This is Privilege

02.22.18

Recently I mentioned on Facebook that I’d be visiting Pueblo, Colorado. It was met with a chorus of why’s, most with a disparaging tone.

I get it.

When people think of visiting Colorado they think Aspen or Vail, possibly Durango or Breckenridge, but people in Los Angeles don’t think, “I’ll go to Pueblo, Colorado today.” Which is all well and good but they’d be missing something because part of me really loves that little city and always will.

I went to school in Pueblo. After a false start at a swank private school, I found that West LA College was a really great place for learning. I was able to go to class distraction free (distraction = really rich boys in really fast cars) and learn a lot from teachers who didn’t have to worry about publishing or tenure or anything like that. They were just passionate. I’ll always remember the man who made me love math. I won’t remember his name but I’ll remember his crazy hair, plaid blazer, and pin that read: MATH IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT. I fell in love with linear algebra and I can’t remember a thing about that class except for his exuberance and it’s contagion.

After West LA I found myself in Pueblo. It’s one of those events where you sort of spin three times and there you are. It ended up being a perfect match. I knew little about myself at 19 except that I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree without writing any essays and that I needed to be in motion. A BS in Kinesiology seemed perfect and CSU Pueblo offered one.

College is more than just book learning. It’s this wonderful pause button that’s hit between childhood and adulthood. While the frontal lobe is experiencing its last bursts of growth and terrible decisions are repeatedly being made, college kids all over the country are able to make their mistakes in relative anonymity while learning how to meet deadlines, how to juggle too much work in too little time, and how to survive on not enough money. Loves are found and promptly lost. Politics are declared and then decried. Internships are miserable and wonderful and launch both careers and friendships.

College is a gift of time, of learning, of soft landings.

College was affordable for me. At the time I attended rents were low in Pueblo (still are!) and jobs were plentiful. I’d been working in restaurants for years and I just sort of knocked on doors and landed great jobs around town.

I left college with $1,500 on a credit card and I thought I’d never sleep through the night if I didn’t have it paid off. When I hear about the student debt that’s considered normal for kids now my shoulders creep up to my ears. I don’t know how or why we came to expect that kids should start their lives with mortgage payments due and no home to live in, but we do.

But that’s not what this is about.

Recently I was asked to join the board of the CSU Pueblo Foundation. The foundation exists to serve the students of CSU Pueblo. I’ve been to my first board meeting and my understanding, though incomplete, is that we will raise money for scholarships, school improvements, endowments, and grants. I could be wrong. I often am. But I do know that I sat in a room of altruists and I was inspired by their care, their caution, and their perseverance.

I have worked with many non-profits both as a consultant and as a volunteer. I have never been through financials like this before as I’ve not sat on executive committees, nor have I experienced this level of transparency. I have never witnessed anyone caring this much about someone else’s money.

So I’m basically in love with the mission and I’m going to bring you along on this journey. It’s new and it’s unfamiliar and it’s exciting. My greatest hope is that I can be part of the machine that allows someone else to leave college with a great education, a valuable degree, and a little less debt.

 

Parents Who Sustain Us

02.5.18

Over the weekend I met a lady in the baby business. We chatted a bit about her career and I was impressed, as anyone would be. She’s bright and hardworking, she’s the kind of lady you want to listen to and learn from.

Then she talked about social media and crowdsourcing photos. I smiled conspiratorially and faux whispered, “Yeah, it’s a tough trick when 90% of baby items are things no one needs.” Which, she ignored. And that’s when I knew she was brilliant.

The more she talked about social media the harder it was for me to nod and smile, until I finally blurted out that no one trusts any of those people anymore and it’s all smoke and mirrors, and my tirade may or may not have concluded with:

We built this business and then we burned it to the ground with sponsored posts, and my blog was garbage too. These new moms on Instagram are the most boring, unrelatable women I’ve ever seen.

But there were also expletives because I’m the kind of lady who says fuck, a lot. And I know it makes people tune out but when I’m passionate my mouth does my thinking so there’s no time for an internal censor to take the reigns.

When I drove home I reminisced to myself about how when my world crumbled around me I took to the internet to write anonymously. As Steven lay dying slowly, painfully, and without dignity, strangers uplifted me. They did more than just remind me that I’d survive, they gave me specific instructions about how to survive. Someone I will never meet gave me the exact verbiage to fill out social security forms. Another told me how to bluff my way through social services at the hospital. Still, another sent me a template for a last will and testament. Strangers did this freely, with a generosity of spirit I’d never known, and at a time when most of the country’s DSL lines were too slow to send an image. MMS and SMS were not how we shared documents.

So these strangers became my friends and my support system. I spent my nights in the hospital and my days mothering. I didn’t want to spend my days talking about the hospital time. I needed them to be separate. That was part of my survival.

When his pain finally ended I wanted to keep these people, these strangers, but I didn’t want to be in the land of death any longer so a blog was born. And then the internet called us Mommy Blogs. And then we were like “don’t call us Mommy”. And then the publicists were like “We have money for Mommy Bloggers” and then we said, “We are Mommy Bloggers!”

This is that space. That space that was good and interesting. That space where we talked about parenting and emailed and DM’ed and tweeted into the night when we didn’t know what to do with or for our kids. Then it was the space that was taken over by toilet wands and discount evangelists, and like all good things, it deteriorated. And that was sad. And I participated in my own business’ demise.

But along the way, there were the women like Tanis who patiently helped me be a friend to the mothers around me. She listened to me moan about how difficult things were for me and then didn’t really care and reminded me that no one else did. Tanis helped me get over myself and get into the sisterhood. Many of my friendships exist because Tanis believed I was emotionally capable of putting my feelings aside and giving to other women instead of worrying about myself. She believed in me when I didn’t know I had strength and she is the kind of woman that believes in other women. She is kind and strong and the thing you really need to know about Tanis is that she is unbelievably weird.

This kind of weird.

But make no mistake, Tanis isn’t flying solo in loving odd things. Remember when I said the Mommy Bloggers were men too? Well, don’t call CC Chapman or Curtis Silver Mommy, but you can call them leaders in the parenting community. In 2010 the four of us were in Chicago to learn about Kenmore appliances (I still love mine!) when CC taught me something very important: that a Dark and Stormy is the perfect wintertime drink.

To be fair he’s done many other things over the years, including turning me into an action figure. I’ve cherished this as much as a non-collector can and it’s remained on my desk since it arrived, unopened and admired.

CC Chapman turned me into an action figure for CMT.

And Curtis is that guy over there in Florida, who is publishing content everywhere, every day. He’s on Forbes and twitter and his couch of the day is something to behold. He’s twisted and smart and he paints to relax so when he offered to paint Tanis’ crazy Christmas gift for us all there was no reason to think he was bluffing (even though CC thought he was).

And that is the very long story of how this unnamed work of art landed on my office wall.