A return

I’ve been away from my blog for awhile now, over three months, which seems like  both an impossibly long time and hardly a moment at all.

Time is strange.

This post marks a return to this space and this creative endeavor.

Along with many other happenings, I have been concerned that I wrote haiku using lines of 5, 7, and 5 words rather than that pattern of syllables per line that is the actual poetic structure. Whoops. I haven’t made the time to look back on my posts to see, but I think it’s funny that this worry has intruded into my life when so much else has been vying for attention.

We’ve moved.

I am now living in Texas, near Houston.

We’ve actually been here over a month now, which is pretty crazy. Our house in Tucson is still for sale and we are living in a temporary apartment. Most of our stuff is in storage, but the longer that is the case, the easier it is to believe we can live without it. Although, the Christmas decorations and the camping gear would be difficult and expensive to replace.

Some great aspects of this part of Texas so far: the moisture (though ask me about this in July, and I might not consider it great), the trees, the grass, and the sunshine (again, July might be a different story).

There’s more to say about the good and the challenges, but I’ll leave it for other posts. I’m hoping to return to writing more regularly (especially since I just revealed this blog’s existence in my holiday letter to friends and family).

Bye for now.

Regan

 

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Mission Accomplished

It is hard for me to believe that this month of September is on its way out already. I gave myself this challenge, er opportunity, to write a post everyday this month, and while I missed a few days last weekend on a camping trip, I’ve made them up to successfully have posted thirty times for the thirty days of September. I am proud of that.

Writing every day for thirty days has been an enlightening experience. I’ve definitely learned that I need more than one day to write a post I really like. I did better in the beginning, working on drafts of several posts at once and then taking one to publishable form each day. Then I got behind, or busy, or what have you, and I was under the gun to produce publishable material in a couple of hours. Not my style. Sometimes, the words flowed, and I liked what came forth, but other times, I felt dissatisfied. As I move away from the daily publishing, I do hope to continue the daily writing, so that I can produce two or three posts a week that I am proud of.

I learned that writing begets writing. I definitely found I had more to say once I made myself speak on a regular basis. In fact, a few of my posts grew too expansive and had to be divided into multiple posts (a few of which aren’t yet finished).

In Blogging 101, one of the later tasks was to set a schedule, and I completely understand now why they suggest this. Knowing I had to post everyday helped me to pay attention with a writer’s eye, to keep thinking about writing and what I might write about throughout the day. I don’t believe I can keep up with a post-a-day schedule long-term; however, I do want to commit myself to a schedule going forward. I feel like that will keep me on track.

Another task of Blogging 101 that I never got to in the two times I took the course was to create a Blog Feature that was a regular post. I want to do that, but I’m not sure what it might be as of yet. I am still toying with the ideas of reviewing books and passing along links to articles I’ve read that I find particularly interesting.

One of the things I managed to do this month was to experiment with short codes and create a couple of new pages that pull in posts with specific tags. I’m excited about that, and am looking forward to creating a few more menu options that gather related writings.

I also got started on creating a links blogroll, one that doesn’t just pull in the last 10 sites I’ve read posts from, but is a list I can manage. I need to get it updated to list some of you bloggers that I really have enjoyed reading.

Speaking of reading, I feel like that is one of the negative sides of everyday blog posting–at least with my schedule. I was so busy writing that I didn’t get to read many others’ blogs. I hope to get a chance to explore those blogs of people who have read and liked my posts. I do appreciate the traffic. A hearty thank you to all of you reading, liking, and commenting. The feedback and connection is really heartening.

And with that final thought, I’ll say goodnight. Until tomorrow–or maybe the day after tomorrow (wink).

Cats and Dogs

My little About blurb on my sidebar is a lie. It says I am both a cat owner and a dog owner, and as of July 26th, 2015, I am not.

I grew up a dog person. We had a Dalmatian, a Christmas morning surprise one year for my sister and me, and I adored that dog. She was smart and beautiful, had an arresting bark, and an adorable way of turning her head when you asked her a question. As an adult, I had long longed for a dog of my own, was just waiting to get settled into a house and a marriage before taking on that responsibility.

I became a cat person. After the Peace Corps, I moved in with my sister, and her cat, Tigger, became a part of my life. She was a big cat, a blood donor at the vet hospital, who came to my sister already saddled with her silly name. My sister believed her to be part Maine Coone. She was medium-haired and haughty. She had this swagger to her walk, wearing what my sister called her fuzzy pants because of her long fur. She was gorgeous, and had such a personality, I was smitten. I had thought cats were flat, standoffish, boring. She was standoffish at times, but never flat nor boring. No, Tigger was a fine ambassador for felines.

And when my sister’s boyfriend, and his two cats, Binky and Roxy, moved in with us, I learned that cats have personalities as distinct as dogs’. Another misconception I had about cats was that they were all the same, but with three in our apartment, I learned that was not the case at all.

Fast forward to my sister, her cat, her boyfriend now fiance, and his cats all getting their own place, and me on my own. Then Bennet (so named after the protagonist of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet) came into my life. He was found abandoned on the street near my sister’s house not long after my nephew was born. My sister’s two cats (Tigger had since passed away) were not willing to accommodate another addition to the household, and so I took this kitten in, and he changed my life.

As I told him when we said goodbye at the hospital, “I didn’t know how lonely I was until you came along.” And that was true. My life was so enriched by sharing it with Bennet. I spent long days at school, teaching and coaching, and I was so lucky to come home to my whiny kitty. Bennet was a talker. He was part Siamese, part American Short-hair, a breed called Snowshoe, and he had the Siamese sassiness, oh yes.

Bennet was a good judge of character. My mom says she knew how right Jim and I were for each other because of the ease with which Jim got along with Bennet, and perhaps more importantly, the ease with which Bennet got along with Jim. Before we married, I joked with Jim about having him sign a pre-nup that said he didn’t get the cat if we broke up.

Our neighbors called Bennet “Handsome Cat.” I attribute this to his clear blue eyes, the white lightning streak across his forehead, and the distinctive soul patch of darker fur on his chin. He was a very handsome cat, and very fastidious, too. He was always grooming and, aside from his bad kitty breath, he always smelled clean. He was also a very talented acrobat, turning somersaults in pursuit of a mouse on a string, jumping to the tops of the refrigerator or kitchen cabinets, and dashing down the hall in his pursuit of kitty treats.

Bennet’s death came unexpectedly. He was only eight years old. After a day of listlessness, we noticed swelling in his face. We thought perhaps he was having an allergic reaction to a bug bite or something. We took him into the emergency vet hospital and learned he was feverish. The doctor believed him to have an abscess, so they kept him overnight. They found it, full of bacteria, and gave him antibiotics, anticipating a return home the next day if he responded well to the treatment. Instead we received a phone call at two in the morning that he’d gone into respiratory arrest. We arrived at the hospital to say goodbye before asking the technicians to let him go.

So, now, I am no longer both a dog and a cat owner. Bennet is gone and there’s a hole in my heart that he once filled.

You can’t read cursive?

I was a middle school and high school English teacher. I became quite adept at reading my students’ handwriting, and I hand wrote most of my comments and corrections to students directly onto their papers. I was attempting to teach students how to write, but teaching my students handwriting was not in my purview.

At some point in my teaching career, I came to understand that there must have been a movement in elementary school to dispense with the teaching of cursive writing. The majority of my students were largely unable to read anything written in cursive. Thus all of the comments I spent precious time writing on their papers, in an admittedly difficult-to-decipher blend of cursive and print, were essentially for naught, as they had no hope of decoding my cursive missives.

I do not understand this movement to abandon the teaching of cursive handwriting. I admit that a tremendous amount of writing is done via the keyboard (and incidentally, I don’t believe typing or keyboarding is taught anymore either, which is equally unacceptable in my view). However, there are a number of primary documents that are handwritten in cursive — The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution to name a few. Students should be empowered to read them in their original form. Additionally, cursive writing can be beautiful (certainly not as I employ the practice, but my mother and grandmother both have wonderful penmanship). And let us not forget that students need to be able to read their teachers’ handwritten comments.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Handwritten.”

Failings don’t make a failure

I enjoy editing. I like to pick apart a story or a sentence. I like to worry at a word until I find a winner. I like grammar rules and enjoy being able to implement them.

But I have a hard time hearing criticism of my own writing. Maybe because I edit myself so much that when I finally show a piece I have written, when I finally put it out there to be read, I don’t want to learn that I messed up, that it has flaws.

It isn’t just my writing about which I have a hard time taking criticism. I have difficulty accepting criticism in general, about anything. I don’t know where this difficulty came from. I don’t know how it manifested. I hope that however I came by it, I am not unwittingly passing it on to my son. Intellectually, I know I am not perfect. I know I make mistakes and have character flaws and could do things better than I do them. I know these things, but to hear someone else point them out hurts.

I don’t know why I cannot separate a failing from being a failure. My brain understands this. But emotionally, I struggle. I think part of this challenge comes from having really high expectations for myself. I really, really want to do well, to be good. So when I don’t, when I’m not, I’m less than pleased.

Here’s one example: I really, really, really want to be a good mom. (Incidentally, I would like to give the benefit of the doubt to all moms everywhere that this is also their goal in motherhood). For me, part of being a good mom was breastfeeding my child. Well, turned out that my son was not able to get all of the nourishment he needed from nursing alone. My husband was the first to truly grasp this, and suggested we supplement Liam’s feedings with bottle-fed formula. I was devastated. I felt like I was failing Liam, that I was starving him, and that I wasn’t a good enough mother. And this wasn’t even true criticism, just clear observation of the situation really, and still I had trouble accepting it.

My actual awareness of this flaw is relatively new. My husband, Jim, helped me see that I don’t react well to criticism. I know it cannot be easy for him to criticize when he knows how it will affect me, that I will be upset, frustrated, possibly mad. But I am grateful that he does so anyway. When it is warranted and constructive, criticism is the path to betterment. I recognize that. I do.

I doubt there is really anyone who enjoys being criticized or having his or her imperfections pointed out, but I wish that I could not lose sight of my self-worth when faced with one of my deficits. I guess I am getting better. With this flaw of not taking criticism well, I at least understand that this difficulty doesn’t make me a bad person. I guess that’s a start.

Missing the Mark

Hmm. So.

I am behind on a few of my daily posts. This is because we went camping and had no internet access up the mountain. I will catch up before the end of the month. That is the plan. So there will be thirty posts for the thirty days of September.

But, right now, I am trying to figure out how to fix my last post, my Letter to Liam (#4).

I woefully missed the mark, somehow. My words offended his father. To him, my post made it seem like our son isn’t good enough. To Jim, my post sounded like I was apologizing because Liam is a boy. So, yeah, I missed the mark but good.

Because, of course, I am happy that Liam is Liam.

My intention was to express my regret that he will not have the opportunities I had as a Girl Scout. I was trying to communicate my sorrow over this because I had such positive experiences in scouting.

I certainly did not mean to imply that Liam was lacking in any way. Maybe my post was meant to subtly suggest how society may be lacking because these opportunities are not available for boys, except at the expense of subjecting oneself to the religious dogma of the Boy Scouts.

I will say that I think there is value in same-gender groupings, so it isn’t that I wish Girl Scouts was inclusive of boys. I guess I’m just ticked at the Boy Scouts for being so inferior to the Girl Scouts.

Anyway, Jim suggested some revisions, but I just can’t seem to make them work. I lose the rhythm of the post with the alterations, and somehow the message doesn’t come through in the same way.

Jim would probably say that’s a good thing, since the message he got was not what was intended.

Still.

I missed the mark, but I am not sure how to find it, how to steer closer to it. So, this is what I have managed, discussing my failure to find the right words, until I am able to find them, and fix the letter.

UPDATE – Letter has been fixed! Hallelujah!