I’ve been painting. Not painting like Rembrandt, painting like Jerry the painter. But I’m not as good as Jerry. I started painting before we left for vacation and I picked up the brush again when we returned. We are thinking of selling our house and the walk through with our agent revealed, well, neglect. Not the crashing, horrible neglect of, say, Gray Gardens, but neglect nonetheless. A few missing spindles. Chipped radiators. The sort of stuff you notice when it happens and two years later it is still there.
So, I’ve been painting. I like to paint because, as is true of most of the other things I like to do, it allows me to do something while I’m over-thinking so I don’t have to believe that I am indulging my neuroses. I’ve thought about selling the house and moving and where my oldest is going to go to high school and when the economy is going to turn around and the oil spill and, “how am I going to tell my blog readers that I am thinking of selling a house that is so much a part of our family?”
And the last bit led to thinking about blogging. It’s a strange line of thinking, isn’t it, to wonder what people whom you’ve never met will think of your selling your house? Or why they’d care. Very soon our family will mark several milestones. I will turn 45, we will celebrate our tenth anniversary in this house, the boys will put on party hats and have a dog party for Rosie’s 4th birthday and I will note that I have been blogging for three years. All of these things have brought mostly good. And a little not so good. My sisal rug can attest.
Blogging is funny business. I have connected with many wonderful people through Mrs. Blandings. When I christened the blog one of my friends called and said, “It’s perfect; I can’t believe it wasn’t already taken.” I’ve also been called “bland” both here and on other people’s blogs which is a derivative that I wouldn’t have anticipated. Once, I had the giddy pleasure of having a well-known designer say, “Oh! I read your blog,” when we met in New York. I’ve also had someone crucify my home, my Thanksgiving table and my pumpkin pie on the internet. Mostly good. A little not so good.
Recently, I wrote a post about our trip and I had Mr. Blandings read it before I posted. Generally, if something pertains to him I give him a look-see before I publish it. He censored me. He was worried what people would think. And I held it back, but I resented it. I like to think the blog is all mine. But it isn’t really. It’s out there in the open.
I can tell when someone reads it as our conversations tend to start mid-subject, “Oh my goodness, isn’t Utah amazing? We went for my brother’s wedding a few years ago,” while other people are standing by with puzzled looks wondering who mentioned Utah. At the same time, people often feel the need to tell me they don’t read it. “How’s your website thing going?” “Uh, fine.” “I mean, I don’t read it. You know. Well, I’m just not interested in that kind of thing.” Which is dandy, I don’t care if someone reads it, but I think the need to mention it is amusing. I don’t say, “How are things at work? I’m so sorry, but we don’t use your law firm,” or, “I heard you took up bridge. I haven’t; I fear it would be a crushing bore.” (Plus, with bridge I think there is some math and who would want to do that for fun?)
It takes a certain hubris to go on-line. As my friend asked when I announced that I was starting a blog, “Do you really think you have something to say?” I realized that yes, I must think that I do. That is boastful. Not quite as boastful as thinking you can lead the free world, but something. This is one of the reasons I continue to allow the anonymous commenters. I am not quite comfortable in the situation in which I’ve placed myself. And I’m certainly not going to eliminate the avenue that allows someone to tell me my feet are made of clay. Indeed they are. I know; I crafted them myself. (The other reason is because sometimes they correct my spelling, and heaven knows I need that.)
Some people receive the blog through email and that leads to its own surprises. Readers occasionally think they are forwarding and accidentally hit “reply.” One day I received an automated reply to a morning’s post that a magazine editor, whom I very much respect, was out of the office. I can’t tell you that doesn’t change things. It changes things. I also received a reply from the post I wrote about going to California to sit on the Elle Decor panel that was so cruel it made me gasp. That changed things, too. Mostly good. A little not so good.
It is a public forum. I’ve taken heat for being bland, and nice, which has been translated as not being honest or real. I post what I like. There are several publicists and authors and designers who will tell you that I don’t post what I don’t like. But I don’t usually feel the need to announce that I don’t like something. I’m editing. It’s not dishonesty or that I’m trying to get something, I’d just rather not bash someone in public. It’s a public forum. I might think the woman standing next to me in the check-out line has a tragic haircut. And maybe bad pants. And I might say something to one of my friends about it later. But I do not turn to the woman in the check-out line and say, “Sister, your hair is disaster and your pants are a train wreck.” And I certainly don’t post it on the internet. Would it be honest? Perhaps. But it wouldn’t make me more clever or honest or real. It would just make me rude.
Along those lines, another blogger recently raised the issue of voice. Generally, I’m more interested in a blogger’s point of view than his or her voice. I write like I talk. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I do and you may not believe it, but I don’t give a darn. Which is the only dishonesty, by the way. In person, my language is salty; on-line it is not. It’s a public forum.
Mrs. Blandings has brought me incredible opportunities. I mentioned to a friend recently that I am going to do some freelancing for the Chicago Tribune and his mouth fell open. “That’s amazing. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but there are people who have been writing their whole careers who wouldn’t even dream of writing for the Tribune.” I know. I can’t believe it myself. It’s because of the blog. The flip side is a meeting I had with an executive of an organization that I have worked with for twelve years; I have gone in with concerns twice. At one point she said, “Perhaps you have to consider this isn’t the right place for you,” and shortly after that she mentioned a post I had written that had rubbed her the wrong way. That is because of the blog, too. Mostly good. A little not so good.
I started Mrs. Blandings on a lark. Things worked out. I wasn’t “building a brand” or “leveraging social media” and frankly that whole concept makes me mentally gag a little. I’m aware of my numbers. I check them less than I used to. (Which isn’t hard as I used to check them about every two hours.) They are pretty steady. Really, it’s irrelevant. Honestly, when I’m writing, I aware of the dozen or so people with whom I communicate regularly.
And, so, today, I’m just letting you know that we’re thinking about putting our house on the market. Which could be good. Or a little not so good.