Give and Take

I took all the ads down from my blog. I'm conducting a scientific experiment called "will I be able to actually start blogging again if there isn't anything monetary tied to it?" Time will tell.

I was going to apply for a grant to conduct this experiment, but then I saw this:


And they need a grant way more. My friend Kevin's daughter suffers from this autoimmune disorder, as do a lot of kids. A lot of kids suffer and die from it. See, here. Today is the last day to submit a vote to Pepsi Refresh on behalf of Kevin, his daughter, his family and community for a $250K grant to help find a cure. Really, you don't have to do jack, just click vote or text 100850 to 73774.

Today's the last day to vote. You know you want to.

BlogHer Unplugged

I never bring my laptop to BlogHer. I tried it one year and I only time I opened the bag it was in was when I had to do the walk of shame through airport security. Really, there isn't a more humiliating experience than the mad rush to find your bra shoes under the harsh florescent lights of morning TSA checkpoints and get the hell out of there before they drag you back for one more awkward full body scan.

That's part of what I love about going to BlogHer, the fact that I get to totally unplug for a weekend and just listen to all the bloggers I spend the rest of the year reading. The panels are always like a long slam poetry session for me, or a book on tape, or like my daughter must feel every night when I read her Frog and Toad Are Friends. Again. Because there isn't one other damn book in the world to read before bed.

Frog and Toad are quickly becoming not my friend. That's all I'm saying.

However, I am not one to ever easily be satisfied and that explains why I weigh 50 pounds more than I did 4 years ago is why, when my friend Rachel proposed staying in tents instead of New York hotel rooms, roasting hot dogs over a fire instead of bloggers over cocktails, I couldn't resist. Talk about pushing something to it's limits. It was like Fundamentalist BlogHer. I still got a blogger and I still got to learn something, but I got to take my unpluggedness to a whole new level.

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Four days, three nights, two bloggers, two husbands, five children, zero electrical outlets, five flashlights, one lantern and I don't even know how many albinoish-transparenty crabs that only come out once the sun goes down. Which, it turns out, I am not a fan of.

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I've never been camping before. My husband has, my sons have, Rachel and her family go all the time, but poor 3of3 and me had honestly not a clue what we were getting into. I was warned on Twitter that camping was evil and the devil and miserable and gross and it turns out, Twitter is a dirty liar. Because I love camping. I am currently trying to find a way to quit my job, home-school my kids and do nothing but camp all the way across North America.

It really wasn't all that much different from BlogHer, to be honest. We had panels, like the very popular "How to Get Day Drunk Like It's Your Birthday" opening keynote.

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We attended the "How to Look Classically Graceful Under Tidal Pressure" break-out session.

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There was the "Teach a Man to Fish" session, which is very useful if he wants to eat fish sticks for the rest of his life.

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Every CampHer attendee received free pedicures and full body sea-salt and sand scrubs, courtesy of the Gulf Of Mexico.

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Our beach front, five-wind-rating-stars accommodations afforded us all the privacy we wanted, to be able to change swimsuits and pretend like no one else on the beach could see us flapping everything our momma gave us out in the wind. Pretend being the operative word in that sentence. Lying to yourself is an important life skill that is best perfected in the wild.

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Rachel and I got up early, before the kids and the crabs and the world and God, to participate in the Photo Stumble-Out-Of-Our-Tents. Which really was my favorite part. Especially when she didn't know I was behind her.

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And just like you'd come to expect from any good blog conference, there was the exclusive, invite-only high class, black tie party. Or, you know, Cheesburgcampher. {Photos stolen with begrudging consent from Southern Fairytale's FlickR}

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We came home with lots of sand swag in shiny pink coochies bags, but we came home with so much more than just sunburn on our shoulders (which doesn't make anyone happy, really), rotting sand-dollars in our purses and sand in our holiest of holies.

What we came home with is the understanding of the importance of really listening. Not just hearing, listening. We hear (or read, whatever) so much every single second of every single day...all of us, kids to grown-ups, and in the constant drone of internet and tv and friend and traffic and office noises we, more often than I think is proper to admit, forget to pick something, anything, to listen to. To feel. To taste. To learn.

But when you have nothing but sunrise and sunset to keep the pace of your days, when forward momentum halts and time becomes nothing more than a construct you can choose to ignore, when you have little but the roar of waves and the flutter of feet across the sand to occupy your thoughts, you are maybe a little better able to listen to what your heart is saying.

And it's probably saying that it's time to glow, or dance, or sit, or peek.

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Or that there is no appliance in this world as beautiful as the one that makes a memory.

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Or that no toy in the world will ever be as fun to play with as your daddy.

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Or that maybe, just maybe, spending a few nights under an unadulterated night sky, suffocating under the weight of the moon and the stars and the galactic dust, and being reminded of exactly how small you really are is the simplest gift you could ever give to yourself.

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I Am Truly My Brother's Keeper, and a Finder of Lost Animals

I know it happens nationwide, but in Denver, we had something of an epidemic blow through our oxygen-deprived city about a decade ago, which made women think it was a fine idea to leave their newborns behind dumpsters all over the city. They passed a law (nationally, maybe?) that if you brought a newborn into a hospital, you could leave it at the counter and walk away, no questions asked. This lead to a rash of babies getting left in boxes outside the hospital, mostly because people are chicken-shit assholes who cannot follow simple hospital procedures.

Either way, I had this habit of walking through alleys, not around them, just checking. Because as much as I don't want to be pregnant ever again, if you leave a baby in my path, I will keep that baby and hug it and squeeze it and call it George and it will be mine. Do unto others and all.

Turns out, where I live now, there is an epidemic sweeping through my humidity-rich city of people dumping their dogs in neighborhoods that look like the kinds of neighborhoods where suckers live who will take those dogs in and give them a new home. Mostly because people are chicken-shit assholes who cannot follow simple pound procedures.

Of course, I didn't know about this and I wasn't looking for this but I am a sucker for a wet nose and big brown eyes, especially when it follows me and my daughter and my Plant Stand Fail home on particularly picturesque suburban evenings.

It poked its head out from behind someone's trash can and just stared at us. I figured it was just lost. It stopped digging in the trash and gave us that little cocked-head-tilt puppy dog stare. It wasn't starving, just a little dirty. It cowered over to us and gave kisses while we pet it. It wasn't defensive, just a little wary. I looked all over for it's owners, but there was no one.

So I carried it home. Don't you judge me. I carried it home slowly and deliberately, the long way, making eye contact with everyone I passed, looking for any signs of an open front or back door, hoping to find this dog's home because I'm not totally bright, but I'm not dumb enough to not know what was coming.

I let it inside the house and it went directly on the couch, into 3of3's lap, and then to sleep. My current dog? Thinks 3of3 is her personal chew toy. To have a dog climb in her lap and fall asleep was every little girl dream she'd ever had come true. And when Plant Stand Fail finally came over for her nightly nibble of 3of3's toes? That stray dog more or less ripped her throat out.

Houston, we have a bodyguard.

That stray dog didn't leave 3of3's side for two days. We took him for a long walk, then let him off the leash in the hopes he'd lead us to his home. He bolted...to 3of3. And followed her home. He climbed in her bed and stayed there all night. He climbed in her lap the next morning and stayed there all day. He got back in her bed the next night. He made friends with Plant Stand Fail and taught her how to strategically catch toads out back. He watched movies with me at night. He taught my dog that biting sucks ass. He totally stole our hearts.

And two days after we found him, I took him to the vet to scan him for a microchip. Not only wasn't there one, there was another couple at the vet who had a healthy, slightly dirty, well behaved cocker spaniel with no tags and no chip that had followed them home in the neighborhood next to mine. We all talked to the vet and discovered that yup, someone or someones have been dumping dogs in our area.

This is your classic case of Be Careful What You Wish For.

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Now I have three toads, one lizard and two dogs. All of which we found outside while we were looking for something else entirely. Which is only funny because that's more or less how I found my husband, too, and that got me three kids. Who led me to the dogs and the toads and the lizard.  Which is why I also have 50+ crickets, which is only funny because I can't bring myself to feed them to the toads or the lizard. Which is where the children come in.

Which is what they call, in the scientific world, The Circle of Life.