So Long, DC Metro Moms Blog

Many of you have probably heard by now that the DC Metro Moms Blog, its parent group, SV Moms Group, and all 13 of its sister sites will close as of the end of June.

I just got this news yesterday and I was kind of blown away. Of course, there have been a flurry of emails and tweets about how to keep this wonderful DC resource alive. News on that may be coming.

All I know for sure is that I will miss this incredible group. I started writing for DC Metro Moms when it started. A lot of my history is there. The writers who are currently involved, and who have written for the site in the past, are amazing. Reading their words, meeting them in person, and becoming friends with some of them has seriously rocked my world.

Under the impression that the sites would actually come down in July, I spent much of the day transferring my posts from there over to my personal blog. Now it looks like the sites will stay up (yay!), but there will just be no new posts. Unfortunately, this news came to me after I manually transferred all NINETY-THREE posts I’ve written there to Stimeyland.

If you’re interested in reading those posts (and might I suggest that you may not want to do it in one sitting, because did I mention that there are 93 of them?), you can find them here with the label “DC Metro Mom post.” You’ll also be able to identify them by the fact that each of them has “DCMM” in the title line.

This is the second blogging community I’ve been a part of that has shut down semi-suddenly. (The first was Trusera.) I print out all of my posts, but it’s nice to have them online, so I’m happy to have them over here. At Trusera, I lost all the electronic versions, including comments.

I reread some of them as I was moving them over. Wow. What a trip down memory lane. I wrote a lot of them back before Jack had a diagnosis. Sam had just started kindergarten. Quinn was two.

I wrote a lot about the school system and autism. I wrote about why I didn’t attend Obama’s inauguration. I wrote a post about starting Camp Stimey, which I called Camp Here and Now. I wrote at least two posts about raking leaves. I wrote about a whole lot of things.

DC Metro Moms Blog, I’ll miss you. I really will.

DCMM: It’s Hard to Be a Journalist Without Talking to Anyone

When I applied to journalism school, I was drawn to the idea of immersing myself in dawn to dusk work to to cover important events and take part in history. I badly wanted to be part of the media mix. I may be the only person who was admitted to journalism graduate school by citing Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 as an inspiration.

However, it only took a few courses and a few stressful interviews for me to realize that my extreme social anxiety and inability to effectively schmooze might keep me from my goal of being a world-class journalist. Seizing on my task- and detail-oriented abilities, I veered into the world of copy editing instead. If I couldn’t report on history, I could at least make sure it was spelled correctly.

After I got my master’s degree in print journalism, I had a lot of jobs. Some of them had to do with print journalism, many of them had to do with dogs (a stint as a vet receptionist and a worker at a doggy day care among them). I have since returned to writing through blogging, but have shied away from interviews, as they are one of my biggest anxiety triggers.

Since I started writing about autism in my online column, Autism Unexpected in the Washington Times Communities, I’ve had several recent opportunities to interview people for profile pieces. There are people I want to talk to and write about, but it is difficult to do so without communicating with them. And unfortunately, most of these people want to participate in telephone interviews rather than email interviews.

The first telephone interview I conducted recently was with a neurodiversity rights activist named Jonathan Mooney. As his primary disability is dyslexia, I wasn’t hopeful that he would take me up on my half-hearted suggestion of an email interview. Sure enough, I was given a phone number and escalating panic as our agreed upon call time got closer.

One of the problems with this particular interview is that Mooney intimidates the hell out of me. More than anything, I didn’t want to sound like an idiot when I interviewed him. It didn’t help that I was out of practice either—or that the interview was over the phone, because along with my many other neuroses, a phobia of the phone ranks high. I’m much better in person. Usually.

As the hours, minutes, and seconds before our interview slipped away, my nerves got exponentially edgier. I started to wonder if I could plead sick due to my increasing heart palpitations.

Fortunately for me, my drive to be reliable is stronger than my near-paralyzing panic. At the appointed time on the dot, I made my phone call and croaked out my introduction. Listening to my recording later, I realized that I sounded about six years old when I started.

Thankfully, I was prepared, having done my homework and written out questions ahead of time as well as having set up a call recording system so I didn’t have to worry so much about taking notes. As the interview progressed, I think I started to sound less like a nervous nelly, although I really do have to work on blathering less in my questions.

In the end, the finished piece was well worth the stress that went into the process. Plus, I conducted another phone interview the following week with a substantially smaller pre-call freak out. Just this week, I was able to chat on the phone with a source while simultaneously ignoring my melting down child, who was mad because he had been sent to his room. I’m getting better.

I’m still not ready to schmooze on a regular basis, and I’ll never be someone for whom interviews, particularly phone interviews, are easy, but it’s kind of fun to be back doing the things at which I once hoped to kick ass.

This is an original DC Metro Moms Blog. Jean blogs at Stimeyland because she can talk and talk and talk, without actually having to TALK to anyone. She also runs an autism events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont. You can find her babbling to the universe on Twitter as @Stimey.

I Love These Women

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a Brand and Blogger Symposium put on by the SV Moms Group. (I write for one of their sites—DC Metro Moms.)

There was a lot of fun stuff to do there and a bunch of freebies, which means that I have to put my post about the event on my review blog (hello, BlogHer Ads spies! Smile.gif (93  bytes))

I wrote a bunch about the brands that were at the event in that post, but the thing that really made the night for me were the women bloggers that were there.

To you, I say thank you for being so wonderful, so smart, so inspiring, and so much goddamn fun. Y’all rock.

Click here to read the whole story!

DCMM: Code Red: School Isn’t Like It Used To Be

When I was a kid in elementary school, we had semi-frequent fire drills. The alarm would go off and we would all line up and file outside. We’d patiently wait until the principal told us we could go back inside and once we were back in our classrooms, she would let us know how fast (or slow) the school got outside safely. Because I grew up in an earthquake area, we’d also have earthquake drills when we would crouch under our desks until we got the all clear to come back up.

Kids these days have a whole different set of dangers to prepare for. Yes, they learn how to evacuate the school, but they also learn to prepare for the possibility of school invasion and dangers from people, not just nature.

I was in my second-grader’s classroom this morning, reading a book to my son and his classmates when the assistant principal’s voice came over the intercom telling us that we were in Code Blue. The teacher snapped into action, taping a black piece of paper over the window in the door and going through the instructions for what we should do during the Code Blue and what to do should it turn into a Code Red.

Having been to PTA meetings where these codes were discussed, I knew that a Code Blue means that there is something going on in the neighborhood that doesn’t directly affect the school or maybe the problem is that a teacher can’t find a student. A Code Red is called when there is a direct danger to the school.

When the Code Blue was called, my biggest concern was that I’d be trapped at the school past the time I was supposed to leave to pick up my preschooler.
I finished reading the book and then the assistant principal’s voice came back. Code Red. Hunker down.

The teacher and I closed all the blinds, turned out the lights, made sure the door was locked, and then sat in the dark with the kids lined up against the wall. No one spoke or moved, even when someone in the hall rattled the doorknob and pulled on the door.

I’m going to ease your tension right here by telling you that the Code Red was a drill. They were testing us. But, jeez, it was a little scary. The teacher did a good job of keeping the kids mellow and explaining the whole process before and after, but you could tell that they felt the tension. I have never seen a group of kids be so quiet so fast and so well.

The whole thing made me a little sad for this generation. Never once as a child did I have to prepare for a school invasion by locking doors, closing the blinds, turning out the lights and hiding against the wall.

Turns out that fires and earthquakes aren’t the scariest things after all.

Jean writes about her life at her personal blog, Stimeyland; runs an autism events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont; and writes Autism Unexpected, a column in the Washington Times Communities. You can also find her as @Stimey on Twitter, where she would no doubt have been if the Code Red had been real.

DCMM: Jumping the Computer Gap

I’m always hearing stories these days about how connected we all are online and how we spend too much time sitting at our computers. Stories like that first make me defensive (but my online community has done so much good!) and then they make me nod my head in recognition (yes, I suppose I do spend too much time on the computer), and finally make me think about how far computers and I have come in the past 20 or so years.

I got my first computer about two months before I headed off to grad school in 1996. (That is, if you don’t count the Atari 400 my family had as a child, and I’m not sure I do.) I had managed to get all the way through high school with a typewriter and all the way through college with a Brother word processor—which was often borrowed because it was so high tech and useful.

For a long time I was a Luddite when it came to computers. I thought they were lame and unnecessary. After all, my Brother could do anything I needed it to. So what if it took all night to “print” out long research papers with its typing mechanism? In my Berkeley college-age idealism I disliked computers, not just because I didn’t understand them (and I didn’t), but also because of the “computer gap”—meaning that computers and all their privileges were only available to the wealthy.

Then came my birthday before I headed off to grad school. My then-boyfriend/now-husband bought me a used Mac laptop. I was a changed person. I still felt bad about the computer gap, but now my glorified word processor let me play solitaire too. Not to mention that I had discovered the internet earlier that year, and while my new computer didn’t have Internet access, the boyfriend’s did.

I still remember the first time I searched for information online, for my grad school applications. I wanted to print it out and was amazed when the printer spit out what was on the screen, pictures and all. After all, I was the person who had to be reminded over and over again how to turn a computer on and off.

Within two years I had purchased another, better Mac—with color monitor!!—had learned how to code HTML, and had my own online presence with a hand-coded website all about ME! For better or for worse, I had jumped over that computer gap.

Twelve years later, I have two laptops and a desktop computer that is dying a slow death. I have an iPhone and my husband carries a Blackberry. I write five blogs and contribute to two more. We have multiple gaming systems, both console and hand-held. Even the picture frame that sits on my desk has a hard drive.

Yeah. My 22-year-old pre-computer self would hate me.

Looking past the embarrassment of riches that my family is lucky enough to have, I see how far my philosophy on computers has come. I still believe there is a computer gap and that it is more devastating than ever. But I am firmly entrenched on the privileged side of the chasm. The other day, the video card (or something) on my main laptop went kaput and I was destroyed. Before I took it into the computer store and got the good news that it was an easy fix, I was heartbroken.

All the things I used to do on paper—my job, my photographs, my to-do list, even quick notes to myself—I now do on my computer and they were suddenly inaccessible and I was at a complete loss. And this is with two one-and-a-half computers still available to me.

It is amazing to me the world that my children are growing up in. They will never know a world without computers. When they go to college, I wonder if they will learn how to comb through the stacks at different campus libraries to find the chapter of the book they need. I know that I need to be better at teaching my kids that all the answers don’t come from the magic box that lives on the desk.

I come from a family that didn’t have a microwave until I was in ninth grade and didn’t have an answering machine until even later, and yet three days without one of my computers threw me for such a loop that it kind of shook me. This world of technology, this world where utter dependence on computers and technology is so wide-spread and personal, well, some days it makes me marvel.

This is an original DC Metro Moms Blog post. Jean is fully aware of how ridiculously addicted to computers she is. Some examples of her intense interconnectivity are her main blog, Stimeyland; her autism events website for Montgomery County, AutMont; and her column about autism, Autism Unexpected.

DCMM: I’m So Close to the Dream

We are getting close to the end of the school year here in Maryland. And, yes, I KNOW it’s still only April, but that just leaves May and then a couple weeks of June, which barely counts, and if you subtract lunch time, recess, and standing in line time, it’s really more like three or four days.

Anyway, the end of the school year is making me think about the beginning of next school year. Next school year starts August 30 in Montgomery County. I’ve been waiting for that day for a long time. It’s so close I can almost touch it. That day? That day is the beginning of a better life for me because all three of my kids will be in school all day long. This long-coming day makes me think of the research study I remember hearing about a few years back that stated that parents’ happiness peaks when their kids are in elementary school. I’m waiting patiently for that. And I’ve compiled a list of ways my life will be substantially better come August 30th.

• Naturally, August 30 itself will be better because I plan on napping that whole day. Just because I can. Maybe I’ll nap near a bucket of bonbons, just for effect.

• I work from home in the evenings after my kids go to bed and on weekends. I am really, really looking forward to shifting that work time to the day. The result of this shift change will mean that not only will I have free time—ohmigod free time!—but that I will be able to maybe chat with my husband now and again. I’m going to enjoy that. I wonder what that guy has been up to.

• I am going to save GOBS of gas money. I currently drive back and forth to my youngest son’s preschool twice a day. Plus I drive the older guys to school in the morning. Now that they’ll all be going to the same place at the same time, I think I’m just going to put them on the bus. Which leads me to…

• …the time I’m going to save. My current drop off duties (elementary and pre-school) takes me an hour and a half. When all three of them get on the bus, I’m going to cut that hour and a half down to FIVE MINUTES.

• Do you know what I’m going to do with that hour and twenty-five minutes I save? I’m going to exercise. Every. Day. With Added Daily Bonus Shower!!

• After I clean myself, then I will clean my house. That act alone, done consistently, will likely save my marriage.

• But volunteering in three kids’ classes. Oy, right? Wrong! These days volunteering in two different kids’ classes requires two days because of the short amount of time my youngest is in preschool. Once I don’t have that limitation, I can consolidate all three classrooms into the same day. Yes, I’ll be at the school for four or five hours, but then I will have four full days of freedom!

• Those extended periods of child-free time also means that I will be able to do things like schedule appointments without worrying about missing preschool pick up. Or making my husband take sick days to watch the kids when I go to the dentist. Imagine how both my teeth and his career will flourish!

• All of those projects, you know the ones you’re going to do…later? I’m going to do them. I’m going to organize my photos. I’m going to organize my kids’ school scrapbooks. I’m going to start reading the stacks of books that have been patiently waiting. I’m going to make all the blog improvements on my Blog To Do list. I’m going to do the research on all the things on my Research To Do list. I’m going to do all the things on my regular To Do list.

I don’t know what’s going to happen when August 30 passes and I am not instantly happy, thin, clean, and organized. But I’m sure that won’t happen. Right? RIGHT??

This is an original DC Metro Moms Blog post. You can read about how Jean fills the days until August 30 at her personal blog, Stimeyland.

DCMM: The Full Physical: Good Idea or Psychological Torture?

I don’t think anyone really likes going to the doctor and I am no exception. I went to the doctor this week for a full physical, and it was the lamest hour and a half I have spent in recent memory. 

I mean really. You walk in for your appointment and the first thing they do is whip out the scale. Thanks a lot, doctor. Then, if you’re me, even if you walked in feeling completely healthy, you walk out with a sheaf of papers of referrals and instructions. Thanks even more. 
To make it even worse, I am evidently at an age when new tests are performed at physicals. The nurse had me lay down on the table for an EEG as if I’ve been doing it my whole life. Or maybe an EKG? I don’t know. All I know is that there were little stickers, wires, and an acronym. Also the nurse said, “I’m going to expose your left breast,” at least three times. 

A student nurse practitioner took my history, which meant it was incredibly thorough, but who wants to sit on a paper sheet in a tiny gown with your pudgy, glowing winter white legs dangling off the edge of the table while you answer question after question about your bad habits? 

Yes, I’m overweight. No, I haven’t been exercising lately. No, I don’t treat my psoriasis. Yes, you can see it all over my scantily clad body and I look an awful lot like I have The Pox. Sure, I’ll stand here while you circle around me inspecting my body. And so forth. 

Oh, but that wasn’t the best part. The best part was when I somehow inadvertently volunteered myself as a human model for the doctor to demonstrate her lengthy and thorough breast exam for the student nurse practitioner. I sat on the edge of that exam table, bare to the waist, with arms raised as if someone were pointing a gun at me, for a good five minutes while the doctor explained, poked, and pointed. 

Fortunately, I passed. 

I do have to say that it was a little weird when everybody abruptly left the room and I had no idea if I should stay there on the table in my gown or get dressed. I decided on getting dressed. It was mostly the right decision. The nurse came in halfway through to give me my walking papers. 

Those walking papers consisted of a referral to a dermatologist, a referral for a mammogram, a referral for physical therapy for back pain, a referral for blood work, and instructions to make two follow-up appointments for two very specific things. And a prescription. 

Damn. When I went in, I thought I was healthy. 

Jean blogs as Stimey at Stimeyland, runs an autism-related events website for Montgomery County at AutMont, and writes Autism Unexpected, a column in the Washington Times Communities.