The Liebster Award: Who Are the Bloggers in Your Neighborhood?

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Last week, I was surprised to find a nomination for the Liebster Award from canaf, who blogs about her rural lifestyle at Faithful Homesteader. “I’ll wait until my son’s fall break is over,” I decided. Two days later, I received a Liebster nomination from Lucile, whose delightful, thought-provoking posts can be read at lucile de godoy, on life. To both authors, thank you–not only for your recognition but also for your contributions to the community!

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On this rainy afternoon, I watched my son ride away in his roommate’s car. Since my daughter’s fall break doesn’t start for a few days, I have a window in which to accept the Liebster, a word of German origin that means “dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, welcome, sweetheart and boyfriend” (from Lucile’s post). The purpose of the Liebster is to recognize and encourage relatively new bloggers–specifically, those with fewer than 200 followers. I decided to participate in passing on this award because reading “award” posts has helped me find blogs to follow, including the blogs of my two nominators.

When my kids were little, they watched a lot of "Sesame Street." As a consequence, this song has been playing in my head as I wrote the post: "Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?"

My kids watched a lot of “Sesame Street.” As a consequence, “Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?” started playing in my head as soon as I came up with the title for this post.  (“The Sesame Street Songbook”)

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As outlined in canaf’s post, here are the rules:

  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Thank the blogger who presented this award and link back to his or her blog.
  • Write 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers who you feel deserve this award and who have less than 200 followers.
  • Answer 11 questions posted by the presenter and ask your nominees 11 questions.

This is not an “official rule,” but it’s a good idea to go to your nominees’ blogs and tell them about your nomination, with a link to your post.

This is not my neighborhood--it's not even on the East Coast--but I did take this picture.

This is not my neighborhood–it’s not even in the South–but I did take this picture.

Eleven random facts about the author of sappy as a tree:

  • 1. I have worn glasses since I was 8.
  • 2. I have always lived in the southern part of the United States.
  • 3. I like cooking (but not shopping for groceries).
  • 4. I am allergic to poison ivy and dust mites.
  • 5. I once ordered a leather sofa over the phone: as you might expect, it is attractive but not particularly comfortable.
  • 6. I own two different patterns of Christmas china.
  • 7. When I was 7 years old, my mother found me sobbing because I thought I might get a “B” in music.
  • 8. I have three sisters.
  • 9. I also have two brothers.
  • 10. Although I am not a runner, Chariots of Fire is one of my favorite movies.
  • 11. I own all three seasons of the original “Star Trek” television show.

If any brave souls are still reading, I will now answer 11 questions from canaf AND 11 questions from Lucile. ( I’m becoming uncomfortable under the glare of the spotlight.) Here are canaf’s fun-to-answer questions with my responses:

  1. Do you prefer sweet or salty foods? I like both: this is probably why I’m slightly overweight.
  2. Are you urban, suburban, or rural?  Suburban.
  3. Do you have a favorite reality TV show? My current favorite is Lifetime’s “The Kim of Queens.”
  4. What is your favorite genre of music? Classical.
  5. Do you have pets? if so, what do you have? No pets: our goldfish, Aragorn, died last month.
  6. Dark or milk chocolate? I prefer dark.
  7. If you could live in another time, when would you chose? As a child, I wanted to live in the 19th century. Now, I know enough history to realize that every era has its drawbacks.
  8. What is your favorite color? Green.
  9. Do you have a favorite sport? If so, what is it? I like playing tennis, but I am not a very good player.
  10. Do you prefer a hot or cold climate? Cold.
  11. What is your favorite movie genre? Hard question: drama, but I also like non-slapstick comedy and suspense.

Here are my responses to Lucile’s probing questions, for the intrepid readers who are still with me:

  • 1. Are you afraid of the dark? Not any more, but strange noises in the dark unnerve me.
  • 2. Do you care about recycling garbage? We faithfully recycle newspaper–a newspaper is delivered to our house each morning (my kids like the comics)–but we are not good about recycling other types of trash.
  • 3. Are you happy?  I am happy with a tinge of guilt and anxiety.
  • 4. If you had to say the truth or protect a friend, which one would you choose?  Eventually, I would say the truth, but I would agonize over it.
  • 5. Are you addicted to social media? Yes, I fear that I am: my new WordPress addiction is overtaking my old Facebook habit: this might be better, since I am reading more?
  • 6. Do you have a dream? I have a dream that every room in my house would be clean at the same time.
  • 7. Have you ever been in love with a friend and never told him? Maybe long ago?
  • 8. Tell us the funniest thing that has happened to you.  I am usually the source of my own comedy: at the age of 11, I was told to grease the bottom of a muffin pan; unthinkingly, I turned the pan over and–yes, this actually happened–I greased the bottom of it. I don’t always connect the dots when I am given oral instructions.
  • 9. If you could choose another place, where would you live? I live in a beautiful place, but it would be nice to live in a less hilly location so that I could ride my bike more. The beach?
  • 10. Don’t you like gossiping? I am ashamed to say that I like reading celebrity gossip: I won’t buy People, but I will read it in waiting rooms. When I do pass on “interesting” tidbits about one person to another, I regret it later.
  • 11. Would you let me know if you would rather not be awarded and why?  I accepted, but I was daunted by the thought of coming up with 11 blogs to recommend. I recently nominated 15 blogs for the “One Lovely Blog” Award, and I tried to come up with different blogs for the Liebster Award.

At last: my eclectic list of nominees! I have been impressed by the honesty or eloquence of each of the bloggers below. (With the exception of #2 on my list, I tried to choose people who–as best I could judge–had not already been nominated for this award, but I could have goofed or something could have changed since I wrote this.)  Nominees, please do not feel any obligation to accept the Liebster Award. Like me, each of you has responsibilities outside the self-imposed writing that we do in our blogs. You are the best judge of whether you have time to participate in this. No worries, if you don’t. If you do, I know you will find it time-consuming, but I hope that you will ultimately find it to be rewarding. (I did.)

My nominees (in no particular order):

  1. Perspectives On . .  work, life, and leisure
  2. Write Out of the Darkness (I’m cheating, since Lucile nominated Terri; if you accept, skip my questions.)
  3. LESSONS LE@RNED (I’m cheating again, since I did nominate Beth’s blog for the OLB Award.)
  4. Family, peace, travel & fiction
  5. Flavia Lozano
  6. River of Life Flows
  7. glasgowmango
  8. Betzcee Rambles
  9. our sacred breath
  10. From My Plan to His
  11. April’s Perspective

And here are my 11 questions, with this caveat: if any question seems too personal or makes you uncomfortable, please substitute one of Lucile’s or canaf’s questions instead.

  1. If you walked into a Starbucks, what would you order?
  2. Read a good book lately? Please divulge its title and author.
  3. How do you feel about rainy days (or Mondays)?
  4. Camping: do you like it or loathe it?
  5. Name one of your favorite desserts.
  6. When you travel from one place to another–via public transportation or personal vehicle–do you listen to news, music, audiobooks, or your own thoughts?
  7. What is your favorite holiday?
  8. Which section of a newspaper do you turn to first–news? editorials? comics? entertainment? crossword? sports? living? classifieds? realty? business?
  9. For a date night, would you prefer a concert or a movie?
  10. How long have you been authoring a blog?
  11. Jane Austen’s character Lady Catherine de Bourgh famously said about the piano, “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.” Is there a talent or skill that you wish you’d had the opportunity to develop? What might you have become a “great proficient” at, if you had had the opportunity to learn?
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From Theme to Shining Theme

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This LEGO sculpture was part of a Sean Kenney exhibit at the Arboretum last November. All other pictures were taken October 2, 2014. Kenney takes LEGO creativity to a new level.

As any child who has ever built a LEGO set under my roof knows, I have compulsive tendencies. Woe to the child who skips a step in building his X-Wing fighter or–unthinkable–attempts to make his own design without first assembling the figure as laid out in the instruction booklet. I have even gone so far as to order missing pieces from the LEGO company. Once the prepackaged creation–an oxymoron, I admit–has been assembled, I accept that I must allow the toy to function as a toy. On principle, though, I prefer to follow steps in the correct order (a preference that has resulted in conflict with my husband, who turns to the directions when all else fails).

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Quilt garden at the Arboretum

And so, in my dilatory but determined progress through Blogging 101, I came to Assignment 5 and felt compelled to complete this exercise if for no other reason than that it was the next step in the plan. I felt unenthusiastic because this assignment involved change: experimenting with three different “themes.” For the non-blogging reader, a blogger chooses the header, page layout, menus, and so on when she sets up the blog. There are over 290 themes here at WordPress. Not all themes are free, and, given that I was unsure how long I’d stick with this gig, “free” was my prime consideration when I became a blogger.DSCN0464

Anxious to get my blog set up, I had settled quickly on Twenty Ten, which allowed me to upload a header image; the title’s white default font, however, did not show up well over the photo, making my quotation hard to read. I had headed back to the theme showcase and chosen the first theme I found that would give me both a custom header and a visible title. Big Brother did the job, although the title font seemed a bit utilitarian.  After a week or so, I was used to it, but I had been bothered by my inability to use a featured image. Still, playing with different themes takes time. Was tweaking something that wasn’t broken worth the effort? On the Commons, I had read about bloggers trying to go back to their original themes and having to start from scratch. This worried me.

DSCN0453But the theme assignment was before me, with no way around it: I had to go through it. I was emboldened because of another blogger’s explanation of how to restore a theme. Counting Big Brother as my first experiment, I had to try only two more. So–deep breath–I set off to find a theme. By filtering the themes according to features that I wanted, I narrowed down the field to 78. I still had some browsing to do. Finally, I got out a notebook, archaic though it felt, and wrote down a few themes to try. It did take time, and I had to backtrack from activation more than once. After Twenty Twelve, Simplicity, and Widely all let me down, I was on the verge of restoring Big Brother, when I spied Able. I liked the preview well enough to activate it and have decided to keep it.

DSCN0442DSCN0437Once again, it seems that the folks writing the Blogging 101 assignments know what they are doing. Able is working far better for me than Big Brother did. I like the way my title looks. I can customize my header and my font color. I can feature an image when I publish my posts. While noticeable to me, the changes probably seem insignificant to others, but maybe that is the easiest way to approach change: one step at a time–one shade darker here, one shade lighter there.

DSCN0469With the assignment done, I felt so light-hearted that I proposed a walk at the Arboretum to my husband and son. There, the gradual move into autumn is changing the look of things.  The color changes are subtle in the woods, but, slowly, the greens are giving way to reds, oranges, and yellows.  Since it was late on a week day, we had the place almost to ourselves and could enjoy a quiet walk, drenched in the afternoon sunlight.

One incidental felicity of our visit to the Arboretum was an indoor exhibit on deep-sea exploration that my fourth grader found fascinating. He and his father had fun trying to piDSCN0444ck up a sponge with a robotic arm like the one recently attached to Alvin, a submersible that helped to photograph the Titanic. Science lesson for the day? Check!

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Although the Arboretum grounds are open until 7, the exhibits close at 5, so I had time for only one bonsai photo.

Although David would have happily remained at the Extreme Deep exhibit for another hour, I welcomed the time when the curator ushered us out of the building and back into the sunshine. My husband and I are going to enjoy our year’s membership at the Arboretum, an anniversary gift from our children. Nothing clears away the cobwebs like a walk in the woods.

One challenge down–for the moment, at any rate. In the wonderful world of WordPress, nothing is set in stone. Who can say that I won’t find a theme that I like better next month? For now, I can stroll past the reddening leaves of the dogwood and take cheer from the yellow daisies, knowing that today’s decision is behind me.


Note to the Reader: as of late October 2014, Able no longer appears to support a Featured Image.

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Shrouded in Fog: September Days and Blogging 101

Taken at Graveyard Fields last September, this picture reflects my current feelings about Blogging 101.

Taken at Graveyard Fields last September, this picture reflects my current feelings about Blogging 101.

After a day spent tweaking my blog’s title, theme, and previous posts, I am beginning to think that perhaps I ought not to have taken up the gauntlet.  (Don’t ask how well I supervised my fourth grader’s schoolwork today.) Glancing at the posts in the Blogging 101 Commons, I would guess that the theme troubles are just beginning: as soon as one area is improved, another goes downhill. In my case, I am not enamored of “Big Brother”‘s font, but my title is showing up better.

Even Blogging 101’s third assignment–saying “Hi” to other bloggers–wasn’t easy for this introvert. NONE of my Facebook friends are blogging on wordpress.com, or else they avoided connecting their Facebook accounts. Now I can’t find a way to disconnect my Facebook account from wordpress.com: I avoid giving access to my Facebook profile and list of friends, but, in my quest for like-minded bloggers, I agreed to the connection–from which no divorce now seems possible. Making new connections is the obvious solution, but that means stepping out into uncharted territory: “Beyond here, there be dragons.”

Ah, well, this photograph from last September reminds me that beauty may be hiding beneath the fog, just out of sight. As so often happens when we set out on a family hike–the “we” is reduced these days, down from seven to three or four–the weather was not ideal on that September afternoon.  It didn’t rain, but Graveyard Fields, a flat mountain valley in the Pisgah National Forest, was shrouded in fog. Hiking in fog is a surreal experience: you are surrounded by trees, shrubs, and mountains, yet you can see only a few feet ahead. Even on a sunny day, it is easy to get lost at Graveyard Fields, which has several trails that intersect with back-country camping sites; on a foggy day, I would not recommend going it alone.

On the other hand, there is a forced solitude, a necessary quiet, that descends with the fog. Cloudy weather typically reduces the number of hikers, which is a welcome change at a spot as busy as Graveyard Fields. On this particular day, taking the trail off to the left, we hiked quietly and carefully over the muddy ground and then on to the Upper Falls, which you can just glimpse in the top photograph.

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P1050163As you can see, the clinging mists subdued even my spirited son. But I don’t regret our hike that day, even if we did walk more slowly and uncertainly because it was difficult to see where we were going.  There were glimpses of light through the trees, hints of vistas beneath the layer of fog. As the day wore on, the mists dissipated, and we could see the solid forms of rock and stream. In the same way, moments of understanding will surely come as I become more familiar with the technical terms of blogging. These difficult days of blogging confusion–these, too, shall pass.

That September day, the beginnings of fall were evident in the changing color of the leaves, in the crisp coolness of the air. I, too, am experiencing a season of change in my life, as yet another son has left for college this fall. There is beauty in this new season of life as well–more time for some things, even as the time for other things slips away.