A short history of me and the Internet, with digressions

In my postgrad year, when I did a fairly pointless business course mostly because my best friend suggested it, I got my first email account. My friend and I would sit two chairs apart in the library and send each other emails addressed to Gorilla Features and Borscht-for-Brains and giggle at our wit. I took an Information Studies elective in which I did a project on newspapers on the Internet. The papers were just starting to get an internet presence, generally by having a PDF of their pages online. It was all very basic, is what I’m saying. I think we used Word 2.0 back then.

About a year later I got my proper job, with computers and internet access. There was no such thing as a firewall, but then there was no such thing as Facebook either. You could still waste plenty of company time faffing about on the web. A helpful co-worker put together an intranet site for our department that contained a few fun outside links: one was to a thing called a forum. I took a look and was hooked by all these smart people talking about things I didn’t understand and/or was fascinated by, in ways that were witty and clever and new to me.

I lurked on forums and discussion boards with funny names that had nothing to do with their content. I read Wing Chun and Glark and Damn Hell Ass Kings and Tomato Nation. I watched Buffy and Angel and read the recaps the next day at Television Without Pity. I vaguely thought about starting a blog, because it sounded exciting, like a very small and private sort of exhibitionism, like when I’d do cartwheels in the deserted streets at night.

I learned how to be civil on the Internet from the older and wiser posters on those forums. I learned how to be a feminist and how to apologise and just listen when I’d said something stupid. I mostly just watched and learned. I discovered a whole new dialect of Internet-speak, full of memes before we knew what memes were, and running jokes and inside references and blah blah blah fishcakes.

I was reading when one of the people on the boards couldn’t find her boyfriend because he’d been in one of the twin towers on 9/11/2001. This was real life, real people, thousands of miles away, connecting to each other with words on all our screens, sending love, and tears, and an odd, new sort of truth.

I moved to America. The urge to write down all the strangeness of emigrating to a life that’s simultaneously like and not like my old life got the better of me and I started a blog at Diaryland. It had a green background and no photos. It was anonymous, of course.

I read fitness blogs, though I was not fit. I read weightloss blogs, though I wasn’t losing weight. I read baby blogs though I wasn’t pregnant. They all had a good story arc, they kept me coming back. I read Amy‘s blog and Linda‘s blog and Heather‘s blog and others that I haven’t kept up with. I came back again and again to the writers whose words drew me in, who made me laugh and cry with their honesty and their bravery and their lives full of drama. I found Jessica and Leah and Kristin and their lives and their loves and their pregnancies and their cute, cute babies kept me coming back for more because they put their words together so well.

I blogged, in fits and starts. I moved to Blogger and eventually to WordPress. I blogged about the strangeness of living somewhere new. I blogged about being pregnant, having a newborn, breastfeeding, sleepless nights, babies who don’t like food, getting pregnant again, all of it again and again and again. People read my words. I found a community. I even went to BlogHer one year and met a whole lot of people in real life. Facebook happened and the lines between friends I’ve met and friends I haven’t met yet became more blurred.

I found a community of bloggers at home in Ireland, where blogging seemed to be just taking off, though it was changing too, with sponsored posts and competitions and freebies and a whole industry. A few of us ran a site called Parent.ie for a while and I wrote furiously there until it came to an end. The Irish bloggers connected me to home in a new way – now I didn’t just have old friends in Ireland, I had new friends in Ireland too.

But my children persisted in growing. The sleepless nights and the breastfeeding posts went on for a long time, replaced eventually by posts about selective eaters, vision therapy, dyslexia, defiance, birthday cakes, muffins, snow days, homework, baseball, cats, the seasons one after another and over again … you name it, I’ve blogged it. More than once. I started writing other things, in other places, with my real name on them. I started looking beyond what was right in front of me.

I think it’s coming time to call a halt. I think the urge to overshare is finally leaving me. I don’t need to win another Finalist badge. I think I could mothball the blog without regret. I could bundle it up, like a debs dress I might take out and try on from time to time, not to get rid of it but just to put it away as part of my past, because it’s done its job and it’s time to move on. My children’s stories are not mine to tell any more, the Internet is a different place, a little less safe, a little darker now; and my own story… well, I’ll do something else with that, turn it into something more interesting instead. It’s still a work in progress.

I’m not saying this is the end. I’m just saying it might be on the way. A change might be coming.

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Seventeen from ’17

17 from 17 linky Oh thank goodness, a writing prompt to get things moving here. Sadhbh at Where Wishes Come From (who has had an amazing year with the publication of her first book, Bí ag Spraoi Liom, which was featured prominently on the Late Late Toy Show dontcha know, and if you don’t understand any of that don’t worry, you’re not in Ireland) has done her annual review post, and here’s my contribution.

It’s a nice opportunity to look back at the year, both things I blogged about and things I didn’t, and to take a moment to think about it all. Head on over to Sadhbh’s and check out everyone else’s – and if you’re a blogger, add your own!

  1. Most popular post
    My most popular post from this year is one I wrote in no time at all, with very little thought applied – just a quick Snapshot of what i was doing just then, to get me out of a writing rut. Someone suggested I make it a linky, and then the whole thing spiralled a bit (as much as anything spirals on my tiny blog) and apparently it was more read than anything else.
    (My other popular posts this year were written earlier but are perennial favourites – Harry Potter wands and the Yoda cake. Also the Weaning post that brings me a lot of traffic from the Aha! Parenting site.)

2. Favourite post
I think I’ll give you this one, because it was fun to put together, even if nobody else listened to all the songs: Playlist of my Life. It was another linky, actually, from Nicola at Simply Homemade because when bloggers have good ideas they don’t keep them to themselves.

3. Favourite photo
I didn’t take this photo, and I only know two of the people in it, but it’s got to be up there. I took all my dad’s old photo albums back to America with me after my visit to clean out the house in September, and I’ve been making collages and photo books and scanning things since then. This photo is the first one in the book that has both my parents in it. On a ski holiday somewhere in Austria, probably – they’re the two on the outside of the picture. Little did they know, at that point, what the future held for them together.
Black and white photo from the 60s showing two women and two men

4. Best adventure
This was definitely my trip to Italy in July, solo, for my best friend’s wedding. I wrote about it a bit for you. It was all gorgeous, and adventurous not so much because of how far I went or what I did but because I did it alone, not as anyone’s mom or wife but as just me, for me.

5. Favourite craft
Hmm. Crafting. Hmm. I haven’t really been knitting this year, so baking is about the height of it. Does writing count? I do that a lot. I think I’ll count Mabel’s crafts, because she won a blue ribbon for her pig at the Labor Day Festival and I think it’s the loveliest pig ever.

Black ceramic pig

 

6. Most common theme
I’ve been thinking about this, and I can’t really identify a theme but I do feel that this year’s blogging was in a minor key. The whole year was, really. We faced some challenges on the home front, and I had some major moments on the personal front as my parents moved out of the house I grew up in and we cleared it out to sell it.

7. Favourite comments
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but all of them. If you not only read but also take the time to comment, it means more than you could imagine.

8. Favourite celebration
Sorry to repeat myself, but it was the wedding in Italy. It had been a long time coming, it was an event I’d always promised I’d be at, and I was so happy to be able to make that happen. And as weddings go, it was utterly utterly lovely.

9. My best move
Definitely, getting the cats. Which was a family move, but I have to admit it was mostly orchestrated by me. And they are the best, smooshiest, snoofliest cats yes you are.
Two ginger and white cats snuggling

10. Most emotional blogpost
I just made this category because the original one didn’t fit me and I wanted somewhere to put this post: Notes from the Airport. It’s about my mother.

11. Best blog moment
Let’s say it was being a finalist again in the Blog Awards Ireland, because that’s directly blog related, and it’s always lovely to feel appreciated.

12. Worst blog moment
Therefore here I have to say “Not winning”, even though it wasn’t terribly devastating. Having voluteered as a judge myself for the first time this year, I saw exactly how arbitrary the process really is, how the result could hinge on just one or two marks from one or two people whose personal taste didn’t coincide with yours… maybe it’ll be my year some other time.

13. Favourite title
I think I’ll choose Casting Off, because it was such a perfectly apt one for the moment in question. (If only I could have worked some sailing in there too.)

14. Favourite [blog] series
I’m cheating on this one and removing the word “blog” because I finished my self-published trilogy this year, so that has to be my favourite series of the year. I’m very proud of myself for writing it, though I do fear that sales suffer from the law of diminishing returns and I see very clearly why publishers don’t like series (unless you’re JK Rowling).

15. What I learned in 2017
That when you ask for help you will get it in abundance. It’s ok to ask. People want to help. The friends (and relations) who came to help me empty out my parents’ house in three days were amazing – it was a mountain I couldn’t possibly have scaled alone, but I put out the word and people came, and together it was perfectly possible.

16. What my blog did for me in 2017
As always, my blog worked best when it was a place for me to work through my own feelings. I process my experiences by writing about them, and especially at moments when thinking about my parents and the sale of my childhood home, my blog was there as my own personal therapist. If you were there too, thanks for reading.

Dun Laoghaire seafront at dawn, looking towards Sandycove

17. The biggest surprise of 2017
I’m a bit stumped here. That he who shall not be named is still president? That I finished my trilogy? That we have pets now? That parenting doesn’t necessarily get easier as the children get older? That Dash is a star pitcher and catcher? (I haven’t mentioned baseball but there was plenty of it.) That I went to Ireland twice for little more than a weekend? That cats can be this smooshy? Ooh, I saw Paul Simon play live, that was exciting. Let’s say that.

 

Quietly booming

Well, the Blog Awards were on Thursday night and I didn’t win, but it’s all right because Fionnuala did, with her lovely blog from Germany, and I’m happy that the judges went for a catch-all parenting/lifestyle blog not so unlike my own (though clearly superior), because in previous years I always felt that they wanted something very touristy or “diaspora-y” for the Diaspora category, which I couldn’t possibly give them.

Anyway, head over to Three Sons Later and give her some love, not least because she was kind enough to give me a shout-out when she won, and I’m pretty sure that has something to do with the way WordPress has just informed me that my “stats are booming!” (Booming for me is more of a gentle nudge. But appreciated nonetheless.)

While I’m at it, you should check out The Airing Cupboard and Office Mum and also Department of Speculation because I’m giving them my very own Awards For Being Excellent At This and Robbed and also Very Supportive Commenters and Lovely People. Not that they need my puny referrals, but for what it’s worth.


We’ve been talking about introverts lately. I finally picked up a copy of Quiet, by Susan Cain, which had been recommended by a friend ages ago, and though I’m not far into it yet, it’s fascinating and illuminating reading.

Labels are something that I’m wary of giving my children, because I don’t want them to become self-fulfilling prophecies, to create self-imposed limits – but sometimes it’s important to feel that you have a tribe, and that you’re not just a lone outlier. (Oh, the irony, if you’re talking about introverts.) And it’s been clear to me for a long time that Mabel is an introvert. Dash is an extrovert, that’s not hard to divine; and B and I are both on the introvert side of the scale too, but fairly social ones.

Mabel, I think, is more than that. She’s shy as well, but it was the way even as a toddler she’d need to decompress after a social event with a good old solo imaginary-play session at the dollhouse that really clued me in. She couldn’t just head to bed, no matter how late we’d been out – she had to spend a while playing first. These days she gives me the evil eye if I’m in the same room, and likes to keep the TV on so that I can’t hear the voices she’s doing, but the compulsion to play is just the same.

Yesterday we went to a start-of-year potluck picnic for Dash’s school. Dash was in his element, happily buzzing around with his classmates, old and new, and B and I were chatting quietly to a few parents and teachers. I was happy that Mabel had headed into the fray of children, rather than hanging out of me the whole time as she had done last year. But she wasn’t really enjoying herself, and after a reasonable length of time we ducked out. She was tired and tetchy and I was on the alert for a meltdown, so nothing untoward happened. But in the car on the way home I started telling them about the book I was reading.

A short description of the characteristics of introverts and extroverts had Dash and Mabel instantly placing themselves, and wanting to know more. When we got home, Mabel wanted me to read bits of the book to her. We talked a bit about how our society favours extroverts and tries to make everyone think they should behave in the most outgoing way possible, but that it’s perfectly good and excellent and fruitful to have a more quiet, withdrawn, thoughtful personality.

I think, just as much as finding out we could say Dash was dyslexic was a good thing, letting Mabel define herself as an introvert will be helpful too.

And it’s so much more socially acceptable than saying you just don’t like people very much.

2016-09-10-10-55-37

Connect

Blogging ain’t like it used to be.

I don’t know why. Well, I do. It’s not it, it’s me. It’s me, and it’s my kids. They’re people now. I can’t go whining about them on the Internet, because what they do is no longer unconscious behaviour, it’s not just because they’re a baby, it’s not all about me. It’s about them, and I can’t write about it if it’s not fun and funny, entertainment, light and fluffy and a quick boost for the reader on the bus. Don’t bring anybody down. Keep it easy. Take it handy.

Maybe I don’t have any readers on the bus. Maybe all my readers are people who know me anyway, who care about what I’m doing and how I’m feeling – but in that case I certainly can’t go airing my dirty laundry in public. Anonymity only goes so far.

When my daughter has a screaming fit of rage over something inconsequential, it drains me.

When my son ignores my request – telling – demand – shout – to stop doing the thing he’s doing until I physically remove him from the situation, it makes me angry. And guilty. And angry.

When I’m the one who always picks up the giant mess, I feel like a crappy parent because I got it all wrong.

When I make three dinners for four people, night after night, I wonder when they’ll grow out of it, and at what point I was meant to make it be different, and how that was meant to happen, and whether it was easier for everyone else or if I’m just particularly bad at it.

I don’t want to dwell on these feelings, because I’m mostly a positive person who doesn’t find it so hard to look at what I have done, at the good things, at my kids’ accomplishments and the times when they exceeded my expectations… but it’s all valid. The coin has two sides.

I feel this, and if I do, quite possibly you do too. My blog is not Pinterest perfect, Facebook happy, more than chirpy holiday snaps and snippets of hilarity as I show off my kids for their comedy charm and cuteness.

My blog is where it all hangs out – I tell you how insecure I’m feeling about my writing (hey, guess what, there are two spelling mistakes in the print version of the book, and I’m done with uploading corrections now) or how I worry about Dash’s dyslexia and how it will affect his future, how Mabel bit someone or how much of a double-edged sword tandem nursing is.

Because my blog is for connecting, and if everything’s perfect I can’t connect, except with all the other people pretending everything’s perfect for them too.

That’s not the connection I’m looking for. That’s not why I’m here. Why are you here?

Upside-down "Detour" sign by water.
I knew this would come in handy.

I wrote a book. It’s fiction for children aged 9-12, mostly, with a nostalgic Irish twist. If you want to know more about it, drop me a line at awfullychipper@gmail.com or tweet me at @awfullychipper.

Order

Sometimes the point of the blogging is simply that it’s nice to have one thing in my life that is within my control. My blog has no ulterior motives, it won’t do things and refuse to tell me why, it will eat its vegetables when presented with them, and if I tidy it up, it damn well stays tidy.

Other times, the chaos takes over and I’ve no energy for extras, even if they’re the extras that make me feel better.

So much for my lofty (that is, minimal) spring break plans. In the event, Mabel had a short-lived bug and then I had one that lingered, so that today is really the first day I feel like I can tackle things normally again, and the whole week is over. We got through it with a few playdates and a lot of television and minecraft time, and it’s just as well I didn’t really have anything pressing on my list of Things We Could Do, which were mostly just Things To Pass The Time Somewhat Usefully rather than Things That Had To Be Done. The kids got a break from schoolwork and homework, and we got a break from the school run and packing lunches, and the trees are in bloom and everything’s fine.

You can tell I feel better because my world-view has righted itself again. Yesterday that paragraph might have been a lot gloomier.

I think I can impose enough fake order on my life again to write things down about it now. Maybe a list of the blog posts I could write but won’t would be the best way to bring things swiftly up to date:

How to Host a Harry Potter Birthday Party for a Ten-Year-Old Extrovert Who Insists on Inviting Everyone He’s Ever Known. (Contents to make themselves known after the fact, in a few weeks’ time.)

How to Lose Those Pesky Five Pounds Before Summer (MyFitnessPal is helpful or you could just catch a virus, so long as you weren’t wanting to use energy for anything, ever)

Casual Misogyny, Classism, and Racism in the Works of Neville Shute; But I Still Like The Stories

Packing For Dublin in April (Layers. It’s always layers. Maybe a wetsuit.)

That Time I Was Briefly And Expensively Paranoid And Now I’m Getting New Glasses

Dressing For A Black-Tie Wedding in Twenty-Four Simple Steps of Buying And Returning Dresses, Shoes, And Support Garments

Being Sick Is Crap And It’s Much Nicer When You’re Better

15 from ’15

It is now that vague time between the One Thing and the Other Thing when we forage in the fridge for the rest of the cheese and are mildly surprised that the need to do laundry and buy milk continues just as before. Surely one of my Christmas presents should have been an invention to take all those tedious things off my hands forever more. But no.

Anyway, the other thing that happens now is people taking stock, looking back, reviewing the year, to get all that out of the way before the looking forward and making resolutions that will be happening in a few more days. So this is my 15 for 2015, part of a linky with Sadhbh at Where Wishes Come From. Pop over there and see everyone else’s 15s when you’ve read this. (Here’s mine from last year, just to see how far we’ve come.)

  1. Most Popular Post
    My most popular post, according to the stats, was the Yoda Cake one, followed by Weaning and then banana muffins. The Yoda and muffin hits come from Google or Pinterest searches, and the Weaning post was part of a Carnival of Parenting linky that gets consistent visits. But my most popular new post this year happened when I discovered a new term to judge and be judged by: Lawnmower Parenting.
  2. Favourite Post
    Once again, this category gives me trouble. Do I have to pick just one? Here’s a selection, chronologically:
    A stormy night
    Why I love New York City
    Dash turning nine
    Baseball
    Faith
    Fireflies
    Trust, which it turns out is very much like Faith
    Mabel turning seven
  3. Favourite Photo
    My favourite photo is often just my most recent. This is especially true now that I’ve taken delivery of my lovely new Christmas-present DSLR camera that takes such beautiful crisp shots. But I do have a few other faves from the year:

    Mountains and a beach and a big sky with clouds
    This one of the Kerry mountains at Clochane strand

    Dash and Mabel walking through a painted tunnel
    Or this one of the kids looking like an album cover, about a week ago
  4. Best Adventure
    Our biggest adventure this year was a three-week trip home to Ireland where we got to travel quite a bit of the country (and see some lovely Irish bloggers) as well as spending time with family in Dublin.

    Small harbour and island with tower
    Dalkey Island
  5. Favourite Craft
    My knitting fell sadly by the wayside this year: I got a lovely craft bag for Christmas last year so that I could keep it somewhere safer than a shopping tote, and somehow putting it away sounded the death knell. Also, I tried and failed at socks and didn’t do anything after that. I did (re-)learn how to crochet but I didn’t actually make anything after a few exploratory squares. But I’m planning another trip to Joanne’s any day now.
    Mabel and I made some nice melty-bead Christmas tree ornaments, though.
    IMG_2586
  6. Favourite Food I Blogged About
    I didn’t do much food blogging this year, but this post from the summer covered a lot.
  7. Most Common Theme
    Ireland, America, ex-pat, and parenting are my most oft-repeated tags. But I’d say the most consistent theme this year has been writing, if that’s not too meta.
  8. Favourite Comment
    Emily and Tric were my most frequent commenters. I love all my comments. No favourites.
  9. Favourite Celebration
    My birthday, I think. I spent it introducing my children to my the rock pools I played in as a child.

    Mabel on a small Irish beach
    Sandycove at mid-tide
  10. My Best Move
    I probably should say “Writing a book” but I’m going to say “Sending Dash to a new school.” He’s where he should be, progressing instead of just treading water. We haven’t sorted out his reading difficulties yet, but now I feel like I have a team of experts on the case, instead of just me, floundering.
  11. Best Blog Moment
    Did I have blog moments this year? Did my blog have moments? My blog isn’t that sort of blog, most of the time. I made the shortlist in the Blog Awards Ireland, but not the Finalists this time. I was in the running for Best Writer for the Irish Parenting Blogs Awards, though, in very good company. Tric won, more power to her.
  12. Favourite Thing I Wrote Elsewhere
    Aktcherly, I had an article published in a national newspaper this year; but that was as myself so I won’t link it here. The only other writing I did elsewhere was right at the start of the year when I wrote a few pieces for the brand new HerFamily.ie website. Here’s one: Six degrees of crunchy parenting.
  13. My Favourite Title
    Let’s take this one, even though it’s an old joke: Praise Cheeses
  14. Favourite blog-series or linky
    I joined in on a few linkies this year, but I’m going to nominate my own ongoing Transatlantic Subtleties series here, because it always brings out the word geeks in my readers, and I love you all for that.

    Map of Ireland showing provinces and counties
    Source: http://www.spirited-ireland.net/map/_counties/
  15. What My Blog Did For Me in 2015
    My blog was the place I came to talk about how the writing was going. I haven’t really told people in real life what I’m doing with my days when the kids are in school at the moment; I’m still holding out for that moment when things come to fruition and I can announce a triumph in public. But when I couldn’t keep in the impatience any more, when I had done something and needed to tell somebody – my blog was there. Thanks, blog.Head on over to Sadhbh’s place and see the rest of the linky!
    15 from '15: a recap of 2015 on Where Wishes Come From