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Posts Tagged ‘Laura Zigman’

I love this blog. Make no mistake about it — I love this blog. But, still, I have posed a question to myself on many occasions — to blog or not to blog.

I’ve discovered many things about having a blog and maintaining a blog and being a blogger and how all of that sounds completely vain and self-professed and a touch nerdy.

Here’s something I discovered recently, blog is short for weblog, which, of course, was a word coined to be the abbreviation of…  “we were very awkward and nerdy in high school and now we spew forth our teenage angst on the pages of our blogs hoping that you find us creative and awesome and mysteriously intelligent”.

One of the (many) problems with being a blogger is the blank stares and hushed whispers that often come from people who have discovered that you are a “blogger”. To squash these naysayers you must strive to have a successful blog.

I often question successful bloggers about how they do it all… how they maintain a popular blog while at the same time, growing as individuals and writers. The answer they give me is usually profound, “I don’t know…” (thank you, successful bloggers, for the insight).

Blogs are defined as… a web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer (blogger). Okay… so far so good, I do that stuff. But still… how do I let people know I have a blog without sounding like… well, a nerdy putz?

A great way to get the word out that you have a blog is to mention it in everyday conversation as much as possible. You can always turn the conversation to somehow include mention of your blog: “…oh, you cooked out last night? Well, on my blog I one time mention starting a fire. Oh yes, I have a blog.”

Once you mention the fact that you have a blog the conversation usually… well, it usually has nothing to do with your blog. In fact, on occasion, I’ve heard a pin drop and a distant clock ticking away the seconds as I waited for a response to my self-professed bloggy greatness. The mention of the blog can have devastating consequences that cause you to remember the true meaning of “blog” — “we were very awkward and nerdy in high school and now we spew forth our teenage angst on the pages of our blogs hoping that you find us creative and awesome and mysteriously intelligent”.

Another way to get the word out that you have a (the ultimate) blog is to somehow secure a guest blogger appearance on some of the more popular blogs. In reality, some of these blogs have so many guest bloggers that you could actually just say you guest blogged on the site and it would take years before anyone could prove you wrong… as a matter of fact, I recently made a guest blog appearance on TMZ, oh wait, no, I meant Perez Hilton (this statement just gained me at least one reader and is totally false).

Now, if neither of those options do your blog stats any justice, you can use your blog to mention other blogs that are, truly, great blogs — you know, guilt by association. Find a blog that doesn’t suck, like this one from my friend The Black Addler (of course you’ll see that this blog does, in fact, suck but for a whole different reason). Also, mention a blog that pulls at the heartstrings of your reader(s) like this one about dog rescue stories by Julie Klam. Julie also happens to be a best-selling author and my close personal friend… umm, right Julie? Julie? She’s a little busy right now with a new book coming out and all. This brings me to another good way of proving to all that you have an okay (totally awesome) blog — the name drop.

Like for instance, say you happen to be close personal friends with someone like say… Allison Winn Scotch or Laura Zigman or Elizabeth Eslami or Joe Wallace. Spreading their names across your blog might hush the naysayers once and for all. (Are we all still on for coffee later? Call me!)

Unfortunately, once you point out to your readers what a non-sucky blog looks and feels and sounds like… you will soon start assessing all the reasons why your blog might suck. A few reasons might be:

  • you choose a metaphoric background like, say… a puzzle (oh crap)
  • you describe your blog as a means to help you work through your “life journey” (oh crap)
  • you talk about how your blog can “fill your soul” (oh crap)
  • you spew forth thoughts that sometimes make your reader(s) cringe with the honesty (oh crap)
  • you are your blogs most frequent visitor (oh crap)
  • you constantly jot down notes in your everyday conversations that you know will make a great blog post (oh crap)
  • you describe why your blog could possibly suck to your reader(s) (oh crap)

In all (somewhat) seriousness, there were two very dark days since starting this blog that I came here with the intention of deleting the whole thing — just wiping it away. I can’t. I won’t (no matter how many petitions you send, so… stop already!). I guess only two days of thinking I needed this all to go away isn’t a bad average.

Sometimes I think this blog to be more of my personal journal and I left the key to it out on the kitchen table and the pesky neighbor came over and helped himself to my thoughts, my quirks, my pain, my words. Sometimes I think, “I can not believe I just pushed publish on that one”, and I laugh at the absurdity of my own thoughts — only to look back at some point during the day and have a wonderful comment make me glad I did. Sometimes I think, “wow, I hope no one I’m going to run in to today reads this and asks me questions”. Sometimes I think, “damn, I need to be funnier”.

So there it is… to blog or not to blog. I guess that’s the question (the fact that I’m still here should give you my answer).

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite blogs and why? Yes… I’m possibly going to use this information to garner a guest blog spot — I have a blog you know.

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I have a friend (I love saying that even though we’ve never actually met), she’s a writer — a real writer. Like a kick-ass-slap-you-in-the-face-and-make-you-stand-up-straight writer. Her mother died recently, a long drawn out emotionally draining death to that bitch cancer. But here’s my take-away on a piece of this… she’s writing. And it’s amazing. And she’s touching my soul and making me think about things I thought I was quite comfortably past.

My father died in November a couple of years ago. He had been in the hospital for over 30 days, a week of which was in the hospice unit. During those 30 days, I visited everyday — everyday. I spent many nights in that horrific chair that folds almost flat. If my day at work brought me close to the hospital, I would stop in there for lunch in the cafeteria with my mom — usually 2 or 3 times a week and every weekend.

My routine was simple, I went to my dad’s room. He would immediately say, “Hi sweetheart” or “Hi bulldog” (he took to calling me bulldog during that last month for some reasons I might talk about on another day), then he would say, “take your mother out of here”. My mom would already be getting up to come with me to the cafeteria. It wasn’t an enormous amount of time we would spend in there together — maybe 30 or 40 minutes. But it was our time — time to not worry about the cancer that was taking over my father’s body, time to not worry about the next test or medicine or oxygen levels. We would peruse all the various staples the cafe had to offer then we would sit off to the side and people watch — the greatest pastime of all. We would eavesdrop on conversations and smile at the familiar nurses as they walked by. We would make plans on what do to when they finally let Dad go home — a hospital bed and nursing care and a wheelchair… we had it all worked out. When we were done, we would head back up to Dad’s room (I always stopped at the coffee kiosk to get him a cup of coffee and mom one too), I would kiss him goodbye and let him know which night I would be staying with him and which day I would bring the kids by — and I would leave and carry on with my day. This was my routine… for a month, this was my routine.

After my mom died, I felt I was mourning both their deaths because it all happened so quick. I was numb for a while — in the beginning. One day, I found myself driving in a familiar area at lunch time — my car guided itself into the hospital parking garage. I walked to the cafeteria and perused the various offerings. I sat off to the side and I eavesdropped on a few conversations. I smiled at a few familiar faces. I stopped at the coffee kiosk on my way to the waiting area on the hospice floor. I sat down and drank my coffee… and I left and carried on with my day. There were no thoughts, no cognitive processing — just physical actions. I did this about 3 or 4 times over the next month or two — I don’t know why… but it felt good, the routine, the familiarity of it.

So, my friend, the kick-ass writer — brought that deeply buried memory of that routine to the forefront of my thoughts. Words do that for us sometimes. Words matter. They help us, they heal us, they break us, they anger us, they sadden us, they make us shake in fits of laughter. That’s my take-away from this — I don’t know why… but it feels good to experience all those things.

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My hand has hovered over the “deactivate account” button many times in the last two weeks — but, I can’t seem to drop it down and sever my ties… my connection to the people on the other end. The reasons why I have thought so often about pressing that button are so juvenile that to tell you here would only give you way too much insight into the 12-year-old mind that often overtakes my psyche — so, I won’t. But the reasons why I can’t follow through — why I didn’t and am convinced I won’t follow through might be worth sharing… so, I will.

I can already see the puzzled, “what the hell is she talking about”, look on many faces as you read this. I can also see the smiles beginning to curl around the ends of the lips as the recognition makes it’s self known to you others. In this instance, I’m speaking of Twitter. But, before I lose those of you who don’t use twitter, let me say… it’s about life and connection and friendship and encouragement and anger and intrigue and crushes and flirting.

A few years ago, my 10th high school reunion was scheduled. I very much wanted to be a part of this celebration — to see and to talk and to hug the people who I hadn’t seen for 10 years — the same people who just 10 years earlier I couldn’t make it through a day without connecting with on some level. As fate and timing would have it, it didn’t seem too possible for me to attend. My grandmother had just died and I drove home from Missouri (8 hours) on the day of the reunion as my daughter, then six months old, screamed the entire journey (8 hours). I reached home crying, frazzled, in need to run away and with no intention on making it to the reunion that would begin in less than an hour. My parents practically threw me in the shower and shoved me out the door — so, I went. I had a great time that I can still see vividly in my thoughts, 14 years later. The connection and the flirting and the anger and the friendship were all there — waiting for me to drink it (and a few margaritas) in. Even though I hadn’t spoken to many of these friends in 10 years.

This scenario repeated itself during my 20th high school reunion. My father was scheduled for surgery to remove his cancer infested lung the day after my reunion and I was in no mood to attend. But my best friend, my soul sister, had flown in from Montana (at my constant prodding) to attend. So, there I was — being thrown into the shower, being forced to dress-up, being tossed out the door and into one of the single most wonderful nights of my life (hint: there were margaritas). Even though I hadn’t spoken to many of these people in the 10 years since the last reunion.

So… back to Twitter. I stumbled upon Twitter when I was bored and hanging out in the Alive Hospice house during my mother’s final days. I dabbled here and there until I figured it out and began chatting with some funny interesting people. One of whom, (most likely unknown to her), encouraged me to start this blog. Twitter has broken me often (again, to explain this would be to give you far too much insight into my 12-year-old mind), but it has saved me more times than I can count. I started exercising and eating healthy and losing weight and writing and expressing and sharing and connecting and laughing and joking and thinking and breathing… I started breathing. Everyday, I take a breath and locate my friends and chat. Everyday… not every 10 years.

My hand hovers, as of late. It wants to disconnect my mind from the world at my fingertips. It wants to separate me from the thing that has, at times, left me emotionally naked. But I know what the friends I’ve met have given me. I know what this blog has given me. I know what breathing and thinking and connecting and caring have given me. So, my hand may hover on occasion over that “deactivate account” button, but it won’t follow through — I won’t let it. Already this week I’ve talked to three people who I have a strong emotional connection with, I’ve chatted with three New York Times best-selling authors about dogs and treadmills and vacations, I’ve chatted with friends about their health and their jobs and their love life. I’ve connected with real people, who like me, have real lives and real feelings and real emotions. Who have you connected with?

Picture from Kind Over Matter

And… a bonus song!

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There are many forces that motivate people to do things. I don’t mean bad things, I’m talking about good things. Really, every positive decision we make in life is due to an intrinsic motivation to “do better” to “become better” to “achieve more”. Sometimes, it’s the intrinsic part that becomes so difficult and holds us back — the last thing anyone wants to be is selfish.

I have always loved to read. Sometimes though, the things I read weren’t exactly appropriate for my age. I will blame this on my mother (see previous post). When I was in the fourth grade, I did a book report on Sybil. Yes, that Sybil. My fourth grade teacher laughs about that whenever I see her. She said she just assumed it was standard reading material in my house — it was. My mother always had journals on Psychology lying around. There was always some thick book of case studies just begging me to read it. Those books were so fascinating to me. Oh, I owned other books too, I had the whole Little House series — (it was mandatory back then).

In the fifth grade we had to do a report on a historical figure — I chose Gloria Steinem. Yes, that Gloria Steinem. (This again, I will blame on my mother.) I never really understood the kids who were reading C.S. Lewis or Nancy Drew Mysteries. To me, you really couldn’t get more interesting than a woman with multiple personalities or someone as out-spoken as Ms. Steinem.

Thankfully, I discovered literature. It was in college when I really understood what I had been missing. I was taking a women of short story literature class. My world changed completely. I could not stop reading. Margaret Atwood, Emily Carr, Alice Munro, Dorothy Parker, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty — I went through high school literature classes thinking it was all about Shakespeare and The Great Gatsby (I love both of these, by the way). There were women who wrote stories I could relate to and wrote them really well.

Now, I still love to read. But, with the addition of children, the reading content once again was not exactly age appropriate for me. I am blessed with children who love to read. As a responsible parent, I thought I should screen the books they were reading. So yes, I’ve read all the Harry Potter books (the fact that I read all of them at least 4 times does not have anything to do with the screening process — I get that). I have read all of the Twilight series (yes, ok — more than once). So there I was, once again craving something to read — something that was all mine.

A couple of months ago, I came across the most lovely person on Twitter (get over it). We chatted a bit, she thought I was funny — (this is how I meet most of my friends — if you think I’m funny, I’m yours for life). Turns out she was an author — a really good author. I googled her recently (most facts can be found by googling) and read the most intriguing short story — “Zebra Sounds” by (my long-lost best friend) Judy Clement Wall (please try to finish this post before your curiosity to google her kicks in). Yes! I was back! It was a great story and it was all mine.

This was not the first of my Twitter author finds. I had found and had been tweeting (really, can you move on) with other authors; Laura Zigman (my close personal friend and author of Animal Husbandry), Allison Winn Scotch, Susan Orlean, Julie Klam. And with each new find, I headed to the book store. And with each trip to the book store, I learned that being happy by doing something that was just for you, was ok.

The intrinsic desire that had failed me so many times in my life, was there — with me. Reminding me that happy is good and smiling is better. We all have the ability to be a positive part of our little world’s — sometimes, we need to remember that the intrinsic gratification we get out of it isn’t selfishness — it’s just smiling, and smiling’s my favorite.

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