Since Mom and Dad died in January I have undergone a lot of confusion and soul-searching about life—from large general philosophical questions like “What’s it all about?” “What’s the point?” to small particular practical questions like “What do I do with my Wednesdays now?”
The event of Mom and Dad’s death, and I call it a singular event because that’s how it feels to me, has been, and continues to be, a transformational one.
I know my life and times are changing, but I can’t always articulate exactly how.
Today one thing became clear.
I’m refocusing this blog and the title of it on Random Thoughts from Midlife. I had switched the main title of my blog to my name from advice I got online while trying to figure out how best to market my book. I’m heading back to my original inspiration and letting my other blog-website (such as it is, a mere stagnant skeleton waiting for me to return) bear the burden of my name.
I first started this blog in January of 2011. On my “About” page I wrote:
“I have a father with Alzheimer’s, and a mother who is trying desperately hard to take care of him. I have two living sisters and one brother. We lost my younger sister Annie to cancer in August of 2009. She was permanently and severely disabled at birth. We loved her dearly.”
That’s what it still says today. It’s just one more thing about my life that needs to be updated now that Mom and Dad are gone.
I started my blog because I wrote Annie’s book. That’s the simple truth. I wrote a book and I was trying to figure out what to do with it. The online research I did continued to talk about how I needed to have a platform—a completely foreign concept to me at the time.
I knew a blog could be an important building block of the elusive “platform” so I thought about what I might possibly blog about. Several years prior to this I had the notion of writing a magazine with stories and photographs called Random Thoughts from Midlife. I went so far as to jot the title down on a scrap of paper and stuff it in a drawer. The fate of many of my ideas.
Forgive me if I’m rambling. I know some of you will stick through this to the end with me and others won’t. It’s something I need to do regardless. Thank you if you’re staying.
Since Mom and Dad died, writing has been one of the larger questions I’ve grappled with. Maybe I don’t need or want to do it anymore, I’d think. What am I doing with my blog? Does it need a more specific direction? Should I give it up altogether?
It really all boiled down to What do I want to do now? Some of my lack of direction came from the empty nest feelings that I directly transferred to the care of my parents. Dad had Alzheimer’s. Annie died in August. My youngest left for college in September. It was an easy shift to let the care of my parents fill the hole left behind by my children.
When I was in college, the second time, earning my English degree, I took every course in Women’s Studies that was available to me. Several of these courses used journal-type writings from women—not famous literature, just simple accounts of their lives. The slave narratives I studied in several courses were a similar inspiration to me. Just simple people, perhaps living complicated lives, who chose to tell or write about what they went through. I saw these stories as a gift to the rest of us who might now be able to see more clearly, understand more deeply.
In my view, and you might not agree, midlife is a time period that is undervalued by society at large. As we head out to pastures no one is interested in what we’re doing anymore. They’re all watching the three-year-old thoroughbred races.
I also think that technology has somehow undermined the perceived value of the experience of our more mature members of society. Who needs to ask Grandma how to make a pie crust when you can Google it and get expert advice from 4 or 5 individuals with their own television shows?
I think midlife is a fascinating time of life with many of life’s largest issues at the forefront. I think all of our lives are important even if our faces are not on Hollywood’s big screens or we aren’t a star athlete or the head of a major corporation. We all count. I believe that some of the greatest wisdom can be found in what society may consider the least of us. I am grateful for the technology, that on the one hand threatens to devalue us, yet gives us the opportunity to speak and have others hear our voice.
Some of the topics I’ve written about on this blog include:
Being a grandparent
Physical problems of aging
Hobbies like photography, gardening, and genealogy
Taking care of aging parents
Losing a parent
Long-term love of a spouse
Many of these are common things that those of us, in the middle of our lives, are concerned about, value, and live with.
I think my original idea was a good one.
Welcome back Random Thoughts.
If you’re a blogger, I’d love to hear why you started your blog, why you continue, and what you try to do with it.
If you’re not a blogger, thanks for reading my blog. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this post.
I’ve had a goal to do more short video on my blog. I don’t know if you’ve tried to use video, and maybe I’m missing the shortcuts, but it seems there are a lot of steps involved:
1. Take the video
2. Upload or download (I can never figure out which is what) the video to my computer.
3. Open iMovie and start a new “event.”
4. Import the movie.
5. Start a new “project.”
6. Edit the movie by selecting segments, or clipping off bad ends, or whatever I can do with iMovie (which at this point isn’t all that much.)
7. Finalize the movie.
8. Share the movie (there is an option to share it directly to YouTube, but that didn’t seem to work for me so I exported it to my computer.)
9. Go to YouTube and download or upload (still haven’t got it) the movie.
10.Copy the movie’s URL and paste it into the “text” page of the WordPress new post editor.
Am I missing something? I suspect if I didn’t want to edit the movie first this process could be significantly shortcut. But I’m going to have to get a whole lot better at planning and shooting videos for that to happen.
I know I talked about this before, but I’m trying again. It’s one of those things that I think if I just do it enough times it will become second nature to me. What do you think?
Also, I vaguely remember seeing a post from WordPress about a new way of adding video that works better. I can’t find it now. I know I saved the email for a while, but I suspect it went the way of the recycle bin on a recent purge in an attempt to get my inbox once again below 50 messages.
That was just the lengthy introduction. Here’s the post.
It was a beautiful breezy day at the VOA this morning. I walk by these little chiming spoons every time I go there. I think it would be lovely to have lots of silverware chimes such as these hanging from the limbs of my trees. Not sure Mark will go for it.
This group of ducks caught my eye. I think they are mallards, but they don’t look quite right, so I’m wondering if they are a group of juvenile mallards. I also don’t know what they’re doing.
Are they practicing their swimming? Having a party? Diving for coins? You tell me.
I was going to show you photos of wildflowers from Leo’s Garden, but in the interest of time, and a desire to have an easy post for another day, (you didn’t hear that from me), I’ll end it here.
It’s still a beautiful day here. I hope you have nice weather to enjoy where you are.
I know I should have figured this out by now.
When I first started blogging, I subscribed to a lot of blogs I wanted to follow through an email subscription. It didn’t take me long, or too many days of an overflowing email inbox, to see the error in my ways.
So I followed a fellow blogger’s advice and moved everything to Google Reader by using RSS feeds. Which worked well for a while. Until Google decided to discontinue the Google Reader effective in a few days.
Now I’m scrambling to move all the WordPress blogs I follow over to WordPress “follows” which puts them in a WordPress reader. This doesn’t solve the problem for the Blogger blogs or self-hosted blogs.
I know there are other RSS readers out there, but frankly, didn’t have the energy to deal with figuring it all out.
This morning I finished up visiting all the blogs I follow and am either following them through WordPress, through email subscriptions, or somehow on Blogger– I haven’t entirely figured that one out yet.
I’m missing my Google Reader already.
I’m worried the work I did this morning is going to result in email overload again. However, gmail has started using tabs, that I think I am going to like, that will sort my mail into “primary,” “social,” and “promotional.” So all the ads I get (solicited and un-) show up under the promotional tab which I can easily ignore for as long as I like. And the blog posts updates I get go under the social tab, keeping them conveniently in one place where I can read them at my leisure. Everything else goes under the primary tab.If you have gmail I’d like to hear how you feel about the new system.
I think what I will eventually do is what I should have done from the beginning, and create a page on my blog that lists (and links to) all the blogs I like to read either occasionally or everyday.
I’d love it if you could share with me how you manage the blogs you follow. Do you have a system that is working well for you?
Where do I go from here?
When I decided to write about blogging, I did what I often do, I went online to find out what I could.
That’s not entirely honest. I googled it and check two links.
I found an article in New York magazine on line called The Early Years by Clive Thompson which was basically a timeline of the history of blogging. Did you know that the first blog, ever, was created by a college student in 1994? Almost twenty years ago.
Quite a few years ago my oldest son told me I should start writing a blog. I didn’t listen to him at the time, much to my chagrin. If I had maybe I could have proftted from being one of the early people in.
Did you know that people actually made money off of blogs? You probably did. I’m always the last to know.
But like so many other things, it helps to be popular if you are already famous. We like to follow people who have been proven to be well-liked by other people. The same goes for authors. We like to read authors who are the best sellers. They don’t have a problem getting an agent or a book contract. Same goes for famous people. Just check out the tables in your local B&N. But you already know that.
Clive Thompson talks all about it in Blogs to Riches: The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom also published in New York magazine.
I never intended or expected to make money with my blog.
That’s probably a good thing, too.
I started the blog to encourage myself to write regularly, even every day, and to start creating an online presence. Just a little over two years ago on January 21, 2011, I started my blog with a short post, A New Start with Clean House, that mentioned both my mom and Arthur. Arthur is still with me. Mom is not. I still write about both.
My second post, Missed Opportunities, was about the red fox that I saw run through our yard, but failed to capture on camera. I still have missed opportunities, but now I keep my camera on a shelf in the kitchen where I am sometimes able to catch the wood ducks, the pileated woodpecker and the owl, the groundhogs, my most recent good catch – the scarlet tanager, and even a red fox.
I saw this female wood duck this morning. I think she was looking for her mate. They’re usually together.
My third post, Fiddles radio broadcasts, signing off and iPads, was one of my all-time favorites. Very few people read it.
I tried to find the stats. I went to “all posts,” and then filtered for the date. I clicked on the miniature bar graph in the column that says “stats.” I had one “syndicated” view. I have no idea what that means, but it can’t be good. Truthfully, after rooting around a bit on my stats page, I don’t have any idea how many hits that page actually got. I’m not going to obsess about it.
I continue to tell myself I shouldn’t be concerned with my stats anyway. I continue to not listen.
But a blogging acquaintance, compatriot, friend (what are we to each other anyway?) named Sue Dreamwalker commented on that post and continues to comment occasionally to this day. She has a nice post up today about May Day. So while some followers come and some go, she has stayed with me. I’d like to say thank you to Sue and all the rest of you who joined me early and have stuck around. Another shout out to Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way for lighting my way early on. And while I’m at it, I have to mention the amusing William at Speak of the Devil who continues to hold the esteemed position of being my number 1 commenter.
But I digress.
They say to have followers you have to be a follower. Which sounds a lot like friendship to me. And over the months, now years, that I’ve blogged, I continue to contemplate how this approach can possibly work unless you are satisfied with a static, relatively small, but loyal group of bloggers. A little blogging community. I’m not criticizing that, I’m just saying that if it becomes nothing more than a quid pro quo, your reach with your blog is limited to the amount of time you have to read and comment on others’ blogs. Which also depends on how long-winded your blogging friends are. You can see I will not fair very well in this system, because it becomes fairly obvious fairly early, that you can visit many photographers’ blogs in the time it takes you to read one lengthy, well-written or not, story on a writer’s blog.
This is a dilemma for me.
I started my blog when I was researching how to publish my memoir Dancing in Heaven.
After reading articles online, I realized that to publish a book, either by agent and traditional publisher or by myself, I needed an online presence. After I wrote Dancing in Heaven, I fully intended to seek an agent and publish it through traditional means. My mind changed. But the journey gave me a lot of fodder for my blog.
The advice I heeded was that I needed to build a platform, which at the time I read it was a completely foreign concept to me.
I started a blog.
I’ve read other advice more recently, that if you are a writer, you will serve your goals better by not spending time blogging, but writing instead. I think there is probably some truth in that position.
But I’ve also read that if you are a published author, you need to have a blog where your readers can learn more about you and communicate with you.
But then, I’ve read that if you want to have a successful blog, you need to pick a topic, carve out your niche, and stick to it.
If you’ve ever held a digital camera in your hands, running around a sunlit garden or walking through a park filled with birdsong, you already know that snapping photographs is a lot more fun than sitting at a desk doing the hard work of translating your thoughts from your brain through your fingers and the keyboard to a computer screen. Just saying. So maybe I get a little distracted at times.
I organize and generate pages, primarily for my own use, and simply because it feeds my OCD nature, but the occasional visitor finds them useful at times. Particularly the bilateral knee surgery documentation we did. People have thanked me for that one.
What I really think is that there is way too much advice out there on the web, well-meaning though it may be. My head is spinning. Yours may be too after reading this disjointed post.
My solution is to do what I usually do in these cases. I trust myself. I trust my judgment. And I trust my heart. And thankfully I am married to an outstanding provider, so I am not obligated to make money from my writing in order to be able to feed myself. Which I should be doing a lot less of anyway if I want to listen to the advice about weight, health and nutrition.
I started blogging to force myself to write everyday. I’d grade myself at maybe a C on that one. Because, like I said, the photography has been enticing. And I don’t really consider my photography blogs “writing.”
The commaraderie and support that I received from followers, friends, and commenters I found invaluable as my family entered crisis control in the beginning of December with the diagnosis of my mom’s cancer and through the next intense weeks before both of my parents’ deaths in January.
I struggle with keeping up. I question what it’s all about. I wonder about the best use of my time.
My world was turned upside down when my parents died. I had devoted a lot of time and concern to their care. My foundation was badly shaken. And even though Mom and Dad were well past the days of doing anything of consequence to aid or assist me, they were two people in my life who always loved me no matter what, who always believed in me. And they were gone. That is a tremendous loss.
As I try to make meaning out of my life, I’m asking the question. Where do I go from here?
It’s March. Halleluia.
I’ve been through some dark days in December when we found out Mom had cancer throughout her abdomen. Then we found out it was advanced, incurable pancreatic cancer that had metastacized. Then her oncologist told us she had maybe 4 to 12 months to live if we provided nothing but comfort care. In retrospect, that amount of time would have been a joyous gift.
The second day after we found Mom’s cancer was a very dark day when Dad started having breathing problems and we called the ambulance to take him to the hospital. As I watched his monitored blood pressure drop and listened to doctors talk about a massive infection and sepsis, I prayed Dad could hold on a little longer. Mom needed him now.
When I pushed my dad in his wheelchair into the dining hall at his new home in the nursing care facility a week later and he started to cry when he looked around and saw the company he was in, it was a very dark day indeed.
But there were darker, pitch-black days to come. I am still not able to write about it and the vivid memories that continue to plague me at unannounced times during the days.
In fact, I have difficulty writing about anything at all right now and getting my brain and my fingers on the keyboard to cooperate. Yesterday’s “After Mardi Gras” post took me much longer than it should have to write. But I feel more comfortable talking about non-emotional things right now, and that’s where I think I should focus my efforts.
Someday maybe I’ll share the days I’ve spent at Mom and Dad’s house, emptying drawers of memorabilia, sorting, judging, saving or throwing away their life’s small scraps of treasures. But not today.
Today it is March, even though it is still dark outside at this early hour, and even though there are snow flurries in the foreast and a high temperature prediction of only 37 degrees. I know there will be days of spring this month.
Last year my post on this date, Welcome March, oh month who brings sweet spring, received the honor of being freshly pressed. This year I am barely slogging through. This month I have a birthday to get through without the annual arrival of flowers from my mother. So many things to get through that lie ahead.
But today is March. And March gives me hope.
I started this blog with the intention to post about whatever was on my mind when I woke up each morning. Our heater isn’t functioning well, and I woke up this morning not wanting to move from my warm cocoon of blankets into the cold morning air in our room. Then I thought of all those people on the east coast without electricity, perhaps without a home or bed with warm covers.
Life can change in a moment. You think you’ve made it through a storm, and then a dam breaks and you’re on your rooftop.
Now that I’m awake, wrapped in a warm robe, and sitting at my desk, I have a lot of thoughts running through my head, mostly about our children and our parents. It seems like we go along on status quo for some time, and then everybody shifts position. We have a child adjusting to a second baby, another contemplating a change of job entailing a move, a third needing involved dental work, and another looking for a co-op job in a saturated market. Mark’s mom needs a shoulder replacement, and you know how it goes with my parents.
The point I’m trying to make here is that I have a lot on my mind today, none of which I consider blog-worthy. Which brings me back around to one last thing I’ve been thinking about lately, Is it worth the time to continue blogging?
Last week I came across Lynn Spreen’s post on blog Any Shiny Thing where she answered that very question, Should you quit blogging?
It’s a good read, and I think you might appreciate it.
Do you ever question that yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
I can’t recall exactly how Teepee12 arrived on my blogging sphere radar, but she did. And I’m glad. A few weeks ago she honored me with the Lovely Blogger Award. I know most of you have heard of that, but if you haven’t, you can follow the link to her site where she explains it.
After careful thought and consideration, over my vast blogging experience of a little more than a year and a half, I have instituted a personal award policy where I thank the grantor of the award, but decline the obligations. Kind of a having my cake and eating it too policy. But here’s where the story gets good.
Before I even had the chance to thank Teepee12, she posted about another award she had just received—a new one for me—the “Don’t do a damn thing award. I just like your blog.” I mean, does it get any better than this?
Being somewhat uncouth and ill-mannered, I asked Teepee12 if I could trade my Lovely Blogger Award for this new, and in my humble opinion, best blog award ever. She graciously agreed.
To Teepee12, I say a very sincere Thank You.
To my other readers, loyal fans, and drive-by glancers, I hope you will stop over and see Teepee12′s blog, Serendipity – pictures, stories, opinions and more where she discusses things near and dear to my heart with posts about nature, travel, animals, photography, writing, life, and much more.
Or in Teepee12′s own words regarding her blog:
“This is about everything. And nothing. It’s life: whatever is on my mind, what’s happening to me and those around me. It’s about the valley where I live, the people in my world, and of course, the dogs.
“I offer you some memories, many thoughts, stories, and pictures. My pictures, mostly, but sometimes other’s pictures (always credited!) because I admire them. I also reblog postings that I think you will find interesting … or that I find interesting or funny or in some other way special.
“Welcome, whoever you are, wherever you are.“
Her post in remembrance of 9-1-1, One Morning Eleven Years Ago, is worth your time to read. I hope you’ll stop by.
I just wanted to let all my blogging friends and those who have followed my self-publishing journey know that Dancing in Heaven is being featured in a “Sneak Peek” today by Indies Unlimited.
Indies Unlimited is dedicated to the independent authors, publishers, reviewers and readers. “A major challenge for any indie author is the lack of established infrastructure in place to market indie books. It can be challenging and time-consuming to get the word out about your book, to find reviewers, and to drive traffic to your website or Facebook page. As a new author, I was delighted to discover a very high level of mutual support and camaraderie in the indie author community. This platform is born from that spirit of mutual aid and support.” (About Indies Unlimited)
Dancing in Heaven will also be featured in the Indies Unlimited Store.
The Sneak Preview is a short excerpt from Dancing in Heaven that hasn’t yet been published on my blog. (You can read/hear me read additional excerpts at Dancing in Heaven.)
I’d like to thank Indies Unlimited, and all of my readers in advance for reading and sharing with your social network this opportunity to get the word out about Dancing in Heaven.
I hope you’re having a great day.
The weekend is coming.
Just a short note today. I’d like to invite you to read my guest post, How Memoir Writing Helped Me to Grieve My Loss, at Kathleen Pooler’s blog — Memoir Writer’s Journey. Kathleen is a writer and a retired family nurse practitioner. She is working on her own memoir about “the power of hope through my faith in God. Hope Matters” and believes “we are all enriched when we share our stories.” In the 2-1/2 years she’s been blogging, Kathleen posts writing and publishing tips that have helped her along the way.
I initially found Kathleen on Twitter and when I realized she was a nurse practitioner, I asked her if she’d like to read Dancing in Heaven. Nurses have been among my best supporters. She subsequently read and reviewed Dancing in Heaven on Amazon and Goodreads.
I’d like to thank Kathleen, for the lovely reviews of Dancing in Heaven and for inviting me to be her guest today.
I hope you are able to take a minute to read my thoughts about writing through the grief.
I’ve been working on my blog’s organization. First it was the drawers in the kitchen, then my clothes closet, and now my blog. I’m in one of those, as my daughter used to say when she was young, “organize it up” moods.
I’ve been working on my menu pages (tabs across the top), in particular on my “Places” page. The drop-down menu was getting too long and bulky so I categorized things into USA cities, International, and added a National Parks page.
My Yellowstone post was the first in what I hope eventually becomes my series of posts about the National Parks we have visited, and will visit in the future.
Do you have any you can recommend?
I’ve been using tables to keep things organized. So I thought I’d share with you how to do that.
First you have to find and use the “text” tab on the edit post screen at the top of the menu bar. I explain this in n a post last year, Fun with fonts.
For a table, this is all you need ( I keep it in a word document where I can copy it from and then paste it here. It’s just a lazy woman’s short cut.):
Think of it as a symmetrical sandwich. Or paired parentheses. In html when you have a command or instruction, it is typically enclosed in <>. I talked about how to do this with fonts in Fun with fonts.
Each command needs a closing command. So they come in pairs: an “<em>” will italicize the words that follow it, ad infinitum until you add the closing command “</em>”, which is simply the basic command preceded by a “/”. I explain this idea more thoroughly in Fun with fonts.
If you look at the html for a table, you see the “<table>” command at the top and it’s mate at the bottom “</table>”. (You also see a specification for the table border at the top). Then you have the table body “<tbody>”, the row “<tr>”, and the cell “<td>”. They all have closing commands that are nested together, like parentheses.
Right now I have only one row <tr> in the table. It has two cells <td>. And once I type (or paste) it in the “text” window, it will look like this (without the words):
|First cell in one row||Second cell in one row|
If I want more cells across the page, I just add “<td> </td>” inbetween the <tr> and </tr> in the code above.
|cell one||cell two||cell three||cell four|
I typed the words that appear in each cell in between the <td> and </td> while I was working in the “text” editing window. But once you have the table set up, you can see the lines for it in your “visual” view. Then you can place your cursor inside a cell and type or place pictures as you please. My only caution about pictures in tables is that if they are too large, they will blow out the table borders and not work. I often use “thumbnail” or resize the photo to be 150, 200, or 250 pixels wide if I want to use one in a table. Read my post about putting pictures on WordPress.
If you want more rows, you add them with the number of cells you are using in between. So for the above table, if I wanted to add a row, I would need to add
for each row I wanted. This all has to be before the closing </tbody> and </table> commands.
I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know how it works. Feel free to send me your questions if you want to do this and get stumped.
From Yellowstone post. Click on picture to see larger image.