Whirlwind

So I sent the email a few days or so ago, to my former boss, the Rock Star that had seventeen top forty hits, one of which rhymes with “Messy’s Girl”.  I write that in code and you’ll see why in a moment.

It’s strange to do that, after so many years of not working for him, and stranger still to prepare to go to a show, something that I haven’t done in four years.  I have grown by leaps and bounds since I used to work on his website, with his fans, and I’ve moved beyond so much that drove me to need to do those things.

A girlfriend who is also a fan had emailed me a few weeks back asking if I wanted to go to this show in New York City, a small venue, all acoustic.  Normally I’d say no; it’s a weeknight, and the city is not terribly easy to get to on a weekday.  Someone would have to get the kids dealt with after school.  And would I stay overnight or no?  ($$).  Would I take the train in or drive ($$)?  It’s a hassle on a good day, so I said I’d look into it.

Meanwhile, while we were having the conversation, tickets went on sale, and we both snapped up good seats.  A few days later, I’d asked two of my Not So Die Hard Fan girlfriends if they wanted to go, and we had a group of four women, ready to descend on the city for a RS show.

To be honest, I loved the idea of sharing that part of my former life with these women, who have never known me as the Fangirl, Fan Liason, Part of the Team.  It’s a world that seems surreal to me at times to.  But still, I thought it could be fun.

So I sent the email a few days ago, as I used to always do, and the response was lovely.  “Can’t wait to see you, please come early etc etc.”  Also a few choice words about an issue that had strangely made its way into the news of late.

Here’s where the story gets weird.

Long story short, I found myself an hour later diving into the archives of the fan email database I used to be a huge part of looking for ideas and information to pass along.  I dotted the Internet, looking for references to the issue in question and started compiling research.

I didn’t think twice about it.  I’d done work for him for so many years, researched ideas for marketing, promotion, charity, events, it was as easy as slipping on your favorite jeans that you forgot were in the back of the closet.  As if nine years hadn’t passed since I last wore the “official” hat, I posted online asking fans who had any information regarding what I was researching to message me privately.

Except.

Within twenty minutes of my doing that, another fan did the exact same thing.  Using much stronger language, stating she’d “been asked” to compile research and do legwork and on and on.

Which is fine, the more the merrier I suppose.  But somehow, it reminded me of the constant push/pull/who’s on top/who’s better than anyone else/who has the most connection/who’s the most helpful to this guy game that I so remembered and so disliked about being involved.  The work?  Loved it.  Loved being useful, helpful.  The “get out of my way, I was here first” vibe?  So don’t miss it.

It was as if suddenly my offer to help became pushed aside by someone who was louder, more overt, more forceful.  I watched, in amazement, as the online postings from her and fans went on and on and on.  I quietly posted one or two things more about my offer to gather information and watched as the same old patterns emerged.  People questioned the women who clearly had some sort of official conduit to The Man In Question, others defended them.  The other person who was helping posted some defensive remarks, similar to ones I likely had typed into some computer, some time ago, when I was being questioned about my work with The Rock Star Who Shall Not Be Named (did I really come across as that arrogant?  God, I hope not).

I saw it all shake out and it just reminded me how far I’ve moved beyond.  Beyond the need to be seen by Him and His Fans as smart, helpful, connected.  I did used to need it.  It definitely defined me.  But now?  I put my head down, compiled my information and sent it along.  Answered the emails that came in with the knowledge I have.  Did the work for the sake of the work, nothing else.  I could feel the urge to respond, to stand up, to say, “Don’t you know who I am?  Or who I was?”  I felt it, sure.  But then I realized, I didn’t need to.  I know.  I know it and I don’t doubt it.   How about that?

Frankly, it was a good lesson before next week.  Did I like being useful?  Of course, and the kind words I received in response were lovely.  But mostly, I loved knowing that no matter what happens on Tuesday at this show, I will enjoy it.  I will slip on those old pair of jeans and step back into that world for a little while.  The beauty of it, though, is that I will do so taking all of the knowledge and lessons I’ve learned in the last nine years with me.  It won’t be the same, at all.

I’m thinking it will be better.  🙂

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Anonymity

It has been three years since I started this blog.  Three years!  I can hardly believe it.  According to my WordPress dashboard, that’s 567 posts about my life, past and current, that I’ve written in this space.

And hardly anyone in my day to day life knows about it.

My anonymous blog.  Why is it that still, after three years, I cringe at the thought of people from my Real Life reading my innermost thoughts, when I put them out there for total strangers to read.  Why is that?  Why do I hide my thoughts?

This situation came to a head this week.  My previous post here, Open Letter to Those Who Would Doubt Sandy Hook, was featured on BlogHer this week.  And I’m not just talking featured in the Interesting Posts down at the bottom.  Here’s where my post is on their site:

That's my post way up there near the top, OMG!

That’s my post way up there near the top, OMG!

The news came to me via an email from one of their editors.  In the email she asked that I go onto my Facebook, my Twitter, all of my social media and shout loud and proud about my content being featured on their site.  Which was superawesome and why wouldn’t I do that, right?

Except.

Except the post on BlogHer links back to my supersecret blog.  The blog I don’t talk about.  The blog that hardly anyone I know in real life talks about.

So I hesitated to share it.  I certainly couldn’t share it on Twitter, which would have been awesome, but where my husband routinely follows my posts and comments on them to me.  On Facebook, I could share it with a custom privacy setup, where I could block certain people from seeing it.  The people I worry the most about seeing my writing here (my husband and my mother in law, although I don’t write about her in anything but glowing terms).  And then what do you know, eighteen friends of mine shared the BlogHer, using my name, which I am pretty sure everyone can see.   What happens if people I know actually read my blog?  What will they think?

MizFitOnline posed this very question in her blog post this morning.  She comes to the conclusion that it’s OK to be transparent and let the real people in your life see the real you in your thoughts posted online.

Me?  I’m still not sure.  But I’m edging ever more closer to actually not sweating it if any of my friends click that link below my post today on BlogHer.  I thought about removing the link, honestly, from the post on BlogHer.  But I don’t want to.  I have several more Newtown related posts on this blog that deserve readership.   That I’d actually like people to read.  Maybe even people I know.

Maybe the fourth year will be the charm.  The year I take My Current Life in the blogosphere and let those who actually live in it in on the secret.

Maybe.

Mean Middle School Girls

One of the themes that reigned supreme for me as a positive take away from my Fitbloggin’ conference was that we are in control of ourselves, but no one else.  We can control a lot by thinking all of the myriad of choices we have during the day, but we have to understand that sometimes Other Stuff happens that is absolutely not our fault and not in our control.  In those situations, all we have is our response.  We can control our response to a bad situation (What’s that saying?  10 % in life is what happens to you and 90 % is how you react to it?  One of my favorite quotes.).

Anyway, this was relevant not only to me, but as a great discussion point for my daughter, who is still struggling with Being A Middle School Girl  (See this post, ugh).   My daughter has this awful problem of wanting everyone to like her (can’t imagine where she gets it from) and last year she had finally found a group of girlfriends.  Three other girls that were in most of her classes who all seemed to value her and really enjoy her company.  But then, somehow, her need to be Liked By Everyone got in the way and she did some things to damage the friendships.  I tried to coach her all summer as to how to repair the damage (made so much worse by the constant stream of video chats, typed chats, texting and group texting that occurs, since it so much easier to be mean and be misunderstood that way), and during the summer we seemed to have made some headway.

But when school started, it all fell apart.

My daughter went from being a valued friend to someone they enjoyed picking apart, piece by piece.

She would go up to their table in the lunchroom, and they would proclaim it full.  One of the girls was in most of my daughter’s classes but mysteriously got switched by the second day of school.  And there were constant messages about sleepovers and get togethers that my daughter was not invited to.   Daily, my daughter would ask via text:   “What did I do?  What can I do differently?  I want to be friends again.”

Sometimes they’d ignore her.  Other times they would coach to be more like her former self.  Other times they would be downright rude:  “Shut the fuck up.”  Finally, I told my daughter, enough.  These are not friends you want to have.  These are people who are taunting you to see how much they can pull on the puppet strings.

This week, my daughter won a spot in the school play, “The Miracle Worker”.  Eighty kids tried out, including two of the girls in her former friend group.  My girl won a named role.  One of the other girls was placed in the ensemble and the other one didn’t make it.

You can see this one coming from a mile away, right?  The one who didn’t make it immediately started talking smack about my kid at school, saying that the character my kid is playing is mean and bitchy, just like my girl.  Of course since my kid is a Middle School Girl, this was reported to her.  And my kid decided that was it for her.  She confronted this girl who was talking smack about her.

Bullies don’t like to be confronted.  They get mad, really mad.  And it’s never their fault.  Never.  It’s really pointless to try and deal with them, because you’ll never change their minds, but you always want to prove them wrong.

Except you can’t.  When people have their minds made up, you can’t deal with them at all.

So when I came home from work yesterday, I found my daughter staring at a screen and crying.  Why are the so mean?  Why is it my fault for saying something when this girl talked smack about me so everyone could hear at school?  Why do they keep bothering me so much if they don’t even like me?

And after my experiences last week, I knew exactly what to say.

“You can only control yourself, and your reaction to people.  So don’t give them any more power by trying to make them like you.  It’s their loss.  You are smart, you are pretty, and you just won a big part in the play.  Focus on the good in your life right now and leave the negative behind.  People won’t believe their trash talk when you show them plenty of evidence to the contrary every day.”

Being a Middle School Girl sucks.  What sucks even more is that the lessons that apply to her are ones I am still trying so hard to internalize myself.

FitBloggin’

I’m going to Baltimore next weekend.  I am going all alone and I am alternately nervous and insanely excited.

I’m going there because I won a spot volunteering at Fitbloggin.  I’ve been trying to explain to my friends what Fitbloggin is, what it will be for me, and why I am going, and I’m not even really sure I know I can really explain it.

I’m not a fitness blogger.  OK, I have a fitness blog now, but I didn’t even really pull the trigger on it until I got the gig working at Fitbloggin’.  Yes, I am interested in exercise now that I’ve been running for the last year, but I’m not a fitness guru.  I don’t go to a gym, I am definitely overweight and I clock between 37 and 40 minutes routinely on a 5K.

I am a web designer, and use the blogging platform WordPress routinely now in the work I do.  So there is definitely an element of the geek in me wanting to see more and learn more about blogging and how people turn their own thoughts and designs into a viable platform for various topics:  weight loss, fitness, parenting, etc.  I don’t ever feel like I’ve found my voice blogging.  I tell stories, sometimes.  I am funny, sometimes.  But what I don’t think I am is consistent.  I’d love to see successful bloggers there and see what they have to say about all of that.

Plus, there is a little of the star struck in me.  I’ve been following Roni Noone since I lost weight successfully in 2007.  I always appreciated how honest she is in her postings; she shows her house before she cleans it (!), she confesses to late night snacking, and owns her insecurities.  I honestly can’t imagine meeting her, someone who seems both at once like a superhero and my best girlfriend (that I’ve never met) all at the same time.

I guess I’m not entirely sure what I’ll get out of the conference or what it will mean to me.  I don’t know a soul going.  I am going for three days of workshops and events without a single other person in the world I know.  I think I’ll meet people and it will be fun, but there is always that side of me that wonders why I am doing this.  I’m not a true fitness blogger, I’ve gained much of the weight I successfully lost, I don’t plan on monetizing my blog or using it as a springboard for a career (although, that would be all kinds of awesome, actually).  But still, I won the spot, and I’m going.  I’m going to spend three days in Baltimore and they’ll all just be about me.  Not me the Mom, or the wife, or the perpetual volunteer.  Just me, and what I want to do with myself and my health.

Which, I guess, explains why I am both excited and terrified all at the same time.

Busy Summer and Something New

It’s been quite a summer so far.

As you’ve seen, I have the all consuming drama of my daughter and her social stature at school.  I never in a million years would have thought that I could be so profoundly affected by the awfulness happening to her; it took over our entire household for several weeks in a roller coaster of emotion and tears and awfulness.

There’s a post I have inside me too about family and my grandmother and my recent visit there, but it is going to be emotional and hard and take a while to write.  Which is why I haven’t written it yet.

And, I was contracted for one of my biggest freelance website jobs yet this summer.  The time when I am the least available to pound out work on the computer.  This same thing happened to me last summer and it just stresses me out to not be as available to the kids and do everything I want to do with them.  I know, I’m still way luckier than most working mothers, but it is still making what should be a relaxing time more stressful.

But, all of those things aside, I did want to point out the new tab at the top of this blog.  I have started a fitness blog that I have linked here.  In some ways it is easier to write the little, short posts there because they are not emotionally charged.  There is much I have been wanting to say about my fitness journey, but I haven’t wanted to necessarily mix it in with all of the life stories that I share here.  So I have decided to start a new blog just for that purpose.

And now I have to wrap this up, because of course it is time to get the kids ready for camp, go to a meeting while they are at camp, grocery shop, pick up dry cleaning, work on my contract job, take my son to karate….you get the idea.

Happy Summer!

Cyber Bullying

I am waiting on a phone call from my daughter’s school principal today.

It’s not exactly what you might think based on my previous post, though I suppose sort of related.  Yes, it has to do with her social interactions.  Yes, she made a few missteps.  But this time, the crux of the wrong in the situation lays squarely on someone else’s shoulders.

Let me backtrack a bit.

My daughter, in her quest to be in with all of her like minded peers, has been begging me for an Instagram account for months.  For those who don’t know, Instagram is a photo sharing app you can install on a smart phone or an iPod touch/iPad.  You can link up with others who are sharing photos and you see their photos in your Feed.  There are buttons to “like” someone’s posted photos, and there is a small box to make a comment.

My daughter joined and immediately began seeking out her peers.  Within days she had dozens of people both seeing her photos and sharing theirs with her.  It was through this medium that we actually found out that my daughter had missed some social events; photos were posted.  I counseled her that all of this was part and parcel of the site; if she wanted to play the game, she had to be prepared that sometimes she might not like what she saw.

Like everywhere, in both real life and the Internet, there are Mean Girls.  Girls who accept your follow request, but then proceed to complain every time you attempt to interact with them.  One such girl is connected to my daughter.  My daughter commented “Looks like fun” on one of this girls’ photos and was told, “Jesus Christ, you have no friends, stop commenting on my photos.”

Not exactly sure why she’s mad my girl is doing that, when she chooses to be linked to her, but I advised her to stay away from this girl and her photos and unfollow her.

Which she did.

But a few days later, she saw through her Feed that while she had stopped communicating with this girl, another friend of hers was having a hard time with this girl (let’s call her MG for Mean Girl).  Lots of swearing, lots of name calling, and it came down to a real, bonafide threat:  “I will beat the shit out of you.”

Which is when my daughter decided to step in and call a spade a spade.  She told MG she was being a bully and to stop with all of the namecalling, that the third girl (let’s call her OG for Other Girl) had just made a simple comment that was being taken way, way too seriously.

Most girls would probably be upset to think someone thought of them as a bully, but not MG.  She then lashed out at my daughter and OG, telling them both that they were ruining her summer, that she would have her mother.  But the worst of it was a real threat:  “I will fucking kill you.”

See below for the entire text.  My daughter and OG’s comments have been deleted by themselves, but they were nothing more than simple commentaries on the image (a caricature done of MG at Busch Gardens) and then the subsequent anger that ensued.

I read all of this on my daughter’s iPod on the night of July 4, with my stomach in my throat.

My husband thought I was overreacting when I told him I thought we should call the police.  “Kids never mean stuff like this,” he admonished me.

Except sometimes they do.  Do I know what this twelve year old girl has going around in her head, besides a whole lot of cursing?  No, I don’t.

“You don’t want to make it worse for her at school,” he told me.

So we agreed to sleep on it, and in the morning I sent the screen shot to six of my close girlfriends, all of whom have girls this age, some of whom have Instagram accounts. I asked for advice.  What should I do.  Where should I start.

The answers were all pretty much the same.

First, talk to my girl, which I did.  Tell her to come to me at once when she sees threats of physical harm to anyone on an internet site.  While what she wanted to do was noble, stop a bully, she ended up putting herself in harm’s way.

Two:  don’t delete her account (although opinions were mixed on this count).  She needs to learn how to use social media going forward in her life.  I can’t punish her for this by taking away this social tool that she really loves.  But I can teach her how to navigate it so that she won’t get herself in trouble with it.

Three:  Don’t call the parents directly.  With language and actions such as this, you have to wonder what goes on in the house.  It could take a bad situation and turn it into a worse one.

Four:  Call the school, even though school is out.  Many schools have rules now that any time there is cyber bullying, even if it is off of school grounds, the school will act.

Five:  Call the police.  Not the regular 911, but the special Youth Division, which has a liaison officer to the school that handles this stuff specifically.

While I was typing this post, the principal called.  He offered to call the Youth Division for me, since he already has a relationship with the officer assigned to the school.  They will investigate the situation and contact the family.  He said that 60% or so of the time, parents are shocked to find out about something like this and will intervene and that will be the end of it.

What about the other 40 %?  I am not really sure.  My goal here isn’t to get someone in trouble, but just to make sure that there isn’t real danger to my daughter or OG.  But in addition, it is to hopefully help a girl who may be veering out of control and get her back on a productive path.

What I know for sure is that a great many parents of the kids who are on this Instagram have no idea what their children are up to.  They are posting photos, some of them inappropriate and suggestive, and they are talking like kids do when they are not supervised.  Except the internet makes them bolder, less afraid than these young adults already are.  It’s a ticking time bomb.

We’ll see what happens.

Haters Gonna Hate

I chuckled looking at the computer screen, nearly choking on my first cup of coffee.  Was that the best they could do?

This week our town held its annual budget vote.  In our tiny New England town, the residents have to approve the spending plan each and every year at the polls.  It’s called an automatic referendum.  When I first moved here I thought it was the craziest thing; in the Midwest, we would have to approve school spending every few years in what was called a “millage vote”.  In the district where I lived, they hardly ever failed.

Where I live now?  They fail routinely.  And since we have to approve a plan every year, it means we vote until it passes.  A few years back, that meant six votes.  We were voting so late that we were about to need an emergency loan from the state because the fiscal year was going to start before we had an approved budget.

It’s why, a few years ago, a group of people and I started an education advocacy group.  To help inform parents about the budget votes, to let them know what was really at stake and lost each time our town failed a vote.  We made phone calls.  We placed VOTE YES signs all over town.  We passed out flyers at the Dunkin’ Donuts.  One year, we held a rally on the Town Hall lawn and I was interviewed on TV.  It’s made my name well known around town.  I’m either a hero for protecting our kids or a pariah for reaching into taxpayer’s pockets, demanding more.

Last year, our teacher contract called for a wage freeze.  It meant that our school system could get by with little or no increase in funding.  So when it came time for the budget numbers to be released, we weren’t all that surprised to see no increase in funding.  Most years, this would have sent us into full fledged attack mode, calling press conferences and media outlets to express concern for the future of our students.  But our superintendent managed the flat budget without any damage due to the wage freeze.  Our group quietly supported this move, which turned the tables.

Suddenly, our support of a low budget was called into question.  How could we call ourselves advocates for education if we weren’t demanding more for our kids?  But we were realists.  We knew that in the current economic state, our tiny little town would never vote for an increase in funding for a system with a wage freeze.  We didn’t want to see further cuts if the budget failed, so we supported the 0 %.  And it passed, with flying colors.

We found ourselves in a similar position this year.  A low budget, a new superintendent who was brought in to keep quality high but spending low.  He promised the system could thrive on a flat budget due to savings elsewhere in the system.  We again threw our support behind this plan, again citing positive outcomes and economic reality.

This time, we earned ourselves some enemies.  And while none of them have yet spoken to me personally, they are out there, in my tiny little town.

How do I know? Because they are posting on the Internet.  Under false names, several (or one person using several pseudonyms) people are calling me and my fellow education supporters out on one of those microlocal news websites.  Giving each one of us who signed a letter of support for the budget a comical but derogatory nickname, they go on to tell us our days as education advocates are clearly over.

Fifteen years ago, this would have bothered me.  Ten years ago, when similar things happened on the Rick Springfield fan message boards and mailing lists, I would type out a very hasty and indignant response to whomever had criticized me and something I’d done.  I would be hurt, anxious, and unnerved by the idea that someone out there disliked me enough to take the time and energy to create a false persona and type angry words into their computer.

These days, it mostly makes me chuckle.  I figure I must be doing something right if I’ve gotten under someone’s skin that much. And I marvel at how I really don’t need to respond anymore.  I am satisfied with the work I did.  I am sure I made the right choice.  And I don’t doubt either of those things just because someone woke up at three in the morning and decided to spew some hate on the Internet.  That’s their problem, not mine.

It serves as a good reminder of how much I’ve grown, how far I’ve come in the last ten years.

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