Saturday, September 30, 2006

Great One Liner

My oldest - "Look! Sissy brought you a little gift from the birthday party. Here."

My youngest - "Ooooh, thanks! What is it?"

My oldest - "It's a clapper like this one. See?"

My youngest - " Oh, wow. Now I have a really big crapper."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Big Question

Since my recent Nintendo explosion (in which my gamer fame lasted about 15 seconds, as opposed to15 minutes, BTW) I have been thinking a lot about my take on blogging. I read a great post too by Mir at BlogHer about the advertising controversy that is obviously as volital than ever and it confirms that I am not alone in my thoughts/concerns/questions. I found her post very thought provoking as are many of posts she highlighted. Equally compelling are the comments she's gotten. And so now, I’m going beyond thinking about it. Now, I must write.

I’ll begin by stating that I never basked in the Golden Age of Blogging, before ads (money) and site meter (stats and competition), and book deals (even bigger money) came into play. I began my blog too late for that, from what I can gather. I entered the pool long after it's surface was still gold and glassy. And I can't help but wonder (a la Carrie Bradshaw) if this isn’t the Golden Age, then what is it?

Blogging is still far from mainstream (def. "the principal or dominant course"). Some may argue but when I mention my blogs to whom I consider to be the mainstream around me, 80% remark, “I don’t even know what a blog is.” And the other 20%? Well, most of them say something like, “I mean, I’ve heard of blogging but I don’t really know what it means.” If that many people are still asking WTF, it ain't the principal course. So, I give them the basics, like, “It’s a web log…” Blah blah. And then I can’t help but get on soap box and sing bloggings praises, blog evangelist that I am, and hope to get everyone excited about it. Well, because for me, it’s been a really exciting thing to be a part of it and when I get excited, I talk. Non-stop. But what exactly IS IT that makes me tremble with passion? Let’s see. The outlet it’s provided for me to write. The fulfillment I get from writing (under no ones rules but my own) and being read (the latter being non-existent when writing in a private journal). The connections I’ve made and continue to make with incredible women (many of whom I can only hope will read this). Oh, and the money. Which is where the controversy begins.

Doesn’t it come down to the age-old question of what defines “selling-out”? And speaking of...I jumped aboard the blog train right about the time ClubMom put a call out to Mom Bloggers in order to hire a bunch to beef up their readership. I consider it perfect timing for me. Since I had just barely gotten my feet wet with my own personal blog (you're reading it), I applied at ClubMom with little fear or concern of the outcome. Why not put myself out there and give it a shot? I knew I wanted to be immersed in the blog world and would follow it anywhere it lead the minute I began. I just knew. So, what better than to be able to get more experience, be forced to become more tech savvy, be encouraged to write about the things that are important to me (my family and my photography), feed my innate need to network, and satiate my obsessive desire to discover and read more blogs? All of those perks AND a paycheck? Um, OK. I’m in.

To some, I’m a sell-out. And I don’t need to defend myself to those people because I’m cool with it. I don’t like the label. I don’t use it and I certainly don't consider myself to be one. If I am doing something I don't believe in, I can't sleep. I consider it my own little personal morality-meter. And although I may be in the early stages of my blog life, I’m getting pretty comfortable in my skin around here. Like I had to do way back in art school (where I felt constantly ridiculed and judged) I am beginning to grow my thicker skin. Imperative in any area where you are open for attack, no matter how subtle or seemingly harmless. Judgment can be painful, hurtful, maddening. I knew the blogging judgment was out there. It can be found everywhere. I just never chose to seek it out. That’s just how I am. Why bother? But, instead of avoiding it and trying to ignore it in this arena, I want to better understand it.

I got to spend some time with an old friend a few weeks ago. She asked about the blogging and how on earth I got paid for it. After we spoke for a bit I asked her if she’s ever considered it. She’s a writer so I figured it’d be something she’d have tried. She shrugged and something like, “I thought about it a few years ago but never got into it. Now, it’s not really cool anymore. It’s become so mainstream.” So, someone who never even blogged is even lamenting that the Golden Age has passed. Alright, but how many people ever get involved in a movement in its early days? The perfect bubble world of any incarnation is only big enough for those who get in at it's inception and then it pops and becomes something different. Not good, not bad, just different. It’s the Universal Law of progression. It’s when the outside world begins to infiltrate something pristine and untainted that it looses its original magic or mystique. Is that how many of the original bloggers see it? Once money got involved (in its numerous forms) the gold began to tarnish. Isn’t that what’s being said? I don’t know, I wasn’t there to see the change. I only see what it is now. And I can kind of get an idea of where it’s going.

My new mantra is “never underestimate the power of the blog”. I see pure potential in the blogging community. I see intelligent people getting inspired, inspiring others, because they are writing out of passion. I see movement, forward movement in many arenas, platforms, and communities. I see women using blogging to its full capacity, demanding to be heard, taking action and making change in their own lives and in the world around them. And from what I can tell, we’ve barely scratched the surface.

But if all this amazing stuff is happening now that we are beyond the Golden Age, can we call this time Platinum? Maybe not for some. Because what? Because there is money involved? But, here’s a thought (someone once said this to me many years ago) - money can buy freedom. I used to be one to argue that point to the death. Not anymore. When used for the higher good (whether to feed a family-yours, mine, or otherwise or to fund a worthy cause- of which there are sooo many) it can be very liberating indeed. And on a personal level, I know that if I can do what I love and make a living at it, I am actively teaching my daughters that when it comes to doing what makes you happy, the sky is the limit, then I am doing what I have set out to do as a mother. I guess even though I said I didn’t need to, that’s just me defending myself. But more than that, it’s me wanting thoughts like these to be considered and not dismissed. I can request that, can’t I?

But, where I am going with all of this besides just writing my mind? Well, (as I hold my breath and hope my skin as as thick as I think it is) I want to know what the blogging community thinks. I know from being at BlogHer that bloggers want to be acknowledged and legitimized by the mainstream. We want the big nod of approval. To be accepted as “real” writers who are a force to be reckoned with. But taking it a step further, and here’s the big question, “Do bloggers want blogging to become mainstream?” It seems to me the answer is somewhere near the equivalent of "kind of". In other words, only on our own terms? Hmmm.

To blog is to write. But more specifically, to blog is to write to be read. If that's not the case then we'd be writing in private journals. So, if bloggers want to be read then we want readers. Whatever that means to each person is their business. But the need is there in one way or another with everyone who writes a blog.

And since this is my blog and I can ask if I want to, I am going to pose the question again and hope that YOU tackle it.

“Do bloggers want blogging to become mainstream?”

Whatever your blogging angle, if this is a subject that sparks something within you, good, bad or ugly, please share it. You can leave a comment here with your two cents and/or a link to wherever it is you write about it. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

Come on, let’s turn up the heat.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Can Wii Talk?

Hi I'm Tracey and I'm a Nintendo Ambassador. (Grumble grumble. Hi Tracey. Grumble) Huh? I know. Pretty random. For those of you who don't know, I'll make a long story short here and say, Nintendo hosted what they called a Family Wiiunion for the Clark Family. I wrote about it here and here if you want the scoop. From what I can tell, everyone and then some have already read about it and if your growing bored of the subject, feel free to click elsewhere. I'd understand. However, I am not yet finished talking about it.

I'm a family photographer and a writer of motherhood books and blogs, and until now, had yet to see a flood of concentrated attention like what I've experienced of late. The irony? It's all come from gamers. Not mothers. Gamers. Who knew? I'll tell you who knew. Nintendo did.

When I agreed to hold an "Ambassador" title for Nintendo (which I tried to decline until my husband made me do it), I signed up to do nothing other than let them come into my home and throw my family and I a big shin-dig so that we could try out their new, not yet released gaming system, Wii. That's all. Of course they knew about my involvement in a vast motherhood community and my blog (that is how they found me, in case you wondered) and quickly discovered my innate ability to talk for days on end about things I am passionate about. I'm guessing they chose me because of these things. But, the point is that I am not under contract to say or do anything for them now that the Wiiunion has come and gone. No reviews, no blog posts, no plugging of their products. They knew that they we're going to provide for my family and myself a fantastic experience and that we (me and the 35 people that were here at the party) we're going to have so much fun, that we couldn't not talk about it! And that's exactly what happened. A good, no, a great experience. They were thinking way beyond the product here. They’ve accomplished encompassing a bigger picture and that, is smart business.

No sooner than I hit "publish post" (the day after the party) did I begin getting gamer traffic from a site called Infendo who, from what I can tell, were the first to find my photos and my post. I was like, "Oh, wow. Cool. Look at that." And then as it "made the front page of" as one gamer commented, I was like, "Holy *bleep*! I guess this is a bigger deal that I realized." As I have clicked around the gamer sites I have for the most part been impressed by how it's all been handled, how I have been represented. Within these stories I've been called a non-gamer, a photographer, a writer, a blogger, soccer-mom (although my kids don't pay soccer, I'm OK with the title), a "normal"- hmm, all of which are pretty accurate and quite respectful and I appreciate that. My favorite I think was "a pretty classy bird" which has a nice ring to it. Oh sure, here have been a few disturbing things said but I suppose that all comes with the territory.

From all of this, what has surprised me the most is the controversy over Nintendo's strategy to market to the mothers. How on earth this could be considered a bad move on any big business' part is beyond me. Anyone with half a business brain knows who does the much of the family decision making and, um, the shopping. Didn't we have a little feather ruffling discussion about this at BlogHer? Didn't we Mom-101? You got my back here girl? And from the staggering number of people who have read my Wii party post I can't imagine anyone could argue with it. Sure many of the readers were gamers but everyone's heard of the ripple effect. Nintendo knew exactly what they were doing. Smart move. Well done.

It's not rocket science when figure you crack the code that the average consumer wants an "experience", namely, a good experience of, about, or around either buying or considering the purchase of big ticket items. That goes for everything from games to homes. Realtors don't bake fresh chocolate chip cookies during a home's Open House for nothing. I mean I don't get the warm fuzzies when I buy "Snuggle" fabric softener but I'm sure that choosing a name like that was a smart marketing decision because although I don't get snuggly, somewhere in my breain, I might think I do. And when I heard about the Wii (Hello everyone, it's called Wii-sounds like WE- for a reason) and the idea that it's a system that families can enjoy together, I listened. And when Nintendo came and gave my family and I an unforgettable experience like they did, not one person left without having a very strong positive feeling about Nintendo. And then comes word of mouth (and blog), and before you know it, I'm in line for my Wii with all my mom friends. Something, by the way, I would have NEVER considered buying before now. But big deal. I'm only one person. But I'm a mom, see? And moms talk. And moms have a direct line to The North Pole at Christmas. Moms have to hear their 12 year old children (the future gamers of the world) begging for the next best video game until their ears bleed. Moms tie and untie the purse strings. How much clearer does it have to be? Moms are spending the money in families.

Do I like being a targeted consumer? Not always. In this case? Sure, why not? But that's not the issue here. The point isn't making a right or wrong issue out of it. It's recognizing it is what it is. Mothers are a force of consumerism yes, and also of activism, and of change. Better start getting used to it. We're not going anywhere...but forward.

* and for more of my 15 minutes of gamer-fame click here and, um here...hello Washington Post.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bringing Beauty

The Two came to me in different forms of beauty.
One in late afternoon light, calmly singing and cooing
among the crowd that encouraged her coming.
The other piercing the night's darkness like flash of fire
that sparked and snapped, calling attention to her arrival.

The Two uniquely offer their beauty to the world.
One in humble graciousness, rising and falling like a butterfly,
gently and mindfully touching those around her.
The other passionately blooming in vibrant color, petals open,
deliberately revealing her mystery as an offering to those that come to her.

The Two give to me beauty, everyday, in their own special way.
One toils and plans and makes things with her hands
to hold what she gives. Meticulous, thoughtful, kind.
The other offers me gifts from her bare hands.
Honest, real, raw, true.

The Two came in beauty, offer beauty, and give to me beauty.
One and the other, my daughter's.
My beautiful, beautiful girls.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Time On My Hands?

My husband asked me this weekend if I have enjoyed having a few hours to myself in the mornings now after both my kids go off to school. Well, yes, I have , I reeeeally have. But it isn't as easy as it sounds. The bummer is that the kids don't actually "go off to school". It's me who has to get them there. It's me who has to work really hard in the mornings to get them up and fed and dressed. It's me who has to prompt hair brushing and teeth brushing. It's me who has to make lunches and pack backpacks and TRY to get dressed myself. All by 7:50 AM.

And then it's me who loads them up in the car and drops one off at one school, comes back home, unloads the other, plays "animals" or blocks for a half an hour before loading back up to take the other to her school which is about a half hour commute (all said and done...ONE WAY) unload again, check her in, give her kisses through her tears (click here for that story) and turns around to come back home to "enjoy" my morning.

Two hours FLY by with barely a chance to catch up on email and post a blog entry (our computer is slowly biting the dust - emphasis on slow) and I've got to get back into the car for a trip back to school (the further of the two) only to get out, sign out, and collect my daughter's things and load up (again) to come back home where I fix lunch, visit a while, play a bit, then, if it's all going well and the phone or doorbell doesn't ring, I can maybe try to get into some kind of writing mode enough to actually formualte some sort of idea enough to write and maybe even submit it. The later only happens when the planets are aligned.

But wait, I almost forgot, I have to load us back into the car and go pick up my other daughter at her school, come back home again, give her a snack, visit a while, go over homework and then, look at that, it's time to start thinking about dinner.

So, in theory, this new freedom I have, with all this time on my hands is fantastic. Really, it is. I'm lovin' it.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Warmest Wish

I enjoyed a lovely birthday this year, full of love, friendship and lots of well wishes. Of all of them, the sweetest by far is hearing my daughters sing to me.

*Can you stand how friggin' high tech I am?