Free Anissa

If you don’t know Anissa Mayhew, you should.

I first met Anissa at BlogHer this past summer. I immediately liked her, but we didn’t get to spend very much time together. Just long enough for her to steal my vodka.

@AnissaMayhew & my bottle of Ketel One
(I’m totally kidding. The cap was on. She was actually on her way back to her room to go to bed when this picture was taken. I just think it’s hilarious. And seriously, I don’t let anybody bogart my vodka like that.)

Then, this past September, at the Type-A Mom conference, I saw her again. The first morning of the conference, I walked into the main meeting hall room where everyone was having breakfast. I got there late, and most of the tables were already full. I was trying to scan the room for faces that I recognized, and desperately trying not to feel like the totally awkward girl in high school who doesn’t know where to sit in the cafeteria. Mercifully, Heather spotted me and waved me over to her table. I ended up sitting in between Heather and Anissa, at a table with several other Aiming Low writers.

And you know, it was before 9 a.m., and I felt like I was barely awake, so I just sat there and quietly sipped my Diet Coke (which I had the foresight to bring with me, because I remembered from BlogHer how impossible it is to get a soda in the morning; not all of us are coffee drinkers, y’all). And I listened. And I was amazed that despite how early it was, those girls were tossing around zingers like it was last call at the bar, and they had me almost falling out of my chair laughing in no time.

(Of course, maybe they were all more well-rested than I was, because none of them had to drive six hours the day before with a toddler, and then share a bed with Little Miss Kicks-You-In-the-Ribs-at-3-a.m. I’m guessing.)

Oh, and Anissa was wearing a black cocktail dress, which I thought was kind of amazingly awesome for first thing in the morning. I found out later that her dress was for a fashion show at the conference, but I had no idea of that at the time.

We hung out a little more over the weekend, and then I had breakfast with Anissa, Heather, and the Aiming Low ladies on Sunday, before we all headed home. Another early morning where they had me crying my mascara off from laughing so hard.

At the end of the meal, Anissa said to me, “You know, you talk to people online and you aren’t sure if you’d really click with them in real life. But you are awesome.” That made me smile for the rest of the day.

me and Anissa Mayhew

Yesterday, my friend Anissa – 35 years old, wife, mother of 3 children – had a stroke. As I write this, she’s in the ICU, and we don’t know her status. I am so worried for my friend, and praying as hard as I can.

Heck, I’m even throwing prayers up to my relatives who’ve passed away. I’m hoping one of them might hear me, jot down my message on a Post-It, and slip it into the Big Guy’s inbox for me.

She has to be ok. Too many people here need her.

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To help Anissa and her family, especially if you are in the Atlanta area, please go here. You can also share your own favorite moment with Anissa (or general support) on the Mr. Linky on that same AimingLow.com post.

Halloween round-up

Forgive the quick entry, I only have a few minutes to type this up.

1. My in-laws are coming today! Catie is super-excited and keeps saying, “Grandma and Grandpa Roger are coming to see ME!” With her hand pressed to her chest for extra “ME!” emphasis. Yes, sweetie, they are. And now excuse Mommy while she panics and tries to clean the whole house from top to bottom.

2. I’m not doing NaBloPoMo this year. I thought it was fun in previous years, but with the visit from my in-laws and my entire family coming for Thanksgiving, there’s just no way on earth that I’m going to have time.

3. Halloween was so much fun! We went over to Cat & Tony’s neighborhood so the kids could trick-or-treat together. Catie had so much fun getting to hang out with her cousins, I think she’ll be talking about it until next Halloween.

And since I have to get to my last-minute frantic clean-up-a-thon, here are some of my favorite pictures from Halloween. The whole set is here.

Catie the dinosaur

Elizabeth the cowgirl & Catie the dinosaur

this picture makes me laugh every time I look at it

Elizabeth as a cowgirl riding a unicorn

Trick-or-Treat

Elizabeth in her chariot-wagon, Catie running alongside

Hey, Orkut? You suck.

Fair warning: prepare to be outraged.

I don’t know how many of y’all who use Flickr have had this problem, but here’s the thing. Occasionally I get people who add me as their contact who speak very little English, and who have no pictures available in their photostream. If I ignore it, a couple of days later, I’ll get a Flickr message like this (honest to God, I’m copying & pasting one of the emails I’ve gotten):

Catie I found very beautiful, and I can use the photos of her. Please think well. The Catie is the most perfect little girl that I ever knew, I am photographer.
I found this very beautiful little girl, and in my opinion should be a model. She is simply nice, beautiful, sweet … I would like to know her better, and thus allowing me to use the photos of his daughter.
Many people use the photos of her daughter in ORKUT, if you want I can help it.
Kisses, good week and good night.
-name removed-

The first time I got one of these, I wondered what the hell Orkut was, so I did some investigating. Turns out, it’s a social networking site, sort of like Facebook or MySpace, but the users are predominantly in Brazil and India. It’s run by Google, and appears to be a legitimate website from what I can tell.

So, whenever this comes up, I always respond that NO, you may NOT use the photos of my daughter, and then I block them so they can’t see my Flickr pictures anymore. Lately, I’ve been even more proactive: if someone adds me as a contact and they have a vaguely foreign-sounding name and nothing in their photostream? I block them. No questions asked, they’re just gone.

Then, the other day I got an email from someone on Flickr with a link to a profile on Orkut. I followed the link and found this.

WTF?!?!!
(Click to enlarge.)

Somebody set up an account, claiming that they’re me, using my daughter’s picture as their profile pic, and acting all outraged that people are using Catie’s pictures on Orkut. And they add that “Bianca and Daph” (who??) are the only people authorized to use Catie’s pictures. What the ever-loving eff?!?!!

First, I reported this person to Orkut for identity theft. Then I started doing some investigating. Orkut is sort of like Facebook in that you can post a message called a “scrap” (sort of like writing on someone’s wall in FB). I left a message that was borderline hysterical, sort of “who the hell is this? You’re using my daughter’s picture and acting as though you’re me online? TAKE THIS PICTURE DOWN IMMEDIATELY OR I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND ARRRRGGGGHHH HULK SMASH!!!” Or, you know, something to that effect. I’m pretty sure I dropped an f-bomb. (Which probably has less effect on someone who speaks poor English.)

This is the response I got.

No I have not got it very badly and I really apologize, is that I see many people using photos of her daughter Catie and I decided to do this to stop using his daughter, if you are aware already found 5 girls who wore the daughter and she stopped using because I asked, even though I did wrong I have done something right, sorry about that

So… you’re just pretending to be me in order to protect my kid? Um, sorry, but NO. If you think someone is doing something unseemly with pictures of a stranger’s child, wouldn’t you, I don’t know, try to CONTACT the parent of the child whose pictures are being used illicitly? Maybe?

I took this screenshot & posted it on Flickr, and the person immediately contacted me and asked me to remove it. HELL NO, jackass. I responded and said that I would not be removing it because I wanted to warn the other parents I know to be on the lookout for this. Meanwhile, the profile appears to have been removed, so yay for that, I guess.

So, now I’m left with questions:
1. Why on earth would anyone have any interest in these pictures? It’s not as though they’re naked pictures of her that could be construed as p0rnographic. I don’t post anything like that. What’s the motivation for this? A quick search on Flickr shows that I am definitely not the only one having this problem. But why? What’s the purpose? Do I need to be worried that some Brazilian child sex ring is going to come to North Carolina looking for my daughter? (That’s what my mom thinks. She advised me to shut down my Flickr account AND my blog when she heard about this. And Mom, I love you, but no.)

2. What do I do now? I don’t want to set my Flickr account private, because then I won’t be able to use the pictures on my blog. How do I keep this from happening in the future? Do I stick a watermark on my photos? Would that even help? I mean, if they’re going to steal so blatantly, I doubt a watermark would be much of a deterrent.

3. How do I use my tiny little space on the Internet to try to make this stop? I doubt I can make huge websites like Flickr or Google listen to me. I’d love it if Flickr had some sort of option to block incoming links, so I could have an option that blocks anybody who’s clicking over from Orkut. But I doubt they’re going to make a major site design overhaul based on the complaints of a few people. So, what to do? I know some of y’all are way more clever than I am with this type of thing. If you have any ideas, please share them.

changes, and a couple of questions

I’m going to be doing a little tweaking on the ol’ blog here over the next few weeks. Nothing major, just changing up some of my sidebar stuff. Ads will be different – Google ads are gone because they’re useless, and I might try out some different ads instead. Hopefully it won’t be anything too annoying or intrusive, but I trust that y’all will let me know if it is.

Oh, and I’ve dropped my blogroll from my sidebar because I have about 100 or so blogs in my RSS reader, and just highlighting about 1/4 of them over there seemed sort of pointless and unfair. Also, now trolls can no longer use my blog as the launching point to go attack on someone else’s site. Which has happened a few times. But no more. Suck it, trolls.

And while I’m talking about bloggy/techie stuff, I do have a couple of questions for you lovely people:

1) Do any of you know anything about RSS feeds? Because my feed went from partial, to full, and back to partial again and I never did anything to change any of it. I can’t figure it out. I’m using WordPress, I’ve upgraded to the latest version, and on the Settings > Reading screen, I have it selected to show full text. Why is it still showing up as partial? Any ideas? Help?

2) After seeing some of the gorgeous photos that were taken at Type-A Mom last weekend, and after suffering from camera-envy for a while, I’ve decided it’s time for an upgrade. My little point-and-shoot (it’s an Olympus Stylus 790 SW) is an ok camera, but I end up with an awful lot of blurry pictures, or pictures that are too washed out and grainy. Also, the delay on the shutter speed is so slow – and toddlers are so fast – that I miss an awful lot of really great shots.

So, as soon as I can figure out how to afford it, I want to upgrade to a DSLR. I’ve heard good things about the Canon Rebel, but I know Nikon makes some really great cameras too. Any of you photography pros have advice for a beginner who’s never used a DSLR before? I’ll take whatever tips I can get.

Type-A Mom Conference Recap

We got home from the Type-A Mom Conference yesterday afternoon. This was only my second blogging conference; BlogHer was my first. It feels odd, to go to two in one year, when I’ve been blogging since 2003. I’m not sure how it worked out like that, but there you go.

I think that overall, the Type-A Mom Conference was a lot more enjoyable for me than BlogHer. At BlogHer, it was like Overstimulation Central. The schedule is packed, there are tons of people there, the marketers and their swag are all over the place, everything is rush-rush-rush, and while I certainly got to meet a lot of the bloggers I adore, I didn’t really get a chance to spend a lot of time with any of them. And that’s not really a criticism of BlogHer, honestly, I think it’s just the nature of the beast. By the time it was over, I was so glad to be home again.

By comparison, Type-A Mom was totally different. For one, just the fact that you’re at a resort in a smallish mountain town instead of being in a hotel smack in the middle of downtown Chicago gives it a different vibe. And the fact that it’s a smaller conference means that instead of rushing around trying to meet everyone, I had the chance to actually spend time with people; to have a real conversation and form an actual connection with them, not just a “hi! OMG you’re here! So great to meet you! Ok bye!” Which is sort of what BlogHer felt like to me.

Also, for me personally, Type-A Mom was different because Dave and Catie came along with me. In some ways that was harder (no “I’ll take a nap whenever I damn well please” policy like I had at BlogHer), but it was also great because then I didn’t have that urge to rush home to them – they were already there. Saturday morning, I totally skipped out on the morning sessions, which ok yes, maybe I would’ve learned something if I’d gone. But I spent the morning lying in bed with my family watching cartoons, and I can honestly say that there was nowhere else I wanted to be at that moment.

Oh, for the record? Catie freaking loved Kid Con, which I wasn’t expecting at all. She cried the first time Dave dropped her off there, and we tried to stagger her time there to keep her from getting too overwhelmed. But seriously, after that first time? Every time we took her back to “daycare school” (her term), she’d run into the room with an “Ok, Mommy, bye! You go now!” She was glad to see us when we’d come back for her, of course, but she clearly had a fantastic time there. That was an amazing program that they set up for the kids, all blogging conferences should follow that example.

So, yes. It was great. At BlogHer, I was so exhausted and couldn’t wait to get home by the end of the weekend. With Type-A Mom, I just felt sad and melancholy the whole drive home because I had so much fun, and I wish that all of those fabulous women lived in my neighborhood so I could see them all the time. Sigh.

@kaisermommy, @mrsflinger, me & @al_pal

VDog & me

me & Heather

@debontherocks & @anissamayhew

me & Angie (@alotofnothing)

Oh, and Catie’s take on the conference?
During:
oh hai, Daddy dressed me & he forgot to brush my hair!

After:
this is pretty much how I felt after it was all over, too.

I know how she feels.

type-a mini-vacation

With all the moving and house stuff, I sort of forgot to mention that we’re going out of town this weekend. Or rather, today. Thursday.

We’re heading over to Asheville, North Carolina, and we’ll be there until Sunday. I’m going to the Type-A Mom Conference, and since it’s only a road trip away from here and doesn’t involve airfare, we thought it’d be fun to have Dave and Catie come along. We’ve never been to Asheville, and I hear it’s beautiful there, so I’m really excited.

What’s odd about this little mini-vacation is that we each have different agendas. I’ll be at the conference, Dave wants to go hiking in the mountains, and Catie has a pass to attend “Kid Con,” which is a whole separate event for kids at the conference. I’m a little nervous about that, since Catie isn’t really used to large daycare scenarios, and I’m sort of expecting her to freak out.

But then, she may surprise me. She’s done really well at the YMCA daycare several times. And yesterday, I had a work meeting at 10:30 in the morning; Dave was at the office, and our baby-sitter is out of town this week. Since I didn’t know what else to do, I took her to a drop-in daycare facility that’s close to our new house. I’d typically be a little iffy about that kind of place, but I had heard good things about it from one of our old neighbors, and I didn’t really have any other options. Catie was very excited to go to “daycare school” (as she called it), but when it was time for me to actually leave her there, she had a full-on screaming, crying meltdown. I had to walk out the door while she cried for me, and I swear, I’ll never get used to that. Still, the daycare teachers there said that she was fine about five minutes after I left, and she had a great time playing for the next two hours. She even asked today if she could go back to daycare school. So, I’m thinking that maybe Kid Con will be fine. We’re certainly talking it up to her a lot, about how she’s going to have SO! MUCH! FUN! I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic about how she might react.

So, yes. Asheville! Road trip! Type-A Mom Conference! Getting to hang out with some of my favorite bloggers! Long weekend! Yay!

Oh, and just in case I don’t blog while we’re out of town (because I very well might not), here’s a cute video of Catie opening a present from Mimi & Pop-Pop (my parents).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmthAKc84gQ

The guitar (“gui-tahhg,” as she says) was really cute for the first 15 minutes. Now I’m taking bets on how long until it mysteriously “breaks” – or at least until the batteries disappear.

P.S. Happy 3rd birthday to my beautiful little cousin, Elizabeth! We love you & can’t wait to celebrate when we get back next week.

PooBou's Reviews

If there’s one thing I learned at BlogHer, it’s that there are a lot of bloggers out there who have got this whole selling-your-blog thing down to an art. There are also some whose marketing skills could use, um, a little polishing. (If any of you here are the ones who interrupted private conversations to throw your business cards at people, yes, I am looking at you.)

Honestly, the idea of doing product reviews or giveaways has never appealed to me because I didn’t think it would fit in with the narrative of my blog. All I do here is write about my daily life; I think of this blog as my journal, where I tell stories about my kid and oh-hey-this-random-funny-thing-happened. I think it would come off as awkward and contrived if I suddenly threw a product review in the middle of it. There’s a really great post at Suburban Turmoil about how reviews and personal posts shouldn’t mix, and I tend to agree with her. The last thing I want is to pull people in with a long sob story about my poor toddler’s asthma and then twist it with a, “But it was all magically healed with ACME Lung Fixin’ Balm!” at the end. (Note: I know of no such balm in real life. If you came to my site searching for it, I apologize.) You know what I mean? It’s disingenuous and phony, and I don’t want any part of that.

But, at the same time, I’ve gotten a couple of offers to do some reviews, and I don’t want to turn down a potential income source for my family. So to that end, I’ve created a new site:

PooBou’s Reviews

My first product review will be coming up soon, and seriously y’all, I’m SO excited about it. I’m working with CSN Stores, which is a perfect fit for me since they have all kinds of great home decor stuff, patio furniture, kids’ toys, and basically anything you might need for your house. Since we’re moving to a new house at some point in the next month, and we need stuff for said house, this little project is going to be very near & dear to my heart.

I’m also going to do some reviews for the lovely Room 704 ladies, which should be a lot of fun, since I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to cuss in those. And since I very rarely allow myself to cuss on my own blog, I’m really looking forward to that.

So, stay tuned. Should be some fun stuff coming up on that horizon.