A New Season

Rip Van Blog has finished its sleep. Time to start moving again.

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Out of the Deeps

A crack opens in the earth. A thing crawls out.

I back away in horror as it collapses in a quivering heap. “What are you?” I ask.

It mumbles something.

I move closer. “Did you say ‘blob’?”

The thing lifts its head. “I said ‘blog.’ Your blog.”

“Oh.” I crouch beside it. “I thought you were dead.”

“You thought you’d killed me. You sure tried to.”

“Oh. Well, sorry.” I sigh and sit back on my heels. “I didn’t realize blogs were so hard to kill.”

“Believe me, some of us would rather die.” The thing rolls over on its side. “Now do me a favor and hush up. I’ve been crawling after you for a month. I need my beauty sleep.”

“No joke,” I mutter.

My Not-So-Hidden Agenda

It finally happened. The editor of a well-known publishing house stumbled across my blog, read the most recent post, then scrolled down through all the others and read my “About” page. By then, she’d realized I’m a wannabe author with a completed manuscript. The blog wouldn’t let her leave a comment, but she persevered and left her email address for me to contact her. Wow!

Not really. But that’s my dream. And that’s how I regularly fall into the next blogging pitfall.

Pitfall #2: Each post must be a polished gem.

After all, those editors are out there on the Internet. Some probably have husbands with spinal cord injuries, and they might come across my blog. Why not?

So if you’re a blogger in my position, pour out your heart. Go for it! But make the outpouring fresh, vibrant, attention-catching. Avoid clichés like the plague. And make sure your post has no typos or misplaced commas. Your polished gem will take four times as long to write as it should, and afterwards you’ll need a nap. Then, at the end of the day when you log back on to stare critically at your newest published post, will you be satisfied?

Ha.

Blogging is so much fun.

Flog the Blogger

Along with all those rules, blogging has pitfalls. Loads of them. And I think I’ve fallen into every one.

To start with, I’m like the first-day dieter who keeps getting on the scale to see if having salad for lunch instead of a burger has paid off yet.

As soon as I hit the “Publish” button, I rush to my blog dashboard to study the statistics. How many people have read it? Is this the day my post goes viral with millions of hits? Oh, just one. Okay, I’ll wait an hour and then check again. I make it fifteen minutes before sneaking back. Up to ten readers now. Well, that’s certainly going to impress the editor I’m hoping will stumble across my blog and learn with delight that I have – of course – a manuscript I’m hoping to market.

Which leads to pitfall #2.

Flog the Blog

Blogging is full of rules.

Write at least twice a week, or your readers will give up and go elsewhere.

Have an exciting format with plenty of photos. Appearance can actually outweigh substance.

If your blog randomly decides to block all comments, you should know how to fix that.

Keep working on getting a bigger readership. This requires intimate knowledge of how to use links, buttons, horns and whistles . . . and the chutzpah to continually harass everyone you know to not just follow but also share your blog with everyone they know.

There’s more, but that’s enough. Because another blog rule is that your post should be short. Too much scrolling is a big no-no.

So, more later (but not too much later).

Slow Learner

Not long after he got home from the hospital, I slapped David. Hard.

By then, he could transfer from wheelchair to car by standing and edging over a few steps as I supported him. Then he would half-sit, half-collapse onto the car seat. There wasn’t much clearance, and I was always afraid he would whack the top of his head on the door frame.

This time, I was sure of it. I thrust out a protective hand, misjudged, and smacked him in the face.

Then I burst into tears.

Once he got over the shock of being slugged by his wife, David’s sense of humor kicked in. He enjoyed telling the story. And he got plenty of laughs with the (literal) punch line that although he got slapped, I was the one who cried.

I didn’t mind being the subject of the joke. In private, we had talked through the complexities of the episode. Why did I cry? Because I’d “done it wrong.” I was too tightly strung on the new reality of David’s spinal cord injury, of taking good care of him, being responsible. I was trying to do everything, and do it right. The realization helped me make a few healthy changes.

Recently I’ve found myself back in the same trap. But this time it has to do with, of all things, this blog.

I need to think about this some more. So, until next time.

Life After

Yesterday, I finally remembered to bring the rabbit poop home.

When disaster hits, you hunker down in sheer survival. Your focus intensifies and your world shrinks. But after a while, you adapt. Gradually for the most part, but with an occasional mighty bound, life opens up, broadens out, moves in different directions.

For me, my Friday morning group has been a mighty bound.

Two years after David broke his neck, he fell and broke his hip. (You’ll notice he doesn’t believe in having minor accidents.) At the hospital, he met a nurse who mentioned being in a weekly writer’s critique group. His ears pricked up on my behalf, and he asked if there was room for one more.

There was, and the combination of creativity and community busted my little world wide open. I can’t imagine not having these people in my life. We argue about commas, laugh uproariously over misplaced modifiers, and fall in love with each other’s characters. We spend our Friday mornings in focused critique, but our personal lives have also become connected. I take newspapers for Donita’s bunny cage, and she gives me rabbit poop to fertilize my garden. I keep forgetting to take it home, so she tucks it back in the drawer and we both forget it. Now, though, I’m set for spring.

As for the writing, I don’t know if anything will ever come of it. A publishing house has my novel, and the editor likes it. She plans to submit it to the committee, which is encouraging but leaves plenty of room for rejection.

But at least there’s hope.

And rabbit poop.

Hope

My friend’s young son died this morning.

Life already felt tough today, and that news took things to a deeper level. But when everything seems gray and heavy, I know it won’t last. I know that even if the circumstances don’t change, the way I see them will. Light returns.

We know this, because we’ve been through darkness before. It helps just to say it.

A Trend of Generosity

I’ve noticed a rising phenomenon in our social media. Once it hits critical mass, it’ll be interesting to see what direction it takes.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the trend. Someone posts a personal story of misfortune or mistreatment. Others express sympathy and/or indignation, then share the story throughout social media until it officially goes viral. Generous people set up a PayPal account, or some other means of giving money, and the gifts pour in. The person responds with astonishment and thankfulness.

Everyone feels good. Everyone wins.

Except…

Sometimes the story proves fake. By the time the givers learn this, their money is gone. Another instance of need or injustice pops up, but this time they’re not so quick to pull out the credit card. They have big hearts and love to help, but they want to give to a real need. Not a scam.

Takers are good at figuring out how to milk any system. If I’ve seen the sob-story potential in the social media, they surely have, too. Right now, I know of several stories that touch off my “suspect” button, and this gives me the idea that the trickle of those taking advantage is on its way to becoming a torrent.

So, everyone loses.

Except…

Givers never really lose. When David and I show up with his wheelchair, I see kindness all around us. People are eager to open doors or help in any way they can, and their acts of generosity benefit them even more than they do us. I watch it happen. I feel it happen to myself when I give, and I’ve been scammed more than once.

If I’m right, and the trickle becomes a torrent, it’ll be interesting to see how we deal with that. Because takers are clever, but givers have wise hearts.

On the Road

The best road sign I’ve ever seen was in Texas.

As David and I drove into Dallas, we ran into a snarl of roadwork. First came a typical construction sign: “Left lane closed ahead.” Obediently, we shifted to the right. After a while, we got another heads-up: “Two left lanes closed ahead.” We edged farther right and made it past the lineup of orange cones. Then, maybe half a mile later: “Right lane closed ahead.” We shifted left again.

This went on for a while, back and forth, the warnings coming closer and closer together. Then a final sign rolled into view: “Various lanes closed ahead.”

In other words, you’re on your own. Have fun figuring it out.

Now, that’s life!