Mia

Mia has gone through some serious downfalls as of late. Things really, really aren’t going her way.

Her mother has breast cancer. That’s an ongoing, serious problem she’s coping with as best she can. Problem is, her mom can’t seem to beat it. It just keeps coming back. And that gets her down.

On September 1st, her apartment burned down and she lost everything including her two kitties (shown below) who she loved like children. She doesn’t care that she lost all her clothing, her baking supplies, her fire engine red KitchenAid (the irony is not lost on her), everything she’s ever owned. All those items she collected from boys over the years, all the postcards from friends, life’s mementos, they are all gone. She only cared about the cats. She made that very, very clear.

Then she went through a break up. That happened the day after the fire.

Yesterday her Saint Tropez road bike was stolen.

OK, so let me make this about me for a minute.

Em broke his arm on Friday afternoon. He was pushed from the monkey bars by another child, a child known for aggression. I don’t want to slam this child, however. He did NOT plan on causing this much damage. But it did suck. None of this would have happened had this kid not pushed him.

Anyway, it was a level 4 break. I didn’t know what that meant up until Saturday, but now I do. He had surgery. He has pins and wires holding his arm together. The whole ordeal was pretty rough. We were in the hospital from Friday afternoon all the way up until Sunday night. At times I became very angry toward the other child.

Then something happened on Sunday afternoon that stomped my anger out completely. I am not at liberty to write about it. I promised this person I wouldn’t as they didn’t want it to be about them. They didn’t want to turn it into a publicity stunt. You’ll just have to take my word on the fact that it’s a pretty remarkable story. What began as a terrible weekend, ended with one of the most cherished days of my life. And I genuinely mean that. It was a day that I will remember until the day I die. Think of the most selfless, awesome deed you can possibly think of, it was better than that. Really.

I am changed. This weekend changed my family and me forever. I think we came out the other side better than we were before. And we owe that to a community of people and this thing someone did for my son (and me) that I promised not to write about.

Em is on the mend. He has even forgiven the kid who pushed him as have I. He’s getting stronger by the day.

This weekend taught me that I need to tell the people in my life, as well as complete strangers, that I love them, that I need them around. I also need to reach out and do more for the people living around me. I have to pay it forward. Because we were given a most precious gift this weekend even though it was born out of tragedy.

So, anyway. Mia. I love Mia. I met her at culinary school. I immediately liked her. She is delicate, gracious, kind, funny and just beautiful. And I want to make this a little bit easier on her. She makes very little living here and is even considering moving away having lost it all. So I’d like to make this time a little easier. The best way I can think of to do that, besides offering her up my cats for snuggles, is to give her some money and hopefully make everyday life a little bit easier. And maybe, just maybe, she can buy a new bike.

So, I’m going to put it out there for you guys too. Do you have a few extra bucks for Mia? She doesn’t need much. And she will likely kick my ass for doing this. Even a hand-me-down bike might do the trick as it was her main means of transportation. If you feel like donating her some money, you can do so by PayPal. My account is: mihow @ mihow.com.

I promise EVERY last penny will go to Mia.

Also: please makes sure to make it a gift or donation so you can write it off or whatever.

Lastly: hug a stranger someday soon. It actually feels pretty good.

Mamapundit, Mindy Bizzell and Practicing Grace.

I have been online for a long time. I am 38. I was a designer for over a decade. I spent years in front of a computer. I spent many late nights tooling around IRC, commenting on message boards. I had a blog in the mid-90s. I started this one in 2001. I have experienced my fair share of online relationships. (I met Toby because of a message board called Dreamless.)

This is not some type of BEEN THERE! DONE THAT! rant. Not at all. I am writing this brief history to explain why I currently avoid most Internet drama. I have learned that nothing really good comes from it. Really. Nothing. I would say 99% of the time, Internet discussions and faceless, online interactions leave a person feeling agitated, upset, misunderstood, and obsessive. Someone is always going to be wrong on the Internet.

But it took a lot of wasted, agitated minutes to learn that it’s best to avoid Internet drama altogether.

Today, I’m not going to do that. Because I just can’t let this one go for some reason. And just when I thought the Internet was no longer capable of surprising me, the Internet went ahead and did just that.

A little backstory…

A woman named Katie Granju runs a site called Mamapundit. Let me begin by saying that I do not read Katie Granju. I do not follow her blog. But I do know that she lost a teenage son named Henry a few years ago in a most devastating manner. I am not sure how I know this, but I remember reading about it at my mom’s house at some point. I remember where I read it because I remember crying on my mom’s couch while trying to hide as much because I didn’t want to explain why I was crying. I was also knocked up and emotional.

I will say this much: it’s a horribly sad story. NO PARENT should lose a child.

So, a few days ago, a friend of mine sent me a link to a post on Ms. Granju’s Facebook page. Basically, someone sent in a postcard to Postsecret.

For those who don’t want to click the above link, the shot is of the name “Henry” written in the sand. Written on top of the image is the following:

“I took two Percaset today a gift to myself on my birthday. They do not make me miss you less, my sweet baby boy. Love Mama.”

Heartbreaking.

Anyway, Ms. Granju took to Facebook, twitter AND her personal Web site and began accusing the person of being “cruel and disturbed“.

Believing that this person was out to get her, she accused the person of being dumb for misspelling the word Percocet.

There were other hateful things as well. It got really ugly, really fast.

Some people suggested it was a coincidence, that another grieving mother lost a child named Henry. But Ms. Granju’s paranoia fueled her. She started to come up with conspiracies, suggesting that it had to be a hoax because her son is named Henry. She called him her “sweet baby boy” and it was her birthday as well. Henry also referred to her as “mama”.

Ok, so, let me interject. I’ve been there before. I mean, not right where she is; I have not lost a child. The mere thought makes me want to die. What I mean is, I’ve been to the point where I think EVERYONE is out to get me. We women have a knack for this. It’s usually in my real life, however. Not online. But I have been there. I used to not have any control over it. But now that I’m older, and I’ve experienced it enough (usually happens during certain hormonal times of the month, for what it’s worth) I can stop my brain from going to that dark, terribly selfish place. Not everything (in fact very little) is about me.

I do not fault her for feeling this way. But I do fault her for taking it to the Internet. I do fault her—a woman with many, many followers, some of whom are willing to attack ANYONE on her behalf—for taking her paranoia to Twitter, Facebook and her own site. This should have stayed with her, among her friends and family.

Well, as it turns out, the original sender of the postcard was indeed another grieving mother who lost a baby named Henry. And her name is Mindy Bizzell. She was forced to own up to her secret after so many of Ms. Granju’s followers questioned its originality. Everything Ms. Granju wrote about her, as well as all of the responses, got back to Mindy. She read that she was dumb and evil and cruel.

Can you imagine?

Even if the hateful comments didn’t have Mindy “the person” in mind, as the people leaving them felt they had a cruel liar in their midst, it still must hurt to read these things. It must hurt to know that people assumed you were making it all up, that your grief isn’t as genuine and real as you experience it. It must suck to see so many people assume the absolute worst instead of giving another individual the benefit of the doubt.

Grace.

I left a comment on Ms. Granju’s facebook page the day it all happened. I used my real name, of course. I wrote that I was surprised she thought it was about her in the first place. But I was more surprised at how hateful people became without knowing even a morsel of the truth. I wrote some other stuff, stuff I would write again. Many people suggested that we shouldn’t assume the absolute worst, that it’s not always about us, that sometimes it’s just what it is.

I felt, given how ugly things started out, that they were moving in the right direction. We had an example of something go from ugly to positive, especially given Mindy Bizzell chimed in about pain, loss and forgiving people. It was really remarkable. And it’s too bad you can’t read it now because Ms. Granju erased everything.

We all make mistakes, some worse than others. We can learn from them, however. Other people can learn from our own, if we allow them to. Sadly, there is no record of any of this anymore. Ms. Granju even rewrote her blog post, or so I am told.

I keep asking myself, Why can’t you let this go? I still don’t have an answer. Perhaps I’m entering one of those hormonally imbalanced phases, who knows. But this irrationally upset me. I hate that everything was erased, swiftly. I wrote as much on Ms. Granju’s page once more, (Update: Page has been deleted by Ms. Granju.) saying that I felt she was irresponsible for doing that, trying to erase history when so many people are involved. But I’m also upset that so many people blindly backed her up when she originally posted her feelings about the postcard. Are we THAT cynical? Are we that willing to throw away common decency to blindly follow another person? So much so, we write hateful things about another without having ANY of the facts?

I guess that we are.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I tend to have a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to blogging popularity contests, cliques and the like. And what I watched unfold this week between Ms. Granju, her readers and Mindy Bizzell, well, it just added to my distaste. But I so want things to be better somehow. I want to be a better person as well, less cynical about it. I want people to step up and apologize for the RIGHT reasons. I want people to admit wrongness (which Katie finally did, a step in the right direction). I want readers to hold bloggers accountable for their actions.

I think it’s time to call others out when they abuse their popularity even if it makes you less popular, even if you lose followers. Because I bet you’ll gain a few as well.

But mainly I just want people to be nicer.

I am by no means better than the next guy. I have my FAIR share of issues and problems, insecurities and ugly traits. We all do. But please don’t let these issues cloud your judgement. Err on the side of grace. Give people around you the benefit of the doubt. The truth is always a lot simpler than what our brains lead us to believe.

I have had the pleasure of talking with Mindy since this all unfolded. She is a truly wonderful, strong, gracious woman. I wish her the very best. Mindy Bizzell suffered a tremendous loss and somehow, in spite of all that, has an insurmountable amount of grace.

Lastly (and unrelated simply because I watched this Mountain Goats video and I’m feeling a touch emotional): give someone a hug today, someone you haven’t hugged before. I bet they need it.

And the winners are…

Hey guys! As promised, here are the winners for last week’s lollipop giveaway. I had Toby Joe run a script to randomly pull three names from the comments section. So, without further ado, the winners are….

  • Amber H
  • anca
  • Milissa

Thank you again, all of you, for helping me. I am so grateful. I’ve been having a rough time lately (there’s a post in the making about that) and having so many of you come forward to help really lifted my spirits. I needed that. It’s selfish, I know. But I needed that. So thank you.

I wish I could everyone a free batch of lollipop, and I might just do that if I didn’t have to pay 5 plus bucks for shipping. And then Toby Joe might divorce me for bankrupting the family because the USPS is not cheap.

Anyway, thank you. Much love to you all.

Murray and I Thank You!

I would like to thank you for rallying together on here, Facebook and on Twitter in order to help me get 250 votes for Mission Small Business. I surpassed that amount earlier this morning. I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am. If it weren’t for you guys, I never would have had a chance.

Murray thanks you too.

My lollipop giveaway is still going on and will be open until midnight tonight. At that point, Toby is going to run a script that will pull out all of my comments, remove any duplicates, and then randomly choose THREE winners. (I upped it to three because I was feeling groovy.) I will announce the winners tomorrow. I’ll also be contacting each winner via email to get your address.

Who knows, maybe you’ll get REALLY lucky!

Anyway, I’m throwing some pictures and videos your way as a small token of my gratitude.

Many of you who helped me out are crazy cat people like myself. (Thanks, Lisa! For one!) So, here’s a short video of Elliot and Murray. These two get on very well.

RANT!

You know, it pains me that people give up their animals (particularly cats) when they have a baby. I know it’s difficult at first, but things fall into place. Trust me, it’s MUCH harder on your pet dropping it off at a shelter than it is if you just have to ignore him or her for a while as you adjust to parenthood. Your pet will forgive you. I swear. If you do hang in there, you will see amazing things start happen between your kids and your pets. Things like this happen. Or this. And my personal favorite, this.

Keep your pets, people! They are awesome companions for kids. We’ve gotten so much joy from them.

END RANT!

Here’s a video of Elliot dancing! Kid digs reggae apparently. (He dances constantly.)

Here’s another short video of Em and Elliot on the playground playing in the water. Elliot wasn’t too keen on the water. He’s polar opposite of Emory, who used to let it smash him in the face. Elliot also doesn’t like the feel of grass or sand. I have another video of him screaming for a minute and a half in the sand at the beach.

Emory has been building forts lately. He built one on our couch and then we went for a walk. When we got back, this was happening. (Inside view, outside view.) What a freak.

Thanks again for all your help! The grants will be announced on September 15th. Crossing every finger and toe I’ve got.

Elliot: Lucky 13. And Rescue Ink.

Elliot is 13 months old today. These shots were taken outside of a Cracker Barrel while we were driving to DC.

The tear is all drama. He’s doing his best Johnny Depp impression.

An aside: while at the Cracker Barrel I ran into Des “The Cat Man” of Rescue Ink. I didn’t recognize him, but he and the guy he was with were both wearing Rescue Ink t-shirts. Naturally, I had to bug them, express my gratitude for their work.

Best Of 2011: A Random List

I don’t think I’ve ever done this before!

Favorite Moment In Time

I taped it. Only I didn’t know it would become a favorite moment. It was taken at 5 AM on February 21st, 2011. Toby and I were waiting for a car service that would take us to the hospital in order to welcome Elliot into the world. He was already two weeks late. I’d been having contractions all night long. We were about to meet our second son! Everything was perfectly still and eerily quiet. I felt at peace. So I shot a few seconds of what that morning looked like.

I could have stood in that moment for a while.

Anyway, here’s that video:

Favorite Recipe

Galette dough. I chose this because of how versatile it is and how often we use it at our house. It works with both sweet and savory. We’ve filled it with apples, pears, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, sweet cheese (like a danish), ricotta and broccoli, veggie meat with onions—just to name a few. It’s amazing. And it lasts for two days in the fridge. The recipe listed below makes five, decent-sized galettes, so feed your family or yourself for days.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 10.5 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/5 ounce of sugar
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ounce water

Prepare using flaky dough mixing method.

What does that mean? Well, sift all your dry ingredients together. Cut cold butter into small cubes. Rub the butter into your dry ingredients. Keep it visible! You want to see chunks of butter. That’s what makes it so damn flakey. Add eggs and water, mix it up. The dough should look messy. Form it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

When ready, cut up into 4 ounce pieces. Roll each one out. It can and should look rustic, so don’t bother forming a perfect circle. Add your filling, fold the sides up over the filling leaving an opening. Coat the top with a layer of milk. I use a pastry brush, but you can use whatever you want, even your fingers. Finished piece will look something like this:

Favorite Post:

Probably this one. I had been writing that in my head for months. And I was quite pleased with myself for actually taking “pen” to “paper” finally. :]

A Few Of My Favorite Tweets (in random order):

Favorite Tweeter:

Discount Dracula. She makes me laugh almost daily.

Most Played Band:

Okkervil River. I have worn this band out. They are often my running partner. (Along with Marc Maron and his WTFPod.)

Favorite Movie

I don’t get to see many movies anymore, and this year was no different since we had a newborn around. But I did see a few! My favorite was probably Melancholia. I don’t know. It was just so damn haunting! Not a film I’ll shake anytime soon.

Favorite Photo:

Favorite Accomplishment:

Dudes, I had a baby AND I graduated from pastry school. And if you missed my final cake, come check it out. I was pretty proud of that, too.

2011 has been a pretty kick ass year. If 2012 is even half as awesome, I’ll be happy.

Much love to you all! Happy New Year!

Babble’s Top 100 Mom Blogs

Babble apparently reached the end of the Internet. After 11 years of writing, I’ve been named to Babble’s Top 100 Mom Blogs of 2011. I’m ranked 92. That means there are only 91 moms better than me on the entire Internet.

OK. So, there are a few things that are kind of funny about this. I will start by saying, I’m grateful. Of course I’m grateful. Who wouldn’t be grateful for any sort of recognition, big or small? But! (And, yes, there is a but!) I barely wrote this year.

I have been blogging for 11 years. Eleven. That’s a long, long time. And I’ll be super honest with you, there were times over those 11 years where I became disgruntled about the whole blog ranking, award thing. To be frank: I worked my ass off on this blog in the past. I typed and typed and typed. To quote one of my favorite emo bands: “I typed for miles”. I put my heart into every post during some of those years. I wrote almost every day. I spilled my guts out about postpartum depression, Emory’s birth (which didn’t go too well!) and my miscarriage. Many suggest that if you write decent content, you’ll get noticed. I decided I must not be writing decent content. And then something kind of broke inside of me, unrelated to blogging entirely. I became sort of withdrawn online. (Hello, infertility!)

Now here is where I’m going to sound like an arrogant asshole AND an ungrateful bitch. Year after year I worked my ass off blogging and then some blogger award list would come out and no one ever paid me any mind. Not even a “Yeah! We see you, but no thanks. Others are better.” And I’d ask Toby, “Why doesn’t anyone notice at all?” And usually he’d reply with something about “playing the game”, which is how this post was born. And then I’d get really mad at myself for caring even slightly, because I’d like to think I’m above all that (even when I’m not).

Listen, I am seriously grateful. And it has me feeling a little rejuvenated to write. But, dude.

Why now? Why this year, a year I barely wrote at all? A year I have told Toby, on several occasions, pretty much every time we get a receipt from our hosting company, “Let’s pull this car over once and for all and get out.” Two things stop me every time: the archives that I never, ever want to lose. Backing everything up takes time. And we don’t have much in the way of time these days. The second thing (and the most important) are you people, the regulars who continue to visit, comment and email me.

SO! Thank you, Babble, for noticing me. There are probably other mom bloggers out there who worked much, much harder this year than I have, and I’d like to give those moms a nod and a noogie. And if you’re one of those people and you’re reading this now, send me a link to your site, because I want to read what you have to say. Lastly, as a blogger (hell, as a human being) I know how it feels when these type of lists come out. Believe me! I know. But keep writing, people. Don’t give up. Because who knows, after 11 (or never) years, someone may finally throw you a bone. And if they don’t? You’re still a bad ass motherf*cker.

My Externship At Mast Brothers

I’m not sure I mentioned this before, but I’ve been working at Mast Brothers for several months fulfilling the necessary 210 externship hours to finalize my pastry degree. It’s been a crazy awesome couple of months too. I’ve learned a great deal and met some fascinating, talented and hilarious people.

But it’s also been a buttload of work! I work every weekend all day long. (Thanks to Toby Joe for being full-time dad.) I’ve also been working every Tuesday. My mother drives up from South Jersey every Monday, spends the night surrounded by stuffed animals, Thomas trains and found objects, watches the kids all day Tuesday and then drives back home that night. Yes, this is insane. And I can’t thank her enough. I couldn’t have done it without Toby and my mom.

Anyway, this is my last week at Mast Brothers. I’m done next Tuesday. And I’m going to miss these guys. They’ve made me cry several times from laughing so hard. And the weekend crew tells the most insane stories. I guess you could say I live vicariously through them. And I tell them that. Every Saturday and Sunday morning I get the lowdown on what took place the night before. Sometimes they come in hungover, sometimes still a little drunk. They remind me of 26-year-old me who had just moved to New York and had the energy to do all of that and then some. Their stories have me reminiscing about my own life. And last week it occurred to me: I’m pretty happy at age 37. I want to hear all about their lives, even bake them hangover biscuits, but I don’t wish to return to those days. I’m pretty OK with being done with all that—laughing along or just listening.

Anyway, it’s a bittersweet farewell, you see, because I’m finally going to have my weekends back. I haven’t really had my weekends (this goes for Toby too) since starting pastry school back in July of 2010. I’m not sure what people do on the weekends anymore. Spend time with their family? Go shopping? Sit around in their Saturday pants? Watch football? Blog?

YES! I will blog more. And make lollipops. And I will try and figure out what I’m going to do with my culinary degree.

P.S. I guess it’s a good thing I have a new alma mater since Penn State is going down the shitter. :[

That F*cking Weird Kid

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Emory started school last week and there’s been some adjusting on my part to the new routine. He’s going to the same school, but it’s at another location. And that location is a wee bit further away. So, it’s been a bit of a change. Plus, my big boy is away every single day! This is a first for me. He’s gone to school before, but only for a few days each week. Now, it’s every day and I miss him. I really miss him.

The lollipop business is still going strong. A year ago today, I had about five sales. At the time of writing this, I have 932 transactions. Many of those included more than one sale. I owe every last bit of that success to Etsy who featured me last October. Things have been going strong ever since. I am so grateful for their help and everyone who has supported me since then. Thank you!

Speaking of lollipops! I just rolled out my first Halloween lollipop. It’s called Trick Or Treat. It’s apple on the outside (just a hint!) and a candy corn on the inside. It’s quite good! I test everything I make before selling it. I usually make small individual candies first. I often end up with a stash. This stash is already depleted. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it is. So, if you’re a fan of candy corn, this one’s for you!

What else? I graduate this weekend! I can’t believe I’m finally done with pastry school. I started in July of 2010. I have given birth since then, which seems crazy to me. I was adopted by an entirely new class since then, too. It’s been a long time. Anyway, we’ve been working on our final cakes for the past several classes. Think of a wedding cake, but it doesn’t have to be for an actual wedding, if that makes any sense. Basically, we can do whatever we want within the timeframe we’re given. We do need a certain number of gum paste flowers for chef to grade, but they don’t have to be on our actual cake. We have to include some piping, as well as rolled out fondant. Other than that—color, style, concept—it’s up to us. Oh, and we can’t really do anything on our own. It has to be completed during class hours.

Anyway, I’ll have a picture of my cake next week. I will say this much: no one is likely to ever, EVER hire me to make their wedding cake. Also: I might end up friendless. At least that’s what I’m starting to think based on the response I received from my classmates. My “concept” didn’t go over too well with them. They looked at me with disgust in some cases. I got a snarl from one gal. And another said, “You’re not really doing that, are you? Because that’s really gross.”

Here I thought it was a little funny and not all that weird.

Something occurred to me on Sunday night while having dinner with Toby Joe. I’m 37-years-old and and I’m still very much considered “that fucking weird kid”.

“When will that finally change?” I asked him seriously.

“Never, Michele. You’ll die that way.”

“But I don’t, and never have, felt all that weird. I feel I’m very normal, even boringly so.”

“Well, that just means you’re really fucked up.”

So, yeah. My cake might be considered strange to some, which could be interesting since we’re “showing them off” on Sunday night during our graduation party. But I’m doing it anyway. It’s no stranger than fondant, y’all. And besides, I’m used to social anxiety and awkwardness.

Boga Babe

One of my favorite people in the whole world has an amazing shop on Etsy. And I want to share it with as many people as possible. Her name is Dianne and she and I have yet to meet. Yet I feel like I’ve known her forever. I can’t explain it. I won’t try to. I’ll just say that she’s just the bees knees and I wish she lived closer. As it is, we have a relationship via text messaging, email and Twitter.

Anyway, enough about how much I love her, her shop!

She makes amazing baby mats. They’re super well-made. They’re stylish beyond words. They’re original. They’re machine washable. I know this because we give Elliot naked time on our mat and Elliot always manages to poop or pee on it at that time. We use it for other things too. I use it at the park, the playground. I use it at the indoor playroom Emory goes to.

So! Do you know anyone who’s knocked up? These make excellent and original gifts and you’re supporting a kick ass woman. She’s seriously one of the best people I have yet to meet. Also: TURTLES! Cutest damn thing ever.

She does custom orders, too. So if you have an idea in mind, maybe your kid loves Yo Gabba Gabba or Goofy? She’ll hook you up.

Go on! Check it out.