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Tanis Miller

Parents Who Sustain Us

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.