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my lessons in blogging and social media, a tiny journey in a sea of many

Some folks in my writers’ group at Lansing Community Library have asked me about my blogging process.  I thought I’d write-up a few things as my count nears 14,000 hits.

1. People do not want to read long paragraphs online so I work to keep my work spaced out…this was pointed out to me by Dan Veneer at the Lansing Star when he did an article on my blog about rural broadband.

2. Readers and search engines like content and they like consistent posts…during my rural broadband series, my site visits went up by over 100 percent. At the end of 2010, when I started this blog, there had been 804 hits. One year later, after writing about my #rural broadband journey, the hits had increased to 3619.  Below is a link to some of the cumulative knowledge I gained and recorded in my rural broadband series.


3. International people are reading my blog, this surprised me and it is only through the WordPress statistics that I discovered this fact. I am still waiting for the tool to discern between readers and search engines.  In the meantime, it gives me pause and reminds me of what a bubble I am in here in the US, I need to look for and read more international blogs.  Special shout out to my friend in Greece, I think those 18 hits are real:-)

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4. Connecting to Twitter and Facebook and other social media does spread my blog, I have had many Facebook friends share my blog, a big compliment!  Also, a fellow blogger, Simon at Living in Dryden, graciously talked about and linked my blog to his, note this has led to many referrals.

Referrals to my blog
Referrals to my blog

5. People like visuals, my photo essay on a fall walk with our dogs was my biggest single day hit with 110 hits.https://itsaboutthestory.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/2329/

dog investigation under way
dog investigation under way

6. I enjoy the challenge of search engine optimization. By using links and titles with key words in them, I have found my blog posts showing up on the first few pages of goggle searches.  Below is a screen shot of a blog that showed up on page 2, at number 15 of 107,000 results, not too shabby.

Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization

7. Tags also work, I received a nice e-mail note from a sports writer in Vegas after writing a post about the movie 42 and Branch Rickey. This was especially fun because a gentleman in my writing group has commented on my audacity to write about sports, as a non-athletic woman:-)

In an unrelated situation, a WSKG reporter, Matt Richmond from the Innovation Trail, found my blog and requested an interview with me on rural broadband.  I was especially complemented because also interviewed for that segment were two thought leaders, Pat Pryor, a Tompkins County Legislator, and David Salway, Director of the NY Broadband Program Office.

8. There are some very good books about social media and much of what I learned, I read in…The New Rules of Marketing and PR.  Also, big shout out to my strategic communications professor at Ithaca College, Steve Seidman who supported my first blogging, social media efforts.  He blogs on Posters and Election Propaganda with interesting content and great visuals.

9. I really enjoy reading my friends’ blogs. One friend is from my writers’ group and posts about her life in this area, my adopted home for 20 years: LansingIthaca. Another friend lives in Jamaica and writes an elegant blog about fashion. It is deliberate and focuses on one aspect per post. http://sweetofstyle.wordpress.com/

10. WordPress.com allows me to write in an uninhibited way, sure I get criticisms but I get compliments too. The more I write, the more resilient I become and the more I learn. I have read quotes similar to this one by Taylor Swift, I agree with it:

I write songs to help me understand life a little more. I write songs to get past things that cause me pain. And I write songs because sometimes life makes more sense to me when it’s being sung in a chorus, and when I can write it in a verse.”
Taylor Swift, http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=I+write+to+understand

11.  Perspective, for every positive about blogging, I do keep in mind that there are always better bloggers and more popular  social media artists out there.  One day when I was talking to a friend, he told me about someone who had over a million hits to her Parkour YouTube.
12.  I blog because it is fun and it gives me a venue for my writing and photography, something I really enjoy. Which as my first reader, Radames Perez, tells me is at the heart of all creative efforts.  He also bought me a book in 2004, way before my blogging career began, Midnight Disease, The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain by Alice Weaver Flaherty.  This is about hypergraphia and I think my husband’s diagnosis was correct.
a picture of I Remember Nothing

Jacob Bernstein’s article about Nora Ephron…

yesterday, in the middle of a random power outage, I read Nora Ephron’s Final Act by her son, Jacob Bernstein. A fitting time to read an article about one of my favorite authors, a person whose biological power may have gone out but whose light is with us…

When Nora Ephron died last year, I was waiting for her next book; I did not know she was sick. I felt let down: she let me in so close, why didn’t she tell me she struggled with chronic illness? After all, I knew about Ms. Ephron’s neck, her meeting with JFK, and how much she would miss the city lights someday.

I accepted the end of my relationship with Nora as gracefully as I could. I read about her memorial service, I read her obituary; I goggled a few of her speaking engagements and listened to them. I thought about Ms, Ephron dressing up in her later years, always looking nice, and I accepted that it was ok to use my Barnes and Noble, $15 plastic book bag, as my purse because no matter how much I spent, the perfect purse alludes us.

But I wanted to understand, I wanted to know. Why didn’t she tell me she was dying?… how did it end, the story of her life, the horrible reality that as wisdom grows (I didn’t get it until I was 50, a concept of Ms. Ephron), the damn neck, and everything else, falls apart? And how am I suppose to die Nora, you told me about aging, what about the ending?

Thank you Jacob Bernstein, Nora Ephron’s son. You answered my questions, you gave me a sense of closure when I did not expect one. In your beautifully written article, you shared with us, Nora’s last days and I realized that waiting for her next piece is probably what she wanted me, part of her audience, to do. She was writing and dreaming of writing until the end.

It sounded like Max, her son, searched for closure when he said, “Mom, I’m going to miss you so much.” He didn’t get it, she replied with something about not being dead yet. I sympathize with what I filtered as his meaning: we want to know how to go on without them, our loved ones. Many of them won’t tell us, the sadness of the stage without them, too painful.

The sweetest thing Jacob Bernstein did was the thing he dubbed a failure. His mother organized a table at a party, which she could not attend, sick and in the hospital, she sent Jacob instead. Jacob talks about what a disaster the party turned out to be: How useless I was, how incompetent. I spent nearly 34 years at the foot of one of New York’s best hostesses.” He did a good thing for his mother, he showed up, trying to grant her a wish that the party continue.

I am glad Nora Ephron’s son shared the final act, there is no humor about ending. If you love life, the news of your demise is plain heartbreaking. What did I learn about ending life: work on the next book and plan the next party.


My Aging Role Models

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel..iPad
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel…iPad shot

Today was well, a bust…a few hours off, I thought I’ll pick up a few sweaters at the mall.  First, I needed to eat…glancing around for something delicious and not too lethal, I chose, macaroni and cheese pizza.  What can I say, I was hungry.

 On to the sweater hunt:  I envisioned some short, cropped, plain things with maybe a tiny bit of flare.  All I found were long sweaters with lots of gold lame intertwined.

Long sweaters make me look older and shorter than I like.  In fact, it feels like everything makes me look older and shorter and well, fa    than I want to.

And that is where reality hits…how to fit into my new culture, the over 50 set.  I am looking for role models and not having a whole heck of a lot of luck.  The Hollywood gals are hitting the Botox and in a Google search for role models over 50, I  saw 10 women who are keeping their Olympiad bodies no matter what!

I want to find those women, like me, who are struggling, but living well, with the whole gaining shrinking thing.  Graceful, laughing women…the Judi Dench’s of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  It is hard to do.  But I’m looking…

  • I thought Hillary Clinton made a nice comeback recently, rested, loosing the ponytail, she might still be President one day.
  • I loved Nora Ephron, I’m keeping her on my role model list forever.  She laughed about aging and she looked graceful doing it, but she laid it bare in her last two books.  She finally demystified for me all the various names for the shapes our necks can take in I Feel Bad About My Neck.
  • My Aunt did a pretty good job of aging, I never thought she would. At about 83, she said somebody should write a book on aging, it sure ain’t for sissys, was the title she suggested.  She’s almost 90 now.
  • My friend Jean, she is a role model, I think she is about 85 and two years ago wrote me in her holiday card…I haven’t slowed down and I don’t intend to. 
  • My Aunt Floss, gone now, she was a good role model:  up to her dying day, I could hear her say…there ain’t an old maid in this country who has had as good a life as me.

 And so it goes, the role model search for aging.  I didn’t realize I needed one. When the gold lame glittered back at me in mirror after mirror today, it hit me I need clothes and the corresponding people that speak to me about how in heck I’m  to do this whole graceful aging thing.


My signature dish…

When I was in college,  my friend and I took turns visiting each other’s families at their  rented lake homes.   There we were  on fire with ideas about life and trying to figure it out and there were our parents talking about food.  My Mother discussed upcoming gatherings and the ingredients she needed to purchase for her macaroni salad.  My friend’s Mother and sister debated the best places to get summer produce: a little Amish market up the street or a farm stand on the road home.  At night, my friend and I went out for a drink, a cigarette, a few laughs, and of course, a bit of life contemplation.

One night we were out and as I want to remember it, my friend took a drag from her cigarette, flicked the ashes in the ash tray, leaned pack in her chair and said: “All I know Claire, is when I get older, I’m not going to talk about food! ”

“Yeh, I know what you mean!”  And that became our running joke, “Their talking about food again,” and other  statements made as the lake visits continued through our early adulthood.

Flash forward 20 some years.  A mini-reunion held, we sit down at a nice Italian restaurant, my girlfriends and I well into the 21st century.  The red wine poured, the warm bread and olive oil served, my friends and I pull the bread, dunk it into the oil, sip our red wine with its fingers latching onto the glass, and my lake buddy turns to me and says, as I remember it:  “Claire, I really like talking about food!” and we both start laughing with a glint in our eyes.

I retold this story  when I wanted to support a conversation that stayed away from politics.  Everyone laughed.  I also caught myself emailing a friend recently saying, you know what I need to keep my conversations less about issues and more about food.  My own private chuckle over that one.

In truth, I’m an ok chef.  My presentation is usually strong and colorful but I’m not that much into adding spices unless directed with precision by Betty (Crocker)  or the Barefoot Contessa.  And that is where my signature dish comes in.  I need one and I put that as my Facebook post yesterday.  I’m thinking of pizza.  I took out the big fat baking cookbook from the library again this month, thinking that now is the time to work on that pizza dough.  Make it over and over, top it with various vegetable combos from our garden, and presto, I will be able to serve delicious pizza forever, or at least until I die.  I can bring it with me when I need a “dish” to pass.  My long time friends suggested maybe  e-clairs or  7-Layer Mexican dip.  Both made me laugh  out loud.

A favorite classmate from high school died recently and I noticed that, like me, she did not have the traditional career path, but she did have a signature dish:  blueberry cobbler.  I could see my friend, a natural girl who loved skiing and pine trees and a good laugh, serving up this blueberry cobbler to her friends and family.  Bringing everyone together with the delicious site and smell of blueberries and sugar and butter bubbling away.  That struck me as something cool to be in an obituary, the signature dish, and if nothing else, I think I’d like that in mine.

in pursuit of my signature dish picture of pizza from show
from ehow…pizza

I just read a recap of Nora Ephron’s memorial service on a New York Times  report…she planned her service and the producer/author of Julie and Julia included some recipes in the program.  From her books and movies, it is clear, Nora Ephron was about more than food but food obviously delighted her. it makes sense:   many of us look forward to food each day, if we are fortunate, and it keeps our mind temporarily off the tough stuff, not to mention its bipartisan possibilities for pulling a divided nation together.

Well I’ve got to go…my pizza recipe awaits me.  I’ll keep you posted.


Nora Ephron, I was waiting for your next book

…the one that a TV talk show host thought you would be writing before you passed. He said, as I remember it, after a spicy interview with you in 2011, that we hadn’t heard the last from you. I wanted you to keep telling me that the whole aging thing was amusing but that if was working out ok for you, what with your hair dye and all those lovely restaurants. I wanted you to keep telling me how to cope. Maybe address things you hadn’t mentioned, like gee what to do when the grim reaper comes for you.

But that is life, right. There comes a point when we are just done, like it or not. I listened, yesterday, to an NPR interview you did in 2006. You made a really interesting point, you said that you only had a finite number of meals left so you told dining companions you didn’t want to waste them on mediocre restaurants. I like that, but what I like more is what I understood today about the meanings I constructed for myself from your work. Here are some:

Ok, the aging thing isn’t good, but we can still try to look good. ( And in your case, you did a darn good job. )

The neck thing isn’t going to get better, so I guess I better Get Over It.

If I don’t die my hair soon, I’m going to look like the old “50” .

Lack of money is a wonderful motivation to really create something priceless.

And there really is no excuse for bad manners.

That is just a smattering Nora, I’m sorry you died so young. But I sure am glad you lived.

For an excellent piece on Nora Ephon’s kindness, the following link to a good article demonstrates it:




Today show hosts announce: June 17, 2011 will be the best day of the year.

Today, as they thumbed through a  magazine like The National Enquirer,  Kathy Lee and Hoda, the NBC talk show hosts,  declared that according to  what they were reading,  January 17 will be the worst day of the year and June 17 will  be the best  day of the year, that is the day I turn 5000000000000000.

I just finished Nora Ephron’s book entitled I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections and this is what my parody of her sounds like about the age of Fifty.  Fifty, I’m not suppose to turn 50, 50 is for old people.  Fifty is for my Mother and all the people wearing Alfred Dunner and elastic waist band pants.   Fifty is for people with severe chicken neck and a lot of grey hairs.  Fifty is for church suppers and the Friday night fish fry.  Hey wasn’t it just yesterday that I was 28 and my younger sister taunted me with the words:  “YOU WILL BE THIRTY, THIRTY.”   Nope, fifty is not for me. 

Molly  isn’t  turning 50, a few years younger, she fought a horrible cancer and died in her mid 20s.  Jim, my brother’s  friend and a gentle, fun, outgoing soul, he isn’t turning 50.  Somewhere in his 30s the lottery of life gave him a seizure  condition which caused an early death.  I thought of   these two as I drove to the dentist today.  It’s cold out, my lungs hurt from a recent bronchitis and I’m sure both, with their  enormous zest for life, would wish to be here and have a little lung pain and the gift of being 49.

Nora Ephron also points out in her book that she did not really get it until she was fifty.  “In fact looking back I was clueless until I was about fifty years old.”  The most ironic thing about aging is that as we get  it  more and more with each year, our bodies and minds let go of it.  It would make more sense if we got it when we were young and full of the energy needed to do something with it.    But then again, maybe we tried that and through time, realized certain truths that would have stymied us in our youth.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~here is a poem I wrote on New Year’s Eve, sad things happen but good things do to