how my mombod wound up on nightline

My most recent blog post, “mombod” started out as a rant to my husband. As I was venting to him about how ridiculous it was that people were writing lists about reasons “dadbods” are attractive when there’s a total double standard about moms’ bodies, I realized I was already halfway done writing a blog post with my words. I quickly fired off a post, and since I felt it was timely, I went ahead and submitted it to my editors at Huffington Post as well. They immediately picked it up. I got a lot of positive feedback from friends about the piece, and felt good about myself for holding it down for all the mombods out there.

The next day, the girls and I had a slow morning at home before meeting up with some friends for lunch. When I got home and got the girls down for a nap, I checked my email and saw a message from a producer at Nightline. She had read my mombod piece on HuffPost and wanted to know if I would be interested in speaking on camera about it. That night.

I could tell the producer was looking for sort of a “backlash to dadbod” angle, and made clear that I wasn’t *against* dadbod. I love dadbods! I’m married to a hottie with a bit of a dad-body. My entire message was that if we’re going to accept, love, and admit that we find imperfect male bodies attractive and desirable, we needed to do the same for women, whose general message from society is usually that if their bodies bear any evidence that they have borne children, it is a problem to be fixed, not a beautiful, acceptable new normal. The producer said she liked that idea, too, and within a few minutes, she had arranged for a local ABC camera crew to come to my house at 3:30 to film the interview and get some b-roll of me with my family.

That left me a couple of hours to a) freak out, b) get at least two spaces in my house cleaned up enough to appear on camera, and c) fret about what I was going to wear. I quickly eliminated option c) and decided to just leave on what I had been wearing for a normal day momming it up in my mombod. I thanked God I had showered and fixed my hair that morning. I warned my husband, who was getting off work right around the time of the interview that he would likely be arriving just in time for filming (which is why he appears in his work scrubs in the footage).

The camera crew showed up at 3:00 and did a LOT of setting up. Lighting something for film ain’t no joke. I sat in a chair for most of it and remembered the storyline about the lighting stand-ins from “Love Actually.” When they were finally ready, the producer called and asked me the interview questions via speaker phone while I looked at one of the camera guys to the side of the camera and pretended he was interviewing me. The nice part about being interviewed about something I’ve written is, I don’t really have to come up with points on the spot– I’ve already written and edited them and basically just have to restate them to answer the questions, so I didn’t feel super on the spot or like I had to fish for answers. The most difficult part was trying to remember to include the question in my responses, since the interviewer wouldn’t be heard on camera.

Then they wanted to get some footage of us as a family, so we did some playing in the den, “made a snack” in the kitchen (it wasn’t really snack time, so I had the girls help me pull some grapes off the stems and put them in a bowl to serve later with dinner), and took a walk in front of our house. While the camera guys had won me over by helping make sure my bra straps didn’t appear on film (sleeveless shirt hazard), they lost me a little bit when I saw the final interview and realized that although they swore my tripping did NOT appear in their footage, the one bit of walking they did show was in fact me tripping. I’m nothing but grace.

At that point, I didn’t know who else would be in the story, or really what they would be doing with my answers. When the interview aired after my bedtime that night (I stayed up to watch, though, because I was pumped), I saw it for the first time along with everyone else. I loved the dadbod blogger, because he was sweet and funny, and I immediately worried that he’d get negative comments for being slightly larger than the average dadbod, which really has been one of the most common comments people have made to me– “Isn’t that guy bigger than a dadbod?” To that I say: I don’t care, and it doesn’t really matter. In fact, again, my entire message on bodies is that whatever body you have, it is worthy of love and acceptance, and it can be seen as sexy.

Also, my husband immediately pointed out that I was billed as a “mommy blogger” but the other guy wasn’t billed as a “daddy blogger.” Many bloggers better than I have tackled the gag-worthiness of the phrase “mommy blogger,” but for the record, I was asked to state my name and occupation on camera, and I described myself as a “writer and mom.” I would pretty much never call myself a mommy blogger. I’ve been blogging longer than I’ve been a mom, and I’ve always blogged about many subjects that include but are not limited to parenting. Marginalizing women’s writing as something for “mommies” is offensive and sexist.

That said, I think my message came across, and I thought the piece was a good one. I’m annoyed that the headline is “Mommy Blogger Fires Back Against Dadbod Physique,” when I’m not against dadbods (or any bods) in the slightest. As I said originally, “Whatever body you have, mombod, dadbod, rippedbod, fatbod, YOU are what make your body sexy, not the other way around.”

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six years and a lifetime ago

I just realized thanks to Facebook’s new time traveling feature that I started this blog six years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago.

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I got to see THIS on the regular when I started this site.

 

When I started writing here, we were still fairly newly wed and our only child was Bessie dog. We had moved to Charleston, SC for Jon’s pediatrics residency, and we were not just in love with each other, but in love with our new city, as well. Jon worked like a dog, but time off was for lazing about on Folly Beach, enjoying bottomless brunches downtown, and hunting down every good meal we could find in one of the best food towns in the world. Things weren’t all rosy though– I had just lost my first real post-college job in real estate thanks to the market crash and recession, and I spent some time on unemployment. I felt like we were starting to be actual adults, not just two kids playing house. We were dealing with real issues in a new place in a time that seemed very economically uncertain. My thoughts were consumed by my infatuation with our new home and also concern for big issues nationwide.

Perhaps because we didn’t know many people well in Charleston outside of the wonderful people we met through residency, Jon often found himself on the receiving end of what can really only be described as monologs– he got all of my thoughts, musings, and rants. And one day, he not so subtly suggested that maybe I needed some kind of outlet, like a blog or something, where I could write through my thoughts and connect to others.

So, I did. I didn’t expect much– I just wanted to do more writing and connecting, and having a little outpost on the internet was a way to achieve that. I wrote in my first post, “I am thinking of starting a blog.  Thinking seems to be all I do, because I’m scared to pull the trigger in case the thing turns into a pit of narcissism and monotony.  No one wants to read my diary.  Not even me.  And yet, I write so little now that I’m a liar when I call myself a writer.  Can’t remember the last time I wrote anything, let alone something worth reading.” I still think of this place as somewhere I do something that’s slightly more organized and edited than a diary. You don’t get the play by play of my life, here, but you do get portraits of pieces of it, both the beautiful and the difficult. And, reflective of those big concerns I’ve had from the start, you also get political opinions, theological musings, and even feminist rants.

ah, the sweet life of two childfree people who get to do things like lounge in hammocks.
ah, the sweet life of two childfree people who get to do things like lounge in hammocks.

It’s funny to me now to look back on posts like this one, where I was considering becoming a mother, and largely terrified of the bodily experience of pregnancy and childbirth, now that six years later, I squeeze in time to write while caring for my three year old twins (first mention of them ever on this blog here). I can definitely say becoming a mother has connected me to my body in deep and meaningful ways, and helped me learn to love myself too. And then there was this one, where Jon had just told he he was ready to have a baby like, NOW, and I pondered the more existential changes that would come along with parenthood. I also worried about how to be a mother and a writer. It turns out becoming a mother has both changed everything about me and also not really changed who I am at all. Sure, I write a lot more about parenting-related topics now, and I think I’ve become stronger and more patient and more vulnerable and more open and and more mature along this journey, but that also generally just happens to a person as they age into their thirties, too.

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Another big change that has been documented over this blog’s lifetime is a major shift in the way we eat after we saw Food Inc.  I’ve journaled through our CSA experiences, mused on the intersection of food and spirituality and the intersection of food and feminism, and even found a way to make a regular spaghetti and meatballs night a spiritual practice.

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An image from the time I discovered Instagram.

 

And, along the way, there were many changes and milestones, big and small. I went from a dog person to someone who definitely favors my cat. I started and quit grad school, because I loved studying literature but realized I don’t actually want to teach it. I witnessed a miracle. We got a scary diagnosis during my pregnancy and disability became a big part of our lives. I gave birth to our twins and almost died.  I struggled with anxietyI stood up for reproductive rights, because even though I have a child with a disability, I’m still pro-choice. We bought a house that might be haunted. I wrote about how my child with a disability is not my hero, went viral, got interviewed on an NPR show, and became a Huffington Post blogger. I claimed my identity as a writer. I gave up antiperspirants and embraced my inner sweaty hippie. I got involved with the American Heart Association.

I feel like we became a family before your eyes.
I feel like we became a family before your eyes.

There are a few things I used to do more of that I don’t so much anymore, and I’d like to get back to. Reviewing movies occasionally was pretty fun. I also used to both read more books and write more about them, be they memoirs like Eat, Pray, Love or literature like The Bluest Eye. I’m actually finally, slowly getting back into making time (and having the concentration) to read, and I’d like to share more about how the things I read change my mind and my life. I want to find the time to do some sewing (this crib skirt tutorial is one of my most popular posts ever). I want to do more exploring with my faith. I want to do more food writing and share more recipes. And I want to encourage more women to own their awesome and love their selfies.

I know this means I have to get better about making time to write regularly, which isn’t always easy. But, looking back at what a GIFT this space has been to me over the last six years, a place to grow and connect and find out that I’m not so alone in this world as I might have once thought, I feel inspired to keep working in this space, keep using this outlet, and keep writing, because I really do think that writing keeps me sane. Thank YOU for reading here, be it just today, or for most of the last six years. Your taking the time to read and connect means more than you can know, and I am so immensely thankful for all the amazing people putting these words out there has brought into my life. I’m so glad my husband encouraged me to start this site six years ago, and I have no plans of quitting it anytime soon.

books

what’s the frequency, ernie?

Illustrating this post with gratuitous twin cuteness just because I can.
Illustrating this post with gratuitous twin cuteness just because I can.

I continue to be amazed by the response my “Not a Hero” post is getting, and am super grateful to everyone who has read, shared, and commented on the post. Today, it’s featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed page, which is bringing a new influx of readers and commenters. To new folks: welcome, thanks for reading, I promise to moderate comments as quickly as I can.

The newest crazy piece of news that I am totally fangirling out over is that I’m going to be on NPR’s Tell Me More tomorrow. Check your local public radio station to see if they air the show, and tune in if you want to hear what my accent sounds like in real life. I will be doing my level best not to talk too fast or bring shame upon my family. If your local station doesn’t air the show, you will likely be able to listen after the fact on the show’s website or podcast.

I’m actually beyond excited about this because I’m a huge NPR fan. I’m also super excited to get to talk about my amazing kids, and about the responses I’ve received to the post. This wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for people like you (listeners like you? Am I on NPR already?) reading and sharing, so again: thank you. And thanks for cheering us on through this whole twins/spina bifida journey– it’s meant so much.

Sarah Sweatt Orsborn: writer

See what I mean about this child being a ham? We were in a quiet art gallery and she was shouting words at the top of her voice just to hear them echo.
See what I mean about this child being a ham? We were in a quiet art gallery and she was shouting words at the top of her voice just to hear them echo.

A funny thing happened to me this week. Inspired by a conversation with a friend, I sat down and wrote a blog post about my sweet, stubborn, ham of a daughter who happens to have spina bifida. That’s not the funny part. I could write about my messy, magical children all day long, and I do write about them pretty darn often. But that post in particular resonated with some people, who shared it on Twitter, where it was re-tweeted and shared some more.

Here is where I should mention that this blog is pretty small potatoes. An average post gets a couple to a few hundred views. A really good post may barely clear a thousand. Rarely, when WordPress has featured my content on their Freshly Pressed page, I’ll get several thousand. So, I was pretty proud of how that post was doing when it got over a thousand views on its own, with no one else featuring it.

I was proud not because I’m making money off of clicks or something (to date, I have earned a few free meals and one grocery gift card from this blog), but because I write to connect with people and when people start sharing my work and tweeting about it, I know that something has struck home. I happily showed my stats to my husband and felt warm and fuzzy inside.

And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an email from a HuffPost Parents editor in my inbox, asking if I’d be willing to let them syndicate my post. Thrilled, I agreed. In the process of getting the post ready for HuffPost, I had to write a little bio. No big deal, right? I have Pinterest and Twitter and Instagram and blog bios and profiles and about me’s, so surely I could just use one of those. But none felt right. And what am I, anyway? A stay at home mom, since I’m on an indefinite hiatus from grad school?

What I came up with was this: “Sarah Sweatt Orsborn is a writer living in Little Rock, Arkansas with her husband, twin daughters, two dogs, and one not-so-Tinycat. Her work is most frequently found on her site, The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo.”

And then I thought…who are you to call yourself a writer? It’s not your job. Nobody’s paying you to do it. Are you even good enough to claim to be a writer?

But you know what? I am a writer. Writing is just part of who I am. It’s how I make sense of the world, it’s how I process the things that happen to me, and it’s how I figure out what I really think and feel. Before there was an internet, I was writing letters and journals, because it’s just what I do. I even pray best when writing it down. I don’t have to be paid or hired or titled to be a writer, because I am one, always have been. It’s how I connect with myself, with God, and with others.

This realization and reclamation of my identity as a writer actually reminded me of a time when Mary Steenburgen gave a talk at my college. We all know her well as an Academy Award-winning actress, but what she shared was her reclaimed love of painting, a passion she has returned to as an adult after many years away. She pointed out how as children, we are encouraged to dance, sing, and make art. But somewhere along the way, we say, “I’m not a dancer. I’m not a singer. I’m not a painter.” Because we think others dance, sing, or paint better than we do, or because we feel like we aren’t good enough to claim the title. But if dancing, singing, painting, or writing gives you joy or makes you who you are, you’re a dancer, a singer, a painter.

I won’t shy away from being a writer anymore. Are you a writer? A dancer? A painter? What titles or passions have you shrugged off that could use reclaiming?

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a pinner’s manifesto

I admit it. I was initially resistant to Pinterest. Why do I need one more social network? was generally my perspective. But then I tried it and quickly became hooked. Finally, my folders upon folders of bookmarked recipes were actually useful, because instead of scrolling through filenames, I could browse photographs on a “board” to choose what I wanted to cook, the same way I flip through a cookbook or magazine looking at the pictures. As a sewer and crafter, I could collect inspiration to use later, too, like yellow dresses that became my the spirit of my first yellow sundress that I made for myself. Much as I love Instagram for giving me a greater eye for beauty, Pinterest has helped me see all the world as a source of inspiration for making my spaces and meals a more beautiful place. For every critique I see of Pinterest as a place of envy and lust, I would argue that it’s what you make of it. If you collect pins and follow pinners who only share things you’ll never have, sure, you could easily get down and jealous and start to feel inadequate. But if you follow people with a similar vision for life and the world, you’ll never cease to be inspired. Because I judiciously unfollow thinspiration boards and mostly follow people who pin yummy food and quirky outfits and cute spaces, Pinterest has become a Happy Place for me.

But we can make it better.

Let’s face it, Pinterest’s search kind of sucks. But it’s because of us. Pinterest can only return pins to us if they’re captioned with the kinds of terms we use in our search. If I’m searching for pictures of foxes (which I often do because I’m obsessed and want a pet one), but everyone has captioned their fox pictures “CUTE!”, I’m not going to get many results. For a picture of a fox to show up in the results of my search with the keyword “fox,” the word “fox” needs to appear in the caption. Similarly, if I’m searching for images of toddler bedrooms or shared bedrooms to inspire me in sprucing up the gals’ nursery, only pictures captioned with words like “toddler room,” “shared room,” “twin room,” and “bunk beds” are going to return me the kinds of images I’m looking for, while the ones captioned “cute room!” or “idea for later!” are never going to reach my screen.

So, we have to start doing better. We have to start captioning our pins with actual descriptions of the image. Most people already do this with pins of recipes, captioning them with the name of the actual dish. But we need to do it with everything. I need to do it too. Also: did you know Pinterest has been tagified? Much like on Twitter, where placing a hashtag before a keyword turns the word itself into a clickable search that takes you to a page with all other posts that share that tag, putting “#coconut” on a pin for say, coconut rice turns the word #coconut into an instant search for other pins that share that tag. Click that link and see what I mean.

Here’s an example from one of my own pins. The bad pin has just a space instead of a useful caption, while the good pin has a descriptive caption that makes use of keywords and hashtags.

This is my pledge: In order to make Pinterest more useful to us all, I will henceforth caption all of my pins appropriately, describing what is in the image or the content of the blog post the image links to, and making use of related hashtags to make my pins more search-friendly. Will you pledge to do the same?

P.S. If you would like to follow me on Pinterest, please do! I’d love to make more “friends” there!

i love you cheezeburgherz

What goes better with a great dress than a bag on your head?

I am addicted to the internet. I’m active on Twitter and in the local TweetUp community, I’m a blogger, I’m a prolific blog reader, I’m an active commenter on several major blogs, and I have a long history on message boards.  Sometimes, my husband gives me a hard time about my internet addiction, but lately he’s been forced to change his tune.

Little Rock, Arkansas, while not exactly a major metropolis, is home to an awesome network of bloggers and Tweeps (what we Twitter addicts call fellow Twitterers).  Monthly TweetUps are just the most visible manifestation of an engaged and enthusiastic online community of local folk, sharing their lives 140 characters at a time.  As I’ve written, I connected with the LR online community before we moved out here, and I even used Twitter to find a house (I put the word out about what we were looking for, and it turned out one of my tweeps was moving out of a great house that we subsequently moved into).  But more importantly, I’ve used the local internet community to find My People.

We had/have many wonderful close friends in Charleston, but none of them were “mine.” What I mean is, almost everyone I knew there, I had met through my husband or his work.  I was always, to some degree, Jon’s wife, Sarah, not Sarah, Jon’s wife.  While I wouldn’t trade those friends for anything, after all, we survived the wild and crazy world of residency together, I needed to find My People. I have found them.

This week, I had the pleasure of being invited to a local gathering of fabulous women bloggers.  It’s called CheeseburgHer, and it’s a spinoff of the big BlogHer national conference that just took place this week in New York.  What started as an impromptu gathering there led, a few years hence, to satellite parties in various cities, and Little Rock, with its somewhat-surprisingly active blogging community, was selected to host such an event, largely thanks to the very talented Kyran, who has a BOOK coming out next year, because she’s a rockstar. She knows how to throw a party!

Anyway, I got an Evite encouraging me to come to a swanky downtown address to party on the 18th floor with fellow bloggers, looking fabulous, sipping wine (courtesy of Middle Sister), eating McDonald’s cheeseburgers, and wearing a bag on my head.  I was really excited to go, and as I was telling a friend about my Saturday night plans, my husband kind of ragged on me a bit about it.  I asked why he couldn’t be a bit more supportive, and he said he was just messing around– “after all, no one can knock the awesome community that you’ve found.”

He was right. What an awesome community of talented, funny, fabulous women! I arrived at the swanky address wearing one of my favorite dresses, I hugged “old” (being that I’ve been here, what, a month?) friends and met new ones, and, stereotypes of internet nerds be damned, we clicked!  I had an amazing time, and I laughed my head off.

These were My People. People who feel the urge to share their stories with the Interwebz.  People who know what it means to have friends you’ve never met in person, though you’ve watched videos of their kids and read their life stories.  People who don’t bat an eye if you pull out your camera to document the party, or whip out a smartphone to check in to Gowalla or send out a quick tweet.  While we may be very different– some of us are childless, others are stay-at-home-moms, others are juggling work and home life, some of us are young, and others think some of us are still babies– we all are very much alike in many ways.  Unlike my experience with the Bible study group, where I felt like no one knew me, no one liked me, and no one would like me if they really knew me, I felt at home with this group of women.  It was a raucous, joyous evening, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it.  There’s something very powerful about a gathering of women who have a voice and aren’t afraid to use it!

I’ll end with some images of the event:

This one is snatched from the lovely Audreya:

Audreya and I apparently didn't get the kissyface memo. Amy and I think we look like we're clad in Mexican serapes.

Image via Audreya.
At an event full of bloggers, you know we're all trying to document it for a future post!
We had a delightfully tacky cupcake cakewreck to celebrate @amybhole's birthday. It looked like an airbrushed teeshirt from a Gulf Shores vacation, but it was darn tasty!
I think I declared at least 10 times "THIS IS MY JAM!" Here I was demonstrating how I boogie around my house to MGMT, I believe. Image via Audreya.

it’s my blog-o-versary!

One year ago today I decided to take the plunge and start blogging. It wasn’t technically my first blog, as I had a Xanga early in my college years but deleted it one day when I got bored with it and slightly weirded out about who was reading it every single day. But I am a writer at heart, and a bit of an attention whore, so eventually I caved to my desire to have a creative outlet and to perhaps spare my husband some of my more long-winded rants (who am I kidding, I often read my blog posts out loud to him because that’s just the kind of girl I am!), and so I started this blog.  Somewhat ironically, my first post was about being “Unplugged” and giving up cable.

I found a ripe source of material fairly early on because I was riding the bus, a daily commute that gave me plenty of fodder for the blog in the form of strange characters, bizarre events, and greater exposure to the city around me, but also greater exposure to everyday sexism and harrassment and fear.

I’ve blogged about some of my greatest fears. I’ve scandalized my husband by using phrases like “flips her shit,” though we’ve now come to an understanding that I’m a PG-13 kind of girl who sometimes uses PG-13 language, and I’ve learned that I should NEVER break news to him on the blog that he hasn’t already heard in person.  And my husband has made a few appearances on the blog, like the time he ordered a nursing cover even though no one around here is anywhere close to pregnant (oh, being married to a pediatrician!).  And I’ve told our love story, mused about becoming “more married,” and written about how our marriage has made me all the more committed to marriage equality for all.

I’ve written about my life as a dog mom, and come to the realization that when it comes to pet ownership, I’m like a male chauvinist pig.

I’ve tackled big issues like abortion and reproductive rights, gender roles, body image, beauty, what people mean when they say “MY America” (that one got me really fired up), rape culture, sexism in advertising, and what exactly are American values.

I’ve undergone a bit of a spiritual revolution in the past year, and gotten excited about new ways of thinking about my faith. I’ve been awe-struck and I’ve been deeply disappointed. I’ve admitted that faith doesn’t always come easily to me, though I keep coming back to it, despite the temptation to run away screaming after seeing a film like “Fireproof.”

I’ve also undergone a revolution in the way I think about and eat food, and I joined a CSA and blogged all along the way, enjoying every bite. A new CSA season started this week, so be on the lookout for lots of posts about me taking on a giant box of veggies.

And then, last week, almost one year to the day I started this blog, I noticed a sudden spike in traffic and checked out the WordPress homepage to see this:

My blog, specifically this post on striving for health vs. striving for fitness, was featured on the WordPress homepage! For two days, my stats went bonkers:

But now things have returned back to normal. Still, it was a huge thrill to see those comments and pageviews pouring in, and I found some cool new WordPress blogs thanks to people who left comments.  All in all, a heckuva way to celebrate one year of blogging.

So, my only blog-birthday wish is to know who some of you people are who read this! I know some of you have never left a comment, and I’d love for you to just say “hi” and let me know who’s out there.  While I’d probably still be writing this thing even if no one was reading, because I’m the type who’d argue with a brick wall, knowing that people read it is a lot of the fun, and I’d love to know who’s out there.