thank you for reading

The Vatican Secret Archive.
Courtesy of The Vatican Secret Archives, Vdh Books

Dear Internet
The other day I was checking my stats and noticed that a lonely/stalking/creepy/admiring soul had decided to go through my entire archive and read every single thing I had written. They went through 500+ pages ranging back to 1995 — and that is just what’s up online. If you go through the archive, you realise there are large swathes of time missing: months in some years, years in some decades.
I was both pleased as punch and alternately creeped out.
Conversation has been happening on Facebook about the steady stream of writing that has been coming from me as of late, and I responded to a friends comment with the following:

It IS true I get more commentary/page views when the shit is deep, but it’s mentally and emotionally exhausting to keep digging that ditch every day. I’m not sitting in a corner thinking deep thoughts all day erry day, and most people aren’t either.
Modern wisdom seems to be to have a singular mission with your site and keep on with that mission. So if you’re on about dairy free cooking, bee keeping, or whatever – that is all you’re going to (mainly) talk about. That’s how most of the big name bloggers tend to operate and it works for them. But frankly, that’s not how I operate and once I gave myself the permission to write about whatever I damn well please, writing has become a helluva lot easier.

Up until I published Live Action Sexual Harassment, EPbaB had a couple of of goals, the main being to aggressively document my mental and physical health, which so far has been fairly successful. Secondly was to document the little things and not so little things that happen in my life. Like many who keep their journals online with an eye to a public view, I also came up with a few different series’ that seem to be appreciated by the public such as my weekly wrap-up of my interests at Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes,  The Packing Lists series which always gets a lot of comments and views, and my erratically updated So, You Want To Be A Librarian/Archivist series which remains fairly popular. A few other series include Le Mi Passioni which documents the things that I love and Kalendae Januariae about the small and not so small changes I want to make to my life.
So while I’ve been writing online for a very long time (my 16th anniversary is next year!), I am no where near readership that I once was or could be. I know this is for a lot of reasons: Domain name changes, blog name changes, lost of interest by the readers, I stopped writing for a few years, and probably a few more other reasons to add to this list. In the year since I’ve started becoming more assertive in writing more regularly, my readership grows at small, but steady, clip. I was, and still am, pleased with the content I’m writing. I was, and still am, thrilled when people say they are inspired, touched, or moved by what I write.
None of that has changed and will never change.
But sometimes you feel, as you do, what is the point of all this, really? When I started doing this online writing thing in the late ’90s, it was a novel act that no one would ever imagine in becoming a way of life. Defining a “blog” now tends to come to mean a product or a brand, less about content, even less about writing, and more about selling and page views.
I don’t see myself as a brand. Or a product. But I supposed you could style what I do as any of those things when people email me to thank on the advice for being dairy free, or they found something else useful on my site. The service you could present I am selling is me and my experiences, which is not necessarily a bad thing since those experiences are freely available.
Then Live Action Sexual Harassment happened.
I wrote Live Action Sexual Harassment right after I came home from the pub, in Evernote on my iPad because my laptop was almost dead. I did not care if it was polished, grammatically correct, or even coherent. I had something to say and I needed to get out. Then. Now.
My charging brick had been dead once I got to Monterey a few days before and my laptop was nearly half out of juice when I discovered the dead brick. If I could squeak out five minutes out of the damn battery, maybe even less, to get the entry into WordPress and get it formatted and published, I would have been thrilled. Several of the WP management apps for the iPad are bonkers, and I had already lost some previous work when trying to get previous offerings up. But I had to get it written and if I could not get into my site while in California, I would do it when I came home.
I woke up Wednesday morning, booted up my laptop for the last time that trip, and was able to get the entry in, formatted, and published. I had few spare battery moments to create a few tweets to be pushed out later in the day and also enough time to double check for spelling and grammar errors before the final publishing. Once I was satisfied everything was to my expectations, I closed down my laptop and started getting ready for the day.
The entry posted mid-morning on Wednesday and within hours, my site had already eclipsed its previous record for day page views. By the end of the calendar day, the entry, and my site, would have earned 10x the traffic it would normally would have seen. In addition to the site traffic, the original tweet was RT several dozen times and variations of of that tweet pointing to the work was close to double that number.
Within a couple of hours of posting, and I was on the conference floor, I became known as “the girl who wrote that post.” Strangers I had never met approached me and talked about being brave, raw, and honest. I got emails, tweets, and comments from friends and strangers about similar things happening to them.
Having experiencing some notoriety in the late ’90s for exposing a hacker fraud, a similar chain of events had happened: I was found first, then I wrote something, I went viral, page and reader views skyrocketed, then levelled out for awhile, my life went insane, readership slowed down and then petered out.
To answer my previous question of, “What is this all for, really?” – the answer remains, and will always remain, to express myself in the only way possible. Some days it is going to be fluff, and other days it’s going to be depressing, and some others a combination of both or something entirely different. There is no theme here – unless you count the theme as me. There is no agenda – unless you count self-expression as an agenda. Some days, like today, the content is going to flow. Other days it will be halting and broken. Pitch perfect grammar, flow, and spelling and then broken words, missed commas, and lost trains of thought.
But that is how life works – nothing is always properly formatted, coherent, or sometimes even sustainable. If you are looking for a confessional, conversational tone, and often deeply revealing look into one person’s life, with occasional foray into the silly: I’m your girl.
And thank you for reading.
P.S. Someone once asked me how long it takes to write an entry so I thought I’d eyeball the time for this one: From conception (a comment I posted on FB that sparked the post), to finding the image, writing, editing, re-editing, more editing, polishing, and formatting took me under two hours. The chunk of it was consecutive, but the last hour was broken up over several hour gaps while I was doing something. Total word count: 1300. On average, I can write clean 750 words an hour.

This day in Lisa-Universe in:

Le mie passioni, parte 3: Gardening

(Le Mie passioni,  Italian translation of “my passions,” is a an occasional series of things I really, really love.)

Magnus coneflower (foreground) and phlox peppermints, July 9, 2011.

As we slip-side towards the middle of July, summer is finally taking hold of us here in Michigan after a long, desolate winter and a very odd spring. I explained to TheHusband recently that my need to be outside and doing something, anything is more towards getting rid of the cabin fever syndrome that is still a carryover from winter, when we could barely leave the house, then actually wanting to accomplish (despite best intentions) something on our grounds. Sad, but true.
Our veg garden, photo taken from the garage roof, 05/24/11.

TheHusband and I have been at gardening odds at each other since the snows have melted: He’s only interested in working in the vegetable gardens while I distinctly remember that I wholly promised with all my heart to work on the flower gardens to get them cleaned up and prepped for the season. This may not seem like a bad trade off until you take into consideration that we have nothing BUT flower gardens: There is not a single blade of grass, in sight, on our entire property. The previous occupants was a gardening maestro, even my mother-in-law noticed that under all the nearly rotten foliage were rare and expensive plants. The problem, however, was that the previous occupant planted them willy nilly, perennials on top of perennials with the ground cover filled in with creepers such as nettles, English ivy and archangel to fill in the holes, that it is literally a needle in the haystack to get to the good stuff. Our job, my job really, was to sort out the rot, figure out what is underneath the weeds, the creepers and the trash to see what was left behind.
Wisteria to be composted.

Our first forays into the gardens in the spring, we got easily overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done. We slowly cleared out English ivy tap roots that weighed in as much as 30-40 pounds and were settled along the brick of our garage, I pulled wheel barrel after wheel barrel of ivy that was settled around the urban garden landscape and part of our backyard. TheHusband chopped down and uprooted junk trees and bushes that were strangling the more expensive flora and blocking out their sun. But it seemed for every weekend worth of work we did, we discovered that more work had to be done.
While our veg garden beds were laid out years ago, the wood used to build the containers is all rotting and will need ot be replaced next year. English ivy is so dominant in our yard that it is also strangling the vegs and before we build the new containers in veg garden, we’ll have to till the fuck of the land to cut up all of the English ivy roots. For weeks now we’ve been hiding in our house, attempting to ignore the wild jungle that is our yard. Every once in while, one of us will kick the other into action to go out and do something in the yard whether it is to water it, tend to the vegetables, chop up some compost or weed.
But again, the more we do, the more overhwlemed we become and the cycle continues to repeat itself. TheHusband suggested a week or two ago that we just say fuck it and hire a landscaper to have them clean out the weeds, the creepers and the ivies and get it looking good again. If that didn’t work, if it would be far too time consuming or expensive, hire them to tear the hell out of yard, till it back to the soil so that we could start afresh, design it the way that we want it. All of this costs money, something we don’t have right now as unexpected costs keep becoming, well unexpected. And personally, I don’t see the point of hiring someone to come do the work we can do it ourselves. Yes, granted, it sucks; it’s getting to be unbearably hot, but if I can weed a fairly large section the yard in under a few hours, think of how much I can get down with a few hours a day?
And I don’t mind the weeding – there is a zen like state I fall into when I’m out there working. I took a stand and pointed out that part of this problem was our own fault: If we only worked a few hours a week on it, instead of few hours a month, the amount of work would not seem so terrible. So we’ve decided that I would be in charge of the weeding and the planting and TheHusband is in charge of all the removing and the chopping. After my declaration of war against our garden, I spent the last week, a few hours after work each day, working steadily on our front yard. It is beginning to look clean but definitely more bare with the ivy and the creeper gone but now we can fill those bare areas with non-aggressive plants and other pretty flora. I’ve also discovered brick pathways, long covered up by the ivy and extra dirt, that there is a method to the previous occupants madness and it is up to me to decode it.
I’ve also realised, as I keep working outside, that I like weeding so much because not only is it to some degree meditative, but that it is also very much like being Indiana Jones. I keep finding so much stuff in the ground, besides trash, such as Indian arrow heads, broken pieces of random pottery, hat pins, old gardening tools, and accouterments. I keep a little bucket for non-composting items that need to be removed and it sometimes is a virtual treasure trove of strange and wondrous items.
I thought about creating a new Tumblr entitled, “Things found in my garden.” I’ve stocked up on wife beaters, 45 SPF, hair ties and even bought a pair of Crocs. My pasty skin is getting brown for the first time in years and freckles are appearing on my face. While our vegetable garden may not yield much this year, our fruit bearing cherry tree is struggling and the yard looks like a war zone, soon it will look beautiful and I can say it was all done because of me.

Le mie passioni, parte 2: Penguin Books

(Le Mie passioni,  Italian translation of “my passions,” is a an occasional series of things I really, really love.)

Penguin Books
This is not a librarian thing, an English major thing or an archivist or design thing: It’s simply just a Lisa-thing. The lust began in my youth but became personified in 2005 when started selling the complete Penguin Classics collection for a mere $8,000 USD (now pricing at $13,000 USD and change). Nearly 1100 titles of the greatest works of literature – ever in the history of the written word. Instant library, beautiful editions and awesome editors and translators.
Then, Penguin started outdoing themselves by presenting the classics (i.e. Jane Austen, Ian Fleming and F. Scott Fitzgerald) reworked with new cover designs by leading designers, releasing additional classics to bring the “complete library” up to 1300+ titles, introducing the deluxe classics, reworking their Great Food series, and of course, they have a fantastic backlist of contemporary titles. Squee! In addition, Penguin gets and uses social media with gusto: they are on the Facebooks, Twitters, RSS feeds galore and my favs, Penguin podcast and Penguin Classics podcast; Penguin just does so many things with such passion and thoroughness, that if it is wrong to love a publisher so hard, then, I just don’t ever want to be right.

Le mie passioni, parte I: European dream

(Le Mie passioni, Italian translation of “my passions,” is a an occasional series of things I really, really love.)

I have been working on the Conversations about Mother cycle these past few weeks, only to find that I am emotionally drowning. The entries are all over the place, heavily bloated and I’m finding it difficult to make cuts and edits where there should desperately be cuts and edits.
I should have made an outline. The whole purpose of this exercise is to get rid of the pent up energy that prevails about my family, it is a “them vs me” moment, and yet this time the “them” is the words themselves. In addition, someone very important to me stepped back into my life after some time which pushed my heart beyond capacity. But that is another story for another time. Many of you may already know that I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2003-4ish.1 One of the techniques for managing BPD is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and one of my favorite DBT tricks, as it were, is self-soothing. The idea is to create an environment, a safe haven, of things that feel, taste, smell and are visually pleasing to me. I’ve decided to step that up a notch and create a visceral list of things that soothe me. To remember, to remind, to help whenever I feel like I’m in crisis. Additionally, I decided that it may be time to infuse a little frivolity into my writing and this blog, to take the pressure off the Conversations about Mother cycle and the heavier stuff. I’m not writing because I’m mopey about the cycle and when I’m mopey about a cycle, I’d rather discover 15 new ways to reinvent the wheel then write. I also realized, after wandering around the blogosphere as of late, that sometimes the very best writing comes when we’re not taking ourselves so seriously. And if there is anything I have learned about myself in these last few years, sometimes the stick is wedged up my arse a tad too snugly.
Forthcoming is a list of things that are capturing my heart at the moment, one per blog entry to keep it on the lighter side. In no particular order, things that I’m passionate about as of late:

Castello Nel Borgo, Terni, Umbria, Italy

.EU Vacation Home
If you’ve been paying attention (and I know you have), the headers that rotate throughout my site are all images taken by me from trips across the pond. Paris, Rome, Edinburgh to name a few cities, I’ve been to eight countries in the .uk and .eu since 2004, with TheHusband and I planning on visiting more in the future. While TheHusband and I do not typically agree on a lot of things (music, books, film), we do agree on lifestyle choices. We’re both desperate to shed our American lifestyles and head across the pond, permanently. Our goal is to accelerate payments on Throbbing Manor (payoff in under 15 years), fast pass student loans (payments currently set so the final payment is to be made in 2021) and continue to save money in our villa fund. The ultimate goal, if all goes to plan, is within a decade we’ll BOTH be debt free and have a good chunk to put towards our vacation/European home.
But where to move to? My desires to live in various places is always dependent on the moment: When watching Doc Martin, I was desperate to move to Cornwall and open up a B&B. Then I’m reading P.G. Wodehouse and M.C. Beaton and I want to be in the Cotswolds, in a thatched little cottage while creating merriment and havoc around the countryside, while hilarity ensues. Again, while running a B&B or a used bookshop. Or I want to be in the Highlands, own a sheep farm while spinning my own wool. I’ve got dreams! TheHusband is much simpler, he just wants land, fruit trees, and a bubbling brook. In seriousness, we’re looking at places in Italy for our future dream/vacation home. Why? We love the culture, the food and the people. Italy is essentially the Detroit of Europe, therefore real estate is cheap. We’ve been to the south (me in Rome) and the north (TheHusband in Milan and Florence).
It’s fairly centrally located to most of mainland Europe. I have a huge art history boner for Baroque, specifically Caravaggio and want to see all of his works in person, at least once. Italian is a romance language and my sketchy French would help me tremendously to learn it, and it would be wise for me to have another language proficiently under my belt before we moved. While I could be happy just about anywhere across the pond, and so thus would the TheHusband, right now Italy calls to our soul. After we settled on Throbbing Manor, we started looking at Italian real estate. Right now, it’s Umbria. Other days, it’s Abruzzo. Who knows where the wind (or in this case, the olive oil) may take us?
1. Part of the hiccup with writing the Conversations about Mother cycle is that I need to delve into BPD and discuss it. It’s one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses and I should be bringing a voice to it – problem is, sometimes my heart breaks and I just do not feel strong enough to do it. But I have to and, I will.

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