New Year’s Resolution 2014

I have actually had a wildly successful New Year’s resolution before. I’m still keeping it up as part of habit and second nature, instead of intentional resolutioning. It was to serve a vegetable at every meal (well, lunch and dinner) and I changed my life in order to accomplish just that. So I’m ready for another real resolution this year. In business, when we set our objectives, they’re supposed to be S.M.A.R.T. That means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. In New-Years-Resolution-land, a resolution of “Lose weight” isn’t really specific or measurable. “Lose 80 pounds this month” fails to be attainable or realistic. Just “Lose 20 pounds” isn’t timely. It’s difficult to fully separate what you know (work version) from what you know (real life), so when I was thinking about my resolution, I carried over some of those S.M.A.R.T. attributes.

Truth be told, I’m pretty happy with the person I am. Yes, I could be fitter, smarter, kinder and better organized. But I think I work just about as hard as I’m capable of working, so I’m not TOO hard on myself for failing to attain those. (Plus, I think most people think that’s true of themselves, so I have good company.)

What I wish I did differently was… well, this. I miss blogging. Back before kids, I wrote (short form) multiple times a day. Then after kids, but in a much less absorbing job I blogged every day, or sometimes every other day. But now that I’m in the white-heat of both career and kids, I’ve been trying for once a week. Lately, I’ve been failing, and that makes me sad. I don’t have a big readership. I don’t get to write sponsored posts. I don’t write professionally. (Well, I do, but not this.) I just *like* to write. This blog has over 750 posts. I like to tell people what I’m thinking, and hear their thoughts back. I like to look back and my posts and remember what I’ve forgotten. I like thinking out my conversations to you in cold, quiet moments. And lately I haven’t been doing much of this thing I like doing.

So here’s my S.M.A.R.T goal: to post once a week on Thursdays at 11 am EST. I would like to be so consistent you can rely on “Oh, it’s Thursday lunch! Let’s see what Brenda posted!” Of course, given that I’m working at 11 am on Thursdays, this means that it’s very likely to be written ahead of time and queued. (In fact, I’m thinking that I should write up a number of backlog, non-time-sensitive posts just in case I have a busy week!)

One sign of resolution success is a public declaration. This helps your friends hold you accountable to what you said you’d do. So I am empowering you, beloved reader, to go ahead and give me a hard time if Thursday 11 am passes and I haven’t posted my blog post yet!

What do you think? Will a once a week post beat my current average? Is Thursday 11 am a good time for it? What goals are you going into the new year with?

Fifteen minutes of internet fame

About two weeks ago, I sat down and wrote the blog post that was rattling around in my brain about the Discovery Show Deadliest Catch. It took a little longer than my average blog post to write (I mean… I had to do RESEARCH! And PROOFREAD! The horrors!) I clicked publish with a sense of satisfaction and moved on with my life.

Then, the next day, this happened:

Best Blog Day Ever: My post got retweeted by one of the Deadliest Catch Captains
Best Blog Day Ever: My post got retweeted by one of the Deadliest Catch Captains

There was squeeing on my part. I called my sister. Then I watched the traffic grow. Before the day was over, I’d hit 355 hits – over 100 more than my best day ever. I settled, self-satisfied, into a good night’s sleep.

The next day, traffic was tailing off. That’s the way it normally goes: I write a post, everyone who reads me comes to read it, it fades away. I enjoyed my good day. I went home. Being a 21st century mom, I checked my email while dinner sizzled on the stove. I noticed I had a comment on my post! Nice! Wait, 2 comments! Three! Um, sixteen? I only get about one comment per 100 views, and if that held steady… uh, hold on, gotta go check my stats.

Holy cow!
Holy cow!

And it was off! I got 37 comments, 10,000 hits (10% of my overall total, and I started this blog in 2008), and tons of views. It got picked up and passed on and retweeted. After long thought, I broke my own personal “fourth wall” and sent it to the content manager for my company blog, where the article was reposted. It came to the attention of my management, and they were very nice about it. (Which says more about how nice my management is than anything else!) I also got approached by the staff of the Cornelia Marie blog (which was responsible for a ton of the traffic) asking to republish the article.

That made me stop to think. Did it support my goals to have my writing rebroadcast on another site? Ummmm, what were my goals again? It’s a worthwhile question. I don’t have any sponsorship (I’ve never even got hit-up by those folks who court mommybloggers.) I don’t think I really want any sponsorship (a stance that might be challenged by someone actually offering sponsorship). I don’t really want to be a famous or professional blogger. I’m not nearly funny enough (I’m both autobiographical and sentimental). I dislike controversy and fighting, which are staples of the modern internet.

So why do I write, to the tune of about 80 posts a year on this blog alone? Well, you know how successful authors – when asked how to write – often say that they write because not writing is not an option? It turns out that can be true for rather more modestly successful writers. It’s important to my mental state to write.

In addition to providing an outlet for me, this blog plays other roles. It’s how I tell my family what is going on in my life. It is a bit of a family history, where I record the important things that happen (or at least, non-embarrassing important things) in the life of my family. I capture story-snapshots of what it is to be me at a given point. I also have a chance to articulate and make more real some of the ephemeral moments and thoughts that flit across my mind. For some of my readers, my blog creates a relationship. I met a mom at Chuck E Cheese at Grey’s birthday, who recognized me because she reads my blog. It keeps me closer to people I care about.

And – I’ll admit – I’ve always hoped that some of my writing would “go viral”. And that’s just what happened. Now, I’m a sophisticated enough internetian to know that writing popularity is so often a double-edged sword, with high readership accompanied by nasty comments. But the Deadliest Catch readership appears to be entirely populated by nice, positive people (based on the feedback I got).

So what’s my thesis? Just that… man! That rocked! It was totally fun! I got all the upside I dream of in my happier writing moments, and none of the downside that so often accompanies internet fame. So unless the Discovery Channel picks up the post and it goes onto one other wave of fame, it’s likely over and time to move on with narrating my exhilarating life of jam, football and kids. But boy, was that fun!

WordPress does a nice job of providing statistics and analysis on their blogs (secret: every blogger I know watches their statistics with a hawk-like eye). Their year-end analysis of my blog didn’t seem particularly insightful this year, so I didn’t share it at the time, but it seems like a relevant baseline to this post. I still find it highly ironic that one of my top search terms is “today sucks” since – in general – I feel like I write pretty positive and cheerful stuff!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 18,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.


So bloggers have a well-known trap of writing about how long it’s been since they wrote, and then going into painful detail about WHY it’s been so long. There are a few reasons for this, but the main is that the longer you go without saying anything, the harder it is to say just something. So then you start fretting over saying the perfect thing that makes you readers forgive you for your absence and not remove you from their list of daily blogs they check.

This is a trap. Still, it’s been nearly three weeks, which might be the longest I’ve gone without writing in my blog for like seven years. And it isn’t because I haven’t had anything to say! No, we’ve had an ordination, cross country flight, life-shifting plane conversation, week of solo-parenting, Christmassing, caroling, cookie-ing, play-dating and regular old “Kids say the darndest things”-ing.

I’ve also been interviewing and (breaking news!) leaving my job. I really don’t do work talk on the blog, but most of my silence has been work related – for both time and energy reasons. (Also, for the record, interviewing is also very time and energy consuming.) So… I have this week off, work at my old job for two weeks, and then have a week off to recharge before I start my (awesome, great fit) new job.

This is all to say, I’m back, folks. And trust me, no one is happier about it than I am. So maybe now I can tell you about what’s going on in my life – and better yet, perhaps some of those things will be fun and interesting.

Merry Christmas to all of you. May Santa bring you as nice a gift as he brought me!!!

Let me introduce you to my BFF…

There are all sorts of ways that the new digital paradigm is changing how we relate to each other. If you read Advice Columns, there are lots of questions about how to deal with your wife’s ex-husband on Facebook, or what to do if your boss sends you an invite to be friends. It’s all in flux, and many of the old rules of relationships need to be rewritten to deal with new venues.

The other day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about Dragonbreath: Attack of the Ninja Frogs (which I highly recommend, by the way). I had the moment of “Squee!! I know the author of that book, Ursula Vernon!” And in some ways I do. I can tell you that her cat, Ben, has had some health scares lately. I know that she has an enormous chicken statue in her garden. I know all about her divorce, how much weight she lost through the stress of it, the amount of time she spent recovering, and her apparently pretty awesome new boyfriend. I know what she’s planted in her garden, and her favorite boots to wear to a Con. So I definitely know her. The thing is, she very likely does not know me, at all. I could walk up to her and tell her all my online identities, and she’d likely get a confused but polite expression. This happens to her a lot. She’s a very popular blogger/author/painter, and there are thousands of us who read her musings. Of course she doesn’t know us all back.

Then there’s my other BFF (Best Friend Forever), Amy Storch. Her sons are the same age as my sons! She’s gone through lots of the same things, but plenty of unique challenges too. Dude, Levar Burton once replied in Tweets to her post about the traumatic experiences she suffered with Reading Rainbow! She’s the friend you go to for advice about moisturizer choices, or who you want to get a pedicure with. We totally hang out all the time! Or, well, we would. Except once again, she may not even know who I am, although she did answer one of my questions in her advice column once.

Now, I might be feeling a little “oh woe is me no one knows who I am!” but this is an experience I’m encountering from both ends. I’m a small-time blogger (even smaller since I stopped being able to update daily). I average fewer than 75 hits a day (although much better when puts me on the front page!) I suspect that 90% of my regular readers are people I know in real life. The rest of them are looking for radish recipes or night life advice for the Indian city of Thane. (Sorry googlers!) But I have definitely encountered people who know me quite well from my writings, who don’t write themselves. While I have some vague ideas about who they are, they know everything about me. That’s what it means, when you put yourself up here on the internet, and your friends, family, enemies, acquaintances and complete strangers can all see your life, laid out plainly.

In a real conversation there’s a back and forth. You learn some things, you share some things. In this new paradigm of online conversations, it ain’t necessarily so. Some people are only consumers of other’s writings…. they listen but they never share. My husband is one of these. Others only talk and never read. Most people do a balance of both. But all throughout the world, not only are people wrestling with what to do about the knowledge they obtained due to a drunk post by their former coworker, but they are dealing with these asymmetrical relationships, when the people they know best are not ones who even know they exist.

What about your online life? Are you a balanced creator/consumer of content? Do I know you? You know me, or you can know me pretty well with a cruise through my archives. Do you like the anonymity of reading? Do you wish it was more reciprocal? Comment, and turn my monologue into a dialog!