Consider the Birds

Perched bird.

Photo: Julia Ozab

I’m in a bit of a conundrum when it comes to my blog. First off, I’m a writer–if I wasn’t I wouldn’t use the word “conundrum.” And as a writer I need to find an audience. In the 21st Century, that means the Internet. As an up-and-coming writer, I need a net presence (blog and/or social media) or I’m invisible. So I need to put myself out there, but then I see my hits and follows and like stagnating while others’ seem to skyrocket and I wonder what I’m doing wrong.

I get so frustrated that I don’t want to blog or tweet or post or pin (or whatever) anymore. That’s the other reason why I’ve been so quiet. Yes, I was fighting a bad chest cold for most of May, but the slowdown began before that. Because the burnout began before that.

So what does this have to do with birds?

Two weekends ago, I took a day off, got away from my laptop, and drove to the Finley Wildlife Refuge with my wife and daughter. Birds were everywhere. We could see them flitting from tree to tree, but even when we couldn’t see them we could hear them.

At the first stop, while Julia and Anna had their cameras out waiting to spot a bird on a perch or in flight, I stood still, closed my eyes, and listened.

I heard music, a counterpoint of bird songs in surround sound. And through that wondrous polyphony, God spoke to me.

Listen to “the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” –Matthew 6:26

And I realized that all the worry wouldn’t add one more view, one more click, or one more meaningless web stat. That’s not why I write anyway. I write to capture just a snippet of the profound beauty we all experience in life.

And I was more inspired in that moment than I could be by a year’s worth of tweets or posts. Because in that moment, I got in touch with the Source of everything.

So consider the birds singing, or the leaves whispering their secrets to each other in a nearby tree, or a child praising her Creator in her infectious laugh. Consider the ongoing symphony, sonata, and song multiplied by a million that God conducts for his and our pleasure every day.

And leave tomorrow for tomorrow. That’s how I plan to write, blog, and live from now on.

With God’s help, I pray, at those times that I will inevitably stumble.

Amen.

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Break

Keep calm and wait … what?

If you hadn’t noticed, things have been quiet around here lately. I didn’t plan to take a break from blogging, but it happened anyway.

And that’s okay.

We need breaks from time to time. We need to relax, to take some deep breaths, and to recharge. We need to try new things, and experience new experiences.

Above all, we need to live.

It’s so easy to get lock into writing. To focus on word counts and deadlines. It’a even easier to get caught up in the business of writing. To spend more time on social media trying to be heard above the din of voices.

We spend so much time on output, we forget about input. Reading a book, taking a walk, singing, or  playing a musical instrument. Talking to our friends, engaging with our partners, or playing with our kids. And then we wonder why the output stops.

No input, no output.

No living, no life.

That’s why we have to take breaks, and that’s why the blog has slowed down and why it will pick up again once I am filled.

Five Minute Friday

And this week, a two-for one (to catch up with both online communities):

Cheerleaders of Faith

Bloggerhood Etc. 3/9/2015

Rick & Becky, God bless you!

Photo: Benjamin L. Corey

Best Open Letter.Dear Rick & Becky: I Hope You Get To Read This One Day” by Benjamin L. Corey at Formerly Fundie.

Best Special Needs Post.Letting Go of Self-Sabotage on the Special Needs Journey” by Gillian Marchenko at Not Alone.

Best Story.Lucky Charms” by Tania Runyan, posting at Cara Strickland’s Little Did She Know.

Best Question.What’s the Big Deal About the Dad 2.0 Summit?” by Zach Rosenberg at 8 Bit Dad.

Best List. “The Top Ten Portland Album Covers of All Time” by Ned Lannamann at The Portland Mercury.

Best Commentary.The Argument for a Basic Income” by John D. Sutter at CNN.com.

Best History Lesson.The Story of the Reformation Needs Reforming” by Eamon Duffy in The Telegraph.

Best Portrait of an Artist.Simon Beck: Creating Art with a Compass and Snowshoes” by Andrea Crossan at BBC News Magazine.

Best Retrospective.54 Miles to Freedom” by Paul Murray at National Catholic Reporter.

Best Tribute. Oren Miller, 1973-2015” by Dustin Fisher (via YouTube).

To catch up on the great posts I’m reading online and to get a sneak preview of next week’s candidates, check out my new Around the Blogosphere board on Pinterest.

Bloggerhood Etc. 2/9/15

Parker at his dad's laptop.

Photo: The Mindful Dad

Best Guest Post.Daddy I Love You and Mom” by Parker at Mindful Dad.

Best List.16 Things That Happened When I Went to The Creation Museum” by Sarah Moon at Sarah Over the Moon.

Best Question.How Real Are Facebook Friendships?” by Jacoba Urist at The Atlantic.

Best Dad.This Single Dad Couldn’t Do His Daughter’s Ponytail, So He Went To Cosmetology School” by Jessica Samakow at Huff Post Parents.

Best Special-Needs Post.I’m Autistic, And Believe Me, It’s A Lot Better Than Measles” by Sarah Kurchak at Medium.

Best Diagram.Sy Fy Movie Venn Diagram” by David Vienna at Vienna Calling.

Sy Fy Movie Venn Diagram

Image: Vienna Calling

Most Alarming.Report: Requiring Kindergartners to Read—as Common Core Does—May Harm Some” by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post.

Best Commentary.The Cowardice of Conversationalists” by Charlie Capen at How to be a Dad.

Strangest Gift.Lobster” by Thorn Caraway at Cara Strickland’s Little Did She Know.

Most Moving.Why I Don’t Cry to Christians Anymore” by Anonymous at Micah J. Murray’s Redemption Pictures Blog.

Best Essay.Meet the Bag Man” by Steven Godfrey at SB Nation.

Best Fake Trailer.Star Wars vs. Star Trek Epic Trailer” by Alex Luthor (via YouTube).

Bloggerhood Etc. 12/29/14

Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Xavier Romero-Frias (CC BY-SA 3.0)

And the Twelve Blogs of Christmas (aka the best Christmas posts of the week).

1.SB Nation’s 12 Days of GIFsmas” by Bill Hanstock at SB Nation. 

2.Have a Merry, Messy Christmas” by Kelly Langston at Support for Special Needs.

3. “The Town With Three Christmases” by Yolande Knell at BBC News Magazine.

4. “By His Light” by Ashley Larkin, guest posting at Christine Purifoy’s blog, There is a River.

5.House of Bread” by Cara Strickland at Little Did She Know.

6.Things I’ll Be Doing This Christmas Vacation” by Andee Zomerman at Nature of a Servant.

7.An Unexpected Revolution” by Elizabeth Stoker-Bruenig at Democratic Socialists of America.

8.Books on Monday: Charlie and the Christmas Kitty” by Leslie Lindsay at Speaking of Apraxia.

9. “A Nation in Dire Need of Christmas” by Christopher J. Hale at Time.

10.Cool Gifts Christians Can Give Baby Jesus for His Birthday” by John Pavolitz.

11.Pope Calls for Peace, says: ‘Truly There Are Too Many Tears This Christmas!’” by Gerard O’Connell at America.

12.The Glove and Boots Holiday Playlist” by Glove and Boots (via YouTube).

Dear Blogosphere …

19th c gentleman at 21st c laptop

Image: The Art of Manliness

You inspire me every day to be a better writer. Some of you lay your hearts out on the page two or three times a week. I am awed by your honesty, your bravery, and your skill. Many of the best writers I know are fellow bloggers and you awe me regularly. That’s why I set aside a day each week—Monday—to highlight some of the best writing I’ve found. The funny, the sad, the thought-provoking, the beautiful, and the harrowing. I can only take a bottleful out of the ocean each week but I try my best to make it a great one. Thank you for inspiring me and pushing me.

And thanks to those who post interminable lists and click-bait headlines. You’ve taught me what not to do, even if it costs me clicks. I don’t care. I know I’ll never make money off the blog and I’ve given up thinking otherwise. I’m happier and my writing will be better as a result.

Because it’s important as a writer to learn what you want to write and also what you don’t want to write. That’s why you read as much as you can—so you can learn the difference.

So I will continue to make my small contribution to our vast shared community—and the cozy FMF community as well—to continue writing about parenting and life and sharing my experiences as a dad, husband, reader, writer, Girl Scout volunteer, Catholic, and all the other words that describe me.

I know I’m not the only one who cares about these things. I know I can encourage others just as I’ve been encouraged. And I’m going to stick with it.

Thank you for reading. Please come again soon.

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What Can I Give You?

19th c gentleman at 21st c laptop

Image: The Art of Manliness

I’m going through another one of my “what should I blog about?” phases. These come from time to time. I look back at what I’ve written, consider it to be self-indulgent, wonder what I could have done differently, and stop writing until I think of something better. Then after a few months of regular posting, I pause and go through it all over again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

A few things are making this latest rut harder to get out of. I’m going through a major shift in my writing. I’m also reading different books—mostly fiction—due to that shift. Anna’s getting older and more independent, making me less and less of an At-Home-Dad than I was when I started this blog. And I’m reading more and more about “the death of blogging” and wondering if I should keep plugging away at this site. What am I gaining from it?

Or maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe my question should be “what are you gaining from it?”

I can write for myself in a notebook or a .doc file. I can be self-indulgent on Facebook like everyone else is. But if I’m going to keep this blog going, I need to provide something for those who read it.

“A stay-at-home dad’s view on parenting and life.” That’s how I describe this blog, and that’s what I’ve tried to make it. The description is intentionally broad on purpose, but now I feel the need to narrow it just a bit based on what you would like to see.

So here’s my question—”what can I give you?”

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P.S. You can call this post a “Six-minute Saturday” if you’d like.