Why I blog

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” ~Gene Fowler

It’s been a quiet Saturday in Metlakatla. That is to say, Rob is on call, and I’m online. I’m contemplating creating another site for business use, and I’m feeling drawn to the WordPress.org side of the universe for the new venture. As much as I love the ease of WordPress.com, (this blog will stay on the .com side) there’s no doubt that the .org option provides more flexibility. You can use plugins that aren’t available for the .com. I’m learning about a whole new world that exists, if I’m willing to do a little more of the set up myself.

Sometimes when I find I’ve spent pretty much my whole Saturday poking around online, following this link and that link, I begin to wonder…is it worth it? Am I neglecting real life for a fake digital version? The answer could be yes, if you look at a specific day or period of time. I tend to dive in and stay in the depths for long stretches, until I have to come up for air, food, bathroom or bed. Other days I don’t live there at all…my digital forays are confined to sites I’m viewing for work, or for life needs…travel or orders or the like.

The reality is that blogging started as a distraction for me. It was a good way for me to learn some new skills and take my mind off things that I couldn’t face at the moment. Some of that has changed in the past couple of years. It’s no longer an escape. It has become a joy, and a pleasure, and it keeps me on a learning curve with no end in sight. I didn’t foresee the connections I would find, or the sense of kindred spirit that I feel when I read someone else’s blog and feel an instant bond. Because I’m out there too, in the digital world, sharing my voice, my thoughts, my days. Not life-changing, not prize-winning…but connected, in the fragile way that on-line connections are formed.

Sometimes I’m intimidated. There are a lot of smart people out there with amazing sites; blogs with humor that seems to pour out of every syllable; writers with insight, calling, passion…you name it. I recognize, with honesty, humility, and just a touch of envy, I’ll never measure up to a lot of what I see. And yet, part of the fun is in the variety, the challenge to improve, learn, grow. Sometimes I feel like I have a tiger by the tail. Keeping up with technology…no, I’m not keeping up, I’m just barely on the cusp of using what’s available…sometimes I think the biggest hurdle is I don’t even know what I don’t know. Sometimes the challenge is making time for a self-imposed chore that isn’t even generating income. But I don’t really see blogging like that. It isn’t a chore…more like my own little baby that is nurtured with my time and attention. As to income…well, not all payments are in the form of money. Maybe I have three tigers in hand. Or maybe it’s just one tiger with three tails…I don’t know. But I do know that though there’s nothing demanding that I blog, I’ll keep doing it. It stretches me…lures me into technology I would never learn about without this impetus; makes me think about new possibilities…surely not a bad thing for my early 50s?

Sometimes I think all this is leading me somewhere. Some day I’ll look back and connect the dots. Or not. Maybe this is nothing more than self-expression, and a little engine for vanity and fulfillment. Except that doesn’t feel quite right either. While I don’t kid myself that I’m speaking to anyone else in particular, I don’t think I’m just writing to see my own words. Well, at least I have the angst that goes with writing…and the questions. Is anybody out there? And if so, is my writing worth reading? Or just empty words?

One thing I’ve learned from reading other blogs…a lot of the things that I wonder, others wonder. My questions and feelings are rarely unique. I suppose there’s value in recognizing that a) I’m not alone and b) I’m not often original and c) there’s a wonderful feeling of camaraderie that comes over me when I read something that I could have written. Or maybe just wrote…the funny thing is, sometimes that happens, no plagiarism involved or intended. I think there are so many writers putting out content online…it seems inevitable that some of us are  thinking and writing similar things.

There’s a quote  (of course, a quote!) I like that resonates with me. From the movie, You’ve Got Mail, the character, Kathleen Kelly says:

 Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void.

See you out there!

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Birthday, America! Land of the free, because of the brave, and land that I love…amazing, feisty, diverse, mythical, broad and wide, beautiful, breath-taking…a country like no other. Of course, all countries can make that claim. Each is like no other. Each is unique, and each has positives and negatives. America is no different. But it is an amazing land, physically, and still a wonderful experiment in freedom and the exercise of self-governance.

I’m a bit of a history buff, albeit very selective in my interests. One of the periods that I especially love is the era of colonial America. That is a fascinating time in history, not only because of the events that occurred that most Americans are familiar with…the Revolutionary War, the political struggle for freedom, the establishment of a new nation…but also because as you learn about the everyday lives of people, you realize…they were really very much like us, in many ways. Except in all the ways they were so different. There’s a line in the movie “National Treasure,” when Nicolas Cage is quoting from the Declaration of Independence, and he concludes by saying that “people don’t talk that way any more.” Read the writings of the founding fathers, or other authors of that time, and you have to agree. People don’t talk that way any more. Those were serious men and women, and they lived through serious and perilous times. They used language in a way that most modern Americans could not even follow, and somehow, with all the odds in the world against them, claimed their independence and birthed a new age. Quite a feat.

One of my favorite movies is the musical 1776. Some of the music is a little hokey, but beyond the comic moments is a moving story of vision, division, loyalty, achievement and heroism. And watching it, I’m reminded that something we take for granted was really a miracle, on every level.

Happy parades, fireworks, hotdogs, apple pie! I’ll be enjoying a small town parade today, and seeing fireworks. And maybe sometime in the next few hours, on this middle-of-the-week holiday, I’ll pull out my dvd and remember how it all started. I’ll remember that the Declaration is more than just a historical document, that the Founding Fathers were real people with real disagreements and lives in the balance. And I’ll appreciate something that I rarely stop to think of: that I am free, and my freedom was inherited from people who lived centuries ago. But their gift is still giving, and Americans today are still the fortunate recipients of their gift.

A movie moment from real life

My husband loves the little guy movies, the ones about the underdog who beats the odds, those feel good stories that warm the heart. Sometimes the inspiration is a real person, an everyday guy or girl who reminds us that impossible things do happen. I’m betting this is a story we’ll see on the big screen soon.

Sometimes the hero is hiding right in front of our eyes. Enjoy!

Happy Halloween!

This little cartoon is near and dear to my heart. It was the end of a Disney Channel Halloween special that my kids used to watch every year. A friend posted the little song on her blog, set to a video of classic cartoon characters. Made me curious to see if the Disney version was posted on You Tube. Of course it is. Is there anything not on You Tube?! Thanks for the tip, MJ!

Disney magic

My kids love Disney. They can’t help themselves, they were raised on it. For most of their early childhood, their tv exposure was limited to the Disney Channel and classic Disney movies. That grew into a love of the parks and an ongoing appreciation of the best of Disney music and inspiration.

I admit I shamelessly fostered their interest, fueled by my own youthful exposure to the House of Mouse, and a sense of security that if the tv was tuned to the Disney Channel I could relax and know their little minds were being exposed to wholesome fare. Alright, sometimes corny, but in the 80s and early 90s, Disney served very wholesome fare every day.

What is it about the formula that has worked so well for so long? The best of Disney, the classic animation, is both charming and clever. The art and music are witty, and hold up well. Best of all, the characters and stories are innocent, hopeful, idealistic…all qualities that nurture, especially today, when childhood is threatened by a too-early loss of innocence.

So this week my son, just out of the army, and his wife, still in the army, are at Disney World. It warms my heart that they chose to go there for vacation. Maybe they feel the need of sweetness and light when their daily lives are grounded in a very different reality. Not sure of the draw, but whatever it is, I support it. You can’t have too much innocence in this world, I’m thinking.

Stephanie and Matt went to Disneyland earlier this month and took little Riley for her first visit. She loved the teacup ride and got to sample several others that were just her speed. She got a Minnie doll and another toy or two that will serve as reminders of her first visit. She’s a 4th generation fan.

Not sure when I’ll get another Disney trip in. Rob and I were in Orlando last year for a conference and I had to carve out a day to visit Disney World, the first time we’d been in several years. It was odd to be there, two adults lining up for rides and wandering through the crowds. No kids in tow, no strollers, no small hands to keep hold of. I missed that a bit. And yet it didn’t stop me from enjoying the nostalgia of being in the park, seeing what had changed, being completely charmed by the amazing fireworks display at the end of the day.

As much as I love some things that are current, modern, up-to-date (think phones, computers, internet), I am equally enthralled by the timeless and classic era that Disney represents. Want to see cute and clever? Watch some of the old Disney cartoons. Or for even more fun, look up some of the Disney live action movies from the 50s and 60s. I promise, you’ll be transported to an America far, far away. And it’s a good place to visit now and then.

I’m not one to look backward, believing that everything from an earlier era was perfect, just because things have been whitewashed by the passing of time, or sentiment for the past and frustration with the present. But there are some things that only seem better as they age. Here’s to you, Mickey! May the House of Mouse stand a long time, entertaining and reminding that humor and cleverness can be kid-friendly and still appeal to the adults in the room. Oh, and some of the current stuff works pretty well too. Can you say Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom? “Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me!”

Movies as life

Since their invention, movies have had a special place in viewers’ hearts. As with books, there are movies genres to fit all tastes and moods. I usually pick chick flicks (no surprise there) or comedies, but now and then there’s a bit of human drama that is portrayed so beautifully, so compellingly, that I actually have to purchase the movie to watch again.

Such a treat is “The King’s Speech.” I saw it recently, and was completely charmed and touched by the story of a man who was burdened with both a royal role and a speech impediment. Bad enough to have one or the other, but both? Colin Firth very convincingly portrayed this reality, the story of King George VI, who came to the throne as King of England and the British empire during the late 1930s, following his brother’s abdication. The movie focuses on the weight of the responsibility the king feels as war with Germany looms and he is tasked with leadership of his country. Compounding the weight of the job is the stammering impediment he struggles against. Impossible to hide speech difficulties in the new era of radio.

Colin Firth’s ability to imitate the speech patterns of someone who stutters was Oscar-worthy, as was the story itself. You feel the pain of the poor little rich boy as the king recounts in a scene with his speech therapist that he was mistreated as a child by a nanny who withheld food from him, and that it took his parents three years to notice. In another scene, he says he is part of a firm, not a family.

The life-long impact of damage done in formative years is clearly seen, as is the reality that wealth and status don’t insulate anyone from hurt. We are quick to recognize the shortcomings of adults, but how often do we have the opportunity to understand the components that shape the people around us? As illustrated in the movie, even other family members may not realize the emotional battle of a son, brother, daughter, sister. Relationship does not equal insight.

But ultimately, the movie is about overcoming: overcoming circumstances, overcoming personal challenges, overcoming the negative influence of others. The king had one person in his life who was his champion (at least as portrayed in the movie; I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy here). His wife was his cheerleader, his defender, his partner, and she accepted him as he was, but she also sought to help him face the difficulties of his life. Some people are fortunate enough to have such a partner. The really fortunate ones even recognize it.

There are times when each of us needs, and when we can give. And maybe the role changes in relation to the people around us at a given moment. Watching this story, set long ago against the dramatic backdrop of a developing WWII, I realize that regardless of the big picture, there may be a personal triumph or tragedy unfolding. I can’t be a champion for everyone in my life. But there are those I can touch. And the real work begins with seeing.

Who is part of your life that needs your insight, your compassion? When you really think about it, the answers may surprise you. I’m sure that few people would have seen a needy and insecure person in the king of England. But there he was, hiding behind the formality and protocol of the office. Sometimes the ones we least suspect of need are the very people with the greatest deficit.

Look. See. Love. Repeat.