Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Rants

Pinkie Toes

Posted on Apr 13, 2011 in Featured, Rants |

Pinkie Toes

My son once wore nail polish. It was black, or maybe it was blue. I would only let his little 3-year-old tootsies be painted “boy” colors. And really, the only reason I let him get his toe nails painted was because his twin sister was getting hers painted, and, well, there you go. On another transgender moment in parenting, I once let him wear  fairy wings, a pink princess dress and pink Fancy Nancy high heels too, but he ditched them before he could get to the grocery store, claiming, “Girl stuff can’t go in my car seat,” (dang fairy wings).

I’m pretty hard core about boy stuff being boy stuff and girl stuff being girl stuff. I’m sure it comes from raising my son in a same-sex household by two women and a twin sister; I’m particularly sensitive to making sure my Thing 1 is alllll boy.

JCrew got nailed today when Jenna, the company’s president and focus of their email marketing campaign, was photographed with her son painting his toenails bright neon pink. Conservative media went completely postal saying insane freak-o-matic things on-air, accusing JCrew of ““blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.” Transgendered children? What the smack are you talking about? Fox News went on to claim that the little boy would need therapy some day for his neon pink tootsies. And then I got mad.

There is little to celebrate about the painful acknowledgement of a transgendered child. And what the hell is in that nail polish that could make someone transgendered? Whatever it is, Glen Beck has been using too much of it. Or maybe I used too much of it and it made me fall in love with a woman — or wait, maybe not enough bright neon nail polish. That’s it! My mom didn’t paint my nails pink enough! That’s how I must have ended up with La Gringa. Oh, it’s so clear now.

I know a child who is transgender. The pain for the parents is unsurpassed. The sheer love for the child is a force of nature — they protect their son so passionately, working with therapists and family members to try to ease the pain for the child and themselves.  The child, a boy, identifies as a girl. He always has. And let me tell you, it wasn’t damn nail polish that burdened this poor child’s soul. Being transgender is no joke. But neither is a mother’s love.

At some point, The Female Brain and The Male Brain should be compulsory reading for anyone that plans on representing themselves as media, conservative, liberal or trans-political. The chemistry of a human — from the love of lacy panties and pink nail polish to the soothing sound of crashing cars and jackhammers — is imbedded in who we are from long before our toes were painted. The sheer irresponsibility of the media to pounce on the sexual identification of a child, and in this case, a specific child named Beckett, is abhorrent. Shame on you.

I signed the petition in support of the ad. And, more importantly, I just bought the Tranny polish from Jcrew.com and will put it on every man and woman I know — to “celebrate” the beautiful, tortured transgender children among us.

Sign the petition.

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House of Blues

Posted on Jan 10, 2011 in Featured, Rants |

House of Blues

I went on Twitter and DMed @la_gringa with capitalized swear words describing the latest in a fitful rage from our house upon us, it’s lowly unsuspecting dwellers.

This time, it’s the dishwasher that went from silent rinse cycle to Jabba-the-Hutt moans within minutes. And then it wouldn’t turn off. At all. I went to go outside to the power box, but I couldn’t. Why, you might ask? Because the side door is broken. Not the lock, the door. An expensive door, no less. An expensive door whose company (obviously for building shitty doors) went out of businesses. So now we need a new side door and a dishwasher/Jabba-the-Hutt killer.

Of course this is barely on the heels of the window this morning where my daughter exclaimed, “Oh look mommy, it rained in the kitchen.” Frigging million-year-old uninsulated windows just were no match for a winter’s night and a heating duct right next to it. No worries, the window (and most of them now in our home) are non-functional. The quaint 100-year-old house look isn’t so quaint when it all falls apart. Today I counted: only five of the 22 windows in our downstairs can actually open. The others are all broken, sealed shut or have busted pulleys (yes, that old). Oh, and the five that work? Four of them are poorly replaced windows with missing screens on most, the other one I jammed unlocked for safety.

I’d escape it all to my upstairs abode for a good marathon of Dog, the Bounty Hunter, but the TV there suddenly no longer has sound. I guess the LG is sick of the political rhetoric too and finally cut off the volume to save me from myself. Ah, maybe I’ll take a warm shower to relieve the stress of a falling apart house — oh wait, that won’t work, the (relatively new) grout is all dissolved away and new mold creeps in daily. I think I’ll pass on the cozy shower and go for a bath — nope. The drain stopper is broken and the towel rack fell down because the old lathen plaster can’t hold a screw. I’d use the downstairs shower, but it was constructed improperly and will flood the floor. I am convinced that a blind Bob-the-Builder and his estranged lover, Handy Manny built this house.

I feel like running away before I’m reminded that this house is more than most will ever have, with neighbors and friends surrounding me that I couldn’t dream of having. I hate my house until I remember that my children live one block from their grandparents and can walk to school. I loathe being here until I realize that if it weren’t for this home, we’d have never had all the fun that caused all this ruckus to start with.

Today though, I wish I had a little shack on the beach reading novels and watching the sunset while Mr. Roper fixed the leaky faucets.

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Don’t Blame the Palin Right

Posted on Jan 8, 2011 in Featured, Rants |

Don’t Blame the Palin Right

It’s not political craziness that makes someone kill; it’s craziness that makes crazies kill.

I’ve been watching the unfolding of the shooting spree in Arizona targeting Gabby Giffords, for hours on-end. I’ve listened as one expert after the next releases statements about the “wakeup call for America,” to conduct politics without violence. I’ve watched politician after politician speaking on-air about how the media needs to stop positioning polarizing politics. I even watched the Tea Party Express defend themselves as victims before blame had ever been cast. All of what they are saying about the scary state of politics and unbecoming banter is true, but it’s not what caused 19 people to be shot today.

Mental illness is to blame today. Mental distress is to blame today;  not politics, not guns, not even Sarah Palin’s stupid chart.

If it was cancer, Jared Lee Loughner would have gotten help. If he had blindess he’d have been offered help. If it was fear, he would have been helped. Somehow, this schizophrenic 22-year-old unstable man in deep mental distress wasn’t given help. Blame the lack of psychiatric intervention. Blame his inability to seek mental help. Hell, blame his family. But don’t blame politics and media for this man’s clear mental illness.

Strange rants on YouTube, odd postings to MySpace and, according to classmates, frequent nonsensical outbursts somehow went under reported and written-off as creepy or weird. This man —  this assassin — murdered from  a place of mental illness, not a place on the Palin altar.

The first report I heard today was that a Palin right-winged freak killed a Democratic Congresswoman point-blank in the face. Gifford’s father, when asked if his daughter had any enemies said, “Yes, the whole Tea Party.” Well sure, but that’s politics. This crazed man did not act on behalf of the Tea Party; he acted on behalf of a part of his mind that is non-functional.

Mental illness goes often undetected, pushed off as depression or weirdness or a loner.

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be Mein Kampf freaks.

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Mama Bear Pounces on Unsuspecting Teacher

Posted on Sep 23, 2010 in Featured, Rants, School |

Mama Bear Pounces on Unsuspecting Teacher

I can see the headline now, “Mama Bear Pounces on Unsuspecting Teacher” with a horrific tale of a mother at wits-end with her child’s teacher. It’s not pretty. Trust me, because you’re looking at Mama Bear. Rowr.

I’ve been wondering what’s going on with my Thing 1, a normally fun-loving, silly, smart, smartass, school-loving kid. About a week after school started he began to refer to himself as “bad,” started lying, getting in trouble at school almost every day and yelling at his friends. At home, his regular excitement for school was replaced with silence. Something was wrong. I asked the doctor, talked to friends and to my Thing. Why the seismic shift? Somehow for all my investigation into what could be bothering my child, it never occurred to me that it was his new teacher that would be the cause.  And when it hit me — it hit me. Hard.

In a fit of frustration, I pounced on the poor woman. I screamed and pointed and cried. I smashed my hand into my fist and went off on her, “YOU are the reason my child is unhappy. You know what’s wrong with him? YOU! YOU!” Oh, that was just the beginning. I went completely off-the-deep-end. After 10 minutes, I left, exhausted and frustrated. She had said nothing.

Somehow, the mystery had clicked for me and I was mad as hell. I — who writes strategic marketing plans for school programs for fun, who worships my kids’ teachers and promotes their school and their programs like it’s a full-time job — completely let-loose. Never mind that this woman is a  seasoned, highly regarded teacher with a stellar reputation.  I was the mama bear protecting her baby and there was nothing that was going to stop me from letting this woman know how I felt.

I went home and was sorry. Not sorry that I’d finally gotten to the bottom of what was going on with my kid, but sorry that I’d spoken to someone with such passion. I wrote an apology note immediately, but you and I both know, an apology at that point is worthless, I caused more damage than she could have ever done to my kid. I am now going to be known as the crazy mom that went off on her kid’s teacher.

The next day I read about the father who had boarded a school bus to defend his daughter being bullied. The normally upstanding guy with a nice family and good home simply lost it. He told CNN the next day: “She finally opened up and told me what was going on,” Jones said. “And from there, you know, being a dad just loving my daughter … and just loving all my kids, you know. … [At] that point, my heart broke when I [saw] her standing there … [she] wasn’t going to get on the bus crying. And a dad is a dad. And I was going to be her protector that day.”

I can relate. Truly. My feelings as a mom overruled any logical, reasonable behavior I could have mustered. I truly feel for James Jones as a parent and as a dad who was overcome by the need to protect his child. I feel for him as a parent who must apologize, like I did, for behavior unbecoming to any upstanding person. I feel for him as a man who made a bad situation worse, because that’s just what I did. I made it about me, not about the issue.

There is something carnal about parents and their children. Maybe it’s instinct to protect or an overwhelming sense of responsibility to make their lives as happy and peaceful as they can possibly be. Maybe it’s a chemical reaction that bears have to their cubs — keeping danger at bay with all the ferociousness they can muster. Maybe I’m just a mom.

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Five Phrases To Kill in Communication

Posted on Sep 13, 2010 in Featured, Rants |

Five Phrases To Kill in Communication

They all have their time — groovy, neato, smooth, rad, gag me with [anything]. But coined phrases can move to cliches quickly. Clean up your chatter by nixing these five passe communication terms:

“In my wheelhouse”

What it means: What you are describing is what I have experience in.

Previous passe synonyms: “in my arsenal;” “right up my alley”

Why: Are you a train engineer? Do you ride choo-choos? Unless you are working on the chain gang, you have no business using this wildly over-used phrase.

Possible replacement: I have strong experience in this area.

Not possible replacement: I rock that shit.

“Social media guru”

What it means: I work in social media.

Previous passe synonyms: “community ninja;” “online whiz” or “social media expert”

Why: No one, but no one is a social media guru. Guru is reserved for spiritual leaders and maybe your yoga instrutor, not to self-describe your work online.

Possible replacement: “online marketer;” “social public relations”

Not possible replacement: “Hopeless online addict”

“Under the hood”

What it means: Investigate this topic further.

Previous passe synonyms: “into the nitty gritty;” “deep dive”

Why: Are you a mechanic? Mechanics are hot and greasy and work for near-minimum wage.

Possible replacement: “I’d like to research this topic further;” “understand the details”

Not possible replacement: “Under your hoodie”

“Signal to Noise”

What it means: Putting the highest quality to the forefront

Previous passe synonyms: “Cream of the crop;” “Streamline”

Why: Because you are not a radio. And if you are a marketer, you should assume that balancing communication directives are part of the job.

Possible replacement: “Clean communication;” “high quality coverage”

Not possible replacement: “Cut the crap”

“Close the loop”

What it means: Check with other people relavent to the subject to ensure you have completed the task and its needs

Previous passe synonyms: “circle back around;” “touch base with”

Why: Because you are a not a knitter.

Possible replacement: “Complete the process”

Not possible replacement: “Cover my ass”

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The Scary Thin Line Between Blogging and Journalism

Posted on Aug 8, 2010 in Featured, Rants |

The Scary Thin Line Between Blogging and Journalism

As a very young writer, I had the great honor of working for one of the finest editors in the publishing business. Twice, actually. My first real job outside of  selling pantyhouse at Nordstrom was as an intern for Los Angeles Magazine a zillion years ago. The editor,  Blue Lew, taught me more than he’ll ever know — but the number one lesson about journalism that I learned was that the line journalism and advertorial shall never, ever, be crossed. True journalists hold the honorable role of being paid to write without the bias of influence from advertisers nor perk-a-lators.

This precious lesson helped me write some terrific advertorial inserts which made me more money than journalism ever did. And that’s okay, because one is based on touting the products of the company that is paying you, the other is reporting on a product, event or thing. See? Not hard to decipher at all when the line is drawn.

There was a table at Los Angeles magazine that was endlessly piled with goodies. The old wood 6-ft banquet table had everything from cosmetics to fancy dog treats, hoards of the latest goods to hit the market. Sometimes it was junk; other time it was backstage passes to the opening of House of Blues. The goodies were free for the taking — just pick up whatever you want. Nobody was expected to write about them, talk about them or hell, even use them for more than white elephant gifts. But what the table wasn’t was a deal between the writers and the PR folks who send them the goods. See, journalists don’t take the crap you send them — at least unless then need to in order to write a story. But bloggers? Many bloggers do. And that’s where the scary line between journalism and blogging comes to play for me.

And it’s not just the bloggers’ issue, it’s the PR execs too. Send you a sample, you give me a write-up. I send you to a show, you give me a raving blog post. You send me a book, I write a review. You give me free downloads for my kids and I tweet it out to my followers. It’s a growing relationship between bloggers and journalists that needs to be addressed. In listening to people speak this week at BlogHer 10, I started to become more clear on the problem at-hand: Many bloggers are advertorialists, not journalists. Although not good or bad, it’s got to be addressed. And beyond that, it’s got to be determined that paid blogging — no matter how you cut it — isn’t journalism. And that’s okay. But it’s got to require transparency.

A seasoned PR exec with a stellar reputation was approached by a blogger who wanted to know why she hadn’t contacted her lately. She asked why she wasn’t commenting on her blog, why she wasn’t returning emails at the drop of a hat. Caught off-guard, she tried to make it clear how valuable the blogger was to her and important to her business. And that’s true. But what the blogger was missing in all of this is that her direct access to this PR exec wasn’t a friendship — it’s a business relationship. Do you think the PR chick is calling up Brad Stone every day for a chit-chat? She calls him, then it means she’s got news or information to share that might be useful for his writing. He takes her call knowing that she’s got business. How are bloggers missing this important piece of business relations? Dear blogger friends, PR executives do not want to be your friend, they are working for their client. It’s not personal. It’s not about you. And no, they’re not reading your every Tweet.  PR execs know how to engage a journalist, but why not a blogger?

A few weeks ago I received a direct message on Twitter from a company that had offered me free downloads of their new iPhone app. I never got around to it. Yesterday I get a DM saying, “Taking your word for an older promise to try our (parenting) app on your iPhone.” Excuse me? I gave you my word? My word of what? And what promise would that be? How do I explain that offering writers a product to try is very different than committing to write about it. I think bloggers are mistraining our clients to expect that if we receive products to try that it means they will receive a post in return. The lessons of that old table are so simple and yet so hard to teach.

Advertorial is not a bad thing — it’s a great thing! The lines are very clear: you pay me with product or money and I, in return write a glowing blog post for you hitting all the points of interest that you’d like me to focus on. You pitch me or I pitch you. Great. You offer me a Cannon PIXMA Photojet printer which is worth about $375. How much are my blog posts worth? Well, if I write for BlogHer, they’re worth $50, so that’s either a blog post and social media outreach for $375 worth of your services or you are being over paid. Maybe that doesn’t work for longterm relationships with PR folks. Okay, how about if you loan me the printer and I get to have a photo printing party with some friends. You get to use the printer, print out as many photos as you want with all the supplies paid for. That’s worth about $50-$100. More in range of what we’re talking about here. Now you’ve got a deal. And, you’ve got a story to tell, rather than a simple review. That’s a good advertorial deal for both sides. And, could get you both more traffic and more clients.

I used to be on every PR list known to man. Seriously. Anything that had anything to do with entertainment was in my inbox. Not so much anymore. And that’s fine, I’m not an entertainment writers. It’s not my business. And, shame on the PR person who pitches me because they must be unaware that I no longer do that kind of writing. Recently I got on a PR list for live events for children. Now, that’s interesting to me. Why? Because I blog about my kids and kids lives, because I am always up for an adventure and I rather like cultural stuff. You want to send me tickets? That’s great! I like that, but what’s in it for you, you PR maven, you. Not much unless you have made a deal with me to do so. As your guest and having been “invited” to attend your event, I feel no obligation to write about your show. But the line is funky here too, especially for mom bloggers who could really use activities for their kids and ones that are free? Whoah, that’s hard to turn down.  But before you say yes with three exclamation points, I’d suggest making the relationship official and transparent. Think: is this advertorial or is this journalism? And then, proceed accordingly. Neither is wrong, of course. It’s just business.

Transparency is the key here. Decide what it is you are doing and be transparent about it. The way I see it, you have three options (a) be a journalist and use your blog to report things/people/events/thoughts without influence or bias; (b) be an advertorialist and use your blog as paid writing, using your blog as a mechanism to advertise things/people/events. Neither is wrong or less influential. The only wrong turn you can make is to blur the lines. And in doing so, lose trust of your audience. Set expectations, understand your strengths and limitations and understand that being a writer — both advertorial and journalistic — are held to the highest level of integrity.

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