It is January 15 and I just remembered I have a blog: Mainly because my daughter belongs to a school club that is trying to make a small difference in a vast, cruel world. They are volunteers on the 9th International Youth Media Summit, which brings together kids from war torn nations to learn how to use the media while they tell their stories on video.
The young participants in this event live in countries where child conscription is common. Many of them have first-hand experience of being kidnapped and forced to fight in brutal wars. This is a practice I don’t like to think about too hard, because the thought of this happening to my family is too terrible to think about. But I need to get over it. We ALL need to get over it. That is, if we want to see the end of this cruel, horrifying practice. With the help of this organization and the power of the Internet, these kids’ first hand accounts may force enough of the world to take a long, hard look and DO SOMETHING to end it.
Learning to make a video might seem a small thing to us media-savvy Americans with a zillion cable channels and broadband and smartphones. But the teens this organization is trying to reach are in nations where the average annual income can be as low as $800. That means that coming up with the estimated $3,000 it takes to bring one young person to this year’s summit in Los Angeles is a daunting task.
My daughter and her friends at Cleveland High School have created an IndieGoGo page to raise enough funds to several kids to LA for this event. They’ve set themselves a huge goal: $75,000. The idealism of youth, you know? But it takes that kind of idealism to tackle problems as difficult as this one. They may do it.
The site they’ve created is pretty darned impressive. I urge you to read it. And if you are so moved, I hope you will consider donating a little money, which in some small part may help mobilize the world to stop the enslavement of children.
Why is this December different from the 15 previous holiday seasons I’ve experienced as a stay-at-home working mom?
This year, I actually have a client with ongoing needs and guaranteed pay. And I could probably give them 60 hours a week if I didn’t have all those piddly household chores, pets, family… and the holidays getting in my way.
Of course, I jest: My “piddly” family is the reason I get up in the morning. But balancing their needs with the need to “earn a crust” has become a little bit tougher this year. Once again, I’m finding it really difficult to re-calibrate myself as my situation has changed. What’s different this time is that the change is coming from ME, not from my husband or daughter.
So this year, I’ve declined most of the holiday party invitations that have come my way. I don’t have the time to attend, much less write a nice post about the gathering afterwards. But I made an exception last week for the one event I do look forward to each year: the annual bash produced by the folks at Fresh and Easy.
“I thought they were closing,” my husband said when I told him why I would not be home on Thursday night.
I explained — again — that even though the grocery chain’s new owners had sold a number of stores (mostly in Northern California), they had no intention of shutting down the whole thing. And I fervently hoped that our little neighborhood Fresh and Easy market would remain open, because I have come to rely on it for its range of delicious pre-made dinner options… especially now that my work day always manages to bleed into the time I would have normally started cooking.
“If anything, since the buyout, we’re going to become fresh-er and easier,” was the official word at the party from company spokesman Mike Evans. They will continue to market fresh, microwavable meals for busy people but will also have a new emphasis on local, organic produce and natural foods, including products from the natural grocery chain Wild Oats, which is also owned by F&E’s new corporate parent.
The party organizers then showed us exactly what is in store, with tray-passed goodies like Fresh & Easy stuffed mushrooms and sinful (and simple!) mac & cheese won tons (just spoon a little F&E macaroni & cheese into won ton skins and fry ‘em up in a wok. Delish!) There was a selection of cheese and antipasti and desserts too, but I couldn’t get enough of those won tons.
And of course, there was wine. Fresh and Easy’s wine buyers are going to continue snapping up inexpensive vintages that taste like they cost a whole lot more. Upon arrival, we were greeted by servers who handed us a champagne flute filled with Montcadi Cava sparkling wine ($8). That was good, but I was more in the mood for the Barrel Ranch Pinot Noir they were serving at the bar. ($13). If my husband had been there (instead of sending snarky texts back to me) he would have enjoyed the WineWright Chardonnay ($12).
But food and drink are not enough to make a party a success. You also need the right mix of people – and you need to make them comfortable.
The folks who plan the party for Fresh and Easy always seem to find these cute little funky venues that have a lot of possibility. This year’s event was held at The Holding Company, in the arts district east of Hollywood and the decorations were holiday chic. Best of all, I got to see some of my favorite members of the LA blogging community (many of whom I haven’t talked to since last year’s Fresh and Easy holiday party). The photo booth was especially busy because their photographer was so good – the best part of the party decorations was the continual and ever-growing slide show of happy guests clowning around with the holiday props. So we could not resist posing more than once :
As Liz Dwyer said: “In 10 years it’ll be a picture of all of us with our Google Glasses on.”
This is probably the last blogging event I’ll be able to make for a very long time, so it had to be a good one. And it was.
I received no compensation for this post. I am genuinely glad that Fresh and Easy is going to stick around a while, as I enjoy shopping there. All opinions are my own.
December 7, 2003 was a cold, wet, dreary day — much like this one.
I know that because while my husband and daughter were occupied with other things, I decided to follow the lead of my online friend, author Andrea Buchanan, who at that time ran a website for moms in Philadelphia. Andi was the first person I knew who had set up one of these new-fangled things called “blogs,” and because she is an exceptionally prescient and thoughtful woman, I decided I wanted to set one up, too.
So I signed up for a free Typepad account and wrote:
It’s a rare rainy day in Los Angeles, and the house is a little chilly. “I’m going to make some tea,” I announce to Gareth. “Would you like some?” Silly question. He loves a spot of tea in the afternoon, even when it’s 90 degrees out. He insists that hot tea is cooling on a hot day. I’ve never found any logic in this, and although I’ve heard the same from other transplanted Brits, I think it’s just an urban myth cooked up by an ex-pat who can’t embrace American-style tumblers of tea poured over ice. Iced tea in summer is refreshing. Hot tea is a perfect drink when it’s cold – like today.
We were planning a Christmas trip to Britain to visit my husband’s family, and I thought the blog would be a cool way to share our adventures with our family and friends here in California. I never expected to continue it once we returned home. I certainly never expected that I would still be writing it ten years later.
A lot has happened to us over those ten years. We’ve had our share of ups… and downs. (And I’m not just talking about my weight.)
We traveled a lot — until we didn’t.
We said good-bye to beloved pets — and welcomed new ones.
My daughter threw herself into a sport and so we became devoted supporters — until she decided it was time to move on, and we were forced to move on, too.
In 2003, my daughter was in the second grade. Today, she’s applying to college.
Before I started my blog, I felt isolated and alone as a stay-at-home mom up here in the north San Fernando Valley.
In 2005, I attended the first-ever BlogHer conference for women who blog and that community has grown and given me more than I can say. Now, I have hundreds of friends throughout the country (and other parts of the world). I have even met some of them in real life (too many to list in this short post).
A few months ago, I despaired over the difficulty of re-entering the workforce after taking so much time off to raise my child. Today, I have a job… a job I landed because of skills and experience I developed as a blogger.
This blog — which I began as an experiment on a whim because I didn’t have anything else to do on a rainy Sunday — has changed my life, for the better.
I can’t wait to see how it goes over the NEXT ten years.
I finally had that appointment with my doctor last week. And the news was good: That thing on my ovary appears to be just another fibroid. We will continue to monitor it, but for now, no surgery or other treatment is required.
Can I hear a “whew?”
Thankfully, I did not spend a great deal of time worrying about it. I have had too much to do cleaning up the new website and setting up a blog for my nearly full-time client. For the first time in years, I am cautiously optimistic about the future (like in realizing I actually HAVE a future, as this gig is made-to-order for my re-entry into the world of gainful employment).
However, I confess that while I was driving to my appointment, my mind did turn to the possibility of a morbid outcome.
Since the dawn of the great recession, I’ve limited discretionary spending on myself. The first thing to go was stuff like manicures. I bartered for a couple of years with an esthetician (waxing in exchange for managing her client newsletter). This arrangement worked until she decided to go into another business. Unfortunately, this is not something I can completely forego because my menopausal face keeps sprouting hair in all the wrong places. But I don’t go as often as I should, because it’s expensive. Thankfully, my eyesight is now so bad and the lighting in my bathroom is so dim that I rarely notice my whiskers.
Likewise, I put off getting my hair cut and colored for as long as I can. When I first became a stay-at-home mom, I tried coloring my hair myself and botched it so badly that I decided this was something that should be left to the professionals. At the start of the recession, I toyed with the idea of allowing my gray hair to come in naturally. I didn’t like the way I looked (you know – OLD). So then I experimented with getting these services done on the cheap at a beauty school – but all it took was one sloppy dye job to quit that idea. Since then, I just stretched my visits out until my hair was so limp and dull that I can’t bear it any longer.
This is where I was last week, and I remember driving off to the doctor and thinking I needed to make some salon time.
And then, I realized that there was this little, teeny chance that I might have bigger things to deal with, and that going to the salon NOW would be a waste of time and money.
I promised myself I would see a hairdresser this weekend if the news was good.
So: My hair is now dark and shiny… and it occurred to me that I no longer HAVE to go two or three months between salon visits. I can now afford to go every 4-6 weeks, as I did from the time I turned 18 and had my first regular paycheck.
This is going to take some getting used to. And even though I am now benefiting from a regular paycheck and have received a clean bill of health, I am having trouble letting go of the blanket of dread I’ve been living with for the last five years. I can’t allow myself to feel happy for very long, because I’m afraid of getting blindsided again by events I cannot control.
This is no way to live. I know that. I have felt insecure for a very long time and I think it’s going to take me at least as long to shake it off and feel like myself again.
One of the tasks I’m doing for my new business client is managing their social media. This is a piece of cake, since I’ve been active on Facebook, Twitter, et al for years — especially for the MOMocrats.
And there’s my dilemma. Partisan politics has no place when conducting business. And while I have a right to express my political views (and have no intention of stopping), I think it’s only appropriate in my personal space. My clients and their customers don’t want to know what I think of Obamacare, and frankly, I don’t feel the need to tell them.
I am also wary of those instances where corporate tweeters got in trouble for controversial updates that offended half their stream.
This isn’t a problem with Twitter, where my tweets go out under the company account. It’s not really a problem with LinkedIn, which only gets limited feeds from SoCal Mom. But Facebook is another matter. I am now administering the company page there and it occurred to me that I did not want any of my MOMocrats posts to bleed over to the news feeds of the people I’m now working with. Yes, I can set privacy settings that would limit my status updates just to my friends — but I am likely to begin adding new business colleagues and clients to my friend list.
Besides, we all know how much Facebook respects your privacy. They change their terms all the time and your settings along with them (and rarely notify you). Right now, I go into my privacy settings monthly to see how they are set and regularly discover that they’ve changed without my knowledge. It’s a pain.
So over the weekend, I decided to create myself a second Facebook profile under my company email address. And then I friended some of the people from the company.
And then I realized that “Donna Mills,” with her whopping TWO friends, looked fake. And a little bit creepy. So I sent friend requests to about a dozen family members and close friends and posted a status update explaining why I had created the second account.
The following day, I received a text from another good friend (not one of the original dozen) asking me why Facebook was suggesting she friend me when we were already friends? After I explained the situation to her, I checked my email and discovered that about 20 people who are on my “real” Facebook friends list had also asked to friend my other account.
As of now, “Donna Mills” has 46 friends and the requests keep on coming.
I don’t think any of them are going to see a lot going on with “Donna Mills.” For one thing, she’s a lot less vocal than “Donna Schwartz Mills.” She posts links to general interest articles that may be funny and status updates that don’t say a whole lot. And I have a feeling she’ll be calling attention to a number of videos she’s making touting the joys of Microsoft products (Did I mention that the client is an IT company? “Donna Mills” is about to become an expert on everything coming out of Redmond. “Donna Schwartz Mills” is still in love with her iPad and iPhone.)
How long can I keep up maintaining two separate Facebook identities? For a long, long time, I hope. In the meantime, if you are already a Facebook friend of “Donna Schwartz Mills,” you don’t need to prove your love by friending “Donna Mills,” too. But if you do, maybe you want to show the company Facebook page a little love while you’re at it? I’d truly appreciate it.
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