Dear First Lady Michelle Obama

Just before Christmas in December 2006, I reached out to you, hoping you would weigh one more thing as you and your husband decided whether or not he should run for President, and I made you a promise.

I was sympathetic to your history changing decision and excited for 8 years of an Obama White house. And I promised you no matter what happened, we Moms would have your back.

So much has happened since I wrote those words that graced my own blog, the Huffington Post, and the Chicago Sun-Times. First and foremost let me say how incredibly proud I am of this administration and of you, the most amazing and flawless First Lady our country has ever seen. It may not have been your favorite role, but damn if you didn’t nail it.

You launched programs that changed lives. From eating right and exercising to making sure military families had a helping hand, your legacy will live on well after you and the family have moved out of that big house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

I know things haven’t been easy, and that you have dealt with more…what’s the right word here…bullshit than any other First Family. You just weren’t under the microscope of the public eye, you were under the microscope of being the first in American history and that history weighed on everyone in the West and East Wings.

You raised two daughters who, by all means, seem to be strong, proud, intelligent young women who will no doubt follow in their parents’ foot steps. I watched as my children grew with yours, passed mile stones and sprouted their wings. Just that accomplishment alone would be enough for praise in this day and age, but you managed to do more, be more, and give more.

You opened the White House to so many families, of all colors and religions and sexual orientations like no First Family has ever done before. Some of my favorite moments of this Presidency are of you and your husband welcoming so many regular citizens into the house of the people and simply chatting.

I hope we Moms have been a source of strength for you. Today, as you embark on the inaugural Women’s Summit at the White House I truly hope my words from 2006 pledging us Moms would have your back has been a tiny source of strength. We’ve been beating back the haters online and off, vigilantly defending the good you do and the good you are.

I want to thank you for making that tough decision way back when, and deciding to take the road to the White House. As a nation we are much better to have had you, and as a mother you have given the rest of us a shining example of what can be if we’re willing to take risks.

Congratulations on two successful and inspiring terms and I hope you find solace and peace in your life after the White House…we Moms will always be here when you need us.



Erin Kotecki Vest


I feel the need to do this. So just let me.

I’m on day 7 in the hospital. This time I have CDiff, fluid in both lungs, an infection of the blood, and paralyzing gastroparesis making eating impossible.

Eating has actually been impossible for several months now. Getting worse and worse as time went on. The doctor had a nurse coming over to give me hydration via my port. Which turned into months of me not eating and only living off the IV in my living room. I’d sleep a lot. I’d pick up the kids, take them where they needed to go. Get some sort of dinner on the table. And fall back on the couch exhausted. When you don’t eat it takes everything in you to just shower.

For some of this time I was on steroids. For the second half of the IV, couch, IV, couch life I was finally weened off the steroids and the weight has begun to drop off. All those years of steroids coming off in a few weeks’ time. I’m down to almost a normal weight for me. A heavy normal, for sure. But it’s still falling off and I can’t imagine it will be long before I’m looking like myself again.

That is if I get much further.

There has been an ominous feeling about this illness and this bout, in particular, looming. I came to the hospital knowing my stomach was bad and the CDiff was probably causing it and finding out my lungs are bad and my blood is sick. Nothing about this stay feels hopeful.

Even the procedure I will have in the morning isn’t hopeful. It’s a stop gap to get some nutrition in my body. I’ll be getting a tube in my stomach so I can be fed like an invalid. My stomach isn’t working and we don’t expect it to work anytime soon. So this is the next step in keeping my organs going.

I’m not feeling good about going under in the morning. And for all of these reasons and more I want you all to know I love you. Yup, even you, reading this because you heard something happened and you wanted to see what I had to say.

Take care of my babies. Take care of my husband. They will need it. Keep my family in your thoughts but more important make sure they are all doing what they should be doing. Aaron needs to be rocking out and making the pretty pictures on the big screen. Jack needs to be inventing and finding himself during this confusing time. He’s a mamma’s boy. Remind him to dream big and flamboyantly. To his embarrassment. Because it’s what I would do. Make sure Hala keeps her strength but allows herself to break down. She doesn’t have to be so strong. She knows who she is, like I did at that age, and she’s sure of herself. Remind her. They are the loves of my life and I will haunt them forever to be there. I refuse to miss a thing.

Make my Mom travel and my Dad be the Gramps he needs to be. Make Ronnie change diapers and not wiggle out of it. And when he gets to that Dad point scratching his head, tell him I told him so.

Wrap my friends in words. The ones I was close to. The ones I wanted to be close to. The ones I spent more time with in digital form. The old friends I still think about and love and the new friends I’ve welcomed into the fold. Be bold in your words and in your life. Don’t be afraid to debate that Republican and stand up for those who need it more than you.

To those I pissed off with my words I don’t take a single one back, and you love me for it. To those I inspired with my words know that was an accident but I’ll take it.

I’m so tired of being sick. I’m so tired of living this half life where people take care of me and I try and fail to take care of a household. I hope what is there is memories of love and snuggles and fierce independence.

I’m sure this will pass and I’ll float on to the next half life in this illness. Fighting. God, I’m always fighting. I’m so tired.

Fight for me and mine now. Get Erin angry and move a mountain. I’ve moved plenty. Now it’s your turn.


Assignment #3: Chipotle Social

Look anywhere today and you can’t shake a stick without hitting a company on social media. It has become part of the corporate normal if you want to do business in today’s day and age.

One of the most revered brands “doing” social is Chipotle Mexican Grill who tells me via Twitter they’ve been on the ‘big’ platforms since 2009:

Just before chatting with me the Chipotle account was using the platform, where they have 760,0000 followers, to spread their humor and engage with customers:

Chipotle can also, as they told us via twitter, be found on Facebook and various other platforms. If you take a look at their Facebook page you can see their many millions of ‘friends’ not to mention advertisement for their latest ‘bowls’ and engagement with fans.

Over on Instagram, Chipotle’s account has 312,000 followers and bright, bold photos of their food. The photos also have comments from customers and engagement with staff.

With over 37-thousand people subscribed to their youtube channel you can check out the latest in the Chipotle kitchen or simply watch the food be made.

If you’re looking for mentions of Chipotle, you can find them all over social media. Even the popular FailBlog has a tag dedicated to the chain.

You can also check out their corporate blog for the more official word. You can find food pairings and contests, among other things.

“Whether you want to sample some of the best craft brews in the city or treat your palate with top quality sustainable wines, we’ve got you covered.

Available only at our Minneapolis Cultivate Festival, be sure to try the Cultivate Farmhouse Ale by Surly Brewing.”

Chipotle has become well known for it’s social media presence and engagement, earning it a mention in Mashable for “Cultivating a Better World:”

“Specifically, Chipotle wants people to start considering where their food comes from. The company supports family farms over industrial farm factories and makes it a point to source ingredients from local farms that exhibit positive behaviors toward animals and the environment. From Facebook to Twitter to YouTube, Chipotle’s social media activity remains fiercely loyal to this ethos.”

However their social hasn’t been all roses and accolades. In March of 2016 the chain lost a suit in which they fired an employee for making a disparaging remark about the company. According to ABC News a judge stated that Chipotle’s social media policy violated labor laws and ordered the restaurant chain to post signs explaining that these policies, as well as some others, were illegal. Chipotle was also ordered to rehire the fired employee.

According to a 2011 Nation’s Restaurant News study, it was found that Chipotle responds to 83% of Facebook posts — more than any other quick-service restaurant. Almost 90% of the company’s activity on Twitter is responding to customers through @-mentions.

As reported in the Mashable article: Structurally, Chipotle employs a three-person social media team to staff its main platforms: Rusty Partch, Myra Ryder and (Joe) Stupp. On Twitter and Facebook, each team member signs his or her name at the end of a tweet/post, allowing community members to get to know the different voices on the team in a personal way. “It’s more interesting for us and for customers to get to know individuals,” says Stupp. “Rusty doesn’t have the same voice as me — and I don’t want him to.”

Blazing the way in brand to consumer social media engagement, Chipotle Mexican Grill is a great example of how some companies are leading the way in this brave, new, digital world.


Both of my babies were born in the Spring. Putting me on the same cycle as Mother Nature with all her renewal and birth and other hippie dippy prose.

The season always gives me hope, usually when I start anew in our garden and plant. It’s a physical activity, one I haven’t been able to do for too many years due to my illness.

That changed this year. With some help from my son, I planted this year’s garden nearly all on my own. Tearing out last year’s weeks, mixing new soil, sowing seeds. I did it. I. ME.

God I can’t even explain how good it felt.

Of course I then got sick and ended up seeing all my doctor’s. But it was so worth it. So very, very worth it.

My next project is my bedroom. Clothes in every size from 6 to 26 have piled up because I’ve refused to get rid of old clothing, swearing I’ll soon be ‘back to normal’ and in my old clothes. I have to face the reality those ‘old’ clothes are six years old. My illness going on year seven.

Seven years of pain.

Seven years of helplessness.

Seven years of guilt.

Seven years of healing.

Year one of hope in the Spring.

The Tale of the Mommyblogger Who Is No Longer a Mommy

I’ve started and stopped this post about a dozen times over the past 8 months. Not from writer’s block…no, that hasn’t been the issue. Not because of my health or needing time to really concentrate.

I’m a mommyblogger that is no longer a mommy. The kids, they call me Mom now. Usually with an eyeroll, a groan, or a shoulder shrug and sigh.

When they called me mommy I was enveloped by little arms and sticky hands for a hug that would last and last. They would last so long I carried them and rarely put them down.

I’m a mommyblogger who is no longer a mommy and it hurts.

Now when I write about the kids, I ask their permission first and they get final review with a clear cut ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when it comes to hitting the publish button. Having lived their entire lives in front of my audience, they remain used to me sharing so they rarely say no. But that doesn’t stop the guilt. If they do say yes I still pepper them with questions to make sure they are cool with what I’m posting. This is their life. They deserve a say. They deserve to have their voice be heard in my piece and they deserve total control over what I do or do not disclose to the public.

We’ve entered the next phase of Mommyblogging where our kids now have blogs or vlogs of their own. They have joined online communities in Minecraft and Roblox and Animal Jam. Some of their in world homes rival the castle I once inhabited in Second Life. We had fun in SL, throwing dance parties and changing our avatars’ skins and hair and clothing. So you can imagine how it feels to watch your daughter decorate her den in Animal Jam, change her avatar to a wolf and proceed to shop for new boots and sunglasses. She then invited her other Animal Jam buddies over for a dance party.

How quickly things change, yet oddly stay the same.

I’m trying to work out where I fit in the Mommyblogging 2.0 world. I left to tackle politics yet kept most of my writing parent centric. I got sick and blogged about my health. And somewhere between all of that my kids went from blog fodder to bloggers themselves.

I still want to write about life. Our family’s life. I’m picking topics and ditching topics because I wonder what my kids will think. What if I write something, feel I really need to publish, and they ask me not to?

I know I’m not alone. Many in my community of Mombloggers have changed their focus in the past few years. Some starting businesses that began on their blogs, others continuing their writing yet taking more review gigs for income.

Me? I just want to write. I want to write like I always have written. If my daughter is consuming my thoughts on any given day I want to type. If my son has me thinking well into the night I want to type.

When I first began blogging I didn’t have two people over my shoulder, I had two in my lap nursing and playing while I typed.

If I can’t be my authentic self to you, I can’t do this anymore. I believe I can still be that authentic blogger you once knew, but she’s finding her way back slowly. With some new rules. With some new boundaries.

Thanks for sticking around for so many years to hear about my life, my family, my passions.

I hope you will continue to come on over and read as I start this new journey. Maybe it is more like an old journey that’s story isn’t quite done yet.



Dear Senator Bernie Sanders, Please Step Down

Dear Senator Sanders,

Just after Super Tuesday in February of 2008 the writing was on the wall for Secretary Hillary Clinton. Despite a strong showing, it was obvious she wasn’t going to win enough delegates to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for President and I politely asked her to step aside.

Flash forward over seven years and here we are again. Democrats are arguing with Democrats. Blue voters getting testy against their own blue voters as you and Secretary Clinton battle it out. The party splitting, severing itself with many refusing to support the eventual nominee and nastiness all around.

You talk of revolution. You talk of changing the system. You talk a lot like someone wanting to shake up Washington despite you being part of the Washington machine nearly your entire career. Which is why I’m asking you to do something revolutionary. Giving you the opportunity to show the world just what a maverick you really are.

While this primary has been all well and good and you have my utmost respect for pushing progressive policy, our party is suffering and people are becoming more heated by the minute. For that reason, and many more, I ask you concede the nomination and allow the Democratic party to heal.

I know you have said you are sticking it out until the end. I know you said you are not going anywhere, but please understand your continued campaigning only serves to tear us further apart and to give further ammunition to the whack-a-doodle crop of Republicans looking to win the White House.

Statically speaking it’s all but over. You have pushed Secretary Clinton further to the Left, and for that I thank you. However every minute you stay on the trail is another minute I hear “if Bernie doesn’t win I’m writing him in,” all but assuring the very scary realization we could be looking at a President Trump or a President Cruz. This can not happen, and you need to make sure it doesn’t. Senator I need you to throw your support behind Secretary Clinton and tell your “Berners” to vote for her in November.

In fact, it’s not enough you simply ask your supporters to vote for her, you must make an impassioned plea they cast their ballot for the former Secretary of State, Senator, and First Lady. You and I both know she is more than qualified. You and I both know she will continue the great work done by President Obama.

Seven years ago I thought Secretary Clinton was too divisive for our country. Her name still seems to bring a gut reaction from voters. However after the last “revolution” of Hope and Change, we now need someone who plays hardball in DC. We need someone who has spent a lifetime taking these men down.

I don’t mean to imply you can not play hardball, but let’s face it…when it comes to the candidate that is tough as nails, handles the GOP fake scandals like a pro, kick’s ass and takes names Secretary Clinton comes to mind quickly, while you might be a forceful nudge.

Everyone seems to think you have zero intention of stepping down, regardless of the delegate math, because you have the money to back you until November. But I am asking you show your supporters you truly are a Democrat and do what is best for the party, nay the country, and step down while leaving the millions left for Democrats all over the nation to win back Congress and the White House.

I realize this is a shot in the dark. But I’m hoping you are that “non” politician you claim to be and you do the “non” politician thing. Step aside, endorse Secretary Clinton, and throw your weight behind every Democrat running. We need time to come back together before November and not only would you be a team player by stepping down, but you would also be the one who unites the party in one of the most critical elections of our time.


Erin Kotecki Vest
mother, activist, lifelong Democrat

The Most Magical Thing Happened to ME

It wasn’t a dream.

I woke up on Mother’s Day inside of this castle:


I am not kidding. Read the full story over at As Dreamers Do.



…in continuing my teary tributes, I must now brag about my daughter, the child who has had her own hashtag since I can remember…

#AllHailHala is no joke.

The hashtag may have started out that way, due to her demanding nature and poise that can be described as nothing short as that of a blue blood…but it and she have become so much more over this decade of her existence.

A decade. An entire decade of our ‘lil Princess Peanut Punk as…well…she knows the rest. And she has lived up to every inch of her name, with several surprises thrown in for good measure.

She would rather watch cat videos than princess videos. In fact, she has never been into that whole princess thing. Animals? Sure. Princesses? Not so much. Personally I think it has something to do with the fluffy dresses. Because I wanted nothing more than a daughter who would wear fluffy, too much tutu type dresses  so, sensing this, she’s in nothing but leggings and t-shirts day in and day out.


And nothing can ever, ever be pink. Well, that’s not exactly true. She’ll wear pink when matched with black. Throw in some skulls and you’ve got a true #AllHailHala outfit.

That’s the great thing about her…she is her own woman. She knows it would please me greatly to see her try out ballet (again) or ask to be Cinderella for Halloween, but she also knows I’m even more proud when she asks to dye her hair rainbow and when asked what she wants to wear to school in the morning waves her hand as if it’s quite possibly the stupidest question EVER asked and dismisses me with an ‘I don’t care…clothes…’

Peer pressure means nothing to her. School is for socializing with her friends but also for making sure she learns everything required of her so she can move on and see the world. Experience the world. Rule the world.

Sometimes I feel as if we’re all just standing in the way of her war path to greatness and if I would just step aside an inch she’d graduate six years early and immediately begin making a difference in any field she chooses.

Unlike her brother, who knows his specific passion in science, #AllHailHala deems the entire world worthy of her passion and she’ll conquer every business, subject, person, and animal world with strength and confidence.

Currently I am her only fear, and not in a discipline sort of way, but because we have plans and she worries about my health. Like her brother, her compassion and her heart run circles around the universe and I watch her wrestle with her bravery and her deep worry.

When she was just eight-years old she became mesmerized with Morocco at Disney’s EPCOT. She asked if we could visit the real Morocco someday. Of course I said yes. Somewhere between high school graduation and college we’d go- but she needed to learn of the culture. How women are treated. We discussed human rights.

That trip remains planned, but I’m fairly certain she will lead an army to free the oppressed while she shops for a beaded pair of slippers along the way. That’s just her. Fierce. Bold. Yet still glued to my side with snuggles and love after a hospital stay in which she cried on Skype for me to come home.

A decade of her on this earth and she has already committed herself to helping animals (she finds many people just plain stupid and not worth her time) and comforting her brother and any others who may need extra attention, regardless if she is the one worrying.

Only the chosen see the child still inside. The one who will pretend she’s a cat and crawl with the dog and cat throughout the house. I’m thankful she still ‘plays’ as many of her classmates are already talking boyfriends and boy bands.

Not our girl. Music is a passion but her father took her to see Lorde, not One Direction, this past summer. She belts out anything but top 40 in the shower and just doesn’t care what the other girls are doing. She truly doesn’t. Like her brother she has no problem telling her peers if they are being mean, rude, or exclusionary and catches herself should she press her own personality too far and inadvertently leave out anyone.

I feel as though she shouldn’t be so self-aware at 10 but am proud just the same. I know she has so much more to discover about herself and I’m awaiting the tween years to hit, but I have confidence I will underestimate her, as I tend to do, and she will blow me away with her insight and maturity.

I’d never admit this to her outloud, and will deny this sentence when she reads it, but she always seems two steps ahead of me. Always ready with the right answer and with nothing for me to be angry over, she’s what I want to be when I grow up and how I want to act when confronted with a differing view. She’s teaching the teacher how to remain calm yet still defeat the enemy. All while not seeming to give a damn.

It’s a minor inconvenience to her to change the world. She’ll do it with a wave of her hand and a few orders.

There is simply no one else like her on this earth and she’s made sure of it-carving out her own path despite her father and I pushing for this or that.

If this continues, everyone who doesn’t know #AllHailHala will- and they will witness her drive, strength, and humanity.  Her mark on this world will not be a small one, that I can promise.

Happy Birthday baby girl.