Sunday, August 30, 2009

Love Songs From A Monster

According to the latest news, pervert Phil Garrido wrote "love songs" about his young hostigage while he served four months in jail back in 1993 for violating parole. He pined that he looked forward to getting home to his “blue-eyed girl” and and getting “down and dirty” with her. He later recorded the songs at his home and handed out the CDs to friends and family.

It is believed his wife Nancy kept Jaycee under lock and key during while he was in jail. Can you imagine? You husband has a young girl held prisoner in your home and you are OK with that? Not just OK but you help keep her locked away so when your husband comes back home he can continue to sexually abuse her.

Weeks after being released from prison Garrido had his first child with Jaycee, by then 14. Four years later they had another child. He wrote a new set of songs about the children. Has he molested those kids?

Speaking of those poor children, how is this all going to affect them. They know this monster as their father. They have known no other life. They've never been to school or to a doctor. How can Jaycee separate herself mentally from the abuse she received at Garrido's hands and cope with what the children will go through as they might miss their Dad.

This is not a marriage gone bad. This is years of rape and mental abuse. The state of California owes her some mental health care. I hope they give it to her but it seems like the only ones that ever really are on the receiving end of state help is the perpetrator.

I saw a couple of people mention that this was an example of how sick Christianity is. This man was not a Christian. Heck I could paint black stripes on a pony but that doesn't make it a zebra. He was a sick, sick, evil man who used God to justifty his actions. A Christian would not do something like this. To paint him as being a Christian is unfair to people who truly are Christian.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Phillip Garrido - A Portrait Of Evil

His neighbors called him "Creepy Phil" but I don't think that begins to cover the evil that is Phillip Garrido. I don't even believe that evil can describe a man who would steal a young girl from her family, then steal her innocence, her childhood, and her life.

Now the police are investigating Garrido to see if he was involved with the murder of local prostitutes. Turns out there are nine unsolved murders near where he used to work that took place over a three-month period around Christmas 1998.

This is a man who spent eleven years in jail for kidnapping and raping a woman in a storage unit he had converted into a "sex palace", with sex aids, hardcore pornographic magazines and stage lights. Oh but the state of California released him because, you know he has rights, and I'm certain he was rehabilitated.

Friday as he and Nancy, 55, shuffled abjectly into El Dorado County's superior courtroom, clad in red jumpsuits and bound in shackles, to plead not guilty to 29 charges involving the kidnap, rape, sexual assault and false imprisonment of Jaycee Lee Dugard, an 11-year-old girl who was snatched from a bus stop near her South Lake Tahoe home in the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1991.

The charges against the Garridos run to 16 pages and stretch from June 1991 to August 2009

Interestingly enough he was a blogger of sorts. He blogged under the name THEMANWHOSPOKEWITHHISMIND. If you feel like reading his sick crap.

Why is it that in 2006 the police did not investigate when Neighbors complained to police about children living in Garrido's back yard. Police attend, but do not search the property?

What about in July of 2008 when officers checking on sex offenders visit the house?

Who in the HELL decided that this man was safe to let out of jail?

Not guilty my ass!!!! Let God have mercy on his sould because I certainly would NOT grant it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Jaycee Lee Dugard Found Alive

Jaycee Lee Dugard Pictures, Images and Photos

When I first heard about this case the name Colleen Stan leaped into my mind. Many people either don’t know or don’t remember Colleen but I still remember that case. It was the summer of 1977 and she was hitchhiking from Eugene, Oregon., through northern California. Hitchhiking was de rigor for teens back then. Life was an adventure and we were all ten feet tall and bullet-proof convinced that we could spot people out to do us harm. I used to hitchhike and despite several unnerving experiences it took seeing the movie The Chain Saw Massacre to make me stop.

Colleen was kidnapped by Cameron Hooker and his battered wife Janice. As a matter of fact the fact that the wife and baby were in the car when they pulled over made her feel even more certain that this was going to be a “safe ride.” It was not.

She was subjected to seven years of torture and sensory deprivation. She was made a sex slave, kept locked in a box 23 hours a day and brainwashed into believing that an underground network of sadists would recapture her if she attempted to escape.

As a claustrophobic this book was extremely difficult for me to read. As a rape victim it was doubly difficult to read. When she did escape, she simply walked away. It was his wife Janice who finally helped free her and turn in her husband. It was truly a frightening story of the depths depravity the human soul could sink..

It is the fear that every parent has. A stranger snatches our child. Yet statistically stranger abductions are extremely rare. There are about 100-200 stranger abductions a year according to the most recent report. Certainly we know about the ones that captured the headlines. Adam Walsh and Elizabeth Smart are two such examples. Most child kidnappings here in the US are committed by family members or people known to the child’s family. Yet when we look away for just one second and our child is gone we feel our hearts seize up in our chest imagining the worse.

This is why the case of Jaycee Lee Dugard highlights that we are not doing enough as a nation to protect our children, whether it be one child, one hundred, or 1 million, each child has the right to a childhood that keeps them safe from people who would abuse them. Jaycee Lee Dugard, now 29, was 11 when she was grabbed from a bus stop on her way to school by Phillip and Nancy Garrido outside her home in Meyers, near Lake Tahoe, on June 10, 1991. She hadn't been seen since.

When your child disappears there is always hope. You remember cases like Steven Stainer and Elizabeth Smart who were found after most people would assume that their child was dead. When my son was still a toddler one of my best friend’s had her nephew stolen from the hospital as an infant and after awhile I was certain that the child would never be recovered. He was but only by chance.

Now the details of her captivity are being covered in the press and we discover that this man was actually on probation and the State did not do its due diligence in watching him. Why I am not surprised? How many times do I have to open the paper and discover that a murder was out on supervised probation? That a rapist had a long history of rapes but he cut off his ankle bracelet so he could rape again? Do the people who decry the warehousing of people in prison have any sympathy for the victims or are they allowed to become the victim yet again and teach the perpetrator how to avoid detection next time? Does it have to happen to their child? Do they have to burry their child knowing that an adult stole her innocence before they realize that this isn’t something that we can “cure”?

I will be following this story because as rape victim myself my heart cries out for other women, not matter their age, who’ve been violated by this horrible crime.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rosemary Don't Live Here

I saw this video clip this morning on the news. Turns out a 15 year old girl was dancing at this all nude club instead of going to school. When reporters showed up at her home they were attacked.

As a teacher I can't say that I'm surprised. Often, but not always, you can see exactly why a child acts like they are out of control. That is because they have not learned how to act correctly.

I remember calling a parent years ago to inform her that her daughter was not attending school. It turns out that the daughter, she was 18, was working as an exotic dancer at her UNCLE's club. When I called Mom she cursed me out. It's not because I said anything about her daughter's occupation. It was because I interrupted a certain illicit transaction that had been taking place. Think expletives. Think lots of them.

I will do my best not to make the glaring reference to the garden tool used in comparison to the person wielding it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy Dead At The Aged Of 77

Young Ted Kennedy Pictures, Images and Photos

When I was about six years old I didn't know much about politics. I did know that my family, good Catholics all, had been excited that a Catholic had held the highest office in our country. My father, a DC cop, had even been part of John F. Kennedy's funeral procession. So even at that very young age I knew about the Kennedy's.

The media loved the Kennedy's and you would often see them on TV. It seemed that his brother Robert would follow in his brother's footsteps and become our President one day.

My best friend, Jeanette Carmichael, and I did what little girls do. We talked about the day that one day we would be married and the kind of life we would have. Jeanette and I both longed to get married to a famous rich man and live the life we saw movie stars live. Many young girls now have the same dream of marrying rappers or football players.

I told Jeanette that maybe I would marry Ted Kennedy. He was rich. He was handsome and one day I would live in the White House. The same White House that was once part of my father's beat. I think Jeanette and I only had three fights in the entire time that we knew each other and this sparked one of them. It was a horrible fight with hair pulling and name calling because Jeanette had the same dream of marrying Ted Kennedy. We did make up but I can still remember that fight all these years later.

I can still remember learning about Chappaquiddick just a few years later. My dad, ever the cop, was patiently explaining the whole incident, the inconsistencies of Kennedy's story, and about what he theorized happened. We were all supposed to be asleep but I could hear my father talking about it as I lay there in the dark. When I imagined Mary Jo Kopechne trapped in the vehicle submerged in the dark waters I could feel my chest tighten and I remember crying. Looking back I can say that this is one of the reasons that even today when I drive over a big suspension bridge I a real fear seizes up inside me and I imagine that my car might get hit and I will fall into the murky waters below.

The incident also changed my mind about Ted Kennedy forever. I no longer admired him with that child like innocence that I'd had. At age nine I was already becoming jaded. I think that the fact that he was the first hero that I saw topple affected me greatly in my opinion of him. He plead guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury, and received a suspended sentence. My Dad often said, "If this had been a poor man, a black man, the sentence would have been much much harder. I still believe that this is true.

When I was a young woman growing up in DC the stories of his womanizing and drinking were epic. So when I saw him at a crowded political event one time I steered clear of of the man I had thought I would marry when I was a child. I didn't rush over and introduce myself to this senator who still had a rock star status. I saw him as a shining example of how there were actually two kinds of justice in this country, one for the rich and one for the poor. He had become a caricature of an aging playboy still caught up in a Peter Pan world that his wealth allowed him to enjoy.

People seem forgiving of that long ago incident. They praise him for all that he has done but I still find there to be a bit of hypocrisy. He pushed for the desegregation of public schools while making sure that his children went to private whites only schools. At least Carter sent his daughter Amy to DC public schools. I also found it interesting that people crucified Bush for No Child Left Behind but it seems his part in this same legislation is celebrated. He wanted wind towers but not placed near his home where they would obscure the view. What about others who might say Not In My Backyard? Will they have the same pull?

Now a new level of hypocrisy. When Romney was in charge of Massachusetts he wanted to make sure that his replacement would be elected in a special election and not appointed as Massachusettes law had allowed. Then with his death near he asked Gov. Deval Patrick change this law. Essentially making allowing the Governor to appoint his replacement.

Ted Kennedy was the youngest child of the Kennedy clan. His family suffered many tragedies with the brutal murders of two of the brothers and another brother died in a tragic accident.

He attended Harvard in 1951, playing on the freshman football team before he was caught cheating by having a friend take his Spanish language exam.

Kennedy was expelled and entered the Army, where he served in Paris during the Korean War. and after almost two years was re-admitted to Harvard for demonstrating good behavior.

He went on to get a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School and served as an assistant D.A in Suffolk County, Mass. He married Virginia Joan Bennett, who was introduced to him by his sister Jean. They had three children, the youngest was Patrick, who also would enter public office.

Kennedy credited his second wife Victoria Anne Reggie with turning him around and redirecting him back to his political career. This is perhaps true. I don't believe that another person can cure you because the change has to come from within and it seems that his second wife was very committed to him. So in that realm he may indeed be a changed man.

Kennedy was too ill to attend his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver's funeral or to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom bestowed upon him by President Obama, both in in August 2009.

This morning Ted Kennedy died in his home in Hyannis Port. The Republicans have lost their boogie man, the Democrats have lost their liberal lion, the Kennedys have lost their patriarch, and we have lost a senator who lived his life in the hot spot light of fame that amplified his faults and human frailties. I think the little girl in me is still saddened that the man I once thought I would marry when I grew up never really became the man I thought he would become.

Mr Santamonious Worked For The Man

I find it interesting that this young man decided to create a video critical of Big Business and yet he worked for “The Man” for two days giving out the samples he decried. Usually people who do this proclaim themselves to have actually been in the position of power. They say “I used the man to manipulate his message.” Here’s the questions I would ask:

“If corporations like Pepsi go against your beliefs why would you accept a paycheck from them? Does that mean when you are older you will accept a paycheck from a different corporate master while decrying him?”

“If you are against corporate America why do you buy into and feed their EVIL empires?" For example, did you make that shirt yourself or did you buy it from one of those evil corporate clothing stores? "Did you raise the food you eat or did you buy it from one of those evil corporate grocery stores?”

"Did you throw yourself in front of the people from the Chicago Food Depository who came with huge, empty containers to fill with all the products warning that the hungry shouldn’t eat food provided by evil corporations? After all you claimed that the food was nothing but crap." Did you investigate the work with such organizations that the people at Quaker do?

You see I do have personal convictions. There are groups and companies that do things I do not and could not with a clean conscience support. I vote with my wallet by avoiding sending money their way and I certainly wouldn’t work for them EVER.

For example, when I first began teaching some of my student’s parents worked for RJ Reynolds Tobacco. I do not smoke and I do my best to steer teens away from smoking. As a young kid I know I pressured my Dad to stop smoking because I’d beg him “Daddy, I don’t want you to die. Please don’t smoke.” He finally quit.

The student’s who had parents who worked at RJ Reynolds would talk about the great money they made there and that’s where they wanted to work. This was back in the early 90’s and I want to say that they made something like $14 an hour. Heck I was making $10,500 and I was a divorced Mom. I certainly would have loved to almost triple my income. These people had less education and they were making much more than I was. I asked myself why wouldn’t a kid want to work there? The money was good and so were the benefits.

Herein lies the lesson that we discuss in every business ethics class I ever teach. Would you put aside your values and beliefs and take a position with a company that you were morally opposed to? I remember saying to myself, if you quit teaching and worked there you could buy the boys each a bike and you could have a new car instead of the death trap you drive now. The answer came to me quite quickly. No thanks. Not for one day, not for one week, not for all the money in the world. Perhaps I could say that because I was working in a job I always thought I would hold. Perhaps it was because my kids had a roof over their head and food in their bellies. Maybe then my answer would have been different.

So I would like to know just how Mr. Sanctamonious spent his blood money. Did he give it to some evil corporation, did he buy food and donate it to a food bank, or did he take in a movie or buy a drink and pat himself on the back applauding himself for being a true American Hero?

Actually he says he feels misunderstood according to one blogger. He had no clue what BlogHer was and he said “He hoped that it would be more a community of women devoted to social causes, artistic pursuits and environmental responsibility than a court of pure consumerism and self-gratification from corporations acting like jesters, vying for the favor of upper class American females.”

Wow. Hear that? I’m an upper class female. Yipppeeee!!! Should I alert my unemployed husband to the good news? Oh wait, don’t tell anyone about that government cheese and those food stamps I used to get. I certainly don’t want to confuse anyone.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Shooting At LA Fitness

A gunman burst into an exercise class at a health club in suburban Pittsburgh on Tuesday night and started spraying bullets. George Sodini (48) killed Elizabeth Gannon (49), Heidi Overmier (46) and Jody Billingsley (38) when he opened fire in a gym before killing himself.

Debi Wozniak, of Dormont, a suburb of Pittsburgh, is a regular at the weekly Latin impact dance exercise class. She was running late Tuesday night and didn't make it, but she said her sister, Joann Gazzam, was in the class.

Gazzam told Wozniak that a man came in through the glass double doors at the exercise room's entrance. He walked to the back of the room near some weights and set down the bag, fumbling with it for a few minutes and came up with what Gazzam said were apparently two guns and began shooting.

Gazzam told Wozniak that several people appeared to be wounded, including the instructor, and that it was apparent that four people were dead and that the gunman had killed himself.

George Sodini, 48, brought four handguns into the LA Fitness gym outside Pittsburgh and used three of them, firing at least 36 times around 8 p.m. Tuesday, Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said.

Sodini, a member of the gym, was found dead in the aerobics room, lying on top of one of his guns about seven feet from one of the victims.

Authorities believe Sodini targeted the aerobics class, because a schedule was found in his home with that class circled, Moffatt said.

In the note found at the scene in Sodini's gym bag, he complains he had never spent a weekend with a woman, never vacationed with a woman and never lived with a woman, and that he had had limited sexual experiences, Moffatt said.

He makes similar complaints in his online blog, which also documents his growing rage at women for rejecting him and at the world he felt had abandoned him.

Sodini worked as a systems analyst in the finance department of K&L Gates, a law firm with an office in Pittsburgh, since 1999, Mike Rick, a spokesman for the firm, said.

Neighbors described him as reclusive and said he had stopped talking to them in the past few years.

On Tuesday, Sodini visited the gym three times -- the first about 11 a.m., a second time at 7:40 p.m. and a third time at 7:56 p.m., Moffatt said. Members of the gym are required to swipe a card to check in, but do not have to check out, he said. The first 911 call was dispatched at 8:16 p.m.

Three of the four guns found with Sodini were traced back to him, and authorities are in the process of tracing the fourth, Moffatt said. They were two 9 mm semi-automatics, a .45-caliber revolver and a .38 in his pocket. Sodini also had 30-round ammunition clips that were illegal before the assault weapons ban was lifted in 2004, police said.

Police know Sodini made a telephone call at 7:45 p.m., and believe he may have left the gym to make it. Authorities are attempting to locate the person he contacted, Moffatt said.

Sodini did not mention killing himself in the note found at the scene, which was mostly typed with handwritten notations, but did mention it in a handwritten note found at his home, Moffatt said.

Sodini kept a blog which has now been removed. You can read its contents here.

Recovery Breakfast - It’s Hard To Say Good-bye

God only knows what time those girls at the Cheezeburgher Party went to bed but they were up bright at early for the Recover Breakfast. It was sponsored by Starbucks and

I didn’t want this weekend to end. When it ends it meant going back to the real world. Back to a world where I got up early in the morning to make sure that my posts for ThriftyMaven were in order. It’s a world where I have to be at work by 8:25 in the morning and I am surrounded by teenagers all day. This is a world where she beds don’t get made by themselves nor do dishes get done on their own. No photographers stop me and snap my picture and companies are not giving me swag or inviting me to party like a rockstar.

Then again all weekend long I’ve missed my husband. That’s right, the same husband who knows exactly how to get on my last stinking nerve. I miss how he talks about subject I have no interest in whatsoever. I miss fixing his meals and doing his laundry. Most of all I miss his kisses and being in his arms at night.

I miss my dogs too. I wonder if they notice I am gone. Does Darryl remember to tell them that they are “good boys” and offer them a treat if they poop outside? I wonder if he let’s Little Dog sleep in our bed when I’m not around.

I take the elevator down to the lobby. Already it is packed with new arrivals. New signs have replaced the BlogHer signs. The lower floors looked so empty. Less than 24 hours earlier they were filled with bloggers and PR reps. I took one last look at my home away from home and headed upstairs for a final party.

Coffee wasn’t all they were serving. They also had the new Starbucks Vivanno. There were also lots of pastries and I could have just crunched the calorie level in my head. “No” I tell myself. “You can only have one pastry that’s it. Since I’m not a coffee drinker I didn’t have any of that either. I love Starbucks Green Tea Lattes and if they want to send me some free coupons to try some of their pastries or other beverages to review. Please feel free to do so. If you want to sponsor a giveaway on my site to promote your tea products I would be happy to do so.

Honestly if I didn’t care about the calories I consumed I would have tried every yummy pastry they had there. As it was I grabbed a couple of samples of their new coffee and a couple packs of their snacks and began taking some photos. Each minute that ticked by brought me another closer to home. Why can’t I always live like this? If I lived like this what would it take to make things seem so special? Isn’t it amazing where the crossroads of sweeping and blogging have brought me?

I glanced at a clock and realized I needed to hustle back down to my room so I can get packed and ready to go. From here I have one more appointment. One last great hurrah for a thrifty blogger on a trip of a lifetime.

CheeseburgHer, CheeseburgHer, CheeseburgHer

I know I’ve said this before but I signed up for almost every party out there. For some I had certain expectations or perceptions and for others I had not one single clue. The CheezeburgHerParty describes itself as a group of blogger friends who decided to throw an impromptu hotel party involving cheeseburgers, bags on heads and fun at BlogHer in 2007, and a tradition was born. Now this party sounded like fun.

It seemed that I was already starting to get into the teacher, sleep mode of ready for bed by ten but I didn’t want to miss this party. I at least wanted to make an appearance. I’m so glad I did.

The party took place in the 2500-square-foot Presidential SuiteThe Suite which had a wonderful view. The large table was laden with McDonalds Cheeseburgers, Hamburgers, and French Fries. All the while a waiter was running around offering you more fries and burgers with cheese or sans cheese. What’s to drink? Wine of course, oh and Snapple, and Dr. Pepper too.

I donned my party hat and began to take some video. The hat actually reminded me of something I might have done as a child. Unlike other little boys and girls who had birthday parties with hats and noisemakers. We were poor and I wished I could have had one of those funny little hats. Back then I did my best to make hats from shopping bags with the help of scissors, tape, and crayons. None of my brothers or sisters co-operated.

Here I was walking around with a McDonald’s hat on my head and the word “” written on it. OK so I’m not all that imaginative. I was overwhelmed by the number of women that were able to cram themselves into a room but as the room began to fill I began to feel uncomfortable. I’m just so claustrophobic.

I left before the party got really loud which is probably a good thing because it seems security was called and just before the bachelor party crashed the party. I did hear that it was so noisy that nearby guests were complaining. Who knew that bagheads were so cool.

BOWLHER One Of My Hands Down Favorite Events At BlogHer

Can a girl admit she’s WRONG? I was wrong. Wrong with a capital W. When I was busy signing up for parties I decided not to sign up for BowlHer.

I do not bowl. Rather I have tried to bowl and as of yet I’ve not quite got a handle on why no points are awarded for consistent getting the ball to head straight for the gutter on the right hand side of the lane. I even have a patented move which involves me getting in the squat position with my legs open wide and rolling the ball down the lane. Even the shoes are ugly. I just couldn’t imagine myself enjoying a party at a bowling alley. Did I mention I was WRONG?

My original plan was to go to the BlogHer cocktail party then head on over to the Shutter Sisters Pajama Party and end the evening at the Cheezeburgher Party. My quick exit from the Shutter Sisters Party left a big gaping hole in my social activities. The BlogHer cocktail party turned out to be a wonderful formal send off for the weekend. They had an open bar and some nice horderves. The butlers in their formal outfits made sure that you were well taken care of. They had shrimp pot stickers, lamb chop, coconut chicken, stuffed mushrooms, and mini-beef Wellington.

BlogHer is formally over but it's not time to say goodbye. It's time to say good-bye to my fairy tale life at BlogHer. The clock it heading towards midnight but I hope I don't leave my glass slipper behind.

I decided to make a quick trip over to the BowlHer event and I discovered they had a list and were checking it twice. No problem. I admitted straight up that I had failed to register for the party. She looked down and said, “No problem. Come on in.” I was then handed a PINK feather boa and a crown.

This was another moment I would have just run out skipping and jumping for joy because I got a pink boa and I was so special I got a crown. Pink is my FAVORITE color so my happiness level is already flying at full-staff.

As we ascended the escalator to the second floor you could see people looking at us. Not in a weird crazy bag lady that one might do if you were the only one with a tiara and a feather boa. No this was more like a “Why can’t I have a feather boa and a crown?”

I heard a woman who was walking up the stairs ask one of the pink boa ladies “What’s with the crowns?” “We’re bloggers” she answered. Did she understand I wondered?

At the top of the stairs you noticed that it was decked out to be a big media type event that began with a walk on the red carpet. It appears that they were promoting Lifetime TV Channel and Project Runway. Someone came by with a camera just as I getting online and asked if we loved Project Runway. The squat, chunky young woman behind me chimed in “I’m simply addicted to that show. I just love, love, love it.” You might as well have been asking me if I loved chocolate.

Now’s the time I said to myself. I turned to the woman who had just come to life on cue and said, “I just love your boa. You have great taste.” She looked down at her boa and said, “Oh you too. I like yours too.”

I can’t let it drop here. I have to say something. Usually this is where I fall flat. I did the open now I need to keep the ball in the air.

“You know, originally I wasn’t going to come to this party. I’d signed up for almost every party that you could but I am such a crummy bowler I thought I’d be a fish out of water.”

Not the best come back line but it does open her to state that she’s either a very good bowler, a mediocre bowler, or a bowler more in line with me and perhaps a corpse. Even if she didn’t want to share that she could maybe comment on how she’d been to some party or all of the parties or how much she had been looking forward to this party. I’m hanging and hoping that she will respond.

I decide to make one last attempt at conversation. “I spoke to one of the people who is working with this event and she mentioned that it would be awful for me to miss out on all the great swag. She had even mentioned something about a zebra bowling bag. Isn’t that funny?”

I didn’t realize that I was waving a red cape before a bull. Her eyes narrowed and she said, “I hate all this commercialism. I hate how people are making it all about the swag. It’s not all about the swag. Blogging is about the art. It is about your ability to tell a story. It is not and should not be a commercial venture.”

Ah, OK. I decided to change the subject. “What do you blog about?” “I’m a Mommy Blogger. I blog for a news paper insert the name of a small Midwestern city, and I paid for this trip myself. Unlike some of the other people here who have sold their souls for the all-mighty dollar, I paid for this myself. I don’t let corporate America influence what I am saying. Every day I’m sharing deep and personal thoughts and feelings with people and even though I don’t have a lot of readers I’m beginning to see an upswing in my readership.”

Perhaps because I won a trip to Kraft Food I was a little put off by her statement. I sold my soul to Kraft Food? How is that exactly? Then in the very next thought I blurted out “Do you get paid to blog?” She told me she did but not as much as the sports blogger. He has more people following his blog. While I didn’t say it aloud was that being on a newspaper was also a sponsored blog. My blog is not sponsored but my trip was and I was a bit put off by her self-righteousness.

The woman behind her was also a mommy blogger for a newspaper so they began talking about how sports bloggers always have more readers. Then I heard the woman brag about how she didn’t even ask the newspaper to pay her expenses because that way she could be honest about her opinions of BlogHer. I suppose that was supposed to mean that she was above it all but no one had asked me to say ANYTHING.

I listened as she droned on about how she about her personal and innermost thoughts on her mommy blog. So essentially she sacrifices her family’s privacy for a paycheck. Is that selling out I wanted to ask her. I mean if it’s really all about the craft of writing like was saying then why not do it for FREE? Then I heard her talk about how some companies provide her with things to review but she lets them know that she will write what she truly feels about something and not be a corporate shill.

Again, why not say, my family’s story is not for sale? If swag and ANYONE who takes it is really unscrupulous like you say, then why are you standing in line in a boa and a tiara waiting to go to a party sponsored by a television show? Why not be working on your craft at home away from all this commercialism? Why must you expound upon how much better you are than others?

I believe some women who blog are all about the craft of writing. They are so good at what they do that the fame comes to them. They don’t generally lecture people about hypocritical loss leaders. They don’t have to say they are better than others because their barometer of success does not require putting others down to raise themselves up. I am certainly not at that level.

I was almost trying to turn off her diatribe against other bloggers, against the swag, and then I heard her say something about the stealing of swag. Swag stealing? I knew nothing about that? Pushing? Elbowing babies? A bruise in the shape of a hand? What in the heck was I dealing with? I had gone from rolling my eyes to wondering what the hell was wrong with people.

The line began to move. I watched as women began walking the red carpet, sometimes by themselves and sometimes in groups. They stopped for photos and I tried to get back in a festive party mood but I was mulling over all that I had just heard. I walked down the red carpet, took my photos and entered the bowling alley.

This was a bowling alley like I had never known before. It was HUGE with a bar, pool tables, and glow in the dark pins. I was stopped by one woman who asked if I wanted to send a video message to someone special. I said sure and I told them my husband. They wanted to know why he was the greatest man alive. I had exactly two minutes to think about what I was going to say and then it was lights, camera, action.

Then I walked to the back of the bar. For people like me this was a great place to observe and make a decision as to what I was going to do. I walked up to a table and there were women who were dealing with children with autism. We talked for about ten minutes. I told them about my nephew and about some former students and they told me about their organization. It was this conversation that brought me back to my own reality.

I went into teaching to make a difference. I look over the years and remember the families and former students who thanked me for the things I have done. Why in the world did I let that girl in line ruffle my feathers for even a moment? If being a blogger makes her feel as though she’s changing the world then let her have that. I didn’t care. I think what I did care about what her decision that others weren’t making the same contributions that she was. I knew that in less than 24 hours I would be going back to my little world and then shortly thereafter I’d be starting back to school.

I came out of the shadows of the back of the bowling alley and began to walk around. I tried to play pool. I sampled some products. I handed out some business cards. I had a great time and then I left because I didn’t want to miss the Cheezeburgher Party.

It’s funny that this was the one party that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy but turned out to be one I enjoyed a great deal.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Shutter Sisters Pajama Party

I was so excited about this party. When I was growing up my mother NEVER let us go to a sleep over or have one at our house. For my mother, child molesters and mass murders lurked behind every door. Growing up I never sat up all night listening to ghost stories, talking about boys, or doing my nails while spreading gossip with other teenage girls.

Not too long ago I heard about adult women having slumber parties and they sounded fun. So much more to dish about and you don’t have to worry about your mom coming in to tell you to hush up and go to sleep. My problem is of course that I haven’t really made any close friends here in Georgia.

I have only myself to blame. I cannot always expect someone else to make the first move. It seems I have lots of acquaintances. They all like me but it just seems that I’m afraid to impose on their free time. I thought this might be a great opportunity to make new friends. I even bought a new nightgown with Tinkerbell all over it. Call me Kitschy.

When it came time to show up to the party I changed into my PJs and looked at myself in the mirror. What was I doing? Sure it said PJ party but at that moment I was more certain than ever that everyone would be wearing those Lounge Pants sets. I would stick out like a sore thumb. I changed back into the outfit I’d been wearing earlier and headed upstairs to the Shutter Sisters PJ Party.

They were friendly enough, even offered me wine but almost immediately I realized I was totally out of my element. These women were photographers. The talented kind. You know the kind of people who NEVER have photos that chop off the top of people’s heads or forget to leave the lens cover on. I felt much like I would have felt if I had walked into a room filled with artists of any media. I feel awed by their talent, so awed that I’m speechless. When I look around it seems like many of the people there know each other and I almost want to run for the door as embarrassed as if I’d walked into the wrong apartment.

I look at their work quietly and then I leave.

More Proof That I Am Not The Center Of The Universe

Actually I have never imagined myself to be the center of any universe except my own little world and even there the title might be up for discussion. While I signed up for almost every party I saw some parties did not have me on their guest list. Who could blame them though? I was not a mover or a shaker or for that matter the beautiful ingĂ©nue. I’m not even a gamer nor do I play one on TV.

Just like I had no clue whatsoever about the Nikon Party, which by the way had they invited me I’d have twittered #Nikonlovesteachers or #IheartNikon. Another party I knew absolutely nothing about was a private party sponsored by Nintendo. From what I understand, everyone who attended received a Nintendo DSi. Is that cool or what? I also heard that these lucky bloggers were taken by horse-drawn carriages up to the Hancock Tower. Once there they were whisked away to the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower. There they enjoyed hors d’vours and wine. They were then seated and enjoyed a four-course dinner and an open bar.

Tell me the truth. Can you not see how being treated this way, like media superstars doesn’t go to a girl’s head? I guess I just didn’t understand the power of the blog. Oh sure I remember my English teacher telling me about the power of the pen but if this is any indication about the shift of marketing then I’m really further behind the curve than I realized.

It's A Beautiful Morning

After an evening of partying I expected to feel worse. When I didn’t feel as bad as I thought I would I was surprised at how badly I did feel. Does that make sense? My throat was sore and my stomach was feeling a bit queasy. My head was hurting but not that big drum boom and throb of a typical hangover. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV but I took the fact that my throat hurt as a sign that I was not experiencing a hangover. Instead I diagnosed my problem as being the onset of some low grade cold because no fever was accompanying it.

I took an aspirin and reached for what I thought was a glass of water. I had forgotten that this was a mostly full glass of vodka and tonic. (Note to self it might be wise to sniff what you are about to drink before consuming it especially after a night of drinking.) I tossed the Excedrin Extra Strength and my allergy pill into my mouth and took a big swig of the clear liquid. I almost let the liquid spray from my mouth but in that same moment of realization of what I had done.

With no chance for a do-over I sank back into my bed and tried to see if I could sleep off whatever malady I was suffering from within the span of an hours nap. My eyes fluttered in a mocking attempt at sleep and then I had to race to the toilet. While I was experiencing one of those stomach emptying, hangover, emesis episode I was certain that I had expelled both the aspirin and the allergy medicine.

I lay back in bed and stared at the screen of the TV. I had defiantly left it on all night. A luxury I haven’t been able to do since I got married. My husband had to have a pitch black room with no noise in order to go to sleep whereas the background white noise of a TV helped me drift right off to sleep and helped to wake me up the next morning.

The morning news made no reference of bloggers or the blogging revolution but instead talked about Town Hall Meetings, sports scores, and the weather. My headache starts to abate but my throat feels a bit more sore. I’m thinking about a green tea latte from Starbucks and wondering if that will help.

Breakfast begins at 8:30 so I decide to trot over to the nearest Starbucks two blocks away still wearing my Tinkerbell nightgown with flip flops and for added affect I don my black sweater. Perhaps in the big city I should garner a lot of stares. People should probably point at me and think me a bag lady. It is only about 6:30 in the morning and hardly anyone is out in the street yet. I’m able to make it to Starbucks without being noticed. I walk up to the counter and hand the gentleman who is waiting on me my gift card as I order my drink. He should be rolling his eyes. He should be motioning his head in my direction so that others will see the “crazy old lady” who is waiting for her drink. Instead he acts as though this sort of thing happens every day. Perhaps it does.

By the time I get back to the hotel I have decided that I will shower but not bother doing anything to my hair. After all in a few more hours I will have a Beverly Hills Hair dresser styling it. I finish my tea and turn on the shower. The water and the tea have cleared by the last vestiges of my headache. My stomach was no longer queasy either. So I got out of bed, showered, changed, and headed down to breakfast. No need to put on any makeup because I already had an appointment to have that professionally done today too.

I don’t know why I didn’t notice that they had oatmeal for breakfast yesterday. Perhaps it was because I ate that HUGE piece of cheesecake. I LOVE oatmeal so I helped myself to a big bowl with brown sugar and bananas.

Once again I missed a Keynote address but this time it was because I had to hurry to my hair appointment. Dah-ling I feel so glamorous. I went downstairs to the Suave vendor’s table.

Let me start by saying I LOVE Suave. I have always loved Suave products. You really don’t have to spend a fortune to get great results. I am the type of person who goes to the hair salon and listens as the stylist tries to sell me $30 shampoo and I almost gasp. What do you mean $30 for shampoo? So to be truthful they didn’t have to offer me a free makeover to get me to buy Suave products. That great party that I crashed the night before didn’t matter much either because I use Suave products an awful lot.

There was a bit of confusion because two women were already occupying the chairs. I was supposed to be next and I told the one young lady who I was and she said it would be a few minutes. I watched as the talented hair dressers fluffed and primped and to say I couldn’t wait until it was my turn would be a bit of an understatement.

I’m the girl who often has to go to the beauty school or if I’m really trying to stretch my dollars then I’m forgoing getting my hair cut for months after it should have been touched up. It’s no secret that I’ve been known to take a snip at my bangs to keep them out of my eyes.

True just a couple of days ago I’d had my hair dyed and foiled professionally for free. That was the second time in my whole life I’d had my hair professionally dyed. The first time had been in a beauty school. This time, however, my hair was going to be styled by a beautiful Beverly Hills hair stylist.

A few moments after I showed up another woman showed up talking about how she’d missed her hair appointment the day before and they were going to try to squeeze her in if the woman who was scheduled didn’t show. I noticed that one of the women got out of the chair and was given some Suave hair care products. Inside my head I was saying “My turn. My turn! Pick me! Pick me!” The hairdresser spoke briefly to the woman handling the reservations and the woman who arrived after me. I heard them say well if this woman doesn’t show you can have her appointment. I don’t know what made me ask but I asked if it was Cathy and they said yes. Well that’s me!

What’s the polite thing to do? Should I let the woman who missed her appointment go ahead of me? Is it impolite for her to expect to go ahead of me? I didn’t have to make that decision because I was told to take a seat.

My hair stylist was a beautiful woman named Anna Vidito. She is the kind of woman you would have expected to see in a music video that sang about beautiful women. If I’d have been in my twenties I’d have felt self-conscious because I would have felt that I was the dumpy one in her presence. Her smile radiated California sunshine and she was just so well, NICE. You just couldn’t help but like her.

Just a couple of hours before I’d been lying in my bed hoping my condition didn’t worsen. Now I was there being treated like royalty. We talked about my students. We talked about having your own business. We talked about Suave products. She gave me advice about my hair and just wanted to take her home and adopt her.

After all this she presented me with a bag of Suave Products that she felt would be good for my hair. They included:

Suave Volumizing Spray Gel (my new favorite hair care product because it works so well on my baby fine hair)
Suave Volumizing Shampoo
Suave Volumizing Conditioner
Suave Color Care Shampoo
Suave Color Care Conditioner

They say that all good things must come to an end so did this. So Anna, thank you so much for making this old lady feel beautiful!!!!!.

Oh I Wish I Were An Oscar Mayer Weiner

That is what I truly want to be. ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer Weiner, everyone would be in love with me.

Until today I had only seen the Wienermobile only one time in my whole life. They had one out in front of the Commissary at Langley Air Force Base. On that particular day they were giving away Oscar Meyer Wieners. I think I was more excited than my son Michael.

When I learned that I could take a ride in the Wienermobile I jumped at the chance. Have you ever wanted to have a job where EVERYONE was happy to see you? Have you ever dreamed of being so famous that everyone wants your picture and EVERYONE loves you? Well here’s the job you want. Be the Wienermobile driver.

We tooled around in style on the Wienermobile and people would stop, point, smile, wave, and snap pictures or shoot video. I bet Paris Hilton doesn’t even get this much love.

Oh I didn’t want our ride to end. I wanted to drive around more. I wanted him to beep the horn again so I can hear the Oscar Mayer song again. But all good things must come to an end and that’s the same as the wienermobile.

I was given a cool T-shirt saying I tweeted on the Wienermobile and I received three whistles one for each of the little ones. I was so happy. I told our driver about my bean bag Oscar Meyer hot dog I won a few years back. When we moved it got shoved in one of the boxes but oh how I love that thing. Amazingly enough the dogs didn’t want anything to do with it so it became one of my favorite toys. Kind of like the chubby kid in that bank commercial. When I’d have some downtime I’d take it out of my drawer and “drive” it around the desk. It was always good for a laugh but I guess you would have had to have been there.

I also remember trying to win a trip in the Wienermobile a few years back. You had to submit a 100 word essay that described how you would use the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile for a day. Twenty people won this great prize but I wasn't one of them.

I wrote about giving out hot dogs in a local low income area that our school services. I believe that one woman who won said she gave out free books. I was so jealous that she got to ride around in the Wienermobile. Now I can say I have too. Who would have thunk it? I always say “Only in Sweeping” but now I say “only in blogging baby.”

Hey Oscar Mayer. If you ever want to drive that great Wienermobile by Rome High School I’d love to have you stop by and talk to my students about promotion and branding!!!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The GFSA State Scholarship Essay Contest

When I graduated from college, I did so with only about $1,500 worth of debt. That’s right less than $2,000 and I was able to pay it all back by the end of my first year of employment. I was attending an out of state school because that was the closest college to where I was living. So where in the heck did I get that money? Scholarships!

I am forever bugging my students to apply for any and every LEGITIMATE college scholarship. Before I go any further let me give a BIG SHOUT-OUT to the Guidance Counselors at Rome High School. I have worked at several schools in several states over the years and I want to say this is one of the finest Guidance Departments EVER!!!!

Every year they have TWO PTSO meetings to talk to parents about FAFSA, Grants, and Scholarships. Our Guidance Counselors also go to EVERY Senior English Class to tell them about applying for colleges as well as scholarship money that is available to them. Seniors are even called into Guidance for a one-on-one conference and provided with information about available scholarships. Perhaps that’s why last year our students were awarded $3.3 million dollars in scholarships.

I also try to provide my students with college scholarship information. Every year my best recommendations are to begin looking for scholarships NOW!!!! Do not pay companies to provide you with college scholarship information. Often you will discover that the information provided was information you could have discovered FREE on your own. Finally see your Guidance Counselor. There is no possible way that I can know about all the scholarship money that is available.

With that in mind, if you are a Georgia resident I would like to share with you. Only 1,000 words may be all that stand between you and up to $1500 in a scholarship! The Essay Theme for 2009-2010 is: Tell why fire sprinklers are important and how they have helped to save lives and property in Georgia; and why you would want to have them installed in your home.

The Georgia Fire Sprinkler Association awards scholarships annually in the amount of $1500, $1000, and $750 to high school seniors through an essay writing contest. The deadline for entries is September 22, 2009.

The GFSA State Scholarship Essay Contest is open to high school seniors in Georgia who plan to further their education at a college/university or certified trade school in the United States. The scholarship is not based on financial need. Relatives of GFSA board members may not enter.

You must be a high school senior during the 2009-2010 school year who will attend a college/university or trade school in the United States starting with the fall 2010 semester.

Home-schooled students may apply as long as your course of study is equivalent to that of a senior in high school.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Swag, Thievery, and Hooligans

Here's where I come back to the swag. I'm a sweeper. This means that sometimes I win things like a t-shirt with a movie's name on it. Some people say things like "You won a T-shirt? Big deal!" For me that t-shirt is cool.

I've never had a lot of money. Any little niceties I've ever had came because I was involved with sweeping. Some people laugh and roll their eyes but I am always thrilled when I receive my next CD or t-shirt. I am so grateful to all the companies I have ever won things from that I write them hand written thank you letters. I tend to be brand loyal to companies who sponsor sweeps.

The whole concept that I would receive "SWAG" here really didn't factor in my wanting to attend and I totally imagined that it would be in the form of T-shirts, mouse pads, pencils, pens, etc. I was so amazed when I dumped my first one out that it was like Christmas.

You have to understand that right now my husband does not have a job so I kind of looked at this trip to BlogHer as my birthday gift even though it was something I won from Kraft. When I saw the stuff in my first swagbag I honestly felt like this truly was the best birthday I'd ever had. I had gone to wondering how my birthday was going to shake out to wow I can't believe this.

Some girls have beautiful Sweet Sixteen parties. For some girls their 13th birthday is filled with pink balloons and cake with pink flowers. We were too poor for all that. When I was 21 I was a single mom working two jobs and I was thrilled to get my birthday off but I couldn't afford to do anything special for that day. This was to be my 50th birthday. My next big birthday wasn't going to be until I was 75. Two years ago my husband and I talked about going on a cruise or going to Hawaii which had been my life's dream. All the world was our oyster.

When Darryl lost his job everything changed. I just felt it was my lot in life to NEVER have one of those "WOW CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?" Birthday party. Now here I was in Chicago, in a beautiful hotel, and the fact that someone handed me bag that included an Kodak HD Video cam and a $50 Pro Flowers gift card blew me away.

All the flashing of cameras and the massages, tattoos, and the parties were really all heady stuff. It didn't make me drunk with power but it did make me very appreciative. I took business cards and I would write hand written thank you cards to the people I met who supplied me with all this stuff. I had brought a box of thank you cards to thank all the people I met at Kraft but once I did that I began writing the other letters in earnest.

I never pushed anyone, never shoved anyone, never pouted whined, cried, or anything else because I "missed out" on a lot of the swag I heard about from others. Oh there's that I wish I'd known about that moment but other than that when I talk about swag it was all fun for me. I never knew that people would go CRAZY over this stuff but then again I suppose I should have known.

I remember hearing a story a couple of years ago about some giveaway that was supposed to happen in Central park. I want to say a certain number of people were going to get $50 or maybe $100 but it was only for the first X number of people. It was a radio stunt that went awry. People lined up 10 deep and when the giveaway began people were thrown to the ground and injured. When I heard about that it reminded me of what my Dad used to always say about large groups. "Stay Away."

It appears that some of the "ladies" elbowed bloggers or babies to get ahead in the line. There were reports of hand shaped bruises on Mommy Need's Coffee's arm. Reports of stolen swag were also circling. I'm serious. People were stealing from elevator carts and even stole from other people.

I was shocked. I first learned of this at BowlHer (that's another story) and it just sounded so incredible.

I also learned of an incident where there was a blackmail attempt for CROCS. Heck I got a pair of Crocs but they didn't have my size so I'll either give them away on my blog or I will give them to one of my students. Some of them do not have money for new clothes or shoes and I have certainly been there. I think they'd just love that.

The attitude of entitlement was pervasive among some rather than adopting an attitude of gratitude. I realize I have a case of low self-esteem but some people need to get over themselves.

I'll give you an example, I overheard one woman speaking with another about how she was "supposed to get a NEW dishwasher but it was taking so long so they contacted her and asked if she wanted to wait for a date in the future for that dishwasher or if she'd be willing to do a product review about detergent and receive a new front loading washer and dryer."

She didn't say it like "Oh I can't believe this. I'm just so very excited." She said it as though she felt she deserved the washer and dryer and they should give her those as well as the dishwasher because she actually had to wait to receive the dishwasher.

MY GOD!!!!! When when I was raising little ones I was working two jobs and still eligible for food stamps. I used to have to take the two of them to the laundry mat where we sat reading books in the hot building so that no one would steal our clothes. I'd have been thrilled if someone had offered to feed some coins into the dryer for me so that I could have bought the boys some fries at McDonalds or a soda.

I'm the only one in the house working right now and I'm taking care of my elderly father-in-law to boot. I am using some of my resources to buy school supplies for my students because many of them are in worse shape. Many of them are in homes with no adult working. Gosh I wish the back pack fairy would fall from the sky and give me some back packs for some of my students. As it is I bought two out of my own pocket and the one I received from Lands End also went to a student. I would have hugged any vendor who handed me a box of 50 pencils because that's about how many kids who will be stopping by my class when they take those high stakes tests telling me they forgot their pencil. I received lots of flash drives with product information that I uploaded to my computer then erased the information. Guess who is getting them? Not me. Some teachers are requiring kids to buy these and I only have one left. So excuse me for not feeling this woman's pain.

I almost jumped in to say something along the lines of "Are you kidding me?" Then I realized that I was the one eavesdropping so I really didn't have much room to talk.

The second day I was at BlogHer I saw woman open one of the many reusable grocery bags and began throwing bottle after bottle of Samples of the All Detergent. I was given two, sure I'd like more but you know what? If I took more then others wouldn't get any. They obviously only gave me two because they'd figured that was the fair number so that everyone would get some. They never said, hey help yourself there little lady. If they did I might have filled a bag and dropped them off at our local food pantry. After all the plant where my husband worked has closed down and he's far from being the only one effected by it. We are lucky because I am a teacher so we aren't dependent on the food pantry but some people are.

So do I feel a bit guilty about the swag? No why would I? I didn't obtain it in a dishonest fashion. I didn't demand anything. Do I feel like I was a swag hag? No because much of what I did get I shared with others and I actually wrote emails and thank you cards to many of the companies that provided these things to me. I have already begun writing reviews about some of the products like Swiffer, like Lands End, like Kraft, like McDonalds, like Ragu, and then I've emailed the rep to let them know how much I appreciated it as well as letting my readers know that I received these things FREE.

I think there are people who were conflicted with all the swag put those doubts aside and acted like a spoiled child. Some people felt that the swag demeaned there craft (more about that) yet they accepted the swag "against their better judgement." (more on that later).

I didn't feel guilty about the swag because the companies wanted to put these products in our hands in hopes that we would talk about them. It is a business transaction that they did to promote goodwill. I don't feel sullied by it. My blog is about saving money at the store so in and of its very nature it is commercial. I am not honing my craft while writing the next great novel, pushing an agenda, or trumpeting my baby's latest accomplishment. I'm just telling people how to save money. I'm telling people about where to get free or reduced priced medication or health care. Companies are looking to spend their advertising money wisely and they know that blogging is the new revolution.

Then again if I had pushed babies, stolen swag, and acted like the world revolved around me I'd be so very embarrassed.