Tag Archives: metablogging

the cruellest month

I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

There is a part of me that knows that every month bears its burden of sad anniversaries. There is good and bad to be found in each month. The scientist in me wants to graph the months, and the major events I have associated with each. Major illnesses and deaths, natural disasters, terrorist attacks on the one hand. Birthdays, holidays, wedding anniversaries, exciting trips on the other. I think a clustered bar chart of some sort would work just fine. Perhaps such a graph would show that each month was more or less the same.

Yet somehow, I can’t shake the feeling that the month of April would have a great big tall bar for the bad category, compared to the sorry little representation of happy events. Much of this would be due to April of last year. I have started writing out, in a level of detail that is both agonizing and cathartic, the hell that was April of last year. (I probably don’t need to share that here. I’m sure for someone else there would be far more agony than catharsis to read such a thing.) In short, the month was marked by, in rough order of appearance: impending death, sharing news of major illness with young children, sudden plans for travel, rearranging of work schedules, single parenting, fever, cancelled plans for fun activities, long drawn-out dying, pink eye, death, sharing the news of death with young children, poison ivy, memorial service, funeral, stomach bug, cancelled plans for fun activities, marathon bombing, Officious Dental Hygienist, shootings, explosions, manhunts, and cancelled plans for fun activities. Last April was a relentless series of grieving and petty grievances. And it was supposed to be a month marked by intense productivity for my research.

I can’t help but be reminded that it was also in April, back in 2010, that my nephew’s tumor was discovered, the start of an ordeal that brought on so much stress and worry for many long months and even a few years. The start, in fact, of some of the hardest times I have had in my adult life. (That was also the same month that I had my own run-in with poison ivy, too. It sounds like a small thing, but my doctor said it was the worst case she’d ever seen. I had blisters lasting for 5 weeks.)

April has a bad reputation for me.

So this year, I found that I was bracing myself for April to be another bad month. This is why I picked this month to blog every day. Making myself do something daily that I enjoy has helped get me through the sad anniversaries. Now, there are under 2 hours left of the month, and I think we have come out mostly unscathed. I say “mostly” because the month has not been great. There were some happy things, and some fun things, but also a few bad things of varying scales. I don’t even really want to get into it now. (Really, I don’t tend to think of myself as superstitious, but I find myself not wanting to jinx things. So it would seem that I am superstitious. Also tired.)

So, I bid good-bye to the cruellest month. Next month promises to be a full, and hopefully less thorny, one.


The thorns of April.

all part of the process (writing about my writing)

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a writer. As a voracious reader, and avid lover of books, it seemed obvious to me that I would one day write a novel. I can’t really say at what point this dream faded, but I would be surprised if I ever got down to writing a novel. I don’t have a driving need to do so. I might some day explore writing shorter works, such as a children’s picture book. (I do love picture books.) Or perhaps something even shorter, like a greeting card. (I don’t much like greeting cards.) What I have discovered is that I do enjoy putting together words, and this blog is the place where I most like to put them together.

My friend Sarah, who currently posts at Splitting Infinitives, is a phenomenal writer, and I don’t say that lightly. I was therefore enormously flattered that she asked me to participate in a meme to explore the writing process.¹ Sarah’s way of putting words together gives me great pleasure, and the content of her writing regularly makes me think. I very much enjoyed reading her reflections on her own writing process.

In any case, she passed along these 4 questions, and I have put a bit of time into answering them.

1) What are you working on?
2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
3) Why do you write what you do?
4) How does your writing process work?

What I am working on is a lot of academic writing. My goal is to finish my degree requirements, as well as submit papers to journals and conferences. The big thing, of course, is the dissertation, though I am not officially working on that yet. I have a few more loose ends to tie up, after which I will assemble previously constructed chunks of my research and stitch them together with a few yet-to-be completed chunks of research, then infuse this mass with my sweat, tears and lifeblood. Finally, I will run large currents of electricity through the resulting body of work in hopes that it will take on life. (And that it won’t get driven out of town by villagers bearing torches and pitchforks.)

As for the personal writing, I wouldn’t say that I am actually working on anything. Actually, that’s sort of the point. It is not work. What writing I do is for the pleasure of it.

I don’t really know what my genre is. Much as I love to categorize things, I hate to feel categorized myself. At least not into a single category. This blog in particular is a means for me to express the various aspects of my life and personality, and allows me to present myself as more than just “mother,” or “grad student,” or “feminist.” I am all of these thing and more. I explore many topics, and many forms. Perhaps my genre is “eclectic personal blogging.”

I sometimes wonder if my mind works differently than other people’s. I am constantly collecting things: facts, images, words, themes, ideas. At some point, something will trigger an idea, and my mind races to fit all the related bits with it, and display (or sometimes build) a pattern.

For example, I take a lot of photos of things in my environment. Sometimes it’s pretty leaves and flowers, but also cracks in the sidewalk and water drops on the windshield, or frozen puddles. Hydrants I pass on the street…rusty dumpsters…brick walls. Shadows, reflections, signs, clouds. Sometimes I will take a picture and it will remind me of a picture I took once before, even years previously, and I will group the photos together. Sometimes I will then seek out additional images to fill out the pattern. (I have this strange but compelling compulsion to collect things in group of at least 3. More is fine, but 2 somehow seems like only the suggestion of a pattern’s beginning.)

I don’t always feel the need to share patterns when I find and build them. Sometimes I file things away for future use. My iPhoto library contains a hive of folders with related sets. I have also been adding tags and metadata to the photos for years so that if I want to, for example, find photos that I like that prominently feature shadows or gates (or shadows of gates), I can find them. The keywords are not infinite, but somehow express my personal lexicon of imagery.

Sometimes I am similarly compelled to make a list. For a long time, I would post my Themed Things Thursday lists with great regularity. The chosen themes would sometimes relate to a nearby holiday or date, or just be inspired by a pattern I’d noticed. (Separate and distinctive things I have known or observed with some sort of feature in common: blue people or stories with peaches or fight scenes in subways.) Once my mind has caught the beginnings of a pattern, it will nag at me until I have sifted through my memories and my knowledge for things on the theme. Often, I will just jot down the skeleton of the list and be done with it. I currently have saved (in the drafts of my Mail application, to be specific) 48 partial ThThTh lists, in varying stages of completion. If I feel compelled to see the list through to a post, then things take longer. I will do some web searches, mostly to find iconic images, and I might poke around Wikipedia to flesh out a theme. Mostly, though, I don’t post those lists any more. They take a lot of time for formatting and fact checking and finding and sourcing images, and the returns on this time investment are not significantly greater than the satisfaction I get just from jotting down the list.

The process for other creative posts is sometimes similar, whether it’s for another list-form post, or one in more of an essay form, or even the occasional poem. I like to play with words and idioms, and come up with expressions that are relating to specific words. (Case in point: pants.) Sometimes I will share a set of pictures that work together to tell a story.

Along with these collections of related words or images, I will write things as the mood strikes. I write posts that help me see humor when my life otherwise seems overwhelming. (My last American Hovel Magazine post was written when I was feeling crushed by the chaos in my life and depressed by the lack of progress in my degree. I wanted to just sit in the fetal position. Writing about the mess in a way that made me laugh helped me keep going.) Other times I write stories because I want to preserve memories (of my travels, my childhood, my children). Sometimes I just want to work through my thoughts on current events.

Above all, I love to run with themes. I find my blogging the most satisfying when the themes are ongoing or recurring. It allows me to feel like I am creating something of complex and interweaving patterns: a bizarre tapestry of puns and photos and lists and pants. For this reason, my blog may be confusing to those who happen upon it. They will see a given post, and think that it somehow represents “what I write about.” But it will often be just a single thread that forms part of a bigger picture, tangled though it may be. (In case it is not clear, I also like to play with metaphors.)

I do all of my actual writing on my laptop, as well as the photo editing and sorting, while sitting in the dent I have worn in my couch cushions. The creative process, though, happens all the time. My eyes and ears are always alert for new patterns. My thoughts wander to things I want to write about while I am going about other mundane business. I might be stuck in traffic and coming up with cooking metaphors, or cooking dinner and coming up with a list of driving metaphors. I might be doing laundry and mentally making a list of shark movies. (Or doing laundry and making a list of laundry songs.)

Many posts never make it into writing, others have never proceeded past the draft stage. I try to edit well, but I am a slow editor, and sometimes I sacrifice editing in order to post. I aim to keep my posts short in words, and try to rarely exceed 500 words if I want other people to read my words.² Sometimes I will post longer things, but I accept that these are mostly written for me. It’s gravy if someone else takes the time to read what I’ve written.³

Next week, Stacie is going to take up the baton to explore her writing process. Stacie is an amazing writer, and like Sarah, has a way of putting together words that makes me want to savor them. Her writing at her blog If you want kin, you must plant kin, too, always gets me thinking. (It’s funny to realize that I actually somewhat group Stacie and Sarah together as writers whose stories, some fiction and some short memoir, have reminded me of Rumer Godden, one of my all-time favorite authors.) Stacie has been branching out into writing and drawing comics as memoir form. She has shared a few episodes of Adventures in Racism on her blog, and they are sharply witty and thought-provoking. This summer, she will further develop this project at a workshop on graphic novels. (Please check out her Indiegogo campaign to help get her out to the workshop, which is across the country from her.)

I’m afraid I have to break the rules of this meme, which asks for us to find 2 people to pass the meme onto. I am only offering up one writer for next week. (I also had trouble limiting my bio of her to one sentence. I suppose I could have done so, with an egregiously long sentence…) If anyone reading this would like to explore and share their own creative processes for blogging (or other writing), please do! I will gladly link to you and sing your praises. (Though I may not actually sing.)

¹ Secretly, I think it is because I scored points for always gushing over how much I love her writing.
² The 500-word limit is based on the maximum length of abstracts for many academic conferences. This seems to be one of the ways that being an academic seeps through my writing. Footnotes are another
³ This post is one of those excessivley long ones. I apologize for the length of this post, as I did not hvae time to make it shorter.

daily bloggin’, no foolin’

I have decided to post every day this month, and I am totally not making an April Fool’s Day joke. I considered writing some sort of funny post for today, but I didn’t. I did, however, enjoy playing a few jokes on the kids, who were very excited about the whole thing. This is the breakfast that I had ready for them when they came downstairs:

A wholesome bowl of wooden blocks, with a side of crunchy raw new potatoes, and a glass of fresh-squeezed rainbow loom bands.

This is going to be a busy month for work/school, getting ready for a couple of conferences coming up in May. I have also decided to try a month-long home organization project called The Subtraction Project. The decision to blog daily this month is because I just really want to. I still have a lot of stories I want to get out of my system, and pictures I just want to put out there. (You can expect to see some photos of ice from my extensive collection. And seeing as it looks like the spring weather has arrived, there will probably be flowers.)

haiku acrostic, acrostic haiku

Here are two short poems:
1.

Hallmarks of these lines comprise
Allusion, evocation and expression
Impressions of nature and sensation
Kept short in sound, long in symbol
Using a constrained scheme

2.

planted rows of words
reveal another pattern
sprouting in the fore

A couple of days ago, I solicited suggestions and requests for things to post to help blow me out of my blogging doldrums, and said that I would respond to them in the order received. Sally was first in line and gave a lovely list of suggestions.¹ First on her list was a request for either a haiku or an acrostic. As you may well be aware, it is often hard for me to choose one or the other when “both” seems an equally valid choice. So I decided to do one of each form, but made each one be about the other type.

Craving more? I seem to have a shocking shortage of haiku in my archives, but I was terribly tickled that Ally Bean recently composed a haiku for/about me². You should go read it.

I did once make another acrostic, which was also rather meta. I’ve played around with other poetry forms, too, usually in response to a Monday Mission³. You can find a tanka, and another tanka in the form of a tanga, as
well as a villanelle (about pants). To see other less structured instantiations of my bad poetry, check out my tag “bad poetry.” I find such exercises fun, given my general love of playing with words.

¹ Up next, I will probably hit the first item off the next commenter’s list, and then run through the commenters a second time for their next items on their lists. If you have not already done so, I’d love a comment from you on my last post to suggest another post theme. The more the merrier!
² It was as a prize for getting an answer right in one of her posts.
³ Monday Missions are a now-dormant group blogging activity that I enjoyed.

in no particular order

I have been struggling to decide what to post. It’s not that I have any shortage of things to post. Just the opposite. I have too many photos I want to share, too many stories. But when I find time when I could conceivably put together a post, I spin. I come up with reasons to not post each particular thing, at least right at that particular time. There are two many photos of this set. I have too much to say about that story, and not enough time to write it. These photos are now months out of date. (Who wants to see Christmas photos now? Or Halloween ones, for that matter?) I’m saving those photos for a theme I have in mind. (But I never get around to running with that theme.) I sometimes wish I had some method for deciding what to post when. That’s probably why I have participated in the Friday Foto Finder thingy, and used to love things like the Monday Missions¹ and other group blogging activities. For that matter, this is why I kept up the Themed Things Thursday for so long. Such bits of structure make it feel a bit like there is a reason for my rhyme. (Or a rhyme to my reason?)

I know that it doesn’t have to be that way. This is my personal space, and I can post whatever, whenever. Lately, though, it feels like my posts are more like “never” than “whenever.”

So, would you (whoever you are) like to help out? Leave a question or a request or a suggestion or even just a word in the comments, and I will post something in response. In the order of comments received.²


¹ This is a now-defunct blogging activity whereby a host would select a format or style (like a real estate ad, a course description, or campaign coverage) for participants to use for a post. I just looked back through my archive with the Monday Mission tag, and these were some of my funniest posts, if I do say so myself. And I do say so myself. I seriously crack myself up!

² I don’t, however, promise that what I will post will necessarily make any sense to anyone who is not me.

substantially insubstantial

30 days and 30 posts in, this month has flown by. Unlike in years past, I found it quite easy to post daily. The reason for this was likely that, beyond the act of daily posting, I had no particular goals for NaBloPoMo this year. The downside to this comparative ease is that I don’t much feel like I posted much of substance. I was happy to post a number of photo sets that I had been saving in my digital hoard, and I had a few things to say here and there with more words, but I didn’t find myself sharing more of the stories that have been buzzing around in my head that first prompted me to start a blog in the first place. Those stories take time, and time isn’t something I’ve had in abundance this month. In spite of this lightness of post content, though, I still feel fairly satisfied. Having the daily creative outlet, and this commitment to doing something daily that is purely for my own enjoyment, has actually been more satisfying than I might have expected. I am sorely tempted to continue in this commitment to daily blogging–if not actually putting up a post every day, at least spending a bit of time each day working on a post.

This was a photo I took on November 30, 2010, taken during my participation in Project 365, a commitment to taking photographs daily.

seven years in

When I started this blog, 7 years ago today, I had no idea where it would take me. Over a thousand posts later, I find that this blog has served its original purpose well: as a record of my life and as a creative outlet. What I didn’t expect from starting this blog was that blogging would become an important part of my life. I didn’t know that blogging would be the means by which I would learn and grow and forge lasting and important friendships. So, happy birthday to this blog, and thank you to the friends and visitors who have made blogging a more fun and rewarding experience than I ever would have imagined!

the longest shortest month

Even for those of us who love a bit of winter, the season can get a bit old come February. The cold, the gray, the cold, the gray. The snow, the slush, the ice. Gray skies. Bare trees. Cold hands. The bright lights and festivities of the winter holidays seem like ages in the past, and spring remains stubbornly out of reach. February may be the shortest month, but it certainly feels like a long one where I live.

It was a packed month for me, too, and it’s hard to believe how much happened: concert, blizzard, visit from my mother, school vacation. A birthday for one child, and kindergarten registration for the other. I posted every day of the month, and I reached my thousandth post. I posted a lot of photos, and worked through some nervous energy. (But I still didn’t manage to post a bunch of the things I’ve had in mind to post. Will I ever?)

And here is one last photo for the month. For Annette, who finds herself taking too many photos of bare trees. (Though they are lovely bare tree photos.) Look! I got you another photo of bare trees. And for Sarah, whose words about the many grays of February brought a bit of light into the end of my month. (You see? This photo only looks slightly different in black and white.)

There are subtle hints of muddy brown and the barest hint of bluishness in the sky and snow. But mostly we have black and white and gray. No need for the box of 64 crayons to color this scene.


And here we are with the that last bit of color drained out.

a post in a thousand

Here is a list of a thousand things:

I know, I know. This list is not 1000 things long. But they are thousand things. Because this is my one thousandth post on this blog. (Also, the word “thousandth” is really hard to say.)




image credits: millefiori bead from Fire Mountain Gems, mille-feuille by okki, paper cranes by James..g, the M in stone photo is my own, taken in Barcelona. The thousand dollar bill is not mine, nor did I take it.