My Tribe: How Online Networking Helped Me Find My People


A misfit among misfits is how I’ve felt for most of my life.  Growing up, I never really fit in anywhere.  Sure I had friends, but I didn’t fit in with preppy kids because I was too poor.  I didn’t fit in with the stoner kids, because I just didn’t look like them much less partake of what earned them their moniker. I didn’t fit in with the nerds or punkers, either.  As a teenager, I was big into the hippie culture of the late ’60’s, long before there were hipsters or whatever the hell they call themselves today.  I walked around with peace signs on my jeans jacket, hair in a long braid down past my butt. My musical tastes ran a spectrum most kids scoffed at.  I stuck out a little bit more than your average misfit.

Once I went to college I found a few more misfits like me, but still they weren’t my tribe.  I wasn’t into the drugs, sleeping around and partying that many of them were.  I had a job to do, get through school, so I could start earning a living wage and get on with my life.

Eventually I married and had kids and changed careers.  I wanted to write.  I had wanted to be a writer since I was in high school, but I, and others around me, brushed it off as not being a viable selection as far as careers were concerned.  It took me until well into my thirties to realize that that was a bunch of B.S.

I dipped my toe into the writing pool around age 36 and got a few things published. However, ever the pessimist that I am, I backed off on my goals, believing that it was a fluke.  I wanted to bask in that success and not have it ruined by a bazillion rejections.  Not a bright move, in hindsight.

Thankfully, through the wonder of blogging and writing, I found a writer much like me and she encouraged me to keep going.  While I had no end of encouragement at home from my Sweet Babboo and my friends, this encouragement was different.  This came from someone who understood the torture that is writing, the push and pull of banging around in your own head for hours a day putting words to paper.

Then she formed a secret group of writers who could get together and share ideas, ask questions and just be themselves.  In that group I’ve found a sort of Shangri-La. In the few months that I’ve been there, I’ve learned more about the writing business, blogging and freelancing than I have in the past 5 years all by myself.  I’ve found a group of people who share the same neuroses as me, who are haunted by the same writerly fears as me, and who get that sometimes we need a swift kick in the pants as motivation to keep going.

And they are unbelievably kind, giving, open people.  They have banded together virtually and in person by attending a conference together.  Then we found out that my friend’s secret group isn’t all that secret.  There are people desperate to join the fun.  My friend, whether intentionally or not, created a small writer’s community filled with some of the most amazing talent the internet has to offer today.  And I cannot tell you how much I am amazed.

All of this started because a lady in Maine reached out to me one day to say she liked my writing.  That’s it.  A stranger took the leap and contacted me. From there I found my tribe because she grabbed me by my virtual sleeve and dragged me along with her.  And I’m so glad she did.

Even though I am truly a fledgling writer when it comes to freelance work, I don’t feel as if I don’t belong.  I am writing and sending out submissions daily. There are nearly 140 people in the blogosphere who know my name and come to my rescue at the slightest mention of needing help.  It’s a marvelous little world and it speaks to the power of networking.  It speaks to the generosity of our species.

Never have I been more proud to be called writer.

What about you?  Have you found your tribe? If so, how?  Leave your story in the comments.

DING! DING! DING! We have a winner!

Congratulations to my blog friend, Beth Ann Chiles!  She is the winner of our Chasing Liberty Contest.  As promised, Beth Ann will receive a signed copy of Theresa Linden’s book Chasing Liberty.

Incidentally, Beth Ann is also a writer.  Pop on over to her blog and check it out.  She’s an avid teapot collector, cat lover and the woman travels more than anyone I know.  She’s quick to share positivity and pics.  You won’t be disappointed.

Thanks to everyone who entered!

My Christmas List

What do I want for Christmas?  That’s a question I get asked over and over each year.  I never have an answer because I’ve never really been all that materialistic.  Sure, I like to have this or that, but most often it’s something small that I usually buy for myself.  The majority of my money that actually gets spent on me–a luxury, as any mom can attest to–is usually blown on books.  I like to read and write.  Pretty simple stuff that doesn’t require much.

Lately, I’ve gotten to thinking, though.  There are things I want, but no one is going to be able to hand them over Christmas morning, painstakingly wrapped and bowed, waiting with exhilaration for me to open them.  They simply can’t be given that way.  My list contains some pretty universally wanted stuff.  I think you want them, too.  So, in no specific order, here is that list.

1.  An end to Mom Shaming.

I cannot express enough how exhausting and devastating this activity is.  I hate it so much.  Just the other day an old lady saw me buying a boxed item in the baking aisle and said, “You know, it’s just as easy to make that from scratch.”   What the little old lady didn’t know is that my attempts at making this particular item from scratch have seriously BLOWN.  Like, the dog wouldn’t eat it kind of BLOWN.  I can’t tell you how long I cried about my box-made food.  All I can say is I tried.  That should count for something.  Mom shaming means that it doesn’t, and that is unbearably sad.  I’m not Martha Stewart, and that gene was not on the option list when I swam in that particular pool.

2.  An end to fat shaming.

Sitting at a restaurant the other day I heard a man ask his wife, “Who is that woman on TV that you watch?  You know.  The fat one?”  That’s all the information his wife needed to name Rosie O’Donnell.  Seriously.  I nearly stabbed them with my fork.  I hate that a person’s weight is what defines them to so many people.  It’s truly one of the last acceptable prejudices.  It makes me sick.  Regardless of anyone’s opinion of Rosie O’Donnell, if your first descriptor of her is that she’s fat, the problem is YOU not HER.  If you look at me and all you see is a fat woman, it’s time consider deepening your pool, because yours is pretty damn shallow.

3.  More of the feminist love from my sons.

Tony came to me and said, “Mom, my friend shared a meme with me that said something about women needing to be in the kitchen.  He thought it was funny.  I didn’t get it.  What does that even mean?”

My response:  “What do you think it means?”

Tony:  “The truth?”

Me: (nodding my head)

Tony:  “That he’s an idiot.”

Seconds, please.

4.  A confidence shot.

I want to stop feeling like I haven’t earned my place at the table.  Any table.  As a mom, writer, aunt, in-law, wife, friend and human being, I feel like I let people down more than I help them.  There are days that I win like a boss.  There are days that I am barely holding on, trying not to circle the drain.  Regardless of what day it is, I’ve done the work.  I’ve put in the effort.  I need that shot of confidence to help me say to myself, “You are enough.”

5.  Less self-imposed stress

I want to tie a blindfold around the eyes of my Type A personality, offer it one last smoke and blow its brains against a wall.  Nothing has to be perfect.  There are no perfect people.  We are all our own special brand of fucked up.  We should embrace that and go with the flow.   I’ve lost sleep over the fact that someone visited my house and the carpet looked unswept.  They came in and looked at the floor with disdain.  You know what?  They didn’t know that I swept twice that day.  They didn’t know that my vacuum bag got full and, much to my chagrin, that full one was the last damn bag I even owned.  I didn’t have time to go get another one before they came over with their white gloves and scowl.  So what if the dog fur collected in the corner looks like I murdered an old woman or spend my free time shearing dogs.  I’ve done my absolute best and that should be all that anyone, especially me, expects.

6.  More people going out of their ways to write nice comments.

This one sounds like a no-brainer.  I have seen so many folks doing good things and putting goodness out into the world, but that all gets swept away by just one jerk being an idiot and leaving troll comments on articles I (or other writers) have written.  It’s not hard to be nice, people.  Seriously.  I don’t agree with 90% of what I read on the internet.  I only comment when I have something positive to add to the conversation, or if I can voice my opinion in a way that shows I’m a grown human being who disagrees with the author and showed up with my manners intact.  If the only comments you can leave me are your guesses about my I.Q. and how that is impacted by the color of my skin, then just keep on truckin’.  Those are personal attacks, not opinions.  No time for that B.S. here.

7.  More love, less hate.

You’d think this one is a no-brainer, but it’s not.  Who in this world couldn’t use a little more understanding, love or kindness?  Who could deal with a lot less hate?  There are easy answers to these easy questions, but somehow, as human beings, we lack follow-through.  Some people get so blinded by their anger, or are so very married to their opinions, that they don’t take the time to step back and see the bigger picture.  Hate grows like weeds.  It needs no attention whatsoever to take over this world.  Weeds choke out the flowers just like hate chokes out love.  When given the right attention, and making a concerted effort to eradicate hate, love will bloom.  Mightily.  Heartily.

If I were to get everything on my list, in the immortal words of Louis Armstrong, what a wonderful world it would be.



Ferguson, Missouri is the reason I don’t watch the news

Cable.  We don’t have it.

Dish Network.  We don’t have it.

Netflix.  We have.

Hulu Plus.  We have.

Why?  Aside from not being big TV watchers, things like Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri are why.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe that folks need to be informed.  Ignorance and stupidity be damned.  However, I have a few tender souls in my house that, when viewing the news, wind up all anxious and worried, unable to sleep or control the crying because of their own empathy.

I read exactly ZERO articles and watched NO programs about this story.  All the information I have was gleaned from ONE article shared by journalist Connie Schultz‘s Facebook feed and a few conversations with my nosier-than-I husband.  However, that little chunk of the mountain of information swirling the internet and airwaves was more than I needed to form an opinion.  And my opinion is this:  none of the story is good.  Every angle is wrong.

I didn’t know Michael Brown.  The evidence released in the article, at the very least, tells me he may not have acted the way he should have.

I don’t know Darren Wilson.  The evidence released in the article and accompanying pictures suggest there may have been some lies told.

I’ve never lived in Ferguson, Missouri.  From what I’ve learned about the riots and looting, I’m kind of glad I don’t.

I’ve never had the privilege to serve on any jury, much less one that shoulders the responsibility of whether or not there is sufficient evidence to go forward with a trial.   After this sort of tragedy, I hope I never do.

Since the grand jury chose not to indict the officer, I searched for an article, any article that might shine some compassion on a very difficult and muddled story.  I’ve yet to find one.  (Feel free to share one you’ve found in the comments.  I’d like to read it.)  For me the whole situation is that we are dealing with people here.  People are complex and can sometimes be unpredictable.  They bring with them to every situation some sort of baggage.

That includes witnesses.  Some witnesses said they saw him surrendering and that he shouldn’t have been shot.  Yet other witnesses said he was charging the police officer and Wilson should have feared for his life.  I’m sure not one of those witnesses felt that they were lying.  Their truths were reality for them, colored by the baggage they bring with them every day of their lives.

There is certainly an abundance of compassion for Michael Brown, and surprisingly little for Darren Wilson.  I wouldn’t have wanted to be in either man’s shoes, to be honest.  No one but Michael Brown and Darren Wilson know the truth about what went on.   And even then there could be two versions of that truth.  The entire incident took ninety seconds.  Those ninety seconds have defined both men’s lives.  Ninety swiftly fleeting seconds.

What it all boils down to, for me, is this:

It is beyond sad that young people are literally being shot in the streets in this country, whether by their own poor choices or nefarious means.  There is nothing that pulls at my heartstrings more than the tears of a mother who has just lost her baby to violence.  Kids make poor choices all the time.  It’s in their nature.  As a mother, I think of the poor choices my kids have made and hope and pray that they never make one that costs them their lives.  As the mother of white children, I am also keenly aware of the privilege they have that other mothers’ babies don’t.

It is part of the job description that officers have to answer for the shots they fire, and, of the officers I’ve known (several family members and friends), not one of them relishes the idea of drawing their weapons, much less having to fire them.  Ninety seconds feel like forever when you just sit and watch the time go by, but when something heated is happening it feels like the blink of an eye.  That’s a responsibility many, if not most, of us wouldn’t desire having.  I wouldn’t want to make any decision in my life in that amount of time unless it was of the most frivolous quality.  Ninety seconds are not enough time to make a literal life and death choice.  Darren Wilson deserves a little compassion, too, even if only because he has one of the toughest jobs in the world.  Because it is in public service, he will forever be criticized, good or bad, for that tragic ninety seconds.

Rioting and looting are not a salve for the wounds of Ferguson, Missouri.  I understand the need to do something.  I understand the pain and outrage. I empathize with those feelings.  My thoughts are, though, that if you want love and compassion and non-violence to breed in your community, looting and rioting is a most circuitous route to that ever happening.

For Michael Brown’s family, I offer condolences.

For Darren Wilson, I offer compassion.

For Ferguson, Missouri, I offer the hope that your city will heal in time.

For everyone, I hope we learn the power of love over hate.  It’s all that we have to cling to, to make the changes our world needs.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

Stumbling Out of the Gate

I had my first “official” author presentation for Lemonade and Holy Stuff.  And I did………okay.  I goofed up a couple of times which only solidified my initial feelings about the day:  I hadn’t earned my spot at the table, so to speak.

I know that everyone faces self-doubt, but lately I’ve been bathing in it.  I’ve been feeling that old word “just” sneaking in where it isn’t welcome.  I’m just a mom who writes humorous and poignant stories about her kids.  I’m just a non-fiction writer with no finger on the pulse of fiction, the real meat that readers are after.  I’m just a self-published author.  Chimps could pull that off.  I hate “just.”  It implies “less than.”  However, that is exactly how I feel:  so very less than.

Truly, I wish there was a vitamin Confidence that I could take.  That would solve all my problems.

I am aware that I view myself through a pretty harsh lens.  Unfortunately, that’s how I’m wired.  I’m so Type A that it isn’t funny.  The problem with being Type A is that I am also human.  I screw up.  A lot.  None of that changes that expectation in my head that I be perfect, even if it’s my first time doing it.

My writers’ group, bless their scribbling hearts, are so very supportive.  If not for their weekly pats on the back, I wouldn’t be as productive a writer.  They truly lift me up when I need it.  They were there to support me on Saturday, even saving my butt when I forgot to bring my book to the podium with me.  Yes.  You read that right.  I forgot my damn book.  What author does that?

My family and friends were there to support me, which was awesome.  Seeing their faces scattered in the audience gave me something to look at while my voice shook and my computer went backwards during my PowerPoint presentation.  I still don’t know how that happened.  I wasn’t pressing the wrong button.  Technology hates me.  Those who were there Saturday got to witness it first hand.

In any regard, I’m positive I came off as scatter-brained, or, at the very least, as unorganized.  Sadly, there isn’t much I can do to rectify that situation.  I can take this as a learning experience.  In the future, I plan to:

1.  Take more anxiety medication, because what I did take didn’t work.


3.  And it warrants repeating:  Not forget my book.

4.  Make Jim run the technology.  It quivers in fear in his presence.

5.  Teach my kids to do a little, entertaining jig in front of strangers to distract from their mother’s ineptitude.

At the very least, the kids will get their exercise in for the day.

I was saved by a superhero

About two o’clock in the morning I was typing away at my computer, Rosie, our dog curled at my feet, snoring away.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something flutter in the background.  I looked and saw nothing.  I continued to type.

A few minutes later I heard Rosie’s I.D. tags jingle.  Something had woken my semi-comatose hound.  Only two things do that:  the promise of food or fun.  I looked down to see her brown ears perked up, her nose wiggling about 90 miles an hour while she tried to discern if whatever woke her was worth actual movement.

That’s when I saw it.  My old nemesis.  The brown bat.

You see, we’d been here before.  Only it was trapped in the laundry room during the first go round.  Now it was in my dining room, swooping around like freaking Rodan.

Rosie, remembering that I didn’t let her eat the little brown flying rat the last time, rested her head on her paws to continue her snooze.

Until I busted out my best defense against the pterodactyl in the dining room, that is.

I hit the dirt and started screaming like a little girl, crawling to the doors and flinging them open, in hopes that Rodan would make a swift exit outside where he belonged.  Swear words flowed freely from my mouth as I gave myself carpet burn, unable to get any closer to the ground despite my best efforts.  Rosie jumped up and joined in on the fun, hopping around like a rabbit, barking at the furry brown fun making her mom completely lose her shit.

That’s when the boys came running out of their bedrooms.

“Mom!” Tony said, “what is wrong?”

“Mom!”  Jimmy said, “why are you scream….”

Then Rodan dive bombed my baby!

Tony ran for his room slamming the door.  Jimmy ran for his room and slammed the door, also.

I looked around, feeling like my eyes were going to pop out of my head, my heart pounding so hard I’m sure the neighbors could hear.

That’s when Jimmy came down and said, “Mom, it’s trapped in my room.”

After I got him some blankets to sleep on the couch with, I called my savior, Jim.

“Jim, it’s back!  The bat is back!” I sobbed into the phone.

“You’re kidding me!”

“I wish!”

So, quietly I sat, shivering from the overdose of adrenaline pumping through my veins.  Jim will get the net.  He’ll capture Rodan and we’ll be fine, I thought.  I began to worry about bat poop in the house.  Was it toxic?  What if the dog ate it?  What if the kids touched it?  How do you find bat poop?  What does it look like?

After about thirty minutes of worrying myself into a tizzy, Jim came home.  He was wearing his hard hat, uniform, heavy green jacket with a flap protecting his neck, big welding gloves, safety goggles and work boots with steel tarsals.  I looked down at myself.  I had on a tank top and shorts.  I made a mental note to purchase better armor for these occasions.

Up the stairs he went with the giant black net.  Two seconds later, he came downstairs with Jimmy’s blanket wadded up in the net.  Rodan had flown into Jimmy’s room and knocked himself wonky on the fan.  After all this commotion, the damn thing was taking a nap on Jimmy’s comforter.

Jim walked him outside and lay the net and blanket on the deck.  A few moments later, the evil thing woke up and flew off to eat bugs and terrorize someone else.

I breathed a sigh of relief and Jim went back to work.

The next morning I hugged my savior.

“You know, I love you, and I have no problem saving you from bats,” he began.  “But, next time, we’ll keep this between us, okay?”

“Okay,” I said, confused.

“I got to work and this was hanging on my locker.”

How many women can actually say they were saved by Batman?

I’m one lucky girl.