this blog’s direction

I have been very consistent for several years now, publishing blog posts at the same time each evening, five days a week. But life is changing. We are getting ready to sell our house, and a huge amount of work and effort has gone into that. We have been to Southern California to get the lay of the land with respect to what is available there and have found a community we like. Our realtors here will be taking over management of our house as staging happens on Monday and listing on Wednesday.

So here’s the thing: I can’t commit to that schedule, at least for a while. I plan to blog regularly, but my daily at-the-same-time-each-day cadence may or may not continue. I will keep up Sacred Music Friday as best I can, keep you current in what is happening in our lives, and hope to have some time for reflection as well.

I hope you understand, and I hope you’ll keep dropping by to see what I have to say.

As Bartles and Jaymes  used to say back in the 1980’s, thank you for your support.


blogging in 2015: avoiding the rant

So we begin the first full week of the new year. And I begin another year of blogging.

One thing I’ve noticed of late is that I’m trying to avoid rants. One blog entry sat in my drafts folder for over a month until I was able to turn a rant into a more considered reflection. I had one blog entry that was most definitely a rant in my head, but as I started typing it came out as a more reasoned line of thought. I hope that is becoming a pattern.

I don’t know what this blog will look like in 2015, aside from attempting to avoid rants. I can surmise, however, that I will discuss topics much like those I have addressed for the past several years. There will be entries on liturgy, spirituality, and religion. I will no doubt write about cooking and my favorite cooking shows on television. I expect to continue with the book reviews. And Sacred Music Friday will certainly continue.

Whatever I end up writing about this year, I hope you will continue to join me. I love having you along.


writing tools

There are a few tools I have used intermittently in writing this blog.

One of them is Grammarly, which is an online grammar checker. I have used it off and on, but have for the most part been unhappy with the advice it has given me. A year ago my subscription was up but they offered me an attractive price so I renewed. I used it very little in the past year. I was not aware that I was on auto-renew, so I was annoyed when a renewal charge hit my credit card recently. Before writing to complain I decided to give it another try, since it had been a while since I had used it.

I used it on a few blog entries and I was not pleased with the results. While it did catch a couple things, a lot of the advice was either wrong for the context or just plain wrong. Grammarly also has a habit of telling me to add commas. I need to delete commas from my writing, not add more.

I have to give the good folks at Grammarly credit, however. I explained the circumstances and they have cancelled my account and reversed the charge on my credit card.

The second is the Writer’s Diet Test. This one is my favorite. The philosophy of the Writer’s Diet is very much in alignment with mine: that all other things being equal, lean is better. It measures for verbs (forms of to be), nouns, adjectives/adverbs, and waste words (it, this, that, there). It measures on a scale from “lean” to “heart attack territory,” with “fit and trim,” “needs toning,” and “flabby” in between.

I really like this tool, and it has helped me to improve some of my blog entries. At the same time, it can be aggravating. Sometimes I’m writing about something that just is, and I am explaining about what it is and what it does. In such cases, to replace forms of to be with other verbs is to risk sounding affected and pretentious. While useful, it is not perfect.

A third tool is the Online Consistency Checker. It exists to promote the products developed by Intelligent Editing, but it is a nice little accessory. It reads a Word document and checks for things like spelling variation and consistency in hyphenation.

Ultimately, of course, there is no substitute for carefully re-reading your own work. Or better yet, enlisting an editor. I know I could use one. As Tahoe Mom has said, “Everyone needs an editor.”


creativity

Someone on Facebook posted an interesting article on creativity. The core of the article is in the following two paragraphs:

quote

Complaining and creating have a direct correlation. The more you create, the less you complain. The more you complain, the less you create. It’s a pretty simple formula.

Instead of standing by the problem pointing out everything that’s wrong, create a solution. Instead of ingraining an attitude of discontent, start working toward a new way forward. Create a movement, a relationship, a tool or a conversation.

creativityI love this. I channel my creativity through this blog. For many years I also had a creative outlet in photography. What I realized a few years ago, though, was that I was so busy out in nature trying to get the right shot with my camera that I was failing to experience the moment. So I scaled back on my photography and began focusing even more on writing, which means I look back and reflect on the moment after it has passed. I think that’s a good thing.

The Cooking Channel used to have a tag line of “Stay Hungry.” I forget the context, but I mentioned that to my spiritual director several years ago, and her response was, “Stay Creative.”

Right. Exactly.


prayer and writing

Two distinct points: 1) One of the things that my spiritual director and I discuss intermittently is my relationship to prayer. 2) I’m a big fan of Sister Joan Chittister.

The two came together very nicely in this quote, courtesy of the good folks at Weavings Journal.

quoteSpirituality without a prayer life is no spirituality at all, and it will not last beyond the first defeats. Prayer is an opening of the self so that the Word of God can break in and make us new. Prayer unmasks. Prayer converts. Prayer impels. Prayer sustains us on the way. Pray for the grace it will take to continue what you would like to quit.
― Joan D. Chittister, In a High Spiritual Season

I’ve long been somewhat ambivalent about prayer in my life, in the sense that I struggle with what form of prayer really works for me. So I paid attention when one of my Facebook friends posted this.

quoteIn certain ways writing is a form of prayer.
—Denise Levertov

That clicked with me. I think it makes sense. Maybe it’s a cop-out, but I think it makes sense.

I work to be disciplined about my blogging. I make every effort to post five days a week, four of which contain my writing and one of which is Sacred Music Friday. The actual writing is not evenly spaced, as prayer probably ought to be, but that is a factor of the world of making a living.

I try to keep the tone of my blog conversational. I hope I succeed for the most part. Malcolm Boyd was conversational in his prayers in Are You Running with me Jesus? (I prefer the original rather than the updated version.)  Boyd published a book. My reflections are in the electronic in the blogsphere. Boyd addressed God and Jesus. I address my readers but I trust God knows that I am speaking to him/her as well. It’s not all that different is it?

For me writing, my blog, is a form of prayer.


the quotidian and the sublime

Terry and I don’t go to Ginger Café, our local South Asian restaurant, every Monday like we used to. I miss the hot and sour soup, but it’s about of Terry staying on track with Weight Watchers and about us spending less money eating out at a time when Terry’s commissions are lean.

We did have lunch at Ginger Café the Monday before Christmas. I enjoyed having the hot and sour soup again. But at the end of the meal, I opened my fortune cookie to read: “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

Aside from the superfluous, perhaps even misplaced comma, I have to take exception with the entire sentiment. There is a middle ground. In his annual Christmas letter from the rectory Fr. Phil referred to the “quotidian and the sublime” in my blog. I like that. I know I have long written about both the trivial and those things that move me deeply. My blog started out focused on liturgical religion and spirituality, but I abandoned that restriction long ago. Perhaps my point being would have a larger readership if I stuck to a particular theme, but I write about what is on my mind, and what’s on my mind covers a wide variety of topics. Besides, I love and appreciate the readers I have.

So to begin the new year, I’m giving my blog a new subtitle (with thanks to Fr. Phil) and a new header image that reflects how closely my being is tied to power of the ocean.

And so I begin a new year of blogging in 2014!


my blog readers

Last week I wrote about some of the blogs I read. Today I want to pay tribute to the readers of my blog. They are small in number but a marvelous and diverse group. I’m happy that some of them are also bloggers about whom I wrote last week.

This diverse group includes:

  • a pagan writer of romance novels based in New Orleans who is married to and travels with her husband, a helicopter pilot
  • her mother, a Christian living in the Lake Tahoe area who currently does not attend church
  • a practicing Catholic, former high-power executive, now church office administrator who just got an M.A. in theology
  • a couple of young professional women in the Philippines
  • various members of my class of Pitzer College 1975
  • classmates from Hemet High School class of 1971
  • a long-time good friend who I first met when she was seeing my roommate in my post-college Claremont days
  • former work colleagues
  • the now adult daughter of my late first wife and perhaps her brother
  • a relative I didn’t know I had until recently, an academic and biochemist who loves the theater, and who shares many of my beliefs and values
  • my spiritual director
  • cousins on both sides of my family who see by blog via Facebook who probably thought I was weird as a kid, and who perhaps think the same thing today based on what they read in this blog
  • a number of folks about whom I know nothing, but who have chosen to follow my blog on WordPress

blogrssMy apologies to anyone I may have omitted.

I value and appreciate all of you.