Category Archives: writing

on pain…and memory

A conversation with a friend about surgical pain prompted me to resurrect this older post that never made it out of my drafts folder.  It’s a rather stream-of-consciousness piece, a musing on my own relationship to pain.

“It’s kind of freaky the way you smile when you tell me these things,” he said, stopping me mid-sentence.  I was telling the story of my leg infection and had just launched into the part where I was explaining the surgery.  I had lifted up my left pantleg to show the scar and was explaining the debriding of the wound.

I was silent for a moment, rehearsing the last few moments in an attempt to find that spot in my story where I’d left off.  I dropped my pantleg.

I’d chosen him as my therapist purposefully.  A Jew (not a Mormon or a Christian).  A musician.  One of the few people whose library could rival mine, books stacked in piles on cinderblock shelves.  Older than my father and nothing at all like him, with curly hair going every which direction.  So I sat on his couch with my legs crossed, not even sure why I was there except that it seemed I had work to do.  A black fog inside my head.  Fragility.  Fatigue.  A desire to put some things behind me.  And to figure some things out.  He had a swimming pool in his front courtyard and yet he confessed to me during our first visit that he didn’t even know how to swim.

I felt my smile widen on my face again and wondered when it would be appropriate to continue my tale.  I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to continue, though.  Maybe we were supposed to stop here and talk about something else.  Something deep.  I waited for him to signal me, to tell me what was supposed to happen now.

“Why are you still smiliing?” he asked.  I didn’t know.  The smile went with the story.  Hand-in-hand.


I curled my body into a tight ball, fitted into the hollow of John’s body as we lay next to each other in bed, the layers of comforters over my head.  It was one of those cold nights.  When no amount of clothing would keep me warm.  He took my icy fist in his and tried to spread out the fingers to alternate with his own.  But my instinct to ball my fingers made me resist.  As I shivered he pulled at my various layers of clothing and uncovered the stump of my right leg, knowing it would be the coldest part.  He clasped the soft tissue in his warm hands and held firmly, passing heat from his body to mine, so I could sleep.


“Jana’s complaining of pain again,” I read at the top of the next page as I turned the microfilm knob. I recognized my nurse Penny’s handwriting.  Larger and loopier than most of the other writing on the records in the medical files that I was perusing in the microforms room of the Children’s Hospital.   After reading page after page I realized how much I liked when the nurses used my name:  Jana slept all afternoon, Jana seems in good spirits todayJana took a bath. Jana’s friends from church came to visit. Jana’s in pain again. So much better than The patient slept all afternoon, The patient took a wheelchair ride outside. The patient says she wants more demerol.

There was one common refrain in nearly every entry:  Jana’s in painJana’s in pain again. The patient is complaining of pain.

I recalled the various landmark events of that time: the surgeries, the emergencies, the bloodcell counts, the benchmarks, the dirty scans, the clean scans.  And that horrid wallpaper.  The ridiculous pastel pattern of abstract llama-creatures with knees slightly bent, marching in static rows across the walls. I remember grabbing the cold metal railings of the bed and staring at that wallpaper.  Screaming, as the needles go in.

in the commons

I’m a fan of Creative Commons. I share my photos, my web content and my podcasts with CC licensing, which means that you’re free to use my stuff, but you’ve got to give me credit if you do so. Sure I know that people ‘steal’ my pics sometimes–it happens most often with pics of me that are reposted by these folks (which, btw, I find fairly disturbing but I try not to think about it too often).

Recently I discovered that a picture of me was lifted from John’s flickr feed and was used to illustrate a misogynistic blog article. I learned this because a friend had seen the article and recognized me in the photo. This made me feel incredibly uncomfortable–primarily because I felt that my picture being affiliated with the post implied that I had endorsed the writing or was somehow involved with it (FWIW, because the article detailed the sexual exploits of the author, I felt it was possible some people might assume that I’d had a relationship with him). Now in this case the blog author didn’t use appropriate CC attribution, so I dropped a comment on his post suggesting that he review the rules for the Commons and also made it clear that I had no connection to the author’s words despite my image being on display. Within 48 hours my pic was gone, replaced by that of another nameless woman.

I tend to assume when I license something for Creative Commons, that my generosity will be mirrored with responsibility on the part of those who use my work. Surely I am naive. And there’s little that I can do when my images are connected with content that’s antithetical to my values, especially if the user has followed the rules of the Commons by giving appropriate attribution (which, in some cases might be even more discomfiting than if the image was used anonymously because my flickr identity links directly to my various websites).

I’m not going to stop sharing via Creative Commons and if anything I think I’ve got a bit thicker skin now–so when this happens again (and I’m just assuming it will) I won’t take it so personally. However, I’d like to know if any of you are wary of the Commons or have been burned by the unattributed use of your work? Many of my friends add a copyright watermark to their photos to discourage theft, and while I’ve considered this, I figured it not worth the time investment on my part. Perhaps I should reconsider?

I’m not a professional blogger, but I play one on TV…

I blog regularly (meaning daily or semi-monthly) at five different blogs. One of these days I’ll tally my wordcount and see how many books I’ve written since the birth of I doubt I’m anywhere near the book every three weeks rate of this blogger. But I’ll bet I do have a few books under my belt by now. Leitch claims that blogging is the hardest job ever. I’m going to guess that he’s never been a mother of a toilet-training 2 year-old or a maid (and neither of them have great tans either). Really.

Much has been written about the relative lack of sales success for books written by bloggers, as if bloggers were an ethnic group, or some sort of easily charted genre. Every blogger is different from the others; I can’t think of a single shared characteristic among bloggers, save for lack of a tan. The one thing we do do, however, is write. A lot. I’ve worked for newspapers, magazines, television stations, doctor’s offices, you name it, and no job requires more daily effort than being a professional blogger. If people have a slow day at the office and do a little less work than usual, hardly anyone notices. If I have a slow day, every commenter on my site lets me know immediately.

it’s the flying

This has got to be the best-ever article about blogging. An excerpt:

“It’s the flying. It’s the suspension of punctuation and good manners and even identity. Bloggers at their computers are Supermen in flight. They break the rules. They go into their virtual phone booths, put on their costumes, bring down their personal villains, and save the world. Anonymous or not, they inhabit that source of power and hope. Then they come back to their jobs, their dogs, and their lives…

Blog writing is id writing—grandiose, dreamy, private, free-associative, infantile, sexy, petty, dirty. Whether bloggers tell the truth or really are who they claim to be is another matter, but WTF. They are what they write. And you can’t fake that. ;-)”

pilgrimgirl classic: Why I Blog

Friends, I read through this post from 7/24/06 last night and thought it might be about time to repost it. Enjoy!

I’m preparing to speak about Mormon feminist blogging in a few weeks. So as I’ve been mulling over various thoughts, I thought I’d make a list of the top 10 reasons why I blog….

1) For reflection. Each time I sit at my computer to write a post, I reflect on my life and cull the gems that I feel are worth sharing. This affords the opportunity to recall joy, blessings, frustrations. I like these moments of examination, they offer great insight.
2) For FUN. Often, blogging is play for me. I take an experience and try to render it in text. I experiment with phrasing, punctuation and pauses. I attempt to express humor and pathos.
3) To tell it like it is. I like having the uninterrupted space to tell my stories. No one is cutting me off mid-sentence or censoring my words. It’s probably the narcissist in me that enjoys the blog as both soapbox and pedestal.
4) To speak the unspeakable. On my blog I’ve often discussed my disability. This is a fairly taboo subject in mainstream culture. It’s empowering to me to tell the stories of my different body without framing them in terms of an inspirational or pity-full narrative. Yet, ironically, it is the parts of my life that are the most visible (my religious practice, my academic pursuits) that I discuss least often. I’m not yet sure why that is. (more on this in #10)
5) To share pictures. I’ve just started really enjoying photography. I know our camera sucks and my photos are amateur-ish, but they bring me great joy. I love sharing my ‘lens’ with you.
6) For community. Several of you, dear readers, know me only through my blog. Others of you are old familiar friends who like to continue to keep in touch through cyberspace. I cherish my virtual neighborhood. Your blogs and emails nourish me, your thoughts buoy me, and your comments affirm, challenge, provoke and validate my musings.
7) For memory. What joy it is to scroll through my blog history and remember the fun things I’ve done!
8) Because I’m a geek. Hmmmm….yes, I spend a good chunk of my day sitting at my laptop writing emails and composing blogposts. ‘nuff said.
9) To mimic John. I’m not really the jealous type, but I saw all the benefits that he’s gotten from blogging through the years, and I wanted in on it, too!
10) To be vulnerable. Though the personal essays and other opportunities I’ve had to share the intimate parts of my life over the past 10 years, I have often been afraid. I’ve been afraid to tell the truth as I see it, I’ve been afraid of offending, I’ve even been afraid of ‘discipline.’* But there is something so empowering about laying out truth bare. My truth-telling brings me closer to others, creates bonds with strangers, allows an intimacy that is both frightening and exhilarating.

*I suspect that the reason I feel reticent to discuss school and church are because of fear of backlash. Within academia there’s a pretty high barrier to becoming personal and vulnerable. The LDS church has a history is censuring its more outspoken members, especially feminist women. So far, no one in the Mormon ‘Bloggernacle’ has been disciplined by church authorities for what they’ve written on their blogs, yet I am still wary. I love the freedom of the LDS community on the Net. I don’t want to see that change.

blogging in academia

Attended this panel today about blogging and academia. It was a bit discouraging to be one of the three people in attendance who weren’t getting course credit for being there, but I guess that’s just to be expected when you plan a panel on Halloween…

That said, there were some good points made, perhaps the most memorable contribution was Liz Losh‘s rejoinder: “Don’t blog while angry, it’s like driving drunk.” She mentioned this in the context of a discussion about the ‘permanence’ of webwriting and other forms of electronic communication. Each panelist concurred that blogging is best done with a ‘drafts’ folder to let ideas gel for awhile before hitting the ‘publish’ button.

A few other thoughts:
Scott Kaufman spoke about how blogging made him love writing again. Daily, he stops working on his dissertation after dinner and then allows himself to blog. What he said rang true with my experience as a blogging academic. When I am blogging I am a better academic writer because I feel so much ‘juice’ running through my brain. I also have a momentum built from blogwriting that carries through into all other types of writing. I can literally feel my wrists and hands loosen as the words just flow. The only challenge of being an active blogwriter is that of time–making sure that I don’t get so preoccupied with blogthoughts and blogdramas that I forget what’s most important (i.e. my dissertation).

Liz gave a few statistics that I thought quite telling. She quoted the following percentages of responses as to why academic-types blog (note: just a few stats of the many she offered and I wish I had the citation for the study, but I didn’t get that either):

91% praised the intellectual stimulation of blogging
63% liked blogging because it facilitated interdisciplinarity
64% said it fosters community

My two criticisms of the panel discussion:

1) Each blogger seemed sheepish about their blogging, admitting that it was extra-curricular to their “real work.” This made me sad–what I wanted to see was a panel that legitimized the ways that blogging can enhance an academic career, not a bunch of folks who admit its frivolousness.

2) There was the expected ivory tower elitism–some slams at BoingBoing and the ‘bad writing’ of most blogs. While I agree that many blogs aren’t masterpieces (I’ll include myself in that bunch), I’m not sure that all of the panelists really ‘get’ the genre and form of the blog. It has a different audience and intention than a NYTimes article. For the most part, it’s intended to be rough and raw and fast. It’s more about connection to communty than polish, IMO. Of course, YMMV.


A thought gem from this article:
Greg Dening, “Performing on the Beaches of the Mind: An Essay,” History and Theory 41 (Feb. 2002): 1–24.

“I read fast most of the time. That is because reading books…is my conversation with the world. My eyes are ahead of my mind when I read fast. I gobble sentences, paragraphs, pages whole. There is a white noise in the back of my mind as I read. It is the babble of worldwide conversations that affect my thinking. I’m in conversation with novelists, philosophers, anthropologists, historians, critics in this sort of reading. It is full of erotic, ecstatic moments when I think that what they are saying is what I myself am just about to say. But I am going to say it better!”

I like his certitude. Often when I read what others write and I have one of those moments when I realize that they are saying what I wanted to say, well I just throw my hands up in the air and despair of ever having something important to contribute…