Here Lies Dina, She Was Rarely At a Loss for Words

So there it was, at the top of my stats page, the number of posts which have appeared on Wine and Cheese (Doodles). The last one, about my son’s extreme origami frustration was number 499.

Which makes this one…500.

That’s a lot of posts. Like, seriously a lot of posts. Now, full disclosure, some of those have been re-blogs of old posts, especially during the summer months when everything slows down to a hot climate pace. One was a post I ran from a source who wished to remain anonymous, but we’re still looking at a hell of a lot of ideas, passionate pleas, complaints…and words–some of them four letter.

My posts average about 800 words. That means that, even conservatively, we’re looking at between 350 and 400 THOUSAND words.


For comparison:

The word count of The Hobbit is 95, 356
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? 257,045
A Game of Thrones: 298,000
Even 500 posts later, I’m still well under Infinite Jest at 483,994. Which is just fine by me.
Consider also: The average first time novel is around 80,000 words.
That means there are nearly four novels worth of words about parenting, living abroad, sex, marriage, kids, feminism, politics floating around here.**

I have, beyond my wildest intentions, achieved my objective. I’ve amassed a body of work. It’s a body which sometimes resembles Frankenstein’s monster, stitched together higgeldy-piggeldy, but it’s my monster. Some of it has even been pretty damn popular.

Nine Expats You’ll Meet Abroad has been viewed about 75K times
Four Expats and a Funeral, approximately 30K times
The Revolution will be Uterized a little over 20K times

Plenty of others have been viewed (and hopefully read) between five and ten thousand times. Not bad for a middle-aged woman sitting behind a desk who doesn’t like to shill her stuff too much.

Some posts have been singled out by the powers-that-be at WordPress over the years. When Freshly Pressed was still a thing, three of my posts were chosen by editors.

Ladies Who Lunch
The Elephant in the Room, and
Love Poems are a Dime a Dozen

Since then WordPress has switched over to their Discover feature and the blog’s been singled out twice:

A Proportional Response, and
Sorry I’ve Been a Shitty Friend: A Multiple Choice Letter

WordPress claims it has 75 million blogs.
Not bad.
Not bad at all.

After five years and 500 posts, I’m still none the wiser. I can never tell which posts will resonate. There have been some I’ve loved that have sunk faster than a stone, like If You Told Me I’d Be Quoting Kenny Rogers and the more recent The War on Christmas. There have been others, personal favorites, like What It Feels Like For a Girl or Nine Expats You’ll Meet in a Galaxy Far Far Away or which, for whatever reason, haven’t done as well as I would have thought.

I’ve done poetic, I’ve done heart-felt, I’ve done satire. I’ve done funny, serious, sad. I’ve done marriage, parenting, siblings, sex, politics, women, men, rage, writing, feminism, race, history, movies, obituaries. There aren’t too many questions I see posed these days where I feel I don’t have a blog post which addresses or answers it. There are times I don’t even comment anymore, but just leave a link to an old blog post. Those posts usually capture my feelings about any given subject with more nuance than I can manage in a comment box or a 140 character tweet.

I’ve had a multitude of pieces run on other sites like Bust Magazine and Scary Mommy…(really, there have been too many to list here, but hey, there’s this: Publications)

Basically, I’ve done what I set out to do. Actually, I’ve probably tripled what I set out to do. And I’ve done it all on my own terms, organically, without advertising, or following just for follow backs. I have a limited amount of time on this mortal coil. If I follow your blog, it’s because I like what you have to say. If I interact with you, it means it’s because I appreciate you. If you’ve reached out to me and I haven’t gotten back, it means it’s gotten lost in the shuffle of a middle-aged mind.

I’m pretty proud of this body of work, the heart that’s gone into most of it, the calloused fingers, the numb ass.

So here we are:
5 years.
500 posts.
400,000 words.

What the hell do I do now???

All suggestions welcome.


**Fwiw, this isn’t including the number of words in the actual novel I wrote. Or the one I’m writing now. Or the even higher number of words edited out.

I suppose then if, upon my headstone, it read: Here Lies Dina, She Was Rarely At a Loss For Words, I’d be just fine with that.




Interrupting My Regularly Scheduled Programming…

please stand byFor nearly four years I’ve been plugging away at this blog. I’ve covered a spectrum of topics from parenting to LEGO to life as an expat. Some posts do better than others. Some folks come for different reasons. Usually I follow a loose, self-imposed ‘rotation’ in terms of topics. Until recently….

If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll surely have noticed that for the past two months, the majority of my posts have been political in nature. Where I can, I’ve tried to find the humour in there, but I’m not going to lie…it’s hard out there for a gal. I’ve been posting more frequently, but the topics have been less varied.

I’ve spent the last week or so trying to figure out why. I mean, obviously the outcome of the U.S. election is important, not just to me, but to a lot of people. But really, what does one lone blogger sitting with a lap top on a couch with a sink-hole going to do about the outcome? And yet something keeps compelling me to write–perhaps it is merely to make sense of the craziness for myself.

Writing is like bread and butter to me. It’s both the way I sustain myself intellectually, but it’s also a luxury. And it’s the height of vanity to push my own ideas and ideals on anyone who happens to come across the page. Yet I keep doing it.

If nothing else, the last four years of regular blogging has taught me to trust my gut, and to trust my heart. To go on the page where my fingers take me. Right now, that is trying to untangle my own identity with that of my country, with that of myself as a woman, wife, mother. There’s been a lot of rage. There’s been a fair bit of swearing. There’s been a lot of angry keyboard sounds emanating from my sink hole couch.

I know I will get back to the regularly scheduled posting. The kids will go back to school and the middle school drama and life with boys will take over. New observations of a broad abroad will take precedence and my heart will once again slow down. I’ll walk away with a new sense of myself, of my country, and of how the two work together.

So, if you’re an expat follower, don’t give up on me. If you’ve come around to commiserate about finding LEGOs in the fold of your front loading washer, those posts will be back too. Normal programming will eventually resume…I mean, November’s not that far away, right?

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking around.


You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ’til Someone Being An Ass Makes it Clear

screaming-womanRecently I had, for lack of a better word, a situation, with another mother. This situation resulted in me, to put it bluntly, losing my shit.

I am not ashamed to admit it. I was seething. I was practically vibrating with incredulity. I furiously messaged my husband who was away at the time, my fingers flying over the keyboard.

Who does she think she is???” I typed. There were lots of ALL CAPS and copious !!!!!!!!

“What kind of mother thinks it is ok to say to another mother that her child isn’t good enough? What kind of person is too stupid not to at least come up with a plausible lie?” Followed by more !!!!

I had fantasies of marching the offending mother through the school yard with a Game of Thrones bell, tolling Shame! Shame! Shame! behind her as she made her way into the cafeteria. I composed scathing emails filled with righteous anger. I authored imaginary text messages using words like What and The and others that end in uck. My thumb hovered over the send button.

More than anything though, I dreaded telling my son he wouldn’t be attending a party he had been talking about for weeks. A party the rest of his group of friends would be attending. A party he had been originally (apparently conditionally, provisionally) invited to. I prepared myself for his upset.

Then something funny happened. When I told him, he shrugged. My son merely shrugged. He said it was ok. No big deal.

horror woman

“Did something happen between you two?” I asked him. He shook his head. My son is a good kid, but he’s not a cyborg. If he’d done or said something to offend his friend, enough that his friend didn’t want him to come to party they’d planned and talked about, well, then I needed to know. Yet he could think of nothing and nor could I.

And in that moment, my ten-year-old son, with nothing more than a shrug and a shake of his head proved himself to be more mature than both the other mother and me.

For that alone I owe the other mother a thank you. Her actions reminded me my children continue to surprise me, each and every day. Sometimes they surprise me with their tenacity. Sometimes with the solutions they imagine, solutions I could never dream of. And sometimes they surprise me with maturity that belies their years, with a forgiveness which outstrips my own.

This was one of those times.

So for opening my eyes once again to the goodness in my child, for his capacity to forgive, I thank her.

We spoke about the whole thing for a while.

“You know what?” I said to him. “Your friend is an ass. And so is his mother.”

And then we laughed. No, it’s wasn’t my finest let’s-not-call-other-people-names moment, not my best turn-the-other-cheek lesson, but it was a moment of raw honesty with my son. And yes, I admit in my moment of pettiness, it made me feel better.

For that moment of unfiltered honesty I shared with my son, I thank her.

“It’s no way to treat a friend, is it?”

“Nope,” he answered.

“I think you’re a better friend than that.” I said to him.

“You don’t need to worry about me,” he said. Then, in true ten-year-old form, he asked if he could go on his iPad.

Sometimes it takes someone acting like an ass to remind you of what you’ve got. My son is better than pettiness. He is a good friend, one who goes out of his way to make friends with the new kids. Every year I’ve had parents seek me out and pull me aside to whisper their sons were grateful for his friendship, that he made them feel at home. In fact, she herself was one of those parents not that long ago.

Sometimes as a mother you forget, you forget how kind and nice and decent your own kids are. You get caught up in the sibling fighting and the bedtime struggles, the day-to-day whining and constant demands.

So thank you for the reminding me what a great kid I’ve got.

Shocked woman on telephoneAt the end of the day, as my son reminded me, it’s really not a big deal. I can see now that my reactions were exaggerated, my indignity a bit over the top. A bit. Maybe she just doesn’t like my kid. That’s ok, I get it. There are kids I’ve met along the way who have rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe she was nervous about numbers. Maybe she doesn’t like me. Maybe she doesn’t like how often I swear or my tattoos or whatever. I’m sure, in her mind, she was trying to do the best by her own child. I can’t find fault with any of that.

Thing is, you can do all those things without putting another child down or stepping on their feelings. It’s never ok, never classy or tactful or advised or any other big word you can come up with to say to another mother, sorry, your kid didn’t make the cut. Your child isn’t good enough.

And for that I thank her too, because the message–both the actual one and the one it implied–made it clear to me that for all my tiger mom feral anger, for all my Game of Throne influenced fantasies, I am better than that.

I’m raising my sons to be better than that too.

And it’s working.



Dear Reader…

Jane EyreIf I were Ms. Austen or a Bronte sister, this is the point at which I would say:

Dear Reader…

After two decades of procrastination, fifteen months of on and off again writing, one month of manic non-stop writing, sixty index cards, and several weeks of juggling scenes until I thought my brain was going to spontaneously combust, I currently hold in front of me….a solid first draft. There are edits to make and language to prettify. There are scenes to be fleshed out and others to scale back, but it is a solid draft. Printed, bound, page numbered and well, that’s pretty much all she wrote.

Dear Reader…now what?

Just simply Googling ‘what to do now you’ve written a novel?‘  is exhausting. Parsing through the squillion pages of advice of what to do and what not to do is excruciating.

Confession: I am still sort of, kind of waiting for a fairy publishing Godmother to wave her wand and grant me happily ever after in the form of a book deal. But at my advancing age, I’m not sure I have time to wait around on magic and wands. At my age Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo starts to sound pretty damn silly. I’m willing to put in the next round of work, but I don’t even know where to begin.

I’m not a strategy player. I routinely get trounced by my six-year-old playing checkers. Looking ahead to the next move, whittling down the information, I am clueless. You could tell me to meet Miss Scarlet in the conservatory with a wrench and I’d go. That’s how clueless I am at the moment.

I need your stories. I need your advice, your inspiration, your experiences. I need whatever candlesticks, pistols, ropes and lead pipes you can throw at me.

Reader, I didn’t marry him, but damn if I don’t feel like I’ve given birth. Like any new mom, I could use some help.

Dear Reader…