Category Archives: What I Meant To Say

Being a Mom

“What Do You Do?”

When I attended my 10th college reunion (mumble mumble mumble) years ago, I fully expected to have a lousy time. I imagined a room full of poised, sophisticated people, jabbering in foreign languages (I was a foreign language major; these days, the only words I use are “Do it now,” “Don’t argue with me,” “Can’t you move any faster than that?” “Eat your peas,” and any word comprised of two or fewer syllables).

I visualized fabulous successes—judges, politicians, a best-selling novelist or two—the usual visions most women have when facing their peers 10 years after the heady years of college graduation, when anything seems possible, years after marriage has dimmed the gleam in the eyes, after childbirth has rounded and softened the once-smooth and taut figure, after struggling to survive in the real world has stolen the hopes and visions of a glorious future you carried out with your diploma. And I dreaded it. While it wasn’t nearly as dreadful as I anticipated, it did leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

I know I haven’t lived up to my “potential”—it would be hard to forget, with my mother reminding me every other day I could have been someone important; could have made a lasting contribution; could have done so much more than she did. But usually, I’m proud of the road I took back then. I had three beautiful daughters, a wonderful husband, a nice house that wasn’t usually too filthy, friends, community—all the things that really make life a joy to live, rather than a chore to endure. And I have never apologized for the choices I’ve made—not even to my mother. My lasting contribution is my girls—as they grew and became mothers themselves, they shaped the future and brought a part of me along with them. It was a good life. And I was happy in it.

So why, when all my college “friends” asked me what I did, did I immediately, without hesitation, without thought, say, “I’m the Managing Editor for a small press magazine, and I do freelance writing and editing as well.”? Why was I afraid to say, “I’m a stay-at-home mother and damned proud of it.”?

Why did I do this? Probably for the same reason every other mother there listed her job first, and then her parental status. Because there was – and still is — more importance placed in doing “something” — and raising children is not seen as actually “doing” work, because the sweat is not visible to the naked eye; the scars are mental rather than physical, the contribution unnoticed until farther into the future than most of us like to imagine—raising children is considered peripheral to your “real” job.

I liked my editor’s job; even though the pay was lousy and the hours long; I could have made more money and worked shorter hours doing something else. I was able to work from home, for one thing, long before it became popular as  “flextime.” My work-life balance was excellent – I wasn’t tied to a time clock or schedule (except issue releases)—so I was able to go into the kids’ classrooms whenever help was needed; attend award ceremonies; and have lunch in the school cafeteria with my daughters.

The “outside” job freed my creative side in a way folding underwear and wiping up orange juice spills never could. It made me a more pleasant me—but it was by no means my sole reason for being. As a matter of fact, that was peripheral to my “real” job—raising three lovely little girls, helping them grow strong and confident, turning them into wonderful adults who can now pass it on to their children. I was not just “raising a bunch of kids” then—I was given the future in trust, and I reveled in the privilege given to me.

No job holds more power than that of Mom. With one look, or a strategically toned word, Mom can crush whole cities of Barbies, and destroy Lego cities faster than Godzilla downed Tokyo. For control addicts, there are chores and homework supervision, lectures, curfews, clothes budgets. For image-enhancement specialists, try sorting, washing, drying, ironing and folding a week’s worth of clothes—if Mom don’t, no one looks good. Or even cared for. For those who crave diversity in their lives, consider the job description of Mom: nurse, caregiver, budget-planner, chauffeur, Ms. Fix-it, cook, bottle-washer, laundress, tailor, tutor, teacher, penal officer, mentor, role model. How can one be bored when we have so many jobs to fill?

Granted, the pay is low—in fact, it’s non-existent. At least cash-wise. But mom would rather get her deposit of hugs, kisses, sticky-fingered loving, art works made from paper bags and crayons hanging on the fridge, laughter, smiles—even the tears and screaming and unhappiness are welcome. You can look at that as the income tax of your salary—necessary if not pleasant. So you don’t have all the new clothes everyone else has. So you can’t afford a big screen TV, like “everyone else has.” What do you mean we can’t afford Bimini again this year? Disneyland and blue jeans and the 16” black and white give us more joy than riches or fame or material possessions every could.

It’s too late to change my answer for that long-ago reunion. And my kids are now grown, flown the nest; the husband is making another nest with another family. I have a “real” job now, working in the real world for real money. And prestige (ha).

But here’s the thing – at my next reunion, college or otherwise, I will have something to report. I am a writer, a published author, homeowner, community volunteer, and other important-sounding nouns. But when I answer that inevitable question, my first instinct will be to say, “I’m the mother of three fabulous, smart, amazing millennial women, and the grandmother of five exquisite little charmers.”

And for the two daughters who have chosen the stay-at-home-mom lifestyle, and every other mom and dad who see the kids as the job and the job as peripheral, I say, “Good for you.” Go proudly into the world and brag, “I raise kids. What do you do more important than that?”


Guest Blog- Casey Burk

Single Mother- 50% Strength, 50% Fear

No one ever said that being a mother was going to be easy. There were plenty of people who warned us about all of the hardships we would go through once that first child was born. But that was when ‘I’ was a part of a ‘we’. I was married and expected to raise my son in a home with two parents, the way I was raised. All of those people with the lists of warnings carefully left out the part about what it would be like as a single mother.

A single parent (or solo parent) is a parent, not living with a spouse or partner, who has most of the day to day responsibilities in raising the child or children. A definition from Wikipedia doesn’t even begin to describe what it means to be a single mother. Yes, I deal with the day to day responsibilities in raising my child, meaning I feed him, dress him, and ensure that he gets the right balance of sleep and play. But that is such a broad definition of responsibility. I think any person with the ability to that for themselves has the ability to do it for a child as well. The difference is that I have to provide the food, the clothes and the roof over his head, all without the financial support of a second parent. This is where being a single parent begins to get tricky.

When there are two parents raising a child together, one might go to work while the other stays home with the child. Or they both go to work and put the child in daycare, sharing the responsibility of picking him up by the end of the day and spending quality time with him. There are either two incomes or an income and built in daycare. As a single parent, I am not only responsible for working but also daycare. And if I have to work and my son has to be in daycare all day, when is there a moment of quality time? In my opinion, my son deserves anything and everything he could ever want, including time spent with me and memories that time creates. There has to be a balance but when you are a single parent it feels as if you are balancing on a rope 500 feet above ground. So what is more important? Giving my son all the material items that he begs for everyday or giving him time and love, which may not seem as important to him at the moment but will give him so much more in the long run?

And so begins the emotional aspect of this journey. Raising a child requires more than the day to day physical responsibilities. Being a good mom requires more than feeding, dressing and playing with your children. Little kids have a very good ability to pick up on others emotions and they feed off the good and the bad. Their emotional state usually reflects that of those around them. And if they feel bad, sad, worried or scared, their growth and development could be greatly affected. They are children, they have a clean slate and a magic in their hearts that should be there as long as possible. As a single parent, sometimes it is hard to hide these emotions from them and to promote happiness. There is always something to worry about when you are alone, whether it is money, loneliness, or simply fear of the unknown. Those fears can play with a person’s emotions without them even knowing, which in turn can play with a child’s emotions. Single parents often wonder why their children have such bad behavior problems and emotional issues. If every one of them could just look at themselves and how they carry themselves around their children, in most cases those issues wouldn’t be so bad. (I am not claiming to be any kind of expert here, I just truly believe this!)

One last fear that I believe is big (however it is not nearly the last!) is if you are raising your child to be the best they can be. This child, and one day adult, is a mirror effect of how well you raised them. As a single parent, you are solely responsible for how your children turn out. Sure they may make their own bad decisions one day and do things that you aren’t necessarily proud of, but their beliefs and memories and values are all focused on you. As terrifying as this may seem, I look at it as a benefit. I don’t have to argue with another parent on how I want to raise my son. I don’t have to fight about discipline techniques or nutrition beliefs. I do with him what I believe to be important. And I may not have that second parent to look to for advice or help, but I have created a very large support system that work as my parental partner. And even though they don’t have a say in how I raise my child, they are the shoulder that I cry on and the love that I need daily. They are one big second parent helping me be the best parent I can be, much like a husband or wife would be to others.

I am about to dive in to this journey for a second time. I have my 5 year old baby boy and I am expecting my daughter in Oct. Although it is not the journey I would have chosen for myself again, I know that I can do it and have proof that that is true. My son is one of the most loving, caring, and beautiful children I have ever known. He is respectful and has such great potential. It scares me to think about all of the things I will have to go through with him alone, but at the end of the day, when he is showing me more love than any man ever could; I know that we will be alright. We will get through those hard times together and will have an amazing bond. And he will be there for me as I begin this journey with my daughter. We will be a family, not the conventional type, but a family none the less. We will have as much love and respect as any traditional family does, with a sprinkle of fear and a touch of strength.

Mother’s Day – no expensive presents required

Well, Sunday is national “Extortion by Guilt” Day.

Before the e-mails start pouring in, let me ask you a question: Since when do we let Hallmark, See’s, and DeBeers tell us when and how to love our mothers?

My cynicism may be showing, but I’m not alone.

The first Mother’s Day was celebrated in West Virginia by Anna Reese Jarvis in 1910, in remembrance of her mother. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson officially declared the second Sunday of May Mother’s Day.

It is rumored that Jarvis, just before she died, said she was sorry she started the whole mess. Jarvis decried the commercialization of the holiday she meant as “sentimental.”

By now, commercialization has become a science. My guess is Jarvis spins in her grave every time a commercial for some product is played. “Buy your mother’s love” seems to be the message here.

Since when did love mean having to buy expensive presents?

Several years ago, there was an exchange among the DJs on the station I listen to. One mentioned he was giving his mother socks from her favorite sports team for Mother’s Day because she was such a fan. She called him up, and on air, there was this dialogue about how inappropriate that gift was. Of course, she never came out and said, “I don’t want that for Mother’s Day.” She tried to “guilt” him into something different.

And it was made to seem a pair of socks was a meaningless and cheap present.

Wait a minute, here. I was under the impression it was the thought behind the gift that counted, not the price of the gift itself.

Whether you have a good relationship with your mater or not, do you really need a special day designated each year to tell her you appreciate, if nothing else, the hours of labor she went through to bring you into the world?

And, if you are only communicating this appreciation and love once a year, there’s far more wrong with your relationship than you want to admit.

As to the guilt thing, let’s be honest. Reality television and blogging aside, is anyone willing to admit they don’t like their mother on Mother’s Day? Is anyone going to not call her or take her to lunch, knowing the entire world is watching? I don’t think so. Of course, these days, there seems to be no concept of public humiliation, so I could be way off base here.

So how much is this sentiment worth, if it’s been forced upon us by advertisers?

I tried to tell my family one year fancy presents only meant one more thing to dust. Candy is not something these cottage cheese thighs need, and I didn’t really have time for all the books I have now, let alone adding more to my collection. They didn’t listen. And I got yet more books to add to the growing pile and a plant that lived about 3.7 seconds in my care.

So, if I don’t want candy or flowers or new clothes, what is it I want on Mother’s Day?

Nothing more than the other 364 days a year. I want my kids to respect each other and their parents, simply because we are family, and so deserve at least as much consideration as friends and colleagues, if not more.

My fond memories of being a mom do not come from slick Hallmark cards or expensive gewgaws. Even their school projects, made under the supervision and insistence of a teacher, don’t mean as much to me as some of the other, what might seem trivial, cards and notes I’ve received on “normal” days.

When my youngest went to camp for the first time, she was 5 years old. She sent me one postcard, containing nine words:


When my middle girl was diagnosed as clinically depressed at age 11, I was overwhelmed. Not having any experience in dealing with this type of thing, I was sure I was really screwing it up. And one day, I found a poster taped to my door.

“This certificate is presented to Libbie Martin-Burk, for being the best mom in the world.”

These pieces of paper are worth far more to me than a store-bought card ever could, and will be around in my memory box long after the store-bought cards have become fuel for the fire.

A few years ago, this same daughter, 14, and I spent a day together, just wandering back roads and exploring California’s gold country. We ended up off-roading in mud puddles, and laughed so hard we had stomachaches. When we got home, she said it was the best day she’d ever had.

Not long after that, my oldest (then 16), with whom I have clashed constantly since she was 4, spent the entire day with me, and we didn’t argue once. We talked like friends talk, and she was honest with me about a number of matters most teenagers don’t want to share with their mothers for fear of punitive reactions.

These are the moments mothers cherish and hope for. They are unpredictable and fleeting. Sometimes, they’re long gone before we even know they existed. Too soon those little girls became teenagers and now are adults. The days of sticky handprints on my clothes and hand-made cards are gone – it’s amazing how young we fall into that “money must buy love” trap.

I get my “Mother’s Day” presents throughout the year, when my kids show signs I’ve raised bright, talented, skilled, and caring human beings. When they show compassion to others, or act without prodding to do the right thing, then I know I’ve done my job. And that’s all the Mother’s Day I need.


Addendum: Now that my girls are moms in their own right, I get my Mom’s day joys in watching them raise wonderful kids, and acknowledging that motherhood is hard work. And I love watching them grow as moms and women.

Border Skirmishes

You can learn a lot about human interaction by watching dogs

(Note: This article was written in 2000)

When we were informed our 13-year-old chow dog Shiba had cancer, and would probably last less than a few months, we made the decision to get a puppy before Shiba left us, to make the loss a bit easier for my three daughters, who had no memories of life before the dog (the oldest was 2 when we got her). My oldest and I picked up a 10-month-old Laborador-Rottweiler puppy at the local shelter, brought it home, introduced it to the old chow, and waited for the firework.

We didn’t have to wait long.

It was interesting, to be underdramatic, watching the old chow and baby Labrador circle each other and shake down the territory issues.

Shiba was not only less than flexible, she was an only dog and queen of the roost for a very long time. Even the cat acknowledged Shiba’s position as diva, and rarely messed with her. Certainly the kids knew who was boss in that relationship.

But Dakota, the new addition, didn’t know – nor did she care – that chows are non-flexible, very cranky, and “do not play well with others.” Dakota saw Shiba as a playmate, which was amusing.

Additionally, Dakota encroached on what the SPCA called Shiba’s “prime real estate.” These were the spots Shiba slept in or otherwise staked out as her own – a certain spot in front of the television, the floor by my side of the bed, the bottom of the stairs.

When Dakota was still, which wasn’t often, she sat right in front of the television – you got it – in Shiba’s prime real estate. Dakota also liked Shiba’s “kitty,” a rope bone Shiba killed on a regular basis (as a substitute for the real kitty, who wouldn’t tolerate being shaken and thrown). Never mind Dakota had her own toy – it was so much more fun to grab Shiba’s out of her mouth and run with it.

Having been out of the “baby” business for a while, I was enlightened watching these territorial disagreements. Especially after a conversation I had with my then-16-year-old oldest daughter one day when we were shopping.

I marveled we had been together for about six hours, and we hadn’t disagreed or argued once. Normally, we couldn’t go six seconds without grating on each other and yelling and slamming doors.

She said, “That’s because Dad’s not here. We never fight if he’s not around.”

Very interesting statement. Not so much that she noticed it and I hadn’t, but that it was true.

In pondering the wisdom of my first girl-child, I came to a realization I had been ignoring or avoiding – I never figured out which.

Cori and I were indulging in our own territorial issues, just like the two dogs. And the issues – real estate, hierarchy, independence, and personality – were the same as the issues plaguing the four-legged critters.

I was – and still am — used to being the top dog when it comes to the females in the house. I’m Mom – I know everything, I have only their best interests at heart, and it should come as no surprise I like being in control.

Cori at 16 was close to being an adult, figuring out her place in the cosmos, and more importantly, figuring out who she wasn’t (me). She took her life more seriously these days, and no longer felt “Mommy knows best.”

I worked very hard to raise a girl who is not dependent, not a doormat, who has her own ideas and personality and wasn’t afraid to make those opinions known. Of course, that’s what I wanted, isn’t it?

Yes, but I guess I forgot to tell her she wasn’t supposed to use those against me – I will always be the mom, and thus, deserving of respect and genuflecting until the end of time.

Right. She’s not buying it, either.

So we danced around each other, fighting about things that aren’t really the issue, just minor manifestations of what we were really saying.

She was saying, “I’m not a little girl anymore. You can’t protect me from pain and unhappiness and fear. I have to learn lessons my own way, because that’s the kind of person you made me.”

I was saying, “I’m not ready to let you go. You’re still the tiny little girl who smiled at me and thought I knew everything and cuddled with me whenever you were sad or lonely or hurt. I’m not ready for you to be someone else.”

It’s a common conflict among mothers and daughters, I’ve heard. My mother and I are still dancing around the territory issues, even after all this time. She tells me when I am a grandmother, it will be easier to step back and see the big picture.

I’m not buying that. For 16 years, it has been my task to raise my little cubs, to protect them from harm and teach them. That’s a job I relish, and one that is very, very difficult to let go of. In this case, while Cori sees my unemployment as a validation of my life, I see it as a rejection of everything I have been for a good part of my life. I don’t like to be invalidated – there’s a serious lack of control in it.

So Cori and I dance around each other, baring our teeth, flattening our ears, sounding more vicious than we really are. But when no one was watching, we flopped down together, sharing the warmth of each other and enjoying the companionship, just like Shiba and Dakota do at the end of the day.

(Note: both Shiba and Dakota have crossed the Rainbow Bridge and wait for us, Cori is now the mother of three girls, and this grandmother sits back and watches the fur fly in Co’s house with a great deal of amusement.)

Everything is Connected

“In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In one of my former lives, I was a journalist. Basically, I got to talk to people, write their stories, and collect a paycheck. Sweet. Especially for someone like me, who believes everyone has a compelling story. I love to parse out the roads we take that get us to where we are. And how sometimes, you think you’re on the road to Chicago and a Pulitzer, but end up in Fairbanks with a heeler-husky mix and a fixer-upper cabin. And why it’s all good.

What intrigues me about most people is the journey they’ve taken through life – how did you end up where you are right now? Did you plan every step of the trip, knowing when to stop and when to ignore a detour? Did you wake up one morning and say, “Hot damn! I want to be a dog catcher?”

Or did you wake up one morning and realize you’re exactly where you want to be, doing exactly what you want to do? And not a clue as to how you got here?

My expedition to this particular stopping place involved so many turns and twists, detours, potholes, breakdowns, and ripped maps, I’m surprised I’m not in Oz. It’s only now, when I look back at the course I took, that I understand how I got here, and how everything I did led me here.

From the time I was about 6 years old, I wanted to be a police officer when I grew up. Back then – and yes, I do remember seeing the dinosaurs go extinct and watching the glaciers melt, signaling the end of the Ice Age, thanks for caring – they told us girls could do anything, but while their lips were moving, the reality was a little different. The barrier to my dream was height requirements – I couldn’t make them standing on a chair; somehow, the recruiters weren’t impressed.

So I wandered off to college and drifted through four years, changing my major regularly and basically going where my short attention span led me. I graduated with a bachelor of arts in International Studies with a minor in Japanese. And an MRS degree. (Think about it for a minute. You’ll get it.)

I ended up in Washington, D.C., working in a communications company file room and trying to get an MBA. Then I coasted into the delivery room at Arlington Hospital, and a new phase of my life began.

I am an obsessive compulsive overachieving perfectionist with control-freak tendencies. I couldn’t just be a mom. I had to be a GREAT mom. I volunteered, organized, led, taught, and worked 60-hour weeks being a mom – taking my three daughters to music lessons, Girl Scouts, field trips, swim practice, doctor and dentist appointments – we spent so much time in the car I’ve written articles about how to bond while driving and using the drive as an educational tool.

As they grew and I saw the empty nest thing looming, I decided I needed a real job, so I went back to school to get a teaching credential. Four years of subbing in an inner-city high school showed me how much I love helping people learn.

I lived a two-hour drive (one way) from the college — popping home between classes wasn’t practical. I was looking at eight hours a day with lots of down time. And, as my daughters say, even I can’t study that much. So I wandered into the school newspaper office, thinking I’d be a gofer and maybe they’d let me write a story once in a while. They made me an editor and here I am.

So how does wanting to be a cop connect with a writing gig and speaking to young, impressionable students, trying to sound wise and all-knowing?

Have you ever gotten a thought in your head and followed it back to its original string? Try it sometime. It’s amazing how a thought can start as one thing and end as something else, until you back-track it and see how each preceding thought is connected to the one before it. Our lives are like that – we start our journey with a certain destination in our heads. Many of us wind up exactly where we wanted to be, and that’s great.

But more of us find ourselves on a road that twists and turns. There are detours and dead ends, pot holes, construction closings, crazy drivers forcing us into a different lane, missed exits, wrong turns, and misspelled signs.

Most of the time, there’s no map, and GPS is not the miracle cure you think it is, so we’re driving blind. On those rare occasions when a map exists, it’s usually wrong, out-of-date, or for another city. We’re pretty much on our own, depending on the kindness of strangers to assist us if we break down. Eventually, we reach a destination, and the journey ends.

Or rather, begins another stage, because if you do it right, the journey never really ends until you’re lying horizontal in a box with a silk pillow under your head.

But I digress.

You look around and wonder, “How did I get here? How did I end up in Fairbanks? I thought I was headed for Chicago.”

But, like back-tracking that thought, when I look back at the journey, I see how each step led to another step led to another step led to Fairbanks instead of Chicago. They’re all connected.

As bizarre as it may seem, when I look back, I was always on the road to get here, even though I couldn’t read the map. See, I love to write. I’ve always written, whether there was a market or not. Rumor has it when I was 2, while other kids were scribbling graffiti on their mom’s white walls, I was frantically filling paper, napkins, index cards – any blank sheet of paper – with the stories and words that have filled my head my entire life. I wrote poetry, stories, essays – given a choice in college between a paper and a test, I always wrote a paper. I pulled a D- minus to a B in one class with a paper. When I volunteered anywhere, I ended up writing newsletters, correspondence – whatever needed words, they always said, “Let’s get Libbie! She’ll write anything!”

I spent four years working for a specialty magazine in Concord, Calif., doing everything from paste-up to editing to writing columns. You can learn a lot by volunteering, even if you don’t realize you’re learning.

Writing led to a journalism degree, which led me to the Fairbanks (Alaska) Fairbanks Daily News-Miner from Roseville, California, which got me a technical writing job at the local hospital, which landed me a marketing job, which introduced me to many, many diverse and compelling people, which got me into freelance writing gigs for people who want to write their life stories but don’t know how.

See the connections? No map, no street signs, just little steps connecting me from childhood to here.

Writing is a passion, but I never, ever thought I could be paid for it. Publishing is a wicked business, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been rejected. Luckily, I never take it personally – although I have a stack of “neener-neener” possibilities 3 feet high! To be able to do what I love – meet people, talk to them, write their stories – every day is a gift. To get paid for it is gravy. (Are you sure it’s legal?)

We humans are social creatures. We like to be connected to others. We form associations whenever possible, starting very young. Preschool, play groups, sports teams, after-school groups, band, chess club – ways we associate with others, not only to feel less alone, but to gain something as well. And, while tangible benefits are nice, we also revel in the intangible – friendship, knowledge, social status – we gain something whenever we mingle with another human being.

We don’t just like connections – we need connection. We seek links wherever we go. We can’t thrive without being part of a larger whole. As a writer, I like to think I’m a lone wolf, single, solitary, on my own. But if I’m not connected – to readers, publishers, editors, someone to feed me while I’m lost in another world – I can’t survive. And humans aren’t the only species craving connections. Most living things do, as well.

There is a colony of aspens in Utah, called Pando or the Trembling Giant. All the trees (technically, “stems”) in this colony are genetically identical. In fact, they are all a part of a single living organism with an enormous underground root system.

Pando, Latin for “I Spread,” is composed of about 47,000 stems spread on 107 acres. It weighs an estimated 6,600 tons. Although the average age of individual stems are 130 years, the entire organism is thought to be about 80,000 years old.

Can you imagine? Although individuals die, the entire colony lives, connected to each other, keeping each other alive. No one single stem can survive on its own; it must stay connected to live.

Like that aspen grove, we must be connected to others to survive and thrive.

But connections formed just to connect are often meaningless. Facebook is a marvelous way to reconnect with old friends, former classmates, former lovers … but it can be a bad thing, too. You can friend anyone who comes into your radar – but really, who needs 1 million friends? Who can keep up with that many connections? And how many of them are actually going to be meaningful?

I can give out my business cards willy nilly to anyone I meet on the street – and in the end, I just spend a lot of money and kill a lot of trees. Will I get jobs or other services/benefits from all those people?

Probably not. People might need a freelance writer, but if we don’t meet in context, they’ll forget me as soon as I’m out of their sight. For a connection to be beneficial, there has to be more connecting the two than just a business card blitz. A shared experience, mutual benefits to offer/receive, mutual interests, mutual needs – without meaning, a connection is valueless.

How do we establish a connection? Motivational speaker Paul Meyer knows. He says, “Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.”

Communication. We share our experiences, our knowledge, our understanding. We tell one another our stories, find connections and links in the sharing and hearing. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a need. And everyone can meet someone else’s need. Once we’ve established that link, that connection, we have a network. And networking, remember, is the key to getting anywhere on the road.

This blog is about the connections I’ve made along this road I’m still traveling. It won’t be chronological, it won’t always make a lot of sense. Sometimes it will seem like time is standing still; other times, you miss it if you blink. Hang on, ‘cuz to paraphrase an old movie diva, “It’s going to be a bumpy ride!”

Resistance is futile

Resistance is futile.

Nope, it’s not the Borg we’re talking about, but the Blog – weblog, that is.

And the resistance was mine.

It’s not that I’m a computer-phobe. Really. I’ve been using the little buggers since – well, let’s just say I remember punch cards and TRS-80s. Growing up with a dad who programmed and designed computers for the U.S. Air Force, I became quite familiar with technology. And my first publishing job was with a small-press niche magazine, where I learned to edit, design and lay-out the publication (ever tried page layout in DOS? Not a pretty sight). And even when desktop publishing programs were available (think FrontPage and Microsoft Publisher), they were so fraught with bugs and freezing problems that one small monthly issue took six days to complete, and more start-overs than I like to remember.

In fact, looking back, I wonder how we managed to put out a monthly magazine stuffed with stories, columns, and poetry, not to mention original art, without e-mail, digital files, and P2P file-sharing. Oh, I remember – we used the U.S. Postal Service (snail mail to the Gen Yrs out there), computer disks, typewriters (I re-typed more manuscripts than … well, there were a lot), and pen-and-ink drawings. Scanning was in its infancy, and software prohibitively expensive, so we relied on half-toning photos and artwork, cut and pasted onto pages covered with lines and grids (now you know where the term “blue-penciling” a manuscript came from – the blue kept the lines and comments from reproducing in old copiers and printing presses). Graphic design involved actual writing implements. And we walked 15 miles to work uphill both ways in blinding snowstorms …

So it wasn’t the technology that raised my stubborn gene. It was the idea that any idiot with an Internet connection and the dim dream of being a writer could actually command the attention of the world as a … writer. Or a journalist, which is worse, because I actually went to school and earned a degree to be a journalist, and some of the so-called reporting I saw, and still see, was miles away from objective, researched, and well written.

Writing is – or should be – a contemplative process. We think a thought, we see the words that illustrate that thought, we place them on paper and edit them very carefully before we send them out to the world. I have spent the last 30 years of my life honing my craft, constantly learning new things, updating skills, making an effort to produce quality product that reflects well on me and my fellow writers. But when you can just barf out words with no thought, when your every opinion and thought and ranting is immediately at the disposal of anyone with a computer and wi fi, what

does that do to the words? How special are they (and by extension, me and anyone else who strives to put them together) when any idiot can call him- or herself a writer?

And just how seriously do editors and publishers take these fools, anyway? Isn’t it possible that by jumping on the bandwagon, I would be seen as just another rant in a storm of raves? Where would my credibility go? Would I have any? And, as my brethren in Hollywood are quick to point out, in the end, that’s really all we writers have, our credibility, our good name. Otherwise, branding would still apply only to identifying cattle.

So I ignored the blog tsunami. I sneered at those would-be WRITERS (said in a breathless and totally undignified tone).

Silly me, to think I can ignore trends. Just like those who thought television would never catch on, who laughed at the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates, I’ve been hoist on my own petard and shown to be, if not stupid, at least woefully out of touch. Or unhip, my daughters like to point out.

The Internet is the new “Who’s Who,” with potential employers and clients and even mates Googling for info on the people they meet. When I manage to get a potential client to meet with me, or an interview for a “real job,” they ask: What’s your blog called? I couldn’t find it. What’s your Web presence?”

And after that fish-out-of-water gasp (you know the look I’m describing), I have to come up with some lame excuse (like, my ISP ate it, or my Web master gave me a note or something). It’s not good, believe me.

So, consider me a member of the band(wagon).

I did a gig as an opinion columnist for a year, and that was where my sarcastic and warped sense of humour stood me in good stead. No one wants to read about how anyone else is dealing with life, unless the writer can make them laugh. I seemed to have a knack of poking fun at everything (and I didn’t let myself off the hook – I’m my own worst critic). Being the mother of teenage girls and trying to remember how to be an adult in the working world after taking about 14 years off is trying, but it can be very funny – if you know how to find goofiness in every situation. Since I would probably make jokes at my own funeral (and don’t be surprised if I write the script for that before I shuffle off to wherever it is old writers go), so finding amusement in a very bright child who takes the motto “High Potential, Low Achiever” as a personal badge of courage isn’t difficult.