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

Twenty-nine Years

The snow will melt tomorrow. But my heart melted tonight.

“April is in my mistress’ face,
And July in her eyes hath place;
Within her bosom is September,
But in her heart a cold December…”

madrigal by Thomas Morely, 1594

Mike and I met twenty-nine years ago today, on a warm April evening.

I was wearing a pink spring dress, no jacket necessary.

Twenty-nine years later, here I sit, under a winter storm warning, wearing a flannel shirt and Mike’s winter scarf.

Ironically, we met at a meeting of a ski club, held at a then quite new, but now very well established, brewpub. The event purportedly was to showcase the next season’s planned trips, but it was actually a thinly-disguised singles thing.

Mike didn’t ski. Neither did his buddy, who dragged him along as his wingman.

I didn’t know that then.

The girl pal I dragged along didn’t ski, either. Bad back.

Turned out I was the only one of the four of us who had a legitimate excuse to be there.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve gone skiing. It’s on my bucket list, if my knees can take it. Maybe next year.

As for today, I can feel my ritualizing of anniversaries fading. This is the third without him, and he never made much of them anyway.

So today I’m thinking more about whether my just-emerging snow peas will live up to their name.

I’m not sure the lettuce, spinach, chard and beets I planted two weeks ago, in a burst of April-faced gardening enthusiasm (“this year, I’ll finally get them in the ground early enough!!”) will make it.

When the snow started, I ran out and cut several small bunches of hyacinth and daffodils and brought them in the house to enjoy.

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But I left that snow-shrouded bunch pictured up there, and a few of the daffodils, to fend for themselves. I think they’ll make it.

As for the spring flowering trees, and the trees in general, this snowstorm brings a whole new meaning to “nip it in the bud.”

From the height of them, though, most of the trees around my house have been there for much longer than I’ve been here. On this planet, I mean.  Definitely “old growth” trees.

They might lose a branch or two in this heavy, wet, spring snow, but clearly, if they’ve been here that long, they’ve been through this before. They can get through this now.

It’s all supposed to melt tomorrow, anyway.

Annually, I remind people I meet in grocery or garden stores, people who couldn’t resist wearing shorts and flip-flops on the very first warm day in March, that it always snows again in April.

How sweet of me.

Cold December heart.

Obviously, I called the last storm too early this year.

I should have known better. Like the trees, I’ve been through this before. I have a distinct memory of myself on a June afternoon, sitting on the screen porch my father built, wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt (hey, I was fat, but I was 5), coloring, when a sudden whoosh of wind swept the warmth away in a nanosecond and blew snow flurries through the screens.

And I should have known better than to think that Mike wouldn’t send some kind of  recognition of this anniversary to me in this world, from his timeless place in the next, as a little rejoinder to that remark about him not making much of anniversaries.

Because, just now, as I am writing this, an ad came on the radio.

For the brewpub where we met.

The snow hasn’t melted yet, but the December in my heart just did.

Missing Mike and grateful for a good, carthartic cry, I remain,

Your broken-open-hearted,

Ridiculouswoman

Survivor

I’m still here.

(This is an edited version of a previously published post. Why edited? Panic. Anyway, it still makes my point, although it is shorter now; but shorter is better in a blog post, don’t you think?)

“Survived by his wife.”

This was the punchline of a famous routine by a great comedian, Alan King.

Incidentally, King was “survived by his wife.”

King fails to note the male habit of marrying younger women, and addresses every woman he approaches as “dear,” a term I now employ solely to demean and diminutize (safely from inside my car) drivers who have done something stupid, or failed to do something required: “Oh, nice move, dear! Ever heard of a blinker? You know, that little stick on the side of your steering wheel that pushes down to flash “blinkablinkablinka” for left and up for right? But it’s not your fault, right? Because you were raised blonde? DEAR?

But I digress – the routine is still really funny and worth watching, start to finish. There’s even a quick blonde joke. HA! Dear.

Anyway, so what’s with the boots again? And what does the Alan King routine have to do with anything?

I have accepted employment at yet another place where boots are appropriate; nay, even necessary.

It is temporary and part-time, which means no benefits. After taxes, I might almost bring home barely enough to pay for health insurance.

A finger in the dam of the rapidly draining reservoir, no more.

I got dinged on the only two interviews I’ve been granted in the last six months. And, despite a long, and I believe impressive, resume, no one else, including several recruiters who (apparently accidentally?) have viewed my profile on LinkedIn, has contacted me.

Ageism, anyone? Ya think?

But a funny thing happens on the way to rejection: when I have to reiterate my entire 34 year work history, even though the job poster already has it in my uploaded resume, I realize:

I have survived several of my former employers, both human and corporate.

Bankruptcy or merger has taken a few of those corporate “persons” (don’t get me started).

Human former supervisors were taken by the usual things – age and disease.

One of the applications I had been trying to complete required me to reiterate all 34 years of jobs, as well as all the education that preceded them, which no doubt causes the HR bots to drop me like a hot potato when they see that I hold a law degree  (AUGH! Run for the hills!) and that I left law practice after just three years, because…hmm, let’s see – how shall I put this? Because I realized law practice was a soul-crushing, closed system of enrichment for white males willing to have their souls crushed in exchange for (a lot of) money?  Or maybe, because I preferred solving problems to perpetuating them?

Or, maybe just because I hated conflict.

Plus, I hadn’t considered that law is a really bad career choice for a person with OCD, especially when she doesn’t yet realize that she probably has OCD. (“I’m not obsessive! I’m DETAIL ORIENTED!!!”)

This new job will keep me on my feet for a few hours several days a week, require me to work outside, and will put me in proximity to Men Who Know How To Do Stuff (yeah, yeah, women too, but I’m on the “I like men” team, remember? Is that OKAY? Is that ALLOWED? Call me cis (honestly I’m having a hard time keeping up with the lingo for all this – help, Steve Goodman!), straight and naive, but I like men. I believe nice ones exist. Some. Somewhere.)

I’ll have to curb my Betty White oggling tendencies. But still.

I’ll have to get up at 4 a.m.

I could apply for that Bar Bingo host job – three times the money for half the hours. I’m sure they’ll hire a woman as funny, engaging…and old…as me. HA! But my roots and my boobs are my own, dammit!

Meanwhile, somewhere, there must a full-time job and a nice man for me. With benefits.  Both. HA!

Until then, I remain,

Your underemployed again but surviving,

Ridiculouswoman

Morning Has Broken

Sky, snow, sun. Easter, baseball, and birds. Spring.

And then there’s this: that sky.

This is the way to throw off winter’s blanket –  lumps of snow, leaping down from the branches that shape them, making branch-shaped dents in the snow below, brightened under the blue. All that white will revert to green by the end of the day.

The female cardinal came to the kitchen door, hopping from the garden arch to the patio light, looking in at me, as if to ask for help; “please shake the snow off the bent cedars, my nest is at risk!”

I tell her it will melt soon, and it is melting fast. I can see her in there, bustling, making the necessary repairs.

And from the basement rumpus room I hear that my daughter has found a slow, brass instrumental recording of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” that she is listening to on YouTube.

Which she follows up with her own exuberant rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Well, now. Spring has sprung indeed.

I’m ready now.

Off to pay forty-five dollars more in state taxes than I will get back in federal but not getting bent out of shape about it because, honestly, look at that sky,

I remain,

Your snapping-out-of-it and looking beyond Thursday and Friday to promise of Sunday,

Ridiculouswoman

Solace in Spring Snow

Winter can’t come if it never leaves.

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow…

-TS Eliot, The Wasteland

Palm Sunday. A parade toward betrayal, pain, despair, and death.

Crocuses muffled in sudden spring snow, heavy and wet.

Cars off the road.

How could you forget how to drive in winter, so soon?

It always snows again in April, I said.

I was right.

Budding trees and flowering shrubs – freeze frame.

The cedars and arborvitae, which had just begun to lift,

bent now under a burden of white.

I wasn’t quite ready, anyway.

I heard his voice yesterday, so clear,

quoting Sara Teasdale’s “I am not yours,”

the voice that he left on my answering machine,

nearly thirty years ago.

“For yours is a spirit, beautiful and bright…”

just as I was feeling unworthy as mother to our daughter

whose spirit is more beautiful and bright than mine can ever be,

again.

Winter can’t come if it never leaves.

Sun and spring flowers, up from bulbs planted just before winter was coming.

“Mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain…”

Today I am grateful for the warmth of winter

and the forgetful snow.

 

Blue and Happy, Empty and Full

I do my “forest bathing” on the prairie or the savannah.

The prairie has the empty spaces I find soothing.  The savannah has the trees. Both have birds, flowers, grasses and ponds or streams. For the past few weeks, the spring peepers have been singing near those ponds, very loudly, rarely stopping even when the paths I walk come close.

Blue sky, yesterday and today.

That bench, or one just like it, had a small engraved memorial plaque on it that, in addition to the names of the persons it commemorates and the family members who commemorated them, has the phrase, “carpe diem.”

Around here in April, if you see the sun and the sky, you better damn carpe that diem.

Yesterday, a walk through the savannah on my own, marveling at how abundantly life returns in spring. Even with the grasses still winter-flattened into brown, dry straw, the “controlled burn” areas still blackened, the birds are everywhere and the roaring chorus of spring peepers is occasionally augmented by the deep croak of a bigger frog. The ice on the ponds is finally completely gone.

Today, I got her to come with me, for a walk on the wide open prairie. She has a habit of stopping to sit at any bench we come near, but that helps me take a moment to really take it in, and read the information on the poster-stands, strategically placed to help visitors appreciate the rarity and fragility of what they’re seeing. A good long walk, under a blue sky with clouds my Grammie called “horse tails” and “lambs.”

I remembered what a pill I was, when Grammie or Mom would point things like that out to me: bored and unappreciative.

But now, it’s me exclaiming, “Oh! See the hawk! See the ducks, in pairs, the Mom and the Dad! See the chickadees!” And there were tiny finch-like birds, as small as hummingbirds but fatter, curious and unafraid, not creepers, just flitting from branch to branch, close enough to see a little yellow above the eye and wing.

She hurries forward, almost out of view, trying to get it over with, but I don’t care. I got her outside, at least.

Somewhere along there she’ll wonder why Mom stops to take pictures like this:

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or this:

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Someday when she looks at these photos she may remember the spring day we walked together here, the happiness of a blue Midwestern sky and the slope beneath it bursting with crocuses. She may remember Mom smiling as the birds flitted and sang over and around us, on the open prairie, shoots of green among the straw.

Tomorrow’s forecast includes rain, snow, wind and thunder.

April.

Back in the car she says, “we had a great morning, Mom.”

Today, blue means happy.

And empty means full.

Wishing you a soothing forest (or prairie or savannah) bath, I remain,

Your I-told-you-it-always-snows-one-more-time-in-April-but-I-planted-my-cold-weather-crops-yesterday anyway,

Ridiculouswoman

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