Out of the office

I don’t know about you, and I’ll preface this by saying, it’s probably just me. But don’t you just hate it when a blogger “suddenly” stops posting or someone you’re following goes quiet? No explanation, no note, no update, nothing. Sometimes, though it’s rare, they do stop back after a short period of time and actually give an explanation. Most of the time, though, bloggers come back (or they don’t) as if nothing went on and everything moves on again until the next time–and inevitably, because life is life, there is always a next time. It is concerning when a blogger stops blogging and doesn’t come back for months. I followed this wonderful UK blogger who blogged about the royal family. I looked forward to her posts every week. Suddenly, she stopped blogging for two months and then came back, stating a mental health issue. Admittedly, blogging about the royal family must have been nearly impossible these past few years. After disappearing twice, she finally stopped blogging altogether, with her blog disappearing along with her IG account. I half suspect her overall reason for blogging was to vent. I often wonder about her and pray everything works out for her.

Another blog I followed was just as curious. It started out as one thing and ended up as something totally different, which, by all rights, is perfectly fine. It was a home and garden blog, and the author posted regularly until, suddenly, all posts stopped. She came back after a while, redesigned her blog, and continued to post about her home and garden. She had a nice little blog. The only thing lacking, that I think frustrated her quite a bit, was she refused to do as others like her were doing, and that is post videos or step-by-step up-close and personal tutorials. She disappeared again, and this time for much longer. Out of the blue, I received her news letter. She had also been suffering from mental health issues. Promising no further interruptions, she began again. Another redesigned blog and promises of new and better content. Slowly but surely, her posts started becoming farther and farther apart, and alas, she disappeared altogether without a word. I truly feel her sole reason for blogging was loneliness and the idea that she could make money, get free stuff, and claim success, like some of her blogging friends. She wasn’t one to interact with her followers and, in fact, never once answered any of my questions. I pray she has found something more worthy of her time.

Which, I will now take the time to remind my readers, as long as I’m on the subject, is the sole reason I’ve never aspired to do more on my blog than ramble. And I ramble. I am always humbled by any like or comment and I thank you for taking the time out of your day or night to leave one.

So, let me spare 5 minutes. I have scheduled posts for all of June while I am traveling. If you leave a comment or email me, I will answer that comment or email upon my return. Look for that response the first week of July. Thank you for reading my blog, stopping by and leaving a comment, or emailing me. My blog is important to me and you are too. Hence, why I’m letting you know vs. leaving you hanging, high and dry.

I’m not paid to inspire you

I think the story behind my inspiration for this post is actually more interesting than the post itself. Let me explain. I’m in a group on Facebook that is for women of all ages and statuses that love hiking, nature, and outdoor activities. Recently, I was reading a day’s worth of posts and noticed something that was odd to me. First, I am generally not an active participant in groups, and second, this is the second group I’ve joined in maybe 40 years. I’m trying something new, and so far it has been eye-opening. So, I apologize up front if things like what I’m about to tell you have been going on for ages. Okay, the post was a 30 something female asking if anyone around her area would like to get together and walk with her. The responses to that post are the story here and the inspiration for this blog post. She received, within one hour, close to 350 responses. If I’m being honest most of those responses were made within 20 minutes.

She received responses from women who were not close to her area, not even in the same state; women young and old, married, divorced, single, and every last response (just about) was looking to go walking and wanting to make friends for this reason—“they are all trying to find themselves.” This expression is not new to me, as I said the same thing almost 18 years ago and was, after three long years, successful. However, when I talked about it or wrote about it back then, people called me a hippie. The common question I got was, “isn’t that what hippies did in the 60’s and 70’s?”

Yes, it probably was. I had read that to find oneself, you needed, above all things, peace, quiet, and introspection. Perhaps all these years later, women are finally finding it together. As the weekend progressed, more women responded to the post, and many gave their own reasons as to why they wish to do more “solo” things and/or find themselves by way of group activities etc. With close to 1000 responses and my time quite stretched this weekend, I read approximately 250 of the responses, and at least 90% of them were looking to get away from the internet in general, and social media in particular, and find a way to permanently replace IG and Facebook. The overwhelming majority of responses indicated that there was far too much pressure on women, particularly on Instagram, and the resounding majority felt much of what they read and saw was fake. Women stated that they felt a disconnect with most of those they follow. 

One woman who had built a small business on IG asked, “Do any of you have businesses that are run through IG or Facebook?” From the responses I read, there were very few. Many were hesitant to quit social media for fear of “missing out” or “offending” friends, “losing touch”, or being thought of as a “failure.” Many, when they made their minds up to leave, felt they would be looked at as addicts of social media that had to “quit” it. There were even a few that admitted to saying they were leaving to see if anyone would ask them to stay. Apparently, because it was brought up, I wasn’t aware of it, that people use the statement of “leaving social media” as a way to “look better than” the many who do not. The old “I can because I have better things to do with my life than hang out here.” At the end of the weekend, the woman who had previously asked if anyone ran a business via IG exclaimed, “If I didn’t run a successful business on IG, I definitely wouldn’t be online everyday because I’m certainly not being paid enough to inspire or influence anybody.”

And there it is. If it isn’t your business, then why is it so hard to quit? It’s for all the reasons above and more, isn’t it? But mostly, it’s that you don’t want to become irrelevant or miss out on something. On IG, there are pretty things all the time, and 30 soap operas or more a day that are done in great lighting. The thing is, once you go offline and start doing the things you used to do, you start seeing, feeling, and behaving just like you used to. You start enjoying yourself, your home, and your life just like you used to and stop living in comparison with others. You never want to go back to social media again. The real beauty of it is that you don’t have to because you know “you’re not being paid to inspire others.”

All of these women trying to find themselves have a choice. They can continue to be lost in other people’s lives, or they can make the choice to consume less of it, or they can delete their accounts and get back to living their best-intentioned lives. You can too.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: I write because I’m a writer. If I was being paid, I’d probably have writer’s block all the time. Many people get addicted to other people’s perceptions of them—they lose themselves through the perceptions of others. These same people also believe they are someone else’s inspiration, and they just can’t let go of that feeling. It’s like a high. Just know that soon after you go, your IG friends will find other friends to inspire them, and you, well, you’ll find yourself.

I’ve got a mountain of magazines and books crying for me to read them and pass them on to friends. I spend very little time on social media, yet I still fall behind in making time for the things I really want to do. So, in May, I am forfeiting all my IG time to read, read, and read some more. 

Until next time, be safe and be well.

For the love of escape

Are these David Austin roses not the most gorgeous roses you’ve ever seen? I ordered two bare root roses from David Austin UK that will be shipped to me in the next two weeks.

Looking at these makes me want to escape to an English garden.

Speaking of English gardens, has anyone ever taken an Enneagram test? You can find them on the internet. Sometimes they are free (you have to look around). I can’t find the link to the last one I took, but I remember my number–it’s one, the idealist and reformer. I think I consistently get this one because I am a rule follower. I just am. I haven’t always followed the rules, but when I do, I feel secure, stable, and safe. I don’t pretend to know why these things are so vitally important to me, but I know that everyone probably wants to feel secure and safe; some just don’t prioritize those things the way I do. I don’t think that I realized how strong my feelings were about ethics, leading an ethical life, ethical choices, thoughts, decisions, and lifestyle until I took an ethics class that really challenged me in 2006.

Speaking of enneagram’s, have you taken this cute test that features all of the houses in Nancy Meyer’s movies?

If I go by my enneagram test results (1), I would be matched up with the perfectionist, Amanda Woods, in The Holiday. That’s so not true in this case. Since I’ve watched all of them many times (I own them too), I know where my heart lies and it’s in this one:

Iris Simpkin’s House

Because when it comes to my home, clothing, and style, it’s always been about being an individualist for me.

Doesn’t Iris’s living room make you want to book a week in a cozy English cottage in Shere?

I am so there after the last two months that I’ve had, but yet, here I am on my blog. Because when life is difficult, busy, frustrating, happy, overwhelming, exceptional, where else would I be? I’m a writer. I write.

I’ve been busy with a lot of things since January, but things have been really crazy these past two weeks. I’ve transitioned from remote 3rd shift work to remote 1/2 time/office 1/2 time 1st shift work. I have transitioned from corporate taxes while working during a very busy tax season to non-profit setup and business taxes. We have celebrated our cat’s 14th birthday and are delighted to still have him with us. I would be lost without him. He has had a life of poor health, but despite that, he remains quite healthy, if that makes sense, because he’s always been well taken care of by me. I continue to feed him 6-7 hand-fed meals a day. He’s energetic, not too forgetful, can still see and hear pretty well, and is still using the litter box. Our busy schedule has included helping friends with painting and deck-building, I’ve started working on our container garden (because even though we rent, we still have a garden), cleaning, organizing (professionally again), caring for a sick friend, now caring for hubby who is sick (not c–we’ve tested him 3x), car issues (finally resolved, it’s time for a new one), budget re-do, FB hack (finally gotten around to starting a new account), hours of working with an IT security friend to make sure I’m secure (all is well), a blog re-do, selling, selling (my eBay store is doing well), training for work, and did I say spring cleaning? This past weekend was Easter for eight people, two of whom were our house guests for three days.

Did I say escape? We will be escaping our busy schedules for two weeks later this spring in SE France in the Provence region. Thankfully we have a house sitter who has sat before for us and will again in the fall when we travel to Western Canada.

The three most frequently asked questions I’ve received in email lately are:

How do you find time for social media? The short answer to that is, I don’t. Social media is almost last on my list of priorities. Even though I’ve always enjoyed the pretty pictures on IG and the networking and connecting on Facebook, I am not a proponent of social media. I am more than grateful that I don’t have to try and make a living from my presence on it, and I am also grateful that social media in and of itself doesn’t really interest me at all. I’ve compared it often to high school, cliques, popularity, bullying, and all the things many of us felt in school and were thrilled to leave behind. Every post, story, and reel I make for IG is for me and my husband period. I routinely download my transcript to save for our old age. If it works out and it’s available to look at when I’m in my 70’s, I’ll be thrilled. I love taking photos, making stories, and making reels. My account is often private, I don’t allow like counts on my posts and most of the time I don’t allow comments. It’s not me being antisocial—I’ve actually found a few really, really good friends through IG. I just don’t like all the requests I get, or the spam, or the bots I have to deal with when my account isn’t private.

The second most frequently asked question is, “Where did all your blog posts go?”After WordPress alerted me of suspicious activity on a few posts, I made all my blog posts private. I have left those posts with the WordPress Admin and I will soon, after careful scrutiny, make my posts public again.

Last question–was it weird or hard to start a YT channel? Yes. It was nerve-wracking. The pandemic caused me to become more focused on capturing our life for us to view in later years. I have two YT channels. I also have five blogs. Three active blogs and two inactive at this time. My oldest blog is 15 years old and is a private blog with everything I’ve written over the past 25+ years in one place. One YT channel is for hubby and me to look back on things we did during the pandemic, our lives in 2020, and so on. The other YT is public and has videos about a lot of stuff–travel, shopping hauls, fun, organizing projects, and home life. I’ve got 50 followers so far, and that’s about right for me. I’ve enjoyed getting to know new people and have loved hearing their take on some of the things my videos are about. I have enjoyed learning how to film and the editing process immensely.

My favorite recipe I tried this month: Marble and Vanilla Crepes here

with fillings here

Favorite book this month: Living the Lord’s Prayer

Best self -care item I’ve bought recently–if you love lemons, I’m just saying. Young Living’s Lemon Starter Kit. I’ve been using YL oils for six years now, but unfortunately let my account expire during Covid. I started it back up with this lovely starter kit. *You can find YL products here   including the Lemon Starter Kit under shop bundles.

One last thing: I’ve noticed a lot of people I’ve been following on IG have stopped posting. I’ve also received three notices from bloggers that I follow, letting me know they’re taking a break from blogging and all social media. There seems to be a lot of this going on. Much of this has to do with what most of us have been dealing with these past two trying years. In addition, the war in Ukraine, financial issues ticking up (inflation), greater competition, and the moods and attitudes of many, hanging out on social media and finding the will to blog is getting harder for some people. I’ve avoided this kind of fatigue by not really prioritizing social media in my life and also by always keeping my blog a safe place for me to come and write. I think if you are someone who loves social media but hates the stress of competition, always feeling like you have to post, and the DM’s, I would set up a personal account and use that to scroll through feeds and keep in touch with friends. When I think of successful bloggers and a reason to have and keep hold of a blog for business, I think of people like Liz Marie Galvan, who uses her blog to post links, make posts of social interactions, answer questions, and offer her own professional opinions and advice. She also sells things—lots of things from her blog. There are many, many successful bloggers out there, but those people also tend to have help. If you’re trying to make online blogging a full-time business, then I would suggest taking classes in business/social media/internet etc. or turning to bloggers like Lisa Bass from Farmhouse Boone, who offer blogging masterclasses on making money from blogging. Blogging as a business takes a lot of work, dedication, and perseverance and is usually supported by a product you are selling. Anything less than this and you have a hobby. Just my 2 cents and opinion.

*my referral link for YL. I am a customer of YL, not a distributor. Using my link to the shop will not cost you anything, nor will I earn anything. 

Until next time, be well and stay safe!

Resilience

Sometimes I think the only reason I make it out the other side of hardship is my resilience and my belief/knowledge that so many other people in the world have it way worse.

Last week at work was brutal. The weather was even more brutal. Someone I knew, cared about, and was inspired by committed suicide. One of several friends/people I’ve known who have taken their lives in the last 2-3 years.

It was a sad, stressful, full of tears and pain kind of week.

At the start of our weekend, my Facebook account got hacked. Which was far less serious, of course, than what had happened during the week. My husband was like, “I can understand, but can’t understand, because it was “just an account.” I should mention he doesn’t participate at all, even a little bit, on social media. It wasn’t the account being hacked that bothered me the most.

It was despite everything I’d done over the years to keep it “safe”, it wasn’t safe and now it is gone. A common theme in my life these past 20 years.

After the initial pain of losing something that was mine, then came anger, frustration, a sense of being betrayed, being lied to, and finally submitting to the reality that my account was gone for good. Not only had they hacked my account, they had also hacked an old bank account that we kept around with just a few dollars in it. It was an account I had in school and used when I had a business page on Facebook. I’d used it to pay for ads. All of that information was supposed to be deleted when that page was deleted. It wasn’t. I was lied to. For everything you hear about safety, authentication, or service—it’s all a lie. When you are hacked, there is no help. You’re on your own, and even when it’s not your fault and the fault lies totally with the entity, you’re out of everything. I was truly humbled by sending emails to Facebook “customer service” (there is none) only to report things to bots. While being humbled, I had an epiphany. It was—no more wasting my time, in some cases time I couldn’t afford, trying to protect myself from things or people over which I had no control.

Ten years ago, I taught internet security at a local college to help pay for my schooling. For over a year, three times a week, I taught people how to protect their identities and surf online safely. Internet safety is a topic I find very interesting and whenever there is a documentary or I have a friend or colleague talking about it, I’m all ears. I did all I could to protect myself. My downfall was believing I was protected.

For most of my life, I’ve had issues with reacting vs. responding. In 2019, I was diagnosed with complex PTSD and with that came answers to a lot of issues I’d experienced in my lifetime. Hypervigilance is one of the things I deal with the most. It’s exhausting. I could write books on this subject. Instead, I’ll give a quick example. It’s a very real feeling of fear, of being intruded upon, excessive worry, and constant assessing of threats. In my case, I constantly try to control how everything, and I mean everything, plays out in my life. I will go to great lengths to safeguard myself, my home, my husband, our lives, our cat, our car, our bills–everything. It exhausts me. It drains me of every last drop of energy I have. At times, it steals my happiness. Often, many times it is done for naught, as in the case of hacked Facebook accounts. 

So, I started my week last week refreshed, ready to battle Monday, and later learned I’d lost a friend to suicide. By Wednesday, for various reasons, I felt like crap. Thursday brought me a hacked account, banks that wouldn’t cooperate and act according to my wishes (does anyone take hacked accounts seriously anymore? ), and by Friday, I was locked out of my voice mail because USCellular says my new PIN isn’t recognized. I spent 25 hours this past weekend hypervigilant, exhausted on Sunday, and on Monday putting it all back together again. Today, a funeral, which in comparison to everything else, is so much more important. 

I started a new Facebook because it’s the only way I can keep up with distant friends, businesses, local events, and causes. I’ll miss my old profile. I’ll always be sad seeing it out there. I can never again read the messages my now deceased uncle sent me via messenger. It took me 50 years to find him, and after he died, I vowed to download his messages, but never did. I’m always “too busy” to take care of these things. I vow to be more attentive going forward.

It’s funny (not really) all these “things” that we have in our lives nowadays to “keep in touch”, entrust our memories to, stay together, never lose touch, and share in each other’s lives. It almost seems sometimes that these are the only things we have anymore, besides the memories, to prove somehow that we were here. It’s exhausting, keeping up.

It’s also funny (this time it is) how freeing it feels when you realize how little real control you have over anything in life.

Be well until the next time.