No chickadees this week. Instead, let’s talk more about racism

Ah, man, I like chickadees!

Yeah, sorry about that. Listen, we really wanted to talk about chickadees – and tell you about other visitors to the bird feeder! – but a certain angel chick on our shoulder was having none of it. She claimed we needed to do a follow up from last week’s post, because to write on a topic like racism and then do a fluff piece seemed a little… well, as she put it:angel on my shoulder

Fine. Get on with it then.

Okay. First some stats: Last week’s post saw a little traffic. It surpassed our record number of reblogs for a single post (more than one), broke our record for shares on Facebook (more than two), and actually brought in readers from Twitter (We’ve no idea what’s happening there; we haven’t tweeted in over three years and can’t remember the password).

It also garnered a number of comments. More comments than “likes”, which we’re told is good but seems weird. And while the comments didn’t break any records in number, they certainly did in length.
All this made us realize that what this blog needs is to cover more serious topics. Like, super serious topics. The more contentious the better!
We could cover climate change!
Abortion!
Whether or not leggings should be worn as pants!

leggings

Please don’t.

We didn’t say we wore them. We just said… eh, never mind.
We had a number of very thoughtful comments, several bringing up things we either didn’t cover or didn’t elaborate on very well.
For instance, both here and elsewhere, people pointed out that prejudice is not limited to white people. It’s a universal problem.

Oh, yeah. I meant to comment on that.

You too?
Listen, we probably didn’t introduce the subject well enough and that’s why people got a wee bit defensive.
No offense.

None taken.

Good.
In hindsight, an explanation for why the Convent was meeting on racism would have helped. You see, a few years ago the Leadership Conference of Women Religious made a pledge:

In the presence of constant and painful reminders of the deep roots of racism in our country, (we) pledge to go deeper into the critical work of creating communion, examining the root causes of injustice and our own complicity, and purging ourselves, our communities, and our country of the sin of racism and its destructive effects.

The Sisters have been at it since before we started working at the convent, though this was the first time they were going to devote a full week to it with the entire community gathered together.
Make sense?

Um… yeah… Sorry, I got distracted. There’s a national conference for nuns?

Right?! We were surprised by that too.

Anyway, it’s not that the Sisters don’t understand the issues of tribalism and the wide spread nature of prejudice, but that they were making a distinction between racial prejudices and racism.
Or maybe we should say “big-R” Racism. Meaning the collective actions of the dominant race. For America, that’s white people of European ancestry. It shows up in our laws, our institutions, our media, and embeds itself into our psyche whether we like it or not.
For a better understanding of it, here’s an excellent article on the subject and it’s not too long. It’ll take maybe five minutes, tops.

I’ll read it later.

Please do. Anyway, that’s why the timeline we created was focused in that direction.
And no, we’re not going to upload all those pictures again. If you missed last week’s post, click the damn link already.

Harsh.

Sorry.
Where was I?

You were singing that song from Avenue Q, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”

No I wasn’t.
Oh, I remember. So yeah, it’s true that all people are biased. Even the most self-aware of us don’t realize our own biases until we’re confronted by them.
Though rather than just shrug our shoulders and say, “oh well, everyone does it,” we push ourselves to learn and grow and improve.
Right?

Right.

Cool.
You know, we fear we may have confused matters by bringing in our personal reflections and failings. It was not our intent to wallow in “white guilt.” We hate white guilt. In truth, we hate guilt.

Guilt is an useless emotion unless it is followed by real change. That was what we were trying to get across. We used to act one way, now we see the error and will act another way.

Sounds good. I still don’t understand why nuns are talking about it.

We’ve said this before but it bears repeating: where we work is not a cloistered convent. The majority of these Sisters do not live at the Motherhouse.

Motherhouse?

Seriously. That’s what it’s called.
Several of the Sisters live within Minnesota, others are in Wisconsin, Illinois, Mississippi, California, and Texas (in McAllen). There used to be a few in other countries, but now their only international missions are in San Rafael and Juarez, Mexico.
So if your concern was that their work would begin and end within the convent walls, you may rest easy. That’s not how they operate.

Coolcoolcool… So now what?

Well, as we told one commenter, the purpose of the Sisters’ meetings was to 1) make us aware of the need for social & political change and 2) discuss ways of getting there. Their last day was pretty intense, discussion wise, and they decided to continue exploring more ideas and ministries.

So what you’re saying is, even nuns can’t solve racism?

Um… they’re nuns. They don’t have superpowers.

Damn.

Yeah. But at least they’re not giving up. You have to give them that.

Fine. But what can I do? I need steps!

Hey, come on – we gave you steps!

You did?

Yeah. Only they were kind of hidden and random and probably made no sense.

Ha.

Shut up. For one thing, we hinted that voting is important. You understand that, yeah?

Oh… right.

Here at Feeding on Folly, we will not tell you who to vote for. However, we will suggest one thing: When casting your vote, stop thinking only about yourself. Consider the common good. The good of many over the good for you.
That is all we’ll say on the matter.

Our more step – though again, no worries if you missed it – we were advocating an end to modern day segregation.

You want me to sell my house and move?

No, we’re not saying sell your house. Unless you want to, in which case you should consult an agent and start packing.

Got it.

Here’s an idea: how about every other time you catch a movie or eat at a restaurant, you try one in a completely different neighborhood?
Also, broaden your outlook with the books you read, websites you visit, blogs you follow, and movies you see.
Even if you feel properly progressive and have an extra-crunchy liberal core, if all the media you consume is white-based, then you’re not getting enough seasoning.
The point is, get out of your comfort zone.

Honestly, that doesn’t sound like much.

Maybe not, but it’s an excellent way of broadening your perspective. Especially if where you live limits how much you can interact with people of color. In any case,  it certainly can’t hurt.

I suppose not. But I’m just one person and the problem is so vast!

Hey, listen up: You are not one person! There are loads of other people who think the same way you do (or very nearly) and are doing their part too. Don’t lose hope! Never lose hope!
You are not alone.
Okay?

Okay. Thanks.

You’re welcome.
Tune in next week when we’ll probably be talking about chickadees. Unless something comes up to divert us and then who knows?

In the meantime: Be good, be brave, and always choose love.

Word.

MLK quote

Thoughts on ghosting, heart attacks, and the art of a finely made mojito

Okay. So.

Here I am beginning a blog post with both Okay and So. The sure sign a blogger is in a slump and feeling desperate.

Not only have I not been posting for the last, oh, two weeks or so, I haven’t been writing or reading or facebook-ing or any other social media-ing. I might have looked at my email once or twice, but that’s about it.

I’d like say the reason was because I’ve been on a far-away island with endless ceviche and mojitos served by a cabana boy named Liam, an NYU grad who couldn’t make it in the cutthroat world of teaching high school ceramics, so used his latte money to purchase a plane ticket to a far-away island where he’s now a cabana boy serving me damn-fine mojitos and ceviche.

I’d like to say that, but I can’t.

Fact is, my absence was due to a hospital stay. Not by me, but by another member of this household and that, my friends, is why this blog post begins with an Okay and a So. I assure you, had I been the one in the hospital bed, there would have been no occasion for either Okay or So.

But Husband? No. He’s not supposed to be the one in the hospital bed. That was our agreement and I really don’t understand how he missed the memo on that subject, but somehow he did.

Okay. So.

A few weeks ago, on a Saturday morning to be precise, I awake early and begin doing my morning routine, i.e. making tea and talking to myself. Then Husband walks in and says he’s having some heartburn, only he’s also sweaty and clammy and for some reason his left elbow hurts.

“Do you want to go to the hospital?”

“Maybe… I don’t know… It’s probably nothing.”

“Well, I’m going to get dressed just in case.”

Two minutes later...

“Um… yeah, I think we should go.”

“On it!”

Thankfully we live within a very short distance to a hospital and, thankfully, that hospital moved him to another hospital which, thankfully, has a top-notch cardiac unit. An angioplasty and three stents later, he’s doing well and I’m now cooking without salt and minimal fat and beginning blog posts with Okay and So.

All this is to say, when it came to writing and reading blogs, my head just wasn’t in the game. But things are going better now and I’ve got tons of things I could tell you about.

Like, I could tell you about the little chickadees visiting the bird feeder in our backyard, who I’m beginning to suspect are chirping naughty things to each other.

chickadee

Or I could tell you about the nun who visited my office the other day who I swear was in every respect the female version of Tim Conway’s old man.

old man

Or maybe I’ll tell you about the Easter vigil we attended at the convent where Husband, one week from a heart attack mind you, played trumpet and I stood at the ambo (seriously never heard that word before, have you?) and read aloud the “intercessions” and gave a reasonably half-assed impression I knew what I was doing.

Ambo
Presbyterians call them lecterns, Catholics call them ambos. Oh, the things I’m learning.

Instead, what I’ll say is this: I’m sorry for ghosting on you. Now that I’m back, you’ll be hearing from me. I just checked my email and I see several of my blogger buddies have posted… well shit, they posted a lot. I better get reading.

Hey, before I go, if by chance you should meet a cabana boy named Liam, tell him I’m shooting for next April, okay? And tell him if he muddles the mint particularly well, there’ll be a nice tip in it for him. Thanks.

On white decor, deaf dogs, and a folly-challenged blog

I’m taking a lesson from my wise friend Andrew and decided not to wait for something clever to pop into my head before I wrote a blog post.

Just write, he said. So that’s what I’m doing. Just writing.

(The advantage of this is that if you don’t like the result, blame Andrew.)

It’s 25° as I’m writing this and we haven’t seen temps on this side of 0 for some time. Lord knows when we will again, so I should be outside. Only my jacket is in the dryer right now, so there you go.

This is what happens when you buy a white coat — this is my smaller coat, not the huge quilt I showed you in my previous post. This one is more like a ski jacket, very lightweight but waterproof and windproof and surprisingly warm. It’s also white, because I have a thing for white coats.

That reminds me. There was a new alto in choir last Wednesday. She just moved into the area and was telling me how hard it was to find a house to buy. They looked at seven in their price range and one was really, really nice, but it had white carpeting in the dining room. So they went with a different house that wasn’t as nice, but at least it didn’t have white carpeting.

This led to a discussion among the altos and a couple second sopranos as to what sort of person chooses white carpeting for a dining room. The general consensus was that it was a childless couple with no pets. “And they only drink white wine,” I added.

Though really, it goes without saying. Only Pinot Grigio goes with white carpeting.

I used to have a white couch. It was a beautiful couch. I loved it very much. Then we sat on it. It wasn’t white anymore. But man, for those first 15 minutes? It was gorgeous.

One of the second sopranos said people who choose white decor are delusional. “Do they think it’s going to stay that way? They’re insane!”

I disagreed with her, but I kept it to myself. You just never know with second sopranos. They look harmless enough, but they can be feisty.

I think white decor enthusiasts know exactly what they’re doing. They know it will show dirt. It’s kinda the point. They want to know when it’s dirty so they can clean it. Such is their dedication to cleanliness.

And I am right there with them, too. Boy howdy. Totally with them. If I lived all alone, that is. And didn’t live in a slushy area. And have a black cat. Or drink red wine.

Like, ever.

white couch
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Yeah. Totally there.

Gah, I just had to let Dog out for the second time. She paws at the back door to be let out, then she walks around to the front of the house to be let in, waits five minutes and then paws at the back door again. Pretty sure she wants a walk.

What I should do is grab my coat and take her outside, but, you know, it’s in the dryer. And my other coat is way too warm for 25°.

The annoying thing is that the whole time Dog is outside, and I’m meaning the whole time, Merricat, who is not allowed outside, meows. On and on and on, she meows. And she doesn’t stop until Dog comes back inside.

Merricat in window

Oh dang, I just missed Dog at the front door. When I got to the door she had already turned around and was walking away.

She’s pretty much deaf now, so the only way I can get her attention is by throwing something at her.

Snowballs work, but I’ve got lousy aim. So now I have to wait until she’s facing me again. While Merricat sings the song of her people.

Don’t you wonder about dogs when they go deaf? I mean, they don’t know they’re deaf right? So they’re probably wondering why we’re not talking to them anymore.

Or maybe they feel bad for us. “Oh, my poor human. Her mouth is moving but no sound is coming out. I wonder if she knows?”

Dog

You know what I think my problem is? (I’m off the topic of deaf dogs now, she’s back inside.) This is regarding coming up with ideas on what to write.

I think it has to do with my title, Feeding on Folly. It’s hemmed me in. Fact is, I’m not seeing a whole lot of folly nowadays.

There was a time when folly was all around me. Working at a high school in an affluent area, people taking themselves too seriously, taking their jobs too seriously, taking everything too seriously. Especially the secretary who worked right across from me, the one who left anonymous notes in the breakroom regarding coffee cups she never used. Man, she supplied me with countless example of folly.

But now, working at a convent? There’s a woeful lack of folly. It’s weird, but of all people who probably have a right to take themselves seriously, nuns don’t.

chapel at convent
Sacred Heart Chapel (just down the hall from my office)

By the way, did you know they’re not technically nuns? Technically speaking, nuns live in a cloistered community. If they work outside the convent as teachers or nurses or whatever, they are sisters. All nuns are sisters, but not all sisters are nuns.

Fascinating, don’t you think?

Not that it matters much. One of the sisters told me most Catholics don’t know the difference either, so they don’t worry about it. If people call them nuns, they just roll with it.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, a lack of folly. What to do, what to do…

Here’s some ideas:

  1. Write about the convent, what it’s like to work there, what I encounter and such, keeping in mind very little of it is folly-related. OR,
  2. Now that I no longer work at the school and there can be no repercussions, really let loose on the folly I witnessed there. OR,
  3. Alternate between the two, cause why not? OR,
  4. Write whatever the hell I want. Folly or not.

You know, this is about the time we should start questioning Andrew’s wisdom, but maybe he was on to something. (We probably shouldn’t tell him that, though. He’s a nice guy and we don’t want him to get a big head.)

Oh hey, my coat is dry and oooh, it’s so white and clean! Guess I’ll be taking Dog for a walk after all.

Okay, so that’s it for this post. Stay tuned til next week when we’ll be talking about nuns… I mean, sisters… or my folly-filled memories, or whatever the hell I want.

Keep it real, friends.

Ceiling Theology

According to my blog’s stat page, I haven’t written squat since Christmas Eve. Is that right?

*receives note*

Okay, my editor says I shouldn’t openly admit how long it’s been since I last wrote, and…

*receives another note*

Okay, I’m also not supposed to mention how my editor sends me notes.

*receives third note*

Oh for cripes sake, I TOLD you the chocolate is on the second shelf, toward the back. Sheesh!

Anyway, sorry for ghosting on you. Been a bit busy and all that. I’ve got a couple blog posts percolating, but nothing quite up to snuff. So instead we’ll be doing a quickie for today.

This came to me via a sister from the convent. She works with college students at a volunteer ministry and they were studying the creation story. One of them brought up the scene from the Sistine chapel. The part where God is reaching out to Adam.

You can picture it in your mind, right? I don’t need to show it to you.

Okay fine, I’ll show it to you:

creation

So the student pointed out something I was aware of, but never really thought about.

Look at how how God — he’s the one on the right — is stretching out with everything he’s got. You can see his muscles at work, he’s straining, doing all he can to reach Adam. The angels look like they’re holding on to God, afraid to let go.

And then there’s Adam. Lounging about, taking it easy, barely managing to hold his hand out.

I mean, he’s not even looking at God.

creation (5)

Did you ever notice that? I didn’t.

I don’t know what Michelangelo had in mind, but I couldn’t help thinking this is like an extremely condensed version of the entire Bible.

God — forget for the moment he’s shown as a white-haired old man (this is art, baby) — God is always reaching out to us.

creation (2)

Come on, people… just a bit farther… you can do it!… I’m right here

And we’re all, like…

creation (4)

Hmm? … Oh, yeah… um… I don’t know, God. I’m kind of swamped right now...

Isn’t that interesting? And when you think about the Biblical stories — taken as a whole, I mean — then it seems clear that…

*receives note*

Okay, my editor thinks I’m getting too religious and need to back off. But you all know I work at a convent now, right? It’s gonna be hard not letting it creep in a little.

*yet another note*

What do you mean you can’t find it? You freak out over a misplaced apostrophe, but you can’t see a box of chocolates right in front of your face?! Geez!

I better go. I’ll see you all next week. In the meantime, keep reaching…  😉

On blogging, self-analysis, and a whole lotta $%*t

Several bloggers I follow recently announced they will be taking a break from blogging. Most gave a time frame for their return, others said, “we’ll see.”

They will be missed, but I commend them for taking a needed rest. Especially those who said it wasn’t fun anymore. I mean, if you’re not enjoying this blogging thing, then why do it?

working, frustrated, writer's block
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Which led me to think about this here blog. This Feeding on Folly.

You might have noticed our posting has been a bit sporadic. For the first three years there was an article every Wednesday, and sometimes a Saturday too if we were feeling especially productive.

But since this last June, around the time we relocated closer to Santa, the posting schedule has been hit or miss. There might be a Wednesday post, it might be Thursday, possibly Friday, or hey, maybe none at all. (Oh, the suspense!)

So after reading the fifth blogger in a row who wrote, “this will be my last post for the foreseeable future,” and I swear I heard a dirge playing in the background, I got to wondering if that was my problem. Maybe I’m in need of a break? Am I facing blogger burnout?

Has Fun left the building?

We decided to give the matter some serious thought. It was time for Self-Reflection, and if you’ve been following FoF for any reasonable amount of time, you know that Self-Reflection is our game.

For our evening of Rumination and Cogitation, we selected the chair nearest the fireplace and poured a glass of zinfandel.

Some might say pinot noir is a better choice for Introspection, but there is much to be said for zinfandel. The primary one being the zinfandel was on sale for six bucks and the pinot wasn’t. So there you go.

Sitting in the chair with Me was the Me doing the analysis. The Me doing the analysis was drinking Earl Grey, as she wanted to keep her wits about her.

Our conversation went as thus:

Me: It’s nice to see you again. How are things going?

Me: No complaints. You?

Me: Same. I noticed you didn’t do a blog post last Wednesday. Is everything okay?

Me: Aw, you noticed! That’s so sweet!

Me: Well, I didn’t notice right away. Truthfully, I forgot it was Wednesday.

Me: Right?! It’s so hard to keep track of those things.

Me: So was that it? You just forgot? That’s… troubling.

Me: Is it?

Me: What about Thursday, Friday or Saturday? You could have posted something one of those days.

Me: Meh. I just wasn’t feeling it. And now I’m kinda worried I might be facing burnout.

Me: Uh-huh. And how does that make you feel?

Me: Rotten.

Me: Interesting. Tell me, has the well run dry? Are you lacking ideas?

Me: No, I’ve got plenty of ideas. I just wasn’t sure any of them were blog-worthy.

Me: I see. Listen, how about you tell me one of the ideas and I’ll tell you what I think of it?

Me: Gee, I’m not sure…

Me: Hey, if you can’t trust me, who can you trust?

Me: Okay… well, for one of them I was writing about my new job at the convent and about how last week I was helping with this workshop thingy and when one of the nuns realized she forgot something she said, “Oh shit.”

Me: Really? A nun said shit?

Me: Yeah.

Me: That should be worth a blog post. A nun saying shit.

Me: Is it though? I mean, so what if a nun says shit? They’re human.

Me: Yeah, but you don’t expect them to say shit. That’s what makes it funny.

Me: Maybe. But there’s only so many times you can write shit before you wind up with a post full of shit.

Me: I see your point. What else have you got?

Me: Well, then I started thinking about how different this job is from my last job. You know, going from a high school to a convent.

Me: Go on.

Me: And how after two months of working here it was the first time I heard shit, but there–

Me: You heard it every two minutes?

Me: Something like that.

Me: Okay, yeah, I could see that being funny.

Me: Yeah. But then I got to thinking I was sounding all goody-goody, like I had a problem with people saying shit.

Me: Uh-huh.

Me: And really, I don’t care. I mean, hey, sometimes I say shit too.

Me: Uh-huh.

Me: But not at the convent. I don’t say shit there.

Me: Uh-huh.

Me: Some places aren’t shit-appropriate.

Me: Uh-huh.

Me: And then I started writing about how I finally met the oldest sister at the convent. She’s 103.

Me: No kidding? A hundred and three?

Me: Yeah.

Me: Is she the nun who said shit?

Me: No… though I bet she does, don’t you think? Say shit?

Me: Maybe.

Me: I bet she does. Heck, when you’re 103, I bet every morning you wake up and realize you’re still alive you say, “Oh shit.”

Me: I suppose.

Me: Yeah, I bet she does. I bet she says shit.

Me: Uh-huh.

Me: Listen, about this blog. What do you think? Give it to me straight – am I facing burnout?

Me: No, I don’t think this is burnout.

Me: Really?

Me: Really. Borderline psychosis, maybe. A touch of schizophrenia. Mild hysteria leading toward an eventual breakdown, sure. But not burnout.

Me: Oh, that’s such a relief. I feel so much better.

Me: Glad I could help. Now pour me a glass of Zin.

relaxed scene of sofa and two glasses of wine
Photo by Guillermo Nolasco on Unsplash

The Scary State of My Inbox, Shirley Jackson, and Other Halloween Horrors

I’ve been terribly negligent with my inbox. So many unread emails, so much blog reading I’ve fallen behind on. So little writing done that I’ve lost the ability to see a proper, preposition-free way to end that last sentence.

I’ll catch up on the blog reading, no worries there. Preposition-free endings are over-rated, so sail on archaic grammarian, sail on.

What’s sad is I don’t have a good reason for falling behind in email. It’s not like I traveled with WD to Florence, or Dave on his excursion to Ireland, or toured Basque country with Joe.

I might have done a little reading. Speaking of reading, do any of you subscribe to the New Yorker?

Neither do I, but I get their free weekly newsletter. They let you read four articles a month before you get the dreaded, “You have exceeded your monthly free articles, subscribe now to continue reading” notice.

Their last newsletter included a link to Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” — first published in the New Yorker in 1948, as well as an article on the letters they received after its release (most of them not nice.)

Shirley Jackson

Anyway, on account of it being Halloween, reading a few Shirley Jackson tales might be in order. And just for kicks, here’s a short article on the first paragraph of The Haunting on Hill House and why it’s possibly the best first paragraph in literature.

As for my own Halloween plans, I’ll be with my kids who are visiting for a few days. We’ll be doing our family custom: watching The Abominable Dr. Phibes, a campy horror flick with Vincent Price, and gorging ourselves on candy. (Fellow bloggers: I’ll be catching up on your antics in-between Vincent’s diabolic murders.)

Abominable

A more serious concern: Neighbor Buddy tells us to expect “around 100 to 200 trick-or-treaters.” He says many of the rural families drive into town, park, and let the kiddos wander the neighborhoods. (Eek!)

Suddenly my inbox doesn’t seem so bad.

rawpixel-1048261-unsplash

Happy Halloween, all.

Quantity Over Quality: Master the First and You’ll Achieve the Second (Theoretically)

There’s a story of a ceramics teacher (and if I had the gumption I’d find the source for it) that carries a lesson for us all. It goes as follows:

It was the end of the year and the teacher gave the class two options for their final project: they could choose to have their work graded by quantity or quality. Those who chose quantity were challenged to see how many pots they could produce in one week’s time. It didn’t matter what the pots looked like, only that they were completed. The students who chose quality only had to make one pot, but it had to be the best pot they could create.
Half the class chose quantity and began churning out pots right and left. As soon as one was done, another was started. And so on. All week long.
The other half of the class spent their time working out their designs, analyzing their methods, pondering and planning and pouring over every detail, in order to create their one perfect pot.
At the end of the week, the results were graded and an interesting discovery was made. Not only did the “quantity” group produce the most pots, they also produced the best quality pots. Over and above the “quality” group.

Reason being, or so we can infer, they focused on the process rather than the results. And because they kept churning out pot after pot, they were learning and correcting errors as they went.

Ceramics teacher
Let’s pretend this is the ceramics teacher. He’s kind of cool, don’t you think? (Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash)

The article wherein I found this story related it to our own creative endeavors. Whether writing, painting, quilting, woodwork, music — anything we do where we hope to improve — the key is to focus on quantity over quality. Push yourself to produce as much as possible.

Want to improve your writing? Push out story after story. Your drawing? Create five or more drawings every day. Your photography skills? Take pictures everywhere you go. Really annoy the hell out of everyone you know.

You get the idea.

This concept was driven home to me a few days ago. I was working on a project, actually it was the “Bible Stories in Text” project I mentioned before, and I wanted to include some limericks and silly rhymes for it.

How hard could that be?

Turns out pretty hard. I spent one hour alone on Jacob and Esau and still didn’t like it. I was about to give up when I thought of the ceramics story. For the next hour I produced five more rhymes. None of them particularly good, but at least they were done. I shut the laptop and left to run some errands.

I had to go to my credit union because like a dope, I left my debit card in the ATM when I last used it. (No worries, nothing bad happened other than a dent to my ego.) On my way home I decided to stop at the park and sit on my favorite bench, the one under the willow tree. And though I never noticed it before, this time I read the inscription:

In Dick's memory

There was something about “Tuesday Bridge Club” that tickled my fancy. I grabbed my notebook — another article I read said you should always carry an idea notebook — and jotted down:

written in notebook

Soon 15 more lines appeared under it in some semblance of a poem. (I’m guessing since I spent the morning in rhyme, it just naturally flowed out that way.)

Not knowing anything of Bridge, I googled the rules and added a few references; once I got home I finished it up and within the next hour had that bad boy ready to post.

My point is, I’m fairly certain that had I not spent the morning focused on those silly rhymes, had I not pushed myself to produce several even though I was dissatisfied with them all, Dick’s tribute poem might never have happened.

Of course I can’t prove any of this, but it feels right and I believe it so. Plus I’ve got that ceramics teacher backing me up.

Here, let’s look at the guy again:

Ceramics teacher

Quantity over quality.

Now in truth, none of this is too surprising. If you want to improve at writing, write. If you want to improve your singing, sing.

All together now: Duh.

But the fact is, however much we know this truth we still fail to put it into practice. Or at least, that’s the way it is for me. Maybe you’re self-disciplined to the core, wake every morning at the crack of dawn and write 20 pages before your first cup of coffee. In which case I don’t like you very much and I think you should go away now.

For the rest of us, we need reminders to keep going in spite of the drivel we produce. To push on, produce, finish our stories and trust the process. Let go of our need to produce lovely rhymes or charming stories, to let go of our desire to like everything we’ve written. Eventually — hopefully — we’ll like what we’ve written, but we’ll probably produce plenty of crap before we get there.

Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. — Anne Lamott

I have a stack of messes. About five or six unfinished stories I found while unpacking, one of which I barely remember. Each one began in a fever of creativity, that much I remember, but as soon as the going got rough they came to a screeching halt. As I look at them now… well, they’re not horrible. Some spots are quite good, others maybe not so much, but overall they don’t suck.

So here’s the thing: I’ve decided I’m going to dig them out, one by one, and give myself a timeline for finishing them. Let’s say one story per week.

They may appear in this blog — that part I haven’t decided yet. I’m not in the habit of printing much fiction here, so I’ll give it some thought.

(Okay, technically, I suppose there’s fiction here. For instance, I have no idea if Dick liked white wine or if he was a bourbon man.)

Mainly I thought that if I told others what I was doing — Hey guys! I’m spending the next 6 weeks writing 6 stories! —  I stand a better chance of actually doing it.

The key is, and golly I sure hope I remember it, is to finish them even if I don’t like them. Because maybe by the sixth one I will.

By the way, I don’t think I’ve ever shown you the cover of my idea notebook:

my idea notebook

I’m not expecting too much here, believe me. I just want to get the stories finished. And if you’re reading this, I expect you have something unfinished to work on as well, or some skill you wish to improve?

Quantity over Quality: Ready, set… go!

Thoughts on Squashed Snakes, Self-Publishing, and the End of the World as We Know It

What with one thing and another, mostly another, I found I was without a blog post for today.

I mean, sure, I wrote things. A feeble response to an online article I read, the beginnings of a short story that went nowhere, and a silly thing about the Biblical character Job calling Heaven’s customer complaint line. Funny, but too long for a blog post and I wasn’t sure how well people knew the story of Job.

Anyway, rather than skipping this week and ruining my record of posting in a timely manner two weeks in a row, I’m going to toss out some random thoughts that were cluttering up my brain.

Here goes:

Thought One

I wore boots yesterday and it’s still August. What’s more, I’ll probably wear boots again today. Ain’t life grand?

My boots

Thought Two

There was a squashed snake on the side of the road the other day. I saw it while walking to the post office. It was a pretty one, slender and long with bright yellow stripes. No idea what kind it was, but it looked like it nearly made it across the street before it was squashed. Poor guy.

snake in the street, alas
I’m not showing the squashed part, only the pretty part. You’re welcome.

Thought Three

I need to buy a rake. It’s not for leaves, though we know they’re coming. It’s for all the acorns. Our yard is full of them. So many that when you walk in the backyard, you don’t walk so much as roll. And I think the squirrels here are lazy. They don’t seem to be working very hard at storing food for winter. (Maybe they know something?)

acorns

Thought Four

So this is how it is. You write something funny about the Book of Job and think, gosh this is great. This is worthy of publishing. And so you check the submission guidelines for humor sites and magazines. That’s when you discover there just isn’t the market for snarky humor pieces about the Book of Job like there used to be.

Thought Five

I need more boots. I only have two, both black, one short and one tall. These were the ones I thought worthy enough to pack and able to withstand Minnesota weather. I’m thinking I need multiple types. Money is no object! (Who needs food?)

Thought Six

Back to the squashed snake. Why was he crossing the street? The side he left was woodsy and green. The side he was heading toward was rocky. Had he been satisfied where he was, he might still be alive today. What possessed him to leave his happy home? Was he unfulfilled as a snake? Was the weight of his responsibilities too much to bear? (*Gasp!* Did he, like our squirrels, foresee the future and found no reason to carry on?!)

Thought Seven

Maybe what I should is bundle together my Bible stories in text, Samson’s online dating snafu, and the piece on Job — add a few more texts and alternate stories — then self-publish the whole lot of them.
Hmm. It might work. I’ll have to think about it.

Thought Eight

If the squirrels and snake are onto something, if we have but a limited time on this earth — okay, I guess we always knew our time was limited, but let’s say it’s more limited than we thought — does that change anything? Does it change how we live, how we act, or how soon we snatch up boots on sale?
Or work on the book we have percolating in our head?
Hmm.
Excuse me. I should get back to work.

Welcome to Our Little Blog

So glad you stopped in.

Feel free to look around. Please excuse the dust in the corners, it’s been awhile since we’ve cleaned over there.

Oh, and you probably saw the sidebar hasn’t been updated in… um… well, let’s not go into that right now.

The thing is, we deeply appreciate your visit here today because we know there are bigger, mightier blogs you could be reading instead. And if there’s anything we pride ourselves on at Feeding on Folly, it’s appreciation for our readers.

Also, we’re big believers in Blog Awareness.

Blog Awareness is a lot like Self Awareness, only it applies to Blogs rather than Self. (Not sure if you caught that?)

You see, we here at FoF (that’s Feeding on Folly for the acronym-challenged among you) strive to know the Who, What, Where and Why of our internet presence.

For instance:

  • Who: CJ Hartwell & her various alter egos
  • What: A humor site with occasional recipes and questionable comma usage
  • Where: WordPress under the domain name feedingonfolly.com
  • Why: The world needs a respite from those who take everything so damn seriously. Also cookies. The world needs more cookies.

Happy with our Sense of Blog, much like one has a Sense of Self (hope this isn’t proving too difficult for you), we were satisfied with our place and forged ahead. Never looking back.

Though now we have reason to fear we grew complacent. For it’s come to our attention that while we were jotting down observations, posting our cutesy illustrations, passing off texts as worthy stories, far bigger and more important blogs were rising up.

Casting an ever-growing shadow over the FoF entity.

FoF gal overshadowed

And how do we know this?

It came about like so: Back at our last place of employment (before we left Phoenix to become a Minnesotan, dontcha know), an email was sent out to all school staff by a dear friend, giving the Feeding on Folly link. Making dear friend dearer still.

In no time at all, the comments rolled in:

“I didn’t know you had a little blog!”
“I heard about your little blog!”
“I love your little blog!”

So you see? What we have here is One. Little. Blog.

There’s just no getting around it, friends. Here was a group of well-educated professionals who visited our blog and found it short.

Now it’s true we’ve not been blogging for a lengthy amount of time. A mere three years. Barely a blip in internet years.

But in that time, we at Feeding on Folly have worked hard – well, maybe not hard, but off and on, when the mood was right and we had an ample supply of Pepperidge Farm Dark Chocolate Milanos – to develop this space into the smattering of articles, recipes, and scribblings you see before you.

In truth, we’re rather proud of what we’ve accomplished here, and the cookie crumbs under the cushions speak to that.

So these comments reducing FoF to Lilliputian status were troubling. Where did we go wrong?

Is it the lack of ads?

Two years ago we paid big bucks ($15) to make this space ad-free. Was that a mistake?

Hey, if it’s what we need to be taken seriously…

Pickle ad

Then again, I follow a few pros and they don’t have ads.

For reference, see Chuck Wendig, Mark Manson, Leo Babauta

It’s true, they have other things they sell. Books. Classes. Seminars. Workshops. Speaking Engagements.

Hey, you can hire us to speak at your next Rotary Club Meeting!

Oh man, that’s the ticket! Anyone who speaks at a Rotary Club Meeting has just gotta be taken seriously!

FoF gal

What’s that you say? You don’t belong to Rotary?

Well, screw that then.

So here’s the thing: what’s Chuck, Mark and Leo got, that FoF doesn’t got? (Besides better grammar.)

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Bingo! FoF doesn’t have something dangling between her legs!

And that, my friends, is what makes her little. FoF gal mad as hell

Now before you slam your laptop shut and accuse us of getting all feminist on you, think about it. In all honesty, can you imagine the following being said to a male blogger:

“That’s so cute you have a little blog!”

No. Of course not.

But here’s another thing to consider: Everyone who referred to this blog as little, or told us it was cute, was a woman.

Yes, you read that right. A woman.

Every. Damn. Time.

Really, we shouldn’t be surprised. Women are so used to having their efforts diminished, we don’t realize when we’re doing it to each other.

(Ah dang, I just heard 20 more laptops slam shut.)

Okay, before we lose anyone else, let’s consider one more thing. How many times do we — male and female — talk about our creative work in a diminishing way?

“I do a little painting now and then.”
“Yeah, I enjoy writing, but it’s not like I’m published or anything.”
“I love taking pictures, but really it’s just a hobby.”

Listen, if we feel more alive when we are creating, if these activities are what gives us pleasure and seem more real to us than any stinkin’ job, can that be called little?

What’s more, how can we expect others to respect our work – to see how important it is to us – if we don’t treat it as such?

From now on, let’s present our work with the same joy it gives us in creating it. Let’s make no qualifications for it whatsoever. 

And when someone says it’s cute? Or when they call it little?

Little? Little?!

You must be mistaken.

Baby, this is BIG!

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