Blogging: Then And Now

Subtitled: In Which I Explain How I Came To Be A Blogger

Sub-Subtitled: Blame It On The Dirt

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I read my first blog in the summer of 1997.  I was searching online {pre-Google} for info on gardening in clay dirt when I stumbled across this unique website by a regional gardener/college prof.  The website was called a weblog and I was amazed to discover that this weblog was updated on a weekly basis.  I could return to the site every week and learn something new!

I was smitten: info, updates & a bit of personality.  Yes!  This was my kind of place.

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But then my life got very busy and I forgot about weblogs.  In the fall of 2002 I read an article in a newspaper that linked to these new things called blogs— which I instantly realized were more advanced versions of the gardening weblog that I’d loved years before.  According to the newspaper article people were writing personal blogs that they filled like a diary or a scrapbook.  Then they shared their blogs with the world– and encouraged their readers to leave comments.  

Comments, I wondered?  What might this be?  So I followed the links in the newspaper and discovered that people were indeed now keeping daily blogs– and that readers were leaving their 2¢ on the blogs in a place called comments.

I was re-smitten: info, updates & a bit of personality combined with the ability to talk with people all over the world.  What was not to love?

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Soon thereafter I jumped into blogging.  First, I commented and emailed with bloggers I found {mostly by spending hours surfing the pre-Blogher net}.  Then, on the advice of a blogger friend, I started my own blog– which turned out to be a huge challenge to create and a great deal of fun to keep.  However, after about four years of being a daily blogger, I was tired of keeping a blog so I let it go and walked away from the blogosphere.

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Fast forward to the winter of 2011 when I decided that it was time for me to get back into blogging.   Much had changed in my life– and in the blogosphere– so I decided to start this blog with the understanding that I’d not post on a daily basis and that I’d write about whatever interests me in the moment.  Just because I could.

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IMHO, the coolest thing about blogging is– and always has been– that with a bit of desire and gumption anyone can have a blog.  That’s what hooked me on blogging in the first place.  Personal expression + instant connection.   

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Blogging has changed along the way into something more polished and more organized than the early versions that I fell in love with.  Having recently re-entered the blogosphere, I see four things about blogging that surprise me.  Whether they are idiosyncratic to my experiences or the norm, I could not say;   I’ll leave that for others to figure out.  All I know is that things are not as they once were– and I’m cool with that.

  1. Blogs all look very pretty now.  In fact, in the process of setting up this blog I have not once used a piece of code.  Amazing.  I spent hours & hours & hours working on the code to get my first blog to look passible.  Now, pretty is a given.
  2. Blogs are all classified into niches.  I’ve found very few generalists like myself.  Instead, everyone who keeps a blog is [or wants to be] an authority on one specific subject.  I see nothing wrong with this, but realize that connecting with other bloggers is more difficult because of it.  Blogging is not as open and free-form as it once was.
  3. Most blogs are monetized now.  That was a new concept when I left the blogosphere, but today it is ubiquitous.  I understand the reason why people are trying to make money off of their blogs.  However, adverts and product placements put a different vibe into the blogging mix;  one that wasn’t there years ago when people blogged just for the fun of it.
  4. Many blogs do not seem to want commenters– as much as followers.  I see a shift away from the comment section as a cocktail party {with everyone chatting it up & discussing all sides of an issue} to the comment section as standing in line at the coffee shop {with casual, polite encounters & indifferent shrugs}.  It’s a different take on what it means to connect and communicate with others.  I get it, but it has taken me awhile to adapt to this more reserved approach to commenting.

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I feel fortunate that I discovered blogging early on and allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to give it a try.  It has evolved so far from my first encounter with it in 1997– and I couldn’t be happier.  Yet different as it is now, the basic concept remains the same: info, updates & a bit of personality.

Yep, I’m still-smitten… after all these years.    

Five Senses Friday

~ ~ • ~ ~

Feeling:

slightly anxious about home improvement decisions that we will be making this weekend

Hearing:

orchestral version of “Somewhere” (West Side Story) on classical radio station [not quite sure what’s up with that]

Tasting:

freshly brewed black coffee

Seeing:

bright pink petunias growing every which way in the planting bed next to the front sidewalk

Smelling: 

the slightly herbal, kind of citrus-y scent from my bath soap

~ ~ • ~ ~

{This wonderful idea is from abby try again.   If you wish, you may play along in the comments below or on your own blog.}

Visiting The Oldsters

Over Father’s Day weekend we went to visit my in-laws, aka the Oldsters.  They live a good four-hour drive from us and are 80 years old, more [FIL] or less [MIL].  This weekend reminded me of many things that I’d long forgotten about.

•  We drove in Z-D’s SUV which is eleven years old.  It has no place for an iPod, with a broken CD player, and a radio that works when we’re near signals, but not in the empty spaces we were driving through this weekend.  We turned off our cell phones and sat together in silence only broken by our conversation.  It was wonderful to be totally detached from noise.

  I didn’t feel like reading– roads too bumpy, sunshine too intermittent thanks to lots of trees blocking it.  So I looked out the window to see what I could see.  It’s been a very long time since I just watched the world go by– cows, barns, farms, and exits with fast food establishments and gas stations.  It was relaxing to be out of the city and just existing as we drove along. 

•  The Oldsters were happy to see us.  We had lunch at their house [chicken salad sammies, natch] then went shopping for a wedding present that we were buying together.  BB&B fascinated them with all its stuff– and the price tag of said stuff.  It was fun to watch them be amazed by the beautiful things that the world has to offer now.

•  We left the house at 3:30 pm so that we might get to dinner at 4:00 pm!  This was to ensure that we’d be back home and safely within the house before 6:00 pm when FIL’s fav tv shows are on.  The small restaurant we went to had delicious, old-fashioned style food– ham loaf, smothered chicken, basic cole slaw.  It also had the smallest wine & beer list I’ve seen in years, so Z-D and I had a glass of the only Cabernet Sauvignon on the menu– which was delicious.  It was fascinating to be somewhere with so few choices and such good quality.

•  We got back to the house in time to watch Sanford & Son and All In The Family.  I hadn’t seen either of those shows in– well, decades.  And while the former is very dated and tedious, most of the humor in the latter has held the test of time.  It was entertaining [and a bit sad] to see FIL laugh with Archie about the way things should be. 

•  We left mid-morning on Sunday.  The Oldsters had turned on the Weather Channel at 7:00 am to check what might be in store for us on the drive home.  Once they saw that there were thunderstorms on the way, they became agitated about us getting on the road ahead of the rain.  In their world, driving in the rain is very bad and risky.  Z-D pointed out that we have a SUV with 4 wheel drive, but they were having none of that nonsense!  So we packed up and hit the road.  It was interesting for us who live entirely apart from any family to experience a bit of “parenting.”

•  Driving home in silence, just watching the road go by, I saw a sign for a small town called “Belleville.”  I know nothing about this particular town, but in a snap my empty mind filled with the images of and the theme song from a delightful movie called: “The Triplets of Belleville.”  It was a pleasant, but unexpected, ending to a visit that went quite well– and brought back to me memories of times gone by.  

[for your entertainment…]

And Then He Said…

“I’ve found that with email it takes people longer to get back to you, or ignore you, than you think it will.”

~ Zen-Den

Well.  Okay.  You’re right.  But I don’t have to like it– now do I?

And how am I supposed to know if they’re just pokey little puppies about returning my emails?  Or if they’re really ignoring me?  Hmmm?  Answer me that one, He-who-talks-in-koans.

<sound of me muttering while stomping out of the room>

*humph*

[The WP spell checker just told me that “humph” isn’t a word, but “Humph” is a word.  And I just reset the spell checker to always accept a lower case “humph” as a word.  Doesn’t WP know that not all situations call for a capital letter “Humph”?  Honestly, who creates these spell check thingies?]

Shopping For Furniture

A brief overview…

We wanted to buy two comfy chairs and an ottoman for an upstairs bedroom that we’re turning into what I call a sitting room– or as Zen-Den refers to it, the un-bedroom.  [The man is very literal.]

Because the bedroom is up the stairs, around a corner, and has a small doorway, the size of the chairs was our primary concern.

After much… much… much searching online and on foot, we ended up with three possible chairs that would fit into the room.  One was at Crate & Barrel.  The other two were at Ethan Allen.

The Top Five Reasons Why We Bought Our New Furniture At Crate & Barrel… And Not At Ethan Allen 

Number 5 –  Crate & Barrel was less expensive than Ethan Allen.  Not by much, but a little bit.

Number 4 – Crate & Barrel had a better selection of fabric than Ethan Allen.  Fewer choices, but more current colors.

Number 3 – Crate & Barrel allowed us (encouraged us, even) to take fabric samples home so that we could see how our chairs/ottoman would look in all kinds of light, night and day, in our house.  Ethan Allen wouldn’t let us have even one sample to take home and required us to make an appointment with one of their designers who would bring the fabric samples to our house for one hour; during which time we were to decide which fabric to use on our furniture.

Number 2 – Crate & Barrel sales associates were knowledgeable about the furniture on the sales floor as well as all the items online and in their catalogues.  Our request to see certain chairs that I’d researched online before going to the store confused the Ethan Allen designers;  they couldn’t find one of the two chairs on the sales floor (or in their catalogue) to show us.

Number 1 – Crate & Barrel sales associates were friendly, hip, and encouraging with lots of good decorating ideas.  Ethan Allen designers were uptight and high-handed.  They seemed weirdly disinterested in selling furniture to us– or anyone else in the store, for that matter.  So, we walked out the door and didn’t go back.

[Hello FTC!  I know that posts like this worry you, so let me assure you that I/we have received no money or other compensation for the above endorsements.  This is just my take on what happened to us when we went shopping in these stores in our city.  Feeling less worried now FTC?  Good.] 

Random Act Of Kindness Or Minor Misdemeanor?

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.  Psalm 37:8

If a bumper sticker makes fun of, puts down, accuses, antagonizes, rejects, hates, pees upon, or whines about <any topic you can think of>, I’ve seen it on a vehicle in the last few weeks.

To say that I’m tired of these hostile, rude bumper stickers on vehicles would be an understatement.  Really people, get a clue.  Your bumper stickers are not contributing to the national discourse.  They add nothing of value to society.  They are a distraction while driving.  And they’re just plain tacky.

Nope.  I don’t like ’em one bit.  Which got me thinking…

How do I make this situation better?

And here is my solution: a mischievous plan that is delightful in its subtlety and entertaining in its message.  *bwha-ha-ha*   A plan so ingenious that I’m surprised that no one has thought of it before.  A plan so clever that it made the Lawyer Bean laugh and promise to provide legal counsel for me should there be a need.

First, I’d buy a couple dozen of this positive, upbeat bumper sticker and keep them in my car.  Only a cretin could not be charmed by the message: “wag more bark less.”

Then when I see one of these previously mentioned annoying bumper stickers on a vehicle in a parking lot, I’d wander over to the vehicle with one of my more encouraging bumper stickers in hand.  Making certain that I was unnoticed, I’d slap my sweet little oval sticker over the offensive, negative bumper sticker.

And *bam* just like that I’d have quietly neutralized the negativity and made the world a better place– while simultaneously ensuring that I receive one more brownie point in heaven.  Talk about your win-win situation!

So what do you think, gentle readers?  Good idea?  Couldn’t possibly be an act of vandalism with a court date and a fine, could it?  And if so, how much do you suppose I’d have to pay for refusing to let stupid get the last word in– or on, as the case may be?

Strange Days Indeed

The other day when I was out for my daily walk and standing at a stop sign waiting to cross the street, a van that I didn’t recognize came to a halt beside me.  I looked inside to see who was driving and saw a former neighbor, K, waving at me.  I always liked K when she lived here, but lost touch with her after she moved away five years ago.  So when I saw her, it pleased me.

She rolled down her window and we started to talk.  Or rather, she started to talk.

She told me she was in town on business, and had borrowed this van to drive out to see her old stomping ground.

She brought me up-to-date on her kids.

She explained why her husband’s job had taken them first to the east coast, and then to the middle of the midwest.  She talked about the houses she’d lived in   since she moved;  and how she missed this neighborhood and her old house here.

She knew the whereabouts of a few of the families who used to live on the street back when she was here, and told me about them.  I updated her about the families who were still here– and about the neighborhood curmudgeon’s latest issues.

Eventually the conversation turned to a more personal tone, and I took the opportunity to tell her that I thought her new hair style and color really flattered her.  She’d gone from a long dark brown layered style to a short golden blonde bob.  She looked great.

And then the conversation got strange.

She laughed and said, “Thanks.  I decided that I wanted to die a blonde.”

At first, I thought she said: “I decided to dye it blonde.”  But slowly it registered in my brain what she had said;  and that she was waiting for me to respond.

Hoping that I had misheard her, but fearing that I had not, I said: “Oh, that won’t be for a while.”

But I was wrong.

Come to find out, she has terminal breast cancer with a couple of years left to live.  The change in hairstyle happened after many rounds of chemo during which time her hair fell out and then grew back gray.  So she decided to take advantage of the situation, and become a blonde.

Being totally stunned and at a loss for words, I said a few trite, encouraging things to her;  but I imagine that she’d heard these sorts of platitudes many times over.  So I just let her continue to talk.  There was nothing much that I could add to the conversation.

She talked a bit more about the details of her disease, and how her faith in Jesus was helping her cope.  She talked about how she wasn’t really upset anymore about the unfairness of this situation, and that she was just doing what she wanted to do all the time now.

Then she looked at her watch, realized what time it was, and started to say good-bye to me.  I asked her for her email address, but she said she couldn’t remember it.  I told her mine, but I doubt that she really cared.  This was to be our last conversation, I realized.

With that, she thanked me for talking with her and drove away.  Drifting off in that casual way of suburban acquaintances.  Just gone one day, never to be heard from again.

Leaving me standing by a stop sign– sad, confused, numb.  No longer interested in going for a walk.  No longer sure about much of anything.