Diaries, blogs, and bon mots

I spent quite some time over the last 39 days digging through bookshelves, boxes, and cupboards. I kept coming across old diaries, snippets of writing, and the like. Some things are timeless and I immediately thought “This would make a good blog post!”

And then I came across some unfinished cartoons that I meant to use on my first blog. Yes, I used to draw cartoons. In fact, I won an award in high school for the best editorial cartoon (I can’t recall what category).

And yes, I had a blog before this. In fact, this is my third.

Two blogs ago, I was “famous” enough to have real-life repercussions from a former student’s mother. It wasn’t as if I wrote about her child or even about work. It was merely that every small town has a contingent of gossips and a photo of me enjoying wine with friends was “proof” that I’m a drunken lesbian.

“My client pleads guilty to the lesser charge of fun at parties, Your Honor.”

” I see no evidence of that. Case dismissed.”

A blog ago, I paid for a nom de plume and no ads. I ended up with more spammers than readers. I deleted that blog and signed up for a free account. Now, since everyone and their grandfather has a blog (not to mention vlog), mine is nicely obscure.

Posting on a blog is a bit like writing in a diary, except that a diary entry is usually uncensored and doesn’t attempt to polish up the boring or ugly bits.

On the other hand, diaries would be better if they had categories and tags like a blog post.  I can’t tell you how disconcerting it was to read an epiphany I had in 2008 – which I promptly forgot – had again in subsequent years!

That epiphany? Well, over the years I reworded it, but it goes like this:

The worst pains in my life are self-inflicted.

And that, Dear Diary and Reader, is the unvarnished truth.

40 Days, 40 Bags… oh, boy!

There are thirteen days left in Lent (not including today) and I have eighteen bags to go. A certain someone who will be known as Kiko thinks I won’t make it.

Yes. I. Will.

The hardest bags (actually boxes) are filled and gone: books and art supplies. I thought long and hard about how much reading and painting I do versus how much I dream of doing. 

I was reminded of a personal organizer who worked in the Detroit Metro area. She said – and I paraphrase based on memory – that people were haunted by reminders of their old hobbies and felt relieved when they gave those tools and supplies away. I mostly feel sad that those activities have fallen by the wayside on this crazy road of life.

 

Yay! It’s morning!

I used to be very much a Morning Person: go to bed earlier than my roomies, hop out of bed earlier, and sing cheerily until banned (my roomies and guests tend to be Night People).

Winter, however, begged to differ. February was always difficult, as sunrise comes rather late. Overcast days outnumber those stunningly deceptive bright days when blue skies and gleaming sunlight make snow look inviting.

But this year has been worse. In December I found myself setting TWO alarms: one to roust me from bed, the other to wake me up wherever I happened to fall asleep. (A nap between donning socks or a snooze while reading the weather report!) Continue reading

Fetishizing the Poor?

I received a message that was out-of-the-blue and full of vulgar putdowns. Someone read my recent posts and decided I was “just like Ann Pratchett” and “fetishized the poor”.

I figured out that the American author Pratchett had written an op-ed in the New York Times called “My Year of No Spending”. (It’s behind a paywall, but here is the NPR interview.) After listening to it, I understood that my correspondent thinks I’m a well-off white woman with first-world problems of over-abundance, playing at being poor.  And I may own multiple Chapstick lip balms.*

My correspondent is ridiculous. My interest in frugality is because I have two financial concerns.
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End of Year Threats, erm, Resolution Ideas

It’s that time again when friends forward all sorts of intriguing ideas about how to improve oneself in the New Year. Decluttering, trying a new hobby, building a need-only budget, replacing one meal a day with a colon-cleansing smoothie….

They make me want to revive the practice of The Unresolution: declaring what life improvements will be discontinued. My former co-workers promoted it at their year ending parties. (My favorite was when M’e the Fashionista declared she would no longer attempt to like jazz.) Continue reading

Yes, Emily, There Is Hypocrisy

One of my faithful readers (and oldest friends) knows that I dislike when children misuse the word “hypocrisy”. For example, a young man who was falling deeper into drugs informed me that his father couldn’t say anything to him “because he used to smoke pot”.

I eventually convinced him that someone who quit drugs was not a hypocrite. The key to enlightenment was the Beastie Boys’ Fight For Your Right with its key phrase “That hypocrite smokes two packs a day.”

But this op-ed was by a grown woman at the New Republic, of all media. Emily Atkin wrote Al Gore’s Carbon Footprint Doesn’t Matter

The key phrase is “climate change advocates who don’t live a carbon-neutral lifestyle aren’t hypocrites because, FOR THE MOST PART, they’re not asking you to live a carbon-neutral lifestyle. They’re asking governments, utilities, energy companies, and large corporations to increase their use of renewable energy so that you can continue to live your life as you please, without contributing to global warming.”
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Quote of the day: Deadlines

Deadlines make us see deficiencies, not accomplishments. – Jean Balconi

I said this as encouragement to an acquaintance who beat herself up over an external deadline. She had an impressive list of all the things she’s done so far, but she couldn’t appreciate her own hard work. She reminded me of a game character running towards a goal while the timer is counting down in the corner and obstacles keep popping up in the path.

When I say something remotely profound, it usually applies to my situation. This case is no different.

My own deadline is looming: August 15. That’s the date for my rough draft to be complete. I’m not at the freak-out point yet, but I’m giving short shift to the reading and reflection parts of my DIY Writer’s Summer Camp. I returned Ender’s Game to the library unread because I’d rather write.

During the last two weeks, I wrote thousands of words in between day-trips, guests, and errands. Unfortunately, the content is slim: three versions of the same dialogue. I didn’t re-write, mind you. I wrote three different takes on the dialogue from scratch, each time implying a speaker’s intention or opinion.*

I’m quite pleased with the results, since each version has parts that will make a better whole. But I have thousands of words and a dozen chapters to go. And I must mention the obstacles on the horizon: my original antagonist has changed to a helper, the main antagonist hasn’t reared his stupid head yet, and the outlined ending stinks worse than the final entry of a series.**

Now I’m off to face the day – and the deadline.


*If you’re wondering where I got the idea, it’s not from any book I’m using. I was at a teacher’s meeting about reading and the facilitator asked us to look for different implied bias in the same text. So it’s a reverse-engineered writing exercise.

**I needn’t name one. You, dear reader, are already remembering a book series or a TV program that disappointed or enraged you.

The struggle is ALWAYS real

I had deja vu while reading this article. The writer Brook Bolen is annoyed with the facetious phrase “The struggle is real” and especially with copycats who mimic aspects of working-poor life. She even goes so far as to make things like the tiny house movement, beard-wearing (!?!), and shopping at thrift stores into markers of pretend poverty.

Her leading anecdote unfolds thus: A co-worker referred to Bolen’s lunch as a “struggle meal” – a meal made when the cupboard is almost bare and the paycheck is a week off. I empathize with Bolen because I, too, have faced mockery for  eating  Suicide Rice.*

However, she uses this molehill to build a mountain. To wit:

“Utilizing a word [struggle] that denotes hardship in a way that essentially parodies it is hurtful and offensive to those people whose lives are defined by real struggle; it also functions to neuter the word and divorce it from its power. Herein lies the most dangerous aspect of this linguistic cultural appropriation: it can render words ineffectual and wrest power from the speaker.”

What irony! Guess what else can “render words ineffectual and wrest power from the speaker”?  Using a term like “cultural appropriation” that means “takes something that belongs to a particular cultural group” and applying it to something that merely has personal meaning.

Bolen complains of fetishization of hardship, but it’s not just an upperclass trait. In college, I knew several other girls whose families struggled economically. One wore her family’s socio-economic status as a badge of self-righteousness.

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