You're looking! You're really looking!
Above is my Weebly traffic for the past three months. As you can see, I got a pretty good spike in November. Don't worry, even though I really, really want to, I can't tell who you are. This is the highest degree of statistics I have available on my current platform -number of page views and unique visitors. Are you people I know? Are you people I don't know? Are you SEO scrubbers looking for a sale? Are you robots?
I don't know. But I am fascinated.
I don't do this for the views. I do it because I like it. More aptly, I do it because I have to. My personal journaling has significantly decreased since beginning this endeavor, but like energy, my writing is always constant, it just takes a different form. If I'm always writing anyway, why not share?
But even if I'm not doing it for the views, it's nice to know people are looking.
Why is it nice? What do I want from this? Do I truly believe my perspective is so wildly entertaining or revolutionary I just must share it with the world? Not really. That's the intriguing thing about memoir. We believe we're just tiny people in the world living our lives, then one day something happens and BOOM! Everyone wants to know everything about you. I'm sure Tina Fey didn't think she was terribly interesting when she was working at the YMCA. Then Mean Girls and 30 Rock and BOOM! Bossypants is a bestseller. Last year I read "Lab Girl" by Hope Jahren, a research scientist's story of her life in labs. Obsessed, I started following her blog. I wanted to learn absolutely everything about this fascinating human.
People are interested; they want to know. I want to know. What these people did to get where they did. I want to know what they're like. I don't know a reason to tell you why other than that I am human and love stories. We want real, we crave real. The stories I have that are the most successful are stories that are real. Not when I'm talking about anything in particular -they're ones where I talk about myself.
Blogging for 30 days has been a good endeavor. Especially during the time of year when I'm busiest, it's forced me to sit down and make time for writing. It wasn't always great writing, but I did (almost) always take the time. I plan to incorporate the planning portion now. Now that I'm taking on actual assignments, I'll have to. But it will be easier to sit down and just do it.
Practice my discipline, grow my art, and learn about my fellow F-Bombs along the way? It's been a pretty great month. Here's a snapshot of the past year. Let's do the same thing next year and see where we are then.
Goals for Myself in the Following Year. Well, I'm a year and some odd months from 30, so I'll throw some of those in too.
I'm not much of a "bucket list" person. There are things I wanted to do generically like travel and buy a house, but other than that, I tend to wander in my goals. Protect yourself from a dream never delivered. 30 used to seem so old, like you should have done so many things. Now I wonder how you could do anything -there's no time! Even so, I've gotten lucky enough to accomplish many of mine already which is delightful and pleasing but does concern me about what do next.
Are you a to-do list person? I am. Hereby, I give my list of things to do by 30 (excluding financial goals because I too, hold cultural weirdness for talking about money).
1. Write a book.
Specifically, a novel. I've had this one forever. If EL James can write a straight-up terrible novel to become a millionaire, so can I. Except for I can't. I write and try to put forth a story, then go off and read someone else's story, a master like Margaret Atwood for example. I look at my poor story and think, "This is terrible" and quit rather than polluting the noble art of literary fiction. So no, it will have to be something at least I deem as "Good." With this 30 day challenge under my belt, I may take on NaNoWriMo a different month so see if that helps.
2, Become an Herbalist
This is frankly a little further out, but I would like to get back into it. I therefore dedicate myself to reread both my biochemistry textbook and by Traditional Medicinals textbook to reacquaint myself with knowledge.
3. Get Paid for a Piece
It seems discordant to post this beneath "Write a novel", a little putting the cart before the horse, but hey, it's my list. I've been playing with the blog for a while, I've started putting pieces up here and there on actual websites. Dammit, I wanna get paid for it. I'm still turning tricks on this one, but I don't think it's too far out of reach.
4. Be Better About Friends
I suck at being friends. It doesn't help that work keeps me constantly busy leaving me unable even if willing, but don't let me use that as an excuse, I generally suck at it. Really, it's a luxury. re. When you've decided you'll probably be alone. it gets easy to do. I know that I can go read on my porch by myself and thoroughly enjoy every minute of it. However, being granted the emotional stability of being at peace with yourself, you should probably reach out to spread that love. Puzzle night at my house anyone? Want to come to yoga? Want to get a beer or tea? Let's do it.
5. Travel to New, Fun Places
There's never a year this isn't on the list. Let's add, travel to new, fun places with my Boo.
Oh my, what a topic. I feel like we haven't gotten enough juicy topics this side of the month, so let's make it juicy.
Nobody knows that I....
I always thought I would end up alone.
*Exasperated roll of eyes from people that know me*. You always have a boyfriend. How can you even pretend you would end up alone?
I know, I know. It seems contradictory. Let me explain.
There's an interview with Shirley Manson, lead singer of Garbage and my personal goddess where the interviewer is plowing through a list of standard prompts. I want, I need, I love, that sort of thing. The interview gets to, "I am trying" as in, "I am trying to be a better person" or "I am trying to be healthier." And Shirley responds, "Yes, I am trying. Very trying."
I am trying, very trying. I'm bossy, I'm a know-it-all. I'm not terribly concerned about your opinion of this or that because I seem to be doing quite fine by myself thank you very much sir. I like things to be my way, and challenging me takes a very deft hand. A very deft hand.
Simultaneously, I must always be entertained. I'm a straight up addict for new and the unexplored. Combine that with the fact that love is an addiction, one that lasts only one to two years without the "work" part, and you've got a recipe for disasters. Now that we're making our way through Doctor Who, I'll liken it to the Doctor. I like having a companion. But the companions don't really stay for more than a season or two. A companion for everything. For music, for math, for wine, for travel -one for every occasion. After all, we're now a nation of specialists rather than Renaissance men.
If I had kids, I thought it would be a "Mamma Mia" situation. "Just one look and I forget everything" and wind up with a daughter and a parade of hosts for father. We'd live on our beautiful Greek island of bliss and they could wander in and out to teach her things when she needed. It helps when you like lone wolves. One's with their own agendas and lives to manage.
Alone never seemed like a bad life, just the likely life.
Comfort is my bed. My completely ridiculous princess bed. It doesn't appear too princessy here; I've misplaced my billowy curtains and the swinging candle holders have moved to the porch. Even so, it's heaven. Everyone enjoying firm beds is crazy. Give me that pillow-top I sink into. Give me so many fluffy but firm pillows instead.. Give me a down comforter so soft when you're squeezed between it and the mattress, you feel you're enveloped in a cloud . Give me sunlight dappling through the windows while I wander back and forth from consciousness. Sleeping on days puts you in the constantly dreamy state of "Wake up. No, don't wake up." And the cat purring on the corner nearby lulls you back under.
My sanctuary, my comfort, my bed.
What is your "religion"?
ie. What do you believe?
What do you worship?
I believe in souls.
I believe in an indefinable "You"
which is separate and unique from all the other "You"s
I believe you can
Feed your soul
Try as best as you can to feed it with good
Sometimes it will be fed by the bad.
Really, it's good as long as it grows.
I believe in the wisdom of the universe.
I believe "what goes around comes around"
I believe to go good for goodnesses' sake
And for goodnesses' sake alone
not for your eternal soul's.
I believe in "The Golden Path of Humanity"
Its ability move on, its ability to persist.
That humanity is continually learning
of itself, of its nature, of its environment.
And it's improving.
It tries something, it doesn't work.
It tries again, and again, and again.
Until it's better.
Continuous improvement through observation.
That's what I worship.
Let's do this backwards. The boxed sets of "Little House on the Prairie" by Laura Ingalls Wilder and "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C. S. Lewis, (Please note the original ordering of the Chronicles of Narnia with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe first.) We talked the other day about "Home is where the Books Live", today I'll reiterate. Books are my most prized possessions. These are my longest held sets, the first given to me right after I had been born by my Grandfather. Both sets have been with me since Michigan which is as long as I've had anything. I still have my stuffed animals from that time too, my Ba-ba bear and musical giraffe, but they don't provoke longing the way my books do. I've added more sets over the years and amassed a library of treasured good. If faced with the decision to get rid of my Harry Potter or Laura Ingalls set, I think I'd rather just die than make the choice.
Books are tangible knowledge. I can reach out and grab an item which will transport me around the world, to the edge of the universe or another realm all together. How can you not love that? And with libraries, it means knowledge is accessible to anyone who wants it. Isn't that beautiful?
Now for what I'm thankful for. My family. I mean, of course, that's obvious. I've also talked by now about great it is to have a family that gets along and legitimately enjoys each others' presence. I'm thankful for my family every day of the year.
Today I'll focus on one of those reasons. I'm thankful for my family because I was raised to be a thinker. I can see it happen now as an adult. A child comes up to an adult with a question, "Why this? Why that? What does this mean?" And what does the adult do?
They tell the kid to shut up and stop asking questions or, what I consider to be the higher sin, they start prattling off their beliefs to the kid, highlighting this or that as "the most important point."
Why would answering a question be a sin? It's not the answering, but the answering with certainty. The "I know and this is why. Believe me because I say so." I was never taught that; more importantly, I was taught to act against it. The minute I would start to spout something I'd heard at school, some outrageous backwards belief my friends told me, my parents would stop me and ask, "Well why?" What do you mean why? Because so and so said. "Well, why do they think that? What information are they using to deduce those conclusions?" And I'd have to pause. What are my reasons for saying that? Where is the evidence to support that belief?
Learning how to think takes practice. It's something that if you're not taught how to do it, you may never learn. If you're not practiced enough to stop and consider your point, to require quality evidence, to never take anything at face value, you could get caught up in the telephone game. He said, she said, fake news, alternative facts. I'm thankful I have a family to protect me from that.
I'm so glad this was the first image that came up. Today's topic is "animal" but I'm not an animal person. Then the topic prompt was, tell your animal story. Oh, an animal story I have.
When I was 10, I went on a mission trip to Costa Rica with my father. For a week, our church group helped build a new church in a small, secluded Costa Rican town. After our week in the jungle, our last day was spent at a Costa Rican resort to wind down and enjoy ourselves before going home. We were all hanging out by the pool enjoying ourselves when I decided I needed to go back to my room to get something. I went back and changed, got my beach towel or did whatever else I did, then turned to head back. I opened the door and there sat a monster like this. But bigger.
At 10, I weighed 80 pounds soaking wet in a snowsuit. The iguana in front of me had a body three feet long with a tail stretching the same distance leaving him six feet and a hundred pounds of terror. I screamed and slammed the door and ran back into the bathroom. I forced myself to breathe slowly. There were no windows on that side of the hotel room so I couldn't look out to see if he had moved. But he was a lizard monster and cold blooded so he probably hadn't. I strategized and rationalized. He was an iguana. I was not his food source. I could open the door, jump over him, and run as fast as I could. Iguanas could be fast, but not as fast as me at a run. Right?
Apparently I waited long enough deciding what to do, Dad came to get me. He walked through the door and said, "Elise! You've got to come see this. There's a huge iguana on the path I saw on the way here."
"Oh," I said. "I know.
Last year, only slightly before this time, I was looking to buy a house. When perusing my morning "For Sale" email either something about the house wouldn't be quite right or I'd fall in love to find it was sold two hours later (Chattanooga is a rough market). I wanted to go see a certain 3 and 2, but with only 5 pictures online, I didn't have much hope.
Nothing special from the outside. Entering was frightening. Strong smell of cat, aqua walls for the foyer, yellow for the kitchen and burnt orange for the living room. A disaster for sure, but wait, what's this behind the hideous orange? A sliding door -to what?
To my beautiful enclosed patio, that's what. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Check the age of the AC and Heat and the roof, but this is my house.
I love to be outside. I love to see trees and greenery. I love outside even when it's not greenery like you see here. I just like to be in it. Last April I turned it into my oasis with the daybed and mood lighting, and since then I'm there every free moment. With my poor peace lily, a spider plant and a variety of succulents and air-plants, it's nowhere near the jungle I want it to be. I want it to be lush and baking year round. I joke I'll rip out the floors and install a bed of moss instead instead to make it even more irresistibly comfy.
Picture this, you wake up on a brilliant Saturday morning. You've nothing to do for the entire day. You brew a pot of coffee and take a cup outside onto the daybed with you. Maybe it's still a little chilly so you bring a blanket to curl up with. One cup, two cups as you wade through your stack of monthly magazines trying to catch up while your brain awakens. You wander in for an egg and toast, maybe to put on some actual clothing. Then back to the porch. Pick up your journal, get the words flowing. Then the notebook, write an article, work on the book. Let the afternoon grow late and read a book while you sip a glass of riesling.
I've spent whole days in my patio, and I'll certainly spend more there too. More vines, more lights, forever building my dreamworld.
"Oh, so where are you from?"
An innocuous start which twinges an existential conundrum. Who am I? Where do I come from? Can I even know who I am if I don't know where I'm from?
I have no hometown, which is to say I have no town I consider "home". Home was where my parents were, though now that they're halfway across the world, home is my house. Per Dictionary.com, a home is the place and residence of a family or "where one's domestic affections are centered".
Where are my domestic affections centered as a town? Certainly not in Ohio where I was born, nor in Michigan where I lived 6 years. Nor in Eastern Tennessee where I've now lived for 8 years despite my trips there every single year to visit Grandparents. That identification is split with North Carolina.
Hometown may be Athens, Alabama where we lived for almost 10 years (me 8). It's where I lived when I created my fondest memories with friends. It's where I go back and some people still know me. Some, not many. Birmingham could be home too. I grew a lot there. I became the person I am today. But it's not quite "homey".
No, I think, as always, I make whatever town I'm in my home. I dive deep, wrap myself up into it.
But let's be honest -home is where my books live.
Currently, my role in the family is responsible adult (available in America).
Previously, my role in the family was "eldest child" coming with all of the stereotypical "eldest child" roles. I'm the mini-adult, bossy britches, overachieving leader of the pack. As told by my siblings now, I was an intimidating older sibling. I moved away at 16 to attend prestigious boarding school, leaving my siblings of 14, 12, and 10 behind. While there, I racked up some "Best Student of" and "Hall of Fame" awards which continued through college. My siblings' intimidation, however, was unwarranted because they are extremely intelligent and far more illustrious than I. Since we were separated for so long, I don't think we have the protector or initiator or instigator or peacemaker differentiation the way you may expect- much of that hits in adolescence which I missed. Though of the three, instigator, I may be.
Especially now that we're older and separated, we children are independent nations who keep good relations and sometimes convene as schedules allow. Does that sound cold? It shouldn't. It's because we're all so similar. So busy and active in our own lives and so much more enjoying of face-to-face communication than any of the artificial types, regular communication doesn't take up much of our day. A text here, a message there, we're good. It's the unspoken bond of not needing to talk, but everything easing perfectly into place when you do.
And now my Dad decided to quit his job and take up a new one working in the UAE. Ah yes, there it is, nine time zones away. My mother isn't there yet, but she will be soon. With them on the other side of the world, I am to resume the role of mini-adult and play the leader of the Ottenfeld household stateside. Aside from sorting out the situation to make me the legal equivalent of my parents, I'm not sure what will come of that role. As I said, my siblings and I are already independent. One in New Mexico, three in Tennessee, but none in the same city. It's not as if we get together often. Already for Christmas everyone has decided to disperse. Should I have pulled something together? Was that my responsibility to initiate? I don't know. We'll have to find out. Until then, I get everyone's mail and make sure the bills are paid and the insurance cards issued, ever the responsible older sibling shall I be.