Beyond the Incubator

Junior

This is Junior. He was born in late May 2014, three months before he was actually due. He is T-Wizzle’s son. I call him my nephew, because his momma has been my sister from another mister for more than 13 years.

I spoke to T-Wizzle the day her water broke. We IM’ed back and forth while she lay in a hospital bed, freaking out. There was a very strong possibility she would lose the baby she had wanted for many years. We prayed together and focused on sending healing energy to her unborn child.

After Junior was delivered via C-section, T-Wizzle’s health deteriorated. She contracted pneumonia and an E coli infection. Her heart was enlarged.

She nearly died giving her son life.

Throughout the month of May I waited for updates on his progress, on T-Wizzle’s healing, on everything. I prayed, I asked friends and family to pray for him and for my sister from another mister. I don’t remember much else that happened in May, to be honest. All I could think about was my best friend, her son, and her husband Buster, and how much I wanted them to be together as a family, happy, healthy, thriving.

T-Wizzle got better and was released from the hospital, but Junior had to stay behind. The first few months of Junior’s life were spent hooked up to machines. Machines that fed him, monitored his heart rate and other bodily functions. T-Wizzle and Buster visited him daily in NICU and posted updates on Facebook.

All summer long, whenever I saw little African-American boys, I thought of Junior and smiled. I imagined a day when he would be toddling around on unsteady feet, grinning at people, clutching a toy car in one hand. I imagined teaching him songs and reading to him about hungry caterpillars and purple crayons. I imagined dancing with Junior to “Sir Duke”, because he loved the Stevie Wonder songs T-Wizzle would sing to him while he was in NICU. Thank you for watching over Junior and getting him healthy enough to go home, I would pray.

When Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, the stories coming out of Ferguson and other communities about violence against young black men made my heart hurt. Because all I could think about was that sweet little boy in an incubator, learning how to breathe on his own, learning how to eat from a bottle, and how his life would change in so many ways once he left the hospital. There, he was safe. All he had to do was gain weight and work on his suck-swallow skills. Out here, the challenges would be much greater, especially over time.

Now that Junior is home and growing stronger and smarter every day, I am afraid for him. I am afraid that as he grows out of onesies and into big boy pants, people will perceive him differently. That as his voice deepens and facial hair sprouts on his upper lip and chin, people will look at him with suspicion. That as he graduates high school and goes on to college, people will make his achievements and innate talent less important than his skin color. Because, as T-Wizzle said to me today, “his skin will be enough [for him] to be treated like a threat.”

In another hour or less, the world will know the decision of the Ferguson grand jury regarding whether the officer who shot Michael Brown should stand trial. I fear the worst, because history has proven that the worst often happens when justice meets racial prejudice. I fear for other young black men in Ferguson and beyond, and their mothers who love them, and I wish there was a way for them all to be kept safe from harm, the same way Junior was for those first three months of his life.

But most of all, I want to go see my nephew and hold him close. I want to kiss his sweet little face and tell him that his worth and value is immeasurable to me. I want to whisper in his ear that I will always try to help him find a place in the world where he can grow up into a courageous, generous, loving young man, inoculated and incubated from harm.

Finding Your Joy => Finding Love

Note: This morning I discovered I have 24 blog post drafts in various stages of completion. I decided to start going through them and see what was still relevant and interesting enough to me to finish and post during NaBloPoMo. This post is one I started writing in July 2011. Since then, Ms. Chick found her Mr. Right and married him. As for me, well…you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Earlier this year I met local blogger Ms. Chick. She writes some very funny posts about online dating and life in general. But she also writes about her frustration with her search for Mr. Right.

While I’m not focused on finding Mr. Right, or even Mr. Right Now, at this point in my life, I do understand the frustration. I think many women go through phases when it seems as if all their peers are hooking up, shacking up, getting married, engaged or having babies, and they are left holding the Party of One sign. I’ve been there. It’s actually part of the reason why I left SoCal: everyone I knew seemed to be moving on to coupledom and I wasn’t even dating anyone. After one incredibly disastrous relationship and a couple blah ones, I was done with trying to find a good partner. I also believed that if I stayed, I would feel pressured into dating much more quickly than I was ready for, just so I wouldn’t be the odd-woman-out at gatherings with my friends and their significant others.

Spending the summer of 2010 in a small college town didn’t do a hell of a lot for my social life, but it definitely helped me get some perspective on who I am, what I love and what I want. The answer became clear very quickly: I am someone who loves to laugh and entertain, and who loves being laughed at (and with) and entertained by others. I love helping people connect in ways big and small. I want joy and peace of mind, body and soul.

A few months ago I asked Ms. Chick what gives her joy and what makes her laugh, really laugh from the pit of her stomach. Because it’s my belief that it’s when we focus solely on finding our joy, everything else falls into place: relationships, career, home, health. All the wrong drifts away and we’re left with all the right – including finding, dating and coupling up with Mr./Ms. Right.

It’s hard to get to that place, though. We’re all so conditioned for wrongness, whether we are feeling wrong or trying to make others feel wrong, intentionally or not. And looping on our failures can be affirming even when we claim we want things to be different. As this letter from Miss Information at Nerve.com says:

Failure sucks, and is frustrating. But really listen in: even when you’re pissed at yourself, there is often some perverse pleasure in it.

It’s emotional self-flagellation, really: we beat ourselves bloody for our failings and never quite fix them. T-Wizzle calls this “beating yourself with the Wrong Baton.” Because fixing them means honing in on key beliefs and attitudes we have about ourselves, seeing which ones are unhealthy and unhelpful and working hard to replace them with helpful, healthy beliefs.

I’m not suggesting that in order to find love, you need to become Pollyanna and drop the jaded, cynical tones. I’m saying that in those moments when the bitterness and anger is threatening to ruin your day (and maybe your life), acknowledge its presence and agree to disagree. (Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing feelings, deal with it.) Let the angry, cynical ego self be what it is and choose to do something that brings you joy.

sunset, Anna Maria Island, Florida, Gulf of Mexico, beach

What helps me find my joy.

 

On Running, Self-Esteem, and Validation

After that last post I got some feedback from a few people that was a little defensive. Even though I never said I hated runners, or that I thought they were stupid, my highly satirical post was interpreted as an attack. My original plan was to blow it off.

But then I read this op-ed at the Wall Street Journal. And this response to the WSJ piece at Runner’s World. And I thought about the conversation I had with T-Wizzle about my original post:

Me: I was writing satire à la Andy Rooney, but apparently it was lost on a few people. And I thought my joke about carbo loading was funny.

T-Wizzle: What was the joke?

Me: It was that carbo loading doesn’t have to do with a clown named Carbo offering gun safety tips while speaking only in gerunds.

T-Wizzle: That IS funny.

Me: I knew you’d like that one.

T-Wizzle: The problem is no one ever wants to feel bad. If you’re not validating what they’re doing, then they feel bad and get defensive. It’s called self-esteem because it comes from YOU, not anyone else.

I thought she had a good point. Now, if you’re a runner, or you are intimately involved with a runner, I want you to read this next part very carefully.

I don’t hate runners. Not at all. I understand that training for marathons and other races is intense. It’s a big world out there, though, and there is so much happening, and I know all you runners are so much greater than the sum of your pedometers. If you feel the need to broadcast your training regimen because it helps you stay motivated and feel accountable, that is absolutely your prerogative. But I’ll be honest: I care about you as YOU. Not as runner you, or philanthropist you, or computer geek you. All the parts of you are not as important to me as the complete package.

In the last few months I’ve noticed the lengths I will go to for validation. I want people to praise me ad nauseam. I want accolades and acclaim for my writing. But that doesn’t happen. There is no algorithm or SEO keywords that guarantees I’ll be validated 100% of the time for 100% of my work & activities. That’s where the self- part of self-esteem kicks in. I’m the only one who can validate me 100% of the time. This has been a very difficult lesson to learn.

I’m still going to make jokes about anything & everything. Not everyone will think they are funny. I’m still going to write, because it’s part of my identity. Not everyone is going to like my articles, stories, poems, blog posts. But as long as I am okay with me, as long as I’m loving who I am regardless of what I’m joking about or writing, it doesn’t really matter who is a Moxie fan or who isn’t.

So keep on doing what you’re doing, whether you’re running, walking, writing, reading, eating chips, or watching TV. I’ll go do my thing. And when we meet, whether it’s virtually or in the real world, let’s just enjoy each other’s company, validation not required.

My Declaration of Independence: the 2013 Edition

Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington

What writing declarations of independence look like when done by committee.

It’s Independence Day here in the U.S. of A., so long-time readers of GWM know what that means: time for Moxie to do her annual declaration of independence. Because like our Founding Fathers, sometimes it’s necessary to say what you won’t stand for any longer, and give the reasons why.

This year I’m feeling reflective. I’ve been thinking about the declarations of previous years and whether or not I actually managed to maintain my independence.

2012 – I gave up gluten for health reasons, but over the last month I experimented with having small amounts of gluten to see what would happen. Result: Everything that was going on before came back, but not on an extreme scale, fortunately. I’m back on the gluten-free wagon today.

2011 – I still have a tendency to chase checks, and freak out about money, but more and more I’m finding that if I relax, and repeat aloud “Everything I need shall be provided today”, things work out in ways I do not expect or anticipate.

2010 – I think I’m doing pretty good at being my best self in every moment, letting go, and learning to live in abundance. I occasionally have moments when I feel bad for not working full-time at an office job, but those moments pass quickly when I realize that in most instances full-time employment would require me to be someplace for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. *shudder*

What’s been coming up for me a lot lately has to do with being vulnerable. I hate feeling vulnerable. I will go out of my way to avoid that feeling. I will tell myself and others that I’m okay with whatever bullshit situation has come up because I am so unwilling to admit to being hurt, angry, upset, you name it. My unwillingness to show my vulnerability frequently comes up with my relationships with other people.

In the last couple of months I took a long, hard, painful look at my relationship with Giles. While he has been a great friend and very supportive of me on many levels, the truth was that I had never really dealt with my hurt and anger over the fact that the brief romance we had soon after we first met ended so abruptly and for no reason that I could understand or accept. I had never allowed myself to feel all those feelings down to their roots, and I had never told him how much it hurt to be rejected like that. I had simply moved into the friend zone and told myself it was okay.

But as most people who have been relegated to the friend zone will tell you, it’s not okay. My feelings of hurt and anger were demanding to be addressed. And while it was very difficult to reach that place where I was willing to be vulnerable and share my truth – we’re talking many nights of tears, and many mornings staring at swollen eyelids in the bathroom mirror – I did it. And that moment when I was honest with him about everything and about my need to create distance and stronger boundaries was an incredibly powerful, cathartic moment. I had been afraid I would be crying the whole time I spoke to him, but I didn’t cry once. Because I had allowed myself to deeply feel each feeling beforehand – something T-Wizzle had once told me was the key to moving away from the crying jags and into acceptance – I was able to speak my truth with a strong, clear voice. It was an amazing experience.

So that leads to my personal declaration of independence for 2013: I will stop being afraid to show my vulnerability in my relationships with other people. Be they romantic or platonic, familial or friendly, I will get to my truth when it means I will create a stronger connection – not only with the other person, but with myself. I will stop discounting my feelings; instead, I will examine them carefully, and when I am ready, I will share those feelings with the person whom I believe needs to hear them.

I don’t anticipate this will be an easy declaration to keep, seeing as I have a long history of avoidance when it comes to vulnerability. But I will do my very best to hold myself accountable and find that space where I accept myself and my feelings, no matter what shape they take.

What’s your personal declaration of independence this year?

My Life as a Bag Lady

About a month ago I went to the library to have my summer reading bingo card registered in their system. Just for participating they gave me a reusable bag. And for the first time I could remember, I thought, “Another freakin’ bag?!”

bag, reusable shopping bag

The bag I got from the library for participating in Summer Reading Bingo.

See, there was a time when I was all about acquiring bags. Backpacks, book bags, grocery shopping bags, tote bags, laundry bags, little bags, medium bags, casual bags, work bags, bags with a snap, bags with a zipper, bags with a bazillion pockets. I loved and wanted them all.

Now I have reached the tipping point and I am done with bags. I hope.

There is a stash in my trunk of bags for shopping. In the green bag I have five additional bags: an insulated one for frozen/refrigerated items, one with 6 compartments for carrying bottles, and three random bags.

bags, reusable shopping bag

The bags I keep in my trunk for shopping.

I use this green and white bag from Aunt Gigi’s ranch for groceries from Trader Joe’s. She likes Trader Joe’s a lot so she’ll appreciate that.

bag, reusable shopping bag, tote bag

The logo for Aunt Gigi's ranch is on the other side, but I don't think she'd like it if I showed it here. Because then people might think she's accepting visitors and conducting tours, which she is not.

There are three other bags in my trunk that aren’t being used for shopping. This bag says it’s full of emergency supplies to last for 72 hours. As you can see I am well prepared for any emergency.

bag, emergency supply kit bag, reusable bag

My emergency supply bag: empty.

My idea of an emergency is being someplace overnight and not having deodorant or a clean shirt to wear. So I have this bag (also from Aunt Gigi) that has toiletries, a couple pairs of underwear, a t-shirt and a zip-up hoodie in it.

bag, reusable shopping bag, tote bag

My not-quite-an-emergency bag, with toiletries, a few items of clothing and a pen in it.

Early last year I picked up some maps at AAA. They used to use small plastic bags you could repurpose as a garbage bag for your car. Now they are all eco-friendly with their blue reusable bags.

reusable shopping bag, tote bag

This bag is full of maps and stays in the trunk. Because that's the best place for maps when you're driving and you don't know where you're going and the GPS isn't working right.

Aunt Gigi likes to use tote bags as Christmas stockings. This red bag was one of my favorites from her: it has a top zipper and all sorts of little pockets on the inside.

Christmas, shopping bag, bags, reusable shopping bags

This red bag has lots of pockets inside and out, plus nice long handles. I often use it to haul small loads of laundry back and forth from the laundry room.

There is the purple bag I bought a few years ago because it had an OM on one side and I thought it would be a cool bag for taking to yoga. I haven’t taken a yoga class in over a year.

yoga, exercise, bags, reusable shopping bag, OM

Purple bag with OM symbol - one of the few bags I actually paid for.

There are the bags I got from Momcat’s collection. She was also a big lover of bags. The Washington Metro bag (top) has been around probably just as long – the Metro map on the bag shows the Green Line as being in progress, but it’s actually been completed for several years now. I use it for hauling laundry to Giles’ place when I don’t have enough quarters to do laundry at my building. The Smithsonian one (bottom) has been around since the early ’80s and was often used as a library book bag. I have been using it to hold the crap I am trying to sell on eBay.

Momcat, bags, reusable shopping bags, library, books, shopping

Two bags from Momcat's collection

Then there are several bags I received as a thank you for attending an event or participating in something. (Yes, that’s the bag from the library on the left. Weird how these bags are all green.)

shopping bags, bags, reusable shopping bags, giveaways, promotions

Three recent additions to my bag collection.

This Target bag was a freebie in an issue of Vanity Fair about 3 years ago. It’s made of this thin nylon so it’s good for sticking in another bag, just in case the first bag gets too full and I need another one.

Target, bags, shopping bags, reusable shopping bags

This bag is good for carrying in a purse or other bag because it folds up nicely.

But sometimes a casual canvas or nylon bag emblazoned with advertising for a product/service/vacation destination will not do. Enter the work/play bags.

backpack, work, bags, totes, play, laptop

The bags I use for carrying around my laptop and work stuff.

I got the lilac bag from Target several years ago. T-Wizzle is going to be mad when she sees this picture because it reminds her how she saw this bag in white and wanted it, but did not buy it. I don’t know why she didn’t, it was only $25 and it’s a fantastic bag. But I better shut up now before she gets even more pissed off.

The brown bag is my fall/winter work bag – I’m using it currently even though it is not quite fall here in Sacramento. I don’t know when we will actually see autumn weather, but I figure if I use the fall/winter bag, it will come. Maybe.

The backpack is for when I am schlepping around a bunch of crap in addition to my laptop and I don’t want to dislocate my shoulder carrying around the lilac or brown bag.

For those times when the big bags are too big, I have small bags.

bags, reusable shopping bags, beach bag, tote

This bag is the oldest in my collection and one of my favorites.

Aunt Olivia made this blue denim bag for me when I was in the single digits, which was twentithirtyish years ago. It’s still in great condition, aside from some fraying of the fabric on the handles. I like using it to haul around my e-reader, journal and some pens.

bag, reusable shopping bags, totes, T-Wizzle

T-Wizzle's fun design just for me, the blue-eyed badass.

Several years ago T-Wizzle was into making designs for t-shirts, tank tops and tote bags. She made this one just for me: it says Blue-Eyed BadAss and has a cartoon of a brunette with blue eyes on it. I used to use it to carry my lunch to work, back when I still worked in an office. I figured if the fridge broke and it was being cleaned out and they were trying to find out what stuff belonged to what person, I could say, “Mine’s the one that says ‘Blue-Eyed Bad Ass’.” Kind of like Jules from Pulp Fiction.

By my count, that makes 22 bags. I don’t even own that many pairs of shoes. At this rate I’m gonna get my Girl Card revoked.

If You’re Gonna Feng Shui Your House, Better Feng Shui Your Head, Too

On Saturday night I found myself in Ms. Chick‘s bedroom.

Wait. That didn’t come out right.

See, she’s been having a dry spell with dating, and I wanted to see if I could help her out.

That still didn’t come out right. Or my mind is just constantly in the gutter.

Some background: several years ago, T-Wizzle turned me on to feng shui, the Chinese art of living in harmony with your environment. She had met and worked with Karen Rauch Carter, author of Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life, a practical, easy-to-use feng shui guide for people who don’t want to be bothered remembering a lot of details about what belongs where. I bought a copy of the book, figured out how the bagua aligned with my current apartment, and started moving my crap around. I had been having serious issues in different areas of my life and wanted to do something physical that might help change things.

feng shui, bagua, Black Hat feng shui

Basic bagua layout for your home. Image courtesy feng-shui-tips-for-wealth.com

And my life did change. I started dating, my relationships with family members improved, I made some great new friends. I found a new home for Angel, my cat who was aggressive and miserable living with me and my other cat, Mossimo. I bought a new car that I absolutely loved. I gave feng shui a lot of credit.

But the truth is, I had been feng shui-ing my head as well. I had started using affirmations and other techniques to help reset my brain to stop being so negative and cynical and nasty and being more open and compassionate and fun. And it made a huge difference. Because I’ve learned that there’s no way changes can take place in the real world until you change the way you think about the things that bother you.

I can’t sum up everything I did to feng shui my head in one blog post. But here are my basic suggestions:

  • Write down on a piece of paper what’s not working in your life. I have an old list that reads: “My love life is nonexistent. My new friendships are not as nurturing as I would like. I don’t feel motivated to write or be creative.”
  • Write down on another piece of paper what IS working. Love your job? Have a great bunch of friends? Car running beautifully? Write ’em down.
  • Go back to the first piece of paper and consider what attitudes are behind those not-working items. The key is to make sure you stay focused on yourself. For me, my love life was nonexistent because deep down I believed I was unattractive and undesirable because I am fat. It had nothing to do with the men I was interested in or had dated in the past. It was all about me.
  • Install mental updates. Your internal self-esteem software obviously needs a bug fix, so it’s time to fix that. Write some affirmations about your inner and outer beauty, make peace with your inner child, get a close friend to help you work out your shit. I spent a lot of hours on the phone with T-Wizzle working out my shit – and in turn I helped her work out her own.
  • While you’re working on these affirmations and feeling super positive about yourself, start moving stuff around in your home. Carter’s book is a great starting point. Some folks may need a professional consult, which can be expensive but if you have the money it’s well worth it.

Back to Ms. Chick and her bedroom. She had an empty laundry basket in the Love & Relationships section. I pointed at it and said, “That needs to go, unless you want to continue having nothing happen with your lovelife.” (If it had been full of dirty laundry I still would have said she needed to move it, because then she’d be dealing with – you guessed it – guys with a lot of dirty laundry.) She moved the basket and according to a tweet I got from her tonight, things have already started shifting. But I’m willing to bet she started shifting her attitude about dating, too.

Not Quite Carrie Bradshaw Yet

“So my editor loved the piece I wrote for October and asked me what ideas I have for the November issue.”

“That’s great!” Giles exclaims. He’s a great friend to tell good news to, because he’s genuinely happy for you. T-Wizzle is the same way, which is exactly the reason why they are my two closest friends. That, and they pour drinks with a heavy hand. Both are excellent qualities to have in a friend.

“And she asked me if I wanted to write several short items for the November issue.” I tell him the figure she quoted. He is ecstatic.

“That is wonderful!” Giles is full of exclamations today. “You want to come over for dinner later? I have chicken we can stir-fry.”

I say yes, of course, because even with all these writing assignments I’ve been racking up over the last two months I still have a fridge full of condiments and not much else. Writing for a living is great; it’s the pay-on-publication part that sucks.

I suck down a couple gallons three glasses of water to tide me over until dinner at Giles’ place. He lives just a few blocks away so we hang out together often. I go back to finishing up the first part of what will be a five- to six-week-long writing project, which I landed thanks to a friend of a friend who recommended me. It also pays very well, and there’s potential for more assignments, so that pleases me.

At 6:35 I head over to Giles’ place. He lives in a fabulous building just off Capitol Park – great views, high ceilings, fireplaces. The place has had its share of famous residents. Giles is not famous, though he knows a lot of people in town. Being involved in the media will do that.

He lets me into the lobby and we take the elevator up to his apartment. Even though it wasn’t extremely hot outside today, it was warm enough that when I open the door to his place the cool air hits me right away. It feels so cool and lovely that I want to lie down right there in the foyer. But I refrain because I am sober.

Since he just got back from walking to a nearby market, he suggests sitting down for a while with some cocktails. Never one to turn down a cocktail, I agree.

“Wow, you’re like a Lifetime movie about that woman,” he says after a swig of beer.

“What?” This is a joke he picked up from Zach Galifianakis. We say it every time we are flipping through cable channels and we pass a particularly heinous movie title such as “Mother May I Sleep with Danger?” or “Too Young to Marry.”

“In those movies the woman is always a magazine writer and she lives in this huge apartment in New York. You’re Carrie Bradshaw!”

“My apartment isn’t big enough,” I remind him. “And how in the hell did she afford that huge apartment plus $300 shoes on a writer’s salary? She was only writing for the Post. Or was it the Star?”

Giles waves his hand at me. “It was a tab, all the same thing.”

“Still, I do fantasize about having a column someday,” I confess, looking down at my now-empty wineglass. How did that happen?

“Columns aren’t what they once were,” he says. “Used to be a lot of klout saying you were a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Now with blogs that doesn’t really exist – you might be one of several people contributing content.”

“It would still be cool, but I’m no Carrie Bradshaw,” I say. “I would definitely have to move to a bigger place for that to happen.” I look down at my slightly chipped home pedicure of OPI’s I’m Not Really a Waitress and my $5 Target flip-flops which have already been repaired with Super Glue once. “And I would need better footwear.”

Moxie does not live here - yet. Photo courtesy FreeCityGuides.com

From My First Breath*

“So, does Sacramento feel like home?” T-Wizzle asked me. It was the third time she’d asked me that question in the last three months. And for the third time I couldn’t give her a clear answer.

For many years I haven’t felt a sense of home in the way that others do. I will remain longer than I should in apartments and townhouses that do not meet my needs, but I also avoid making investments in furniture until absolutely necessary. I have never hung drapes or curtains, and I have never done major remodeling. I bought a house with Mr. X but we never got around to decorating it. We didn’t build knee walls or repaint bathrooms in an attempt to make the house truly ours; we never quite made that house our home.

But I have also designed and planted a garden, much to the surprise of others – and myself, to be honest. More recently, I installed a new shower head in my apartment and, when I discovered how easy it actually was, I cursed my narrow-mindedness for not installing one in the last place I lived. I have hung pictures around the apartment and installed shelving in my kitchen to accommodate my pots and pans. Between these tasks and getting involved in the community, I do have more of a sense of home than I ever had when I was living in Southern California. In many ways my new town reminds me a lot of where I grew up on the East Coast. But it’s still not quite home.

Because while decorating a kitchen and installing shower heads can mean one considers a place to be home, I don’t believe that material goods create that feeling of home, that sense of this is where I belong. That feeling comes from something much deeper. Home is that elusive smell in the air in the town where you were born. It’s recognizing the once-vacant lot where you once played ball with your friends. It’s holding on to the belief that the world you knew at the age of five is the biggest, widest, most fabulous world that ever was, or ever will be.

Last night I was with Pops, Aunt Gigi and Uncle Roy as they found their childhood home. I listened quietly as they recounted stories from their early years: stories of dollhouses and comic books, neighborhood friends and schoolhouse bullies. I saw Roy beaming with bliss at the discovery that the  built-in milkbox he remembered playing with as a toddler was, indeed, exactly where he remembered it was.

And even though I never lived in that neighborhood or spent time in that house as a child, in that moment, I felt home, too.

This post was inspired by Kirsten’s entry for the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival, hosted by Peter Pollock.

*The title of this post comes from a line in a Depeche Mode song, “Home.”

Moxie’s Resolutions for Everyone Else: The 2011 Edition

Holy cannoli, it’s the end of 2010 already? That can only mean one thing: it’s time to pop the cork and enjoy a glass of something bubbly while reading my 2011 resolutions for everyone else. I’ll be sitting here, sipping my Prosecco, while you read.

1. Refuse to take low paying writing gigs. (writers)

It pisses me off to see job postings where the employer, usually a blog or web portal, is paying $5 for a 500-word article and then have the audacity to expect 25-35 posts of that length per week. No wonder we have so much crap all over the Internet, because if you pay me one cent per word there is no way you’re going to get New Yorker-quality writing from me. If you want to make it as a writer and be truly challenged, stop taking piddly-ass assignments. And for the established writers who know good writing, don’t you dare let me catch you doing this.

2. Stop telling my GPS system how to do its job. (anyone who gets in my car)

Ever since I got a Garmin GPS for my birthday this year, I have had to deal with riders who argue with the navigator or who want to tell me, “Oh, I’ll tell you how to get there.” Inevitably they make the drive more difficult than if they had just let the GPS do its job. I bought the GPS for two reasons: a) I like cool gadgets; and b)I don’t have to listen to someone argue with me about the best route to take. If you don’t like GPS systems THEN DRIVE YOUR OWN DAMN CAR.

3. Shop more often at local, independently owned stores. (everyone)

Yes, there are great deals to be had at big-box stores. But the little guys really need our help right now. The 3/50 Project has an excellent solution: spend $50 a month at 3 locally owned, independent businesses. In the grand scheme of things, $50 isn’t that much – you were going to buy that book or shampoo anyway, right? So why not at a local shop? And if you’re looking for something truly unusual and fun to give as a gift, shopping in a neighborhood with several quirky little boutiques is the way to go.

4. Learn the rules of the road and follow them. (California bicycle riders)

This summer I lived in Davis, the City of Bikes, and I saw many bike riders who were very good about using hand signals (not the one where you use one finger), putting lights on their bikes when riding at night, and being respectful of cars and pedestrians. However, I also saw many bike riders who were arrogant little brats, nearly mowing me down on sidewalks (Side note: Get off the sidewalk, asshole! It’s a sideWALK, not a sideRIDE!) and ignoring stop signs and traffic lights. As soon as you put your body on top of a wheeled contraption you became a car, so behave like one. And if you aren’t sure of the rules of the road for bicycles, go study them.

5. Stop when I see a pedestrian in the crosswalk. (California drivers)

I have seen so many people plow through intersections, not even bothering to look and see if anyone is crossing the street or just beginning to cross. I have yelled curses and insults at them, but of course they can’t hear me because they are driving 45 miles an hour through a 30 zone. Having seen a pedestrian get hit by a car, I try to be particularly careful when driving through areas with a lot of foot traffic. Slow down, Speed Racer, and save your road rage for the freeway. Oh, and pedestrians, you’re not helping when you wave a car through. You’re in the crosswalk, so WALK, dammit. It’s called having the right of way.

6. Install an automated postal service center. (US Post Office on Broadway in Sacramento)

I love the automated postal service centers because they make life so much easier when I need to mail out packages and I can use the machine even if the counter is closed. Sadly my favorite local post office doesn’t have one of these machines. Please put one in, Mr. Postman! I promise I will still come to see you at the counter and crack my usual stupid jokes!

7. Hire a maid and a personal assistant. (T-Wizzle)

T-Wizzle is a brilliant woman and also extremely busy. For the last year she has been complaining about how hard it is to keep up with everything she needs to do and still have a clean house. I have repeatedly told her to hire a housekeeper but for some unknown reason she still hasn’t done it. Same with the personal assistant. So I am now resorting to calling her out on the blog in the hope she will finally hire someone and give herself a much needed break from the anxiety and frustration that comes from not having her home looking the way she wants, or from feeling overwhelmed by to-do lists.

8. Stop bothering Jesus. (Ippie the Tech Wizard Kitten)

This resolution is best explained with visual aids.

This is Jesus.

This painting is more than 60 years old and once hung in my great-grandparents’ farmhouse.

This is Ippie the Tech Wizard Kitten.

Ippie sitting on top of her scratching post. She’s a climber, that Ippie.

See the shelving unit behind Ippie? It’s currently sitting underneath where the Jesus painting is hanging in my bedroom. When Ippie is feeling rambunctious – which is damn near all the time because she is a young cat with delusions of being a monkey – she will jump onto the top shelf. When she’s feeling particularly feisty, she reaches up and starts batting at Jesus with her paws. My neighbors must be very puzzled by my shouts of “Leave Jesus alone!” and “Stop messing with Jesus!” They may even be tickled by my cries of “You can look at Jesus but you CANNOT TOUCH HIM!” I get that people would touch Jesus’ robes to be healed of their leprosy and whatnot, but this is ridiculous.

9. Cut my toenails inside my apartment. (my next door neighbor)

Twice now I have overheard this strange metallic click-click-click coming from outside my door. The first time I looked out the window to see my neighbor sitting at the top of the stairs, clipping his toenails. I was grossed out. On Christmas Eve, I heard the sound again. What is wrong with you, dude? Is your bathroom not good enough for your precious toenail clippings? And even more disgusting, it’s been over two months since I last heard you clip them – unless you took advantage of the stairs at the building across the street, that’s poor hygiene, man. Just really, really poor hygiene.

10. Put my shopping cart in the cart corral in the parking lot, or make sure it’s out of the way of other cars. (shoppers everywhere)

Few things annoy me more than finding a parking space and pulling in about 3/4 of the way, only to discover that some moron has left their empty shopping cart right at the front of the space. Actually, here’s what annoys me more: people who were obviously parked right next to the cart corral, or two spaces down, and they couldn’t be bothered to push their empty cart into the corral. Some businesses have opted not to have these cart corrals in the lots, so I can understand some of the stranded carts. But could you at least move the cart away so it’s not hitting my car? Or anyone else’s, for that matter?

What are your resolutions for other people for 2011?

When Shame Becomes Social

T-Wizzle and I have had discussions about the idea of social shame. She gets upset that people can behave atrociously and get away with it, that there is no consequence for their actions. In the United States we don’t stone someone for cheating on their spouse, for example, and sometimes we go so far as to let them provide a litany of reasons explaining why they did what they did, or that they really didn’t do anything wrong. And if the person is lucky enough to have a team of attorneys, spokespeople and publicists on their payroll, they may never have to take personal responsibility at all. (See also: Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Bill Clinton.)

This isn’t to say that social shame doesn’t exist, however. With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, it is quite possible to hold someone accountable for their behavior. I saw this happen yesterday. Over a 24-hour period, one writer’s experience in dealing with an editor who’d stolen her work went viral, spawning a Twitter hashtag, a catchphrase, and, for the publisher of the magazine, a publicity nightmare.

Let’s break this down step by step, including links as needed. (It’s possible I’m missing some information, or got some of the facts wrong. Please feel free to comment with any corrections.)

1. In 2005, Monica Gaudio wrote an article about the history of apple pie.

2. In 2010, the article was reprinted in Cooks Source, a cooking magazine that is available on newsstands as well as online. The article included Monica’s byline.

3. Monica contacted the editor to find out what had happened, and when it was determined the article had been lifted in complete disregard of copyright laws, Monica asked for a public apology, both on Facebook and in the print edition, and for a donation to a journalism school.

4. In an incredible display of shock and aw-hell-no-she-didn’t, the editor, Judith Griggs, rejected Monica’s request. This is just a portion of her response:

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

5. Monica writes about the experience on her blog and someone tweets a link to her blog post.

6. Within hours, the tweet is retweeted over and over again, grabbing the attention of Neil Gaiman, multiple journalists and bloggers.

7. The number of Fans on Cooks Source’s Facebook Page skyrockets to more than 4,000, mostly for the purpose of posting a nasty comment on their Wall. (I became a Fan just long enough to add my own comment.)

8. The story is picked up by Forbes, CNN, Time, MSNBC, Wired, Gawker, BoingBoing, Washington Post, LA Times, and many other sites.

As a former editor, I’m horrified and appalled by this so-called editor’s attitude. As a publicist, I’m full of empathy for the PR hacks who are swilling coffee by the gallon as they figure out how to spin this debacle to the magazine’s advantage. As a writer, I’m thrilled to see an ignorant, arrogant editor get their just desserts (pun intended). And as a social media manager, I’m reminded of how easy it is to hold a person, product or brand accountable for its actions when we allow the shame to go social.