Things That Are Not Radical Acts

July 20, 2010

her bad superheroI had it in mind that I was going to write about it, that thing that happened last week , that thing that was really just so horrible and awful and unpleasant – in a First World Problems! kind of way, sure, but still – that thing that left me feeling so rattled and uncertain and bad. I was going to write about how it all happened – what was said and how I cried and what more was said and how much more I cried and then how I sat, alone, in a room with no clocks, my passport seized, and freaked the hell out – and about how I wondered what it said about the State of the Momosphere in North America circa 2010 that someone could be stopped and interrogated for claiming to be a ‘mom blogger’ – not even mommy blogger! I only said mom! and blogger! – (because I am so not exaggerating when I say that I spent all that time defending the fact that I make a living writing about motherhood and that I often go to conferences – yes, even at places like Yahoo! – to discuss doing so and they reviewed my blog right there and demanded that I explain to them what the hell it was and how it earned me money and I sniffled and gurgled and mumbled stuff about ad networks and marketing and GM Canada and it was only when I pointed to a post that thanked GM Canada for sponsoring an adventure and then another one that they finally relented and let me go) (which, thanks GM!) – and! or! — DEEP BREATH — whether it even meant anything at all, and how maybe this has nothing at all to do with mommyblogging being a radical act and more to do with how there happens to be random Internet-ignorant doofuses (doofii?) working at Homeland Security! Or something! So!

I was going to write something about all that. But now I’m not. Because, I haven’t even written about it – apart from saying that it happened and that I was scared and that I didn’t know what to make of it – and already there is murmuring and grumbling about who the hell cares and she probably deserved it and it probably had nothing to do with mom blogging and she wouldn’t last five minutes in Saudi Arabia! (Which, no, I wouldn’t, not least because I am not Maureen Dowd and am totally not up for experiencing misogynist subjugation just for the hell of it and, also, I already said that) and I’m just so totally not up for that, because, why? Why should I be? I’m not. And even though I’m kind of sort of simmering with the idea that this, this sort of thing – the presumption that ‘motherhood’ and ‘professional’ are two words that should spring off of each other like water on hot oil – and that sort of thing – the some-time compulsion within our community to sneer and to doubt – are evidence of the radicalness of what we do – living our motherhood publicly, and demanding respect for it – is as bright and hard-edged as it was five years ago when this fine lady declared it so, I’m too tired to let it come to boil. Not now, anyway.

This is cowardly, maybe. To avoid discussion – to avoid starting a discussion – just because it threatens to get difficult, just because one’s feelings might get hurt – isn’t that the very antithesis of what it means to be radical in a discursive space? It is this, without question, but I might object, in my own defense, that wandering into discursive territory that I know or suspect will be be hostile only wears me down, leaves me less able, or less willing, to engage in those discussions that are productive and stimulating and interesting and – maybe – radical. (By which I do not mean, those discussions in which everyone agrees with me. It’s never interesting – although it is, I’ll admit, gratifying – when everyone simply agrees with you. I was an academic – a student, a teacher, a wave-my-Communist-Manifesto-around-the-pub-table argument-pursuer – for too long to be averse to discursive friction.) (How many times in this paragraph can I use the word ‘discursive’?) (Why am I avoiding the subject at hand?)

And so this is the path I take today, the path of least (discursive!) resistance, and I walk it with headphones plugged into my ears and shades drawn over my eyes, and if anyone stops me, I will brandish my iPhone and holler, over the music blaring in my ears, WANNA SEE PICTURES OF MY BABIES???…

early summer 10 120

… and as those people move aside, I will just keep walking.

And I will feel guilty.

(So guilty, in fact, that now that I’ve come to the end of this post I feel reluctant to close comments, because I know that you would understand and I wouldn’t just brush you aside on this path that we’re on and I know that although you are always happy to see pictures of my children, you understand that there is so much more than that going on here, so why would I want to shut you out?

Lo, I have talked myself into a corner. That happens sometimes.

I’m going to leave comments open. You’ll be civil and kind, right? And we won’t debate whether or not I was silly or ridiculous or ego-inflated to have been been upset by my brush with Homeland Security? We’ll just walk and we’ll talk about the issues and the questions and the unbearable lightness of being mom bloggers, and radicals, and the beauty of my children. And it will be good. Right? So why IS this all so hard sometimes?)

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    Michelle July 20, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Honey I cannot tell you how much of all this you’ve shared has touched me. Our lives can all be so similar in pain, yet in different ways. I do not think any of the mess is silly or ridiculous because it caused upset to you and no one has any right to take that from you or tell you you should feel differently. I am a fairly sassy momma who carries her pain with her daily. Although I am sassy I am also fairly shy and reserved especially with strangers…what can I say being 5′ tall makes you small to the masses. However, I never suffer foolishness gladly and dismissing someones pain is foolishness. If they don’t wish to be helpful (constructive yet kind) or consoling they can go elsewhere and I will say as much…you are someone who gives voice to your life and it reflects in the lives of others. I consider it a blessing.

    Catherine July 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    @Michelle, oh, oh. THANK YOU.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Things That Are Not Radical Acts =-.

    Michelle July 21, 2010 at 12:55 am

    @Catherine, You are most welcome my dear….and you can show me pictures of your babies any day as long as I can show you mine! = )

    Amy July 20, 2010 at 11:14 am

    I don’t think you were silly to be upset. In your shoes, I would have been scared silly. I’m sorry this happened to you.

    I’m also a little embarrassed for my country. I understand the need for security, but really? Harassing women going to a conference? Questioning their livelihood? Is that really protecting us?

    Post all the pictures of babies you want.

    mapsgirl July 20, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Your babies are adorable!! Let’s leave it at that and put all the messy, ugly stuff behind you.

    It sucks that it happened. It wasn’t fair. And by all means, deal with it as you like…or don’t deal with it. This is your blog; do with it as you choose. But if this is Red Rover, please call me over, because I’ll stick up for you and stick my tongue out at those who don’t know what a mom blogger is.
    .-= mapsgirl´s last blog ..determination =-.

    Saisquoi July 20, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Your babies are beautiful.

    I don’t make my living with my blog, but I dread travel anymore anyway for all that you’ve described. Air travel in my own country hardly seems worth it anymore, which is regretful because it’s a great country to see and I’d like to see more of it…I’ll be traveling solo with my toddler this fall to visit my sister and my niece and dreading the potential for harassment between the baby sling, the carseat, and the snacks one must pack for flying halfway across the continent with a 20 month old.
    .-= Saisquoi´s last blog ..Storytime =-.

    Cheryl July 20, 2010 at 11:28 am

    While I am all for homeland security, I’m all for the employment of it sensibly applied. So very sorry you were subjected to something entirely lacking in sense.

    Hoping it hasn’t impacted your willingness to venture southward to NYC for BlogHer next month. Would love to see you again—no interrogation involved.

    Official Mommy Blogger comment: Your babies are precious! ;)
    .-= Cheryl´s last blog ..My Little Beauty- Bathing =-.

    Catherine July 20, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    @Cheryl, I will be driving to BlogHer, so am hoping that that will be less nerve-wracking ;)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Things That Are Not Radical Acts =-.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting July 21, 2010 at 7:36 am

    @Catherine, I’ve come to the opposite conclusion, i.e the flying is safer. There are, unfortunately, Canadian women who have been thrown into jail for nothing more than mistakenly making an illegal turn.

    Although I would not enjoy an interrogation by Homeland Security, I would prefer that to a jail cell.
    .-= Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last blog ..Grin and bear it Parenting- happiness and the pressure cooker =-.

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2010 at 11:57 am


    Will it help that I’ll have a disabled child with me?

    (and, yes on the jail cell. at least I have that over Lindsay Lohan.)

    (horrible story, by the way. is it wrong that I laughed at your title, though?)

    Redd July 20, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Not only would I have bawled my eyes out, I probably would have shit my pants.
    Your kids are beautiful BTW and horray for GM helping you out of American Hell!
    .-= Redd´s last blog ..381 – CraftAnon Shops of the Week! =-.

    Catherine July 20, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    @Redd, I know, right? And GM *is* awesome.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Things That Are Not Radical Acts =-.

    Scatteredmom July 20, 2010 at 11:31 am

    We drove through the Peace Arch border just 2 weeks ago and ate some oranges in the car while we waited. There were no garbage cans no matter where we looked, and we didn’t want to litter so we held on to them until we got to the booth and were questioned. I even held up the orange peels and asked, all Canadian polite like, if they had a garbage can because we knew we couldn’t take them across. We were directed to a tiny, enclosed space with guards and guns EVERYWHERE.

    The guards angrily told us to “Do the right thing” and tore a strip off of us for having the audacity for even consuming “contraband” near the border, then told us to pop our trunk. After rooting around through it and asking us a pile of questions, they let us go. We had done nothing wrong. We were not carrying weapons or drugs, we were not terrorists, we were simply a family on vacation who had eaten a couple of freakin’ oranges while we waited for an HOUR in line.

    Only the ironic thing is that they didn’t want the brown mushy banana peel. Too messy? It’s fruit and fits their criteria of contraband. I just don’t get it. But I DO get how terrifying it is to have a border guard/Dept of Homeland Security person take a strip off you and make you wonder if they are even going to let you in the country.

    Yikes. Hugs to you!

    Julia Roberts July 20, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Thanks again for letting me share it on I thought it was just interesting that they didn’t connect social media with making a living, and I didn’t take it as a mommmy/mom/momma blogger thing as much.

    But what the hell do I know? I still think if it was scary for you that other people didn’t need to dismiss your feelings about it…geez and get defensive about US HS.

    Her Bad Mother July 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Julia, I wanted to link to your story but for some reason I’ve been getting a 403 access error when I try to open that page – maybe you could post the link here, in a comment?

    Edwin Perello July 20, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Our good tax dollars at work. The Washington Post just came out with an expose about how huge and inefficient our intelligence bureaucracy is. Their harassing you is likely an attempt to justify its existence. Sad excuse.

    Barnmaven July 20, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I think being held and questioned by Homeland Security is a bigger deal for some people than for others. While one might view it as an adventure, another a boring time-waster, some people will be upset by it and not find it in the least bit amusing.

    What continues to bother me about it is that some people act as if they have the right to demand that YOUR reaction be the same as theirs, and if it is not, to dialogue about it in an incredibly uncivil manner. If people were rude before the advent of the internet, they have grown exponentially so with every comment they make.

    You have a right to your feelings and to your reactions, Catherine. You often share them in ways that are amusing, tender, honest and often very eloquent. It is easy for me to say “let the nasty comments roll off your back” because those comments aren’t directed at me, and I would likely feel differently if they were.

    Just because people are being disrespectful doesn’t mean that there was anything wrong with what you wrote or how you felt or reacted. Their comments and the way they are worded speak volumes about them, not about you.

    “Discursive” is going to be my word of the week. Thanks for that.
    .-= Barnmaven´s last blog ..Nobodys Perfect =-.

    Catherine July 21, 2010 at 9:22 am

    @Barnmaven, thank you.

    And I find that excessive use of the word ‘discursive’ goes a long way to making everything feel better, always.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Things That Are Not Radical Acts =-.

    Mary July 20, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Don’t listen to those idiots who are making nasty comments. You have every right to be upset after being detained. I would have been upset too as would most people I know.
    And yes, your children are beautiful!

    Emily July 20, 2010 at 11:57 am

    I was horrified while I read your tweets about being questioned. Horrified! I wished I could do something or say something that would help (but, being both a stranger and someone with no power whatsoever… you know). And I’m appalled that people are making nasty comments towards you. I’m glad the worst of the ordeal is over, and as for the haters? F*ck ‘em.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..Babies =-.

    Sara July 20, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    I can’t imagine what you had gone through, the messy ugly stuff that were scary and upset, in a country claims freedom and democracy.

    Glad it’s all over and bottom line is, you are safely home with your babies cause that’s what matters the most at the end of day.
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..I Have Been Faking For So Long =-.

    mrschaos July 20, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I don’t care if you’re a knife juggler, being made to feel like that would be awful. The entire situation is just very strange, if you ask me.

    Although…Canadian “Mommyblogger” sounds like a HUGE threat. I can’t believe they didn’t think of it before…

    Catherine July 21, 2010 at 9:22 am

    @mrschaos, they probably saw that I was a ninja, because that’s pretty hard to hide.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Things That Are Not Radical Acts =-.

    emily bilbrey July 20, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    oh, no no NOOOOO! i am TERRIBLY sorry about your ordeal. i just flew home from vacation yesterday with my daughter & husband – both trips through security had me shaking and wide-eyed after hearing SO MANY stories similar to this one about people/families being detained (not to mention nic’s horror-story with jackson & the tsa!) i was extremely relieved when we made it through the lines with no trouble; if the slightest hangup had happened i probably would have burst into tears on the spot! i feel anxious just imagining myself in your shoes. very, very sorry dear. hope you are all settled into home, enjoying your beautiful kids and letting go of the stress about what happened. ((HUGS))

    Katy July 20, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    So my brother had a whirlwind romance with a Canadian woman, whom he married. He was quite promptly deployed to Iraq/Afghanistan and other places less known. She, having just discovered she was pregnant (with twins!) went back to Canada to hang with her family (instead of stay in a Country where she knew almost no one) for his deployment. He returned, she returned, and they just sort of carried on and muddled through for awhile (having infant twins now, and him still being active duty). They returned often to Canada so that she would not have any immigration/INS problems before they could get down to applying for citizenship (not wanting to get into that weird phase where you can’t leave the country in case he got deployed again and she needed more help). ANY WHO, you wouldn’t believe the interegotations she was subjected to, usually when traveling without her military husband but WITH her twin boys. One guy asked her how she had time to get knocked up and make babies but no time to apply for citizenship!

    It was horrible for her, and I’m sure horrible for you. So sorry to hear about it. I hope I never have to go through it!

    Lisa July 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    I’ve been held by Homeland Security once before. It was years ago, I was about 20 or so and it scared the living daylights out of me. I cried, I was a mess, I couldn’t even remember my home phone # so they could call my parents to verify my story they had me so flustered.

    It is just so ridiculous that you had to go through that simply because some jerk didn’t know what a mom blogger was. Hello, has he been living under a rock and not watching any news programs or reading any papers for the last several years.

    Sorry you had to go through that, and even more sorry you had to go through the crap of dealing with doubters and naysayers and people who would rather judge than sympathize.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..The Book Nook =-.

    daysgoby July 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Your babies are beautiful.

    But honey (and I say this so lovingly) I just don’t think you should travel anymore.

    Because the travel gods have it in for you.
    .-= daysgoby´s last blog ..cobbler =-.

    Meagan Francis July 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I’m a little amazed that anyone could claim being held by Homeland Security would NOT freak them out and would NOT be a big deal. I’m sorry, I’m pretty relaxed about most things, but that would turn me into a shaking, blubbery, anxiety-laden mess. No matter how anyone else might have felt about it, though, your feelings are valid and um…completely understandable. So glad you made it home without further incident.

    Joy July 20, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I vote for doofii. ;)

    As for the rest, Barnmaven said, very eloquently, what I wanted to say. But I do agree with your thought that living motherhood publicly, and being respected and making a living from it, is not something that much of society is aware of, nor accepting of. And it’s OK to not be radical, all the time. Even radicals need a break, sometime.
    .-= Joy´s last blog ..I miss France a little bit right now =-.

    Amy July 20, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    I am often embarrassed for my country and it’s foolish ways and this is one of those times.

    I’ve been mildly hassled crossing the border before, coming home from Canada or Mexico, and it has always been superficial procedural stuff. But I’ve never had my livelihood questioned. I’ve never been directly bullied by federal authorities, and it sucks mightily that you were.

    Imagine if you had had orange peels (like Scatteredmom) on top of all that. You’d probably still be detained.

    nic @mybottlesup July 20, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    yup. they are beautiful in deed, those babies of yours.

    Rachel July 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I’ve been a very long time reader and am now a first time commenter.

    Firstly, you have the right to feel however you want to feel about the situation that unfolded with US Homeland Security. It is terrifying to be detained and questioned by a guard wearing a gun and handcufts in a room with nothing aside from a desk and two chairs. Terrifying.

    My husband and I have experienced something that is similar to your story. My husband, who has had dual citizenship for 6 years, is Canadian first. We travel to see his family at least every other year. The last two times when we were trying to return home to the US we were told to get out of the vehicle so that they can drive it into a garage 30 or so feet away from the guard shack, said garage has no windows and you are not allowed to watch them inspect your vehicle. If that’s not freaky enough my husband and I were questioned separately. During these two incidents we did have our now 4 year old with us. They at least let one of us stay in the lobby with her while they questioned the other person.

    Its an extremely terrifying experience and is hard to not totally freak out. This was our experience as two citizens of the US coming back to our home in the US.

    I am very sorry that this happened to you while you were trying to come across the border for legitimate work reasons.

    While I do understand the need for border security what happened to you seems just so out of control.

    And yes I would love to see pictures of your babies, they are too cute!!

    Bec July 20, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I don’t think it warrants a debate because I don’t think it really has anything to do with being a “mom” and a blogger.”

    As a journalist, I went to New York to cover a conference. Homeland Security asked me what I meant by “cover.” Though I wasn’t interrogated in another room, which I’m sure was terrifying, I had to explain at length what JOURNALISM was.

    It happens to everyone and it didn’t happen to you because you’re a mommy blogger.

    Her Bad Mother July 20, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    I’m fully aware that tons of people are detained and questioned all the time. *I* was questioned because a) they didn’t see what reason I had to go to Yahoo headquarters as a ‘mom’, and b) did not believe that mom blogging was something that could b-1) be called a business, and b-2) warrant going to conferences, etc. They were really, really explicit about what their problem with me was: it was because I called myself a mom blogger. I had to sit while they reviewed my website and interrogated me about what it was and what it meant and how could I possibly make money from it. That’s not open for debate, because that’s what happened. Just because others get detained for other reasons doesn’t mean that the reason they gave me doesn’t count.

    But this is exactly the problem – I didn’t want to get sucked into defending the details of the story. They are what they are. I was interested in considering broader questions, like whether my particular experience represents broader cultural ignorance about mothers, or some such, or not (as I said, there is always the very real possibility that they were just doofii, and that’s all), and how it spoke to my own insecurities about what I do and how that’s received. But, sadly, the discussion, before it even started, threatened to get pushed down *this* alley, the one that questions whether I told a true story or understood what was happening or appreciate the nuances of international security.

    Bec July 21, 2010 at 6:10 am

    @Her Bad Mother, my point is, I don’t think it represents broader cultural ignorance about mothers. Or if that’s the case, my situation represents broader cultural ignorance about journalism. I think, perhaps, this is really about Homeland Security being a bunch of d*cks.

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Fair enough. And, totally agreed about the d*cks.

    Rita July 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Holy Moly. I would wonder about someone who would say that wouldn’t scare them.

    Eons ago we were in Cancun and my husband didn’t have a “state issue” birth certificate (before the passport requirement) and they sent me through the line and suggested that he add “a little something” to his documents “in the back of the room”.

    He stuck a $20 in his paperwork and the Mexican Immigration Officer said, “Thanks for the tip.”

    We spent the next four days in Mexico wondering if it was a set up and he would be carted off to some Mexican prison.

    With your story, I guess I’m a little out of date on the news. Was there a terrorist attack that I missed pulled off by some little Canadian blogger mom?

    I know you Canadian women have always scared me a little. lol
    .-= Rita´s last blog ..Ever hear the one about an Indian and a Mexican opening an Italian Restaurant with a Mob Name =-.

    Lisa July 20, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    I really like you and your writing. I loved your post from the other day. I loved how you were raw and vulnerable, and yet, still somehow had the ability to have a little distance, to see how raw you were about it, and maybe that wasn’t the time to write about it.

    I am so, so sorry that people picked at you for that. Man, that burns me up, now that I think about it. I was actually so proud that you didn’t get all into it when you were in that state, how responsible you were not to start a firestorm without first having time to think it through.

    And for that, you were rewarded with snark and derision in your home community. I’m sorry. It’s not fair. It sucks.

    You put yourself out there so much. You share so much of yourself with us. It’s such a gift you give us. I’m so, so sorry that gift is returned with hurt sometimes. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it go away.

    Major Bedhead July 20, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    The nuances of international security don’t matter when you’re being held for questioning. It happened to you, for a completely idiotic reason. I’m sorry you had to go thru it. Every time I’ve had to travel in the last few years, I just keep chanting “Little petty despots, wielding their tin pots.” It doesn’t help much, but it keeps me from blathering, which is what I do when I’m nervous.

    Poor Catherine. I’m sorry your foray into the US was so sucktastic.
    .-= Major Bedhead´s last blog ..Random Randomness =-.

    Hi, I'm Natalie. July 20, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Oh, my. *hugs* It is LUDICROUS that you had to go through that. And MADDENING. And, and, and – Just AWFUL. *more hugs*

    (This is why I’ll do anything to avoid a connecting flight through the ‘states now. It’s sometimes easier to connect through Denver or SF or LA, but it’s just not worth dealing with Homeland Security – They’re just too scary. And I’ve never felt scared in any of the other 1st-world countries that I’ve travelled through. It’s sad.)
    .-= Hi, I’m Natalie.´s last blog ..Daycare- Sick Kid Sydrome Begins =-.

    carolyn July 20, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Just in response to a few of the comments: I think that the reason some people say that it wouldn’t scare them is because it’s actually happened to some of us or people we know and, well, it didn’t scare us. It was mildly irritating, but that was it. Anyway, so that difference of experience probably counts for some of the differences in reactions to the story. But as Catherine’s comments above seem to indicate, her particular reaction seems to have had as much to do with the specific questions she was asked as with the form in which they were asked. And that raises a separate set of issues. For instance, one site that links to Catherine’s story says to: “Read her Twitter stream and marvel that there are still people out there who’ve never heard of the word “mommyblogging.”” Now, is this fact truly amazing? Should our response be simple incredulity? I doubt it. But anyway. It’s not clear to me what direction this conversation is supposed to be going in.

    Her Bad Mother July 20, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    I think that it’s fine for people to remark that they wouldn’t be/haven’t been scared. It’s a bit tougher when that real or imagined experience gets projected onto others – say, me – and the claim made that it’s silly/ridiculous/dumb/over-reacting to have any other response.

    As to what direction this conversation is supposed to be going in… I don’t know, either. I just know that I *didn’t* want the conversation to spin around the question of whether I should have reacted some other way, or whether this was really worth discussing in the first place. At least, not here, in a space where I’m only ever relating things that I think are worth considering to some degree or another, on my own or in community with others.

    And, is it incredible that ‘there are still people out there who have never heard of the word ‘mommyblogging”? Not likely. Does that mean that it’s not worth considering what it might mean when people disdain mommyblogging (or when they reject the very idea out of hand, as my interrogators did)? I don’t think so. At any right, however we approach these questions/issues, I just wish that we’d stick to the questions/issues, and not snark the people involved.

    Her Bad Mother July 20, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    (I’m not saying that you’re doing that, BTW – snarking – just that it’s THAT that exhausted me.)

    carolyn July 20, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Yeah, I’m not trying to delegitimate your reaction, but on the specific issue of how to respond to people who don’t know what to make of mommyblogging, I’m not sure. Basically, I can sort of sympathize with both sides in the abstract (that is, people who think that it *should* just be known and understood, on the one side, and, on the other side, people who don’t understand why they’re supposed to know about it). But it seems like this specific circumstance just forced that issue in a very uncomfortable way. So I can understand the reaction in that way. But I’m just not sure what the solution is.

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I’m with you there. I don’t know that it can or should be said that people *should* know about it – my question is, I guess, to what extent awareness of it or respect for it suffers from broader cultural biases (or blind spots) about/against public motherhood.

    Alice July 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm


    I’ve just got to put in my 2 cents here. While maybe there are still lots of people around who can hear the phrase “mommy blogging” and have no idea what it is, I would like to think that anyone working in Customs or Homeland Security would both have a brain and have some general experience in the new world that includes the internet. ANYONE who uses the computer for more that 5 minutes has had to have heard the words “blog” and “blogging” and know what they mean, at least in a general way, and understand that there are blogs about everything under the sun. Now here’s where that part about having a brain comes in – if a person knows what a Mommy is and also knows what a Blog is, if the person has a brain they can figure out what a Mommy Blogger is. And they should know what a Celebrity Blogger is, and a Politcal Blogger, and a Business Blogger, and a Crafts Blogger, and a …..

    Ok, I’m done with my rant. I just REALLY hate when people wielding power act like douches and I hate when people wielding power are stupid.

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    well said ;)

    Carolyn July 21, 2010 at 5:47 pm


    I don’t disagree with what you say per se, but I think that you underestimate how much people understand blogging in general. Basically, they’re aware of it, but don’t take it all that seriously, at least not in the abstract. This isn’t just an issue with mommyblogs. I read a number of political blogs, and although some of those bloggers are people with genuine influence in Washington, and do work with various “important” organizations (newspapers, think tanks, etc.), but those bloggers still complain all the time that people don’t take them seriously when they self-identify as bloggers. It’s a recurring theme. And although I read many blogs on a regular basis, I think that the skeptical reaction is grounded in one fairly obvious fact: with blogging, it’s hard – in the abstract – to know who is actually, say, making money off of it, or even just spending a lot of time on it, versus someone who just uses that title for themself because they think it’s fun. (In other words: blogging can be a “real job” and it can also not be in way that isn’t true of, say, janitors.) And just to be clear: I’m not saying any of this to cast any aspersions on Catherine’s particular experience. I’m just trying to show why I can see that there are competing principles at play with this issue.

    kittenpie July 20, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    doofi, I think.

    and I would suggest one possible reason why they were so interested in the money-making side of it – they also have to enforce things like work permits and visas and nafta so if they think you are going on a business trip to Yahoo that means you are doing profitable business directly in the states, that is, actually performing your trade here, it is an issue for them, so they would need to understand more clearly how this business works.

    You see, for years, Misterpie was a traveling IT consultant and often worked in the states. A nafta visa allowed for that, but there were fine lines around what constituted consulting vs. what constituted pr5ogramming, which is not covered by nafta, and therefore not eligible under his work permit, so he’d occasionally get questioned about what exactly his services were.

    given that you were going to a major computer developer for business, it seems to me that they would want to check that out further and make sure you weren’t doing a prohibited type of computer-based business on US soil without proper papers.

    Not to say, of course, that the experience didn’t suck, or to try to take away from your feelings about it, but it struck me as I read your tweets that there may in fact be a perfectly valid reason that they needed to know more about what it is that you were going to be doing in CA after all, which may help, at least.
    .-= kittenpie´s last blog ..Tidbits =-.

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Yeah, I get the whole NAFTA thing and the reasons for questioning business travel. What grated about this, though, was that I made it clear (and could provide proof) that I was going to a conference as a volunteer board member, and that they just could NOT believe that a) my “business” (scare quotes theirs) as a “mom blogger” could warrant that, and b) there IS any such thing as a professional mom blogger. It was, like, the opposite of trying to ascertain that I would be doing business; it was utter incredulity (and at moments, borderline hostile incredulity) that, as someone who’s title includes the word ‘mom’, I should call anything I was doing “business,” at all.

    heather July 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    I always stop short when a form asks for my profession. I will always put down professional mom from here on out.

    Elissa July 20, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Terrified is a totally reasonable response to being questioned by immigration, especially if they questioned your livelihood (mine is complicated too – I never know what to put in an ‘Occupation’ box. ‘A bit of this, a bit of that’ would probably not go down well). To have to explain and justify your livelihood is not cool. I think the implicit question is ‘Why don’t you just have a 9-5 job like normal people?’ (or in your case, more like ‘If you’re a stay-at-home mum, why don’t you just stay at home?’) – it’s a value judgement as much as a request for clarification.

    I’m a little bit terrified of US immigration, from the stories I’ve heard. I’m hoping to go over there next year for Burning Man, and I’m worrying, even a year out, that I’ll get in trouble about going to scary alternative festivals, especially as I’m a professional fire-twirler on the side and what if they think I’m trying to work there because they don’t understand the BM ‘gift economy’, and so on, and so forth…

    If they did stop me I would be absolutely terrified, especially because I don’t know what scary powers they have – all Aussie immigration can do is put you on a plane back where you came from, but I don’t know about the US – they way things have been going I’m worried they might be able to lock me up for years! in a tiny cell! and not tell anyone about it!

    Also, discoursing and analysing and arguing are fine in their place, but sometimes they just make me want to curl up in a ball and pretend I’m not there. Deciding not to go there, or not to go there publically, is also totally reasonable.

    .-= Elissa´s last blog ..A Crafty Weekend =-.

    Ashleigh @leighish July 21, 2010 at 12:09 am

    As a Canadian girl who has been detained for questioning not once, but twice, I can totally sympathize. Going on a road trip with my American boyfriend is not a radical act. Going to visit my American husband to work out the citizenship process? Not a radical act. And yet I was interrogated and detained both times. At least the first time I wasn’t alone. The second time? well. I still refer to it as the most stressful day of my life. So basically I want to give you a big hug because I know how much you probably still need one.
    .-= Ashleigh @leighish´s last blog ..Because the sky is blue =-.

    Blue July 21, 2010 at 1:50 am

    I think that being upset is a perfectly understandable reaction, especially given some of the random horror stories of perfectly innocent people being locked up for months over misunderstandings (see Dave Eggers’ book Zeitoun).

    Also, no offense because I know you are a tough lady, but seriously? Homeland Security is wasting our tax dollars on people like you??? ;)

    Eliza July 21, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Aloha Hugs to you Catherine –

    In July of 1976 I was detained by the Canadian border patrol because I made the error saying I was on the way to the Mariposa Folk Festival. I did not want to spend the 4th of July in Philly that year. (Contrary me.)

    Forgot to mention to the kind border guy I had a ticket. Found out later they were thinking I was performing and needed appropriate papers to work in the country. Ah, no. Not me. So I had 3-4 officers all around me in the most senior’s office. I was just so freaking innocent. When the ticket was mentioned, I was let go on my way.

    In 2005, I went into Canada for a three day class. No problem going in; just said that I was on a vacation. I could certainly feel the difficulty waiting me coming back in. The USA just does not want anyone, including their own, coming back in. I was driving my father’s car, who had passed earlier in the year, with a driver’s license from a far distant state. Fortunately, there was no big deal going back in for me.

    My POV – the whole work permit thing is the hangup on the Canadian/USA border these days.

    I certainly move into empathy for you due to the concise way you share your life. Post away about your children and nurture yourself fully, please.

    Aloha hugs ~
    .-= Eliza´s last blog ..Sifting Times =-.

    GingerB July 21, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Catherine, I vote for you for “most provocative blog” because you are radical, because you think, and you make me think. On behalf of the country I call my own, although I don’t always calls the actions done in the name of national security my own, I do apologize to you for what happened. I know I would have been scared, and I would have cried. And I love to see your babies! Please feel free to come look at mine, anytime.
    .-= GingerB´s last blog ..Hippo Session 5 =-.

    Abby July 21, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Wow. How awful and upsetting. I can’t even imagine being in that situation. I have nothing constructive to add to the discussion, but I just wanted to offer my support. And also to say I’ve noticed a trend toward bloggers apologizing for various complaints that aren’t “important” or “worthy” enough & I think that’s bullshit. Yes, there are worse things happening in the world. But that doesn’t mean this wasn’t an awful experience that you have every right to share. I’d be feeling pretty upset & sorry for myself, too!

    JackiYo July 21, 2010 at 9:58 am

    BIG HUGS! I would have been freaked the freak out, too. So many issues with what happened to you. I was going to add more to my comment, but I’m traveling from Toronto to San Fran soon and need not be ‘flagged’ by homeland security!

    Love you. Love your kids. Cuteness! And I hope to meet you at Blissdom in CANADA :)

    Backpacking Dad July 21, 2010 at 10:05 am

    The Mohawk reservation I’m from straddles the Canada-U.S. border, so going through Canadian and American customs was a near-daily event for us. Going to the movies? Border crossing. Going to Wal-Mart? Border crossing.

    The rez is not known for its laid-back attitude toward the Canadian or American governments, nor for its respect for anti-smuggling laws. So whenever I visit, despite all the practice I’ve had with border crossings, I still get nervous. This time, surely, will be the crossing that gets me thrown in a cell for something insane; some officer on his first or last day will decide to exercise his “judgment” about my looks or the fact that I carry two passports, claim to be Mohawk, but reside in California while driving a car across from Canada where I say I’m visiting my father.

    Despite that border crossing being especially worth vigilance, the only problem I’ve ever had was crossing into Canada from Detroit. The citizenship question, and my answer, “dual”, seemed to baffle the customs agent and so she pulled us over to search the car. Emily, always one to mouth-off to authority figures committing injustices, asked: “You doing searches on everyone today or are we just special?”

    And I swear to God, the customs agent looked straight-faced at us, and said in a total deadpan: “We’re customs. We look through things. That’s what we’re aboot.” In all my years in Canada I’d never actually heard someone say “aboot” other than in self-mocking jest. It made her precious.

    I guess all I want to say is that if customs agents can’t even get their head around CITIZENSHIP niceties, which is definitely part of their purview, then it’s too much to ask that they know what the Internet does.
    .-= Backpacking Dad´s last blog ..A Day At The Beach =-.

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2010 at 11:14 am

    You make an EXCELLENT point.

    Cristie July 21, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Um, I’m still so dang exited that you forged on that day because I got to hug you.:) So,as much as I love a good argument today I obviously have nothing but positive comments.
    I will say this-I think it is definitely “doofi”. You know the latin plural of dufus.
    Thank you for never being afraid to share all of you-even the vulnerable. Heck, even if all you share is how afraid you are to share it still makes me stop and ponder and think, which is never bad.
    .-= Cristie´s last blog ..The Kids are Alright =-.

    kelly @kellynaturally July 21, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    There are plenty of people who don’t know what Mom/my blogging is. Even people who are well aware of & involved in the internets. It is a subgenre of a genre that some people just plainly don’t devote time to (that is, blog writing/reading). I don’t think customs agents in general spend much time cruising the MommyBlogOSphere.

    Also of note, many Mom/my bloggers don’t know how Mom/my Blogging can make money.

    FWIW, the day it happened to you, I’d just heard a story on NPR about increased CA-US border crossing security due to drug trafficking issues. With all the violence going on at the MEX-US border, perhaps the hyper-vigilance has crossed over to our Northern border too.

    All that aside, I’m so sorry you were frightened. That just stinks, regardless of the reasons or excuses or whathaveyou. :(

    And, always love seeing photos of your kiddos.
    .-= kelly @kellynaturally´s last blog ..Going Vegan =-.

    Mandy July 21, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    I too am embarrassed by my country… harassing an innocent mom-blogger! *blush* I love to read your blog, and it’s amazing how even in an entry where you claim to be dodging due to some self-perceived cowardice, you still point your finger squarely at the issues on your mind, the issues that arise from pondering those issues, and fearlessly open the floor. This is why you can be a professional mom-blogger. And I always love pics of your babies. :)

    I would have been terrified, just to tears. For that matter, I was both scared and indignant when, traveling domestically, I was pulled out of the security line for a full search and patdown. I was wearing my baby. They patted her down and even checked her diaper before being willing to hand her off to her daddy. When I got done being shaken, I was furious. And compared to what you went through, that was minor. So yeah, wow. Embarrassed. Great job US! *blush*

    kgirl July 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    My only thought is that one never tells US customs that they are travelling for business unless one has a work visa in their hand. Period. I travel to trade shows and conferences for work, but I say that I am attending. Not exhibiting, meeting, speaking, blogging or anything else. Just attending. Why invite trouble? I get enough of it already because I look so ‘ethnic.’
    .-= kgirl´s last blog ..Makeover =-.

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    I am totally following that advice from now on.

    Alice July 21, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Anyone who is idiotic and stupid enough to have been one of the people you reference here: “and already there is murmuring and grumbling about who the hell cares and she probably deserved it and it probably had nothing to do with mom blogging and she wouldn’t last five minutes in Saudi Arabia!” is so stupid and idiotic that you should ban them from commenting forever.

    Seriously – there are ways to ban people, and the asshats that always blame the victim deserve to be banned.

    I honestly feel like finding them and smacking them. Hard.

    This world is hard enough to live in because of all the jackasses in power who harrass people for no good reason, but then to have to put up with the people who would come to your site and blame you for the actions of the jackasses, there’s no need for that. Ban those jerks.

    Rhonda July 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I have been in similar situations and once I worked through the shock and the anger and the feeling of being violated, it is a valuable touchstone. A good reminder of what it feels like for others who are in similar, sometimes much worse, situations. I do feel for you though — you probably didn’t need that experience to better empathise!

    verybadcat July 21, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    i just wanna say a few things.

    1. as someone who cried like a baby and had a panic attack when she got in trouble with the TSA for leaving a pre-gate vitamin water in her purse at Logan, i think your freak out puts you in EXCELLENT company. ;)

    2. as someone who has dated a border patrol agent, and who “overwhelmed” said border patrol agent (and how does a cute little woman overwhelm a federal agent with a service weapon?!), i can verify that they are total dorks and more importantly, wussies that are afraid of women of our caliber.

    3. i think it has less to do with the threat that mommybloggers pose and more to do with being quite a force to reckon with if you were so motivated. ;) you ladies put Hezbollah to shame.

    4. you have beautiful babies, a gift for writing, and are apparently a big enough deal that your sweet ass is detained at international borders.

    5. i call for a nurse in. say what? ;)
    .-= verybadcat´s last blog ..What’s In A Name… =-.

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    sadly, these boobs aren’t made nursin’ anymore. otherwise, I’d be all over sticking a baby to them right at Customs ;)

    norm July 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Oof! Please don’t feel guilty for not writing about something you don’t want to write about. This space is yours. Thanks for letting us chip in!

    And to perhaps provide a chuckle, I’ve been halfway around the world and the only immigration checkpoints I’ve ever been subjected to hostile and embarrassing questioning and underwear through-searching have been in Canada. I kind of expect this to happen, though, on account of the fact that I’m usually travel with weird stuff in my possession, so it was not totally surprising or shocking. Never fails to grump me out though. You leave my boxers alone, eh, pervert?

    Uma July 23, 2010 at 2:04 am

    I had an unpleasant experience with US officials while traveling to Canada via the US too. This was some time ago and then I read about the Canadian Indian author Rohinton Mistry having such a horrific time on his US book tour that he canceled it. Sadly it’s quite a common experience.

    Kiki July 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    In 1952, when my dad was 15, he took a cross-country bicycle trip with his friend (! in and of itself), and they decided to visit Canada for a couple of days. No problems getting into Canada at all, but upon their return to the US, my dad made the fatal mistake of answering truthfully when the customs agent asked him where he was born – which was Trondheim, Norway. He had been here over 10 years and had no discernible accent apart from his New Englander one, but he didn’t have a drivers license on him so while his friend was free to go, he was told to stay. And my poor dad, 15-year old scared kid, was interrogated for hours by two customs agents who clearly had too much time on their hands and too little intelligence to see that a 15 year-old kid was not a threat to them or the USA in any way (no weapons, no plans hidden in his sleeves – because they CHECKED, no communist plot, nothing). Or maybe they just liked making a young teenager scared out of his wits. My dad was the most easygoing guy I ever knew, but he still got pissed until the day he died whenever he told that story. In the end, they let him go, but not before he learned the same lesson you just learned: that US Custom agents have always been, are, and always will be, complete and total assholes. I’m sorry you had to go through that as well.

    Kristen July 26, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    I remember reading your tweets in horror. And then I remember seeing someone online take a poke at your reaction. And I remember thinking how petty and lame that person was. If that had happened to me, I would have been in tears, too. Custom agents can be assholes, but jealous and judgey bloggers can be even bigger assholes.

    Sorry you had to deal with both.

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