Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Statcounter. Install now. I'll wait.

Thanks for squeeing with me over getting to first base with the NYT. I think Being Me said it best when she wrote that it was a huge achievement in rejection.

For those of you who wrote and said, uh, Kristin, I think it was just a form letter. Yeah, I know it was a form letter. But my excitement was that they took the time to visit my blog, twice, one week apart, and click around and read about me. And for those of you who said, how would you know? Well… hello?? Have you not installed Statcounter on your blog? It’s free spyware software that tracks visitors to your blog. Here, allow me to demonstrate:

click to enlarge

Did you see that last line there, the one that said The New York Times? Statcounter will tell you who is viewing your site. Not who specifically (that would be a little creepy, wouldn’t it?), but where people are logging in from and what pages they are viewing. It can give you all kinds of good information such as what pages are the most popular, what google searches people are using that land them on your blog (“peek a nipple” and “I’m confused about Australian politics” are two recent examples from my log) and the average length of time someone spends on your site.

Oh, and that rejection letter from them?  Arrived about 15 minutes after they were poking around on my site.  Kinda like having George Clooney buy you a drink before he decides you're totally not good enough for him.

Anyway, once you install Statcounter you can set it so that the icon is either visible or invisible on your website, and your readers can either access your stats or not. My icon is visible and my readers can click on it and see a summary of my stats and have a good giggle. For instance, you can see the number of hits and unique visitors I get in a day, but not the detail such as where they come from. (If you’re looking, it’s on the sidebar on the lower righthand side). You’ll also want to set it up to hide your own IP address so it doesn’t count it as a hit every time you click on your own site and artificially inflate your stats.

The other reason I want to show you this is that even if you’re not interested in blogging, you should probably know that most websites track visitors in this fashion, but with much more sophisticated software. So if happen to accidentally click on, say, hubbahooters dot com, you bet your sweet bippy they are tracking your IP address. Just saying.

Don’t forget to check out my big giveaway bonanza (if you’re an Australian resident). You could win free software, books, a pretty journal, pen, stickers, coffee, tea and an adorable child. Beat that with a stick! Well, not the child. That wouldn’t be right.

There are also some other great giveaways happening on the web. Hear Mum Roar and Sleepless Nights are also giving away the same software (and you don’t have to be Australian to enter Sleepless Nights' contest).

Mrs. Woog is giving away things to make your eyes pretty.

Lori at RRSAHM is holding the crappest giveaway ever, but it’s really not all that crap because one of the ways to enter is to sleep with her. Another way is to sleep with me. Seriously. Her rules. I had nothing to do with them. Beat THAT with a stick.

So go on. Sweet opportunity awaits!

I'm not making this up people
(gotta love google)

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Rejected by the best, BABY

So, remember this post I wrote on sexual abuse? I thought I would try to get it published and started looking around for markets for essays. I sent it into the New York Times Modern Love column, because that’s one that was on my radar, and then kept looking. I didn’t hold my breath because everyone wants to get published in the New York Times. They get thousands of submissions. After I sent it in I also read that they didn’t publish anything that has been previously published, including on a blog. Whoops.

Anyway, I noticed today that someone from the New York Times had logged into my blog and read my “About Me” page. And when I investigated further, I noticed someone from the same IP address had also logged in last week and read my profile. Could it be??? Nah….

Then about 30 minutes later I got an email from the New York Times thanking me for my submission, but saying they couldn’t use it.


Do you know what this means?

It means they actually read and considered my essay. It means someone took the time to log into my blog -- twice -- and read about me.

Perhaps they rejected it because I had already published it on my blog. Or perhaps they decided it wasn’t up to their standards.

But they considered it. The New York Fucking Times considered it.

It’s fair to say I’m walking about three feet off the ground right now.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Giveaway Bonanza!!

Hey kittens, it's giveaway time! Why? Is it because I've finally hit (checks sidebar) 234 followers? Or 277/46 subscribers, depending on whether feedburner is sober/high? Actually, it's because I have something cool to give away. I want it for myself, actually, but I'm not eligible (drat). Here's what you could win:

Microsoft Office Home & Business 2010 ($AU 379)

I have the new version at work and I love it. I'm lusting after a copy for my home computer, but it's fairly expensive, so I'm stuck using the Open Office software that came on my netbook (sigh). It has lots of great features and I've barely scratched the surface.  For instance, you can now save your documents to the web so you can access them from anywhere, including your phone. You can also edit photos from within a document. Click here to read about more features of Office 2010. The suite includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher.

But wait! That's not all. I wanted to gather together a few more items to help put you into your writing space. I thought you might enjoy...

a beautiful journal

Sofware is great and all, but there's something about pen and paper that connects me to my writing muse. And not just any old journal, but a beautiful journal. I have them all over... one in my purse, one by my bed, one in the car. You never know when inspiration is going to strike! And of course, if you have a journal, you're going to need..

a lovely pen with a swirly pattern

and pretty heart stickers

(okay, the stickers have nothing to do with writing but I thought they were cute)

But something's still missing, isn't it? You're not quite in the mood yet. I know what it is!

organic french roast coffee

Ahhhh... now we're talking! Oh, what's that? You like to write in the evenings and caffeine keeps you up? Well then, you could always brew some...

Tazo herbal tea

And nothing inspires me like reading great literature.  Here are a few of my favorites that I'm going to pass along to you...

books I loved every moment of

But wait, that's not all! Act now and also I'll throw in this...

Adorable 5-year-old!

Because for-the-love-of-god he won't stop fighting with his sister while I'm trying to write!

(What's that? I can't ship a small child overseas in a box? Customs has issues with that? Fine then.)

So there it is, everything you need to inspire your muse. Microsoft Office 2010, a beautiful journal, a pen, stickers, coffee, tea, great literature and my bickering children 6,000 miles away from you. Bliss!

Okay, here be the rules:

1.you must be an Australian resident to play. Sorry! It's not because I love the Aussies more (crush on them, perhaps). Those are the rules made up by Microsoft guy. I'll hold another giveaway soon that is open to everyone. But right now over 60% of my readers are Australian, so I'm going to show them a little love.

2.Leave a comment below telling me why you want to win. What would you love most about Office 2010 (or the coffee or my kid)?

3.Tweet the giveaway and include @Wanderlust_lust in the tweet so I can track it. If you're not on Twitter you can put it on Facebook. If you're not on Facebook go out on your front porch and shout about it. I'll trust you.

4. Giveaway runs for 10 days and closes on Friday, July 9th.

5. Winner chosen by random.org or my children drawing names out of hat, whichever method causes me the least grief.

There is no obligation, but I would love it if you liked Wanderlust on Facebook or of course, followed my blog. Not necessarily trying to build up the rolls with this one, just want to say thanks. I'm actually quite stunned at how fast my site has grown and just want to show my appreciation. You are my real motivation for sitting down and writing every day. xxx

* hint, if you're lusting after Office 2010 and you don't live in Australia, you might want to go visit Sleepless Nights.  Just sayin'...

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Everyone loves bullet points

A week in review

  • I made a list of a bunch of things that have been hanging over my head and that I have been putting off for ages. Then I did them. Most of them. Some of them.  It felt good.

  • I mouthed off about politics. Didn't feel so good.

  • Emma got a little feisty and pointed out that the U.S. ranks far behind most other countries, including Australia, when it comes to women holding political office. And I said oh yeah? Well, we may not have many women in politics, but we have a higher percentage of homosexuals in congress than most countries. Just because they are all totally in the closet and vote “don't ask, don't tell” and slip $20s under bathroom stalls in airports doesn't mean we aren't, uh, progressive. Much.

  • Then some of my Aussie pals emailed me and said don't be silly. All we care about is that Abbott doesn't get into office because then we'll all have to move to New Zealand. And I get that. Half the U.S. used to threaten to move to Canada every time a Bush came close to being elected. And Canada would be like, oh, fuck us, is it too late to withdraw from NATO and build a big wall or something?

  • Warning: mood change ahead

    • My diet has totally gone off the tracks. We had another mediation meeting this week. I hate them. I don't talk about the whole divorce thing here, for reasons you can probably appreciate. But suffice it to say we're going through mediation right now and still all living under the same roof -- no choice really -- no other family here and I don't have the money to move out until we settle.  It's intermittently tense and angry and tender and sad.  We're slogging through it as best we know how.  I'm taking comfort in coffee and dark chocolate and I'm out of chocolate. I put out a request to the Universe, via Facebook, for more chocolate, but as of yet none has been forthcoming. Which proves what I have suspected for some time now. God, like everyone else, has migrated to Twitter.

    • God, if you're out there and you have the goods, you can find me here.

    •  Kakka from Perth, in her infinite kindness, offered to send me chocolate and I said no, really, thank you, but it would melt on my doorstep.  It's 100 degrees here.  And then I thought about it and said actually, if you really want to send me chocolate you could wait until the fall when it's cool and my divorce goes through and I have to pack up and move into a new place because then I'll really need it, and by the way I love Violet Crumbles.  And she said, okay then, the fall.  I love Kakka.

    • Lori has been emailing me every day. I wake up in the morning and there is an email or two from her and they crack me up. I think she should win the Nobel prize for hilariousness. If you're not already reading her blog you are missing out on seriously good writing and seriously good humor.

    And now the weekend is here. That used to be a good thing. We'll see how it goes.

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    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    The kindness of (virtual) strangers

    Do you ever have a writing hangover? Where you whip out a post, hit publish and then a while later think, “well, that was stupid”?

    I often remind myself that to be safe I shouldn't discuss sex, religion or politics. But of course that is what I always end up writing about. Moth to the flame.

    So this morning when I not only wrote about politics, but another country's politics, and another country's politics that I know next to nothing about, after I hit publish I sat down and thought, “well, that was stupid”.

    And then I turned on comment moderation and hid under my desk.

    But instead of pummeling me with abuse, my friends in Australia sighed and patiently explained how their political system worked. Which, as it turns out, is very much like the American political system and all political systems. People gather in smoky back rooms where they wheel, deal, wrangle, conspire, contrive and connive. Yay for politics.

    So Darren, you can breathe easy. Despite the pressure from the mummy-blogger flag-wearing subfactional alliance I've decided not to stage a takeover of your blog. I don't have the stomach for politics. I'll wallow here in my own mini blogdom, thank you muchly.

    So I'm grateful for the kindness of virtual strangers. And some good news for my readers in Australia. I was approached recently to do a giveaway, which is not something I generally do. But this is for a quality product worth a fair bit of money and it's only available to Australian residents (sorry deputy blog minister me). I'm going to try to rustle up a couple more items to put together with it, but more on that shortly.

    And I'll do my best to keep my mouth shut until, you know, the next time I don't.

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    Politics as usual

    So, Australia has a new prime minister and she’s a woman, the first to hold the position ever. A lot of people are excited about this. I was on Twitter last night and it was quite something to experience vicariously the emotional ups and downs of everyone in Australia watching the events unfold on TV.

    I know very little about Australian politics, mostly by choice. I read the headlines, but politics in general don't interest me, here, there, anywhere. You may recall that I crush on all things Australian with a few exceptions, politics being one of them. I remember when I lived in Sydney 20 years ago that I found Australian culture to be a bit sexist relative to what I was used to. After all that I still have a thing for Australian men. Go figure. Things have changed quite a bit since then. I don't know how much given I’ve lived in the U.S. since, but enough that they now have a woman leading their country, a milestone we've yet to achieve here in the States.

    During our last election a lot of women were rooting for Hillary Clinton. They wanted women everywhere to support her because having a woman president would break the glass ceiling in the White House. In the primaries I voted Obama. Hillary, to me, seemed to be in bed with her own ambition – too cut in the politician's mold. I didn't care that she shared my gender. I wanted someone with integrity in the office and I was impressed with Obama.

    There were some on Twitter last night who were comparing Gillard's win yesterday with Obama's. I thought no. Obama was elected by the people after two years of heavy campaigning. As an outsider who knows very little about overseas politics, I only see the bold print, but here is the part I can't get over. Gillard swore up and down for weeks that she would support Rudd, that she wouldn't challenge him, and then at the last minute she undercut him and won. She rode to victory on a lie.

    I realize that I am missing huge chunks of information here. I realize this may just be how the game is played.  I realize that I have not had to endure years of the disappointment that was Kevin Rudd. And I realize that while everyone and their grandmother has an opinion on American politics, it's a treacherous slope if I, an American, start voicing an opinion on foreign politics, especially an obviously uneducated one.  But personally, I'd rather celebrate a woman accomplishing something with integrity. Or honestly, anyone accomplishing anything big, regardless of what sits between their legs, as long as its done with integrity.

    But maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. Take for instance, ProBlogger. He has a popular Australian blog. Perhaps the most popular. I’ve subscribed to his blog for a while now and am a fairly loyal reader (in that once a fortnight kind of way). But the other day he was banging on about how much he was making on his ads and the number of hits he has in a month and I got to thinking how nice that would be. To have that many hits. That’s a lot of bloody hits. So then I started thinking about my own qualifications. I have a blog.  And, let’s see, (checks pants) the right equipment. Was not born in Australia, but no matter. Getting a divorce, bonus. No a Christian, I’m on a roll!

    So yeah, I’m taking over ProBlogger. And Darren, I’m sure you’ll be a little sore at first. Seeing as how you did the hard work to build the site from scratch and all. But I’ve got a really eloquent acceptance speech already written, to follow up your tearful resignation. And in the flood of emotion and beautiful words everyone will come together and embrace us both and completely forget that I kind of screwed you over.

    So clearly, I don't get it.  From here it just looks like politics as usual.  With or without a vagina.

    Go on, abuse me.  I know I have it coming.

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    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Balance, balance, wherefor art thou balance?

    Today I am guest posting for the lovely Sharon at Hear Mum Roar in New South Wales, Australia.  I know, I know.  I can't stay away from Oz!  Sharon lives out in the country between Sydney and Melbourne -- lucky girl.  I'm writing about my search for that elusive and perhaps mythical beast... balance.

    This is the 4th post in my Bloggy Tour of Oz series.  If you'd like to read the others, just click on the label hot bloggy tour on the sidebar to the lower right.  I still have a few more stops lined up, lucky me!

    But for now, hop on over to Hear Mum Roar and read about everything I still have to learn about life.

    no gratuitous sex traded for this image - are you kidding me?
    blatantly stolen borrowed from google

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    Sunday, June 20, 2010

    I love love thunderstorms

    Brenda at Mummytime has started an iHappy meme wherein we're asked to post pictures of what makes us happy.  Pictures taken on our, ahem, iPhones.  She has graciously invited those of us in the android, or even crappy-cell-phone-camera market to participate as well.  As an EVO owner, would that make me Happy-o?  I've discovered some great photo apps for the EVO, which I'll show you next week.  But this week is all about thunderstorms, which we've had in abundance this spring, as we do every spring.

    I love thunderstorms.  They roll over the Plains this time of year like some angry god coming home from a bender -- violent, dark, unpredictable.  The other day we went outside and the skys were roiling.  There was an inversion over our house and the clouds appeared to be bubbling down towards us.

    All the neighbors came out of their homes to look at the spectacle.

    It's rained for days now.  Day after day after day.  The kids love the rain and we let them go out and play in it as long as there isn't much lightning and they promise to leave their metal rods indoors.

    After all, you're only a kid once.

    There has been so much rain that it has changed the geography of our yard.  I don't remember there being a river there when we bought our house.

    Best of all, an hour of hard play in a hard rain wears them out good. 

    Yeah, bring on the rain.

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    Friday, June 18, 2010

    Delivering the Ha Ha

    There are two kinds of blogs that I love to read. Blogs with good, strong, honest writing and blogs that are funny. Not just a little funny, but really insanely funny. And when I find a new blog that is both well written and makes me aspirate Fresca, I'm in love. LOVE. And I feel the need to share. So, let the sharing commence.

    Follow Mrs Woog on Twitter

    I found Mrs. Woog through Aussie Mummy Bloggers (AMB) after I impersonated an Australian and effortlessly infiltrated their site (take note, China). She is a mum in Sydney with a full house and an intrepid sense of humor. She can advise you on what to do when you walk in on your boss in the toilet, in all their glory, or when your child's playdate's mother starts stalking you. I know, I know, both of these happen to me all the time! But I wish she would stop posting pictures of me in my bikini without asking. (Most people pay for those you know.)

    Mommy Has a Headache
    Follow Emma on Twitter

    Another AMB find. But Emma doesn't live in Australia, she lives in Baltimore, is originally from London and, like me, managed to easily infiltrate the AMB ranks (take note, Papua New Guinea). Emma has written several books and recently notified me that I won her latest, Cocktails at Naptime, after I entered a caption contest on her blog. Yay me! I can't wait to read it. She championed a petition to have World Cup soccer players remove their shirts more often while playing (why stop with shirts Emma?). You'll be pleased to know she has a very normal vagina.

    Clinically Fed Up
    Follow Nikkii on Twitter

    I love Nikkii, aka MrsW (not to be confused with Mrs Woog). First off, this is a photography blog. Nikkii lives in Scotland and does things with Photoshop that make me weep.  The humor, that's just a extra toss-in because she loves us too (loves us like all the vowels in her name). What you want to do is get Nikkii to read your blog so that she'll come over and leave comments like she did on this post of mine, or this one of Tenille's. Nikkii and her family are traveling to Florida next month where they are going to personally scrub and bleach pelicans on behalf of Britain because for-all-that-is-holy BP is obviously not going to do anything about it.* Or maybe she's just visiting family. I dunno.  I would love to pack up the kids and go meet her but all our money is tied up in this mediation/divorce thing god dammit and I can't afford any frivolous plane ticket purchases. Besides, I don't let my kids handle bleach. But I digress. Go read her blog. Like this Skullcandy rant. Because she's very, very clever.  Her blog is also nominated for best photography blog in the MADS so go vote for her.

    * oh quiet down Britian, I know BP is a multinational company, it's just so rare that you ever get excited about anything so I have to poke your tender spots. Now get over here and start scrubbing. And bring Cadbury please.

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    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    What could be better than sex?

    I'm posting over at RBU today.  Have you submitted something to them yet?  They are taking submissions again this month from the 15th until the 25th.  July's theme is "The Day My Patience Died" which gives you free reign to write about Glenn Beck.

    But today I'm writing about an experience I had out in the middle of bloody nowhere that was better than sex.  Curious?  Go read about it.  And try not to be too jealous.

    Clickety click click here to find out what it was

    By the way, when they first put up my post they forgot to include the pictures.  By the time they realized this, there were already several comments on the original post so they left the first post up and put up a second one with pictures, which is at this link.  Not sure why they couldn't add the pics to the first post, but that's okay, I feel special having my post up twice...

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    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Don’t Judge Me

    The other day Jim came home and said he had stopped by the Sprint store to get the new EVO but they were sold out. He was very disappointed as the EVO is supposed to put the iPhone to shame, or so they say, iHave no idea, iDon’t read the reviews.

    I reminded him that the mediation contract we just signed says that neither of us will make any significant purchases until our settlement is final. He raised a sad eyebrow. I further reminded him that I myself had gallantly refrained from making any gratuitous purchases at, say, Qantas.com. Alright, he said, he didn't want to cause any strife.

    But for the next couple of days he looked so forlorn. He would stare wistfully at EVO ads and phrases like 4G and 8-megapixel-dual-camera would escape his lips. Finally, I suggested that perhaps he should just go out and get one. And that I should get one too. Just to be fair.

    Which is how I ended up in the Sprint store 4 days later. The saleslady ran through the list of applications that came on the phone. She showed me how I could synch my email up with different social media sites and then shot quickly through about twelve different screens and twice as many buttons and said, “There, do you have any questions?”

    “Yes,” I said, “how do I turn it on and off?”

    She pointed to a button on the top.

    “And if it rings, how do I answer it?”

    I saw a look of concern cross her face. Or perhaps it was pity. Or barely concealed contempt.

    So after weeks of ranting on my blog and Facebook about how our plastic-centric consumer-obsessed society is driving our planet to the edge of extinction I drove home with a new hot pink Sprint EVO.

    I know. I don't understand it either.

    When I got home Jim excitedly showed me how I could download all kinds of free applications. There was a Sky Map app that allowed you to hold the device up to the sky and the GPS would recognize what it was looking at and show you a map of the constellations, planets, grid lines, etc. in that portion of the sky; there was a bar code scanner app that would identify an item and tell you where you could find it for the best price (he demonstrated this by scanning the bar code on one of my books and voila! his EVO told us what book it was where it could be purchased for $14.95); there was even an app that fed chicken korma to starving children in India. I think. Maybe. I was starting to get overwhelmed at this point.

    I downloaded Mahjongg.

    I then decided to go to the store because we were out of milk. I asked Jim if he wanted me to get anything else. He said he had already used the bar code feature to start a grocery list in his EVO and he could text the list to my EVO! He sent me the list. I opened it up on my EVO. It said “milk”.

    When I got back he told me that I could download a Blogger app for my EVO. I was intrigued. He explained how to do it. I asked him if he would just do it for me. He took my EVO and pressed a bunch of buttons and now I can read and comment on blogs. I read a post on Lori's blog about how she got a new cell phone that wasn't an iPhone (god dammit) but still was not too bad. I left a comment letting her know I was commenting with my new Sprint EVO. It took me half an hour.

    The next morning the kids were playing on the Wii and I was playing Mahjongg and Jim said I should get on the Wii because it had been ages and I'd probably lost a lot of weight. I said I hated the Wii. He said no really, you should do it. So I got on the Wii and it said, “Hello Kristin, it's been six bazillion days since you were last here and you've lost 12 pounds.” So I stepped off and he told me I should do the hula hoop. I said I hated the hula hoop. He said no really, you should do the hula hoop. So I got on the Wii board and did it and when I was done I realized that he had used his Sprint EVO to videotape me doing the hula hoop in my nightie.

    So I've had a Sprint EVO now for 48 hours and I still don't know what the fuck to do with it. I can read blogs and play Mahjongg. No one has called me so I haven't had to answer it. Mostly I'm intimidated and a little stressed. I'm trying to find an app that will bring me a glass of wine and massage my shoulders. And maybe one that vibrates.

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    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    I stand corrected

    Last night I was at a friend's house and someone asked about the World Cup. Incidentally, nobody here follows the World Cup. Anyway, she wanted to know what it meant that the game ended in a tie and I said “it means that it still hasn't been decided whether Britain or America is responsible for the oil spill.”

    It seems that everyone is busy pointing fingers and dodging blame. Obama is blaming Britain's BP, BP is blaming the Swiss company Transocean Ltd who built the drilling rig, environmentalists are blaming lax U.S. regulations for offshore drilling and Britain is blaming the U.S. for being, well, so American. The are taking great offense that Obama used the term “folks” when discussing the Gulf disaster.  The nerve.

    I've been engaged in continuous facepalms since all this began. I fail to see how any of this defensive posturing is even pertinent, much less productive. This is not an American problem or a British problem. It's far, far bigger than that.

    Consider this. The earth formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago. Homo Sapiens arrived in the last 200,000 years ago. Within the last several hundred years we drew some arbitrary lines in the sand and called them Britain and America, Australia, France, etc. In the last 100 years we've managed to destroy large sections of the planet that took hundreds of thousands of years, or more, to develop. Think Great Barrier Reef, Bikini Atoll, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez, the Dust Bowl, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil spills and fires in Iraq.

    The problem is us – humans and our human-centric attitude. As long as we believe that the country we happened to be born in is our country and that country over there is their country, and the planet we live on is our planet, we are doomed to repeat this sad history. I hope that sooner, rather than later, we will realize we that we are one small part of a delicate balance of life on this planet and that we develop the requisite humility.

    At least that's what I thought. Until I read this morning that the real culprit for the Gulf oil disaster has finally been pinpointed. Sarah Palin has announced that the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of environmental activists who lobbied for restrictions on drilling in National Parks, thus forcing oil companies to look for crude oil offshore. Pardon me Sarah, I stand corrected.

    I couldn't make this shit up

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    Friday, June 11, 2010

    A clarification, an averted head explosion, some bloody gorgeous flag and 5 pounds gone

    First, can I clarify one thing?  And then I promise I'll stop talking about sexual abuse before my head explodes and your ears bleed.

    I want to make sure something I said in my last post was not misunderstood.  When I say that I think it's important for women (and men incidentally) who have experienced sexual abuse to talk about it and not bear secrets, I fully understand that not every family dynamic supports this kind of disclosure. I am not necessarily advocating that you grab the microphone at your sister's wedding and say “Hey ya'll, let me tell you something you don't know about Uncle Larry!”

    Whom to tell and when is a very personal decision and the last thing I want to do is heap more guilt and/or responsibility on someone who has gone through something like this by suggesting that in order to heal she needs to trumpet her secrets to the four winds.  But I do think it's important to find someone, such as a therapist, to tell your story to.

    Okay, done.  Full stop.  You may all exhale now.

    Now, while all of this most serious and uncomfortable talk of inappropriate touch has been going on, something quite extraordinary has quietly taken place in the background of my blog. I'm thrilled to report that after six months of begging and bribery, some general cajoling, and eventual undignified prostration before Seroj, I have finally, finally gotten some Armenian flag. Yes, he of Armenian descent took off for two weeks to his homeland, perhaps to do something other than procure flag for me, I don't know.  But he managed to find what may be the only internet connection in Armenia and log onto my blog and leave me some seriously sexy flag. All hail Seroj.

    Who loves ya Seroj?  Mwah!

    And Armenia, kidding, I know you probably have at least 5 or 6 internet-ready computers.

    Oh, and the next day? A certain well-heeled traveler in Beirut left me some smoking hot Lebanese flag.*  I think somebody just about has the whole Middle-Eastern bloc now.

    Who loves ya Badger?  Mwah!

    Finally, you may remember that the picture above is the before picture from my first post for Lucy's Fat to Fit Weight Loss Challenge. My goal was to lose 22 pounds. I've lost 5 so far. Woot woot me!

     *Badger, if you're in a quandary as to what exotic locale to visit next, please see my sidebar for flags I'm still missing.

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    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    Why I wrote it

    You may be wondering why I chose to write about something as personal and painful as sexual molestation. The most truthful answer as to why I wrote it, why I write anything of any substance, is that it was inside me and wanted out. So I just sat down and listened and wrote. I’m not driving this train, I’m just along for the ride. But there are more reasons.

    First, let me say that I'm sure it was more painful to read than it was for me to write. It’s old news to me. At this point I'm so familiar with the story that there is simply no charge left for me. I've talked about it, cried about it, journaled about it, dealt with pieces of it here and there over the years, until one day I realized I didn't feel anything about it other than an overriding sense of peace. But before I waked away from it, it felt important to me to pull it all together into a cohesive narrative. While what happened that summer was an ugly truth to look at, and one my father eventually chose to turn away from, it was still my truth. If I walked away from it, all that would be left of that particular part of my history would be tucked away in the yellowed files of some backroom in the Contra Costa County District Attorney's office and a handful of scrawled notes in therapists' offices in towns scattered across the country. I wanted to gather the pieces together and hold them up to the light and say, “Yes, this happened. This is a part of who I am, and it's okay. I'm okay.”

    To retrieve my story it felt right to go back and experience it again through the eyes of my child self. While doing this connected me with the horror of the experience, it also re-connected me with the very visceral love of the earth I felt then. I truly felt transported back and it was gratifying to feel again that deep sense of delight and wonder in the riches of the outdoors.

    I say I was eight when this happened but I may have been nine. I can't remember exactly. I tried to find records on the internet but had no luck. I thought I would find something under his name, as he had additional criminal records beyond this, but I didn't find anything. I didn't spend a lot of time on it. I know that when my case was investigated it was discovered that there were other young girls he was molesting. So my brother's disclosure liberated more than just me. I also know that he didn't stay in prison long because I got a call from the District Attorney's office when I was a young teen. Apparently he was out and at it again and they wanted to know if I would come back and testify in this other trial, in an effort to bolster their case. I agreed, but secretly I was terrified. I didn't want to have to go into a courtroom and see this man. The case apparently settled out of court and I was spared that confrontation, if indeed it would have actually occurred (in retrospect, they probably would not put a young girl through such a face-to-face meeting).

    Also, this is far more common that we'd like to admit. So many women I know have been molested and so few talk about it. Statistics show that 1 in every 3 to 4 girls has been molested. Less than 10% of them ever report it. Did you get that? Do you want me to repeat it? Less than 10% of them ever report it. Boys report far less than girls. There is a shame associated with molestation and a sense that it should not be talked about. There is nothing shameful about it. Women are afraid that if they talk about it they will upset their parents/break up the family/make people uncomfortable, etc. But why do the women who are victims of brutality bear this responsibility? Why do we carry this weight? Raping another person is shameful. Molestation is shameful. Coercion and manipulation are shameful. Being overpowered and forced to do something against our will is not. This is a backwards equation. It’s okay to talk about, even if it makes others uncomfortable. They will get over it. Talking about it will help us heal.

    A note about forgiveness. When I say I reached a point of forgiveness I'm referring to myself and my father, and not to the gardener. I don't understand the Christian concept of forgiveness of those who have committed atrocities. That is nonsensical to me. I don't think it's my place to forgive him. That's his karma, his burden, assuming he carries a burden, which is a big assumption. Rather, I feel nothing when I think of him. No anger, no fear. That is a gift. He no longer has the power to take from me any emotional energy.

    Incidentally, I’ve read a couple of thought provoking posts lately on the subject of pedophilia. A friend put up a link to a post by Jen McCreight (yes, she of Boobquake fame) that discussed whether pedophilia should be classified as a biological sexuality that one has no choice over, much like heterosexuality or homosexuality. The argument being, if I understood it correctly, that it may be biologically “normal” for some people to be sexually attracted to children and should be classified as a form of sexuality. As I read through the comments on the post I was surprised to find that her readers were taking this question very seriously and discussing psychological theories of behaviorism and quoting various texts and authorities in the field. Every now and then someone would chime in with “are you fucking kidding me?!” and they would be roundly chastised for their immature response. I didn’t quite get all of this until I remembered that she is a grad student in Sociology and many of her readers probably are as well. It seems to me that such dispassionate and uber-serious treatment of the ridiculous is the sort of thing one finds at the intersection of two such experience-poor disciplines as youth and academia. Then again, I’m probably biased.

    The lovely Michelle (Warsaw Mommy), who is a Canadian expat living in Poland, posted earlier today on her mixed feelings about the Polish government’s new requirement that all convicted pedophiles be chemically castrated. Is this a human rights violation or just desserts? She posed this question to her readers. My favorite response was Badger’s, who wanted to know if the law applied to Catholic priests. Honestly, I don’t know the answer to this (her question, not his). I do know that if something like this happened to one of my kids, I would consider castration the kindest of consequences. I also posed the question that if someone chooses to take away the basic rights of a child to physical and emotional safety through the act of rape, are they still entitled to their own rights? Or have they forfeited them? Food for thought anyway. Consider this: The average child molester will molest 50 girls before being caught and convicted and will commit at least 280 sexual crimes in his lifetime. Feel free to contribute to the conversation on her blog.

    Finally, and most importantly, I wanted to convey that while we all face tragedies in our lives that severely try our spirits, they are not insurmountable. Healing can be hard work and it can take time, sometimes years upon years. But no one has the power to dictate the path of our lives but us. We may mistakenly give away that power, but at any time we can take it back. If you are female and you are reading this, there is a 30% chance that you have been molested or raped. This can really, really fuck with your concept of yourself as a sexual person and as a spouse/partner. But sexuality in and of itself is benign. It can be coercive and brutal, and it can also be loving and fun and satisfying and healing. It all depends on who is involved. You have the power to choose what it’s going to be for you. If you’ve spent a lot of years mired in fear or shame over something that happened in the past, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s all part of the journey. But starting today, why not retrieve the lost pieces of your own story and start taking back your power?

    Thank you to everyone who wrote me, both privately and in the comment section, to share your support and your own stories. xoxo

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    Sunday, June 6, 2010

    The truths we can and cannot bear

    There are many ways to take the measure of a man, to sense the heft and weight and deepest recesses of his character. You will learn them all eventually, usually out of necessity, and often when you least expect to.

    We were sitting in my father's apartment at the time and he looked at me kindly, as he always did. “I'm sorry,” he said. “I think your mother and I made it worse that it was.”

    I don't remember why the conversation had come up. It's not something we ever talked about. In fact, I don't even remember how old I was exactly, probably in my teens, as that would have been just before he left. But I remember his words exactly, and how they shifted the geography of my world.

    “We made such a big deal out of it, when really it was nothing.” And he laughed a bit here, as if to underscore the lack of gravity. “After all,” he said, “all he did was touch you in a few places.”

    * * * * *

    When I was a child I thought I could fly. I had done it before, or I must have, because the memory of flight was etched in my soul. I would often dream that I was running down a street or across a field and I would suddenly lift up off the ground. One minute I would feel the earth beneath my feet and the next I would be clutched with the sweet sensation of weightlessness, my momentary surprise giving way to a sense of familiarity and rightness, and I would think, “yes, of course, I remember this.”

    I believed that this ability to shift realities in my dreamworld should translate into real life, that while running through the fields behind our house, if I just willed it, I should be able to take flight. We lived where the homes were spread apart and the grass grew long and free and blanketed the hills as far as I could see. While we had a proper patch of lawn in the front, the back of the house was given up to a wild run of meadow that spilled over and down the hill until it met with the scrub oak and elms that grew along the valley floor. In the summertime its silken fronds reached to my waist and I ran through the waves of gold and spread my arms out to catch the wind in what seemed the proper prelude to the attainment of flight.

    I had lots of time to chase dreams because my mother had gone back to work and my brother and I were now on our own for wide swaths of the day. After all, I was eight and he ten. And there were adults around – the neighborhood parents, a cleaning lady on Wednesdays, and of course the gardener, that other man who taught me to take measure. He just always seemed to be there.

    But my milieu was the hills because I belonged to the wild, as all children do, and I spent my days exploring, wandering, discovering the secrets of the outdoors. The meadow hid worlds of wonder, quails nests and field mice and sudden bursts of bright orange poppies. Lizards sunned themselves on gray rocks and white tailed deer drank from the creek at the base of the hill.

    In the afternoon I would come back to the yard, hungry and spent and lost in thought. And then I would look up and he would be there.

    “Hey. Bring me a beer from the house.”

    He would wipe the sweat from his brow and cock an arm against the side of the house, blocking my passage back to the hill, and my cat senses would bristle.

    Before he set down his shovel, I would go get the beer, but I knew enough to shake it up before I came back out. I would hand it to him and run back down the hill and into the trees, far and away.

    My father had dug a series of steps in the dirt where the ground sloped down at the side of the house. Years of rain and wear had rendered them almost useless, but one day I dragged the hose across the lawn and turned the water on low, and they were transformed into a mountain stream, complete with cascading waterfalls and quick-flowing rapids. I had a collection of small plastic animals which I positioned at various points along its descent. A tiger drank from a pool of water, a Holstein waded in the shallows and a red kangaroo bathed in a narrow gorge. I lay on my side in the cool shade of the pines and admired my peaceable kingdom.

    I should have known that the sound of the water would get his attention. As usual, I looked up and he was just there. This time, he wanted to show me a pond with fish. It was several blocks away and we would have to go there in his truck. I said no thank you. He insisted. I sat there, mute. I had no idea what to do. Come on, he said, and motioned towards his truck. But then my father drove up, home early from work. I exhaled.

    I realize in retrospect I could have spent the summer indoors and thus avoided him. He wasn't there every day. I know there were days when the cleaning lady shooed me outside but then again I just needed to be outside, it called to me like a siren's song. I think that was my downfall.

    But I remember this clearly. One day I came home from a friend's and walked behind the house and the grass was gone. He had razed it the ground, all of it. Gone were the thick stands of grass that hid the fox burrows and quail's nests and doorways to hidden worlds both real and imagined. The hill was unrecognizable. I stood in shock, taking in the destruction. And then I sensed him behind me.

    “It was a fire hazard,” he said. I heard him take a long draw from his beer.

    I stood still and didn't turn around. I could feel the heat from his body. I turned my eyes towards the back door, as if I could will my brother to appear. In the end I ran, but not fast enough.

    When you are pinned to the ground there is nowhere to escape to but into the earth itself, and that is what I did. I closed my eyes and surrendered and let my soul sink into the cool breast of the earth, and she opened up to receive my shock and my child terror and the thousand fractured pieces of my innocence.

    When he released my wrists I didn't move. I remained fixed to the earth until I heard the clank of tools being thrown into the back of his truck and the low groan of the engine disappearing down the road. I'm sure I got up and went inside eventually, I don't remember, but a part of me remained deep underground, eyes ever shut.

    This went on for a full summer because the heartless are cunning and can persuade a child of the need to bear secrets, bear onus. But they can also become overconfident and one day he had the thought to throw me down and kiss me in front of my brother, who did not bear secrets, but instead told my parents, who told the police, who took him to trial and put him in prison. And thus my own sentence was ended.

    I remember the day of my liberation. My mother crying and vomiting in the bathroom. My father raging into the telephone, threatening the life of this man. My brother sitting quietly against the wall of the family room, wide-eyed, sensing the perimeters of this new truth. Me, breathless, immensely grateful, coming back to life.

    “Why didn't you tell us?” she asked. And it was such a simple question.

    * * * * *

    My mother was undone by what happened that summer. I know this because she told me. Not often, just once. She carried the full weight of my truth with her every day of her life. She stared it full in the face and never looked away. This was the gift she gave me.

    As for me, I retrieved the remnants of my soul a bit at a time. Years later, when I was stronger, I called back my own lost truths from the earth. I would lie very still and listen and I would begin to feel the heartbeat of another time and place, feel the slippage of years, feel in my bones the distant wail of anguish never given voice until it rose to a pitch and cry that split the canvas of my heart and immersed me in the smell of beer and sweat and the taste of horror that is the very darkness.

    For the longest time there is only fear and more animal fear and the blunt edges of an untold anger. Then one day there is not. One day, there is the taste of forgiveness. One day, there is a lightness that is redemption.

    Today I live far from my childhood home. I've moved a dozen times or more, lived a dozen versions of my life. I live out on the Plains now, on the edge of a community with my young children, a son and a daughter who is on the cusp of turning eight, doing my best to guard both their truths and their innocence. Outside my door there are acres of farmland, which abut more and more farmland, which abut endless ribbons of undulating grassland.

    Here is what I know. Each of us – daughter, father, lover, friend – walks the earth carrying the burden of certain painful truths, and at times we must set down our load. But the earth is patient and holds for us the truths we cannot abide and returns them when we are ready to bear them, if ever we are.

    She guards our dreams and the quick tumbling years that stretch into the past to trace the fractured lines of our long-forgotten selves. She sees the broken lenses through which we view life and the means by which we take the measure, or mismeasure, of those we love. She looks upon all this without judgment, for only she knows the long history of the truths we've been asked to bear. The earth, who holds for us our hopes, who once held for me the lost pieces of myself, and now holds the ashes of my mother and father, who also holds the promise of riches yet to unfold.

    From her I have learned many things. She has taught me how to untangle my truth from the easy words of those around me, how to retrieve it from the deepest reaches of darkness and breath life back into it. Because of her, I know that beneath what passes as restlessness is an unknown strength; that all these years later, I still belong to the wild. I know that to heal, we need to trust the slow unwinding of grace; and that in order to take flight, we merely need to let go.

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    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    I Suck at Awards award

    I have a whole bunch of awards in my back pocket that I received from some lovely bloggy friends who saw fit to grace me with such goodness.  As you may have noticed, I don't do the typical award posts, but I do want to say a warm thank you and encourage readers to visit their sites.

    The beautiful Menopausal Mumma gave me a Beautiful Blogger award.

    Sandbox Gems gave me a Circle of Friends award.  You should check out her lovely earrings (I've bought some).

    The always entertaining Star Child gave me the Seven Truths award.

    Lori at Random Ramblings of a SAHM gave me a Beauty is Only Blog Deep award.  Lori just wrote a post on having sex on the kitchen counter.  Yeah.

    The beautiful Cinda at This Side of the Island and Simply About Life gave me two awards (wow Cinda!).  A Happy 101 Award and a Sunshine Award.

    Claire Marie at Spontaneous Delight, who started one of my favorite memes (letters to inanimate objects), gave me a Lovely Blog award.

    The perfectly lovely Lulu at Unperfect Life gave me a Happy 101 award.

    Marika at Pranayama Before Breakfast, a Swedish expat who regularly brings me Italian flag (thanks Marika!) gave me a Mindblowing Blog award.

    Argentum Vulgaris at Life is Just Like That gave me the Bold Faced Liar, er, Creative Writer award.  Thanks, I think. Since he also gave Wanderlust 5 stars on his Blogger's Cafe site I will forgive him.  He has also dared me to create a Flag Hussy award.  When I do, he will be the first recipient.

    Finally, I'd like to give myself the I Suck at Awards award.

    Thank you much my generous friends.

    And now, even though I don't really do awards, I'm going to do an award.

    I have a few bloggy friends for whom life has not been cooperative of late and who I'm sure do not want an award that has to do with sunshine, cupcakes or anything remotely lovely.  So for you, my dearlinks, I've created something especially.  I bestow upon you the...

    This award is given to

    Meandering Madmother
    Diapers & Dragons
    Le Meh
    Accidentally Mommy
    Magneto Bold Too! 
    Unperfect Life (back at ya!)

    Oh, and I also made a new button.  I can't seem to stop making buttons....

    Finally, it's Flog Yo Blog Friday, courtesy of the fantabulous Mummytime.  So feel free to link up to her blog hop.  If you're new, visit her site to get the low down.  And while your there, read my guest post from Wednesday, Postively High.

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    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Positively High

    The hot bloggy tour of Oz is back and today I'm returning to beauteous Sydney where I'm guest posting at the famously famous Mummytime's blog.  Pinch me now.

    I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to reveal the details of my new sponsorship deal with Qantas!  Yes, seriously! 

    Well, okay, I'm actually still ironing out the details.  Um, maybe you should just go read about it...

    Slept with the ghost of Michael Hutchence to get the rights to this image
    (incubus schmincubus)

    *Thanks J, you rock at Photoshop!

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