Anonymity, Authenticity and Being Brave

Last week, I posted this to my Twitter account:

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As you can see, I’ve been fantasizing about creating anonymous alter-egos to vent online about stuff I’m too chicken to associate my real name with on Google. The idea of doing that bothers me because I’ve always prided myself on being transparent and “authentic” by curating nearly my entire online presence under my real name.

But really, are my thoughts any more authentic because I’m willing associate my name with them? Should the people out there writing really painful, emotional stuff (or any kind of stuff, really) under pseudonyms get less respect and have their experiences considered as less real just because I can’t find the writer in the phone book? That’s not fair, and it’s an insult to anyone who writes about anything online. It’s an insult to anyone that writes, period.

Even though I write under my real name, I still question if I am being authentic enough. Sometimes I think I sanitize things a little too much. If you know me in real life, you know that I speak with a lot more “dude”, swears and slang than I do here. I believe in the “write like you talk” method, at least some of the time (and a personal website is probably one of the best places to write like you talk). Why am I not using that method more? It’s not like I’m writing incredibly highbrow stuff here.

I want to be brave. I need to be braver. I don’t want to write about every detail of my life. No one would want to read it, and I don’t have the time to write it. I just want to be braver about the stuff I do share with the world.

Do you write with the same voice you speak to your closest friends with? Do you want to?

I love a good magazine

I love magazines. I’ve loved them for nearly as long as I could read.

When I was a kid, I stealth-read my mother’s magazines – she didn’t like me reading them even though the titles she read were pretty tame. My tween years were filled with pinup mags despite the fact I didn’t recognize half of the non-threatening teen boys they covered (we didn’t have cable till I was past the pinup mag stage). I spent my teens and twenties reading music, teen, and fashion mags by the armful.

Now that I’m in my thirties and a parent, my choice of magazines is changing again, but I’m struggling to find the perfect read. I feel like I’m straddling two demographics: woman and Mom. Of course, women can’t possibly be both of those things at the same time, so never shall the two demographics meet in one magazine. This makes me crazy. When will there be an article about how to clean kid’s snack residue out of your killer purse?

Recently I’ve felt like I’ve grown out of some magazines. I’ve decided not to renew my ten-year subscription to BUST because I think their niche is too small – hipster feminists who like to craft – I’m just not cool enough for that magazine anymore (not that I ever was, but I’m really feeling it now). I still read Glamour, but it’s a little fluffier (with a couple Serious Articles thrown in), and usually a bigger read.

I’ve subscribed to Chatelaine since their big redesign in 2008 and I enjoy it. I appreciate that they cover a bit of everything, but I wish they’d do more longer articles on Serious Subjects, as I think they do that very well. I’ve used several of their recipes and they have always turned out successfully.

I tried Canadian Family this month because I love their blog: Family Jewels, and their Twitter feed. I wasn’t disappointed, and will likely get a subscription soon. I love their down-to-earth tone. Parenting is Serious Business, but it’s also full of funny stuff, and I appreciate a magazine that gets that.

I saw an interesting ad in the May 2010 issue of Glamour magazine about “The Power of Print”. As a magazine-lover, the lead-in: “We surf the Internet. We swim in magazines.” really  Has this ad come up in your monthly reads? Did you notice it? I think this is an American-0nly campaign, so it won’t show up in your Canadian reads.

If you know of any magazines that straddle the woman/Mom demographic, or are just good reads, let me know what they are in the comments. I would love to read them. Bonus points if they have a great online presence. Extra bonus points if that online presence works well in a mobile environment.


Reaching Out

March 2010 brings me to my 10th anniversary of blogging. My archives that you see on this site start at April 2000, but my first test posts that seem to be long gone were put up near the end of March 2000. I had a couple of Geocities websites before that, but they were more static in content. Blogging these last ten years has seen me through one free webspace provider, two self-hosted domains (and one domain for non-blog stuff), one blog-specific hosting service and now this site here. I’ve used three platforms (Blogger, Vox and now WordPress) and am now relieved that I don’t have to keep up with the bleeding edge of web design to create an attractive, functional website. When I coded my own pages, I used to spend hours just getting stuff to work – I have never been a professional web designer and I’ve never gotten my head around web programming. I’m grateful to so many people who have spent their time creating great things for other web users to use – and often for free. Thank you to each and every one of you.

I’m not telling you this to brag, to say “Look at me! I’m so cool! I’ve probably been doing this longer than you!” That is truly not my intent. I say this because I feel like after all this time, I am finally starting to come out of the woodwork and since few people realized I was here beforehand, I feel I have to mention my longevity in the medium to prove my legitimacy.

“Hey! I’m worth reading! I’ve been doing this forever! I’m not a flash in the pan!”

Lame, isn’t it? Especially since in all my years of doing this, I’ve never had much of an audience. I’ve always said ‘it’s not about the audience, it’s about me’ but I will freely admit that I would love to have a little bit more interaction. A few more readers that say something. A few more readers, frankly.

I’ve always had a hard time making friends. My mother always told me growing up that I had to reach out first. That people wouldn’t talk to me first. I always thought that if we’re all supposed to make the first move, how come no one is reaching out to me? Cue cycle of feeling lame and loserlike and not reaching out myself. That’s not to say I don’t have any friends. I do, and I love them all dearly. It’s just that none of them do this blogging thing, so it’s hard for them to relate. Some of them still don’t have high-speed internet access. I turned down an apartment when I moved to Toronto ten years ago specifically because it didn’t have high-speed internet, so clearly our priorities are a little different.

Now that I’ve explained myself as a longtime blogger who has a hard time making friends, let’s get to the point of this post.

Over the last few months, I have tried to reach out to the blogosphere at large. Making more replies on Twitter. Leaving comments on other people’s blogs. Going out to events where other bloggers will be – and actually being brave enough to speak up and say hi. These things have not come easy to me. I’m often shy around people I don’t know well, which can make meetups awkward. I also don’t like butting into established conversations, which makes commenting on blogs feel weird sometimes. Twitter has made some of this easier but I want to do better.

In the last two weeks, I’ve met some really great women at two events: PodCamp Toronto and the book launch for Mothering and Blogging: The Radical Act of the MommyBlog. I was so glad that I gathered up my courage and went out to these events. I learned things I didn’t expect to at both places and the social interaction was a lovely bonus.

I’m not sure that I’ll be turning into a social butterfly any time soon, but it’s nice to do more than lurk and wish I had went somewhere after the event has already taken place. I look forward to reaching out to all of you more and more.

My Favourite iPhone Apps Right Now

Back in October, Sean and I joined the world of iPhone owners. Like so many others before us, once we got the hang of the touchscreens and how the phone worked, we went nuts picking out apps. We have some apps in common, but there really isn’t a whole lot of duplication. If you pick up our phones, you can definitely tell which is Sean’s and which is mine (and not just because of the purple case I use).

Here is a list of apps that I’m using a lot right now. You may find them useful, but one thing I’ve found while searching Apple’s App Store is that when you want an app for a specific purpose, there’s usually lots to choose from. But only one app has the one killer feature you need, or is set up to do things the way you want them to. So this list may help you, or it may lead you to other apps that work better for you. And your phone will look different from mine. Which will make picking it up off a table full of iPhones that much easier.

Echofon Pro screenshotFavourite Twitter App: Echofon Pro for Twitter

Price: $4.99 (Free version available)

Echofon is by Naan Studio and exists as an iPhone app, a Mac app and a Firefox extension. I used the Firefox extension for a while last year back when it was still called ‘Twitterfox’. I find the single-column layout more useful on my iPhone, given the limited screen space. The app works well and can post pictures directly to my Flickr account which was a great bonus. Free and paid versions are available. The pro version does push notifications from other Echofon users. This has been the only Twitter app I’ve had on my phone since I’ve had it and it serves me well.

Ping! app screenshotFavourite Messaging App: Ping!

Price: $0.99 (Free version also available)

Ping! is an iPhone-to-iPhone messaging app that replaces SMS messaging. (For all you Blackberry users, it’s like Blackberry Messenger). Great if you have a low SMS message plan. Sean and I use this to send quick messages to each other when we’re apart and a phone call is overkill or inappropriate.

There is a extra paid option in the pro app to send picture messages, but we haven’t bothered to upgrade to that yet. And it’s made by a fellow Torontonian to boot.

Remember the Milk screenshotFavourite To-do App: Remember the Milk

Price: App itself is free, but requires a Pro Remember the Milk account to use it ($25/year).

I’ve been using my free Remember the Milk web account since 2007 so I knew I really wanted to have it sync with my iPhone so I could take my to-do list with me wherever I went. I haven’t been disappointed. RTM is very customizable, and allows you categorize your to-do lists in all sorts of different ways. Reminders can be received via email, SMS, Twitter and of course, iPhone push notifications. Tasks can be sent to RTM using any of these methods too. I keep all my to-do’s in here: from doctor’s appointments to website ideas. It really works for me. I would definitely recommend trying the web app for free before shelling out the $25 for the Pro account though.

Our Groceries screenshotFavourite List App: OurGroceries

Price: Free

OurGroceries is a very simple app that does something incredibly useful – it syncs lists between multiple iPhones. As you see, we’re using it for our groceries, our Costco runs and Sean’s growing cigar collection (I guess he thinks I’m going to support his habit). Any user can add to the list at any time and it will sync with the other users list when they open the app next. I like being able to add things to the list as I remember them (no missing paper lists), and Sean can do the same. Then whoever goes to the store next has a complete list. Tap the item and it gets crossed off. If the other person has the app on when the other one is shopping, they can see the items being crossed off. (Sean tried to mess with me one night by repeatedly adding garbage bags back to the list after I had crossed them off. Fortunately, I only bought one box of garbage bags.) There is also a saved recipe option where you can add the ingredients for a recipe in one tap, but we don’t use that.

Byline app screenshotFavourite RSS App: Byline

Price: $3.99 (described as a “special price in anticipation of version 3.0)

I must admit, I’m new to RSS and feed readers in general. I’ve tried different readers on my computer and just couldn’t get into it. What made me try Byline out was the fact that I could cache the articles and read them offline. This meant that I could load it up when I was online do some reading on the subway without an internet connection. This allows me to catch up on the blogs and sites I don’t always get to read but enjoy when I do. It syncs with Google Reader, so if you’re already set up there, you can have Byline set up really quickly.

Favourite Game Apps: Bejeweled 2 & Words with Friends

Price: $2.99 each (free version available for Words with Friends)

I feel like showing screenshots of these well-loved games will just fuel my addiction so you can have a look at the screenshots on your own. Bejeweled has several play modes, including Bejeweled Blitz, which hooks up to Facebook if you play there as well. Since I put this on my phone, I’m not sitting at my computer playing Bejeweled. Another great time filler for the subway (the scores sync up when you’re online next). As for Words with Friends, it’s a Scrabble clone that is played asynchronously. I can take my turn now, and my opponent could play in two minutes or two days. Players can have up to 20 games going at a time so it’s helpful to have lots of games on the go to make up for the slower players when you’re ready to play yourself. This game needs an online connection so not a subway timewaster. Good for just about anywhere else though.

I try not to go too crazy with app downloading, but these aren’t the only ones I have (I haven’t even mentioned the ones I got for Flora and I to play with!). What are your favourite apps? Let me know in the comments.

Modern communication between a husband and wife

This is Sean’s new tattoo. The bull is the old logo for the Belleville Bulls, the OHL team closest to our hometown.

Here’s the story of how he ended up getting it today, and how I found out about it.

Sean and our friend Jason had made plans to go to Toronto’s Fan Expo today. They got all the way down there and discovered hordes of people in long lines that weren’t moving anywhere. They walked through various open doors to find more lines of people (many dressed up as their favourite character from whatever fandom they enjoy best). There were lines to buy tickets. There were lines to get in after those tickets were purchased. They decided that waiting in all those lines wasn’t worth their time. So they left.

What’s with all this buildup? I’ll get to that.

So apparently they wandered around downtown for awhile, visiting the Silver Snail, having a couple of beers at The Bier Markt, and buying cigars at Frank Correnti Cigars. So, it was a good guy’s day out. After a quick visit with a friend of Jason’s who works in the area they were in, they ended up in a tattoo shop. Sean has been considering getting a tattoo in commemoration of Flora’s birth. He’s been struggling with the image as I don’t think he’s keen on getting a flower (the meaning of the name Flora) tattooed on him, and wanted to make sure any tattoo he did get was the right one. (I’ve tried to veto the use of a fireflower for Super Mario Brothers with her name and birthdate underneath, but I need to remember that it’s not my body – I just have to look at it.)

So they were looking at the different designs in the shop when Jason (ever the good friend), points out the sample of the original Belleville Bulls logo. Sean has always said that if he won the lottery, he would buy the Belleville Bulls – he’s that big a Bull Booster. So he was excited to see the Bulls logo in tattoo form, and once he saw that artwork, made an appointment right away to get it put on his calf.

Keep in mind that I don’t know any of this is happening right now. I’m home with Flora thinking that these two are spending too much money on GI Joe action figures and getting their pictures taken with Star Wars characters and Transformers.

At about 6PM, Jason and Sean come in. Jason is in first and gives me a very low-key “hi”. I ask what’s going on, and he kinda points at Sean, mumbling that something happened to him. As he hobbled through the door, I see that Sean is all bandaged up. “What the hell happened to you?” I ask (it was more sympathetic than it sounds). Sean then tells me that he was hit by a cyclist while walking downtown and it scraped up his leg really bad. They flagged down a paramedic driving by and he bandaged it up. Shocked and worried, I ask if he’s all right and if he needs stitches or followup care. He says it needs to be wrapped until tomorrow, but he’s essentially okay – the pebbles have been cleaned out and the wound looks dressed enough that it won’t leak all over the couch or sheets.

The evening progresses and I put Flora to bed. Once she is down, I go on my computer in the next room to kill time while making sure that Flora is really going down for the night. I open up Facebook and I see that Sean has updated his profile picture. To the picture you see above.

I know Sean is a big Bulls fan, but I think to myself “it’s tacky to use someone else’s tattoo as your profile photo”. When I looked closer, I thought to myself “holy shit, that’s *my* couch in the background of that photo”. I go downstairs and make the following statement:

“I had to find out you got a new tattoo via Facebook?”

Big laughs all around. They wondered how long it would take me to find out. Turns out I found out about two minutes after the photo was posted. There was no teenage cyclist who ran my husband down. The two of them concocted that story on the way home.

It’s a good thing I checked Facebook tonight. I had planned to write a Twitter status, complaining about assholes on bikes who run down people and don’t even stay to apologize or help the victim get up. And that would have been posted to Facebook too.

And that would have just looked silly, given what I know now. Our friends would think we never talk to each other.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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