When I first started reading blogs, the notion of “mommy blogging” didn’t exist. It was back in the day–Leslie Harpold, Sarah Hatter. Dooce was not yet DOOCE! Maggie not yet so mighty. And the “titans” of blogging interacted with their readers because they weren’t yet too famous to care.
Leslie Harpold in particular ran the most astonishing blog I’ve ever read. It was called the Harpold 500, and she solicited photographs from people to use as inspiration for these stories she would write–500 word essays about whatever came to her. So often reading her site, my breath would catch in my throat, the walls of my dorm room would disappear, and I’d be transported to this place outside of space and time.
A sample of Leslie’s work:
Possible Scenarios for Heaven by Leslie Harpold
A record arm that you can pick up and put down in favorite parts of your life to play over, like dropping the needle in the middle of your favorite song back in 1980, when you knew exactly which part of the groove was where the guitar solo to “Train in Vain” ended. Moving it there meant you could dance around your room for just one more minute before shoving off, face first, into the snow on a school day.
Pick the arm up in heaven, and it’s the moment right before Billy Mullen kisses you, standing in the Putt Putt parking lot, just before the street lights come on. Leave it playing through the part where you race home, feet barely touching the ground for the nine blocks you run until you collapse on the landing, face flushed. Lift it off again before you hear your mom say “Young lady…” After savoring it a moment, which might be three hundred heaven years, drop it again that one day you stood in front of the mirror naked and went “you know, I think my boobs are pretty good,” and actually believed it. Just replaying the greatest moments again and again, and always being pleasantly surprised how quickly they add up, how many you have to choose from, not having had the luxury of seeing them like an endless play list when you wandered around on this mortal coil.
You get to drive down the most beautiful road ever as fast or slow as you like in a car with enough leg and head room, a great stereo, and the companion of your choice. Your companion enjoys riding shotgun as much as you love driving. Someone brushes your hair every single day and never says, “My arms are tired.”
The novel you wished would never end doesn’t and peonies bloom year round. You are encouraged to watch movies from an oversized bathtub.
Get up around sunrise, because sunrise is always five minutes after you wake up in heaven, and seeing a different and more magnificent one each day, simultaneously thinking “Wow, earth was beautiful” and also “This is pretty great too.” Spend the whole day reunited with pets and being really good at all the stuff you never got around to learning but always wanted to try like snow boarding and making quilts.
The feeling you get when you wake up in the middle of the night laughing thinking about the silliest thing you saw that day.
Swimming in the nicest pool ever, (100% pee free!) slightly heated, incredibly refreshing and no one ever bumping into you. To keep you aware of how lovely it is, periodically you get out of the pool for a big cookout where the watermelon they serve after the hot dogs is fresh and sweet, and there’s no penalty for getting back in the pool too soon. Also spitting watermelon seeds would be considered a beautiful gesture, not something “nice young ladies like you do not do.”
Perpetually maintaining a combination of these three feelings: hearing the first five bars of your favorite song in an unexpected place, the feeling you have when you wake up from a power nap, drink a glass of water and blink twice while taking your deepest breath; combined with that super fleeting moment your lips stop touching someone else’s. Right when you realize you’ve been kissed.
It is totally okay to write yourself notes and draw pictures on your arms and legs, as long as they are beautiful. P.S. You also get perfect penmanship.
Prada looking pants that feel like flannel pajama bottoms. You are always a size six.
Fresh blackberries with breakfast every day. Diet coke on tap. Gymnastics are second nature to your body, you flip and tumble with alacrity. When people look at you, they see you and they smile from the heart. At night you sleep on the softest pillow ever, and both sides of the pillowcase are cool.
What is is always good enough.
I’ve always been a lover of books, but it was through these pioneers of blogging that I fell in love with words, and eventually went on to dabble in them in search of my own voice. My first stabs at blogging were dark, honest. They chronicled pieces of my soul that I dared not share with anyone else, and while it was some of the realest, best work I’ve done in my life, it also wasn’t exactly what people wanted to read.
I have created and destroyed any number of blogs over the years, each time looking for the recipe to greatness and falling short. Ashley, Etc. is the closest I’ve ever come to internet “fame” (and please read that with a grain of salt as I know that I am far, FAR from famous) and while being featured on BlogHer and having a lot of people read my words was sort of exhilarating –they like me; they REALLY like me–I also hated it in a way. I hated it because the words weren’t true to my story, to what I want to write. I’ve alluded to it before, but I hate writing about parenting. In the words of Chopin, I am not a mother woman. I love my daughter, but I very rarely love being a mother, and I certainly don’t love talking about it all the time. I became a mom, and I felt inadequate in my role as housewife and dame of domesticity, so I thought, yeah–I can write. Let’s monetize this shit. And I set about turning my blog into a “mommy blog” and “creating a brand” because writing a blog with a targeted audience is a much faster road to relevancy than writing novels. My idea sort of worked, except it could never fully pan out because I have issues hiding my disdain for my own stupid creation. I can’t push it past the brink and truly make any money off of it because I hate it.
I started a wordpress site the other day. Just a plain wordpress.com site. I Googled “random word generator” and I randomly generated a name for it that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. And then I sat down, and I wrote a piece of fiction. When I hit publish, I had no idea who would read it, or if anyone would even find it. And it was freeing and intoxicating and exhilarating It was all of the good adjectives. And for a second, I felt that rush I used to feel. The one that says, “Hey, words. OMG words. I want to devote my life to words.”
I want to devote my life to words.
I just need them to be words that have a purpose for me, words that don’t take themselves too seriously, words that aren’t something any schmuck could throw together and slap on a parenting website to generate some pageviews. I started out wanting to be a Leslie, or a Sarah, or a Heather, and then I saw that “success” was out there for the taking if only I made myself more palatable, forced myself into a mold. There is success out there; it’s just not my definition of success.
Leslie Harpold died shortly after I found her blog. Her family let her domain expire, and her words–her breathtaking, stunning, soul-altering words–disappeared from the internet forever. Someday I’m going to die, too, and when I do, there’s a good chance that it might be without recognition. I might not have a published book or have made it onto the Huffington Post. I might not have a blog that gets more than a handful of readers every month. I might not have ever made a dime from my writing. But if I have created something I feel proud of, if I’ve lived my truth and devoted my energy to creating things that feel like a truer representation of me, well…
I can’t ask for much more than that.
I don’t know what I’m going to do with this domain, if anything. I kind of hate it and think it sounds like something a 12-year-old valley girl came up with. In all likelihood I’m just going to get rid of it, but I just got charged for another month, so it will still be here for a little while. At any rate, thank you for your love and support, and for finding value in the things you read here. I’m excited to continue the friendships I’ve built here in a way that feels much more authentic and fulfilling.