Thursday, September 24, 2015

Be Kind (even online)

Kindness is having a moment. Inspirational quotes and books about kindness flood the net.

But I wonder how many people walk the walk when they feel anonymous in the safety of their own homes, staring at a computer.

In a world where so many of us are hidden behind computer screens, kindness can easily take a backseat.

The term "internet trolls" has become popular in the blogging and publishing world as a way to categorize commenters who attack the writer's character or life choices in a demeaning, destructive way.

It's not like writers don't have backbones. Puh-leeze! We risk rejection every single time we submit something. We are sooooo very familiar with rejection. However, there is a huge difference between an editorial rejection based on the topic, essay style, or suitability to a certain publication and flat-out rudeness or character-bashing from a reader.

A friend recently shared a gut-wrenching, honest, real essay about her daughter, and the comments-- the comments!-- were awful. Not, "this isn't high quality writing" awful, or "I take a different perspective" awful-- neither of which are really too awful at all, actually, considering just how bad they can get. Those kinds of comments are matters of opinion and most of us can brush them off to a point.

The comments on my friend's piece crossed the line. Comment after brutal comment was ugly.  I won't be giving the commenters more fuel for the fire by repeating them here.

Here's what gets to me: It was as if these commenters didn't understand that what they were writing would be seen and felt by a real, actual person. As if a soul-less computer wrote the article instead of a mother, wife, woman.

We can all praise kindness as much as we want in person, but without that same mindset online, it doesn't hold any teeth.

There were also some supportive comments on her post, and if she's even still reading them at all, hopefully their support helped her a bit.

Let's remember the Golden Rule when it comes to our online presence-- treat others how we want to be treated. Pretty much a standard you could live your life by, right?

Are you a writer or artist who has experienced cruel remarks about your work? What was your reaction or response? Is it something we should just expect in a "free country," or should there be a limit to extremely negative criticism?

P.S. Galit Breen (a fellow Minnesotan writer!) wrote a great book, Kindness Wins, all about the importance of how we treat each other online. It may be primarily targeted towards tweens and teens (and their parents), but I also found it eye-opening and helpful as an adult who writes and reads a lot online, and as a parent who will have children old enough to be online soon enough!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Friday, September 18, 2015

5 Friday Faves: Online Edition

As a writer, I spend a fair amount of time perusing the Internet, whether searching for inspiration, networking on social media, researching various topics, reading publications, or simply shopping and engaging in that familiar beast, procrastination.

Here are my 5 Favorite Places to Visit Online:

1. Blessing or curse? I'm not sure because purchasing some of my favorite items at Gilt's steep discount has certainly contributed to a higher credit card bill at times. Their deals on high-end clothes, accessories, and children's items cannot be beat. I buy beautiful birthday and Christmas gifts from here all of the time too. {You might still need an invite to join this site; if so, contact me through my contact form with your e-mail, and I'll be sure to send you the link!}

2.  Etsy. This site is chock full of fantastic art, accessories, home decor, and more, mostly made my independent artists.

A few personal faves: Dakota Midyght's Etsy shop sells colorful, whimsical pieces (think dreamy owls, cozy mushrooms houses, and baby dragons).

I framed two prints for my daughter's room from the Barking Bird shop, and I recently had an ottoman slipcover created by Nikki Designs.

Lunar Owls by Dakota Midnyght is framed and on display in our playroom.

3.  Mamalode. I've mentioned Mamalode before, and I surely will again. It's hands-down my favorite publication for smart writing about parenthood. [Shameless plug: You can find all of my Mamalode articles here.]

4.  Beautiful Booze. My friend Natalie has devoted the past couple of years to developing her stellar reputation as a talented mixologist, party planner, food writer, and photographer. The cocktails she features (all her own creations) on her site are beautifully created and photographed, and they would make any party a hit.

Classic Gin Martini created by Natalie of Beautiful Booze.

5.  Goodreads. If you are a bookworm, this is a great free site. You can keep track of books you are currently reading, want to read, and have already read. Similarly to Amazon, people can rate and review books here. Like Facebook, you can connect with friends on the site, as well as follow your favorite authors.

What are some of your favorite online destinations?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Monday, September 14, 2015

"You don't get a break."

It was 5 years ago, and I still remember it. Alone, without my newborn son in tow for one of the first times, I stopped by the coffee shop near our apartment.

The barista, who had seen me frequently that summer, as it was one of the only places I was brave enough to visit with my new baby, called out as she saw me at the register, "Where's the babe?"

"Oh, he's home with my husband. I'm getting a little break, I guess," I stumbled, inexplicably feeling embarrassed by my new-found, short-lived independence.

"Break?! You don't get a break!" she exclaimed loudly, not without some humor in her tone.

Startled, I couldn't come up with a response, so I forced a chuckle, grabbed my drink, and instead of sitting peacefully at a table as I had planned, I hurried out the door.

Surely the barista wasn't trying to embarrass or hurt me. As far as she was concerned, she was engaging in friendly banter with a regular customer. However, to a sensitive, tired new mother, her words made me want to run and hide. Maybe it is absurd that I need a break, I worried. Maybe other moms don't need breaks from their babies.

Now, five years later, just when that very baby is starting kindergarten, I get angry inside thinking of that fleeting, seemingly inconsequential moment from my past. Of course I deserved a break! Of course I had the right to enjoy a latte by myself for a few minutes while my husband held our baby!

So here's my pay-it-forward to all the new parents out there. You DO deserve it. You 100% deserve it. Don't let anyone make you feel badly about taking care of yourself. Don't listen to that inner guilt-- far too easy to let fester-- when you are at Target by yourself for the first time in days/weeks/months and a friend with her 3 kids teases you for your "luxury" of being alone. Don't let your mother-in-law's warning that 'you'll miss every second of the baby years' sink in too deeply when you are feeling overwhelmed. Don't let yourself drown in the all-encompassing responsibility of parenthood. For me, Motherhood is like a gerbil wheel that never stops turning completely, so you need to take time for yourself in order to keep going.

We simply must take care of our souls in order to care for our families, and this means breaks. Breaks from being responsible for anyone but ourselves.

As far as the barista who cajoled me that day, I have no ill will for her, but I do resent the underlying implications of her words. I did darn well deserve a break that day, and I didn't need someone to make me feel any more guilty than I surely already did. Words matter.

I love and strive to live by J.M. Barre's (creator of Peter Pan) quote, "always be a little kinder than necessary," because you never know how much your words might impact someone else.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Off to Kindergarten

It has finally happened. It has been five years since I brought my first baby into the world, and off to kindergarten he goes.

No, the time didn't fly by. No, I haven't cherished every second of Motherhood. But, wow, I feel his absence in every way.

Whether for the best or not, I have devoted the last five years to him; my days have revolved around caring for his little self. Was I looking forward to the break that school would provide? The small bits of alone time I could enjoy when my daughter, his younger sister, naps or goes to preschool? Yes! [I even published an essay about it, here].

Still, I couldn't have predicted just how... empty I would feel as that little yellow bus pulled away this morning, carrying my heart inside. Even though I still have my daughter at home, things feel different around here.

All day, I've been glancing at the clock, trying to keep busy but wondering what my son is doing right then. How he is doing. If he is happy or sad. If he misses me or if he is having fun in his new surroundings. If he is tired or hungry, or any other mixture of feelings that are now second nature to me. More than anything, I hope he comes home happy and full of excitement.

He has never been away from home for more than a couple of hours, and so I can't believe this is the new normal. That tomorrow, we will do it all again...and again.

How about you? Have your children started school? How was the transition for both of you?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Frantic Mama Published!

Hello friends!

I recently had an article published by Mamalode, my favorite site for beautiful, poignant, and sometimes funny writing about Motherhood.

If you haven't already, and you have a chance, could you check it out, here? And perhaps like it and share it with friends?

Look! I even have a cool little author profile on their site.

For better or worse (probably worse), numbers and pageviews mean a lot in this online world in which we live, and I want Mamalode to see that people like my work.

If there are any readers out there with publications they want to share here, please leave links in the Comments and I will be sure to check them out!

Thank you thank you thank you.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pet Peeves Tuesday: Week 2

Wait, a whole week has gone by since my last blog post, and now it's Tuesday...which means another Pet Peeves post! New readers might think I'm a bit of a curmudgeon, but I'm not. I promise. In fact, this weekly Peeve Post is my newly conceived chance to let it all hang out.

So here it goes: My 2nd Pet Peeve is when friends don't take the time to visit after you have a baby.

My kids are now 5 and almost 3 and yet-- and yet-- I can still remember any friend who came by our home to visit with me after having my son and daughter.

There is something about the exhaustion, elation, vulnerability-- all of it-- that makes new mothers REALLY need loyal friends when we are home with a new baby.

It is hard for me to forget those who never got around to visiting, or even calling or checking in, when they knew I was home solo with a baby. That postpartum period is one of those times in your life that can be friendship making or friendship breaking.

Is this just me? Is it because I don't have my family nearby that I so needed visitors after having a baby? Perhaps. Still, I can imagine many of us feel the same. It truly takes a village to care for little ones, and true friends will stick around to help each other out, even if it's not always 'convenient.'

We learn as we go in life, and maybe it takes having a child to really understand this one, but now, no matter how "busy" I am, I make the effort to visit with a mother and her baby (or invite them over in case she wants OUT of the house). It means so much to me, it must mean something to other moms out there, right?

Join me in my weekly vent! What about you? What's one of your peeves?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Check out last week's Pet Peeve here.