Why Do You Blog? The Answer is Magical

So why are you still blogging? 

Are you hoping to make money? Become famous? Gain followers? Fans? A book deal?

Are you blogging because you want to share your family with relatives scattered across the world? Are you blogging because you found a community with which you relate? Are you blogging because you need to vent about life, family, friends, kids, partners, exes, bosses, or other bloggers?

WHY are you blogging?

It was a question posed by former-NFL receiver Donald Driver at Disney’s Social Media Moms Conference this past weekend-and it sort of knocked me off my chair.


(The kids enjoying family time at the conference on Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland)

I haven’t thought about WHY I blog in such a very long time and it has changed over and over again.

At first I was blogging for something to do, to connect with other parents, to find my ‘tribe.’

Then I was blogging as an activist. Political posts ruled the day.

Then it was a smattering of parenting and politics and life.

Then I got sick…and everything changed. 

I didn’t know what to blog for a long time. So I just kept people up to date on my health. Until I broke down and began blogging about just how hard it all can be, about just how affected the kids and my husband were by my illness. I began blogging for myself, to just get it out.

Driver spoke to the crowd this past weekend about the motivation behind our blog posts, our tweets, our Facebook posts, our photos. His message was so simple, yet one I fear I have forgotten in the past 10-years as the industry has grown. Are you using your voice for good? 

Those of us who have been around the social media block have watched the metamorphosis. We started out as just hobbiest looking for community. Sharing our ups and downs like friends do. As our voices became more powerful some of us just kept doing what we’ve been doing all along, others took the $$$ path to try and cash in on their new found attention. Starting new sites, trying to bring in the big traffic numbers. ‘Monetizing’ was the word everyone loved.

Sure I put ads up on this blog, but I lost out on a lot of opportunities because I wouldn’t write sponsored posts on this site. For me, it just didn’t fit. It still doesn’t. This is my space to share and talk about my kids, my life…not products.

However, with Driver’s words still ringing in my ears, I am wondering where Queen of Spain blog goes from here. I want to make a difference. I want to help people. I want to continue to share the ups and downs of living with a chronic illness.

I am inspired to DO MORE with this space I’ve been given and have cultivated over the years. I’m inspired to make the most of what I’ve been given-and just asking myself the question this big ‘ol football player so easily stated really changed my mindset. WHY am I blogging?

I know the answer:

I’m blogging for myself. I’m blogging for you. I’m blogging to change the world we live in and hoping to bring others along for the ride.

I’m determined to bring back the magic in blogging and the honesty, the transparency, the REAL stories of life and love and loss. Not the ones conjured up for traffic, products, brands, or sponsors.

This space is where my soul and my heart connect with others and I give you all of me- the good and the bad. And I still believe there is a place for that in the industry.

Let’s get back to basics. Let’s get back to storytelling. Let’s get back to connecting with one another just for the sake of connecting, not because it’s required to fulfill a contract by a pr company.

Let’s get back to blogging.

 

*I was invited to attend the DSMM Celebration. I paid my own conference fees and received gifts during the conference. All opinions, experiences and thoughts are my own.

As the Song Says…

Yeah…that whole thing about giving them roots and wings to fly and what not???? I’m failing at it terribly right now. Failing. Failing. FAILING.

My son is currently at his first ever sleep-away camp and I’m in bed thinking about driving there to either spy on him, or the more likely scenario of nabbing him and bringing him home. HOME. Where he belongs.

NOT out in some totally perfect world for him where there are scientists and ecosystems and OCEANS and MOUNTAINS….which leads my mind to rip currents and bobcats and bears and wildfires and his hating socks but being cold and DO YOU UNDERSTAND I’m not there to MAKE HIM put the socks on which would also then lead to his feet getting dirty and him probably NOT showering even though he has all the stuff needed in his suitcase to shower with. Not to mention the book and book light he brought in case he couldn’t fall asleep (no electronics allowed) and I should have packed him an extra battery for that tiny book-light and OMG I CAN NOT DO THIS SOMEONE TALK ME DOWN PLEASE.

Whew. Ok. Sorry about that.

Which is why it’s best I stay in this bed, right here, and try to breathe for the next few days.

With my phone currently tucked in my bra in case they call and he needs me.

But that is just it, right? It’s the reality he doesn’t need me. I’ve done my job, so he does not need me. My husband has done his job, so he does not need him. We’re doing what we set out to do when we created life. Created this awesome kid that we truly do not deserve because he and his sister are EVERYTHING good in the world.

They are pure joy.

This is such a fantastic opportunity for him and he was SO EXCITED getting on the bus and already geeking out over the organisms he was hoping to find and study. It was contagious. I was excited WITH him, FOR him. To just watch him go on this journey.

Now it’s dark. I’m wondering if he’s asleep. I’m wondering if the boys in his cabin are loud. I’m wondering if he’s laying there, like I’m laying here…wondering if we’re all thinking about each other.

His sister even asked ‘Do you think Jack is in bed thinking about us like we’re thinking about him?’

I am such a wuss. He’s off having the time of his life and I AM A BIG OL BASKET CASE. But it’s not because he’s ill prepared or that I’m worried something will actually happen. No. That’s not really what is going on deep down.

Deep down it’s all about letting go. Letting him go. Letting him go so he can become the amazing person he already is and is destined to improve upon.

But my god does it hurt.

Two Words: Grumpy Cat

IMG_5016

Grumpy Cat met the Vest Family…

Hala & Grumpy Cat

…and it was awful.

Unless you ask the Vest family…in which case it was AWESOME.

More from #AllHailHala who plans on blogging her encounter with the world’s most famous cat, just as soon as she finishes her homework. (UPDATE: Hala has blogged her encounter with Grumpy Cat)

What? I had to put her in a grumpy mood SOMEHOW.

Thanks to Grumpy Cat’s TEAM (no really, the cat has a team…if I were that Grumpy & cute I’d have a TEAM too…) for making a 9-year old’s dream come true.

 

*I was invited to attend the DSMM Celebration. I paid my own conference fees and received gifts during the conference. All opinions, experiences and thoughts are my own.

There is Something Special About 9

I worry sometimes that I see too much of myself in her. No, that’s not right. I worry that I TRY to see myself in her.

She is so much stronger than I was. She is so much smarter than I was. She is stunning and hilarious and every inch of her tiny self is a fearless female.

My daughter is now 9-years old and so much more than a 3rd grader or a ‘kid.’ She is a confident young girl who already seems to know exactly what she wants for her life, and seems to be entirely unphased by any obstacles in her way.

The child hasn’t even hit double-digits and I already admire her.

I want to be her when I grow up.

I have no doubt she will make every single one of her dreams come true. None. Zero. The doubt just does not exist. In fact, she is so incredibly sure about everything she has made me a believer of every one of her goals and dreams-despite many of them involving unicorns and dragons.

There is an ongoing discussion in our home about how sometimes it can a bit hard to say ‘no’ to me. Often with others feeling it better to just let me have my way because it’s not worth the battle and it certainly isn’t worth what will no doubt be a full frontal assault on my part to wear you down with a merciless war that seems entirely unnecessary for, say, Thai instead of Italian food for dinner.

While that part of me has softened over the years and certainly with my illness, even at its height it seems to pale in comparison to my daughter’s capability in this field. However she does it with so much more class and composuer than I ever did or could. Make no mistake, I’m still the Queen and Mother around here and she has a ways to go before I will give up my thrown…but I’ve been watching this young artist at work lately. I wouldn’t dare call her a protege’, as I have done NOTHING to teach or guide her in this type of social interaction.

I’d like to think it’s genetic, but even then I think I’m fooling myself. 

She’s going to conquer the world, rule with compassion and an iron fist, and do it all with sparkly cowgirl boots, rainbow embellished fingerless gloves, and the brightest and most obnoxiously patterned scarf tossed around her neck for flourish. None of it will match, but it will all look fabulous on her and only her. As only SHE can.

She has no desire to get married. She has absolutely no desire to have children. (Babies annoy her at best) She wants a ranch in the country with many animals as possible, and that goes double for all the ones her father and I will not allow her to currently have…and a runway for her brother to land his planes so he can visit often.

She’d like a lake or pond, where it seems she will allow her father and I to build a home on the other side and wave like good parents do over morning tea and the rippling waters on our end of her shore.

While I had many ideas for her birthday party this year, I’m sad to say I am not even up to snuff when it comes to party decorations. Her ‘kitten’ themed 9th birthday was only a success due to her superior planning, as I had failed her miserably by refusing to hang balls of yarn from our 300million foot ceilings so she and four cohort kittens cold ‘bat’ at them for hours on end.

Luckily her grandmother had chipped in and her Nana had chipped in – all much craftier than I. And with her usual flourish her friends had a great time.

The best part though, may have been just listening to her interact with the girls. She was leading the charge, mediating disputes, even comforting those a tad bit homesick. And even BETTER? As the night wore on and crankiness creeped into conversations inside of their sleeping bags, I could hear her tell them about how girls in other parts of the world live.  She re-told what she had learned of Malala. She told them some girls are sold into trafficking to be slaves (she left out ‘sex’ – we previously discussed long ago some of her friends may not have been told by their parents yet exactly what ‘sex’ entails). She told them even in the ‘country we live in, girls don’t make as much money as boys, some American religions force them to dress to cover their entire bodies,’ and ‘do you know what is the worst? Some of the people here still think we should only be having babies and be wives. And I don’t want to have babies or anything! I want to have my own life anyway I want it!’

She was fired up. She had their undivided attention.

She was becoming an activist and educator at the age of NINE.

I wanted to stand at the top of the stairs forever and listen to her rail against the injustices perpetrated against women across the world…all in-between giggles as they played ‘truth or dare.’

Instead I wiped the tears of pride from my eyes and made my way back down the hall and to my bed. There is no need for me to check on her. She’s doing just wonderfully without my help.

Happy Birthday Hala.

Pure Michigan Longing

2730188969_92d497aae2_z

Every so often it hits me like a ton of bricks.

Maybe it’s because I still, mistakenly, call it ‘home’ when I’ve lived in Southern California for 15 years. My children are California natives.

Maybe it’s because my Mom was just here, my brother and father just spent a few weeks there, and my Dad is now here to help out.

Maybe it’s because everyone is talking about the new parody ad featuring Pashon Murry, Detroit Dirt entrepreneur and mistress of awesome.

Maybe it’s because it’s Spring Break time and I can’t help think about how we would escape the cold and drive to my Grandmother’s in Florida, stuffed into the back of a station wagon with my cousins while the weather went from gray muck and sleet to sticky, hot swamp.

Maybe it’s because of March Madness, and my school is playing and we’re all cheering and I’m longing to see that frozen tundra I was forced to walk from Holden Hall to class in East Lansing.

But mostly, it was this photo, part of the website highlighting Murray, that drove me over the edge and pushed me well past the boiling point.

I miss Detroit. I miss metro-Detroit. I miss everything about it and I want to be there to watch it change once again into the amazing city I adore.

I can see the Ambassador Bridge in the background, my gateway to Windsor and Bloody Caesars and shopping and my good Canadian friends.

I can remember those train tracks under the bridge area and how I’d park there, top down on my car, and listen to the Detroit River go by with it’s ‘Frasiers’ (as my brother called them) honking loudly and fishing boats. The stars in the sky, still visible despite light pollution from the factories on the river, and the lack of police- they had better things to do than give a damn about a girl parked in the wrong part of town listening to music by the river under the bridge.

Now that area is part of Detroit renewal. And I long to be more than just an ‘advisory board’ member from afar hoping to help from 3k miles away.

I want to be there, live there, get my hands dirty and say ‘we built that!’

I want to complain about the snow and drive my daughter an hour to horseback riding lessons on I-94. I want to take my son to Eastern Market and show him the locally grown produce and flowers and watch his eyes pop out of his head when he realizes this can happen in a city atmosphere.

I want to take trips ‘up north’ for sledding and fun.

I want family nearby to help when I can’t get out of bed or make dinner or end up in the hospital. And when in that hospital I want to recognize the faces and the friends working to keep me comfortable.

I want my kids to know what it’s like to have roots in Hamtramck – to show them the Catholic Church I grew up in and to have them understand this is their legacy too. They can see the beer tent and enjoy the elephant ears and maybe have some history given when I say ‘and this is where my Aunt gave me this rosary, which I now give to you.’

I want to buy a home in one of the renewal areas and work to build it back up to it’s once mansion like glory.

I want water all around me again, putting out the fires in my heart and mind and keeping me calm. The lake I can see daily out a window or on my drive, the river always there, everything within a walk if needed.

Tis the season for Friday Night fish fries and Saturday morning hangovers. Men leaving to hunt, women laughing at their excuse to go drink in the wood for a day or two.

There is also so much I don’t want, and don’t miss…but I need to be part of this solution in a more tangible way than advising on boards of startups trying to make it in the D. I want so much more.

…but it’s only a dream. My house by the river/lake, my chance to help, my ideas that we’d ever leave California.

Husband’s work is Los Angeles specific. My children are in a wonderful school well suited to our needs and our family, and I can’t imagine something like that exists in the Motor City. And then there is my treatment and my doctor. I’m sure I could find another. But it would be hard. It took me 4-5 doctors to find him. And no, I’m not forgetting the cold and the winters. The gray that sucks the life out of you because you long for the sun and not slush.

I’m also not stupid, I know once the glitter wears off and it’s just life again, I’ll be annoyed we live close to family who probably will just let themselves in the door without knocking. Well, the ones that drive me crazy. The others I will WANT to let themselves in and be grateful they are near would always knock. But then there are the others who will say and do things in front of my children I disapprove of and drive me insane. Giving the kids a glimpse of the reason I left and giving them a reason to leave when old enough.

However if given the chance, if the opportunity were there…I’d lobby to move our little family near where I was born and raised.

In the meantime, I will deal with this gnawing at my stomach that we need the fresh air and cold and water water everywhere. The pit of my stomach churns with the pang of want every time I see Pure Michigan commercials2730188969_92d497aae2_z and I dream of a home built from logs, on the banks of one of it’s purely Michigan bodies of water…small town nearby for necessities but mostly just my family and my loves for the sea. I could heal, I could be calm, I could put the pieces back together and figure out where it all went wrong. I could homeschool. Or try. I could show them such beauty in their own backyard. Oh and the garden we’d have! The joy of seeing Spring peak through the snow and actual seasons.

Maybe someday. In the meantime, I will continue to do all I can from afar. Because I care more than I can put into words what happens in metro-Deroit and the city. I care more than I can put into words about every body of water from the U-P on down. I care about Detroit. I care about Michigan. I care about roots.

And it’s never going to go away.

There is Something Special About 11

Eleven years ago my husband and I began the greatest journey of our lives. Great seems like the wrong word to describe parenthood, because it doesn’t nearly encompass the ridiculousness of what it means to be someone’s mother or father.

Ridiculous might actually be more appropriate.

When this boy came into our lives, everything changed.

I didn’t know the passion with which I threw myself into my work, my projects, my relationships, my marriage, my family…would be entirely eclipsed by this tiny human who would squeeze my finger and look into my eyes as he nursed. Owning me.

It was ridiculous. It still is ridiculous.

Now that he is becoming, well, himself, I’m learning to let him take over his own life. The life we gave him, the life we help guide as he learns about the world. The good. The bad. The wonder with which he sees everything.

He is so much braver than I am and so much stronger. His heart is so pure- and I know people tend to say that about children a lot-but his heart is truly so pure and loving that he weeps with joy when the sky is full of clouds and feels total elation that is contagious when seeing stars. He makes you look out the window of your everyday car in your everyday life and actually watch the mountains go by and the sun set below the horizon. And then he’ll say something so simple it hurts.

Mom, isn’t the world just beautiful?

His current obsession is flight. Planes. Shuttles. He’s thrown himself into learning everything about how a human might reach the heavens so he can witness Earth’s beauty first hand.

So naturally we bought him a flying lesson for his birthday.

The intensity and fierceness with which I wanted to stop him nearly overwhelmed me. But after ELEVEN YEARS I finally am working on becoming the mother I had always hoped I would be, at least, in part.

I didn’t tell him I was petrified something would go wrong. I didn’t show my nerves. I simply continued to encourage his dream. I wanted him to know I was behind him 110% if this is what he wanted.

Over a decade of parenting and I’m still trying to figure this whole Mom thing out.

When my son arrived in this world, after weeks and weeks and weeks of bed rest…monitor strapped to my swollen belly, sending my preterm contractions to a nurse over an old school modem, we were just happy he was healthy. Then, like every mother before me, I worried and fretted about milestones and motor skills.

Keeping our kids safe seems to be forever on the mind. Protecting.

Yet at the same time, we tell them they can be anything. They can do anything. If they find something they love we will happily help them achieve their goals.

My son wants to fly. In a way, he always has been flying. He’s done it in his mind and daydreams a million times. I’ve watched him. I can see the wheels spinning as he runs through our house flapping his arms.

His first goal as a Kindergartner was to retrieve the rovers from Mars. We wore out one ‘Roving Mars’ DVD and had to buy another before he was reading or writing. A documentary.

It just never occurred to this mother he would need to leave the safety of the ground.

He’s smarter than I am. He has a plan that involves learning to be a pilot young so he can get it out of the way and amass his fortune in order to fund his other obsessions. Inventing his dreamworld filled with creatures and robots and fun. All while making sure Spirit and Opportunity return to Earth not to mention making sure his many hobbies are equally tended to-most of which involve other worlds. Other galaxies. Dark matter, black holes, the beyond.

He figured out long ago he’d need to take this step and didn’t even ask if he could, knowing Mom and Dad would be there to support his dreams.

I adore this child and am glad he’s challenged me to be a better person, a less selfish woman, more of an adventurer, less of a panicked mother.

I always knew he would touch the stars, I just didn’t realize it would take everything in me to let go in order for him to spread his wings and fly.

 

Happy Birthday Jack.

I Was Called “Bossy” & What They Meant Was “Bitch”

Here is why I’m loving the #BanBossy campaign:

Not because I think banning a word is the end game or point. Not because we shouldn’t “reclaim” the word “bossy” and make it a positive, leadership-affirming word for girls. No, I am loving the campaign because when I was a kid and I was called bossy…they really meant “bitch.”

)

I am not the biggest fan of the entire Lean In movement (another blog post for another time) nor do I think you can solve the world’s problems with “banning” anything. But if we can change the narrative on “Bossy” if we can TALK more about why girls are called “Bossy” and boys aren’t…if this means #BanBossy gets it started than WHOO HOO.

Think about it, #BanBossy is already generating a ton of social media buzz. A ton of talk. A ton of discussion about girls and leadership. That means IT IS WORKING.

Now some of you don’t have the negative connotation that I do with the word “Bossy.” I get that.

However, I do. This speaks to me, directly.

Bossy was never meant as a compliment. It was never meant as one of list of things I was, and still am, that anyone would put in the “positive” pile in the pro and con sheet of my life.

But I was just doing what the boys did. I was simply taking charge, just like the boys were. And for those who would argue “Well, Erin, maybe you weren’t nice.” Were the boys “nice” when they told everyone what to do? And if they were mean, were they called anything even close to “bossy” or were they heralded as a “strong leader that didn’t take anyone’s shit?”

Exactly.

I’m raising a son and a daughter and my husband and I try VERY hard not to pigeon hole them with gender stereotypes, but sometimes things slip out. For instance the other day I told my daughter to “act like a lady.”

What the hell does that even mean? I can’t even remember what she was doing, and I quickly backtracked and talked to both of my kids about what I had said.

Which is just another reason why I think the #BanBossy campaign is exactly what we need, because I know when you call me Bossy, you really mean Bitch. And I’ll be damned if you are going to call my strong, independent daughter a bitch.

My Son, the Filmmaker

There may not have been a red carpet, but last night my son premiered his first (for public consumption) animated short.

I am very proud of his work, as he is 10-years old and entirely self-taught. He wrote, directed, animated, shot, acted…set design, you name it… all of it…for this witty and fun stop-motion extravaganza.

The 4th and 5th graders all showed their shorts to an audience packed with parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, and family at the Shakespeare Theatre of our school.

You really haven’t lived until you’ve spent two hours watching the imagination of kids shown on big screens- there were monsters, lots of monsters. Cats with laser eyes. Lego men and women who seemed to lose their heads a lot. Barbies being mean to each other and eventually making nice. And of course, the story of Bill.

Awesome job by all!