November 30, 2011

And Now A Word From Our Ghost Sponsor

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , at 8:44 AM by Dawne Webber

I was visiting a friend and she was telling about someone she’d seen on TV, it was either a politician or House (Hugh Laurie) and she said, “He can be so nasty. He reminds me of you.” I acted more shocked than I was, and she said, “Well, you do have a reputation for being snarky sometimes.”

Hugh Laurie- House

Band-aids aren't snark resistant.

It’s true I have a reputation among my acquaintances. Some of the nicer words that describe it are snarky and sassy (I don’t like sassy. It makes me sound like a feisty old lady and I’m not quite there yet). The truth is, I can be a smart-ass. If I ever learn to control my mouth, I’ll still have a reputation of being snarky, because reputations aren’t easily fixed. I guess I’d better quash that “sassy” thing now.

Every time a blogger posts something they put their reputation on the line for the entire world to judge. (Well, in my case, it’s exponentially less than the entire world). It’s a risky thing if you think about it because it hinges not only on the content of your blog but on the ads or endorsements it may contain.

When I created this blog I knew that there would be  “occasional contextually relevant ads,” chosen by the pie-in-the-sky-ad-picker and attached to my posts. WordPress.com services are free, but they still need revenue so I was OK with an occasional unobtrusive ad.

I forgot about the ads because I never saw one– until I happened to go to my blog without being logged into the site. Imagine my surprise when I saw the bright yellow advertisement with a large, bold DUI? WE CAN HELP at the top of it. Hmmm, the pie-in-the-sky-ad-picker decided my post on Thanksgiving would be the perfect place to advertise DUI legal advice. I clicked on a few of my other posts and found that striking DUI ad at the bottom of each.

Paid Advertising

The little light bulb went off in my head: when I’m logged into my WordPress account (which is always), the ads aren’t visible to me so I have no idea what I’ve been promoting. I decided to do some reconnaissance over the next few days. It proved very interesting. The DUI ads disappeared. A few days later an annoying baking video graced some of my posts, followed by more video ads. I wondered if the pie-in-the-sky-ad-picker decided at some point that Fredericks of Hollywood, or Viagra ads would be compatible with any of my posts.

Dear Pie-in-the-sky-ad-picker,
I’ve tried videos on my blog. They bombed. I don’t want them here.
Thanks for your concern.
PS- If you ever post an ad here for Starbucks or Nordstroms, do you think you could get me some kind of coupon? Thanks.

Although I appreciate the fact that my blog is free, and I understand revenue needs to come from somewhere, I decide my reputation is on the line. Not only are my readers going to think that I’m getting paid to host these ads, they’re going to think I endorse these products and services. And my reputation is fragile enough so I decide to opt out of the ads. I do more research and learn opting out is possible for $30 a year.

Fair enough. But it’s Christmas time and money is tight (and I’m not asking for “ad opt out” for Christmas. I want a real gift), so I’m stuck with the ads for now. I think I’ll get my hustband to come up with a catchy little disclaimer to put on the bottom of my posts (he’s good at that kind of thing). And I’ll  apologize to you for the annoying distracting videos and ads that may assail you at the end of an occasional post. If I’m going to have a reputation, I want to earn it myself.

Giving gifts

November 26, 2011

Courting Temptation in the Realm of the Probable

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , at 1:39 PM by Dawne Webber

Things happen that are outside the realm of probability (although not to me). Real people win the lottery, survive lightening strikes, write bestsellers and marry princes. Truth can be stranger than fiction, but fiction can’t be stranger than truth. There are few things more annoying than a movie with plot holes large enough to drive a garbage truck through or  a book that’s so contrived and the ending so implausible you want to sue the author for wasting your time.

Capturing the essence and nuance of human nature without manipulating it is the foundation of a good story. All things may be possible but not all things are probable. I’ve been pondering this quite a bit, because I happened upon another short story contest (OK, I didn’t “happen upon it”. I looked for one). The idea my muse threw me has me pondering more than writing (at this rate I’ll miss the deadline). And the pondering has me wondering. I know it’s possible for a person to turn their life around. I’ve done it myself, and I’ve seen others do it; people overcoming addictions, inclinations and tendencies that had them by the throat and threatened to destroy them.

I know it’s always possible, but is it probable, particularly in the confines of fiction?

There was a man who loved the challenge of women. It was a heady game for him. His goal was the hook-up; her’s was a relationship. He always won and was always eager to find a new conquest. He didn’t realize the game had become dull and stale until he met someone who wouldn’t play it with him. To make a short story shorter, he fell in love with a young woman. And he could see with great clarity the peace and happiness a life and family with that woman would bring him. And he desired that more than he had ever desired anything before, even winning the game.

But the challenge and allure of women didn’t melt away just because he decided he didn’t want it anymore. It was part of him and the danger of temptation was always lurking in another woman’s eyes. There were occasions when he could overcome the temptation. But life is never that simple and the man found himself in a situation that overwhelmed him with desire to win another conquest. It’s possible that he resisted, but I can’t help wonder how probable it is.

What do you think? Because the real ending to the story hinges on the answer to that question.

November 20, 2011

Thanks For the Memories

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , at 4:41 PM by Dawne Webber

Thanksgiving is the the quiet, pastoral younger sibling to that jubilant, festive darling, Christmas. There’s a calmness surrounding Thanksgiving, like a deep breath before the whirlwind of the approaching holiday. I look out my window at the bare tree branches and gray sky and snapshots of Thanksgivings past roll through my mind.

The smell of turkey baking, the Thanksgiving parade on the TV (whether anyone’s watching it or not) followed by the Lion’s game (we may actually watch it this year), and the sound of Christmas music (Thanksgiving is the first official day of listening to Christmas music here, although every year someone tries to cheat and listen to it earlier). These are the traditions that have woven the background of Thanksgiving celebrations since my childhood, but every year has a unique flavor all it’s own.

Hudson's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

One of my earliest memories is the parade and castle at Hudon's.

When I was very young, we would spend Thanksgiving at my grandparent’s home. I can remember the heavy, unreadable stare of my grandpa during the meal. I didn’t realize it then, but the stare was one of amusement because my eating habits fascinated him. None of the food on my plate could touch, much less mix with any other food (making gravy verboten). I ate one thing at a time until it was finished, then I would turn my plate to the next item and eat that until it was gone. I continued in this way until the plate was empty or I came to something I wouldn’t eat. As our family grew, I was a relieved to add a child’s table in another room and be out of his range of vision.

Another snapshot takes place when I was in high school. Thanksgiving was celebrated at our house and we used the good china. I remembered that I just wanted to be alone, so I offered to do all the dishes myself (By hand. It was the good china after all). My family and our guests disappeared. The snapshot is yellowed and fuzzy, but I think I see a few tears trickling down the face of a teenager enjoying a solitary wallow in her angst. I know I broke one of the china coffee cups. My daughter inherited the china, and you can see the hairline crack on a cup handle that was glued back together.

Trees at sunrise

What better way to begin Thanksgiving than an early morning walk with the one you love.

The next snapshot is taken a few years later in the first apartment my husband and I shared in upstate New York. He worked third shift so we were often up before dawn. I remember going out for a walk on a frosty Thanksgiving morning before the sun came up. We went back to the apartment and I prepared a magnificent Thanksgiving feast: a twenty pound turkey (literally), a gallon of mashed potatoes and three pumpkin pies. I was used to cooking for seven people and I couldn’t seem to make the adjustment to cooking for two.  I couldn’t understand why the potatoes looked untouched at the end of the meal. I was sure my husband hadn’t eaten enough, and I kept asking him if he wanted more potatoes. He declined and pointed out that two people would not make much of a dent in a meal prepared for seven.

Thanksgiving feast

A feast for two, with enough leftovers to last until next Thanksgiving

The next snapshot is more of a feeling than an image. We moved to Ohio (both of our families lived in Michigan) and had the first grandchild on both sides. Suddenly holidays were not as enjoyable as they had been.  There were more responsibilities and schedules to determine. Would we go back to Michigan or was someone planning to come to Ohio? What time would be spent with my family? What time spent with his? The list went on and on…

I finally told our families that Thanksgiving was our holiday. We were spending it alone at our own home. Nobody really minded; it made it easier for everyone else too. Once again I found the peace of Thanksgiving.

After we’d lived back in Michigan for a few years, I had my parent’s over for Thanksgiving, because they were in the midst of moving and didn’t have a refrigerator at the time. We were in the middle of the meal, and suddenly my dad said in astonishment, “Hey, Dawne. This stuffing is really good.” Who knew I had it in me?

Thanksgiving blessing

November 17, 2011

Grinched to the Max

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , at 2:34 PM by Dawne Webber

What do the following  have in common? Jon Bon Jovi for his hair. John Steinbeck for his writing. Mother Theresa for her unconditional love. Celine Dion for her voice. Justin Verlander for his pitching. Any drummer for their talent.

They’re all people I admire for some quality they possess and I lack.

Jon Bon Jovi

Perfect ’80s Hair

Then there’s Max. You might know Max because of his association with Cindy Lou Who, the urchin famous for her huge, innocent eyes, cooing voice and perky antennae; and with the Grinch, whose heart grew three sizes and who had the strength of ten grinches plus two. And whose teeth didn’t move with his mouth when he talked (How cool is that?). Max, the Grinch’s dog, is the simple sidekick, relegated to the shadows of the limelight. Yet he’s the one I’ll spend my life trying to imitate, because he has something I lack and I want.

First of all, Max is perpetually happy. What does he have to be happy about? His life is rough. For starters, he lives in a cave on a mountain— with the Grinch. Yeah, the Grinch’s heart may have grown three sizes, but he was no picnic before that. I know people like the Grinch. Frankly, I can be a grinch myself. Grinches are not easy to live with.

Max the Grinch's dog

Max is devoted to the Grinch. I’m sure the Grinch never said thanks, gave Max a card on his birthday, or even patted him on the head. Poor Max. Lack of appreciation can be a bitter thing. I know. I can being doing dishes for a sick child, while grumbling about their lack of gratitude— “I cooked dinner too. Doesn’t that child realize I’ve been in this kitchen for four hours? He should be on his knees thanking me for doing the dishes for him.”

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

Then there’s Max, oblivious to the lack of gratitude. Can anyone forget the single, pathetic antler tied to his head? It weighed a ton, and it looked ridiculous. (I’m resisting the urge to compare Lady Gaga here.) Talk about lack of gratitude; the Grinch won’t even let Max ride in the stupid sleigh. But Max never complains. He doesn’t even question it.

I was in a situation similar to the antler incident and believe me, I didn’t handle it like Max. I was the elf in the school Christmas play and my grandma made an extravagant green felt costume for me, complete with a curly pointed hat and curly pointed shoes. Every single pointy point was embellished with little jingle bells. I hated it, especially those shoes. I cried, protested, argued and probably screamed against the fate that put me in those shoes. I’m sure I would have been an adorable elf, had I been wearing a smile instead of a grimace. Granted I was only in second grade, but I don’t think I’d handle it much better now, unless Max came to mind.

Elf costume

Imagine bells on all the points and a grimace instead of a smile.

Some people would say Max is “simple”, maybe even dimwitted. They’d pity poor misguided Max. Some would try to explain to Max how awful his life really is and point out how little he has to be thankful for. Some would snicker behind his back, blaming him for not having the backbone to stand up to the Grinch. Would Max ignore them, or would he be enlightened and unhappy?

I’d say Max’s foolishness is wiser than most people’s wisdom. Max is like a leaf on the sea, floating on top of stormy waves as easily as he floats on placid water. As for me, I can float tranquilly on the placid water, but when my expectations are thwarted, I fight the waves and end up exhausted and half dead.

I wonder how Max feels about the Grinch’s transformation. Is it possible for Max to be any happier than he already is? Is his happiness level constant because he rolls with whatever life throws at him, good and bad? Does he always live in the moment, knowing but not worrying that the next moment will be different than the one he’s living now? Can you imagine the joy and peace that fills someone who is simply thankful to be alive?

I wonder if the Grinch ever learns anything from his dog, Max.

The Grinch, Cindy Lou Who and Max

The Grinch, Cindy Lou and Max too.

 

Disclaimer: There may be an ad/video visible below or above. I’m not sure because they are invisible from my account, but I know they appear to my readers with annoying frequency. I do not receive monetary compensation for the ad nor do I endorse it.  

November 14, 2011

Each to His Passion

Posted in Writing tagged , , , , , , , at 8:40 AM by Dawne Webber

We are each created with a spark inside of us. Some of us try to ignore it. Maybe we think it’s something to be ashamed of. Whatever the reason, it remains a tiny ember occasionally flaring up, leaving us feeling as though we did something embarrassing in public.

Some of us fan the spark and it flares up with a glorious flame if used wisely or a hideous flame if given free reign. This spark gives heat and color to our lives. And it has the power to fill us with joy or drown us in misery.

This spark is passion. Not sexual passion. That spark resides in the anatomy. Not the passion of faith, which is so powerful it doesn’t reside in you; it engulfs you. The passion I’m talking about is the one that resides in the heart and mind. Have you ever watched someone animated by their passion? It really is a fascinating sight, even if their passion is something you find uninteresting.

Passionate football fan

Football Passion--Maybe fascinating isn't the right word.

I ignored my passions for a long time for many reasons: I didn’t have enough time, money or energy to devote to them. I felt numb until the spark flared in me and filled me with a forgotten excitement and joy. Not only did I like that feeling, I needed it. I needed something to be passionate about.

Each of us is created with a unique pre-loaded passion library. Sorry no refunds or exchanges; we have to take what we get. But that’s ok. We still have choices. Take my drum passion. There are so many things I could do with that (?). For example, I could become a professional RockBand drummer. I could play in competitions and tournaments, like the sixteen-year-old who dropped out of school to become a professional Guitar Hero competitor. I realize it’s not a wise choice, so I decide to focus on the listening and watching aspect of my drum passion.

Rush Rockband

If Neil Peart fails out, what hope is there for me?

But I long to use my passion for creating.  So I read Stephen King’s words on talent again, because they capture essence of the passion of creating :

“…when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading), every outing is a bravura performance because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.”

When asked if he did it for the money, he replied: “…I never set a single word down on paper with the thought of being paid for it…I have written because it fulfilled me. Maybe it paid off the mortgage on the house and got the kids through college, but those things were on the side–I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”

Hmmm. What shall I focus on creating? More kids? I’m good at that, but I don’t think so. I’m content with the five I have. Scrapbooks? No, I’m not as passionate about that as I once was. A cottage garden landscape for my yard? I’m passionate about that, but I also inadvertently kill every plant I come into contact with. I couldn’t live with that heartache (not to mention the expense of replacing dead landscaping).

Dead plants

Of course, I decided on writing, not because it’s the least expensive, but “for the pure joy of the thing.” And writing rekindles my passion for reading. It’s like a passion bonus. If you need to be recharged, indulge in one of your passions. It can be great adventure. Who knows where it will lead. The only thing you can be sure of  is the euphoria that fills you when you’re doing something you love.

November 9, 2011

A Lulu of a Story

Posted in Writing tagged , , , , , , at 12:48 PM by Dawne Webber

I heard about a short story contest from Lulu.com and I half-heartedly kicked around some ideas. Short stories are entirely different animals than novels. Novels are the domesticated well-behaved animals. Short stories are the wild ones, hard to tame. And this contest allowed only 600 words. Each word of the story becomes very important. What kind of story can you possibly write with 600 words?

I’d decided to forget it. But, suddenly, a brilliant, blinding flash sparked inside my weary, little mind. It was inspiration for a story that was an offshoot of A Voice Among the Thorns, the book I’m currently working on.

Daisy Fell weighed in at exactly 598 words.  It has officially been entered in the Lulu Short Story Contest. (For all the writers out there: it’s open until December 1.)

Young adult short story.

That tiny blob in the corner is my name.

I invite you to read it and share it with others if you think it’s worth sharing.  I’m especially interested in your thoughts on it, the good and the bad for sure and the ugly if you must.  Leave your feedback as a comment on this post or my Facebook page, or in an email.

To get Daisy Fell, click here. I can’t wait to confabulate about it, or about your contest entry.

Some technical stuff:

  • Winners are selected by a panel of Lulu judges. It’s not a contest based on the number of downloads or clicks it receives.
  • It’s a free eBook download.
  • You can’t read it directly on-line.

November 2, 2011

Behind the Hype– SETs, STDs, and Lurkers.

Posted in blog tagged , , , , , , , at 10:42 PM by Dawne Webber

Blogging is not the easy, jot-down-your-thoughts, hit-the-publish-button, and out-it-bursts-into-the-blogosphere-like-a-newborn-babe, it appears to be. Creating a post can be like creating a baby. At times, it’s so enjoyable and exciting you never want to stop. If you weren’t so tired you’d write another one right away. Occasionally it can be tedious. You close your eyes and push the publish button, glad that the effort to just get it done is behind you.

Toddler playing drums

I love this picture!

But blogging is more complicated than creating a baby. There’s much more to it than writing and clicking “publish”. For example, the terms people use in search engines such as Google, have a great impact on a blog. Dave Grohl is a huge part of my blog. The terms “Dave Grohl drums” and “Dave Grohl drumming” chauffeur an amazing amount of people here. In fact, they’re the top two search engine terms (SET’s) that refer people to my blog.  “Bunion” is a close second. That my blog is so closely associated with bunions leaves a warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Dave Grohl, vulture, drum kit

Obligatory photo of Dave Grohl

Not everyone is searching for something as mundane as Dave Grohl’s drum kit (although it is enhanced by a vulture), or Brennan Boesch’s girlfriend (I don’t know who she is, people!). There are some very interesting individuals searching for some very colorful things.  A few of the more bizarre terms that led to my blog include:

“women who polish their husbands toes”
“stop drop and roll does not work in hell lyrics”
“he waited two years till first sex”

And the winner of the most bizarre search term used to find my blog:

“first time outside crossdressing cool air sound of my heels”

I did my own web and image search on this term just to see what else popped up. I didn’t see my blog listed, but when I searched under images I came across Michelle.

Michelle Obama

This photo was on the seventh page of the image search.

Referrers are another necessity in the blogger’s world. Referrers are other blogs and web sites that link to your blog. A short time after I began blogging, I noticed some strange looking referrers. They became my favorites because they were generating half of my traffic. I was crushed when I found out they were “spam referrers”. They seem to have the same purpose in the blogosphere as the tiny annoying pests that inhabit the real world, such as mosquitoes and lice.

WordPress strongly advises a blogger to report spam referrers so that they can be blocked from using WordPress blogs for their devious purposes. This caused an ethical dilemma for me. Follow the rules and weed out the spammers (I am a rule follower by nature) or keep the spam referrers because it makes my blog look like it’s getting twice the hits it’s actually getting. In the end, I opted for justice for the spam scum, but there are days when my stats are so low I long for a few spam referrers just to perk me up.

stop spam

Spam: It’s not welcome here.

At one time I thought the number of comments a blog had was indicative of the amount of traffic that blog got– comments equal blog life.  “Poor little unread blog,” I used to think about the blogs with few comments. Then I became the blogger, and I could see the amount of traffic stopping by my blog daily. And that number in no way corresponded to the dismal number of comments I was receiving. I still don’t get many comments, but I have a lot of lurkers. A “lurker” is an affectionate term bloggers use to describe readers that don’t make themselves known by posting comments.

I was a lurker myself for a while. Before I began writing my blog, I read blogs. But I had no desire to leave a comment. Who cared what I had to say? Hadn’t the blogger said it all in the post? Then I read a blog post about Christian Louboutin heels for Barbies, and I felt compelled to comment. I was too nervous to type my comment cold-turkey on-line. It took two days of editing a Word Doc. to perfect my first comment: “Those are the only Louboutin’s I’ll ever be able to afford”. After that, I wrote and edited all my comments before posting them, until I began writing my own blog and realized comments didn’t need to be perfect. Posts did. (In a perfect blogosphere anyway).

There is so much more I could tell you. My battle with the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) monster, and the disappearing blogroll.  One of these days, when my muse is AWOL and I’m desperate for a post,  I’ll let you in on that hype, too.

PS– In case you’re wondering about the STD’s in my headline, it was an underhanded ploy for some traffic. I may fight spam, but I’m not against a little hype.

Disclaimer: There may be an ad/video visible below or above. I’m not sure because they are invisible from my account, but I know they appear to my readers with annoying frequency. I do not receive monetary compensation for the ad nor do I endorse it.  

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