(My friend Norine is celebrating a birthday this month. She’s one. Actually her hilarious website is one, but she still gets to eat cake. I wanted to share her Lost in Suburbia story about how she made something really cool out of a stinky situation! – Tracy)
I’m not big into horror movies. Frankly, I’d rather watch Allen Leech take his shirt off on Downton Abbey. Or Colin Firth do … well, anything really.
And as mom to a nearly 8-year-old kid, I’m always game to see the latest bit of brilliance to roll out of the Pixar think tank. And yet, despite my deep, deep aversion to having the crap scared out of me, somehow I’ve still managed to see most of the horror classics: Halloween. The Omen. The Exorcist. Rosemary’s Baby. Nightmare on Elm Street. Carrie (the original). The Shining. I showered uneasily for months after seeing Psycho. Don’t even ask long it took me to go “back in the water” after seeing Jaws. I didn’t even want to go back in the pool.
But sometimes getting scared silly is a good thing. Contentment, tranquility, nirvana and all that shiny, happy stuff is great for maintaining inner peace, not to mention blood pressure. But it can also make one complacent, stagnant … stuck. Sheer terror can stir things up. It fuels change. It … motivates.
So … um, where am I going with all this?
Last year, around this time, I was more terrified than I’d been since … well, since I watched Linda Blair’s head casually spin around so she could tell Max von Sydow to shove his exorcism where the sun don’t shine.
Here’s why: I’ve been in publishing for decades. I got my first gig back in 1984, working for my local paper, as a high school senior. Fast forward to Christmas 2012 and I’d been contentedly spinning out articles on every topic from lowering cholesterol and losing weight to having better orgasms and mastering “pillow talk” for — gulp, I just did the math — going on 30 years. But publishing was a-changing. I was in the words business, and it no longer seemed like words were enough to tell stories. I’d just lost a lucrative contract at More magazine — a casualty of the economic downturn — when a journalist friend of mine posted a link to John Branch’s Snow Fall: The Avalanche At Tunnel Creek with the comment, The future of journalism, on his Facebook page. Reading that, I burst into tears. Branch’s story (which featured online slideshows, cinemagraphs and video along with the story in the New York Times) was the most awe-inspiring piece of multi-layered journalism I’d ever seen. And it scared the beejeesus out of me. If that was the future, did I have a future?
It’s a strange thing to watch the world change around you while feeling stuck in the rapidly evolving “past.” Clueless about the new digital and social media tools that were now essential to making publishing run, I suddenly felt like the Dowager Countess grousing about electricity and telephones invading Downton. I’m telling you, even a swivel-necked Linda Blair isn’t as terrifying as feeling like a dinosaur at 46.
But much like The Exorcist, my story also has a happy ending and — happier still, since I’m usually the one doing clean up — not nearly as much carnage.
See, around the time that my primary occupation had become watching my career evaporate and hyperventilating into Publix shopping bags, my 7-year-old had come home from school, excitedly chattering about Newton’s laws of force and motion. As he explained that An object at rest remains at rest unless acted on by an external force, I thought, Gawd! That sounds like him with his video games. He’ll play forever, if I don’t turn the TV off.
I quickly scribbled down, “A child at rest will remain at rest … until you unplug the Xbox.”
Later I posted that on Facebook.
My post wasn’t entirely random. Between huffs into the shopping bags, I’d also read Sh*t My Dad Says, Justin Halpern’s hilarious Twitter-feed-turned-hilarious-coming-of-age memoir. In the new social media age, tweeting your way to a book deal (and short-lived TV show) seemed as good a career path as any. And so with not much else going on, I started posting snarky science-y quips about parenting on Facebook. When a mom friend from school told me that Orgasm Disruption Ratio made her ROTFL, I thought maybe, just maybe, I was on to something. Then it hit me — and here you can imagine either a lightbulb or a thought bubble with the word Duh! over my head. What my words really needed to grab attention were images. And if I had words and clever images, maybe I would also have a book.
“Hey, Jessica, what do you think about doing a book together … ”
Well, we’re still working on the book — yeah, yeah, we’re pokey. But that’s because Jessica had had a better idea. A bigger idea.
“What if we did this as a blog?” she tossed back. “We could have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed and books and products.”
Whoa. I love it when other people can point me toward the obvious stuff I totally miss. Within minutes, she’d secured a URL, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Two weeks later, we published our very first illustration. And Science of Parenthood was born.
That was a year ago. A year ago this month, actually. And not to go all Hallmark Moment-y on you, but as we published our illustrations and blogged about the crazy parenting stuff that inspired them, I was reborn too. Or rather my career was. Maybe not reborn exactly. More like shocked with a defibrillator and dragged back to life.
But as I drink my coffee from my Science of Parenthood mug while wearing my comfy Science of Parenthood sweatshirt, I will say this: Running a blog and building a new company has forced me to acquire new skills that I would have just lamented I didn’t have if the alternative of going under hadn’t forced me to figure out how to swim. The learning curve has been steep but fun — something I’d forgotten work could actually be. And while I’m still a long way from drawing any kind of salary, it feels like my survival hangs on my own efforts, not the fortunes of another publisher.
So, whaddya know. I went from dinosaur to digital entrepreneur in the course of a year. Surely that calls for some kind of celebration. So Happy First Birthday, Science of Parenthood. Even as a “toddler,” you’re a life-saver.
Note: Norine Dworkin-McDaniel and partner Jessica Ziegler are the co-creators of Science Of Parenthood, the illustrated humor blog that uses faux math and snarky science to “explain” parenting situations from pregnancy through the ‘tween/teen years. You can subscribe to the blog (Why not? It’s FREE!) and follow them on Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest
Enter Science of Parenthood’s Happy Birthday Giveaway for a chance to win their outrageously cool Mommy Party Pack, stocked with Veuve Clicquot champagne, Godiva chocolate and signed copies of Tracy Beckerman’s Lost In Suburbia and Rebel Without A Minivan and a bunch of other books by funny mom writers. (Giveaway closes January 31. Winner announced February 1.)