On Being Vulnerable. Very vulnerable.

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Photo by damselfly58, via Flickr

“I don’t know how you blog,” a friend of mine said not long ago. “I worry so much about what other people think. I don’t know how you do it. I mean, you actually have to deal with ‘trolls.'”

I had to be honest and say that my reach is really too small to attract much in the way of trolls. Still, I, too, take disagreements and criticism very much to heart. It’s why I try so hard to think through different points of view before I ever write, and why I consider so hard the topics I cover, and am willing to engage and admit when I’m off base. It’s also why I so often remind people to respond with thought and care–because reasoned, calm, thoughtful debate hurts much less than thoughtless comments, which can cut very, very deep indeed.

I began blogging because that’s what authors are supposed to do. It’s called “platform”–you’re supposed to build up a following of people who will become your book audience. But it’s never worked out that way for me. The only niche I’ve ever found, the one that always sends the hits skyward, is Down syndrome, and I don’t believe that would remain true if I blogged about it all the time. I’ve made this a place where I look at the world and myself in a thoughtful way, mostly replacing the Journals I wrote starting at the age of eleven or twelve. I’ve tried to address the struggles I face and the blemishes I see in myself with honesty. I’ve always been pretty open about my world–not because I think I’m so all-fire unique, but because I’m not. I think a lot of people feel what I feel, but not everyone is as analytical. If putting my spiritual and emotional wrestling matches out there can help others put words on something they too have faced, and help them find their own way, then I’ve done a good thing for the world.

The risk, though, is that I lay myself open to judgment from those whose opinions really do matter. I am always, always aware that those I love know more about my deepest feelings than I do about theirs–and that more often than not, they don’t engage in conversation about it. There’s a vulnerability to that situation that goes unrecognized. For a person like me, whose soul recoils from chastisement and positively shrivels at derision and sarcasm, it is a huge act of, well…vulnerability. When I feel criticism and judgment from someone who matters, it cripples me. It upsets my digestive system. My fingers shake for hours. And of course, I can’t sleep.

I’ve never addressed this before, because I’ve always felt if I did, people would feel they can’t engage in discussion (especially disagreement) at all–and what is the point of putting your thoughts out in a public forum if you’re not open to discussion? Open to personal growth? I don’t need a bunch of mirrors reflecting my own idols back at me.

But I hope this little digression will illuminate how important it is for all of us to think before we speak, and to weigh words carefully instead of saying every blessed thing that comes to mind without thought of how it might impact others. And yes, I am including myself in that “all.”

To Reply or Not To Reply? A Blogger’s Dilemma

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Random cute picture from the WLP booth at convention, no connection to the topic at hand, because that's how we roll. All credit to WLP for the musical awesomeness.

Random cute picture from the WLP booth at convention, no connection to the topic at hand, because that’s how we roll. All credit to WLP for the musical awesomeness. ***Incidentally, do you notice how Alex has his hand on Nicholas’ arm? It looks so tender, doesn’t it? (Snort. Pretty sure, though I was playing flute so I can’t be positive, that they just paused their wrestling match long enough to have their picture taken.)*****

I intended to share pictures from our Grand Rapids trip today, but I realized when I started working with photos that a whole slew of them are on Christian’s phone, which is currently with its owner on a business trip. So I will take this opportunity to ask a question of you, my readers, this morning:

How do you feel about replies to comments?

In the last couple of weeks I have bumped into several people who read this blog, sometimes commenting but more often not. One of them asked me why I don’t reply to comments more often.

Different bloggers handle comments in different ways. Some people reply to every.single.comment, others say their piece and let the combox fill without having to have the last word on every subject, and others, like me, are in between. I have always liked the blogs where the owner has a personalized note above the comment box, saying how much they appreciate every single comment. That is how I feel, but if WordPress.com has an option to let me do it, I haven’t found it.

What I don’t like is when blog authors reply to comments with, “Thank you for commenting!” just to make sure they reply to every single person, even if the visitor’s comment stands on its own.

But I also want to foster community, even if in online terms it is a small one.

So I ask you this morning (and to make it super easy, I even made you a poll!):

Comments welcomed–as always!

So Much To Say, Not Enough Time

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I’ve been trying to do too much in this time with the fourth baby nursing–carry too many responsibilities, juggle too many balls. Something’s got to give. I love posting every day, but let’s be honest–it’s a lot of extra writing, and lately I’ve been scrambling to get it done at all.

So I am switching to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday blogging schedule, at least for the duration of the summer. We’ll see what happens when kids go off to school in the fall.

Now…out to mow the lawn, before the thermometer melts.

Indulging in a Bit of Good, Old-Fashioned Stream of Consciousness

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via Flickr”]Sign of the time

Lately I’m suffering from extreme lack of creativity in blogging. Of course, it doesn’t help that it’s turning into one of Those Times. You know. The ones when all petty irritations converge on a point, namely your nerves, and suddenly all the drama of the Furies comes gushing out of your mouth upon the heads of people who only sort of deserve it. Like school nurses who seem incapable of accepting that all your kids have really bad allergies/colds, and the plethora of Other Symptoms means it really isn’t contagious pinkeye, and why are you making me come pick up my daughter from school, which causes me to have to skip nap for another sick child and go get the third one from school early so we can go to a stupid doctor appointment to be told that guess what, your kids have ALLERGIES??????

Uh…excuse me while I go plunge into the creek to lower my blood pressure.

Also this week, Nicholas has officially crowned himself The Worst Sick Child I’ve Ever Had. I remember when he was a baby, shaking my head and calling him a Drama King. Up to then, we called Julianna the Drama Queen, but she’s had to relinquish her monarchy. Julianna, I told Christian, at least had reason to pile on the drama.

The last two nights, Nicholas has been up 7-8 times per night. Last night was actually better, because at least he wasn’t screaming pathetically, “I need tih-oo!” every time he woke up. (Tissue, in case you aren’t fluent in Toddler-ese. And lest you think I am overstating the case by calling it screaming…take my word for it. I’m not. Sunday night, every time I almost fell asleep, I’d be yanked back to consciousness by the sound. Nerve-shredding, I’m telling you.

Last night was better, without the screaming. A big improvement, although being awakened by the sound of your door being  banging against the door stop is no fun, either. I’ve learned two things the last two days:

1. When Nicholas grows up, he’ll be the classic “bad patient.” Just saying.

2. I must do everything in my power to ensure that Nicholas never gets sick again. EVER.

In between sick kids, flirting with being sick myself, finishing up a teaching gig in another town, preparing for three public speaking engagements in the next 6 days (each of them a separate topic) and the usual attempts to write, I’ve found myself floundering on the blog. I don’t know if everybody’s just overwhelmed like me now that school’s started and the fundraising and football seasons have begun, or if I’m actually losing your interest, but my stats have taken a hit the last couple of weeks.

If you’re a blogger, you know that leads to serious self-questioning and an obsessive search for ways to FIX IT! So I’ve been trying out some new blog carnivals/memes, some of which I like quite a bit.

The only trouble is, I abandoned most of my old memes a few months ago, because the time I was putting into going around visiting other people didn’t seem to be translating into any significant bump in hits. I got the sense I was seeking new readers unsuccessfully while not really serving my own readership or being true to myself. So I took the plunge and found, gratifyingly, that my stats didn’t suffer for it.

And now I wonder if trying to push the meme thing again is why I’m struggling with both inspiration and stats.

Anyway.

My goal every day in writing is to have a point. And if you can’t tell, this post really has no point. I just gave myself permission to do some good old-fashioned stream-of-consciousness Journaling today. You know what else? It didn’t take very long to write. What do you know? That qualifies it for yet another meme I haven’t visited in quite a while. Now, what image shall I use to sum up this fractured, useless post?….

A Lack of Focus

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Dusk Session #2: Bridge near the Soccer Stadiu...

Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a movie this guy would be buried in the credits as something like “Second Tall Man.”
            —from “The Worst Analogies Ever Written in a High School Essay”

There are times when I really do have “so much to say”—beautiful stretches of days and weeks in which I know exactly what I want to put on this blog, and the words flow and the ideas crash along the shores of my mind with not enough time to get them all on “paper.”

And then there are desolate stretches when I weigh and toss every idea that comes along. Unimportant. Boring. Unfocused.

This is me this morning. Sitting gape-jawed in front of a blank Word document, trying to figure out what to fill it with. Clicking through my Google reader looking for inspiration.

A blog is supposed to have a focus. It’s supposed to be about something. That’s how you build a readership: you find a gap in the tsunami of verbiage online, and you fill it. That’s not what I do. I write whatever I feel like writing. I’ll go for weeks blogging about Down syndrome, and then spend a bunch of time on faith issues, with stopoffs on parenthood and marriage, and an occasional rant about something in the culture…

Writers tend to blog about writing. But I’ve never wanted to do that, because frankly, you people don’t find it very interesting. I know because I watch my stats, and writing posts don’t rack up the hits. And lately, Advent is topic non grata as well. (That’s oversaturation, and I understand it. Believe me. There’s only so many times you can say the same thing before people tune out.)

So this morning, I put the question to you. What brings you to this humble little corner of the e-universe? What kind of topics make you sit up and click through? What would you like to see featured here?

A Conversation Only an NFP couple could have

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“Christian, guess what? I found the old thermometer.”

“Oh, yeah? Where was it?”

“In my pajama drawer. So what do you think, do we keep using the new one? ’Cause this one registered the temperatures so much lower.”

He eases into bed. “You know,” he says, “I never really liked that thermometer anyway. This new one, when you turn it on, it goes BEEEEP, really loud. And it beeps all the way through while you’re taking your temperature.”

“And that’s a good thing?” I say, bewildered, thinking about how many pre-5:30 a.m.’s in the past week I have muffled the thermometer to keep from waking him up.

“Well…” He pauses. “I don’t know, it’s just so much more aggressive a thermometer!”

 Hmmm. Well, it was side-splitting at the time. Maybe you had to be there.

Word Press is now offering “recommended links,” i.e. definitions of some of the terms you might want to offer readers. And every time I mention my husband’s name, they try to get me to add a link to a wikepedia article that begins:

A Christian (pronounced /ˈkrɪstjen’/  ( listen)) is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who Christians believe is the Messiah (the Christ in Greek-derived terminology) prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, and the son of God.[1][2]

Apropos of nothing.

I’m in one of those bloggy moods this week, where my brain freezes on subjects of importance, and thus you get things like a bedtime conversation instead of a rational, thoughtful approach to a focused topic. This is a direct result of having two articles to finish and a novel to outline in preparation for digging in on writing 50,000 words beginning next Monday. Or maybe I just burned out after last week’s deluge of profundity.

On the other hand, last week I cut loose from almost all the carnivals I usually join, and it was pretty liberating to feel that I was blogging solely to say what I wanted to say. And somewhat affirming to find that my hits didn’t suffer as much as I had expected them to. So thank you to all those who seek me out.

Anyway, please accept my apologies for what passes for blogging this week. It’ll get better again. Someday. I promise!

P.S. Word Press wants me to tag this post with the categories “Christianity, Christ,  Hebrew Bible, Christian, Messiah, Jesus, Thermometer, and Religion and Spirituality.”

Sigh.

7 Quick Takes, vol. 78

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1. I have just finished reading “Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther” this week. It started out somewhat questionable, to be honest. The first few “entries” weren’t written very well. I thought I was headed down the poorly-written Christian literature route, but I gave it a few more pages since the opening entries were written by a “teenager.”

2. However, it wasn’t long before I was hooked. I don’t know this author’s background, but the story of Esther was a perfect conduit for addressing matters of faith and sexuality, and I want to share a quote that shocked me, because I have NEVER seen such a perspective written outside of NFP circles. Here it is:

“I am a woman, created in the image of the one true G-d. I will lay His glory at the feet of no man, and for no fleeting pleasure. To touch me is to touch the eternal.”  (Emphasis added.)

3. Another great quote, on matters more general: “In some people, love of G-d leaves little love for others, especially those who stumble and sin often.”

4. I didn’t go into it expecting more than a quick read, but now I’ll be looking for more works by Ginger Garrett.

5. While we’re on the subject of women’s issues, I thought this was a great post, entitled “Satan’s Best Trick.”

6. I have a cold. Which is no surprise, I suppose, considering that my children have been trading the bug for two weeks, and I’ve been fighting it off for almost a week myself. Still…blech!

7. And finally, I have questions for those who have their own blogs (and keep an eye on traffic). Do you find that there has been a dropoff in traffic lately? Or is it just me? I’m theorizing that the weather’s so pretty in so much of the country that people aren’t spending as much computer time. Which is not a bad thing. Time will tell if I’m right.