It’s time to get honest with all of you. I was going to do Blaugust this year, and try some new MMOs, and try to get back into it. But I’ve been too busy. It’s August 7 and I’ve already gone to Atlanta for work and went camping once. I’m camping again–this time in the Canadian wilderness–later this month.
When I’m free I don’t want to play video games. I want to watch TV with my husband or play with my son. I want to curl up in bed and read until my eyelids get heavy. I want to work on personal projects. I was in my hotel in Atlanta and decided to try out Albion Online and I played it for about 30 minutes before I was bored out of my mind and decided to read some Python blog posts instead. I basically decided to do more work instead of gaming.
Now I don’t know what to do with this blog. It was supposed to be “parenting for nerds” with a gaming/MMO bent, but if I’m barely playing games how does that work? I’ve also been thinking a lot about my nerdiness. Yes, I’m a nerd: I write code and help other people write better code for a living. I love Sci-fi, fantasy, and Marvel movies. But am I nerdy enough to write a nerd parenting blog? I don’t take my kid to nerd conventions, I don’t even go to them myself. I don’t like the idea of dressing up. Costumes are uncomfortable. I don’t even like Halloween.
I don’t think I’m having nerd imposter syndrome. No neckbeards have told me I’m “not a real nerd” for some reason or another. I’m definitely a nerd. But I can’t write blog posts about if you should let your kid play Fortnite because I couldn’t get past the starting screen because I couldn’t figure out how to customize my character. I’ll have an idea for something I want to write and it doesn’t fit here. I’ve posted on Medium, but the platform is terrible for writers unless you want to opt-in to their paywall (I don’t). I wanted to write about my long strange career path so I did that on dev.to. I always have this problem, this I don’t know what to do with my online presence existential crisis.
It was the worst date of my life. After being told I “looked nervous” I was being bombarded with questions that made me wonder if I was being interviewed for the position of preschool teacher. What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite dinosaur? He came in with a new question too quick for me to, in turn, ask him about his favorites. Then he asked, “What’s your passion?”
At this point I wanted to throw my glass of water at him. I’d been on a lot of bad dates, like the one in Arlington, Virginia where the chain smoker wanted me to vote for him on some board–even though I told him several times that I was still registered to vote, and thus would be voting absentee, in Michigan. But this was the first time I’d gotten this angry at a date just for conversing with me.
“I don’t have one,” I said. I didn’t feel like explaining to him that instead of being super amped up about one thing, I was mildly interested in a whole bunch of things. This was the early 2010s, and it was when advice like “find your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life!” was being spewed by self-proclaimed gurus all over the internet and repeated ad nauseam. People were eating it up. I felt like I was different and something must be wrong with me.
As a college student I briefly toyed with being an Elementary school teacher because it was the only way I could see taking classes in everything and having it be actually useful. (I’ll be ever grateful for the summer I spent working at a summer camp that showed me I definitely did not want to be an Elementary school teacher.) In college you get 1-2 years of “no pressure!” before suddenly a switch flips and it’s “OMG you have to pick a major now or you’ll never graduate and you’ll be in college forever and it’s expensive, doncha know?”
Much of my adult life has been filled with people telling me to narrow my focus and me digging my heals in with a solid refusal. Sure, I’ll get an English degree, but I’m not going to be an English teacher. I might knit, but I’m going to try crochet, too, and embroidery, and take this hand-lettering Skillshare class, and do Inktober. Blogging? “Blogging is easy, you just need a niche. Find the one thing you’re really passionate about and write…” No.
I’m never going to be passionate about only one thing. I’ve tried to squish my round-peg self into that square-peg hole and I’m done. In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about being curious instead of being passionate. I loved the book, but this was my favorite part, because it gave me the courage to let go of this burden where I felt like I had to find my One Creative Passion. She says that people who allow themselves to be curious are actually more creative.
Lately I’ve been really into knitting, and all the knitting has made me curious about hand-dying yarn. So I’ve been giving that a try. I’ve also been itching to do a little sewing and maybe make some of those macrame plant hangers. It doesn’t mean I have to stop kitting, and even if I do, I can always go back.
Most of us live in a capitalist society where we need to find something we tolerate enough to spend around 40 hours a week doing in order to feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, and support our curiosities. If there’s one thing you love doing and it supports you financially, awesome. If not, that doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you. It means you’re curious. Let yourself be curious. Who knows what will happen?
While this week was difficult, there were little moments of joy sprinkled throughout. I realized that our wedding is no longer a vague ways away, but in a few weeks. Despite the stress dreams, I’ve been enjoying the last few bits of planning. Instead of rings, we’ve decided to exchange framed hand-written vows. My mom and I went shopping for accessories. Tomorrow I’m going for a bra fitting. Oh la la!
I’m a natural worrier. I worry about the weather, the violinist who hasn’t emailed me back, and if I’ll like the flowers. The one thing I haven’t worried about is the man I’m marrying. I think that’s the important part.
I’m loving An Unkindness of Ghosts despite having limited reading time. The world building is exquisite and Aster is unlike any other protagonist. Sadly I won’t be getting much extra time to read soon.
Online, I enjoyed Wired’s article about Microsoft’s parental leave requirement for subcontractors. When I had my son, I had to go back to work after about 8 weeks. It was hard enough for me, someone with the luxury of a job sitting at a desk to go back when I did. It’s even harder for people who work on their feet. This line in the article stuck out: “paid family leave was the most desired workplace benefit.” Shout it from the rooftops, people!
One of the hardest things about being a mother is the judgement. We live in a society where nearly every parenting action, particularly of mothers, is scrutinized by others. Kelly in the City’s thoughts on the subject closely mirror my own. I’m so grateful for the judgement-free online community parents I’ve found.
Battle for Azeroth has been the perfect stress relief this week, particularly getting absorbed in the Nazmir quest chain. I think the fiancé may want to play our Alliance mains with me again soon, but he’s been leveling a shaman.
Tonight we played some Pokemon Go and walked to a small event downtown. The ice cream sandwiches were delicious. I always forget about Pokemon Go as a game I play, as it’s just become a regular part of life. My interest in it has been waning lately. We need some new Pokemon to catch.
Today marks the end of Blaugust. I’m glad I participated. It was the catalyst for me to launch the blog and a way to connect me to a larger blogging community. However, I have felt pressured to post more, perhaps lower quality posts than I would like. Yesterday I was working on a post and trying to get it finished. Eventually I decided I really wanted to spend more time and thought on the topic and posted some photos of my cat instead. I don’t mind posting (literal, in my cat’s case) fluff and I love injecting some humor in my writing, but some of the topics I want to tackle require more thought. Those posts are going to take longer than a half hour at lunchtime or 45 minutes in the evening to explore.
At the same time I tend to try to be too perfectionist in my writing and sometimes I need to just let go and hit publish. Perhaps the scales need some time to find the right balance.
That said: I’ve decided to go on hiatus until around the end of October. I have so many things coming up including my wedding, my honeymoon, a work trip, my son starting a new daycare, and some personal things. If I have extra time, I may spend it working on some of the more in-depth pieces I have brewing in my head so I can finish them when I start back up again.
This is going to be the last “Reading, Playing, Writing, Doing” update, but it’s not going away! I’m merging this feature in with Happy Friday. Instead of just a list of links, Happy Friday posts will now include this information about what I’ve been up to. I enjoy writing this more than the link lists. On Friday I look at my Happy Friday draft and see two links in there and then I have to scramble to find more so it feels like a full post.
I finished Song of Achilles and started An Unkindness of Ghosts. Since I bought a paper copy, I wanted to get my lamp setup for comfortable reading. The outlet was too far from the bed so I looked for an extension cord. My fiancé said there was one in the garage that was nine feet long. While nine feet was too much, he went and got it anyway. It was closer to 20 feet. Too long. I looked behind the bed headboard and, lo and behold, an outlet! The bed had to be moved a little, but now the lamp is in the perfect spot.
After a cultural victory in Civ 6, I’m finally done with Civ 6. This left more time to play World of Warcraft. Since my fiancé and I are leveling Alliance characters together, I’ve been playing my Horde character solo. Here she is dressed up like a pirate:
I’ve been having more fun with the Horde side quests than the Alliance ones. Princess Talanji might be my new favorite character. Sylvanas, who? Forget the Horde, I want to defect and join the Zandalar. Even though I’m a Blood Elf and not a Troll. I’m saving how much fun I’m having in Vol’Dun for another post.
My main writing accomplishment this week was to complete the outline of the one short story idea I have. It’s about the apocalypse, psychological experimentation, and a strawberry.
The theme for the week was “meals with relatives.” We made dinner for my uncle who’s officiating our wedding and my aunt. I cooked these herb butter chicken thighs and they were as easy and amazing the second time as the first. We made waffles for breakfast for my parents. Tonight we’re having dinner with my fiancé’s mom and his aunt. For once we’re not cooking!
Yesterday we went to the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. There we picked up some deliciously tart rhubarb jam and smoked salmon. We had brunch at Social, which is one of our favorite places mainly because the first time we were there they gave us two free appetizers. I had the prettiest looking avocado toast ever.
Three weeks ago I started this blog. I was flush with ideas. The blog concept had been slowly cooking inside my head for months before and Blaugust got me to take it out of the oven. It was finally ready to be shared. While my posting frequency has waned since the beginning, I’m still here. I have more to say. I’m not going anywhere.
The theme Blaugust this week is Staying Motivated, so I thought I’d explore my motivations for starting and continuing this blog. The main focus of this blog is parenting in the digital age. I think other parents and I share some common fears about how different technology is now from when we were kids. I want to address some of those. I want to talk about how having an identity as a gamer can mesh with having an identity as a parent.
I want to thank everyone who has commented on and liked my posts so far. It says to me that people are here for what I’m saying, that it has value, and that I should keep doing this. Thank you!
I also have more personal reasons for blogging. I can practice my writing in small doses. I’ve been working on a new novel and writing it always feels daunting. It’s just the beginning of something huge. There are emotions to process. Many times I want to write, but I’m not in the right headspace to work on the novel. Blog posts are a perfect bite-sized chunk of writing that I can finish and put out there in an instant.
Back when I blogged anonymously about my life, blogging was an excuse for me to go out and experience things. My motto was: “Bad decisions make great blog posts.”
Eventually I grew up a little and the internet became less anonymous and I started writing in a paper journal instead. Even though it made my hand cramp up, I continued it until just after my son was born. I’d been writing just before going to sleep and when I had a newborn, I just wanted to crash.
I wanted an outlet again, and I thought long and hard about what kind of blog to create. I’m too messy for a lifestyle blog, so eventually I settled on “nerdy parenting blog.” I think this should motivate me to get out, more, too, but in a different way. Such as, I’ve never been to a nerdy sort of con. I’ve been to hacker cons and programming conferences, but those are different. I’d like to go to one, and maybe bring my son. Perhaps he and I should check out Free Comic Book Day. There must be other nerdy events out there for kids! This might help get me out, when I’d rather just be an introvert and stay home.
My final motivation is also for my kid. I want him to know that there’s more to me than my job and being a mom. I’m also a writer, a gamer, and a nerd. Even if he ends up being more of a jock, I want him to know this side of me. And for that to happen, I need to embrace it myself.
I write in my paper journal every now and again that my son isn’t a newborn anymore. The hand cramping keeps me from doing it more. Cover photo by Easton Oliver on Unsplash.
This is going to be a short one. It has been a week. My son’s daycare is closing, meaning most of my free time has been spent scrambling to find a new one. Work’s been extra busy for both me and my fiancé, and all I want to do is play Civ 6.
The Best Ted Talks for Moms Parents – I updated the title, because why just moms? I like TED talks because they’re short little bursts of information. You don’t need 40 minutes to set aside to watch. You don’t even need to watch; I often just listen. Perfect for moms parents.
I wanted to write a little about myself, in particular, my in-progress writing projects. I’ve been writing fiction since I was a kid. The first story I remember writing was in the style of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, which was called If You Give a Cat a Strawberry. Everything is better with cats.
In high school I wrote bad, angst-ridden poetry on index cards and then forced all my friends to read them. I had an online diary back then on diary-x, which burned to ash when the site crashed. In college I learned to write poetry better, and had one published on a literary website. That’s gone, too.
After college I wrote technical pieces for the blog of whatever company I was working for at the time. The short, technical writing lead me to write for a few larger publications, the highlight being FastCompany. I’d like to do more of this kind of writing in the future.
The Young Adult Novel
Meanwhile, I tried to do Nanowrimo upwards of seven times before finally winning one year with a young adult science fiction novel. I spent the next few years editing the novel until it became a chore. I wanted it to be perfect. I struggled with every word and thought and re-through the plot during my showers. Every time I worked on it, I felt this burden of wanting to scrap and rewrite most of it. This “scrap it” concept battled with strong attachments to my characters and wrestling with how to best present my theme in this sci-fi setting. And the constant wondering how to “up the stakes” in this thing. Finally, I gave myself permission to put it aside and start something new.
Untitled Fiction Novel
I’m not even sure what novel to put this beast into. I call it a “beast” not because I’ve written a lot of words, but because it represents a beast in my mind that needs to get out on paper. When I lived in New York, I worked for a bizarre company. There is more than enough in my memories alone to fill a book, but I’ve been working on putting a fictional narrative together. Revisiting this experience is hard. Not because it was necessarily a bad experience, but that I loved living in New York so much that thinking about it hurts my soul. Sometime I’ll have to revisit my old (paper) journal entries to help me put my memories in order. I want to keep that book, and those feelings, locked up.
Happy Blaugust! I’m so excited to be part of this terrific community of bloggers. If it wasn’t for this event, I’d still be overthinking the whole blogging thing. This blog would not exist. You wouldn’t be reading it. My fiancé and I wouldn’t have started playing World of Warcraft again. (Yeah, after more overthinking we decided to give it a go. We rolled a couple level 1 Goblins just for fun. Let me know if you want to play with us!)
The concept of the initial Blaugust was to write one post every day August. Blaugust Reborn has different goal tiers. I’m aiming for 15 posts. I could do more, but I’m a parent, and I have a full-time job. Sometimes writing a blog post during my lunch break isn’t what I want to spend it doing. I don’t particularly like doing thing-a-day style challenges. 15 gives me enough days off in case something comes up but I’ll still get the Silver award. If I write more, awesome. If a catastrophe happens and I end up writing less, oh well.
Lucky for us, I already have a plethora of post ideas bumbling around in my head. Stay tuned for thoughts on topics such as:
Nerding out when you’re in a relationship with a Jock
Why “nerd” is a way better term than “geek”
Protecting your data online
Kids and online bullying and harassment
Adventure game recommendations
Parents in video games
Learning to code
How parenting has changed since we were kids
Pictures of my cats
Screenshots of my adorable shoblin
If you have a suggestion of a topic that intersects parenting and technology, please send me a note. I’m also looking for stories and insights from parents of older kids. When do you give them a cell phone? How much should you monitor what they’re doing online? As a parent of a 2-year-old, these are things I’m thinking worrying about already.
Except–that’s not true anymore. Social media killed Internet anonymity. That can be both good (it’s a lot harder to be an asshole online and get away with it) and bad (no more anonymous soul-bearing). Since I am blogging about parenting and my family, I have to decide if I want to use real names.
I rarely post photos of my child on my Instagram. If I do, they’re usually from behind, at a weird angle, from a long distance, or heavily filtered through Prisma. Facebook is a different story. I’m constantly hearing from relatives I barely get to see in real life how much they love seeing photos of my son on Facebook. As long as he doesn’t object, I’ll continue to post those.
Something feels off-putting about the mommy insta-celebrities who constantly post photos of their children to shill products. I try not to be judgmental about others’ parenting unless they’re harming themselves or others. This is not a “mommy wars” blog.
I’m using my own real name, and I’ll refer to my fiancé as my fiancé until mid-September, when he becomes my husband. But what about my kid? Calling him “my kid” feels weird. What if I have another kid? I’m not going to use his real name. I actually had a post written about why I was going to use it, and then I changed my mind. I don’t think it’s worth it.
Safety is one reason. If someone wanted to find his real name, they can. It’s 2018. But I don’t want to make it easier for them. I’m also concerned about bullying. While I’d rather kids be taught not to bully, I’d hate for a bully to find an upcoming post on potty training and use it as bullying material.
Because I don’t want to keep calling him “my kid” I’ve decided to use a made-up name for him. Henceforth he shall be called “Indy” for his independent nature. It’s not his real name. It’s not even similar to his real name. As a fake internet pseudonym coined by his mother, it suits him.
Parents, do you post photos of your kid or use their real name publicly online? Why or why not?