Sunday, September 27, 2015

Revisiting the Fort

I recently came across a link to my old archive, which I thought was completely lost.  I'm feeling quite nostalgic for my kids when they were little after reading those old posts.  I do not miss the stress that came with my husband's deployments, but that has been interesting to remember as well.

For those who don't know, I started blogging at back in 2009 with a personal blog called Holding Down the Fort.  Babble was a new kind of parenting site when it started a few years earlier, and my dad had sent me an article about it.  After reading that article I contacted them about writing an essay based on my experience as a parent whose husband was deployed.  My piece, called The Home Front, was rated their most inspiring in their first year online.  I did a followup piece when my husband came back from Iraq called Return to the Home Front, which got picked up in various places.

It was a good experience getting paid for my writing and interesting getting feedback from people in so many places.  Babble was quirky and surprising at the time, and the editors I was in contact with originally were great.

When my husband was called up for a second tour in Iraq I approached Babble about blogging my experience during that deployment.  The first deployment was incredibly isolating, and I thought blogging the second time around might help.  It did.  I enjoy the discipline of regular writing, and the personal nature of blogging and direct contact with readers is satisfying.  I loved my blog at Babble, and I'm still grateful for many of the contacts I've made through that site.

Although it started out fine, working with Babble was frustrating.  I was one of about a half a dozen personal bloggers at first.  The bigger names (such as Rebecca Wolf with her spinoff blog called Straight from the Bottle, and Katie Granju) didn't really involve themselves with our little community on the site, but others I felt close to, the way you do when you regularly follow a parenting blog and reach out through email.  Jane Roper I still actively follow on her new blog, and others like Dawn Meehan and Oz Spies are still at Babble in some capacity.  One of the best blogs I've ever read was Divorced with Kids, which was a spinoff of Irretrievably Broken, whose anonymous author is now one of my most cherished friends.  Our little corner of personal bloggers at Babble was a special place for a while.

Then the Voices started.  In preparation for the Disney buyout, Babble decided to create a wall of big name bloggers who were supposed to attract big numbers coming over from their already popular blogs.

The rest of us were blindsided.  Our little column of personal bloggers was not included in the overwhelming Voices promotion.  We'd been struggling for months to get the editors to include more of our pieces on the homepage, but our requests for better exposure had gone unheeded.  They changed our pay based on our numbers and then put us in a ridiculous Catch-22 where we couldn't get promotion unless we had good numbers, but there was no way to get good numbers without promotion.

Once the Voices hit the scene we were ghettoized into our own corner of obscurity.  For a while even my own mother could not find my blog at Babble.  Only the most dedicated readers could search it out, but search it out they did, and I always appreciated it.

When I first started at Babble they were interested in decent writing.  By the end all they were interested in were numbers.  It's a business, so I get it.  The number of page views was how they made money so they, in turn, could pay me.  They never seemed to care about content, except to tell me I needed to make more slideshows (because each slide was another page view).

But the numbers they wanted at Babble then were insane.  We got a chart of goals at one point that was laughable because it was just random big numbers pulled out of nowhere.  When I started I got a flat monthly rate of $250.  Then they switched to pay based on number of hits, and different bloggers were offered different levels of pay.  They buried my blog which killed my traffic, and by the time they let me go in April of 2012 I was averaging about $15 a month, which apparently was too great a drain on their resources so I had to leave.  (Disney literally said maintaining my blog would make it hard for them to "make ends meet.") 

It got very messy and impersonal over at Babble toward the end of my time there, and I find very little reason to try to navigate that site since Disney bought it.  It's a blogger mill.  I miss the community it originally was, and the closest thing I can find to it now would be (which I have done some writing for and I hope is able to stay on a better path).

Babble is currently unsearchable.  There is no real "contact" link over there anymore, either.  (When I was hoping to get answers about my archive at one point I kept getting directed toward how to apply for a Disney credit card.)  For a while all the writing I did there appeared to be gone, but I recently did a Wayback Machine search to find something for a friend, and found some semblance of my old archive.

I took an afternoon and transferred links to this blog.  Most of the photos don't work for some reason (except on the thumbnail page), and some of the posts were jumbled with other people's writing so I left those links out.  The comments are all gone, too, which is a shame because there were some really good discussions in those threads.  I have no idea how long any of these links to Holding Down the Fort will last, but at the moment I'm glad to be able to access them.

I still have moments of bitterness when thinking back to the end of my Babble days, but overall I appreciate the opportunity that I was given to develop an online presence in the writing world.  I love blogging in general, despite how often people want to declare the medium dead anymore.  (Classical music is always on the brink of death, too, and has been forever, so apparently that's how I roll.)  I don't get to write on it as often as I would care to, but a blog is still an amazing resource.

The best part about going back through those old Babble posts again was just having a chance to remember the past.  I was fascinated to revisit my old life and those struggles.  I'm stunned at how much I've forgotten.  It's good to have a space in which to capture what you can as it's going by because it all goes so quickly.  There were things about each of my children that I didn't remember at all and was grateful to revisit.

I was mostly bowled over by how different our lives are now.  When I was writing for Babble I had little kids.  I no longer have little kids and that part of my parenting career is over.  I have new challenges and other struggles, but they crept up on me under cover of general chaos.  Yesterday doesn't look that different from today or last week, but go back six or seven years...  Wow.  Mona in kindergarten, Quinn on my hip, little Aden before she was biking off on her own across the park to meet friends to do group projects for school.  I'm so glad I took the time to write as much as I did.  I should make more time to do that now.

Which brings me to this blog.  I love this blog.  The original vision for it was as a refuge for myself along with other personal bloggers at Babble, where we might become an "anti-Babble" collective--a "Quiet Corner."  In the end it made more sense for us to just go our own ways, and I've come to rely on this platform as a personal space to write in when I can.

I like that here the numbers don't matter to anyone.  I don't have nearly the size of the audience I had at Babble, but my readers are loyal and thoughtful.  I've always tended to be more of a blogger's blogger, which is fine by me. And at least here my mom can find me again.  The only posts here that ever got big numbers were the gun control posts that went mini-viral, and inexplicably this one, about "throwing" my brother's Riddler doll out the window.  (That post got hits every day for a year and I have no idea why.)

Soon I plan to put up links in a single post to a handful of old pieces that I know people still share.  (Or maybe I should just cut and paste them, because as much as Disney has trouble "making ends meet" maybe they don't need me generating hits for them.)

Thanks for reading.  Writers need to be read, so I couldn't do this without you.  (Now I'm off to feed my not-little kids.  And wonder how these days will seem to me in another six or seven years.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Back to Work

I haven't done a lutherie update in a while.  Mostly because I have been distracted from my work of late.  Not so much from my work at the store, but my own building.  I was warned many years ago by another builder that once you open the door to doing repairs it becomes almost impossible to find time to build, and he was right.  As much as I appreciate the work when it comes to paying the bills, most of the time I wish people would simply take better care of their equipment and leave me more time to myself.

For instance, I worked on straightening this cello bridge this weekend:
For those who don't know what they should be seeing, the square I set on that cello top shows where the back of that bridge should be lining up.  When the top of a bridge starts to pull forward (usually from tightening the strings) and it's allowed to lean for an extended period of time, the pressure of the strings warps the wood.  Most of the time it can be steamed out and pressed flat again, but the bridge is left weaker and more vulnerable to warping in the future, so better not to let it get warped to begin with.  In any case, I'm amazed this particular bridge didn't snap.

I'm glad I can do repair work for people and keep their instruments running well, but after not getting much done this summer on the violin I'm supposed to be building (not to mention the one I'm supposed to be helping Aden build) I've decided this week to buckle down and get back to work.  So here's a run down for those who are interested in how my current violin is progressing.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

On the Mend (Booby Trap Edition)

Just a quick update on medical things because I've had several concerned people contact me, so it seems simpler at this point to post about it here.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Good Movies, but Can't Recommend Them

This Labor Day Weekend we've been taking it easy.  We had my niece, Ellora, with us for all of August, which was great fun, but she's back in New York now with her own family and we're getting back into a rhythm of it just being us around here again.  That all gets flipped around soon when Ian leaves for Army stuff out of town and my mom comes to help out, but for a few days we are in our normal state.  It' nice.  We've been experimenting with a new chocolate chip cookie recipe, slowly tackling chores and homework and practicing... and watching movies.

I love to curl up with my family and watch movies.   I love introducing films to my kids that maybe their peers haven't seen but that give them a greater understanding of other references.  At 13, 11, and 8 my kids are old enough that we've been able to expand the range of movies into ones with more mature themes, but Quinn is just young enough that there are still a few things I'd like them to see that we aren't ready to do for movie night yet.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Thanks and Dreams

Thank you to everyone who has offered condolences on the death of my father.  There have been so many comments and emails and cards and I appreciate them all.  It means a great deal to me that I can express myself safely in this space the way I need to, and feel supported as I do it.  Thank you.

We've had my niece staying with us, and the days have been filled with summertime fun: trampoline, kites, archery, biking, concerts in the park, ice cream, books, crafts, movies, games....  In the morning my kids start school and a whole new (intensely packed) routine gets underway.  The daytime brings many distractions.

But at night I've been dreaming about my dad.  In the dreams he's as he was several years ago, before the need for a cane.  There was one where my mom and my brothers and I were with him in the library at home, talking and laughing.  We were having such a nice time, and I kept thinking, "Oh, I hope no one remembers he's supposed to be dead so this doesn't have to end."  In another, my dad came along with me to a place where I was having a rehearsal, and I decided before we started to play to go out in the hall where he was waiting with my husband to see if he'd like to come in and listen to us practice.  He was sitting happily with Ian and laughing when I found him, and again I thought, "As long as no one reminds us he's supposed to be dead this will be okay."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Death of My Dad

I'm home again.  I've been back a week now.  I was away for almost three.  It feels much, much longer.  Despite everything I can't quite grasp that my dad is really gone.  That realization comes and goes at odd times.

I need to sort out the death of my dad in writing.  I'm already forgetting so much.  I don't want to forget anything, but I also need to get some distance in order to function.  To preserve these memories I have to revisit them, but I can't live in that place right now.  I believe by writing them down I can safely set them aside for another time when I'm ready.

I don't know if this post will be of interest to anyone but myself.  All I know is it is long. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Eulogy for Dad

My father, Arnold Klein, died on Friday morning, Aug 7th, a week after going into hospice at home.  He was surrounded by his family and got to say goodbye to many people.  He was 86 years old.  He was a year and few months shy of his 50th wedding anniversary.  He was dignified and gentle.  He was deeply loved.  The world is much lesser without him.