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.  🙂

To Run or Not To Run

They want me to run again, and I don’t know what to do.

Not actual running (although I do that all of the time these days).   The local Democrats called me into a meeting last week and asked me if I would be interested in running for the Board of Education here in town.

I ran four years ago for the same position.  Me and three other girlfriends, we all ran together.  We were naive and hopeful and thought that we could truly make a difference.  We thought we all would get elected if we just worked hard enough, campaigned hard enough.  We were smart, we were active in all of our kids’ schools, our hearts were so in the right place.  We weren’t using the election to this board as a stepping stone for anything else, like mayor (we call them Selectmen here in New England).  We just saw a lot in our kids’ schools that we thought we could change.

We lost.  Badly. 

Only one of the four of us got a seat on the board, thanks to a rule in our town charter called Minority Representation.  There had to be at least three members of the minority party on the 9 person board.  That meant even though the four of us had the least votes of any candidate running, one of us, the one with the most votes, would get a seat.

That wasn’t me.  It was my friend Kelly.

In the last four years, I’ve watched her, talked to her about her experiences on the board.  I was sure she’d run again for her seat because she’s been very good on the Board.  People like her, and respect her.

But it’s hard.  It’s a lot of meetings.  And while those outside the board and local politics like her and respect her, she gets a lot of pushback from one member of the opposite party on the Board.  Enough to make some of the meetings fairly miserable.  She also gets some pushback from members of her own party, the Democrats, when she compromises too much or agrees with the other party “too much”.  Which is also unpleasant.

She’s done a lot of good on the Board.  She did an awful lot when the Sandy Hook students came here to our town to get their school ready.  She was there every day working in the school, meeting families and parents, doing an awful lot for people who truly needed it.  If I’d been in that chair, I could have done those things too.

Kelly isn’t going to run again for her seat.  She has a lot of other things she wants to do with her time, and it is very time consuming.  She’s done some of what we all had set out to do four years ago, and resigned herself to the fact that she can’t do it all.

Watching her over the last four years has given me a very honest, real perspective on what I would be in for if I ran and were elected.  And I keep waffling.  On the one hand, I don’t have a boatload of spare time either.  I’m trying to expand my freelance work, I am president of our Parents’ Council, I am on our Farmers’ Market Committee, I work with a local education advocacy group and I am in charge of our local 5K this year (more on that in another post).  It’s a lot of commitment.  Do I really think I can add one more?

But I still wonder what it would be like to actually sit at the table.  To get a say, to have a voice.  To make a difference, to really have an opportunity to do those good things for the children here in town.

I just don’t know what to do.

Living Room Show

It’s been a long time coming.  Six years, four years,  two years, one year, maybe, depending on the measure you use.

I’ll back up the truck for those who may be new to my blog.

Above are photos of my living room show from last Friday with a singer named Kyle Vincent.  Kyle is an independent musician who has a storied history in the business, despite the fact that you probably haven’t heard of him.  He has toured with the likes of Rick Springfield, Richard Marx, Night Ranger, Blessid Union of Souls, even Barry Manilow.  He’s got stories that include Joe Satriani, Ryan Seacrest and Garry Marshall.  And he lives just about two hours north of where I do, right here in New England.

Rather than rewrite my story and how it weaves in with Kyle, let me share a few links:

When I First Saw Kyle (1985):  https://myformerlife.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/good-clean-fun/

How I Caught Back Up With Him:  (1997):  https://myformerlife.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/rolling-in-circles/

First Time I Met Him (1997):  https://myformerlife.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/insecurity-in-the-oddest-places/

Catching Up Again (2004):  https://myformerlife.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/seeing-kv-again/

Kyle Asks Me To Design His Website (2005):  https://myformerlife.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/another-website-gig/

After All of That, Friends (2006):  https://myformerlife.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/an-evening-out/

So there’s your six years.  It’s been six years since I last saw Kyle perform, at that small club in Hamden, CT in 2006.

It’s been four years since I’ve seen him at all.  We realized at some point in our back and forth trying to redesign his website, or maybe we were working on one of the CDs that I helped him design (I did four of them for him:  Don’t You Know, Gathering Dust, Where You Are, and C Sides, not to mention a little help on his last, Best Of…So Far and the artwork for his Live DVD….not that you asked….but I am kinda proud of them) that he lives two hours from here, which means we could each drive just one hour and have an in person work session.  Which we did several times in 2008.  That’s the last time I saw him, four years ago.

Two years ago we talked about redesigning his website for the third time since I started work on it.  I had totally redone it in 2005 when I took it over, and then again in 2009 when we did the Where You Are CD.  By 2010 the site was already feeling out of date, and we started looking at options for a new look.  I put something together that I loved, with Flash and all sorts of bells and whistles. But see, Kyle’s a perfectionist and I get frustrated easily.  It’s a bad combination.  So after him not liking it as much as I did, we stopped working on it for a while.

Last year, we did the same thing.  I again came up with several options that I felt would really fit his needs.  He liked it enough to let me fill in the site nearly completely before he realized that he was going to have to live with this.  And he couldn’t.  So again, we stopped.

Finally, after nearly a year of not only not working on the site, but barely communicating with each other, we reconnected via email last summer and tried again.  I put together not one, not two but three full and complete websites that ended up getting nixed.  But then finally Kyle suggested one last try.  And that one last try ended up being the keeper.

In return for the six, four, two or one years of back and forth, Kyle suggested another living room show in my hometown.  This time I decided to go for it in my own home.  I invited a bunch of girlfriends and called it our Girls Night In Living Room Show.

It was a blast.  Kyle was charming, he was self deprecating, he was just enough sexy.   And somehow, it was kind of an amazing event watching someone from My Former Life find a new home in My Current Life.  With My Current Friends in My Current Home.  They all loved him, and now they kind of get a little bit why I have somehow kept a connection with this guy for over 20 years.

The best part?  Watching my twelve year old daughter listen and connect with his music.  When he sang the words, “I’m somebody….just not who you wish I were…and that’s OK,” I could see the flash of recognition in her eyes.  You know the one.  The one that happens when you can pull a song in and relate it to your own life.  And when he sang “It’s only you who believes in….yourself,” my own tears fell, watching her, thinking of her and her struggles and hoping she too “will dance again.”  I remember being twelve.  I remember that feeling of music saving me, pulling me out of the awfulness that was my every day life.  I don’t know if Kyle’s music will be that for her, but it was wonderful to share it with her, regardless.

Somehow, taking something that I am excited and passionate about and sharing it with my friends, with my daughter, and seeing them finally get it was so incredibly special.  And amazing.  Also, inspiring.

And also?  Knowing that with those special people in your life, those who you are connected with, who are meant to be a part of your journey somehow….knowing that they will always be there, even if there are six, four, two, one year spans in between their place there?  That part?

That was just…everything.

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’ and My Headspace

I ended up having a blast at the Fitbloggin’ conference.  I truly didn’t know what to expect about spending three days in a city hundreds of miles away with hundreds of people I’d never met.  I blogged about it fairly extensively at my other blog if you’d like the blow by blow.

Since the conference was geared towards fitness bloggers, sessions ran the gamut from “How to use social media to gain followers” to “Using Florida Grapefruit in a healthy diet” to “Self Acceptance” and “When You Have a Lot of Weight To Lose.”  I had originally thought I would gain a lot of information about the nuts and bolts of increasing web traffic and dismissed the thought of the other more touchy, feely sessions.

But after meeting a friend who gently nudged me towards one of the weight loss sessions, I knew that I was right where I needed to be.  The open ended group forums were like a support group, women just telling their stories over and over, peppering their tearfilled commentary with amazing advice about self loathing and acceptance.

It was like a punch in the gut for me who has been struggling over the last six to nine months with my headspace.

And suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone in my thoughts that go towards Crazytown from time to time.  For all of my struggles in my past, some of these women had experienced much worse.  Others had similar stories of difficult childhoods and losing parents early.  Some were subjected to drug abuse in their homes.  One woman, like me, had a child very young.  They were all struggling somewhere on the journey towards self acceptance.

Some inspiring women were already there.  They had managed to rise above their lousy circumstances and their anxiety filled negative self talk and found a way to honor themselves by taking care of their heads, hearts and bodies.  Others were at the starting point, wanting to head towards that place but absolutely clueless where to start.  Many, like me, were somewhere on the journey.  Some days we feel like we have our heads together, we know how smart and capable we are, and we go forward with our heads held high.  Other days we feel like the negative self talk must all be true and we let it win out with a vengeance.

It was honestly an eye opener to hear my own thoughts echoed by so many women.  I think in our daily lives no one is this honest.  For me, I am surrounded by women who don’t really seem to struggle all that much with self worth.  Maybe I’ve put them there for a reason, to help pull me out of that tendency in myself.  But sometimes that makes me feel like I am a total headcase; that I must truly be messed up if I constantly compare myself to others or think negatively about myself.  But at FitBloggin’ , I wasn’t nuts.  I wasn’t alone.  I was just another among many who are working hard to overcome whatever it is that holds us back from being the best version of ourselves.

It was really, really wonderful.

And now I’m connected with some of these women online.  Through their blogs, their tweets and their Facebook messages, it’s almost like an online support group.  And for now, it feels like enough.  It feels like therapy.  It feels like maybe I’m going to be OK.

The View From My Corner of the World

The roundup of what my world looks like since I last blogged (nearly two weeks ago?  Yikes).

Today is my eldest son’s 23rd birthday.  Holy how on earth did this happen?  It seems both a million years ago and also about a few days ago that I was balancing him on my hip while I navigated life.  He came home last weekend with his girlfriend, and we had dinner Saturday night with her parents.  It is still hard for me to believe that this is my life.  That he and I could have ended up in a very different place.  Instead, we’re eating amazing Italian food with his potential inlaws in this crazy expensive town in CT that we can almost afford to live in now.  I’m not sure if this totally set up situation for meeting her parents is a prelude to Some Really Big News, but for now, holy smokes, my kid is older than I was when I had him.

The younger two kids are back in school.  I am still desperately worried about my daughter and her swimming with all of the sharks at school.  There were whispers about people not sitting together at lunch (not on purpose, really) and getting transferred out of her classes.  We don’t know what all is true, but a glance at her iPod text app yesterday made my heart sink.  She still is trying so hard to be friends with people who really don’t give a crap about her.  I vacillate between hands off (“she’ll have to figure this out herself, as painful as it may be….after all, didn’t we all hate middle school?”) and hands on (“honey, if they treat you that way it is time to move on…why don’t we call so and so who actually likes you and invite her over?”) on a daily basis.  We’ll see what happens.

My dog is one crazy canine.  While we were out drinking heavily celebrating Labor Day with friends, he tried to escape from his crate.  Not sure what all happened (I must set up that streaming video idea I had) but when we came home his two front paws were mangled and bloody, and he’d lost a toenail.  I nursed him for two days before taking him to the vet (having decided that while we love him, we weren’t paying a thousand dollars to the doggie ER).  Having a dog is indeed like having a small child.  The poor thing is now scared to death of his crate, needs pills twice a day, and now begs for (and receives) a companion in the room where he sleeps (not our room; the den downstairs where his crate lives).  Not sure what I am going to do when I have to leave the house, but I kind of do have to leave the house, like, some time this week.

My one year running anniversary is coming up in six days.  I started the Couch 2 5K program on 9/12/11.  I saw this blog entry from this one woman on her running anniversary and she’d gone from the program to like, a half marathon on her anniversary.  I am going to be struggling through another 5K this weekend (this is my seventh), hoping I don’t die, because I let my exercise go the whole time I was in Europe (and to be honest, it was on a major downward spiral before we left with the kids home this summer).  I’m trying to focus on the positives of it:  like, I am still actually running, and that I weigh less today than I did a year ago (um, only about 9 pounds….but whatever), and that I am likely healthier and all that.  Still, I do feel an awful lot like I should be trying harder, doing more having been at this thing A Whole Stinking Year.

Speaking of OMG THE RUNNING, I am going to a fitness conference in two weeks called FitBloggin.  I scored a free ticket by applying to be a live blogger, even though at the time I had no fitness blog and no audience for the real blog I actually do have.  The ticket might be free, but the hotel room on the Inner Harbor is like $200 a night, but I’m a little freaked out about getting a roommate that I don’t know and have never met (though, apparently, people do this all the time at these things).  I tried to entice my girlfriends with the Hotel Room in a Awesome City Away From Here for a girls’ weekend type of thing, but they all have soccer games, or football games, or husbands that aren’t interested in them subsidizing my weekend in Baltimore.  So it will be me, all alone, with all of these bloggers who write about fitness while I am pounding out 40 minute 5Ks.  Still, I’m super excited anyway.  Maybe I’ll network and find a job, or something, out of it.

And that’s the view from suburbia this warm September morning.  Yes, sure, I could have written about politics, or my inner conflict about why I am not hearing back from an old friend, or some other existential dilemma but for now?  This is where I am at.

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.

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