Tuesday, March 24, 2015


You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
- Sara Barielles

If you believe blogger, this is my 900th published post. 900! That sounds like a lot until you remember that I've been at this blogging thing since 2007.

The thing is, I don't know if I'm going to make it to 1000. And no, this isn't a plea for y'all to come comment on how awesome I am and how I should keep going forever.

It's just...

The internet doesn't seem as friendly as it used to.

When I started, I met all of these really cool people: Kolbi and Jill and Jen and Heather, and so many others there's no way to name them all. We had fun together. We learned from each other, about DS and parenting and life in the big wide world beyond whatever post we were at. There have been pregnancies and deaths, cancer scares and divorces, tigers and tours in Iraq - all sorts of things keeping my blog friends together. Sometimes, we've even gotten to serve together in real life: Connie welcomed me to Amman, while Michele hugged me goodbye on my way out.

So much has happened to me since blog post #1, so much that I processed through blogging about it. Having babies, going deaf, bidding. Of course plenty more has happened that I haven't dared to blog about: losing friends, finding jobs, watching kids suffer through our moves.

There are so many foreign service blogs now. So many parenting blogs. So many people writing about things I can't or won't write about.

There are also people being mean to each other out there, I guess just because they can, and that has me so discouraged, you've no idea.

There is, for example, a Facebook group just for FS people. It has over 5000 members. When it started, it was such a great resource. You could ask any crazy question, and someone out there had your answer. Need help transferring through Shanghai? Shipping a cat to Oman? Getting a medevac approved for that crazy growth on the back of your knee? Finding a sublet in Ougadougou? These people had your answers! But now, I don't even want to ask questions over there - let alone answer them. Because as soon as you ask about iPad apps for kids on long-haul flights, somebody jumps in and tells you you're a bad mom for letting your kids play with computers. You ask about domestic help at a specific post, you get called entitled or lazy. One friend commented on the ugly awful house she was assigned to and the internet tore her a new one - the nerve of her, complaining about free government housing! She was just looking to the group for help, and a small subset of nasty people drove her off. Have a question about allowance for kids? Teflon in your cookware? A difficult HR tech? Be careful: You never know what is going to set the whole internet roaring against you, pitchforks in hand.

It isn't just Facebook. There's a blogger out there, an anonymous blogger, who is actually a good writer with lots of interesting things to say - she's quite possibly one of my favorite FS bloggers. Not long ago, though, she posted a mini diatribe on internet safety. Her point was valid: be careful of what you post, because you can't be sure who is reading. But the way she said it - she painted spouses as bored and lonely little housewives with too much time on our hands (if only!), blogging without thought of potential consequences, thereby putting our families at risk in all sorts of unspecified ways. We're not all stupid, we spouses who blog.  Some of us are more safety conscious than others, but we're none of us idiots.

I made a very conscious decision to blog under my real name, back when I started. I didn't believe I could stay anonymous even if I tried. I also decided - actively decided - not to password-protect my blog. This wasn't the decision of a vacuous, attention-seeking spouse. It was a conscious, weigh-all-the-risks-first kind of decision. And with every post I write, I think again: is this safe? Is it interesting? Is this something I want my coworkers and friends to know about my family? I have lots of unfinished posts because I think before I post.

Diplopundit just published a piece about the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, who decided to withdraw from the twittersphere because of harsh criticism and personal attacks, related to one specific tweet, but clearly part of a larger pattern. There are so many stories about women - mostly women - who are viciously attacked because they dare to post opinions about controversial topics online. This isn't a foreign service problem. It's an internet problem, but it's slowly seeping into our small corner of the net.

The dialogue just doesn't seem nice anymore. It isn't friendly. It isn't fun.

And then there's the kids. You probably know that I started this blog as a way to keep the grandparents up-to-date on their grandkids. Lately, though, when I have something I want them to know or see, I email it instead. The kids are getting old enough to want and deserve privacy, and I have to respect that. I posted a cute - or so I thought - picture of Ainsley awhile back, and she was furious with me. She hated the picture and demanded that I take it down. Demanded. When your 6-year-old doesn't like what you're posting, you need to proceed with caution.

All this is not to say that I'm done here. I'm not. I love having this little parcel of real estate over here on the internet. I like to flip back through it and remember the time when? So much has happened that I would've forgotten about if I hadn't posted it here. So many adventures. So many odd little moments.

So I'm trying to figure out how to keep going. I still don't want to password protect this whole blog, and blogger isn't set up to password protect specific posts - it's all or nothing. But I need to step back, to make it less personal, without losing the whole point of why I started in the first place. I don't want to turn it into a cat blog. Do they still use that term, cat blog? That's what we used to call the boring blogs, where you just dear diaried your way through your day without a thought to the story arc or the language. Those blogs drive me nuts, especially when they are written by foreign service people, who ought to be having all sorts of crazy adventures across this globe of ours, and shouldn't need to resort to the generic, the humdrum, the stale.

Some of my favorite bloggers quit the game: Afghan Plan, and Daring Adventure, and Four Globetrotters. These guys were funny and opinionated and smart. I am honored to know them all on Facebook. Heck, I even served with one of them in real life. I've had lunch with another. The third eludes me still, but not for long - I'll meet her someday, I'm sure of it. But I miss their presence in the blogosphere.

How do you make it work? How do you say what you want to say without worrying about the repercussions? How do you make people be nicer to each other? Surely everybody reading this now has an online presence of some sort. Is it real, your online persona? Or are you faking it?

Tell me, I really want to know.  What's the next step?


Nomads By Nature said... [Reply]

I don't know. I had a lot of issues when I read that blog for all the same reasons. I wrote about this FS specific piece, which I hardly ever do because, yeah, it can come back to bite. I was disgusted enough to take the consequences or whatever they may be. I struggled for a bit prior to that on what the focus was going to be and tried to go back to my mental 'mission statement': document our FS life with self censorship for security and privacy concerns. I don't password protect nor do I advertise my blog. It is there. It can be found. It is read by family and a few embassy folk. I try to always play nice. For now, I have things to say, stories to tell, insight gained at times - and sometimes it gets published. I think there need to be more blogs out there that encourage and show how one person is taking on the challenge of FS life in any country in the world and rockin' it, even on the bad days. We families count and we have the right to be heard. And if and when I get an encouraging comment or email, it goes a long way to helping me be better at my job of 'the family glue' and my side job 'trench ambassador'.

Jen said... [Reply]

I don't know about general blogging. But I hope you do continue. As for TH...I have yet to see the grumpies pile on someone but if I do I'll tell them to lay off. We all should. Call people out when they pile on. Use the 'you never know if you're responding to your future boss' schtick work the other way around - do you want to call that person lazy? She might be your future boss. Maybe roll your eyes in private instead.

JWJones said... [Reply]

I love your blog. Since I am not (really) family, I won't get all the great insights. So just write about you and your cool kids. I was too chicken when I waa younger, so it is almost like I live vicariously through you.

JWJones said... [Reply]

I love your blog. Since I am not (really) family, I won't get all the great insights. So just write about you and your cool kids. I was too chicken when I waa younger, so it is almost like I live vicariously through you.

hotphotomama said... [Reply]

As someone who's husband is trying to become a diplomat I have found your blog, as well as a few others, to be extremely informative as I try imagine what our life could be. A number of the FS blogs that I have been following over the last year have mentioned the increased hostility within the community as well as overall online. I would hate to see you go, but because I work in news and marketing and so am bombarded by trolls regularly, I completely understand the need to back away from the negativity. I hope you realize that there are many of us out here who appreciate what it is you do, we just need to start being just as vocal as the naysayers. I love your comments on the weather since they often seem to align with what we are experiencing in Colorado; I can see myself in your daughter as she tackles the violin (I have played since I was 6); I appreciate your point of view on the world and it's many people. You may have started your blog to keep in touch with family and friends, but you have grown to be so much more, so thank you.

hotphotomama said... [Reply]

One other quick thought since you asked for opinions on how to cultivate a positive environment - check out Humans of New York on Facebook if you haven't already. This is by far the most positive place online that I have experienced.

Linda Neal said... [Reply]

Hi- Yes, I love your blog too. Not really sure how I found you or when, but you write really well and I, for one, find living abroad interesting as hell. All countries, for all reasons. I spent 2 months in Kazakhstan while adopting our daughter....fascinating - wish I found more about your time there. Don't stop doing what you're doing. You're good at it. To hell with the critics.

Popster said... [Reply]

I don't live in your shoes (or take the heat) so it's easy to say don't give it up. The first thing I do every day is check to see what you write because you do it so well, and I enjoy it so very much. I do think that your harshest critics will always lie in the area of underachievers who can't stand individuals who actually accomplish anything. So long as you speak you will always pay a price extracted by these individuals. The choice is yours, but I for one, will miss your blog if you give up.

Michelle said... [Reply]

I hope you don't stop blogging I stumbled across your blog one day and love reading it, and seeing all your cool pixs and I can so relate to your kids as they are in similar age to mine. I am not in the FS nor have ever lived abroad just in the central Midwest with no professional teams to cheer on...(although college teams are huge in my area...go IOWA!! :)....your blog has made me more aware of overseas situations and what you go through....michelle

Emma Hedges said... [Reply]

Hi there,
All of the hits you've been getting from Ohio over the past few days are from me. I am in college, and trying to become a female fso. I loved reading through your blog because while you aren't a fso yourself, your blog has covered many of the issues that are important to women abroad. I've grown up, just a few years older than your kids, in a time where the internet is inescapable. While there are terrible people out there who might offer an opinion better kept to themselves or just their circle of friends, its blogs like these that allow people interested in becoming a part of the FS to see what the life is really like, the good and the ugly. Personally, after failing the written test my first try(my own fault for not preparing enough), its been reading blogs like yours, and Sadie's and many, many others, that have given me the courage to keep trying.

Please. Write your own stuff.