Category Archives: Blogging

Here There Be Dragons

Abraham Ortelius, Tehatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1570

Abraham Ortelius, Tehatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1570

Legend holds that, centuries ago, mapmakers marked uncharted areas on their maps with the Latin phrase: HC SVNT DRACONES.

“Here are dragons.”

There are only two maps still in existence that actually have these words on them, but the dragon or sea serpent was often used in map decoration to represent perilous waters, dangerous leviathans, or geographically murky coastlines. I think the expression is so beautiful–“Here there be dragons”–that the idea behind the phrase has stayed with us even if it isn’t on that many maps.

It’s a useful way of saying, “We are leaving the part of the world that we know and hell if I know what is out there but it’s probably scary.”

It’s the Latin form of “Get in. Sit down. Shut up. Hold on.”

I’ve been feeling that way the last few days. Since November started, to be exact. I’ve set myself a goal of writing 1000+ words every day and they are words in addition to what I post here. Words that, if assembled in the right order and around a central theme, might be called a…well, you know.

But I don’t want to jinx it.

In the proud tradition of procrastinators everywhere, I usually end up squeezing in my writing goal between 11 p.m. and midnight. I get my fingers moving across the keyboard. I slog through the warm up, force myself through the sticky bits, finally manage to sail my word ship in the general direction of The Point…and that leaves me in a soggy mess of tears.

I’ve cried myself to sleep every night in November (sounds like a country song). And it feels great.

With all this new territory, something new struck me about “Here There Be Dragons.” The cartographers didn’t put that on there to say “DON’T GO! PADDLE THE OTHER WAY!” Maybe they put the dragons on there as a landmark, a way to know that you’re steering in the RIGHT direction.  If you’re looking to explore the uncharted lands, you are right on course.

The one thing I remember from those sailing lessons that Richard and I took in Maine just before he was diagnosed with leukemia was “Point the tiller toward the trouble.” In the weird physics of steering by wind, if you want to go around an obstacle, you have to point the tiller directly at it in order to maneuver the rudder and the boat around it. (I think I got the terms right. My sister will correct me if not.)

So some of these feelings that I’m stirring up? I hope my face burns from the dragon’s breath and this strange quivering around my heart is stirred by the dragon’s wings. And I hope I don’t fall off the edge of the world.

HC SVNT DRACONES.

 

The Writing Spider

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve used my “room of her own” down in the basement. G got me a sweet notebook computer before BlogHer so I’ve been writing in bed, on the couch, outside, wherever.

This weekend, though, I retreated to my lair to write while the kids played quietly with collaborative educational games made from all natural materials (or watched Max and Ruby while sniping at each other–it’s all a blur). When I settled down at my writing table and looked out the window, to my delight, I discovered a new neighbor had moved in:

writing spider

Meet Charlotte. Please don’t EEK. She hates that.

“Hello, Charlotte!” I cooed to her. Is there any better name for a giant spider? Nope.

Her web stretches across the window that’s right at ground level. Good eating there. When I first stepped closer to the window, she scuttled a few inches higher into her web until she decided I wasn’t anything to worry about. Her wide spiral web bounced gently from her sudden motion. As it stilled, I watched her pluck the web with her front legs to set it swaying again. Her large yellow and black body perched on the white zig zag line that runs down the middle of a Charlotte web. That white line is usually the first thing I see when these spiders set up house in the fall.

And because I was supposed to be writing, and there are 1000 ways to avoid writing, I did some research on my new friend instead. Most call her the “Common Black and Yellow Garden Spider” but that hardly seems flattering. I like the sound of her Latin name: Argiope aurantia.

So much for getting away from writing–I giggled when I discovered that she is also nicknamed “The Writing Spider” for that zig zaggy line that stabilizes her web. Oh, we are going to get along just fine!

Did you ever hear the legend of the writing spiders? If you find your name spelled in her web, death will visit you soon. Makes me grateful that I have a few wiggly and curvy letters in my name, but now I worry about Vivi. That’s a whole lot of straight lines.

CharlotteWebI can’t think of a writing spider without thinking of Wilbur the pig, Fern and Charlotte and Templeton the rat. That story turned the legend of the writing spider upside down. The clever spider in “Charlotte’s Web” spelled encouraging messages like “Some Pig” and “Terrific” into her web to keep Wilbur from being turned into bacon. In turn, Wilbur watches over Charlotte’s egg sac so that her babies will be born back at the farm after she is gone. So she can pass something along to the world that lives on without her.

Huh.

I was talking to an author a few weeks ago (Anne Nahm) about how she found the courage to convince herself she could write a book. “If you don’t do it, you could die never having written that book.” Well, shit, Anne. Way to cut to the chase. It’s hard to dilly dally around that one.

This Charlotte outside my window will build a papery sac for her eggs this fall then she will die before the winter. The babies will be born and they will continue to live in the sac over the cold months.  Next spring, they’ll emerge and wander off into my garden. I hope to have something to show them by then. Something written in my web.

My story also features a pig and a kind girl, and a sweet soul who left before the story was done.

terrific

Gluten Soaked Republican Plastic Surgeons Need Not Apply

Vintage postcard, Picadilly Circus, London

Vintage postcard, Picadilly Circus, London

Have you noticed anything new about the look of the blog? Yep, those are ads. Upppppp there ^^^, and ovvvvver there >>>. I hope you will forgive the crass commercialization of Baddest Mother Ever. I write because it brings me bliss, but my kids don’t eat bliss.

The BlogHer publishing network makes it easy for small publishers like me to find advertising content that matches the audience (hello, tampons and Capri Sun!). They also make it easy for bloggers to find ads that match our ethical boundaries. When I set up my publishing network account, I was given a long list of advertising campaigns from which I could opt out.

Like diet pills–would you REALLY expect to see an ad for diet pills on Baddest Mother Ever? I think not. Or cosmetic surgery. Newp. And religion? This isn’t the place. (But I am intrigued to see what kind of religious ads are available.  “Jesus! Coming Soon to an outlet near you!”)

Some of the options made me think about things that I do support–like breastfeeding. If you are so inclined, you can opt out of any ad for an infant formula, a bottle, a nipple. I was a BF mom, but I’m not opposed to nipples made of something other than me. Animal products–that’s another option I had. I left it open because BACON. Sorry to my vegan friends, but BACON.

Lingerie ads? Hmmm. I was about to check “No” but that depends on the ad. If it’s lingerie that makes women feel more beautiful and comfortable, absolutely. If there is any hint of a pouting ingenue in some Kardashiesque getup…nope.

Gluten? Sure. Because, to quote Jim Gaffigan, I don’t know what gluten is, but it’s delicious.

There was one choice that gave me pause AND reminded me of a funny story. Political ads. Would I want political ads to have space on Baddest Mother Ever? I don’t talk politics very often on here but y’all can probably smell a knee jerk, bleeding heart flaming liberal vibe coming from my general direction. (You’d be right.)

One time, my late husband Richard (who was the opposite of me in all things political and religious) and I were talking about our potential possible children that might one day come.

He asked me, “So what if our kid is born blind?”

I waved away the very thought. “So what? We take what we get and call ourselves lucky.”

“What if our child is gay?”

“Same thing,” I answered. “They’re born whoever they are and we love them no matter what.”

He considered for a second, then said, “What if our kid turns out to be…a Republican?”

I clutched my pearls and gave him the stink-eye. “THAT? That is just poor parenting.”

Hahahaha….I kid, I kid. He and I may have canceled each other’s votes in the big picture, but we were on the same team in the everyday matter of living this life. My dad says that his parents never fought except over local politics. They’d get so mad about county commision or mayor that they wouldn’t speak for days. Legend has it that Grandmama Eunice once threw an entire fried chicken out the car window on the way to a church supper over Grandaddy Joe teasing her about a school board election. If you ever had the honor of tasting her fried chicken, you’d know just what a tragedy that was.

I guess my point is I had to do some thinking about what I feel strongly enough about to BAN from my space. We all do this all the time–and the digital social world that we live in has made it so easy to click a button and decide “I’m don’t want to see that.”

So if you’re a Republican cosmetic surgeon looking for a place to talk about your gluten-filled diet pills, keep moving.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program!

Well, Shut My Mouth.

Mouth of Akhenaten or Nefertiti  circa 1353 BCE Image courtesy Met OASC

Mouth of Akhenaten or Nefertiti
circa 1353 BCE
Image courtesy Met OASC

The emotional fatigue of these last few weeks has taken some part of my voice with it. There is so much to say that I can’t seem to say anything. There are 130 drafts in my blog folder, but I haven’t written anything in days.

Last week, I went to a funeral in my hometown–Gay, Georgia. I want to write about the family cemetery and the fact that my grandmother already has a place marked for me that I’ll never use. I also want to write about how I lived in that town for so long, it’s where My People have lived for 100 years, but I have no idea where the black cemetery is. It can’t be that far from the streets I know. I have so many things to say about race that I can’t even start.

The preacher at the funeral said some things about religion and world views that sat so wrong with me that I had to pull out a piece of paper during the service and take notes on all that I couldn’t say in that moment. But the paper is still there in my purse. He has his way and I have mine and never the twain shall meet.

I made the widow laugh that day, as we leaned against a mossy stone wall by the raw red clay of her husband’s grave. I wanted to write about how important that was to me. It’s good to laugh. It’s one thing only the living can do.

Even on a sad day, I was happy to be with my family. Watching my cousin’s girls do gymnastics after lunch, barefoot in their black dresses. Admiring pictures of fish they have caught. Telling stories with people who have known my people for generations. Catching up with my sister and making plans for our next adventure with Vivi. Laughing with Brett when the police cars hit the sirens to began the procession and she pretended to run from Johnny Law.

I ate food cooked by good-hearted Baptist women and I wanted to write about that. Pound cake made by Miss Ann. Miss Ruth’s macaroni and cheese. Miss Marcia, my Sunday School teacher, whose voice takes me back instantly to when I was in single digits. I haven’t written about any of that.

I went back to Wesleyan for fall convocation on Tuesday. I talked to the senior class about doing their best. How their best will change. I stood in front of an auditorium filled with hundreds of people and I told them that I’ve struggled my whole adult life with anxiety and never feeling good enough. I want to write about that, too. How important it is that we be honest with our younger sisters, that no one sits alone and thinks, “It must just be me.”

I want to write about how my son’s feet, when I go in to check on him and he’s deeply asleep, how his tiny little feet take my breath away with their perfection of form and their total innocence. How soft they are, and strong and how one day not long ago, I could hold them both in one hand. How one day he will go off to college.

Tomorrow is the 10 year anniversary of when Richard gave me Sadie’s ring and I want to write about that. I can’t yet.

Where I come from, when you are met with news that is so shocking your mouth just hangs open in wonder, sometimes the only thing to say is, “Well, shut my mouth.” You can say it when you’ve been corrected. Or when you’re gobsmacked. That’s kind of where I am this week.

Maybe writing this has shaken something loose. Maybe.

Let’s Keep In Touch!

bubble-49004_640Hello, Dear Readers!  I’ve been wanting to write this message for a while now but I was too chicken to just straight up say what I’d like to say…but here goes.  

I like for people to read this stuff, so I hope you’ll subscribe to this blog.  There are several ways to do it!

Email:  

See over there on the right side of this page?  You can subscribe by email and get a message every time I post something new.  My sister says it’s a great way to keep up if you don’t see the posts via Facebook.

Facebook:

And speaking of Facebook…in addition to the writing that you find here on BaddestMotherEver.com, there’s a whole BME community on Facebook!  That’s where I share story links, cool stuff from around the web, lunchtime chats, and all kinds of snarky stuff.  If you’re on Facebook, be sure to Like the Baddest Mother Ever page (which you can do over there in that handy right column).  And if you’ve already Liked the BME page, be sure to click the down arrow next to Like and choose “Get Notifications.”  Because Facebook is being kind of stupid about showing you stuff that you’ve asked to see.  

Twitter:

I’m trying my best to learn how to use Twitter!  Give me a follow at @Baddest_Mother and I’ll give you a follow back, girl!  

Pinterest:

Don’t be searching my Pinterest page for gingham banner templates and recipes for buffalo chicken dip…that’s not my bag.  If you want to learn more about Baddest Mothers In History, check out Ashley Garrett on Pinterest!  I’m also working on boards of inspirational quotes for Bad Mothers, good reads for young girls, etc.  

WordPress Followers:

Hey, fellow bloggers!  I’m going to move Baddest Mother Ever to self-hosting in the next few days.  If you follow me through the WordPress Reader and would like to stay in touch, please subscribe so I can be sure we don’t get separated on the interwebs!  

Questions:

Ask away in the Comments or at baddestmotherever (at) gmail (dot) com.  Later, Taters!

Apology:

I’m sorry to self-promote like this, but I promised Michelle and Tara that I would!  “He who tooteth not his own horn getteth it not tootethed!”  

 

I’d Like to Thank the Blogcademy…

new-years-eve-228714_640Y’all.

You guys.

Omigodomigodomigahd!

Y’all. Seriously. Y’all.

My little light?  It’s getting a big chance to SHINE!

 

 

 

Every year at the BlogHer conference, there’s an evening party called “Voices of the Year.”  Last year, Queen Latifah was the host!  It was one of the highlights of my first blogging conference–a joyful celebration of writing, because good blogging always comes down to good storytelling.  Last year’s VOTY stories ran the gamut from discovering one’s gayness at Jesus Camp, poisoning yourself in the effort to craft a perfect pine cone wreath, fighting to save a suicidal child when the medical establishment isn’t listening, chasing pin worms with a flashlight, being mistaken for your child’s nanny, living on the thin edge of poverty, and explaining race to your mixed race son.  I laughed.  I cried.  I was inspired.

Any blogger can submit a piece to Voices of the Year.  This year, over 2000 stories were submitted.  The selection process went through round after round after round.  From that pool, one hundred blog posts are selected.  Then from those 100, a dozen lucky bloggers get to go onstage in front of the whole conference and read a story.  

BH14_VOTY_Selected_150X15Y’all…I got selected as a Voice of the Year.

Squeeee!!!

And I got selected to read.

Hot Damn!!!

Or to quote Carlos’ favorite new phrase:  Seriously, dude.

I am thrilled.  Delighted.  Honored.  Scared-Shitless-But-Gonna-Do-It-Anyway.

And I’m proud.  Proud of myself.  Not for getting chosen by a panel of reviewers–I didn’t have any control over that–but for choosing myself. Back in February, when the submissions were opened, I chose myself.  It took me a couple of tries to get up the nerve.  I made a few visits to the website before I had the guts to hit Submit.  I overcame my doubts and said, “This is something I want to shoot for.  This is something I have the right to try.  This is something that would be really really really fun to do.”  I gave myself permission to want it.  I gave myself a voice.  It was heard!

I am tickled pink.

So today’s message is:  Put yourself out there. 

Oh, and here’s the funny part.  I’m at a bit of a loss.  If you go to the announcement page for 2014 Voices of the Year, there are links to these wonderfully entertaining posts.  But the ones that get read on stage?  They don’t have links–they’re a secret.  Y’know, gotta keep the suspense up.  So the link beside my name is just to Baddest Mother Ever, not the specific post that got selected.  

Wellllll…unfortunately, I can’t remember which story I submitted!  Duh.  So after a couple of days of playing it cool, I will have to email someone at BlogHer and say, “Thank you SO MUCH for giving me this opportunity to read….now, can you refresh my memory on what exactly I wrote?”  

So today’s message addendum:  Put yourself out there, but jot down where you put yourself.  

2:34 a.m.

clockCan’t sleep.  Been trying since 11:30.  Here’s what happened:

  • Put myself to bed at 11:30 with a new book–“San Miguel” by T. C. Boyle.  It’s OK, but the first 50 pages are mostly howling winds, the incessant bleating of 4000 sheep, a woman with a consumptive cough, and a pretty heavy sense of foreboding.  I put it down and turned off the light at 12:15, giggling to myself that it was really early thanks to the time change and I didn’t have to set an alarm because it’s spring break.
  • Woke up at 12:30.  Bright moon shining in the window, too hot in my room.  So I did a load of laundry, changed the sheets, sorted a few more piles of stuff.  Still wasn’t feeling tired but didn’t want to go back to the sheep bleating.  A different book–that’s it!  I downloaded the third in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series–“Voyager.”  Just the ticket.  Read from 1:20-1:45.  Turned off the light and tried to think about the wilds of Scotland.  Nope.  Tried to make a list from A-Z of places I’d like to visit.  Nope.  
  • Back up at 2:00.  Switch the laundry.  Step out on the deck to enjoy the cool air and Jinx the cat mewls her way up the steps.  I open the door for her before I realize why she sounds funny.  Yep, she had a mouse in her mouth.  Now there’s a mouse in the house.  I shut the cats, the dog and the mouse in the den and wish them all well.
  • I consider taking a Benadryl to get drowsy, but G had mentioned at dinner that taking Benadryl on a regular basis as a sleep aid causes cognitive impairment.  Yep, this is what we talk about at dinner.  You would think I would be BORED enough to sleep.  I only take one about once a week but I convince myself that this is a “habit.”
  • 2:15, to hell with it.  I get a Benadryl but drop it under the bed.  Dig it out and swallow it anyway–first sign of cognitive impairment would be that I eat anything that has touched this floor. 
  • 2:20…speaking of floor, I go back to the kitchen and clean up that mess that Carlos made when he painted the floor with a couple of blackberries.  I begin to think that I might be one of those women who could really get it ALL DONE if I quit sleeping.  Martha Stewart only sleeps 3-4 hours a night and it seems to be working pretty well for her.  Except for that prison stint, but she used that time to knit.
  • 2:30.  The dog is lying in the middle of the floor with his nose pointed under the love seat, so I assume that’s where the mouse is hiding out.  I open the door to the deck and consider getting the broom to chase the mouse outside, but G is zonked out on the couch where he fell asleep three hours earlier watching Law & Order.  The sound of me opening the door rouses him enough that he opens his eyes and looks right at me.  I shrug and say, “Can’t sleep.”  He grunts, “G’night” and rolls over.  It’s good to feel understood.  
  • I like when the numbers on the clock line up, so I’m going to call 2:34 lucky.  Got the ceiling fan on, the window cracked, the blinds shut, the cats on mouse duty, lavender lotion on my feet, a Breathe Right strip on my nose, Benadryl working its way into my brain pan.  Surely this will work..right?  
  • Oh, for pity’s sake…now I’m hungry.