Category Archives: writing

legacy bio, or what happens when you log in to after more than 10 years…

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 1.48.43 PMRecently I logged into while I was teaching a workshop, and when I did so my legacy bio from 2005 popped up onto the screen in front of the audience.  It was a bit embarrassing to see my just-barely-in-grad-school self on that big screen and to realize just how much time has passed in the interim.  I don’t live with any of those people anymore (I’m over 6 years divorced from John and the kiddos both live in their own apartments in different cities from me) and I’ve long since finished my Ph.D.  While I still enjoy my afternoon cuppa and I do spend a lot of my discretionary time gardening, I rarely define myself by those hobbies.  Of course I am still a cancer survivor and I am still am amputee, but I would probably not advertise those aspects of myself in front of an audience while I was speaking on a professional topic.

This is a pretty good example of how the internet doesn’t forget much, despite the fact that I’ve rather strategically moved my URLs around enough that my decades-ago blogwriting is not so easily discoverable.  It still happens often that near-strangers will mention to me that “they’ve been reading my blog…” and I am left feeling like I’ve just left my junior high school diary open on a park bench.

So perhaps this is the perfect segue to an announcement about the talk that I’ll be giving at my alma mater on March 1st.  It will be an opportunity to reminisce a bit about my life as a blogger along with my colleague Jeff Wasserstrom.  If you’re interested in hearing some of my stories (including, perhaps, how it felt to have my decades-old blogger bio pop up in my workshop last week), please consider yourself invited to join in!

(And it is not without a large feeling of fondness that I note the location of this event is one of my former favorite UCI study haunts, which is now named after my best-ever UCI Bio prof). 

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Blogging Nostalgia

Am I the only one who misses that era of about 2008ish where everyone had a blog and part of the day’s ritual was to read all of your friends’ recent posts?  Every once in awhile I peruse the lists of sites from my now-defunct RSS Reader and I can recall the thrill of having so many writerly friends that I heard from nearly every day.  But mostly I miss the thrill and energy of regularly writing for an audience–my writing muscles have become pretty flaccid these past few years.

This quotation, from one of my most favorite articles about blogs, sums up the magic of the phenomenon so well:

Finally, I think I get the superhero fixation. 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, and it’s like, “Dude, the ball.”

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. ?

pink flower photo

(Note: the peonies have nothing to do with blogging, but they seemed worth including anyways…)


Photo taken at sunset on a long ramble in Central Park, January 2015.

Photo taken at sunset on a long ramble in Central Park, January 2015.

Last year, my resolutions were:
-sleep more
-cook most of my meals at home
-plant a bigger veggie garden
-fret less about money
-read more books
-take long walks
-write for pleasure
-own less stuff
-do yoga, daily
-go camping, monthly
-be a better friend/neighbor/colleague/family member
-live closer to where I work

Though I did not do as much camping as I’d hoped to when I penned this list, I believe that three months of homeless research sabbatical, probably counts a bit towards the camping goal.  I also didn’t grow too many veggies (see: homelessness), so I am rolling that goal over to 2015.

Perhaps the accomplished goals that give me the most satisfaction are the daily yoga, being a better friend, and walking more.  The ones that I hope to continue on into this next year include writing for pleasure and increasing the number of home-cooked meals.

In addition to these very personal resolutions I also set a number of aims for my scholarly productivity.  Checking many of these goals off of my to-do list has brought a great sense of accomplishment.  I feel so very fortunate to have a work environment where I am constantly striving and mastering new things.

She was told never to do these 5 things while she was getting a PhD in History, but she did them anyways. Click here to see what happened.

This list of links is for a round table that I’m participating in at the #WAWH conference this afternoon about writing online as a graduate student. So to mix things up a but I thought I’d try a bit of upworthy-style academic clickbait (instead of a PowerPoint)…

1) blog everyday

Confessions of a blogger historian

The blogging life

2) get personal

My bio

Writing about disability and religion and divorce and family (and poetry and flowers…)

3) get distracted by side projects

Technological tools for historians

The Making History Podcast

4) tweet at and about academic conferences

Getting Twitterpated at academic conferences

The Past’s Digital Presence Conference twitter feed

5) accept a FT alt-ac position instead of ‘going on the market’

Moving from a virtual space to an academic office space

Ten things I’ve learned from being a university administrator

losing my RSS…

Like so many of you, I miss GoogleReader. It was an essential part of starting my day, to peruse the posts in my Reader and to delight over the images and words of friends and colleagues.

I’ve migrated my feeds.* But it’s not the same and I am grieving.

One thing I liked about GReader, was scrolling through the lists of subscriptions with no recent updates. There I had feeds from several friends who are now dead and from many many more friends whose blogs are now dead but they are still very much alive. Having this historical record of blogs-once-loved was like my box of worn love-letters from the beaus I had when we used to put pen to paper to express our feelings. But I don’t know where to put my list of old RSS feeds so I can keep them safe from moth and dust (and the whims of google).

And perhaps even more than that, I’m longing for those days where we were all homesteading our own writerly spaces and finding our voices and commenting and blogging together. Facebook is no substitute, and if anything losing GReader has increased my dissatisfaction with that platform even more than before (because people don’t write on Facebook–they kvetch).

*I’m using bloglovin’ to read blogs now, and you can do the same by clicking the link in the sidebar here…and they can even import your feeds from GReader.

live a good story

Recently I came across the Impossible Things blog through the story of the author’s coffeeshop interaction with Russell Kirsch.  I poked around the site a bit and was impressed with the author’s verve.  I’m the kind of person who likes big challenges, and doing “impossible things” seems a great approach to life.

Perhaps what I found most provocative on his site, was this phrase:

Live a good story. Then don’t be afraid to tell people about it.

Because I’m struggling a bit with the telling of my life story these days.  Some days I’m just not interested in sharing–the initial adrenaline rush that came from being all wide-and-open on the internet simply isn’t there for me anymore.  Also, I’m feeling a need to resist the tidy narratives that are often created for my blogposts–the rosy-colored tint of my voice here feeling a bit too saccharine for the realities of my current day-to-day experience.

But there’s some irony in my reticence to share, because quite simply, my life is more interesting and blog-worthy than it ever has been before.  This past year I’ve traveled to more cities than I can hardly recall, had dramatic romantic encounters that would rival anything on the big screen, have supported my kids through some of the most important transitions in their lives, and have welcomed more friends & food & flowers into my daily experience than I could have ever imagined.  All that, while learning being a breadwinner, finishing my doctoral degree, and being at the peak of physical health.

The other day Catgirl stepped into my office and asked me if I was writing my life story yet.  She thinks I have some important stories to tell.  And perhaps that’s just the motivation that I need to get the job done.


I write…

From Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert, by Terry Tempest Williams:

I write to make peace with the things I cannot control.
I write to create red in a world that often appears black and white.
I write to discover.
I write to uncover.
I write to meet my ghosts.
I write to begin a dialogue.
I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change.
I write to honor beauty.
I write to correspond with my friends.
I write as a daily act of improvisation.
I write because it creates my composure.
I write against power and for democracy.
I write myself out of my nightmares and into my dreams.
I write in a solitude born out of community.
I write to the questions that shatter my sleep.
I write to the answers that keep me complacent.
I write to remember.
I write to forget.
I write to the music that opens my heart.
I write to forget the pain.
I write to migrating birds and with the hubris of language.
I write as a form of translation.
I write with the patience of melancholy in winter.
I write because it allows me to confront that which I do not know.
I write as an act of faith.
I write as an act of slowness.
I write to record what I love in the face of loss.
I write because it makes me less fearful of death.
I write as an exercise of pure joy.
I write as one who walks on the surface of a frozen river beginning to melt.
I write out of anger and into my passion.
I write from the stillness of night anticipating–always anticipating.
I write to listen.
I write out of silence.
I write to soothe the voices shouting inside me, outside me, all around.
I write because of the humor of our condition as humans.
I write because I believe in words.
I write because I do not believe in words.
I write because it is a dance with paradox.
I write because you can play on the page like a child left alone in the sand.
I write because it belongs to the force of the moon: high tide, low tide.
I write because it is the way I take long walks.
I write as a bow to wilderness.
I write because I believe it can create a path in darkness.
I write because as a child I spoke a different language.
I write with a knife carving each word through the generosity of trees.
I write as ritual.
I write because I am not employable.
I write out of my inconsistencies.
I write because then I do not have to speak.
I write with the colors of memory.
I write as a witness to what I have seen.
I write as a witness to what I imagine.
I write by grace and grit.
I write out of indigestion.
I write when I am starving.
I write when I am full.
I write to the dead.
I write out of the body.
I write to put food on the table.
I write on the other side of procrastination.
I write for the children we never had.
I write for the love of ideas.
I write for the surprise of a beautiful sentence.
I write with the belief of alchemists.
I write knowing I will always fail.
I write knowing words always fall short.
I write knowing I can be killed by my own words, stabbed by syntax, crucified by both understanding and misunderstanding.
I write out of ignorance.
I write by accident.
I write past the embarrassment of exposure…

words are always a gamble, words are splinters of cut glass.

I write because it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words, to touch the source, to be touched, to reveal how vulnerable we are, how transient we are.

I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love.

Photo above taken on a rambly drizzly walk in Tuscany.  Because I also write to remember where I’ve been…

our finest impulses…

(h/t Jen Grey)

“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses.
That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty.
Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”
― Henry Miller

Echoes from the past…

I was re-reading some of my older writing recently in preparation for an art workshop at UCBerkeley this week and found this old recording of me reading my creative nonfiction story Pose [pdf download].

How odd it sounds to me to hear my voice.  Like it’s me, but not me.  As I listen I hear things in the story that are threads that I can pull out and see continuing into my life now.  But I also hear so many things that have changed.

Recently I was interviewed by a researcher who’s using my blog as part of her dissertation.  We talked a lot about why I blog and why I share what I do publicly.  One thing that struck me from that interview was how important it is to me to have mobility and how much I stress that in what I write about here.  That I can go and do so many things now, when there was a time that I couldn’t even take one step (a piece of that story is told in the recording that I link to above), is utterly remarkable to me.  I can remember not even being strong enough to take one step.  Not a one.  Even now, sometimes when I step out with my prosthetic leg I ‘feel’ what it was like not to be able to shift my weight onto the foot and propel myself forward.

I was just a bit younger than Catgirl is now when I re-learned to walk.  That wasn’t so long ago.

*Above: an old photo to illustrate a post about the past. Showing me and a toddler-Catgirl posing for the camera while on an adventure to the Marconi Museum (a funny story behind that: I thought we were going to a museum about the history of the telegraph. Turns out that the local Marconi museum is all about automobiles. We ended up enjoying the museum despite the shift in expectations…)


I’ve begun various narratives about my trip to Europe and either deleted them or kept them in the drafts file.  I’m finding it hard to write the whole story of that experience and what it meant to me.  Having been burned a bit by storytelling–especially the impulse to create a tidy, pretty narrative out of something that’s complex or messy…it just isn’t working for me right now.  While my trip wasn’t necessarily messy, it was complicated–I traveled with the intention of letting myself experience many things.  I pushed my comfort zones.  I traveled by saying YES and not letting fear stand in my way.  I traveled to make new memories to replace some painful ones.  And the trip was all of those things, as well as a wonderful way to mark my 40 years of life (happy birthday to me!).  It was utterly unforgettable, and deserves all of the flowery adjectives and adverbs that I’d like to attach to my descriptions of it.  But it was also a bit indigestible and my attempts to create a cohesive story of it have failed, or they just don’t say what I want them to–they don’t even come close to being as intense or as real as what I experienced as I traveled.

So I think I may have reached the limits of my storytelling capacity with this segment of my journey.  Or perhaps…I’m learning that some things are simply better left unsaid?