Blogging Theory

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I write here because I enjoy it. It’s a bit like journaling, which I’ve tried to do kind of regularly since 2003:

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Twenty-five filled out journals, and one in-progress journal there on the end, which will be my twenty-sixth (the journal on the above shelf is the one on-deck: the one I’ll fill out next). Whenever I finish a blank book, I give it a name that suits that part of my life, and sign it. It’s a little bit silly, and a little bit important, to have these memories stored here, for when my brain doesn’t remember like it used to.

The journals are for me. I write to remember. To record. To think on the page and try to understand or process what’s going on inside, which can sometimes feel so terribly complicated. I work on stories, I write out prayers, I respond to arguments and disappointments and happiness and the books or movies that I’ve loved or hated or had mixed feelings for.

Sometimes, I look back to see if I still think the thoughts I thought five years ago. Sometimes, I find things I once wrote that are now, with time, funny or ironic or weird. I use those things to try and amuse or encourage family members. Sometimes, if we can’t remember when something happened, I’ll look it up to see if I wrote about it. Sometimes I did – sometimes I didn’t.

Anyway, the journals are personal writings that are mostly for my own benefit and enjoyment. My own purposes. It’s not writing I plan to do anything with. It’s just me and my thoughts about life and life’s bricabrac.

This blog is similar. I read about successful blogs and good blogging habits, sometimes, or about bloggers who’ve used their online spaces to make money or achieve fame or gain other writing opportunities. And that’s all well and good, but that’s not my purpose, here.

Of course it’s nice when people read, and when they enjoy my writing, and when they say so. I’m grateful for those of you who keep dropping by to look in on my rambling. But I think I’d still ramble whether or not anyone was looking in.

Those are my favorite blogs to read, actually. The ones that are reflective, a bit rambling – just going on about life or opinion. “This was my day,” or “This is what I think,” or “I think this is what I think.” And because that’s what I enjoy reading, that’s what I try to write here.

It’s been fun so far (for me, anyway). Thanks for stopping by.

Uphill and into the Wind

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I don’t know about you, but I get excited about changing my life. I read books. I make plans. I write to-do lists and I send emails and I get up two or three hours early and I reorganize my cupboards and I buy green vegetables and stay up late working on my novel.

“I’m going to be better,” I say. “I’m going to read all the books, eat healthy, start exercising, save money, refinish the dining room table, and get good at writing short stories. I’m going to be kind, and generous, and cheerful, and positive. I’m going to make my life different. It’s not going to be perfect, but it’s going to be almost perfect.”

The excitement lasts for about a week – sometimes two weeks.

I get up early and eat raisin bran. I make salad from lettuce and spinach and I throw out the bacon grease instead of saving it for when I fry potatoes. I fold all the laundry and organize my closet by color and I clean out my email inbox. I begin a book and finish it three days later. I set aside time for writing and time for grocery shopping and time to clean the upstairs bathroom and time for Scripture and time for family and time for yard work and the dishes and a walk to the park.

It’s amazing. I’m amazing.

Then, it’s a week or two weeks later, and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my raisin bran and a classic tome and suddenly I realize that I hate raisins and so far, Walden has mostly been Henry David Thoreau complaining and it’s driving me crazy.

Suddenly, I don’t want to be better. I want to eat chocolate for breakfast and spend my reading-time on Twitter. I want to leave my clothes in a heap by the dresser and leave the dishes ’til tomorrow and leave the latest story-chapter unfinished because it’s never as good on paper as it was in my head. Why bother with any of it? It’s not fun. It’s just work.

Unfortunately, this is where actual life-change happens. That place where you have to choose between going back to your old ways or continuing to practice the new ways you decided would be better, but which are no longer fun and exciting.

I’m pretty good at making changes. I’m really bad at maintaining changes. I see the dishes and a voice in my head goes, “But we just did the dishes! Do they really need to be done again?” as if dishes, once washed, will stay forever washed. That voice whines about laundry that has to folded again, budgeting that has to be done again, grocery shopping that has to be done again, writing that must be done again.

This voice never whines about eating again, though. No complaints there.

I’m working on again, right now. “Do we really have to do this again? Must we?”

No, of course not. We can keep eating off paper plates and digging through three baskets of laundry for the right shirt and getting take-out from McDonald’s. We don’t have to keep track of the money or finish the dumb novel or read books or clean the bathroom or go to the store or vacuum the cat hair from the sofa.

But we choose to. Because there is joy in work, in trying to do and be better. So, if you’ll excuse me, I must be off. Got things to do, and make, and be.

 

Quote from a Current Read

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One of the authors who delights my soul is George MacDonald (1824-1905). He wrote faerie tales and children’s stories and poems and these weird Gothic romances that are also Christian, my favorite of which (so far) is The Baron’s Apprenticeship.

Often, when George MacDonald begins a story, he begins it with description, and it’s magical, although I admit it was a little confusing to get into as a kid:

“I don’t care about this mountain – where’s the action?”

“I don’t care that it’s raining – who’s the story about?”

As I got older, though, and better at reading, I grew to love those opening pages, where we’re simply looking at something. “Patience,” these descriptions say. “We’ll get to the goblins and the Fae and the witch-angels and the skeleton-people and the crazed painters plotting murder in due time.”

I began my first few stories with description, and then found out in writing classes and in books-about-writing and in reading more fiction from my own century that beginning with description is no longer fashionable. Save it for later, if you don’t cut it out entirely. Now I try to begin with character, with strong voice, with someone doing something or wanting something or whatever.

Part of me misses those old stories, though, and their mist-riddled glades and silver moonlight or blazing daybreak over the mountains onto isolated farmland.

Anyway, Hyperion is not a book by George MacDonald, as you can see from the cover. But it does begin with some pretty heavy description. And while the part of me that paid attention in my writing classes is a little annoyed, the part of me that loves George MacDonald feels welcomed:

A thunderstorm was brewing to the north. Bruise-black clouds silhouetted a forest of gymnosperms while stratocumulus towered nine kilometers high in a violent sky. Lightning rippled along the horizon. Closer to the ship, occasional vague, reptilian shapes would blunder into the interdiction field, cry out, and then crash away through indigo mists.

Hyperion, Dan Simmons

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I don’t expect to like Simmons’ “vague, reptilian shapes” as much as the ones George MacDonald brought to life. I also don’t expect any other aspect – any other part – of this book to remind me of George MacDonald’s writing in any way; I expect Simmons will be wildly, perhaps violently different. But maybe I like the story itself.

Or maybe it simply makes me wish I were reading a 19th-century Scottish author instead.

Happy, Happy Birthday

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Today is my mother’s birthday.

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I have the life I have now (my family, my home, my relationships, my religion, my marriage, my fulfilled hopes and still-dreamed dreams) in large part because my mother, before she was my mother, at fifteen or sixteen years of age, shared her faith with her then-boyfriend. That’s her, and that’s him. :)

My mother has green eyes, and brown hair with red tints that come from her father. She is soft-spoken, and sweet, unless she’s managing the household budget or unruly children. She’s a marvelous cook, a wonderful baker, and she grows beautiful gardens.

I tell people I grew up on the family farm, but it is her family’s farm, specifically. The Sonnenberg Farm, Sunnybrook, with its blue silos and big red dairy-barn and the slow-running creek in the old pastures. I learned about insects and trees and flowers from her, on the walks we’d take in the woods or the fields or down our country road.

My mother homeschooled me and my sisters. And not the ridiculous homeschooling that shields kids from varying beliefs and perspectives while putting them years behind their peers, but the kind of homeschooling with lesson plans, strict scheduling, regular standardized testing to make sure we were on track, and questions every time I absolutely decided I knew what was right, what was true.

“But how do you know?”

“But why do you think that?”

“But what if it doesn’t work that way?”

“But what about this?”

“But have you ever thought about this?”

My mother taught me read, and then she let me read. My mother taught me write, and then she let me write – encouraged me to write. She was the first person to tell me I was good at it, sometimes, and she wasn’t wrong. She prepared me for work and college and then married life. She planned my wedding. I wore her dress. :)

So, Happy Birthday, Mom. Have a wonderful day. I owe most of my wonderful days to you. <3

The Happiest of Birthdays

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Today, my second sister, Andrea, is a year older. If I were a good sister, I’d know how old she is now, but I’m not and I don’t. I’ve got a pretty good guess, but I’m not going to write it out here, as that would make me an even worse sister than I already am, as a lady’s age is her own business.

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Here, a wild Andrea is spotted in her natural habitat.

Andrea is the scary sister. The short, blonde, blue-eyed, angelic-looking, iron-willed, sharp-tongued woman who watched her two older sisters do school and jobs and driver’s ed and college and said, “I’m going to be smarter. I’m going to do it better.”

So far, she has. We go to her for perspective, for cold-blooded logic, for common-sense advice. She’s good at listening, good with children, good at approaching new things and saying, “Sure, I’ll try that” even if it’s intimidating.

I have a lot of respect for that, from my place under the bed, where New Things can’t get me.

Many happy returns, Andrea, on your birthday.

(And if anyone shows up when you blow out your candle, say “Hi” from me. ;) )

Conversation

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Time spent with people that does not also include conversation is not really time spent with people.

I didn’t know this was a weird perspective to have until moving to the Grand Rapids area and spending most of my time with friends instead of family.

Dorm Life

Behold this picture from an Open Dorm night during my Junior year of college. This, my friends, is a party. It’s a party because more than three people who enjoy each other’s company are gathered to talk, and because there’s food, even if it’s only an apple. 

During the growing-up years at home, I attended cookouts and reunions and birthday parties and holiday celebrations. The two things that made these gatherings fun was 1) the food, and 2) the conversation.

Conversation. Sitting around and talking. Catching up (even if it’d only been a couple days, or only thirty minutes). Discussing people and politics and current events. Arguing, not to fight, but to attempt to change a person’s mind, or better understand why you think the way you do. Sharing memories, stories, thoughts, opinions.

During my college years, “fun” was people coming over to your room to hang out and talk. A good time was sitting in the cafeteria for hours, eating and talking with your table-mates. I didn’t make friends with the students who did things with me. I made friends with the students who talked to me, who seemed to enjoy talking to me, who I enjoyed talking to, and who kept on talking to me.

When I visit my best friend, we . . . talk. Like, I’ll go to her house at 10 in the morning and leave at 4 in the afternoon and during those six hours we’ll have not ceased talking, nor will we have anywhere near finished talking. When I visit the Farm, and my parents, and my sisters, we sit and talk. When I visit my mother-in-law, we talk. When I visit Dallas, to see my friend-who-moved-away-and-it’s-fine-I’m-fine-people-can-move-away-I’ll-live, we talk, and we talk with her family, and that’s just the best thing, the funnest thing. (Also, have you seen Dallas? It’s gorgeous down there.)

The Random-Boy charmed his way into my life by – take a guess – talking to me. Asking me questions. Caring about my opinion. Sharing things he thought were funny or interesting and expecting me to do the same. I loved that. I eventually began to love him.

Anyway, it’s kind of taken me a while to understand that when people use words like, “party,” “hang-out,” “fun,” or “visit,” I immediately picture “sitting around+talking+maybe food” and get really excited without realizing that this is my expectation.

Turns out that sitting around and talking isn’t really fun for a lot of people. Like, they would rather do something else. Often it’s “play a game.” This is so weird to me. Like, why would you interrupt the conversation? Isn’t conversation the point?

Apparently not, as the Husband and I have discussed:

The Husband (baffled but trying to understand): “How is watching a movie with someone or playing a game with someone not spending time with them? You’re together! You’re doing something together!”

Me (struggling to explain something that has never needed to be explained before): “But you’re not talking to each other – it doesn’t count.”

The Husband (now mildly offended): “It doesn’t count?”

Me: “If you’re playing cards or whatever it’s just something to do with your hands while you talk. But if you’re playing one of those long, involved board games you can’t talk because it’s too complicated or you’re pretending to be someone else. A character. You’re spending time with my made-up character, not me.”

The Husband: “But it’s still you. People are spending time with you.”

Me: “Kind of? But not really.”

The Husband (sighing): “I think your family is just different.”

Me: “But it’s not just my family. It’s my mom’s side and my father’s side and my parents’ old friends and the best friends I made at school and their families and your family too. Don’t even start with this ‘your family is different.'”

The Husband: “What if we got you some drinking buddies?”

Me: *storms off to talk to my cat*

I wonder if this is one of the reasons my family members have mostly remained friends with other family members. When we go looking for people who like to converse as much as we like to converse, we end up back with each other.

Talking. =]

Quote from a Current Read

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‘Do you think, Diana, that being grown-up is really as nice as we used to imagine it would be when we were children?’

‘I don’t know–there are some nice things about it,’ answered Diana, again caressing her ring with that little smile which always had the effect of making Anne feel suddenly left out and inexperienced. ‘But there are so many puzzling things, too. Sometimes I feel as if being grown-up just frightened me–and then I would give anything to be a little girl again.’

‘I suppose we’ll get used to being grown-up in time,’ said Anne cheerfully. ‘There won’t be so many unexpected things about it by and by–though, after all, I fancy it’s the unexpected things that give spice to life.’

Anne of the Island, L.M. Montgomery

The most unexpected thing about being grown-up, I think, is how the freedom of adulthood (It’s my life! My money! My roof! My lawn!) narrows into patterns of laundry-folding and bill-paying.

All those limits placed on child-you by the grown-ups in your life (No, you can’t watch that. Yes, you have to eat that. Take a shower. Go to bed. Be quiet. Don’t drink that. Get in the van: we’re going to church. Practice the piano. Study for your quiz) are still there, because the grown-up in your life is you. Now you’re the grown-up saying all these things to child-you, who is still there, filthy and sticky and stamping her feet and saying, “No, you can’t make me!”

Oh, yes I can.

The freedom granted by knowledge, by the possession of a car, a house, a job where you make your own money is a freedom that remains only by making responsible choices:

“With this knowledge, I go to bed at 11 PM instead of 1 AM; I eat salad and drink a glass of water at lunchtime instead of pouring Froot Loops over ice cream and making another pot of coffee.”

“In this car, I go to the bank, to the grocery store, to church, to donate canned goods, to work, and then back home again because I’m so tired now.”

“In my own home, I print out a cleaning list similar to the one my mother had and use it to tidy the house room by room, the way she used to, the way I absolutely hated as a child, when I had to help. In my own home I turn the television off because bedtime, or because it’s scaring me or making me sad. I put on an old movie or cartoons and fold laundry on the living room floor, like my sisters and I used to.”

“This is my own money, but it’s for socks and green beans and chicken and the water bill.”

And of course there are nice things about “being grown-up.” Using your grown-up wiles to try out a new recipe. Driving the car to visit friends or family or the beach or the library or the park or a little coffee shop. Practicing the piano in the sunshine and stillness of your own home. Using part of a paycheck to buy books and chocolate and flowers and pretty shoes and colorful gel pens. In many ways, grownupedness is just as nice as I thought it would be when I was a child.

But grownupedness is only this nice so long as I’m doing all the dull, boring responsible grown-up stuff that needs doing, and making all the dull, boring, responsible grown-up decisions that need making. This really aggravates child-me.

Too bad, kid. I’m the boss of you.

Water, Lemon, Coffee, Cream

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I adore restaurants.

There are of course times when I would rather not be eating at a restaurant:

A Frazee or Sonnenberg cookout. A Frazee or Sonnenberg holiday meal. My mother is cooking. My friend and former housemate Beckie is cooking. My father is making Green-Fried-Tomatoes. My friend and former roommate Sarah is making Shepherd’s Pie. I am making Chicken Pot Pie.

Any other time, I’d rather be eating at a restaurant.

I like the way restaurants smell. I like the way they sound. I like looking at menus. I like servers who smile and seem glad to see me. I like servers who are obviously over it, or bored, or sarcastic. I like just sitting there until the food shows up, as if by magic. I love the part where it’s time to eat.

And I know it’s not really magic. I work in a restaurant. It’s fresh ingredients and love and swearing and grit and showing up and smiling even when you don’t feel like it, not magic. (The cooks might be a little magic, actually. They work wonders back there. I’m just the go-between.)

But it feels like magic.

I think that’s why I like working at a restaurant so much. I like the way it smells. I like the way it sounds. I like smiling at the customers, and being glad they’re there, and that I’m there.

I like being part of the magic. And I love the part where I get to take some food home to eat.

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This picture has essentially nothing to do with the subject matter of this post.

3.14

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I only ever learned pi out to two decimal places. Couldn’t tell you what comes after the four if you paid me to, although it must be a number less than five, otherwise they’d round it to 3.15 instead of 3.14.

I’m a little more knowledgeable about pie.

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Wouldn’t it be fitting if this were a circle? Oh, well.

I learned pie-making from my mother. She makes crust from scratch and tells the best story about the time she made apple pie for her father and it, um, didn’t quite go as planned. Under her tutelage, I took home a couple of Champion Fruit Pie ribbons at the County Youth Fair, and now, in my own home, I make Chicken Pot Pie and Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie and Tamale Pie and if I can ever get the Husband to try a different kind of cooked fruit, we might have blueberry or cherry pie once summer rolls around.

There’s something both deliciously homey and strangely magical about pie-making. The smell of nutmeg and ginger. The sound of a wooden rolling pin on the counter. The feel of flour and dough between your fingers. The moment of triumph when you finally get the top crust on and the whole thing safely into the oven. The moment of kicking yourself when you realize you forgot the butter and have to take the pie out of the oven to try and cram bits of butter through the slits in the top crust.

Eating pie, though. That’s the best part. You can’t eat pi. Although I suppose you could eat 3.14 pieces of pie.

That, I think, would be a fitting way to celebrate the 14th day of March.