Saturday, March 30, 2013


Most bloggers don't talk about their stats, because we've all got this "is yours bigger than mine?" complex. But I'm going to open up the books today because I'm making some blogging decisions over here, and I'm thinking about just what blogging means to me.

For a Foreign Service blogger, I get a decent amount of page views. I mean, I'm no Diplopundit. I'm no LAJ. Jill and ADA get more hits than me. But I've been around for awhile, so lots of FS types know and read my blog. I get, on average, around 600-900 views a day. I don't spend a lot of time tracking where those views come from, but I can tell you that the majority of them are either government types, considering-the-FS types, or my mom's friends.

A lot of my hits currently come from right here in Jordan. Several hundred people in Jordan are reading this blog. I would bet that many of those readers are from right here within the Embassy community.

And it's odd, you know, to be walking around the Embassy, where I consider myself to be a keeps-to-herself type of person, knowing that there are people whose names I don't even know who are eavesdropping on my boring little life because I've given them this window. It's strange to me that people I barely know sometimes stop me in the hallway to comment on the things I've written. In fact, it made me so uncomfortable not long ago that I decided to stop writing for awhile.

That was four posts back. I decided to stop. Retreat from the world for a bit, if you will. But my mom called to complain. And my father-in-law said he missed my updates. And any number of friends from around the globe emailed me the obligatory "come back!" messages. And then, the truth: I do miss writing when I'm not doing it. It's fun, sometimes, to put words to my day, to drop future me little reminders of the things I'm doing now. It's important, actually, for my mental health, to think about things and make sense of them in words.

I've published over 700 posts here. A few of them have upset people, for one reason or another. When someone takes the time to contact me and explain why a specific post bothers her, I look at it again, carefully, and if I can see her point, I take it down or I edit it.

Other posts have really touched people, for one reason or another. When I write about some aspect of FS life that is hard, or lonely, or just plain awful, I always get emails from people who thank me for putting into words something they've been feeling. I cherish those emails, truly I do. Because, as anyone who writes will tell you, we want to feel like what we write matters. And so when I get those emails, I know what I wrote that day mattered to someone. It helped someone over a rough patch, or it helped someone make a difficult decision, or it just helped someone feel not so alone out there in the wide world.

That's why I keep blogging. If this were really just a personal diary of my adventures, I'd password protect the hell out of this thing and keep it to myself. But I love the community of friends I've made because of these words here. Do you know I've never even met half of my Facebook friends in real life? I met them through blogging. I know their stories and they know mine and I love the fact that these faceless friends of mine are out there, in Malawi and Armenia and Egypt and Estonia, rooting for me and praying for me and keeping me afloat on the hard days. Even though I couldn't pick them out of a crowd in the grocery store, and I'd walk right by them in the airport, they are still all important to me. I love that. I. Love. That. And so I blog. I love the fact that old friends from prior posts are keeping up with me through my blog, occasionally writing to let me know they're reading. And so I blog. I love that I've become friends with people I admired while serving with them - people like Afghan Plan, who intimidated the hell out of me in person with his brains and wit, but then became a real friend because of our mutual addiction to blogging. And so I blog.

But what to do with the person at post who apparently didn't like something I wrote and decided to print up a copy of my story and turn it in anonymously? Seriously. Why would you do that? If you don't like what I'm writing, come talk to me. Send me an email. Or - and here's a crazy idea - just don't read it anymore. You always have that choice. But turning me in, complaining about it, when I can swear up and down that I've written nothing about you? I'm sorry, but that was wrong.

I hope that whoever it was turned me in out of some misguided sense of concern somehow, and not just to be nasty. I'm choosing to believe that anyway. I know my recent post affected some people, here and at other posts, because I got calls and emails from around the world, from people who wanted to tell me their stories or give me advice. I also know, by the way, that the girl about whom I wrote (not an embassy girl, by the way, though I don't see how that's any of your business) is getting help.

I am seriously considering starting over with a new password-protected blog, or adding a second blog for a small audience. I don't like protected blogs, myself, and I almost never read such blogs. But what else can I do? I can count on my fingers the number of people here in Amman whom I want to keep as readers of this blog. But these are the people who've been in my living room, who've sat next to me on my couch and looked me in the eye, who've held my hand and talked me through my troubles. These people know my stories, the ones I never blog about. These people are my stories. Them, I want to keep in my life, however I can. But the person who reads, and frowns, and then prints and turns me in? I don't want you here. I hope you felt you were doing the right thing. I sincerely hope that. But please: in the future, maybe try talking to me first? I keep to myself, this is true. But if you want, or need, to talk about anything you read here, do me a favor and let me know.

Meanwhile, if I decide to start a second password-protected blog, I'll be in contact with some of you to let you know where you can find me.


Betsy said... [Reply]

Petty people. We get them in the military world too. I have found that it has always been worse when we have been on overseas assignments. :(

Just US said... [Reply]

I love your blog! I do! I love reading the words you write because you so eloquently put my own feelings into a tangible manner. Thank you for writing!

Dorothy Handelman said... [Reply]

scrim 1189Hi Donna,
I am a little confused by this post- because as a public forum you have to expect that not everyone is going to like what your write- or for that matter like you- and might even take offense for something you wrote and feel irate enough to do something about it. In the quest for discourse, some people will be able to respond to you directly, and some one else might choose a more backhanded approach- but it's part of being out on the playing field. Diaries are private places where thoughts are entered and serve a cloistered function. I keep a blog where I rant and rave about the things that upset me the most that is not accessible (all the posts are in "draft" form because often those are feelings could ultimately be too divisive if I put them out there.
I think it is wonderful that you have touched so many and been a beacon of support for others walking the same path as you. But being out there means exactly that- and you have to give up the control over how you are perceived.
Life is full of prickly emotions- there is no way around that one!
Your fan,

Debbie said... [Reply]

I have been following your blog for years from not-so-sunny Seattle. I enjoy your writing, and the chance to peek into a life that feels very different from my own. I do hope you'll keep a public blog going, though I certainly understand that it would be a tough choice.


Deborah said... [Reply]

What does it mean that you were "turned in"? Does it affect you in any way? Just wondering if you care because it matters, or if itis just a pain in the a$$.

Mrs. Dreaming said... [Reply]

I hope you feel that you can continue with a public blog, but I understand if you decide not to. My 2 overseas TDYs gave me a glimpse into the FS world, and your writing has helped me as I wrestle with the idea of bidding on hard to fill or taking the exam. I thank you for writing about your life in such a beautiful and inspiring way and being willing to share it with such a large audience.

Becca said... [Reply]

What did they hope To achieve??

I'd like to keep reading if you go private. I don't want to miss any kitchen table operations !

Jill said... [Reply]

People suck. And I say that honestly. Not lovingly. Not for any other reason than to commiserate.

This is YOUR blog. And more than anything, I appreciate that you're honest and you're YOU. This is what draws me to the FS blogs. Not the cutesie, let's write about the flowery cr*p that happens at post. The REAL stuff.

Sorry someone was so coward to hide behind an anonymous printed out post that they turned you in to "the higher ups". That's bullsh*t.

Meaghan said... [Reply]

Ugh, that's so passive-agressive. I will never understand why some people can't seem to be direct about things, even when it would make it a million times better.

Blogging is such a tricky thing, because you can't control your audience. In some ways that's wonderful - you can end up with tons of diverse people becoming friends, like you have - but it can also really suck. As my blog starts to get a few more hits, and they start to include my "real life" friends, I find myself second-guessing everything I post - will this offend someone, will they think it's about them, will it reflect badly on my organization?

I hope you don't go private, but totally understand if you do, but either way I hope we run into each other in Amman!

Daniela Swider said... [Reply]

I am sorry to hear that someone did that to you but it's true when we blog, we expose ourselves to the world in ways we rarely do in person. And we can't expect that everyone's going to like what we have to say. There are graceful ways to disagree with someone, or if you don't like what they write, just don't read it. For some reason that's not what this person chose to do, which is sad but there's not much you can do about it, so why punish yourself for their lack of decency. I say don't let it get to you. There are a lot of people out there who love your blog and it seems like you love writing in it. I hope you will continue with it despite the occasional person who decides not to "play nice."

Another fan,

issa said... [Reply]

I was reading this blog for a while ( maybe more than a year ) I came by it accidently , and since then I'm a regular reader for your blog , I didn't stop myself from peeking every once and a while ,
even though I thought that this ain't be good , I'm reading about your life without your permission , then I realized that this is something that you are sharing with the world .

I've never commented or wrote anything . I think now It's time to thank you for all great time you spent sharing your stories and expressing your feelings .

I wish you all the best . BE STRONG

another Jordanian fan ,

Elizabeth said... [Reply]

Obviously, you're not alone -- just look at Diplopundit's list of FS blogs that have disappeared (including some of my favorites). But as Dorothy said, when you write things publicly, you open yourself to criticism. It's the nature of blogging, and in the real world someone who didn't like your post would just stop reading you, or worse, send it to a bigger media outlet, in the FS you're not anonymous so they took the print-it-out and turn-it-in approach. I've opted for a middle-of-the-road approach. I have a public blog, but I don't allow Wordpress to submit it for Google indexing. That means that someone Googling for the country where I live, or "medical clearance," or "potty training" won't find me -- but it's still on the Internet so technically any random stranger could be looking at pictures of my kids. I don't use our last name, I don't post that we're going out of town before go, and I take some general precautions but there's still risk. And because I don't Google index, I'm luck if I get 25 hits a day compared to your hundreds.

I hope you'll keep blogging, but for the more personal stuff about people in a small community you might consider another outlet.

Maje said... [Reply]

I LOVE reading your blog! I have family who work in the embassy and they don't really like to talk about their work - which is just no fun for their family.

Your stories (along with the other great FS bloggers) give me such a lovely insight into your work. I really appreciate learning about what happens at our embassies.

carrie said... [Reply]

I love your blog and hope that I can be included on your password protected one if you do indeed start one, which I think would be a shame. People are petty and many thrive on creating drama, so that might be the case. Sorry you had to deal with that and are probably still dealing with "that". You are talented and tell it like it is, and I admire your wit and insight. Keep it real! ~Carrie

Bethany Davidson-Widby said... [Reply]

I'm sorry that someone couldn't be adult enough to talk to you about something that bothered them. If it was me, I would do just as you did, respond to it with this post, and then keep on blogging. In fact, maybe do it more often? 2-3x a day? Make it full of flowers and bunny rabbits and sunshine? Just kidding. You are awesome, I love reading you whether I'm stateside or back in Guatemala. Keep your chin up. You are stronger than whomever the coward was.

Andrea said... [Reply]

Hi Donna,
I just want to say thanks for your blog. I'm an expat living in Jordan and whilst not at all familiar or involved with the FS life I enjoy reading your blog and what you write about. Keep writing for those of us who really appreciate what you have to say.

Sydney Donaldson said... [Reply]

Hi Donna. I am of the small percentage of your readership who has no tie to the Foreign Service, embassy, or Jordanian expat community whatsoever. I stumbled across your blog a few years ago when a friend mentioned life in the Foreign Service, and since that time I have been hooked to your blog. I enjoy what you write about. I enjoy hearing about living life in another country. But what I enjoy most is your ability to tell a story. You are a magical storyteller and I continue to read your blog because you are an amazing writer! I wish you all the best in your blogging endeavors, and I hope I never have to live in a world where you don't blog!

BestBook said... [Reply]

I read your blogs and other FS blogs as there are many more of these than those about life as an international school teacher (my background). I like seeing how other families deal with and experience expat life. I blog as well, and struggle with the audience part of blogging. My blog is not really for my current colleagues, but more for my family, far-away friends and my own reflection, yet I find myself aware of that window into myself that I would not normally open up in a faculty lounge. I go back and forth between thinking "Who cares what they think," and not posting much because of the ability of a few negative people to find and criticize.

Jen said... [Reply]


I was thinking about emailing you after the entry about the young woman, and then really wanted to after reading this blog but I can't figure out how and since I don't know your last name I can't look you up in the GAL. Anyways, I really like this blog and hope you keep it up. You've said some things that are edgy but mostly witty and always things that should be said, considered, and mulled over.


Jen said... [Reply]

Donna actually found you on FB through Trailing Houses and think my message is now in your Other folder.

Please. Write your own stuff.