Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Community doesn't just happen… it takes time.

The more time I spend trying to figure out the internet and all of it's nuances, the more I see that it is so much about marketing and networking. And I also recognize that both of these take a lot of time. Occasionally I can't help but wonder what the end result will be to all of my little efforts. And mostly I just keep working away, discovering treasures in people and their words, actively writing, and posting my work. Social networking is a big part of my life now.

This is what I've been learning about social networking so far. If I want to get word out about something I just tell my friends about it on Facebook, and then my announcement will instantly be 'seen' by my friends friends and so on. I can join special interest groups on Facebook and make new 'friends', expanding my network and my ability to spread the word about anything… an event, a book launch, a birthday! If I want to become more involved in the virtual writing world, I can visit writer's blogs, websites, and networks (like Pink Ink Workshop) and dig in a little, posting comments (only after reading their posts, of course) that link back to my own blog or website. And I can blog myself to build a platform for future projects, and I can Twitter… or Tweet… although I haven't gone there and I'm not sure if I will. Then there are also podcasts, and other things that I'm probably not even aware of (yet).

I've learned that I can follow or subscribe to blogs that inspire me and widen my perspective. I've learned how to join networks that again expand my circles and introduce me to the world of writing in new ways. Google Alerts allow me to monitor who else is writing on certain topics, and find other networks for writing women and so on. I can find a niche, discover a new idea, or make a new friend because of the amazing world of the internet.

Social networking creates a sense that I am 'out there', and there's this opportunity to build into and receive support from writers around the world. It's pretty amazing when you think about it. Pink Ink Workshop is an example to me of how a group of writing women can connect, care, and draw out the very best in each other. So many good things have occurred already in just a few months with this network, because of our growing relationships with one other.

The things I have yet to figure out are well defined boundaries… to ensure that I'm not spending too much time in the virtual world, but also engaging in relationships with flesh and blood people. I have to figure out a good writing schedule to allow me to blog regularly without sitting for hours in front of my computer. I have to discover when enough is enough when it comes to online research. But, with all those things in mind, I will forge on because I believe it's a worthwhile endeavor and a way to meet incredible people, learn new things, stay relevant, grow my gifts.

So, I encourage you to make time to get involved in online networks… it's up to you how much or how little you put into this, and it's really just one way to connect. But I believe it's a healthy thing to belong to communities of like interested people, who are actively making a place for themselves, and making friends along the way.

Out there, but still here,


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Basement dweller

A week of days without kids sent me to the depths of… the house! (You thought I was going to say despair, didn't you?) But no, as much as I miss them all, this week has been about seizing the opportunity to reduce, reuse, and recycle… or plain old 'clean' the basement. My husband and I were initially going to spend this week away… then decided to say home… and then came up with the crazy idea of cleaning the square footage in our home that holds almost 10 years of accumulated #%*&@!!!

Now tackling this isn't as easy as it might sound… I'm a pack rat… inspired by thoughts of reusing things at some time in the future and by sentimental attachments to things that are firsts… first picture, first word, first finger painting, first spelling test, first book, first paper mache face mask, first pencil, first macaroni photo frame… you get the picture. Only this collection of sentimental firsts is multiplied by 3 kids and has gotten completely out of hand.

And the sentimentality includes a lot of things belonging to me as well… like files from my old life as a Landscape Architect, letters from everyone you could imagine including old boyfriends (yikes), decor that went out of style in the 80's, my Barbie and Ken that have joined my 11 year old daughters' Barbies and Kellys in a large plastic container awaiting the day that her daughter might possibly find them fun to play with. And on and on…

It's a mess downstairs, but with my husband's help and patience and strong personality at work, we have made some great headway. And it's actually had moments of fun as we've been alone with our task and had time to reminisce and talk about all sorts of stuff… like how we're going to stop buying so much stuff without carefully considering where it's going to go and where it's going to end up!

We're done for the day, with plans to visit the dump and the local thrift shop tomorrow morning. Doesn't sound romantic, I know, but we are feeling somehow lighter for our hard work, and are going to celebrate by going out tonight to a new restaurant in town.

And just think how excited the kids will be when they get home to find all that open space downstairs!

Feeling cleaner,


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Truth or Dare

Perhaps a quirky theme of words here, but the terms 'truth' and 'dare' keep popping up over and over again. Like in the Love Dare book my husband and I are reading, which then inspired my posts I dare you and I double dare you . And now twice again over the past few days. Peculiar… I wonder…

My daughter Claire (11) just attended a birthday sleepover. Not my favourite in the long list of social activities that our kids participate in. And I prefer to RSVP to these parties with a negative… especially if the event is not celebrating a birthday. This one was a birthday sleepover, so after some careful consideration, I/we said yes.

So, with our kids all safely tucked into their prospective social lives, Bob and I headed out for an adult evening. We went to see the 'Hip' (Tragically Hip) and had a fun evening in the company of a crowd of about 2500 people who enthusiastically participated in the awesome musical event by dancing, screaming, drinking beer, and smoking pot. No, not us, but the people around us did. As a matter of fact, there was so much toking going on that, by the time the doors to the Performance Center were thrown open at the end of the concert, the smoke poured out with the people! I loved the music, but found the 'Sodomesque' environment a tad distracting at times.

When we arrived home, there were two messages on the answering machine. One was hard to understand… many young girl voices laughing and yelling and talking at once… and the second was our daughter explaining the first message to us. "Hey Mom and Dad", she said, "We are just playing Truth or Dare, and that was just a joke phone call to Malcolm (her 13 year old brother), so don't worry." OK, I won't worry, I thought… of course immediately worrying about what a bunch of 11 year old girls were doing making late night 'crank' phone calls and playing Truth or Dare in the first place.

After picking up my daughter and her friends the following day, I asked questions to try to determine what type of dares and truths were dealt with, how the game happened (apparently it was actually a board game given as a birthday present) and whether there might be any consequences to what had been done or shared as a result. And then I had to decide whether or not I needed to have a follow up 'teaching moment' with my daughter later… and yep, it's going to have to happen.

So, fast forward to about 10 minutes ago when I read today's blog at 'Dances with God', only to find a version of adult Truth or Dare that rocked me. Well, more truth than dare… but my point is that no matter when, if we are willing to speak truth, there will be consequences both for ourselves and often rippling out to others in our lives.

The truth disclosed by the author of Dances with God is in response to 'The Honest Scrap', in which you tell 10 true things about yourself that nobody else knows, and post them on your blog. Various other rules apply which I won't get into here.

Now I'm not saying that I'm ready or willing to disclose the type of truth that was bravely disclosed in 'Dances with God', but I have to say that I respect Pastor Sharon for doing so, and I'm thinking I'd better park here for a while to consider exactly what my heart is saying in response, and how I will apply that in my own life. Truth is often like that… it convicts… creates change… growth.

I've said that my life is an open book… but are some pages still stuck together? Am I daring enough to pry them (painfully) open?

I wonder how truthful I can really be… with you, with myself?


Friday, August 7, 2009

Creative joint venture anyone?

I'm passionate about developing my poetry blog, my grace notes, into a daily endeavor, primarily for expression, but also for exposure. Isn't that where all writers eventually end up… wanting to touch humanity with what touches our own souls? I do. I hope you do too.

And I love what the combination of imagery and words can do to create a feel and to broaden the experience of the reader/viewer.

If you've already been visiting my grace notes, you will know that the photos and the poetry are not always literally connected. I'm more interested in texture, form, colour, design, dramatic impact and creative interpretation in the visual arts. I'd like to continue in this direction.

My focus will be to concentrate on the writing side of things… and so would like to offer this for your consideration;

… an opportunity to contribute photographs to my blog. In return I would provide hyperlinks to your blog/website and give you full credit for your work.

I recognize that I am taking baby steps at this point, but I'm so aware of the potential there is in helping one another along the way.

Does this appeal to anyone?

Please let me know through email to mygracenotes@shaw.ca

Thanks for considering this,


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A tale of two cottages

Upon being home for a week from family holidays, this is some thoughts on our time away:

Two weeks, two locations, two different cottages, and two very different experiences.

The first week… coming down from the busyness of life, and at the same time getting into the groove of being together 24/7 with kids and husband… brought a myriad of emotions to the surface. Some good, some complicated. But the end result was a rush of creativity from deep in my psyche that found a home in words. Lots and lots of words written into my journal as we drove in the car, sat in the cottage, walked on the beach… even as we sat together in restaurants. Scribbling madly at all times of the day and night… inspired by every imaginable thing, but MOSTLY by the place.

Here is that place…

Even the sheer number of photos taken in and around the cottage show me that this place was special… it had a sense of itself… a history… a unique story to tell… didn't have to prove anything to anyone… it just was. And my love of most things 'old' instantly bonded me to it. And at home in this place, my creative side was at home too rather than hiding and seeking an appropriate time and place to emerge.

I've seldom seen as many doors or cupboards as this cottage had… along with squeaky doors and stairs, dishes with a lighthouse motif, and a washer and dryer in the old garage with it's resident spiders. The stove was crooked, the dishwasher (oh, there was no dishwasher!), and the falling down hand built stone wall with it's half dead perennial border were things that I very quickly grew to love. Was it perfect… no! Was it real and exactly what I/we needed… yep! Some sand in the corners, slightly worn chairs in the living room, and a flagpole in the yard that had given in to the onslaught of salt air over many years. Very quirky…

Things that I remember best are windows thrown open to the sea breezes, a long winding pathway down to the beach… and a view of the horizon when the fog cleared. Then, on the very last evening… whales! Three of them!

So, I can say that our week together in this wonderful, old, creaky cottage was memorable… was fulfilling… was good. The latest postings at my poetry blog 'my grace notes' are reflective of that.

The second cottage was lovely too… but in a neat, well put together, newish kind of way. We could have been anywhere in the world inside the walls of this townhouse…beachy decor abounded, and the views out the windows were not of the sea, but of other vacation homes in the rather densely developed 'neighbourhood'.

It was clean and tidy, beds were comfortable, and appliances of the stainless steel kind. Every need was met, but my soul was not at home there. It's not the first time we've stayed in a vacation property like that one… but the result is always the same for me… slightly disappointed… slightly pensive and wishing for something a little more real. You know… with some there there.

I don't even have a good photo of the outside to show you… just this porch shot of me with a book… snoozing in the sun (which we seldom saw), and another from the porch looking at the surrounding neighbourhood. I think you get the general idea though.

So I walked on the beach in search of what I left behind in the other cottage and it's surroundings. Found a different type of beach with different treasures. Found things to do and places to go with the family… all good, all memories that I/we will cherish.

But, the first cottage is going to stick with me for some time, both in photos and in my mind as a place that stimulated creativity and writing through it's lack of pretence, and it's abundance of character… something that this 40 something writer/poet can relate to.

That's me anyway…



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