I Used to be That Blogger

After many years of blogging I’ve discovered what has to be my favorite blog of all time January. GetOffMyInternets.com. When I was searching for a post about the most recent mom blogger “raise money dubiously” broohaha I found a post titled Woman Live Tweets As Her Home Burns.

I’m reading it and I’m nodding and I’m looking at the screen grabs and I’m wondering how she tweeted via the web? Then I start to wonder why she tweeted and I really do understand that. I’d totally tweet a house fire. Judge me. You should.

What does make me a little crazy is the need to raise $10,000 for people who are clearly fiscally irresponsible. Rent a house, get renters insurance. When I was 21 I was burgled and my renters insurance paid for everything. Let that sink in please, I was twenty one years old and I had renters insurance. It’s called fiscal fucking responsibility.

Is it sad that someone lost their rental home? Absolutely devastating. Is it appropriate for friends and family to help out? Yes. Should strangers on the internet give massive amounts of money to people who have a limited understanding of how to manage money? You make that call.

I give and I give freely to registered charities. Not all are created equal and I’ve decided to not give money to organizations who have gala balls and overpaid C level executives. I don’t give to strangers on the internet.

  • Remember the mom blogger who didn’t actually HAVE a baby?
  • There’s the inevitable giveaway scam.
  • Of course there’s always the local grifter mom who fooled everyone and may or may not land herself in prison in a few weeks.
  • How is paypal donated money spent? Did you just buy someone a mani-pedi?


I’m not saying that the Bielanko family doesn’t need or appreciate the ten thousand dollars that strangers gave them. They aren’t bad people (though they are clearly bad fiscal planners. Who renovates a house they are renting?), they’re just the most recent example of good intent gone wrong. I’m just asking if that’s a wise way to give money? I’m pretty sure that the Bellefonte Police Chief Shawn Weaver could use a few pennies as he’s the one who is going to suffer the real financial hardship.

I understand that blogging feels like a community and people feel like your friends. I love meeting people at conferences and I love reading their blogs.

I don’t love allocating my family’s resources to someone who is totally unaccountable. I used to be the blogger that would be unafraid to say this is dumb. I’m back to that. Thanks Alice for the inspiration.

Facebook Comments

  • trisha


    i always try to give with a pure heart no matter where the money goes. My donation didnt lesson if its misused.

    That being said, yes, yes, yes on renters! Four years ago i had a fire in a rental. We had renters that covered it all, including some serious damage to the unit. Its like $10 a month!

  • http://beingalison.com/ Alison

    Yeah I don’t understand why you would make upgrades to a home if you didn’t own it. Unless they didn’t pay rent those months to make up for it? I don’t know. But if they can afford upgrades then they really should have got renters insurance.

    I do give freely though. I like to think that I’m making a difference in someones life that they couldn’t do on their own or they just need an extra little help. But maybe that’s because I’m young and naive?

  • http://pop-pr.blogspot.com Jeremy Pepper

    There are so many good causes and charities out there, but it’s the human interest story that gets us. And usually burns us. 

    And unless they were getting a rent-break for fixing the house, I just don’t get that part. 

  • Connie

    We all made it out safely thanks to a good samaritan who banged on our door and told us the house was on fire.”

    Smoke detectors people!  Insurance (renters or owner) is awesome but a smoke detector will save your life. 

  • http://twitter.com/kidsumers Sam

    I don’t mind giving either. It’s easy to sit back and call someone irresponsible because they didn’t have renter’s insurance, but maybe there were situations beyond their control? Maybe food on the table was the priority. Or maybe they just didn’t know. Working in social work, I’ve met many adults who were raised with little or not guidance and just don’t even know what is available to them.

    • http://jessicagottlieb.com JessicaGottlieb

      I’m hopeful that they didn’t know that renters insurance would have cost them just a few dollars a month, because if they knew and decided against it that would be terrible.

      My point is that if someone can’t get it together to spend less than $200 a year to insure their belonging than handing them $10,000 to mismanage probably isn’t wise.

      • http://twitter.com/kidsumers Sam

        I consider that very narrow minded thinking. There are a lot of factors that can cause financial hardship: illness, death in the family, job loss…just because people are having financial challenges doesn’t mean they can’t manage money. And renter’s insurance here was $40/month when I rented a decade ago. I’d hate to hear what it is now.

        • http://lesliesholly.wordpress.com/ Leslie

          We are in the market for renter’s insurance right now and have been quoted over $200 a month.

        • Michele

          Neither of the Bielankos work full-time jobs, and it’s voluntary as far as I know.  If they were experiencing financial hardship, one of them should probably have gotten a job.

      • http://therebelchick.com/ Therebelchick

        I don’t see why they’d need ten grand. The red cross almost certainly put them up in a hotel due to the emergency and there are so many programs that help families after house fires (at least where I live, because it happens all the time). 

        • http://www.itsgravybaby.com Whitney

          It isn’t that way everywhere though, referring to the Red Cross.  When our home burned to the ground, we left that night with the clothes on our back and some hygiene items like toothbrushes and deodorant that people had brought us.  We stayed with my grandmother until we moved into a new house.  My parents lived off of credit cards until the insurance money came through, but I never once saw anyone from the Red Cross.

        • GreenInOC

          I know if my house burned down and I was left with nothing, it would take a lot more than $10k to even make a dent in housing costs and replacing basic items.

          They didn’t ask for anything.  Another blogger started the donation page for them and according to MamaPundit she basically forced the issue.

          • http://jessicagottlieb.com JessicaGottlieb

            Do we know they were left with nothing? This all sort of happened before 24 hours passed.

          • GreenInOC

            We know as much as we know your kids go to private school, that you have arthritis and your son has an eye condition – because you said so.  

          • Connie

            Smoke and water damage takes out everything flames don’t.   Smoke never comes out of clothes, couches, etc., and even dishes have to be scrubbed down by a fire/smoke recovery company. It’s carcinogenic because of building materials. Ceilings are pulled down and walls opened up to see if the fire traveled.  Holes are punched in the roof to ventilate. Flooding of all the floors happens and the water pours down from the upper floors. The actual fire is just part of it.

        • Leslie

          When our house burned down we got exactly three days in a crappy hotel from the Red Cross. They also offered about $250 per person for clothes. They also would have helped with the first month’s rent. That is the extent of programs to help as far as I know. When you have lost everything that isn’t much, though it was appreciated.

  • Jennifer Roberts

    I know there are people who genuinely run into tough times even if they have lived responsibly, and it’s nice when the Internet enables them to get the help they need. In my experience, they are usually the last ones to ask for that help.

    I have seen many many bloggers and people on Facebook who seem to have an unending array of problems and never seem to learn from their mistakes. They make me mad because they live recklessly relying on the charity of others while I live carefully so I don’t have to take.

    In the end I guess it’s up to the individuals what they do with their money. I don’t have any to waste so I stick with registered charities or people who I know personally. In the case of bloggers, I am slow to trust and will usually look for free ways to help if I think they really need it (clicking ads, using affiliate links to buy things I need anyway, etc.).

  • http://www.misadventurousmommy.com/ Misadventurous Mommy

    I have to agree with Sam, because I personally know a shit ton of people who do not have a clue about renters insurance.  That said my ex-husband and I completely renovated a house that we didn’t technically own (we were buying it on land contract) BUT it bit us both in the ass in the end when we divorced and had to sell the house or go into foreclosure so in the end we lost everything that we put into it and that sucked majorly.

    I do always try to give with an open heart and not judge, because God forbid I would ever find myself in that situation I would like to think that someone wouldn’t judge me before helping.

  • Jane

    You gotta learn to be less inhibited about giving your opinion.  Don’t hold back; say what you mean, girl!

  • http://therebelchick.com/ Therebelchick

    I hope that $10K isn’t teaching them that they can continue to be silly about insurance because the internet will always be there to bail them out. 
    I’ve never suffered a house fire, but my husband did when he was about 10. From hearing his story, I’d probably donate money too…if I had money to spare. 

  • GreenInOC

    I think it’s important for everyone to give and spend within their own comfort level.

    I think it’s important for everyone to remember that people make different choices and that they are different than our own comfort levels and not necessarily bad.

    I was a renter from 19 years old to 30 years old.  I learned about renters insurance for the first time when I was 26.  I wasn’t irresponsible for 7 years, I was not aware.

    In reading TheGirlWho, what I have seen is a lot of renovating that where sweat was the biggest expense.  If someone wants to spend their effort and a few bucks to make their rental residence a happier home for their family, good for them.

    Why would you be willing to give Chief Weaver any money – if he needs it, it would be because he didn’t have insurance?!

    Empathy before judgement.

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  • Katie

    I think everyone can make their own decision as to who they want to give their money to – HOWEVER, I would never be comfortable giving money to someone I haven’t developed some sort of relationship with – i.e. a random story I read like this. I have given money to people I have never met IRL, but have known on the internet for a long time. I have never given a large sum of money. In fact I’ve never given more than $20.

  • http://twitter.com/mightymarce Marcy

    There will always be scams.  And for every scam, there’s also a lot of people who are honest and just need a little help.  $10,000 is probably a drop in the bucket in terms of replacing an entire household.  I’m not going to judge them for their decision not to get renter’s insurance, for whatever reason that was. We all make mistakes, and none of us know the backstory.

    People are free to do as they please with their money. They can save it, they can spend it in Vegas, they can donate it to people who’re going through a personal tragedy.  *shrug* You’re allowed to have your opinion about it, just as others are allowed to try to help this family out.  

    What I do totally agree with you on is the live-tweeting of the fire. That’s exactly what I’d be doing, too.  I don’t know about anyone else, but my guess is if I were standing on my lawn watching everything I own burn down, I’d be too much in shock to do anything else.   

  • http://twitter.com/GetOnlineVotes Online Votes

    I’m like you, at 21, I had my own apartment and I had that insurance in place before I moved in. I think a lot of it is how parents teach their kids about finance and the importance of things like that. If you break it down to a monthly amount, home insurance is completely affordable. Not sure about there, but here (Canada), our home OWNER insurance comes to about $800 per year (or a little over $15 per week). Home RENTER insurance is even less.

    I understand that some may not be able to afford it. We cut back in other areas to make sure we and our kids are covered, so I don’t have a lot of empathy for those who do not consider it important.

    If your belongings don’t mean enough to you to get them insured, don’t cry when they are gone. Period.

    Great post.

  • Katie Allison Granju

    Ms. Gottleib:

    I completely respect that you personally would not have been comfortable making a gift to help my friends the Bielankos out for all the reasons you mention. However, I wish very much that you had not intimated in your post that I have engaged in some sort of sketchy or fraudulent behavior (words like “scam” and “grifter” appear in what you’ve written).

    Again, I get it that you would not choose to make a gift of your own dollars as part of an informal fundraiser organized by an individual (rather than a 501c3) for a family who was not insured in the way you (an they) wish they had been. This is a completely valid position for you to take, although others might make a different choice regarding donating. But please don’t suggest – even obliquely as you have here – that I have engaged in something designed to mislead people or rip them off because that’s simply not true.


    Katie Allison Granju
    Knoxville, TN

  • Lynn

    Great thing about America – everyone has freedom of choice. Give or not give. Read a blog post or skip over it and go on to something else. Or write a “sour grapes” blog post about something kind that other people did – or decide not to write such a post. That’s the fabulous thing about America and freedom of choice.

  • Margie

    This is not dumb! This is kindness and generosity. We can contribute because we want to help someone who has experienced a tragedy. Hope nothing so difficult ever happens to you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.belkin Lisa Belkin

    really Jessica? REALLY? I adore you. And I disagree with absolutely every word of this. I would much rather be the person who feels moved to give and turns out to be “taken” once in awhile than the person who assumes everything is a scam and judges others in an hour of need. 

    • EconProf

      But Lisa, writing a compassionate and nonjudgemental entry would not attract NEARLY enough traffic to her site. She’s riding on the hate train. Next stop…

  • Llgwright

    Ok, confused by your statement: 
     I’m pretty sure that the Bellefonte Police Chief Shawn Weaver could use a few pennies as he’s the one who is going to suffer the real financial hardship.
    Should he not also be financially responsible enough to have insurance?
    Did his bed and sheets and groceries go up in flames?
    Just wondering…

  • Hdjdjsjsjs

    1. You’re a huge bitch. 2. It’s spelled “brouhaha”

  • EconProf

    So, @JessicaGottlieb does it make you feel superior to libel a family who lost virtually everything they owned less than 72 hours ago? Are you privy to their financial records? Do you have an insider who feeds information to you via the IRS roles? Does it give you a warm feeling all over to slam the woman who helped raise the money via a network of both online and personal friends of the affected family?  Your mean-spirited (f)log is one of the most unecessary pieces of tripe I’ve read in quite some time, and that’s saying quite a lot. Perhaps it also makes you feel superior in some way to use words like ‘scam’ and ‘grifter’ in a post about a family (and their friends) who you know absolutely nothing about. I’m very glad your moral superiority is allowed to flourish here on the internet, where ‘freedom of speech’ means you can say virtually ANYTHING about ANYBODY without fear of retribution. However, I would like to request that YOU, and your echolalic minions, GetOffMyInternets!

    • July For June

      Libel doesn’t mean what you think it means. There are online dictionaries that will help you not sound like a moron while spouting off on the internet.

      • EconProf

        Dear Sage Legal Scholar,

        If you would like to have a discussion regarding libel per se, libel per quod, defamation of character, etc., perhaps we should move to a legal blog to do so.

        I notice that many of the defenders of Madam Gottlieb’s piece are as mean-spirited as she. How very sad for them.


        The Moron

  • Roo

    The Bielenkos put themselves way behind the financial eight-ball way before this fire even smoldered. She had a very good-paying job, with benefits, that she quit in order to write full-time. They moved across the country to rural PA, to a rental house they’d never seen except via some internet pictures, with two preschool aged children. No health insurance, no work. So the fact that they carried no renters’ insurance isn’t exactly shocking.

    Monika – who seems to relish cultivating a “boho”, free spirit persona (her blog post proclaiming that it is fine to drink a few beers while pregnant is just one of many that started a commenter uproar) – cobbles together a living through freelance blogging gigs, including a Blogher column. Serge recently toured with his band, although his main time is one of stay at home dad. They still have no health insurance, and seem to make some of their financial decisions with all of the informed insight of a Magic Eight Ball.

    It’s wonderful to “live your dream”, and to live like an unincumbered 19 year old. But not when you’re an adult with a family and responsibilities. Aside from Heather Armstrong, how many bloggers quit their full time jobs with benefits and depend on blogging, with the occasional post sponsored by a breakfast meat company, to support their families?

    Katie Granju – whose blog I adore and whom I greatly respect – works FT to help support her family in addition to multiple Blogher gigs and freelance assignments, even though I suspect she’d probably be thrilled to hole up in an attic office and not venture to her “real” job. But Katie is realistic and a responsible adult and parent, and would not put her family in tenuous situations such as being hesitant to seek medical care because they have no insurance to pay for their care.

    I know that Katie and Monika and Serge are friends. However, I admit that I found her aggressive fundraiser a bit off-putting and puzzling. Not because I question Katie’s generosity – which I absolutely don’t – but because there are so many tragedies and people in need that to focus efforts to raise funds for his family (whose toddler son is named in part for Granju’s late son, Henry – as Katie mentions multiple times – although she and the Bielenkos had met onkt s couple of times when they named their son ) as … somehow obsessive and a little tacky for some reason. I’m not a huge Dooce fan, but I found her efforts to raise money for women in Somalia much less off-putting.

    I wouldn’t wish Monika and Serge’s loss on anyone, and I’m glad they all escaped unharmed. And obviously blog readers are free to evaluate requests to contribute to such causes, and give according to their hearts and wallets. But I, personally, am more inclined to donate my time and financial resources differently.

    • Missy

      I know that I am in the minority here, but I agree with this statement whole-heartedly. I’m not trying to kick this family while they are down, but, if you are going to take on the task of raising children you have to be serious about it in every way. I would love to take off and write a blog and be free. I have two children, so I can’t do that.

      • GreenInOC

        Who gets to define serious?  Are mothers that breastfeed serious and those who formula feed not?  Are parents that cloth diaper serious and those who formula feet not? Are parents who spend their time with their children and each other serious while those that write comment on blogs not?  

        You made a different choice, hopefully one that you gave much thought to, one that you believe is best for you, your husband and your children.  Why is it that we have this gut-reaction that people who make different choices than we do, that the certainly didn’t put the same forethought and seriousness into their decision making?

        • GreenInOC

          Please excuse the typos – ack!

    • Meme

      Roo– you summed up how I feel about the whole thing perfectly

  • linda

    Your post in very peculiar. It is fine and wonderful that you had renter’s insurance when you were 21. Would you like a medal? What kind of applause and accolades would you like? 

    The fact is that many people rallied together to raise money for this family. That is not a bad thing. If you have been reading Monica’s blog you know that financial responsibility and saving money is an aspect of life that she works hard to improve upon. I do find it so strange that you have nothing else to compose thoughts about than this. The fundraising is not a bad thing. It was an effort to help someone out. There is nothing tragic or problematic about offering legitimate and sincere help to people. You are an idiot.

  • linda

    This is hilarious. 

    You are responsible for this? 

    “I started blogging when my friend was dying and the world was cruel. I had a few readers a day, but they changed my life by offering me everything from kind words to very real resources that changed all of our lives.”

    The world was “cruel?” You’re sensitive to cruelty, are you? Haha.

  • Anonymous

    this post is just absurd.  happened upon your blog while reading about this horrible experience for the bielanko family, i will never visit it again.  i’m sorry you’re an ugly person. 

  • Dottie Parker

    I get it.

    You’re bummed you didn’t make Babbles list of whatever so you are trying to be controversial and up your page views.

    Since you’ve opened the door to being cruel  I’ve got something I’ve been wanting to tell you this for a long time. Your blown-out hair screams 1985!! Please take some of all that money you love to brag about and go to a salon for a proper haircut. You need to update your look by 25 years.

    • July For June

      Nothing like an ad hominem attack to make you look really smart. 

  • Frtchr

    When I was twenty-one years old, I owned my own home. Let that sink in, Ms. Gottleib. Do I win this game?

  • Geri

    I am not quite sure why this fundraising effort “makes you a little crazy”.  You can simply not contribute for your own reasons without having to imply their is a scam going on, or list why you feel this family isn’t deserving of help through this effort.  I was not inclined to contribute, for a variety of my own reasons, so I didn’t.  Many people were.  That does not mean they are dumb, or that there is something shady going on with the fundraising.  It is obvious you feel these people are irresponsible and need to grow up.  I would kindly suggest you do the same when it comes to how and what you write.  This post reads very much like the child who doesn’t do anything bad getting upset when the sibling who misbehaves gets attention.  A more mature, grown up approach might be to look within and figure out why this bothers you so much.

  • http://twitter.com/JulTweets Juli

    You know, I had a rather lengthy comment but after a great deal of consideration all I have to say is- YOU are clearly a bitter (and jealous) person. If it wasn’t for Katie Granju, I would have never heard of your blog and rest assured I will not read any of your other posts or give you traffic to this site ever again. I do, however, give you props for allowing Charmin toilet paper to advertise here. You’ve chosen the most appropriate item to be displayed on your little blog. Unfortunately it won’t clean up the crap you just blogged about.

  • Tlr0622

    I would not know about your blog had it not been for Katie Granju. I donated money to a family who makes me laugh and shares their sweet, sad and important moments with me and the Internet. They may have made a mistake by not having the insurance. In this situation it make people feel better to help, so we each donated a few bucks.

    Blogs are similar to the radio. If you don’t like what you are listening to you can change the channel. I don’t like what I’ve read poking around on your blog. I’ll be changing the channel. I hope you have friends or a community there if you every have a life changing event such as this.

    • Asdf

      Maybe calling it gifting would be more appropriate than donating?

  • Monika Doe

    “I don’t love allocating my family’s resources to someone who is totally unaccountable.

    Spoken like a registered (self-righteous) Republican.

    p.s. Your blog is as welcoming and accommodating as you are.

  • http://twitter.com/GoogieBaba GoogieBaba

    I feel that Jessica is being sensible here. It is one thing to give to a charity. It is also one thing to help out someone in your community. At my son’s school, a family lost everything in a fire, and we totally helped out through the school.

    Soliciting funds through the internet is a whole another beast. It doesn’t matter if this family was legit. It doesn’t matter if the fundraising was done completely out of kindness. The point is that internet scams do happen. And there is no way to hold people accountable. 

    • GreenInOC

      Even Jessica refers to the internet as a “community”.  So if her blog readers are her community just like Jessica’s are and they want to help her out, in the words of Fred Armisen impersonating Joy Behar, “so what, who cares”?

      Having a 501c3 designation not make an organization scam proof.  Businesses scam people.  People scam people.  Scams happen.  I don’t think that means that we should clutch our purses and get our panties in a wad as a result.  Instead, I think listening to your instinct and doing what works for you, your family and/or your financial situation is best.

      I think anybody who chooses not to give to a cause is being sensible.  If they are not inclined to donate, they must have a legitimate reason.  That however, does not mean that the charity (IRS 501c3 status or not), is not a worthy cause.  Making those insinuations and accusing the Bielanko’s of being irresponsible is what I think people are reacting to.

      • http://twitter.com/GoogieBaba GoogieBaba

        Of course a having a 501c3 doesn’t make a org scam proof. But when someone sets up a paypal account over the internet for a family no one knows – well, some people are going to think twice about that.

        And you, and perhaps Jessica, think that the internet is a “community.” I don’t. My community is my neighbors. I will take a chance on someone in my own neighborhood – even if I have never met them. But without some personal connection, I am not going to do it. 

        And yes, she was being judgmental. But they are the ones who put their choices on the internet. Once money gets involved, even if they are not the ones doing the soliciting, people are going to question it.

        I trust that they really did lose their home. Honestly, I feel terrible for them. I never had renters insurance either. But I am just trying to point out that Jessica is being sensible. 

  • Kathnik7389

    You deleted my last comment, so I’ll say it again: it’s spelled BROUHAHA. Your heartless judgments would be more effective if they were spelled correctly.

  • Nightowlmama

    Unless you ever had to live it don’t judge it! I lived and I tell you I’d be damn grateful to get any help no matter how little or how much it added up to.

  • Kate

    Jessica, thanks for bringing this up.  I follow both Monica’s blog and Katie’s blog and love both of their writing.  I just don’t give money to strangers on the Internet.  I actually left a prominent blogger’s community because there were so many requests for cash from other community members suffering various tragedies. I feel terrible for the Bielankos.  I personally don’t think they don’t “deserve” help because they weren’t financially responsible.  But I’ll save my donation for the Red Cross, not some random blogger on the Internet.  Maybe that’s cycnical….but it’s just sensible. 

  • http://twitter.com/MomMostTraveled CanCan

    i have donated to legit charities formed by/for bloggers….but i’m pretty tight fisted, plus i lived in a 3rd world country for 10 years so i have a strict definition of “need”. That being said, I have been burglarized, and poor, and in need, and help always materialized. Not internet help, but still. I have gratitude. And skepticism.

  • http://thewomanformerlyknownasbeautiful.com/ Shannoncolleary

    I love the way you temper your opinions.  What’s with all the subtlety?

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