A Monday morning

smallkindnessWhen your daughter borrows your expensive earrings without asking, and your hair is a wavy mess, and you get a project dumped on you before you’ve even left the house, and one son almost misses the bus, and the other son generates an email from school for being habitually late to science class, and your parking ramp is full so you have to walk an extra three blocks with something in your shoe, and you can’t find your security badge, and you realize you’ve forgotten to plug in the slow-cooker so dinner is not underway as planned…

And then your dad sends you a note about how much he enjoyed your last blog post and how talented you are and how proud he is.

And all things in the universe around you breathe a collective sigh of relief and the day settles back into place.

Small kindnesses matter.

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Puzzling words together

puzzle pieces

To me, writing something – anything – is like putting together a 1000-piece puzzle. Without the picture on the box.

I start with a table full of tiny images, in a jumble. When I dump them on the table, they don’t look like anything but a pile of individual pieces. It’s not clear how they fit together. And the task looks impossible.

My first step is to scatter them all over so I can see each one. Pick apart the pile. Then I start to sort them. Like color with like color. Like pattern with like pattern. Even though they still don’t look like anything, I start to see images emerging. I start to feel how they might go together.

My second step is obvious: build the framework. It’s easier to find the pieces that fit along the edges, the ones that will house all the others. An outline. A structure for everything else to fall within.

And then I start to assemble the pieces. Individual words become phrases. Phrases become sentences. Sentences become paragraphs. The paragraphs begin to fit together and a picture starts to emerge. After a while, it starts to become more obvious where the loose, individual pieces should go. It starts to look like a whole.

The more you assemble, the more evident the picture is. And eventually, the clarity and beauty of the whole will emerge.

The only difference I can see between putting together a puzzle and putting together a piece of writing is that the writing is never done. Admit it, writers: if you could, you’d just keep taking out a few of those pieces and swapping them around to change the picture. Forever. Even if every piece was in the box and each fit into place.

It’s probably how that original artist felt, too, before someone carved the picture into a 1000 pieces and put it in the box to taunt the rest of us.

Not a writer’s block

fall leaves

Friends and followers, I’ve been absent from your feeds. Sometimes what life hands you requires your energy and you must divert it from the tasks you love.

One of the heartbreaks of the blogging community – what you can only find out the hard way – is that bloggers disappear. They die. They experience an event so crushing that they lose their voice. Or they just plain lose their enthusiasm and stop writing. One day you have a daily correspondent, a friendly voice on the other side of the world and the next day – poof, just like that – they’re gone. You can’t find them. You can’t reach them. And it leaves you feeling bereft.

And then that blogger was me.

Well, I have the same old voice, but it’s reshaped, perhaps, by the events of the year. Painful personal experiences. Exciting career opportunities. Children growing up and pulling a little farther away. A national recognition for my writing – not for my humor, but for the blog post it nearly broke my heart to write.

Fall feels like an ending for a lot of people, but for me it’s always been a beginning; a chance to retreat back into yourself after the glorious chaos of summer. A time to get serious. If you exercise,  you’ve probably gone through times where, for whatever reason, you can’t get to your run, or your swim, or your yoga class. Then you wake up one day and realize you are a little stiffer, a little angrier, you’re losing your edge – and you put the shoes back on and you run.

Well, I woke up feeling like a run today – and here it is.

 

Writing humor – when you don’t feel funny

IMG_0121

I took this photo from the deck the other morning – doesn’t it look mournful, this January sky?

It captured my mood that morning. While there is a promise of something beautiful, January days come with a price – cold, dark, discomfort, and hassle. There is something ominous in the beauty.

I’ve always tried to blog (and write) with a humorous intent. It is my firm belief that even in the most stressful times, you can find something to laugh about. But these days, the only posts I seem to be able to write are about why I’m not writing, and why I can’t hit the writing goals I’ve set for myself. How do you write humor when you don’t feel funny?

It’s not exactly writer’s block. I could write, just not the way I want to do it. Is it like exercise where you work through the block, “no pain, no gain”? Or do you rest yourself, until the moment when laughter comes more easily? Or do you change it up, and write something completely different? Or all of the above?

Beats me.

I’d love to hear from other writers, writing humor or not, as to how they shake off the gloom and get back to work. How you use writing to work through the stresses and strains, rather than let them block you.

This post is a start, right? At least I’m writing something.

My post has a virus, uh…

detritusWent viral. Viral-ish. And it’s strangely demotivating. Plus Andre is getting on my nerves. He’s my…well, you’ll just have to read on to see.

It’s been two months since I innocently published a post that had the same title as a porn video. My first notice was a little like spiking a fever – a sudden realization that I had way more traffic than usual something was just, well, off.

After my initial panic, I decided to laugh, enjoy the traffic, and wait for it to die down.

But it never did.

In the days following my post, my traffic doubled. Then it doubled again. Now, it’s running about five times what it was in the days P2PR (Prior to Porn Reference). Sounds great, right? But I’ve no illusions that these visitors are all reading. P2PR, I could see from my metrics that most people who stopped by read two or three posts each visit. Now they just hit and run. It really dampens my urge to write.

“Ignore your metrics,” my sage blogging buddy, Cristina at Filling My Prayer Closet, advised. But I can’t. I’m a numbers girl. It’s sort of like telling me not to cough. *coughs* See, I coughed right there, just thinking about it!

I’m even getting to know this traffic a little. It’s highly skewed toward international visitors, many from former Eastern bloc countries. I know when they visit, what days and what times. Weekends are a big draw.

I even know some of them think they’ve landed on the right page because they click on the picture associated with the post. (Yes, they click on the image looking for the video. Sigh. Those former Soviet countries apparently aren’t churning out the rocket scientists they used to.)

While I can’t shake the vision of a room full of frat boys huddled around a screen trying to access a get-ready-for-the-weekend video, and their utter disappointment when they instead find someone who looks like their mom staring out at them, I’ve developed a profile of who I think my average porn-seeking visitor is, and how he differs from the traffic I’m accustomed to.

Being a marketer, I like to think in terms of reader profiles. Yes, I know reader profiles are gross generalizations. But given the chance, we marketers prefer to deal in gross generalizations.

Here is the profile I’ve developed for my average reader three months ago:
She’s a mom we’ll call Jenny. Jenny is a professional woman who used to work full-time, but left her job to stay home with her kids, age 4, 7, and 9. Jenny is smart. Jenny is witty. She blogs. She struggles to find balance in her everyday life. She is into fitness and nutrition. She likes to commiserate with me, and is glad to read a humorous take on parenting now and then. I like Jenny.

Here is the profile I’ve developed for my average visitor now:
We’ll call him Andre. Andre lives in (your Eastern European country of choice.) He is a computer programmer. When he needs a break, he doesn’t get up from his computer and wander down the hall – he surfs porn. And when he finds a great video, he tells all his friends who, unlike Andre, do not have the liberty to surf during the day. They search sometime between Friday morning and Sunday evening, hitting my blog by accident, and not at all amused to find a humorous take on parenting. Unlike Jenny, I don’t like Andre. I think I dated him once, and I learned my lesson.

Dealing with Andre has given me a massive case of writer’s block/torpor/disinterest. He doesn’t care what I write. He isn’t even going to read it. Unfortunately, writing is like exercise. You have to keep at it or you lose the muscle. I feel like I’m starting to develop the not-writing version of a beer gut. I’m not sure what that would look like, but I’m guessing “b”.

I’m even starting to resent Andre. On a slowish traffic day, I find myself angry at him for NOT showing up. “What’s your problem?” I hear myself mutter, “Video porn not good enough for you anymore?”

So I need to move beyond my dinner with Andre. Get back on the horse. Turn over a new leaf. Get my blogging groove back. (Ugh, see what I mean? I can’t write without using cliches.) It’s time to elevate the conversation a little. I even have my next post prepped. It’s called Road Kill.

Yes, well, that’s how bad it’s gotten. Obviously, my recovery isn’t going to happen overnight.

A remembrance

IMG_0021A flower, bending in the wind, turns her face to the sun.

Today the blogging community honors Tina Downey of Life is Good. Tina, who was an instrumental part of the Blogging A to Z April Challenge, passed away on August 27th.

Because Tina loved sunflowers, the A to Z team is hosting a tribute today, Sunflowers for Tina, to fill the blog world with flowers in her honor. We were asked to buy or plant and photograph a sunflower, but as I traveled the city this past week, I noticed there are sunflowers everywhere right now, in full, beautiful bloom. They look bright, and restless. They’re blooming together, filling otherwise dull, browning spaces with color. You can’t help but be drawn to them.

I chose one, growing wild near my home, to share.

Rest in peace, Tina. We’ll miss you.

 

 

When Suzie speaks, people listen

questions

Blogger Suzie at Suzie81Speaks is surveying bloggers this week. She’s asked us to answer seven questions in a linked post of our own, or in the comment section of her post. She plans to compile all the answers, and include examples in a follow up post.

Thanks for the nudge to participate, Suzie. Here goes…

1. How did you create the title for your blog? When I started blogging, I was struggling to find a balance between raising a family and running my own business – and I knew others were, too. The blog originally drew parallels between the two, but has devolved into a humor blog. Go figure.

2. What’s the one bit of blogging advice you would give to new bloggers? Don’t be afraid to grow with your blog. Change is OK, and this is a very forgiving medium.

3. What is the strangest experience you’ve ever had? In my whole life? Wow, that’s a big question.There have been a few but the one that comes to mind occurred while I was traveling overseas with some family members. I woke them up on our first morning in London after what felt like a good, restful night’s sleep, and we all trooped down to breakfast. When we got there, we realized, after an embarrassing exchange with hotel personnel, that it was still evening and while I thought we’d slept the whole night, it had actually been less than an hour. (My family was not amused.)

4. What is the best thing that anybody has ever said to you? Once, while talking in his sleep, my husband said to me, “That’s very impressive, honey – to be the first woman to land on Mars like that.”

5. When presented with a time machine, which one place and time would you visit? It would be fascinating to be at the Battle of Little Bighorn, the site of Custer’s last stand. But I’d want to be able to beam myself back out of there pretty quick.

6. If you had to pick a new first name, what would you choose? Probably the name of some literary character given that I named my daughter after the heroine in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth.

7. If you were a B Movie, what would it be called? Ha! I’ve got this one covered in my recent post about what movies would be like if they reflected my life – The Slightly Hungry Games.

You can participate, or see the answers from other bloggers, at Suzie81Speaks.

#8: I wish I’ve never worked too hard

desert

Today’s Search Term of the Sad and Desperate is “I wish I’ve never worked too hard,” and its companion term, “I wish I’ve paid more attention to those grammar lessons on past tense.”

OK, I made up that second one. I crack myself up.

Dear person who has worked too hard,

Buck up! This is America! We are all about working too hard. If you’re not working too hard you are probably dead.

(An aside: I realize this could be someone from a country other than the U.S., but I’ve chosen to believe this is a person who is instead contributing to the gradual erosion of the English language. Besides, most of my international visitors these days are looking for porn videos.)

Where was I? Oh, yes…Dear person, this is the home of the free and the land of the over-scheduled. Maintaining a ridiculous level of activity is how we validate our existence. Haven’t you ever heard of productivity? Let me run it down for you. When you perform work you are an input. What you produce is output. The goal is for output to exceed input at a steadily increasing rate throughout all time. Otherwise, productivity goes down and we all suffer the consequences of a dismal economy.

I am a firm believer in productivity. That is why my to-do list always gets longer, not shorter. Oh, wait a minute…technically it should get shorter as my productivity goes up. Or the list should get longer first and then shorter. Or…

OK, let me try this another way. If you don’t have enough to do, it will eventually impact your self-esteem. You will see others rushing by you, too busy to pause and it will dawn on you that you are unnecessary to…to…

Huh. Thing is, I don’t want to rush around. Maybe ever-increasing productivity is not my goal! I want time to contemplate nature, think great thoughts and take a shower.

I think I’ve talked myself out of this. Go ahead and take the day off.

Read the series:

Anxiety dreams involving my kids 

How do I talk to my surly teen? 

I have only one child but laundry and housework never end

Life is not a competition

How to relax and enjoy your children

Gym class was never like this

Your husband’s fashion sense

 

A disclaimer: While it perhaps shouldn’t need saying, let me remind you that I have no credentials, training or certifications of any kind that would qualify me to mete out advice to anyone. This is a humor blog. If you don’t find it funny, well, that’s another issue.

#7: Your husband’s fashion sense

desert

My husband’s fashion sense? Now, why would the initiator of this sad and desperate search term want to know about that?

If you are one of my readers, you may already be convinced that my husband has no fashion sense based on the clothing he buys me. But he actually dresses himself quite well when the occasion calls for it.

He wears nice suits and shirts. He’s often the only one in a meeting with a tie on. And he has a collection of antique cuff links that’s really quite impressive.

But like many of his species, he’s inconsistent. He went through a short-sleeved Oxford shirt phase that was truly unfortunate (I accidentally donated these shirts at one point.) He often has to consult me to see if something matches (he bats about 500 on this count.)

And, of course, the garb he wears at home is composed primarily of early-90’s novelty t-shirts, rugby logo-wear, and baggy sweatpants. But my yoga pants-wearing self can’t argue much with that.

So while I’ll give him “has a tailor with a good eye” I don’t think I’d credit him with the fashion sense necessary to address this individual’s needs.

Fortunately, he doesn’t read my blog so there’s little chance his feelings will be hurt.

By the way, I conducted minimal (that is to say no) due diligence to make sure the aforementioned search term was not the title of a porn video. But I think I can pretty safely say that no porn videos were harmed in the writing of this post.

Read the series:

Anxiety dreams involving my kids 

How do I talk to my surly teen? 

I have only one child but laundry and housework never end

Life is not a competition

How to relax and enjoy your children

Gym class was never like this

 

A disclaimer: While it perhaps shouldn’t need saying, let me remind you that I have no credentials, training or certifications of any kind that would qualify me to mete out advice to anyone. This is a humor blog. If you don’t find it funny, well, that’s another issue.

Summer touring, blog-style

untitledA big virtual hug and many thanks to the fabulous Susan at Pecked to Death by Chickens for inviting me to join this blog tour.

The tour requires me to respond to the following questions. My answers are, of course, utterly fascinating.

1. What am I working on? In addition to blogging I have started two books. One is a small business management handbook; the other is a novel. Neither is close to finished. I’m also working on raising three wonderful children. None of them are finished either. Nor are any of the numerous projects around my house. Do we see a pattern here?

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? I try to bring a wry humor to everything I write, even if it is instructional. And I try to write the way people talk. Or at least the way I talk when I am chatting to myself.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?I live by the principle that when you meet adversity, you can either laugh or cry. I choose to laugh. I hope others will, too.

4. How does your writing/creating process work? I throw everything up in the air and see what comes down. I take notes constantly – on paper, on my phone, on my iPad – and then pull out the bits and pieces when I have time to construct something. It’s amazing how much content you can pull together from that. My most creative ideas seem to come at inopportune moments (in the middle of the night, in the car, in the shower, during meditation) so I try very hard to record things as they come to me.

As part of this blog tour, I get to introduce you to three of the fabulous members of my blogging tribe.

Mary is a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom to two beautiful girls, ages 4 and 6. Her husband works full-time for the military. She runs her own direct sales business as well as two blogs, Living a Sunshine Life and Homeschool Antics. In addition to writing, Mary enjoys casual photography, painting, needlework, reading and spending time with her family.

Charity has four young children who inspire her to be a #GoodEnoughMom. It wasn’t until she discovered her husband’s affair and her life fell apart, that a lifetime of fear, depression, and anxiety was revealed to her. Her marriage was restored, but she spent an entire year walking through hell, and it wasn’t until she got to the other side that she realized she was actually walking the road to freedom. She shares her story on The Wounded Dove.

Sharon who writes at MommyVerbs, is a working Momma, 41 years old and newly tattooed for the first time, who enjoys writing about life with X and Y while playing fast and loose with punctuation. She spends many, many hours sitting on bleachers by ball fields and she’s on a mission. To be intentional. To pay attention to the action of her world. To engage and encourage others to do the same…especially when it comes to health and wellness.

These lovely ladies will post on July 20th, but feel free to stop by to visit them before that.

And thanks again, Susan!