
- guest posts: offer to do them and ask people to write them for you. a nice exchange happens wherein both blogs plug the other and people get introduced to new sites worth reading.
- broaden your reach by utilizing other social networking platforms such as twitter, instagram, pinterest, and facebook. but a rule of thumb? stick w just three and do them well. in addition to my blog, i use twitter and instagram. reach out!: like people’s photos, leave comments, respond to comments/questions left on yours. engage w other people in a genuine manner.
- attend local blogger events and get to know some people in real life. who knows what best friend you might make or what collaboration you might discover!
any suggestions or inputs you’d like to share on ways you’ve grown your blog?
in orthodoxy, g.k. chesteron writes:
how much larger your life could be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny selfishness and their virile indifference! you would begin to be interested in them, because they were not interested in you. you would break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which your own little plot is always being played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers.
a good reminder to us all.
i had sworn off parenting books from the get-go* and so, at first, i didn’t even consider reading bringing up bebe, by pamela druckerman. but then people went on and on about it, more so than i had heard ppl bitch about battle hymn of the tiger mother. and so, like the hunger games, i had to read it to find out what was the big deal. that, and the french are impeccable people, obviously, and i was curious as to what makes them such perfect parents.
i’ll try to be quick and concise in this as i am certainly not the first blogger to throw in their two cents and what i have to say has probably been said before about this book. that being said:
- i liked, overall, what she had to say. at the very least, it was an interesting and quick read.
- i did not, however, like how she said it. gross over-generalizations sell books but don’t make for very thoughtful journalism. “american mothers do this. french mothers do this.” blah blah blah blah.
- though she painted american women as neurotic, over-bearing slobs, she did a good job of making french women appear as stupid and heartless automatons.
- that being said: i am encouraged to be like the french woman who takes pride in getting back her body and continues to make time for her self. “i am woman, hear me roar! and look how smashing i am in this LBD.” that is what i wanted to yell with glee after some chapters.
- that being said: druckerman barely addressed the fact that women all over america are doing that all the time after they have babies. the mothers i am closest to are beautiful women who have continued to pursue their careers and/or interests while fitting into their pre-baby jeans and kicking lots of ass as a caring, thoughtful, and present mother (and wife!). i’d like to think i am one of them and, even if i’m not right now, these women show me every day that it is possible.
- her research subjects were well-off, well-educated french women. she did not seem to be comparing them to their correct american counterpart. what she described, when talking about the “typical american mother,” seemed closer to what i’ve seen as the suburban house-wife; not the expected equivalent: the well-heeled, professional, american urbanite.
- her chapter on breastfeeding was ridiculous. basically, if it stresses you out, she writes, don’t worry about nursing. the french women don’t. and they are a lot happier. i think that is silly. if a mother can nurse, she should be urged and –most importantly– encouraged to nurse. i feel very strongly about this.
- i read this book at the right time though: ramona is (almost) old enough to be weaned and to learn to sleep through the nights and to learn the word “no” and to have boundaries. doing these things is not going to squash her personality or spirit. and i’m convinced that by expecting certain behaviors out of her (and discouraging other sorts of behaviors) she’ll be better off for it when she leaves the nest. druckerman’s book made me feel comfortable with being comfortable with these things.
- i would like ramona to learn to wait until i finish the conversation i am having with another person before she expects attention. and i’d love for her to sit at any dinner or restaurant table without making a scene or expecting to get doted on or fawned after. i agree with druckerman that doing so does not inhibit your child’s freedom of expression or causes them to resent you bc they feel neglected. i believe this will help them navigate social situations a little more successfully and, perhaps more important, will make parts of my life now with a baby resemble those of my pre-baby life more closely.
- you can read here about why i liked her theory of “le pause.” i credit this book with giving me the confidence to try to let ramona sleep on her own. now i have my bed back, ramona sleeps through the night, and we all wake up a lot more rested.
- i am also a fan of her food chapter. basically she writes that children try lots of different foods from the get-go and they end up liking many of said foods (sounds a lot like some aspects of baby-led weaning in that you give the child what you yourself are eating). also, food is not used as a coping mechanism for cranky behavior (it’s easy to shove a cracker in ramona’s hand and sometimes it works but i’d rather food be given at snacktime and mealtime and eaten properly: sitting down at a table), and special foods are really made special and are not expected or used to reward good behavior (desserts and sweets and such).
jp and i and ramona have been bed-sharing since day one. we always knew we would. firstly, we had to at least co-sleep bc we have a one bedroom home. secondly, in all my research of co-sleeping, everything about sleeping with our new little one just made sense to me. it really resonated with something deeper in me. which is why our choice to share a bed with our little one has never been a statement or a rebellion. it just suited us. there is certainly no judgement on others who choose to put their baby in a crib from the get-go or soon after nights have been established.
bed-sharing worked for us. for a while. using a co-sleeping pillow when ramona was just a wee, new one, i liked that i could easily check on her without having to get out of bed. i fell asleep to the sound of her tiny breathing. once she got the hang of nights i found that nursing her side-laying was a very efficient way of getting her to be satisfied and allowing me to remain in bed and continue sleeping. when she woke up to nurse it was a non-event. i simply rolled over, offered her the milk source, and we both dozed off. jp, for a few months stretch, never woke up once to this dance.
jp and i talked about moving her out of the room one day. we never really could imagine it bc things were so easy and we were getting sleep but we knew that one day it would happen. the date we had set for “night weaning” her was just before our second child arrived. we thought that bed-sharing would only become a hassle when we have to try and alter the life of a toddler in order to make room for another newborn. we knew, for certain, that we did not want to share a queen-bed (or any size bed for that matter) with four beings. and furthermore, i had decided that i would not be nursing two children at the same time (in the past i have exalted extended breastfeeding and, while, i support any woman in her decision to do that, i have since decided that is not for me).
i am not pregnant, and do not plan on being so again for some time. but the need to move ramona out of our room came a lot sooner than we had anticipated. ramona started out each night the crib at the foot of our bed. she usually woke up anytime between 9:30 and 11:00. at this point, i would nurse her and put her back into her crib. then she would wake again between 1:00 and 2:00 and jp would groggily pull her into bed with us. i would nurse her and we would fall asleep. or we wouldn’t. ramona had started thrashing and crying in her sleep. and gone were the days of the quiet wake up, fumbling to find her food source. now she just wailed with impatience and annoyance. and wasn’t always satisfied after nursing. we’d place her back into her crib and find, most nights, that she would fall quickly back to sleep. she was, it seemed, cooler than how she was between our two bodies (certainly hot in this unseasonably warm year). and then the wake-up calls! at 5:00 freaking AM. ramona would wake up and see us and wail until we pulled her into bed, where she would nurse again and then fidget. even though her eye-rubbing and sporadic laying-her-head-down-on-the-mattress-or-jp’s-chest suggested she was dog tired.
and she was. she went down for her first nap no later than two hours after she first woke up. jp and i were dog tired as well. her thrashing was keeping us up and we couldn’t handle the early mornings.
enter my mother and pamela druckerman. my mother was in town to help us redo our front yard. during this visit, ramona’s nights were particularly draining and frustrating. my mother, who has always been incredibly respectful of our parenting decisions, lightly advised some options and encouragements and condolences about ramona’s sleeping habits. around the time of my mother’s stay i started reading bringing up bebe, by pamela druckerman. i know, if you are a mother, you have at least heard of this book. (you need to go read it now, btw.)
so my thoughts on bringing up bebe will be a whole other post. but let me say that, despite any complaints i may have (and do!) about this book, i was encouraged in “le pause” (disclaimer: a simple internet search will easily find you multitudes of angry mothers decrying anything and everything in this author’s book. again, i am not addressing the controversy here but only the way this book “spoke” to me in the issue jp and i were in middle of trying to figure out). i had never let ramona bean cry just to see what had happened. lucky for me, she’s always been a tough girl so so far (knock on wood) she hasn’t cried just to get attention. when she cries she is HURT! or HUNGRY! or really really TIRED! and so i’ve responded. bc her communication has been really honest. but something about “le pause” (letting the baby cry for a couple of moments or minutes to see if they really need you or might just be expressing themselves or working something out on their own) got me thinking: i’ve never seen what has happened if i just lay there and don’t respond to ramona immediately. would she just go back to sleep? i wouldn’t know. i’ve never tried.
when things had been getting rough and before i started reading druckerman’s book, we had looked into recommendations from bonbon mini on AP weaning. we considered trying these bc, at first, the gradual introduction to sleeping alone and nursing seemed to be the obvious transition from bed-sharing. but then, when i inserted my daughter into these hypothetical situations, this system really, in all honesty, did not make any sense to me. it seemed like a tease to the child. here honey: i’ve given you everything you’ve wanted during the night and soon i’m just going to stop but sit here with you and rub you back while you don’t understand what the hell is going on but at least i’m here with you rubbing it in that you’re not able to nurse or be pulled into bed. we had tried this, a little, w ramona before we had read about it. jp would go in there as soon as she started crying and hold her and sing to her but she would just be so pissed that i wasn’t offering her the boob. one time maybe, one time out of LOTS, did she go to bed without me if she knew i was around. reading about “le pause” encouraged me to at least give it a try. we had no idea what would happen if we put on the timer for some minutes and see what she did.
i know we’re not the first parents to do this. and i know some of you are thinking: oh man, we never went in there right away and baby soon discovered it could roll over and find its pacifier and go back to sleep. and some of you are thinking: let your baby cry? put a timer on? that is awful.
but again, we had never tried the timer; le pause. we didn’t know. and i was scared shitless to try it. i was worried i was going to listen to five minutes of bat-shit-crazy-screaming-and-craziness. and my ear drums and my heart were going to hurt so bad. what we had found fault with in the dr. gordon, changing sleep patterns in the family bed recommendation was that we were there with her. ironic as it sounds, it just didn’t seem to make sense to us. we had to get outta the bedroom to see how she was on her own. so we pulled our futon mattress from downstairs up into our living room. we placed the iPad by our head for timing purposes and went to sleep. oh man, i was nervous about the potential screaming and the lost sleep and the failing. but we wanted to take a pause and see what our daughter really needed during the night.
the first night i nursed her any time she woke up before 11:00, per the recommendation of dr. jay gordon, which, made complete sense to me. she woke up once at 10:30. i nursed her and she went back to bed. then i heard her cry at 12:27 AM. I clutched jp’s arm and held my breath after i started the timer. she was quiet and asleep by 12:30. at 3:30 i woke up to her making some light whines. by 3:35 she was quiet and asleep again. i went to check on her and woke her up. this happened twice. each time she fell back asleep in less than three minutes. she slept in until 7:00 the next morning.
we decided we were not going to move back into the bedroom until we had a night where we were not woken up with any sort of whimper. the second night i heard her at 2:00. she whimpered in her sleep (obviously asleep) until 2:15. she woke up at 6:45 the next morning.
the third night. not a peep. i woke her up at 6:27 in order to relieve my full boobs so i could leave on my 7:00AM run.
on the fourth night we decided to move back into the bedroom. ramona slept through the night with us in there but, early in the morning, when she did her zombie wake-up (sitting up but not really awake) she got a glimpse of us, which was enough to really wake her up. an early morning for us (early is anything before 6:30).
so the fifth night we moved her and the crib to the basement. i barely slept a wink, anxious about my daughter being so far away. she slept through the night and didn’t wake up until 7:00.
so all of this to say, well, a couple of things: we understand not all babies sleep through the night on their own given the space and quiet they need the way that ramona did. ramona wanted to be left alone. and if we’re really honest with ourselves, she was probably ready by around nine months. she’s been the same crazy bed-sharer since right around then. however, it’s worth a try. what we did was not crying-it-out (though we were certainly prepared to go that route) but was simply giving ramona the space and time to see what she actually needed. who knows? leave that older infant alone for a bit and see if they work it out. start with three minutes, maybe increase to five. these small minutes can seem like eternity if you’re a) in the same bedroom of the crying babe or and/or b) don’t have a timer by you to remind you that it’s only been ten seconds of crying. but just pause a little bit and you may be surprised by what your baby copes with. importantly, there was a time in ramona’s development that this worked for her. some people let their babies sleep on their own right at the six month mark. the baby learns to sleep through the night but, admitted by my close friend who goes this route, it takes some times and emotional nights to go this route since the baby is, cold turkey, not getting what it’s used to. we only went this route when ramona made it obvious to us that change needed to happen. we weren’t happy and she wasn’t happy. and finally, i’m a new woman. i love ramona and i loved sleeping with her. but getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep at night has changed my life. and my mothering. and, honestly, i don’t miss her in bed with us. i get to snuggle with the man of my dreams now! and we have our privacy back and thus, more of the intimacy that we’re meant to have as a married couple. it’s been so amazing for our marriage and our friendship. and a contented and fulfilling marriage is, i strongly believe, one of the most important things i can give ramona. we needed this change in order to reconnect on the marriage front.
ramona now sleeps in the basement. and sleeps through the night. and so do we. and i have my encouraging mother and druckerman’s helpful (albeit at many times annoying [again, i'll soon give a quick review of my opinions]) book. and we, the powerdriver’s, seem to be a whole new family.