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something good polka dot mug

Earlier this month, Anne published a post about how your feed reader can change your life. Her main argument was that reading about a topic can increase a person’s interest in that topic: she recommended, for example, adding blogs related to exercise if your New Year’s resolution is to work out more often.

While I definitely see how such a strategy could be helpful, I took the opposite approach. After reading the post, I went straight to my feed reader and cleaned it out.

Some of the work was simply long-overdue housekeeping. I follow a few blogs whose feeds had moved, or whose authors hadn’t posted in a year or more. I deleted or updated these. But then I took it a step further. If I often find myself skipping past a blog – because I’m bored with it, because the author’s voice no longer resonates, or because the tone makes me feel defensive or guilty – I deleted it too.

The Internet is a loud place, and for those of us who spend a lot of time on it – especially we who relish the odd, beautiful world of the blogosphere and social media – the voices of the bloggers and tweeters we follow become the voices in our heads.

I’ve never met most of my Internet friends in person, but if I’m reading their words consistently, their voices echo in my head with surprising regularity. Sometimes that’s a boon – as when Anne recommends a great book or Micha shares her gratitude on Thankful Tuesday. But some of those voices are often snarky or judgmental, and those are the voices I do not need to hear.

Related: as a reader and book reviewer, I love connecting with authors on social media. It’s a true pleasure to be able to tell someone directly that I love their book, and I’ve made several friends that way, like Rachel and Jennifer. But it took me a long time to realize that I like some authors better on the pages of their books. I’ve unfollowed a few authors because I’d rather spend time with their characters than with them.

In keeping with my word for the yeargentle – I’m not only trying to speak and act gently, but to make sure I’m not filling my head with voices that are sharp-edged or bitter. I welcome honesty, absolutely, and I relish the occasional dose of witty sarcasm. But meanness or snark at others’ expense? I’m out.

When I find a new blog these days and consider adding it to my reader, I pause and ask: do I want this person in my head? Because, if they’re in my feed reader, that’s where they’re going to end up.

Who are the voices in your head (Internet and otherwise) these days?

*Grammar nerd alert: I know I should have used “whom” in the title of this post. But “who” sounded catchier. Forgive me!

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The leaves on the Common are flaming out in color, shedding the thick, lush green of late summer for the panoply of fall. A few weeks ago, the spindly maples lining the brick path between the bandstand and the tennis court began flaunting their red leaves, and I thought, “These maples always turn first.” Autumn winds have now stripped off half their leaves, but vibrant shades of scarlet and orange remain. This, too, happens every year.

boston common maples autumn leaves red orange

I have lived here long enough to know a few things: which trees on the Common bud first in early spring, when the Swan Boats come out for the season and when they disappear. I know the stretch where the wind sweeps most fiercely down the east side of the Common. I can tell by the sky if the outdoor carts at the Brattle will be open, or if the booksellers will hedge their bets and cover the carts, but open the shelves. I have a favorite stand at the farmer’s market. I am a small part of the bustling routine of this particular city, these few square blocks, this everyday.

carrots peaches farmers market summer fall

And yet: I have not yet learned to hide my surprise when a grove of green trees turns orange overnight. New obstacles on familiar streets (construction, always construction) catch me off guard. There are still fresh delights to discover, like the food truck near the Park Street station, with its rosemary french fries, mulled cider and friendly staff. And sometimes I board a crowded subway train and snag a seat for the ride home. After a long day, a square of faux leather and plastic to perch on feels like grace.

I have been here long enough to know this blogging neighborhood, too. Eight years and hundreds of posts – today marks my 1,000th – is sufficient time to get to know any terrain. I have my favorite haunts, my well-traveled paths online. Some bloggers and readers are constant companions, others intermittent visitors. I know the landscape and can predict some of the seasonal changes. I have a practice, a process, a routine.

I began writing in this space as a college student in Oxford, posting commentary on The Lord of the Rings as part of a guided study conducted with a professor back in Texas. I quit posting when I came home, but started blogging a year later with a group of friends on a private site. At the urging of another friend, I switched back to this public blog, to muse about travel, books, college life and the looming uncertainty of my future.

I never expected to reach 1000 posts, as I typed in the crowded computer lab on Canterbury Road in 2004. The online world continues to surprise me: how huge and unknown it still is, how fast it can grow, how much potential it holds for connection. There is plenty of rubbish too, like the litter and grit along Boston’s streets: the Internet can be a venue for bickering, bullying, snark or simply too much shouting. Sometimes I retreat from it for a day or a weekend or longer. But I always come back. And this online corner of my own, a place to connect with readers and share my life, feels like grace.

Our digital world is changing so rapidly that I can’t predict where I’ll be writing in another eight years or 1,000 posts. But for now, I plan to keep coming back here, sharing books and travelogues and bits of my life story with you. The element of connection makes this space rich and sacred, and for that – and for all of you – I am so grateful.

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Some of the best living this summer has gone unblogged.

Of course, some experiences should remain unblogged. Even in our age of constant social sharing, I believe in keeping parts of my life private and sacred. Some experiences also slip through the cracks because they are so ordinary. I could wax lyrical about the pints of raspberries I’ve eaten this summer, the pleasant lunch breaks with my book in the Public Garden, the sound of the harmonies when we sing hymns at church on Sunday mornings or with friends on Sunday nights. I do talk about these things, sometimes, but I don’t always blog about the things I do, the people I see, daily or weekly.

And sometimes I can’t fit an experience into the blogging box; I can’t come up with anything terribly original to say about an evening with friends or a dinner out or a weekend away. Sometimes I don’t have photos to go with a post. Sometimes, honestly, the effort feels like too much, and I want to simply enjoy it for what it was, without drawing a lesson from it.

I am headed to Texas this week, to see some old friends and cuddle that sweet nephew of mine and hang out with my parents and eat scads of Tex-Mex food. And I thought I’d share, briefly, some bits of this summer that haven’t yet made it to the blog.

We headed to Maine in late June, spending a cool, grey long weekend wandering around Bar Harbor:

maine bar harbor smiling photo

The occasion was the wedding of two dear friends, Isaac and Katelyn, who are utterly in love and simply adorable:

gibsons brays wedding maine

(Small victory: I got to re-wear my bridesmaid dress from Bethany’s wedding.)

We watched them dance amid the twinkle lights:

katelyn isaac dance wedding

And then I put my camera down and we all danced for another three hours. One of the best wedding receptions I’ve ever been to.

In early July, Allison came up for a weekend, from New York, and we showed her around the city:

allison katie lunch sweetwater summer

Her fiance (now husband), Duncan, joined us the next day, and we all walked the Freedom Trail, with a stop at Paul Revere’s house:

jer duncan silliness paul revere's house

The British are coming?

There are no photos of the excellent Italian dinner (or cannoli) we enjoyed, nor of the hours on end we spent talking and laughing together. This is why I don’t always blog about time with dear friends – it is deep and rich and full and unrepeatable, uncaptured on camera but so vital to my soul.

This summer, there have been a few trips to Cafe Luna for brunch:

cafe luna cambridge waffles brunch

But there have been far more simple patio dinners that look like this:

pasta dinner patio lemonade summer

I’ve also managed to do nearly everything on my summer manifesto list (though the outdoor movies didn’t happen this year, the ice cream and fireworks and vacations certainly did). And I’ve savored every last one of my summer addictions, even when I didn’t talk about them here. The dailiness, blogged or unblogged, is precious and life-giving.

What have you left unblogged this summer?

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There’s lots going on around here, behind the scenes. Lots of reading (as always) and book reviews; a fair amount of freelance work; still catching up on laundry and sleep from our fabulous (and yummy) trip to New York; finally taking the Christmas decorations down. And some hard stuff, too: family illness on both sides, and the news of a seven-year-old boy’s death from leukemia. (We didn’t know Liam, but his family goes to our church in Texas and I used to work with his grandmother, and many of our friends are grieving.)

We’ve also been (finally) getting some snow – which I love (in small amounts) because it blankets the world with that quiet, clean, fresh feeling of peace. And I’ve been feeling like it’s time to take a step back, to post regularly but not daily for a while, to take some time for silence, to rest and think and write without having to hit “publish” or schedule a post for each weekday.

With that in mind, I’ll be blogging three times a week, instead of five, for a while. I’m not going away – just making space for a bit of quiet, a shift to help me rest and find some new ideas, and (I hope) to find some peace.

See you on Wednesday, friends. And thanks for understanding.

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I love getting mail. And sending it. Especially in this age of email, Facebook, texts and Twitter, receiving something tangible in the mail feels even more like a gift. Related: it’s always fun to make tangible connections with those you meet on the Internet. And who couldn’t use a little extra sparkle in their days? So when I read about Kaileen Elise’s Sparkle Swap, I was in.

I put together a package to send off to Chelsea in Iowa, and about a week later, I got my own parcel in the mail, all the way from Sharni in Australia:

Delicious lemon-ginger tea, two literary pencils, fun postcards, sweet treats, a music mix, a pretty notepad, and other little bits of sparkle. Such fun.

Happy Love Thursday, friends. May you be the recipient of some unexpected (and sparkly) love today.

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I’m taking a writing class at Grub Street right now – each Monday night, a group of us gather around a table, to talk shop about writing and share bits of our projects in progress with each other. During this week’s pre-class chitchat, I happened to mention this blog, and one of my classmates asked, “How do you find the time to blog?”

I get this a lot, actually. “How do you find the time to knit?” “How do you find the time to journal?” “How do you find the time to do freelance work, in addition to a full-time job?” “How do you find the time to cook?” And most frequently, “How do you find the time to read so many books?”

I think the answer is simpler than it first appears. Yes, we all have constraints on our time: we need sleep and food; we have day jobs and commutes and spouses/children/friends; other commitments request or demand our attention. But we all find the time to do what we love.

My dad finds the time to play golf at least twice a week, though no one could accuse him of neglecting his family or his work. My husband finds the time to play guitar, and has even begun bringing it along to some of his therapy sessions with musically inclined teenagers. Val finds the time to run a movie club. Annie finds the time to write songs. Amanda finds the time to run an orphanage. Julie finds the time to take photos and sketch. Melynda finds the time to knit and design new patterns.

Being busy is a common excuse in our overscheduled world – and I know a lot of people have more on their plates than I do. But often “I don’t have time” is a false way of saying “I don’t want to make the time.” Because if it’s vital to the well-being of your body or your soul, chances are you’ll find the time. Or make the time.

So there’s my answer: I make the time to blog. I do it because it provides discipline, a kick-in-the-pants deadline, a community of wonderful readers, a place for me to try out new ideas. And as for finding/making the time? I do it whenever, and however, I can.

What do you find the time to do?

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Are you a fan of Nancy Drew? I’m honoured to be guest blogging today over at Anne & May about Nancy and other childhood heroines. Go on over and have a look – and please comment! Thanks!

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Just putting out a first WordPress post from a cosy, aqua-walled flat in Oxford. The spring crop of students arrive tomorrow and we’re nearly ready for them. Until I work out the kinks, you can find my old posts here.

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back to blogging

In the interest of enabling my non-Xanga user friends to comment on my blog, and in hopes of creating a slightly more poetic and professional look, I’ve pulled out my beloved Young Adult Lit blog from Oxford and dusted it off. I’ve overhauled the look and added some new links (notably, several blogs I read regularly), but have kept all the old posts – I just couldn’t bear to throw them away. After all, most of them relate primarily to Oxford and J.R.R. Tolkien, two of my favourite subjects…so feel free to browse! I don’t lay claim to any great scholarship…these are simply the ramblings of a college student, reading and musing on one of the stories she loves best.

My hope is that what I post on this site will bring a bit of hope and light to those who read…blessings to all of you, and more to come soon.

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