I haven’t blogged for, what, three days now. Which is fine. Sometimes the posts come thick and fast, sometimes there’s a gap. I don’t feel I need to blog with any particular frequency; and anyway, the few weeks right after August 8 were pretty intense and, I think, fruitful for the blog.
These past few days I’ve been doing some other things. Some things with my beloved Quaker meeting, which is always good to do because it keeps me grounded. Some thinking about longterm strategic directions for the blog and myself. More on that below… And a few things connected with the next big development in my family/personal life: which is the arrival (G-d willing) of my daughter Leila’s first child– our first grandchild– in early November.
Leila and her husband Greg live in New York (Brooklyn), so I’m hoping to be there with them as much as possible in the first weeks of the newborn’s life. I am completely thrilled they’re having this baby! It’s bringing back a lot of memories of when I gave birth to Leila and her slightly older brother, Tarek, in Beirut in the late 1970s. Back then, my sister Hilly came from England to help out. And okay, my then-husband and I had a wonderful live-in nursemaid, too. She made the post-delivery weeks a lot easier than they are for most young parents in the US or other western countries.
Having a baby and dealing with all the adjustments involved are huge challenges. The endless chains of broken nights are what I chiefly recall. Those, and suddenly this sense that, as the mother, you’re basically in servitude for a period of time to this small person who can’t even articulate her or his needs or desires… So scary! So as the parent, you suddenly need to learn all these completely new skills of ‘reading’ your baby’s needs… It’s quite amazing that any of us ever survived this process (as parents or, long before that, as babies.)
But my experience of having done this, like that of just about all the parents I know, has been truly amazing. I have learned so much– about the world, about the human condition, about myself, about relationships in general, about what is truly valuable in life (and oh, also, I suppose about baby-care and childrearing)… Simply by having hung in there and raised these three young people, now aged 23-30: all of them compassionate, well-grounded, talented, and a huge amount of fun to be with.
American society doesn’t give anything like enough support to the parents and caregivers of young children. Compared with anywhere in Europe, the situation here is brutal. I imagine that even in many low-income countries, women get more support from society as a whole. For example, Leila is a teacher in the New York City school system, where the teachers’ union is quite strong. But even with this allegedly “strong” contract the union has won for them over the years, she’s not entitled to any paid maternity leave. And children’s (cash) benefits, such as many European governments give to mothers as a matter of course?… Or the services of a home-visiting ‘district nurse’ or health visitor in the crucial post-partum days? Fuggedaboutit. We are truly in the Dark Ages here. No wonder that in some American inner cities, the infant and child mortality rates are on a par with some very low-income countries.
… So I’ll be in New York quite a lot in the weeks after the baby arrives. Obviously, the babe will make her/his own decisions about the timing. Before that (I hope), I’ll be on the west coast for much of October, doing various events to promote my Re-engage! book, and I have a couple of events on the east coast (New Jersey and Delaware) later in September. Check this page on the book’s website for details of those.
Meantime, I’ve been doing some thinking about future directions for, in particular, this blog. You know, I’ve been publishing it for 5.5 years now… A total of nearly 3,000 posts… Some of them, in retrospect, still really good, some of them somewhat scattershot or idiosyncratic.
To some degree, the whole blog has been idiosyncratic from the very start… From the day in early January 2003 when Tarek said, “You know, mom, you really ought to start writing a blog;” and I said, “A what?” … And he got me started reading Josh Marshall’s blog, which has gone from strength to strength since then, and Juan Cole’s blog, and, and, and… And a couple of weeks later he got me started on my own blog… ‘Just World News’: nice name, huh? We started out with Blogger software; he shifted me to Movable Type (where I found I’d picked the same template as Jonathan Edelstein)… and I’ve been
married to writing JWN ever since.
So now (drumroll… ) I’ve decided to try to take JWN to a whole new level.
You know, for just about all these past 5.5 years I’ve thought of JWN as “something on the side”, or “a drafting notebook”, or something a little like (ghastly word, this), a “hobby”. But really, for a long time now, it’s been a whole lot more than that. It has become an important part of my professional and personal identity.
Bloggo ergo sum, as Descartes would have blogged if he could have torn himself away from contemplating dripping candles and inventing dualism.
Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But not wholly.
So now I’m going to think about ways to become a whole lot more intentional about what I do here on JWN. I think I want to invest in a re-design, and I know I want to think harder about getting some different kinds of quality content up here. One thing I’m definitely thinking about is interviews with interesting figures in the policy world.
Bill the spouse says I should have photos, videos and audio clips, too. Videos I totally can’t envisage posting (unless I hire someone who can do that for me.) But really, it’s not my comparative advantage. Audio clips maybe I could manage. In conjunction with the interviews, perhaps? And the odd photo or whatever.
But all that stuff takes time. Time that, mostly, I would rather spend writing, thinking, reading, and talking to people. Face it, I’m fundamentally a words person. That’s what I am. But I can make the words better organized, more intentional, more interesting and thought-provoking, more useful, and better displayed. That’s what I want to do.
I also want to figure out a way to have this
baby blog generate a bit of income for us. I don’t need a lot, but some would be nice.
So readers and admirers of JWN, here is your chance to have input into helping to revision JWN. I am still right at the start of the process. Please tell me, either privately or in the open comments section here, any thoughts or suggestions you have on:
* What changes you’d like to see regarding the content of the blog;
* Ditto, the visual or organizational design;
* A good, affordable web-designer I could work with on the re-design;
* Your reactions to my suggestions on the blog, above;
* Any ideas you have for potential ‘strategic partnerships’ I might explore between JWN and institutions or individual philanthropists (yourself? anyone you know?) who might want to support the blog financially, or sponsor it in some other way…
Your comments and suggestions will be great. This whole revisioning thing may take a bit of time. In the meantime, JWN will continue to be the opinionated, generally well-informed, visionary, but often quirky blog you’ve come to know and (I hope) love. Watch for some more political posts tomorrow.