TweetFace

Resistance is futile. I’m required to twitface.

Alright, already! I did it – connected this blog to a Twitter account (@ridiculouswidow, because someone already had ridiculouswoman) and Facebook, where I recreated a page for it, which was no small feat, because Facebook’s soulless algorithm didn’t believe I was me.

It thought using my logo as the profile picture on my personal page, which I have to have to have a Page page, which is the only way WordPress can be connected to Facebook to automatically post your posts on a Page, was “suspicious.” It said the first post I added, which said I created the account so I could have a Page, violated “community standards.”  It seemed to think I was impersonating myself and locked the new account. It asked me for a photo that looked like me, and I sent one, and it still didn’t believe me, and disabled the new account, thereby destroying two hours work in setting up the page.

Facebook, dear, I am not some Russian bot loosed upon your bandwidth to wreak havoc across the land. I’m a short, stout, suburban widow who writes a blog. Is that so hard to believe? I almost decided not to bother trying again.

But resistance is futile.  I must have a “platform,” that virtual thing you stand on to convince literary agents and small publications that you’ve got something people might want and your writing is worth a look. Ergo, I must have a social media “presence.”

Things haven’t been going well on the job front or the query front, so I figured I’d better get serious about building the “platform” –

I’m working to overcome my social impairment enough to think of something to tweet and people to follow, and to gather some new readers, commenters, and “likers.” I hope to build a larger community of wonderfully,  um…eclectic people (that’s enough italics for today, old girl) out there who actually enjoy reading what I write, even if the subject matter is a little all over the place.

Because in addition to the problem I identified with my book (no grand social themes, except cancer and autism, which affect more and more people every day, and love and death, which affect everyone), I’m not the “marginalized voice” they all seem to want (except for my age).  I have also belligerently deliberately avoided strictly confining myself to a “niche” like all those “how to succeed in blogging without really writing” pundits demand – I want my “niche” to be 800 words of something worth reading. Oh, and a few published books, so I can legitimately add “author of…” to my bio (and someone will add it to my obit, when the time comes).

I decided when I started this blog that, although I would write about grief and life as a widow, I didn’t want to be a “professional widow” – I want to be a writer – an engaging, entertaining, occasionally heartstring-plucking and often, I hope, funny, writer.

So, the “Twitterverse” and the Empire Facebook will now have the benefit of my blatherings, or links thereto, at least.

Starting with my next post (I thought we decided enough!)

Because I’m pretty sure if I post this to Facebook, their soulless algorithm will shut me down again, just for saying I don’t like Facebook. Today as I was setting it back up, it thought it found “suspicious activity” in my account again, and made me prove who I was two more ways before it let me back in. So I put the actual photograph I cartoonified to make my logo on there as my profile picture. See, Facebook? That IS me! (oh, all CAPS now?) Take that, Facebook!

There are a lot of not-nice people on social media. But by avoiding politics and “niches”  I hope to interest a few of the nicer people – people who like words, reading, gardening, stargazing, redecorating, failing and trying again, laughing, crying, loving their kids, remembering their lost loved ones, and being gentle in the face of human foibles and frailty.

I hope we can learn something, or share something, or just commiserate along the way.

So, welcome, Tweetie birds, and hello, again, Facebook friends, if you manage to find me.

After my next post (well, the CAPS were too shouty!)

But this one is just for you guys – current followers of this blog, some of whom have been with me since the first few posts – it’s a comfort (and a bit of a thrill) to know you’re on the receiving end of this, and, I hope, actually reading it and enjoying it from time to time. And liking, commenting, sharing with others who might.

Stepping reluctantly, tentatively and fretfully into, or back into, the social media morass, I remain,

Your skeptical, resistant, but biting-the-bullet and getting it done,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by ijmaki from Pixabay

800 Words

There are signs, and then there are Signs….

The day I wrote about losing confidence in my writing, I discovered a television series called “800 Words.”

“It’s a sign!” I thought.  The show is on the Acorn channel (British-y programming). It’s about an Australian columnist, a widower with two kids, whose column always comes in at exactly 800 words.

That’s a game I love to play, too. He even uses the same trick of hyphenating-things-to-count-as-one-word.

It’s more about grief and the stupid impulsive decisions (often stupid financial decisions) you make when coping with loss.

Sound familiar?

I watched the first episode of the first season and was hooked.

And then I discovered I had to pay a subscription fee to watch the rest of it.

Curses! I coughed up my Roku account and subscribed.

More money spent that I shouldn’t be spending, without a day job.

That sent me into another spiral of anxiety and doubt.

How could it be a sign? Yes, I like to write blog posts of exactly 800 words –  but my book is 60,000 words.

The protagonist on the show actually had a job as a newspaper columnist, left it, and was coaxed back.

I’ve lost or had to leave jobs I wanted and was never, ever “coaxed” or asked back. It was more like “don’t let the door hit you on your way out. Buh-bye.”

My recent job search experiences make me feel like I couldn’t buy a job – if I had any money to spend – which makes me more anxious about getting a job.

I’ve got an idea for a business, bought the domain, and I’m hoping to get a website designed and the business going by September.

But the numbers for this blog (over 5,300 views and 2,300 visitors, but only 162 followers) indicate I suck at social media self-promotion.

I’m going to have to force myself to return to Facebook to build pages for this blog again and for my new business. AAAAAK!!

I’d rather curl up in a little fetal ball and pull the covers over my head, but as I lie there whimpering, I’d be picturing myself wearing a name tag, saying things like, “would you like fries with that?” or “have you tried our new spicy shrimp?” or “can I get you that dress in another size?”

Between the morning workouts and the yard work and the house work and grocery shopping and the meal preparation and the caring for and helping Angelic Daughter, I can’t seem to find the time to write more than one or two blog posts a week, and no time at all to search for other places to submit writing for a chance to get paid.

Much less apply for that glorious future name tag job.

All the job search engines I’ve got going keep sending me jobs that have nothing to do with me.

LinkedIn seems to think I’m a nurse or other health-care worker, just because I’m looking for jobs in non-profits, and there’s a big non-profit hospital near me.

Glassdoor keeps sending me technical writing jobs that I probably could do but I’m sure I’d never get hired for, and the idea of making a mistake writing technical manuals or pharmaceutical label information sends me into paroxysms of anxiety.

All the NPO’s want fundraisers (“development” people) but asking people for money makes me squirm, and researching how much money people might have to give makes me feel like a creepy voyeur.

I indulge in silly rescue fantasies, typically involving younger men who know how to do things, and who are willing to do them for me, for free.

And who then move in and pay for things.

While also making wild, passionate love to me.

Hey, I said it was a fantasy.

I’ve figured out what’s wrong with me, and what went wrong in my career, but I can’t fix the past and the past follows me everywhere I go.

I try to focus on the now – on the incredible, cool air we have today, on the squash blossoms growing in the former chicken run, on the green beans starting to come in.

But I spend more time feeling frustrated by the dozens of bean seeds I planted that haven’t sprouted at all.

I’m a whiny, self-doubting mess.

The ancestresses are getting restless – I hear them telling me to get my ass outside and weed something. Not self-improvement, but yard-improvement, at least.

Perhaps other improvements will follow.

And as for signs?

Just as I was editing that line about anxiety and doubt, a monarch butterfly fluttered down and landed on the beans.

The ones that are growing.

Thanks for the Sign, Mike – of love and understanding – and the reminder to enjoy this beautiful day and stop taking myself so seriously.

Because what matters is now.

About-to-get-sweaty-and-dirty-and-feel-virtuous-about-it, I remain,

Your calming-down,

Ridiculouswomann

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Too Old and Too Expensive

The door closed. So where’s that open window?

“… at this time we are moving forward with other candidates that more closely fit our needs.”

This email came ten minutes after I finished screaming at reprimanding Angelic Daughter for WRITING ON MY NEWLY PAINTED WALL and then removing every privilege, excursion and cherished food I could think of from her foreseeable future, replacing them with cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and REPAINTING SAID WALL.

Well, karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?

The bullshit factor just rubs it in, because this is what they say when their lawyers have instructed them never to tell you the truth, to wit,  “you’re too old and too expensive.”

This was the second time in as many months this has happened to me – the callback interview went really well: I really thought I had this one in the bag. And just as I was thinking it would be another week or so before I heard, WHAMMO, the buzzer sounds.

Thank you for playing, NEXT!

The clock has also run out on me with the two agents I pitched at the Midwestern Writer’s Agent Fest – one who requested the full manuscript of my book right there at the pitch, the other who said she’d look at my query.

Pocket vetos, both.

So on a day when I screwed up badly as a Mom and feel horrible about it, I was rejected from a job I thought I had for sure, my confidence in my writing has sunk to a new low.

I know the problem with the book – in a very crowded market, a memoir has to be about something greater than the mere experience of the writer – they want grand social themes – Hillbilly Elegy, or Educated – from “marginalized voices.”

I’m a straight, suburban white woman. About as non-marginalized as it gets.

Except for one thing:

My age.

If there is one universally marginalized group of people on this planet, it is older women.

So much for “yippee! I’m sixty and invisible!”

That has quickly become, “Oh shit, I’m sixty and unemployable.”

And unpublishable too,  apparently.

They see my book as a “me-moir.”  It has to have more universality or social impact than is readily apparent. It can’t just be both heartwrenching and funny.  It has to connect to some broader social theme.

Really? Well, how about this:

There are nearly 12 million widows in the US.

And (pulled directly from the Family Caregiver Alliance website):

  • Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • Upwards of 75% of all caregivers are female, and may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than males. [Institute on Aging. (2016). Read How IOA Views Aging in America.]
  • Older caregivers are more likely to care for a spouse or partner. The average age of spousal caregivers is 62.3. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]

And the American Cancer Society predicts:

1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 cancer deaths in 2019.

I want to believe that my story could help caregivers feel less invisible, and less alone. Caregiving can be terrifying, exhausting, fulfilling and heartbreaking.

It can drive you crazy. It did me, and made me do ridiculous things, to avoid facing the certainty of my husband’s premature death at just 54.

I don’t feel crazy anymore, just defeated. If I couldn’t land this job, a job for which I simply cannot believe another candidate could have been better qualified, then I give up.

And today I feel like giving up on my writing, too.

It’s going to be 95 tomorrow, 98 on Friday, and no air conditioning. We’ve been through it before, but sitting immobile in a damp bathing suit, periodically hosing oneself down, isn’t conducive to sparkling query letter writing.

And what if, even with my spot-on experience, I was rejected from the job because I blew the interview? How could that be? The interviewer said I was first on her list to contact, and started the interview by just asking me if I had questions. Kept me there meeting volunteers for half an hour longer than I planned.

Did I ask too  many questions? Give too much information? Was it because I explained my need for a little time to find a caregiver for Angelic Daughter?

If it was that, then, I wouldn’t want to work for you anyway.  Feh.

After my previous rejection, my sweet brother sent me this:

“Everytime I thought I was being REJECTED from something good, I was actually being REDIRECTED to something better.” – Steve Maraboli

I’ll hang on to that, and try to believe it, while I clean the bathroom and vacuum the floors.

But Angelic Daughter is going to repaint that wall.

Trying to find my redirection, I remain,

Your disappointed, self-doubting, wanting to find a way to keep trying,

Ridiculouswoman

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

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).