Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Favorites - Happy Fall, Y'all!

Today, I taught 6 classes of 5th graders about Antartica during our school's Arts Days program. Y'all, if you're teachers, I am bowing down to you right now. I am so tired out from that; I need a nap. It's fun to be with the kids, though, and they're so funny and creative. We had built a big styrofoam "iceberg" and the kids were asked to write a word or phrase that evokes Antarctica on a piece of card stock, decorate it, attach it to a skewer, and stick in the iceberg.

One kid wrote "Ice Ice Baby." So.

Speaking of ice... (photo taken at The Candy Jar, Austin, TX)

Speaking of Vanilla Ice, I did NOT include him on my SheBuysCars post featuring my ultimate road trip playlist, which went live today. But there may be a few surprises in there, and you'll enjoy the corresponding videos.

Featuring other works around the internet:

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Any other night owls out there? This is so me. 

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This post about a woman who escapes a domestic violence situation is both heartbreaking and hopeful, somehow.

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My favorite piece of advice for new mothers is to tell them to trust themselves. They know their babies best. This article from the New York Times shows that in a way that resonated well with  me, because we definitely have a poor sleeper in our house, and it's hard on parents and kids, both.

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Sarah Dille is one of the kindest, smartest teachers I know. In this essay, she nails it:

"As a parent, I care that my kids are learning at school. I want them to be able to read and solve math problems, understand history and conduct experiments.

But I care more, really, that their learning pushes them to grow as people, that the knowledge they gain propels them towards bravery and kindness and resilience."

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Katie wrote a beautiful letter to her children about racism and being aware and kind. 

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My son wrestles with some big fears, lately, and this article from the Washington Post was very helpful to put it all into perspective.

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Sometimes, Facebook gets to be too much for me, especially in the election season. But there is something special about being able to watch the families of some of your friends growing up, even though you may go years between personal visits. Love this essay from Nina. 

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Do you love Honeycrisp apples? I'm addicted. This story at Vox has the most hilarious descriptions of other (less worthy) apples.

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Many of you know the work of Rachel of The Hands Free Revolution. Her words find the holes in my heart and fill them, every time.
What if we collectively responded to the injustices of our brothers and sisters with empathy rather than defensiveness or indifference? 
What if we collectively looked into our brother and sisters eyes to acknowledge their pain rather than closing our eyes or looking away?

What if we collectively understood our privileges and blessings would be far greater if shared by our sisters and brothers? 
What if we collectively agreed it is not “your back” or “my back,” but “our back,” if we are to create a unified and peaceful world for future generations? 
What if we collectively remember, “I’ll hurt with you,” is something we can all do when we don’t know what to do?
From I Hurt with Her, by Rachel Macy Stafford.

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And let's finish with a little hilarity from the very witty Wendi Aarons. This is a funny spoof on one of the most terrifying movies I have ever seen: Scarface. Actually, I only saw 10 minutes of this movie and it haunted me for years (I don't like scary movies!).

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And one more video to make your day. Happy weekend!

From Bob Cornelius, via Facebook:


Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday!

I'm featured at the Today Show parenting site this week with two posts: one about making room for the next phase with my son, and another re-post of my most popular essay ever. I can still pick him up, so I do. 

And I am super excited to share my debut post as a contributor for SheBuysCars this week, writing about the Rezvani Beast. 

As the mother of a child with a life-threatening food allergy, this at The Mighty made my heart happy.

My friend Kim is a busy mother of two sweet little boys, and she is wonderful and kind and smart and all of the things you want in a friend. She had a suspicious spot on her arm that turned into a melanoma scare, and her message to you is in this bracing essay: take care of yourselves.

With hate speech and frustration and politics all around us, this simple and straightforward letter from a father to his son about not engaging in gossip or tearing others down is a much-needed breath of clean air.

Humor break! NYC-based Wendy Bradford is a mother of three, and hilarious.

Not everyone shares Kathy's philosophy on teaching her teenage son about drugs and drinking, but I think it's spot on. "Your father and I are so proud of the man you are becoming. We love you so much that we don’t care if you hate us. That’s our gift to you, we are your parents, not your friends."

Powerful advice at If as the saying goes, your best teacher is your last mistake, how do we empower children and adults alike to see mistakes as guideposts you use to get better and to seek feedback for what should happen next? The answer is both difficult and simple: Let them see you do it.

Since the moment I met her, I have loved Nancy Davis Kho's smart, practical writing. She has an insight that is uniquely hers, and she has a way of weaving music into the theme that speaks to my heart. This essay on midlife is no exception.

This story of love, post 9/11, is too beautiful to miss.

PUPPIES. Pure joy.

I love this father's quiet love for his daughter.

Austin, Texas residents! 

This is a tip from a friend: Pageboy is like Uber, but for hair and make-up. You install the app to get on-demand access to hairstylists and make-up artists when you don’t want to leave the house to primp for a big night out. Since they’ve been been hugely successful in Houston, they’re planning on expanding all through Texas, starting with Austin! They’d love for you to try it out, using the promo code below to get half off your first blowout.

Named for the iconic haircut made famous by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Pageboy services can be booked months in advance or on the fly. A blowout is priced at $70 for 45 minutes - with a 20% gratuity automatically added - customers pay via the app.

To celebrate the arrival of Pageboy in the ATX, Austin users can use code PAGEBOYATX + for 50% off their first blowout. (First, download the app on iTunes.)

And last, but not least by a long shot, some movie news from Disney : 

Last week, Walt Disney Studios announced that 13-year-old Storm Reid will play the lead role of Meg Murray in the upcoming Disney live action adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME (my favorite book of all time!). With director Ava DuVernay alongside Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who, this is going to be fantastic.

Storm Reid (Photo courtesy of Disney)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Friday Favorites: the Feel-Good Edition

Happy Friday! Here's a fun tip to get this party started: Google "cutest things on the internet" and you'll be glad you did. I took the summer off from Friday Favorites, but I'm glad to be back on it, because it is my honor to share some of the goodness out there with you. We are constantly barraged with negative news; this list is designed to help you focus on the good stuff.

Helping the homeless reconnect to their families: Miracle Messages.

You can't read this by Vikki Reich and not be transported to this beautiful scene on the lake. It evokes great memories for me.

I started reading Jessica Lahey's The Gift of Failure, and I'm savoring and absorbing the lessons on teaching resiliency. This article from Time, about teaching our kids how to fail to succeed, is also an excellent resource.

“This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes,” the mom of a little boy with autism stated in her post.

Positive, inspiring advice from Carla Birnberg: "Your brain believes the tale you tell it—be wary the stories you choose to share.

Hey, did you see the announcement that one of my essays is in a real-live book? I'm so proud to be included in So Glad They Told Me.

Kindness in the not-always-friendly skies. What a sweet man. (via Scary Mommy)

Rachel's words make me think and reflect and BE BETTER. Every time. 

450,000 kids in foster care on any given day, in America. This couple is making a difference.

Rebecca Wolfe is a gifted writer, and this essay about empowering her girls has been on my mind since I first read it a couple of weeks ago.

I have been checking out Spotify's "Discover Weekly" playlist fairly often for the last few months, and this song was new to me. Tori Kelly's voice is beautiful.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book release day: So Glad They Told Me!

TODAY IS RELEASE DAY for the latest HerStories Project anthology, “So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood.” I am so excited to be part of this project, and honored that one of my essays was chosen for this wonderful collection of stories about motherhood.

Here's an excerpt from my piece, "Second by Second":
I can picture myself, slumped in the chair, already wearing my pre-pregnancy jeans. I didn’t know how to find time to feed myself, and when I did, it was cold food straight from the refrigerator—grilled brisket from the local barbecue, the oatmeal muffins I made every other day for milk production, cheese.

I had lost all of my baby weight already, with more to fall off in the weeks ahead. At one month, the wheels were starting to fall off the wagon. My husband had scheduled a business trip out of town for a week, and his mother came to stay with me. I was scared out of my mind, but afraid to tell my husband that I couldn’t handle it. If I couldn’t be Supermom, I wanted everyone to believe I could.
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Talk to all of the mothers in your life and do not hesitate to ask for help; we all need a village of mothers to look after and love each other.  

This anthology was created to empower and unite parents with real, honest advice from women who have been there - "there" meaning in just about every path of motherhood one can imagine. Each one of the 60 writers featured in this book share the advice or support they received—or wish they had—on everything from pregnancy to surviving the first year to parenting teens to empty nest syndrome.

Topics include:

  • Being a mom helps you better understand your own mom.
  • Children leaving home is a kind of new birth for parents. 
  • Your child will adore you exactly as you are.
  • You can love your kids and need a break from them at the same time.
  • You may never stop wondering if you should have had one more.
  • Not only can I not prevent my child’s suffering, sometimes I will be the cause of it.
  • Divorce doesn’t define who you are as a mother.

Want to read the rest? Here's the link to buy the book! ($11.99 for paperback and $4.99 on Kindle)

It would make a lovely birthday gift or anytime gift for a mother you love. I'm sending a copy to the friend who helped me so much in my postpartum recovery; she saved me.

AND I love that two of my favorite people wrote the following reviews about this book. The first from Ann Imig, the founder of the Listen To Your Mother movement, and my mentor and friend. The second is from the wonderful Amy Joyce, the editor of the On Parenting blog on the Washington Post.

"The personal essays in SO GLAD THEY TOLD ME offer hope, humor, and truth about parenting at all phases—from pregnancy, infancy, toddlerhood, all the way up through empty nest parenting, including topics such as special needs diagnoses, pregnancy loss, surviving colic, parenting a transgender child, and balancing work and family. I'm so glad they told me, and you will be too." -- Ann Imig

"SO GLAD THEY TOLD ME is a must-read for any mother, new or not-so new. With beautiful, funny, smart essays, this is a treasure full of voice, guidance, and best of all, quiet support for all of us. Because despite all of the love that goes into it, what mother hasn’t felt alone in the midst of the wonders of this role? The more voices of support for one another, the better." - Amy Joyce, the Washington Post

I hope you check it out!


Friday, August 19, 2016

Vroom: car shopping from the couch

The Vroom glass truck - so fun. #partner

Last week, I read an account from someone who had spent four hours at a car dealership waiting for the paperwork to be processed for the car she had chosen.

Four hours. That’s like sitting down watching two movies back to back, but without the fun or the popcorn. It’s like trying to stay awake through half a day of school classes in a large lecture hall. It’s one-sixth of an entire day.

I don’t want to do that, do you? Especially not with a 6-year-old child in tow.

If you are – like me – a Tesla fan, you may have checked out their selling process and found that the options and monthly price and financing are all available online, hassle free. You could ostensibly shop for a fancy Tesla in your not-so-fancy bathrobe.

I'm partnering with this company, Vroom, which runs a site that works in a similar fashion. It’s kind of like shopping for clothing online, but with free shipping and a warranty.

Let me give you an example: I love Maserati's GranTurismo. At the last car event I covered, they had to practically peel me from the car to leave when opening night was over. Here is a lovely 2012 V8 with paddle shifters (you know I love the paddle shifters) and less than 30,000 miles on it. The no-haggle price with taxes and no charge to ship is a little more than $63K. I found the 2016 model of this car, with 5000 miles on it on another site for over $100K. And you’d have to go to Florida to get it.

Sample page on  #partner

Vroom says they are changing the way people buy and sell cars. They are the biggest online car store in the world, and they're designed for anyone who appreciates no-hassle, car shopping. That means no standing out in the hot sun looking at cars, or shivering through the rain and snow. Shop, click, order, and then kick up your feet and wait for that glass truck to arrive with your car in it.

Who would not want to look out the window and see this vision winking at you?

Cars, gorgeous cars.  #partner

Basically, it's as easy as placing an order on Amazon, but there's no chance a drone can drop it off for you. They include a 90-Day warranty and a full year of free 24/7 roadside assistance, which is useful. 

Currently, the site has more than 3000 cars to choose from, with high-quality photos and all the details you ever wanted.

Vroom partners with over 30 banks to give their shoppers options. Of course, buyers can also pay in full or bring their own financing.

In the market? Use this promo code to get $250 cash back: VIPAUS27

  1. Choose your car, go through the online process to choose payment type, submit a trade-in (if desired) and set up delivery. 
  2. When you receive an email or phone call from your customer representative, mention you were referred and give him or her your promo code. 
  3. You will receive a $250 cash card 2-3 weeks after your car is delivered!
This article from Autos CheatSheet sums it up very well:
"Vroom ships it to your door for free. Most cars still have their factory warranties. Nearly 10% of them have under 2,000 miles. As Gaurav Misra, Vroom’s Chief Marketing Officer points out: “We’ve effectively driven the depreciation off for you. You can get it for 25% cheaper, and it still feels like a brand new car.” The cars are also covered by Vroom’s own 90 day bumper-to-bumper warranty. If something goes wrong, you can take it to any local repair shop, and Vroom will foot the bill.

If you don’t like it, there’s a seven-day money back guarantee, and they’ll come back to pick it up, no questions asked. And despite buying the car sight unseen, CEO Allon Bloch says they only see a 1% return rate, astonishing compared to the 3% rate dealers see– and most of them don’t exactly offer a money back guarantee."
When you buy from Vroom, you get a full seven days or 250 miles to spend real quality time with your new car. If you decide it isn’t the right match, Vroom will pick up the car for free and refund your entire purchase.

Seems pretty great to me.

 #GetAVroom #sp

Thursday, August 18, 2016

BlogHer2016: it's all about the people

Back in 2011, when I started this blog, I had no idea what I was getting into. All I wanted was this little corner of the internet to share my writing with my two fans (thank you, sister and mom).

Five years later, I have gained a few more readers and have learned a lot about writing my truth. In 2014 and 2015, two of my essays were honored with BlogHer Voice of the Year recognition, and this year, I was thrilled to see a couple of my best friends (Elaine and Leigh Ann) enjoying their first VOTYs, and a new friend, Nicki Gilbert, I got to meet in person for the first time.

Even better than the VOTY, and the experience, and the fantastically fun annual BlogHer conference is the friends I have made online. Some of them I get to see only once a year and we gorge ourselves on girlfriend time, cheering when we see each other and spending hours talking over guacamole (I blame Arnebya and Jennifer for the guacamole overdose). These are women I love with all my heart, and having the opportunity to hug them brings joy that I carry when we're not all together. We shared rooms and photos and late-night dancing, and we listened and laughed.

On the left: Leigh Ann, me, SueBob photo bombing!, Elaine, Ann, Jennifer, Angela, and Erin. Clockwise from top left square: Best Buy LG refrigerator, Jennifer dressing up as me, me and Elaine post-makeover, and Elaine, Jill, and me at Staples.

The BlogHer conference was in Los Angeles, at the L.A. Live area this year. The expo hall is always a great way to kick off the event, and I was especially happy to see that Baskin-Robbins was back with a freezer full of ice cream and Polar Pizza. I lost count of how many times I visited their booth, and they were always gracious about it and didn't ice-cream shame me.

I told Baskin-Robbins more than once that while I love the taste of their ice cream, what I really like is the fact that they post all of the common allergens right on the freezer glass so I can easily see what I (nut allergic) and my son (egg allergic) can and cannot eat. It's such a great service they provide for the food allergy community, and it's much appreciated. I heart you and your myriad of flavors, Baskin-Robbins.

I ran into Luvvie Ajayi at the expo and got a copy of her new book I'm Judging You. If you don't know Luvvie, please allow me to tell you more: she is a rising star. In fact, she interviewed Oprah recently. OPRAH. Luvvie is an excellent speaker and is hilarious online and in person. I'm pretty proud to be in a photo with her.

You know I'm a car fanatic, so I didn't hesitate to accept an invitation to meet up with the people at Kelley Blue Book and AutoTrader with advice on car buying for women. It made me wonder if I shouldn't open up a dealership owned by women and staffed only by women, for women. Hmm.

Staples pulled out all the stops for their special breakfast event and brought in one of my very favorite athletes, Gabrielle Reece. She is a mother of three now, and her messages to her girls are strong and powerful. I told her I had seen her last video about teaching her girls body confidence, and she was very kind.  I'm not above being starstruck!

Staples also gifted all of us at the event with some sweet school supplies like this fun burrito-shaped technology keeper. It makes me laugh every time I look at it.

I met Sabrina Soto of HGTV at the Velcro booth, which was beautifully appointed. I mean, who DOESN'T use Velcro? They're pretty much ubiquitous. And still, I fell in love with them all over again with their idiot-proof wall hanging and organizational ideas. 

Even better than that, I got to hang out with Amber Dorsey of From Carpools to Cocktails. I just met Amber in Laguna Beach in May at another conference, and I was instantly smitten. She's gorgeous and smart and funny and warm and gives excellent hugs. 

Amber, Sabrina, and me

The educational sessions and keynotes give me motivation and inspiration, and the two women who were the most impactful to me were Lucy McBath of Mothers of the Movement and actor/PhD in neuroscience Mayim Bialik. Lucy was quietly wise, powerful, and moving, urging all of us to pay attention to racial disparity and violence. She lost her son when he was 17, just a few years ago, and she moved me to tears. This quote from The Atlantic sums it up:

"I still love my country. It's the only country we have. This is the best that I've got," she said. "And I still believe that there are people here who believe in justness and fairness. And I still believe there are people here who don’t make judgments about people based on the color of skin. I am a product of that. But I am disheartened that as far as we've come it doesn't matter that we have a black president. It doesn't matter how educated we’ve become. It doesn’t matter because there still is an issue of race in this country. No, we have not really arrived. If something like this can happen, we have not arrived. And I ask myself, 'At what point are we going to get there?' And I have no answer. And I want to be able to answer."
- Lucy McBath

Lucy McBath, Mothers of the Movement
Mayim was brilliant and matter-of-fact, and it was a treat to see this woman who starred in one of my favorite tear-fests ever: Beaches.

"Life is amazing. My purpose on earth is not to just look pretty in the red carpet."
- Mayim Bialik

Mayim Bialik
Overall, the keynotes were outstanding. I skipped one in particular because she is not really my cup of tea, but I didn't mind. There were plenty of other things to do. Like walk down the street to Sprinkles and get Triple Cinnamon cupcakes. Or Red Velvet. Or...

The best breakout session I attended was called "What it Means to be an Ally in 2016". Jasmin Singer hosted the panel discussion, which featured Jasmine Banks, Dior Vargas, and bob McNeil. But it was too important for me to just give it a footnote - stay tuned for a longer post about what I learned from them. I'm listening, my friends.

Thank you, Melisa and Elisa and all of the BlogHer staff who worked so hard to make this a great experience for us. You rock. Thank you, sponsors. Thank you, JW Marriott for an excellent stay with my beautiful and funny and wonderful roommates: Leigh Ann Torres (hashtag NO), Arnebya Herndon, and Angela Amman.

My roommates at BlogHer 2016!



Monday, August 15, 2016

Microblog: Teaching my son about love, no matter what form it takes

A few days ago, my son and I walked into a specialty grocery store to buy some treats for our friends who are new to Texas. We headed for the registers, and I scanned to see who was open. I steered my son toward a checker with a name tag that read "Chloe" - the employee was born with male features, but wore long earrings, purple lipstick, mascara, and a studded collar. I saw it as an opportunity to show my son different kinds of people and offer kindness to someone who dressed atypically. There was one customer in line in front of us, and we waited for our turn.
I didn't think my son noticed Chloe's appearance until we got in the car, and he said to me, smiling, "Hey, mom, did you see that man wearing lipstick and stuff? Was that funny?"
I explained to him that some people who look like boys like to dress in what are typically considered girls' clothes, and vice versa. And that's all OK, because everyone is different. I reminded him that not everyone is exactly like us, and that some men marry men and women marry women and that we accept everyone as they are. He nodded, taking it all in.
Today, while back-to-school shopping, my son said to me, "Mama, there's no such thing as girl things or boy things. Because some boys like things that girls like. And some girls like some things that boys like." That's right, sweetheart, I said. Thank you for listening.
I'm trying to teach him open mindedness and diversity and kindness to all, the way my mother taught me. I hope that these lessons stick and he can share them with others, and find confidence in his own differences, embracing diversity instead of shunning it. I may not always get it right, but we're trying.
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