NINE YEARS of blogging. WHAT.

Hey, Lovelies,

It’s my blogiversary this weekend! Technically yesterday – November 3rd – it was nine whole years since my first blog post ever. About which I said nothing to anyone. I barely knew what a blog was, but I was inspired by my sister blogging about her experiences in Europe, and had also read some blog posts by another friend who wrote about random things, very briefly, and made blogging seem so… feasible.

Man, things were really different back then. Sean’s and my marriage was only four years old, and my teaching career barely older. I had one wee babe. We had a little house on the opposite side of town (and had barely even thought about school catchment areas). Emi and our friend K still lived with us. My whole world was my baby and family at that point. And it was such a joy to spend basically all of my time and brain power on one tiny, squishy-cheeked human that I loved unimaginably – who also happened to be a pretty easy customer.

baby
Gah, he was a cutie. He’s still a cutie, but so big and way more obsessed with farts. Also of note: I took this pic with the super-slow camera of the first-gen iPhone… weird. Hence the blurriness.

I remember how much I wanted to get parenting right (LOL!), and how everything my son did was special and amazing. I also remember that my first several blog posts were written sitting in the glider in E’s room, just being near him as he slept.

I had no inkling, while writing those first blog posts, that this blog would still be alive nine years later – because of you. If you hadn’t been reading, imparting legitimacy to my words, it would have been hard to justify this therapeutic but self-indulgent hobby all this time. Thank goodness you were there. I could not have predicted that blogging, through your compassionate readership, would become a lifeline of solace when Sebastian died. Nor did I imagine that I would one day write a post that would be viewed over 50,000 times in a week, or that I would have readers who would insist to me that my blog was important – to folks other than me.

These days, I sometimes wrestle with myself about what to write. Not for a lack of ideas, but for a lack of clarity. Part of me feels that I should go back to my origins of writing whatever I feel like, whenever, even if it’s insignificant and random… Because that’s how this all started – as an excuse to write stuff. “Just write… and see what happens.” The other part of me feels like I should only write when I have something truly meaningful to say, and time to polish it properly, out of respect for you. I mean, what right have I to assume that you want to read my arbitrary woolgathering? There are already plenty of bloggers – and commenters, and tweeters, and Facebookers, etc. – out there who blather.

The truth is that this blog’s steady readership of lovelies is not large. It’s not like I’m proclaiming to the masses. I would love to know what you feel is worth reading in an age of overwhelming internet noise. So if you’re reading right now, please feel free to weigh in about… well, anything you want. (Requests?… Pet peeves?… Guest posts??) I am very, very grateful to you for reading, and it seems only fair that you should have some input. If you want it. I’ll accommodate it as best I can (in my inconsistent fashion).

Anyway. Thank you, as always, for being here. Thanks for reading, and nudging, and commenting, and sharing, and being part of this li’l community with me. I will always be grateful for you. [Insert whole rainbow of heart emojis.]

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5-Day Artist Challenge, Day 1: Writing

Okay, 5-Day Artist Challenge, here we go! In true OELC iArts fashion, I shall dedicate each of the five days to a different strand of art, and I decree that writing shall be first. Because obviously.

5-day artist challenge journal writing fountain pen

If art is bread for the soul, writing is… let’s say sourdough. You get a starter of an idea, you let it ferment a bit. You feed it some nice floury research, wait some more, and eventually you’re ready to knead and craft something interesting out of it. Or occasionally you might get a starter that’s all ready and you just have to go for it. Sometimes it will flop, sometimes it will have a respectable grain. Not everyone will like the result, but some people will think it’s delicious.

sourdough bread 5-day artist challenge
Image via bbc.co.uk

{My sister is the actual sourdough disciple. Through her, I have become acquainted with some different versions of her starter, Don Juan. Beth, do I sound convincing at all?}

Ahem. Yes. WRITING.

Writing is something I’ve done on a regular basis since my first diary was given to me on my seventh birthday. I really got going with the journaling in my pre-teen years, and was prolific throughout my teens and even university (as time permitted). I wrote compulsively about events I wanted to cherish, and even more compulsively about heartbreaking or awful or turbulent things I needed to process. Some hopes and philosophies, lots about friendships, and even more about boys.

During my grade-school years, I dreamed of being a professional writer one day (like my authorly heroines – Anne Shirley, Anne Frank, That Scatterbrain Booky). I was also homeschooled by my mom, who is herself a writer of poetry, stories, and historical novels. Her encouragement/bias is evidenced by the many stories and poems and not-at-all-historical novels I wrote during that time. (Her novels tended to treat actual elements of the British monarchy, and mine were about contemporary pre-teen girls with first-world problems. Amy the Dreamer; Remember Me? I’m Your Daughter; and My Friend Christie. They were twelve chapters each, written by hand on lined paper in duo-tangs. Full of my youthful feels, if not actual ingenuity. The Magic Chestnut was never finished.)

I remember submitting the painstakingly typed (and dot-matrix printed) Amy the Dreamer to Nelson Canada (it was kind of a homeschooling project, with a business letter and everything) and receiving a very nice rejection letter for it. I’m pretty sure I once had a poem published in Cricket magazine, and I won a few awards at my high school’s Literary Festival. My real accomplishment, though, was “Rainy Day Cindy,” my first (and only) fully author-illustrated short story – which you can view in its entirety on this very blog!

Then, in university, I wrote a buttload of essays, culminating in my 75-page mémoire (similar to a thesis) for my Masters in French lit. And that was enough of that.

My journaling, and actually my writing in all forms, dramatically tapered off when Sean and I settled down together. Naturally, peaceful love life = less fodder; real job = less time. It wasn’t until I started blogging that I realized how much I’d missed having that outlet.

I don’t really write fiction anymore. As a kid, I had no end of ideas, and felt absolutely entitled to write the heck out of them. Nowadays, I feel unqualified to make up stories, intimidated by the incredibly gorgeous and heartrending novels I’ve read. There’s a part of me that still wants to write a novel, or lots of novels. The trouble is, I don’t want to do so without a character who could steal your heart, preferably within a story that could blow your mind. I’m not confident that my imagination is up to the task.

But I do love blogging. I’ve heard folks paraphrase Dorothy Parker on more than one occasion: “I hate writing, I love having written.” For me, this is not the case. I relish the writing process, love finding and puzzling together the words to say what I mean. I even sort of liked writing essays, for the brain challenge. Writing soothes the itchy parts of my mind.

Thank goodness for you, lovely Di-hards. Just by reading, you validate my act of writing things. You motivate me just by your presence. You make it okay for me to keep this frivolous habit of committing my thoughts to words. I’m profoundly grateful to you.

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5-Day Artist Challenge Postponed Due to Hogwarts Sorting Incident

My dear dance friend Mary nominated me, well over a year ago, for the 5-Day Artist Challenge on Facebook, in which you post a photo or so every day for five days, along with some interesting information or anecdote, to share with others the role of art in your life.

I did not manage to do this at that time, despite my best intentions. I forget what silly thing sidetracked me.

Because really, what’s more important than art? Art is bread for the soul – EVERY kind of bread: the white, the brown, the seedy, the fluffy, the cheesy, the crusty, the glutinous AND the gluten-free. I profoundly believe that we all need art to live.

This post was supposed to be Day 1. But I just have to tell you something before I start. I’m reeling a little, for two reasons that have nothing to do with the title of this piece.

Firstly, my beloved MacBook just came back from the shop. It had a several-days-long medical episode in which it was only sometimes taking a charge, and then it stopped charging altogether (!!) and went deep into computer-sleep. And then the good lad at the repair shop (their designated “Mac guy”) made it work again.

Everything seems back to beautiful normal in laptop-land… except that at least two almost-finished blog post drafts are GONE. Including a lengthy comparison of Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake as weekend getaway options. Disappeared! Except for this one partial title: “5-” Which frankly I could have managed to remember anyway.

Skye: I swear that this is true.

So that’s a bit traumatic. But EVEN WORSE.

My second shock has to do with Harry Potter. As you know, I am a Level 5 Harry Potter Fan with a tendency to geek out on the subject, sometimes at the expense of a small child. I just finished reading the entire series to one-and-a-half of my children (i.e., my 7-year-old listened avidly to every word, and my almost-4-year-old was asleep for at least half of it). It took us many months, and although I know there are those who would judge me for reading all seven books to such young’uns (believe me, I did not take the exposure lightly – I did fret about certain themes, and very occasionally edited small things out), my kids were great about it. They loved it, and I loved it. (So much that I did voices – WITH accents.)

Such an amazing story. It just gets better with every reading. The kids were almost never scared, and E took everything in stride. When we finished the series, he immediately asked, “Can we start at the beginning and read it again?” And to be honest, it’s been handy being able to refer to HP when questions come up about difficult things (war, politics, love, death, bullying, etc.).

I also, of course, bought The Cursed Child and read it (to myself only) after we finished The Deathly Hallows. (I haven’t told E we own it, otherwise he’d insist on hearing it, and I just don’t fancy reading a play aloud to him.)

harry-potter-cursed-child

And I enjoyed it, especially the quirkiness of the new characters, although it felt very weird to read it as a play, and without Rowling’s unique voice. I’ll have to mull over and re-read to know how I really feel about it.

But anyway. Back to my trauma. My identity crisis.

I mentioned in my geek-out that I’d been sorted into Ravenclaw a couple of times, but that was years ago and I don’t even remember how. Then I became a member of the beta version of Pottermore, where they have an actual genuine virtual Sorting Hat, and I was sorted into Hufflepuff. When you become a Hufflepuff, you learn all the things that make Hufflepuff life so great, and I really did relate to it, and embraced the identity.

Then, just recently, after I started reading HP to the kids, I got curious to see if I’d changed over the years, and did another test on gotoquiz.com – the one with “all possible questions” – and it sorted me into… Gryffindor. That was a shock to me – not unwelcome, exactly, but startling to say the least. Was it possible that I’d gotten braver with age? But I said to myself, this is not Pottermore. The only way to know FOR SURE is to get re-sorted on Pottermore, because it’s the real deal.

I finally did that today, with my newly happy laptop, doing my best to consider each answer carefully and honestly. Because this is crucial. And what did I get?? Effing Slytherin. I still can’t believe it. Seriously, friends, is there ANYTHING dark about me?? Other than the fact that I do actually rather like snakes… What am I missing? Where did I take this turn?? (It’s probably The Cursed Child‘s fault, come to think of it. It’s trying to teach me a lesson.)

If you ever see me sacrificing my friendships for the sake of my ambition, just smack me, please.

Because this is an emergency, just to keep me from tossing and turning all night, I just did the “shockingly accurate” Buzzfeed quiz for hybrid houses. Good ol’ Buzzfeed. Now I can go to bed. Not sure I can ever go to Pottermore again, though.

huffleclaw hogwarts sorting test
Does this seem more Dilovelyish?

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100 Happy Days – Day 20: My Hubbibi, among other things

Lots of happy things today!

I should mention that one of them is: my blog is working!!! Almost basically back to normal! YAHOO! (Big thanks to my dad for helping and putting up with lots of rigamarole regarding my blog issues.) So now I’m looking forward to backdating the happy days I’ve stored up AS WELL AS posting new ones.

Then we have my Hubbibi, who magically procured groceries at some insanely late hour last night or early hour this morning (he works at 7 am) because we had somehow gotten ourselves into a situation of almost-lunchlessness for our son.

Plus, he’s cleaned the kitchen for the last two evenings in a row, and when my husband cleans the kitchen… it’s lick-the-counter clean, baby. (Not to be confused with “lick the counter clean,” which he does not do. Gross.)

AND he brushed off the car for me before he left this morning, which was a blessing, because SNOW and ICE are apparently all the rage. (I love you, Sean! xoxoxoxox)

IMG_7384
Ha ha. Those are our snow tires in the corner. A li’l bit of irony for ya.

Then, also, there’s been sunshine on snow today. That makes me happy in spite of snow pants and scraping windshields, because it’s just so pretty and sparkly and brilliant.

IMG_7385

AND, you gotta be stoked if you’re not in Buffalo right now. (And if you are… my heart goes out to you.)

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Narcissism on the Interwebs

My husband has a love-hate relationship with Facebook. He has created and deleted his account countless times. He knows that, for now, no other social media site does what Facebook does – that’s why he always ends up returning. The part he dislikes – apart from their sneaky privacy policies – is how it encourages narcissism.

facebook like
Likety-like?

I can see his point. There is something about publishing things on the internet that seems to lend them validity. You can go on Facebook and tell people: “Kids are at school, time for my morning coffee!” and chances are, there will be friends who Like your status, or who comment: “Me too! :)” or “OMG I <3 my Timmy’s!” Yep. Morning coffee: validated.

To Sean (and many others, I imagine), this is annoying. Who gives a poop about your morning coffee? Why should this be important to anyone?

And this is just a microcosm of the Greater Interweb, where anyone can be a published writer by starting a blog, anyone can initiate a comment war with a well-placed bitchy remark, and you never know if your stupid video of yourself accidentally face-planting in your kitchen might just go viral.

To me, the internet is simply a reflection of humanity. I’m not going to deny that, unfortunately, it has its evil side. The web validates child porn, white supremacy, and gun violence along with your morning coffee. That’s humanity for you.

At the same time, there are forums to condemn those things. And sources of sheer awesomeness to counteract them.

I see it as an equalizer. You can have your say and I can have mine. The floor is open.

I remember what it was like before the internet. I got my first email address in university, and it was a saving grace for a homesick freshwoman just a bit too introverted to love residence life. You mean, I can write to my family all at once? And they can write back that same day??

It took me longer to enjoy the wider internet. I remember my dad, who has been working with computers since they took up whole rooms, saying, “If you don’t know, you could look it up. On the internet.” I was dismissive; it seemed like too much bother. (HA.)

Now, I can barely imagine life without it. No more calling the Weather Office if you miss the long-term forecast. No more flipping futilely through Leonard Maltin if you can’t remember where you saw that actor before. No more recording grainy songs off the radio with DJs talking over the first ten seconds. No more researching with a mountainous pile of hulking tomes edited by a few academic strangers; Wikipedia weighs nothing, and it’s edited by everybody. Amazing!!

It’s a brave new world, easily accessible.

Aside from its handiness, though, it’s a great reminder that we are never alone. Whether your obsession be belly dancing, quantum physics, vintage cars, or high-quality writing implements with literary cachet {insert *Sean-cough*}, you know that online, you can find your peeps.

If you or someone you love has a miscarriage, postpartum depression, cancer, a broken heart, or anything else, there’s a community.

Also, if you need to laugh so hard you cry, or have your faith in humanity restored, it’s all there.

Some say that blogs are the ultimate example of narcissism. Any idiot can start a blog and start spewing their opinions and minutiae of their lives into cyberspace. True. The quality of blogs ranges from sublime to asinine.

But so what? As with all forms of media, all you need is a filter. If it sucks, DON’T WASTE TIME ON IT. If it smacks of narcissism, find something else.

I barely knew what a blog was when I started blogging; I just wanted to write. Little did I know that it would become the creative outlet I hadn’t realized I craved; that it would be an enveloping source of healing when my son died; that my message of encouragement to my colleagues would be read by thousands of disheartened teachers; that blogging would strengthen old friendships and open pathways to new ones.

It is wonderful, and humbling, to meet a reader for the first time and hear, “I feel like I know you – like we’re already friends!” And it’s not untrue: if you connected with me through my words, then we are connected. I wrote them for you.

I’ve felt similarly reading other blogs, learning so much about that writer and thinking, Wow, I love this person I’ve never met.

Mutual blog-reading and commenting is a unique form of friendship I’d never imagined. You can bond with people thousands of miles away, with whom you would never have crossed paths in life. That’s pretty special. The blogs I gravitate to are written by thoughtful, intelligent people, on all kinds of topics, and it’s genuinely comforting to read and relate to their words – especially after a national tragedy. In a community like Yeah Write, where mutual-readership is on fire, it’s like having a group discussion where we contemplate and compose our perspectives, then offer them to the company. I dig it.

And I don’t consider it narcissism to base your writing on your own experience. After all, that’s what we have to work with that’s most authentic and relatable.

As for Facebook… I like it. People complain about toxic comment threads and nasty gossip; I avoid those things as much as possible. It helps to have really nice friends.

It makes me smile to read about the kids or the garden, or see a photo of a delicious dinner or the dog looking silly. Those ordinary tidbits make me feel close to people I don’t see enough.

And when there’s serious news, whether personal or global, it’s heartening to see it through the lens of people I love.

By all means, tell me about your coffee. We can have one together.

continental breakfasts march10
Photo by Lisa of Continental Breakfasts.

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What I’ve Learned from NaBloPoMo

Well, folks, it’s the last day of November. I am proud to say I have DONE IT!

30 blog posts

One per day, posted before midnight (though on some days it was a VERY close call)

21,285 words written

An average of 710 words per day

(But if I’m honest, handfuls of those belonged to my students, the gang at Google, and those talented comment spammers)

Shortest post: Fun With Photo Booth (65 words) – lettin’ those images speak for themselves

Longest post: Dilovely’s Playlist: 25 Legendary Canadian Songs (x2!) (1,777 words) – on day ONE, of all things

Runners-up for longest post: the marathon Toddler Tracks – Recent Quotes and Conversations (1,663 words) and My Twilight Rant (1,503 words)

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My Personal FAQ:

Why am I doing this, again?

Because I am exceedingly stubborn with respect to my knee-jerk no-quit prove-I-can-do-it response. Same reason I wrote a 75-page research paper in French for my M.A.: “‘Cuz I said I was gonna.”

Aren’t my readers getting sick of me?

Yes, probably. I’m getting kinda sick of me.

Would I do this again next November?

Hmm. There would have to be a compelling reason – BESIDES “I said I was gonna.”

Isn’t posting a video or some photos when I’m short on time just… cheating?

I rather think it is, for the purpose of NaBloPoMo, since the point is to write every day… but the gals at BlogHer said I could!

Would it still be cheating next month, when the pressure’s off?

Strangely, no. Somehow I don’t think it’s cheating unless there’s desperation involved.

Should I be using the writing prompt?

BlogHer offered a “writing prompt” each day, for people who needed inspiration. Which is nice. As it turned out, yesterday was the first day I thought to look at it, and the prompt was “What is the last thing you do before you go to bed?” Um, WTF? Why would anybody want to read about me brushing my teeth, taking my earrings off, and giving treats to the cats? Unless it’s supposed to an exercise in imagination where I tell you how I have to check my spy-cams for terrorist activity in the palace, or fly my jet home from Wiki-Washoo, before going to bed. But clearly, imagination is not my strong point. Just as well I didn’t use the writing prompts, then.

Has this made me a better blogger?

Well, I had to resort to cheating, so… NO.

Has this made me a WORSE blogger?

Gosh. Not permanently, I hope.

Why I liked NaBloPoMo:

  • Once I get going, writing gives me energy. When I finish a blog post, I am UP. (When that’s early in the day, it’s great. When it’s bedtime… oops.)
  • It gave me an excuse to do the writing I love. Sometimes I have trouble justifying this “me” time, since nobody’s paying me for it so far. For one month, I relished this obligation – almost all the time. (I will admit to having fantasies about writing full-time. But I’m sorta hooked on my student moments, too.)
  • It was good to write – finally! – about some of the ideas in my backlog. I made a dent! But then I had more ideas… so my idea bank is right where I started. Can’t complain.
  • Writing every day without fail makes going to a 3-posts-per-week format look like a piece of cake.
  • It’s over! Suddenly it’s going to feel like I have so much flexibility with my “free time”.
  • Participating in NaBloPoMo Soup at BlogHer, I got to read lots of interesting posts by other women – in fact, I could easily have done nothing but that! There are some fascinating blogs out there.

Why I didn’t like NaBloPoMo:

  • Exercise pretty much fell by the wayside.
  • Bedtime often fell by the wayside.
  • Instead of starting out hard and getting easier, it was kind of the opposite.
  • Times when it was hard: a) on my more draining teaching days, b) when finishing a post jockeyed with bedtime for the umpteenth night.
  • Those darn videos almost derailed me more than once. They take for-freaking-ever to upload.
  • There were times when I felt inspired to tackle a big topic, but didn’t, because I knew I couldn’t do it in one day. That was frustrating.
  • I couldn’t shake the feeling of narcissism. Seriously, as FABULOUS as Dilovely may be, do readers truly want to hear from her every single day? Are the things my blogself has to say really that important? Well, I obviously can’t be the judge of this, but I’m gonna go with “not bloody likely.” If my own Hubbibi had email notifications piling up in his inbox sometimes, I can only assume he wasn’t alone. People are super-busy, on a perpetual basis. I feel privileged to get as much of your time as you give normally; I’d hate to abuse that. (MOTL.)

Once again, to each of my sweet readers, whether you be a loyal follower, or an occasional browser, or a random person who happened to stumble upon my blog whilst searching for a chihuahua in a costume: THANK YOU for reading, and for keeping me accountable. I most definitely would not have been up to this challenge without you.

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Happy Bloggiversary to Me!

Two years ago today, for no particular reason, I started blogging. (Well, I might have done it because my sister had started a cool blog about her travels and it looked fun… but it was a total whim.) In all honesty, I barely knew what a blog was. Case in point: that inaugural entry says November 3rd, but it was the 2nd. I didn’t know how to fix my settings for my time zone. See? TOTAL ROOKIE.

At the time, I was on maternity leave with E, who was only five months old, not even eating solid foods. Such a baby, so little… Sigh. I wasn’t bored – I was completely infatuated with my son – but as soon as I started writing, I realized I had been needing exactly that. I had been neglecting my journal for years, but also neglecting to replace that creative outlet. Suddenly my brain was going, “COOL! Let’s do another one!!”

At the time, I didn’t know if anyone would ever read my blog, and I didn’t feel the need to write about anything in particular. The idea of National Blog Posting Month seemed like a piece of cake – just write something every day? Why, I’d love to. Of course, my posts were shorter back then. (How did I get so verbose??)

Now, although I’m still barely scratching the surface of the phenomenon that is THE BLOGGIVERSE, this li’l website has become indispensable to me. It makes me look at life more carefully, appreciate things more deliberately, and think more analytically. It assures that I make something on a regular basis, even if it’s mostly inconsequential. (At least it feels more consequential than, say, dinner, which disappears.)

I have been excited to discover how energizing and habit-forming blogging is. Now, I can’t stop. My ideas-to-available-time ratio is frustrating, but it makes me wish I could just write all day, every day… and I can’t imagine having nothing to write about. Maybe this month, if I succeed in posting every day, I will get through some of my huge backlog of “stuff I want to write about”.

[Actually, today I was planning to celebrate this 2nd anniversary by publishing, for your viewing pleasure, for the first time, my very first work of fiction. But after last night, I realized I need to pace myself. That’s why you’re getting a relatively mini-size post today. You’ll have to stay tuned for Dilovely’s First Book.]

And then there’s you. You are the reason I do this. Not because I think you would go into chattering fits of withdrawal if you didn’t get your Dilovely fix every day – hahaha. Not that you need me – just the opposite. Because you’re there, I have a reason – beyond myself – to write. If it were just for me, I probably would skip it way too often – even though I know it’s good for me. (I’m certain many of you can relate to this tendency.) You’re holding me accountable, in the most simple, supportive way. You keep me from going into withdrawal.

And of course, this summer, you were the listeners… without whom I would have been lost.

Thank you, thank you, and more thank you.

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