Big News

Nothing like a little external validation – for my writing.

A piece of mine was featured yesterday on wowblog.me; “wow” stands for “Women’s Older Wisdom.”

Here’s a direct link:

http://wowblog.me/this-isnt-exactly-what-we-had-planned/

I will be paid for it.

Let’s let that land for a minute.

I have been writing since I was a pre-schooler. This is the first time I can remember where I will be paid for writing something that wasn’t to serve or promote an organization I worked for as an employee, or to win a prize in school by writing about someone else’s writing.

This is me getting paid for writing as me, A WRITER.

Hot damn.

Validation, thy name is “the check’s in the mail.”

And delightfully, validation out of serendipity: this opportunity came about because my cousin forwarded a link to “On Dying Heroically” to Pat Taub, who runs wowblog.me. An invitation to submit a guest post resulted. So thanks, Cos! And thanks, Pat, for the opportunity.

I chose an image of fireworks against a dark sky for this announcement, because this accomplishment is a bit bittersweet: I was asked to produce a piece on widowhood in middle age. But that’s what I’m living and writing about, so that was fine with me.

For those of you looking for guest post opportunities, Wowblog.me is interested: the blog wants to reflect diverse opinions and experiences. If you want to submit, your piece should be 550-650 words and you should include a short bio (100 words or less) and a thumbnail head shot. Take a look at the blog to get an idea of the kinds of articles published there.

When I looked at my stats, I realized that readers who came over from wowblog.me to check out Ridiculouswoman were looking at pages I hadn’t updated in a while, like my about page, and my books and music page. So that gave me a nudge to tidy those up a bit.

I did recently add a few new entries to the Snark Tank – check out “Whipped,” “Meat is Gluten Free!” and a new, top entry under “Shit Doctors Say.”

That this happened, getting published on somebody else’s blog and getting paid for it,  finally pushed me to add “freelance blogger” to my resume and even to my LinkedIn profile. Not that I’d quit a day job, if I had one! Still looking, there. But I’m looking for a day job (or a part-time job or any kind of a job that will bring in some money to pay for silly things like health insurance and electricity) to support my brand new, long-postponed, writing “career” and related (hoped-for) speaking engagements.

If you’re new here, please sign up to follow either through WordPress or by email (there are links on the right) and do share your comments – you don’t have to have an account to do that. (If you run into any snags trying to post a comment, please let me know and I’ll look into it.)

Thanks for reading and for your support. Readers of and commenters on this blog are my online community, and I love you. I really do. Curses, no tissues handy, again…

Sore from newly adopted devotion to working out spurred by alarming weight gain, and trying to get up the gumption to paint another room, I remain,

Your actually published by someone other than myself,

Ridiculouswoman

By “Traffic” I Meant Cars, Not Clicks

I thought blogging was about writing – silly me.

Yesterday, I used the word “traffic” as a tag in a blog post.

Big mistake.

(The post existed only to send readers over to the Snark Tank, where I had added content. Snarky content. I’m not proud. But that’s why the Snark Tank is over there on a separate page).

What I didn’t realize was what a loaded “tag” the word “traffic” was.

I meant road traffic – you know, cars on concrete or asphalt?

Not blog traffic.

It took me an hour or two to figure out why my home page was getting such a spike in views – near record number of views, and several “likes,” which was odd, because the stats indicated that less than half the people who viewed the blog post actually clicked through to the Snark Tank, which was the whole purpose of the (one-line) post.

One guy somehow managed to “like” the post three times.

Several of the new “likers” and a few new followers have blogs that appear to be about – well,  how to get more traffic on your blog. I always try to check out new “likers” and “followers” to see what might have drawn them here, and to see if their “like” or “follow” might lead me to a blog I’d love to read.

In this case, for the most part, no such luck.

Look,  I was very late to the blogging party and, as it turns out, quite naive about the blogging enterprise when I created this blog in October of 2017.

I though blogs were for writing. And reading. And reading other people’s writing.

It hadn’t occurred to me that there was a universe of blogs that existed seemingly only to promote their existence (“Here’s a blog! Like my blog!”) without really offering much else, except additional promotion of  an underlying business enterprise.

In this instance, the “likers” and new followers seemed to be marketers marketing their ability to market things, including blogs. SEO and all that.

Look, I understand the need to “monetize:” I’ve got a store, I’ve got a “donate” button, but they’re mostly just to try to make a little scratch so I don’t have to interrupt the flow of the blog with ads. So far, zippo on that front anyway.

But my goal with this blog is not to simply pile up a big number of “followers” who don’t actually read or interact with anything I write.

My goal was to contribute something, some small thing, that entertains, or might brighten a day, share an emotion, validate an experience or just help me as a writer (and a person) and you as a reader (and a person) to not feel so alone. “Learning from loss to live with love and laughter,” right? And gratitude.

So I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I’m going to let go of followers who appear to have chosen to follow my blog only to draw my attention to some thing, or some service, they want to sell me. Hey, grab me with with your writing, and I might buy your book – but I’m not going to buy your ten or twelve or whatever secrets to SEO success, OK?

I’m positive the folks I let go of won’t notice that they aren’t seeing Ridiculouswoman in their feed. Because I’m positive they just clicked “like” or “follow” because of the tag “traffic” and didn’t actually read a word of the post itself.

Not even that one-line post.

They might come back. OK.

If they actually are following and read all the way to here (yeah, and over in the Snark Tank, I’m sayin’ “fat chance”) I think owe it to them to repeat that I don’t trade likes for likes or follows for follows. I’m looking for community here – and I’m so grateful that I’ve found it, even if it is smaller than what these marketing experts define as successful for a blog.

So good luck to all, and I wish all you marketers who market your ability to market things much success. I just define success differently. As in the rare comment that let’s me know you actually read my writing and it touched you, impressed you, amused you or inspired you. Sumpin’ like that.

Thanks for your attention. We now return to our regularly (ok, irregularly) scheduled blogging, already in progress.

Off to weed the garden, I remain,

Your naive, hoping-to-find-your-great-writing-on-your-amazing-blog,

Ridiculouswoman

How Not To Assemble A Chair

If you can cover it up with black electrical tape, it’s not a mistake. Right?

Feeling virtuous after dropping a Subaru-full of styrofoam packing and cardboard at recycling center, regard parts list. All present and accounted for.

Hmm, two different lengths of bolts. Odd. Shrug and rely on vast experience assembling cheap furniture ordered online.

Allen wrenches. Smile, contemplating adding six more, all the same size, to collection, as thoughtful manufacturer includes one for every chair, even when chairs come boxed in sets of two.

Hmm, diagrammatic instructions. Yeah, yeah, bolt, spring washer, flat washer. Got it.

Attach seat frame to chair back with bolts.

Seems tight. Shouldn’t be so hard to screw in, with handy Allen wrench.

Take firmer grip on seat frame.

Feel bolts coming through the other side.

Recall two sizes of bolts.

Commence swearing. Those bastards! They didn’t say which bolts go where!

Uh, no, wait.

They did.

Accept failure to sufficiently review diagrammatic instructions. Realize used bolt 4’s where bolt 3’s were supposed to go.

Remove too-long bolts.

Examine seat frame back, now exuding small, but potentially injurious, spiky shards of wood-that-was-forced-out-with-too-long-bolts. Whack with rubber handle of screwdriver.

Recall existence of wood glue, supplied.

Apply wood glue, replace spiky pieces of seat frame back damaged by too-long bolts.  Whack with screwdriver again.

Sigh.

That’ll have to do, for now.

Use shorter bolts to attach seat frame. Realize longer bolts go in corners of same.

Done.

Proceed with assembly.

Chair legs, on.

Now side stretchers.

Wait, wha?

Those bastards! Holes facing wrong direction! Can’t insert side stretcher!

Oh, wait.

In view of short-bolt-long-bolt mishap, consider possibility of erroneous chair leg installation.

Remove chair leg bolts.

Switch sides.

Observe side-stretcher holes now in correct orientation.

Well, it was sorta their fault! They put “R” for right and “L” for left – was it so wrong to assume that this meant right and left from the chair’s point of view?

Breathe.

Magnanimously accept this as a learning experience. Anticipate smooth assembly of five other chairs.

Proceed.

Dollop of glue, side stretcher inserted, requiring only mild force. Secure with screws.

Repeat dollop of glue on other side

Wait, wha?

Those bastards! They cut the side stretcher too long! No way can it be forced into that now-correctly-oriented hole!

Oh, wait.

Consider that tightening screws on other side before inserting both side stretchers restricted ability to force remaining side stretcher into holes.

Loosen screws.

Smile indulgently, appreciating ability to observe, analyze and solve side stretcher problem. Force in side stretcher.

Tighten, both sides.

On to the chair seat.

Hmm, no pre-drilled holes.

Whatever.

Smugly select correct wood screws, and marvel at softness of chair seat wood. Screws go in easily, even with small, mildly arthritic hands.

Voila! Chair!

Oh, wait.  Shouldn’t the seat be flush against the back?

Ah. Notice chair-back shaped notches.

Sigh.

Remove wood screws.

Re-orient seat to fit back into very obvious notches.

Acknowledge failure of attention to detail.

Smile proudly at zen-like attitude of calm self-acceptance.

Tighten wood screws, satisfied that no one will notice extra holes in underside of chair seat.

Now, voila. Chair.

Check glue on damaged part of back of seat frame.

Dry enough.

Eureka. Idea. Genius, actually.

Where’s that black electrical tape?

Not in the storage box marked, “tape?”

Sigh.

Shopping excursion.

Obtain black electrical tape at grocery store, along with lunch for Angelic Daughter, and a bunch of frozen dinners just because of coupon. Smile, knowing frozen dinners will come in handy sometime between Monday night and never. Smart shopping.

Eat leftovers while Angelic Daughter eats healthy salad selected from choices offered of 1) healthy salad from grocery store or 3) healthy salad and cup of soup from grocery store (because, electrical tape).

Lunch consumed, experience flash of inspiration – take before and after pictures of ingenious black electrical tape self-help remedy (a/k/a patchy fix for lack of attention to detail that caused damage to new chair) for blog post!

“Before” picture taken. Apply black electrical tape.

Realize can’t tear this kind of tape. Need scissors. But box cutter within reach. That’ll do.

Cut tape with “safety” box cutter, leaving lumpy ball of tape all stuck to itself.

Sigh.

Retrieve scissors from kitchen. Trim tape.

IMG_20190504_144038032.jpg

Admire results. No one will notice while also not noticing extra screw holes on bottom of  seat. Take “after picture.”

Test chair.  Sturdy. Reasonably comfortable. Looks great. Smile with satisfaction at prescient design sense deployed via cheap furniture purchased online.

Elapsed time of first chair assembly (before electrical tape lunch excursion): one hour, forty- five minutes.

Elapsed time of second chair assembly: ten minutes.

Indulge in a moment of smug self-satisfaction at ability to learn from mistakes.

And to disguise them with black electrical tape.

Flagrantly avoiding pending-interview-induced wardrobe-crisis (those bastards! Whaddya mean no in store pick-up available today? AUGH!), I remain

Your confident-four-more-chairs-can-now-be-assembled-in-less-than-an-hour-and-sale-rack-scavenging-skills-will-resolve-wardrobe-crisis-in-less-than-two-days,

Ridiculouswoman

We Interrupt This Blog for a Brief Paroxysm of Panic

When blogging, work and OCD collide…

The lower the wage, the longer the employer spends explaining all the ways I could die on the job.

They spend even more time explaining all the things I’m not supposed to say. A bunch of rules that are perilously easy for a speak-before-I-think-trained-to-be-uncensored-in-the-moment-who-likes-to-make-people-laugh improvisor to violate, in our increasingly no-sense-of-humor-allowed workplaces.

So, within the first week, I’ve been confronted with a litany of ways to screw up and lose the new low-paying job I’m starting to wonder why I accepted in the first place.

After watching one of the innumerable terrifying training videos I am required to watch to preserve the privilege of awakening at 4 a.m. to work 4 to 8 hours less per week than I thought I was promised, I took down my immediate past post, “Survivor,” because I panicked that I might have said something I shouldn’t have, according to all those rules I was exposed to in all those videos.

Right after I trashed that post, the manager walked by.

Opportunity! Confess!

Seizing upon a policy I had just learned about open communication (I think? I was having an anxiety attack, ok?) I told him that I had a blog and that I was worried about something I had written, and that I took the post down. I mentioned how many followers I have (he thinks 129 is a lot – how sweet!) and got the “oh, that’s OK, that’s not a problem.”

Never one to quit while I’m ahead, I also blurted out that while I had never been formally diagnosed, I worry a lot and I’m definitely in the (mild) OCD ballpark. (A doctor did once tell me that, actually. Right before she mentioned Prozac, and I left.)

I was not required to, and didn’t, disclose this little, um, personality difference, during the hiring process, which process I described with gratitude in the blog post I took down because of the panic attack about saying too much about the hiring process.

Round and round she goes! Where the anxiety stops, nobody knows!

But wait, there’s MORE!

I also blurted out that I had written a book that I am now shopping around to literary agents, in which my employer (for how much longer I’m not sure) plays a minor role as the setting for a scene intended to make fun primarily of me.

The net effect of which was that a manager I had just met, who had been very welcoming, after telling me that it was all OK (and, God forbid, that he’d like to read my blog – “Oh, it’s just chick stuff, really!” meaning “please don’t read my blog, manager dude”) was looking at me strangely and, I’m sure, planning to review his own multiple scary training videos about how to deal with employees who have over-shared.

I always feel a lot better after dumping my irrational fears on unwitting colleagues sharing with a coworker, even though this manager was obviously in a big hurry to get the hell away from me back to work.

So, long story long, I panicked about something I didn’t need to panic about, overshared to a manager who really didn’t need to hear it, and was reminded of why I am Obviously Completely Displaced in corporate environments.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about corporate environments, it’s that they can’t handle my personality.

Primarily because I have one.

Why did I do this to myself? And for so little money?

Just because it was easy?

Maybe.

Also probably because I knew there might be a few good stories in it. If I can overcome my panic about telling them.

And because of the probability of proximity to Men Who Know How To Do Stuff that comes with the job.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’d get fired from a job that pays too little and wreaks havoc with my sleep pattern? For being a little too attentive to Men Who Know How to Do Stuff the customer? Or because my probable OCD irritating tendency to overthink and worry about everything drives everyone nuts?

But I’m the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios! I can take it way beyond just getting fired.

Let’s hold off on that for the time being.

I’m going to revise “Survivor” and re-publish it. The part about the hiring process was incidental, anyway.

I got up at 4 am today and had an OK time at work. Stayed in my lane and didn’t go looking for other stuff to worry about. Got got some fresh air and exercise. Yay me.

So, preferring chamomile tea (or other forms of legal self-medication, which I couldn’t have last night, because I HAD TO GET UP AT 4 AM) to Prozac or CBD or whatever the latest anti-obsessive/anxiety balm may be, I remain,

Your panicky, oversharing, life’s-too-short-for-this-crap-but-running-out-of-money-fast-oh-shit-I-actually-need-this-job,

Ridiculouswoman

Socially Impaired

I’d like to truthfully be described as “reclusive author of…”

I’ve said that my ambition is to be able to add “author of…” to my LinkedIn profile.

But I quit Facebook. I don’t Instagram. I wouldn’t know how to Pin or Tumbl anything, and though I have a Twitter handle, I don’t Tweet and I barely check on the people and media I (allegedly) follow. And I don’t even use LinkedIn that much, either.

So, correction: what I really want is to one day be truthfully described as “reclusive author of….” (followed a modest list of reasonably selling books that a few obscure but well-respected reviewers variously describe as “poignant,” “heartbreaking,” “funny,” “laugh-out-loud,” “insightful,” or “searingly honest.”)

HA.

But it seems that blogging carries with it some kind of obligation to engage in, and with, every form of social media imaginable.  I find that off-putting. And exhausting.

Because dammit, I’m trying to WRITE, here.

For me, writing requires more than 240 (is that how many you get, now?) characters, minimization of distractions, quiet contemplation, and time. Sometimes accompanied by classical music. I don’t claim to be some kind of brilliant artiste (we’re saving that for the reviews, right? HA!) but I want to write stuff that is worth reading. I don’t believe that every tiny detail of my daily existence (what I ate, where I went and how I got there, the current state of my physical being) is worthy of…what do we call it? Sharing.

AAAAAAAK!!!! Sounds like something you do “in group.” (Which isn’t to say that it isn’t valuable…in group. If that kind of sharing is your thing, more power to you. Don’t hate on me. But don’t expect me to read all about it on every social media platform imaginable, either. Unless it’s really funny. Or poignant. Or heartbreaking. Or laugh-out-loud. Or insightful. Or searingly honest. etc.)

I do understand the importance of audience.

I like being on stage.

I like singing in public.

And I want people to read my stuff.

But I regard the audience-performer and reader-writer relationship as personal, one-to-one, intimate kind of thing. Each audience member or reader brings their own stuff to the theater, or the page (or the pixels).

As a performer, I experienced the freedom (and the catharsis) of total honesty on stage – because the theater is a place where everyone agrees to pretend that that what’s happening isn’t real, when it is actually more real than any reality the audience will go back to after the show.

And as an avid reader since childhood, the intimacy of what happens between the page, the brain and the heart is really important to me.

Now, I’ve put myself on the page side of that intimate relationship, and found a kind of freedom, there, too.

I used to wonder about how authors of very personal books felt at book signings, meeting so many people who now knew… all that about them.

Some of my family and a few of my friends read this blog. So I know that they know stuff about me they didn’t know before; stuff that you, my blog friends, also now know about me, and about my life.

But it’s OK – because I’m discovering that the same kind of agreement exists between reader and writer as exists between audience member and actor:  we’ve made the choice just to know that we know what we know, and keep it – intimate. Personal.

PRIVATE.

It’s weird, I know, for something so public to be so… private, but I think you get what I mean. Claudette wrote about it recently.  I’ve written about the pain of grief and betrayal, the revival of love, the embarrassment and absurdity of things I’ve said and done, about regret, and gratitude and striving to do better. I hope some of that has gotten down under your skin, and given you a chance to feel what you need to feel about those things, or think about them, or just laugh, at least. And it’s that part of “sharing” that makes it worthwhile, to me.

But I don’t find it necessary to reduce those experiences to 240 characters, or a photo of a pizza. Or a cat.

Unless it is Sophie, expressing her opinion:

IMG_20190312_113910256_HDR~2.jpg

Because, cats. It’s the Internet, after all. HA!

Wishing you some quiet contemplation, classical music, a good read, and funny cats, I remain,

Your social-media-impaired but always up for a good blog read,

Ridiculouswoman

(Featured image by ijmaki from Pixabay.  I just noticed for the first time that even though it isn’t required, I could be crediting the makers of the images I use from Pixabay – and I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so you may see these image credits from now on – if you don’t, it’s because I made the image or took the picture).

And What Do We Learn From This? or, Sometimes, Nothing Is Something

Sometimes moving forward requires looking back.

So what the hell was that all about? The “Pardon Our Dust” thing?

I wanted to change up the look of my blog. I thought it needed some freshening.

I spent the last four days messing around with a new theme.

I dithered over palettes. I added new fonts.

I spent a lot of time trying teaching myself enough additional Illustrator to make a banner that with images I had made or chosen previously to symbolize the blog.

After a lot of trial and error, Googling and help chats, I finally figured out how to create a “clipping mask” in Illustrator to round the corners of the image I made of my face and shoulders, with the heart on the sleeve.

I wanted it round.

Like me.

Mike liked my roundness.

I got mad about how much elements of the “Creative Cloud” that I wasn’t using cost.

I unsubscribed.

Then I freaked out (hey, no project is truly complete without a little OCD smeared on!) about whether I’d still have the right to use the stuff I had previously created if I didn’t keep subscribing.

The (very nice and helpful, by the way – thanks Adobe) chat people said I can keep and use what I already downloaded and created. (Sorry, OCD, take a seat. Or a knee, as the case may be.)

Then, as I was scrolling through the blog with the new theme applied, to make sure I liked the (eleventy-hundreth) palette I had chosen, I noticed that all my “featured images” from past posts had disappeared.

Apparently, I neglected to notice where, if anywhere, there was space for a “featured image” in the new theme.

I’m fond of some my photos used as “featured images,” and refer to them occasionally as “that picture up there” in the posts where they appear; I didn’t want to spend weeks going back to putting them wherever they might fit in the new theme.

Which made me take another look and realize that new theme was a bit too cutesy or “whimsical” to encase my content on grief and loss, despite some other content that is funny. Or that tries to be.

So, feh.

Back to “2016.”

When I switched back, I remembered the reasons I chose 2016 in the first place.

It’s clean.

It has elements I want and doesn’t confuse me with stuff I don’t need.

And Mike died in 2016.

Which reminded me that, when I started the blog, I chose the “2016” theme as a way to keep Mike close while trying a new thing without him, missing him.

So good things came of the whole manic, circular, redesigning exercise.

I got new art that I made myself, even though I’m a total amateur as a designer. I won’t have to settle for banner images I don’t like much, anymore.

I learned more about using tools I’d have to use if I ever need to modify that art again.

I tweaked things a little – a slightly modified color here or there. I’m not even sure exactly what I changed, anymore. But during the process I learned which parts of the “palettes” go where, and where I can use a custom color.

I got the pleasure of days filled with creative flow: that feeling you get when you are working on something you care about, and you forget what time it is and you only think about how to make your project better and get it right.

I also got to remember my Dad with gratitude.  He taught me to apply reason to observation to solve a problem, accomplish a task, fix things that are broken or assemble things that are new.

He called that process “using your bean.”

Dad enabled me to “use my bean” to accomplish something I didn’t know how to, but very much wanted, to do.

Dad also had an expression, usually uttered with sly determination and a not a little glee, while forging ahead down an unknown country road or pressing on through eight inches of recent snow on less-than-optimal tires: “We’re takin’ her through!” he’d say.

I don’t remember ever getting stuck, when Dad was driving.

And then finally, it all came back to Mike, whose bravery and generosity in the last weeks of his life were breathtaking, heartbreaking and inspiring. Memories of Mike and of 2016 were, and still are, central to helping me move forward, fight my fears and carry on. They help me “take her through.” I’m grateful for the bittersweet reminder of him whenever I think about my blog’s “theme,” in both content and design.

So, “redecorating” my blog turned into a pretty good Harold.

Still climbing life’s spiral staircase, I remain,

Your clumsily creative, sometimes manic, mostly anxious but still takin’ her through,

Ridiculouswoman

We Interrupt This Program To Redecorate

Pardon our dust….

Pardon our dust – just trying out a new look – partly because I’m too sore from returning to fitness class after a two-month recovery from a weird-boot-pulling-on-injury and and wisdom-tooth extraction to paint the front room but I wanted to change something.

You know how that is.

I think I’m done but I may change my mind and keep messing around with the look of the blog for a few days.

Thanks for your patience while we create a fabulous new blogging environment etc. blah blah blah hahahahha.

Back soon with an actual post about something actual (as opposed to virtual.)

Until then I remain,

Your that-looks-pretty-good-but-hey-what’s-this-button-do?

Ridiculouswoman