Is Today a Pants Day?

Believe it or not, there is a holiday on which people walk around with no pants. (This year it’s celebrated on May 4 – the first Friday in May.) There are no official rules, other than not wearing pants and pretending that nothing is out of the ordinary. For the shy men, skirts or kilts may be worn. The traditional way to celebrate No-Pants Day is to ride the subway, but we don’t have one around here, so the idea hasn’t really caught on.

(It is a day, I suppose, to work out those dreams you have when you show up at work with no pants on. My problem is that I dream about showing up naked AND NO ONE NOTICES.)

Having a day to celebrate no pants is all well and wonderful. But what about people who wear no pants year-round? People like me.

As a freelance writer and editor, whose only commute is from upstairs to downstairs, I don’t really have to worry about pants. Other writers I know like to wear pants (or skirts) because it gives them a feeling of being at work officially, even if they’re doing that work in the privacy of their own home.

Not me. I relish the freedom of being a work-from-home person and I almost never wear pants while I work. Oh, in the winter I break out the Sheldon-esque plaid flannel jammies and work wearing those. But when the weather is warmer, I settle for a nightshirt or a t-shirt, sans pants.

Really, I could work in even less, except my study is on the ground floor and there’s a window. There’s a shrub in front of it, but still, I find it best not to encourage the neighbor boys.

I find nightshirts soothing and relaxing and completely conducive to work. They also make it easier for me to take naps in the middle of the day, which is one of the other perks of being a freelancer.

But there’s another aspect of the pants vs. no pants dilemma to be considered. A friend of mine and I refer to days when we actually have the energy to go outside and run errands or be social as “pants days,” because we have to put on pants to do so. He’s a writer too and has as much right to work in his bathrobe as I do.

Plus, both of us are given to spells of depression when we can scarcely get out of bed, much less out-of-doors. So we report, “I’ve had three pants days this week” or “I finally had a pants day yesterday,” and congratulate ourselves and each other for having the stamina to insert legs and zip.

I suppose I could wear a skirt or a dress and call it a pants day, but if I do go out, I almost always wear jeans – unless I’m going to a job interview or a meeting with the IRS. I’d be much more relaxed in pajama pants, but there you are. Society has dumb rules. And please don’t tell me that there are things called pajama jeans. That’s cheating.

And by the way, in case you wondered, for me, no-pants days are also no-bra days – but that’s a subject for another time. (




What Should Children Be Allowed to Read?


When I was a child, there was no way my parents could censor my reading. I simply read too fast and too much for them to keep up.

Once, though, I got hold of a science fiction novel by Robert Silverberg that had a sex-infused plot that was way beyond my then-current level of sophistication. When I reported to Mom that I was disturbed by it, she wrote in it “Not for young minds” before we recycled it at the used bookstore (as we did most books in those days).

But she still didn’t try to censor my reading.

I understand that there is a need to make decisions about what books will be in a school library, for reasons of space if nothing else. Within those limitations, school librarians must choose the best and most engaging books they can. And not all schoolteachers can choose their own reading lists, as they may be determined by the school, the school board, or parental influence.

As to what a child should read, I advocate giving the individual child’s taste free rein. Reading is reading and practice reinforces it. If the reading is forced upon the child or – worse – is boring, the child will come to view reading as punishment, not pleasure. (The same holds true of writing, by the way.)

If your children have questions or are disturbed by a book they read, talk with them about the book. With them, not at them. Most kids know what is too sexual or too violent or too whatever for them. I have even seen a child leave a movie that was becoming bloodier than he thought he was ready for.

And so what if your child reads trashy comic books or graphic novels? Or escapist fantasy? Or biographies of pop stars or sports heroes? As the child grows, you can suggest other books that may fill the same needs but be a bit more challenging. There are plenty of good adventure novels by classic writers, including Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson, Victor Hugo, and even Zane Grey. (William Goldman has a charming story about this process in his introduction to The Princess Bride.)

Or you may be able to interest a child in reading the book that a favorite movie was based on. Then ask her or him how the two differed. (The Hobbit is a prime example.)

The object here is widening a child’s horizons, not narrowing them. You may not like all their choices, but they surely won’t like all of yours either. It’s like educating their palates. You’ll get through that awful peanut butter and pickle phase and into realms as distant as sushi.

I’m not saying that you should leave your child alone with Fifty Shades of Grey (though if you have it in the house, your child is sure to find it). There are other books that can introduce your teen or even your preteen or tween to topics concerning the human body and sex – and the emotional aspects of it that aren’t covered in schools. Judy Blume’s books, for example, once thought so shocking, have stood the test of time.

The message you give a child when you say “no” to a book may be different from what you think. You may think you are saying, “That book is too advanced for you” or “That book is trash,” but the child may hear, “Books are not for you” or “Reading is worthless.”

“Let children read whatever they want & then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.” –  Judy Blume

Judy Blume is right. Reading and talking about it are better than censorship and fear.

School Shootings and the Tipping Point

Teen activists may hold an answer to school shootings.

I say “may” and “an answer” because each shooting is different. There’s no one reason for them.

There is a common denominator. It’s not mental illness, or divorce, or bullying, or the Internet, or video games, or no prayer in schools, or toxic masculinity, though each of those may be a contributing factor in some school shootings.

The common denominator is that school shootings are, well, shootings. Before we address the contributing factors, we must address that.

To do that, we must talk. Negotiate. Problem-solve. Not rant, spout slogans, or pass around memes. Not blame mythical “crisis actors.” None of that will help. Let’s discuss what proposed solutions are feasible, practical, and actually helpful.

This time the kids are taking the lead and speaking up. Mandatory suspension means their walkouts may fail, at least if they walkout until Congress does something, as was suggested.

But other students are speaking out in other ways – talking to the media, visiting elected officials and attending sessions of legislative bodies. Encouraging voter registration among their peers.

And you know, these efforts may fail as well. It’s difficult to get your message across when you’re trying to get the attention of people who live and die by ballots, not bullets.

Here’s the thing, though. With the Parkland school shooting, we may have reached a “tipping point” in our society. Even if legislation doesn’t work, as so many say it won’t, there is a force that can catch the nation’s attention.

Grass-roots activism.

Here I won’t praise the efforts of the 1960s, when under-30s protested and helped stop a war, though I surely could.

What I want to talk about is attitudinal change. Societal change. It can happen and it has happened.

Think about the things that used to be commonplace and succumbed to pressure from groups and individuals.

Smoking is a prime example. Despite push-back from tobacco lobbies and cigarette manufacturers, smoking has tapered off in public and in private. Restaurants started with smoke-free seating areas and now in some states are completely smoke-free. Public buildings and many private ones are too. Smoking around young children is particularly looked down on.

Why? People spoke up, including teens (see And society reacted. Look at old movies and how many characters in them smoked. Then look at modern movies and notice how few do. It’s almost like someone realized that these characters are representations of our changing society and – perhaps – role models for kids, even if only subliminally.

And look at drunk driving. MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving – changed society’s view of drunk drivers and prompted legislative change; for example, getting states to lower the limits for what is considered “impaired,” holding drinking establishments responsible for taking the keys from patrons too wasted to drive, and requiring harsher punishments for repeat offenders.

Non-legislative solutions are having an effect as well – the “Designated Driver” idea and PSAs that say “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk.” There are smaller, local efforts too, such as providing free cabs on the holidays associated with over-indulgence.

What happened in both examples was that society reached a tipping point. After so many deaths and so much ill health, individuals and groups decided that the prevailing practice had to change.

And change it did.

There are reasons to believe that the Parkland shootings may be that tipping point for change. For the idea that school shootings are not just an everyday reality – or shouldn’t be.

Businesses are cutting ties with the NRA, for one. These are protests that will get attention because they are backed up by dollars.

Sure, many teens (and adults and businesses and law-makers) will ignore the issue. Even teens succumb to the “it can’t happen here” mentality. But others are saying that it can and does happen anywhere. In elementary schools, where the students are too young to mount effective protests. In colleges, where students should.

And in the surrounding society, people are saying, “Enough already with the thoughts and prayers.” Even sincere ones have changed nothing, and insincere ones substitute for actual change.

Likely the change that is coming will be incremental and slow. And after the tipping point is reached and the mass of everyday Americans demand real answers to school shootings, maybe we can turn to the related factors like acceptance of bullying and the broken mental health care system. Grassroots efforts and public education are key.

But first, let’s listen to the kids. They have the most to lose.


Why Do Models Look So Mean?


You hear it on Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model.

Apparently, that’s the “look” that designers and fashion models and photographers want to portray. Do they really think it will sell clothes?

Someone must think so. But why? Why would I take fashion advice from someone who looks surly and disagreeable and fierce? Whatever happened to models that smiled, like they were enjoying their clothes and knew they looked good in them?

Actually, I think the models in ads that appear in “women’s” magazines and online sites and TV ads may smile from time to time. It’s a question of who buys the product. If women are buying a product – say a pair of jeans – they’d like to think that they will be delighted by them. They will smile.

(Maybe the women in SI‘s swimsuit issue smile too, but I’m not going to do the research on that. It’s doubtful that many of the men who read it are thinking, “I think I’ll buy that for my significant other. That’ll make her happy.” What they’re selling isn’t bathing suits.)

But when it comes to high fashion – and Valentine’s day perfume ads – the women pout at the least, and more likely snarl and glare, directly at the camera.

I don’t get high fashion (or haute couture, if you want to be classy). I don’t mean just that I don’t buy or wear it (which, you may have guessed, I don’t). I don’t get the psychology of it.

Are the fashion shows and ads trying to appeal to the “male gaze”? Obviously, they are, with the boobs and butts prominently displayed. But what about the faces? I understand that men are supposed to fantasize about having sex with these women. But don’t most men prefer a partner who looks happy about the encounter? Apparently, ad execs and fashion show coordinators believe that men prefer what they think is a sultry gaze, but more often looks like a man-eater who’s been dieting for a month.

Again, man-on-the-street men aren’t the target audience for high fashion. Seemingly, neither are non-independently-wealthy women. Who does that leave? Androgynous buyers for high-end department stores? Art directors of expensive, glossy magazines that cater to the glamour set? Other fashion designers?

In other words, people to whom the clothes may be important, but the women wearing them aren’t. The models are walking clothes hangers, so who cares whether they’re happy? And the fashion purveyors have convinced themselves that fierce is fashionable, as long as you’re not really trying to sell a product.

Of course, the smiling, laughing, dancing model isn’t all that accurate either. “Women laughing alone with salad” is the stereotype. But it appears in other forms – women dancing over how good their probiotics make them feel, frolicking playfully at the thought of new lipsticks and blow dryers, or singing about their favorite brand of cottage cheese. I roll my eyes at them until I’m afraid I’ll get stuck staring at the inside of my skull. Other times, I just assume they’re all on amphetamines.

Male models, now. No smiles there either, but the word for them is “aloof.” Half the time they don’t even look at the camera. If this is supposed to be attractive to the female gaze, again I don’t get it or must not have it.

The stereotype here is that women want cool, unapproachable men whom they can arouse and then domesticate. Think Mr. Spock, for example. Only with better abs.

Again, I’d prefer a partner who seems to enjoy being with me.

But maybe that’s just me.

Fed Up With Telemarketers!

First, let me say that telemarketing is (scams aside) honest, hard, low-paying work that I never would do myself, at least not if I had a choice in the matter.

But there are limits.

While the Obamacare enrollment window was open, I received a fair number of calls from folks that just wanted us to know that they had the perfect health insurance policy for us and would we be interested.

That was understandable.

I’d say, “Sorry, not interested. We just got health insurance coverage from my husband’s job.” And that would be that.

I thought that once the enrollment window closed, the calls would stop.

Silly me.

Most of the subsequent telemarketers were dispatched with a polite, “Please take me off your calling list.” They would say, “Thank you” or “Sorry to bother you” and hang up.

I thought that would be it.

Silly me.

There was one health insurance telemarketer that kept calling back. And calling back. And calling back. Sometimes several times in one day. For a while I turned my phone off, thinking that would discourage them.

Silly me.

One caller persisted. She left voicemail. And when I couldn’t keep my phone turned off any longer, she kept calling back. She had a long spiel before she stopped to take a breath and then ask me if I would be interested in healthcare insurance.

I tried waiting to the end of her pitch, then saying, “Please take me off your calling list.”

It was always the same person (Hi, this is Annie, from blah-blah insurance. Now that the window has closed for the Affordable Care Act, you can still get et endless cetera).

I took to talking at the same time she did, repeating over and over, “Please take me off your calling list. Please take me off your calling list.” Finally, she would get to the point in her spiel when she paused to take a breath and ask a question designed to elicit a response from the callee. I would repeat, “Please take me off your calling list,” and hang up.

I know I could have hung up as soon as I heard, “Hi, this is Annie,” but I wanted to get across the idea that she should simply not call back, ever. Ever, ever. Ever. (My phone is a stupid phone and doesn’t show the phone number of the calling party.)

Silly me had had enough. The next time Annie called, I talked over her spiel again, and at her pause for a response, said firmly but still reasonable politely, “There is a law that requires you to take me off your calling list if I ask you to. Do I have to report you?” and hung up.

I was bluffing. I had no idea who I should report her to. The FCC? Ma Bell? Some telemarketing regulatory agency? The Department of Repetitive Calls Department?

For the next call, we went through our usual routine, except that I said firmly, but crankily, “I will report you to the authorities.” (Still bluffing. I still had no idea to whom to report them,)

Then I reached the end of my proverbial rope. I was through with being polite. The next time Annie called and said her name, I simply screamed into the phone, “AAAAAAAAAHHH!” It woke up my husband, who was sleeping beside me.

I was a little ashamed of myself. Not for waking my husband, but because I don’t approve of blowing an air horn into telemarketers’ ears when they’re just trying to do a job. I’d like to think I was less likely to cause hearing damage than an air horn. But I had been patient and polite long enough.

It stopped the calls. I should have thought of it sooner.

Silly me.

Editing: How to Cut Your Golden Prose

Sometimes it’s necessary to cut your copy. Say you’re entering a contest, but your piece is over the word limit. Or you’re repurposing an article for a different market, which requires a lower word count. What do you do?

You cut, no matter how painful it is. It will still be quicker than writing entirely new copy. And you’ll actually improve your writing as you do it.

I offer a few examples from pieces I’ve had to rework, one about a cat that went from 936 to 586 words; and one on bipolar disorder which needed to get from 1624 words to under 1000.

Here are two techniques for shortening a piece of writing. (Likely they will lead you to some rearrangement as well.)

The Surgical Method 

Clip and snip unnecessary words. Tighten up the writing, which is always a good thing. Say it succinctly.

Take this sentence:

The cat froze, waiting to see what came next.

Now tighten it up:

The cat froze, waiting.

You’ll never miss those extra words. Or how about this:

If she allowed the human a glimpse of her bright eyes and sleek tri-colored fur, she might also listen to the low, comforting sounds that spoke of invitation.

It becomes:

If she allowed the human a glimpse of her bright eyes and sleek fur, she might also listen to the low, comforting sounds of invitation.

Earlier in the piece it was established that the cat was a calico, so “tri-colored” is unnecessary. “That spoke of” may sound nice, but do you need those words? Out they go.

Here’s one rewritten paragraph that saved 20 words:

“Calicos are almost always female. They need two X chromosomes to get that color pattern.” I knew I was being pedantic, but I wanted to keep the conversation out of emotional realms. Our big gray and white cat Django had died not long before, and I wasn’t ready to give my heart to another feline companion.


“Calicos are almost always female.” She wanted to keep the conversation out of emotional realms. The big gray and white cat had died not long before, and she wasn’t ready to give her heart to another.

Admittedly, surgical cuts gain you only a few words. But enough of them can make a difference, especially when combined with the next technique.

The Samurai Method

This involves cutting whole sentences and even whole paragraphs. Look closely at the first and last paragraphs. Is there a punchier beginning a paragraph in? Did you stop when you should have? In this piece on bipolar disorder, I cut three paragraphs at the end. They represented nothing more than fumbling for a pseudo-profound conclusion.

Or take this monster paragraph:

Then I met Kate, who was bipolar – and not well controlled on medication, to say the least. My envy lasted through her ambitious plans to make identical green velvet Christmas dresses for her three daughters. And vanished when I saw her tear them apart, recut them, start over, change her mind multiple times. You can write the ending to this one. There were no dresses, not by Christmas and not ever. Kate was riding the roller coaster – perhaps the most common metaphor for bipolar disorder – the peaks and troughs, swooping crashes, anticipatory climbs, stomach-clenching vertigo, and, for some, an abrupt stop at the end.

And look how much tidier it became:

Then I met Kate, who was bipolar – and not well controlled on medication. Kate was riding the roller coaster – the peaks and troughs, swooping crashes, anticipatory climbs, stomach-clenching vertigo, and, for some, an abrupt stop at the end. With all that, Kate never got anything done.

Yes, I lost a nice anecdote. But was it essential? Not when I had to lose more than 600 words.

This paragraph disappeared entirely:

I had heard how in the 1950s electroshock was used as a way to punish or control unruly, uncooperative, nonconforming women. And of course everyone knew about the Cuckoo’s Nest. The Snake Pit. As far as I was concerned, electroshock was right up (or down) there with icepick lobotomy, the frighteningly efficient epitome of former psychiatric treatments.

It was off the topic.

Here’s another case of too many details:

Those years are mostly a blur to me now. I remember sleeping a lot. I remember sitting on the sofa watching “reality” shows so I could see people whose lives were train wrecks worse than mine. I recall not having the wherewithal to add water and nuke a cup of macaroni and cheese. Not bathing. Not feeding the pets. Not paying bills. Not reading. Not caring.

This is much tighter and just as effective.

Those years are mostly a blur now and were immobilizing then. I remember sleeping a lot. Not bathing. Not eating. Not paying bills. Not reading. Not caring.


Cutting your own prose is seldom fun. But sometimes you just have to – and sometimes you even want to. Even famous books could have stood a little trimming. Just read some Victor Hugo or the first chapters of Ivanhoe if you don’t believe me.

Let’s Talk About Non-Celebrities Now

The news has been full to bursting with accounts of famous people caught up in sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, molestation, and rape scandals. Actors, directors, agents, politicians, sports figures (not so many of these), and religious leaders have been put on notice that inappropriate sexual behavior may well be tolerated for a time, but eventually will come to light. And that “eventually” is now.

That may be all well and wonderful, but the situation is not without its problems. There are the #MeToo backlash; the #Not All Men protestations; the concerns over “ruining” a man’s life, sports career, or future livelihood; the “mean” or “lenient” judges handing out punitive sentences or slaps on the wrist (respectively); explanations and definitions of “consent”; and the supposed gray area regarding what is and is not permissible between men and women, especially in the workplace, in flirting, and in dating.

This is a conversation that we need to have, try as some do to shut it down. But what worries me is that the emphasis is predominantly about the rich, the famous, the powerful and the women or men they demean.

The people being left out of the conversation are the average Joes and Janes – people who never appear in People, whose transgressions and victimizations never spark a word in even the local press.

Harvey Weinstein may be a Hollywood pariah, but what about the middle manager at the car plant who doles out time off and other perks to workers that laugh at his crude jokes and smile when he (or, sometimes, she) sets up an after-work pub visit that mysteriously turns out to be just the two of them?

What about the fast food worker whose boss continually rubs up against her backside as he passes her behind the counter?

What about the community college student who starts receiving unsolicited dick pics after her email address and photo get passed around?

What about the hotel clerk who finds himself regularly invited up to customers’ rooms, heh, heh?

What about the women and men who are just trying to make a living and have to put up with lewd, crude, demeaning, or threatening behavior just because they need to keep receiving a paycheck or a promotion or a better job assignment.

Some of these people have participated in the #MeToo campaign, sometimes anonymously, without naming their harassers or reporting their conduct. If they’re afraid or unwilling to be specific, if their complaints are never investigated, if they’re too far down the notoriety food chain to have a hope in hell that someone will take action, how will outing celebrity harassers help?

Mom-and-pop shops, small local business, and even some with multi-state presences have no H.R. department, or if they do, have one that concerns itself only with issues other than harassment in the workplace. Though there may be a policy against retaliation for reporting such issues, how likely is it to be enforced when the rules against sexual harassment are not?

Then there’s non-job-related harassment. Stalking, cyberstalking, unwanted attentions of all sorts that do not stop with a simple, clear no. Some of this behavior starts at shockingly young ages – middle school students engage in it. Ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends use revenge porn or other online harassment for which there is no recourse.

Admittedly, just because a person accuses a celebrity or a person of power doesn’t mean that she or he will be believed. Too often accusations are dismissed as whining, retaliation for some imagined slight, publicity-seeking, or just plain malice. But the climate in the United States at the moment is for some of these higher-ups to get their comeuppance.

Soon, I fear, the pendulum will swing in the other direction and the reports and accusations will again be ignored or pushed aside. You can see that beginning to happen already.

And in the meantime, average working people and students and tenants and – well, virtually anyone – will continue to be harassed with impunity and without effective recourse.

Because, after all, society cares more about the problems of the popular and the powerful.



Satisfying My Inner Child

I often joke that my husband’s inner child tops out at 11 (which makes it problematic to have sex without getting arrested). Or I say that a friend has an inner child “very close to the surface.”

I didn’t think I had an inner child. But then I realized that I must.

I need naps. Even if I’ve had a full eight hours of sleep, I often need to conk out for just a couple of hours in the afternoon. My doctor just put me on thyroid medication, so we’ll see if this goes away. But I hope not. I love naps. My inner child is atypical that way.

I have a collection of plushies (which we used to call stuffed animals until that got too confusing). Easters as a child always involved a plush bunny with my Easter basket.

Now I have a pirate Winnie the Pooh. I have a Raggedy John Denver doll that a friend made for me (the heart on his chest says, “Far Out”). I have a cat that looks just like a cat I once had. I have an official Vorkosigan Butter Bug hand puppet. A couple of armadillos. Assorted teddy bears and Beanie Babies. Once my husband and I went to a thrift store and pawed through an absolute vat of stuffed toys and found such lesser-known varieties as a camel, a snake, and Thing One. (We never did find Thing Two.)

I still need a woobie. Apparently coined for the movie Mr. Mom, the “woobie” is also known as a “blankie” and scientifically called a “comfort object.” (I wrote about these a while back in “I Want My Blankie!” ( Now in our house, any soft, warm, comforting thing made of cloth is a “woobie.” A bathrobe. A sweater. A body pillow. I even have a pair of woobie socks (fleece-lined).

I have an inner teen, too. She lives in a box inside my head. Throughout my teen years, I missed most of what was going on around me, likely from a combination of depression and having my nose stuck in a book (even while walking from class to class). So the inner teen makes up for those lost years.

She gets to have the experiences I never did. Painting her faux fingernails. Thinking “He noticed me! He noticed me!” when a boy notices me. (Well, when a man does, really. See above about getting arrested.) She gets to have mad crushes and wants to go on spending sprees. (I have to close the box and sit on the lid sometimes to prevent that. Or give her an allowance of $20 to spend.)

I enjoyed DisneyWorld. “The Happiest Place on Earth” was like a taunt to a depressed child, but as an adult, I could let my inner child go. I remember one time when at a business convention in Anaheim, the boss said he would get us tickets to DisneyLand if we wanted to take a potential client or vendor there. I replied, “I can’t even imagine wanting to do that.” But since then, I have gone to DisneyWorld several times, including with the friend whose inner child is close to the surface and my husband’s 11-year-old inner child. They all helped my inner child come out and play.

I love to go barefoot and sit on the floor. I don’t get much of a chance to do either, but I still love to. Or would if I didn’t step on pointy or gushy things and didn’t have to have someone to help me up.

I still like classic grilled cheese sandwiches. I’ll take them with bacon and gouda and avocados and whatever else is being offered, but what I wouldn’t give for one of my mother’s sandwiches – Wonder bread, margarine, and Kraft American singles, fried in a cast iron skillet. Gooey goodness. Since I can’t get that – and no one else makes them quite the same – I’ll savor them in memory with my inner child.




Why Blog?

I started blogging almost by accident. What I meant to do was start a daily journal to track my moods and activities. I quickly noticed that it was boring, whiny, and short.

So, I said, I’m a writer (though I have been mostly editing for ages). Why don’t I actually write something? Anything. Get my writing muscles back in shape. Why not blog?

But, I said, what shall I blog about? I happen to be bipolar (type 2) and I have years of experience being that, so why not blog about that? Thus was born “Bipolar Me” (

Wait, I said; that’s not all there is to me. What else can I blog about? The answer was stunning – everything else that interests me. Thus was born “Et Cetera, etc.” (, the blog you’re reading now.

After some thought, I decided to publish in each, once a week, on Sundays. Now, after several years of writing both blogs, I can say that both have affected me for the good, in addition to whatever good they may have done for others.

My blogs give me structure. As a work-from-home freelancer, I can easily get lost in the week. There are no lunch-with-the-work-gang Wednesdays or casual Fridays to remind me. Even calendars don’t help much. Is today the 27th? The 28th? Unless one of them is a major holiday, I have no idea.

But blogging identifies where I am in time, if not space-time. (The space is in front of my computer.) Wednesday: choose a topic and make notes or start thinking. Thursday and Friday: write and proofread. Saturday: add illustration and tags; proofread. Sunday: proofread, tweak, and post. Mondays and Tuesdays are blogging “weekends.”

My blogs keep me engaged. Sitting here in front of my computer, it’s hard to keep in touch with the outside world. When I search for topics – in news stories, in experiences I’ve had, in things people have said to me, in the sorts of things that seem to fall into (or out of) my brain – I am connected with the world outside. And when people read my blogs, and especially when they comment on them, I am in touch with them too. I may or may not have ever met cupcakewitch or huskybear or journeyupward, but I know them, at least a little.

My blogs may do some good. I know Bipolar Me does. It does good for me and it does good for readers as well. Symptoms, treatments, feelings, research, news, strategies – I hope that every week at least one person finds one take-away from my post.

Et Cetera, etc., being less well defined, has a more diverse readership. Some people like the things I write about writing; others like when I write about books or travel or language or politics or families or humor or … or … or…. If these posts can amuse, divert, educate, interest, or make someone think or laugh, then they have done some good.

My blogs allow me to share. It may be hard for people to find their way to my blogs, which are small potatoes in the world of blogging. So I repost my blogs at sites that solicit input on similar topics: The Mighty and Invisible Illness for Bipolar Me; and Post-40 Bloggers, Medium, SheKnows, Epic Freelancing, and (occasionally) Red Tricycle for Et Cetera.

I don’t expect that my blogs will ever garner hundreds of thousands of readers. I don’t expect ever to be “the new Bloggess” (no matter how much I would like to). I don’t expect to change the world.

But whatever else blogging has done for me, it’s lots more than a boring, whiny, short journal. And even when it’s work, it’s fun.

What could writing a blog do for you?

When You Have a Cold: Some Unsolicited Advice

Say you’ve got a cold or a light touch of the flu. Then keep far away from me. You feel awful and I don’t want to feel awful too. I know you don’t want visitors, but here I am. And at least I’ve brought a gift: a few suggestions for entertaining things you can do while you suffer in peace and quiet. Except for, you know, the coughing and sneezing and assorted other noises you’re making yourself. Relative peace and quiet, if you know what I mean.

Drink tea. It really doesn’t matter what kind, since you can’t smell it anyway. Earl Grey will smell just like jasmine. Peppermint and Irish Breakfast, the same. And if you want to, you can use it as the base of my father’s restorative tonic, which consists of tea, bourbon, and horehound candy (tea optional). Or boring old lemon and honey, if you insist, though my father would not approve.

Cuddle large, fuzzy cats. Even if you’re allergic to them. You’re already sneezing as much as humanly possible, so you have nothing to fear from dander. Bonus: A large, fluffy cat makes an excellent substitute for a heating pad or hot water bottle.

Read. Or pretend to. Actual reading may distract you from how miserable you are (unless you’re reading Les Miserables). Pretend-reading will encourage people to keep their voices low, plus it doesn’t matter if you fall asleep with the book elegantly displayed on your chest. (Make sure it has a classy dust jacket, even if the book inside is Fifty Shades of Grey. Which I don’t recommend, unless it’s for pretend-reading. It may lead to barfing, which may be in your future anyway.)

Eat chicken soup. Tell everyone that you need it for the fluids and the electrolytes. Egg drop soup is an especially good variety, since if you can’t convince someone in your household to make it and bring it to you, you can always convince the Chinese take-out down the street. Nibble saltines daintily, or the little fried things that look like Chinese tortilla strips.

Hit the Nyquil. And I don’t mean the non-drowsy kind. Sleep through as much of the cold as possible. Warning: Do not mix Nyquil with Southern Comfort or the bourbon-horehound mixture (see above). You’ll barf and you may be doing that already. Also, don’t mix Nyquil with cough syrup, which can cause unintended psychedelic effects and more barfing.

Squash tissues. Let them blossom all around you in a protective ring that no one will want to cross. If you try the ones with built-in lotion, don’t use them to wipe your glasses before actually trying to read (see above).

Call the doctor. Don’t go see the doctor. You’ve got a virus and there’s nothing she can give you for it. Just ask how long it is until you can get an appointment, then rest assured that your cold will be over before that. Unless you start making a sucky, moist kind of wheezing sound when you breathe. The advantage is it will keep people even farther away from you, but the downside is that you may have pneumonia, which is even less fun than a cold.

Use Vick’s Vapo-Rub. You won’t be able to detect the scent because your nose is busy with something else (snot), but other people sure will, encouraging them to keep a respectful distance. If you don’t have Vapo-Rub, try Ben-Gay. Bonus: Nice warm feeling on your chest. Note: If you use either Vapo-Rub or Ben-Gay, do not cuddle the large, fuzzy cats (see above). Unless you want to look like Bigfoot. Just sing “Soft Kitty” instead, or insist that someone else sing it to you.

Whine. Punctuate with coughs and sneezes. Again, the goal is to get people to leave you alone. If this isn’t working, move on to even more disgusting symptoms. Keep a bucket by your bed, just so people get the idea that you could use it at any moment.

P.S. I’ll give you one guess why I wrote this. If you don’t get it right, I’ll start whining. And coughing. And sneezing. And barfing. Just bring me some egg drop soup and leave quietly.

You wouldn’t want to catch what I’ve got.