Archive | January, 2012

Why I’m A Bad Blogger And How You Can Be, Too!

25 Jan

I am a bad blogger. Awards and accolades aside, according to those in the know, I am doing this thing all wrong.

My first error is in my headlines. I use clever headlines. I am, in fact, quite fond of my clever headlines. Indeed, I have written entire posts just so I could use a particular headline. “I Don’t Have ADH…”, for instance. My son has ADHD. So do some of his friends. One of those friends is fond of telling people, “I don’t have ADH . . .” and then staring off as if watching a butterfly flit by. I thought that was hilarious. I had to use that line, so I wrote a post around it.

If I were a good blogger, I would use titles like, “Top Ten Ways Americans Are Weird About Birthdays,” instead of “And Many More.” I would have written “Why Your Nine-Year-Old Drives You Crazy and What You Can Do About It,” instead of “Number Nine, Number Nine.” A friend and loyal reader suggested “ ‘Tween a Rock and a Hard Place” for that post. I think his idea has more universal appeal; my headline dates me. Still, neither of our choices has much marketing impact.

Blog marketing experts assure me that “How,” “Why,” and “Top Ten” are all words that should be included in post headlines if one is to capture attention in our blog soaked world. Maybe I’ll re-title the one on adoption. I could call it “Top Ten Idiotic Things People Say About Adoption.” Or, “How Your Comments About Adoption Make You Look Like An Idiot.” Or, “Why I Think You’re An Idiot When You Say Those Things About Adoption.”

My second error is in my content. I write humorous personal essays. There is no market for humorous personal essays, apparently. There is a market for mom-to-mom advice and I do give some mom advice on occasion. I like to think of it as parent advice, commie liberal politically correct pinko that I am.

There is a market for cooking advice, travel advice, craft advice, all kinds of advice. And there’s the rub. I don’t want to write an advice blog. I don’t care if you have a problem. Well, ok, I do care and if you want to email me to ask my advice about something, go ahead. But in my blog, I want to ramble, rant and rave with little-to-no thought at providing anything more useful than a laugh. Humorous personal essays are only marketable if you are a mean-spirited skinny bigot like Chelsea Handler. I’m not skinny, nor a bigot but my kids think I’m mean, so it’s a start.

Error number three also relates to my content. I write long. The most effective blog posts are 300-500 words. My posts come in at about 1,000 words. Apparently, not a lot of people want to read that many words. With the popularity of twitter, it’s no surprise to me that my 1,000 words are the blogosphere equivalent of War and Peace. I will admit that my writing goal of 1,000 words is completely arbitrary. It seemed like a nice round number when I started blogging. Now, it’s a habit and one that’s given me proof that I can write enough to produce a book. If I were Chelsea Handler, in fact, I’d already be published.

I commit my fourth error on a weekly basis: I post only once per week. If I were serious about blogging, I would be posting on a daily, even an hourly basis. I would also have no life. I am interested in having a life. At the same time, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to know more about me than I already reveal. I imagine that my readers are interesting people who also want to have lives.

I could avoid my fifth blogging boo-boo by including more photos in my posts. Adding photos is a lot more complicated than it seems, though. There’s the privacy thing. My kids deserve it. I am not overly worried about privacy for myself but I am overly critical of photos of me.  There’s the practicality thing, too. Pictures of naked Barbies is one thing; pictures of me riding pachyderms is another. Then there’s the copyright thing. I could just use other people’s photos, but then I couldn’t tsk-tsk my son when he pirates music and videos online.

My sixth error, and a grevious one it is, is my failure to market my blog. When I started blogging, I had no idea I was even supposed to market it. I wrote something that made me laugh, I posted it on WordPress, I told some friends and they read it. Many of them laughed, too. The next week, I did the same thing. And I’ve pretty much done that every week since September 30, 2010.

If I were a really good blogger, by now I would be running clickable ads in my blog. When I wrote about naked Barbies, for instance, there would be a link to click so that you could purchase your own Barbie. Whether or not you kept her clothed would be up to you, of course. My ADHD post would include a link to drugstore.com, where you could purchase your own supply of Concerta. If I were really savvy about this blog marketing thing, there would be a flashing banner across the top of my posts, hawking the things I’ve blogged about from bacon and dead squirrels to lawn services, elephants and condoms.

Perhaps the biggest blogging mistake I make though is this: other than the making more money from my writing bit, I don’t really care if I’m a bad blogger. I write what I feel like writing. I write even if I don’t feel like writing, but I don’t write because I have to. I write because I want to. I write about what amuses me and animates me. In short, I’m blogging because I like it and I like that you like it, too.

And Many More

19 Jan

It sounded terrible. Everyone was singing in a different key and the tempo was only marginally quicker than a dirge. But, Marilyn Monroe’s edition aside, “Happy Birthday” almost always sounds terrible. Even my family, which includes a fair number of pretty good singers, couldn’t manage to sound like much more than something Animal Planet might air when we recently feted the two members born in January.

Birthdays are a big deal in America. People take the day off and they get pissy if they can’t. We go out to eat. We get drunk. We are so invested in having a terrific time on our birthdays that all day we are admonished to do so. “Happy Birthday,” we hear from our family. “Happy Birthday” we hear from our friends and co-workers. Hell, we even hear “Happy Birthday” from our favorite stores. I got a $10 gift card from Ace Hardware last year. Ace Hardware!

What’s really amazing to me is that we feel like we deserve special treatment as if we did something amazing on the day we were born. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I was a passive participant in the events of April 22, 1958. Frankly, my mother was, too. The accepted practice then was to knock mom out. She’d come to with a baby in her arms. Maybe that’s where the stork legend came about. When I come out of anesthesia you could tell me I’d had a beer with George Bush and I’d believe it.

These days, Mom is generally well aware of how the wee ones enter the world: through our bodies. And yet, on the anniversaries of their births, we give them presents. And they expect them!

My son has yet to thank me for allowing him to suck the life out of me for nine months. The little beast didn’t even want to come out and, in fact, did everything he could to stay in. He was one week late and then took one and a half hours of pushing to get his fat head out of my body.

Some people think childbirth is beautiful. I think sunsets are beautiful. I even think my children are beautiful, but giving birth? Not so much. When my son finally crowned (for those who don’t know, that means you could take a peek at my lady parts and see the crown of his head just beginning to appear), one of the nurses asked if she should get the big mirror so I could see the baby. She giggled like a little girl, practically jumping for joy, as if looking at my hoohah stretched beyond belief were more fun than getting a puppy for Christmas. “No!” I said. “The only way I want to see this baby is out!” I wanted him out so I could give him the first time out of his life.

He finally did come out and every year afterwards, we spent a boat load of money on parties and gifts. Lately, it’s been mostly gifts, as he no longer really wants a party, wisely understanding that less party equals more gift.

It may come as something of a surprise, but I get a kick out of planning kiddie birthday parties. I will even admit, with a modicum of parental pride, to losing my mind over some of my kids’ birthday parties. There was the fishing party which required: construction of bamboo fishing poles with u-shaped magnets instead of hooks, gluing of additional magnets to the backs of assorted pond-related plastic animals, and cutting out of craft foam lily pads. The animals floated on their little lily pads in a kiddie pool in the yard. The children fished them out and exchanged them for treats. It was a-freaking-dorable.

The fishing party wasn’t my only folly. One year, I constructed a miniature golf course in our back yard out of stuff (read: junk) I found laying around the house. Not as cute as the fishing party, but just as fun. We’ve also had princess parties, flower power parties and night-at-the movies sleepovers. The most recent parties have featured some amazing cupcakes crafted by a family friend.

None of these parties was for me. In fact, I very seldom get a birthday party. I am wise enough to know that my husband’s birthday planning skills consist of making reservations and placing a credit card in a leatherette folder. Still, for my 50th birthday, I wanted a party and I was damned if I was going to plan it for myself.

My husband planned the party, bless his heart. If you are Southern, you know what that “bless his heart” means. He tried. He really did. He invited the guests, he readied the house, he ordered the food. About half an hour before the guests arrived, I realized I hadn’t seen a birthday cake. “Is someone bringing the cake,” I asked. “Cake?” he said. “Yes, cake. It’s a birthday. There’s supposed to be a cake.” He got that “I am in it really deep” look in his eyes. He went to the store; he got a cake. He will never live it down.

I won’t ask my husband to throw me a birthday party again. He’s not good at it and he really doesn’t want to do it. I’m touched that he did it at all. But, we’ve developed a new tradition for my birthday. We go to a really good Vietnamese restaurant located right next door to an Oberweis store. I eat my rice paper-wrapped spring roll, top it off with the best turtle sundae in the world and they roll me home. And they all have the good sense to skip the birthday song.

 

The more things change…..

17 Jan

Ok, I said I was going to start publishing my weekly posts on Wednesdays. Well, this Wednesday is the day that the internet goes black in opposition to SOPA/PIPA. I’m joining the protest, so Snide Reply will, in effect, be closed for most of the day tomorrow. I’ll post this week’s entry on Thursday, then be back to regular Wednesday postings next week.

Thanks for your support and understanding. Don’t forget to do something–call your Senator, for instance–if you don’t support SOPA/PIPA.

Janice

Turn And Face The Strange

16 Jan

Since I started this blog, more than a year ago, I have published something new almost every Monday, generally in the morning. I’m making a change to accommodate some personal changes. I’m still writing, but I’ll be publishing on Wednesday, instead of Monday.

Thanks to all of you for your support.

Janice

What’s Funny Got To Do With It?

9 Jan

My inability to remember details is really starting to annoy me. Lately, I can’t remember lots of things that I really would like to remember. Like my New Year’s resolution. Completely escaped my mind. I may even have written a post about not being able to remember what my resolution was.

I refuse to call these senior moments. I’m busy; I’m distracted. It could even be my meds. I googled one of them. Apparently, lots of people blame it for their short-term memory loss. One woman wrote: “Yes, this medication causes memory loss with me. (laughing)” What could be funny about memory loss escapes me, but at least she’s got a sense of humor about it. This weekend, I forgot where I put the medication that might be causing my forgetfulness. I begged the pharmacist for enough to keep me sane while I looked for the mother supply. I couldn’t find it. I sent my daughter on the hunt, primarily because I know she will move things in her search, thinking that the lost item might be under something. My son will enter a room, look right, look left and declare, “It’s not in here.” My daughter found the drugs. They were in the medicine cabinet. I did not laugh.

So, I am not surprised that I can’t remember what event why siblings and I were discussing this weekend with my dad. The event was to occur in July, so maybe we were talking about Independence Day. My dad said, “I might not be around for that.” My sister and I froze for a beat.

“Dad,” I said. “You’ll be around. You’re going to fight like hell.”

He looked at me quizzically, clearly thinking I had lost my mind. I knew I was sane as my daughter had found my meds and I hadn’t forgotten to take them.

“I might be on a cruise,” he said, then gave me a “what were you thinking?” look.

I was thinking the same thing my sister was thinking. My dad was recently diagnosed with cancer. We weren’t thinking “not around” like in going on a cruise; we were thinking “not around” like, you know, not around.

I haven’t written about my dad’s diagnosis because it’s not my cancer. Well, and because I haven’t wanted to write about my dad’s cancer. I’ve struggled, too, with how much of my personal life really belongs in my blog. I usually write about funny things and I haven’t found a whole lot that’s funny about cancer. At least not my dad’s. At least not yet.

There are any number of things that have happened in my life that I haven’t written about. My friends, my family (especially my kids), deserve their privacy. I respect my kids wishes regarding which stories I can tell and which ones are theirs to tell or not. I would love to tell you about one involving my son. It’s a riot. It’s really not even just his story. But, I’m not going to write about it. My daughter, on the other hand, reads every post to make sure she’s been mentioned at least once.

I don’t write obscenities, either. If you know me, you know that I have a mouth like a sailor. I worked around sailors for a time, but I can’t blame them. I’ve had a foul mouth for years. Still, I won’t use the “F” word, the “S” word (unless necessary, like when I wrote about the four-year-old who said “Oh, shit” when she realized she’d forgotten to bring something to school), and a number of other “single capital letter” words.

My son would give permission for me to write about the funny things he does and says. Unfortunately, most of them fall under the no obscenities rule. My son is the funniest person I know and he is also the most foul. I’ve read that Bob Sagat (the Full House dad) is a truly dirty comic. He’s credited with telling the dirtiest joke ever written. However filthy that joke is my son has one that’s filthier. It even makes my husband, who generally hides his head in his hands when my son gets his comic mojo on, laugh with glee. Ok, maybe not glee, but he’s laughing, feeling guilty over it, but laughing.

Right now, we’re in the beginning phases of coping with my dad’s illness. My sibs and I each have our ways of handling the stress. My sister wants to get to work. She’s one of those constantly in motion people. I know she naps, but I’m pretty sure she does it so she can go back to being in motion refreshed or because she stayed up too late being in motion. Even a dynamo needs to rest now and then.

My brother deals with the pressure by smoking. While I think that’s a really lousy way of coping, I certainly appreciate it. I smoked for years and it was hard as hell to quit. Took me five serious tries. When they invent a cigarette that doesn’t kill you and/or make you smell terrible, I’ll be sorely tempted.

I cope by running. Unfortunately, I can’t run every day without incurring some injury that keeps me from running at all. My other coping mechanism is laughter. If I can find the humor in something—and I very often do—it isn’t quite as scary.

But, so far, my dad’s cancer isn’t very funny. I’m still running, taking it easy so I can keep it up. Maybe I’ll plan on running an American Cancer Society-sponsored race. I look pretty funny after a run and my kids assure me that I smell pretty funny, too. I might even find another pressure release outlet. I hear yoga is good for that. I tend to fall over when I do yoga so that can be pretty amusing. I’ll probably forget where I put my yoga mat, though.

Resolved: Take Another Letter

2 Jan

Last year, I noted that I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions. This year, I decided they weren’t such a bad thing after all. My quibble with NYRs isn’t that I fear commitment, but that one can—and probably should—resolve to improve oneself throughout the year. If the Jews, the Muslims, the Chinese and the Europeans can’t agree on when each year actually begins, does it really matter when you make your resolutions? Plus, I needed fodder for my Naperville Patch column.

So, I made a resolution and made my family resolve as well. My husband resolved to eat carrot sticks. My daughter resolved to put away her clothes every night. I am pretty sure she thinks putting them in the laundry hamper counts. My son resolved to do his Chinese homework. Actually, he was pretty squishy about it, noting that he couldn’t promise promise because you never know what might happen and “really, Mom, I have ADHD, so the best I can do is try.” I was going to say that Justin Timberlake and Michael Phelps both have ADHD, but I have no idea if they did their Chinese homework.

I would tell you what my resolution is, but I can’t remember it.

So, having forgotten my resolution, I am establishing a tradition with my second annual letter to people who’ve annoyed the crap out of me in the past year.

To the “Merry Christmas” cranks: I got the “Xmas” thing and I agreed with you. Definitely, let’s put the “Christ” back in there. But, do we have to keep reminding you to have a merry Christmas? Will you really forget to have fun on December 25 unless you are reminded multiple times in the four weeks preceding?

To the prayer people: Kids can pray in school. Honestly. I’m pretty sure they can cross themselves before hand, too. They just can’t be made to pray. Frankly, I’m thinking a fervent personal prayer has a lot more meaning than a rote recital of a generic devotion lead by the school principal, but that’s just me.

To the Pledge people: Yup. Kids can say the Pledge of Allegiance, too. Happens every morning in schools all over the United States with exceptions I am too uninterested to research. See above comment about rote recital.

To my husband: there is a reason office parties are called office parties. They are for people in your office. They are not for people who live 38 miles away and must drive through rush hour to get to them. I like the people you work with and am pleased that my frustration at driving two freaking hours to see them gave them such pleasure. Next year, they can freaking well find someone else to freaking laugh about. Except your boss. He can laugh at me all he wants.

To my children: I do not put vegetables in your food as a test of your manual dexterity. I swear they are edible.

To the man—it must be a man—who designed the white porcelain sink: every day my sink sees grease, coffee grinds and tiny bits of vegetable my children refused to eat. Please come over and tell me how to clean it without using toxins.

To the biodegradable, compostable everything people: stop telling me how wonderful your biodegradable plastic bag and compostable carryout container are. Both of them are going in the trash until we’ve got municipal waste composting facilities.

To the woman who wondered if the pockets on her jeans made her butt look big: yes.

To the Boomer-hating generations that followed mine: who do you think put organic food in your mouth, saved for your college education and made it ok for moms to work? We gave you Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Led Zeppelin. Now will you get off our backs and go make up for John Mayer and that Chocolate Rain guy?

Speaking of Bill Gates. . .

To the people circulating his “Rules”: he didn’t write them. Charles Sykes wrote them. It is an amusing list full of wit and wisdom. Let’s give Mr. Sykes credit.

To the people who insist on using less when they mean fewer: I have less and less patience with you. Let’s go over this again: if you can count the things, you have fewer; if you cannot count them, you have less. Let’s suppose I made many cookies for Christmas and that they were delicious. At the same time, let’s suppose that I pulled a calf muscle, which hampered my ability to run. So, I ate more cookies and ran less. I do not say I ran fewer over winter break. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Next year, I will make fewer cookies and run more. Right now, I will go throw away all of the cookies so that fewer will go into my body and I will have less weight to lose.

To myself: is it really necessary to call yourself an idiot when you forget something, lazy when you take a break or mean when you curse the cat? People your age forget things all the time, especially things like where they put their glasses. Unless you’re going to get one of those granny-looking glasses leashes, suck it up. Lazy? Even your son, who never compliments you on anything, says you’re the opposite of lazy. The cat? Ok, you’re mean to the cat, but he deserves it.

So, I guess I’ll resolve to be kinder to myself. I’ll make fewer cookies and try to be less annoyed by people. I’ll let go of the fantasy that my children will one day love vegetables and, given a year of recovery, might even consider going to my husband’s office party.

Thank you for your support. It’s been a terrific year for my blogging adventure. May the cosmos be kind to us all this year.

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