Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blog Virgin

As you can see by scrolling down this page, I’m new to the whole blog thing. As in "this-is-my-fourth-blog-post" new. I did have a blog about a year and a half ago but it wasn’t the same. I was dealing with an especially difficult situation in my life and had several close friends and family members that helped to keep me grounded and sane as I went through it. To keep them updated, I had been sending them group e-mails but then I thought, well, maybe a blog would be nice. So I started a blog, kept it private, notified them all, and wrote three long posts before I abandoned it. It’s still out there somewhere, I don’t think even I could find it now. Just really not the same thing at all, I don’t even count it as a blog.

So here I am, starting out completely fresh and discovering that there’s more to blogging than just writing something and posting it. There’s a layout to design (I know, mine is lame), a mini-media blitz to launch (“I just started a blog, come check it out!”), and, my favorite part, seeing if there are any new followers or comments to check out. I am one step up from a technological cripple- I did manage to start a blog, after all!- so though I suspect that feeds and such are good things, I don’t really know what they do.

But that’s just my own little blog. There’s a whole blog world out there! No, wait- a whole blog universe out there! At least that’s what I’ve read. According to my google search, there are well over a hundred million blogs in existence, and then think of all the non-blogging people who read them! So it should be easy to find some great blogs to read and connect with. Right?

Last night, Sam, a baseball player, Batman, Tinker Bell, a toilet, and I went to the Harvest Party at our church. We had a marvelous time. Once the baseball player, Batman, Tinker Bell, and the toilet were all tucked into bed afterwards, visions of Legos, Polly dolls, and jewelry making kits dancing in their heads (because those are the things we traded them for the ten pounds of candy they collected at the party), I settled in on the couch for an evening of good blog browsing.

I innocently assumed that pushing the “next blog” button at the top of the page would lead the way. Instead, it led the way to a spam blog. You know, the kind that’s just a bunch of random words and phrases with “buy such and such medication on-line” interspersed throughout. How rude. I indignantly reported it as spam and continued on my way. After I spam reported another four junk blogs I finally clued in that I was out-numbered and tried to just ignore them.

Two hours of blog browsing later, I settled on these statistics. Fifty percent of the blogs were spam. Another forty percent were in other languages. Not that other languages are a problem, I was just bummed that I couldn’t read them. About five percent were genuine blogs but the majority of those, like mine, had just been started this week and didn’t have a lot of content. Actually, on a couple of them, I got a sense that the authors felt that they were just a voice crying out in the wilderness so I left them comments to let them know someone had read their blog. Getting comments just feels so good, and I’m nice that way. A few of the new blogs had posts that said only, “My new blog. This is a test.” The remaining five percent were mainly big ads with a few porn sites mixed in. Nice. I especially love how the porn sites somehow block the bar at the top so you can’t report them.

So I gave up on my blog browsing, somewhat disappointed and moderately disgusted, and went to bed. In the future, I will rely on checking out the “blogs of note” and seeing what other people are following in order to accomplish my blog browsing.

I’m sure I’ll get the hang of this.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Rejection is a part of life as a human being. We all face it at some time or another. Some rejections are small and only bring a twinge of pain, others are more significant and leave us reeling.

Like everyone else, I’ve had my share of rejections. When I was ten, a popular girl that I admired told me that I was annoying and, though I have no doubt it was true, it hurt a lot. Clearly, since I still remember it two decades later. Not getting anything bigger than a bit part in a school play was a bummer, but, hey, at least I was still in it, right? Being dumped by my boyfriend the night I got home after being out of town for a month (and learning he’d found a new girlfriend while I’d been away, in spite of my every other day letters in the interim) was excruciating. I still remember staring silently at him on my doorstep that night, and the laugh that I couldn’t help at his uncomfortable, mumbled, concluding words, “This doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends.” At that moment all I wanted was to punch him as hard as I could so I stepped back into my house and closed the door. I stared at the door for a moment, then thought, “Heck, why not?” and opened the door back up, only to hear his truck peeling out of our driveway. It didn’t take long after that for me to realize what a disaster my life would most certainly have become if I’d stayed with him, but at the time… I know from experience that sixteen-year-old girls feel the pain of rejection exquisitely.

Rejection is painful, as a rule. But I have experienced one rejection in my life that I not only think of with satisfaction, but I keep the evidence of it in my desk drawer. Several years ago, I went through a creative outlet phase- I wrote a few children’s book manuscripts and a couple of stories for children’s magazines. I bought the “2005 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market” and researched agents and magazines. Nothing that I submitted got even a nibble and most of my rejections were form letters. Except for one.

As a child, I loved the children’s literature magazine, “Cricket”, and I still love it. Monthly publications full of high quality writing and illustrations. As I wrote, I could envision a particular story being just the right fit for “Cricket Magazine”. Why start at the bottom and work your way up when you could just try starting at the top? I put my fourteen hundred words, cover letter, and self-addressed stamped envelope in the mail and waved goodbye.

A few eons later, I got a reply. (Yay!) “Several of our editorial staff have now read your story…” (Yay!) “…and I’m sorry to say that, after much discussion, we’ve decided it isn’t right for either Cricket or Spider.” (Oh.)

The letter went on to say, “Your writing style is bright and humorous…” (Yay!) “…but the story as a whole goes on too long and ultimately lacks the kind of plot trajectory and narrative drive we prefer”, is “somewhat predictable”, and “follows a familiar pattern.”

(Let that sink in for a minute.)

Did you hear that? Several of the editorial staff read it! And discussed it! And they sent me a critique! And they think my writing style is bright and humorous! Woohoo!

Ahhh, rejection. If only they could all feel this good…

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

He Got His Father's Genes

One day last week, I was talking with my 9-year-old. This enterprising young man wanted to find some jobs to do around the house to earn money. We don't give an allowance but we do occasionally pay our kids to do bigger jobs that go beyond their normal call of duty. When they've earned money, we require them to budget their income- they give ten percent of it as tithe and the remaining ninety percent gets split equally into envelopes for "Saving", "Spending", and "Giving". The "Saving" money gets deposited into the bank to someday buy something "big" with, the "Spending" money can be used on smaller, more frequent purchases, and the "Giving" money is to be given to someone in need, as God leads them. You get the idea.

So, let me mention that this child is a saver. When we were potty-training him, he would hold onto his m+m's for hours until his dimpled, little hand got sticky and colorful and I had to threaten to take them away if he didn't eat them. Let me also mention that not only is this particular child a saver, he has been saving for a certain item for a very long time. Like for a year. He desperately wants a pony. A "Pony of the Americas, also known as a Shetland pony", no less. So the likelihood is that he will be saving for a lot longer before we are forced to figure out how we're going to house a pony on our quarter acre lot in our quiet suburban neighborhood.

Anyway, back to our conversation. I gave my little guy a couple of suggestions for extra jobs he could do, but, to be frank, most of the jobs I give the kids fall under the "Helping Out Because You're Part of This Family" category, so he got fairly frustrated by the lack of income potential. Finally he burst out in tears and declared, "I need to get a job!" I don't think we need to worry that this child will be a slacker when the time comes for him to enter the workforce.

We finally determined that he could clean out the van to earn some money. Daddy also agreed that he could rake the lawn, as well- once all the leaves have fallen (hey, we're doing good to be able to afford to pay for them to be done once!). This lifted his spirits and he informed me that he was going to start saving his "Saving" money for a down payment on a house when he's a grown up. "But, honey," I asked, "I thought you were saving your saving money for a pony?" "No," he said, "I'm saving my spending money for a pony."

(I have a 9-year-old available to rent for the doing of odd jobs. E-mail me for rates.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lessons I have learned over the past 30 years-

Don't carry a pencil with the pointy end pointing into the middle of your hand.

If you do carry a pencil with the pointy end pointing into your hand and then jam it on your leg, the graphite leaves a mark that remains for at least another 24 years.

No matter how great, or how badly you think things are going, you absolutely do not know what is around the next corner.

There are pros and cons to buying a fixer-upper.

If small children, teenagers, flying rodents, mosquitoes, pregnancy related discomfort and over-active bladder, or dreams do not disturb your sleep at night, then a drunk guy calling the same wrong number three times from a pay-phone will.

Most processed foods contain flavors, colors, and/or preservatives that are made from petroleum. Eating petroleum is bad for you.

Having an almost legless dog (Welsh Corgi) will elicit comments, questions, and jokes everywhere you bring him.

Having more than two children accompany you to Wal-Mart will elicit the question, "Are they all yours?!" along with the follow-up comment, "Boy, you sure have your hands full!" at least 3 times if not in every aisle. There will occasionally be especially witty variations on these lines but most people will stick to the script.

If you think dealing with airport security and flight delays stink, next time try taking the bus.

By the time you reach the end of your next pregnancy, you will have convinced yourself, "Labor really wasn't that bad..."

Once labor begins with the next kid, you will suddenly remember, "Oh, yes, it was!"

If you compare yourself with others, you end up feeling either superior or inadequate and defeated, neither of which is good. (Superior feels better, though.)

Telling off your husband's employer is a bad idea.

If you get too many independent or foreign films in a row, your spouse will need to add a number of thrillers to the Netflix queue in order to purge his system of the artsy-ness.

The restrooms in the Dallas airport have sharps disposable containers. (This is not really a lesson, but I thought it was interesting.)

If you want to feel old and uncool before your time, adopt a teenager.