Measure your blogging success.

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Relax.


I’ve wanted to be a famous writer since I was a teenager. It hasn’t happened yet and I’m seventy, so the outlook is bleak.

Some of my humorous articles were published in magazines about 30 years ago. My target audience was single working parents—SWOPs, I called them.  I actually was a SWOP, so I knew what I was talking about. For instance, one article covered the challenge of getting kids to school on time and yourself to work on time on weekday mornings. If you are, or ever were, a SWOP, you know how tricky this can be.

I shared my solutions with readers. For instance, I had my second-grader pick out the clothes she wanted to wear to school the night before, and lay them out on her chair. And she had to stick to her decision in the morning, or there would be a consequence. Threatening not to buy her a McDonald’s Happy Meal was usually effective, especially if she needed a piece in a set, like Papa of the Berenstein Bear figures. I had her decide what she wanted for breakfast the night before too, and set the table, maybe even pour the cereal and cover with Saran wrap, pour the juice…. Every saved step helped. Then in a flash of brilliance I suggested why not eat breakfast the night before too? That really saved a lot of time. The important thing was to make sure she ate breakfast after dinner.

And so forth. People enjoyed my columns. But after a year or so my SWOP life got so busy I ran out of time for writing and marketing my articles and gave it up. The need to focus on salaried work that covered rent money, medical insurance, and the like, and have time for my daughter, trumped having fun writing.  

I retired a few years ago and thought about trying to write for publication again, but the market in our digital age is even more saturated with aspiring writers than it was in my magazine days.

So I thought…why not blog? It sounded like fun. But I also admit to a secret hope my blog would go viral, and be so wildly popular and attract such a following that some publisher somewhere would be interested in putting out a collection of my brilliant posts.

That hasn’t happened yet either. Things with my blog have been pretty quiet. Quite the opposite of viral, and that’s putting it mildly. The other day I was feeling like a failure, pitifully unsuccessful, painfully discouraged. What’s the use? I thought. On my way out to the garden to eat worms, I vowed to quit blogging, to find something else to do with my talent, modest though it is.

But I gave it some serious thought, and what I decided was that rather than quit blogging, I would redefine success.

What is success, anyway? I had to take a long, hard look at that question and define what it looks like for me.  Not for somebody else. Success means different things to different people. And I decided that if I’m having fun when I’m writing, I’m successful. After all, what is more important than enjoying life? And if I’m enjoying myself, I am a successful blogger. If I had 10,000 followers but hated the process of writing, I would be unsuccessful. If I had one follower but was enjoying myself, then I’m successful. Well, maybe two followers. 

I do enjoy blogging. Sometimes I laugh out loud while I’m blogging away on the PC in our minuscule office. While I may have a tiny office, I have a big LOL. It booms out of the room and reverberates around our home, and my husband hears it wherever he is—in the living room, the garage, out in the yard…around the block if he’s jogging. He says it sometimes sounds like there’s more than one person in the room, like I’m having a party I didn’t invite him to.  

I get a lot of ideas for my blog when I’m grocery shopping or jogging or whatever. Sometimes they make me LOL. At first people stared at me and so I started wearing ear buds to make them think I’m talking to someone on my iPhone. I don’t want them to think I’m just some crazy senior. Anyway, let them laugh. I’m being a success. By enjoying myself and laughing I am stimulating chemicals in my brain called endorphins, which have been proven to reduce pain and stress and promote health. I’m making myself healthier. So I don’t mind so much if people stare at me when I laugh, but I do try not to fart.  

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I have some of my best blog ideas when I’m squeezing fruit in the grocery store.

One day I was squeezing and sniffing cantaloupes in Safeway and suddenly burst out laughing because I remembered my Victoria’s Secret misadventure. I walked in to all that pink and black silky-soft sexiness, feeling like a big old hippo in a pool full of dainty minnows. I was there because a friend told me they would measure me properly so I could find the correct size for my newly expanded senior body. A young svelte thing measured me in the dressing room. My band size was 44. I thanked her and told her I was going to go find a couple of bras, and she said “Oh, ma’am, the largest size we carry is 38.” I laughed, so I wouldn’t cry. I was humiliated, but eventually I wrote my popular post, “A Victoria’s Secret Reject.” No silky, naughty, X-rated lingerie for me. Back to Sears. (Sears might not be around for much longer. Then what?)

In the Tea and Coffee aisle I remembered the time I was in Kohl’s trying on sweaters, and brought a turtle neck on the sale rack into the dressing room. I put it on and when I looked in the mirror was shocked to see the neck of a bullfrog. My neck skin was being pushed up by the high, snug collar and hanging over it like a spare tire. I stifled a scream, but not quite totally, and heard the salesgirl outside ask “Are you all right in there, ma’am?” It was a depressing day for me, but in the end I laughed and wrote “Terror in the Dressing Room.”

Standing in the Pharmacy line I recalled a Girl Scout campout my daughter and I went to about 30 years ago, when she was five. We were all sitting around the campfire at night, and I related some little anecdote about my “ex-mother-in-law.” My daughter said, “Myrl wasn’t your mother-in-law, Mom. You and dad were never married.” I felt embarrassed and ashamed, but lightened up when delighted laughter burst out around the campfire. My resulting blog post was “Mother-Daughter Secret, Not.”

Standing in the checkout line, I remembered phone pranks my friends and I played when I was a kid, back in the Stone Age, before cell phones, when you had to be home to answer your phone, which was what we now call a “landline.” We would call and ask people if their refrigerator was running, and if they said yes we said “better go catch it.” Or we’d ask them to blow into the phone and then tell them “thanks, you just blew the bird turds off the line.” Those were the days.

It certainly makes grocery shopping more fun, thinking about funny things that have happened. I spend a lot of time pulling my cart out of the flow of traffic and writing ideas in my iPhone notes. And laughing. It makes jogging more fun, driving more fun, vacuuming more fun… I’m laughing right now, in fact, writing this very post. My husband just shouted from the living room, “Who the hell is in there with you?”

Now I have a difficult confession to make. Here comes the naked truth. The blog that you are reading right now (thank you!) has 60 followers. That’s an amazing number. Amazingly small, that is. There are millions of bloggers and readers in the WordPress blogosphere and only 60 of them follow my blog. Most of them are my friends, whose arms I twisted. I tell myself my work is good, but I’m just not much for social networking. That’s what you need to do to drum up blog followers. I know absolutely zip about SEO. (SEO is search engine optimization, by the way, the highly technical art of getting Google and Yahoo to direct searchers to your articles.) I don’t tie my blog in to Facebook, in fact I rarely post anything on my page.  I don’t tie it into Instagram because I don’t have an Instagram account, I don’t tweet about it because I’m not on Twitter.

I don’t do any of those things. I just write and enjoy myself and laugh in the grocery store and other inappropriate places. I will blog bravely on in obscurity, in the vastness of the blogosphere, like the humor-blogger version of John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness. Why stop, when I’m having so much fun?


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Scripture: What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? To gain 10,000 blog followers yet not have fun?


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The Power of Chocolate: Will looked horrified. “What kind of monster could possibly hate chocolate?”
― Cassandra ClareClockwork Angel

There are no misteaks.

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no worries


I was a wild one when I was in my thirties. I had a sign in my office above my desk that said, “I type like I live. Fast, with lots of misteaks.” (There were no computers way back then—we used electric typewriters.) The sign always got a laugh from first-time viewers. They laughed, but it was true. I drank a lot, I rode around in fast cars, I partied, I stayed out all night and dragged in late to work.

I was making lots and lots of misteaks. I lost a couple of jobs. I got new ones right away, though, which kept me from facing up to the need to straighten up and fly right. Jobs grew on trees in young Silicon Valley forty years ago. I drove drunk and got DUIs. One night stands out because I did NOT get a DUI. I quietly drove off-road after leaving a restaurant on the edge of a San Francisco Bay inlet, and ended up on the bottom with my car completely submerged in salt water. I don’t remember how I got out of the car but I did, and stumbled into a Mercedes showroom. They summoned the police and I was transported to a hospital for overnight observation. I wasn’t given a DUI or even cited because no one saw the accident. They just saw a dripping wet, muddy, bedraggled young woman.

Don’t worry. All this gets better, just hang in with me a bit.

After my Bay swim, as if the misteaks I’d already made weren’t enough, I made a DOOZIE. I got pregnant, by a man I’d been dating for a few months. Finally, I was scared. Petrified. I did all right financially as a corporate writer and editor but I didn’t have a steady job with a lot of security. I had no extended family for support. I didn’t know if Mike was going to help me and his child. I didn’t know anything about being a mother. I went to Planned Parenthood, and spoke with a woman who definitely favored the abortion route. She frightened me, more than I was already, with her tales of how difficult it would be to bring up a child by myself.

But by that time I deeply loved the baby—him or her. Back then we didn’t know the gender until the baby was born. I decided to have the baby and keep it rather than put it up for adoption.

That was thirty-six years ago. I still remember the day Michele was born. I wasn’t ready for how much I loved her. It was like an emotional earthquake and tsunami and Category 5 storm all at once. I loved her so much it scared me. Mike and I lived together for five years but never married. He did support his daughter, always, and we actually shared custody when she was small. But as time went on things got more complicated. When she reached the science-project stage of grade school we practically had to rent a U-Haul to get the projects back and forth. From then on she stayed with me and spent every other weekend with her dad.

I made lots of misteaks as a mother. I continued to drink alcoholically until she was three. But one morning I woke up and had my Moment of Clarity, a phenomenon well-known in AA circles. I realized without a shred of doubt that if I continued drinking I would lose Michele, either physically or emotionally or both. There was a county alcoholism treatment center close to where we lived, and I got out of bed that morning and called about their services. I went to a group meeting that very night and haven’t had a drink since. I went from the county treatment center to lifelong membership in AA. Five years after that I quit smoking. Michele absolutely hated smoking—a filthy habit, for sure—and I finally got to the point where I couldn’t stand her nagging anymore. I paid for five sessions with a licensed hypnotherapist and haven’t smoked since.

Michele and I have had some rocky times but she’s brought more love into my life than I ever thought possible before she was born. And pain, too. She graduated from college and is married and working now, and lives in a nearby town, but a few years ago she estranged herself from me for two years. That was more pain in my life that I ever thought possible. I had quit drinking but I still had a lot of stinking thinking, and ghosts from my childhood, lots of anger, rejection, the shock and sadness of my father’s suicide, and other traumas.  I’ve worked through a lot of it but even now much remains. My work is cut out for me. Recently I joined the Religious Science church. It involves constant study and there are frequent classes and discussions about basically seeing the deeper side of things, beyond appearances. It helps me stay positive—and keeps me busy. 

I’m far from a perfect mother, but I always do my best. And I realize that getting pregnant and having Michele was the best thing I ever did. She might be the main reason I’m still alive. My drinking was becoming more and more destructive, as continued drinking always does. Thank God I didn’t injure anyone, or worse, while I was driving around drunk. Michele in my life has made me such a better person. I’m much more honest about myself now, and see my flaws, and do my best to change them, and have learned to apologize when it’s called for. I’ve been to anger management classes and forgiveness classes and all kinds of other classes, I meditate, I read spiritual books constantly, I volunteer… I do these things because I want to be the best person, and the best mother of a 36-year-old, that I can be.

Getting pregnant seemed like a misteak at the time but it wasn’t. Even my drive into the bay no longer seems like a misteak. When I’m discouraged, it’s one of the things on my cheer-up list because it shows me how much God loves me. I have absolutely no memory of getting out of the car and swimming to shore. I was guided by an invisible force that has always been there to protect me. The police said my car was deeply submerged and far out in the water. They were amazed that I made it to shore. They figured I was on the swim team in school. But I wasn’t on the swim team. I dog-paddled, that’s the only stroke I knew. And nevertheless here I am, thirty-some years later, alive and blogging about it.

It does me more good to look at what I used to think of as misteaks in a different light. Now I call them learning experiences. I examine them and draw all the wisdom and understanding and guidance that I can squeeze out of them. Instead of feeling ashamed, I profit from them. I learn. In fact, I no longer believe there are any misteaks. Everything happens for a reason, one which isn’t always apparent.

Well, there is one thing I consider a misteak. A real one. It’s meowing at me now. A ragtag, scroungy feral cat used to run through my yard a lot and one time I broke down and fed it. That’s all it takes. One time. They never stop hounding you after that. Now, a small fortune later, he’s neutered, immunized, and deflead. He has a heated bed and gets Fancy Feast. He considers all this his divine right, no way a misteak.  


rose-1403530_640Scripture: “I have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try to reach the goal before me. And I own up to my misteaks.” ˜Philippians 3:13

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The Power of Chocolate: “If there’s no chocolate in heaven, I’m not going.”


no worries

Relax. It all works out.

Who is this gutsy woman?


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No worries.

Several months ago doctors discovered a potentially cancerous cyst on my husband’s pancreas. They saw it on a CT scan, taken to investigate a possible infection before performing a rather simple hernia operation. The cyst was a surprise to everyone. Frank promptly had his hernia repaired and shortly after that had a major operation to remove the cyst. 

The whole experience was very challenging for both of us, as you can imagine. But through our struggles, we grew. In fact, the difficulties that arose made me realize I’m much more than I ever thought I was. Abilities and strengths had been hiding inside me, undiscovered until Frank’s operation. Here are some examples.

PATIENT ADVOCATE: I’m usually rather timid, but as Frank’s advocate I was take-charge and creative. I wandered around the hospital and stole magazines from waiting room areas when Frank was out of reading material. When the doctors switched his diet to solid from liquid, I went out to wonderful little restaurants around the hospital and smuggled in sushi and sashimi and tempura and other favorite delicacies. When he became alert enough to want to watch television, I figured out how to operate the TV in his room because the nurse didn’t have time. This is the accomplishment I am most proud of. There wasn’t even a manual, and to say that I am electronically challenged is a real understatement. But I did it. I stretched my boundaries. Maybe I’ll even do some troubleshooting to solve some problems with my PC. On second thought, never mind. That’s why God made Geek Squad.  

I was at the hospital early in the morning every day for the week and a half he was there. I nagged him to make sure he breathed every half hour into his spirometer, a device to help prevent pneumonia. Nagging isn’t pleasant but somebody had to do it and I rose to the occasion. It’s a lot more pleasant than pneumonia.  I took him for at least two daily walks around the corridors, so he wouldn’t get pneumonia just lying, inactive, in bed, and after I got home in the evening I always called and made sure a nurse or assistant walked him before bed.  I made sure he ate, instead of sitting and looking at food that was often left in front of him too far away to reach, in containers he couldn’t open in his weakened condition. I think without someone in the room to help him with his food he would have starved. When I left I made sure he was warm and positioned comfortably and his nurse call button was in reach. I made sure he drank lots of fluids. I emptied his plastic urine container.    

WOUND NURSE: I am alarmed at the sight of blood. That’s another understatement. There’s a great line in a Woody Allen movie (I can’t remember which movie). It goes “Blood. That’s supposed to be on the inside!” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I can’t quite believe I did what I describe below.

Our wonderful home health nurse, Mandy, came three times a week to change Frank’s wound dressing. As queasy as I am, I forced myself to watch her every time because of the possibility, though unlikely, that someday there would be too much drainage to wait for Mandy’s next visit. Sure enough, the someday came. I checked his bandage one evening and saw a lot of pus and blood. I took a few deep breaths and splashed my face with cold water, to keep from shaking. I knew I had to do the deed.

As queasy as I was, I managed to calmly remove the old bandages. Mandy kept her supplies in our house, and I cleaned the wound out by putting saline-soaked gauze pads into the sizeable incision on his abdomen, pushing them down gently with long Q-tip type things, and used them to lift out the gauze pads along with the pus and blood that clung to them. I did that several times until the soaked gauze came up clean, then wiped his abdomen around the hole, tamped fresh saline-soaked gauze down into it, and sealed it up with tape and several gauze pads.

Okay, I confess. I had help. Panicked, I called the home health service and told the night nurse on duty what was going on. I couldn’t have done it without her, or without my speaker phone. Her calm, professional voice broadcasting from my landline led me through the whole process step by step. Still, I can’t believe I mucked around like that in a hole in my husband’s stomach. The next time Mandy came I told her about it, and Frank actually said it was “heroic.” I treasure his remark. I think he has a new respect for me. It’s the highest compliment I’ve ever gotten from him. The only one, actually. He’s a man of few words.  

CHARGE NURSE: When Frank came home from the hospital I set up a detailed medical schedule, giving him all his antibiotics and pain and other medications on time using a timer I bought just for that purpose. I kept a killer written schedule and recorded time and amount of every single medication dose I gave him. You’d have thought I went to nursing school. I made sure he walked with his walker at least twice a day and breathed into his spirometer frequently. Every day I made three balanced, nutritious meals, sufficiently bland for his tender, surgically assaulted digestive organs. I gave him a daily sponge bath. I stayed with him day and night leaving the house only for groceries and prescriptions and the occasional furtive stop at Starbucks, for several weeks until he was able to do more things independently and was steady on his feet. If I had to leave I made sure the phone and the emergency inhaler for his COPD were within reach.

And, like any good nurse, I didn’t put up with any shit. It was for his own good. I watched him like a hawk. No way could he get out of breathing exercises or walking or eating his veggies or taking his multivitamin, which he thinks is for sissies. He didn’t want to take the probiotics I gave him to prevent diarrhea either. He’s suspicious about anything that’s new and unfamiliar to him. He argued and gave me a big hard time about it, but I brought him in line by dropping subtle hints about putting him in a skilled nursing facility. I was up to cleaning out his wound and changing the bandage, but I wouldn’t have been able to deal with diarrhea. A baby’s diarrhea is one thing. I’ve done that. But an adult male? Forget it.

One day I heard him mutter something under his breath about Nurse Ratched but I just let it go. I don’t think I was that bad. And I was tough on him because I love him.   

BAD ASS BIG-CITY DRIVER: I’ve been a timid country girl all 70 years of my life, hiding out in the suburbs of Silicon Valley. I was born here when it was still sleepy Santa Clara Valley. I’m a bit reclusive and I have a big phobia about driving in big cities, like San Francisco, which to  me is huge and frightening. It’s way bigger than Fremont, the boring little bedroom community where Frank and I live.

Hiding behind my phobia, I had managed not to drive to San Francisco for decades. But SOMEBODY had to drive Frank to his biopsy since he would be anesthetized and could not drive himself home. And the biopsy was in San Francisco. A cab or Uber simply wouldn’t do.

The demon was at my door. It was staring me in the face. The SOMEONE who had to drive him was ME.

I went to war against my phobia. I pored over printouts of Google Maps. I memorized all the streets and printed directions for the drive not only to the hospital but the drive back home as well. A friend showed me the basics of my iPhone GPS, which I had never used, and I drove around with it on all the time until the biopsy date, getting used to it. To top it off, Frank and I made a couple of dry runs before the appointment. We parked in each nearby parking garage so I could get familiar with the drill. They don’t have parking garages in Fremont.

I even prayed.

On the big day my knuckles were white on the steering wheel but I made it to the parking garage for Kaiser San Francisco. The biopsy was positive, which meant another epic drive in a few weeks, this time to the surgery center in Oakland. Again we did a couple of test drives. Eventually I got to be an old hand driving around Oakland streets because Frank was in the hospital for 11 days and I made the round-trip drive every day by myself.

Today I no longer shrink from city driving. I can outmaneuver the best of them. I can change lanes on a dime and cut people off and beat people to parking spaces like I’ve been doing it all my life. I can be as verbally abusive as any Type A driver. I’ve used words I never even knew I knew. Frank no longer likes to drive with me. He says I’m rude and reckless, and that I could move to New York City and make a good living as a cab driver. And he says if I do, he will stay here.

Those are the highlights of challenges I rose to meet. I look back at when we first found out about Frank’s cyst, and remember how daunting it was to contemplate being his sole care giver. But I did it. I did it all, from changing his bandage and being an all-around nurse to taking care of the house and the housework and the yard and the cats and taking out the garbage and paying the bills and chauffeuring and cooking and grocery shopping and all the rest of it. I continued doing it all for months after his surgery while he slowly recovered.  

All the things I was afraid of actually expanded my horizons. Things that I was certain would be too much for me to do turned out okay. I learned first-hand that I am up to more challenges than I ever thought possible. I’m going to say it, just this once: I was awesome.

Everything worked out including the outcome of Frank’s surgery. The cyst was completely removed, and turned out to contain an extremely low-grade cancer, and nothing had spread beyond its borders.

It doesn’t get any better than that. 


rose-1403530_640Scripture:  “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God, and Google Maps, and nurses on speaker phones, and a mocha latte now and then, all things are possible.” ~ Matthew 19:26

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The Power of Chocolate: “I’ve been through some tough times, with no one to talk to, to share with, to count on. Thank God I had chocolate.”


no worries

Relax. It all works out.