In which I pose a serious question in a roundabout way

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My family has two puppies under our care. One, we adopted because we have a seven-year-old boy living in the house and he’s been begging for a dog since he was three. The other adopted us because we fed him at a time when he was down on his luck and we obviously know how to take care of puppies.

Their names are Diesel and Ren, but I call them “Lil’ pup” and “Big pup.”

Big pup. He likes to guard smaller creatures. He doesn't guard food and seems to not understand toys at all. He's quiet unless he has something important to say. And he doesn't jump up on people even when they're waving meat at him.

Big pup. He likes to guard smaller creatures. He doesn’t guard food and seems to not understand toys at all. He’s quiet unless he has something important to say. And he doesn’t jump up on people even when they’re waving meat at him. Has the makings of a super-sweet working dog.

They get along well. Ren is six or seven months old, based on his size and dental development. Either a German Shepherd, or a GSD mixed with one other related breed, we’re pretty sure. And we’ve done our best to make sure no one’s looking for him. It seems that no one is.

Lil' Pup. She's a monster, and a connoisseur of fine paper. That's Mr. Chicken she's gnawing on there. She loves Mr. Chicken, but they are not friends.

Lil’ Pup. She’s a monster, and a connoisseur of fine paper. That’s Mr. Chicken she’s gnawing on there. She loves Mr. Chicken, but they are not friends. Diesel is a bit of a terror.

If I ever figure out a way to migrate my consciousness to some surrealistic fantasy world and become a not-so-evil overlord, I’m bringing these two with me. They will be my gargoyles. If you happen to wander into my fantasy domain unbidden, Big Pup will pose you a riddle. If you are unable to come up with a satisfactory answer in a reasonable amount of time, Lil’ Pup will eat you alive, starting with your face.

So, on to the serious question. These doggies love, love, love some paper. It makes interesting sounds and tastes enough like food to satisfy. And it is so. Very. Shreddable. Cardboard, wrapping paper, tissues, toilet paper. Just doesn’t matter. Ren mostly sniffs around and forages for little bits of paper, but Diesel seems to be on a holy quest to sample every type of paper that ever existed. We have to watch her around the books. This is totally normal behavior for a three-month-old puppy and we correct it often enough that it’s not a long-term concern.

I have a computer desk with a floor-level shelf, and until we got puppies, I was accustomed to storing documents on that shelf. It’s very convenient. They are out of sight and I know where they are if I need to refer to them. One of the documents stored on that shelf is my Master’s Thesis, shrink-wrapped and nestled snugly in a Kinko’s box.

Those of you who are familiar with the academic meat grinder will get this. A master’s thesis is a thing you sweat over, and if you’re a flighty person, maybe you go to therapy to get it done. Then once it’s done, unless you’re a genius or were at least smart enough to use the master’s training to do exploratory work that you can build on, what you really want to do is disavow it and pretend someone else wrote it.

So, anyway. Lil’ pup has worried and worried at the Kinko’s box for weeks now. The entire lid is gone. She really truly wants to get into that box and rip the plastic and sample some 25-lb linen paper seasoned with 9-year-old ink.

Given that I’ve never taken that document out of its box even once since I published it, it’s probably the least favorite piece of writing I’ve ever finished, and it’s archived in an academic library for posterity in any case . . .

. . . Should I go ahead and let her have her way with it?

They like to help the boy study his spelling words. That is great fun for EVERYONE.

They like to help the boy study his spelling words. That is great fun for EVERYONE.

Weekend Coffee Share: The Hard Year

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’ve missed these chats over the past couple of months. I’ve missed lots of other blogging things, too, but the #weekendcoffeeshare is my favorite regular blogging activity, and I feel as though I’ve been away too long.

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And I’d tell you I’m terribly out of practice. It’s amazing how quickly I get rusty when I stop doing a particular type of writing. So today, I’m just putting one word after another until I’m done, because I need to publish something before the weekend is out.

I’d tell you 2015 was one of the hardest years of my life. It was harder than the year I spent in Central Texas working for minimum wage plus tips and living like a monk because I didn’t have any friends there. Harder than the year I lost a good public sector job due to budget cuts — the only time I’ve ever been terminated from a job, and it took a toll.

The only year that was worse was the year Vicki broke her ankle, then was allowed to develop pneumonia due to poor medical care and spent 17 days at death’s door in ICU. That experience was so traumatic I ended up in therapy for PTSD for almost two years.

There are four things that are sure to disrupt the normal rhythm of a person’s life and bring on a ton of stress.

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

  1. Major lifestyle changes, especially when they’re involuntary.
  2. Loved ones dealing with life-threatening medical situations.
  3. Changes in professional responsibilities.
  4. Financial pressures.

I spent most of last year dealing with all of those at once. Since I’m a hypersensitive, anxiety- and depression-prone person, what I ended up with was a mental and emotional shitstorm that turned me into a functional basket case. I got to the point where I had to let go of something just to get through to the holiday break, and blogging turned out to be the thing I had to let go of. And not just the blogging. I pretty much left the entire Internet and withdrew from every part of social life except work and my immediate family.

I don’t even know when I last published a blog post, but I went from Oct. 20 to Dec. 15 without so much as posting a Facebook update. At one point Diana had to email me to get my attention and make sure I was ok. That should give you a clue as to what a bad way I was in.

In late November, I started thinking about how and when to come back, but I was overwhelmed trying to catch up on all the stuff I’d missed, beating myself up over several blogging commitments that I just didn’t show up for,  and the holidays were just around the corner. I was paralyzed. I felt like I had nothing to say and little to offer. And then, the week of Thanksgiving, this little girl showed up. Her name is Diesel.

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She’s probably got genes from a dozen or more breeds of dog. Here mother is a Golden Retriever mix and her father is a Lab mix, but we know she has some Chow in her ancestry several generations back and she seems to think she’s a German Shepherd. Having to care for her somewhat jarred me out of the funk I had fallen into, but she was only two months old when we got her, so taking care of her has pretty much been a full-time job until the last week or so.

Then on New Years’ Eve, this fella showed up. We found him on our back porch hiding from the fireworks. We fed him and gave him a blanket, and he’s barely left the yard since. He’s a big dog, but he’s less than 8 months old because he doesn’t have all his adult teeth yet. He’s much less work — hardly any trouble, really. He’s an outside dog who likes to come in after school and play with the boy and the little puppy.

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Anyway I’m somewhat better now, thanks in part to the doggies. I’m trying to figure out what I can do, blogging-wise, through the spring. I simply don’t have the time or the energy to get Sourcerer busy again right now, and that pains me. I put two years of my life into building that blog and dozens — if not scores — of people supported it, so it’s not something I can let go lightly.

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I’m publishing this here today because I don’t want to post over at Sourcerer until I decide what to do with it — I don’t just want to post a couple of times there and then have it go silent for two or three more weeks. And I’m not ready to shut it down, so silence is the best option until I figure out what I want to do with it.

I’m pretty much in a bind with the blogging. Keeping a blog humming the way Sourcerer was when it was firing on all cylinders last spring requires two things.

  1. The person who’s running it has to produce a lot of content and spend time on the blog at least every other day; and
  2. Posts have to be planned at least a week or two in advance, even if they are written at the last minute.

I’m not in a position to do either of those things at the moment. I’ve not been able to predict my schedule more than three days in advance since I started packing my apartment the last week of May, and that seems to be the “new normal” for me. But at the same time, I really must blog. So, I’m setting what I feel is a reasonable goal for myself for February and March, and I’ll re-evaluate the situation the week of spring break.

My blogging goal for the next couple of months is to produce a blog post per week, not counting the coffee share posts, which I’ll do here as often as I can. I’ll offer the one post per week to other bloggers. I have to give Part Time Monster and Comparative Geeks priority, because I doubt I would even be attempting this comeback if not for the support of Diana, David, and Holly. But I’m pretty much writing whatever I feel like writing, so it’s entirely possible that I’ll come up with some things to offer other friends, as well.

I also plan to get back to reading and sharing blogs at least one evening a week.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I’m back, but it will be awhile before I’m able to be all over the internet the way I was in 2014 and 2015. Honestly, I don’t know how I kept that up as long as I did. But it was fun, and it made me a lot of friends, so I hope I can get back there eventually.

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Weekend Coffee Share: In Which I Finally have a Good Week

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If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m feeling more myself this weekend than I have in a couple of months. Things have mostly settled down in the family sphere, even though we STILL haven’t got all the boxes unpacked. I’ve almost got a huge work project off my plate. Fall is coming, but it isn’t here yet and I have a week or two before I really have to start gearing up. Life is good.

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And I’d tell you I am pondering where to go with my blogging from here. A certain amount of my blogwriting has to be pop-culture related because my blog Sourcerer is all pop culture, all the time. But I have other interests, and things I’d like to write about that don’t fit there.  And some those other interests are political.

I could publish political things here, but I’m not sure it really fits here, either. Not sure how well it would be received, and really, this blog has been so all over the map over the last couple of years, I’m not sure about shifting the focus *yet* again.

I’m also questioning the wisdom of having two blogs on WordPress.com. WordPress is working well for Sourcerer, but here’s the thing. Because I built a blog specifically for contributors and separated the personal one, I have limits to work within here.

I’m not able to generate slow and steady audience growth by posting frequently here. Once a week, and the occasional piece that I either hammer out quickly or take a couple of weeks to finish, is about all I can manage.

I’ve got no search traffic, because I’ve never been good at writing for searches, and this blog in particular, up to this point, hasn’t let itself very well to content that people are actually using Google to find.

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

What this means, in practical terms, is that I get readers from two places: From the #WeekendCoffeeShare linkup, and from sharing things I post here with friends. The potential audience for any given post here is only 25-50. I’ve had much better days than that, but never consistently, and not since I cut back to once-a-week posting.

This blog is hampered by the fact that every like I give and every comment I leave leads people to Sourcerer. That’s by design, because growing that blog is my top priority. But the ability to leave easy links when you interact on other blogs is one of the biggest benefits of blogging on WordPress. And using two separate accounts doesn’t work for me, because then I have to constantly be checking both accounts for notifications.

So, in short, I’m questioning the wisdom of having two blogs on WordPress, and I’m thinking about opportunity cost. I can generate 25 to 50 page views every Saturday no matter where I do the posting I’m doing on Just Gene’O, and a blog on another network, or just on the Internet as a whole, might mean the potential to find readers who would never otherwise find us here.

I’m thinking about standing up either a self-hosted site or a blogger blog in the late fall when the back-to-school madness settles down. Not bringing the complete archives with me. Just the stuff I need to keep my projects going.

But I’m only thinking about it at this point, and in the meantime, I’m wanting, very badly, to write about the problems of the U.S. penal system, various forms of privilege, and some other social/activist issues. So you may see an uptick in politically-oriented posts from me here.

Happy weekend! Don’t forget to add your coffee post to the linkup at Part Time Monster and share it with #WeekendCoffeeShare on Twitter.