I’m still struggling to get back into this writing gig. I’ve been on a detour through photography, where I am working hard at learning how to use Adobe Lightroom and Elements. I like both programs, but there is a lot to learn.
I’ve been thinking about changing my WordPress theme and shaking things up a little. Have you changed your theme? Any tips? I don’t want to mess myself up. I’ve posted a lot of photos over the years. This is a project that will take some focused attention, I think. I’m not quite ready for it yet.
Meanwhile, winter is turning to spring here. The sky is blue and the sun is shining outside my window as I type. We are due to have a beautiful day today. I may wander around my gardens and make plans. Or perhaps yank out a misplaced perennial or two. I love this time of year in the garden.
I’m serious about wanting help and advice regarding themes. Please do share your knowledge. I’ll appreciate it.
Here is a picture I took this week at the Cincinnati zoo. I may post more in a blog devoted to that later. No promises. I’m having more fun with my camera right now than I am with this computer. I hope you are all well and that warmer, sunnier days have come your way, or will soon.
It’s no secret to those few bloggers and friends who continue to follow my posts, that my energy for this is waning. I would just like to say thank you for sticking with me. I will be back to reading your posts and writing my own, hopefully soon. Whoever thought when I was in the throes of trying to keep up with all your posts that I would ever say, I miss reading what you’re writing. But I do.
I’ve been reading a small Advent book I purchase many years ago called Let it Be: Advent and Christmas Meditations for Women, edited by Therese Johnson Borchard. It clearly has a religious bent, but not overly so. Many of the readings have secular value. I would like to share a small excerpt from today’s reading that I found particularly appropriate.
“Be Patient, Stand Firm
“Commitment and enthusiasm are two concepts that are, unfortunately, often confused. Commitment is that quality of life that depends more on the ability to wait for something to come to fulfillment—through good days and bad—than it does on being able to sustain an emotional extreme for it over a long period of time. Enthusiasm is excitement fed by satisfaction. The tangle of the two ideas, however, is exactly what leads so many people to fall off in the middle of a project.
“When the work ceases to feel good, when praying for peace gets nowhere, when the marriage counseling fails to reinvigorate the marriage, when the projects and the plans and the hopes worse than fail, they fizzle, that’s when the commitment really starts. . .
“When we feel most discouraged, most fatigued, most alone is precisely the time we must not quit.”
—Joan Chittister, Songs of Joy
If you are struggling with a project, I hope you will keep going.
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.