Thursday, September 22, 2011
the big bad blog
It's been a good week. Bernadette graduated from diapers. I realized this week that I have not seen a single roach in the house in months (I refuse to count the garage as part of the house). So the war of Kelly vs. Cockroaches -which has been raging for over a year - seems to definitively have been lost by the nasty black critters. Christine began taking driving lessons from me for the second time in her life and I'm enjoying teaching her to drive on the left side of the road as much as I enjoyed teaching her to drive on the right side five years ago. Her presence here has also afforded me sufficient opportunities of late to take a few moments here and there to breathe, to not feel so crushed by the overwhelming burden of it all, to (gasp) read a book. And the book that I have chosen is none other than the all-time beach favorite, Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undstet. Laugh, those who will, at my choice of recreational reading, but this book is mesmerizing me. I've read biographies of a lot of holy people in my life, but never before have I felt such an intense attraction to the subject. She energizes me. And gives me an inner calm. At the same time. I'm excited about her and thinking about her all the time now. I've never experienced that before in reading the life story of any hero, secular or religious. I feel like she is the only person who could really ever understand all of me. Except maybe Maria in a few decades, since her father keeps warning me that she is proving to be more like Mama every day. I'm going to ask her to be my patron saint. St. Catherine, I mean - not Maria.
One more awesome thing happened this week. Girls group. Perhaps my favorite girls group meeting of all time. It's the only ministry in which I am still substantially involved and now that Christine is here, I'm able to pop in and out of meetings as my children's needs demand. That's reduced the associated stress level to almost nothing. The meeting this week was definitely not the deepest meeting we've ever had. We watched the video footage of the puppet shows the girls performed earlier in the month. We planned out our upcoming trip to Auckland to visit the Cathedral and the Missionaries of Charity and the ice-skating rink. Many of the girls have never ice-skated or have hardly ever done so. It's exciting. And then....things got hilarious. Karen arrived. This week, in one of those crazy instances of Divine Providence generously responding to prayer, another female youth missionary just showed up at the parish. Her name is Karen and she's from Arizona. Through a bizzarre chain of coincidence and happenstance, she blindly stumbled upon our ministry after arriving in New Zealand only two weeks ago. She's extremely excited to join our ministry team and last night was her first introduction to any of our youth. So Karen walked into the meeting and the girls were very pleased to meet her. It was an awesome moment of witnessing the realization of another instance of the Lord's power and generosity. Several months ago, I was pleading for the Lord to send some women to minister to these girls. Rich, Glen, Chris and Fr. Michael are doing a fine job at leading the youth to God, but none of them are suitable for leading Girls and God. But now, a few months and many prayers later, Christine and Karen are here - it's beautiful. And we have a luminous young Kiwi woman, a member of Opus Dei, who contacted me out of the blue this month asking to become involved with the girls as well. Her name is Vivian and she'll be meeting the group next week. Neither Karen nor Vivian knew anything of our need here. I'm astonished anew at the power of prayer and the generosity of the Lord. I was thrilled to have just one woman here to help, but He was satisfied with sending nothing less than three. Maybe more are coming. In fact, come to think of it, I know of one more who is coming. Jessie, you're locked in now.
Anyway, as introductions were made last night, all present were ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 for their "Kiwi-ness". As the company included one English girl who recently became a New Zealand citizen, a Maori girl, two girls of American parentage and three American women, the rankings were extremely humorous. Despite having lived here for over a year and given birth to a Kiwi baby, I still came in dead last, losing even to Christine in the rankings. She doesn't even know how to drive on the left side yet!
Some friendly American vs. Kiwi squabbling followed, culminating in the young girls attempting to prove that they could recite the Pledge of Allegiance. They began (in loud faux-American accents): I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America!!......and to the.......Constitution...?"
I can't exactly remember how, but somehow the conversation turned from there to the fact that several of the girls in the group have recently begun keeping blogs about their spiritual journeys. They seemed eerily aware of whether or not Rich and I have been faithfully reading their posts. I simply had to know how they were tracking this information. With a frenzy of excitement, they opened my computer and showed me this secret little part of the blogger's world called "Stats". A blog keeps track of how many people read it! I'm serious. It knows how many people read it and in what country they read it and it even knows why they read it (it keeps track of what search word led each reader to each particular post.) The blog makes a chart of which posts were most popular and can even tell you how many people are looking at any given post at any given moment. It's like cyber-spying taken to the extreme. I almost could not believe it was possible. The girls watched my face with glee as they showed me that this blog has had 19,590 page views since its inception. Over ten thousand people in America have read all or part of it. It's been opened by Kiwis 6,007 times - although the members of girls group freely claim responsibility for about half of those hits. 86 people in Japan have read a post, 71 in Russia and 47 in El Salvador. Just this week 4 people in Lebanon read it. I think the girls thought I would be ecstatic but I am freaking out. When Richard first conceived the idea of having a blog, it was meant to be his project. He lost interest after designing its title page and turned the whole thing over to me. He wanted me to write a blog that would keep our many benefactors updated on the mission they had supported. I tried to do exactly that for a long time before "realizing" that probably no one was reading except our friends and family and the youth here (I don't really know why they read it - maybe they love to see the photos of themselves? Girls - let's chat about that - I'm quite interested). So anyway, at some point I began to write with this smaller, more intimate audience in mind. Less like a blog and more like a group email. I know by blogosphere standards we have a very small readership, but to me it's so far beyond what I imagined. Frankly, I'm stunned and intimidated. My dad was just saying to me last week that he thought I should write a book - "people should read this stuff!" Well Dad, people are reading this stuff. In Norway. I just don't know whether my dad could possibly be more shocked than I am. I mean, there were even people who landed on the blog by searching for information on Alagille Syndrome.
I don't really know how to proceed from here. The internet is infamously public - but nothing drove that point home to me like seeing those graphs and charts and statistics. Spaniards, I know you're out there. I didn't before - but now I do. Hola!
I need time to reflect on it all. Maybe I'm making a huge deal about nothing at all. I do that. But there are twelve Kiwis on the blog at this very moment - twelve. It's like they're waiting. It's nearly 11 PM here and the Americans are still asleep because it's not 7 AM there yet. That must be why there's only one United States citizen on here with me. Dad? Is that you? I'd feel much better if it was. And that says something to me. But why? Would it freak me out if 19,590 strangers around the globe read a book containing essentially the same material? Definitely not. And it never made me feel vulnerable to write for a magazine with a readership of one million. So why this sudden temptation to withdraw into a "safe" silence? It's time to sit down and think - and pray - through this whole concept of "blog". St. Catherine of Siena (author!), pray for me!