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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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

Blogging crisis post

Argh. So hackneyed. If I publish this, my faithful readers (lovelies, all both of you) will leap in to say that they don’t care what I write about, they like to read it anyway. And the rest of the world will respond with resounding silence because they don’t read my blog, and that’s fine because I don’t need them to.

But if I don’t need them to, then why not just post whatever I want? Why do I keep saving half-written drafts and then letting them just die?

I can give myself all the advice, because I’ve given it to others over and over. Write what you feel, write from the heart, write for yourself, write what you know. Write as if nobody’s reading. Decide on your direction and don’t lose focus. Take a break and wait for your mojo to regenerate. Don’t force it.

This is what I’m not writing about, and how I’m not writing it:

  • My lifestyle blog would be posting about our finally made-beautiful new shower and all the muffins I’ve baked recently.
  • My social conscience blog would be posting about abortion, and the relative situations in Ireland and the US.
  • My literary blog would be posting a lyrical description of the dappled sunshiney autumn outside my kitchen window right now.
  • My parenting blog would tell you how school is going for Dash and Mabel, some challenges we’ve faced or are facing or are muddling through, the way everyone does all the time, with no great insights.
  • My special-interest blog would tell you about the dyslexia-related book I’m reading and how it might or might not help you or your dyslexic loved one.
  • My ex-pat blog would … oh, I don’t know, come up with some subtle differences in language or accent or tone or signage to symbolize my sense of displacement and/or growing acceptance of life in America.
  • My hilarious humour blog would tell you a couple of vaguely amusing stories about the time when I texted the wrong number about a bike for sale, or thought Dash was on a conference call when it was actually one of his teachers, or how the guy who did our shower thought he’d found a paper bag of fifties under our floorboards. All of which were funny/mortifying at the time, but really, can I muster the energy…?
  • My writer blog would talk about what I’m writing, or not writing at the moment, and how that’s going and how I approach it and all that stuff that’s only interesting if it actually turns out I’m writing a book that will really be a book, not just a bunch of words on a computer that took a lot of time when I should have been contributing to the household finances.
  • My lazy blog would stick up a bulleted list or a bunch of pictures and call it done.

Which blog will I be today?

Mabel by a lake
Random photo. A walk on a proper Irish grey day. No dappled sunshine to be seen.

Not filed under “sick children”, but it could have been

My blog was sick. Just vaguely sick, the sort of thing you could ignore mostly and just let niggle, like a cough that wasn’t going away. But it was getting worse. I thought maybe updating to the new version of WordPress (as all good bloggers should do when they’re told to) might help. I even took the heretofore unprecedented step of backing up first.

Then it turned out I couldn’t download the backing up widget. I got another one instead, and that worked okay. I clicked the “Automatic upgrade” button, and nothing happened. I kept trying for about a day, just in case the internet stars were misaligned, but they didn’t realign on their own.

I even contacted my hosting company and asked for help. The nice man couldn’t replicate my problem and suggested I clear my cache. That seemed to help, and I felt silly. Then it turned out it hadn’t helped at all.

I decided there was nothing for it but to do the update manually. I started copying over files. It appeared I could only do them one at a time. I soldiered on. When I came to folders within folders, I had to make the new folders and populate them, one file at a time. I suspected this was not what I was meant to do. As I clicked on the folders and saw what was in them, I realised it would probably take me a week. Without sleeping.

I finally asked for help. On a more local level. It’s such a cliche, but my husband does know more about this stuff than I do, even though he doesn’t have a blog. He knows what FTP means and how to make it happen. Thank heavens for husbands, and similarly enlightened people. Transferring the whole thing at once, in three batches, was but the work of a few minutes and not nearly as hard as the instructions made it sound.

Hooray! said I. A whole new day of functional blog was dawning with the advent of WordPress 4.1. But no. The glitch was still there, and getting worse. Now my Jetpack (which minds my stats and various other widgets) was no longer connecting. WordPress.com no longer recognized me. My blog was still there, still working, but I felt as if some insidious termite was breaking it down pixel by pixel.                                 .

Finally, last night, I tried my hosting company’s chat help again, and this time they agreed that there was something wrong. When the tech guy you’re chatting to replies “Hmmm,” you know you’ve presented them with something interesting. In the end I had to pay real money for an unique IP address that I need because something happened to their server. (I shouldn’t need it for long, and then I’ll get most of the money back, but it’s hardly ideal.)

And this morning I logged on and there was my blog – instantly, not after ten seconds of a page not found message – and my stats were back and WordPress.com knew me and I had to fix up all the things that had gone astray and everything was shiny and working the way it should.

And it turned out that I really do care a lot more than I thought I did about this blog and I’m glad the backup widget worked because if I hadn’t done that I’d definitely have been freaking out because as it was I was surprisingly tetchy and stressed about the whole thing. So the moral of this story is to back up your blog, boys and girls. And that if something seems wrong, you should get to the bottom of it before it gets worse. Which is probably a perfectly good metaphor for life, too.

So Maud, why did you move the blog?

I don’t know if I have a headache because I just went to the chiropractor for the first time ever and he did that thing where he makes your muscles go pop but it sounds like it’s your bones, or because Mabel pitched a massive fit about (a) not watching any TV this morning, (b) going to school, and (c) having to stay for lunch (began with a, moved on to b and c interchangeably; I may have agreed to something for tomorrow, but I’m really not sure what it was; that’s not going to come back to bite me oh no), or maybe because I made a lot of new passwords yesterday and I may or may not have some of them mixed up; but I’m just going to go ahead and post a post here anyway.

So, why did I move the blog?

At some point in the past months I did a 180-degree turnaround from “I’m perfectly happy at Blogger and why on earth would I pay money for my free hobby” to “Maybe I’ll go self-hosted.” I’m not sure quite how this happened, but a couple of things were nudging me:

  • People often seemed to have difficulty commenting in Blogger. If you have a blog, you’ll know that comments are really special and nice to get, and also I don’t like the thought of people typing things and then being frustrated because they won’t post, because I know how annoying that is when it happens to me. I’m told that more people will be able to comment more easily now that I’m on WordPress. I hope that’s true.
  • The inbuilt stats in Blogger were annoying me. They seem to count a lot of bots (my friends in Russia, as I like to call them; or China, or Indonesia), and so they’re not a realistic reflection of who’s actually reading. Now, I know that stats aren’t important and I shouldn’t get hung up on it, and I did have a Google Analytics account, but I didn’t much like that either, so hey, let’s see what WP stats are like. I’m hoping for a happy,  bot-less, medium.
  • I could have just switched from my free Blogger blog to a free WordPress.com blog, but it seems like nobody does that. Having my own domain name is, I have to admit, a little more professional, not that I’d call myself a professional blogger, because I’m pretty sure you have to earn money to be a professional at anything; but I see my blog as PR for my online self, and in that sense I do want to look professional.

For when my plans for online world domination come to fruition, you know.

Some time in December I happened across this blog post, linked from BlogHer, and since it appeared to tell me exactly what I needed to know, I saved it for later. Once I had my big 10/1000 post out of the way, it felt like a good time for a new beginning, so I hemmed and hawed and asked B what he thought and then Mabel slept all night and I was filled with verve and vim and vigour and other good v words and apparently up for a challenge and I just did it. In case you want to know, this is basically what I did:

  1. Went to BlueHost, which is a hosting company that will also sell you a domain name if you don’t already have one. Entered the domain (funnily enough, not much competition for “Awfully Chipper” and now I suppose I’m stuck with it), chose the features I wanted, and clicked the “Take my money” button. (It’s not really called that.)
  2. Went to WordPress.org and downloaded WordPress.
  3. Went back to BlueHost and uploaded WordPress according to their instructions. Chose a theme (this is WordPress 2012, which is free but should be reliable, unlike some free themes you might find randomly on the Internet) and then clicked the big red button that says Import Blog from Blogger (it’s not really red; it might actually say something slightly different; this is not a tutorial), crossed my fingers, squinted sideways at the screen, and it was all there before you could say Bob’s your Jiminy Cricket’s uncle.

I still haven’t done steps 8 to 13 of the original instructions, and my Blogger blog is still there for now, but I’ll work it out in time.

Girl with balloon

 

 

10/1000

It’s a big day on the blog.

Today, if you like to look at the dates in the sidebar to confirm, it has been exactly ten years since my first post.

Coincidentally, this is my one thousandth post. (It’s not often you have to count to the number one thousand of anything. Which is probably why that word “thousandth” looks very very strange. But it’s right, don’t worry.)

I admit, this isn’t entirely a coincidence. I noticed back in December that these two milestones were approaching, and I thought it would be nice to make them happen on the same day. So there’s been a certain amount of deleting forgotten drafts and then deleting too many and then frantically realising I had to find something to say for three days in a row… but you don’t need to know about these behind-the-scenes minutae.

I also am bound to admit that that’s not quite one thousand published posts – some thirty of them or so are drafts; but they’re not just a saved semicolon to make up the numbers. Sometimes I put something in drafts and label it “Notes for just me,” never to be published; there are some that might still legitimately be considered works in progress.

List of posts showing 1000

And I can’t quite say I’ve been blogging steadily for ten years; but I’ve been blogging unsteadily. I don’t know if anyone ever delves into the deep dark of the distant archives, but I like having them there, as a virtual scrapbook that can plonk me straight back into the person I was two children ago, or one, or when they were smaller. I have a terrible memory; I like to have things written down.

If you’re reading, whether you’ve been around for years or just found me recently, I’m delighted to have you, and today would be the perfect day to leave me a quick comment, if you can. (I know commenting is tricky for some people. Sorry about that. It’s not me, it’s Blogger.)

Thanks for being here. It wouldn’t be the same without you.

Letters for "Blog" in fridge magnets

 

Round ’em up

More than once lately, Dash has done something and then turned to me and remarked, “That was pretty resourceful of me, wasn’t it?”

Before that time I said it two weeks ago, the R word wasn’t even on his radar; now, his entire self-image has been tweaked, just slightly, to include the word “resourceful” as something he can be – and he’s looking for ways to make it come true. That’s a pretty impressive indictment of how our words can shape our children for good or otherwise.

______

This does not change the fact that he’s been wandering around like a lost soul since we got home an hour ago, asking me and his father what he can do, because he has no way of entertaining himself without a TV. (We still have a TV. For some reason he’d forgotten about it and until five minutes ago, when I finally cracked, I was managing not to remind him.) This is the curse of the extrovert child.

______

It’s still New Year’s Eve here, even though the clock has ticked past the twelve in other places. But I think I’m still allowed to do some sort of year’s round-up – so here goes.

I have 198 published posts from this year. I took part in three blog marches and a virtual baby shower with the Irish Parenting Bloggers, and participated in two Carnivals of Natural Parenting. Posts of mine were both featured on and syndicated by BlogHer. I started Tweeting. I was shortlisted for a Blog Award Ireland. I wrote less here than the previous two years, but I started to think of myself as a writer in a way that I hadn’t before.

We will see where that takes me in 2014.

Happy new year, everyone, and thanks for being here.

Dash and Mabel