The new academic year starts tomorrow, and I felt the need to freshen up things around here. Let me know what you think of the new template!
I received my iPad yesterday. I’m not blogging from it right now; for longer items, it’s much easier on my arthritic hands and wrists to use my desktop with its full-size keyboard. I do have to say, however, that the blog looks fantastic on the iPad. I didn’t know WordPress changed the layout of blogs for the iPad. The result is incredible.
But I digress, as that is not the point I want to make.
The point is that now I have an iPad, which means that I now also have Twitter and Tumblr accounts, since the project I’m part of–which is the reason why I got an iPad for free–requires that everyone involved have these accounts.
We’re also required to have a Facebook account, but as you know, I’ve been on FB for five years. Then there’s Google Plus; I signed up for that a few weeks ago to see what all the cool kids were talking about. And, of course, I’ve been a blogger for quite some time; I have active accounts on WordPress and Blogger. Let’s see, what other accounts do I have? I belong to Flickr, Del.icio.us, Diigo, and Yahoo, though those accounts are all in various stages of dormancy.
Now that I have an iPad, I feel like I should be investigating other social media tools (or, at the very least, social media-ish tools) as well. Tonight I found myself playing around for quite a while with various tools to allow online scheduling by students for office hours and other appointments. I started to set up a “Meet Me” page on Doodle before I got a little frustrated by the interface; instead of marking when I’m available, it looks like I’m going to have to designate when I’m not available. That’s a pain.
As I was feeling frustrated and a bit overwhelmed by that issue, a larger sense of unease swept over me. Just how many social networks have I joined? How many will I join? When and where will it ever end?
It feels like a lot–too much. Lately, I find myself feeling more and more like I have too many things to check. I am logging on to some platform or another way too many times a day. I have four email accounts (two of which I check daily) in addition to the social media. Once school resumes next week, I’ll be back to receiving upwards of 200 emails a day. It’s exhausting. Just thinking about dealing with all the email, on top of everything else, makes me feel anxious and overwhelmed.
Don’t get me wrong–there is much about social media I really enjoy. I like doing my 30 Day Book and Song Challenges on Facebook. I like my Glee status updating (even though it drives some folks nuts). Blogging means a great deal to me, even though I don’t do it as often as I used to or anywhere near as much as I’d like. But there is a limit to all of this, and I think I’m at it.
I am sure many of you struggle with these issues as well. What are you doing about it?
I started this blog as a public blog; it was never intended to be private. Still, though, given where I was with life this summer, it was kind of nice to have a little blog that was only read by twenty-thirty of my fellow bloggers, people who’d known me online for several years. Yeah, it was a public blog, but very few people knew about it. I didn’t hide it; it’s always been indexed by Google. I simply didn’t advertise. I didn’t link to my posts on Facebook, and I didn’t go out of my way to tell anybody about the blog. It was a nice way for me to gain my footing in this new space.
By September, things started to change. Because I wrote about her, I shared my blog with one of my graduate students. The blog became one of the top results for Google searches of my name. My readership started to increase. Around that time, I told Billie I’d edit one of the Teaching Carnivals this year. When I submitted the post to Billie, I included the fact that I am the author of this blog.
I knew that by editing TC, hits to my blog would increase; the post I linked to above was included in an earlier TC this fall, and I saw a bump from that. But I was blown away by just how many hits the blog has received this time. I more than doubled my previous high for daily visits.
I also didn’t expect the attention I’ve received on campus. Yesterday someone from university relations emailed me, congratulating me on editing TC; he said he had discovered the blog last week and then saw the TC post yesterday. I had a meeting on campus today and heard many comments, too.
Because so many people in my offline life had noticed the TC post and my blog at that point, yesterday I linked to the TC post on my FB profile. I still have no plans to start linking to my blog entries on FB, but anybody who followed the link from my profile knows about my blog now.
That’s a big step for me, given my history with blogging. I’m glad to be at this point, after so many years of blogging under various guises.
It feels good to own this voice and this space in ways that I haven’t before.
Check out the newest edition of the Teaching Carnival, if you haven’t already–I was this month’s guest editor. It has some great links from names familiar (and possibly unfamiliar) to readers of this blog.
My bloggy friend phd me has named me a Versatile Blogger. According to the rules of this, I am now supposed to tell you seven facts about me that you are unlikely to learn elsewhere.
That is a hard job for me, as I’ve been blogging in various guises for a long time and am pretty open about my life. I will try to think of a few facts that might be news to y’all, however.
1. The first album (yes, album–I’m 37, people!) I ever bought was Amy Grant’s My Father’s Eyes. Remember, I went to a fundamentalist Christian school for 12 years, so as a very young girl, I listened to a lot of Amy Grant.
2. I became an aunt when I was nine years old.
3. I have never been drunk in my life. This can be explained in part by my issues with control–not being in control of myself is one of the scariest scenarios I can imagine. This is also why I have never engaged in drug use.
4. My favorite book is The Scarlet Letter. The fact that I went to a fundamentalist Christian school for 12 years explains why. I read the book when I was 17, and it felt like a revelation. Growing up in such a repressive environment, I could not help but feel a kinship with Hester Prynne.
5. Many of you know of my involvement in college and community theatre; I also took voice lessons for six years and have danced in some form or another for most of my life. My dream job would be Broadway actress.
6. My beloved grandma made delicious peanut butter fudge that she called “Sara’s Special.” I make it every year at Christmas in memory of her.
7a. Well into my 20s, I was often assumed to be someone other than a white Christian. As a child, I was most frequently asked if I was Native American, biracial, or Jewish. As a teenager and young adult, it became Spanish, biracial, Hispanic/Latina, or Jewish. Now it seems that most everyone assumes I am a white Christian, though I think that says more about Fort Wayne than it does about me; when I go home to Cincinnati, I find that strangers think I am “something,” to use the parlance that often gets thrown around (“What are you? You’re something, aren’t you?”–”yeah, a person” is how I am tempted to respond).
7b. On a related note, during the first couple years of my pseudonymous blogging, I saw references to my blog as being written by an African-American woman (my blog was included on lists of African-American academics’ blogs). I’m not sure why that assumption was made, but I found it an interesting moment in terms of performance of identity; the construction of race, class, and gender; and pseudonymity/anonymity.
I’m also supposed to tag seven blogs. I read many blogs, some public, some private; here are some that I am pretty sure haven’t been tagged for this yet:
I’ve noticed that several folks have done posts that discuss the one word that summarizes their 2010; this topic was the first prompt for Reverb 2010. Clearly, I am not writing this post on December 1, and I simply can’t commit to blogging every day. However, I would like to write on this theme.
My word for 2010 will probably not be a surprise to many of you, given the topics I’ve regularly written about this year. My word is loss.
The most obvious reason why loss encapsulates my past year–one that is immediately apparent by looking at me–is my weight. As you well know, I’ve lost a heck of a lot of weight. Losing this weight, a project that is still ongoing, has been life-changing and has been in the forefront of my mind all year. My blogging frequency on this topic is one indicator of its importance to me.
I’m proud of myself for losing this weight. I’m proud that I’ve gone from barely being able to last five minutes on the elliptical to doing forty minutes, followed by an hour-long strength workout. I’m proud that I can do three sets of 15 reps of nearly 400-lb. leg presses. I’m proud that when I walk, I can feel how strong my quads are. I’m proud that I can swing my 33 lb. son around like he’s nothing; after all, I’m doing three sets (15 reps) of overhead presses at 45 pounds. When I started, I could barely lift 10 pounds over my head. Thinking back to where my physical condition was on January 1 and where it is now leaves me shaking my head. It is still hard for me to believe the progress I’ve made this year.
While much of my pride centers on the improvement in my physical condition, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m happy and proud of how I look. While I have not yet reached my ultimate goal, I am happy to be where I am. I feel good about myself when I look in the mirror. While I am not a particularly girly girl, I have always appreciated what clothes, make-up, and hair can do; I think it’s my theatre background at work here. I’ve always enjoyed cultivating a particular look to express a different persona or another element of my personality.
Anyway, as I gained weight, putting on my “costume” for the day was less fun for me, and I eventually stopped doing it. It was hard to find clothes I liked and that were flattering. Because I didn’t feel good about my body or what I was wearing, playing around with my hair or make-up seemed kind of pointless.
The last few months have been fun for me as I’ve rediscovered how much I enjoy preparing for each day’s “performance.” I’m having a good time choosing who I want to be that day and putting together the look that goes with the particular part of my personality or which role in my life I’m emphasizing.
Loss is usually viewed as a negative; a simple look at a dictionary is illustrative in this regard: ”detriment, disadvantage, or deprivation from failure to keep, have, or get”; “the state of being deprived of or of being without something that one has had”; etc. “Defeat” and “failure” pop up repeatedly. However, weight loss is one of the few losses in life that is almost always viewed as a positive, and in my case, there have been many positives. This major loss has resulted in significant gains to my health, my physicality, and my self-image.
However, my weight loss has also included losses of the more conventional sort. As I worked through this process, I was forced to confront the reasons why I gained so much weight in the first place. I had to ask myself why I was not making my health a priority by working out and making healthier choices with food. I had to examine why I was, in essence, self-medicating with food.
Coming to terms with the answers to these questions has led me to another kind of loss, one I’m not really sure how to identify. One way to think of it could be that I’ve lost a sense of complacency; some might say I’ve lost my ability to live in denial. Whatever you want to call it, I realized this year that the status quo of my life had been failing me for years, and during that time my remedy for this problem had been to ignore it and stuff down my feelings. All too often, that “stuffing” became literal, as I unthinkingly used food to soothe my hurts. No, I didn’t binge–I’ve never been a binge eater–but even the seemingly small choices I made (an extra candy bar here, another can of Pepsi there) added up in a hurry, especially since I exercised very little, if at all.
This realization probably strikes most of you as a significant gain, and in some ways, it has been powerful for me to see so clearly how this negative relationship with food and my body developed. But this realization has led to tangible losses. Being in a state of denial enabled me to function as an ostensibly happy person and to convince myself that certain relationships in my life were fine (or if they weren’t, it was my fault, which somehow was comforting? Don’t ask me why, but it’s true).
I’ve now lost the sense of plausible deniability I lived in for so long, and it’s a scary place to be. I’ve allowed myself to feel anger and pain that I had not felt in years, because I was so very good at stuffing down those emotions. These emotions have been frightening and difficult to work through. I’ve been struggling with depression as I’ve come to terms with some of the issues I’d been trying so desperately (and pretty successfully) to avoid. I’ve come to unpleasant, painful realizations about relationships in my life.
These are losses, no doubt. There will be more loss in the months to come, both in terms of my weight and my illusions. It’s hard for me to say what my word for 2011 will be, as I really don’t know where I will be by this time next year.
I just hope that, whatever happens and wherever I’m at with all of it, I’ll be in a better, more honest emotional place.
I kind of feel at a loss with blogging right now.
I have so many things I could talk about–so many things I desperately need to talk about–but I can’t share them publicly, not under my own name. Not now, and maybe not ever.
So, what do I do with the blog? I’m not sure. I still have not found my way here, and I miss my pseudonym.
I’m so consumed by these unbloggable issues that I feel as if I have no mental space to write about anything else, yet I can’t write about the things troubling me. Talk about a catch-22.
Are there any topics any of you would like me to write about? Questions you’d like me to address? Maybe that would help me kick-start something.
I apologize I haven’t been blogging much lately. I was gone again this past weekend as well; I went to Columbus to see K and do a writing group meeting with her and J. It was a good visit, though it reinforced for me how much I miss living in a large city like Columbus.
I don’t know that I’d want to live in a huge city (like a Chicago or New York), but I miss big city life. Fort Wayne is a city, but it’s small–250K. I grew up in Cincinnati, whose metro population is over 2 million now, and spent five years in Columbus, whose metro population is around 1.5 million. I miss the opportunities a big city brings.
I worry that my kids are missing out on lots of things. There is much I like about Fort Wayne, but native Fort Wayne residents–and that’s the majority of people who live in FW–can be very provincial. Some (not all, but a worrying percentage) seem to think that Fort Wayne is the center of the universe, that life does not exist outside of northeast Indiana. I don’t want my children to develop that mentality. I want them to know the world is so much bigger than what they see here, and I want them to go explore it. I worry that the culture here will keep that from happening.
I don’t know what the answer is to any of that.
I’ve also been quiet because there are some things I’m trying to deal with, things that I can’t blog about. As my grandma used to say when people would ask her how she was doing, I’m rough. So, that’s another reason why I’ve been quiet.
Maybe I’ll have more to say–more I can say–soon.
With apologies to Oprah, here we go.
I’ve decided to take the plunge and start this blog. I’ve blogged for a long time, for both personal and pedagogical purposes, but I’ve never blogged publicly, under my own name. Now is the time to make that transition.
I wanted–needed–to start this blog now because I need to get a lot of writing done this summer, and blogging helps me with that. Just the habit of writing helps me exercise the muscles I need for my scholarship; blogging gets me in a routine. It also helps keep me accountable, because if I tell you all that I’m going to write X amount of pages in a day, by god I will write those pages if it kills me.
The title of this blog works on two levels. Partly I chose this title because my research and teaching tends to focus on those who are marginalized in some way: Appalachians, basic writers, women, the working class, open-admission students. But the title also reflects the way I often feel about not only writing, but also my life. As a professor and married mom with two kids, I usually feel pulled in many directions and as if I’m stealing moments here that I will repay there. Writing is usually the thing on the margins of my life, what I try to fit in around everything else, and it’s done when the kids are sleeping or out of the house.
I’d like writing to become more central in my life, especially this summer, since I was fortunate enough to receive a research grant that eliminated the need to teach. This blog is one step towards that goal.
I’ll be writing about my research and my teaching, along with plenty of stories about my kids, musings on work-life balance, and pop-culture screeds. You’ll also hear about my efforts to lose weight, a project I’ve been pursuing since the first of the year.
One clarification and request: in order to protect their privacy and minimize their presence on the internet, I will only refer to my children and husband by their initials. I would ask those of you who know their names to do the same when you comment.
Thanks, and welcome to this space.
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