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NaBloPoMo: Fail? Maybe not…

So…this is the end of National Blog Posting Month. And like all aspects of personal discipline, I didn’t quite reach my goal. But, was it a total failure? I think not.

FOUR THINGS I LEARNED from NaBloPoMo:

1. My blog is not a daily diary.

I don’t propose to have a daily purpose or daily recording on my blog. It was not natural to me to start a blog, “Day 12 of NaBloPoMo….” Therefore, I didn’t do it. The days when I really felt like I had nothing to say, I published content I was not proud of. So at some point I said, “Enough!” and didn’t post anything unless I wanted to.

2. I enjoy writing everyday, but don’t enjoy the pressure to publish everyday.

There were many days this month where I wrote and didn’t publish. If I had it to do all over again, I would be tempted to join NaNoWriMo. Then I would be increasing my word count and writing discipline without the pressure of people seeing it until I was ready.

3. I need to find a focus and purpose for my blog.

Publishing on my blog would not have been as difficult if I had a roadmap. I admire bloggers who have a schedule or theme such as Monday Matters, The Wednesday Word, Fun Links Friday, etc. I’m still searching for exactly what my blog will be, but this month has helped me see what it is not.

4. The more you write the more people read.

Those of you who have been blogging for a while might think this is a no-brainer, but I was surprised at how much my traffic increased this month. The more content and categories you have out there, the more chances for people to come across your blog. Also, publishing regularly gives my followers something to read and shows them I’m serious about my blog.

All in all it was not a total waste. I appreciated the pressure to a certain degree and the encouragement to write more regularly. I also enjoyed the NaBloPoMo community. Thanks for all your support!

Looking forward to next year.

In the meantime…I plan to keep writing. 🙂

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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Emotional, Impulsive, and Wired

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We’ve all seen the numerous blog posts on annoying Facebook statuses. Some of them are quite clever and make us shout, “RIGHT ON!” or “Wait..I do that. What’s wrong with that?! SMH” Whether we do them or not, we all know someone who does and have an opinion about it.

What is it about the over-shares, cryptic cries for help, or passive aggressive posts that really bugs us? It seems attention-getting or often like public revenge. Things that should be shared with a select few (and even better, in person), are broadcast to hundreds through social media. Basically, it seems immature, and despite privacy settings, there are many people who believe that what we put out there will stay for anyone to find.

This, my friends, is why teenagers and social media are a very bad combination.

Teenagers by their very nature are immature, emotionally charged beings. They live in world between worlds where they are leaving childish games behind while figuring out what it means to be an adult, while at the same time hormones and brain chemistry make logical thought nearly impossible. Whose idea was it to give them a public outlet to air these feelings?

It used to be that if you had a problem with someone you passed a nasty note in class, or had your friends shun them in the hall. If you were annoyed with a member of the opposite sex, they received exaggerated eye rolls or daggers during class, they endured gossip between you and your friends, and maybe they even got a prank or angry phone call later that evening (but you had to be civil long enough to ask Mr. Miller if Brad was available). I suppose there were those who stooped to egging or TP-ing. All actions that are here one minute and gone the next.

With cell phones and social media, a conflict between two people can be texted to hundreds in seconds, or a nasty meme posted to Instagram to be seen and liked by half your high school. Harassment issues have skyrocketed. Boys and girls alike sharing private pictures through massive group texts for the purpose of humiliation. Or a conversation that would have been confined to school hours, or the house phone can continue indefinitely through texting. I’ve had to take phones away from my kids because the person on the other end sent text after text and wouldn’t stop even when asked to. My daughter turned her phone off and when she turned it back on an hour later had 70 new texts from the same person.

I recently read this article on the dangers of teen girls and Instagram. It pointed out how their self-esteem becomes wrapped up in pictures they post and how many likes they receive. It becomes a popularity contest of sorts, with its own currency. The article states: “As they become preteens, research shows that girls’ confidence takes a nosedive. Instagram, then, is a new way for girls to chase the feeling of being liked that eludes so many of them. Instagram becomes a popularity meter and teens learn to manipulate the levers of success.”

The intricate ways teens use these apps for validation astound me. The article didn’t mention the most obvious one: en emoji chart where each emoticon means something like: pretty, fun, spirited, talented, etc. You post the chart on your page and then your friends pick which ones describe you and post it in the comments. I suppose this is harmless enough. I remember the papers we passed around at youth events with your own name at the top. Each person wrote something nice about you, folded it over, and passed it to the next person. The difference? When the paper returned to you, it was for your eyes only. And everyone in the circle participated.

With Instagram, girls are determining their self worth based on the number of positive responses…and all responses are public for everyone to see and judge.

Unfortunately this post does not come with answers. I’m still working through this dilemma. I have three teenagers and all of them use cellphones, and various forms of social media. I monitor their pages, ask to see their texts sporadically, and we have hard talks about what should and should not be posted. But I can’t monitor their emotions. I can’t develop a spreadsheet comparing “Time on Social Media and Effect on Self Esteem and Personal Happiness.”

My sad suspicion would be that it doesn’t come out in their favor.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Cats are Neurotic

My husband would say a headline like this should be published in the scientific journal titled, “Duh”.

As you may know from a previous post, we recently acquired a new cat. This cat is doomed to be forever compared to her predecessor – kind of like saying, “why can’t you be more like your brother.” Their personalities couldn’t be more different.

Aloof and confident, Horatio ruled his territory with only a bored glance, but wasn’t afraid to let you know when he needed you. Cleopatra keeps an alert eye on her surroundings at all times. She runs and hides with the slightest hint of movement in her direction and yet she seems to consider me her safe place.

When everyone else has left the house she creeps out of her hiding spot and sneakily peeks at me from behind various vantage points. Then she follows me if I’m moving around the house, until I turn around – at which point she freezes and either looks panicked, or becomes really interested in nonchalantly sniffing something nearby. If I’m sitting reading or typing, she slowly walks over, sniffs the couch, tests its structural integrity with her claws and then climbs up, situating herself in such a way that I can’t possibly move or get anything done.

If I do manage to move or re-situate her, she jumps up, looks at me like all of a sudden this kind, safe, stationary person, became a super scary, unpredictable moving person, and runs away to hide.

Then we start the game all over again.

She’s also a black cat, so the stalking me around the house thing can be a little creepy. Not that I am superstitious…

But in the evenings when all is quiet and my husband and I are relaxing with a book or television, and she climbs up to cuddle in the blanket – this black ball of fur purring in my lap, I realize why pets are such a treat for the soul.

(I also feel a bit like an evil villain as I stroke her fur and hatch my master plan)

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Posted by on November 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Branding…or how to fit myself on a business card

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I attended a business networking event today. Not because I have a business to market, but to hear a friend speak.

The networking part of the seminar encouraged business card trading, and when we entered, we placed business cards in a fishbowl for prize drawings. Only one problem with this – I have no business card.

How does one narrow an identity down to 3.5 by 2inches. What do you include or leave out? I have many jobs or identities. The only one I get paid for is teaching. Does that make teaching my business and therefore should go on my business card? (I don’t see many teachers exchanging business cards.)

But many facets of my life or identity are not professional like: mom, pastor’s wife, writer, singer, and so on. These are just as much a part of who I am.

So the question really boils down to branding. What is it about myself that I am trying to market?

To keep it strictly professional, I could say Teacher/Writer. But then I feel the need to qualify…English Teacher? Writing Teacher? Blog Writer? Aspiring Writer? Despairing Writer? (Just kidding on the last one)

(Incidentally my husband often accuses me of overthinking things)

Attending the seminar today made me realize that I needed branding. And if I was serious about being a writer, I needed to claim it and not qualify. I am a literature teacher. I also teach writing which means I study and practice the craft with my students, and write on a regular basis outside the classroom, therefore I am a writer.

Maybe I can fit everything else in fine print around the border, just to be completely honest about who I am.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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NaBloPoMo – Just as hard as I thought it would be

So, I’ve missed a day…and published some posts I’m not proud of. This challenge may not be for me.

The purpose of my blog is not random daily content, or a web diary, but more a place for vignettes, book reviews, and musings on life. If I have stories to share or a piece I want to write, I’ll post it. Trying to come up with something to post everyday means you guys don’t get my best.

However, this challenge does have its positives. I’m thinking about writing…and practicing writing everyday. Even yesterday I started two different posts, though they never made it to publish. The discipline of this challenge is beneficial and forces me to think about my blog going forward. Whether I want to have some focus or plan or just continue to post as inspiration strikes.

I just picked up Amy Poehler’s book, YES PLEASE. Here’s what she has to say about writing:

Everyone lies about writing. They lie about how easy it is or how hard it was.

They perpetuate a romantic idea that writing is some beautiful experience that 

takes place in an architectural room filled with leather novels and chai tea. They

talk about their “morning ritual” and how they “dress for writing” and the cabin 

in Big Sur where they go to “be alone” —blah blah blah. No one tells the truth 

about writing a book. Authors pretend their stories were always shiny and perfect

and just waiting to be written. The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and 

occasionally great but usually not. Even I have lied about writing. I have told people

that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of sh**.

It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver. 

I couldn’t agree more.

and I love her.

I’m pretty sure we are twins separated at birth…we’re the same age and both blonde, so it must be true.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Daylight Saving Time…Is it Evil?

I’m sure most of you have seen this clip by now, but if not, I’ve posted it here for your viewing pleasure.

It baffles me that I can travel to the opposite coast with a three hour time difference and feel adjusted in a few days, but when we fall backward or spring forward I’m messed up for weeks.

Growing up in Indiana, we did not change our clocks, but my grandparents in Gary did. Because Gary was a Chicago suburb they needed to be on Chicago time, therefore that corner of Indiana participated in Daylight Saving Time while the rest of Indiana did not. This meant that half of the year we were on the same time as my grandparents and half the year we were not.

One summer I worked as a camp counselor in Michigan. Michigan participated in Daylight Saving Time. The churches that ran and promoted the camp were located in Elkhart, Indiana. All of our campers came from Indiana, therefore it made perfect sense to somebody that the camp should run on Indiana time. This meant that every time the counselors left camp Redbud we were entering a different timezone…(insert theme from The Twilight Zone here)

Nearly all US States observe DST. Indiana adopted it in 2005. Arizona and Hawaii are the only two hold-outs. At one time much of the world adopted DST. Now it seems to be most prevalent in the Northern Hemisphere.

Lately there has been increasing backlash against the practice that began when we were a much more agrarian society. People question if we still need Daylight Saving Time. But what would happen if we stopped changing our clocks? Does anyone even know? What would happen to our late summer evenings? And our extra hour on Halloween weekend?

I think we need another movie trailer….THE TIME DAYLIGHT SAVING ENDED FOREVER

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Five Questions to ask yourself before Clicking that Link on Social Media

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1. Is this click bait?  Click bait can manifest itself in a number of ways.

Does the headline promise information such as “5 foods you should never eat again” only to lead you to a 30 minute sales pitch that only sort of answers the question but promises amazing results if you just purchase the program? This is click bait (This is only hypothetical…not an actual site that I may or may not have clicked on)

Does the headline read “You’ll never believe what this girl did…..” underneath a suggestive picture? This is click bait (This may also be spam or a virus. More on that later)

Is the headline just vague enough or spectacular enough that you are not sure what the article is about? This is click bait

2. Do I have time for this? 

I have a little rule of thumb. It’s not very scientific, but goes something like this: If I click on the link and it takes more than about 2.5 seconds to load, I’m done. If the video is longer than five minutes, or the article longer than a few pages, I may lose interest. Which leads me to the next question..

3. Am I really interested? 

Is this article/picture/blog/youtube video worth the time and mental energy I’m about to put into it? Once you start clicking, the internet sucks you into a black hole of lost time and opportunity you will never. get. back. (Hypothetically of course…not speaking from experience.)

4. Is this spam or possibly a virus?

Some of the more outrageous examples of click bait can be spam or malware. Next thing you know all of your friends are getting strange emails from you and social media is claiming you “liked” some horrible video you’ve never seen before. Be a good friend and let the poor victim know they’ve been hacked rather than being shocked at their online choices.

5. Do I want everyone to know that I liked, read, or visited this site?

You may think you are acting under complete privacy and autonomy, but as soon as you click that link, targeted advertisements and emails show up. Also through some mysterious internet algorithm (or possibly just the privacy settings) your friends can all see what you liked or read.

There you go, readers. Five questions to ask before you click. Happy and safe surfing!

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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