Saturday, February 28, 2009

What We’re About

Here's a little coda to yesterday morning's post:

Please remember, my friends, that this is not just a political blog. I personally tend to write about political stuff, because that's what I DO. And, unfortunately, the blog has been heavy on ME lately, so it's starting to look a little political.

But if you take a look at our "heading art," you'll notice politics is only a small part of the whole.

We are Women On: home, spirituality, nature, books, art, health, career, relationships… and politics. At least, that's what I was aiming for when I gathered us together.

So, Kathy, why wouldn't we "want to read inspirational writing based on [your] special needs young adult?" That's exactly what we want to read about, if that is your inspiration. And Bridgett, your writing is plenty dynamic, and we would most likely find your passion for having a "holistic home" interesting and informative.

Don't be shy about your inspirations, ladies, whatever they may be.

And please don't hesitate to share your passion here with us. That is what this blog is all about.


I don't know how well the captions will come through so just in case; frome left to right.

"To hell with the common good....we have to position ourselves....."

"for 2012....."

"Recover, he sad. How does he expect to do that?"

"Rebuild, he said. Not on our watch."

"Spend, spend, spend."

"What was the greatest idea we Republicans ever had?"

" 'Just say no.' Nancey Reagan 1992. That was great." And from Oliphants little bird in the corner. "It was?"

This cartoon was in the Portland Oregonian today. Geez, written out like that it looks and sounds even worse than it did when I first saw the cartoon.

What can I say? We're not going to get anything out of the Rushicans in congress unless the Dems totally cave in to their idea of bipartisanship; which seems to be the "our way or the highway" rehash of the last eight years.

I have this idea. Probably won't happen but I'll run it up the flag pole anyway. We're watching politicians who are more concerned about how they're going to look in 2010 or 2012 when they try to work themelves up the election ladder. How about this? As soon as you declare for election to a new office you have to resign from the one you hold. With the multi year election cylcle we have right now at least the people paying for a congressman might actually have a congressman representing them.......most of the time. Or you finish your current term and have to wait one two year congressional cycle to run for another office.

I know........ it's been going on for years. We can't afford to have representatives who are so busy getting ready to run for the next office that they aren't doing their jobs now.

Friday, February 27, 2009


I have a couple of requests for our readers (and writers…)

#1.) HELP WANTED: It looks as if the founding writers of "Women On…" are suffering from collective writers' block. Maybe if we add some fresh faces (keyboards?) and different opinions, we can get the conversation going again. If you would like to post an essay to "Women On…", email me at Whether you would like to simply email me a one-time essay to post on the blog, or be added to our list of regular contributors, please drop me a line.

#2.) DESPERATELY SEEKING… I am having a hard time finding new blogs to read. In the old AOL Hometown, you could search through the blogs by subject matter. Like, if you were looking for blogs about cooking or some other specific subject, you could do that. Here on blogger, that feature does not exist. I am trying to find blogs by small business people, specifically restaurant owners and/or "foodies." Basically I'm looking for a networking forum for people like myself. Does anyone know how to search blogger for people with similar interests (short of starting at the beginning of the list and reading every blog from a to z?) Has anyone out there had any success doing this? Please leave your answer in the comments…

Thanks for your help, guys…

Thursday, February 26, 2009

money matters

photo from Google images

I switched insurance companies today, for my homeowner's and auto policies. This was a huge deal for me, psychologically, for a couple of reasons. First, I absolutely hate dealing with money. Most of the time I love being on my own, but when I have to do anything dealing with money, I really wish I had, at the very least, a sounding board regarding the decisions I'm making. The simple fact is, money doesn't interest me. I know that I need it, and there are times that I take real pleasure in spending it, but as a divorced woman, I've also had to learn how to handle it, and for the most part, that has been a painful experience, and one for which I never have much enthusiasm, in part because I'm never sure that I know what I'm doing. Second, I've been with Company A for about 15 years, and they've always been great to deal with, so a part of me felt guilty even thinking about switching companies. But my premiums had risen so steeply that I decided I had to get comparison bids from other, equally well rated companies. When I did that, it was clear that the amount of money I'd save by switching was substantial and I couldn't justify not doing it. I called Company A and told them Company B had done an apples to apples comparison on both policies and asked them if they could match it. Any guilt I'd felt evaporated when I got their response. For the auto policy, they were willing to switch me to one of their lesser companies, which would lower the premium slightly; for the homeowner's, their suggestion was that if I wanted a lower premium, I should increase my deductible from $500 to 1% of the overall value of my property on all claims. Huh? I may hate dealing with money, but I'm not stupid. I said thanks but no thanks and called Company B and had them draw up the paperwork, which was then faxed to me. I signed on the dotted line and faxed it back, and gave them credit card information for the premium, at which time I was faxed a temporary ID card...all of which left me feeling like I wanted to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. It's not supposed to be like this, is it? Aren't I supposed to feel empowered or something? But the people I like best in this world tend to share my loathing of dealing with money. Dunno what that says about us...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Those Ever-Helpful Elephants

I LOVE Mike Lukovich.

If this cartoon is not SPOT ON, I don't know what is...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stream of Consciousness on President Obama’s Address to Congress

It's nice to have a husband who understands DVR… We came home this evening and watched President Obama's address to the joint session of Congress.

I have to say, Barack Obama is the first president in a long time, maybe in my entire lifetime, who I really get.

Yes, I feel a little bad that he is not exactly of my generation. I have about six years on him. He could be my little brother…in a different world.

But here is a man…an educated man. An articulate man. A man who is the polar opposite of the man he replaced. Thank god.

Barack Obama is a politician, yes. But he is of a completely different breed than the politicians in whose grip the country has been held for so many years. Obama trades on reason. On inspiration. On calling upon people to be the best they can be. On hope and lofty ideals and everyone giving the other guy a hand or a leg up to reach those ideals.

As opposed to the Former Occupant, who traded on fear and xenophobia, and pandered to the hatreds and prejudices we all nurse deep in our souls. A great man calls upon us to put aside those demons for the good of all; a lesser leader stirs them up and nurtures them, the better to control those into whose control he condemns them.

Mr. Obama speaks plainly, frankly; he scrapes away the layers of secrecy and the pretense of privilege built up by the Former Occupant and his cadre. He lays bare the problems and then presents his solutions.

He doesn't pander.

As much as I liked Bill Clinton, and longed for him after he was shooed out of Washington with his tail between his legs, I always felt a little…schmoozed after hearing him speak.

A little like I needed to go wash…

I don't feel that way with Barack Obama.

I feel like the man behind the podium is my intellectual equal, possibly (probably) even my superior. Which is as it should be. He is the man, after all, with his finger on the button.

And he stands up in front of the American people and speaks to them like adults. As if they have brains, and the ability to use them.

How long, exactly, has it been since you felt the President of the United States believed you had more on the ball than, say, the average fifth-grader?

Let the right spew their "socialism, big government, tax and spend" bullshit. They got us into this mess. And it will take someone capable of independent thought—and who believes the Average Joe is capable of the same—to get us out of it.

You go, Mr. Obama!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fun With Remo...

I've been having some fun over at Remo's place lately.

Y'all remember Remo. One of AOL J-lands resident right wingnuts...

Maybe you should go over there and see what's cookin'.

And maybe we can entice Remo to come over here and leave a thought or two. If he can stand all the pink...!

(Just for the record, I think Remo is one hell of a writer. His post about his pre-roto-rooter exam is a masterpiece...nearly Dave-Barry-esque...)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bi-Partisanship? Or the Same Old Same Old?

Lest anyone think I'm totally besotted by the new Democratic Administration and will blindly endorse any and every move they make…

There IS the case of Mr. Obama's choice of a Republican Senator as Secretary of Commerce.

I'm certain Judd Gregg was a solid candidate, bore adequate credentials for the post, made sense on the surface and had all the appearances of a "reach across the aisle."

But perhaps the Administration would have been better served if they had not tagged a Republican senator from a state with a Democratic governor. Who would then be responsible for naming the senator's replacement.

Even I can see that this looks disingenuous. It's a pretty obvious attempt to appear bi-partisan while making sure the ultimate benefit will be to your own party.

I can just hear the party honchos sitting down with the President and hatching this "win/win" situation.

Unfortunately, nobody won on this one. The Democrats came off looking underhanded and insincere, and the Republicans seized the opportunity to grab hold of this chink in the Administration's armor and tear a pretty sizeable hole in it.

Bad move.

And we're still waiting for someone to make the first GENUINE move toward healing the partisan rift.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Blind Leading the Stupid

My dad's generation used to have a nifty little saying when confronted with an "I can't believe my eyes" scenario. They used to say, "I didn't know whether to s**t or go blind…" And so it is for me, when it comes to the garbage going on in Congress these days.

Ninety percent of Congressional Republicans did nothing but grandstand, bitch, and proselytize during the negotiations for President Obama's Economic Stimulus bill. They closed ranks and determined to do nothing…NOTHING…that might tend to make the opposing party look good. They spit in the eyes of the voters, threw the welfare of the American people under the bus, huddled up and stood—in a solid, opaque block—against anything the Democratic-controlled Congress and the President might come up with. Purely, PURELY for political reasons.

Now that the bill has been hammered out, with the president only having won the support of enough Republicans to make the final draft filibuster-proof, Republican senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are proclaiming—very publicly—that the Obama Administration is "off to a bad start;" that Mr. Obama is reneging on his promises of change and bi-partisan co-operation.

How stupid do you think we are, gentlemen? How would your single-minded determination to refuse cooperation with the new administration, no matter what the circumstances, be Mr. Obama's fault? How is it that you think you can make your pig-headed partisanship into a failure of the new president's ability or desire to fulfill his promise to the American people?

We are smarter than that, guys. We know how slowly the wheels of government are turning while the country is in dire need. And we know exactly who is dragging their feet.

And if you think this is going to help you at the ballot box in the next election, I think you had better…rethink.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

bloody Wednesday...

I was having lunch with a couple of friends a month or so ago when I first heard the rumor. The new guy had asked for big bucks to cover severance packages; the company was being restructured and heads were going to roll. Variations of this rumor had been rife since the company was sold last year. A big employee meeting originally scheduled for December was deferred to January. "There'll be lay-offs", people whispered. But at the January meeting an announcement was made: No lay-offs! A few days after the meeting I had lunch with the same two friends. "Heads will roll on February 11th," one of them said. The date had been postponed, she explained, because one of the people who'd ended up moving on up the food chain in the big restructuring didn't want his first act of record to be letting a lot of people go.

This morning when I got to work I saw that my friend knew what she was talking about. There was an email in my inbox from our CEO. It had gone out to all employees. He began by talking about the economy and went on to talk about competition, generics, declining sales forcing the company to cut back. He closed with numbers: specifically, how many people were being laid off, here and in Europe. It's not so many compared to GM, and not many at all compared to other Big Pharma companies, but somehow that doesn't provide a lot of consolation.

Several young friends emailed me this morning, asking if they should worry. No, I said, we're too low on the food chain to be considered in this cut, and it turned out I was right about that, thank goodness. But the day was grim anyway. They were walking people out. That's how it works. That's what they do. You get a phone call to go to HR, where heaven knows what is said behind closed doors, and then some smarmy HR guy walks you back to your office to pick up your personal belongings, and you're escorted out of the building. The jackass who had consistently refused to sign my time sheets on time when I was a contractor was walked out. I wasn't sorry to hear about him, and I wasn't alone in that. A true misanthrope, he should never have been put in the position of managing others. He never seemed to tire of finding ways to make those who worked under him miserable. His refusal to sign my time sheets on time should have resulted in my always being paid two weeks late; he never discovered that I managed to circumvent him and was indeed always paid on time. But this morning many more people got the dreaded call and were walked out, including a bright, capable, hard working, cheerful colleague who, like most of the others who were cut, didn't deserve it. I was very sorry to see her go.

This afternoon, when it was all over, those of us who'd managed to survive this time around were crowded into a small room designed to hold maybe a third of us. We stood jammed up against the walls with no AC and bad air, listening to one of the upper management guys whom I loathe. His idea of humor was to start out by saying everyone in the room was laid off (funny, huh?), and then saying no, if you're in here, you've made the cut. He went on to say he understood there would be trust issues (ya think? what with our being told just three weeks ago there would be NO lay offs?), but we'd "have to pull together to get through this", yada yada yada. He went on to mention that he's writing a book (in the event he manages to actually do this, I won't be rushing out to buy it) and closed by saying how he "accidentally" became a VEEP at the company, just sort of backed into it (aw shucks!) yada yada yada and maybe there was a lesson there for the rest of us.

Uh-huh. I looked around the room. Although all of us still have jobs, not one face looked happy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Would EVERYBODY Just Shut Up!

Did any of us really think that just because we had a Brave New Administration in place in Washington D.C., the noise was going to cease? I have to admit, I did.

I thought the guys who had spent the last eight years driving our country into every kind of ruin, from economic to ethical, would have the grace to concede defeat and help with the change the American people demanded with their votes this past election. Well, maybe not “help,” but at least shut up and get out of the way while the new administration took a crack at cleaning up the awful mess the Old Guard created.

What was I thinking?

If anything, the noise has gotten worse. The GOP is bound and determined that they are not going to give the Democratic administration one ounce of cooperation on the economic bail-out. I firmly believe (and I have seen it quoted in so many words) that the main reason congressional Republicans won’t work with the new administration is that they are deathly afraid Mr. Obama might succeed.

It’s not about what’s good for the country. It’s not about what’s good for the American people. It’s not about what’s good for the world community. It’s all about politics. And Politics is all about making sure, at any cost, that your party is in power, that it stays in power, and if it falls out of power, that it regains power as quickly as possible.

And so, the hyperbolic rhetoric continues. Congressional Republicans aren’t mincing words. They have the gall to stand in front of the senate and wail their concern that Joe Voter is going to pick up the multi-billion dollar tab for the economic stimulus. When did they start to give a damn about Joe Voter?

Did they care about him when they handed the bankers $800 billion before the election? Did they care about him when they pushed an elective war down our throats? Did they care about him when the Bush Administration continued to cut taxes for the rich while trying to finance that war? Who did they think was going to get stuck with the tab then? Did it just occur to them that the taxpayers—the “Main Street” taxpayers like you and me—are going to be on the hook for a very, very, very long time?

If only they would just…shut up. In my earlier post, I called for Rush Limbaugh to shut up, but it’s not just Rush. It’s Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, AND Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow… It’s Congressional Republicans AND Democrats, RNC and DNC chairmen, and anybody else who just wants to argue for the sake of the argument, who wants to extend and expand the party versus party rhetoric. If only they would


We are tired of hearing it. We want to hear about cooperation. We want to hear about everybody pitching in to make a difference for that grandma in Mary’s post who had to leave her groceries at the front counter, or for Kathy’s Emily and other children like her. Or for small business owners like me who are opening our doors to more and more empty seats, and wondering how long we will be able to keep opening our doors. And what happens when we can’t…

Joe Voter, Mr. Main Street, whatever you want to call him, is rattled and intimidated and scared.

And all you folks out there making a living on all that talking and dispute, and bitching and arguing…you are NOT HELPING.


This cartoon was in the local paper yesterday. I downloaded the image from GoComics.

A few thoughts after twenty odd minutes of intensive internet research. We’re still hearing the tax cut mantra. I have no idea what percentage the ‘pubs are looking at. But, they keep talking about us low and middle income folks. Gee, it’s nice to finally be noticed. I surprised they even remember we exist. So I’m just spitballing here.

One internet site put the median household income in the United States at $61,500 last year. So half the households have an income below that amount and half are above that amount. For the sake of argument I’ll assume that one person is employed and making that much money. Under our progressive system, the tax rate on that amount is twenty five percent. After comparing the basic hit with what’s actually on my W2, claiming only myself, I’m assuming that the tax hit for my imaginary taxpayer is $15,375 or $1,285 or so per month: and he’s not claiming anybody including himself.

I doubt they’re going to drop to the next lowest tax bracket of fifteen percent so, for the sake of argument, let’s drop this person to twenty percent. The hit is now $12,300 or $1,025 per month. Not bad, an extra $260 per month. But, that’s with no exemptions. So the actual “cut” would be lower, probably much lower.

If I follow the same scenario for someone making what some of my former co workers are making, say $25,000 per year and drop the rate to midway between brackets to get a twelve and a half percent rate I end up with a whopping $43.75 (or so) extra per month. And remember, this is without claiming anyone, including myself, so the actual “savings” would probably be lower. Not much immediate stimulus at twenty bucks or so per paycheck. Yeah, I’m going to run right out and buy a new car. Actually that just about covers the cost of materials to rehab the old hardware for the doors and cupboards in the kitchen. We’re painting this week.

Hell, that “tax cut” for a two week paycheck wouldn’t even buy a gallon of mid grade paint. It would be enough to cover the supplies it took to fix the kitchen ceiling ourselves. And it would buy a really good lunch at Lisa’s cafĂ©.

Get real guys and come back to planet earth. Get the heck out of D.C. Get your insulated backsides back to your home states and visit the local employment offices. For God’s sake look into the faces of the people behind the statistics.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Economic Crisis Hits Home

You have to be living under a basket to not know some parts of of the US got hit hard by a severe winter storm. First there was the sleet, then the ice, then the snow, then the sleet again. It was pretty bad for us here. I think half of Kentucky was without power at one time. And some are still waiting for the lights and heat to be turned back on.

My friend C. lives in an area that was hard hit, having huge trees in a mature neighborhood with no underground wires. Her power was out for five days. She was lucky that she had family to stay with while waiting it out. The pull to go home and check things out overwhelmed her, so she and her Dad went for a visit to check up on the house. And naturally, her Dad got stuck in the mountain of ice and snow scraped from the streets and deposited in front of all driveways. They tried and tried to get the car dislodged when finally someone came upon them and asked if they needed help.

He attached the car up to a wench and in a matter of moments had the vehicles back on the safe side of the drive way and clear of the ice barricade. Her Dad tried to give the guy money and he waved it off saying, "I'm paying it forward.", jumped in his truck and vanished.

Her father was not familiar with the term so C. explained that there was a movie that had this beautifully simple idea about people doing something meaningful for each other, strangers, family members, doesn't matter. The hitch is it is to be something hard and not easy....then the person receiving the "gift" is to "pass it on" meaning to do something for five other people, who in turn do something for five people, and in time, the world will be a much nicer place for everyone.

Later that day, after hearing her story I was in our local ALDI, the incredibly inexpensive (but very limited brand names, few but their own) grocery store replenishing the bread (.79cents) and a gallon of milk($2.29, was $1.99 until Jan. 1). I was standing in the back of the line, because there is always only one line and one cashier in my ALDI store, minding my own business when I sensed there was something going on at the front of the line.

A woman, with her two grand kids, was trying to check out. She had her daughters debit card and was trying to input the secret code. It was not working,. "I'm sure these are the numbers" the lady said in frustration. The two kids had become very quiet and concentrated on Granny's predicament. "If you try the third time and still don't get it right, the system will freeze you out.'

"Oh Lordie" she sighed and tried for the third time. I think we all held our breaths. It did not take.

The basket of groceries was pushed aside as the small family exited the store.

Something in my gut was telling me to step in and pay it forward, to pay for those groceries. And my heart was aching because I could not. I barely had enough bills in my hand to pay for the meager things I had.

I would have done it in a heart beat a year ago.

If I ever get back on my feet again (i.e. - get another job!!), I will never ever take anything for granted again.

Cross Posted on Just A Hippie Gypsy

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Letter To A State Senator

Tough economic times, these. I don't envy or wish to be the public servant who has to make the tough decisions.

February 5, 2009

State Senator Bruce E. Tarr
State HouseRoom 313-A
Boston, MA 02133

Dear Senator Tarr:

Just today I was invited to attend a ‘State House Rally’ at the Grand Staircase to share my story with my state legislator and ‘anyone else who will listen’. Unable to attend, I am able to write.

My story, no, our story, began just over twenty years ago with the birth of our second child, a daughter whom we named Emily. Emily was born with Down syndrome. You may be able to imagine the surprise, even shock of a pediatrician, not your own, entering your hospital room to advise you that your baby has a syndrome, a heart condition and is being transferred via ambulance to a Boston hospital while you are stuck, right there in that room, in that bed, for another twenty-four hours. Fortunately for Emily and her family, her heart condition required no surgery and she was home with her family in no time.

Since then, the road we’ve travelled has been uphill, bumpy, and full of twists and turns that we hadn’t planned or dreamed of in our wildest imagination. It has been long, often times arduous and so completely not what we expected. We have all had to learn as we go the ins and outs of living with a special baby, then child, then teen and now young adult. Each age brings new challenges and a new learning curve. For each of us.

We love our Emily no less and no more than we do our oldest child. In our eyes she is a shining star. She has a light about her that beckons us, pulls us in and encourages us to do more, do better, be better. All of this learning, all of these challenges show us just how strong we are as people and help cement our commitment not only to Emily, but to other individuals with disabilities and different needs.

Our family hasn’t been alone in our efforts to educate Emily, to give Emily the tools she needs to live a life that she will enjoy, independent of her family, yet fully supported as she needs. Our extended family, our friends, our school district, her educators, her coaches and the many, many people who work for agencies such as North Shore Arc, Till, Inc. and DMR … have all been there with us through ‘all of it’.

Tough economic times are upon us. I know difficult choices are being made daily, weekly, monthly throughout the legislative body. I admire those of you who serve in public office and support your constituents not only in the good times, but also in these difficult times. I recognize that your office receives requests daily from many with varied special interests – those that they hold dear – to support their cause, their funding, and their needs.

I am no different than those that ask for support for other causes.

I am writing to ask you to support full funding of current programs that provide family support, respite, social, day care and educational opportunities for babies, children, teens and adults with disabilities, special needs and mental retardation. Without continued funding of programs presently in place, the many disabled and special needs citizens of the State of Massachusetts will lose the precious and needed support they receive to live full, and to the best of their abilities, unrestricted lives.

As you work on The Joint Committee on Children, Families and persons with Disabilities please keep in mind the hundreds of families and individuals receiving much needed support and assistance and recognize that the numbers will not diminish, but more than likely, will increase as the economic downturn forces layoffs which in turn will force more families to seek assistance and support. The waiting lists are long now. I cannot imagine how much longer they will get as we struggle through the next few years.

I believe the State of Massachusetts should make a commitment to these citizens, less fortunate than some perhaps, but no less valuable than any other citizen of the commonwealth.


Monday, February 2, 2009

On Blogging (one of my favorite subjects...)

Judi’s excellent post about blogging and the complicated dance of dealing with the community, the readership, and the comments struck a chord with me. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this medium ever since I started blogging over five years ago.

Like Judi, I started out on AOL. “Coming to Terms…” hit the ether in September of 2003, just a few weeks into AOL’s foray into the Great Blog Experience. Only, back then, we called them “Journals.” Hence, the name, “AOL J-Land.”

I don’t know exactly what I expected when I first decided to post my thoughts in a public place. I wasn’t thinking of communicating with family or friends or people I knew. In fact, I was in a peculiarly family- and friend-less space at that time in my life. I just had so much…stuff…going on inside me that writing in paper journals that no other soul would ever read was more frustrating than cathartic. Presented with a chance to put my angst somewhere that some other person—any other person, stranger or not—might read, I knew I had to go for it.

Not long into the experience, it became obvious that Journal Land was so much more than just a bunch of anonymous essays broadcast into cyberspace. That sneaky little “comment” button stole up and threw a lasso around us. It created a “give and take” situation that I don’t think any of us anticipated. Quickly, and almost against our will, we became a community.

As Judi says, the “Official” Journal-land community was often a turn-off. There were the movers and shakers, the flamboyant graphics fans, the writer wanna-be’s… There were the pillars of the community that monopolized as many aspects of the J-land experience as they could grab, only to burn themselves out, lose interest and disappear in a very short time. Since I never have been much of a “joiner,” that stuff didn’t bother me, at least not to the point that it drove me out of the neighborhood.

And, oh yes…there were cliques, just like there are in any large community. There was an elite group of J-landers who seemed to feel they owned the place, and it was not a group that was open to just anyone. That was a bummer; and in the early days, it bugged me. But, soon enough, I found myself with a small corral of friends, and I got enough peripheral attention from the larger community that I felt, for the first time in a long time, that I really belonged. I was nowhere near the middle of things. In fact, I was, like the Sun, out toward the edge of one of the spiraling arms of the galaxy. Still, I snuggled into my niche and was happy there for a long time.

So blogging, for me, started out as therapy and ended up a citizenship in a community that stretched across the country. But it also had another side benefit. I rediscovered my muse. I realized that, though I’d been writing for nearly forty years, it had been nearly half that long since I had written anything even remotely worthy of being read by another human being. I had been my sole audience since I left high school and Creative Writing class. Understanding that I now had readers made me step up to the plate and write. Not just the whiney, angst-ridden crap I had been scribbling for years. But actual essays that had meaning, made sense, and communicated something of myself and my beliefs to other people. It was heady stuff.

And with that realization came the addiction to hit counts and comments that is the ball and chain that comes packaged with every blog. Let’s face it, if we didn’t want people to read, we would not be taking advantage of this amazing, free public forum. But when you find yourself logging on to your blog several times a day just to see if someone has read or left a comment, it feels unhealthy, self-absorbed, even sad in a desperate sort of way. I struggled with those feelings for years. In fact, I still struggle with them.

The landscape of the Land of Blog has continuously changed and evolved during the five years I have dwelled therein. AOL J-land, for all that it was a safe and comfortable place, tended to reward one’s less cerebral efforts. Memes, quizzes and personal drama got tons of hits and loads of comments. While a topical political essay would generally go over like a fart in church. Which of us who has been blogging for awhile has not lamented that our best work—the stuff of which we are fit-to-burst proud when we hit the “post” button—gets the least notice? Frustrating as hell for those of us who fancy ourselves something more than 21st century pen-pals. I went so far as to start “spin-off” blogs—meant as places for me to post my best work without the anguish over hit counts and comments. And I have to admit, even this plan has met with limited success.

This past October, AOL decided to shut the doors on Journal Land forever. Who knows why? I kind of thought that it was because the J-land crowd was not going to spend gobs of money on electronic toys, games, and other faddish crap that makes the 18-to-35 age group the most battled-over demographic on the internet. Evidently, we were even immune to the old-fart ads they chose to inflict upon our blogs back in 2005. We weren’t a profit center. So we got the axe. Our community was just that disposable.

During and just after the period of final exodus, the community seemed to go through a revival. People were reading, commenting, commiserating. I caught up with folks I had not heard from in years. I began to think perhaps AOL had done us a favor. But in the months since, the community has dwindled and all but disappeared. For me, anyway. Perhaps, once we were thrown for good and all into the great big world of Blogger, “Coming to Terms….” could not compete.

I came to realize that, though I love blogging and will continue to write somewhere in the ether, (“Women On” seems like a pretty decent place, eh?) “…Terms…” was intrinsically, if peripherally, part of a community that no longer exists. Much as I wanted to believe it was about the writing and not about the readership, I found myself more and more loath to go there as the community fragmented and dispersed into the ether. And so, a couple of days ago, I wrapped up “Coming to Terms…” with these words:

I sweated and cried and toiled over my keyboard for hours when AOL decided to shut its doors. The race to save the blog took energy I did not have and could not spare, but it was essential. But I know now…though the blog is saved, though five years of essays are here, many of them are meaningless. Silly, even. Because they tell the story of getting to know and being a member of a community that no longer exists. "Coming to Terms…" was a unique part of a unique place. And now that the place is gone, "…Terms…" has lost its purpose.

It's possible I will start another blog, under another name, where I can re-establish that theme of writing to get the demons out of my head, and taking the chance that someone might read. But I can't wrestle "Coming to Terms…" back into that mold. It is way beyond that, an entirely different entity than it was when it started. It is not a place I come to be alone.

Blogging, like everything else in our super-charged high-tech society, continues to shift and morph…at a rate with which I can barely keep up. But I shall try to soldier on, because, for all its annoying idiosyncrasies and frustrating rewards, the Land of Blog is the best place for me to continue doing something I can’t NOT do. That first beloved blog belonged to a different time and place… It was time to close it up and move on to the next episode in the series.

So, here we are. Where do we go from here?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

the Emperor's new clothes...

It's Super Bowl Sunday and there was a time I'd have been blogging about that. I have one child in Las Vegas attending the game, and I'm going to a Super Bowl party here in Dallas later this afternoon myself. But that's not what I'm writing about today. Instead, I'm taking a few minutes to write about writing, or rather, about blogging.

I started blogging in the now-fabled AOL Land of Blog. This was a community of bloggers who came together on AOL several years ago in a sort of blogging Camelot. Many of those writers, now here on blogger because AOL closed its doors, still bemoan the loss of that community. I'm not one of them. I understand their sense of loss, but I understand it as someone who observed that community from the outside looking in, with my face pressed up against the glass, as it were, not from a sense of ever for a moment being inside that warm, fuzzy cocoon. I started blogging on AOL in June 2005, but I happily migrated to Blogger a few months later, in November 2005, when there was a great brouhaha about the ads, and many members of the AOL community left. For what it's worth, there were always ads visible on my AOL site, so I didn't really understand what all the fuss was about. I've been a fan of many of those AOL writers, and some of those writers became fans of mine, but I was never a part of that community. It seemed to me to be a gated community, and I know I'm not the only one who felt that way, because other bloggers have written me about it.

Why do we do this anyway? Why blog? Of course, everyone has their own reasons. Early on I wrote a post about this, about how blogging can be a way of feeling connected to the rest of the world and conquering the sense of isolation that afflicts everyone, in varying degrees, from time to time. I still think that's true, but somehow, as time went by, I found myself getting caught up in who was reading me; how many comments I was getting; who was leaving comments, etc., etc. This was not a healthy thing for me, because as I got caught up in those observations, I began writing less. My younger brother, Dave, one of my most faithful readers, immediately noticed and complained to me. I made a half hearted attempt to write more, but as my focus was still off, it didn't really work. The gadgets now available to us, of which I don't hesitate to avail myself (sitemeter, who links to me, followers, etc.) make it easy to succumb to this sort of self-absorption, at least, that's what it amounted to for me.

But then one day last December I went into my blog, and clicking on the linked bloggers in my sidebar and reading the blogs of others, I suddenly realized that the blogger whose writing I admire most receives almost no comments, and I don't know how many followers he has, as he doesn't post that info on his blog. And I thought of Emily Dickinson, and I also thought of Justin Hall. Without Justin, would any of us be blogging? A couple of light years ago in Chicago, A and I lived in a coach house on the near north side, on State Street. There we shared a yard with Justin's parents, who lived in the row house in front of us and with whom we were good friends. I remember the day Justin was born. When he was a little guy, he and Alex sometimes played together, and I have a pic of the two of them, arms around each other's shoulders, wearing cowboy hats and smiling for the camera. I discovered and read Justin's original blog a few years ago when I googled my own name and came across a link to something I'd written in a condolence note to his mother on the death of his father. My note had ended up being been read at his father's eulogy, and Justin had posted the eulogy on his original blog, which he started in 1994, when he was 19. It was an online diary, with no place for comments. Writing online a few days ago about his original blog, Justin said: "When I started writing I wanted to find a place for myself in the world. I wanted a mate, I wanted to work with passionate people, I wanted to explore computers and publishing. Those things have come to pass, I need to find new things to write about."

Well said.

Me too. I need to find new things to write about, and although I love reading the comments people make, I need to write without caring whether anyone reads me or not. And to that end, in January I applied seat of pants to seat of chair and posted 34 entries in 31 days.

It's a start...