RAWR FOR RARA!

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” George W. Bush.

I often reiterate my firm belief that the best things in life are both free and priceless. The friendship that results from blogging is one of these things – from a jumble of words in cyberspace emerges the miracle of communication, complicity and trust linking human beings across the globe who smile, laugh and cry together.

Recently, this friendship was essential to me after a death in my family  – I shed hot, humble and grateful tears when I saw the support and concern expressed by my blogging friends. This is proof that blogging friendship is anything but virtual – it is a real, reliable rock to which I willingly clung. So thank you. (MM wipes nose on sparkly Diva dress.)

Today, I am asking you to extend that support to a fellow blogger.

On your travels around the blogosphere, it is highly probable that you have bumped into Rara. Rara is the world’s most beautiful dino-blogger. She doesn’t roar, she RAWRS. She knows how to write like no other dino-human, but she doesn’t stop at that. Rara has an incredible talent for creating a lasting relationship with her readers. She is sweet, kind, fun, optimistic, creative and just downright rawr-some. I never saw the slightest trace of negativity on her blog -she boosted my day and inundated my soul with optimism. Yup, all that.

Until this weekend, when I discovered a post that made me choke up and cry. It was a good-bye post. Rara has been accused of theft, and is in jail until her court hearing. You can call me naive if you wish, but I can only base my opinion of Rara on what I have read and my contact with her… and it simply doesn’t add up.

Rara has helped me in the past. So what could I do to help her? I wanted to rent a T-Rex to save her from jail and bite her accuser on the butt, but all the T-Rex stock was already taken. I can’t pay her bail.

T-Rex Dinosaur

A T-Rex like this one would do just fine (Photo credit: Scott Kinmartin).

But I can write. So I sat down with my notepaper and wrote a letter to Rara. Words are like hot chocolate, but better. They have the power to soothe, to nurture hope and smiles. A letter is warm. Reassuring. It offers an escape route you can travel again and again. Friendship. Humour. The simple fact that someone, somewhere, has taken a few minutes to write that letter can momentarily make life better: it tells the recipient that he or she is not just anyone, but really somebody for someone.

So if you can do one thing today, please be that someone for a blogger who is not just somebody, but really something.  If you know Rara, please write her a few lines. If you don’t know Rara, write her a few lines tooTHE ADDRESS CAN BE FOUND HERE.

The best things in life are free – and support and friendship among bloggers is one of those miraculous, precious things. Alone, each of us is just one person. But add us together, and we can make a big difference for one person and her family – today, that person is RARA.

Those who can make a financial donation to help, or send a care parcel to her husband Grayson and their cats, are welcome to do so. Follow the above link to Rara’s blog for more details.

 

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Real Friends in a Virtual World: Thank you.

Have a glass of rosé, people! I had a surprise a couple of days ago – I discovered that it was my blogging birthday.

The war-torn veterans of this blog may know that MM has been polluting the blogosphere with her multiple meanderings for two years now. When I started out, I wasn’t sure how long the blog would last, or where I was going. I wasn’t seeking fame and fortune or trying to sell myself. I just wanted to get my writing out of my kitchen – somewhere other than in my head. When I clicked on publish for the first time, my heart practically leapt out of my mouth.

Then I got my first follows and comments, and I was dumbstruck. I hadn’t expected anyone to come across my blatherings, let alone read them. And when I saw the same people coming back again and again, I suddenly realized that I had become a tiny part of a complete stranger’s routine. A stranger who looked forward to reading more. It was scary, but I liked it.

I have pressed that “publish” button umpteen times since, and still get the same thrill out of it. But the most beautiful thing I have discovered is the unexpected support and friendship that has grown out of this blog. I started this for the writing, but meeting you wonderful people and reading about your lives on your blogs has become the best part of blogging by far. Although I’m trying hard to balance it out, I still feel that I have got so much more out of the blogging world than I put into it – all thanks to the human contact and input of the blogging community.

I used to say “thank you for the follow” when I started blogging. Two years later, I’d like to rephrase that as “thank you for the follow-through” – the humbling proof that real friendship can be found in a virtual world.

So happy birthday to us. To celebrate this milestone, I would like you to watch this. I suspect that if I was a nun, I’d be more a Sister Act than Mother Teresa. This young Sicilian nun is a reminder that you should never give up on a dream because of your choices in life, and that we should never judge a book by its cover. Just amazing.

Should we let sleeping blogs lie?

I don't have any photos of a sleeping blog, so here is my sleeping dog - Smelly Dog.

I don’t have any photos of a sleeping blog, so here is my sleeping dog – Smelly Dog.

Every so often, I drop by to see you. I’m concerned, but you don’t know. You are comatose, frozen in time. Your stats line bleeps in surprise at my occasional visit, yet no beautiful nurses run in with Dr Carter to wipe your brow and call your family. Nobody does that for a blog. You are a sleeping blog, hanging in the void – waiting to discover if you will be reanimated, remain in creational hibernation, or disappear with a simple, decisive click of a mouse.

As time ticks by, I think back to when I first discovered you. You were one of the first blogs I followed – your positivity made me want to get up, get down, get out, get going and otherwise groove, James Brown style, as I read the latest batch of posts over my morning coffee. You were among the first real people (as opposed to robots) to send shivers of pride down my newbie blogger’s spine when you not only “liked”, but commented on my efforts.

Then suddenly, your posts ceased. I still pop by from time to time, and sigh as your post from six months ago fills the screen, the comments politely paired up below with their replies, like happy couples waiting for a table for two at the diner. I feel like a drug addict, staring through the chemist’s window at his fix of happiness on the shelf.

Never underestimate the effect a good blog post can have on the start of MM's day. You count.

Never underestimate the effect your blog post can have on the start of MM’s day.

I often hope that something wonderful happened to you. Maybe you had another baby, won the pools, inherited a Swiss chocolate factory or got swept off your feet by the working mother’s answer to George Clooney (with or without the coffee machine). Or has something awful happened? Maybe you got the dreaded blogger’s block. It was impossible to conceive that blogging could have fallen out of favour – if I love blogging so much, then surely other bloggers do too… or maybe they don’t. Maybe your life has evolved and changed, and your need for blogging has passed.

My finger has hovered over the mouse so many times – should I write a new comment, and see what happens? Would a quiet nudge in your cyber-spatial ribs revive you?

Thus the question reared its ugly head: should we let sleeping blogs lie?

Hands up if you have ever clicked on that email contact form to check if a fellow blogger is ok… I plead guilty. I nudged a favourite blogger in the past when he uncharacteristically stopped writing. I admit that I was concerned – was he ok? On the other hand… was it really any of my business? Why was I concerned about a person I had never met before? It could be perceived as rude – after all, who was I to get pushy? But could I do without my fix? No. I was uncomfortable to realise that my reasons were also selfish: I missed his posts and the interaction on his blog.

As you follow a blog, you inevitably become involved. You follow a life story, and strangely enough, a bond is created between people who don’t know each other from Adam. Two bloggers who chat regularly in the blogosphere wouldn’t necessarily even recognise each other if they sat side by side on the bus, yet they may bring a necessary smile to each other’s faces on a regular basis. The anonymity of sharing and discussing through the written word means that we are sometimes more prone to revealing our fears and feelings to our readers than we do to those who are close to us in our everyday lives. Welcome to the paradoxical blogging dimension, where people are both friends and complete strangers at the same time.

The Fox Tames The Little Prince

The Fox Tames The Little Prince (Photo credit: Pictoscribe)

This made me realise that blogging involves a risk – one described so well by Antoine de St Exupéry’s “The Little Prince,” when the fox tells the prince:

“To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….” 

Without being as melodramatic as the fox, who has never blogged and never will do, it’s true that building a relationship with someone, even when you have never met them in person, makes them part of your world. And however small that part may be, you notice when it disappears. Whether it’s a regular reader who suddenly goes off your blog’s radar, or a blogger who stops writing, something goes missing. Or maybe it’s just me? In that case, some of you are probably thinking it’s time to back off from MM’s blog incase she starts getting too demanding. But I don’t think I’m the only person who believes in the fabulous human dynamics of blogging.

So here I sit at the head of your blog bedside in the home for sleeping blogs, hoping that you will come out of your cyber-coma. I miss you. If you’ve stopped blogging for ever, thank you for sharing part of life’s journey with me. But if your stats monitor suddenly bursts into activity, Carter, the nurses and I will all be waiting for you.

An Open Letter to my Phantom Follower.

The phantom follower.

The phantom follower.

Dear phantom follower,

WordPress recently sent me a mail informing me that you have subscribed to my blog – once again. Although I am flattered by your repeated attentions, I am also somewhat flummoxed. I have lost count of the number of times you have signed up over the last few months. I am at a loss to understand why you feel the need to subscribe on such a regular basis; most people subscribe just the once, not once a week.

I am aware that changes of heart can happen; after all, everyone has probably made the decision to unsubscribe from a blog at some point in their blogging experience. That’s life, after all – a blog that initially has the literary attraction of double chocolate cake can lose its appeal and transform into the reader’s equivalent of rice pudding if the reader and/or the writer’s personal interests evolve in different directions, leading to an inevitable rupture as the two bloggers’ paths each go their separate ways.

Such is life. However, changing your mind then changing it back every other week is a surefire sign that you either have no clear idea what you’re after, or you’re a trouble-maker (bloggers call them “trolls”). I did wonder if you get an inexplicable thrill out of hitting that follow/unfollow button – some kind of very sad attempt to control people’s feelings at the press of a button. Surely not. Maybe you have problems with your eyesight and are confusing it with the “Like” button, but it would be very pretentious of me to suggest that. Oops, too late.

You piqued my interest enough to google you, for the same reason that I google numbers that appear too frequently on my mobile phone. You don’t appear to be a blogger. Herr Google informs me, however, that you have a personal diet plan. This put a new slant on the mystery – maybe your hunger pangs wake you at night, and you subscribe to the same blogs again and again in a desperate attempt to counteract your craving for calories. If this is the case, may I suggest that you open the fridge and succumb to the temptation of a large, creamy yoghurt instead? Alternatively, you could busy yourself with some scrapbooking – apparently it is one of your interests. How do I know? Herr Google relates that you have followed and unfollowed a scrapbooking blog until the blogger was so ired that she posted about you in a name and shame campaign. I won’t be naming you, nor shaming you. The first in case you are looking for free publicity (goodness know why) and the second because error is human and you may just have very bad keyboard skills.

I’m sure you don’t want to drag this kind of bad reputation around. Please feel free to read my post “The serial liker” to get a better idea of my attitude to blogging etiquette. Although technically speaking you are a serial subscriber, you’ll get the general gist. And without wanting to be rude, when you’ve finished reading, please make up your mind and stop sitting on the fence. You are free to sign up and read……. or to have a chocolate biscuit or two in front of the telly instead. I promise I won’t tell Herr Google.

Thank you.

Bloggingly yours,

MM.

Written in response to “The Daily Post”, 13th August: “The Art of the Open Letter”.

Pam Spam and the decontamination chamber.

It’s rare for spam to make it though the impressive WordPress filter – it rarely gets things wrong. But you made it through last night, Pam.  (I have of course changed your name to rhyme with “spam” – your real identity is safe with me.) You slipped through the WordPress spam barrage with more ingenuity and prowess than Catwoman, and were waiting impatiently for me in my list of comments awaiting moderation when I opened Pomme’s browser this morning. Today’s « false positive » has given me the chance to write a post, whilst it offers you a unexpected moment of fame in an obscure corner of cyber space ruled by a half-potty hybrid of housewife, career-woman, book-lover and amateur photographer suffering from scribal diarrhoea and lost in the wastelands of the Languedoc. Lucky you.

I didn’t understand a word of what you wrote in your comment, which had nothing much to do with my blog, and have presumed that you are a spammer. I have therefore asked the WordPress immigration service to kindly escort you to my spam folder so that you can enjoy the company of your kind of people from now on. I imagine this place to be a little like an airport departure lounge, but one designed for passengers who need to be isolated from the others. A kind of decontamination lock-chamber for Village People who have lost the plot. Here in the spam folder, you can feel free to sell each other timeshare apartments and exchange tips to boost your blogging traffic to your heart’s delight, without using my humble blog as a springboard.

La mirada de CatWoman

Pam Spam meowed in despair. “Foiled again!” she hissed, as she sank to the ground in the bad girl corner of  the Spam Lounge.  (Photo credit: sukiweb)

I’m sure that you will all have lots of things in common, starting with your original use of the English language. I must admit that I was a little concerned at the idea of you promising to “inspect” my new posts. The verb “inspect” makes me anxious and is reminiscent of bad experiences like the tax office, airport customs officials, children with head lice and roofs with leaks. Whilst we’re on the subject of language, please put a space between “I” and “actually” the next time you write – you never know, that letter “a” may have smelly armpits. Or he could give “I” the eye.

You do appear to have some idea of appropriate language use, as you use the term “beautiful brides” and not “gold-diggers” in the link you provide. You apparently sell women to gullible western males run a dating agency with the sole purpose of providing happiness for sad and lonely people across the globe. Whilst your magnanimity is commendable, your spelling, punctuation and grammar really don’t do you justice. I therefore suggest that you take a few English lessons; it would be an asset in your bid to make your “products” and/or services more inviting.

If you sign up for English lessons, please do invite some of your other spamming pals along. Make sure that the sexily named “Mikebreedlove” attends, and suggest he takes an appointment with a psychoanalyst as well. His comment : “I was suggested this website through my cousin. I am not now positive whether or not this post is written by him as no one else understand such distinct about my difficulty. You’re amazing ! Thanks !” left me nonplussed and concerned about his relationship with the cousin in question.

Mikebreedlove is just one of a rather entertaining gang of weirdos imprisoned in my spam lounge. These include Elmira the serial killer, who finds that my blog is the « best place for knives »,  and a pseudo-philosopher going by the endearing name of “chronic pulmonary obstructive disease” who managed to upstage you beautifully with his profound statement: « A fabulous crony are probably not anyone, however an associate are forever your sibling.”

SPAM

The tastefully decorated exterior of the WordPress Spam Lounge. (Photo credit: AJC1)

My favourite spam lounge inmate to date, however, has to be “Church Fundraiser”, whose recent plea for help was heart-breaking.  His message was not intended to raise money for the widow and the orphan, as I had expected, but to enquire if I have any bright plug-in ideas so that the poor man could read my blog on his Iphone. Well, Church Fundraiser, I’m sorry to inform you that I don’t know anything about plug-ins for Iphones. I am an exceedingly boring technophobe who has a phone that just phones, and who prefers communicating with real people around me in public rather than hiding behind a smart phone to talk with the interactive Siri. (Ask Siri where you can dispose of a dead body. He will promptly give you the address of the local dump.) Mr Pious, I doubt that you will be taken seriously if you pull the latest Iphone out of your pocket during your crusade to crush rampant consumerism and defend the rights of the poor. My answer would therefore be that you should practice what you preach, sell the Iphone and feed an entire family with the proceeds for a couple of weeks. Unless, of course, you are not a church fundraiser, and are a spammer instead. God forbid….

So, Pam, there you have it.  Welcome to the spammers lounge. Have fun with sexy Mike, Church Fundraiser and a whole bunch of people who are impatient to feed you RSS (whatever that is), boost your traffic and otherwise make your blog the most popular event since Jesus parted the waters. I’m sure you’ll have a whale of a time. If you don’t, there’s a dictionary on the table in the corner. Read it.

Daily Prompts: Writing my own eulogy.

Daily post at WordPress set the tone today: “Write your own eulogy!” I’m game for a try….. Here’s mine! For more ideas from other bloggers, have a look at

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/daily-prompt-eulogy/

We are gathered here today to pay our last respects to MM.  I am glad to see that you have all come in fancy dress and brightly coloured socks, as requested by the deceased. Her children will nominate the three prize-winners at the end of the ceremony. Please deposit all packets of salted peanuts in the collection box on your way out for her chosen charity, Peanut Addicts Anonymous. Following the wishes of the deceased, her ashes will  be placed inside a Picon bottle and laid to rest in Mutzig, Alsace.

The silence in the village since MM left this world has been astounding. Not only does the neighbourhood now hear birdsong and the wind in the leaves, they also clearly hear the neighbours arguing now that she is no longer there as to assume her necessary role as UN (United Neighbours) negotiator. Her gift of the gab was extraordinary, and will be missed by those who used her as an excuse for not getting things done during the day.  At this very moment, God is no doubt sorely regretting his decision to call MM to His side as he observes St Peter attempting to get a word in edgeways at the pearly gates.

We will all remember MM as a talkative, disorganised and headstrong woman whose instinctive tendency to say “yes” often got her into difficult predicaments, whilst her sense of humour helped her to escape from them.

MM made a modest living out of her passion for the English language. A grammar fiend and spelling stickler, she would no doubt have liked to utter the famous last words of French grammarian Dominique Bouhours, who said “ I am about to – or going to – die: either expression is correct”. Such was God’s will.

Despite her great talent for procrastinating, MM did not manage to avoid the inevitable issue of meeting her maker. She left this world doing what we all know she did best – laughing. The dry-roasted Planters peanut that remained tragically blocked in her trachea unfortunately signed her sad demise before her cholesterol level did, proving her doctor right in his prediction that her penchant for peanuts would kill her in the end.

It has taken some time to get permission from Church authorities to play the music MM chose to accompany her on her last journey. She was partial to a little provocation, which explains the 6 long weeks it has taken to get this funeral organised. She would no doubt have immensely enjoyed this idea, and would have quipped that she liked the idea of being kept on ice like James Bond’s dry Martini. Thanks to the unfortunate slip of a coffin bearer, she also had the opportunity to be shaken, although she will stir no more.

The words to the song are being passed around the pews for you to sing along. It is entitled “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, and sung by a certain M. Python. This was MM’s favourite saying, along with her grandmother’s sound adage: “Look after number one, because no other bugger will do it for you”. MM was conscious that her choice of music could offend some of the people present today, but had decided to take the risk: just for once, she wouldn’t have to justify her choice afterwards and would finally be able to have the last word.

MM has requested the following epitaph: “Here lies MM: spouse, mother, bon vivant and copy editor. Rest in piece peace”.

The serial liker.

At my tender beginnings in WordPress, I saw heaps of Gravatars piling up at the bottom of posts, and humbly wondered whether one day I would be gifted enough to have so many people  reading my blog. Eight months later, I am reassured to see the same Gravatars popping up regularly, proof that someone comes back because they enjoy reading my blog. So I’d like to thank the handful of people who read my blog. Also, my heartfelt thanks to the bloggers I follow, whose posts brighten my day.

Why the sudden profusion of thanks, you wonder?

Simple. It’ll probably make worldly-wise bloggers smile, but I have suddenly realised how gullible I had been in believing that everyone has actually read the article they claim to like. I thought everyone did it, and still hope that it is the case for the majority of bloggers.

You see, less than thirty seconds after publishing a post one morning, I was astonished to see an email from WordPress pop up in my mailbox : “So-and-so thinks your post is pretty awesome….” My jaw dropped open, and I quickly opened my blog and found the post, concerned that half of it had got lost in cyber space during the upload. It hadn’t. So how on earth had my mystery visitor read through it so quickly? Was he or she the Flash Gordon of the reading world, motoring their way at speed through the entire contents of the blogosphere before breakfast?

Curious, I returned to the WordPress category in question. There was my article, and my visitor’s Gravatar. I  scrolled through the other posts: in the space of minutes, my famished “reader” had devoured not only my several hundred words of personalised drivel, but also the articles published on the three following blogs. So in conclusion, my reader was not only skimming’s answer to Usain Bolt, but also magnanimously appreciated everyone’s style, managing to read and like all four articles in less time than it takes my cat to rip a bin bag open. Or maybe not. What if……

Yes, indeed. The serial liker had struck again, prowling on WordPress with his trigger-happy approach to the “like” button. Chasing through a category, he blindly clicks on “like” for every post he sees, marking his territory like a dog lifting a leg against fire hydrants in the desperate hope that the scent will lead back to his blog.

That was a little coarse, I know, but please bear with me. I may be a little naïve, but I think it’s a little risky claiming that you “like” a post without actually reading it first. There are several reasons for this, but here are a few:

  • If you don’t read through to the end, you will never see that when you to the end get and discover that there no interest or English understandable in the text is really, you may just look like a serious not very blogger, which new readers lead to your blog will not.
  • You could put your enthusiastic paw print on an article which quickly diverts from an innocuous title into opinions that you would never, ever want to be associated with simply because you haven’t read through to the end. It’s a bit like signing a blank cheque, with your reputation at stake.
  • Last but not least, you could simply peeve another blogger because you have used their blog as a springboard for your own, but left tangible proof that you didn’t  actually read anything. However, I can’t help wondering whether these visitors imagine that all the “likes” on their pages are 100% genuine….

I have decided to start using the widget that informs readers about the blogs I follow. Check them out, I recommend them because I have read them. More importantly, I really do follow them. They are all different and all bring me something new. I look forward to reading them every day.

When I click that I like a post, it means that I have read it, and liked it. Every. Single. Word.

If you have read through to the end of this post, thank you.  Just out of curiosity, I’d like to ask you for a little connivance:

Please leave me a comment at the end, even if it’s just a quick “hello” or a smiley, without clicking on “like”. Just to see who actually read this…. through to the end. I will be proud to visit your blog, I’ll read through to the end of the post, and if I hit that “like” button, you can be sure I meant it.  Promise.