The invisible people who live inside my computer

What will happen on Day Three?

Here's something interesting you may not know about me (and millions of other people): I am/we are not allowed to donate blood. Because I was a student in the U.K. (at the University of Edinburgh) for a year during the Mad Cow Disease Era, my blood is now suspect. It doesn't matter that I don't remember being much of a spinal-cord-and-brain eater at the time*, and feel fairly confident that I don't have The Madness lying dormant in me (oh my god), but just saying I survived on baked potatoes and shortbread cookies that year isn't good enough for the Red Cross. *And never will be no matter what Anthony Bourdain says

My "donate to Charity Water/Red Cross and get a whimsical drawing!" plea is still in full force. However, I have to cap my Red Cross matching funds to double what you wonderful, beautiful people donated during the first two days only. I'm sorry to have to do that, but even as new donations come in we're still going to end up sending $200 to Charity Water and (as of this morning) nearly $500 to the Red Cross. All new donations will get a drawing from me and the money will henceforth go straight to the Red Cross.

So, FINE, Red Cross, you won't take my BLOOD so here's a big pile of MONEY.

I hope it helps.

Look out, this is a long one

The last few years it's been hard to enjoy blogging as much as I used to, and I eventually came to see that my lack of enjoyment was actually a lack of trust. Lack of trust in the ability of the Internet to play nice, but also lack of trust in my own ability to properly assess the impact of what I write as it comes out of me. Back in April, for example, I wrote a post about life coaches in general and Martha Beck more specifically, as I was reading one of her books. The tone of the post was skeptical, to my ear, but I can sort of understand how you might read the post and hear bitchiness or dismissiveness, or any of a thousand other things that I have no control over because your tinfoil hat prevents me from manipulating your thoughts because everyone's tuned to different frequencies. I tend to look for a funny way to talk about things that make me nervous, like feelings and my deeply repressed spiritual nature, and so my writing about these subjects can come off as immature. I'll own that.

Anyway, my post hurt the feelings of some people who took the time to tell me that life coaches had helped them tremendously, as well as the feelings of people who were life coaches and felt kind of bummed that I didn't get it. After which I felt bummed that I didn't get it, because deep down I did get it; I got it very, very much, but I was deeply afraid of admitting how much I wanted such a miraculous person as a life coach to come and fix me. So I made fun of them.

Listen, it's not always fun being a suburban, middle-aged white lady who can't handle her own stupid feelings.

And commenters can be really smart. They can point out your flaws so quickly sometimes, weaknesses you've spent a lifetime carefully papering over can be stunningly obvious to them. They don't always call you on it very nicely, unfortunately, but I think it's the job of anyone who writes online to examine themselves when someone cuts them to the quick, and ask themselves, "Is it true?" It doesn't have to be 100% true, but if it's even 1% true you have to own that 1%. Because if you mindlessly take the road everyone who loves you and wants to protect you tells you to take, the road where you get to say, "don't feed the trolls" or "they're just jealous" or "ignore the haters" or the time-tested "fuck 'em if they can't take a joke," you will add another brick to the wall that will eventually turn into an airless room containing just you and your ego.

Just to make things worse, eventually I got a comment that began, "Hi, Eden, it's Martha!" Martha! didn't seem to like what I'd written about her profession. Actually, I had some doubts that the comment was truly from Martha Beck, because I was pretty sure Martha would know the difference between "Augean Stables" (the ones Hercules had to clean out as part of his many labors) and "Aegean Stables" (stables that are just Aegean in general). I didn't think Martha would really be out there Googling mentions of herself in blog posts, but maybe she had a staff member dedicated to preserving her glorious image online. The e-mail address left with the comment pointed to someone @marthabeck.com, so who knew! Life coaches are crazy, right? Right? Oh, God, please tell me I'm right.

I knew I was in trouble because I'd violated such a cardinal rule of Internet blogulating that I couldn't even believe it: don't talk shit about people as though they can't hear you, because 9 times out of 10 that person is going to end up on your blog, reading what you said about them, and then chanting for your slow, painful death from stomach cancer.

Over the years I've done a lot of yoga, and one thing I've learned that I can carry into any situation is that your weaknesses often point directly at what you need to work on the most. And one of my most persistent weaknesses as a human being is that I check out emotionally when things get tough. So I alternately hid from, beat myself up for, and tried to ignore the fact that I may have pissed off Martha Beck -- who never did anything but write a book that I found helpful, for fuck's sake -- for two and a half months.

Then, last week, I watched as someone I admire angered and then shot back at a whole lot of people, thought deeply and clearly about why that happened, and then apologized like a pro. And I knew what I had to do.

Hi, [person at marthabeck.com], a few months ago I wrote a blog post talking about how I was reading Martha's book "Finding Your Own North Star," and in this post I expressed some skepticism about the profession of life coaching in general. (The link is here: http://www.fussy.org/2012/04/selvishness.html .) On this post, a person left what I felt was an angry-ish comment under the name Martha Beck. I felt terrible, of course, because I was coming to admire Martha's writing tremendously, but at the time I also felt like the comment might have been left by someone just pretending to be Martha so I let it sit.

But since your e-mail address was the one left below their comment, and this has been nagging at me for more than two months now, I felt I ought to put on my big girl panties and apologize, if the comment was indeed left by Martha and she was indeed ticked off by what I wrote. Friends have told me not to worry about it, but friends don't have to live in my skin and walk around feeling like I've offended someone I've come to admire. I haven't even finished reading "North Star" because every time I open it I feel like I don't deserve to have Martha help me. So I thought a good way to get past that would be to apologize and go forth and try not to be such a dick in the future.

If the comment wasn't Martha's, at least I got all this off my chest! Sorry you had to witness it!

Eden

A couple of hours later I received this reply:

Hi Eden,

Thank you SO much for your email and for reaching out.  I read the comment and double checked with Martha because it was definitely not something I felt she would ever do or say.  She responded with No no no. We are deeply sorry someone used her name. She also asked that I send you the message below.

Attached was a kind message from Martha Beck herself (I'm pretty sure, unless this is a really elaborate ruse involving a weapons-grade e-mail cloaking device). Not long after that I also heard from the CEO of Martha's company, who was unbelievably nice as well and had no problem with my post whatsoever.

So that pretty much made my day.

This story has a couple of morals, as I see it.

  1. Internet commenters can be lying weirdos with unfathomable agendas, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing
  2. If you hurt someone's feelings and the reason you did it points at a fault within yourself, own it
  3. Thou shalt not commit adultery
  4. Buy the kosher hot dogs
  5. Don't let the pigeon drive the bus

An Idea, an Announcement, and a Raffle!

First of all, every time I get into my car I have to hook up my iPhone to the car's cassette adapter so I can listen to music or podcasts or whatever, and every time I do that I think, "Why can't my car just be a giant iPod?" I mentioned this to Jackson the other day when I was driving him to school and he immediately flipped open the glove compartment. "The keyboard could be here," he said, miming typing on the flipped down glove compartment door.

"No, but then how am I going to control it from over here while I'm driving?" I said. "Maybe there could be buttons on the steering wheel."

"No. Voice control," he said. "Duh."

"Oh, duh," I said.

"PLAY! NICKELBACK!"

"DON'T! PLAY! NICKELBACK!"

Jackson delighted at the thought of us screaming at the car not to play what the other person in the car wanted to hear. Clearly the iCarPod would have to be wired to respond only to the voice of the person who made the last car payment.

Whip that up for me, would you Apple? Because with iCloud I can't imagine why this wouldn't be possible. I would dump my Volvo in a heartbeat for one that was basically a giant speaker on wheels.

Secondly, don't forget that NaBloPoMo starts Tuesday! Oh, no! Even though I sold it to BlogHer last spring, I'm still going to post every day in November because what kind of a blogger would I be if I abandoned the very thing that once gave my life meaning, and also gave me an excuse to post pictures of all of my shoes?

Lastly, I'm going to Camp Mighty in a couple of weeks, not because I am ready to plow through my life list (I have fourteen things on it so far, none of which I particularly want to show anyone at the moment) but because Maggie is always creating something interesting and I like being a part of how it all plays out.

When I signed up there was an option to get a discount on the weekend if you raised $200 for a group called Charity: Water. So, I signed up for that, because saving money is always a thrill. And how hard could it be to raise $200?

It turns out that it's sort of hard.

I have raised $50 so far by selling shoes on eBay, but I need to come up with another $150, so I'm following the lead of a few other Mighty Campers* and I'm trying a raffle.

Here is what you could win:

  1. A $50 Amazon gift certificate
  2. This necklace that I made out of random beads in my bead box:

3. An Instax Mini 25 instant camera and one roll of film:

4. A calligraphy kit!

All you have to do to enter is buy a $2.00 raffle ticket. You can buy as many as you want, and every dime of ticket money will go to Charity: Water. And yes, technically, by buying a raffle ticket you are helping my weekend in Palm Springs cost $200 less, and I completely understand if that rubs you the wrong way. But your $2.00 is going to an amazing cause, so I hope that knowledge rubs your fur back in the right direction.

The raffle will be open until midnight Friday, November 4, 2011. Thank you! Good luck!

THE RAFFLE IS OVER, THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO DONATED! *As mentioned on Boston Mamas, some of our fellow and sister campers are fundraising creatively if you want to support them:

  • The aforementioned Amy's raffle is live until November 2.
  • Lisa Congdon is selling gorgeous prints.
  • Erica is baking banana bread
  • Linz is offering 20 percent off her design services.
  • Alison is selling greeting cards.
  • Travel broadens the mind, but coming back home warms the lap

    Paul was released on DVD last week, which was a cause for celebration at the Kennedy Compound. Our DVD came in the mail and was quickly watched twice in succession. It's funny and it's clever and it's rude and it's hardly sexy at all, so maybe the R rating comes from Kristen Wiig, who plays woman who never learned to curse properly, saying things like, "Well, ain't that a bag of tits." (Also, have you seen this? I don't want to over-Wiig you, but SO CUTE.) Paul starts out at ComicCon, which takes place every summer at the San Diego Convention Center, and of course since I'd just been to the San Diego Convention Center for the lady blogger conference, I was all, HEY, LOOK! I KNOW THAT PLACE! WAIT! THE FLUORESCENT LIGHTS! HEY! THAT CARPET IS TOTALLY THE SAME CARPET! and other fascinating observations that enthralled my family.

    A few weeks ago on Twitter I was all . . .

    . . . and an hour later . . .

    . . . until several days later . . .

    (Note: BlogHer will be in NYC next year. Unskippable.)

    And oh, the chore list I'm going to build for Jackson to earn his trip to ComicCon, it's going to be twenty feet long. I'm going to have to buy a roll of butcher paper to list all the strange little tasks I'm going to make up for him to do.

    On a side note: Look! I accidentally fried an egg in the shape of a heart.

    So, do you want to hear about the BlogHer conference that I went to in San Diego? Then read on about how my trunk was full of Fussy t-shirts, and yet never once did it seem appropriate to haul them into the lobby of the Marriott and start laying them out on the floor to sell (one for $15, two for $20, special conference discount). I'd done it at BlogHer '05 and BlogHer '06 and driven home both times with a smile on my face and a pocket full of twenties. And my hand to God I wish I'd done it this time, too, but my plate was way too full (of eggs) (paleo joke!) to find the time.

    It's funny to go over my old BlogHer recaps, because slowly, after yearly exposure to masses of lanyard-wearing women, I am becoming one of those grownups who has learned to talk to strangers and socialize with something that looks like ease. But only because I've had some first-class conference buddies.

    Here we see Alice. She is clearly not using her phone to send pleading text messages to God so that her family would arrive at the airport safely so they could limbo off to Legoland the next day. No, she's not doing that at all. She's just being adorable. Alice was my roommate the first night and my breakfast buddy and also my partner in luncheon comedy and book signing at the Bill My Parents booth. The BMP people bought 400 copies of Let's Panic! and set us up with Sharpies and let us sign copies and talk to bloggers and give books away to them for free.

    Here we see Erin. Erin is, historically, one of the most dependably funny and incisive bloggers on the Internet, and once Alice took off for Legoland, Erin totally anchored my roster. We talked and talked and talked and then we ate and drank and talked some more. And then we went off and ate and talked to other people, and then we came back together and ate and talked about what we talked to those other people about. I am so happy and grateful and lucky that Erin decided to come. And not only because she gave me a sock zombie.

    This year's Community Keynote was possibly the rawest and most unrelentingly emotional keynote we've ever had. (Transcript is here. Individual videos of readers should be posted soon, and they'll be worth watching.) You can read a post online and find it touching, but when the person who wrote it breaks down in tears while telling you about her fifteenth year sober, or sneaking art onto the walls of a cancer ward, or realizing her children were all going to grow up and leave someday? It took me crumbling through four introductions with a runny nose before Sarah leaned over and whispered to me to open one of the little zipper pouch giveaway bags on the table--oh, we had a tissue sponsor this year! Brilliant. I also have to hand it to the humor bloggers, they had some heavy lifting, bringing the crowd up from that deep, heart-softened place over and over again. But they did it.

    Friday ended with Erin, Doug and Georgia watching me shovel hors d'oeuvres into my face with the sad understanding that chicken skewers and zucchini niblets would no doubt be my dinner, and then finally pouring myself into bed at 1:00 a.m. I'll have plenty of time to prepare for my panel about how to retain your sanity while running an online community, I remember thinking before I dropped into a black, dreamless, dehydrated sleep. But as soon as the first question came from the audience at 3:00 p.m. the next day, a couple of things came into stark relief before my eyes. One, my throat was sore from yelling over party music for two nights in a row; two, my sister panelists were still actively engaged in running their online communities, whereas in the time between accepting the invitation to speak on this panel (October 2010) and actually being on the panel (August 2011), I had so thoroughly scrubbed NaBloPoMo from my mind that I barely remembered what it was I used to do every day, five times a day, 365 days a year to keep it chugging along; and three, judging by that and all subsequent questions from the audience, a good deal of the women looking to us for advice had far more professional experience on the subject than I did. Also, the room was cavernous, and I still haven't gotten the knack of speaking conversationally to someone whose face is 100 feet away from me. However, I did, possibly, manage to say a couple of useful things, and make at least one person laugh, and not cock up the entire event by falling asleep at the table. [Transcript is here.]

    I honestly can't believe anyone but the masochists are still reading, so let's wind things up on a cuddly note. I will not enable your pain another moment, no matter how satisfying you find it!

    Fours

    This post is JEN's idea. I just about killed myself writing it. This web site functions as a place for me to complain and make horrible jokes about my life, so when I have to write a post about things I enjoy it just means that I have to take out that goddamned rainbow wig again and god it itches.

    FOUR JOBS I HAVE HAD

    1. Delivering flowers the summer I was sixteen and barely knew how to drive. I knew how to drive really well by the end of the summer. A sweaty girl with one sunburnt arm (the van had no A/C so I had to hang my arm out the window to cool off)(here's another tip: bring a frozen plastic water bottle and drink it as it melts over the course of the day) spreading cheer and wilted roses throughout the Denver metropolitan area.

    2. Popcorn pusher at Tamarac Square movie theater the next summer, evening shift. My mother hated me coming home at one in the morning so she called up my boss and quit for me while I was briefly in the hospital getting my tonsils out. Furious does not adequately describe my feelings; I'm still a little bit steamed about it.

    3. Copyeditor for legal reference books in New York, age twenty-three. My first cubicle. This was when you could still smoke in offices; the grey-skinned man in the one next to me had a pack-a-day Chesterfield habit. I spent the nine months that this job lasted making humorous Xerox art using the ID badge photos of my coworkers.

    4. Mom 2001-present. I don't really like to talk about it.

    FOUR MOVIES I CAN WATCH OVER AND OVER

    1. Kung Fu Hustle The part at the end? After the Buddha's hand comes down? And it makes you rethink the entire movie leading up to that point? I know this sounds stupid but it gives me chills.

    2. Topsy-Turvey The part at the end? When she's singing about the moon? Chills.

    3. Cabaret That first big number? When Liza's kind of humping that chair? OMG.

    4. Miller's Crossing "What's the rumpus?"*

    *Responsible for the first name of this web site.

    THE RUNNERS UP

    1. Groundhog Day Do you get it? Because it's a movie about a man who has to live one day over and over! It's a comment on this part of the meme itself, movies that you want to watch over and over!

    2. Caddyshack "Pick up that candy wrapper."

    3. Galaxy Quest "Hey guys, I just wanted you to know that the reactors won't take it; the ship is breaking apart and all that . . . just FYI."

    4. Blazing Saddles "Now if that don't beat all. Here we take the good time and trouble to slaughter every last Indian in the West, and for what? So we can appoint a sheriff that's blacker than any Indian. I am depressed."

    5. Bull Durham "Relax, all right? Don't try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring. Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls -- it's more democratic."

    6. Raising Arizona "Edwina's insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase."

    FOUR PLACES I HAVE LIVED

    1. Littleton, Colorado Eighteen years in the suburbs. Dude.

    2. New London, Connecticut College.

    3. Edinburgh, Scotland The whole place smelled like burning brownies (the tasty chocolate dessert, not the little girl scouts).

    4. In a dimension that closely resembles our present reality but where everything is covered in pink fun fur.

    FOUR TV SHOWS I LOVE

    1. The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy -- brilliant -- bravo, Cartoon Network.

    2. The Sopranos -- New season starts NEXT MONTH.

    3. The News Hour with Jim Lehrer -- The perfect lead in to . . .

    4. The Daily Show -- You know, I was really bummed when Craig Kilborn left -- for about a minute.

    FOUR PLACES I HAVE VACATIONED

    1. Hawaii -- Nice!

    2. North Dakota -- My father was a salesman and had a huge territory, most of the western states, so sometimes we'd make a family vacation out of one of his business trips. Classic sleeping-in-the-back-window-while-driving-through-the-prairie-at-night stuff.

    3. Paris -- oh la la.

    4. New Jersey -- my grandparents lived by the shore in the sixties; first time I was ever at the beach. Also: The Pennypacker pool in Willingboro!

    FOUR OF MY FAVORITE THINGS TO EAT

    1. Rack of lamb with white beans

    2. Jack's osso buco

    3. The onion rings from Lucky's

    4. THE SCONES!

    FOUR SITES I VISIT DAILY Let's be honest here; I rarely visit anyone's site daily, including my own, but here are a fabulous four:

    1. Styro

    2. Mike Toole

    3. Daddyzine

    4. The Leery Polyp

    Checks and balances

    If you had a chance to flip through Monday's New York Times "Giving" section you might have noticed a picture of Grace in an article about organizing relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina entitled Internet Matchmaking: Those Offering Help and Those Needing It. The online version of the story, unfortunately, doesn't show her photo, and I know you've probably seen enough people wearing one of my goddamned t-shirts, but Grace chose to wear her "Writing Well is the Best Revenge" Boob Billboard for her photo session and I couldn't be prouder. The relief effort is far from over, so if you haven't given already hop on over to Grace's Direct Relief blog to see what you can do.

    I suppose it's time I followed my own advice, because I still haven't given any money for Katrina relief. After New Orleans turned into a vast saltwater swimming pool I, perhaps rather stupidly, was busy writing checks to (a) my high school, (b) my local public radio station for airing NPR's extraordinary, week-long coverage of John Roberts' Supreme Court grillings, and (c) Doctors Without Borders for everything they do for people on this earth who face pain, illness, and death without the bleakest hope that an entity even half as incompetent as FEMA will ever lumber to the rescue.

    Of course, the real tragedy is that my month-long "post-infectious" cough has been joined by a bossy little sinus headache, stuffed-up ears, and lots of mouth breathing. And my period. I can think of nothing more attractive than a sunburned, sneezing, perpetualy irritated woman in a Wicked Weasel with a sanitary pad spilling out of it. No, actually I just wear the top with a pair of board shorts and hang on to my water wings until it seems appropriate (and we start watching the clock at 3:30) to order a mojito.

    You don't care. Why would you want to read about my vacation? You just want to see the pictures. Well, here are a few.

    Greetings from flu and snot central

    Greetings from flu and snot central! Jackson's been home from school with the coughing and barfing for nine days now and we're starting to demonstrate that patient/caregiver dynamic where the patient resents his dependence and raises himself from his trench on the couch and screams I HATE YOU! at his caregiver every ten or fifteen minutes, while his caregiver comes this close to throwing a GoBot at him and walking out the door, after giving careful instructions to the dog on how to administer a one-and-a-half-teaspoon dose of cough syrup every four hours.

    I have to say, for the amazing lack of personal time I've had since weekend before last I'm only a day behind in answering e-mails and a week behind on mailing out t-shirts. Which just goes to show you what my life priorities are: #1 = Wrap child in blanket and place gently in front of television, and #2 = RUN TO COMPUTER.

    After all my bragging about beads, Jim sent me a nice e-mail and asked me if I'd be willing to take a commission to bead him a WWJDD bracelet. Yes: a "What Would Joan Didion Do?" bracelet. I declined, feeling flattered that he'd assume I was skilled enough to weave little seed beads into interesting patterns on a loom of tiny threads. He forged out on his own and e-mailed me back, saying he'd found what he was looking for, those chunky little beads with letters on them, so never mind. Oh, miscommunication, how I love thee. There I was, telling him I had no idea how to do what he wanted, and he was all, Whoa, okay, I didn't realize putting beads on a string was so, uh, complicated.

    Yeah, well, here is the result of the previous barf-free weekends' crafty work. For Christmas, though, I'm totally going to figure out how to make summer camp Indian craft belts for everyone.