Thursday, June 28, 2007

How Did I Get to Be One Smart Mama

Listen, I'll let you in on a secret. I'm not really one smart mama. I'm actually one slightly disorganized, often sleep-deprived, sometimes emotional woman who drinks a lot of coffee. But sometimes people write me for advice via my other blog Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. And it just felt like the right time to declare myself an advice columnist.

Oh, by the way, you can do that in my world--just declare yourself an advice columnist.

It also feels like there is a need for an advice column because as of late, there seems to be a lot of people who are having problems crop up that they don't want to talk about on their blog. Either they want to remain anonymous and a post would reveal too much about themselves. Or they know that the person they want to discuss is reading their blog. Things like that. So this felt like a good column to start.

But how is it different from other advice columns and why should you read mine or submit questions? Because I have an MFA in creative writing. So you know that it's at least going to be well-written. And I'm going to use that hard-earned MFA to draw in examples from literature, music, poetry, film, theater, art and famous quotations when giving you advice. Because isn't it good advice to live your life considering the eternal question: what would Jane Austen do?

This advice column is also different from any other that you've read even though mine can best be described as the Ethicist meets Carolyn Hax and has a love-child via IVF. First of all, you the reader is also the advice columnist. In my world, we all have good advice to pass along. Therefore, while I will post my feelings on the matter, I open up every post to your comments as well. It's like getting 20 advice columnists for the price of one. And not even the price of one because my column is free.

Though my life and heart are firmly ensconced in the infertility and pregnancy loss community, I will offer advice on a wide-range of topics from rude in-laws to husbands who never buy you flowers to how to get out of a baby shower. There is no problem or concern that is too bizarre or too off-topic. All letters will be posted anonymously and I reserve the right to edit them due to length or for clarity. I will post pretty much as often as I have a question, though I also reserve the right to make this more routine--like every other Monday. Subscribe with bloglines or a similar service if you're worried about missing a post.

And in reading this blog, please also weigh in with your own thoughts. Your own advice or the words you would use. And if you can, include your own references to song lyrics or art or literature. I ask that if you post advice, you refrain from mocking the writer or saying anything that would make the person feel like shit.

Oh...the title. Listen, I am one smart mama. And I don't mean "mama" in the mothering sense, though we did conceive twins via fertility treatments several years ago and we're trying for another child now. I mean "mama" in the sense of one who gives birth to ideas. Who will put an arm around you and give you a hug instead of mocking you or making you feel like crap about your concern. Who will hand you a cookie and a glass of milk if you're cycling or a huge French martini if you're not and say, "he does indeed sound like an ass." And I have to be smart if I have this many degrees...right?

So start sending your questions to and put One Smart Mama in the subject line. You'll get a form response back so you know that I have your message and then I'll get started thinking about your concern (and pester Josh if you need the male point of view). I'll post your anonymous letter and the answer here the moment I'm done.

Okay, any questions?

One Smart Mama

Under Construction
Explanation Coming Soon...

Who Am I? I Mean, Who Are We?

Meet Jane, otherwise known as Melissa and otherwise known after that as the Stirrup Queen. I have no qualifications to be an advice columnist except that people often email me directly asking me what I think or thanking me for comments I leave on their blog. It seemed like the next logical step in life to declare myself an advice columnist and get to work making snazzy pictures in Microsoft Paint and giving out my opinion willy nilly. Anyway, I've made myself an advice columnist so here it is. Read my advice and judge for yourself. If you think I give terrible advice, stop reading. If you think I give good advice from time to time, sign up on bloglines or add me to your daily round of websites you hit before getting down to work. And if you think I always give sound advice, then you are my new best friend and you should write me a fan letter and let me know so we can begin our life-long relationship of mutual admiration.

Every good pilot has her wingpeople and I am smart enough not to fly solo. Not only does the entire reader population serve as back-up when doling out advice by providing their own opinion, I have people that I turn to when tackling questions outside my ken.

Meet Josh

Josh is my resident male point-of-view. I turn to him for all questions regarding why men do what they do. I then berate him when he answers and ask him why men are so stupid and why can't they be more like women. I also rack his brain when I'm done racking my own for the best art, literature, film, and theater references to better elucidate my advice for your problem. He reads a lot of books and when he's not reading books, he is watching a lot of films. Therefore, he is the perfect brain to rack. Plus, I have easy access to him because he lives in my house. The Microsoft Paint version of Josh doesn't really do him justice. He's actually very cute with cool little glasses and a goatee. Plus, he's really really smart.

Meet Perspicacious Babe

Perspicacity: n. 1. Acuteness of perception or understanding.

Perspicacious Babe is my go-to person for questions of a bioethical nature. Having anxiety about starting IVF because you don't know what to do with those hypothetical excess embryos? Not sure whether you want to be a kidney donor for your abusive sister? Those sorts of questions are sussed out with the Perspicacious Babe. Those situations that you can't wrap your mind around? That's what the Perspicacious Babe loves to study. Plus, she's brilliant and she's a babe--the name says it all.

And when you get really really really far outside my ken, I turn to a wide-range of real world people who actually have some type of knowledge in that area to help me formulate my answer.

But, as always, the ever present warning label: this advice comes from a regular person just like yourself and should not replace the directions of doctors, therapists, or those who know you best.

One Smart Mama's Ladder of Friendship

The great philosopher, Maimonides (sometimes also known as Rambam), sussed out a ladder of giving. It looks something like this:
  • Lowest Level: after being asked, you give begrudgingly and not enough, making the other person feel like crap.
  • Level Two: after being asked, you give less than you should but you do so kindly.
  • Level Three: after being asked, you give as much as you can.
  • Level Four: you give before being asked, but embarrass the person receiving the gift by making a big fucking deal about it.
  • Level Five: the giver doesn't know the receiver, though the receiver knows the giver.
  • Level Six: the receiver doesn't know the giver, though the giver knows the receiver.
  • Level Seven: neither the giver nor the receiver know each other.
  • Highest Level: prevent the need for people to need to ask for help in the future. Teach them how to be self-sufficient in order to build self-esteem.
The same idea can be put into play when speaking about our responsibilities in a friendship with one exception. No one is a mind-reader. Therefore, the whole concept of "before being asked" sort of goes out the window. Instead, stating your needs is a requirement. The sign of a good friend is one who either mentally retains your needs or asks what you need the next time you have a problem. So without further ado, the One Smart Mama's Ladder of Friendship:
  • Lowest Level: you tell the person many times what you need and she sort of nods at you to appease you and then obviously doesn't pay attention to anything you say and makes the whole conversation about her.
  • Level Two: you tell the person many times what you need and she asks you a few questions to show that she's listening, but then goes off on a long tangent about herself before addressing your needs again.
  • Level Three: though you need to remind her every time you have a problem, she's always able to jump right into being a good listener with a little nudge.
  • Level Four: she is there for you, but she always needs to point out everything she's doing in order to be there for you. These are the kinds of people who make you a meal when you're sick, but as they deliver it, they tell you about what a hardship it was to make you the freakin' lasagna.
  • Level Five: the friend knows everything about your problems and then acts.
  • Level Six: the friend knows only a small corner of your problems, but jumps into action and starts helping immediately--showing up at your doorstep with a comedy and a pint of ice cream before you've gotten to the part in the phone conversation where you start the snifflely, gaspy breaths.
  • Level Seven: without needing to say a word, she senses that something is wrong and asks the right questions to get you to open up and talk.
  • Level Eight: by being a good friend, she teaches you how to be a good friend--both to her and to others.
Both friends need to simultaneously be climbing the ladder at the same time, with a give-and-take to accommodate both their needs.

Sending Questions to One Smart Mama

No question is too large or too small or too strange or too personal for One Smart Mama. In addition, while no question is too long for One Smart Mama, it may work better to pose a brief question and then include more paragraphs of background information to help me answer the question. The more detail I have, the better.

Send all questions to and include the words "One Smart Mama" in the subject line. All questions will be posted anonymously. You'll get a form response back so you know that I have your message and then I'll get started thinking about your concern and post my answer as soon as possible.

Now get asking!