Cool Change

IMG_1805Well, fall is officially here. The autumnal equinox occurred just 2 weeks ago and I already miss summer. It could be my imagination but I feel cold. One of the many reasons I moved south is because I like it hot and humid. In the summer, I enjoyed going out for my 8AM morning walks when the temperature was already a steamy 80 degrees. I’d rather sweat than turn on the A/C. Ok, that might have more to do being cheap but when it’s below 70 and the air is dry, my lips get chapped and my hands get ashy. My friends and family in Boston feel differently. They wilt in the heat and perk up on the first crisp morning with a nip in the air. Fellow blogger The Modern Philosopher  lives in Maine and recently described summer and fall the way a typical New Englander does.

There is a lot to like about the fall, though. I do love the autumn foliage, exposed as I was to its glory growing up in New England. The trees here in Virginia turn later than they do in the Boston area. It feels to me as though in New England the change is dramatic but too fast. The trees have started to color here and I’ll grudgingly admit that it is beautiful. It feels as though the slower southern way of life extends to the foliage and I can take it in over a longer period of time. I saw a tree today that was green except for the tippy top, which was bright red. (It reminded me so much of a Dr. Seuss character.) And of course there was the stunning Harvest Moon last month.

Still, I’m slower to wake in the mornings now that the sunrise is later and I experience some anxiety since the sun sets sooner. Did you know Daylight Savings Time ends on November 3rd , darn it? There are days when I ask the migrating birds stopping by my feeder on their way farther south to take me with them. They give me looks of pity with black birdie eyes then fly off without me.  On the other hand, I watch the squirrels pull the acorns from small oak branches and throw the defoliated sticks to the ground. They dash across the streets of my community with stuffed cheeks to hidden homes. Obviously their internal season sensors are telling them there is limited time left to store their supplies for the winter. I’m taking heed and doing the same by making soup and canning vegetables. I appreciate the heads up.img_0344.jpg

So while I feel the pangs of a loss of summer’s delights like long days, dips in blue water and inhaling warm, moist air instead of using my neti pot, I also appreciate the wonder of the change of seasons. I don’t take for granted the blessing of awareness; intellectual, sensory and spiritual, of nature’s cycles being played out miraculously and in living color.

My gratitude goes to Little River Band for the title of this post. I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t sound banal.

Reblogged for:  The Daily Prompt: Mid-Season Replacement, October 11, 2013. 

Really, This Time

Oops!! A couple of weeks ago I cavalierly posted a piece called “Welcome Back” which I have since deleted. It was a case of blogging without thinking. I really shouldn’t have assumed I knew how the WordPress pages feature works before I wrote about the grandiose plans I had for them. It turns out I’d have to PAY to have them formatted the way I’d like. That’s not going to happen. (I’m cheap.) I might decide to pop for the fancy pages in the future but more than you ten people will have to be reading me before I do that. (I did buy a domain so it’s just stopalongtheway.net now… That only cost $18.) I added the Category widget to my home page to accommodate the growing number of my topics without the expense. You can read about the changes to Stop Along The Way on the new “What’s Here” page.

Seriously though, I meant it in my deleted post when I said I appreciate those who read and/or follow me. I hope I will continue to provide content that helps you on your journey.

Why Don’t You Like Me?

I wrote that last post on cicadas because of two pieces of blogging advice I got on how to increase traffic. The first was to write about timely subjects so the blog will come up when people search the subject on the web. I figured since the cicadas are hot news right now, a lot of people would go to Google to get information on them. I thought a little winking piece on the media hype would be a good quick read. The other advice was from friends who told me my humorous posts are better than my others which can be somewhat didactic. I had a funny story about a bug so I added it to the mix. The result of following these suggestions was exactly two “likes” for the post. Two. That’s less than I got when I started my blog and just my family read it. I would have done better if I’d let the cicadas read it! I know it was a puff piece but I read many WordPress blogs and they’re not all high literature. Sheesh.

I honestly don’t know what to do anymore. This blog is 2 1/2 years old and I have only fifty followers and half of them follow as many blogs as possible because that’s another tip on increasing traffic. I only follow blogs that I know I would read even if I wasn’t blogging myself. I’m not saying I’m better than anyone. It’s just that it hurts my feelings knowing that some of my followers don’t really read me and I don’t want to be responsible for making someone else feel that way.

So I don’t know what else to do to get folks to read this blog. I’ve read every article on traffic that I’ve come across. I’ve advertised on social media sites. I’ve changed themes many times and spent hours finding or taking photos. I don’t blog everyday because I have a life and really, who has that much to say? I’m just about ready to give up.  The About This Blog page states what my focus is supposed to be and I’ve stayed fairly close to that definition. I think I write well but apparently, I sound preachy when I’m pouring my heart and soul out and the stories from my life that I think are funny, in fact, are not. I have a pretty strong ego and stiff upper lip but after 2 1/2 years of really trying my hardest to make this an interesting “stop along the way”, I have to look at the possibility that my point of view is being rejected.

So be it. I’m not one to beg. I may post again and I may not. If I do it might be a re-blog of another piece that nobody read or it might simply be a reference or link to some pop culture piece by someone else. I know I don’t usually come off as this negative but I’m just being honest about my frustration.

Success? You Betcha!

So the Daily Prompt:Success asks us about a time when things went the way we’d hoped they would. This is an easy one for me.

Last summer I moved from Boston to Virginia. I felt leaving Boston would help me move past the miasma I was mired in. It did. I’m happier than I’ve been since…..Isn’t that funny. I don’t dare write since when for fear of bringing on something as traumatic as the loss I experienced back then. I don’t believe I have that kind of power but I don’t believe in tempting fate either. Things have been going so well since my move that I have the jitters about it. I took a big leap of faith uprooting my life and thankfully its paid off big time.

I suspected a change of place would jazz me and pique my interest. I obviously picked the right place because there’s always something for me to do here. I live 15 minutes away from Washington DC and there is no lack of action there. Between the political types and tourists I can spend a whole day just people watching. I’ve always loved visiting historical sites and Virginia wins the contest against Boston when it comes to history as far as I’m concerned. As an African-American the Civil War is important to me because it’s so much a part of my history. And I got to go to the presidential inauguration!

I knew moving here would bring my family closer together geographically but I had no idea it would bring us together emotionally. We had a tough time being a family for a while; we were far apart because of distance and different forms of grief. Moving our base to Virginia made it easier for us to have time together at holidays and vacations. We used the time to knit ourselves back together as a whole family. And our family has grown larger which I like to attribute to the better weather.

IMG_0451I hoped my move would bring about the changes I planned and not the unintentional ones my friends warned me about. I’m glad to say this past year has been absolutely wonderful and more than I could have hoped for. Success? You betcha.

Weekly Writing Challenge, Take Two: Wait, What Are We Doing?

WordPress WWC

Great.

The first time I decide to take up one of these weekly writing challenges (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/writing-challenge-1000-words) and this is the picture the young hipsters at WordPress choose for us to write about? Really? What about this tickled their fancy cuz from where I’m sitting there’s not a whole lot here.

Let’s see…obviously there’s the young couple. Youthful expressions of affection are starting to bug me. Look at this girl. Her body screams sex and loveliness all by itself without any effort from her at all. All she has to do is stand there and think naive thoughts. Listen honey, no matter how deep or complicated or innocent you think the relationship is, all he’s thinking about is your sexy loveliness. Wow, that was incredibly cynical. Have I lost all sense of romance? I think I have. I wonder if that’s good or bad…Wait, I should be thinking about this photo and not about myself. Let me try focusing on something else.

Look at these old geezers. That reminds me. I’ve got to fill out that AARP application. It’s insulting but I want travel discounts too. I wonder if I could get a discount for new glasses frames…

Shit! I’ve got to try to focus. Ok, what’s going on in the background of this photo? Landscape. This is obviously not the United States. That blue and yellow tile work looks Dutch, maybe? Looks like they picked a pic of Europe, of course. Huh, there’s graffiti on that wall as well. It’s on the building across the street too. Maybe those aren’t tourists getting off that tram. Maybe it’s their neighborhood. That’s a very shiny tram. Hey, the street is only big enough for the tram. Definitely not the U.S. Portugal maybe? I wonder if the hill bottoms out at the sea. There is nothing like a beautiful blue sea on a warm day…

Shit, my mind is wandering again. I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I can’t focus. Maybe I need meds. Maybe I’ll just go back to doing my own little less challenging, less stressful posts.

So Far, So Much Better

I often find that if I concentrate on an issue or concern hard enough, I’m offered clarity from the cosmos in very concrete ways. I’m going to a contemplative prayer session later and the daily meditation that I read online from a completely difference source, today was about…contemplative prayer. Have I mentioned that my spiritual and religious life tends toward the mystical? I haven’t?  Well, I’ll be talking about that in some future posts.

Anyway, today I was also reading a post by writer E.P. Carlin (http://theabberantpen.wordpress.com) titled “Going Pro in 2013”. In it “Ed” discussed discipline, writing and pursuing his “writing resolutions” in 2013. It’s as if he read my mind! For the last four days I’ve been thinking about the very same thing and have come up with a very similar plan. Talk about validation!

I started a short story over a year ago. I think it’s a good story idea but I haven’t worked on it much. I’ve spent most of the time I’ve devoted to writing on this blog.  Like E.L. (Ed), I’ve decided that I have more time for writing than I’ve been spending on it primarily because I haven’t been as disciplined about it as I could be. So, I’ve decided I’m going to finish the story this year and I’ve got a plan on how to do it. In his post Ed said, “I may not have a job to go to at the moment, but for now, I’m making writing my full-time job…”.

My new writing “office” is the library. My home is fine for blog posts but I’m very serious about writing the story within strict standards in terms of construction so I need to concentrate without distraction. I’ve always loved public libraries for working. I love the smell of the books, the relative quiet, the cubbyhole workspaces and the activity. I love being with the readers, writers, sleepers, gazers and little kids. (The activity doesn’t distract me because I can observe without being involved.) Just like Ed I think it’s important for me to “keep a regular work schedule” and come to my office weekly to write.  And I joined a Meet-up for writers where members come together once a week to read and review each other’s work. That should help me with discipline as well.

I’ve also set measurable goals, which is another one of Ed’s suggestions. Along with the short story, I hope to post more to this blog. I’ve done well increasing the number of posts so far. My last goal was to post at least every month. I achieved that in 2012 and then some. I think with more discipline I can take on the “one post a week” challenge. Consider this week one. Thanks Ed and thanks Cosmos!

How’s your writing going? How disciplined are you? How do you feel about the library? Do you use it as a place to write, read or something else?

One Year In

I actually wrote a post in October titled “Under Construction“. In it I talked about how I wanted to change this blog. I deleted it about a month later for two reasons; one because I did in fact change it ( format stuff; different theme, expanded pages, etc.) and two because I hadn’t come up with the sharpened focus I had promised.

I started this blog one year ago and on the “About This Blog” page I stated what I wanted the purpose to be. By October I thought I had strayed from that purpose and that I needed to refine it. Between then and recently I’d been having trouble deciding what the refinement should involve. Then I figured out why that was. After re-reading the posts, I realized that the original purpose, sharing what I’ve been blessed to find out about this life, is as good a goal as it was a year ago and that I don’t need to refine or sharpen it. What I was forgetting was that I haven’t ended the process, I haven’t finished finding out, that happily, it’s ongoing. I’m still on the path and so is anyone who comes across this blog. And I really do want this space to be a stop along the way, a sojourn. So I’ll continue to learn and share both the old and the new with you. Take what you want and leave the rest.

Happy New Year. Wishes for a fulfilling 2012.