Thursday, July 26, 2007

Great "Harry Potter" Link

For all the families full of Harry Potter fans out there, once you have FINISHED the final book, you'll want to check out the Today Show conversation between Meredith Viera and J. K. Rowling. (It's a spoileriffic 3-parter that began this morning, so record it for later if you have to.)

Today/ also has an article detailing information that was cut from the book about the long-term fates of many of the characters.

I love knowing that Jo Rowling has much more in her head than she could include in the novels--and that she is willing to continue sharing that information even after the series is complete. She is reportedly going to come out with a Harry Potter Encyclopedia that gets the entire world and story down on the page. I hope she takes a well-deserved break first!

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Mommy vs. Non-Mommy Wars in a nutshell

In last week's Newsweek "My Turn" column, a young woman named Carrie Friedman wrote an incredibly annoying piece titled "Stop Setting Alarms on my Biological Clock" in which she told us, "If I'm ever going to fulfill my dream of becoming a mother, I'm going to need some better role models."

Her entire premise is flawed. She addressed her grievances about the pressure to have kids to her perception of us current mothers:

"So why don't I have kids or even the inkling right now? It's because of you. Yes, you: the fanatical mothers of the world. It may seem like ages ago now, but you weren't always like this. You, too, were sneering at the obnoxious parents who brought their infants to fancy, adult, nighttime restaurants or R-rated movies and let them carry on, ruining things for other patrons. You've been terrible advertising for the club that you so desperately need others to join."

I just really hated this whole idea. The truth is that the rest of the world really doesn't care whether she becomes a mother or not. I have enough on my plate without worrying about being "a role model" for her, which incidentally means opening myself up to her judgment about my parenting.

If she were my friend, maybe we could have a conversation. But she's labeling the whole world of parents in an unfair and uninformed way. Yes, she has had people act obnoxiously toward her. Haven't we all.

Despite admonishing us "Finally, don't make your kid an extension of your own narcissism," She continues her own narcissistic narrative when she says:

"If you want me to join your ranks—and you've made it clear with your cold, clammy hands on my stomach that recruiting my uterus is of paramount importance to you—I need to set some ground rules."

Maybe this is all supposed to be funny or ironic but she caught me on a bad day when I had no sympathy whatsoever for her.

After reading the piece I went through several reactions:

Reaction #1 My buttons were completely pushed in the least productive way possible. Emailed my friend Sheryl to say "I really just want to tell this woman, F*** this sh**. The rest of the world doesn't care whether you have a baby or not, so just get over yourself." (I am currently reading Full Frontal Feminism by Feministing blogger Jessica Valenti. I can only hope that I pick up her good ideas and not just her reflexive swearing.)

Reaction #2 Since my better instincts were failing me, I tried to channel Pundit Mom. There must be something useful in here.

Reaction #3 Breathed deeply and tried to channel Momma Zen. There must be a life lesson in here somewhere.

Reaction #4
[Time passes] Okay, I think I see through my initial reaction to a more useful general truth. This is going to take a while to write down, so please hang in there with me, because it won't be until tomorrow at the earliest.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Fast Company" magazine and enterprising Moms

I've been hanging out in the tech media world lately, reading Wired and the like to do research for my new blog on CNET. I've always liked Wired but not felt a part of it. This month's cover story about the Transformers kind of sums it all up for me: it's a magazine for grown up 80's fanboys. In a way it's not a bad thing, in that the magazine represents a version of masculinity that I can live with (it's basically my husband, minus 10 years!). The bad news thought is that I don't particularly enjoy feeling shut out of the leading technology & culture magazine.

So it was a nice surprise to pick up Fast Company on a plane trip a couple of weeks ago. Entrepreneurship, technology--for a change I actually felt included! I generally don't read a lot of business magazines either, but Fast Company had just the right mix of culture, news and enterprise to keep me reading.

Three things to recommend to you from the July/August issue:

Charles Fishman's brilliant feature, "Message in a Bottle," which will change the way you look at bottled water forever. Others have written about this but not as eloquently as he has. (You can hear an interview with Fishman on a recent podcast episode of WUNC radio's The State of Things.)

Made to Stick
authors Dan and Chip Heath have a recurring column in Fast Company. Their book is still one of my favorites of 2007, and definitely one I refer back to on a regular basis.

And lo and behold, there was an article close to my heart: an "Open Debate" between Vivan Steir Rabin and Leslie Bennetts on the topic "Is staying at home with kids career suicide?" You might be getting tired of this subject, and to be honest, so am I, but Vivian Steir Rabin gave such good answers that I had to cheer.

I have been encouraging women to develop the confidence to take their careers in their own hands. Steir Rabin gives encouragement to "career relaunchers:"

Steir Rabin: "Telling a woman not to take time off because she might not find work again is like discouraging someone from starting a business because he or she might fail. Better to suggest ways to minimize risk, like ensuring your family has adequate savings and staying professionally connected. Give women the tools to return rather than intimidate them from trying."

Vivian Steir Rabin and Carol Fishman Cohen have written a whole book on career reinvention, Back On the Career Track. I take issue with the title, since for many women the career "track" is replaced by a career version of "off-road adventure," but I recommend their work as a resource for Mojo Moms everywhere.

On a related note, today I met with several community leaders to talk about several projects that are near and dear to my heart. I realized that there is no career ladder or prescribed path that leads to where I am now. I love my life, including my family, community involvement, activism and accomplishments as Mojo Mom.

Why don't we teach women to strike out on our own? It's easy to be a "good girl" by staying on the path. Be a good high school student, get into a good college, get a good job. But then that conveyor belt lets us down when we become Moms and try to integrate work and family. I would love to see more women develop business skills that they can use to create their own job opportunities. Even if you don't start out as an entrepreneur, you might end up as one, and that can be a very good thing.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Working moms feeling untethered by our summer schedules

I have been linked to the school year schedule almost my whole life. Since entering kindergarten myself I have timed my life to summer and back-to-school for my daughter or myself almost every year: 32 of my 39 summers total.

This summer I feel that I have become unmoored, unglued. Half the time I don't know what day of the week it is, what date it is. My daughter is generally in day camp but I have to leave at 2:30 each afternoon to pick her up. Is it my imagination, or is my "vertical information storage system," aka the stack of work on my desk, only growing and never shrinking? I managed to start a new job on the first day of summer break (not my choice of timing!) and it's all been downhill since then. Today my daughter is home "sick," and I am not sure if it's really a mental health day or what, but I told her she needs to rest and entertain herself. I believed that she felt off her game this morning but now she's back to normal and bouncing off the walls.

My friend PunditMom wrote about her Mommycamp schedule with her daughter--so if you want to hear from someone who can make that work, I recommend her blog. More power to her, but it is so not working for me.

I am feeling a lot more in tune with Judith Warner this week, who writes in her blog Domestic Disturbances about her resentment about the myriad school and camp events that ask parents to drop their work to come visit or volunteer during the day.

Judith's rant was cathartic for me. She said:

"Conversations about parents who break promises or let their kids down or generally make them feel less important than work shouldn’t be common. But they are. I hear snippets of them every time I attend a school event during the workday. And I’m fed up. I’ve just about had it.

"But not with the ill-accused parents.

"I’ve had it with a culture that willfully refuses to face up to the fact that almost 80 percent of mothers with children beyond pre-school age – and, of course, a much greater percentage of fathers – work. This refusal to face facts, coupled with the ideology of 'parental involvement' as a panacea for all social ills, has created a situation in which not only guilt-ridden parents, but children are needlessly suffering.

"It doesn’t need to be this way. It only takes a quick look across the Atlantic to see that many other countries have done what’s necessary to grow up and embrace the 21st century. They provide kids with a longer school year, a longer school day and subsidized summer activities. And they consider that a parent’s place is in the home – not in the classroom."

Add in the uber-competitive nature of parenting in some affluent communities and working parents can really feel left out of it all.

Interestingly, Judith's post got over 160 comments and of the ones that I've read, the vast majority of those who wrote in supported her point of view.

And yes, both Judith and I realize how lucky we are to have jobs that allow us to flexibly break away when needed, even at the cost to our work. It's important to remember that as Judith points out, 50% of Americans have no right to sick leave and 25% have no vacation.

Life calls me away from my desk at the moment, so I will leave you with one more link to an article that says that parents shouldn't have to feel that they are their kids' playmates and entertainers: "Leave those kids alone" from the Boston Globe. The tide may be turning away from child-centric rearing and back to a more sustainable approach.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Welcome to Cooper & Emily's neighborhood,

Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann are two of the most dynamic women I have ever met. They co-author a wonderful blog, Been There, which was turned into an instant community bulletin board providing relief opportunities to everyday people after Hurricane Katrina. I also know them from the Executive Team at

And now these two have launched a new website for Moms, Right out of the gate the site is professional and inviting. Before now, I have had very little desire or incentive to get involved in social networking sites, but I've been eagerly anticipating the launch of TheMotherhood for months now.

If anyone can create an intelligent, involving site for Moms, these two are the women to bet on!

And yes, they listed Mojo Mom on their blog ticker, which I really appreciate. This is a great feature for all of us who want to read the latest updates on other women's blogs but don't always have time to visit each individual site. It's like a news feed customized for Mojo Moms (if I do say so myself).

Seeing my blog listed on their site gave me a great kick in the pants to make sure I am writing here regularly. These days I have still been getting used to writing for both and (parent . thesis) on the uber-tech site CNET. I don't quite have the kinks worked out yet to tell me how to do it all. But you know I'll still be here. The summer months are both fun and trying as I patch the holes in my normal childcare schedule.

And I'll find time somehow to meet you on The Motherhood!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Meet me on CNET for a Xanadu discussion!

The Broadway reincarnation of Xanadu starts today. I feel like a love for Xanadu is a good marker for a Gen-Xer of a certain age--tween or early teen in 1980.

I wrote about this over on our new (parent . thesis) blog on CNET today. There has been so much Transformers coverage over there I couldn't resist injecting a little estrogen into the pop culture discussion. I don't know how the CNET readership will respond. So you'd be doing me a big favor if you'd stop by and leave a comment on my Transformers fanboys, meet Xanadu fangirls posting. (It sounds like there's a potential Meetup dating event in there, doesn't it?)

The CNET blog is an interesting opportunity. It's taking me out of my comfort zone but it's also allowing me to communicate with a whole new audience. Writing the blog with my husband Michael has been a lot of fun. I invited him on as my co-author and he is taking it really seriously. He spent all last weekend following up on a bat-recording project he'd started with our daughter, and had written about on the blog. This wasn't an easy feat, since bat echolocation chirps are out of the range of human hearing. With the help of a high-frequency-sensitive microphone and some powerful audio-processing software he got the job done. He ended up writing new code for an open-source software program to make it work. That's commitment.

Even the conflicts we've had with CNET readers have been productive. I wrote a post about the child-abuse risks inherent in low-cost laptop projects that distribute machines to kids in the developing world. Among the comments I received some of the harshest flames I've ever experienced. It kept me up at night thinking that people could infer that I had bad intentions with that post. It is so tempting to stay within the comfortable, friendly bounds of the Mojo Mom community. Yet I do think it's a valuable opportunity to also write for a high-tech audience that might not think of parenting issues the way I do. I am doing my best to make both work, and don't worry, I'll still be here on the Mojo Mom blog--as my for my sake as for yours!

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Mojo Mom Podcast: Talking feminism with Deborah Siegel

I am starting to feel that being a member of Generation X is like being Jan Brady. I had always assumed that when our generation grew up we'd take the stage and be in charge. Now it looks to me like our biggest task for the years ahead may be to mediate between our cool older sister Marcia (the Boomers) and our upstart little sister Cindy (Gen Y)--and we'll never get the respect we think we deserve from either of them.

Luckily, we can count smart women like Deborah Siegel as one of our own. Deborah's new book Sisterhood Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild is one of the most readable histories of the modern women's movement that I have come across. These days our cultural arguments are not so much about fact as they are about narrative. What does the story of the second and third waves of feminism really mean? Where do we go from here? Whether you are a Marcia, Jan, or Cindy, Deborah does us all a great service by creating a narrative of the women's movement that explains the origins of rifts within the movement and between generations.

Deborah is my guest this week on The Mojo Mom Podcast. We talk about looking beyond mother-daughter drama to find ways that women of all ages can appreciate each other, in order to learn lessons of the past and work together in the future.

Stop by Deborah's blog, Girl With Pen, to learn more about the intergenerational panel discussion that she is taking on tour to college campuses this fall. On you can find out about additional upcoming book readings and events.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hear Mojo Mom on "Women Aloud" today (...Podcast will return)

Are you having a hard time adjusting to summer, or is it just me? My new job blogging at CNET started on the first day of summer "vacation," and I feel like my brain is being pulled in a million different directions. Please know that I am doing my best to keep up all my writing. I have been traveling a lot, which is also disruptive, but since I am staying put for the next several weeks I hope to get back into my blogging groove.

The Mojo Mom Podcast has been on a vacation of necessity during these transitional weeks but we are working to get a show up soon. The good news is that today I have a great opportunity to be heard nationally on Greenstone Media's radio program Women Aloud. My segment will be airing live from about 3:30 to 3:50 pm Eastern time. You can call in to hosts Mo Gaffney and Shana Wride at 1.866.51.ALOUD or email questions to I would love to hear from you.

Greenstone Media is broadcast on radio stations throughout the country, or you can listen live through their website. Click here to find out how to listen.

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