Friday, February 5, 2016

Can we stop with the “make this post go viral” posts?

While we're at it, stop the other version, too: the “bet the news won’t tell you this” posts.

The subject of these posts is generally some good thing, a feel good announcement. A dad playing with his kids or putting his cute little girl’s hair up in a puffy-ponytail. A group of friends who all graduated high school together. A set of twins that graduated college. A group of boys who are smartly dressed in khakis and button-down shirts and ties.  The people are always Black. Or at least the ones that come across my timeline. Maybe there’s a White version of these, too, they just don’t fill my social media feed (aside from the one of the girls who rearranged themselves from their class photo to spell the N-word – my how proud their parents must be.) 

Anyway, the premise is: look, here’s some folks who are doing good and the news won’t tell you about them.

So here’s some things to think about for those people who want these things to “go viral.”
  • The news trades on bad news. Shootings, bank robberies, bad traffic, celebrity death. Every now and then a “feel good” personal interest story. But for the most part – house on fire, drug bust, kid stealing a bicycle, 2 feet of snow. They don’t really do “good news” a whole lot.
  • These are people doing stuff they are supposed to do. That’s not news. These people aren’t doing anything extraordinary – they’re doing exactly what they are expected to do. Take care of their kids, wear proper clothing, graduate from school. Its not supposed to be on the news anymore than you going to the grocery store and buying a gallon of milk. Sure, you could go to the corner and buy crack (if that’s where you buy crack, I’m not even sure) and that would make the news – because that’s interesting and not the norm. Mom going to buy milk? Yawn. Dad combing his daughter’s hair – okay, maybe not the “norm,” and probably cute, but interesting enough to go viral? Unless the dad is really really fine…. Yawn.

I get it – the idea of these should-be-viral photos is to disprove the negative stereotypes of (Black) people by showing proof of (Black) people being good. But that’s an odd argument to me. Look- we can do good stuff, put it on the news – makes it seem like some kind of anomaly, rather than the norm. Its almost like an argument of proof that’s disproving itself. (There may be some mathematical definition to this but I took Logic long time ago.)

Its like when you get on your kid about sneaking cookies and they’re like “why do you always fuss about me being bad. Why don’t you ever say ‘good job’ for me sitting down quietly or doing my homework?” Because they’re supposed to do that stuff!

Finally - Who the heck knows the magic formula for things going viral? Like that gold or blue dress and that silly guy eating Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pies. What? Why? Generally, it at least takes something being very sexy or very stupid. I imagine both would really create a viral-storm to break the internet.  But generally it is not stuff that someone says “make this go viral.”

So post the pics of your husband doing your daughter's hair and the kids reading books on the subway. Allow folks to "like" or RT or share. Let people enjoy. But stop telling us to make it go viral.

Next rant….folks who post stuff and tell you that if you type “Amen” in the comments God’s going to bless you. I need a Biblical citation. Where did Jesus say that?

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Why Snowdays Are Not As Productive As You Hope

We have been snowbound for 6 days. And not, oh school is closed so we’re just going to go to the mall, snowbound. But our street was just plowed at midnight of Day 5 kind of snowbound. And we can’t even go out for a walk because there’s 2’ of snow outside kind of snowbound. So you would think that all to-do lists would be cleared by the time the snow melts. You’d think. Unless you are snowbound with your hubby and four children and a dog.

When the snow falls and its pretty clear everything is cancelled, the initial response is “ahh, no running around from here to there, imagine all the things I can get done in the house.”  You revisit the list – reading the library book that’s already overdue, staining that Pinterest-inspired cute table you found at a yard sale, finally clearing the 483 emails in your in-box, cleaning out your closets and putting away the summer clothes, starting (or finishing) the next great American novel… the list goes on. And by day 6 you would think – that list is cleared. You had 144 hours of not going nowhere.

But alas. As the snow melts, you are only on page 10 of reading the overdue book, on page 2 of writing the great novel, increased your inbox by 25 emails and pinned 72 more ideas to your Pinterest boards. How did this happen? I’ll tell you.
  • You let the kids sleep in – great decision. But you so enjoyed the quiet, you actually sat down, looked at the snow and finished your coffee while it was hot. – 1 hour
  • Since you usually give the kids a pop-tart and juicebox for breakfast, you decided to make french toast, sausage, potatoes, and eggs with all this un-rushed time. And eat it with them. – 2 hours
  • While the kids went out in the snow, you got a few things done, but when they came back, you mopped the floor of melting snow, dried off the dog, and triaged hanging up wet coats, gloves, scarves, pants, and socks all over the house. – 1 hour
  • The kids were hungry and cold when they came in so you cooked home-made chicken soup and hot chocolate. Again the mom guilt of actually fixing them hot food instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. – 1 hour
  • With all this found time, surely, there’s time to catch up on How to Get Away with Murder. – 8 hours
  • And you missed The Martian in the theatres. - 2.5 hours
  • Hmmm… was Gone Girls the movie as good as the book? – 2.5 hours
  • If you were lucky enough that your kids still like you enough (or need a big person to pull the sled) to ask you to come sledding with them, you went. – 3 hours
  • Sledding is a lot more effort than your Zuumba class, so it warranted a nap. – 2 hours
  • Folks who are home eat A LOT!  You are doing dishes 3 or 4 times a day. – 2 hours
  • If your kids still want to hang out with you, you got wrangled into a game of charades or Monopoly or Scrabble or JustDance! – 2 hours
  • You had to check on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram to see how everyone else was doing in the snow. And post your own pictures of your snow covered street, the pretty snow on the branches, and all the cookies you were baking. – 3 hours
  • You were baking cookies. – 1 hour

Now add that all up. In most cases, multiply by 6. Add to it the loads of wet, cold laundry you have. And the re-inventorying grocery shopping you now have to do. And refinishing your floors. And rescheduling the doctor’s appointment, teacher conference, basketball game, and PTA meeting that you missed.  Renew your library book, continue to carry notes for your great novel (really do try to write at least 30 minutes a day), commit an hour to that closet, and keep the satin handy. You’ll eventually get those to-do items checked off. Just now during the snowstorm.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Baby-Raising Products You Absolutely Don't Need

Why are they making raising a baby so hard?! Mothers have been raising babies since Genesis with not much more than a breast and a cloth to wrap around the babies' butts. Zoom up to my baby-raising years and I did have the luxury of a stroller, a carseat, and a handful of bottles. It's really not as hard as people make it seem.
Wait - let me take that back - it is hard. It's a lot of work to raise a baby (right.) A lot of sleepless nights, frustrated tears, juggling everything. But somehow, day after day, you find your own crazy routine and systems and you make it into the toddler years. Ta-da! And then you start over in a new crazy routine and system. And they are "hard" because there's a lot of pressure (from everywhere) to get this baby-raising thing right because we're talking about a person here. Its not like making the perfect soufflé. Its a BABY!
So yes, those are 2-3 hectic, stressful years. But adding more products doesn't really reduce all the craziness because then there will be all these gadgets to monitor. And isn't it one of the most frustrating things when a machine that is supposed to make things easier doesn't do what its supposed to do and makes your life even harder (urgh!!!!)
What's got me thinking of baby stuff now, when my youngest is on the brink of middle school? I saw this article "12 Parenting Products That Seem to Good to Be True." I read it out of curiosity - what's out there now that could've made raising my four babies so much easier? Let me be jealous. As it turned out, there is NOthing on this parenting products list that I would get. Not one. Why not?
  • Cost - $410 for a Keurig to make a bottle of formula? Please! Here's my baby tip - I never gave my baby's warm formula, always room temperature. Why? Because then I could make formula anytime, anywhere, quickly, without worrying about whether it was the perfect hot-ness.
  • Ridiculousness - baby sleep monitor built into the one-sie? I can't sleep with an electric blanket, but they suggest you put your infant into an electronic bodysuit to monitor her sleep? Only $199 by the way. Baby tip - walk into the baby's room and check on them. If you are that nervous, get one of those regular old sit-on-the-dresser monitors. You don't have to have baby wired up.
  • More-trouble-than-its-worth - full sleeve bib? Trust me, its easier to strip your child shirtless before a spaghetti dinner than try to get her out of a tomato sauce splashed full sleeve bib without getting sauce all over the place.
It's all too much. Yes, juggling baby and a bottle and a diaper and perhaps even another child - it can be hard. But, all these fancy, expensive gadgets aren't going to make it that much easier. You don't need a machine to give you baby's continuous temperature. Touch him. You don't need a remote controlled baby swing, that you turn off and on with your phone. Hold her. You don't need an alarm clock so that you can talk to your child from your room. Be with her. Baby's need love and attention. Give it.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Real-est Thing About the Housewives of Potomac

noun: housewife; plural noun: housewives
  1. a married woman who stays at home, does cleaning, cooking, etc., and does not have another job outside the home
  2. a pocket-size container for small articles (as thread)

Yes, I did it. I had to, how could I not? I mean – it’s right in my backyard. Well, not right in my backyard, its down the street, around the Beltway a few exits. Sunday was the premiere of Real Housewives of Potomac and after checking to make sure the couple Black ladies I know who do live in Potomac were not on it, even as a special guest, I had to watch.  It’s like when you pass an accident on the highway – it’s terrible, but we’re nosy, we gotta look and see.  What a mess.

Here’s the cast. For the most part, they are not housewives. (See definition above.) And this is true not just of Potomac, but of this whole franchise.  We’ll agree that none of them is a pocket-size container (raise your hand if you knew that was what those little Altoid mints-sized boxes were called, for the record – I did not, but will try to work that into conversation.)  Of Potomac (I have not committed their names to memory, but it doesn’t really matter. If you watched, you know who I’m talking about; if you didn’t, you can still follow along):

  • 1 is a married mother, but I don’t think they showed her kids this first episode
  • 1 is a mother married, her husband lives in another state
  • 1 is a divorced mother of 3 babies who wants to marry any White guy (we don’t know yet who her ex is)
  • 1 is a mother, divorced but lives with and shares a bed with her husband (I think this adds a new definition to dysfunctional relationship)
  • 1 is a mother, divorced from her cheating ex-husband preacher

In episode one, none did any cleaning and the only cooking that happened was messing up a pot of crabs. Which by the way, when did a “crab boil” become a thing in Maryland?  This didn’t occur to me at first, because I have been known to do a shrimp boil or two, but I definitely always steam my crabs. Or usually, go buy steamed crabs.

So we’re down to 2/5 who at least meet some minimum criteria to be labeled as a “housewife.”  I can’t think back through all the messiness, but I’m pretty sure the statistics were pretty much the same for Atlanta, New York, and the short-term DC. Those are the only ones I’ve watched. I think they all killed each other off in the New Jersey one or went to jail or something.

Now, some random thoughts on Episode 1.
The episode opened with the ladies taking tennis and golf lessons. It looked like they were in lesson number 1. Now, maybe this is my own stereotype, but I don’t know one person who lives in or near Potomac who does not know how to play one of those two sports, if not both. I don’t know when they learned it, but it seems like a prerequisite to moving to the neighborhood. I’m not understanding how they have lived there and don’t belong to one of the country clubs and own a tennis racquet or golf clubs.

All the drama on the Housewives is fake, manufactured drama – I acknowledge that.  But can they at least make it believable, age-appropriate, fake, manufactured drama? I mean – “you sat in my seat at my birthday dinner?” A real, self-assured 50-year old woman, who really cared about where she sat, would’ve said, “it’s my birthday, get up let me sit there,” not sat there in a quiet huff. Now maybe that would’ve caused a little kerfuffle, but hey, at least it would’ve been more believable.

Who did she think was going to boil those crabs?  Girlfriend had a bushel of crabs in her garage and plans to get her make-up done (because the make-up artist was waiting upstairs), but then had an attitude when her friend came, with a friend/hairdresser/crab boiler in tow, and was messing around in her kitchen cooking the crabs for her crab boil party.  More fake, manufactured drama.

Preacher’s ex-wife being in a pretty nice house in Potomac raises some questions about the finances of the Reverend. He’s pulling in enough tithes and offering to pay for wherever he lives and for her house, too?  Okay, this is not actually show-related. I’ll have to wait for the preacher to move to LA and get on that show for those answers.

I guess the condescending attitude is just par for the course, but that’s probably what bothered me most about the show. If you are trying to act like you have money and need to make sure everyone does not treat you like you don’t have money, you have to keep reminding folks of where you live and that you are a different kind of Black person and go out of your way to be condescending to those other Black people. How many times did the women make snide comments about going back to the ghetto, unhappy poor people, and going back to Baltimore?  It just hurts my heart when folks act like that. If you’ve got class, you don’t have to tell people you’ve got class.

While the rest of the show is all made-up rich people problems, the snide comments, the condescending attitude, the looking down on other people who didn’t climb up the social ladder, the belief that you really are better because of your zip code - that’s about the real-est thing about the Housewives.

Did you watch it? What'd you think? Will you continue to watch?

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Books I'm Carrying Around: Citizens Creek, The Abundant Community

It's Friday! * Can you hear my off-pitch singing of the happiness of the end of a long week? *  If the book fairies love me, at the end of the day I will settle down on my comfy couch with a nice, chilly glass of eggnog with these books for my #weekendread.

Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy - Author of Red River and Cane River. Yes, her books have a southern river theme and they are all about family. Citizens Creek centers around the story of a slave family that is owned by Creek Indians. I know - who knew that was a thing, Indians owning slaves.  Cow Tom, the father of the family, speaks English and several Indian tribe languages and serves as a translator for the Indian Chief. It is the early 1800s and Cow Tom is sent to serve as a representative of the Creek tribe as a translator for the American government, during Removal of the Indian tribes from Florida and the southern states to the western Indian territories.
  - Update: my review of the book, posted on Goodreads

The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families & Neighborhoods by John McKnight & Peter Block. From the inside jacket: Each neighborhood has people with the gifts and talents needed to provide for our prosperity and peace of mind - this book offers practical ways to discover them. I feel like I'm in school again and this is assigned reading. One of my PTA-friends suggested we read this in preparation for a neighborhood book talk coming up. Because I admire her commitment to the community and trust her selection of books, it made it to my list.

The theme for this #PiddlinReads selections: community and the talents of the people in them.

What are you reading? Let me know in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter #PiddlinReads

Saturday, January 2, 2016

7 Tips to Keep the "New You" Motivated

Keep climbing!
People will be all over the gym the first week of January - spinning, climbing stairs, lifting weights, checking their body fat percentage.  Those new year's resolutions are freshly polished, dusted off from last January - promises to eat better, exercise more, drink more water, eat less sugar, and lose that muffin top before swimsuit season.  But come the end of the month,  there will be a few more parking spaces and treadmills will be standing empty again.

If I ran the gym, I'd post some notes to help the "new you" fend off the "hungry and comfortable you" and stick with those resolutions until December.

- Don't feel intimidated.  When I first started swimming laps, I was swimming one length in about 2 minutes, flailing across the pool, ready to drown, and taking a 5 minute break at the end. I watched the other people swimming about 5 laps in the same time and felt like maybe I was getting in their way. It took some time and work, but now I have a good lap swim workout (and there are still people faster and doing more laps than me) and I love it. Don't worry that you aren't fast enough, strong enough, or have the right clothes.  Keep trying the things you really want to do.

- But at the same time - Know your limitations. Know when to quit, go slower or lighter, or not even attempt something. No matter what my Latin-blooded friend says, she's not getting me into zumba, despite her promise that I won't be the only rhythmically-challenged, uncoordinated person in the room (that's her sales pitch). The first time I went to my now almost-regular strength-training class, the instructor told me to put 10 lbs. on my barbell.  I was almost offended - what, I can lift more than 10 lbs! I thought.  But, could I do it 50 times in a row, I realized was the test.  Whew!  I should have dropped it down to 5 lbs.

- And don't get in the way. In any type of group exercise or when there's multiple people (like on a running track), figure out where the people at your pace or level are - running the same speed, going to pass out from strength-training at the same time, whatever.  Its safer, you'll be more comfortable, and it helps with the "don't be intimidated" thing.

- Give yourself 30 days. The experts on developing habits and such things like that say that it takes 21 to 30 days for your new habit to stick. Seeing as you probably won't be going to the gym every day, allow 30 for this one. Make your plan for January, and no matter what else comes along, stick with it. Go to the gym, meet with a personal trainer, go to zumba, walk to the Metro station - do it without fail.

- Plan and prepare for your exercise to reduce your excuses and possible distractions. Exercise rarely just happens, especially with the busy lives we lead these days. Figure out how exercise will work into your day - early in the morning, lunch-time, at the end of the day, whatever works for you - and write it into your schedule.  Yes, that means you may have to skip happy hour this week.  Sure, coordinate your workout schedule with your hair appointments and your pedicures.  Nope, you can't pass out cupcakes at school this morning.  Put yourself first.

- Pack your bags. Whether you will be heading to work or volunteer at your kids' school or get drinks with friends after your workout, make sure you have everything you need to shower and change clothes. Shower gel/soap, shampoo, hair styling stuff, deodorant, lotion - keep a set in your gym bag so you don't have to remember to grab it off the bathroom counter every time.  And undergarments!  Raise your hand if you've ever been standing in the locker room and realized you forgot to pack your bra.  Keep a spare set of undergarments in your bag.

- Set a goal and commit to it. Register for a race or competition or game or league or whatever - something that requires a commitment at a specific point in time. I registered for a triathlon before I was ready because it forced me to stick to a workout plan, because I knew I had exactly so many months, weeks, days before I would have to be ready.  If I didn't stick with my plan, I could drown and die.  (Okay, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but that's what it takes to keep me on task).

Lastly, something that has nothing to do with fitness, just my own preference for modesty 
- Don't talk to me naked, don't talk on the phone, lotion, put on your make-up or brush your hair while butt-naked. Doesn't matter if you are a size 2 or 22, don't care to have a conversation with you in your birthday suit.  But if that's your thing and you just have to stay naked, at least, while you are moisturizing or whatever else, keep both feet on the ground.

See you at the gym!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year, New Datebook - Getting Organized

It's a wonderful time of the year! Time to browse for a planner for the new year!

Yep, I am one of those people who still carry a paper & pen day planner. One reason? Because I can't carry miscellaneous items and an emergency $10 in my phone.  Other reason - I like writing stuff down. I rarely take notes on my phone, only when there's nothing else around. For notes to myself, to-do lists, jotting down phone numbers or things I want to check out later, quotes, notes from an event - I like to keep it all on paper, in one convenient, portable, always accessible place.

There are some folks who would settle on one planner and get the same one every year, rather than launch an annual search for a new and different book. One day, perhaps, I will be that person. For now, I'm switching planners again.

This year, I'm ordering my planner from FallinDesign.  It's a South Korean company that I came across when looking for the datebook I had a couple years ago, the LiveWork Agenda, but that company seems to have gone out of business or maybe changed their name, not sure. With the numerous array of journals and datebooks, you might assume that despite all the electronic and digital gadgetry that comes from South Korea, paper & pen is still very popular.  The options are great and the prices are reasonable, though admittedly, you may take a hit on shipping and timing for delivery.

In the past, I've had these planners:
ARC Disc-planner, from Staples.  I like this planner for its flexibility, but I realized that at year's end, I like all my pages to be bound and easy to flip back through, if necessary. I noticed a lot of people have this in a larger, notebook size and I may consider this system for full-page notes.

LiveWork Agenda - This is the agenda I had previously, and found again at FallinDesign. It's book bound, approximately 5"x7", i.e. fits in my purse, and is pink (important feature.) I like the open page design, which lets me customize to my use - there's space to write appointments, but also to-do lists and dinner plans.

PassionPlanner - If you need a planner that helps you set goals and all the steps to get there, or you like products with a story, go with the PassionPlanner. The pages are laid out to encourage you to think about where you want to go and how you are going to get there. You can order the journal in whole or download the pages for free (yeah, I don't know how they make money on that!)  I don't have the whole planner, but I like the monthly pages for my posted-on-the-wall, always visual planner - partly because it prints on two pages so its big and easy to see.

GoogleCalendar - is my electronic back-up, primarily because of the automated alerts via email and/or texts. This has saved me many of times. If only my paper & pen day planner could do this! It's also useful for my family to be able to look up dates and input their activities. Another nice feature is being able to print out the calendar, with custom-selected dates, so I can leave it with my husband, children and/or babysitter to keep them on track without me.

I've collected a few other day planners and journals that I like on a Pinterest page, as well, in case I need some more options.

For me, the new year is like the first day of school. I'll sit down with my new planner, pen, pencil, couple cute stickers, and put in all my appointments and reminders. And of course, a cup of coffee.  Happy planning!

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