I have a couple of things about my website, but first I want to send you and Vicki the warmest of holiday greetings and wishes that you and yours fare well in the coming year. We have been surrounded by family recently, Virginia’s mostly. A death in the family and a wedding brought her family together in Independence, Kansas, Houston, Texas, and Minneapolis. So, we’ve been on the road quite a bit the last eight weeks. Some of it’s a pain in the tookus, but it’s good to see a family that works so well, despite their differences. I only wish my family was the same way. We are scattered to the winds and have never been close.
But I have very close friends and parent figures in Germany. They are getting up there, 84 and 88, and I fear that my next visit to the Federal Republic will be to gravestones. That said, I treasure their presence in my life and our bi-weekly phone calls, as well as my other German and American friends. These friendships have taken the place of immediate family and have sustained me all these years. I make an effort every Christmas to see as many of my close American friends as possible, lunches, coffee, phone calls, E-mails, etc. I’m lucky to have semester break to pursue these relationships in this way.
On top of this, I’m finding more time on my hands these days. Our son Nick has been with us 10.5 years now. When we adopted him at four and a half years old, the deal was that I would take care of house and child while Virginia be the earner. Now Nick is 15 and more like a renter these days than a kid who once needed a full-time parent. It seems that all I do now is pick him from his Robotics and Latin clubs after school and help him with his Latin quizzes. We still do things together that he quite enjoys—backpacking, canoeing, walking the dogs, etc. Fortunately, he’s a straight arrow with a solid head on his shoulders. Often, he acts wiser and more mature than his years. I think, man, when I was his age, I was a screwed-up kid, unable to see beyond my immediate needs and wants, smoking and drinking, getting into trouble.
We are lucky. Sometimes, I wonder who got more out of the adoption, him or us. Most of the time, I think it’s us.
His growing independence leaves me, as part-time earner, looking for more things to fill my time. I have written another book and am working to get an agent on the hook, as this is a commercial effort and not a university press book. I am also trying to get some of my essays published in lit magazines. Both these efforts are a numbers games. For every 100 submissions I make, I might get one or two takers. It means rewriting query letters, proposals, and essays, because maybe my work is rejected it isn’t quite right. There are hundreds of variables, including what’s in fashion at the moment, the mood of the editor or agent, etc. But persistence is my forte. Rejection means I’m working—after all, I wouldn’t get rejected if I wasn’t trying to get something out there. I figure if I’m not making a living writing, I might as well become a man of letters.
Due to the extra time (and twinges of guilt when I see Virginia—a nurse on the night shift—working so hard), I’m also keeping my eye out for a job. I figure if I were to land a job, I would only need it for 8 to 10 years to get the kids through college and bolster the retirement. We have some savings for Nick’s college but don’t for Sydney, now 26 and getting serious about college. But I also think . . . a job. I haven’t had a real job since I quit the book publisher in 2003! But if I find one, I will put my head down and the goals in mind.
Meanwhile, I try to improve and broaden my income streams and have taken to teaching memoir and nonfiction writing workshops at a local literary arts center and public libraries. I am also editing artist statements and grants—artists are such bad writers. It doesn’t bring in much, but it’s something. I would like to see if I can make my expertise and writing pay more so I don’t have to get a job. We’ll see. Writing books and essays aren’t good ways to make a living. I want to give Virginia a break and not rely so much on her income—about 2/3s what we bring into the house. If she were to lose her job due to the vagaries of corporate healthcare, we would be in a pickle.
Now to the Website:
- I have a program on the WordPress side of the site called Jetpack. It gives me stats and shows me what people are clicking on and where they are coming from. It’s a little different from the C-Panel stats, as Jetpack doesn’t count robots and crawlers, only readers. While they aren’t many, I have a cadre that read everything I put on the site. Surprisingly, I have about 30 people in Finland in the area around Helsinki that come to the website just about every day. I have 400 essays and letters on the site now, and I find they are digging back into the archive quite deeply.
Jetpack also has a function I wasn’t aware of before I downloaded it. It checks the site to see if it’s working and sends me a notification when the site is down, how long it is down, as well as when it starts working again. Jetpack used to send me a couple of these notices a week. Recently, it has been sending me more and more notices a day (yesterday, I received 16 and four just in the course of writing this note), saying the website is downloading slowly or not at all. Some readers report that when they go to the website, they often can’t get it to work. Several have sent me notes that they are sorry that I have quit maintaining the site. Jetpack attributes these problems in a generic note attached to the notices that reads:
This is a follow up on the recent Jetpack Monitor alert you received. It appears that your site, http://patrickdobson.com, is still not loading, and has been offline for 1 hour.
Your site is responding intermittently, or extremely slowly. This can indicate an overloaded, under-powered, or misconfigured server. Your site is probably loading for some users, but not for everyone.
We will continue monitoring your site, and will let you know when it’s up again.
I would appreciate if you could look into this for me. I was writing 7 to 9 essays a month for the website but have slowed recently to just 3 or 4 due to other writing things, the new book, and the effort to get some of my stuff into lit magazines, and, of course, school, school, school. Because I am writing less for the website, it is more important that the people on my MailChimp e-mail list and my facebook contacts get in there when they see a new posting.
- As usual, I would like to look at the backside of the site, the C-Panel, but have lost that password again. I hate to ask for the 50th time, but if you could get in there and send me a new password to get in, I would appreciate it. I’ll write the password down and put it someplace safe, and where I’ll remember to find it, so I won’t have to take more of your time in this repetitive task.
Thanks, Roger for your help. It’s been great having websites for all these years. I appreciate your work and help when I ask or am in need.
Good holidays to you and yours.
Dr. Patrick Dobson
1717 Jarboe St.
Kansas City, MO 64108