Posts Tagged ‘Bloggity’
Back in the day, early mornings were my blogging time. In San Diego especially, I remember a stretch of years when an assortment of nurslings and toddlers woke at the crack of dawn, and I would put on Little Bear or Signing Time and perch the laptop on the arm of the sofa, writing a post while the baby nursed. Blogging was my daily habit in those days, and in our Virginia years, too, when I used it as a way to transition from the busy-homeschooling-mom part of my day to the writing-a-book-on-a-tight-deadline part. Writing about the kids helped me cross the bridge from mom mode to writer mode. When people asked me, back then, how I managed to blog on top of everything else, that was my answer: blogging was what helped me do everything else full-throttle.
Here in Portland, early mornings are time I’ve reserved for reading and writing poems—the poetry before screens practice I’ve written about elsewhere. And the rest of the day has been so full, full of family and work and walks and chorale. Blogging became a sporadic activity because it didn’t have that dedicated space it used to own. I tried evenings, as a wrap-up to the day, but my tired brain raised a protest. 😉 So I’m back to mornings—getting up a little earlier in order to keep my poetry time intact, and then, after Jane leaves for work and Wonderboy for school, while most of the other kids are still in bed (except Huck, early bird), with the caffeine beginning to kick in and, here in January, the sun rising behind the bare trees out my studio window, I’m giving myself half an hour to write a post.
I think I’m a little rusty! Posts may be choppy and chatty for a while, until I get back in the groove. If I’m pressed for time (sometimes the poetry practice runs away with me, and I mean to let it) or if I oversleep, my plan is just to dash out a quick did/saw list. That’s a journaling habit I’ve drawn from the inimitable Lynda Barry, who shares in her books Syllabus, What It Is, and Making Comics a “daily diary” practice she requires of all her students. You can get a peek at her framework in this Brain Pickings post, and here’s a video demo from Lynda’s own Tumblr. I tend to dash off a modified version in my notebook: a list of things I did each day, a list of things I saw (lots of crossover with gratitude lists here), and any memorable lines I’ve happened to overhear. The “done” list is especially important for keeping me grounded, because my to-do list is always so long and if I don’t keep a separate record of things I actually did in a day, I measure myself harshly. Of course the to-do list will always be long! But the done list is mighty long, too, and I have to see it in print* to internalize it. (*In cursive, technically.) 😉
Okay, the thing that always makes posts run past their allotted time slot is the looking stuff up and linking to it—the fun part, the show and tell! I have three minutes left here today, which isn’t enough time for fiddling with a new photo & adding tags & all that bloggity stuff. I’m going to enter a random keyword into my WordPress photo library and go with whatever it pulls up. There—I entered “sun,” and the pic at the top of this post is what grabbed me. That’s a photo taken on one of my walks last year. Sunflower season—not exactly relevant to January but I like it!
Must dash. Happy Wednesday, friends.
grainy party photo of happy party faces
photo by Jenny Wills
The news that Yahoo is deleting all the old Yahoogroups archives has rattled me a bit. It’s not a surprising decision, and I had no plans to dive back into those old threads and revisit all the things we said to each other when the internet was new; but there’s no small amount of dismay in the thought that all that history will blip away forever.
I was active on the internet for ten years before I started my blog. First: AOL boards—now all gone. Then: private listservs—now mostly wiped. Then: Yahoogroups—soon to be disappeared.
For the next ten years (2005-2015ish), I archived my own thought on this blog. If I made a contribution to the Great Conversation, I brought it back here and developed it. If I had a good idea, I recorded it here. And of course there were the booknotes, the kid quips.
Even after social media altered the pattern of blog discourse (comments happening on FB threads instead of in the comment box here), I stubbornly maintained my daily chronicle for quite a long time. It was work demands that crowded it out, eventually. I took on a lot of grantwriting work and boy did that dry up the blog! Ever since, I’ve struggled to find time after paying work for my own creative practice.
I have certain hacks that work very well for me, like the stitching habit I posted about yesterday. My morning poetry reading/writing time is probably my favorite part of the day. I sketch almost every day, sloppily, often as a transition to paying work. I set Downtime limits on my phone and religiously pick up my Kindle at night—the only screen I’ll allow. When I’m obeying my own rules, you know.
So the creative work does happen. (I don’t like my terms here: all my work is creative. The distinction is between creative practice—work I do for my personal projects, things that aren’t under contract and may never be, as well as books sold on proposal, when that applies—and work that pays my bills. When I say “creative work” I mean work I do that isn’t contributing to next month’s living expenses, but which I find fulfilling in other ways. Important ways!)
The creative work happens, and I get excited and post about it on Instagram. Instagram! Which could also go poof someday, like other platforms we thought would last forever.
Yesterday I had to laugh at myself. I’d written that post about my Dropcloth sampler—wrote it in Slack and posted in on Instagram. Got annoyed with myself: it was a blog post! Why’d I give it to IG? Toyed a moment with the idea of just crossposting everything I share on IG to this blog, so I’ll have the archive at least (but how annoying for friends who follow me in both places). Thought: there’s gotta be an easy way to make that happen, an IFTTT applet or something. Opened IFTTT and remembered I’d already done it. I activated an Instagram-to-Wordpress app MONTHS ago. I set it to save the blog posts as drafts so I could go in and tweak or expand before publishing. There are dozens and dozens of drafts queued up. All those posts! That’s what made me groan and laugh at myself. What’s the point of a good idea if you forget you had it?
And now some of those drafts are old enough that anyone who saw them on IG will have forgotten them anyway…which means I have dozens of posts ready or nearly ready to share here. I’m going to try! If I forget, remind me, will you?
This post I’ve just written has nothing to do with the photos at the top. But they were the ones sitting at the front of the draft queue. So here they are, stuck in my own personal album! I went to a Halloween party with my crowd of singing friends (or singing crowd of friends?). Didn’t get a pic of my striped Pippi socks, but you’ve seen them in my witch costumes of years past. I’m always a last-minute costume assembler. We sang a lot of karaoke—that’s been one of the most amusing developments of my life in Portland: the necessity of having a couple of karaoke tunes in my pocket. (Current standbys: “The Show” by Lenka, “Stay” by Lisa Loeb, and “They Don’t Know” by Tracey Ullman. At the party on Saturday I felt brave and sang 99 Luftballons in German. An actual party trick!)
It amuses me to think of posts that have little or nothing to do with the formerly-Instagrammed photo stuck at the top. The scattershot approach may be my best bet at recording the multitude of things I’m, for whatever reason, driven to record.
This is what’s happening while I’m reading aloud, in case you were wondering
I called for Huck and Rilla to join me for lesson time, and Huck yelled back that he was almost done reading Matilda, would it be all right if he finished? I said OF COURSE I’m not going to yank someone away from the last few pages of Matilda. Rilla laughed and asked her brother, “Who do you think you’re talking to? This is Mom, not Miss Trunchbull.”
During lessons, we were revisiting last week’s history reading about the sack of Carthage. We’d read that when Rome and Carthage were eyeing each other leading into the first Punic War, the Romans—who had no fleet at that point—found a Carthaginian shipwreck and used it as the model to build their own boats. Rilla, pondering the second Punic War which resulted in Rome’s eventual victory over Carthage, despite Hannibal and his elephant strategy, wondered aloud what it would be like to be the captain of that wrecked ship that served as Rome’s model—to know (if you had survived the shipwreck) that your personal tragedy led to the destruction of your whole city. Huck’s eyes at this notion: big as Tiffany Aching’s soup plates.
I can speculate with near certainty that my older children, reading this, will now have the Clouds song from Snoopy: The Musical stuck in their ears. Anyone else out there unable to hear “the sack of Carthage” without the immediate followup of “and the Army-Navy game”?
That Snoopy link goes to a post I wrote in (gasp) March, 2005. And I’m laughing now because some things never change. My kids and I, we’ve had this moment before. Different batch of kids, different moment in Roman history, but:
For our family, this is a song of reciprocal delights. Some of these cloud-tableaux are historical events the girls already knew about, and the idea of Snoopy beholding an entire war sculpted in cumulus is irresistibly funny. Some events are things my kids first encountered in the song. When, years later, we read about the Rubicon in A Child’s History of the World, there were gasps of delighted recognition from everyone including the then-two-year-old. Click, another connection is made.
Of course you know I’m now lost in my own archives. The post just before that Snoopy one:
At the girls’ gym class the other day, someone’s baby dropped a pacifier. Wonderboy picked it up and regarded it studiously. Then he tried to stick it in his ear. He must have thought it was a hearing aid.
Excuse me while I dissolve into a puddle now!
I posted an explanation on Facebook today:
A wee reminder. If you are looking for my discussions of books, art, nature, pop culture, homeschooling, and joyful family life, you’ll find that at my blog and on Instagram.
Here on FB, I write (since 2016) almost exclusively about current events and policy. (Occasional book-related announcements, and sometimes quips that later make their way into a real post elsewhere. But 90% policy discussions and political commentary.)
If you prefer my rhapsodies about pine siskins and Betsy-Tacy books, they’re still happening, just not here.
It was HARD to pick just two items for rhapsody examples. 🙂 It’s a long list, my enthusiasms. Fountain pens, Pacific Northwest skies, Cybils books, Lisa Congdon, Cozyblue Stitch Club, sketchbooks, Creativebug, Scott Peterson, poetry, Ritter Sport Bars, Portland adventures, Journey North, Chronologically LOST, the northern flicker at my feeder this very moment, Holly Wren Spalding, Small Meadow Press, raisins raisins all we are is raisins, the Snoopy cast album, the Bravewriter Arrow I’m writing (Harriet the Spy this time), historical fiction, cherry cobbler…you Bonny Glen readers know better than anyone what lights me up. I could link almost every one of those off-the-top-of-my-head items to a post (or many posts) here. I won’t, because that takes too long.
(The WordPress SEO plug-in is constantly yelling about my failure to include internal links. It also berates me for writing long sentences. I laugh and ignore it. I can’t remember the last time I looked at traffic stats for this blog.)
When I was assessing my lapses here last fall, I realized I knew exactly how I wanted to use this space—the way I always have: a chronicle of my enthusiasms and the hilarious or thought-provoking things my kids say. Those are the things I want to remember, and to lavish words upon.
Two years ago, when I became compelled to do some writing about policy and advocacy, I decided Facebook was the best space for that—the place where I seem to connect most directly with the largest number of people. (I have more followers on Twitter, but I seldom tweet anymore. My FB connections are almost always people I actually know, and therefore the chances of a real discussion are higher than in the Twitter flood.)
A while back, I started compiling these little happy lists—the sorts of things I’ve been posting here in the past couple of weeks—in my notebook at first, and now spilling onto the blog. Two years in a row, I had the Flow Magazine “Tiny Pleasures” page-a-day calendar (I miss it!) and it was easy to jot down two or three or ten tiny pleasures of my own on a planner page. But I write to share, and I believe in habits. It’s a habit worth cultivating: recording those little happy lists here where we can talk about them. I mention something, and you mention something back, and next thing you know, Isabella Tree’s Wilding is on my nightstand waiting its turn…that’s what I always loved about blogging, those sparks flying back and forth.
It does feel, sometimes, like half a picture, or an indulgence. Serious and dangerous matters require our urgent attention. I’m doing my best to further discourse (especially around practical policy solutions) and spur compassionate action. I’m…just not doing it here. My kids love to tease me about my passion for containerizing. Show me a jumble and I’ll give you a nice basket. When things heated up after the 2016 election, I realized I needed online containers, too, in order to maintain balance and composure. In order to do the work, but not be consumed by it. In order to keep noticing and celebrating the many riches all around me—those pine siskins, this beautiful book. The way Scott keeps me supplied with specially extra-caffeinated cocoa so I can get up before dawn to write. The way the sunrise begins with deep blue, not the pink or gold you expect. The delight of seeing Bean and Rose walk down the street to have lunch at a favorite café. The broad expanse of crocuses that will bloom in Wilshire Park only a few weeks from now.
The happy jolt I get—still, a year and a half after the move—every time I see Klickitat Street on a sign.
So. Little happy lists here, and serious policy discourse there, and occasional light snark on Twitter, and whatever it is I do on Instagram. (It’s seasonal, I guess? My Stories tend to be a mix of day-in-the-life homeschooling glimpses and Portland adventuring. My grid is 85% swooning over nature. I guess it’s like when I sweep everything off the counter into a pretty box to be sorted later. People who’ve helped me pack for a move know what I’m talking about.)
Do any of you compartmentalize your social media this way? I’d love to hear what balance looks like for you. I know some of you don’t do FB or IG at all, and with Facebook especially I see the wisdom in that.
As a postscript I’ll add that lately, my favorite thing about this blog is clicking the ‘related posts’ button at the bottom. It keeps tumbling me into moments I had no memory of, and I’m grateful for the archive.
Ahhhh. Here it is, the day I’ve been working toward. There was no nice clean line between buried under work and wooo I’m free!—it’s been a gradual digging-out process, like shoveling snow. But my walks are clear now and I can at least emerge from the cave.
I’m blinking a bit. It’s ironic that this hemisphere is heading toward its darkest, coldest season, and here I am feeling like spring is on the way. The icicles haven’t even formed yet and I’m already hearing them drip. Sometimes the seasons of our personal lives don’t sync up with what’s happening in nature.
I’m glad, though, that the chilly weather, the rain, the early dark, will keep me physically cloistered a bit longer. I need some time to regroup, to restore balance. And of course there’s the holidays to consider…I’ve just barely begun the shopping and the house is still wearing autumn clothes.
This time last year I started a practice of writing Morning Pages a la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Three pages longhand immediately upon waking, before opening any tabs or apps. I kept it up for a couple of months, then fizzled out. Resumed the practice in June and shifted my work routine so that right after finishing my morning pages, I worked on the novel for a couple of hours before breakfast. That was a wonderfully productive schedule for two or three months, and then summer ended and the family’s morning rhythm changed, and I had less solo time before breakfast. I dropped the morning pages and kept plugging away at the novel.
I’m shifting back now to my summertime rhythm, with tweaks. Up early, twenty minutes of quiet writing time, then Huck joins me in the studio for an early morning snuggle and chat. We watch the black sky fade to navy blue, steel blue, sky blue streaked with cream-colored clouds. The birds wake up, crows winging past the window, goldfinches arriving at the feeder, juncoes perching on the rain dome. Steven wakes for school and comes in to tear off the page on my ‘year of tiny pleasures‘ calendar. Then both boys scoot out to get their breakfast and I try to work for another hour or two. The temptation to climb back in bed next to Scott for a few minutes is strong, and some mornings I succumb. Never for long, because he gets up to make Steve’s lunch, and then the bus comes, and the girls begin arriving in the kitchen, and the busy day has begun.
For the next few weeks, instead of morning pages I’m going to do the lessons in Holly Wren Spaulding‘s 21 Day Poetry Challenge. I’m excited: I don’t think I’d be enthusiastic about getting up in the early dark on these cold December mornings just to write my morning pages. (I find the pages to be a valuable practice, but I don’t enjoy writing them. I’ve never been a journaler.) The theme for Holly’s course is “interior,” which is just right for this change-of-season I’m in. I also plan to choose a corresponding art practice for these twenty-one days, something simple—a daily sketch of some kind, perhaps sparked by a Creativebug* lesson, perhaps just something on my desk. My sketchbook practice has been a bit sporadic of late, although I did manage some good work this fall.
I recently read Austin Kleon‘s Show Your Work, a book that felt like a fresh pair of batteries for my blog. It made me realize that “showing my work” was exactly what I did here from 2005-2015: I was thinking out loud, learning in public, about homeschooling and parenting. Tidal Homeschooling grew out of that pondering. My sketchbook habit great out of it. A lot of things grew out of it! And I realized that’s what I want to return to. I don’t yet know where in the day a regular blog practice will fit but I plan to spend December playing with rhythm to see if something clicks.
What does your December look like?
*That’s an affiliate link because there’s a sweet deal on right now: three months of Creativebug for $1. I consider our CB subscription to be the best five dollars I spend every month.
Yesterday was all about tying up the loose ends of my reading life in order to start the year with a clean slate. I looked over everything I’m in the middle of—so many books!—and decided, after some reflection, to take Penny’s advice from the comments and dive into the old favorites calling my name in that stack, or some very like them. Ever since I read Thornyhold, I’ve been hankering after The Scent of Water and Wise Child. And Lesley mentioned Miss Read…and I happened upon a description of Mary Stewart’s Rose Cottage that sounds even more enchanting than her Thornyhold. Impatiently waiting for the library copy to arrive…
(It occurs to me Thornyhold also has something of the flavor of Linnets and Valerians, which I’ve not reread in a few years…)
Anyway! That was yesterday’s Old Year Week work. Today I turned my sights to correspondence and (gulp) answered emails dating as far back as 2016. Mortifying but true. Snail mail correspondence is next, and feels like a luxury, not a chore. I’m still working this week, but at greatly reduced hours, and, well, after the year I’ve had, that feels like heaven.
It’s funny—I woke up this morning thinking: Right. I’m going to grant myself amnesty at the end of the year. Anything (non work-related, and work includes my Patreon) hanging unfinished—email, DMs, comment replies, reading plans, household chores, book reviews—all of it gets swept away at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and I will start afresh. And then immediately upon having cut myself this break, I began answering messages I should have replied to (wanted to reply to!) more than a year ago. By noon, I was all caught up. Why did I let it pile up in the first place? Answering was a pleasure—as soon as I gave myself permission not to.
Tomorrow I want to spend some time making High Tide plans for January. I’ll try to share those here. I say try to because I’ve learned not to make promises unless absolutely necessary. Curve balls happen and then I feel guilty. 🙂 But I miss, miss, miss this poor old blog and I’m trying (trying!) to restore some lost habits.
Related to that, I’ve been (again! perpetually!) pondering what, if any, changes I want to make in my social media habits this year. I visit Twitter maybe once a day now, almost out of a sense of obligation: I follow smart thinkers and feel a duty to check in on the day’s social and political commentary. But I can only manage it in small doses. I went almost totally silent on Facebook this fall…popping in occasionally when that same sense of duty propelled me to activism. Which I know is the opposite approach of many (most) of my friends, who have resolved not to bring activism or politics to Facebook. Sometimes my conscience says: you have to talk about this, so I try (try!) to listen. But I logged out of FB on my phone and tucked the app into a folder where it isn’t staring me in the face. I deleted all the games off my phone and unsubscribed from all but a handful of merchant newsletters. The few I kept are for small shops whose owners write thoughtful articles instead of spamming you with sale ads. ::shudder:: Ads bring out the Grinch in me: Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise!
Instagram remains a pleasant haven, a place to smile over friends’ family photos and adventures, and to enjoy glimpses of charming artwork or people’s book piles. Wisteria and Sunshine is a nourishing virtual retreat, like visiting Thornyhold or Juniper’s cottage; and there’s a small creative community I’m part of that is a daily delight. Mostly, though, I’ve wandered away from community discourse…which isn’t very like me, but I’ve had so much work on my plate, and I think I needed some breathing-in time. I’m feeling the wind change, though. I love turning the page to a new year. Always have.
I don’t have time to write, which is exactly why I’m writing. I don’t want to let too much time pass with silence in this space. I’ve realized one of the reasons I lean on Instagram is because I can do it in bed—last thing at night, or early in the morning, lying there cozy under my quilt, playing with photos. It’s relaxing. But the WordPress phone app works just as well as Instagram. I don’t know why it never occurs to me to blog from there. I guess because I think of blogging as long-form, even though that’s totally ahistorical.
Anyway, here I am. I’m working really, really long days, these days. Have to make up for time missed during my illness. Thank goodness for our high-tide mornings. Homeschooling is the fun part of my day. We’re reading Comet in Moominland (still! begun in San Diego!), taking loooong nature walks (oh these trees!), and reading Lewis & Clark, Paddle-to-the-Sea, and a lot of poetry. Beanie and I are supposed to be starting a big Shakespeare project this week, but I’m behind on the reading. 😉
A fun thing: I held my first live monthly Q&A session this afternoon for my Patreon subscribers! We talked about what tidal homeschooling looks like with teens, books about the craft of writing, and I answered a question about Martha and Charlotte books. I also shared a stack of picture books we’ll be reading tomorrow for Halloween, and I finished up with a piece of advice about encouraging creativity. If you are interested in tuning into these monthly chats (either live or in replay), they’re available to all subscribers to my Patreon at the $3/month-or-more level.
Become a Patron!
Last night I was chatting with Jane on Slack—she had a story for me about her Victorian Lit class—and Sherlock Holmes came up. She asked if I remembered how old she was when she started reading them. I was guessing around age ten or eleven—was it before or after our move to California?—and she remembered that she first encountered Sherlock on a Jim Weiss story tape. So: Virginia probably. Then she pinged a burst of laughter—
lol lol lol i just searched bonny glen + jim weiss
“Jim’s Sherlock Holmes stories inspired Jane, at age eight, to tackle the Arthur Conan Doyle originals.“
Good old blog comes through again. Our family memory bank.
Of course this made me wince, knowing I’ve dropped the ball on daily posts yet again. I do have a lot of tidbits stashed in drafts, but those aren’t searchable.
We’ve talked so much about how our collective shift to social networks changed our blogging habits, both as blog writers and readers. One of the more subtle shifts, I think, began to happen even before we jumped on Facebook: bit by bit our blogs took on a more formal tone. On Facebook and Twitter, we’re looser, less polished. Personal blogs used to feel spontaneous, immediate, diaristic. A few of them still do, but I think on the broad spectrum of kinds of writing, a blog post is usually closer to essay than tweet. These social conventions fascinate me. These days, more people are likely to read and respond to my writing on Facebook than on Bonny Glen, yet I feel freer about slapdashing an unpolished thought over there.
I used to worry about losing things on Facebook or Twitter. I’d post funny kid quotes there and then, zip, they’d be carried along by the current and disappear. I wanted to archive all those memories here, and I worked out elaborate systems for saving things. I even had a side-blog for a while that was nothing but kid-related tweets I wanted to save. Later, I got savvier and set up IFTTT functions that automatically archive all my Twitter and FB posts in Evernote. This is both handy and dandy, but it’s a clunky substitute for the searchable family chronicle that is this blog.
I’m laughing at myself because I’ve traveled this loop before. There’s such an obvious and simple fix: just post the kid stuff here. Because odds are that one day Rilla will ping me from college—probably via a tooth implant that will trigger my phone-necklace to display her text on the back of my hand—wanting to know when, exactly, was her heavy origami phase. So, for the record: April of 2017, right after you turned eleven, I walked into my bedroom after tucking in the boys, and you pounced on me with a square of pink paper. Which is why I had to write your sister, ten minutes later, to apologize for disappearing in the middle of our Slack conversation.
Lissa: [9:00 PM]
Sorry, Rilla came in with an urgent need to teach me how to make an origami piano
Jane: [9:00 PM]
that sounds entirely reasonable
I wrote a quickie booknotes post last night in the five minutes between work and family movie time, but I took it down a short while later because it was too quick, too silent about events I actually have quite a lot of words for. Choice words. Not all of them fit for my kids’ ears. I’ve been speaking them elsewhere and seem to have annoyed a fair number of people. Well, that’s too bad. I suspect I’ll be saying more, not less, in days to come. Perhaps not always here, in this space which is a happy little retreat for me. But maybe here too. There is so very much to say.
(Deep breath, fingers twitching.) Not this minute. Right now, I need to work. So I’m going to just open a space for a family story or two. If you want my activist voice, come on over to Facebook or Twitter.
A couple of days ago, a Girl Scout rang the bell. It’s cookie season, as you know. I turned her down with regrets, because, frankly, five dollars a box is too rich for my blood.
An hour later, another ring, another sweet kid, another set of regrets.
THREE MINUTES LATER, another doorbell chime. But this time it was our neighbor, Guy—who seriously is the nicest guy—holding out three boxes of cookies.
“I can’t say no to a little girl,” he said, thrusting Do-si-dos, Samoas, and Tagalongs into my arms. “But I also can’t eat these cookies.”
My children would like to raise a statue in his honor.
My son wrote the following about me in an email to a friend: “She used to cook dinner or all the time until Dad [took over the meal prep] and now she only Cooks now and then. Her Specialties are sandwiches and leftovers.”
I may need to add that to my resumé.
I had garden-y things to add to this post but my
five twenty minutes are up. Tomorrow, maybe. And I’m going to re-post the one I took down yesterday (it’s not much of anything, trust me, just disconnected sentences about what we’re reading) now that I’ve had a chance to explain why I was quiet (here) over the (tumultuous) weekend.