Thursday’s Dish: Interview with Kim Lane, the Original Austin Mama

Kim Lane is the editor of my favorite food magazine, Edible Austin. She also started the website AustinMama.com, which featured the fresh, honest voices of parents talking about the real challenges of parenthood before Dooce even thought about having a baby and writing about it on “the internets.”

Kim’s also a writer, whose work has appeared in such places as Salon, Pregnancy magazine and several anthologies, plus she’s an occasional contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered, where, she says gleefully, “one of her commentaries once garnered more listener hate mail than the producer had ever seen.” She writes poetry that’ll bring you to your knees and make you call your own mama.

Besides all that, she’s probably saved more mothers’ collective sanity than anyone in the greater Austin area, including therapists, through the AustinMamas listserv, an offshoot of AustinMama.com. A few LiveMom contributors, including myself, are longtime members, and I know that I would not be half as good a parent today as I am without the wisdom, commiseration, love and support of the mamas on that list.

So, yes, I’m a fan of Kim Lane. She also happens to make the best roasted pumpkin seeds ever and shared her recipe with us (see below).

LiveMom: You have older kids now. What’s your favorite thing to do in Austin with them?

Kim Lane: I  have two 12-year-olds and one 17-year-old, but all are due to bump up a year in the next couple of months. My favorite thing to do with them is to try very, very hard to understand why they do and say the things they do and resist shaving their heads (my patented threat) in the process. I kid. Sort of. We’re homebodies, though. We like to eat out together … hit the Alamo Drafthouse … see live music at kid-friendly venues.

LiveMom: What was the impetus for starting AustinMama.com?

Kim Lane: I was just sick to death of the glossies and the information and advice that was out there for mothers. Is your baby smart enough? How to lose those pesky last 15 pounds! 5 tips to erase every trace that you’ve ever given birth and bring that heat back into the bedroom! Sigh. It was just so insulting, demeaning and useless … and continues to be. Where were the This job SUCKS a LOT of the time! and What the hell happened to my life?and I don’t think I like my toddler. articles? I knew those sentiments were out there.

Granted, this was 2000, though, just before the momoir genre exploded and the mama bloggers came onto the scene to help permanently rattle the cages of what it means to be mama. Salon.com had just rocked our world with their groundbreaking Mothers Who Think section of the site, and many of us sat up late at night breast-feeding and yelling “HELL YES!” at the screen. Then they rolled that awesome section into the ambiguous Life section and … well … sigh anew. I started thinking that something similar to Mothers Who Think, but with a local flavor and local voices, might be the next step in my personal mama Renaissance. I cobbled together some of my favorite writers and voices, threw together a website and launched AustinMama.com on 10/11/01.

LiveMom: How did you build the community?

Kim Lane: It’s been a pretty organic process. We were extremely lucky to be able to feature some of my favorite voices in our weekly roundup, like Marion Winik, Spike Gillespie, Steven J. Lyons, Marrit Ingman, Diane Fleming, Robin Bradford, etc. And the then-local artist Sarah Higdon graciously let us include her raw, comical, often-disturbing art to grace our pages. Those pictures make me SO happy, even today.

The visuals and voices drew the eyes and attention. We won some “Best of” awards from the Austin Chronicle a couple of years in a row and the AustinMama bulletin boards were pretty active. One thing became very clear very fast, though, and that was that the boards weren’t offering the privacy and safety that members sought in order to fully open up and talk about the hard and real stuff of family and parenting. So I moved the interactive part of the site to a private listserv, and invited all of the current board members to join.

We started the AustinMamas listserv with about 35 mamas that week. With the new layer of security, membership grew rapidly and continues to grow. We’re currently at just over 2,500 members. I am so unbelievably proud of, fiercely protective of, and attached to, this online community—odd as that may sound to say of something that exists in cyberspace. There’s not a topic we haven’t discussed over the years; we are not afraid of the warts of this job, and we celebrate the magic and sacredness of it as well, every day. We’ve lost babies together, lost members together, lost marriages, witnessed and responded to cries for help, sprung to action when needed, welcomed new lives, held out nets during crisis, showed up with food unannounced and offered a kind of support that I’ve never encountered anywhere else in my life.  We also cuss. A lot. But we laugh … a LOT, too. We don’t shy away from the irreverent, unusual or challenging—in fact, this community seems to blossom with acceptance, tolerance and commiseration in the face of such.

Along the way, deep friendships have been forged – a few of my most favorite people in the whole world I met through the list. And, over the years, a couple of members have stepped forward to help grow and maintain the integrity and spirit of the list, like first and foremost super-human moderator (and one of the very first AustinMama.com board members), Jenny Medford, for damned sure, who never ceases to amaze me with her ability to swoop in and set things right with as little bloodshed as possible, and Dr. Ruth Shear, who singlehandedly keeps track of Austin Red Tent, our community outreach program for mamas in need. There are many more who help keep the lines drawn for the listserv and take on an ownership in keeping it haven-like. I’m not sure it would work any other way.

LiveMom: Has it helped you become a better parent? How?

Kim Lane: Oh… wow. “Yes” seems so inadequate. How about this: It has no less than saved my sanity many, many times over the years. I know that sounds dramatic, but the force of so many souls pulling for you, checking on you, listening to you, KNOWING you … is a life changer for sure. It feels like we’ve raised a generation of Austin children as one—together.
Another glorious thing about the listserv, and this is peripherally related, is that the silly things we humans have been known to use to judge and make assumptions about one another (our appearances, our race, our age, our socioeconomic level, blah, blah, blah) are almost absent on the listserv. Percentage-wise, I’ve met very few AustinMamas face to face, but I know a huge swath of them through their voices. Couldn’t tell you what kind of car they drive, what they look like or what part of town they live in, though, and that’s the real beauty to me … to have an opportunity to pare down our human condition, take away the distracting bits that lead us to make stupid, poor assumptions about each other and, instead, interact on a more pure, soulful level—one based solely on our voices, our intellect, our compassion and our thoughts. What a gift.

LiveMom: How did you get involved with Edible Austin?

Kim Lane: I was recommended by the out-going editor, applied for the job and joined the team in ‘08.Advertisement
LiveMom: What’s your favorite thing about working with foodies?

Kim Lane: Foodies are a interesting lot—some are intensely passionate and no-nonsense, but I find the majority have a decent sense of humor and don’t take themselves nearly as seriously as some would assume. I love to cook, so I love learning their secrets.

LiveMom: Why do you think Austinites are so interested in food?

Kim Lane: I think we’re trying very hard to establish our city as a food destination. It’s happening, slowly, but I think we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. We did have a head start with the organic/whole/green/local movement, though, and now that those things are in the spotlight, it’s helping pull us along.

LiveMom: Where’s your favorite place to eat?

Kim Lane: Ooooo… not tellin’.

LiveMom: How have you been modifying your cooking/time in the kitchen this summer?

Kim Lane: Easy: cooking as little as possible. This summer was brutal and we should move on as quickly as possible.

LiveMom: Share a recipe?

Kim Lane: Sure! Since we’re moving towards October and cooler weather, I’ll share one of my favorite Halloween-time recipes.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Creative Commons License photo credit: jaxzin

Baked Pumpkin Seeds

This recipe originally came from my dear friend Kayci Wheatley (of all-local boutique Moxie fame). I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit over the years, but she will always get credit for being the Seed Sensei.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Pull 8 cups of seeds from several large pumpkins – pull straight from the pumpkin with goo and juice intact, but avoiding strings, and place in a large bowl. Important! Do NOT rinse the seeds!

or

If fresh seeds are unavailable, use 8 cups pre-roasted/salted, snow-white pumpkin seeds from the bulk section of Sun Harvest or HEB  (although these won’t turn out NEARLY as good as the fresh pumpkin seeds).

Add to the bowl one block of salted Plugra brand European butter (equals two sticks), melted, and salt to taste (test taste after adding butter as there may be enough salt without adding more). Stir to mix.

Spread seeds evenly on a large, sided cookie sheet, place in the lower part of the oven and bake for several hours or overnight depending on your oven, stirring occasionally. Seeds are ready when they are light brown (but not burned) and pleasantly crispy. Fresh seeds will be a bit darker when ready.

Hide the delicious cooked seeds from children and visitors, because, really … why can’t they just make their own?

Photo Credit: Katherine O’Brien

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