Nope. No Fun To Be Had Here. No Sirree..

Last night I decided I would retire early in order to prepare for this afternoon's session. I wanted to be refreshed and well prepared for what promises to be an intellectually rigorous session on the politics of online communities (this afternoon). (wish me luck).

I politely opted out a few invitations for dinner, and even refrained from overdoing it at the cash-free bar. Instead I schlepped back to the hotel with a few ladies who are pregnant or wearing babies in slings, and we ordered a pizza.

My roommate was pretty pooped too, having kicked some serious ass at the State of the Momasphere session.

Very very pooped.

Pass out comatoze on Kristen's hotel bed pooped.

And suddenly I was pissing my knickers like a 12 yr old again...


Well BlogMe Senseless...

This was me a year ago:

Anyone want to interview me for BlogHer? Oh, hang on. I'm not going. Is it me, or is this a weird week in the lady-blogosphere for anyone not going? Is this what being Jewish at Christmas is like? Interesting...

I felt like a right knobby-no-mates, with all my online BFFs(!) abandoning me for real life physical contact, and not blogging every detail as I had wished! This was why I determined that this year I would do without the obligatory "OMG! I am so totally going to BlogHer! OMG OMG OMG! I'm, like, so shy! OMG Will you please speak to me?" (if you are shy, then it's ok to write posts like this. Wise, in fact. But I am not really shy, see) (You are really beginning to hate me now, aren't you?)

Yep. I am going. And I anticipate you will feel my absence so very very acutely, and for that I apologize. I have tried to keep the "I am SO SO going to BlogHer" posts to a minimum, because if you are not it can be dead annoying. Well, it annoyed me anyway. Mainly because I was steaming with jealousy.

You are, however, spared from having to read some long-ass interview where someone who is also going to BlogHer interviews me (Also going to Blogher. In case you missed it before.) But I do feel obliged to do the "BlogMe 2007" challenge, triggered by the inimitable and deeply gorgeous Mocha.

I like pina colada. And getting caught in the rain. I am 36 years old, and have two sons, 4yrs old and 8 months old., and they are divine. There's a husband too. He's not bad, either. I am a lefty liberal feminist with a deeply crass sense of humor. I am a teacher, researcher, and "digital media expert." I loves me some telly. Am big fan of twizzlers. Right now I live in Michigan, and in less than two months, I will be back in England, from whence I came... I talk a lot, interrupt a lot, swear like a sailor, and cannot possibly distill anything into ten seconds.


I Am In and I Am Out. And That's OK

[this post is part of a discussion that is currently going on at blogrhet. if you have comments on this one, please head on over there]

It was about a year ago that I started getting my teeth into what this whole blogging venture might mean to me personally, and also what it might mean in broader, more overarching terms. I was positively giddy with the realization that though competitive and hierarchical models for evaluating how social networking occurs in the blogosphere, when it came to the smaller communities in which I was participating, the theories could not adequately account for how these networks cohered and were successful. I was, at that time, an excellent blogizen. I diligently reciprocated all comments, added everyone who had even breathed in my direction to my blogroll, and while I still faithfully read the entries of “big” bloggers (back to “being big” shortly) I became much more invested in my own niche. It was much more rewarding. My writing improved as I became part of a lively conversation, and I gained a lot of personal satisfaction from the relationships that were emerging.

As I continued along in this fashion, my comments section and reader stats steadily increased. I knew this because I was quite, quite obsessive about checking them. Stats were checked daily (hourly. ok. every 5 minutes) any linky love or referrals swiftly followed up on, I went about visiting blogs and leaving comments all over the place. To boot, my pregnancy at the time was not doing my traffic any harm, and as the due date approached, I got lots of hits as people checked in to find out the scoop (want to raise your readership? Get preggers or married. Or divorced.)

I was in the thick of it, and loving it. I had been blogging for about six months and I felt suddenly extremely tuned in to how the community worked, its norms of participation. I smelled fascinating research hypotheses, and steaming hot feminist arguments about the reinvention of motherhood. And I still do.


Now an old and sage 18-month blogger, I still enjoy blogging a great deal (and could not be more delighted with the collective success of BlogRhet) but I have begun to experience some of that ambivalence about it all which is so familiar to many.

At what stage does “community participation” become obsessive? At what stage does commenting on other people’s blogs become less about reciprocity and good manners, and more about maintaining the readership, keeping that comments thread nice and healthy and full? When you find yourself slumping into a black mood because you posted one hour ago and “still no one has stopped to show me love,” then what does this reflect about the "relationships" you are cultivating? If you remedy the situation by carpetbombing a few blogs you’ve neglected lately, is that quite right?

Let me tell you a secret. After my baby was born last November, my blog became a pretty dead space. Understandably. I was not really motivated to write. I was simply motivated to function in some kind of human way. Sleep was also a priority.

Fast forward a few months, and I was ready to leap back in. And (it seemed to me at the time) in terms of my blog I really paid for my hiatus. It was like starting from scratch. I would post what were (to me) HI-LARious posts, and get only 1 or 2 responses. My STATS were pathetic, in my mind, and all those people who had been part of my community before were off enjoying other blogs. And how could I blame them? I had dropped off the face of the earth. When it comes to blogging, out of sight, out of mind can be very true. I knew this. I had observed the community norms, for chrissakes!

So I got busy. I was suddenly everywhere –at my old haunts, but also lots of newer bloggers I had not read yet. And it was a heady time. How I had missed Mama Tulip and Mom 101, those girls can write. And the more I commented, the more I saw a spike in my own comments, and while my stats did not exactly soar, they became much healthier. Then came the day when this post got linked from Zero Boss and Babble, and finally, I thought, I have arrived. Stats continued to escalate, until there was a week where I was hitting about 500-700 a day. (it was a lot for me, ok???)

The writing! The writing is speaking for itself! All my work is paying off!

Yes. My “work.” (Is it work, this thing we call “reciprocity”?)

Anyway, I did not think to check and see exactly which post was drawing the traffic. But surely it was my witty political commentary on the breastfeeding that ZB and Babble had so rightly picked up for its sheer genius.

Think again, Joy…. Try this post.

Yeah. Apparently I was the only blogger on the planet to actually think to put those funny math pictures on a blog so that people could email a link instead of forward all those jpegs about among their contacts.

That post, to this day, draws me as much traffic as pretty much everything else combined.

So, uh, the writing was not speaking for itself. [hangs head in shame...]

Don’t get me wrong. I am not putting myself down as a bad writer. I think I have some pretty good moments there, and only wish I could have the stamina to write more creatively more often, but I just don’t.

But the whole situation caused me to look hard at myself and ask “what exactly are you in this for? Because if it’s fame or status, then you are so totally SOL, woman!”

I questioned how my participation in the community—my devotion to reciprocation—was actually fuelled by less than “community-minded” goals, and more about traffic traffic traffic. Yes, it was about maintaining ties with writers I enjoy and respect, but the more feverish part of it was driven in part by a fear that if I don’t, they will forget about me. This was combined with a heavy sense of guilt and obligation.

And suddenly it wasn’t so enjoyable any more.

So I stopped. Not completely. (Obviously). But I stopped worrying about reciprocity quite so much. I came to a realization that the weight of obligation was entirely about me, and that even if I didn’t visit someone whose blog I adore on a regular basis, this didn’t mean they’d written me off. And if they had written me off, then tough shit for them, you know? Life was too short.

As Tere notes, this topic of “inclusion” and the appropriate rules of conduct in blogging communities has produced some in depth and even (politely) heated conversations at BlogRhet. It is obviously something that many of us feel very strongly about. Concerns over how blogging “cliques” might emerge, where only certain parties can be included. What this reveals to me is how emotionally invested we are in this whole process. So many of us started blogging as a means to write for an audience, then we discovered that with audience comes community. And despite my story, I will maintain that it is this community dynamic that is to me the most meaningful aspect of blogging. Nonetheless, there are some interesting and potentially sticky issue to raise:

Reciprocal commenting is a primary means through which certain blogging communities—small clusters of blogs—interconnect and gain strength.

Are these communities grow in size, are they also potentially jeopardized? Is there a critical point here in which a healthy and densely interconnected smaller community cannot sustain itself? I am thinking here not just in terms of people’s experiential relation to blogging (a sense that a community that was once quite tangible has disintegrated or shifted) but also, empirically, about how clusters and nodes in social networks might emerge or break down as they grown in size (I will be boring people with this at BlogHer, and no doubt in a few posts beforehand).

As I argued before, when we look at this through the lense of social networking theory, these individuals become dense nodes around which many of us cluster and coalesce. For example, I might not have a direct relationship with whom I perceive as a Big Blogger, but I observe other bloggers like me in the comments thread, and so I go and visit and make friends).

I do believe, that as certain bloggers “mature,” develop a following, embark on entrepreneurial ventures, their status in the community will automatically shift. They will become outsiders to some degree, dense nodes or connecting points, and though they might undertake very significant work to strengthen the community, they will not be able to participate in the same way that those of us who occupy the “long tail” of the blogosphere can.

This, I believe, is an issue of scale more than anything else, though the perceptions about status and inclusion are very real, and possibly contribute to this hierarchical dynamic. Of course they do. For as we go about looking for community (validation? traffic?) we forge relationships with those who can return the favor, and move away from those who do not. We seek peers, other people "like us" who can endorse this whole blogging thing and say "hey! I'm here! I"m listening!" And this is very meaningful.

The question of how the "like us" aspect of this dynamic works remains, but I'm going to end here. But the issue Tere raises about inclusion, and especially how race, sexuality and class figure into these equations is worthy of a post of its own, and I'll be returning to it pre- the panel at BlogHer (The Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion in Online Communities) where this question, among others, will be of central importance.


And Now We Move On to the Abject Fear Portion of Our Trip...

It's been less than ten days since we realized we'd be moving to Manchester, and it feels like a lifetime. Husband and I go through similar cycles over the whole thing, though not necessarily in synchroncity.

It goes something like this:

Euphoria --> Anxiety ----> STRESS -----> o.ooo2 seconds of calm ------>Abject Fear....

Part of our problem here is having so little time to process all of this. While I know that all will be fine in the end, there are so many variables in this whole thing, that it's very very difficult to switch the brain off. Hence the whisky (wine vodka, beer, anything-will-do-really-just-pour-the-damn-thing) drinking. I would stop and consider whether this is becoming a potential problem, but who has time to ponder one's potential alcoholism when one has so much to do?

Same logic goes for "watching one's figure." At one stage late last week, I had this sudden thought "my GOD! I am hardly eating a thing, and seem to be bouncing around on nervous energy! I MUST be losing WADS of weight." I then made that familiar yet fatal error. I reached into the closet (wardrobe) for the "When I am less squidgy" jeans which surely, surely, will be hanging off me now.

Yep. You know the drill. I pull on said jean, and find that while they can be zipped up, the spillage factor ocurring above *the jean was less "muffin top" and more **"industrial waste."

And so I reflected upon my so-called "lack of eating" over the last few days, and realized that this was actually "lack of paying any kind of attention to what I am cramming in my mouth because "who gives a shit?" and how much longer do I have to enjoy twizzlers anyway?" And, of course, the booze helps loads in retaining that girlish figYURE.

Anway. Back to the Abject Fear part of this post. The fear that is plaguing me and Mr Ginga right now concerns The Boys. My eldest will be starting school for the first time in September, and I have no clue where he will be going. To get into a school, we need an address. To get an address, we kinda need to be in the country. (Apparently it helps). And there's no guarantee that he'll get into a good school, because all the places are likely to be gone at those. (and by "good school" I mean those where learning actually takes place and the kids actually like school enough to stick around...)

Suddenly, overperforming parents who dilligently went to all kind of kindergarten roundups in January, and had his place carefully picked out and signed up for in February--a place that would nurture his creativity, and provide a nourishing environment where his desire to learn would thrive, blah blah blah---well suddenly we're gaping down the jaws of the Great Unknown, which is fine when it comes to us grownups, but what are we doing to our childrens??

I'm just thankful as all hell that is he only a malleable and good-natured 4 (nearly 5) and not 12 or something, as this would be merry fucking hell with a preteen or teenager...

It'll be all right, it'll be all right, it'll be all right....

It will.

*notice my use of singular for "jean." I have picked this habit up from Stacey from "What Not to Wear." What's with that usage, lady? I hate it, and yet I cannot help but absorb your fashio-savvy lexicon....

**As a feminist, I hate submitting to the "I'm such a fat girl, waaaaah" post impulse. But as a female product of this culture, I cannot help it.

p.s. why does blogger keep putting huge spaces in my posts. me no likey.


One of Those List Posts Written Under the Influence (and yes, this is About The Move)

Two expedited U.S. passports for your lovely boys (so they can Leave and Re-enter the Country Legally): $288

Two British Passports for your lovely boys (so that they can actually Live in England Legally): $350

One Spousal Visa for Spousal Unit Who is Totally Spousal and so Really Should be Legal too: $1050

Various photos from Kinkos for various visas and passports ("can we suggest JC Penney's for the infant photo, we really don't specialize in those...well. If you insist."): $55

Air Tickets for family of 4 (one on lap): $2,000

"Cargo" Ticket for Doggie (who had better effing know how effing lucky her stinking ass is): $1,500

Vet bills for above dog to get her certified rabies free...: who the fuck knows????

Realtor Fees for Realtor who might be able to sell the house, maybe for this price: $Fucking shitloads

Shipping life's possessions because it's actually cheaper than buying all new at some UK based IKEA: $2,000-$5,000

Deposit and first month's rent on accommodation in UK as of yet to be secured. $Also shitloads.

5 quarts of Mrs Butterworth's Syrup I realize today we had better buy as they sure as shit do not have that in the UK. Oh and I had better buy some Monistat while I'm at it, as you need a prescription (and exam) to get it there: $let's say $150

Mental power tallying as of yet unthought of costs that will surely surely cost millions...: Who knows?


(and also learning that where you are moving to currently has air tickets to Dublin for 49p ($1)



Every street lamp seems to beat...a fatalistic warning

First, Thank You for all your responses to our news--awww, you guyses.

Since getting the news and posting that, we've been with friends at their cottage on a gorgeous lake in Michigan--the same friends who live next door to us in our neighborhood, and the same friends who christened it "the enablerhood." The last few days have been sun-drenched, kids galore, and all rather experienced through an alcoholic haze of "what the.....?" and "I can't believe you guys are leaving" and [breaks down sobbing] "You'd really take care of our dog so she doesn't have to go through quarantine, and cost us many many pounds????"

(Yeah. This is the kind of friends we're leaving. The kind who offer, completely unprompted, to take care of the mangy pestilence ridden doggie so she can be chipped and tested for rabies, and then do her time on this side of the Atlantic before being shipped to Blighty in January, and thus avoid doggie prison on the other side.

I know.)

There is so much to do, and so much emotional processing to do spending these few days next to water and a well-stocked fridge has been extremely well-timed. And the nice thing is that now I have a date, a goal, and sense of what to move towards, the last few weeks or months of living in limbo seem to have finally passed, and I can (to echo my mother) get on... And by "get on" I mean, of course, obsessively stalking rightmove.co.uk and drooling over cottages (that we likely could not swing a cat in) and trying to figure out where in the hell our boy will start (not kindergarten) primary school in (motherfudding) September. And I realize he'll wear school uniform and have to learn to say "Zed is for Zebra." It's that small stuff that does me in--not the small matter of selling a house and figuring out how to ship our life's possessions, and then live without them in a strange(ish) land for two months. And then I become anxious about furnished rentals with velour settees and whiffy shag pile carpets.

But it feels right. We suddenly feel that life, for good or for bad (uhm, let's say good, shall we?) will be moving forward, and something that seemed unattainable, a pipe dream, and even frightening, is going to happen. And what is life without some reckless acts of stupidity courage? Though it is bloody nice that one of us has a job squared away before we take the plunge. (thank you karma, fate, or whatever for that one... thank you).

Much water under the bridge still to pass. And yes, I am blogging it. Forget all that shit about this blog not being therapy or a journal, ok? This, my dears, will be my shrink's couch for the next few rollercoaster months. Hold me...


Does anyone want to buy a house? A car? A flatscreen TV? We're Moving to England, baby!

FINALLY! After all the opaque references to "things are happening, related to England, but of which I cannot speak..." etc etc. I can finally spill the beans. This has to be short, as I am again "oop north" on another spotty connection, but here it is in haiku like format.

Job Interview last week with Manchester University--via video conference.
Formal Job Offer Yesterday. Independence Day (oh ironies of ironies).
We're doing it.
Moving to England in September.

My baby boys are going to Northern Accents, ala Wallace (of Wallace and Grommit)

'Ay 'Up!!!'

More soon. I promise!