Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Perpetual Craft of Blogging

I don’t know how your Christmas went this year, but mine was actually…somewhat melancholy. In an unexpected way.

It didn’t help, first of all, to come down with some sort of fever on Tuesday—which hit right after meeting a friend for lunch, leaving me to spread some Christmas “cheer” throughout the community as I unwittingly powered on through my day, despite flagging energy. By sundown, I was flat out. Ditto Wednesday. Yes, Christmas Eve.

Christmas day, therefore, was barely more than a foggy-headed attempt at going through the motions—not, incidentally, the way I prefer celebrating the day. If you’d been wondering why I didn’t have much to say in the last few days, now you know why.

In the relative quiet of the evening, after a wonderful dinner (courtesy of my talented husband, who, in addition to everything else well done, is an excellent chef), just about the time I would be calling relatives with Christmas greetings, I got to thinking about all the family members I wouldn’t be calling this year. My father would be first on that list; at twenty years my mother’s senior, he has been gone for decades. Likewise, my maternal grandparents, who joined him within the next fifteen years. Then came my own mother. And most recently, my aunt.

It’s been barely a year since my aunt’s passing, back in Ohio. It’s courtesy of her careful preservation of family trivia that I have the letters, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera from the lives of my grandparents and even her childhood and early adult years with my mother to share with you here on posts at A Family Tapestry.

My aunt used to be a Home Economics teacher, back in the day when it was not frowned upon to think that teaching someone how to cook or sew would be a useful thing. While I was not keen on taking “Home Ec” when I reached those junior high school years, it was somehow different to know my very own special sewing teacher was coming to New York for a family visit. I remember asking her to take me to the local fabric shop to buy material to make a stuffed animal when I was quite young. That was what a doting aunt would do. And I loved it.

Going through all my aunt’s belongings in preparation to sell her home after her passing, it was interesting to see what she felt was important enough to save. Of course, there were the obligatory legal documents, important papers, to do lists, and other records. But in addition to the files of warranties for machines and equipment records she meticulously kept—everything from bi-annual furnace-cleaning records to receipts for her newest computer purchase—she had some files that I have to say only she would have seen as worthy of saving.

One of those files was an entire book of Jack Frost knitting instructions.

I can’t say I’ve ever seen my aunt knitting, nor do I remember her wearing any knit apparel that she, herself, had made, but there it was, perfectly preserved for now over sixty years—at her fingertips, just as if, on a whim, she might start up a project.

Knitting has never been my thing. In fact, I’m not much of a crafter at all. If there were anything creative I'd do on a regular basis, I’d have to say it was blogging. So, perhaps blogging is my craft.

How different a craft blogging is from knitting, though. Knitting has a precise beginning and a specific end. It involves counting and keeping track of patterns. It calls for lots of repetition. And a known quantity of material. Not a one of those details do I favor.

Writing, on the other hand, starts with a blank page. From there, the world is wide open. I like that.

Everything is different—or at least can be different—when it comes to writing. And merging that with a blog format? Letter-writing on steroids.

So it is that, while the knitting fashionista can at some point hold up her creation and proclaim Voilà! C’est fini! the blogger plods along with the next idea always in development.

And that is just concerning the craft of writing the post. As with the content—always in development—so the process of blogging.

It’s that process of blogging I wish to tinker with this week. I’ve been toying with some ideas for change. Some I’ll likely implement soon. Some I’ll keep thinking about, but may not apply for a long time—if ever. Some others? Well, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings any if you’d like to add your two cents to my musings this week.

I do a lot of reading about blogging. There are actually blogs about blogging. Some are highly respected. Some have advice which may not apply as well in the microcosm of genea-blogging—for instance, a recent discussion on one blog about the seeming lack of usefulness of widgets like Linkwithin, a conclusion reached by others with which I happen to disagree.

I like my little spot, here on Blogspot, but feel the need for some graphic-design house-cleaning. I want to add a little, take away some, re-arrange some. But somehow keep it all basically the same. Oh, I know there are some duties I’ve long neglected, like adding a copyright statement—though, if I understand it correctly, if I wrote it, the copyright is mine, statement or not. Still, I’d like to make that official.

Useful would be some static pages like a welcome page with explanation of what to expect for those who, unwittingly, stumbled upon this corner of the blogosphere, courtesy of a favored search engine. And a list of surnames and geographic placements, dished up in an organized fashion, might help as well.

Static pages call for navigational devices—like tabs, for instance—but those can mess up the streamlined flow of appearances. I wonder about the busyness of too much coming at a first-time reader, all on the front page, and recoil at the thought of adding much without subtracting anything.

But what to give up? Sometimes, I wonder if showing a Blog Archive listing is even worth the digital real estate it takes up—would substituting buttons for the page tabs I need, in place of the long details of the listed archives, be the zero sum game I’m after?

One thing I know: much as it seems to be a convenient resolution to the dilemma, I’d rather have this quandary than the one-two-three step instructions of the Jack Frost knitting book of my aunt’s era. While at the end, she could hold up a sweater and be done with it, I’m free to tweak and tinker to my heart’s content, changing as the need arises and the craft evolves. Blogging may have advanced out of its pioneer years, it’s true, but it still interfaces with a wide open world of possibilities yet to explore.


  1. Glad to hear you feel a bit better, I would have thought your sunshine would keep the germs away. You just do what you want to..a search box might be can add it as a widget. I am too afraid to change too much, I might mess something up! :)

    1. That's just the thing, Far Side: we've (fortunately) gotten our rainy season weather back, and, until two days ago, I hadn't seen the sun in a long time! But yes, I'm better now, and glad of it.

      The search box is a good point. Thank you for bringing it up. I've been wondering about that--or at least adding a page with clickable surnames, leading back to articles on that family line, in case others are researching the same names. That should definitely up the cousin bait ante!

  2. OMG - I spent 2 days at Dameron with bronchitis. I am just now getting up and around. Did we infect each other? LOL Merry Christmas my dear, dear friend.

    1. Oh, no! Sheri, how awful! Hope you made it home before Christmas. So glad you are feeling better. Here's hoping for a New Year, free of hospital stays!!!

  3. Jacqi, sorry you were not well! Now that you are feeling better enjoy the rest of the holidays.

    1. Thank you, Colleen. I am feeling much better. know how it goes...better take it easy to avoid any relapses. I'll just spend some time resting on the couch...reading your Mark Family book, which I got for Christmas ;)

  4. An interesting comparison of crafts! I did some tweaking of my blog several months ago, and it was probably the first time I had given serious thought to what was there or not there and what it all meant. A good exercise. I vote you keep the blog archive. I like them. I don't understand other people's objection.

    1. I remember the Big Reveal at your blog, Wendy! It does look nice. I probably won't make as many changes to the graphic appearance as you did. (I'm too chicken!) But will keep your suggestion in mind about the archive listing. Thanks for the input.

  5. Goodness... those models are so skinny - but the sweaters look really nice!

    I hope you feel better today.

    1. I noticed that too, Iggy. Precursors to "Twiggy," I suppose :)

      And yes, I feel much better, thank you!

  6. Hello. I have been reading your blog for about a year, It brightens my morning. My people came over from Sweden in 1880 and I am just getting started with my family tree. You have been an inspiration to me. What an interesting journey. Your trip to Ireland was fascinating. I like the way your page is set up. Very easy to navigate. Simply put, thank you for the great story and information. PS: I too caught that Christmas Grinch bug and am just now starting to feel better.

    1. Mahli, glad to hear from you! I'm so glad to know I'm part of your morning!

      Best wishes with your family tree. I have some friends who have researched their Scandinavian roots--including one who got to travel back to Norway this summer. I hope you find some inspiring stories among the historic details of your own family's lines. It certainly is a rewarding project to find those details and preserve them for future generations.

      Yes, the Christmas Grinch bug...what an apt way to put it! I am glad to hear you are feeling better.


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