Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Make Your Blog Comments More Meaningful

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash



As bloggers, we publish our latest ‘masterpiece’ post, and then we eagerly wait for comments to roll in. We want readers to share their own thoughts, maybe a remark or two about themselves which connects us at some level, and secretly, we hope for a little praise about what a 'sublime' (wink) post we just created. 

Before I say anything else, I first want to give a shout out to every person who leaves comments on my posts. I have learned so much from you on how to leave warm, thoughtful, and meaningful comments. SO many times you've inspired me, affirmed me, and given me joy with your gift of words in response to something I've shared in a post.

We may not often be lost for words, but there are times when composing a short, meaningful comment seems harder than it ought to be. So, we might well click away without leaving a comment or make a remark so general as to be disappointing:  "Great read.”  “Nice photos.”  “Interesting topic.” 

Although positive, they tend to leave an empty feeling or no feeling at all. There is no indication that the post was even read, and one gets no sense of any relationship being forged; the reader has added nothing of herself in those tiny words. We certainly understand time constraints and lack of creative moments. We don't want to create pressure. At the same time, we do long for a little something in return (and I don't think I speak just for myself here).

I never forget something Mark Twain is attributed as writing once to someone: he apologized for writing such a long letter, as he didn't have time to write a short one. Although we smile at his wit, we also recognize that, yes, sometimes the short ones take the longest to compose as we carefully choose our words. Still, it never has to be a long paragraph to leave something meaningful.

* * * * *  

Here are four tips that help me when it comes to sharing my own comments on blogs I visit without having to spend so much time or effort every time:
1. Instead of trying to make a general comment about the overall post, focus on one or two details that catch your attention – a single thought, a turn of phrase, or a line of prose so artfully written its beauty gives you goosebumps. Do tell the author your experience.
2. Look for common ground: the similar family traditions, the books you read, where you go for holidays, a favourite song or line of verse. Perhaps you realize you share similar ‘soapbox’ topics…or completely different ones. Mention what makes you feel connected to the writer. 
3. Instead of just saying the photos were nice or great, why not zoom in on one and describe what makes it come alive for you? Is it the composition? The colours? Perhaps it's the contrasts or similarities, or maybe you are drawn to particular subjects, like sweet kids in rubber boots or cute dogs out for a walk. 
4. When you realize somebody else has already said what you wanted to say, don't think your similar comment doesn't matter. Of course it does. A little trick I use sometimes is to do a synonym search of words already used in other comments; this often triggers great descriptive words that help me form lovely new sentences.

Comments are gifts – ones you offer in return for the posts you read. Go ahead, say something meaningful, and make a blogger happy today.

* * * * *

This post today is based on an article I submitted to a recent writers' contest. It was a little summer contest within our writing group, and I am delighted to say I placed first. The feedback I received from my peers (who were the judges) was meaningful to me, and helpful, too, for future writings.

I hope you are enjoying your September.
I'm wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,

With hugs,
Brenda
xox


You might also like an earlier post I wrote about how
leaving a comment could be the answer to someone's prayer. 




Wednesday, August 30, 2017

August Edition: The Simple Woman's Daybook

Photo by Scott Leyland


As I look at my calendar, I see that my last Daybook Edition was written in April. Oh my! I ask you, how did Spring's April slip into May and then into June, pass like lightening through July and almost sweep August off its feet as we merrily waltz toward September. It doesn't seem to matter whether we do much or little in a day or a month, it all seems to fly by at warp speed.

Rick and I just returned from a road trip to the West Coast for a family visit. A dear sis-in-law celebrated a special birthday this month, and we gathered on Vancouver Island at a gorgeous place called Point No Point. Our view of the ocean from Bridge House, our home away from home, was truly s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r. I think all our mouths were agape in awe when we first arrived -- to find the ocean right outside our verandah door. Above, you see the two of us watching the waves from our perch further up, photo courtesy of my brother-in-law. This is a spot on God's green earth where one can find rest for the mind and healing for one's soul. And, at night, there it was, the rhythm of the waves soothing most of us sound asleep.




The sea, once it casts its spell,
holds one in its net of wonder forever.
~ Jacques Yves Cousteau




"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious,
too greedy, or too impatient.
One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach --
waiting for a gift from the sea."
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh





Isn't this the cutest rock painting of one fine fellow? Not sure who the artist is, but I'm happy to have found this little treasure and others like it in the Point No Point gift shop; they had a whole basket of rocks painted with tiny creatures.


* * *

Now, while summer is still summer around here,
I'm happy to offer the August edition of The Simple Woman's Daybook.


* * *


Sending hugs with a gentle kiss atop thy head,

Especially to the dear people in Houston and area,
we whisper a prayer for safety and grace through this time.
We're so sorry for your turmoil and your loss.
Brenda
xx




FOR TODAY...


Looking out my window... Well, it wasn't so much about looking out my window this early morning when I started work on my new post; it was more about hearing the sounds in the neighbourhood. Well before eight o'clock, children were outside playing. Highly unusual for this time of day, but we delighted in the cheery sounds. Maybe cousins or far away friends came to visit overnight; it seemed anyone under ten was up and ready to take on the new day -- perhaps as a last hurrah of summer holidays.


I am thinking... about our human need to remember. Thankfully, we have the wondrous ability to recall fragments of past memories through our senses: sounds, sights, or smells. I take great pleasure in reading books and memoirs by authors who have the flair, as former Victoria editor Nancy Lindemeyer once said, "to capture the gestures, the furniture, and the fabric of bygone times, and help us all go home again."


I am thankful... for the days and stretches in time that come my way when life's rhythm is easier and less complicated than others. I am in a place like that right now. No doubt we've all had seasons to cope when we've been rushed off our feet, trying to take in another round of bad news ... all to the moment where we think the top of our head's going to blow off. Like the ocean waves that ebb and flow, we somehow learn to ebb and flow with the seasons in our own lives. But I am so glad for the quieter, more sane times.


One of my favourite things... is to sit out on the deck and watch the birds as they vie for spots at the feeders, and especially when they decide to take a dip in the birdbath. How they enjoy the moment, wings fluttering and splashing, as water drops catch the sunlight. The young ones are especially fun to watch, shy and eager at the same time, in their debut of this experience. Some will jump in; others flutter nervously on the edge and return to a safe perch, foregoing the pleasure. Just like people -- maybe we share more with our feathered friends than we realize.


I am wearing... a cool summer dress, ballet-like slippers, and glass bead earrings. No bracelets to jangle at this time of the morning.   


I am creating... something new in this space today. You see, I'm not much of a craftswoman at this stage of life (although I once was and I might become again). So I decided to google the question "What are you creating today?" to see what other people are up to -- perhaps someone else's creativity will inspire me with an idea for this prompt.

And, true to form, Google gave me a list of possibilities in response to my question. A blog post to a piece entitled What Kind of Future Are You Creating Today written by Dr. Judith Rich in 2010 and updated in 2011 caught my eye. Yes, a different kind of creating, so we went to see what she had to say. Her message was similar to something I discovered for myself a few years ago, that is, we create our future through the words, actions, attitudes, choices we make in the present "today". Even though this post was written in 2010, the author's message still resonates, what with all that's going on in our world these days. The post feels a tiny little wordy (I'm one to talk) but I do invite you to take a peek, you might find something that gives you courage to create a future about which you're dreaming.


I have read... several nice books this past summer. Here are three I really enjoyed:

1. Daybook by renowned American artist Anne Truitt is based on a journal she kept over a seven-year period. Written in journal style, I found many of her entries inspiring, soul-nourishing, and a slow pleasure to read. Published in 1982, the author...
"recalls her childhood on the eastern shore of Maryland, her career change from psychology to art, and her path to a sculptural practice that would “set color free in three dimensions.” She reflects on the generous advice of other artists, watches her own daughters’ journey into motherhood, meditates on criticism and solitude, and struggles to find the way to express her vision." excerpt from description on amazon.ca   
2. Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch. A perfect summer read, I am re-reading this delightful book in which Susan shows how her drastic move across the country to Martha's Vineyard was the godsend she needed to recover from her broken heart and lost dreams.

As she starts over, with new kittens to keep her company, she slowly builds a new life and dreams new dreams. Like any good memoirist, Susan shares her own story so that her readers connect as they remember similar emotions and their own places of brokenness and lost dreams. She makes us laugh with her (oh, I love how she makes me laugh) and nod our heads in understanding, and she gives her readers the hope that good things can come to anyone no matter who they are or what they've gone through.

3. Finishing School: The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can't Seem to Get Done by Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton. I share a short review of this encouraging and helpful new book here. This book showed up in my world at a perfect time -- I love how that happens.


I am watching... summer turn into pre-autumn. Yesterday I saw hints of it along the boulevard where trees already had yellow leaves. We still have lovely warm days, but the nights are cooler. 


I overheard... a little conversation with one teen and her mom standing behind me while waiting in the long line-up at Staples. She wanted to get 'this', 'this', and 'this', plus she really wanted a fourth 'that'. Her mom says, you can have 'this' and 'this' and the 'that', but not 'this', 'this', 'this', and 'that' too. You have to choose, there's a budget. Or, you can buy it yourself. // Daughter says that her wallet is in the car, then adds in a softly spoken, yet incredulous, "You're making me pay for my school supplies?" Not trying to listen to every word, I'm not quite sure how it sorted out, except I saw the teen leave the store, I assume to get her wallet. // Ah, the joys of growing up and learning about budgets.


I am hoping... to get this post completed and up for Wednesday. As I write in this moment, the kids next door are back outside and having the time of their lives. I think they must have a little pool in their backyard along with the trampoline. We know for sure there's a trampoline -- we oft see the tops of heads bouncing past the six-foot fence between our yards. For all the screams, there seems to be water involved. I hope that summer stays a while longer for all our enjoyment.



Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash

I have been learning... some new words of late. Thinking I should smarten myself up with a few new definitions, I participated in a couple of online literary terms quizzes to see just how much I knew (or didn't). It was fun -- I felt like I was back in the school room. Fortunately, there is no knuckle-wrapping, scolding, or marking work with a red pencil. In fact, they encourage a person to do the quizzes over so you can ace it. I like that! And, no, it's not cheating; testing yourself several times to see if you know something makes use of a technique which helps the brain learn more solidly.

My brain was happy to review these definitions, not to mention clarify some fussy words I never quite remembered in school. So, I wrote them up on the proverbial blackboard to review once in a while. And, when I've got it all right, I'll give myself gold stars as rewards. ★ ★ ★ 

Here are three new-to-me terms I came across on a quiz from vocabulary.com:
INDITE: "The verb indite, rarely used today, means "compose" or "put down in writing," like when you find a quiet place to sit down with your notebook and pen and indite a journal entry or a first draft of a short story. // To indite is to write something creative — you indite a letter and jot a grocery list. Don't confuse indite with indict, which means "to charge with a crime." Both come from the Latin word dictare, meaning “to declare.” Even if you indite a really bad poem, critics won't indict you."
EPIGONE: "Someone who copies a well-known poet, closely imitating her style, is an epigone. You are also an epigone if you admire and imitate another kind of writer, a visual artist, or a musician. You can also use the word to describe the follower of a particular philosopher, or an admirer of a famous chef, especially if you imitate her cooking style." Any Julia Child epigones out there?
LITOTES: Derived from a Greek word meaning "simple", it is a figure of speech which employs an understatement by using double negatives or, in other words, positive statement is expressed by negating its opposite expressions. e.g. it's not bad at all, she's not a bad singer, not unhappy, she's no spring chicken, it wasn't a terrible trip.


In the kitchen... For supper, we're having burgers, fried onions, corn on the cob, and fresh plums for dessert. Simple, yummy, and satisfying.


In my garden... the Peace Rose finally takes a rest. She certainly outdid herself all summer long; at one point, she had almost two dozen blossoms and buds. What a winner. That's a record for roses in my part of the world, or at least, in my not so big Alberta garden. And I think I just used litotes in saying 'not so big' Alberta garden.


A favourite blog... Today I want to share a link to a blog I have been following for years now. Some of you already know her: Brenda from Coffee, Tea, Books and Me. In her most recent post, she tells her readers she's starting her 12th year as a blogger, a long time in the world of blogging. She shares a lovely look back at her journey as a blogger, a reader of fine books, and a woman of faith who has learned how to stock a great pantry.




A last peek of our visit to the ocean...We sat around in comfy verandah chairs and visited; we climbed over big rocks to get a better view and perched on a bright red bench overlooking the water. We trailed through woodsy areas with tall, tall evergreens and masses of ferns giving off a spicy scent. We watched sailboats go by and one cruise ship lit up with fairy lights one evening after it grew dark. It was all enchanting.  


* * * * *


Something I'm mulling... Not quite letting go of summer, but thinking how to get ready for autumn's dramatic changes. I'm also thinking about how we can use the seasons as a source of inspiration for ourselves and our work, whatever form it takes. The truth of it is that many of us already do this maybe without even realizing it. As the seasons change from warmer to cooler and visa versa, we change our wardrobes, the recipes we make, and our home d├ęcor. If you notice, it's mainly to accommodate or adapt to the weather, temperatures, and equinoxes. I never saw that before. Maybe it doesn't matter, but it's an interesting bit of info.  

Claire Murray confirms this in one of her now out-of-print magazines, La Vie Claire, "Seasonal transitions...involve re-outfitting ourselves and our homes. Come fall, we pack away our summer cottons and linens and unpack our woolens and knits. We take the light floral comforter off the bed and exchange it for one made of goose down."

Claire goes on to say, "Nature serves as the inspiration for so much of my work and the work of others. ... Nature dazzles us in the fall with abundance, variety, and color. It is a season of dramatic change, and as we tune into its rhythms, we find ourselves desiring changes -- big and small -- in our own lives."

I started to mull what other changes we make as the seasons shift. And I wondered if I could be more intentional in watching for inspiration ... and to watch what other people do to create beauty and wonder in their lives from season to season.


Collage created by Brenda, but the photos come from unsplash.com

"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor;
summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all."
~ Stanley Horowitz


I found this line penned by Stanley Horowitz, and decided to see if I could create a simple collage that portrayed what he was getting at. Had to do a little research to sort out how an etching, a watercolour, and an oil painting could symbolize the seasons, and why he thought they could. And, then consider how autumn could be a mosaic of them all, what that might look like.

Here are my little musings so far...

Etching allows dramatic contrasts between delicate and heavy lines, and has the spontaneity of sketching, according to an article from finerareprints.com. I can see why Horowitz calls winter an etching, can't you? Barren trees 'etched' against a grey sky, the form is there but not the details.

The glowing transparency and spontaneity of watercolour makes it an ideal medium for exploring the effects of sunlight, shadows, mist, stormy skies, including nature's bounty in flora and fauna. Often watercolours are used in gentler, softer ways ... maybe representing the hopefulness and the 'not quite there' of the new season.

When it comes to oil paintings, I tend to think of something brighter, deeper, bolder, opaque. So, is Horowitz right as he describes summer that way? Poppies are summer flowers and that photo I found on unsplash.com seemed to convey that feeling.

Autumn is a mosiac of them all ... well, what does he mean by that? My sister and I chatted about it yesterday; autumn to us does have a sense of new beginnings -- a little like Spring -- not so much in the plant world, but it's the start of a new school year and we start new projects after a summer hiatus. The bold exuberance of summer certainly shows itself in the autumn colours of trees turning orange and yellow and russet, not to forget the bright berries and rose hips. And once the trees drop all their leaves, we have the etching that we will see all winter against those grey skies.

Have I come to any conclusions? Not yet, but it's been fun to think about as the new season approaches. I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.


Closing note... I have mused and typed my way towards lunch ... egg salad sammies with pickles and tea. Hubby is back from exercise at the gym. So I shall call it a wrap for today.

I wish you all a beautiful day. And may you ebb and flow like the waves, riding whatever you are facing or enjoying this week. If you feel in need of something to help you through your day, here's a lovely thought I just read in Susan Branch's book:
"And you know what helps loneliness (and a whole lot of other things)? Beauty. Your heart can be sad, but it will leap at the sight of the moon on the water, or when light flickers through the leaves and flutters like butterfly wings on the wall. You might fall back into sadness, but then, thank goodness, you see something else, even the smallest of things, a pink rose in a vase, an amazing line of inspiration in a book, kitty paws the way they fold over each other, and it leaps again."
Oh yes, Susan, it's true, I have felt those exact things so often. Thank you for those words. And, now wishing you all grace for your journey today.
   
* * * * *

For those of you who receive my posts in your email inbox, I'd love for you to come back to my blog and leave a comment (of course only if you feel like it). Your part adds to the conversation and it means a great deal to me and to others who visit. Click HERE and you'll find me over there. Brenda xx



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Late Summer Blooms and A Teeny Bit of Musing

A posy on my desk represents the feast by my front door.


Have you have ever seriously wondered if you are a late bloomer in life? Everyone else, after high school or college, seemed to sally forth confidently racking up accomplishments, yet for others of us, life unfolded more slowly, less surely. To some people it might have looked like we were late to our callings and careers, but in truth, our seed packets -- unbeknownst to all but One -- were labeled: "Plant early in Spring. Will bloom mid- to late-summer or early fall. Tall and widespread once mature. Plant to the rear of the garden or in a spot of its own. Blossoms are profuse; stake if necessary."




Perhaps that's one reason why I love these late-in-summer charmers. The early spring and summer plants have peaked weeks earlier and many are all but bloomed off by now, but then come the yellow black-eyed Susan (we call them rudbeckia) and the purple cone-flowers, just coming into full bloom. For the last two months, these perennials have been quietly growing tall willowy stems, thick and strong, and developing tiny buds, the promise of dozens of bright petaled cheer-mongers to come.

And, now here they are ... ready for the grand display. How often I look forward to slipping out my front door and going back far enough away so as to get a more sweeping view. Two plants flank both sides of the bay window. When I bought those two perennials a few years ago, I never dreamed they'd get that tall or bushy. And, I certainly never dreamed that I'd find myself completely smitten by their bold beauty; I love to see them peeking in through the lace curtain of our living room window, swaying on a breeze or catching raindrops after the rain.




No fussing, no rushing, no thinking because the lilacs were out so much earlier, they too should be setting blossoms already. No, the pressure to begin blooming earlier does not exist -- smart flowers -- yet inch by inch with patience and forbearance they are eventually ready to take their place in the garden's parade of blooming cheerfulness. Not late, on time ... making a garden beautiful in their own way and season.



“Bloom as if you want to make the whole world beautiful.” 
~ Debasish Mridha




Just think, if everything in the garden came into bloom at the same time and then died back, how forlorn and empty would be our gardens the rest of the growing season. There are similar timings for our own gifts to come into their full blossom ... in the fullness of time ... in due season.

I remind myself, too, some plants seem to die back after blooming early, but if you pinch back the dead blossoms, the plants put everything into sending out a beautiful second flush of blossoms.




"Every flower blooms at a different pace.” 
Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem



"Lean towards the Light"


“You don’t have to remind a flower when its time to bloom is near;
it has been preparing for it all of its life.” 
~ Matshona Dhliwayo


I completely identify with the quote above, for I have finally realized that I have indeed been preparing all of my life for this season. Sure hope I am like a wise flower and know when it's time to burst into full bloom.

Back in February, I wrote in my journal something I felt God was saying me (I had been thinking about turning 60 and how I felt it 'officially' signalled a new season for me). I went in search of those words because I wanted to share them with you today:

"This is your season. Flourish. Bloom.
Do the work you've been preparing for all your life.
An oak tree at 60 is still young, but it's no longer a sapling, green and immature.

You always felt you were a late-bloomer.
Yes, you were; your gifts needed to mature. Develop. Deepen. Emerge.

Daffodils are already spent in the autumn, so are the roses,
but the beautiful colourful leaves, the berries and rose hips are ripening,
including those Michaelmas daisies (not here but England).

This, My Child, is your season.
You've always loved Fall.
Gather the grapes.
Enjoy the dahlias.
Harvest the garden and the fields.

Take care of your body --
It will take you through this
season with ease and grace.

You don't need the strength you had at twenty.
You're not doing that work out there.
It is time to focus on your own life work.

You're an Autumn girl.
Autumn brings Colourful Beauty.
Harvest. Bounty. Food.

You've got a storehouse full.
You also have the grace, skill, stamina,
and ability to set it out to share with others.

Lean towards the Light."

  
This wasn't the post I planned when I first sat down to work on something this month, but it's what bubbled up as I started uploading the photos I wanted to use. I see more clearly than ever that I first had to live my life with all its experiences and life lessons before I could sit down and write from it.

You may ask, how is it going? Slowly ... one page at a time. Grace flows. Thankfully.   


To My Beautiful Friends,

Here's wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,

With love and hugs till next time,
Brenda
x x