Twenty twenty-two: A review

Oldest gestured at the wall calendar this morning and asked, “HOW?” As in, How are we at the end of 2022 already? Good question, kiddo. How indeed. This year certainly had its ups and downs, and I owe my faithful readers an apology for only cranking out three blog posts (including this one). Blogs are dead; our attention spans can only handle 10 second Insta reels. But the lack of word flow has caused a backup, and like a clogged spillway I fear I may overflow and spew sewage everywhere.

So here we are. The final day of the year. Ironically, The Sundays are currently singing “Here’s Where the Story Ends” in my noise canceling headphones, which remain my favorite purchase of all time. I refuse to believe the story ends here. However, we are about to turn the page, so before we do, let’s reflect on the year, shall we?

Some Highlights:
Watched my son perform on stage and earn his Eagle scout
Was able to be by my dad’s side in the days following his heart surgery (Also: my dad survived heart surgery!)
Fostered an adorable kitty named Bellatrix
Crossed an item off my bucket list when I hiked three miles through cold mist to witness an erupting volcano
Played with octopuses (yes, that is the correct plural)
Released my fourth verse novel, CAUGHT IN THE HAZE
Saw my Pennwriter friends in person after two years of virtual conferences
Got to spend time with my brother and his family
Watched my big sister marry the love of her life
Took my boys to their favorite summer camp
Started a new job
Floated in Lake Ontario
Completed both a winter and summer hiking challenge with my favorite hiking partner
Missed the Cure vs Smiths dance party but then got a do-over in the summer and danced my little heart out
Rode boats, toured castles, played pinball, tubed down a snow covered hill

There have been some low points for sure, like nearly losing my beloved kitty from a blocked ureter, and passing a kidney stone on the six hour drive back from the Pennwriters conference (we are both laying off the spinach now). I had to make the difficult decision to leave a job I’d done for eight years, a job with wonderful co-workers who thankfully have kept in touch (and one who followed me to my new job). My health has been up and down, and surgery may be in my future. Oh, and the wound of this one is still fresh: Our city endured a major storm over Christmas weekend, and literally buried our holiday in snow. I love my immediate family, but I am definitely over being trapped in the house with them.

What’s next?
I am not typically the sort of person who makes resolutions. This is mostly because I am not the sort of person who follows through. There are so few knowns in the world from day to day, let alone year to year. My oldest will turn 17 and apply to college (or decide to take a gap year as long as he doesn’t call it a gap year because I really don’t like that term). My youngest will start high school. Both will log innumerable hours of video game play. My cats will continue to be incredibly sweet and then incredibly violent at the slightest noise (you should see my scratch scars). There will be adventures. There will be laughter. There will be heartache. I will read books, drown out the world in my favorite headphones, spend more time than I should worrying about things I can’t control. Like what happens next.

2022. What can I say? You flew past me. Sometimes a nice breeze that cooled my face. Sometimes a car screeching through a puddle and soaking me to my skin. You were a slight improvement to your previous sister-years, but I’m still raw from their wounds. As I close this post, “Survivin'” by Bastille is playing. I’m gonna be fine, I’m gonna be fine… I think I’ll be fine.

Happy New Year, friends. Be well. ❤

Kilauea Volcano

Happy birthday, Caravan of Composition!

Today has been a full day. Youngest graduated from elementary school, and both boys enjoyed the bell-ringing satisfaction indicating the start of summer break. Following the graduation ceremony/last exam, we celebrated at their favorite restaurant, then came home and brainstormed a summer chore chart and screen time limits. I shifted my focus toward Camp NaNoWriMo, which starts on Monday, and checked off a handful of items on my to-do list. I nearly let the milestone pass me by.

Caravan of Composition is officially two years old today. My blogging habits seem to go in waves, but I am pleased to say I’ve kept up with this blog and my previous one for over eleven years. That’s like a million in procrastinator years. It’s challenging sometimes to come up with things to write about as life isn’t always “blog-worthy”, and I struggle with insecurities regarding the merit of what I have to say. A good friend sent me a recent copy of Josh Radnor’s Museletter in which he mentions nearly the exact feeling. We might not always feel that what we have to say is worth saying. Are my words of value to my readers? Does what I say matter?

Let’s get one thing straight: I like to listen to myself talk. My family can attest to this. I love to tell stories, often the same ones over and over (more vigorous nods from the van clan), and the level of exaggeration often increases with each retelling. For dramatic effect, of course. A small stretching of the truth makes things more interesting. There is always a fair amount of accompanying hand gestures, because my heritage demands it and they, too, add to the drama of a good story.

Blogging is different. First of all, I can’t use my hands or facial expressions to drive a point home. Second, the delete button allows me to rethink things that may sound stupid or cause a foot in mouth moment. (I have a lot of those in real life.) But it also sometimes restricts the flow of words. I have several unpublished blog posts that sit in the drafts folder because either I got distracted by life or decided what I had to say wasn’t of any value.

We are our own worst critics, aren’t we? Some of us don’t care and live an unfiltered life – taking the good and the bad as they come. Some of us let our inner critic keep us from pursuing our dreams. Some, like me, fall in the middle. Moments of feeling brilliant coupled with moments of crippling self-doubt. And I can’t write this post telling you how to quiet your inner critic, because if I did, mine would be muzzled in the corner. But I can say this: we rarely give ourselves the credit we deserve. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they seem.

Today, I celebrate my eleventh year of shouting into the void, and the second birthday of my current blog. I celebrate getting my kiddos through another school year. I celebrate the sun, and summer, and the start of another month of Camp NaNo.

And I celebrate you, dear reader, for allowing me to keep doing what I love.


Caravan of Composition turns ONE!

Happy Blogiversary to me! A little over ten years ago, on my oldest son’s second birthday, I started a blog. We had recently moved back to Buffalo after living all over the country, and I had that “new mom who wants to talk about her kid all the time” thing going on. Also, CAKE. My first blog lasted nine years, until I decided to let my child navigate preteendom without broadcasting it on the Internet. After brainstorming with my Pennwriters peeps, I went in a new direction.

And Caravan of Composition was born.

It’s been a wild twelve months. In October, my idea for a YA verse novel was accepted, and I spent the fall and early parts of winter writing it. I learned so much about the process and am now learning about branding and publicity. There is a lot more to writing that the writing part. But I love to learn and experience new things and look forward to the road ahead as my book actually enters the world. (SQUEE!)

Part of my focus now is figuring out how to market myself as a writer. How we see ourselves is not always how the world sees us (stay tuned for more on this next month following my high school reunion), and how we WANT the world to see us, well, that’s a whole other thing. During the Pennwriters Conference in May, I attended a special two hour session on branding called, “Who you are and why your readers care”. The instructor found my original blog and labeled me “PROCRASTINATOR” because my tagline was, “A journey of motherhood, procrastination, and cakes”. In case you are wondering about the cake part, I make themed cakes for my sons’ birthdays each year based on their current obsession. The procrastination is still there, for sure, but I am working on overcoming that little devil on my shoulder. (Thank goodness this is not a vlog because there is a huge pile of unsorted papers, post-it notes, loose change, and other crap on my desk right now. I’ll get to it when I get to it. Really.) And of course motherhood will always be a huge part of who I am. But what do I want my readers to know about me? What is my brand?

We filled out questionnaires during the session, all about our personalities, interests, things that make us unique. Nothing really jumped out. Nothing except my name and the fun things I can do to play on it. For example, friends call us the “van clan” and I sometimes refer to my boys as “mini-vans”. Plus, I love traveling, being on the road, and experiencing new places. Figuring things out. I’d like to think my characters have that too — figuring out who they are and what is most important to them. And because the idea of a journey — of the adventure being more important than the destination — is how I like to look at writing. Yes, it’s about seeing my book on the shelf. But it’s also about meeting incredible people along the way, learning new things, and growing as a person and a writer. Ursula LeGuin said it best in her book, The Left Hand of Darkness: “It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it’s the journey that matters, in the end.”

Enjoy the ride.

Different kinds of smart

Oh, technology. I want to embrace you, but sometimes you frustrate me so.

Today’s mission: forward progress on the whole marketing thing. Let’s start with updating the blog. Link all of my accounts together. Easy-peasy.

Or not.

There may have been some yelling and shaking of fists. Possibly a curse word or two. I think the problem with all of this is I do not consider myself tech-savvy, despite the fact that I am often the go-to person at work for such things, and I am most definitely not a visual person. Which you may have guessed from the lack of photos and other visual elements on my blog.

Remember back in the day when Gardner’s multiple intelligences was a thing? His theory is that there are seven (and eventually nine when he added naturalistic and existential) types of learners, and we all fall in one or more categories. We are all different kinds of smart. He was at the height of educational popularity during my time as an undergrad, and I did a whole bulletin board lesson complete with student self-assessments and tips on how to maximize your learning style. So of course I took the self-assessment and -SHOCK- came out a logical/linguistic learner with musical undertones. Translation: I’m good at reading and math, and can parody just about any song. My lowest scores were in spatial and interpersonal. Translation: I can’t read a map or interact normally with others.

Here I am, faced with the challenge to create something visually appealing that will encourage people to support me as an author.

You can see why I feel a tad uncomfortable. Give me a book or a math problem and I will read/analyze/solve it. When I need to memorize information, I set it to music or create word-links. Ask me to navigate out of a parking lot downtown and successfully find my way back home? Not even with the lady in my phone telling me which way to go. (Side note, this is why I hate when my dad gives directions and asks me to “picture it”.) Put me in a party setting and expect me to make clever conversation? Maybe after a drink. Just one. Two drinks and I’m challenging my husband’s co-worker to a push-up contest. True story.

So how do we work through something that involves our weaker intelligences? You don’t need to subscribe to Gardner’s theory to know that there are things you do well, and things that make you want to shake your fist angrily. Focus on what you do well. Use that to the fullest, and then call in reinforcements. I have friends that are amazing at website development and making things visually appealing. These friends will be hearing from me. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And most importantly, don’t give up. I eventually figured out how to link my other sites and update the blog widgets. I even joined Instagram, despite my fear of its visual focus.

We can’t change our fundamental makeup–I frequently clam up and/or embarrass myself in public no matter how hard I try not to–but we can embrace who we are and figure out how to work through our challenges. That being said, I WILL have my website up and running by the end of the month. And I’d love feedback/suggestions on the new blog design (updated cover photo coming soon).