Monday, December 03, 2007

Friends in the Little Glowing Box

Hiya! Who's tired from my longwinded rant against racism? C'mon, who? Get those hands up. Yeah, me too. Just my way of saying this one will be a little lighter today, but lengthy as well.

Michelle asked me in the comments below where I find all the blogs that I read? The short answer, I guess, is to say that I find them through other bloggers. I read a lot of blogs- see the Big Bad Blogroll- and I read the comments on a lot of them. I occasionally click through to a commenter's blog if I like what he or she had to say. Sometimes bloggers link to other blogs, and well... It all snowballs somehow.

It all starts with Alissa, really, back when she was dating He Who Shall Not Be Named (No, not Voldemort. Voldemort doesn't live in New Jersey) in the late 90s. Anyway, her ex-boyfriend started blogging back before "blogging" was a word. He had an online journal. In Ye Olde Days of Yore, we may have called it a "home page." He wrote about... what? Weekend plans, friends, what he ate at the Melting Pot, marching bands, whatever. I found it strangely compelling, reading the daily goings-on of someone I knew and considered a friend but didn't interact with daily.

Alissa, whom I've known since I was 5, started keeping an online journal, too, and it was a great way to stay connected with her while I was at college. After I graduated, I was coming out of a deep clinical depression, and I just felt so good to be free from it. I also had a lot of free time on my hands compared to the end-of-college thesis double major crunch, and I liked that blogging gave me a way to write about it all. Once I moved to Miami, the blog became more of what it is now: funny stories of the Weird Shit that happens to me, the Weird Shit that Fred does, photos, etc.

So I just started writing more, and reading other people, and blogs beget more blogs. A few examples, maybe? Let's see.

Okay! Got one. Alissa wrote a book review of a novel she had just read on her blog. Ironically, it was a novel about blogging and how it connects you with people, how Friends in the Little Glowing Box of your computer become friends in real life. Her book review wasn't harsh, but it wasn't a LoveFest, either. And then, oh crap, the author of the novel found it and commented on her blog. The author was... a little offended. Liss handled it with grace, as per usual, and the author offered to buy her a pitcher of margaritas in the end.

Based on all that, I ended up checking out the author of the good-not-great book's blog. She had a feature called "help" highlighting different needs and causes, from underfunded libraries to individuals in need. She featured a request from Rob, a father whose daughter had been diagnosed with a complicated and rare neurological disorder who was trying to raise money online to buy her an assisted communication device, which he called a Big Box of Words. His writings about his daughter's diagnosis were beautiful.

Rob was a long-time blogger, much like He in NJ Who Must Not Be Named, and he wrote about politics, computer geekery and music until his daughter got the diagnosis. The online community rallied around his family in a way I've seldom seen before or since. I've continued to follow his daughter's progess on his blog, and I'm looking forward to reading his book.

Not long ago, Rob linked to Danielle, a medical student who also substitute-teaches special education classes, referring to something she had written about children with special needs. Her blog is fantastic: funny, touching, well-written, insightful. Her entries on her med school rotation in the morgue are hilarious. I can't stop reading her.

Then, there's Dooce. Dooce is an uberblog, possibly the most famous one out there, written by Heather Armstrong. I heard her on NPR for a segment about being fired from her day job in 2002 because of things she wrote about her co-workers and her boss online. (The word dooced has become a slang word online for getting fired because of your blog.) Obviously, that's something I've thought about carefully, so I checked out her site. Heather writes about her daughter and husband, her battle with depression, her decision to leave the Mormon Church. She posts a different picture of her dog every single day. How could I resist? :)

She recently posted a link to Daily Coyote, the journal of a woman in Wyoming who's raising an orphaned coyote pup. She is an AMAZING nature photographer, and the coyote pup is really, really freakin' cute. I'm afraid that checking out this site is going to occupy you all for the next 3o minutes. (You should probably cancel any plans you have for that time. I'm sorry.)

Speaking of nature photography, I just found Pioneer Woman, through a comment on Daily Coyote. She gets thousands of comments and publishes a calendar of her images, so she's pretty well-established. I've just never found her, but now I'm addicted.

Then, there's Amalah. I found Amy when I was reading Dave Barry's humor column about two years ago. He linked to her site in the context of her husband's foodie site. She had just had a baby, and her entry about thrush and breast-feeding was hilarious. I kept reading, watching her son grow, and laughing. Her entries about her dog and her cat keep me coming back, too. She got a job for ClubMom, which is going out of business January 1st. She basically recapped and highlighted compelling parenting blogs.

Which lead me to... Following Elias. Christy lives in Alaska and writes about her son Elias, who was born four months early. FOUR MONTHS EARLY. He is gorgeous and amazing and flies over the ice with his walker- helps with his cerebral palsy-and his dog Tonsina. She's a hiker, kayaker, mountain biker and wild animal whisperer. We're emailed back and forth a few times, and I consider her a friend. True, she's a friend I've never met, and I only know her through my little glowing box of a laptop, but a friend nonetheless.

ClubMom (turns out you don't have to be a mom to read it..) also led me to Untangling Knots. I read Karla's blog every single day, ever since Amy linked to it a year ago. She gave birth to her son, who is healthy and wonderful, the day I started reading. She may be lurking in the comments. (::waves::) I only delurk there, occasionally. She also writes with great love about her daughter Ava, who died after only a few hours after she was born. I read Karla's archives in one sitting, and you should, too. She is strong, and smart, and a wonderful mother. Grab some tissues first.

I also link to Shannon often. She was a friend of Gwen's, another one of my real-life best friends who keeps a blog, but we didn't really get to know each other until we starting reading blogs. And there's Cindy, who dated a guy I was friends with in high school. They broke up years ago, and both married other people, including Cara, whom I also read. Cindy and I have never met in real life, but we talked on the phone for the first time a few months ago. You'd never know it was our first chat.

I frequently get the question, "How do you have so much time to read all this stuff?" The easy answer is that my job requires me to spend hours online everyday. I have to transmit hours worth of photographs and video footage from the field, without a satellite truck. I use my laptop and a wireless transmitter, and it's easy to check on the blogs a few times a week while the data is moving to the newsroom.

Aside from the fact that I'm practically connected to the Internet from a plug at the base of my spine, the deeper answer is that there's a kind of grace in connecting with people through words and photos that you wouldn't ordinarily have the opportunity meet. I was the queen of pen-pals in elementary school; it's kind of the same thing. I put myself out there with my heart on my sleeve- in real life and online- and so do my friends in this little glowing box.

It's one of the more unique Internet phenomena, but I genuinely care about them, about people I've never me. I want to know the results of Amy's son's latest speech therapy assessment. I'm thrilled that Christy passed her licensing exams to be a school counselor. I want to see if the little coyote pup and the wildlife rehabilitator's cat are still getting along; I'm actually worried for the cat's safety once the coyote grows up. I want to check in with Karla, see the photos from her son's first birthday.

I guess... I just make the time to check blogs because I want to, because there are real people with beating hearts out there, writing and bonding and forming communities, just on the other side of their own little glowing boxes.


Michelle said...

Thanks Angie :)

Jillian said...

And here's where "it's a small world after all" theme song comes on.

The blog- Following Elias.... Christy's parents are friends with my parents and live in the same town. I've met Christy and Elias briefly a couple of times.

I thought you would appreciate that one!

shannon said...

I love Pioneer Woman. I found her a couple of months ago.

Christy said...

Angie, you just gave me so many more blogs to check out. Thanks for your kind words! I love the way you write and I'm honored to be included in this list.

And hi Jillian! I just tried to call my parents to tell them about the smallness of cyber-world but no answer...