Cheer thyself a little

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Whenever I feel down, frustrated, or intellectually stagnant, I turn to Shakespeare.  His plays and characters fascinate me, as do his words.  I won’t pretend to be a Shakespeare scholar. A lot of what I read or see (in live performances or film adaptations) would go over my head without having read online synopses or dually reading the modern translations via the No Fear Shakespeare series, but I think that’s what draws me to it.  I love words, and I love how differently they can be interpreted by stressing different words or even different syllables, or by using different tones and emotions in one’s voice.

Reading Shakespeare, or better yet, watching one of his plays performed, requires me to focus on something outside myself while giving me the opportunity to analyze and internalize what I’m experiencing.  I have seen myself in Hamlet’s undecided anguish, in Coriolanus’ self righteous, unyielding pride, and in Cordelia’s insistence on pragmatism when others want their ego stroked, and in dozens of other ways shown through as many other characters.

Participating in Shakespeare makes me feel smarter than I am and gives me a chance to experience a magnified version of life from the safety of my couch…no real life poisons, betrayals, or mistaken identities needed!

This was a bad week

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Just a day after I posted about police brutality and the death of Alton Sterling, another black man, Philando Castile, was killed by an officer, while he was sitting in his car with his girlfriend and her daughter.  Then, the next day, an angry black man opened fire on police officers at a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Texas. Eleven officers were shot and last I heard, four of them died—the death toll may be up to five by now—it’s hard to keep up.  And naturally, social media exploded.  Everyone is angry and scared and I spent most of yesterday and all of last night moderating heated debates over the validity of everyone’s points of view.  A couple of my Facebook friends really got into it with each other and finally, I felt it best to contact each of them privately to discuss respect and patience in regard to sharing their views.  One of those friends, who also happens to be my sister, had a LOT to say and tried to draw me in to an argument about something else.  (She openly admits she likes to debate for the sake of debate.)  Ultimately, we were able to move on, but the contention was electric, and I’m not eager to experience that again.

In talking to my kids about the state of affairs in the world, I commented that Satan is working really, really hard right now—but I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided that Satan isn’t really working that hard—he just has to throw us a reason to be angry and we take over being ugly and horrible for him.

My heart is heavy for all the loss, for all the misunderstanding, and for the apparent lack of desire to put down our guard and our weapons (whether words or guns or whatever) and see each other as human beings—to acknowledge each other as children of God and to put our own interests and prejudices aside to understand other views, experiences, fears, hopes, and dreams. 

Since the Dallas shooting, there have been several more incidences of black men being killed by police, and angry black citizens shooting at officers and at white people.  I am ashamed of what our country has become.  A few weeks ago, I was on Facebook, reading a travel thread from a friend in Australia.  Many of her friends (also Australian) commented that they have no desire to visit the United States because it is such a violent country.  One person said “it’s like the Wild West over there. Lawless!”  I was embarrassed when I read that, and sad.  I wanted to explain that the US isn’t as bad as the media makes us out to be, but then there were all these shootings over the course of one week!

I am sad. I am angry. I am afraid—even though I live relatively removed from where the violence is occurring. There is trickle down from the violence that bleeds into the attitudes of those around me, and I’m afraid of what the angry fearful attitudes will produce in my own community.  I am fighting fear and anger by advocating for calm, kindness, and understanding, as we collectively sort ourselves out.

On police brutality and taking video of law enforcement interactions

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A couple of days ago, I saw the following Facebook post from blogger Kristen Howerton:

“Just witnessed a black man getting arrested. The police were kind and respectful, and very careful as they put him into the car. But I filmed anyway. And will always film. I will hope for the best and assume, as these guys were, that officers will act with integrity. But until our country’s issues with unnecessary police violence against black men is a thing of the distant past, I will film. Any time I witness police interaction with black men or women I will film, and God forbid my boys ever have such an interaction I hope someone will film for them. And I will hope that, like today, it’s uneventful footage that never makes the news.”

Normally, I enjoy and agree with Kristen’s posts, but this one stopped me short. It bugged me.  I felt it was a form of vigilantism on her part.  Cops have a tough job. They need to be able to assess and reassess situations instantaneously in order to protect the public AND themselves.  And while I’m certain there are bad cops who like to make peoples lives miserable, I’d like to think that most law enforcement officers are good men and women who are doing the best they can.  Sometimes they are wrong, and tragically so, but Kristen’s post rankled me. 

I’ve been pulled over a few times—and on a couple of those occasions, I was not at fault and the officer “had the wrong guy.” Whether I deserved a speeding ticket or was simply mistaken for someone else, the last thing I wanted was someone pulling out a cell phone and taking a video. How embarrassing.  How voyeuristic! “Move along! Nothing to see here!” I’ve also walked past the police interacting with other people, and while I may have been curious (sometimes very much so) it always seemed safer and more appropriate for me and mine to move along and stay out of the way of the officers doing their job and allow the others

And then….

Alton Sterling was wrestled to the ground and shot by two white police officers. There is plenty of video footage– from two different witnesses, a police dash cam, and body cameras one each officer.  Defenders of the police say they were just doing their job, subduing an armed felon.  Defenders of Alton Sterling say he was a nice and respected man whose gun was NOT in his hands and should not have been killed.

M questions are these:

Why did the two officers shoot a man they had already physically subdued? Alton Sterling was first thrown up against a car, tazed, and then wrestled to the ground, with one of the officers straddling him and the other at his shoulder. Between the two officers, they each had one hand free to access their firearms.

Was Alton Sterling attempting to reach his gun? If so, he didn’t even draw it before being shot and killed, as the officers had to pull it out of his pocket after they shot him.

Apparently, Alton Sterling was a felon, in that, he had, some years previously been convicted of possession of a firearm and controlled substances and served some time in prison.  If felons aren’t allowed to carry guns, and Alton Sterling was a nice and respectable person, why was he carrying a gun?

Why did he feel the need to carry a gun if he legally wasn’t supposed to have one?

People are using the “well, he was a criminal who shouldn’t have had a gun in the first place” argument to justify the shooting, but did the officers know he was a felon before they shot and killed him? And let’s get rhetorical for a minute—does having committed crimes in the past (that you have already been punished for) justify being killed later, when you are not then breaking the law?

Why are white people so quick to defend the actions of the police and assume the black shooting victim was guilty?

Why are black people so quick to insist on complete innocence on the part of the shooting victim and assume the white  cops were just trigger-happy racists?

WHY IS NO ONE PRESUMING INNOCENCE UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY ON EITHER SIDE?

I follow several black bloggers and several white bloggers with black spouses or children, across the country, and they are all horrified and angry by the treatment black people receive at the hands of white cops.  I also follow several white bloggers who think black people just have their panties in a bunch and should shut up and “quit playing the race card” or “trying to polarize us instead of uniting us.” 

My question is—if black people are telling us they feeling vilified, threatened, and frightened by the institutions and people that are supposed to be protecting them as they protect other Americans, why are whites not listening?  If we truly believe #AllLivesMatter, why are we not paying close attention to the people who are expressing their fear and anger and doing our best to understand their perspective?  At some point, we need to set aside the right to be right and explore the possibility that we may not have the whole picture…that our own experience and knowledge still limit us from knowing how someone else experiences and feels. 

Where fangirling can lead

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True confession: I am an opportunistic, screaming fangirl. Last year, on vacation, after a long day marshalling the kids around Disneyland, I decided to hide out in my room and scroll Facebook. As I thumbed through posts, I saw that my favorite blogger, Kristen Howerton, who happened to live near Disneyland, posted an open invitation to her HOME to participate in a discussion with Robi Damelin and Bassam Aramin from the Parents Circle-Families Forum, a support group for bereaved families on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that seeks reconciliation and a non-violent resolution to the conflict:

Kristen Howerton

I had no idea who these people were and knew next to nothing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the PC-FF, but it was an OPEN invitation for anyone local to come to Kristen’s HOUSE, to hear these people, and I was “in the Orange County area,” so OF COURSE, I RSVPed. And then, so I wouldn’t come off as the shallow fangirl I was, I started Googling everything about Israel and Palestine. Talk about overwhelm. Fortunately for me, Kristen is a thoughtful writer who surely knows her American audience, and provided a link to the Crash Course in History video about the conflict for those of us who needed a primer.

The event was held on a Sunday, and right as we pulled up to Kristen’s house, I wondered aloud if there was a dress code for this kind of thing. Of course, if there was, it was too late for me. I was in standard “Vacation With Kids” attire: jeans, sneakers, and T shirt.

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Rockin’ the vacay threads with Neenie and Princess Tiana at Disneyland. Clearly I am in the Comfort over Style camp.

It was Kristen’s husband, Mark, who waved me into the house. He was barefoot, and clad in board shorts and thin T-shirt.  Dress code analysis: so far so good!  He was very nice, but I was too shy to introduce myself. It’s probably best that I didn’t say what was in my head in that moment: “Hi, I totally love your wife’s blog and know tons about you and your family, and I once made a trip all the way to Austin, Texas to hear your wife speak at a conference, because her work just really resonates with me,  and now I’m here because of her OPEN INVITATION ON FACEBOOK to come to your house, and listen to some people talk, and eat your brunch, and I GET TO MEET YOUR WIFE!”

Yeah…..no.  I mumbled a thank you and ducked inside.

Aaaannd, of course, the house was full of willowy, gorgeous women with flowing, sun-kissed hair and skin, all wearing breezy maxi-dresses, dangly earrings, and tall sandals. Dress code analysis: Everyone looked like they’d just come in from a beach photo shoot for Vogue.  And here I am in mom jeans and scuffed Nikes. Was I even wearing earrings? I checked. No. But…whatever!  I was IN Kristen Howerton’s house and now I would get to MEET HER! SQUEEE! I mean—ahem–what an opportunity to broaden my education and worldview about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict!

I saw Kristen in her kitchen, deep in conversation with three or four other people, and suddenly I realized just how out of place I was—these gorgeous women chatting and drinking mimosas were Kristen’s friends, or friends of friends. I was a hayseed interloper! I had introduced myself to Kristen in my head a hundred times, but now I panicked. I couldn’t waltz over and interrupt her conversation—that would be awkward.  Do I try to catch her eye and hope she comes over and introduces herself? Um….no. Too stalkerish. Now what?

I wandered into the living room, which I knew pretty well, having seen various angles of it in photos on Kristen’s blog over the years. Do I sit down? No, no one else is. I might look like I’m getting too comfortable. I could admire the decor….no, now I feel like I’m casing the joint. Do I try to make nice with some of the other clusters of ladies? How do I do that? Do I go get some food? What’s IN a mimosa?

Just then, Kristen’s husband breezed past me, headed for the back yard, where there were a few rows of folding chairs set up.  The chairs were in direct sun, and Mark was fiddling with some triangular awnings to provide shade.  Salvation! I’m a pro at setting up for events! I stumbled outside to see if I could help, but Mark winged me a smile and said he had a handle on it.  A couple of ladies followed me outside and made directly for the mimosa table set up on the side of the patio.  They noticed me bumbling around and kindly introduced themselves. They seemed genuinely interested in me (maybe they were just morbidly curious) but I was too tongue tied and awkward to provide them with much information—so I did the only thing I could think of—I deflected and tried to ask them about themselves.  They were both bloggers and authors, I realized I recognized them–I had read some of their stuff and enjoyed it.  I was about to say so, but then Kristen came out and they turned their attention to her.

By now, other people had filtered outside and were taking (now shaded) seats.  For some stupid reason, I dove for the seat closest to me—at the end of the front row—where the sun beat down between the gap in the awnings.  The other seats were filling up, and there were a couple offers from nice ladies to have me sit by them in the shade, but Mark kneeled on the ground in the walkway just behind me, adjusting a camera on a tripod, and I was afraid I’d bump it if I moved.  Turns out he was adjusting it because I was in the way.  By the time I realized this, it was too late to move—all the seats were filled.  Awesome. Whether it was the sun or my embarrassment that burnt my face that day, I’ll never know for sure.

When everyone had settled, Kristen introduced her guest speakers and for a millisecond, my embarrassment evaporated.  Robi Damelin was direct, passionate, a little impatient, and fascinating.  She was like a grandma that you love but are also a little afraid of.  And I could not get over how much she reminded me of Judi Dench. She thanked Kristen for the introduction and then insisted everyone assembled introduce themselves and tell why they had come, and what they hoped to gain from the meeting. 

Uh oh. I can’t very well be honest! “Hi, I’m Marissa and I just jumped on this amazing and totally unlikely opportunity to come meet Kristen Howerton at HER HOUSE!”  Nope. Nope, nope, nope. Almost everyone in attendance was a blogger, a journalist, an activist, or an artist, and were looking for ways to get educated about the Parents Circle-Family Forum, or learn more about the human side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so they could in turn share with others. I should have tried harder to come up with something like that, but instead, I said something like:

“I’m Marissa, and I am just here to listen.”

This wasn’t good enough for Robi Damelin. She asked me a follow up question, but it escapes me now, what she asked—and what I responded, but her message was clear.  I mattered. She wanted to know more about me.

I fumbled through an answer…gosh, I wish I could remember what she asked me.  It was probably something very basic, but more than anything, I realized that I was NOT going to be anonymous in this little group. No, no. Robi Damelin don’t play. She saw me. She heard me. And she expected me to interact.  I felt both chastised and anointed.  We were going to have a DISCUSSION that day!

Following introductions, Robi Damelin (I can’t seem to refer to her by anything but her full name) asked the group at large, “What is forgiveness?”

Several answers were offered before Robi Damelin told us what it means to her.  She said the definition of forgiveness that most resonates with her is “giving up your just right to revenge.” Robi Damelin’s son David was serving in the Israeli army reserves when he was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper.  Robi Damelin has every right to demand vengeance, but instead, seeks ways to reconcile with the people who have brought her only pain and loss.

No description of mine can thoroughly capture Robi Damelin’s words or presence at the meeting at Kristen’s house, but I found the following video in which she shares her story and her thoughts on forgiveness and the reconciliation organization she works with, The Parent’s Circle—Family Forum, a group of some 600 Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost an immediate family member in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Please watch it and be changed.

Much like in this video, Robi Damelin talked at Kristen’s house about forgiveness, about her son, and about how violence will never truly reconcile anything.  She spoke of the Parents Circle-Family Forum and their work to help people see the human side of the conflict and find ways to come to peace.  There are no answers yet, and there are big feelings on both sides, which Bassam Aramin, the other speaker at Kristen’s heartily affirmed, but there will NEVER be answers if people on either side of the conflict remain bent on destroying each other.

After Robi Damelin spoke Bassam Aramin got up to speak. He is younger than Robi Damelin and more soft spoken, but Bassam told his story with a simmering passion.  His voice was quiet and matter-of-fact, but his pain was palpable and our tears fell.  He told how he, a Palestinian, was raised to hate Israelis because they stole his homeland from his ancestors. He was arrested at age 17 for throwing stones and a grenade at Israeli tanks, and was jailed, beaten, and broken for seven years. He still suffers from the effects of the torture he endured. He spoke of his years in jail, his hatred and anger, and his desire for revenge. He told us how over time he and one of the Israeli guards befriended one another and he began to realize that their pain and anger was the same, their stories and their fears were so similar. He realized that violence only begets more violence and that only understanding another’s humanity is the only effective way to resolve conflict.  He never picked up a weapon again, even years later when his 12 year old daughter was killed outside her school by an Israeli soldier.

More than once, Robi Damelin took Bassam’s hand to steady him as he talked about his daughter and how much he missed her, how senseless was her murder. Witnessing the love and compassion between these two bereaved friends, I can only describe it as powerful and sacred.  Their power is in their pain and they work tirelessly for peace and understanding. Reconciliation. Beauty for ashes. This video shows Bassam  and Robi Damelin together. You can just feel their passion for their work, and their love and friendship for each other.

When they finished speaking, we were invited to ask questions, but there weren’t many. Several ladies admitted they didn’t know much about the conflict and were inspired to learn more and to do what they could with their social and educational platforms to share more about the Parents Circle-Family Forum.  All I could do is wonder that my shallow, self-centered desire to rub elbows with my favorite blogger had led me to a deeper, more profound experience of shared humanity. I knew I had just participated in something huge for me and I would need to process it for a while.

I sat for some time by myself, after the talks were over and people returned to socializing. Bassam disappeared inside and Robi Damelin was immediately surrounded by women wanting to talk to her.  I wanted to throw my arms around her and hug her and tell her thank you. I wanted to find Bassam and do the same, but I didn’t. Instead, I sat and thought.  I was only roused to move when one of the ladies asked for a group picture with everyone in attendance.  I wish I’d asked for a copy of the photo, but I don’t even remember who took it.

After the photo, Kristen invited anyone who wanted to, to come to her church, where Robi Damelin and Bassam were going to speak in an hour.  The guest speakers were driven away to the church and the rest of us stood around chatting and finishing up the brunch offerings for a few more minutes.  I fell in with a couple of women who were discussing religion and because my mind was still on Robi Damelin and Bassam’s words, I was more awkward than usual and didn’t contribute anything worthwhile. Eventually, it was time for everyone to leave, as Kristen had to head down to the church. She and the last few of her friends who had stayed to socialize, started closing things up. I still hadn’t MET Kristen formally, and for some reason, it felt inappropriate to march up and introduce myself to her as she flurried around closing drapes and putting food away.  I needed to get gone so she could move on to other things.  I was starting to panic again, because I needed to be out of her house, but Julio hadn’t yet arrived to pick me up, even though I had texted him while I was still sitting and pondering my experience. 

After lurking in Kristen’s entry for an eternity, waiting for Julio, I decided I’d better just leave so Kristen and her friends could get to church.  I called out a thank you to Kristen and bolted outside, trying to decide which way I should wander in the neighborhood until Julio showed up. I nearly ran over a couple of Kristen’s kids, who had set up a lemonade stand in the front yard.  I didn’t even have 50 cents to buy a cup. They were not impressed.  Fortunately, Julio pulled up then and I jumped in like it was a get-away car and I had just robbed a bank.

So, it’s taken me well over a year to be able to write about this experience.  I’ll admit, one reason for this is because I’m embarrassed to admit I’m such an awkward fangirl and was totally willing to essentially be a stalker. When I RSVPed to Kristen’s event, I had zero REAL interest in WHY she was hosting it.  I just wanted to meet my hero and walk around in her world for a little while.  But my experience with Robi Damelin and Bassam Aramin transcended my petty little dream of hobnobbing with my favorite blogger. I got to share in the very human, very sacred stories of these brave and determined people and I don’t take that lightly. I have spent the last year thinking on their stories and their words. I have tried to become more of a facilitator of peace and understanding in my own life and in my daily interactions. I’m not perfect and there are some reconciliations I am still not ready for, but I think often of Robie Damelin and Bassam Aramin, and I hope someday I can see the world like they see it, with an eye always towards reconciliation, understanding, and peace.  That’s better than living a fangirl dream, any day.

What is your Passion?

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Mama Google defines passion as “a strong and barely controllable emotion.”  This definition sums up my personality. I don’t have to find my passion, because I was born with it. Sometimes I wish I would lose my passion. I have always admired people who are cool, calm, and collected. I have no chill. I cannot maintain a poker face.  Sometimes I wonder if I should have been an actress—if for no other reason than to find ways to channel the emotions constantly surging through me.  I suppose being an actress would take some discipline. And talent. Of which I have none.

But—besides the fact that I can barely contain myself in any given situation, whether I’m elated or angry, I thought I’d share some of the things that interest me enough to spend a lot of mental and physical energy on.

  • My family—of course. This seems like a given.  I’m SUPPOSED to be passionate about my family. It’s what the good Mormon women do—but, I am passionate about making sure the members of my family have their own things to be passionate about.  For Julio, it’s travel. For Ellen, it’s writing and reading fantasy novels. Calvin is really into history and politics. Gloria loves to dance and create comic strips. Blythe is obsessed with Star Wars. And Evelyn just wants mama’s attention right now.
  • Krav Maga—I love this military style hand-to-hand combat self defense system.  I have almost zero in common with other practitioners, who tend to be Spartan-esque warrior types.  I NEVER look for a fight.  But, once I’m in, I’m in all the way!
  • Cinema—I love movies. I love watching them, reading about them, finding out how they are made. One of my dreams is to collaborate on a film with Tim Burton. How and when this will happen? I dunno, but I’ll figure it out.  Maybe he and I will share the same nursing home somewhere and make stop-motion animation from our mashed potatoes and peas. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter can do the voices.
  • Social bridge-building—I like finding out what makes people tick and how to connect them to people who don’t understand them.  I like bringing people together and sharing ideas. I love to see that light bulb moment when people have a paradigm shift. I tend to get involved with unpopular, but critical social causes, because I want to be a voice for the voiceless.
  • Reading and writing. This stuff turns me on.
  • Homeschooling, my way—I am not the curriculum reviewer. I don’t have tips for folks on how to homeschool better or easier. I just love to learn and love taking my kids along with me.

These are all things that I could talk non-stop about—and often have.  I am finally learning to watch for signs that people are glazing over, because I really could go on forever. That said, I’ll stop here for now.

My favorite affirmations

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The word “affirmation” makes me giggle. It sounds new-agey and kind of hokey, but there are certain things I tell myself (and my kids and husband) all the time. I suppose they are affirmations of a sort.

 

1. “It’ll turn up.”  I am hopelessly disorganized. No matter what organizational system I try to implement, within minutes, everything is lost again. I used to berate myself for this character flaw, but now I’ve just embraced it. Things get lost, but miraculously, they turn up again. It may not be until a year later, but—hey, it’s made me a very patient person.

 

2. “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.” I hate to be micromanaged, I hate to be told what to do and what not to do. I’m not very good with authority for that reason. I’m not belligerent; I will usually tell you exactly what you want to hear, but I will then go ahead and do whatever I want. Don’t take it personally.

 

3. “I will MAKE it fit.” My methods and actionable timeline may be vastly different than those of others, but whether it’s deadlines, moving house, or getting an 8 foot table to fit a 6 foot space, I will make it work.

Why I started blogging.

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I’ve always loved to write and I feel more at home writing to an “audience” than to myself. In fact, as a kid, I kept a diary and wrote each entry as a letter to my favorite actor at the time, Lou Diamond Phillips. Yes. Really. In my diary, we were besties and I could tell him anything (and also swoon over how amazing I thought he was.)

Lou Diamond Phillips

I spent hours gazing at this picture of LDP—from the cover of our VHS copy of Young Guns II. Such a tortured soul. Le sigh, le purr.

Eventually, I got over my infatuation with Lou Diamond Phillips, but I still kept a journal, and out of habit, I still wrote my entries in letter format, to LDP.  Then, I discovered Erma Bombeck, and although I was too young to truly appreciate the topics of her books and essays, I really liked her style—and I started mimicking it until I found my own voice.

Erma Bombeck

Odd combination of muses, I suppose, but whatever.

I started blogging, because I still like to write, and though I have always dreamed of writing the Great American Novel, I figured blogging was a faster and cheaper way to get my ideas out into the world. Also, instant gratification.

Thoughts on blogging

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I have been blogging off and on for a few years—I started with a food and recipe blog that I called Where’s the Beef, Baby? And I had some fun with it for awhile. Then I got bored and quit posting recipes.  I discovered that more than wanting to post fabulous recipes to share with the world, I wanted to tell the stories behind the food.  Also, I don’t really love cooking as much as I thought I did. So, the poor blog has been neglected, except when I can’t find the hard copy of one of the recipes I KNOW I posted over there and I go digging around to find it. I love that I started out with it—I was brand new to blogging and shamelessly shadowed my favorite food blogger, Mel, from www.melskitchencafe.com .  I learned a lot about personal voice and the importance of good photographs and compelling content. Not that I apply those lessons all the time, but I DID learn, okay?

Shortly after that, I began The Valiant Efforts of a Half-Arsed Homeschooler. This was my “I’m going to show the world that even though I homeschool my kids, we DON’T FIT THE STEREOTYPE!” I started out explaining why we began homeschooling and writing all kinds of defensive and homeschool apologetics types of posts. Then I grew out of that and started posting about life in general, rather than specific aspects of homeschooling.  I’ve gotten some good feedback from my few readers and decided I’d try to expand my audience through guest posting, but guess what? Most other homeschool bloggers didn’t appreciate my blog’s title—bordering on vulgarity—(no sense of humor, these folks!) and my guest post submissions were turned down because of my blog’s title and URL.  Womp, womp.

So—wanting to break into the guest post blogging world, I’ve created Talk Quirky to Me…and I joined all kinds of blogging groups on Facebook.  After spending some time in these groups, it seems that most bloggers are trying to build their audience in order to make money. I admit, that would be really nice—but so many of the questions are about the technical and business side of blogging for profit, and I realized—I just want to be an artist.  I just want to write stuff.

I asked a question in one of my blogging forums about a potential blog post title and was given some practical, but stinging advice.  I was told that my crazy title would not generate very many clicks, because it wasn’t something mainstream and immediately relatable.  I was directed to a “blog post title analyzer” where you could type in your title and find out how statistically likely it is that people will click on your post and read it. It was fascinating, and my “potential click” percentage was pretty low, based on factors like emotional pull, power words (whatever that means), and some other things.  It stung a little to see that my title was deemed too “out there” to possibly generate traffic to my blog. I played around on the analyzer, trying to hit the sweet spot with a title full of the right kinds of key words.  It was a good learning experience. If nothing else, it helped me get to the essence of what my post was going to be about, which helped me tighten up my writing about the subject, but it was still discouraging to think that my quirky (!) title was a probable dud, in the world of blogging for “traffic.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a huge audience and a great online community that I brought into being myself, but really, at THIS point, that’s all secondary.

What this all boils down to is: I just want to write–I write to process things. I write to gain perspective, to make myself laugh, to chronicle my experiences.  Maybe someday, it will really matter to me to have lots of readers. Right now, I just want to practice writing quality content—so this post is about giving myself permission to do just that.  To not fret over who’s reading, or how to go “pro” at this.  That will be a thing someday, but for now I’m talking quirky to myself.

Tell and Show

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A picture is worth a thousand words, but have you ever overheard something in a cafe or at work that made you rubber neck to find out if what you heard was actually what was said?  That seems to be a regular occurrence in my household, so we’ve started a list of the oddest things we’ve found ourselves saying:

 

“You can’t fold your clothes if you are in that cauldron with that hippo!”

 

“Be careful of  Johnny Depp in my bathtub!”

 

“Stop shedding deer hair on the counter!”

 

“Why is there an octopus in a snowflake mug?”

 

“I think you have an escaped alpaca!”

 

Of course, there are perfectly sensible explanations for all of these declarations, but taken out of context…they sound like bad middle school writing prompts…or blog post titles….

Welcome!

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Welcome to Talk Quirky to Me!

In the fifth grade, my teacher read a nature poem to the class that included the phrase “an egg yolk sun.”  This is the only line in the poem I remember, because after the teacher read it, we were tasked with drawing a picture to illustrate it and I had only one image in my head. 

I drew a frying pan on a stove, sizzling with bacon and eggs, sunny-side up. I penciled in some blue and white kitchen tile in the background because I thought it would look pretty.

The kid next to me glanced over at my drawing and said, “What is THAT? That’s not what the poem is about!” 

The kid on the other side of me leaned over and hissed, ‘That’s not right! You’re doing it wrong!”

When I looked at their drawings, I was surprised to see they had both drawn green trees and purple, snow-capped mountains. Yellow suns bulged from the top corners of their papers.  A furtive glance at other drawings revealed similar mountain landscapes. 

A third kid leaned over and sneered at my paper,  “Why did you draw breakfast?”

I panicked.  My picture was not representative of the class’s illustrative consensus.  Hastily, I crayoned in a kitchen window with a view: pointy mountains, shaggy tree, a speck of sun in the northwest corner.

“You’re going to get in trouble,” said the first kid. “That doesn’t look right.”

My picture had drawn a crowd now and my teacher came over. “What’s this?” he said, plucking my picture off the table. 

“Marissa did it wrong. She didn’t draw what was in the poem!” squealed one of the kids.

My teacher scrutinized my work, then me. I still recall his face—bristly blonde brows furrowed over pale blue eyes, his mustache twitching over down-pressed lips.  This was his expression whenever he scolded me for daydreaming or goofing off when I was supposed to be paying attention.  Hot with embarrassment, I slid down in my chair. Could I get away with hiding under the table?

Finally, my teacher’s face relaxed. He took a step backward, lifted my drawing high, and said, “This is a very interesting take on this poem. I’ve never seen anything like this before.” He smiled at me and handed my paper back. “Good work.”

This was the first time I realized I take the world at a bit of a slant.  Over time, I learned to trust my creative intuition and it’s led me in all kinds of crazy directions and off-center adventures. I created Talk Quirky to Me to share my oddball outlook. I hope my stories make you laugh, make you think, and inspire you to look at the world in a different way.

Love and breakfast,

Marissa