For the next 3 posts I’m featuring interviews with 3 different bloggers that I have followed for quite a while. This week I’m talking to the fabulous Anna Rosenblum Palmer. What can I say about Anna? Anna’s posts are diverse and always well written – some topics she writes about have had me rolling around the floor laughing – her conversations with her dentist about pole dancing as well as her posts about boobs and vaginas! Her family life, food and cats posts have me nodding my head, agreeing vigorously. This lady is a talented writer and she doesn’t mince her words or sugarcoat them – which makes her a brilliant candidate to interview as I wasn’t quite sure how she’d answer my questions but I couldn’t wait to find out ….hi Anna!
Hi. For someone who does a whole lot of navel gazing on my blog I have a very difficult time introducing myself.
I live two lives…one in the summer when my family and I move back to Vermont and I walk on the literal and figurative paths that helped me grow into an adult. I have friends here who make things. Food and pottery, paintings and shoes. I wear eat and listen to fruits of the community that I am part of. Despite being here 10 weeks a year it has a tinge of the past to it. Even my kids say things like “for old times sake” and use words like “nostalgia” about their school playground. I am proud of it though. I am proud of the community farm that I helped fund and the restaurant that is in the space that my restaurant used to be. I pore over the program for the art festival I used to run and see that the fashion show I started has a larger and larger presence. I walk down the dirt road where the house we built stands and look at the changes while waving at neighbors who now live a country away. I drive past the school where I taught with its view of Lake Champlain and smell of cow and remember the good and the bad of the educational system in rural Vermont. Like my boys do I see all this in tones of sepia as if I am visiting an old version of myself.
For the rest of the year I live in Denver. We soak up sunshine and proudly live with one car. We answer the door when kids knock to ask my boys to play at the field across the street. We don’t answer the door as friends walk right in with our cat’s missing collar. I have never been someone to define myself in terms of my kids but in my life there I pretty much am a reflection of my relationship with them. I drink wine (or vodka) with their friend’s parents. I volunteer at their schools. I write essays about their struggles and triumphs. I wouldn’t say I live for them, but I live beside them and I can’t really introduce myself without giving my husband Steve and my sons Oliver and Leo at least half of my answer.
This exact instant I am a tea drinker and a writer and a Patriots fan. I love all of those things. I am also a fat woman and a begrudging pet owner and someone who lives every day with mental illness. I am working to love all of those things as well.
Your blog, annarosenblumpalmer.com, covers an interesting blend about the highs & lows of life, including topics such as sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder & the NFL. What was the inspiration behind starting your blog?
I started blogging 10 years ago when I was steeped in the world of non-profits. I introduced non profit efforts in our community and highlighted volunteer work and philanthropists. Pretty regularly I interrupted the normally scheduled posts to write about my cats and my kids and how much pee was in my daily life. (Lots and lots). People seemed to connect with those posts more, and by people I mean my mom and me. I found them easier to write. With non-profit profiles I had to research and edit and be respectful. None of those are my strengths.
Over time I had to admit that my writing was mainly about the life of a young mother and occasional philanthropist. I renamed the blog Shelburbia after our suburban/urban community of Shelburne and talked about the 3 year aged cheddar cheese and local apples I brought to the sidelines of soccer game. The polish I tried to put on my life then was so ridiculous and impossible to maintain. So many people related to it that I gained readers and trolls.
After I moved to Denver I needed to change the name and played with Denverb and a few other location based puns but finally landed on my name because, you know, wherever I go there I am. Or some other less first person platitude.
Apart from your blog, your writing can be found on Babble, In The Powder Room, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Making Midlife Matter…. amongst others (the list is seemingly endless). When you are not writing, what do you do in your free time?
Well I am training for my first triathalon. Bah hahahahaha. I can’t even spell triatholon. Not even my computer can spell it. In Denver everyone is training for something. At a party most of the talk is about school choice and upcoming races. My goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day. It’s good to have a goal. I love puzzles, crosswords, logic and jigsaws. My husband had a big piece of plexiglass cut so we can cover whichever puzzle is spread out over our dining room table and still eat there. Speaking of our dining room table I take a lot of time training my kids how to eat politely. They wait to start until everyone is at the table, they say please and thank you and clear plates at the end of the meal. In addition to these skills I help make sure we talk about poop or pee at least once a dinner. We have about a three year streak going. (No pun intended.) Without even discussing it we clean up our potty talk in restaurants and when we are hosting. In fact in restaurants the boys are consistently complimented on their manners and on not one but two occasions other diners have bought our family our meals because they are thrilled at the way our kids behave. Although I think this might be a sad commentary on other families rather than a compliment to ours it is some of the best natural positive reinforcement my kids have gotten. Even if they ask to claim half of the savings to spend on candy and Pokemon cards.
I am also a huge Patriots fan. Many of your readers might not be familiar with the NFL because watching grown men in tights giving each other concussions isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. I come by it naturally though. I grew up in Boston, one of the top three sports cities in America. My father was an anathema, a visual artist who loved sports and was a virtual shut in. It was up to me to find common ground and as an only child I took that task seriously. I wrote about the Celtics in my journal and when I went away to college the only way I could keep him on the phone was to talk about the Patriot’s draft. I studied for this task as seriously as I did the archeological finds of Mesopotamia (my major…the utility of which might explain why I have so many different career identities.) After he died when I was in my twenties the damage had been done. I knew everything there was to know about the team and had many memories of my father intertwined with the Patriots. Long story short I spend 10 hours a week listening to a Patriots podcast.
Being a blogger you need to have regular interaction on social media. What social media outlet is your personal favourite? What social media tends to attract more readers to your blog? What is your least favourite & why?
Ah, social media. I have the biggest audience on Twitter (@annawritesstuff) but my followers rarely interact with me or my blog. I find it virtually useless for promotion or being social. Instead I check my feed to track traffic and follow acts of terrorism in almost real time. Which might contribute to why I find it depressing.
Facebook and my blog Facebook page are the most social of the social media. Sometime I can really get a conversation going. Plus I can see baby sloths taking a bath. On my regular Facebook feed most of my friends and I share politics so I have a slanted view of American beliefs. I never thought there would be a President Trump. Reading about his cabinet appointees kept me offline for a while. But the sloths got me back to the feed, because…baby sloths in the bath.
Pinterest is the biggest driver of my traffic. My most popular blog post has 740,000 views and almost all of them came from Pinterest. I have tried to sleuth out which huge Pinterest star must have shared the post but my meager skills don’t allow that so I just sit back and enjoy it when once a week or so I get 15,000 views in a day. The post is about lazy parenting (obviously I didn’t include how hard I worked on teaching potty talk because that took patience and dedication. The responses range from “right on sister” to “I should call the cops on you.” This is the kind of debate I want on my blog.
What do you like most about blogging?
For one thing I only think through writing or talking. My internal life is pretty meager. Alternatively we can say that my meditation practice is working and I am great at clearing my mind of thoughts. In either case the blog lets me understand what it is I feel about my own life. The best thing is when those feeling resonate with other people. I wrote a post telling people how much my marriage benefits from having sex 5-7 times a week and although the comments on that post are not numerous my email filled up with readers recounted how much this post has changed their lives. I LOVE that. My posts on mental illness always seem to ring true for lots of people. Even if 1,000 words can’t change a life long situation it can still help you feel less alone. So a small thing like a blog post can have a big impact. I wrote a post explaining suicidal thought after someone I knew killed herself. Many people reacted to the idea of suicide as selfish. I argued the other side and issued a call to action to family, friends and people in positions of power to change the way society views mental illness. By getting it out of the shadows we can all receive the support we need. I can tell you the latest health care proposal is taking us in the opposite direction.
Let’s talk food… what is your favourite meal? What food genre is your favourite when eating out?
My restaurant was farm to table so I know this cuisine well. It is my favorite but it lost some allure when I broke it into the tasks of inventory and plate costing. In Denver the food scene is incredible. My favorite restaurant is called Linger and it is in an old mortuary. I know that sounds weird but it is cool not creepy. It features international street food elevated almost to the level of fine dining.
That said my favorite meal is chicken wings and french fries. We eat them every Sunday for football. No matter how many times I order them extra crispy they are never crisp enough so we put them in the sheet pan and bake them even longer. So salty, tangy and good!
If you could visit any place in the world, money no object, where would you go & why?
My family talks about this all of the time. Every other year we take a big trip with my mother. Four years ago we went to Istanbul and two years ago we went to Italy. They were both incredible. This year we were planning the Galapagos but my claustrophobia, my son’s seasickness and the cost combined to have us cancel the trip. Instead we are headed to Hawaii which is not much of a schelp from Denver. I’d say my top three spots are Fiji for those thatched huts over the water (maybe without our boys?) Morocco because, Morocco, and Iceland for the architecture.
A lot of bloggers I know are also bookworms… are you one? What genre of book do you like reading? What book(s) are you currently reading?
I read ALL of the time. I read single books in a day and a hundred books a year. The vast majority of them are schlock but my two favorite books from last year are very very heavy. A little Life which the author, Hanya Yanagihara, describes as Ombre in that it goes from light to dark. And Mischling which is a novel about Nazi doctors experimenting on twin twelve year old girls. I can’t believe how beautiful Affinity Konar made the most horrible thing you can think of. The language is one of a kind.
Have you got a favourite style icon, past or present?
I’ll go with Marilyn Monroe because my limited fashion expertise doesn’t include women with curves. I love a wrap dress and loose curls. I don’t think I would ever mimic her heels, red lips, or affairs. Ideally I would echo the looks of a woman from a Reuben’s painting. Those sheets are so drape-y and they wear no makeup or shoes. I could hang with them.
I like dresses from the 1950s; tunic dresses of the 1960s; the hippy styles of the 1970s; the colours of the 1980s… what decade of fashion are you drawn towards? Which popular styles of any decade didn’t/don’t float your boat?
I grew up in the eighties and still have a fondness for Jelly shoes and bracelets and stretchy belts. I could live without the banana hair clips and acid wash jeans. It’s funny to see my son layer neon socks. I did that just as frequently as I changed the bands on my swatch to keep them from matching. Most of the time I try to stay comfortable, but I do love cashmere sweaters and Frye boots. Usually I pair them with pants or no one can appreciate the sweater.
My favourite colour is green although glancing at my wardrobe most of my clothes are shades of blue! What is your favourite colour?
In the summer I wear a lot of turquoise. It makes my eyes seem even more blue. In the winter I wear a lot of grey. I probably have 5 grey sweaters and although they each have a different use and personality to me my husband thinks they are all the same. Despite a robust renovation to our house Steve and I share a closet and he has three quarters of it. He is MUCH more stylish than I am.
I have a passion for music – I listen to most styles – what genre floats your boat?
I love singer songwriters from Simon and Garfunkel all the way to Sarah Harmer. My range is small. Think Coffeehouse on Satellite radio.
Describe your perfect day.
I would wake up to sunshine and temperatures ranging between 72-74 degrees F. I would meditate for 30 minutes and my boys would surprise me with breakfast in bed. I would leave my family sleeping so everyone would be in a good mood later and walk to the coffee shop to meet my cousin for a few hours to share a table and write. At this point with meditation and walk and writing behind me I have checked all of my boxes and can do exactly what I want. When I get home Steve will be cooking a late brunch and he will have the Decembrists on the record player. The boys will be in the living room reading and drawing and I will work on the crossword puzzle with the dog on my lap. After eating outside we will take a family outing. A short one so I can spend time on the patio or in bed before going out to dinner. We will walk to a burger spot near our house while all playing Pokemon go. At dinner we will have our family meeting offering one another appreciations and reviewing our words of the day and contributions. We would stroll home and sit together (with dog and cat who in my perfect day would not be fighting) and watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. It is completely inappropriate for my boys but is both funny and educational. We have had deep discussions about vaccines and gerrymandering, and cursory discussions about “Russian whores” all because of this half hour show. Then I would head to bed to read again. I would be asleep by 10 pm. The best part of this story is how close every day is to my perfect day. I have a lucky life.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Today I have on white jeans, a blue T shirt and flip flops. In the fall I will have on blue or grey jeans, a white T shirt and clogs. In the winter I will have on grey or black jeans, a white grey or black sweater and black clogs. I like to mix things up.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?
For household items I love CB2. It is modern and affordable enough to allow me to change things out. As oblivious as I am to clothing I am dedicated to decor. As for clothing…I spend some time on soccer.com for my younger son. Their mystery three pack of soccer shorts in always a thrill. For my husband I like Queen City Dry goods. This is a friend of ours from Vermont (of course) that makes gorgeous mens goods. Leather jackets, shoes, messenger bags, wallets. They are all incredible.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I would love a really high quality oatmeal cashmere turtleneck sweater that clings to the chest area but is boxy around the belly.
Boots or Shoes?
Are clogs shoes? Then clogs. They slip on AND offer some height. Plus it gives me practice growing a thicker skin while my friends and kids tease me.
Links you would like to share e.g. Blog/facebook/twitter/etc
Thank you Anna for appearing on the blog today. I don’t think that your sporting obsession is strange – I enjoy watching sport although here in the UK it is mostly football (soccer) and motorbike racing that captures my attention! What about you dear readers, are you fanatical about sport? Do share your stories, I’d love to know!
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Anna Rosenblum Palmer.