Thursday, November 29, 2007

At Least It Wasn't On A Holiday

My 21-month-old daughter scratched my cornea. That's a part of the eye in case you are wondering. I've had a scratched cornea before, and I never ever wanted to repeat the experience. But Mia has the habit of reaching up and snatching my eyeglasses off of my face as often as possible, and her hand motion is unbelievably fast - she's destined to be a magician, or else a pickpocket.

She was sitting on my lap watching TV, not my best parenting moment as most pediatricians will tell you TV should be off-limits for those under two. She did her slight of hand maneuver, and I thought I was going to catch her that time. But all I did was trap her little hand as she slid her thumb up under the bottom of my glasses and - if you are squeamish, stop here - shoved her thumbnail under my eyelid, taking off a layer of my eyeball.

I screamed.

"Everything ok?" Jo called from the kitchen.

"No, not really." The pain was intense, kind of like when you get brainfreeze from drinking an ICEE too quick, but more like if you soaked your brain in ICEEs.

"Well I'm kind of in the middle of cooking dinner."

"It can burn this time. Mia took off part of my eye." My eye was watering, and I was blinded by the searing pain, but I still had Mia on my lap, afraid to let her go and have her wander off where I couldn't find her. This was a feat, because very sharp pieces of glass were stabbing my eyeball every time my other eye blinked, or my eye moved, or my pupil constricted. All those things that happen automatically and you take for granted until a time like that.

Did I mention it was dinnertime, so of course the doctor's office was closed. I couldn't drive myself to the urgent care center, and sitting in the waiting area with Joey and the two kids seemed much worse than just taking ibuprofen and putting a compress on my eye. I regretted this decision at about 2 am, then even more around 3 am, and then every second until daybreak. But finally the sitter arrived, we found an opthalmologist who would see me right away, and we made an eye patch out of a kid's washcloth held on by a bandana tied around my head.

Luckily, this fasion statement fit in at the eye doctor's waiting room.

By seeing me right away, the eye doctor meant that I could come over immediately and wait in the long line of people who needed urgent attention. They also needed me to fill out forms; you'd think they would realize that people with eye injuries can't see to fill out forms, but I've filled out so many lately because the kids always seem to get sick on holidays or weekends when the pediatrician is closed. I was pretty close to being able to fill medical forms out in my sleep.

After about an hour in the waiting room, I finally got called in to have a vision exam. I couldn't open the injured eye without welling up in tears, so my vision in that one was zero, but they still wanted me to try. Then they dilated the pupil and put me in another waiting room.

Finally the doctor, who shall only be referred to as doctor because I couldn't read his name on the door and he didn't introduce himself, called me in and put drops in my eye that numbed it and took all of the pain away. I wondered why they didn't have a policy in the office that if they saw someone come in with a bandana holding her eye closed, they would administer these pain relieving drops at the entrance, rather than two hours later.

The doctor examined my eye. "Hmph," he said, and not anything else. He was a dry guy; besides not introducing himself, he didn't elaborate on the grunt for several minutes, keeping me in suspense. He finally finished the exam.

"Your baby did this?"


"She got you right across the part of the pupil that affects vision. Took off a good layer."

I glared one-eyed at Joey, who hadn't believed me when I'd said that.

The treatment involved either putting a contact lens in or patching the eye to prevent the blinking from causing damage. I opted for the contact, and the doctor's hands shook when he tried to open the contact case. They shook a lot. I preferred to think Parkinsons rather than the DTs, but both did occur to me. His hands kept shaking the whole time he was putting the contact on my eye. It took three tries. I can tell you that those numbing drops are worth every penny my insurance company will be paying.

I also had to dilate my eye for almost three days until I came back for a follow-up appointment, so I needed a cover for it. When I came home with a pirate patch, 5-year-old Sara was thrilled. She wanted to touch it. I cringed.

A friend of mine called and I told her about my ordeal. "Oh what we mothers give of ourselves," she said. Followed by, "what, you don't trim your daughter's nails?" I hung up the phone on her.

The followup visit with the shaky hands doctor showed that the eye should heal without permanent damage. I'm very thankful. Thankful for finally getting to watch the new Battlestar Galactica episode that has been on the DVR. Thankful for being able to read and blog and see the stars. And for vision that can be corrected by my regular glasses. But I think I'll keep the patch on until Mia grows out of this phase.

Review: Widget Bucks

You may have noticed a couple of new features on the Russian Mafia Babe sidebar: Widget Bucks ads and a Widget Bucks affiliate link.

WidgetBucks offers yet another option for bloggers to monetize their blogs. It is free, quick, and easy to sign up, plus you get $25 to start off your account. Of course the initial payout is $50, so you have to do your own promotions to collect.

The ads are customizable in regards to size and color scheme, and you can have different ads on different blogs under the same account. Also, you can choose the type of product to offer so that it is most relevant to your visitors. You can visit my other blogs at LockBoxDeals-Blog and Stellar Shaman to check out the different types of ads.

There is an affiliate program link that will pay you for referrals as well - mine is on the right sidebar if anyone reading is considering signing up, please. The referrer continues to earn a commission for 12 months on the purchases made through the new affiliate.

For those of us here on Blogger, there is an automatic integration feature, so it couldn't be easier. There are automatic integration features for other platforms as well.

The payout is reported to be higher than pay per click ads, so there is nothing to lose and more to gain by trying it out.

WidgetBucks does work best for sites that are retail in nature or have a very focused audience who are likely to shop for a certain type of product.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ten Reasons Why I Love High School Musical

I admit it, I was going to be one of those moms - the ones who don't use the television. My kids would never even know what that big box was for, at least until they were old enough to go to other kids' houses.

Obviously, that was before I had kids. Now there are just some times, like when I'm cooking dinner - and I know you know what I mean - when it is either put on the television or hire someone to come help. I still try to show a movie or something from the DVR so that I can control the commercials, because we all know that commercials are the root of all evil, especially during the holiday season.

But now I am absolutely, positively a huge fan of the High School Musical movies. I know, corny, bad singing, couldn't get any more commercial than Disney. But I can't help it. Even when my daughter doesn't bring it up, I'm likely to suggest it because...

1 - The girls are all wearing clothes. Clothes that provide coverage and looks like girls clothes, not twenty-something going to a club wear.
2 - The girls are not horrifyingly thin. Some are even chubby. Can I please start a fan club for the hip hop loving heavy set girl?
3 - Clean, clean, squeaky clean. They even make a joke of it how the main couple can't ever seem to kiss, and that is just a kiss. No dirty dancing, no nudity, no suggestive language.
4 - Diversity!!!!! Even a (hinted at) interracial couple.
5 - My daughter is finally wearing something other than jeans now that the girls all wear dresses and a variety of clothes on the show.
6 - We get family exercise dancing to all of those catchy : ) tunes.
7 - The baseball scene from HSM2. I really do like it. If I'm not in the room, my daughter will come get me, and I'll drop everything to go watch.
8 - My daughter will do anything - clean her room, be nice to her sister, eat dinner with the family - if the reward of the week involves HSM. This may be even worse than becoming a TV watching mom, but we're on the reward system with this kid as timeout is a joke for her. Subject of another post.
9 - Moral to the story. HSM 1- Don't be afraid to try something new HSM 2 - Don't lose yourself while getting what you want. Pretty good stuff.
10 - Can you say an hour without whining to cook dinner!!!

Bonus reason - The movies were free! (or at least included with my cable package)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mom Product Reviews

In my quest for making a living from writing (including blogging), I uncovered the site Review Me. Many reputable bloggers earn part of their income from Review Me, so it has a good reputation. The site itself is a great idea; smaller blogs wishing to build traffic can purchase a review from a popular, well-known blog. The purchasing blog owner can choose the reviewer, and the reviewer has the right of refusal. The reviewing site earns income, while the reviewed site earns traffic (hopefully).

The cost to be reviewed is fairly reasonable, considering traditional media marketing and advertising rates. And a favorable review will bring new opportunities and possibilities for added income.

Before submitting your site for review, you should consider the following:

-Take a subjective look at your own site. Pretend that you have never visited the site before and see if it is easy to navigate, make sure all of your links work, read some of your most recent posts as well as your category list.

-Have a friend who will be honest with you look at your site and go through links and posts, and be willing to consider suggestions for improving your site design and topics

-Compare your site to top sites in your niche. Do you need to add photos or graphics to be more competitive? Do you need to let more of yourself come through in the writing in order to differentiate your site from others? Are there other features that are lacking, or is your site over crowded?

Once your site is as polished as possible, visit Review Me and choose a reviewer in your niche and price range. Generally, the most popular bloggers charge the most, so it may be worthwhile to pay as much as you can afford. You should also visit the sites of your target reviewers to make sure the style, flavor, and wording complement your own so you can make the most of any referred traffic.

I originally applied to be a reviewer, but alas my traffic numbers are not up to their requirements. So in the meantime, I am considering submitting Russian Mafia Babe for a review. If you've had a review, I'd love to hear how it worked out for you.

In the mom blog niche (which has many, many sub-niches now), other sites are offering reviews as well. You can find some of these by searching Mom Blogs. I found Amalah and table4five in my search. I submitted Russian Mafia Babe to Amy at amalah, will let you know in a future post how it works out.

Also, I'm offering to review products or sites of interest to moms in order to build my own portfolio of reviews. I plan to go by the guidelines specified by Review Me, and it will bring your product or site an inbound link and possibly some traffic.

If you are interested in submitting a site or product for review, please email me at Also, please see my post on Affiliate Programs if you have an affiliate program of interest to moms.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Best Affiliate Programs for Mom Bloggers

During my research into making money from blogging, I found support for using affiliate programs to get started.

Unlike advertising programs like Google AdSense and Text Link Ads, which pay blog and website owners when a visitor clicks on the ad, affiliate programs only pay when someone purchases something from your link. But the sign up requirements are often less than advertising networks. For instance, Russian Mafia Babe doesn't (yet) meet the traffic requirements for Text Link Ads, and she's still too young for Blogher.

So while I'm building traffic and aging well, I'll be trying out some affiliate links in the Sponsors section to see how they work. Currently, I'm running programs that are offering holiday season discounts or free shipping, and I tried to pick merchants of interest to moms. If you choose to purchase from the merchant after clicking on my link, I will get a percentage of any sale, but it won't cost you anything extra. In fact, you'll save money by redeeming the coupon. Check back often as I'll be rotating the coupons and offers during this trial period.

Most individual merchants who participate in affiliate offers belong to a bigger network, so that you only have to submit your signup information once and then you can advertise for several different merchants. The affiliate programs I currently belong to are LinkShare and Commission Junction. I just joined Kolimbo as well, and I have my own grant writing ebook available through ClickBank.

Of these, I have found LinkShare to be the easiest to use, and they have several merchants that are willing to accept lower traffic sites. It is free to join and easy to sign up.

Commission Junction seems to be popular among electronics merchants (Sony, Best Buy, Apple), but I find their interface a little difficult to use, and they assigned me a password that I can never remember.

When you have a product of your own to sell, ClickBank is a good option and integrates easily into your sales page. They allow you to offer your own affiliate programs as well.

You can also increase your affiliate sales through advertising, but that is another strategy all together and I haven't tried it. I'd love to hear though if anyone has had success using this method.

SPECIAL OFFER: For any moms out there who have a product to sell, let me know if you are interested in participating in a mom affilitate drive or where your products are listed so I can ad them into my sponsor rotation.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss product reviews.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Find Your Niche

It looks like I fell out of the NaBloPoMo rhythm while I was away on retreat, because Friday was a marathon day and Saturday was hard getting back to the real world after three days of inner work.

But maybe that time away from my blog was a good thing, as I had some time to think about my goals and what I want to do with my blogs. I definitely appreciate the comments encouraging me to include other topics in this primarily mom/parenting/kid themed blog, but this seems to run contrary to the goal of having an income producing blog.

Niche blogs seem to be the best income producers for several reasons:

-the audience knows what to expect, and knows that they will find something of interest every day or so, and thus they will become a loyal audience

-advertisers like solid demographics; if they are selling diapers, they need an audience with young kids, not an audience that may or may not have kids depending on which day the post falls on

-your traffic will grow as your blog becomes more keyword rich and therefore more available to search engines

If you are also considering a money-producing blog, here are the steps in order for creating your blog:

-investigate keywords associated with your proposed niche

-check traffic for the keywords to make sure people are actually searching for your terms

-consider a blog name that includes your keywords

-write keyword rich posts

-name your categories with keywords

-include monetization strategies (AdSense, Text Link Ads, etc)

-offer affiliate products associated with your niche

-network with others to get the word out about your blog

-use a pinging service (I use Pingoat) to submit your blog posts

Maki at DoshDosh has written an excellent series of Niche Blogging Tutorials that are required reading for anyone truly interested in niche blogging.

When coming up with what to call the niche for this blog, obviously Russian Mafia Babe is not a particularly popular niche name. But I named the blog prior to the niche search, and I like the name so I'm keeping it. Mom Blog didn't even return one search. But Parenting hits a jackpot, and so does Creative Writing. Work At Home Mom also returns some results.

So, I will keep the theme of this blog as parenting/mom focused, to include creative writing, non-fiction stories, and tech tips for mom (and dad) bloggers. The astronomy and shamanism topics will be posted to Stellar Shaman (good thing blogs are free!) from now on. And of course I also operate Simply Grant Writing and LockBoxDeals-Blog.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mis Abuelas (My Grandmothers)

Sorry, this post moved to my ebook, The 10 Best Stories in the Universe Written by Me. Please see the right sidebar to order.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shamanism 101

I've been studying shamanism for a couple of years now. Not sure where it is going really, or if it is just for the journey and not leading anywhere, but I've felt compelled to keep with it. I feel very luck to have a great group of fellow students and a wonderful teacher right here in my town, and we meet just a couple of miles from my house.

I'm bringing this up today for a couple of reasons. I study through the Four Winds Society, and tomorrow I go on retreat for the West portion of my Medicine Wheel work. I'll be gone for Thurs/Fri/Sat. Do you think I can pre-blog or post prior writings for those days so that I'm still participating in NaBloPoMo? It will have to be one or the other, so I'm offering full disclosure in advance.

As part of preparation for West work, we had to perform ten illuminations for others. This was way outside of my comfort zone, as I never imagined doing shamanic work on others. I'm a Saggittarius, and studying about spiritual practices is ingrained in my nature, but actually doing healing practice just seemed nerve wracking.

But being task-completion oriented, I had to do it, so on Monday (which was a holiday), I scheduled in all of my friends who agreed to be participants and rolled with it. And enjoyed it immensely! Who knew? And my friends are all still talking to me, so I guess it wasn't as out there as I thought it might seem.

I also got sort of a writing gig in association with shamanism. I read Stephanie's site The Cosmic Path nearly every day, so when she issued a call for writers, I offered a shamanism column. She liked my sample, so it will hopefully be a monthly event beginning next week! I kept the right to repost here after it goes up on her site, so these will be filed under the new category Shamanism.

Avatar for Russian Mafia Babe

Hey, here's my new avatar. I got tired of seeing the old picture from my cousin's wedding on every web page, so here is the new Russian Mafia Babe. Let me know how you like it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Building Traffic and Subscribers

Whether you are a writer who just wants an audience (don't we all?) or a dedicated blogger seeking to go pro (who knew that would be a job description?), or somewhere in between, traffic and subscribers are key to success as a blogger.

Let's face it, if you write a fabulous post and no one reads it or leaves comments, it feels a little - lonely? sad? pathetic? Even if you are a mom blogger and are supplementing the family income by venting a little about teething or grocery bills or the bottomless laundry bin, getting subscribers and traffic will open up doors to more types of income.

Here are some of my ideas for driving traffic and converting readers to subscribers, please let me know if you have others:

-Great content - of course this goes without saying.
-Consistent content - the more you blog, the more chance readers will come, and keep coming.
-Know your audience - your blog should be narrow enough in focus to reach a core audience but have enough give in the framework to allow for posts that make your blog unique.
-Develop a product - an ebook is a great idea for a giveaway that will keep on giving, spreading your blog's name as the book is passed along via email or by other bloggers.
-Give away someone else's product - Check my sidebar, I'm offering Yaro Starak's excellent ebook Blog Profit Blueprints as a free download for subscribers by email or RSS.
-Enter a Blog Carnival - You can find a bunch of them here, and earn free links and new readers.
-Host a Carnival or Contest - This not only brings readers but gives you content for your site.
-Post to Groups or Forums - Check Yahoo Groups or MSN for likeminded groups and participate in discussions. But really participate - don't just plug your blog.
-Leave Comments on other blogs - Again, make your comment relevant, not just a self reference.
-Use all of the free sources you can - MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, Squidoo, etc.
-Ping your posts - use a service like Pingoat to submit your new posts to blog logs.
-Submit to Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon - works best if your friends vote for you too.
-Write articles - submit articles relevant to your blog topic to sites like eZine Articles.
-Ask and You Shall Receive -ask people to sign up, submit you to Digg, send to a friend.
-Make it easy - make sure to include social networking and Technorati widgets so it is easy for folks to submit your blog or post.
-Be a Friendly Blogger - offer link exchanges, guest posts, make sure people know how to contact you, and just like mom says, mind your p's and q's (you are writing for the world to see)
-Pay for a Review - you can get an established blogger to write a review about your site or product at Get Reviewed At ReviewMe! That's my affiliate link, so please, please use this if you buy a review : )

It may seem overwhelming at first, but you don't have to tackle it all at once. Set a goal to do one thing every day to drive traffic. Just one thing a day, like we are doing one post a day for NaBloPoMo. Today find a new blog to leave a comment. Tomorrow find out how to ping. Then it will build up and eventually, hopefully, reach a critical mass that explodes traffic for your site.

Hey, did I mention that I'm giving away an ebook for subscribing?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Meme newbie

Thanks to David at Living in the Now, I'm doing my first meme! This is the crazy 8's, and I hope I'm doing it right.

8 things I’m passionate about:

My daughters (Sara and Mia)
Working for the Greater Good
Battlestar Galactica - when is Season 3 coming on DVD??????
Skiing - is it like riding a bike? Will I remember how when the kids are finally old enough?

8 things I want to do before I die:

Go into space (agree with David).
Visit Stonehenge (before spellcheck it was Stonehedge). (Agree with David but I knew how to spell it)
See grandchildren (I started really late with kids, so I'll have to live awhile)
Write a novel that hits number one on the New York Times best seller list
Be interviewed on Oprah for some incredible achievement
Go on an African safari
Start a foundation for kids and animals
Visit Machu Pichu

8 things I say often:

Good Grief
Sara stop it
Maybe it is for the best
I you (Sara said I Love You this way, and it stuck)
You have to think positively
Go dogs (there are 4, no I don't want more)
In the great green room there was a telephone

8 books I’ve read recently:

Love in the Time of Cholera (see Sorry Oprah)
Bel Canto
Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
Shaman, Healer, Sage by Alberto Villoldo
Goodnight Moon
Puff The Magic Dragon illustrated version, stood in line for the autograph
The Power of Positive Thinking
Yaro Starak's Blog Profits Blueprint

8 songs I could listen to over and over:

The whole Piano soundtrack
Shamanic Dream 2 by Anugama
Anything by Chris Cornell (Soundgarten or Audioslave or solo) what a voice
Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli
La Candela by Yerba Buena
luckily anything on the Putamayo kids cd
Buddha Bar soundtracks
Chasing Cars - the Izzy song from Grey's Anatomy

8 things that attract me to my best friends:

Positive outlook
good with the kids
good with the pets
Nothing fake
not afraid to dance in public

8 people I think should do Crazy Eights:
Sorry, I don't know too may people out there, so forgive me if you were picked at random:

ChrisG at ChrisG
CMarks at Sex and the South
Lise at Shadows of Science
Sheila at Pillows and Chocolate
Handsome Devil at the handsome devil
Trish at Light Sweet Crude
Elizabeth at A Wild Ride

Happy blogging!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jealousy Rears its Head

At the birthday party yesterday, a friend mentioned to me that her sister was going to take her daughter next weekend so they could go to New York for a concert. For the weekend. Without kids.

I was jealous. Horrible, uncharitable jealousy almost prevented me from spitting out "Have a wonderful time." Don't tell me which concert please, or where you're staying in some trendy hotel that doesn't even have Jr. Suites or a family pool.

My nanny is wonderful and has been with us for an unheard of 4 and a half years, through adding a little sister, changing hours to accommodate preschool, and all the other unexpected challenges that crop up, and I am eternally grateful.

But I want a sister, or mother in law, or grandma, or aunt, or cousin, or someone who will take the kids for the weekend, or the night, free. I need a break. Is that horrible?

I live in Miami, and everyone has someone close by, or even in the same multigenerational house, who takes the kids once or twice a month. I'm quite willing to trade weekends and put in time with four kids to get a weekend off with none, but alas all my friends either are childless because, well, they don't want kids around, or have the family connection and don't need to earn points with my two.

So I'm practicing the Secret, and focusing on the positive and the wonderful family who is going to come along and be the perfect weekend trade family, with kids the ages of my kids and lots of patience. Either that or enough money to be able to both afford a sitter and a hotel for a weekend out.

If you like the posts you read here, sign up for email or RSS and get Yaro Starak's excellent eBook, Blog Profit Blueprints, for free just for joining! Check the sidebar on the right.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Crazy Birthday Party Day

Sorry for the short post today, but gotta be quick. Today is Sara's 5th birthday, and despite our best efforts it is turning out to be one of those over the top kid's birthdays. Bounce house is here, but that was our only splurge.

She wanted a combo Princesses/High School Musical party. She thought that if it were only Princesses, none of the boys would come. As if a mixed theme isn't bad enough, Joey went to get the plates and, not having any clue that there was a difference, bought the Island Princess version. Oh well, you're only five once - but there's a little sister who needs a party too.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sorry Oprah

I have tried, really, to read Love in the Time of Cholera. I would never have made it past the first page, though, except that I bought the book because Oprah so praised it and chose it as her book club selection. That and because I read a blog post about writers needing to pay it forward by actually buying books.

So I purchased the paperback copy with the Oprah seal at a bookseller and sat down in those wonderful few moments between getting the kids to sleep and conking out myself, and I struggled. But I made it past the initial suicide where the man who offed himself decided to take his dog with him. Not at all something I can appreciate, but still I read on.

Then several more animals die, in a rampage by another animal, which entirely turned me off, but at least the description wasn't overly graphic. I forged ahead and made it through the mind numbing pages of the couple driven nearly to the brink of divorce over whether there was soap in the bathroom or not.

I even tried to ignore the annoying reference to every character by his or her entire full name every time. Yes, it was a formal time, but I couldn't get close to these characters because of this stiff reference, and in fact they started to aggravate me with their long titles.

But what finally stopped me was the lengthy - and I mean several pages - description of the strength and duration of the main character's stream of pee. It goes from his young virile stream that won contests for peeing in bottles to where he is old and feeble and has to pee sitting down to appease his wife and not spray all over the seat and floor, but it takes several pages to go this route.

As a writer, I can appreciate that it shows the character failing with old age. And the description is quite detailed and painstaking, showing off great skill on the part of the author. And I am sure it is not an overused plot device.

But really, do I want to read pages of pee? No. I've changed I don't know how many diapers in the past couple of years, waited by the potty for countless hours, cleaned up after the stubborn dog who appears housetrained for awhile and then gets over on me, so I'm done with pee.

Not that I usually quit reading books. I stubbornly see them through no matter what, even James Michener length tomes when I'm really busy and have to read a page here and a page there.

But recently I've been a lot pickier. I quit The Memory Keeper's Daughter about 2/3 through and never regretted it. I realized that the main characters in that book were sinking slowly deeper and deeper into depression, and it showed no signs of letting up, so I closed the book and was happier for it.

But those writers are published and even praised by the likes of Oprah, and I'm not. So here's a shout out to Oprah, and an invitation to visit my blog and maybe send an email or comment : )

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Not My Child chapter 1

My cell phone rang, startling me, and I nearly tipped the French press full of coffee over reaching for it. I could tell the number was Social Services.

“Hi, this is Jess Fulton,” I answered, squeezing the tiny phone between my shoulder and ear so that I could heat the cream in the microwave. The time I save by multi-tasking gets used at the chiropractor, I though, trying to balance the phone and not hang it up with my cheekbone.

“Hey Jess. It’s Tammy. We’ve got a case this morning, a migrant farm worker needs a translator, and the court’s translator is out sick. Should be real simple, just a clerical error on a death certificate. Can you come down?”

“Sure, tell me what time.” I’d taken Spanish in college, dreaming of the far away places I’d go, the rugged Spanish mountains and Spanish men I’d encounter. So far all it ever got me was out of the house about once a month to the courthouse.

As it was, I was glad for the distraction. While I stood there in my perfect kitchen, the feeling that I wanted out overwhelmed me again. I didn’t know how or when, but I wished for it every day. And Momma always said if you wish for something hard enough, miracles could happen, even if one man’s miracle came on the backside of another’s misfortune.

Another couple of years, I told myself. Chelsea and Danny are already in middle school; they’ll be gone soon, maybe then.

I heard Ben coming down the stairs, and I poured his coffee as I was saying goodbye to Tammy. He grabbed his mug and started out the door, stopping as I hung up the phone. He had his favorite tie, with the wide navy bands, his lucky tie he called it, looped around his neck.

“Honey, I’ll be late tonight,” he said. “I’ve got a new client meeting after work, but I’ll call you.” He blew me a kiss and left before I could tell him where I’d be going.

I got the kids off to school, then dressed and met Tammy and Jose Perez at the courthouse. We were early. I immediately liked Jose; he had that meek expression that honest lower class people have, as if he felt ashamed of the bad reputation that some people gave to being poor. His body looked compact in a useful sort of way, made for the type of fieldwork that he was good at. But his eyes looked sweet, soft, and kind, glowing from an inner fire that had turned to embers.

He handed me his file to start reviewing while we waited. He looked down most of the time, except when he told me how his wife Maria had died working next to him in the fields. He looked at me and motioned to indicate vomiting. He had tears in his eyes. The coroner had written that she died of an allergic reaction to a bee sting.

Now there was a clerical error in the death certificate, and it couldn’t be recorded without being corrected. I thought what was the point? Migrant workers never had records.

“Mrs. Perez was a citizen,” Tammy said, reading my mind. “She had a few benefits.”

“What kind of…” I began, but the gunshots cut me off. People started screaming, and the courtroom doors flew open. A tall brown haired man came running out as fast as I’ve ever seen anyone run, carrying a gun in his right hand, and I imagined it still smoking. I had to stifle a giggle at the thought. Policemen were running up after him, and they disappeared down the hall and around the corner.

Someone came out of the courtroom, a blond haired woman with tears running and her mascara ruined, crying that the Judge was dead.

I’m not too sure what all happened next. Someone eventually ushered us out of the building, since none of us were actual witnesses to the murder. They must have caught the shooter – or suspected shooter - because no one seemed worried about more killing. Ambulances arrived, along with police cars and news trucks. Tammy had me try to explain everything to Jose, how he’d have to be rescheduled. We put him in a taxi, and I paid the driver to take him home. He’d already lost a day of pay over this whole thing.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I still had Jose’s file – I had forgotten to hand it back to him in all the commotion. I looked at my watch and saw I was running late to pick up the kids and get Chelsea to the neighbor’s mother-daughter tea, or I would have called Tammy right then, but it would wait.

My neighbor Nelly was one of those moms who believed that the way to heaven and raising kids who stayed out of trouble depended on every minute being scheduled and everyone being punctual. I dropped Danny off at home and got to the tea right on time, despite what I’d been through, to keep from having to hear her lecture about what happens to kids whose moms don’t take punctuality seriously.

“Hi dears. Chelsea, you are becoming quite the young lady. Just amazing how much you’ve grown,” Nelly said, even though she saw her nearly every day.

“Thanks Mrs. Jackson. What a lovely tea party, thank you for inviting us,” said Chelsea. I’d like to think she got those manners from me, but I knew Ben’s mother was the one who had taken the kids under her wing in that area.

I’d never really fit in with these moms from the neighborhood. They were all nice enough, and friendly, but somehow we never clicked. They were all too much super moms, moms by the book, with play dates and activities and quoting experts’ opinions. Not that it was like living in Stepford; I knew who’d had affairs, who drank too much, and who had money problems. I’d have liked them better if they’d have been more honest about it all.

But I have to admit, that Nelly was a great cook. If I’d have been the kind of mom who shared recipes, I’d have asked how she made those scones. Or maybe being in the presence of a shooting makes you extra hungry.

“Why Jess, I think you’re enjoying this party,” she said, looking at my plate. “Or at least the food.”

“Did you make all this yourself? I mean of course you did, everything is great. I really don’t know how you do it all.” I knew better than to talk with my mouth full, but she seemed to enjoy surprising me like that.

She smiled, or at least her lips did. “I like to keep busy.”

That’s another thing Momma always said, that people who keep busy are busy hiding something, usually from themselves. Maybe it was that she looked mysterious, with that silver birthmark running from her eyelashes through her eyebrow and up into her otherwise flaming red hair, right of center, but I always thought she seemed like a marked woman.

We got home and the kids settled in front of the TV, and I started to think about dinner when I remembered that Ben said he’d be late. That’s the first time it hit me wrong, that Ben was having a new client meeting on a Friday night, and I remembered the lucky tie. Women’s intuition was usually right, and mine had my skin prickling.

I’d lost my appetite, so I decided to order pizza for the kids. I picked up Jose’s file where it still sat by the phone, and leafed through as I was dialing. I noticed how complete it was – social security card, birth certificate, driver’s license. Maybe Maria got challenged a lot about her citizenship, living like she did, and kept things organized.

I looked at her driver’s license - my height, my weight, a little younger than me. If I had black hair and brown eyes, I could have been this woman, I thought.

NaBloPoMo Killing My Novel

As much fun as I'm having writing a post a day and keeping up with everyone else who is posting and reading all the new RSS feeds I've discovered during November and my new email subscriptions and checking comments....well you get the picture....I'm not working at all on my novel!

I don't mean a novel I'm doing for NaNoWriMo, I'm not crazy enough to participate in that at the same time, but I mean the actual novel I'm writing in the chase of my long-held dream of being a published novelist. Does anyone out there know of a good critique group where I could post chapters so that at least I'm inspired by e-nagging and e-critiquing to keep going?

Also, I've decided to set an additional goal of querying at least two publications a week for articles. I did Working Mother magazine today. Does anyone know of likely leads for mom/adoption/WAHM/blogging type articles?

And as a bonus today, I'm going to post my first chapter here at Russian Mafia Babe. You can follow the Category Not My Child as I add chapters.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New planet discovered!

I love astronomy. I have a telescope that I was only able to afford because I bought it before kids came along, and if I didn't spend every sleepless night tending to crying babies, I'd be out with the stars.

So now I have to depend on the Internet to give me my fix, and there is an announcement of a new planet discovered in the habitable zone orbiting the star 55 Cancri. I love it. People wonder if there is life out there; I wonder how much life is out there and will I live to encounter it. Really, of all of the stars in the entire universe, how can we think that we happen to have the only planet that boasts life?

I even go so far as to wonder why the search for life depends on water. Of course all life on earth is based on water, because water is plentiful here. But what about a planet where nitrogen was plentiful, or carbon, or something else we've never even heard of? Couldn't there be life that developed based on that structure?

Ok, so back to 55 Cancri and its new planet. Seems that the new planet is a gas giant similar to our Saturn, but it could have a rocky moon that has water and has life that we would recognize. That is an exciting thought.

Other great astronomy news this week includes the exploding comet that has brightened to become visible to the naked eye in the Norther hemisphere. Look towards the constellation Perseus for an object larger than Jupiter.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How a Beginner can Make Money Blogging.

Since I started blogging, I've really grown to love it, so much so that I'm beginning to wonder about making an income from it. I've gotten selected by a couple of blog carnivals (see that Adoption Journey Blog Carnival at Making Of A Mom and Carnival of Real Estate ), earned a few new subscribers, but I want to go bigger!

I have read several posts lately by professional bloggers about how they earn their income. While I appreciate that they reveal their sources, most require developing a steady stream of traffic. Obviously earning GoogleAd income requires having visitors click on ads, but even joining an ad network like BlogHer or signing up for sponsored reviews at Review Me require a minimum traffic level.

So what does a beginning blogger do to earn an income while building traffic?

One option I found is Suite 101, which offers revenue share for writing articles. I just signed up and my first article on staging a home for sale during the holidays is under review, so I'll let you know how it goes. Performancing also posts paying jobs for bloggers. Sometimes the pay is only a link back to your site and fodder for your resume, so read carefully. I also signed up at eHow , another site similar to Suite 101, but I haven't decided yet whether it is better to attack one such site full out or spread my talent across several sites : )

If you have any other suggestions you'd like to share, please do so in the comments.

Monday, November 5, 2007

NaBloPoMo Anyone?

I am a few days late, but I just found out about NaBloPoMo ( The acronym stands for National Blog Posting Month, and they are a sister site to NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.

Both are great for writers. The first encourages us to post to our blogs every day, and the second is a challenge to write an entire novel in one month.

Maybe if I go over into December it will even out.

So if you are stuck for something to write about this month, check out these ideas:

- Chris Garrett's post on Ten Killer Post Ideas

-Places to get great ideas for blog posts

-101 Great Posting Ideas that will Make Your Blog Sizzel at

-111 instant Blog Post Ideas:

-And for help in making your blog posts better, check out this article on ProBlogger:

Hope you have time to write after all of the research!