Yahoo! Motherboard: Learned About Blogging, More About Me

I know you've all been waiting to hear how things went during my trip to California to visit the Yahoo! campus and I'm FINALLY pulling it together. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Cut me some slack, I'm lucky I made it in the first place with the whole shingles situation. Lucky, indeed.

Here are five things that I learned about myself at Yahoo!:

1. You can call me a Mom Blogger.
Go for it. I don't care, in fact I prefer it. All of us Mom Bloggers (and there are a ton of us) are doing this for a reason. Our lives may be our inspiration, but we're all so very different with vast backgrounds and current-grounds. So, if that's what binds us together, then so be it. Call me a Mom Blogger. I'm in really good company. I'm proud to be in a group with some really intelligent, fun, witty, fabulous women who also happen to be moms.

2. I will never catch up.
We cannot keep up with the internet. As soon as we got it down, it's changing on us, right? And with a full-time job and every other bucket I'm carrying full to the top, I'm hardly keeping my head afloat sometimes when it comes to online trends, resources, or buzz. Man, I have a lot to learn. But, luckily, we were gifted the Yahoo! Style Guide, which is THICK. So, by the time I finish reading it, there will be plenty more new stuff to learn.

3. I'm a small fish in a vast ocean.
Seriously, I wasn't even sure that I should be going to the conference. But, really, how could I not? Household mom blogging names were there, women that I follow and read, established internet women... And me. But, it didn't mean they were mean to me or act like mean girls. Everyone I met was awesome. I learned what I could, made some really nice friends, and walked away feeling that I'm on the right track. I'm working in the right space for me and I have a good outlet. Most of the women considered this their full time deal, but for now I'm still loving my real job and having fun with this on the side. And that's ok. For now.

4. Yahoo! has to be the best workplace I have ever seen.
An immaculate campus with gorgeous flowers. Sand volleyball courts. Basketball courts. Pool tables. And (the best detail ever!) a FREE ESPRESSO BAR. Oh, and I know they really care about the women who work there... No quarter necessary to work the tampon dispensers. I'm just saying... Anyway, it made going back to my cube a little rough.

5. Palo Alto is just about the perfect place for me.
Nice people, beautiful weather, best Farmer's Market I've ever visited, a Venezuelan cafe (first I've ever been to), the most incredible downtown area you'd ever wish for, and adorable houses... that cost about $12 mil. So, yeah, I'm not packing up and moving. Clearly. But, when the Lottery comes a-knockin...

These are the general themes that I left with, but trust me, I learned a lot more... Like that I should keep my posts under 300 words (oops) and how to title for better SEO and how important internet security is with your kids and the dangers of sexting and cyberbullying and how people read blogs and where eyes fall on a computer screen and what a really good California Sauvignon Blanc tastes like and that you can buy awesome hairdryers from The Four Seasons and that I now have friends all over the internet that I hope to see in person again soon.

Since I was terrible with the camera, I suggest you check out these photos:

Disclaimer: Yahoo! paid for my travel expenses and basically everything else. And treated me well. Really, really well.


July Sandwich: Weddings on the Outside, Delicious Conference in the Middle

I've spent the past three weekends away from my little guy. Attending to my matron of honor duties for my sister's and best friend's weddings sandwiched the fabulous Yahoo! Motherboard Summit. I worked the two or three days that I was home in between each and then unpacked and repacked my suitcase for the next destination. Oh, and I had shingles throughout all of this. And was drinking heavily. (Who am I to pass up a celebratory cocktail... Or 8?) So, it was a lot of running around for a lot of incredible reasons, but it made July a total blur.

Anyway, I will post about all of these things in due time. I just have to get my act together, because I kind of feel like I was hit by a train. So, I'm licking my wounds, taking all my meds, hydrating, and loading this kid with hugs and kisses. His new words and phrases are just beyond amazing and he even remembers who I am, so it couldn't have been too bad, right?

This mom has a lot of catch up to do on the home front, so bear with me. I feel like I spent the 4th of July with a toddler, but am entering August with a little boy.


This Is Not The Post You Think It Is

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness by Laura Munson, a memoir about a marriage falling apart and the author's refusal to believe her husband when he tells her he doesn't love her anymore. Instead, she takes control of her own happiness while allowing him to find his way back to his family.

In the book Laura decides that she is going to be responsible for her own happiness while her husband has a mid-life crisis in the pits of depression and self-loathing, which, for him, translates to straight-up selfishness. They were dreamers when they met, both of them privileged kids living against the grain. They were artists and wanderers, but a house and a couple of kids later: We find him stuck in a terrible job situation with financial issues and her with a stack of unpublished novels.

I totally get it. I, too, am married to a man who is extremely unhappy in his professional life. Matt is an artist and a dreamer, someone who will always feel like he's playing dress up when in a suit. We've gone through excruciating fights because of his complicated relationship with his job and the sacrifices he feels he has made. He's not his job, he knows that. It's just so much easier to blame each other when we're feeling stuck in a house in the suburbs with two full-time jobs and a dwindling bank account. But, when these fights start I don't hold my tongue, bide my time. I fight back.

Maybe I should have taken Laura's approach all this time. But, here's the thing: I cannot be that person who stays quiet. I just don't have it in me. It would drive me crazy to live around someone, rather than with them. As much as I admire Laura for her ability to breathe, to push away the creeping feelings of anger, of resentment, of jealousy, and live her life on her own terms, I just can't. Like she said to her husband, I would say to myself: I Don't Buy It.

I've been trying in the last couple of years to know when to stop. To hold my tongue, to let more go. And I've come a long way. Not quite as far as Laura does in this book, but baby steps are good. I've at least learned to let a shut door be a shut door and walk away until it opens again. Because it will. I let more slide than I ever have, because I figured out that if I didn't, my relationship wouldn't survive.

However, there are certain things I could never let slide and even though at the beginning of the book Laura asks us not to take sides, it was really difficult. I couldn't get past her husband's late nights out, blowing off his children, his absence day after day, his irritability, the 4th of July he missed... It all made me want to scream at the book: "Run like hell, woman!" I wanted to put the book down and walk away, because maaaan, she was stressing me out.

But, she loves him. She's standing by her man, she's knowing him better than anyone else. She's putting her pride aside. Isn't that what you do when you love someone? You know what they need better than they do, right? And that's supposed to be the basis of a marriage. For better or for worse.

This post was inspired by This Is Not The Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson, which I received complimentary as a part of From Left to Write Book Club. See how other moms were inspired by this book here.


Taste of Chicago: No Thanks

Did you go to the Taste this year? I sure as heck did not. Not that we would have had any time to go, but the more I think about going with a toddler, the more I don't ever want to go back.

See my new post over at The Chicago Moms. I hinted at it before, but the official launch isn't until this week, so I've posted it below as well...

Wait, I missed the Taste this year? Oooh, bummer. Yeah, that’s too bad (imagine my shoulders shrugged, hands up in the air, head cocked to the side). Ugh, man, maybe next year… Or not. You see, I missed the Taste of Chicago on purpose this year. There, I admit it.

Growing up the Taste was something my parents took us to every other summer. My dad gets bugged by crowds (apple does not fall far from the tree I’m beginning to find), so we would go at off times. Then in high school and college my friends and I would take the train in from our suburbs and it would be an exciting adventure. In my city-living 20′s I went every now and then, usually when we had friends in from out of town or happened to be downtown and walking through was convenient.

But, here’s the thing, now that I’m toting a toddler around, the last place I want to bring him is the Taste. I can look past the fact that it’s often really hot and sticky and is a magnet for panhandlers. I can get over the gross bathrooms and the overpriced tickets and the lines and the random E. coli outbreaks and the whole standing while eating stuff. I can even get over the crowds. But, I can’t get over the violence. I just can’t.

When I read the story of a family getting jumped this year at The Taste, I was disgusted, but overall I wasn’t surprised. These are the stories we hear every year after the Taste. Someone gets stabbed or shot or a fight between two gangs breaks out. The cops find a group of people with guns stuffed in their pants. And, I’m done with it. So, in my own little way, I’m boycotting. I’m apparently not the only one.

I don’t expect the city to be able to clean it up. Crime is a reality in Chicago. And it always will be. I’m not looking for a city without crime, with flowers and rainbows everywhere you look, but I am looking for a way I can spend a day with my son without worrying that I might be in the wrong place at the very second something goes really wrong. I know, I know it could happen anywhere. And, trust me, I’m usually one of those who subscribes to the “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow” school of thought, but not when it comes to bringing my kind into a breeding ground for violence. No thanks, Chicago. I’d rather taste you in a more controlled environment.

Photo taken at the Taste in child-free days with friends: Lisa (left), Justin (center), and Emma (right).


I'm back from my quick, action-packed trip to California to attend the Yahoo! Summit. I'll put together a highlight post this week, but for now wanted to reflect on the many, many things that made it so wonderful: Like Yahoo!'s effortless attention to detail and appreciation for the time we all took away from our families and the many fantastic other bloggers that I can't wait to get to know better and the inspiration I drew from sharing time with so many established bloggers and writers and the gorgeous town of Palo Alto and its restaurants and lovely Farmer's Market and - most of all - a terrific husband who never thought twice about holding down the fort on his own. Oh yeah, and I learned a lot from the cool people at Yahoo! (seriously, you have to be really cool to get a job there) and my fellow bloggers. Being a small potato (as I was) meant I was just there to learn.

I have a lot of work to do in many ways, personally and bloggally, but right now I have to focus on some rest and getting better. After telling shingles to f*off, they bit back and I'm now seriously paying for it.


Yahoo! and Shingles

This morning I woke out of a restful sleep to the sound of "Oh (insert curse word of choice), it's 5:15. Your cab is here!" Sure was. The cab waiting to pick me up and then fellow blogger Kim and then take us to O'Hare for our 7:10 flight. (This is am, people, let's keep that in mind.) In record speed I ran around the house to pull everything together. For once in my life I had packed the night before and laid everything else out on the kitchen table. Thankfully.

So, why did I catch a flight this morning? Well, here I am now laying on a most comfortable bed at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto, California where I'm attending the Yahoo! Motherboard Summit. Aren't they nice?

This is the first day in about two months that I haven't had a schedule and multiple places to be. I never thought it was possible. And I need this. I really do. 'Cuz, I have shingles. (I'm not contagious, I cleared travel with the doctor, so save the lectures.)

As I previously thought, shingles are not an "old person" thing. So, while this might be a little T.M.I. for some people, I feel like I'm doing you all a favor in case you start to get these symptoms. It took a second opinion to get mine diagnosed. The first doctor told me I had a skin irritation. (I imagine my insurance company should get their money back and I'd like my $20 co-pay back, please.)

Anyway, remember that wee little problem I have with stretching myself a little bit too thin and overbooking any calendar I can get my hands on? Yeah, well, it came back to bite me hard in the hip (the location of my shingles outbreak). Friends and husband alike have told me it's a wake up call. Hopefully it's not as abrupt as this morning's...

But, seriously, I'm listening. I have a couple of hours before the cocktail reception and instead of heading to the bar, which would be my normal next step, I'm closing the shades and my eyes. The doctor prescribed rest, so I might as well listen. For once.... Especially considering I got the diagnosis last night on my way to Ravinia to see Swell Season and celebrate the upcoming wedding of my two most favorite sailors! Totally worth dismissing his advice on that one, though. I stand by that choice.


Congrats, Tristina!

My sister, Christina, got hitched last weekend. And, lucky for us, she married Tristan. (Get it? Christina + Tristan = Tristina.) Tristan is like a brother and friend and role model for our little guy who adores him. It was a fabulous wedding. I'm too tired to go into the details right now. Man, being a matron of honor really takes it out of you (does this explain the lack of posts as of late?).

So, for now, I'm thrilled to share a little video put together by Ben Mahoney Productions, who is a good friend of our family and happens to be the most talented wedding videographer you'll ever meet.

Watch this. You'll love it. I promise. And you'll get to see my beautiful sister and a little ringbearer who thought it was one big party for him. More to come... Just give me time to rest my feet.

Your Just To Good To Be True. Video By BMP. from Video that rocks. The Weddings. on Vimeo.


Will He Know Lisa?

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read If You Knew Suzy by Katherine Rosman, a book examining the relationship between a mother and daughters framed around a mother's early death.

There is a relationship between mothers of all daughters that is hard to explain. I speak firsthand about this world.... I have two sisters and we're all incredibly close to our mom and each other. My mom is a central part of my life, a luxury that I believe is gained from an (almost) all female household. However, I'm married to a man who is one of four boys, which makes an "all daughters" relationship very hard to understand. The differences between our families makes for some interesting perceptions.

I'm not sure how to describe it, but the mothers of all daughters don't have the same boundaries as mothers with boys. They've literally spent years walking into the bathroom, bedroom, fitting room, or locker room with their half clothed or naked daughters. There is an ease with an all girls family when it comes to nudity and clothes. You swap everything, share bathrooms and bedrooms, and go shopping on a regular basis when you're a family of all girls. Mom just becomes a part of that.

Moms of all girls are allowed to be more openly loving and affectionate. I'm not a "huggy" girl myself and sometimes physical affection makes me uncomfortable. But, that being said, even I can say that there is an affection that remains between moms and girls.

A mom of all girls watches her girls go through life with the bonus of her own experiences to draw from. (It's hard for a mom to truly anticipate what a teenage boy feels like.) Moms never stop mothering their girls, because they always have more to teach, always have an opinion to share, or a hug that will be needed. I don't think that relationship is the same between boys and their mothers.

It's a tricky equation... My mom's greatest accomplishment in life has been her children. She is a mother in every ounce of her body and soul and I don't know who she would be without us. She's remained active in our daily lives in a way that some might consider overwhelming. It can be. But, I've always known we're not alone. In reading this book I saw a relationship between a mother and two daughters that mirrored ours. For better or worse, there are other sisters and mothers out there who live in the same wonderful and crazy world of all girls.

I made the mistake of reading some of this book on the train during the busy commute times, which seems to be my only opportunity to get a good stretch of reading done. (I don't like to get emotional in general, I especially don't like to get emotional while on the train with strangers.) There were moments when Katherine's healthy, vibrant mother's death was too real and in my mind, I visually replaced Suzy with Anna (my mom). In those moments I had to close the book and play around on twitter. The thought alone was too much.

I don't know the book that I would write about my mom. I know some of the best memories I have of her, like the drawings of Care Bears and princesses I found on the napkins tucked into my lunch box, the unabashed tears she shed my entire senior year of high school as she prepared for my departure for college, her ability to create delicious sandwiches, yet her knack for shrinking every piece of clothing and giving whites a pinkish hue. I'll remember the pride she always took in our differences, her ability to bake and use a hot glue gun, my ability to speak in front of an audience and swim against the tide. I'll think of the way she always puts on a proper front when in social situations, while I tend to live by the "what you see is what you get" school of thought. I know all these things about her. I know them deeply. Yet, they don't even scratch the surface of who my mom is.

It makes me wonder if my son will ever really know me. If mothers and daughters naturally remain closer, what can a son say about his mother? Will he just call me a "good mom?" Will he remember the songs that I made up for everything he does or his belly laugh that only I can get with a good round of tickling? If something were to happen to me today or tomorrow, would he identify with all the ways I strive to let him know how deeply he is loved? Will he see me as a whole person, not just a mom? Would he know that a reputation doesn't necessarily define a person, that I was often a contradiction of myself?

I want him to see that he had a mother who loved him, but was more than just his mom. I want him to recognize that I'm a human with tons of flaws and an overwhelming ability to love, that I lived a whole life before I had him and there was a world outside of my role as mom. I think it's only in those ways that he'd really understand who his mom is... And I feel like I could learn so much more about my mom if I started to see her as Anna, not just mom.

This post was inspired by If You Knew Suzy by Katherine Rosman, which I received complimentary as a part of From Left to Write Book Club. See how other moms were inspired by this book here.


Playing Catch Up and Sharing an Article You'll See My Name In...

OK, let's just admit it, this has been a crazy summer for us and I haven't been as "on top of things" as I would like to be. But, my to-do list is double-sided at this point and I'm diligently crossing stuff off as the days continue to fly by. So, bear with me, please.

In my never-ending quest to cross off more stuff, I'd like to share something that has been on my to-do list for a couple months now.... A fun article about kid birthday parties that was featured in Chicago Parent and written by Caitlin Murray Giles. It's good reading and you'll find rather quickly that someone you may know was interviewed for said article.

Check it out here. It may just bring back memories of a certain toddler's first birthday extravaganza, which we will not be repeating in quite the same (large) fashion in two months. (And, YES! The little monster man turns TWO in TWO months. I'm freaked. Are you?)