Women Entreprenur Series Conference

Last year my BFF and I opened a small business called Trata Threads. We had an awesome idea about making products that celebrate cultural identities. How many times have you walked into Babies R Us to see an endless variety of bibs, onesies and t-shirts talking about Auntie, and Grandma or Uncle? That’s all well and good for those people who use traditional American names for their relatives, but in my family, Auntie = Titi, Uncle = Tio, and Grandma = Abuelita, and there are names that are missing like Madrina (godmother) and Padrino (godfather).  One of the best part of this country is diversity, but we don’t see much of it in our stores. So we decided to do it ourselves.

The problem is that we don’t know the first thing about business.

Fortunately the State of NJ is trying to become business friendly. In these interests, they are hosting a series of conferences for Women Entrepreneurs. I missed the first one, but my bestie, and our friend at LJ Treasures in the Sand, carpooled to yesterday’s second in the series conference.

After exploring a few tables of vendors who are specific to helping small businesses obtain financing, we helped ourselves to some breakfast and met some interesting people. There was a representative, Josephine Ho, who was on the planning committee for this event and was also a member of the New Jersey Chinese American Chamber of Commerce. People were very friendly and interested in discussing the different businesses and ideas for businesses we all had.

The morning keynote speaker, Tracye McDaniel spoke about the efforts NJ is making to encourage businesses to set up shop in NJ, and bring jobs to our state. She stressed the importance of small businesses in helping our economy and closed with a few tips on how to stay motivated. She said “Motivation doesn’t last…but neither does bathing”, so we have to find ways to stay focused and motivated on our goals. She suggested changing your screen saver to an ima

ge that motivates you, whether it’s your business card, or even a business card/logo of a business that inspires you. Use a strategically placed white board to deliver daily affirmations to yourself. Finally, she said, Know your circle of influence.

This is an important one to remember, because whether we realize it or not technology has given us the opportunity to maintain contact with more people than ever.

Keynote speaker, Tracye McDaniel, talking about NJ’s efforts to encourage businesses and on staying motivated.

Use your social media tools for networking and help other people succeed. Every person you know is potential referral. With that in mind S, over at LJ Treasures in the Sand, created a facebook page to help Women in NJ achieve this goal. On the Women Entrepreneurs- NJ group page you can find women like you, who are starting out or trying to expand their small businesses. You can vent your frustrations, read informative articles, or use it as a venue to get your company out there. We hope to see you there soon.

For more information on the Women Entrepreneurs Series, click here.

Metzger 4–Thanks for the Memories…RIP J.

I’m not sure what prompted me to do it. Boredom maybe. I was tooling around Facebook reading statuses of people I knew a lifetime ago. I guess that sparked curiosity. I typed an old friend’s name into the Facebook search bar and when I started reading his wall I saw messages from his friends’ and family speaking about how much they miss him, and what a wonderful person he was. The past tense told me that my old friend had died. Scrolling back I saw that his last post was in October.

I hadn’t spoken to him in years. I think the last time we’d communicated was right before he got married a few years back. I remember seeing people post congratulations on his wall. During one of my periodic friends list clean ups I’d deleted him. Our lives were in different places. It seemed silly to expose him to my banal status updates, and I’m not a big fan of people I don’t really know, having such intimate knowledge of my family. I was happy to know he was happy. There was no need for anything more.

I find myself very affected by this new knowledge. It really feels like there is one less light on in the world, and it makes me sad to know he’s gone. More than sad, though, I’m feeling extremely nostalgic as I remember him, and the adventures we had together. He was a significant character during a very significant year of my life.

It was some random twist of life that brought him into my life. In fact, a random twist that brought us all together as college freshman back in 1999. We were living on a campus that was unofficially designated for the Engineering majors, but also acted as overflow from the Main Campus. I was there because that college was not my first choice. On the very last day of the deadline I accepted the space they’d offered me. I’d wanted to go somewhere else, and spend an entire summer convincing myself that I’d made the right decision. Had I accepted earlier, I’d probably lived on College Ave, but my lateness secured me a triple on Metzger 4. When I moved in that first day, tucking my pink plaid comforter over the matching sheets, I had no idea what kind of mayhem laid before me.

I can’t speak for other people’s freshman experiences, but mine was filled with a cast of characters who would each imprint themselves on my life. One thing was for sure, there was copious amounts of alcohol involved. I rubbed the backs of numerous floormates as they puked the contents of the night into a garbage can. There were drunken confessions made to one another, about fears, virginities still in tact, unrequited loves. There were immature wars between the Koreans, who clung together from the start, and the rest of the floor. There was napster and photoshop. Naive forrays into the mysteries of casual sex, and one night stands would take place. Pranks. Drinking challenges. Puzzles to be solved. I won’t call it the best year of my life, but if I had to choose one year to relive, this year would be in my top five. It wasn’t all fun and games. Rivalries were formed, alliances made, feelings hurt, relationships torn apart. Furniture was destroyed, windows broken, incredible messes made, and fires were literally set. It was amazing, and terrible and something I enjoy thinking about despite it, and because of it all. It was a coming of age year, for lots of us. Virginities were lost. People came out of the closet. Identities began to bloom. At least one person met their wife that year.

J. was a friend in the most platonic sense. He was devoted to his girlfriend, and I was…well I just had my sights set on other guys. Although the whole floor was incredibly amicable (minus the Korean mafia), we tended to group together. I had a complicated relationship with one of the guys on the floor, and would spend most of my time in his room, with his roommate(who went home to his girlfriend every weekend). They’d both graduated from the same high school and had an incredibly delightful bantering relationship. Somewhere along the line J. completed the foursome. He was a comedic addition, whose mischief added a much needed punch to our lives.  We’d all hang out in R. & E.’s room, at first spending hours trying to figure out the math puzzle E had created. There was a message within a pattern of letters he’d hung like a border on his side of he room. J. would change their computer password, using the screensaver to leave them a clue to what the new one would be. He masterminded pranks, painting dirty pictures with detergent on the walls of their room, so it was only visible under the new blacklight they’d installed. Once we removed all of R’s furniture from the room, and even changed the answering machine message so it was just E’s room.

He totally ignored the rule that freshman weren’t allowed to have cars, and we would go on late night driving adventures, sometimes stealing pumpkins from the lawns of the nearby homes, one time coming home with a plastic Joseph from a nativity scene. It became the indicator of whether or not he was on the floor. If Joseph was lit, he was home.

Somehow we evolved into spending every Tuesday together. He had this endearingly obnoxious way of screaming my name from down the hall, and beating on my door until I emerged, ready to leave. We’d go to the dining hall, then we’d embark on some kind of expedition, usually involving some kind of shopping. I’d never known anyone like him. He wasn’t afraid to speak or act. If he was thinking it, you’d know it. He didn’t follow conventional rules. Once we went to the store for him to buy clothes, and instead of taking a pair of pants to the dressing room, he dropped trow and tried them on right there in the middle of the store. If he couldn’t find me, he would yell my name from the opposite end of the store, navigating towards me like a game of Marco Polo, where I’d reply with his name until we found each other.

He went home almost every single weekend, to see his girlfriend, whereas I stayed and partied as much as I could. Only once did he go to a party with me, and he ended up saving me after he’d noticed I was acting strange–I’d been Rufied. He was why I got home safely. Over winter break, with $40 in my pocket, I spent almost an entire week in his town, bouncing from his friend’s couch, to his house, to his girlfriend’s house until my Mom broke down and recovered me.

After I failed my first semester and stopped living there, we saw each other less. R and I broke up for good. E and I were never really friends. We didn’t really see one another much. I think I saw him two years later, because I was visiting R, and they were roommates in an apartment by then.And from there…well be just both grew up and moved on.

I don’t actually have any friends that I’ve kept from those days. I have a few faces on my friend’s list that make me smile when I see a new baby, or pictures of their recent luxurious vacation, but just recently, my last tie from those days was dissolved, and the cheese stands alone. I’m not upset about it. I mean, I only lasted that one year, and only half of that as a full time resident. It’s awesome to hear that one of us has gotten married, another has moved across the country, yet another is hoping to work for NASA. Seeing the transformations from our 18 year old days to our 30s is jarring too. I know there are more lines, more curves, and more scars on my own body then back then.

It’s sad to hear that a light on Metzger 4 has gone out, but I’m glad for the memories. It’s something we all share. A moment in our lives we can’t go back to, but we get to relive every time someone talks about their freshman year.

Thank you Metzger 4. We were hardcore. We were the floor we could never ignore.

Are we desensitized to rape culture?

A friend of mine recently posted the following image on Facebook:

It’s a band poster for a show. The band claims they were trying to depict the alternative lifestyle of bondage. Is that what you see? My friend sure didn’t see it. She’s a doctoral student at The University of Southern Mississippi, where these posters were hung. She immediately posted this picture and called her fellow students to arms, to deface this poster, and the others like it.

She brilliantly took to the campus streets and wrote on the posters, leaving the number for the rape hotline, and other messages like, “Who owns your body?”.  Can we get a round of applause for her?

The issue got some local media attention, and my friend was interviewed in the local paper. Pretty awesome, in my book. The problem for me is that heroes like my friend, willing to take a stand against images of women being brutalized, are so few and far between, and the number of people who even notice the image in the first place are so gigantic. The band front man claimed ignorance, stating that he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. Truthfully, I believe him. He didn’t think it was a problem. Other students around campus were equally unaffected, but thought that people would go to the show as a result of the image alone. Now with all the publicity they’re getting, they might even sell out.

The problem isn’t that the band guy used the image. It’s that he didn’t think it was a problem. This woman is just a drawing. She doesn’t have a past, or family, or a story behind why her hair is so long. She isn’t real, so it should be okay? Right? I wonder if how the public would react if we took an image of a soldier, it doesn’t even have to be an American soldier, it can be as non-descript as this woman. This soldier could be bound in the same way as this woman, with the same headline, as this band poster. How do you think it would go over? I’ll bet there’d be a lot more than a few students protesting. I’ve actually been playing around in my mind’s eye, swapping out the image of this naked woman, and interchanging different kinds of clothed males, and each one is pretty jarring, and would probably gain as much attention for being out of the ordinary, as it would for being offensive and scary. A mailman, firefighter, and dare I even write it…okay…cop? Crazy to think that images of bound men IN CLOTHES, could inspire more shock than a naked woman, but that is exactly the situation here.

Most of the student body didn’t even notice it. Of those who did, only a select few complained. So what the rest of the student body, and likely most of society, is essentially communicating is that an image of a bound, naked, woman is not offensive. This is as easily blended into the scenery of our lives as the rest of the billboards and posters– Tide, Bounty, Coca-cola, and brutalized women–none of these raise an eyebrow anymore…that is unless you’ve got laundry to do, or forgot the paper towels again.

I’m tempted to apologize for the exaggeration, and perhaps before this incident I might have, but this thing really did happen. We glaze over at the silhouettes of playboy bunnies imprinted on the mudflaps and air fresheners of thousands of vehicles, and that’s because we really are bombarded with the nude image of women through almost every kind of media. Without getting into that whole conversation, let me jump right to the point, we shouldn’t be okay with images of women being hurt! We aren’t okay with the images of anyone else being hurt. Let’s be honest, when you think about what a crucifix really is, just for a moment you get the hee bee jeebies, and that has had centuries of development as a symbol of life everlasting for millions of people. So how can we condone imagery that depicts torturing…anyone? This wasn’t a news story about something that happened, it was advertising! These people were trying to solicit business with this imagery, which not only indicates that they were unaffected by the image, but that they felt, and felt that other would agree, that this image was attractive enough to convince you to come see their band play. And then there were the people who were just unaffected by the poster, and it’s implications.

Now, let’s take things a few steps back. As women reading this, how many of you have ever had their asses grabbed by men you didn’t know? Breasts? How about going dancing? How many erect genitals have you had rubbed into your backs? Was this something that you welcomed? Was it okay with you? I’ve never met a woman who actually appreciated that attention. “Oh thank you for rubbing your erect penis in the small of my back! It was so erotic and sexy, and I would never have noticed you otherwise…” Another like-minded blogger at firsttheegg.com, posted about the concept of a “typical women’s” experiences with unwanted sexual touch. It’s so common place, getting grabbed on the subway, professional men standing too close and stroking your arm, being treated like a pet, an object intended for the male gaze. It seems like our lives, desires, and wants are secondary to this preliminary role in life. This is so ordinary in our lives that we don’t even talk about it.

The more we don’t talk about it, the more likely it is to be repeated to our sisters, our daughters, and our nieces. Maybe you’re not ready to admit it yourself just now, but you might be just like the students who didn’t notice. Don’t shut out the conversation out of guilt. Just promise yourself that in the future, you will notice. Maybe we aren’t all as brave as the faculty and students of Southern Mississippi who took action, but just talking about it, will at least give the braves one the courage to take action. I imagine that it is only with our help, that our heroes are motivated to stand up for the masses. I, for one, will do my best to stand up with women, like my friend, so that we don’t have to beat ourselves up with guilt when we realize we didn’t even notice.

It’s a Girl Thing

A few weeks ago I posted about a friend I’d lost because of Facebook drama. I put on a tough facade, but it was something that I really felt sad about. I’m not the kind of person that makes lots of friends easily, especially with women. My BFFis a woman, but she’s pretty atypical like I am. We’ve never actually fought. In fact, during the time we spent apart, there weren’t any real bad feelings, we’d just grown apart. When we got back together it was with the appreciation of what we’d been missing. It’s a relationship based on love, and not on competition or catty-ness. We both want to see one another happy, and have worked to help one another through our lives.

When Miss A and I became friends, I’d sincerely hoped to find this in her too. It was going well until the big blog escapade, but with all of the hullabaloo going on in our lives, emotions were just running too high. Not to mention, the problem with the internet as a means of social communication is that intention, inflection, and context are almost impossible to convey accurately.

Miss A just had her baby, and it was a real sadness for me that I was no longer a part of their lives. Little G loves Little A, and every time she asked for her it renewed my sadness. I’ve been a virtual stalker. I’ve been reading her blog, and trying to keep up with her life, because no matter how stubborn I’ve been, I care…a lot.

Recently we started corresponding again, and we’ve even made plans to see one another soon. I’m a little nervous, especially if she reads my blog. What if it brings it all up to the surface again? What if she gets mad that I shared it all with the world, even though I didn’t use real names? What if the friendship we’d had has disappeared altogether?

I asked for advice from people I trust, and they told me that this is how girlfriends work. Sometimes they fight. Sometimes they fight for super stupid reasons, say ridiculous shit to each other and then make up without talking about it. I have to say it makes me feel uncomfortable to ignore an elephant, but sometimes it is best to put it all away. I think one of my biggest issues is in separating friends from family.

With a family as large as mine, and strict parents, growing up my only friends were my cousins. I mean I had one or two outside friends here and there, but I never slept over anyone else’s house or went to high school parties. It just wasn’t allowed. So now when I make friends, I can’t help but to bring them into my family fold. For the most part that kind of thing has worked out for me, but sometimes there is actually a separation between the two categories. Is this that kind of thing?

How do you do it all? Do you have a separate space in your mind and in your heart? Where do the lines get drawn? Comment here and teach a Bizzaromom a thing or two.

Is Facebook ruining friendships?

It’s not a huge surprise to hear that 25% of divorces cite social networks, like facebook, as the cause for breakups. I mean, give people who are gonna cheat the ability to do so and they’ll eat it up. It’s even understandable to hear about facebook fueled family feuds (say that five times fast). Bringing together different generations and adding daily confessions, rants, or political discussions and there are bound to be disagreements, but the thing that has really shocked me is the way real life friendships are being affected by a website.

It happened to me. I had a friend, we’ll call her Miss A, in real life. We both had kids around the same time. We both were SAHMs with newborns and significant others who worked long hours. We relied on one another quite heavily for sanity’s sake. I accepted our differences hesitantly, since I’m not usually the type to succeed at a long term female relationship. A couple of years went by and she remained a pretty important part of my life. So when she asked me to plan her baby shower, despite the fact that it was a financial sacrifice, I did so, and did a great job at it too. I really thought we were friends.

Miss A is big into blogging, and I was a follower of her family blog. So, when her post about finding a new church sparked my interest, especially since she’d been a devout atheist I immediately forwarded it to Big G. We found ourselves skeptically fascinated about the concept of a church that accepted all faiths. Big G posted his perspective on her blog, questioning the concept, and joking around as he is known to do, but apologetic of his tone the entire time. He really was just interested in learning more. Miss A, however, didn’t appreciate the discussion at all. First she tried to recruit like minded bloggers to respond to the discussion on her site. At which point I tried to calm the waters by clarifying Big G’s post, and adding my own questions into the mix. Then she posted a diatribe of her own, and had her fiancee respond at length too. I thought everything was cool. I mean, Mr. A did claim that Big G’s discussion was inappropriate for the family blog forum, and I was confused that he decided to continue to engage in the conversation anyway, but that’s what the internet is for, right? Blogs in particular, no? We put our opinions out into the world and hope for a conversation. Sure we don’t love it when someone disagrees, or has a little fun at our expense, but we wouldn’t be posting on the world wide web if we weren’t prepared to handle that kind of thing, right?

Well, Miss A didn’t think so. After sending her a personal message through facebook apologizing if Big G’s comments upset her, I saw that she had posted on his facebook wall (yes this was before the timeline thing). What was it that she said? “What the f*ck is your problem.”

I’ll concede that I may have social boundaries that are foreign to some people. For one I think that people should conduct themselves civilly, especially with the family members of their friends. Secondly, I’m not the kind of person that speaks to my own friends that way, so I expect no one speak to me like that. So when I saw this, I immediately comment that this was inappropriate. Of course she’d see that she shouldn’t talk to my hubby that way, right? I mean we were such good friends. She should know this about me, right? Wrong again. Instead of acknowledging the four apologies that had been sent her way, despite the fact that we didn’t actually believe we were in the wrong, she decided to let me know how offended she was that I was “turning things around on her” and I was pissing her off more than helping her cope.

There’s this word to describe my reaction. I think it’s dumfounded. Seriously? I could understand a personal message expressing distaste, or deleting the comment she found to be so upsetting, but cursing him off in a virtually public place and then continuing to engage in the conversation? I couldn’t understand it.

Frankly, I never got the chance to understand, because she never addressed the issue. She avoided it altogether until I couldn’t stomach seeing her posts on my page any longer. I believe in friendship, real friendship. I don’t have a ton of friends, perhaps because I don’t have the time or energy to engage deeply with so many people, but the ones I do have are aware of my gratitude for their presence in my life. So I made the ultimate internet statement. I deleted her. I blocked her. I figured if our friendship was important, she’d call me. She never did. Although I did get a mailed invite to her daughter’s birthday party–which of course we aren’t attending.

I can’t say that facebook is at fault for any of this, but it is sad how it makes disagreements so much easier to occur. My feeling is that the sooner I know a friend isn’t real, the better, but I have to say, I’m much more cautious to bring more people into the fold than before. I hate the idea of bringing someone into Little G’s life, only to have them stripped away because of a status update.

Has this ever happened to you? Tell me your facebook friendship fails.

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