Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blog Dissection

Here is some shocking (and startling) news:  my blog readership seems to be tapering off after an initial surge (last September).  Why is this?  How have I failed to capture the elusive and discerning audience of the blogosphere?  Let's examine.


I have seven.  Please note that I treasure my seven followers like seven jewel-encrusted lavender-scented boxes full of my favorite assortment of DB Infusions chocolates.  Even if one is my mother and another is my brother.  They still count!  However, by cool blog standards I should probably have at least 5,000 followers by now chomping at the bit for updated entries and leaving me comments about how much they relate to my stories and wish to be my best friend. 


Have you ever thought about how dumb that phrase is?  "Word of mouth."  No one ever uses the other options for this such as "word of paper" or "word of computer screen." 

Semantics aside, one of the best ways to gain readership in an online setting is for people to share their love of the blog with others who may also find it funny/educational/edifying/instructive/lame.  I know this is true because I have personally referred many people to the blogs that I like.  I have done this by speaking of the blogs, writing about them in my own blog and emailing the links to friends.

Perhaps if I was more calculated in my entries to appeal to a wider range of people I would see more of this. 


I admit that in my early days of blogging, I made a much greater effort to create original artwork and post the occasional photograph.  It is possibly coincidental that I was in a very "artistically" creative phase at that time and was able to find constant inspiration to illustrate the things in my life that lacked photographic evidence. 

However, I am not a professional artist.  Nor am I a cartoonist.  I have NO ARTISTIC TRAINING WHATSOEVER.  Wait, I take that back.  I did take Art Survey in college and had to do a self portrait.  Maybe someday I will get that scanned and posted.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Hold on, you say.  Lots of people don't make their own drawings for their blogs.  They choose the alternative mode of graphic expression - the photograph.  Oh, do they ever use photographs.  Honestly, I think that everyone out there must have cameras far superior to my humble little Canon PowerShot because there are some SERIOUSLY beautiful pictures on almost every blog I have ever read. 

Here is the problem for me.  I am not the kind of person who remembers to carry their camera.  If I'm on vacation or in a situation where a camera is obviously necessary, I can usually be counted on to take a few shots.  However, I am not the kind of person who likes to be IN photographs and I therefore am not the kind of person who assumes that other people like to be photographed.  This leads to most of my pictures being of places and things but not people. 

There is a time and place for this (in an album on Facebook or Picasa) but they do not always relate well to the content of my blog entries.  Thus, my blog is quite text heavy and therefore less aesthetically appealing to the masses, I guess.


I am not crafty.  I am not a whiz in the kitchen.  Heck, I've never even painted the walls of my house which should give you an idea of my skills as a designer. 

On occasion I will cook or bake, but it is hardly a moment worthy of sharing.  Luckily, there are many writers of blogs who share their recipes, patterns and the beautiful finished products associated with said items to make up for this void in my own entries.  Thank goodness for these people.  They satisfy my need to know that there are indeed average people in the world who can make beautiful things. 

Obviously, I do not have children.  I have only recently adopted a dog and while she is quite funny and entertaining in her own way, I cannot share her wacky observations or regale you with stories of her learning and experiences.  Many people who do have children are able to utilize them to great advantage and I certainly enjoy reading about them even though I cannot empathize.

As for me, I have nothing to give in this category (aside from the fact that I can knit scarves) which means that I must rely on my powers of observation, recollection and writing as the sole means of blogging. 


So, dear readers, what do you think?  Should I endeavor to rework my theme towards one of the proven plans to popularity?  Should I bring back the illustrated childhood stories?  Do you want to see more pictures of my dog?  Was the live-blogging experiment interesting?  Maybe I should focus and do commentary on current events (not just my own).  Or I could review books - I am in training to be a librarian, after all. 

Unless someone has a really awesome concept or neat idea, I think I might just stick to the hodge-podge approach that has served me thus far.  Sure, I may not be the most popular site on the internet, but I don't think that would be such a good thing anyway.  I shall remain under the radar for now.  At least until Blogger decides to make me the Blog of Note...  (hint hint).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Live from Edina, it's Saturday evening!

I am about to conduct an experiment in live-blogging.  Please excuse me.

Right now, I am sitting in my parents' "office" at their lovely Mac.  I have just printed out the driving instructions to the intended destination of my parents for the outing this evening.  I am wearing a lampshade on my head.  My feet are cold.  Pippi is sleeping in her bed to my left.  I have no idea of the whereabouts of the other dogs.

Tonight I am going to be "in charge."  Of the dogs.  Perhaps we will have a party.  Maybe we'll share secrets and bake cookies.  Or maybe we will just put on comfy clothes and see what is on HGTV and Food Network.  I suppose I could try and read some more of "The Name of the Rose," but it requires a bit of mental engagement and since Lena woke me up at 5:50 this morning, I'm not sure that I'm capable of that right now. 

Umm... as there is no other action happening in the immediate present, I shall relate my day to you.  At 5:50 this morning, Lena decided that it was imperative that she go outside.  I grudgingly obliged her request and then made her return to bed where we remained until 7:45 a.m.

Wait!  I hear a noise!  It is the sound of my father approaching on crutches.  Yes, it appears that his knee injury is not QUITE as terrible as previously thought, but he may yet require surgery.  We shall see.  He has spent this afternoon working on my taxes - one of the many benefits of having a licensed CPA for a father.

OK, now he's getting closer, but I'm pretty sure nothing exciting is pending other than a remark on my headgear.  Yep... it's "nice."  And here is Lena.  She and Pippi are convening.  Dad thinks that my hat is freaking them out.  I doubt it.

Back to my day.  I brought my car in for an oil change around 9:30 a.m. and spent the waiting period running errands with my mom.  We picked up lattes at Caribou, bought groceries at Byerly's, went to the bank and dropped off/picked up my father's dry-cleaning.  By the time we finished, my car was ready.  After we picked up the car, my mother and I went to lunch at Cafe 28.  I had a burger with beets and goat cheese along with a Surly Cynic (beer).  It was excellent. 

Afterward, we stopped at the Bibelot shop.  We were in Linden Hills, after all.

Here comes my mother.  She came to ask me about the appropriateness of her attire.  When I pointed out the stain on her shirt, she quickly departed to change clothes.  Apparently they are supposed to be in Apple Valley in 12 minutes.  Interesting.  Now they are debating bringing a bottle of wine.  My mother has changed shirts, but still looks very nice. 

Sorry.  Short break - I had to attend to some dogs.  My parents are now leaving with assurances that they will not be out late because as soon as my dad and his coworkers start discussing work, she is "hightailing it out of there."  Should be exciting. 

So now it is me and the dogs.  What will happen next?

To complete my story of the day, we went to Bibelot.  I bought some socks and a thank you card.  We ran into one of my mother's friends from high school and chatted.  Then we came home.  There were some moments of movie watching and book reading after which I had to research the amount I paid for car license tabs last year (tax purposes).  That brings us to now!

Pippi is back in her bed.  I have removed the lampshade from my head and Thor and Lena are nowhere to be seen.  I think it may be time for comfy clothes and some good relaxation.  Thus ends my experiment.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mind Games

It appears that Mother Nature is trying to mess with my head.  After two days of relatively warm weather, she has turned around and smacked me across the face with some bitingly cold gale-force winds.  Sure, I realize that it is still only mid-February and that it would be foolish to assume that our momentary break from Arctic temperatures were the final herald to the beginning of summer.  Just humor me, OK?  My visions of the end of snowstorm season are potentially going to be dashed to pieces this weekend and I need some time to mentally prepare.

On a positive note, this weekend is special for me.  Not for sentimental reasons, but purely due to the fact that Monday is Presidents' Day and my employer chooses to observe that holiday by giving me a day off with holiday pay.  Actually, this is the final in a long stream of monthly observed holidays that I have enjoyed, so I need to savor it well as the next one shall not arrive until late May.  When you really think about that (like I do) you should realize that this may not SEEM like a long wait, but I will actually be done with another semester of school before it happens.  Now it doesn't seem so close, does it?

Speaking of school, I believe I have mentioned that the semester has started.  This is true.  It is also true that my classes this semester take place solely on the weekend, which means that we do not meet every week.  This is very nice, but it has thus far left me in a bit of assignment/homework frenzy limbo.  There are not a great deal of assignments due right away, but they will sneak up on me pretty quickly if I'm not careful.  Therefore, this weekend I shall be going through my syllabi diligently to map out my work schedule.  Nerd, right? 

As far as school goes, I have been very happy with my decision to return.  While I am not entirely sure about my job plans (or prospects) upon graduation, I am hopeful that something really interesting (or at least something that could LEAD to something interesting) will show up in due time. 

One of the unfortunate side effects of adding another responsibility into one's life schedule is that sometimes you cannot do everything you want.  Up until now, this has not caused me any serious heartbreak.  In fact, last spring, I was able to work in a trip to Italy with friends while missing the last day of a class and had a professor who was gracious enough not to lower my grade for the absence.

I suppose that one of the trade-offs of having weekend classes is that there is a much greater potential for it to interfere with fun.  For example, this year my birthday falls on a Friday.  Hurrah, right?  Sadly, no.  As luck would have it, this particular Friday is one that I have to spend in class.  Actually, first I have to spend the day at work.  Then I must attend class from 5-10 p.m.  Of course, there is always the chance that we will get out early...

While the birthday cross-over is certainly disappointing, there are actually some far more important life events that I will/may be missing as a result of my studies.  First of these is my second-cousin's wedding in Dallas, TX.  You may think that a second-cousin sounds far enough removed to not care, but I come from a family that has failed to produce any female cousins close in age to me.  Sara is the closest thing I have to a cousin my own age. 

No matter that we haven't been that close in years.  Our mothers are cousins and are very close.  My parents are going to the wedding.  It will be a Muslim/Christian ceremony with Iranian influences (Sara's father is from Iran).  There will probably never be another wedding like this for me to attend - ever. 

Unfortunately, the wedding weekend is also a school weekend.  I did approach one of my professors about a potential absence, and he was fine with it.  Once we received our syllabi, I quickly realized that April (the month of the wedding) is going to be our busiest month for assignments coming due.  As assignments play heavily into the grading process, I felt it may be a wise decision to forgo the voyage.  Additionally, this gives my parents a reasonable dog-watching situation. 

If you're keeping score, so far it is School: 2, Fun:  0.

Now for the big conflict.  In May, my brother will graduate from veterinary school.  This is a very big deal - a four year program (in addition to four years of college) and a LOT of time, money and effort.  He has done an excellent job and I want nothing more than to be there to celebrate this achievement with him.

As luck would have it, his graduation weekend is scheduled for my final weekend of classes.  There is still the possibility that will bring up the situation with my professors and beg for mercy.  However, both classes require final papers and presentations to be turned in and presented on the last day. 

What to do, what to do?  I still have time to ruminate on this dilemma, but I have a feeling that I will probably not be going to Madison.  Will this make me a horrible sister?  I suppose it means that a really awesome graduation gift will be in order for this egregious crime against siblingdom. 

While I wrestle with this decision, I must confront some hurdles in my immediate future.  First, I must get my car's oil changed tomorrow.  Second, I must aid my increasingly crippled parents about their daily lives (more about this later).  Third, I must find a way to get my dog to sleep past 5:30 a.m. this weekend.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Am I 30 or 90?

Last night I came to a horrible/fascinating/disturbing realization.  I am a very boring person.  This epiphany opened up many doors to thoughts that I had never considered.  Have I always been this boring?  Will I ever be an exciting person?  Am I really qualified to have a blog?

My quick answers are hopefully not, let's hope so and we shall see. 

What brought on this revelation?  Well, yesterday I went home after work to release my dog from her confinement and go for a walk to enjoy the sudden tropical weather we are having at present.  After braving the wet and perilous poop-filled sidewalks of my neighborhood (there is a rant brewing here, but I will wait for it), we returned home for dinner. 

After eating we found ourselves in a bit of a quandary.  It was 6 p.m. and there was nothing to do.  We had been for a walk and it was starting to get dark outside.  I don't have any homework to work on at present and Lena gets a little bored if I read or am on the computer for too long.  She plays with her toys and sits with me, but I feel like I should be doing something so much more entertaining for her.  So I gave her a doggy ice cream treat.  This went over well but only provided momentary distraction.

In the end, I found myself counting down the hours until bedtime.  Bedtime came at 9:30 p.m.  Lame, right?  If this continues, I am going to be one of the most well-rested people in the world.  I suppose that this is balanced by the fact that I am now getting up around 5:30 a.m. with Lena most days, but it still feels a bit like giving in to old age a bit prematurely. 

What is the solution?  Can anyone tell me?  Honestly, you should all just tell me to be quiet and wait because about a month from now I am going to be in the throes of my major assignments coming due and I will long for these nights of no responsibility.  Let us hope that this theory is correct or else I may find myself going to bed before sundown.

On a side note, I think I may need to jazz up the blog somehow.  Maybe I should borrow my mother's super-awesome-possibly-magical camera and get some good shots of Lena and the JRT's running around what is sure to now be my parents' water and sludge-filled yard this weekend.  Or I could photo document my upcoming trip to have my car's oil changed.  So many magical moments to capture...

This leads me to a blog recommendation.  I recently came across a FB status update from someone I know from my younger days that included a shout-out to the fact that his wife had just started a blog.  It just so happens that his wife and I lived on the same floor of our freshman dorm so I am also marginally acquainted with her (although we are not FB friends yet).  As I am always curious about other bloggers that I have actually met, I checked it out.  She mostly writes about her children, and I realize that this is not highly original in theory, but in practice it is quite engaging and absolutely hilarious.

If you don't believe that this is possible, check it out:  Be amazed.  It almost makes me wish that I had kids of my own because hers are so adorably entertaining and yet preternatually intelligent. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Oh yes, here I am.

If you read this blog to find out meaningful and current information, you have probably been very disappointed as of late.  Yes, I have been busy.  That's because I enjoy making life-altering decisions during busy periods of my life and then frantically trying to figure out how to make it all work.

In this case, my life-altering decision was to adopt a dog.  Today is the one weekiversary of her adoption, in fact.  So far, things have been going well.  I did have a bit of a freak-out moment after my first day leaving her at home that resulted in me taking her down to my parents' house for the extended weekend so that I could avoid leaving her in her kennel as much as possible.

This leads to the second part of this crazy equation:  school resumed this week.  To clarify, my classes this semester are all on the weekend.  In my grad program, weekend classes do NOT meet every week, but for a total of eight sessions in the semester for five hours each.  This means for seven more weekends between now and mid-May, I will be spending the hours of 5-10 p.m. on a Friday night and 12-5 on a Saturday afternoon learning all sorts of magical things about old books and archives. 

Please don't take my tone as negative - I am actually very excited about these classes.  They represent the first semester that I have been totally free of my required core classes and are both in subjects that I find interesting.  Although both courses have reading and writing requirements, I honestly do not anticipate that they will cause an undue amount of stress.  This is good because I will need all the extra stress I can find to deal with my new living situation.

I suppose the real question everyone wants to ask is "so how IS Lena?"  To answer, I say that she is just about as close to perfect for me as any dog could hope to be.  She is sweet, playful and mostly obedient.  I hope that by the time our monthiversary rolls around that our routine will be even more solid.  I am looking forward to the day that she can be left out in the house and the kennel can be put away.  I am looking forward to warmer days and sunlight that sticks around later so that we can enjoy more outdoor time. 

But for now, we're just getting used to our new lifestyle and figuring out what works best.  Hopefully next time I write I will have more interesting happenings to share.  For now, just know that we're doing fine. 

Monday, February 7, 2011


It's been a little while since my last entry, but a lot has happened and there is no way you will guess exactly what.  Well, maybe you will if you're a friend or family that has seen or spoken to me in the last few days, but if not, you're in for a big shock.

I could spend a lot of time with a big back story and build-up, but this time I am cutting right to the chase:  I am adopting a dog.  Tomorrow. 

Are you surprised?  Happy?  Confused?  Outraged?  Let me explain.  I started out this month without a thought in the world to adopting an animal.  True, I have always loved dogs and have wanted to have one to call my own, but there have always been extenuating circumstances that have prevented this.  Whether it was living situation, time constraints or lack of a support network, I have always come down with the conclusion that I have to wait.

I have not spent much time on shelter and humane society websites in the past few years, largely due to the fact that my puppy needs were more than fulfilled by my parents and their dogs.  While I could probably continue forever in this vicarious form of dog ownership, I realized quite suddenly that most of my reasons for waiting had disappeared.

First and foremost, my parents now live much closer to me.  This has always been a crucial criteria as I know that I will need a bit of help now and then and I absolutely trust my parents to be kind and loving to my new friend. 

Second, I live in a house that allows for pets.  OK, so I have lived in this house for over six years.

Finally, I came to realize something very important.  There are many people out there my age (or even younger) who have taken on the responsibility of caring for a dog.  Actually, there are people my age who are responsible for multiple children.  Do I really think that my life is so utterly complicated and busy that I really cannot find the time, energy and resources to care for one dog?

So the decision has been made and in less than 24 hours, she will be here with me.  I have been given some good pointers and tips for expectations, and I think that I am realistically expecting that the transition may be tough.  It's another upheaval for this little creature and it will take time for her to realize that this one is permanent.

As for me, I have spent the last few days running around to stores, picking up supplies, cleaning my house, making appointments and mentally planning out my morning schedule.  Please forgive me if I don't have much time to write in the first few days.  I am anticipating a lack of sleep, but I figure it can only be a tiny fraction of what a new parent experiences when bringing home a new baby.

Now I am off to bed to experience what may be my last night of sleeping alone for a very long time.  Oh, and since I didn't mention it already, her name is Lena.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Baby it's COLD outside!

I come before you in a state of discontent.  All day yesterday I was hyped on the thought that I was going to compose a kick-ass retrospective of my visit to Madison this weekend.  Then I went back and looked at what I had written before I posted.  Then I deleted all of it. 

Don't misunderstand me - I did have a fabulous time in Madison.  It was my brother's birthday on Friday so I traveled (with my parents and their dogs) out to visit him as he lives in Madison with his girlfriend (and hopefully my future sister-in-law) Heidi.  We did all sorts of fun things - restaurants, chocolate shops, bars, cupcakeries and of course a Ben Folds concert.  I could probably write an entire blog entry extolling the virtues of just one of the places we visited.

So then what is wrong?  Honestly, I don't know.  Perhaps I am feeling a bit depressed because I seem to have used up my entire winter break and have not really done anything majorly creative or productive.  I know I need to get my cross-stitch on to start the birth announcement for my friends baby.  I should also probably do a thorough clean-up in my house.  I should also get back into a regular gym routine. 

Do any of these sound appealing to you?  If so, what are you on?  Can you get me some? 

Seriously, I believe that this may be a case of the mid-winter doldrums.  Too many months of cold, grey and dismal weather do start to take their toll on the human psyche.  Is this a compelling enough reason to contemplate a move to a warmer climate?  For me, no. 

Alright.  I'm about to let you in on something that I have not shared with too many people.  It is a rarely explained piece of Megan-logic.

Like many people, I do not like spiders, bugs or other creepy-crawlies.  I don't think that this is an unnatural fear, and I certainly am not afraid of them.  My general philosophy is that if I am outdoors and encounter an insect or arachnid, I will leave them alone.  Obviously, if they are intent on attacking me, I will have to take defensive action, but I will not seek them out.  If they are indoors, especially in my confined living space, I will attempt to destroy them.  The obvious exception to this plan was my wasp nest battle, but they were at the entrance to my garage, so they were sort of in my living space.

To continue, although I currently live in a land of snow and ice, we really do experience four distinct seasons of weather here in MN.  I have oft lamented the misery of the extreme heat and humidity of this place.  So to be fair, I actually prefer this time of year if for no other reason than that I sleep like a baby.  There are also a few other key benefits to living in a place that can see temperatures drop in to the negative double digits. 

Essentially it comes down to the type of creatures that can survive this time of climate.  Surprisingly there are some mighty hearty bugs that can preserve themselves through the harsh winter months (Boxelder Bugs, I'm looking at you).  However, many of the truly scary ones cannot.  By this I am referring mainly to two of the scariest critters (at least in my mind):  Black Widow Spiders and Brown Recluse Spiders.

To my knowledge, we do not have these spiders in Minnesota.  However, they DO live in the more southerly areas of the United States.  Because I wish to avoid the worry of considering these critters in my daily life, I have vowed to never live in an area where they can exist.  Some people may find this crazy or silly, but that's just how I think. 

I realize that given the right set of circumstances (global warming or job relocation) I could be forced to break this vow against my will.  But for now, I remain safely ensconced in my cocoon of snow and ice.