Tag Archives: blogging

From over here in the cheap seats

I am one of those crazy whackjobs who – when attending a conference – actually goes to sessions.

On Saturday, I went to a session called Where’s the Line of the Lie: Storytelling, Memoir, and Poetic License.  I went because I thought, “Hey!  What I write is memoir.  I tell stories.  This ought to be interesting.”  Well, it kinda was and it kinda wasn’t.  The panelists were good and funny and all of that, although it was weird that they chose Julie Marsh for the session, given that she kept saying she scrupulously avoids writing about the personal and sticks to the political or religion.  Don’t get me wrong, she was interesting, I’m just not sure why they chose someone who doesn’t write about her life for a memoir panel.

“Well, because she’s a popular blogger,” someone told me.

I heard a lot of this over the weekend – popular, A list, big… whatever the term, there was a line drawn between the famous bloggers and us unwashed masses.  It was like being in middle school all over again, except no one tried to cop a feel by brushing up against me in the hallway.  Mores the pity.

The conference did a nice job of creating space for a few smaller bloggers, but the first three sessions I attended were all paneled by Big Time Bloggers, despite the fact that they weren’t always the best choices.

Bear with me – there is a point here.

Then I went to a fantastic panel called “Little Fish in a Big Pond: Understanding, Accepting, and Loving Your Small Blog.”  I missed the first half hour because I was unconscious in my room, recovering from the hideous, hyena, fishwife of a woman, but when I arrived, the panel had already taken a turn.  People were eagerly sharing stories of how to improve blog stats by making people accidentally end up on your site or how to change your focus so more people will read you.

So, because I have a big fucking mouth, I stood up and said, “My blog is called Wheels on the Bus.  I get a lot of visits because of that title, but those people don’t stick around.  I’ve been blogging for three-and-a-half years, and I’m not a big blogger.  I could do giveaways and get sponsors and spend all day commenting on other people’s blogs so that they would come to my blog and maybe make myself bigger, but I’m not going to do that.  Yes, we’re little fish in the big pond of blogging, but blogging is a very little pond in a very big world.  I made a choice not to immerse my life so fully in it.  And sometimes it’s really hard for me because I’m a writer and I am not getting the response and there are times I am jealous of the bigger bloggers, but I’m not compromising my principles.”

OK, maybe I didn’t say it exactly like that.  But I basically said I am not going to try to sell people crap on my blog, even if it means I only have about twelve-and-a-half readers.

The next woman who stood up was awesome (if anyone knows who it was, please tell me).  What she said was that maybe some of us have small blogs because we’re busy throwing our kids birthday parties instead of staging birthday parties that we can blog about.  Whoever you are lady, you rock.

This was all in response to Nora, a panelist, who said, “Look, in this room, we all know who Dooce is.  She’s famous to us.  But we shouldn’t forget that there are millions of people who have no idea who the fuck she is.”  Maybe Nora didn’t say “fuck,” because she’s kinda classy, but I think everything sounds better with a “fuck” thrown in.

Nora also rocks.

I think blogging has changed an awful lot over the last few years.  Twitter and Facebook have taken over the conversations that used to be happening between all the small, personal blogs out there, and blogging has been commodified. Someone figured out how to make money out of it, and now the Big A List Popular bloggers are getting a lot of attention.  It started as a place for free exchange of ideas, and it ended up as a way to sell laundry detergent.

BUT, I think there is still space for us little people.  The ones who just want to use the internet for free speech, uncensored by the powers of the marketplace.  Blogging is not dead, but we are being made to think there is something horrible about being small.  I think maybe the awesome lady who commented about the birthday parties might have said that, too.

So, for all the little bloggers I found, I am going to do a little poll of my readers.  You may actually know who Dooce is, but I want to know if you know who The Bloggess is.  (This is not a diss on The Bloggess, who is eight kinds of cool mixed with mayo.)  Please, leave a comment on this post and answer the following two questions:

1)   Are you a part of the “blogging community”?  (In other words, do you read lots of blogs or blog yourself?  Or do you only read a couple of blogs?)

2)   Had you ever heard of The Bloggess prior to reading this post?

Please, even if you don’t usually comment, do so this time.  I really want to know.  And I really want the small bloggers who feel like they are in the shadow of bigger bloggers to know, too.

Goodbye, farewell, and amen

Three years ago, I was a newbie blogger.  I didn’t know much about this medium, and I was still trying to figure out how to find readers.  I stumbled upon Julie’s Hump Day Hmmm.  I wrote a very personal, very difficult post, and posted a link on Julie’s blog.  Many of Julie’s readers left me lovely comments, and I went to read their blogs, thereby forming relationships with other bloggers. Instantly, I had found a community of readers.

One blogger left a comment both for me and for Julie.  Her comment on Julie’s list of posts was “Emily’s post knocked me flat and I haven’t gotten up since.”  I remember this three years later for two reasons.  One, I remember shit like that, which is either annoying or impressive, depending upon whether you like to be quoted back to yourself twelve years later.  Two, that comment was the encouragement I needed to keep writing, to envision myself a blogger and then a writer.

That commenter was Sarah, once Slouching Towards Forty, but now a few years Slouching Past Forty.  What can I say?  We all get older.

Sarah has been a friend and a colleague these three years.  She and I read each other (although as you know, lately I suck at reading blogs).  We email, we’ve even exchanged voicemails, but with five kids between us, we never seem to catch one another in. She is a remarkable writer, adept especially at imagery.  Perhaps too lofty a writer for this medium of click-and-click-away.

This week Sarah posted her very last post.

She has her personal reasons for leaving blogging, I am sure.  But to me, it is the end of an era.  The bloggers who started with me are drifting away, and while new bloggers are finding me, I feel like the curmudgeon in the corner grumbling, “Folks sure ain’t what they used to be.”  There are a few of us left – just a few – who have been at this for years, but with Chani’s death and Sarah’s exodus, my online world feels a little emptier.

My grandfather once wrote a poem about growing older that chronicled how one feels at each decade.  All the wrote for being an octogenarian was, “Did you ever feel you’ve stayed too long at the party?”

Yes, Grandpa, sometimes I do.

But, I’m still here, still clutching a paper cup with beer, standing in the corner, watching my friends head for the exit.

Two cheeks to the wind

There is much I want to write about.  But I can’t, because as Zachary gets older, his privacy becomes more and more of a serious issue.  Already, I don’t use my children’s real names around here.  I make a point of never posting photos.  I may be comfortable hanging my ass out in the wind to be viewed by the various and sundry who come along, but I try hard to respect the privacy of my children.

I Googled myself last week and quite a bit came up.  I am, if you must know, highly Googleable.  I have to be if I want anyone to know about my writing.  Now that we live in a small town, I have to be much more cautious about what I say about my family, because we are much easier to find than we were when we lived in Los Angeles.

My family is nuts.  My family of origin, I mean.  And while most of them are the harmless kind of nuts that just hates me but would never hurt my kids, there are a couple with a proven history of hurting kids.  I think my children need to be even less searchable than they already are.

I took their pictures down from Facebook.  I know I can set privacy settings, but that then leaves the job of keeping them safe in the hands of whoever the hell runs Facebook.  How do I know what Facebook really does with my information or when someone will compromise that particular site?

I walk a fine line between needing to be very much out there in public and keeping my kids shielded.  That line is complicated by the fact that I write about my kids, and there are often things I would like to masticate in public that I instead decide to leave alone.  You’ll notice nothing particularly intimate comes up here unless I am the only party involved.  I am willing to tell you all about my failings as a parent or share anecdotes that are more or less generic, but I am cautious when it comes to many, many things.

So, you’ll never truly get to know all there is about my kids by reading my work.  If you really want to get to know me, keep reading, because that’s my ass you see waving around.

(Or, come to BlogHer, because I just registered for the conference.  Um, y’all will talk to me there, right?  Because I’m a little nervous, and I don’t own any fancy shoes.)

Tipsy

I do not drink alcohol when I am pregnant or breastfeeding.  Now, keep in mind that I have been trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding since 2003, with only a few months off here or there.  It seems that as soon as I regain custody of my tatas from one child, I relinquish rights to my womb to another.

What all this means is that – when I finally do wean Lilah – I am going to be a mighty cheap date.

I miss drinking.  I do.  Not in the I-need-a-drink-before-I-begin-ripping-of-my-fingernails-and-howling-at-the-moon kind of way.  More in the wouldn’t-a-glass-of-wine-every-now-and-then-be-lovely kind of way.  I was just never that heavy a drinker before, although I had my mid-twenties like everyone else.  By the time I was trying to get pregnant, I was largely over hard liquor.  I just didn’t need that nasty, bile-filled kind of feeling in my belly.

Beer?  I am just going to say it, even though it means Anheuser-Busch will probably pull my sponsorship.  Beer tastes disgusting.  I cannot believe anyone likes it.  I am to this day convinced it is an Emperor-has-new-clothes type of phenomenon, with people just faking a desire to drink that swill in order to impress others, who in turn are afraid to admit their uncool antipathy towards sharp, carbonated liquid that smells like piss.

But I like wine. Red wine, to be precise.  Shiraz.  Merlot.  Brunello.  I am no sommelier (that’s, like, a wine expert), but I know what I like.  Remember that my father did write the definitive book on building one’s own wine cellar.  I may think he’s an ass, but I obviously inherited something from him other than the dashing good looks and the propensity to over-think things.

When Lilah weans, I will clean out those dusty glasses that hang out on the top shelf of my cabinet and sometimes pour myself a small glass of wine while I make dinner.  Actually, it will be a big glass because I like the way the large glasses breathe, but there won’t be much wine in it.  I am taking care of three kids.  I am cooking.  I’m not an idiot.  But, I don’t think a few sips of wine when I am not driving anywhere will hurt anyone.

Nor do I think an occasional glass of wine at dinner sets a bad example.  To the contrary – I worry that my kids don’t get enough of an example of a responsible way to handle alcohol.  I am relieved my father-in-law does sometimes have a drink around the kids, so they can see that adults have a first glass now and then without needing to have a second glass.

Everything in moderation, folks.  Everything in moderation.  Show your kids that alcohol can be used responsibly – I’m all for that.  Enjoy an adult beverage, because, shit, you’re an adult.

Should you get behind the wheel of a car after drinking?  Hell, no.  We make a show of one adult asking the other, “Will you drive home?” before even ordering a drink.  Should you get sloshed in front of your kids?  Absolutely not, and if you are, then I think perhaps seeking some help is in order.  In fact, I sort of think that getting piss drunk and waking up with someone else’s panties on ought to be behavior reserved for weekends away from the children.  A drunk adult would be useless during a middle-of-the-night fire, and parents have to think about the safety of their kids.

I am thrilled that the blogosphere has given those who need it a safe place to admit they need help.  I am also angry that the Mommy Bloggers are being attacked for writing about drinking.  There is no shame in wanting a drink now and again.  There is nothing wrong with referencing alcohol in one’s writing as a way of bemoaning the stress of parenting and the wish that perhaps we were young and hip again.  Because we’re not.  We’re old farts with little screaming people to take care of.  And sometimes, we’re allowed to go out with our girlfriends for a drink.

Or, in my case, a quarter of a drink, since any more than that and I’m likely to start swinging from the light fixtures.

The pledge

It’s late at night, and I oughtn’t be writing.  I ought to be sleeping.  But I have something I need to say.  Please forgive a post written in haste and not in the least polished.

I was leaving the YMCA parking lot a few months ago, and I put my little token into the machine that lifts the barrier to let me out.  To my surprise, the machine returned my token AND lifted the barrier.  Score – one dollar saved.

But, then, I started to think about it, and I realized that I had taken a dollar from the coffers of the YMCA, and there is probably a special circle of hell reserved for those who do such things.  So, the next time I was in the Y, I gave the guy at the front desk a buck and explained the situation.  “Wow,” he said, “thanks for being honest.”

“Dude, when I sell out my integrity, it is going to be for a lot more than a dollar,” I replied.

Of course, I don’t really have a lot of offers to sell out for more cash.  I am sort of a nobody.  I am not a government official, a celebrity, or even particularly good-looking.  No one particularly wants my honor.

And, so, when someone commented on my last post, “Have you really taken the pledge? Because you are exactly and clearly the kind of person who doesn’t even need it,” I am forced to admit that she is right.  I would like to take it as a compliment, along the lines of: “You are so darned honorable that you don’t need to pledge to remain so.”  But the fact is, no one is offering me much to compromise my integrity in the first place.

I have, what, a few hundred readers?  Considerably fewer if you subtract my husband’s nine gazillion relatives who so supportively read my blog.  I am not the chick the marketers really care to get their hands on.  And, yes, that makes me sad, because I like to think my writing is good and people want to read it.  But the fact is that only so many people have found me, and most of those are people I read in return.

We are a community, and that part I do like.  But, I am wistful and wish that I could be one of those people who folks read just because they like my work.  I do wish I were reaching thousands, not hundreds.  I wish those thousands were flocking here because they like what they get.

And what they get is honesty.

Now and then, I am contacted to attend an event or get something free.  The problem is, when I go to an event, I feel obligated to write something positive about it.  I feel like it is part of the bargain, and I feel terrible about letting my side down.  But then, I also feel like a shit for selling something that I might not myself have purchased.

OK, so part of my problem is clearly that I have Jewish guilt.  My grandmothers would be proud.

The other part of my problem is that I want you all to know, as my kids know, that what you are getting here is pure honesty.  I am more or less a failed writer and a SAHM.  I have little to offer the world: I am not helping pay the bills, I am not feeding starving children, I am not solving the healthcare crisis.  I’m not even entertaining a large audience.  All I have to offer up to the world is my honesty and my honor.

And, so, yes, I did take the pledge.  Because yesterday’s post was hard for me to write.  I was grateful for the invitation to the event and I felt terrible being in any way negative.  But, the minute I start glossing over my thoughts and reactions, then this blog loses the only thing it has going for it.

That badge is there because, despite the fact that few people are approaching me with free stuff, I want to make it clear where I stand.  If I go to an event, if I accept something free, there is no commitment on my part to try to sell something to my friends and readers.  This may be why, by the way, I get so few offers…

When the time comes to sell out my integrity, I am going to ask a hell of a higher price than a free DVD or tickets to the circus.

I can’t believe it myself

            Yesterday was my two-year blogoversary, and if I have earned anything in the past 24 months, it is that one should not bother to post anything on Memorial Day, because there are only three people and a crocus reading blogs on the Monday of a holiday weekend.  Perforce, I have saved this post for today, when someone might actually see it.

            I think we can safely label this a mommy blog, given the amount of time I have devoted to writing about excrement – it won’t come, it won’t go in the toilet, it comes to one child while another is having a tantrum and I am feeding the third, and on and on and on.  Poop is a giant part of my life right now – Benjamin needs less fruit and more in the form of bananas; Lilah is not allowed to have any bananas and needs regular dosings of spinach and prune juice; how the hell does Zach manage to poop at all, given that he eats nothing but bread; and why is my husband always away from home when all three children do it at the same time?

            There is more to my mothering than wiping asses, of course.  I had to interrupt writing this post to go tend to the kidney beans I was cooking on the stove, because Benjamin loves them there kidney beans and I am trying to cut us back on canned goods (BPA), processed foods (too much soy), sugar (because it is crazy making), and salt (duh).  Oh, and meat.  Of course, considering the aforementioned poop, perhaps I should also be cutting Benjamin back on beans.

            However, the reason I blog is that, in addition to being very patient with my need to tell innumerable stories about my children, this is the place where people recognize me as a person beyond my kids.  A year ago, I posted that I was beginning to feel like a writer.  Now, I feel less like one.  The economy has tanked, and the book isn’t getting placed anytime soon.  I did have two articles accepted last week, a tiny start in the scaffolding I will need to construct to scale the side of the publishing world and drop my manuscript in from the top-story window.  Nonetheless, in most of my life, I feel like a sham claiming to be a writer.  Y’all help me retain a shred of that delusion, for which I should either thank you or send you a bill for the anti-hallucinatory drugs I clearly need.

            Twitter annoyed me, Facebook is a nice way to stay in touch with friends, my television sits dormant when my husband is out of town except for a daily episode of The Wonder Pets, I am still trying to figure out how to use my iphone for musical purposes, and my children have no toys that light up or make sounds. (We like to make the kids do the playing.)  Hell, I don’t even turn the lights on in my house or use the dryer (we love in Southern California; that’s what sunshine is for).  I’m just one sledgehammer away from being a Luddite.  But, blogging?  Blogging sustains me and helps me hold onto my identity.

            And so I thank you, once again, for bearing with me and sticking around, even though I never comment as much as I would like on your blogs.  I thank you for holding my hand through my excruciating parenting moments.  I thank you for reading my twelve gazillion posts on Proposition 8, even though you live in Massachusetts.  I thank you for seeing me as a person, not just a set of lactating mammary glands and a minivan.

            As my blogoversary gift, please leave a comment today, even if you never have or are not the commenting type.  Tell me something interesting about you: maybe the title of your favorite book, which baseball team you root for, the greatest television theme song, or the best use for five frozen jars of kidney beans.  Or just say “hi.”

            Let’s do it again next year.

Name that blog

Yesterday, I reached in my back pocket and pulled out a British coin.  That’s because I hadn’t worn those trousers since we lived in London.  Which is my way of saying I am fitting into clothes that I last wore before I got pregnant with Lilah.  Either the breastfeeding is starting to pay off or the flu I had two weeks ago had some side benefits.

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I am going to start a book review blog.  It’s going to be super cool because I will be writing about books in much the same way I write about everything else.  So, it might be just a little irreverent or edgy and certainly won’t be anything you’d find in the NY Times (sad to say, because I’d love to be found in the NY Times).  But, I need a name for this blog.  So, please, tell me what to call my book review blog.  Think of a kickin’ title, because I suck at titles (except for the article I wrote about Dreiser’s anxiety about the theater, which I titled “Performance Anxiety” — that was a good title.)