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.




100 Shades of Me

100If you have grade school kids you may be familiar with 100th day of school celebrations.  Students are invited to bring in 100 of some ‘thing‘ and they happily spend the day gluing 100 pieces of Ziti or 100 Cheerios onto a big poster board.  Like so many other child and school related scenarios, it sometimes turns into another example of bored mom one-upmanship.  100 Q-tips?  BTDT. 100 buttons, Lego pieces, paper clips?  So early naughties.  I don’t even know what kids bring in nowadays.  100 pieces of sushi, perhaps.  100 organic Kale chips.  100 nut free, dye-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan, tastes-like-the-cardboard-you’d-glue-them-on cookies.  But I like the idea of 100.  100 is a celebration.  100 appeals to my sense of neatness and order and even numbers.  100 is the end and the beginning.

And guess what?  This is my 100th post.  I felt like doing something silly, something frivolous, something goofy. The written equivalent of gluing 100 elbow macaroni pieces onto a piece of glittered poster board.  Something that exists for no real reason other than it encompasses an ending.  And a beginning.  100 Shades of Me.

It’s not so easy to come up with 100 random facts about yourself.  Truthfully, I had trouble with ten.  Because most of my writing is personal, because I am an open book, because I don’t hide much of anything from my family, my friends, my pen or my blog, it was a challenge to come up with 100 new things that maybe I’ve never mentioned on here before, that perhaps you may not have known.  So I’ve cheated a bit and broken it up into bite-sized chunks of random-ness and favorites and never dones and someday hope I cans.  Hopefully somewhere in this century sized list there will be a few “I didn’t know thats” and “Me toos” and perhaps even an “I thought I was the only one” or two.

Or maybe it’s just 100th in a long line of self-absorbed writing exercises.  In any event, it’s the way I chose to celebrate.  It’s my party and I’ll cry narcissist if I want to.

11 things that may surprise you.  Or maybe not.

d4I took tap dancing lessons for 12 years and can still do a mean time step.

I have a weakness for marching bands.  And bagpipes.

High fives with adults make me feel kind of icky and awkward.  I avoid them at all costs.

Office supply and stationery stores make me giddy.  I could happily spend the better part of a day perusing notebooks and filing supplies.

I own more than one pair of yellow shoes.

I’ve read all four Twilight books.  More than once.

I’ve never had a pet.IMG_2693

I was a cheerleader.  When I was 8.

I can say the alphabet backward in under 5 seconds.

I once, when working at Dairy Queen, knowingly whip-creamed over a very small gnat that stuck to an ice cream cone.  (They were very strict about not wasting ice cream).

I used to eat relish out of the jar.

10 movies I have never seen, and probably never will

Apocalypse Now

Reservoir  Dogs

Chariots of Fire

The Deer Hunter

2001:  A Space Odyssey

Raging Bull

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Easy Rider

Slumdog Millionaire


6 movies that make me cry. Every time.



Cider House Rules (actually I’ve only seen this once because it was so distressing to me that my husband had to stop the film so I could compose myself)

The Champ

Life is Beautiful

The Pianist

5 Last Meal Requests

Bacon and blue cheese burger

Really good french fries

A can of coke

A bottle of Pinot Noir

A pack of Marlboro

5 favorite television characters

 The entire cast of The West Wing (with the possible exception of Toby Ziegler.  Though as my husband points out, he is a necessary counter balance.)

Spike, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Lucy Ricardo

Laverne DiFozio

Ari Gold

7 things I like the idea of but don’t like in real life



Bloody Marys






10 simple sensory moments

The smell of fresh sawdust

The crisp sound of new notebook pages

The scent of wood smoke

The feel of clothes right out of the dryer

The touch of my husband’s lips on my neck

The taste of a sour pickle

The sound of my sons laughing

Sleeping with my head in a patch of sunlight

Pictures of my father

The sight of books on a bookshelf

 6 Songs that will make me change the channel 

Ebony and Ivory

We Built This City

Easy Lover



When the Going Gets Tough

5 careers I would be happy with



High School English teacher

Urban Planner

Lay about novelist

10 entertaining fictional dinner party guests

nielsen-scheherazadeAmelia and Emerson Peabody

Professor Severus Snape

Rhett Butler

George Smiley (This one is for my husband. It was a toss-up between him and Daenerys Targaryen, but she is underage….)

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy

Obi-Wan Kenobi



1 thing that makes me crazy

Untidy piles of paper

5 things my husband would miss about me if I were dead (even though they drive him crazy)

2013-08-21 13.27.35Leaving my shoes exactly where I took them off

Tapping my food before I eat it

My penchant for asymmetrical decorating

My loud typing

My get everything out of every cupboard, closet, drawer, box and throw it into a big pile in the middle of the floor way of organizing.

7 songs I always sing out loud to

I’ve never been to me

Ring of Fire

Walking After Midnight

Fools Rush In

Annie’s Song

That song from Les Mis

Fire and Rain

8 Books I couldn’t finish

The Crimson Petal and the White

Suite Francoise

The Inheritance of Loss

Barnaby Rudge

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (I finished it, but wish I hadn’t)

Art and Lies

50 Shades of Gray (I actually never even started it)

5 things I will miss as my children get older

IMG_4034My oldest son whistling while he plays

My youngest son’s hugs

The way they crawl into bed in the morning, squirmy and warm

The effect of an ice-cream cone.

Choosing me to be on their team.

So there you have it, my 100th post filled with 100 random facts.  They would be hard to glue on a piece of cardboard.  Cheerios would have been easier, no doubt.

Thank you to those of you that have hitched a ride on this journey.  Here’s to the next 100, whatever they may bring.


Your blog punched my blog right in the nose

Basalt_house-wall_-_Matraszentistvan,_HungaryI have hit the proverbial wall.  In fact, I am standing against the proverbial wall and banging my head against it, repeatedly.  For about a month now, I have been trying to write my way through the wall, struggling not only with tone and wording, but also with the realization that no matter how much magic I work with adjectives and prepositional phrasing and metaphor, I am going to sound bitter.  I am going to sound like a tool, a snob, an ingrate.  I’ve been spooning away at the mortar between the bricks of my proverbial wall in an attempt to make myself sound better.  But my little silver spoon is getting me nowhere.  What I really need is a sledge-hammer, or a battering ram, to break on through to the other side.  So I am finally taking the advice of a writing professor whose words have stuck with me for the last 15 years.

“If you are writing about shit,” she said, “then write it.  There’s no point tip-toeing around with words like feces and poop and excrement.  Sometimes you just need to write the word shit.”  Paraphrased, but you get the idea.



Remember the rhymes you sang as a child, the elaborate sing-song methods for choosing who SHALL NOT BE IT?

My mother and your mother were hanging out the clothes.  

My mother punched your mother right in the nose.  

What color was the blood?

I am increasingly aware that I SHALL NOT BE IT.  There.  I said it.

I have reached a point where I have to decide if I should continue to take a she-sells-seashells-by-the-seashore approach with writing or lemonade_standif I need to switch gears and follow a more Donald Trump/Apprentice style avenue, aggressively seeking followers, and thus increasing my chances of being IT.  I am not, by nature, a self promoter.  That is not to say I am lacking in self-confidence, the two are different.  What I lack is the ability to promote myself with any real zeal and without a healthy dose of self-deprecation.  Now, self-deprecation is the cornerstone of a lot of my writing, yet at the same time, when you are taking the piss out of yourself (to use one of the less eloquent Anglo-isms that float around in our house), it is hard to take what one is saying seriously.  So around and around you go.  I started the blog and went public with it when I was ready to.  Though no Jim Jones, I have steadily and slowly been gaining ‘followers’.  The process seemed organic, fair.  Selling seashells.  But you eventually reach a point where the shell business starts to limp along a bit, perhaps folks have had enough of the beach, are heading for more varied climes.  And so now at a blogging crossroad, I have to decide if it is enough to continue with a lemonade stand approach, a hand printed sign and a smile, or if I need to put on a metaphorical push-up bra and do some subtle whoring.

When I was in high school, we were advised to pad out our resumes for college application purposes.  We were encouraged to join a bunch of clubs and associations and after school activities and sports to round ourselves out and make ourselves marketable college candidates. The more clubs you joined, the better your application looked.  The more sports you play, the well-er rounded you appeared.  And apparently the same applies to blogging.  When you sign up for a blog with WordPress, the site encourages you, much like a high school guidance counselor, to go out and read other blogs.  Sound advice.  It outlines tips for increasing your blog traffic by commenting on other blogs.  Sound advice.  And it goes without saying that the more blogs you chose to follow, the more followers you are likely to get in return.  So you have blogs out there that have a thousand followers, two thousand, three and more.

I’ve been fairly picky and choosy about which blogs I follow (though I read many more).  Part of that is that you simply can’t read blog posts all day every day, but another part is that, well, what I choose to read and follow reflects upon me.  And I didn’t want to go out there and click the ‘follow me’ button willy-nilly just so that other people would follow me back.  But as I confessed to a fellow blogger, I am increasingly worried that I am, to put it bluntly, using up my best material for not a lot of return.  And hence the proverbial wall makes its appearance.

And then there is the Freshly Pressed thing.

A lot of the blogs that I follow have been deservedly singled out.  But there are a lot of other ones out there that I have run across which haven’t, and for no reason that I can fathom.   Some I have visited have been chosen more than once.  I am not taking away from the quality of those that have received accolades, but there is a random-ness to the choosing that reminds me of those old childhood rhymes.  Like someone is sitting there singing Eeny Meeny Miney Moe while doling out sky blue badges.  I am seriously starting to wonder if there is an ex-boyfriend sitting behind the big WordPress Freshly Pressed “You have been CHOSEN” panel.  Some high school girl I made fun of without realizing it who is exacting her revenge.

And this is where the bitter tool bit comes into play.  Because I think I’ve been writing quality content on a pretty frequent basis.  I write on a number of topics, but not too wide.  I write humor, I write tear-jerky, I write flowery prose.  I include cultural references from today, yesterday and fret what the references of tomorrow will be.  I draw on literature, music, mythology, psychology, and popular culture.  I have catchy titles.  I don’t think I can write any better than I do, in this format.  So I guess if that’s not good enough, I don’t know what is.

So I Shall Not Be It.  Which is fine.  But obviously not fine.

When you create—a painting, a meal, a scarf, a piece of writing, it is the rare person who doesn’t trill to the sound of an occasional round of applause.  Human beings, for the most part, seek recognition, crave approval.  Bloggers are no different.  I am no different.

Spoon and seashells and lemonade?  Battering ram and push-up bra?

Eeny Meeny Miney Moe.

You don’t bring me flowers….

Photo: Richard Steggall

When I was in high school, one of the ways the Student Council raised money was by selling carnations.  You could buy a badly dyed flower for a dollar and send it to another student, either signed or anonymously.  At the end of the day you’d be sitting in history class and somewhere between the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the start of World War I, the student assigned to distribute said tokens of affection would come crashing in with a plastic bucket full of carnations, read the little notes attached, and dole them out.

My best friend in high school got a lot of flowers.  She was short and cute and had big boobs.  I was not short, not cute and had no boobs.  I got a flower or two throughout the years, but nothing like the bouquets she used to walk down the hall with.  Of course I wanted more flowers, it’s hard not too.  No matter how punk rock your attitude toward acceptance is when you’re 14 or 15, the truth is, you’re still 14 or 15.  Even goths want a little love….

Blogging is a bit like sitting in history class and waiting to see if the guy with the plastic bucket full of cheap carnations looks up and makes eye contact with you.  As much as you tell yourself that it doesn’t matter if you get a flower (and it doesn’t), it’s always nice to be surprised by one.  In blogging, you put yourself out there by pushing that little blue publish button and cross you fingers that your post will get noticed, liked, commented upon, or in the land of the blogging site I use, “Freshly Pressed”**.

I’m still new enough to this world that I haven’t quite figured out the point on the graph where X intersects Y.  The posts I do about writing or about blogging usually get the most nods from fellow bloggers.  The ones I do about parenting and living abroad get lots of shares and passed around, which I cherish.  The more personal ones fall kind of in between.  I’ve yet to do a post which seems to appeal to both other bloggers and people who have chosen to follow, to find that all important intersection of x and y.

The only reason it is important is because I’m lazy.  Not lazy in a my house is wreck and my kids are covered in snot way, but lazy in an I harbor a secret desire for someone to come along and do all the work for me way.  Much like I used to fantasize about Simon Le Bon picking me out of a teenage line-up and whisking me to Duran Duran heaven, I now fantasize about someone stumbling across my blog, reading a few posts and getting in touch with me saying, “Hey, this is great stuff.  You just sit back and we’re going to put it all together in a book for you and publish it and make you money.  And then we’re going to give you an idea for a novel and when you finish that, we’re going to publish that too.”   It’s like being a girl and waiting for your prince to swoop in and rescue you from your hateful parents that won’t let you drive 2 hours to see a Duran Duran concert.  Kate Middleton aside, it doesn’t happen very often.  It doesn’t stop me from wanting it though.

In most respects blogging is an exercise for me.  It’s got me writing again.  It’s holding me accountable for quality and quantity.  It’s pushed me a little beyond my comfort zone in the sense that it is non-fiction, but I have found that surprisingly easy and enjoyable.  But the more I do it, the more I enjoy it.  And the more I enjoy it, the more I want from it.

I admit it.  I want the carnations.

Not a carnation

**Freshly Pressed is a group of blog posts on WordPress that are chosen by the all important powers that be as recent posts that stand out.  It generally increases your blog traffic, your followers, comments et al.  And you get to put a groovy blue badge on your site announcing it as one of the chosen few.  I shouldn’t want it, but I do.  I want it bad.  I want it almost as much as I wanted those cheap, dyed carnations in high school.  But not quite.