This First Year Of Blogging: “Most” Posts and 2013 in 13 Photos

As we wrap up 2013 (Happy New Year, everyone!) and my first (calendar) year of blogging draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect a little on how it (the blogging thing, that is) has all gone.

Fortunately, two bloggers currently have link-ups that facilitate my reflection quite nicely. So, I’m game. And I’m totally going to cheat by doing both link-ups in one post. Sarah of Amongst Lovely Things is hosting a link-up of bloggers’ “Most” Posts of 2013: those with the most clicks, most comments, etc. Dwija of House Unseen, Life Unscripted is hosting one on 2013 in 13 Photos.

Below, I give you both. Plus some reflections on this first year (er… seven months — I started the blog at the tail-end of May) of blogging.

First, Sarah’s prompts:

Post With The Most Clicks

My most-viewed post, by far, was “A Crazy Good Night,” about attending Like Mother, Like Daughter’s “Crazy DC Meet-Up” this summer. I wish I could take more credit, but LMLD’s “Auntie” Leila linked to it on her blog’s Facebook page (so exciting!), which explains all the traffic.

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Digging a little deeper, my next most-viewed post can also be credited to a (much) bigger blogger than myself. Grace of Camp Patton hosted a “How We Met” link-up, which has attracted a steady stream of traffic to this post for months.

And I’m just a tad embarrassed that I’ve got to dig down to number three to find a post that doesn’t owe its popularity to another blogger. Rather, it owes its popularity to a baby. Last month’s gender reveal announcement drew plenty of curious onlookers.

Post With The Most Comments

This would be “7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 14),” in which I announced my pregnancy. People are so nice… (Insert mental image of a smiley, grateful Julie.)

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Post With The Best Picture

Oh, so many pictures… so hard to choose. I think I’ll just go with this one, which is fresh from yesterday’s post, “Oh, Boys.” It represents life in our home quite well, I think. (And when I posted it on Facebook, my brother observed that it looked like my boys had murdered a snowman.)

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Post That Was Hardest To Write

That would have to be the one that took almost a week to write and nearly a month to move past: “The Weirdest of Them All.” Spinal injury + brain cyst = hard to write. (For an update on the medical situation, check out the post’s follow-up.)

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Post That Was Your Personal Favorite

This is another tough one to choose. I think I’m going to have to go with “On Abortion: Paul Ryan and Two Simple Questions.” I like to think of this blog as a mix of family/parenting/household stuff and political thought, but in all honesty, I’ve done far more of the former than the latter. I like that this post was firmly in the meaty/political/philosophical camp. I also like that I was able to capture my thought process on this most difficult of subjects in what (I think) was a clear, logical way.

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Okay, on to the second part of this post – seven more photos from this year to round out Dwija’s “2013 in 13 Photos.” I’m going to go with more pics that represent favorite posts:

I Don’t Treasure Every Moment

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7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 22): Thanksgiving Edition

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On Perspective… And Laundry

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The Glamorous Looking-Back

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The Blue-Sky Day

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That Mommy Dance

Playground Climbing

A Love That Changes You

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And third, (for anyone who’s still here!) some reflections on this first year of blogging:

Because I’m something of a numbers girl, I have to report that this here post is my 73rd. When I hit 50 posts in September, I was hopeful that I could get to 100 by the end of the year. But then I got that medical news, which tripped me up for about a month. And, you know… the holidays… and life… so I didn’t get anywhere close. Still, I’m proud of 73 posts in my first calendar year. That averages to about 10 posts a month and between two and three posts per week. Not bad for someone who has never been able to keep up journal writing for longer than a week at a time.

In a particularly angsty post from August, I described my reasons for blogging. In the interest of not re-creating the wheel (and at the risk of seeming a little full of myself), I’m just going to go ahead and quote what I wrote back then:

As much as I aim to write things that other people will want to read, at the end of the day, I have to write this blog for me.

Yes, there is this and this. Yes, I’d love to attract readers and get some interesting back-and-forth going in the comment sections. Yes, I love hearing that something I’ve written has amused or touched someone. Yes, I’d like to avoid hurting or even annoying people with my writing. But These Walls is really for me. It gives me an avenue to work through my thoughts and ideas and it allows me to feel like I’ve said my piece on subjects that matter to me.

I also write this blog for my boys. Hopefully I’ll live a long life and I’ll always have strong relationships with them both. But you never know. One of my worst fears is that something should happen to prevent me from raising my sons. And almost as bad is the idea that something should happen to estrange us in their adulthood. Unfounded as those fears are, I am comforted by the idea that should they (heaven forbid) ever materialize, the words I write here give me another shot at reaching out to my boys. I like to think they would give my boys a sense of my love for them, of the way I see the world, and the values I hope to impart to them.

Besides, These Walls has got to be for me (and my boys). There’s no possible way I can please or even interest everyone else. And there’s no way I can wholly avoid annoying/offending/hurting every single person who stops by this blog. All I can ever do is write posts that I like and that I can confidently stand behind. That’s it.

I’ve been trying to keep all this in mind. “I write this blog for me… avenue to work through my thoughts and ideas… allows me to feel like I’ve said my piece. I write this blog for my boys… gives them a sense of my love for them… the way I see the world… the values I hope to impart to them.” Those phrases have become something of a mantra to me. I revisit them to keep myself on-course as I write.

I am a slow writer. I rely on multiple drafts to get things right and I’m deliberate about the words I choose. It usually takes two to three days for me to write a post. And I’ve sunk far too much time into many a half-written post that may or may not ever see the light of the internet.

But I’m okay with that. Because “all I can ever do is write posts that I like and that I can confidently stand behind.”

So, I’m feeling pretty good about this first year of blogging. By and large, I like what I wrote. I feel happier and more peaceful for having pounded it out. I need to do a better job of balancing writing time with my responsibilities to my family, but I do feel like this blogging thing is valuable enough to deserve some small part of my time. At the end of this first year, I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.

On Perspective… And Laundry

When I do laundry, I tend to do all of the laundry. As in, every article of clothing my boys own. All of our towels, every sheet, and all of the items that my husband and I wear on a daily basis. It’s not unusual for me to do six loads in one day. (I’ve done twelve loads in a row more times than I care to admit.)

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Why do I take pictures of such things?

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No wonder I find laundry to be such an overwhelming task.

Yes, I know there are solutions to my problem. I know that I really just need to take the whole thing bit-by-bit. But I seem to be stuck in that all-or-nothing cycle: waiting until the laundry piles up, finally tackling the whole mountain at once, and then running away from the task. Rather than taking the initiative to make life easier on myself, too often I just sigh and groan and berate myself for landing knee-deep in stained shirts and soiled sheets. Again.

This Sunday, I visited my grandmother: my spunky, 90-year-old grandmother who personifies the following approach to life at an advanced age:

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My Mom-mom had a little gift for me. “See this?” she said. “This is what I used to wash Sue’s laundry when we were living over the funeral parlor. I’d wash her things with it every day.” (Sue is my father’s older sister, who was just a baby when my grandparents lived in a small apartment over their little town’s funeral parlor.) Mom-mom was smiling. “You can even have the dirt!” she laughed.

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The simple device hit me like a ton of bricks.

At home, I had the following waiting for me: three baskets of unfolded clean laundry, at least four more baskets of dirty laundry, and a newish, 2nd-floor washer and dryer. Oh, and boxes of disposable diapers. Because I know myself well enough to realize that cloth diapering might just push me over the edge.

Let’s recap here:

  • Modern-day laundry facilities on the same floor as our bedrooms + plenty of clothes and linens + disposable diapers = an overwhelmed Julie
  • A small washboard + only a few pieces of clothing + rudimentary cloth diapers = a contented Mom-mom

And that’s just the laundry. I have a dishwasher and a microwave and children’s television programs to occupy my boys when I need a break. I have plenty of space. I have the means to purchase as much good food as my family can eat. I have adequate heating and cooling, plumbing and electricity. I have a husband who changes diapers and cleans bathrooms.

My grandmother’s father abandoned her family when she was a toddler. Her mother was left to return to her parents’ home with their three small girls. They lived in the attic, where there was no heat in the winter and far too much of it in the summer. They shared the rest of the house – and its one bathroom – with Mom-mom’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and the many railroad workers my great-grandmother fed on a daily basis. Mom-mom’s role in the family business was to stand on an overturned bucket at the sink and wash the workers’ dirty dishes. Later, my grandmother would raise six children in another one-bathroom house: this one the size of two of my fourteen rooms, combined.

So, do I feel like an ungrateful wretch, or what?

Kind of. Certainly that simple washboard – and my grandmother’s amused, happy face when she gave it to me – put me in my place a little. It reminded me of how fortunate I am. It made me view my household tasks differently. It made me think that I should approach my responsibilities with a little more perspective.

Now, I’m not big into unnecessary guilt trips. I’m not one to think that everything that is wrong is happening right now, right here: a symptom of excess in my own age and society. No culture has ever been without its struggles and sins. And just because I don’t share the particular stresses my grandmother experienced, it doesn’t mean I don’t have any.

It’s so easy to become overwhelmed with the daily tasks involved in caring for children and keeping a home. Undertaken individually, of course, the tasks aren’t particularly difficult: making a meal, changing a diaper, doing the dishes or the laundry – all simple things. But in real life they rarely are undertaken individually. Children sit on your feet and crawl between your legs while you cook dinner; they buck and kick and twist while you change their diapers; they whine and brawl while you work to ensure they have clean dishes and clothes. With good cause, we parents feel like we’re pulled in a hundred different directions. It’s understandable that we become overwhelmed.

But we still have a choice. We can choose to sulk and angst and convince ourselves that we just can’t win. Or we can choose to let all that frustration roll off our backs. Far too often, I do the former. Some people seem to be able to survey the mess in their homes, their uncooked meals, and their disheveled children and let out a good, hearty laugh. God bless those people. I am not one of them.

I’m the perfectionist, OCD type who sees flashing neon signs over every toy lying on the floor, every sink of dirty dishes, every scrap of dirty clothing: “WORK, WORK, WORK,” the signs say. I am easily overwhelmed, and I find all those signs, along with the chorus of calls and screams and roars from my boys, overwhelming. So I either attack all that work with abandon, or I shove it to the side and pretend it doesn’t exist (all the while feeling guilty). The former is not sustainable, the latter is not healthy.

But Mom-mom’s washboard gave me an idea.

I need to approach my work differently. I need to have more perspective. I need to relax. Not as in “Relax! This stuff doesn’t matter anyway!” But as in “Relax. This stuff isn’t nothing – it’s not something to be gotten over. It’s necessary work, worthy of your time and attention. It’s your part, your version of the same important work that women have always undertaken to care for their families.”

Regardless of whether I’m doing one load of laundry or twelve, I should be more at peace while I’m doing it. I should be grateful. I should remember the alternative: not just of a sentimental-looking washboard, but of generations of women who did (and still do) their washing in buckets and basins and rivers. I should sort and transfer and fold our clothes with care. I should use those moments to remember, to ponder, to imagine – not to berate myself. I should feel honored to have a small measure of labor that echoes those who came before me.

A little over three years into my role as mother and homemaker, I’m continuing to learn more about myself every day. I’m a better mother – a better, happier person, I think – than I was when I began this important work. I still frustrate and disappoint myself on a daily basis, but I’m improving. Slowly (slowly) but surely.

Thank you, Mom-mom, for that lovely washboard, and for all it represents.

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