WHAT’S THE SECRET?

Closing in on 2 years of blogging, with more than 1500 posts and over 100,000 hits … I’ve think I’ve finally figured it out. The secret to getting more readers, more followers, more hits, better stats is that there is no secret.

Just do it.

Post interesting material often. Include graphics. There is a direct correlation between number of hits and number and quality of posts. Although some posts go bigger than others — often not the ones you expect — the difference isn’t huge, more incremental than geometric. Most of my posts get reasonable hits. Some do better, some get ignored (I rerun these, often with much better results second time). A few posts generate big numbers. Every once in a while, something hits a hot button, but typically the number of visitors per day doesn’t change much. What changes is the number of articles each visitor reads when they visit.

Some of my biggest days have been those with low visitor counts, but when each guest accesses 3 or more posts and/or pictures.Visitors average around 100+/- 15 — so between 85 and 115. Hits that come through the Reader or email do not count in the totals so you can reasonably assume you have more people reading you than stats indicate.

If guests hang around and read a lot, open pictures, poke around, you get the bigger hit counts.  I’m betting the same people come almost every day. If they find interesting things to read and view, they hang out. Which is what you want them to do.

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There are slow days of course. Everyone has them. And hyper-active days. We all have them, too. On a very active day, I might get 150 visitors, but that doesn’t mean the hit count will be 50% higher than on a day when I get 75 visitors. On a high visit count day, each visitor may only read (hit) one post while on a different day, each visitor may hit 3 or 4 times.

For example, on a day last winter when a blizzard was on the way, I had more than 250 visitors, but each one only read one post … the one about the coming storm. So it was a good day, but not extraordinary. My highest hit days were specific posts where a lot of people — thousands — came to see a single post. Every other high hit day included a normal number of visitors who spent more time exploring my site. No hocus pocus, no magic recipe.

Putting out the welcome mat.

The design of your website matters. You will absolutely get more people to stay long, read more stories, look at more pictures if you make it pleasant and easy for them. Make it easy to find past posts by subject, date, key word search. The more ways you help your guests find stuff that interests them, the better.

When I am on a website and can’t find a search box, no list of previous posts, no keyword search, I give up and go elsewhere. The web is infinite and gives us uncountable choices. Make your site accessible — transparent — and visitors will stay.

What I’ve figured out.

I know a few things and here they are:

  1. Articles about technology have a long shelf life. Reviews of cameras, computers, telephones and other techie stuff don’t get a lot of hits when they are first published, but continue to get hits for months, sometimes years. As long as the technology is in use, people who are shopping will look for reviews.
  2. Book and movie reviews (unless they are particularly “hot”) don’t usually go big initially, but will continue to get hits forever, as long as the search engine can find them.
  3. News and current events get a lot of hits when first published, but have no long-term interest.

If you are in this for the long haul, the backbone of your blog will be articles of enduring interest. Perhaps not the sexiest stuff you write, but stuff that contains information people need, reviews people look for. Pictures — properly tagged — get hits forever.

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Buried treasure.

If you post a lot, older posts become hard to unearth. Even when you know the name of the post and search for it by its name, items older than 6 months old may not turn up. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do about this short of opening a new site.

What I do? I sift through archives, pick out the best pieces. Re-edit and re-publish them. Doing this prevents them from disappearing forever.

How often is often enough?

I’m going against common wisdom. I am sticking my neck out here and saying that a post a week isn’t enough. One single post per week, unless you are brilliant, writing about a subject with a guaranteed audience, are already famous so anything you post will get lots of attention — once a week isn’t enough.

Who makes a success of once-a-week blogs? Historians. Scholars. Well-known authors (though most of them post much more often). Newsletter writers. Everyone else?

You need to make visiting your website worthwhile. That means stuff to read. Entertainment, information. Great pictures. If you really don’t have time to create sufficient material to feed your readers and keep your site humming, maybe consider joining forces with other bloggers and take turns producing content? Without enough content, your site isn’t going to do much.

The formula is simple. Write well. Post often. Include pictures.

And finally: HAVE FUN! If you aren’t enjoying it, making friends, forming relationships, what’s the point? Successful writers and bloggers have verve and enthusiasm. You can’t fake that.

 

Daily Prompt: HOME SWEET VIRTUAL HOME

I’ve been trying to figure out why I missed Serendipity so much. It was less than a week, I felt like I was missing a body part. Why? Isn’t one site the same as another?

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It turns out, no, they aren’t. Every blog has a unique flavor, a personality. They grow and change with whoever is minding it and in response to feedback from readers and followers. In other words, you. It took me almost two years to develop an active following for Serendipity. I know many of you as friends. I know stuff about your lives. I know what makes you laugh, grabs your interest. Over the almost 1500 posts I have put up on Serendipity, I tailored my writing to accommodate your interests … and mine. Finding that balance has been a dance, a complex two-step of trial and error.

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I love making you laugh. I enjoy poking holes in “what everyone says.” Your comments and responses give me ideas and feed my muse — and she’s a hungry babe. And you feed my soul, answer my need to relate to a wider world. To be part of something more than me alone.

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Writing a new blog is strange, like standing at a podium in a city I’ve never visited, knowing I have to give a speech to an audience of strangers. I know some of my old friends are out there, but I can’t see past the footlights. I’m not sure if this new group will like me. I’m not everyone’s cuppa tea.

The new people don’t know my history. Here I have a storyline which builds on itself. I don’t have to explain who I am. Here, I can build from the last story, link earlier stories, refer to things I’ve written about before. It’s the difference between comfortably chatting with an old friend and cultivating a new one who doesn’t know any of your personal history or those quirky twists and turns of your brain.

New acquaintances can easily misunderstand my peculiar brand of humor! It’s definitely odd. Weird, even.

Forgive me while I fumble a bit, trying to find my feet, but please check out Serendipity Redux. I don’t know what it will be yet. It hasn’t its own personality. How it grows — or fails to grow — will have a lot to do with you. The ground is slippery — new territory.

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I didn’t intend to start over, though I knew I would have to, sooner or later because the volume of material being supported on Serendipity is perilously large. It’s exploding; there are a lot of warning glitches. The mechanics of Blogger are different than here at WordPress. It’s not a criticism of either platform: it’s merely different. It will be a while before it feels like home.

Until then, this is still my cyber home.

Rain Rain Go Away

We were supposed to be in New York for the weekend. Seeing old friends. Doing stuff with the college radio station where Garry and I met. Instead, we got weathered. Tropical storm Andrea, or her remnants, are meandering up the coast dropping tons of rain. We couldn’t face the 500 mile round trip drive in heavy rain.

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So the day didn’t get off to a very good start. I expected to be on vacation, but find myself at home. It makes me grumpy.

This was not one of my best days. A stupid day. I had a snippy fight with the bagger kid in the grocery store and the dogs did things in the house they should have done outside because they don’t like rain. Through all this, my body kept reminding me that like the dogs, it doesn’t much it like the rain. The argument with the dogs and ongoing disagreements with my body were both pretty much one-sided, but the kid in the supermarket actually mumbled in what I believe was English.

The issue was pizza. I wanted my frozen pizza laid flat, not shoved into the bag sideways so all the toppings fall off. The young bagger was baffled. I suggested — perhaps a bit testily — if he would lay the bag on its side and insert the pizza, voilà, you get a flat pizza. Then I could transport the pizza and it would be ever so much more attractive when it became a future dinner.

He said I didn’t need to give him so much attitude. And me, a white-haired senior citizen.

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I prefer to think the lad was giving me an unintended backhanded compliment. He finally worked out what I mean about putting pizza into the bag, but then he put another 5 pounds of groceries in the bag on top of the pizza, including a half-gallon of milk, totally defeating the entire point. Some days you really can’t win. I shudder to think what that pizza will look like when we want to eat it, but I could not argue any further. My head was beginning to hurt. I wanted to go home and sulk.

Putting the groceries away reminded me how much prices have gone up without an equivalent rise in our so-called income. It is hard to believe how little stuff $100 buys these days.

My current goal is to restore my sense of humor. I think I’m about ready to forgive the bagger and the rain has eased off enough so the dogs are going back outside. It’s going to rain tomorrow and Sunday too, or so the weather gurus are saying. These long drenching rainy periods puts all our systems to the test.

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We don’t get out much any more. So many friends are gone. Many have moved far away and more are planning moves to the left coast or someplace in the southwest. It’s entirely possible I will never see many of them again. If they move to the other coast, there will be no more spontaneous gatherings. Probably ever. It’s tough to deal with. The world is supposedly getting smaller and indeed, our personal world is shrinking, but the distances between people seems to be ever-widening.

I’ll feel better when the sun comes out.

Improbability Drive Powers WordPress Statistical Base!

PanicIn the wake of my cogently worded suggestion that WordPress make some alteration to its “followers” calculation, I did not receive a direct response, but I know they are listening. They apparently heard my plea and have responded above and beyond my wildest hopes for a solution.

They doubled the number of followers they say I have on Facebook.

From yesterday’s absurd calculation of 1313 Facebook followers, at midnight, WordPress recalculated my numbers and informed me — and I suppose the rest of the world too — that I now have 2,628 followers on Facebook. I admit I added one friend, an old pal from college who looked me up (Hi Charlie!) and asked to connect. I said golly, haven’t talked to him in a dog’s age and gave him the green light. That must be what triggered the WordPress engines to leap on my growing Facebook coterie and send it to new heights.

Talk about a responsive organization, what could be more reassuring than this? I officially, as of this writing, haven’t the slightest idea how many followers I really have. The math has just gotten too complicated for me. Math has always been my worst subject, but I swear that the folks at WordPress have taken a page out of Douglas Adams‘ playbook and are now using Bistromathics to calculate my numbers.

Bistromathics (from Hitchhiker’s Wiki)

Bistromathics is the most powerful computational force known to parascience. A major step up from the Infinite Improbability Drive, Bistromathics is a way of understanding the behavior of numbers. Just as Einstein observed that space was not an absolute, but depended on the observer’s movement in time, so it was realized that numbers are not absolute, but depend on the observer’s movement in restaurants.

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Nonabsoluteness

The first nonabsolute number is the number of people for whom the table is reserved. This will vary during the course of the first three telephone calls to the restaurant, and then bear no apparent relation to the number of people who actually turn up, or to the number of people who subsequently join them after the show/match/party/gig, or to the number of people who leave when they see who else has turned up.

The second nonabsolute number is the given time of arrival, which is now known to be one of those most bizarre of mathematical concepts, a recipriversexclusion, a number whose existence can only be defined as being anything other than itself. In other words, the given time of arrival is the one moment of time at which it is impossible that any member of the party will arrive. Recipriversexclusions now play a vital part in many branches of math, including statistics and accountancy and also form the basic equations used to engineer the Somebody Else’s Problem fieldDouglas

The third and most mysterious piece of nonabsoluteness of all lies in the relationship between the number of items on the check, the cost of each item, the number of people at the table and what they are each prepared to pay for. (The number of people who have actually brought any money is only a subphenomenon in this field.)

Numbers written on restaurant checks within the confines of restaurants do not follow the same mathematical laws as numbers written on any other pieces of paper in any other parts of the universe.

(Excerpt from the Hitchhiker’s Wiki)

Anyone else want to weigh in on this? It’s the same poll as yesterday. So far, there’s 100% agreement that this is an absurd number. Now that WordPress itself has made it clear that they know how absurd it is by making it even more absurd, I think they may have already had the final word, but give it a go anyhow.

I thought it was important to maintain an honest relationship with readers, but that was before I realized we were actually on a space ship piloted by crazy aliens, powered by the world’s first Improbability Drive. Now I know there’s never going to be a fix because the whole issue is swathed in an S.E.P. (Somebody Else’s Problem) field and it is invisible! Hail Douglas Adams! You did not die in vain!

Note: If this trend continues, we will move from the Douglas Adams paramathematical realm to the Humpty Dumpty College of Astrophysics where “a word means what I say it means” and so do numbers. Just saying.

Faux Figures from WordPress — Oh no!!

WordPress

WordPress is a great organization. Really, lots of support, recognition to many people. Not to me, but lots of other people. And most of it is for free. From templates to tech support, I get more service from WordPress than I would get from most blogging services at any price. But I think this time, WordPress has made a serious mistake and they need to rethink this thing.

Followers. Imagine my astonishment to discover that from my previous day’s statistic that counts my number of followers — 280 — I am now showing the world that I have 1,605 followers. I know I had a good day Wednesday, but I don’t think I gained more than 1,300 followers between Wednesday and Thursday. If I have that many followers, where are the hits?

Even if a mere 10% of them dropped by, that would give me a base 160 hits per day, and while I do get more than that (usually, but not always), WordPress also kindly does a pretty thorough breakdown of where all my hits come from.

So how did they get this astonishing calculation of my followers? What happened?

WordPress is now counting my Facebook “friends” as followers through Publicize. All 1,313 of them.

Most of my connections on Facebook are people I don’t know, but with whom I play games, especially Metropolis, a game that requires a lot of connection. There’s virtually no interaction between players. We post jokes on each others’ walls and silly stuff like that, but we don’t hang out or share our lives, virtually or otherwise. We ignore each others’ posts because we aren’t really friends. So from this number, let us now subtract about 1000  – because that’s how many of my Facebook association are attributable to Metropolis. About another 100 or possibly more, are associated with me via some other game, and a few of them, several games. That’s okay. That’s one of the things that you can do with Facebook. Although some of these connections might occasionally take a look at something I’ve posted, they do not participate in my virtual or real world.

The remainder of my Facebook contacts are people with whom I have or had some kind of relationship. Maybe a few dozen are friends or family. The rest are people I’ve met, worked with, used to know from my traveling days, or had some other brief association based on some shared interest and with whom I may have intermittent contact.

Yesterday, I got 216 hits. Because of WordPress’ excellent statistical analysis, I know exactly how many of these hits originated on Facebook.

The answer? One. Just one. Sometimes I have gotten as many as half a dozen, but never more than that, so counting it as 1313 followers renders the statistics not merely meaningless, but embarrassing. A joke, not a statistic.

So the follower figures are not just a little pumped. They are ridiculous. WordPress, you need to rethink this statistic. It is misleading and unfair to actual followers who did sign on to follow me. And it’s unfair to me, too,  because I have to subtract all those bogus followers to get a meaningful number. No one has anything to gain from this. To be counted as a follower, a person should be required to do perform an act of will, for example, say he or she wants to be your follower, not just a wholesale raking in of everyone on a list. That really would be like assuming that all the contacts in my email contact list are also followers, which I assure you, they are not.

I don’t mean to be ungrateful for all the services WordPress provides, but this needs to be undone as quickly as it was done. You just can’t call every Facebook “friend” a “follower” and have the term follower continue to mean anything at all.

Anyone else want to weigh in on this?

Let WordPress know that pumping up our statistics just makes them meaningless. In the meantime, I’ve removed the follower statistics from the “Follow Me” box. I’ll happily reinstate it if this gets fixed. Otherwise, it’s  too much of a lie. I don’t want to be a liar all over the Internet even if it makes me look good. It also rewards those of us with Facebook accounts and punishes those who don’t. As far as I know, Facebook is not connected to WordPress … or is there something I don’t know about?

I think it’s important we maintain an honest relationship with our readers. So in the meantime, I won’t post that statistic. I’d rather it didn’t exist, but I’ll settle for not being part of the scam.

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The Best Parts

One of the oddest adjustments one has to make in retirement is how everything transforms into “hobbies” and “activities.” No matter if you spent a lifetime doing something professionally, our society has specific definitions of “professional,”which is you have to earn money doing it. Professional equals paycheck. No matter how hard one labors, it’s not work if you don’t get paid.

Whereas in the past, I got paid to be a writer, writing is now favorite pastime or activity. I think it’s rather a bit past “hobby.” I am no less a professional now than ever. I no longer do only what I’m paid to do, but work harder to be a better writer than I did when leashed to an office and bosses. Deadlines are no less rigid because I set them. My standards are no lower. Just no one sends me a check. Pity. I could use the money.

How do you define a thing that is an essential part of you? Something you need to do or you feel like a piece of you is broken or missing? Is that an activity? A hobby? That seems a trivialization, doesn’t it? The best part of writing now as opposed to then is freedom. I can be playful or serious, topical, timely, or ramble off into the mists of obscurity.

The only one with authority to rein me in is me. As a blogger, I get direct input. If no one likes what I’ve written and no one reads it, that’s a hint I’ve strayed or at least need to rethink my presentation.

I’m stubborn. If I’ve written a piece I believe is good, I will keep redoing it and putting it back up until finally, it gets the notice I think it deserves. I tweak it with each pass but fundamentally, the story stays the same. If nothing else, these long years have given me enough confidence to know if it’s a good piece or not. It is one of the painful ironies that many of the pieces I don’t like are much more popular than the ones I know are better. C’est la guerre.

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Photography really is a hobby. I’ve been taking pictures nearly as long as I’ve been writing. My first camera came into my life when I was a young married woman with a baby. I had been painting and experiencing more success than I could handle. I don’t have any paintings left because I sold every one of them. I often sold them before I was halfway done. Friends and their friends would come, look and buy. It sucked the fun out of it. It was also logistically difficult. I didn’t have a studio and having cats, dogs and a baby, I couldn’t leave projects around unless I was actively working on them. It’s hard to lock up a painting in progress.

When I was 23, a friend gave me a camera, a couple of minutes of instruction and a few rolls of black and white film. Off I went on vacation. I had no idea it would be the start of a love affair with photography that would never end.

Unlike writing, my forays into professional photography were brief. I quickly realized I didn’t want to do baby pictures and weddings. Luckily, I had other professional choices and could keep photography as a thing of love, unsullied by commercial considerations.

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Forty years later, I continue to strive for some kind of perfection, trying to grow my technical skills (always my weak point) and to try new and different forms. Photography is a perfect hobby. You never outgrow it. It never gets boring. It may empty out your bank account from time to time, but many hobbies cost more and return less satisfaction for the investment.

What was the question? Oh, right … what activities and hobbies do I pursue. And here it is: I write. I take pictures. I put them together and call them stories or blogs. I will continue doing this until they carry me away.

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“VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD” – My Cup Overfloweth

Very Inspiring Blogger award

Tonight I went with my husband to Sutton’s Congregational Church. They were having their Christmas Concert and Garry and a friend of his had produced a documentary about the concert … how it was put together, how the choir family pulled together to create this every year. It’s playing now on local cable stations around the valley.

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This was the official Christmas concert performance. Considering how trying these past few days have been, a trip to church to hear Christmas carols was exactly what we needed. It was a nasty night. When we got out of the car at the church, the entire parking lot was covered with black ice. It was drizzling, but just cold enough so that the drizzle froze instantly on all the paved surfaces. I barely made it the 20 or so feet from the car to the church without falling and the minister did fall on her way out of her house.

The concert was lovely. Good singing, lots of smiles. And I took pictures and by the time we left the church, it had warmed up just enough so that the ice was gone. As the minister said, we had been blessed.

And now, blessed again by yet another gift of a Very Inspiring Blogger Award, courtesy of  Dear Kitty. Some blog: On animals, peace and war, science, social justice, women’s issues, arts, and much more. This is a woman whose causes are my causes, whose passions are also mine, a woman who I greatly admire. I am touched and honored to receive this award from her.

I often don’t feel particularly inspiring, but inspiration comes from many sources. I am glad that my words and pictures … and the other posts I find and reblog because I think they are important and worthwhile … provide inspiration for others. It makes the effort worth it to know that there are people “out there” who read the words and it means something to them.

That somehow I’ve gone in less than a year from “who’s that?” to getting more awards than I imagined possible leaves me a little breathless. Awards are always given by people who do not know us intimately. I am sure if people knew me better, they’d be incapable of giving me an award because they would, as my old friends do, remember that time I had one Mai Tai too many, fainted dead away and had to be dragged home by three big guys in a fork lift. People who know you very well may love you, but they don’t give you awards. Moreover, anyone who met my second husband or first boyfriend would never find me inspiring, although I might serve as a cautionary tale … if that could be considered inspirational.

The difference between something that gives me a migraine and something that inspires me can be razor-thin. This last week, full of tragedy and madness has been inspiring … but not in a way I would ever have chosen. It’s been a grim week. I only hope that from this something positive will emerge. I guess we’ll see how long people remember and if all the talk turns into some kind of action.

Being told that I’m an inspiration is an inspiration. It means I have not become irrelevant and maybe the experience of a lifetime is was not entirely wasted. All of you in my blogging world inspire me. I read your stories and poems. I admire your photographs and art. You change my view of the world, the way I do things, give me food for thought. If I do a bit of the same for you, I am glad.

Keith and St. Nick

Happy whatever you celebrate. Celebrate everything, why don’t you? Rejoice that you are alive, because you have a friend, a roof over your head, and maybe something to eat. Forget for a while all the problems and craziness because it won’t forget you … it’ll be there, waiting, when the party’s over. Love you all!!

The rules of this award are:

  • Display the award logo on your blog
  • Link back to the person who nominated you.
  • Tell us at least seven things about yourself that you would like to share.
  • Nominate other bloggers for this award and link to them. I am not going to set a specific number. I know how difficult it can be to keep coming up with nominees and rather than burden you all with having to find everyone all at once, you can keep a few awards in your back pocket and pass them along when the time is right. The holidays are upon us all, so please don’t feel pressured to push beyond your comfort zone.
  • Notify your chosen bloggers of their nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven things about myself that I haven’t explicitly said before (at least not where anyone could hear me) are:

  1. I was a music major in college, then finally graduated as a drama/broadcast dual major. I would have stayed for a third major in social science, but they told me I had to graduate.
  2. My favorite movies are comedies. I love to laugh.
  3. I have owned so many cats and dogs that I really can’t remember all of them any more.
  4. I’m a good cook, but after more than 40 years of dishing up meals, I’m very happy to eat other people’s cooking.
  5. If the mother ship comes and offers me a ride, I’m outta here.
  6. I learned to read in about two hours when I was five.
  7. I believe that anyone could write well if they would just remember that writing is just talking through your fingers. Good writing should sound as natural as speech. Most people try too hard; others don’t try hard enough.

My nominees (the envelope please):

  • Lust and Rum: New York, thy name’s “Delirium” — because I grew up in New York and  Anton Brookes’ photography and commentary reminds me that I still love it. His pictures are touching, evocative, the kind of photojournalism you rarely see any more.
  • Wessays – by my old friend Wes Richards whose writing is so good  that every time I read one of his posts, I immediately feel inadequate.
  • Awakenings: Awakenings from Then ’til Now allows you to Embrace Your Past, Empower the Present, Enrich Your Future. Because Sharla inspires me every day in more ways than I can count.

For all of you to whom I’ve already give awards, know you are likely going to get more. I like you, I like your websites, your thoughts, your pictures, you opinions … so you’ll have to cope with getting a few awards now and again. There are worse fates!

“VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD” – An honor, a privilege, a puzzlement.

Very Inspiring Blogger award

First of all, thanks to Mike Smith at  MikesFilmTalk who honored me with this, my second Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I have no idea why anyone finds me inspiring, but I like the idea.

I suppose the most inspiring thing about me is that despite everything, here I am, sense of humor intact. Survival is inspirational, but surviving while retaining a sense of humor is better. Unless you are going to be drowning in a sea of your own tears, you’d better laugh because no matter how much crap you’ve already gone through, I can personally guarantee that there is more just down the road past that traffic light. Crap, much like the tax collector, can always find you. You might just as well stop trying to hide because it’s pointless. What’s going to happen is going to happen. If it doesn’t kill you, it’ll make a great story.

Somehow I’ve gone in less than a year from “who’s that” to frequent honoree of awards … inspiring and brave and wise. Getting awards is all about finding someone … or someones … who don’t know you well enough to realize what a jerk you are.  I mean really … does anyone who you know close up and personal ever give you an award? No, right? That’s because they remember that time when you had one brandy Alexander too many and danced on the table … or that other time when while passing something around, you fainted dead away and had to be dragged to your tent by three big guys and a fork lift. These people love you, but they don’t give you awards. Intimacy precludes formal honors. Moreover, anyone who ever met my second husband or my first boyfriend could never find me inspiring. Perhaps if there were an award for it, I could be a cautionary tale, a warning to not do that!

Too much stuff

Mike sort of reminds me of me. That’s probably how come he has gotten a lot of awards from me and will get more. He doesn’t just write about movies. He writes about life. His life, and just any old life. He thinks about stuff. He’s had a hard time and I suspect that 2012 will never be marked in his mental landscape as “one of the great years.” Mike has managed to survived the worst life could throw at him and while he isn’t thrilled with it, he’s found ways to cope without whining and can apparently still laugh. Around here, that’s an achievement worthy of note. Somewhere, he got the message that life is neither fair nor easy. For anyone.

Inspiration comes to me from so many places, but oddly, the comments I write to Mike on his posts have, at least half a dozen times, morphed into posts of my own. He has a knack for saying stuff hovering on the edge of my consciousness that while I’m commenting to him, I realize is something I’ve been meaning to write.

Then, there are the books I read, the shows I see on the telly, current events, the weird stuff that happens at home to me and friends, and the way the light filters through the trees. The difference between something that gives me a migraine and something that inspires me can be razor-thin.

Doggy ChristmasBeing told that I’m an inspiration is an inspiration. It means someone still listens to me and I have not yet become completely irrelevant. The older one gets, the more the fear of irrelevancy stalks us. Not just me, but whole generations who were shakers and movers and now find themselves as designated “old people.” In our society, we don’t honor old people. We just shove them away and try to ignore them. Blogging lets me continue to be a part of the world and to still have a bit of impact on it. I’m not going to shake up the establishment, but I might just inform, inspire, awaken a few minds … or at least make someone who’s having a bad day, smile. That’s something.

All of you in my blogging community inspire me. I read your stories, poems and look at your pictures. You make me want to do more and be better. If I can do a little of the same for you, then I am glad.

I’m going to pass this honor to a few of the usual suspects, a couple of surprises … and suggest that any and all of you with whom I am regularly in contact, whose blogs I follow … any of you could equally well be recipients of this or one of the (I’m losing track) other awards I still need to deal with. Truly, if I hadn’t so recently received another of these so that I could take the post I wrote for it and redo it, I’m not sure I’d have been able to deal with this today. Christmas is near, my project deadline is breathing down my neck, my family has gone completely wacko and all I’m eating are homemade cookies which is unlikely to make me a more attractive or healthier person, but wow, they taste great.

Happy whatever you celebrate. Celebrate everything, why don’t you? Rejoice that you are alive, because you have a friend, a roof over your head, and maybe something to eat. Forget for a while all the problems and craziness because it won’t forget you … it’ll be there, waiting, when the party’s over. Love you all!!

The rules of this award are:

  • Display the award logo on your blog
  • Link back to the person who nominated you.
  • Tell us at least seven things about yourself that you would like to share.
  • Nominate other bloggers for this award and link to them. I am not going to set a specific number. I know how difficult it can be to keep coming up with dozens of new nominees and rather than burden you all with having to find in a single batch so many blogger, I will suggest that as you find worthy blogs you would like to honor, pass the honor to them, then let them pass the honor along as they find worthy recipients. No need to rush!
  • Notify your chosen bloggers of their nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven things about myself that I haven’t explicitly said before (at least not where anyone could hear me) are:

  1. My second husband was a moron. I have no idea why in the world I married him. I will never understand. It may have had something to do with drugs and sex.
  2. My favorite shows are reruns. M*A*S*H is the best.
  3. I have a back so bad and a spine so damaged there’s no medical name for it.
  4. I make killer chile.
  5. I’m still waiting for the mother ship to come and take me away ala Cocoon so I can be young again.
  6. My first IQ test showed me to be a genius of the highest order. I was 11 years old. It’s been all downhill since. Now, I’m lucky if I can remember my name.
  7. Before settling down to writing, I was going to be a pianist. Which is how I completed a full major in music before realizing that I’m not good enough to be a musician, at least not classical. But once upon a time, I was pretty good.

My nominees (the envelope please):

For my friends to whom I’ve already give several awards (you know who you are!) and who live in fear of getting another, you are doomed. If I missed you this time, trust me … I will get you on the next round. And if you like any of these awards, feel free to just take the award, pat yourself on the back, and pass it along. It really is all about sharing. Share and be glad!

To be a Lovely Blogger, I need new makeup!

 

 I cannot possibly feel sufficiently lovely without some new makeup. It’s been way too long since I reconsidered my eye shadow color. Maybe it’s time to dump the earth tones and go for something flashier … well, maybe not. Definitely not. Never mind.

Sean O’Murphy, of Very Novel: Freelance Writer to Novelist, has (among other achievements) created some of the most evil and delicious writing and blogging challenges I’ve seen to date. Not merely evil and delicious, but chocolate cake level irresistible. I’ve only recently begun to participate in these challenges. Most challenges are simple themes, but these are a cross between a writing challenge and a scavenger hunt, which is utterly cool.

Consider this:

Google Image Search the word, ‘resplendent’  and choose the image you like best and then ‘voracious’ and your favorite for that word  and write a story involving the two images. Try not to use the two words in the story.

No writer worth salt, sugar, or an advance on a novel could possibly resist such temptation. I have every intention of writing to the next challenge. If you have any sense of adventure in your heart, check it out!

Today just wasn’t my day to spend writing. Garry and I had a personal challenge to meet: our granddaughter turns 16 the day after tomorrow. Doting grandparents that we are, all other activities were set aside while we sought a proper gift, then wrapped it perfectly. Because I can never not give a gift after I have it wrapped and ready, we had to ceremoniously present it, including all appropriate expressions of affection, i.e., embarrassing displays involving kissing and hugging.

If you are not nor have ever been the owner or manager of a teenager, be advised that young men and ladies of this age find grandparently shows of affection mortifying. Her grandfather and I were unperturbed by her perturbation.

My husband has interviewed Presidents, Popes and Mother Theresa, who warned him that he should do more good stories, that the news contained too much violence.

Although his granddaughter is probably more daunting than Mother Theresa, Garry still retains enough intrepid reporter in his soul that he could ignore her protestations and plant a warm wet kiss on her reluctant cheek. Personally, I think she really likes it and the squeals are a merely a ritual expression of her emerging adulthood.

I’ve had a big bump in readership since getting the Liebster Award and Beautiful Blogger awards a couple of weeks ago.Nothing could have surprised me more than getting another, so soon after the last couple, so again, displaying my usual wit and wisdom, all I can say about this is,  “Wow! Thanks Sean!”

The Lovely Blogger Award honors sites that …

No one has the slightest clue what the Lovely Blogger award means except that you really like someone’s blog and you want to give them an award. Probably that’s more than enough. All appreciation is appreciated. How crass does one have to be to not be grateful when someone says “Hey, I like your stuff and want to give you an award.” Not me. I have never met an award I didn’t like.

The originator of “lovely blog” has not stepped forward to clarify what he or she was thinking when he or she began giving this out … and really, does it matter?

The rules state that winners should pass the award along to at least 7 more people whose sites you really like a lot. After that, each awardee (since nomination and award are the same, a nomination is an award), there are a few things to do. It’s not a gigantic demanding list of requirements, so, here they are for your enlightenment:

  • Thank the person who nominated you. I should think you wouldn’t need to be told this; simple good manners would suggest a “thank you” is in order
  • Create a link to his or her site from your own
  • Copy/paste the Lovely Blogger icon into your post.
  • Pass along 7 new tidbits about yourself
  • Nominate 7 bloggers whose sites you think are deserving of praise, and hopefully you actually do look at from time to time.

Number 1 through 3 having already been accomplished, I will proceed with 4, offering up some new tidbits about myself. Since this whole site is full of embarrassing information about myself and my family — who periodically threaten me with violence for talking about them on the internet — I feel that I must be doing my job properly. If no one is mad at you, what’s the point? But there is little about myself left to reveal, but nonetheless, I’ll give it a whirl.

  1. I have no nipples. I lost them to a double mastectomy 2 years ago next month and having had more than enough surgery for two or three lifetimes, I opted out of the fake nipples thing
  2. I have no belly button. Post surgical septic infection of my abdomen required the plastics swat team to come in and figure out how to make me not die. I lost my belly button in the process
  3. I have an excessively intimate — perhaps unnatural — relationship with my computers (currently holding at 3, but sooner or later I’ll give in and get a tablet or maybe a Chromebook)
  4. I have seen very unsettling things while reading Tarot cards. I gave up reading Tarot cards. I didn’t like seeing that stuff
  5. I believe astrology reveals a lot of truth, but I have no idea why
  6. I’m sure the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an oncoming train
  7. I have predictive dreams, more than half of them about strangers. If I don’t know who I’m dreaming about, what can I do with the information?

And the nominees are … drum roll  …

I’m delighted to have an opportunity to show off some sites that I enjoy. Most are either writers or photographers, frequently, both. Most of them manage to make me laugh or smile and some make my gasp in admiration.

The envelope please …

I hope you all appreciate my appreciation and I want you to know I genuinely appreciate you. You are the people who brighten my days, give me ideas to keep me writing and taking pictures, encourage me to believe in myself, make me think about things I’d otherwise never notice … and keep me sitting way too long in front of the computer! Bless you all and have a great weekend!

 

♫ ♪ I am a Beautiful Blogger ♪ Oh what a beautiful day ♪ ♫

Sharla Lee Shults writes beautiful poetry. Lately we have been inspiring one another, a most rewarding virtual relationship. She writes lovely poetry and in addition to her books, she publishes it on her website, The Catnip of Life. Her writing is warm, full of life, and balm to my brittle personality. If I could condense Sharla and carry her in my pocket, I would. At least I can find her anytime on the Internet

I had a big bump in readership during the past week since getting the Liebster Award. It’s been a great week for awards and having, in all my life before I started blogging, never won a single award, getting two in a week is a very big “Wow!”

It was a good day for an award because it had been until then, not a very good day at all.

It had been a treacherous day. A day when everything I said or did seemed to be misunderstood or misinterpreted. A stupid day winding up having snippy little fights with everyone, from the kid who bags groceries, to my dog who is refusing to perform that funny thing she does just when I want to show her off. The argument with the dog was rather one-sided, but the kid in the supermarket could almost talk.

All I wanted was to have the frozen pizza lain flat and not shoved into a bag on their edges so all the toppings fall off. My handsome young bagger was apparently baffled, so I offered — perhaps more testily than I should have — to explain if you lay the bag (cloth) on its side, and insert the pizzas, voilà.

All you then need do to get the pizza home in good nick would be to put the bag with the pizza on top of the rest of the cart’s contents. Anywhere but on the bottom of the cart and with all the heavy groceries on top of them.

He said I didn’t need to give him so much attitude. And me, a silver-haired senior citizen.

I think the laddie gave me a compliment, though I’m sure he didn’t intend it as such. He finally worked out the logistics of putting pizza into the bag, then promptly added another 5 pounds of heavy groceries into the bag right on top of the pizza, including a half-gallon of milk, defeating any benefit I’d gained.

For good measure, he put the bag, pizza and everything else on the bottom of the cart and piled all the other stuff atop the pizzas. Defeated by a bagger.

I shudder to think what that pizza will look like when we want to eat them, but I could not bear another argument with my young friend lest I be accused of having excessive attitude.

My husband was upset with me about the rye bread. I had been eating it, but in deference to his preference for rye rather than whole-grain white, I had gone back to white bread so there would be more rye for him. He seemed to feel that I was cheating, making him adapt to rapidly changing preferences in breads.

Still reeling from trying to preserve pizza and the fall-out from changing my bread preference and with the tragic foreknowledge that when my current loaf of white bread is done, I may again want rye bread, I unpacked the meager pile of stuff our hundred dollars had bought. The day was not going well.

Digression

My husband likes what he likes. He is absolutely loyal to his choices. This is good for a relationship: If he loved you when you were young, he will love you through thick and thin until the world ends. You can’t argue with that. I certainly never would. He is almost equally loyal to friends, family, and a variety of services and objects like cars, foods, restaurants, and so on, though he realizes that these things come and go and sometimes, despite everything, one must change or let go entirely. He’s a good at holding on, not so good at letting go. Over all, it works out solidly on the positive side of human being. A good guy, a fine husband, an ethical and moral man.

But, he does not like change. He resents it. He takes it personally. He has always preferred rye bread. As long as I’ve known him, and that’s close to 50 years, he asks for rye as his bread of choice. I’m more fluid. If you want to go all astrological about it, I’m very watery with my Sun in Pisces, Moon in Scorpio, and not a single planet in any earth sign.

Garry has an Aries Sun, Capricorn Moon, and most everything else in Taurus, so he’s solidly fixed to earth and waves to me as I float by. That works for us and I can always find a piece of dry ground to stand on when my world gets too muddy.

But, when I change my mind, which I do without a thought, Garry can find that quite disturbing. He cannot understand why I would alter something as basic as my bread of choice. He buys the groceries most of the time and this means he has to reconfigure his shopping path. Change for change sake is not his style. Variety is not his spice of life.

I was just trying to be a good wife and leave my husband’s favorite bread for him. Honest. If I knew it would cause such distress, I would have continued eating rye just to make him happy. Too soon old, too late shmart.

Digression concluded. Returning to previous digression.

I put the groceries away. Hard to believe how little $100 buys these days. Then I found  a $17.95 charge in on my bank account for which I can find no explanation. Bank of America now posts some “in process” transactions without any identifying information. For someone as anal-compulsive as me, that’s like having glass shards poke through my brain. Nasty sharp things like warm icicles stuck through my thinking processes.

At this point, I’m trying to restore my usual acerbic version of humor … and right there is an award courtesy of the ever lovely Sharla. I transform from a snarky old granny to a Beautiful Blogger, an inspiration to others. Wow. And wow again.

I feel much improved and rather wowed. In a good way. And I forgive the moronic bagger and my husband who, after all, just wants me to be consistent and not change my mind without warning him in advance. But I retain the right to believe Bank of America should not post a transaction without indicating the origin of said transaction.

I’m very happy to accept this honor, even though it has been a very snarky day and there are likely to be even snarkier ones yet to come.

Although I’ve already thanked Sharla, you can’t thank anyone too much, at least not someone as generous and warm-hearted, not to mention charming and talented author and blogger. Please visit her blog, the catnipoflife. I follow it with something just a tad short of religious fervor.

She writes lyrical poetry that is balm to my soul. Perhaps it will be balm for yours, too.

The Beautiful Blogger Award honors sites that share inspiration.

That’s not such an easy hurdle to jump. There are sites that amuse me, make me curious, thoughtful, offer solutions to problems, and teach me things I want to know. But inspiration can be hard to find, harder in a world that seems so lacking in civility and overwrought with self-righteous indignation.

The rules state that winners pay forward to 7 other people whose sites inspire you. After that, each awardee (since nomination and award are the same, a nomination is an award), there are a few things to do. Not a huge list of demands, but here they are:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Link to his/her site
  • Nominate 7 bloggers who inspire you
  • Copy/paste the Beautiful Blogger icon into your post.

And the nominees are … drum roll  …

I’m delighted to have an opportunity to showcase some sites that really do inspire me, each in a different way. From underwater and everywhere else adventuring, to saving dogs, to watching the sun rise from the back of a horse and reminding me how much I miss being able to ride.

There’s a site that made me dust off the keys of the piano and learn to play something new and one that sounded so delicious, I found myself in the kitchen making new dishes that made my taste buds sing a song of praise. I find each of these sites genuinely inspiring … and, as I said, it’s not an easy hurdle to leap.

Whatever you find inspiring, I believe you will surely \find something that will give you a new idea or perhaps remind you of something you loves and might want to try again.

The envelope please …

  • Rumpy Dog – Working hard to save all the dogs with love and constant support.
  • Hot Rod Cowgirl - Riding through life one horse at a time…Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.
  • ClassPiano – Real piano lessons, original piano music. As someone who plays the piano, it’s genuinely inspiring and makes me want to practice! Turn up the speakers and check it out.
  • MikesFilmTalk – I love the way he writes. Although film is central, he writes about all kind of things, whatever happens to interest him and there’s always something interesting to read.
  • Bucket List Publications – In the author’s own words, “Portrays the beauty and limitless possibilities of this world. The quote, “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences,” (Eleanor Roosevelt) describes my goals perfectly.portrays the beauty and limitless possibilities of this world. The quote, “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences,” (Eleanor Roosevelt) describes my goals perfectly.” Great site!
  • Putney Farm – She writes about food. She publishes recipes. She has, miraculously, revived my desire to actually cook which thought had died from terminal boredom. A very yummy site!
  • Oceanbound Adventures – It’s all about diving. Diving on wrecks, on reefs. Taking amazing underwater pictures. If the ocean inspires you, you can just drown on this site … in the most positive sense. Just the pictures would be enough, but there are stories, too.