mmmm: on the blogroll

mmmmWhen I come across a blog that is new to me, one of the first things I do is look for a blogroll. It gives me some insight into the person behind the blog: tastes, humor, worldview and whatnot. It’s fun to see if I recognize any blogs on the list, and to see if we share common interests. It reminds me a bit of my tendency to go right to the references section of an article I’m reading when I’m in research mode.

Why I have a blogroll

I see the blogroll as a courtesy feature of a blog. Potential visitors can get insight into who I am by way of who I know. It’s a courtesy to the bloggers on the list, as I am potentially sending them traffic, whether directly through people who like to explore blogrolls, or by adding to their rankings for search engines or Technorati. Foremost, my blogroll acknowledges that I read and enjoy those blogs (and/or that those people read and enjoy my blog). Like a references section in a journal article, it lists the bloggers whose voices have influenced and inspired my own writing.

Who is on my blogroll?

If I list a blog in my blogroll, it means that I regularly read that blog. I may miss a post here and there when my life gets hectic, or may skim over a long post on a topic that is alien to me (such as about a TV show I don’t watch). But if a blog is up there, that means I am a loyal reader.

I admit that there are blogs in my feed reader that I have not put on my blogroll. Usually it’s because I haven’t established a rapport with those bloggers. Sometimes I’ve just forgotten to add a blog.

Some of the blogs there are fairly dormant. This applies especially to a few of my near and dear real life friends who started blogs, but didn’t keep them going for long. (But they should have!)

I’m considering paring down the list, and removing blogs that have not been updated in, say, 6 months. (So post something if this applies to you!)

Removing blogs from the blogroll

It makes me sad to remove blogs from my blogroll, and I’ve done so only a few times. Mostly this has been when a blogger has deleted the blog or made it private. In at least one case I took a blog down after faithfully reading a blog and leaving comments for an extended time, and never getting back any sign of a visit back from that blogger. Another time I noticed that my own blog was removed from a blogroll, so I responded by removing that blog from my own.

Adding to the blogroll

I usually will add to my blogroll if I find my blog on a blogroll, and/or if I get regular comments from the blog author. I used to be fairly stubborn about not adding blogs without these happenings. Now I’m quicker to add if I find a blog I like (and if I happen to be in the mood to add links).

I’ve been rather hesitant to add big, high profile blogs to my blogroll, but I have started to do that more. There are now several big blogs in my sidebar whose authors don’t read my blog, though they have at some point been courteous enough to come by for a visit and leave a comment (or otherwise acknowledge my existence).

to blogroll or not to blogroll

I’m not quite sure why some people don’t have them. (Well, laziness I understand, if that’s the reason.) Some prefer instead to share favorites from their feeds, some prefer to link to blogs in posts. I think these ways of expressing appreciation for other bloggers are great, but for me don’t supplant the blogroll.

It seems that some people find blogrolls quaint and outdated. Well, call me quaint and outdated. (It wouldn’t be the first time.)

Still others prefer to keep their reading lists to themselves.

Where I stick it

My blogroll has gotten a bit unwieldy, but I still like having it on my front page. In fact, I like having a theme that keeps the sidebar showing for all pages. Some people think a gigantic blogroll clutters the page, and detracts. But I like giving it the extra exposure. Call me cluttered. (It wouldn’t be the first time.)

Blogrolling by numbers
And to demonstrate my compulsive tendencies, I actually counted up the blogs currently on my blogroll, and tallied up how many had blogrolls. I made a spreadsheet. Call me a dork. (It wouldn’t be the first time.)

    blogs on my blogroll: 78
    blogs on my blogroll with blogrolls: 58
    blogs on my blogroll with blogrolls with my blog: 47

Blogroll me, baby!
In case you haven’t guessed it, I like being listed on blogrolls. It feels like support and validation. Also that acknowledgment of existence, which I seem so partial to.

So, what are your thought on blogrolls?

This was the first post of the metablogging series I threatened to write as part of my self-declared Merry Merry Month of Metablogging.

No, not really.

Okay, so I’m not on Twitter. I was kidding with that last post. Ha! The joke was on you.

But more people took me seriously than I expected, so I guess the joke is on me.

The fact that several people took me seriously could mean that:

    a) My faux tweets were convincing.¹
    b) People did not actually read them.
    c) People who Twitter are used to filtering out the sort of decontextualized response that I put up in “reply” to my imaginary friends.

The even bigger joke is that having made this joke, I’ve come terribly close to actually signing up for an account.²

The truth is, though, I really can’t afford another online timesuck. I’ve been so tempted, with various friends seeming to all be playing together off in Twitterland. So I stop by people’s Twitter pages.

Then I feel like I’ve stepped into a cocktail party full of people continuing a variety of conversations that I can’t quite follow. And I can’t even get a drink or find the cheese platter. My head spins around a bit, and then I leave.

Anyhow, my Tweetybird friends, I’m afraid I can’t come out to play with you now. But if I do, I promise that I will take every opportunity to write about ceiling tiles.

¹ But come on! I talked about cupcakes with exploding olives! I crack myself up!
² But I haven’t.³
³ Or have I?

the bittersweetness of pants

P.S. And if you think we’re not bringing a present, you’re on crack.
P.P.S. Did I ever tell you that I think “crack” is the second funniest word in the English language, after, of course, “pants”?
         -From an email from my friend Elizabeth, February, 2007

I have a confession to make. Pants has not always been my favorite funny word. In fact, I first borrowed pants from a friend. When I started this blog, two years ago today, pants was just another funny word to me, one of many. Subordinate to squid and banana, which topped my own internal hierarchy of funny words.

When I wrote my first pants post, in the earliest days of this blog, I wrote this:

A friend of mine considers pants to be the funniest word of the English language.

That friend was my dear friend Elizabeth, who at the time was in the midst of a 2-year-long struggle with cancer.

Elizabeth was very supportive of my blog. She told me that she read it regularly, that she found it funny. It was nice to know that she was reading, and it made me feel like I was more a part of her life than I had been in recent years. Elizabeth was an ideal reader for the craziness that is my blog. She loved lists, too, and liked to put things in order. She was a collector, too, of books. And movies and music. And she laughed at my jokes.

I often wrote things with her in mind. Sometimes expressly to cheer her up. Sometimes avoiding serious topics because I knew that she would prefer to be cheered.

Elizabeth didn’t really talk with me much about her illness. Every once in a while, though, she would pass along news of bad test results, and ask for distractions. My means of cheering her would be to post some silliness on my blog. Typically such silliness would involve pants.

As time went by, I took the pants for my own. I put on the pants and ran in them, as it were. Or ran with them. I’ve gotten much enjoyment from playing with my pants, and from sharing pants with others who get amusement from them.

But there will always be that bittersweetness associated with pants. I’ll never forget whose pants they were in the first place.

I am glad that you can find Elizabeth’s own voice running through my blog. She left comments here and there. And she once even let me post an anecdote of hers, which I called “many thanks for all the pants.”

It’s been quite startling how much she touched my life, though I’d seen her less frequently in the last few years.

In the 12 years of our friendship, we shared many things. We shared a deep love of books, and of reading. We met working at the bookstore, where we worked together for maybe 2 or 3 years. We were shopping buddies, occasionally for marathon outlet expeditions and more often on used bookstore binges. We loved to talk about movies and music and many other things, as well.

I find myself reminded of her by so many things in my daily life. References to movies that she loved, or that we saw together. Or the books that we both loved, or hated. The songs that she put on a mix tape for me. Songs that we sang along with. Artists that she introduced me to. My bookshelves, our DVD collection, our iTunes library are all packed with things that I associate with Elizabeth. I can’t read or see a reference to Pride and Prejudice, one of her favorite books, without thinking of her.

She was the friend who went shopping with me for my wedding dress, and helped me choose items for our registry. So it turns out that my kitchen, too, is filled with everyday items that sometimes remind me of my friend.

It is not too surprising, then, I have thought of Elizabeth every day this past year. It was many weeks before I could think of her without crying. Months, even. And still even lately there are thoughts that catch me by surprise, and the tears well up before I realize.

I think of her family. Her parents. Her husband. I imagine how awful their grief must continue to be. I think of her two beautiful and vibrant daughters, whose faces and laughter remind me of Elizabeth. I think of how terrible it must have been for Elizabeth to know that she wouldn’t get to see them grow up.

I have tried to write this post many times over the past year, but have always given up. The memories are still too raw, the grief too fresh.

This day, Novemeber 16th, will always be a bittersweet day.

It so happens that today is the anniversary of the day I started this blog, something that has enriched my life for the past 2 years. It has been an outlet for my creativity and silliness, and a means of making connections and building friendships at a time when I have otherwise felt isolated from the outside world.

It is also the anniversary of one of the saddest days of my adult life, as Elizabeth died a year ago today.

Let it be known that the word pants will always remind me of Elizabeth. I will forever treasure her sense of humor, her wit, and her friendship.

Many thanks for all the pants.

because azahar kicks ass

A couple of weeks ago, WrekeHavoc (who herself kicks ass) bestowed upon me this lovely award:

Kick Ass Blogger Award

I’m usually pretty lame about passing on such awards, for my own various reasons, though I am flattered when people think of me for them. However, I feel compelled to pass this one along.

So, I hereby proclaim that azahar, of casa az, is a kick-ass blogger.

She finds and posts quirky tidbits she finds about the web, as well as writing a bit about herself and her life. She also writes and posts appetizing photos about her epicurean adventures as she explores the restaurants of Sevilla. (She even has a whole blog dedicated to tapas in Sevilla.) You can be pretty much assured of finding some sort of treat every time you visit her.

What I find most endearing about az is that she makes it easy for me to forget that I haven’t met her in “real life.” She has created a very warm and friendly atmosphere at her blog, inviting commenters to come in and stay for a chat. It’s no surprise that you’ll always find a few friendly folks (or interesting characters) stopping in. (Mind the cat hair, though. I’m pretty sure her kitties are always lurking nearby.)

Now azahar is going through some major life trials. A few months ago, she was diagnosed with cancer. She has been sharing her experiences and thoughts, writing with both humor and sincerity, as she navigates the perilous seas of cancer treatment.¹ Right now, she’s in the hospital recovering from what hopefully was a very successful operation to remove cancer from her liver.

Anyhow, if you have a chance, stop by and say “hi” to her. She’s got internet access there at the hospital, and I know she’d love to have more visitors. No need to check in at the front desk; go right on up.² I’m sure she can use the distraction from hospital food, which probably doesn’t hold a candle to the offerings of Sevilla’s finest tapas bars.

¹ Arrr! Me metaphors are still colored by Friday’s Talk Like a Pirate business!
² See my semi-colon?

in real life

As I was saying, we just got home from a grand trip out to California to visit my sister and mother. I hope to share a bit more about the trip soon, but as Jen went and wrote some lovely things on her blog, I wanted to share a bit about our Monday-night visit, too.

Because, you see, I got to meet Jen (of one plus two), someone who I have long admired (or perhaps hero-worshipped) from afar. Since I won’t be able to go to BlogHer, where Jen and other fine bloggy folks will be gathering next month, and since Jen will be moving to Belize in a few short months, I felt compelled to make the effort to stalk Jen in person while I had the chance. Happily, she was open to being stalked, and even invited us over for dinner.

Jen is just as warm and beautiful and down-to-earth and magnificent as you might gather from reading her blog. And M and J were equally wonderful and charming. But I got to learn more than that. Jen is also a damn fine cook, and served up some tasty gnocchi with home-made pesto, some fantabulously delicious oven-roasted vegetables, and garlic bread made from bread that she baked herself. The littler diners were served a classic grilled cheese dinner (crust removed upon request) and a big bowl of strawberries. (Phoebe may have eaten more than a few strawberries.)

Phoebe and M, frightfully cute together.

Ten o’clock rolled around before we noticed, with our little ones romping and cavorting around us, up well past their bed-times. We stayed later than we’d planned, caught up in comfortable conversations, sitting on the living room floor. We talked about life and work: kids and travel and family, friends and blogging and bloggy friends, non-profits and language and disaster recovery. And a dozen other topics that I can’t even recall.

This was the first time I have met someone in person who I’d previously only known online. It wasn’t at all awkward, though. Instead, it felt like we were old friends, just picking up the conversation where we’d left off last. Even though, before this meeting, I could have passed Jen on the street without ever recognizing her.

I’ve thought quite a bit recently about the distinction people sometimes make between online friends and real-life friends. I’ve realized that the distinction is remarkably fuzzy, because the people behind the blogs I read are unquestionably real people. The joys and pains and tidbits they live and share are real, and they affect me in real ways. Through our conversations, the friendships become real.

Of course, it’s hard to beat the pleasure of getting together with friends in person. Especially when there is real food involved. (So I hope to meet more of you out there, too. I might even cook.)

what to expect when you weren’t expecting the Y chromosome

I’ve been having a hard time wrapping my head around something. I’m going to be having a son.

I joked a while back about the reassurance that an ultrasound would provide that I was not incubating “some sort of tentacled alien spawn.” But, aside from reassuring me that creature had the correct number and arrangement of limbs to be classified as human, it also revealed to us an appendage that I had not anticipated. It seems that I have been, in fact, incubating some sort of testacled alien spawn.

It’s come as quite a surprise to me just how much of a surprise this is to me. I mean, I have known all along that it was a possibility.

And yet somehow, I didn’t really think it would happen.

I left that ultrasound appointment feeling someone stunned. Surprised. In mild shock. And I will admit here, and please don’t attack me for this, even somewhat disappointed.

That seems so harsh. Disappointed? The poor little guy hasn’t even been born yet, and already I’m disappointed in him? That hardly seems fair.

“I guess we won’t be reusing Phoebe’s dresses,” I’ve said. But of course, even though I’d love to hold on to some of those cute girl clothes a bit longer, my feelings aren’t really based on wardrobe.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s going on here. And I’ve realized that there are a lot of things going on.

Ever since I was little, I imagined that someday I’d be a mother. The specific circumstances of this motherhood status were typically murky, especially with respect to the role of a father in these imaginings. But always, I imagined that I would have 2 girls. Just like in my family.

Growing up, and moving around so much as I did, my closest friend was always my sister. We were, and still are, very close. It always seemed the natural order of things.

Somehow, I always imagined I’d reproduce this pattern, when I got around to reproducing.

I realize that even if I were to have a second girl, the individuals wouldn’t necessarily have had the relationship that my sister and I had. I know, of course, that Phoebe is not a new version of my sister, and that a second daughter wouldn’t be a new version of me. And yet I feel like I’m saying goodbye to that person that never existed outside my head.

And then there’s the fact that boys were largely unknown to me growing up. My immediate family consisted of me, my mother, and my sister. The next most involved family member was my grandmother. Obviously, there had been males around at various points. But by and large, we were a family of females. Even the cousins I saw most often were girls.

My father was around for my first 6 years, and then died. Both grandfathers had already died at that point. There were uncles I’d see for a few days every few years. There were boy cousins that I’d met here and there. There were stepfathers and boyfriends of my mother’s. But mostly, these males never felt part of my own life. They were visitors, or passers-by. I knew boys at my various schools, but was never even friends with any till high school. It wasn’t till college that I had any close relationships with men.

I realized, in my various ponderings, that John is the first male to have been in my life in any significant way for more than the 6 years that my life overlapped with my father’s. And John has even passed that number by another 10 years, clocking in now at 16 years.

And I sure am glad that John is here to share this experience with me. Because, among other things, John has some experience with growing up around boys. In fact, he even grew up as a boy.

I find myself continuing to be surprised that we’ll be having a boy, still avoiding using the gendered pronoun even now that it’s weeks since the revelation. And I question whether this leads me to feel a bit more detached from the pregnancy than I was the first time around. Or maybe it’s just that I’m so busy right now, and that I’ve been feeling pretty bad physically.

I am certain that I’ll come to love him fiercely as I love Phoebe. And I expect that there will come a time when I won’t be able to imagine things any other way, and when I can’t imagine my life without him.

Holiday in Cambodia (and Vietnam, Laos and Thailand)

My friend Jason is currently off on an amazing 40-day trip around Indochina. He started a blog just for the trip, and has posted some fascinating blurbs and some incredible photos. (Jason is a superlative photographer.)

I strongly encourage you to go check out his site. If it’s photos you’re after, you could just dive right to the posts with photos from Hanoi, Hoi An, and this post with shots from various spots in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Of course, I also recommend that you check out his other posts, as Jason has some great observations, as well as some fine tales of adventure. (He is not one to shy away from trying new things. While I like to try new foods, I’m not sure I could be so easily convinced to sample crickets and tarantula.)