Sanity is overrated. Besides, then what would I blog about?

For years, reading was just escape. The feel of untraveled pages, words pressed intimately into my naked palm, was as exciting as holding a plane ticket. I could hear characters whispering, smell their lingering voices for days. A treasured rendezvous with L.M. Montgomery happened often, sometimes repeating itself over and over during hot summer months. There was a short time that V.C. Andrews and I  shared stolen moments in the dark, hiding under sheets and pen lights, or in quick stints on the bus before and after school so as not to risk my mother breaking us apart. (Although, years later, I found out she knew all along.) However, John Steinbeck‘s East of Eden has found its way into my hands multiple times.  A close second would be F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby. I fell in love with the novel in high school, and then again when I stepped foot into the majestic mansions of Newport, Rhode Island a few years ago. Getting a degree in English and being required to attend entire semesters on concentrated works like Shakespeare, Washington Irving or Chaucer was a gift.

Marriage, parenthood, divorce, self-exploration and new beginnings changed my reading habits. My shelves are stocked with self-help books, diet guides, health plans, parenting advice and reference books. Sometimes, I forget what it is like to read for escape, to dream in words and hear the whisper of someone’s imagination. Life has continued to shape and mold the contents of my book shelves.

I read for escape and curiosity.

I read for self-improvement.

I read to create an opinion of myself and to declare my own measure of success.

A little over three years ago I started blogging. I was struggling with making sense of my hormones, entering a much lonelier season of parenting, and facing some big lifestyle decisions and milestones. I got tired of talking to myself, tired of second guessing every decision, and thought putting my thoughts in front of me would make them clearer and more productive. It was like keeping a diary, only better, because occasionally someone would talk back. Someone would relate. And then I started reading other blogs and realized I didn’t need escape. I also realized I didn’t need “self-improvement”. What I needed all along was community and validation. I needed encouragement and the opportunity to encourage others. I needed personal acceptance more than I needed personal transformation. Blogging is as much about writing as it is about having conversations.

Used books are still delivered to my house almost on a weekly basis, especially now that I home school, but the majority of my recreational reading are blogs. I read everything, but finding the voices and stories of other women give me a sense of belonging. I’ve discovered all of my crazy and quirky ways are not unique to me, but completely normal. (Apparently dysfunction and insanity are the new normal, I was just unaware until recently.) I am not alone in my sadness or elation, my fears or my triumphs. I am not weird for being insecure today but confident tomorrow. And it’s okay to be occasionally funny yet chronically reflective. Now I read to feel connected. I read for inspiration and I read to find unity. I read to be encouraged and to be reminded of my blessings.

I write to hopefully give even a small piece of that back to someone else.


*This post is part of May’s Books Make a Difference sponsored bloghop. Books Make a Difference is a bimonthly, online magazine focusing on readers and writers.

Buying “example” papers. How is it that really ethical?

Copyright Symbols
Copyright Symbols (Photo credit: MikeBlogs)

One of the most popular posts on my blog continues to be My Life, Ten Years From Now written in July of 2010. It was a response to a Plinky Prompt and then surprisingly featured on Freshly Pressed. This week alone, it has been read 249 times and everyday one of the top searches that brings people to my blog is – 10 years from now I will be.


Out of curiosity, I plugged that post’s page into Copyscape’s Plagiarism Checker search engine.  In a click of a key, I was suddenly staring at my own work on someone else’s website. Not only was it on someone else’s website, but it was marked as a premium essay, which meant I had to pay for a subscription to read the essay in its entirety. Someone was getting monetary compensation for my copyrighted work. I felt sick to my stomach.

What kind of website was this? And how did my essay end up here?

Apparently I am much older than I want to admit, because I had no idea that there were websites offering subscriptions to gain access to “example” papers. In fact, this particular website’s mission statement reads:

To provide an idea encyclopedia that enables members to streamline their research process, jump-start, and focus their paper writing efforts.

In order to get a free membership, with limited access, you have to submit an essay “donation”. Apparently, someone passed off my work as their own in order to get a membership to this service. There are numerous disclaimers stating that you are not allowed to plagiarize or submit plagiarized material. And of course, there are numerous disclaimers stating that this service can not be held accountable for unknowingly posting plagiarized material. Of course, the only reason that they are not “in the know” is because they don’t actually check any of the work submitted. In fact, just for fun, I submitted something myself yesterday to gain access to all the content. Within seconds, I received an email thanking me for my “donation”. My essay was posted immediately, glaring mistakes and all.

*So if you are one of those paying patrons, be very aware that these “quality” submissions have not been checked for grammar, spelling, form or function. They are posted “as-is”.

Obviously, I made a complaint. At first I called their help-line and was told they can’t help me. The available phone number is only for their sales department. My only option was to fill out a complaint form and report the essay as plagiarized, linking back to the original work. I am happy to say that my essay was removed from the website by the end of the day. And their response?

Yeah, I thought there should have been an apology too, but whatever.

Beside the fact that someone has been financially gaining from my work for two years without my permission or compensation (it was added to their website in September of 2010), it really irked me that sites like this even exist. Maybe shocked is a better word. If the intent of this site is to help students jump-start their writing, or give examples of quality work, don’t people know they can get all that information for free? Good grief, at the very least, they could have been reading that particular essay for free right on my blog! Or, I don’t know, meet with your professor if you are having trouble or take better notes in class. How about this idea? Do your own friggin’ work.

Hmm, maybe I’m missing a big opportunity here and should make my blog password protected and start charging a monthly membership fee. If I charged what this site does for unlimited monthly access to other people’s work ($30), based on the number of followers I currently have (2,341), I would be making about what? $70,000 a month?

Why I Haven’t Blogged Lately

Luna enjoying a nap in the sun.

It’s been weeks since I have consistently posted. Summer appears to be the demise of my creativity, not because my brain is on vacation, but because our family schedule dramatically changes. Gone are the quiet mornings sipping coffee in my pajamas after everyone leaves for work or school. They are replaced with mad dashes to swim practice, gymnastics, camp, sleep-overs, cross-country driving or the airport.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t exhausting at times.

However, it is the time of year that we create some of the most amazing memories. And although I usually have good intentions by packing my computer, pen and paper, the minutes slip away undocumented. As a writer, that is disappointing. Part of me even feels like a bit of a failure, because surely, a writer should be able to quickly put in to words the amazing adventures they experience, crafting them in a universal and immortal way. I expect myself to find those few moments in the busyness to write and share what’s on my heart. And yet, the more time that passes without a word typed or written, the harder it gets to find my voice.

I get distracted by the sounds of crickets and the magic of lightning bugs. I get lost in the warm glow of solar lights around my deck at dusk while sipping cheap wine with a good friend. I procrastinate a little longer under the sheets in the morning, hiding from the chill of a ceiling fan, waiting with bated breath for the sound of children’s feet hitting the floor. Some mornings I sneak out to the deck with a steaming cup of coffee and a blanket to snuggle with Luna on our small love-seat, spying on the deer and rabbits passing through our yard. I savor the moments in between.

I could blame my lack of blogging on busy schedules, vacations and family or friends visiting, but those would all be excuses, when really, those should all be reasons to be writing. Instead I have to admit that I have not been blogging lately because I have not made it a priority. Like everything else in life, we have choices. I have obviously chosen to read a magazine poolside or stay up all night watching movies in bed rather than focus on my craft.

I guess sometimes our brain does go on vacation.

The trick is to remind it to come back home.

My very public apology – blogging and friendships are tricky

She had every right to be upset. I should have given her a “heads up” that I had written a blog post highlighting an off-hand comment, a comment that wasn’t directed at me, just in my presence. It only stung, because it is something that I struggle with and judge myself often.

That’s the thing about my friendships, I surround myself with a diverse group of women. There are a handful of women that are very similar to me, we gravitate to one another, I think, because we help each other feel normal. We relate on the everyday issues. We understand what makes us tick, because we operate the same way. Then there are those friends in our lives that teach us compassion and give us opportunities to serve others without judgement because maybe they need us just a little more than we need them.

But many of my friends are what I would consider “above me”, meaning they have one or more qualities that I wish I either possessed or was better equipped. They are the friends that teach me not to just say I’m going to do something, but actually do it. They push me beyond my comfort level, help me to see my true potential, and even give me a vision I might not have had before. Most often, they are the friends that encourage me to shape my life in a way that is more efficient or rewarding. They only problem with having so many friends in this camp, is that sometimes I get jealous. Sometimes, I start thinking I will never be like them, and then I struggle with resentment, turning even the most harmless comment into a personal attack.

And that is what I was trying to highlight in my last memoir post, not my friend’s comment, but rather, my insecurity. What she said, and how she said it, were not meant to be mean, but since it was something I struggle with, it hurt. The point I was trying to make, albeit not very effectively, was that I finally just needed to accept myself for who I am, flaws and all.

So, I publicly apologize to my friend for taking her comment too personally, because I know in certainty, that she has never purposely tried to make me feel small.

I do that all by myself.

Bloggers who live life and don’t just blog about it

My mother is beautiful

I had the luxury of spending time with my mom this week. She flew in from Virginia last Wednesday and left yesterday afternoon.

Although I talk to her every day, it’s hard to believe I only get to see her but a few times a year. While growing up in Texas, I never imagined there would be a day that we wouldn’t live but a few miles from each other. I always pictured us sharing late afternoon lunches while the kids were at school, cheering from the sidelines at weekend sporting events, Sunday family dinners and even sitting quietly while working on various writing projects. Her leaving Texas, or me moving to Michigan, was never the plan, but it is the reality. When she comes to visit I want everything to be perfect. I want my children to create lifetime memories of my mother, hold her in their hearts the way I do, with her childlike voice singing them to sleep at night, her silly sarcasm that turns almost every conversation into a game and her natural ability to breath quiet into any situation with her slow and steady pace. I want my children to think fondly of recreating stories as mini-plays or oratories, eating popcorn so buttered it seeps through the bag, and snuggling up in front of the TV sharing Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I want my children to think of my mom and know that someone other than their mom and dad love them just as they are, flaws and all.

It takes several days for me to prepare for any guests to arrive. Cleaning, planning, grocery shopping and decorating consume me and the normal daily tasks get lost. I know that this is a self-inflicted stress, especially when my mom comes to visit. As long as she has a clean bathroom and a bed to sleep in, she is content. And when my company finally arrives, the anxiety only increases as I try to keep everything flowing seamlessly. I like to pretend that raising a family is effortless, that I have all things under control at all times. Obviously this is a facade, one created by my ridiculous fear of being a failure or not good enough.

Life is ever-changing.

Children are unpredictable.

Relationships fluctuate.

Things get left undone.

Monday, April 2nd, was my 39th birthday, one of the reasons my mom came to visit. It didn’t start stellar. The Hare had a complete head-spinning-out-of-body melt down as we were getting ready for school. She was not communicating her needs very clearly, so I kept asking her to explain herself another way. The repetition of not being understood was too much for her to handle and she exploded, screaming at me to “NEVER MIND” and “IT’S NOT THAT IMPORTANT ANYWAY”  as a spiral notebook came flying at me from across the room. The shock of her anger broke her even further, the tears came hot and heavy.

I handled it with little grace, saying bitterly, “happy birthday to me“, which of course, caused her to cry even harder.

Quickly and silently we moved through the rest of our morning dance, piling into the car for school. My thoughts swirled around, picking up momentum, spiraling into the pit of my stomach. I started focusing on the lack of miles ran, the days without writing, the laundry piling up and the tasks still needing attention.

“I can’t believe it has been a week since I’ve posted on my blog,” I muttered.

“Me too!” remarked my mom, “it feels a little liberating.”

“How is it liberating?” I snapped,” I’m overwhelmed with guilt. Readers must think I have totally disappeared or had a mental breakdown.”

“Because writing our blog is something we can do apart. I’d much rather be here with you, living life, not just writing about it.”