Archive for the ‘Bloggity’ Category
I’m chuckling over the word “encounters.” In my Rule of Six (or Seven) list, that word flows naturally: encounters with beauty, encounters with living books, encounters with ideas to ponder and discuss…
But when I lift the phrase out of the list, it becomes comical. My entire day is a series of “encounters” with books. I might as well say I’ve had an encounter with air, or that my feet have encountered floors.
Actually, come to think of it, my feet have had plenty of encounters with books, too, because there is never not a stack somewhere in kicking distance. Right now: beside my bed, next to where I leave my slippers at night—i.e., exactly where I groggily aim my toes in the pre-dawn darkness every single morning. You’d think I’d learn after the sixth or seventh stubbed toe, wouldn’t you?
Narrator: she wouldn’t.
But okay. With what books have I had a particularly close or meaningful encounter in the past week?
When You Reach Me
Well, I finished our readaloud of The Wind in the Door, the sequel to A Wrinkle in Time. And for once I wasn’t tormented with indecision over what the next readaloud should be: I had Rebecca Stead’s lovely When You Reach Me waiting in the wings. It’s a natural next book after Wrinkle. (But we’re studying the parts of a cell in our biology lessons, so OF COURSE I had to read Wind in the Door first. After that book, you’ll never forget what mitochondria do.)
When You Reach Me is, as I expected, going over like gangbusters. Scott listens along with us, and since it’s set in 1979, with a narrator only a year or two older than Scott and I were that year, it feels like home. And Miranda’s Manhattan neighborhood is familiar to us from the years we lived in Queens and worked in Manhattan.
For Huck and Rilla, this setting and time period are new territory, an interesting backdrop to an incredibly gripping story. Miranda’s favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time, and she quotes from it or narrates bits and scenes quite often. I love love love internal references like this: they’re the best kind of organic connection, and our brains loooove connections. I’m always talking about giving kids hooks to hang other knowledge on, like the way the Horrible Histories English monarchs song is a useful set of hooks for us to sort other historical events by. “That happened around the time of King John,” I might say, and the kids burst out with: “Poor King John, what a disaster, rule restrained by Magna Carta.”
Anyway, we’re about a third of the way through When You Reach Me and I’m beside myself with happy anticipation of what’s in store for my listeners.
I’ve also been spending a lot of time with B.J. Fogg’s Tiny Habits, which I devoured when it first came out and have been enjoying revisiting more slowly. One of my 2020 achievements was becoming a certified habit coach via Coach.me, because—as you know if you read Bonny Glen back in the beginning—habits have been a subject of particular interest to me since the day I first picked up a Charlotte Mason book in the mid-’90s.
Tiny Habits adds new layers to the subject through Stanford professor B.J. Fogg’s research on human behavior and what he calls “behavior design.” His premise is that you can coach yourself into any behavior you wish if you approach it incrementally, taking advantage of certain hardwired aspects of human behavior—and that willpower has nothing to do with this process. He explores prompts, ability, and motivation—motivation being the least powerful factor of the three, when it comes to creating a habit.
James Clear’s Atomic Habits and Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before also unpack this topic and explore related strategies. Gretchen incorporates her unique and highly useful theory about the Four Tendencies into her discussion of habit formation. I loved her book, because she zeroes in on the importance of understanding yourself (your tendency) in establishing the right bite-sized habit and the best-for-you prompt.
A very long postscript
This post could go on and on, but I’m trying a new practice. I have hundreds of unfinished draft posts sitting in my queue—because life is so full that if I don’t publish them right away, it’s hard to come back later. The momentum is gone. The energy I have for persistent, gradual progress on a piece of writing goes entirely to my books and to my working creating Brave Writer literature guides. But whenever I let my blog slip, I start to feel twitchy. It’s an important chronicle for my family and an important vehicle for my own learning and exploration. I need to write in order to know what I think. And I need to share that writing—narration is such a crucial piece of learning and critical thinking!
So what I’ve decided to try—and I’ll be evaluating the success of this plan in real-time, as I go, probably out loud—is writing for a set amount of time (most days, 45 minutes) and then hitting publish even if I had more thoughts to think, or (as with this post) more books to dish about. I’ve rearranged the day to allow this pocket of time (swapping it out with my Morning Pages practice, because the truth is, Morning Pages bore me silly after about the third day) most mornings. And when the timer goes off, I’ll give it a quick scan for typos and then smash the publish button, even if I had more to say.
I have plenty of outlets for more polished writing. Patreon, Medium, Darts, Arrows, my books. For the first ten years, blogging worked brilliantly for me as a catalyst for discovery and analysis. I resisted the shift toward professionalization of one’s blog and I bristled at the trend toward prioritizing the inclusion of beautiful photos, creating a magazine effect. (Do you know what I do for images here these days, most of the time? I click the “Add Media” button and type a word, loosely related to the content of the post, into the search bar. Then I pick one of the zillion photos I’ve shared here in the past. Thus the ancient snapshot at the top of this post.)
Because social media favors posts with a captivating and properly sized “featured photo,” I kept leaving drafts in the queue to await a moment when I could take or find the right picture. And of course you’re supposed to use keywords and subheads or your SEO plug-in yells at you. Mine loathes the length of my sentences and paragraphs.
And I find that I no longer care. I seldom bother to share links to Bonny Glen posts on Facebook or Twitter any more. I use subheads sparingly and mainly because I love that shade of blue.
Now, I realize I’ve gone and written a whole second post to explain why I’m publishing the first one practically mid-thought. Once again, I’m thinking out loud, firming up my vague notions by articulating them to you.
This practice—which, again, is an experiment I’m testing to see if it clicks for me—will mean more frequent, less polished posts. If you’re still here reading Bonny Glen after all these years, and through my long silences, I’m guessing you won’t mind. If you ever feel I’ve given short shrift to a topic and you’d like to hear more, please let me know! I’d be happy to tackle it the next time I set the timer.
P.S. No time today for adding book links! If you’d like to give me the affiliate credit, here are links to my Amazon & Bookshop.org portals.
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A Wrinkle in Time, BJ Fogg, Blog, Bloggity, encounters with books, Gretchen Rubin, James Clear, Madeleine L'Engle, Rebecca Stead, rule of seven, rule of six, When You Reach Me
February 8, 2020 @ 12:43 pm | Filed under: Bloggity
Allears.cc invited me to try their new audio recording studio for bloggers. You read your posts aloud* and embed the audio into them. I love the idea of the increased accessibility and thought I’d give it a try. I did a test recording with a post from last week: Astonished at the Voices of Willamette and Wren.
* To clarify: the audio is in addition to the usual text post.
I practiced it once and then recorded. I can hear where I loosen up midway through and of course I like the looser, chattier part better! But I think rather than make myself bananas with trying to get it perfect, I’ll just go with good enough—since the whole point is easy layering-in of an audio option. Easy means don’t overthink it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on audio recordings of blog posts!
January 20, 2020 @ 7:16 pm | Filed under: Bloggity
I’m feeling very memory lane-ish tonight! Fifteen years of blogging—not always steadily, but persistently. Thanks to all of you who’ve hung in here with me this long. I’ve been working behind the scenes to tidy things up here and have lots and lots of plans for the coming year—things I’m eager to share—but I’d love to hear from you, too, about what you’d like more of, what you miss, what you’re curious about.
In the meantime, here’s a little blast from the past—a post from a randomly-chosen January in my archives. I landed on 2007 and discovered so many moments I’d forgotten, like this epic battle over…wait for it…dryer lint. I’m howling. The involved parties, now all grown up, are going to howl even louder when they read this.
(And don’t miss the recipe for dryer-lint clay in the comments. Clay!!)
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.
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.
December 3, 2018 @ 8:32 pm | Filed under: Bloggity
Guess I’ve returned just in time, because my friend Chris O’Donnell tagged me in a 31-day blogging challenge. Several of my favorite homeschooling bloggers from the olden days (circa 2005) are participating. I don’t know that I’ll be able to manage a post every day for December—that’s pressure, and I’m doing my best to give myself a break—but it’s fun to see a burst of activity on blogs I’ve been missing for ages.
I’ve been making a list of things to write about. But it’s like the scene in Overboard:
“Captain Karl, we never talk.”
“Well, there’s no time now!”
Huck is waiting for me to come tuck him in, so I won’t linger here. But one of the post ideas I jotted down was a peek at what he’s been reading lately. Some good stuff! And I need to catch up my own book log as well. My sidebar is months out of date!
How about you? Whatcha reading right now?
What brainpower I might have for blogging, I’ve been pouring into advocacy/activism on Facebook. Scott thinks I should try to archive some of that writing here, though, which is a smart thought. I might try just messily pasting it onto a page (rather than a post) and not worrying about format or anything.
Ever since I joined Twitter in 2007 (followed by FB shortly afterward), I’ve pondered how best to archive things I share on social media. I used to periodically comb both networks for any funny kid quips I’d shared—those are the things I most especially want to keep here in my forever-place. And now there’s Instagram pulling the lion’s share of my attention, social-media-wise, another archive of my work stored on someone else’s server. I never can decide how much to pull over here.
Certainly not the most pressing issue of our time, not even close to the most pressing issue regarding my time, but it’s something I think about. Scott and I recently found ourselves laughing and awwww-ing through a bunch of Bonny Glen and Left of the Dial posts from ten years ago, and those stories are golden. We wouldn’t have remembered half of them (maybe any of them) if we hadn’t written them down.
I also note that my reading life has suffered since I dropped the habit of blogging about it.
As we roll into summer here, I’m shifting the moving parts around and pondering ways to tweak my schedule. There’s room for everything—all the important things, at least—as long as I’m clever about it. But sometimes that’s a pretty big ask. 😉
November 19, 2017 @ 8:20 pm | Filed under: Bloggity
Long, long ago, my children, when the woman was young and the blog was new, and the bees were thick in the flowering sage, and the melting of the polar ice was but a whisper in the dark, and “social media” was a lackluster intersection on a Scrabble board (even with a triple-letter square), there was in the course of each workday a blessed twenty-minute interval of transition between the homeschooling of the children and the writing of the books.
And lo, in this brief span of minutes, hundreds of posts were born.
And the blogger had Opinions and Earnestness, and sometimes Urgency, especially regarding Literary Things. For example, the blogger most fervently wished the world to read The Firelings, because no one seemed to know of it beyond the doors of her home. And the blog flourished, and the pingbacks were abundant and formed pathways to other bloglands overflowing with rich discourse.
But it is the way of the world, my children, that all things must change. In the words of the sage, oceans rise, empires fall, and homeschooling novelists get kinda busy. Or (for let us be honest, children) distracted by Twitter, by Facebook, by Instagram; lo, even by Goodreads. And thus it was that the blog suffered and grew silent.
But now and again the blogger would read a book and long to Write a Post About It Like in the Old Days.
And so it came to pass that—
Scott, walking by: What are you giggling about?
Me: Remember when I used to be able to write a post in twenty minutes? That was pretty cool.
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