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why blog?

On Saturday morning I was invited to be a part of a blogger breakfast. This was a treat on two accounts. First, Hungryman is not a fan of breakfast fares, so a breakfast date is rare and lovely. And, I got to see the faces and hear the voices behind blogs that I read.

Look at what a nice bunch they are.

(Clockwise from bottom left: Heather at Extraordinary Ordinary, Kelly at Love Well, Sara from Greetings from Butterville, Whitney from Baby Tunnel Exodus, Jenny from A Latte Talk and Heidi from Minnesota Mom.

Not an axe murderer in the bunch. And the husbands were so scared.

I stuffed my cheeks with pumpkin pancakes while they discussed all things bloggerly. I tried to contribute between bites, but a plateful of pancakes that I did not make was a temptation that I could not overcome.

After our lovely morning together, I began to question why I blog? Is it beneficial? Is it helpful? What is the purpose? What is my purpose in it?

I was thinking about writing a post to work this all out and then today Kelly, one of the breakfast bunch, tagged me with a meme about how blogging has affected me. Perfect.

Here are the rules:

1. Write about 5 specific ways blogging has affected you, either positively or negatively.
2. link back to the person who tagged you
3. link back to this parent post
4. tag a few friends or five, or none at all
5. post these rules— or just have fun breaking them

So, I’ll just go ahead and break the rules by rewriting them to fit my present conundrum. Here are five reasons why I blog (be warned: I’m working this out as I write the post. I may ramble and I’m not sure where I’ll end up):

1. Stories. For as long as I can remember I have been mesmerized by stories. I love to hear stories and to share stories. If you tell me something in the form of a story, I am likely to remember it forever. Even if it is your story and you have forgotten it.

It’s true. Ask my cousin Heather. We moved to the same town when I was ten and she was twelve. I spent the entire first summer in New Mexico staring up at her canopy enraptured by her tales of Texas. Today, she asks me to fill her in on details about her own childhood.

I’m a storyteller. If you are in my physical presence for any period of time you will undoubtedly be subjected to stories. And all of my stories always leads to another story. In fact I’m known for interrupting my own story to tell another story in the middle.  And I often say, “Oh, I have two more things.” Really, I always have two more things to say. And they’re almost always a story.

Blogging affords a place for my stories, and a place to savor your stories. So many of your stories are so compelling. I am pulled into your stories like I am to characters in novels, but you’re actually alive and in the present.

2. Creative Outlet. I’ve always been drawn to the art of writing. I love how you can string words together to create a picture. I love rhythm and rhyme, alliteration and assonance. I love how sounds create moods and changes feelings. And I love words.

I wait for the perfect word. My blog drafts are full of “Ava BLANK the rosy apple off the branch.” BLANK is my marker to go back and insert the best word. This means that I am not a fast blogger. I’m a fast reader and a slow writer.

This blog is my place to play with plot and setting, irony and surprise. This is the schoolyard on which I’m learning more and more about writing well. Welcome to my rough drafts.

3. Connection. I started this blog to share pieces of my life with my friends and family who live far from me.

I feel akin to the writers of I John when they say, “We write this to make our joy complete” (1:4). While I’m not always writing about the gospel or even important matters, I feel the same way. Sharing an exciting or silly story increases my pleasure in it, especially if I know that you also enjoyed it. This is where those comments become a dialogue, a shared enjoyment over an experience.

At first this was between myself and people I physically know. Now it has extended to people I have yet to meet. It is true what they say, I do feel connected to you through your blogs and your comments. And I like you and I’m honored that you come here.

4. Guilt. Okay, so this is not a reason to blog. Nope, this would be a reason not to or at least a issue to overcome. I have to confess I feel guilty, actually guilty when I haven’t blogged for a few days (or, gasp, weeks). It’s a nagging sort of guilt that follows me around tapping on my shoulder. I don’t like this at all.

I am one of the persons who tends to live in the moment. What I am doing in the present is all that I am doing and all that I’m thinking about. Multitasking is not something I do, or at least not something that I do well. Shocking, I’m sure. Isn’t a mother what a multitasker is? Well, that I am not (the multitasker part that is, not the mother part). I cannot watch TV and talk to someone at the same time. This baffles my friends and especially my husband.

So as far as blogging goes, it is either all I’m doing and not at all what I’m doing. I can go for days (gasp) without opening my laptop. There are just too many exciting or pressing things in my present physical world.  And then there are days (gasp) when I can’t get off my laptop. Hello, if it has been days since I’ve opened my Google Reader, there are a LOT of blogs to go through. Those are not Ava’s favorite days. I fear that this puts me on the fringe of the term, “blogger.” I suspect most of you bloggers shift more naturally to and from the keyboard.

5. Encouragement. “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today” (Hebrews 3:13).

Blogs are a tremendous platform for encouragement. Many of your posts have been a beautiful bouquet of words delivered to my door step. I have come away from many blogs rejoicing in the testimony of God’s love and faithfulness.

Paul writes in Ephesians that we should “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” That is what I have wanted this blog to be, a space to share that mercies that God sends me each day.

When I considered whether or not to share our experience of losing sweet, unknown babes, I felt that if our experience could be helpful to someone else walking through that path then it was worth it. However, the overwhelming encouragement that I received through your comments, e-mails, and letters have far surpassed any comfort that I had hoped to give. Thank you for extending yourself to me and lifting me up. I have been blessed through blogging.

So that is why I blog. I think it is good. I’m done wrestling for today.

I’m curious now. Why do you?

Or, if you are a reader, why do you read blogs?

I am supposed to tag five others, so I’ll pick three old friends (Yvette, Kristi, & MckMama) and three new friends (Liz, Leah, & Nikki). Yes, I do know how to count–I’m just breaking the rules again.

Really, I loved to hear from more of you. If you choose to do this meme, let me know in the comments and I’ll post a link here.

It’s time to shut to the laptop. Bye.

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Goodbye Online Dating. Hello Online Play Groups.

After months of reading about sweet Julia and thinking, “Oh, that sounds just like Ava” or writing an Ava-antic and receiving a comment about how “Julia does the same thing,” the pint-sized virtual friends met.

My pal MckMama and her sister threw an all-out birthday bash inviting seasoned friends and blogger friends to The Meadows, an enchanted piece of this earth that she calls home.

The men threw their weight around the lake on two supercharged jetskis, churning up enough water to make the neighbors peer out their bay windows to see if a seaplane landing strip had been redirected to their wake-free lake.

HungryMan challenged his long-time water rival Johnny to Interstate Tubing, pulling him white knuckled across the lakes at speeds that exceed highway limits.

The girls huddled around the dock stupified at Johnny’s ability to withstand severe water torture and horrified at HungryMan’s utter disregard for life. Surprisingly, there were no other takers for tube ride pulled by Hungryman. Even Ava refused to ride on the jetski with her daddy. Shocking, I know.

I spent the afternoon catching up with dear college friends and former roommates,

(back: Kristi, MckMama, Me, Yvette. front: Shanel, Becky)

and meeting blogger friends that I have only read about.

(Hilary, Angela, MckMama, Me, Tiffany, Kristi, Yvette & Cosette)

While I was being kindly chastised for taking “too many breaks,” Ava and Julia were forming a friendship that hitherto had only existed in the comment section of their mamas’ blogs. I found these two skipping down the stony path while comparing swimming suit stripes. They were both eagerly awaiting a piece of the princess birthday cake. It was clear that the two were quickly united in their keen sense of summer fashion and sugar-laden sweets.

Ava didn’t want to leave all her newly acquired friends until she heard she was going to ride in Shanel’s car.

“I have always wanted to ride in your car!” she squealed as she grabbed Shanel’s hand.

Shanel opened the rear door and Ava peered in, announcing, “It’s not dirty at all!”

Thank, Ava. Really, it’s not my fault that you insist on carrying out two purses full of crayons, polly pockets, notepads, flash cards, chapsticks and who-knows-what each time we go out to the car. I cannot be held responsible for all the treasures you store in the creases of the back seat.

As we pulled away, Ava stared up at stylishly streamlined dash that makes a VW so hip and said, “Oh Shanel, your car is so beautiful!”

Apparently her good taste extends beyond new friends. Here’s to beautiful friendships and many more parties at The Meadows.

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Raise your hand if you know what a feedreader is? If you’re hand is in the air, then you are most likely not related to me, and you are so above this post.

For the rest of you (including all my lovely and loyal relatives), I’m about to save you from this tedious scenerio:

Monday morning: “let’s see if Rachel’s put something on her blog…oh, man. What’s it called? It’s got bandits or badgers or something unrelated species. Ah, I’ll just google ‘Rachel, Ava, badgers’…. Oh, badgersontheloose.com. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Okay, here we go. It’s loading. Well, look at that same thing as last Friday.”

Tuesday morning: “I’m sure she’s updated her blog by now. Let’s check. Nope.”

Wednesday morning: “Brilliant, still the non-winning picture at the beach.”

Thursday morning: “Hello! Hello! Rachel, update your blog already!!! I can’t just keep checking back here for nothing.”

Okay, see, that’s not fun for anyone. And really, I know your pain. I have a cousin down in St. Louis who I love dearly and she has four little girls that I love nearly as much. I want to see new pictures and read more stories about her girls. Four girls keep her busy, so updates her blog about once every other month. That’s a lot of times to type in her blog address to see the same smiley picture I’ve seen for the past forty consecutive days.

Also, it’s hard to remember everyone’s blog address. Especially if you memory is anything like the sieve that I call my brain. This is why my feedreader is one my new best friends.

What’s a Feedreader?

A feedreader is a handy little gadget that grabs content from all the blogs you want to read and puts in one place.

Well Then, What’s a Blog Subscription?

It’s like having your favorite magazine delivered to your door each month as opposed to buying it in the checkout line at the grocery store. A blog subscription sends the new content of that blog to the destination of your choice, either your e-mail inbox or a feedreader.

This way you don’t have to remember the address or spend time typing it into your browser and waiting to see if the blog is updated. All the new content from all the blogs that you subscribe to are on one page.

For the past several months, I’ve been using Google Reader and it’s great. It’s completely free, easy to use, and best of all, has saved me so much time.

Sound to good to be true? It isn’t. It really is that great.

Enough Jabbering, Hook Me Up Already…

Abraham at The Pipers has written a tremendously helpful post that gives step-by-step instructions on how to set up subscriptions with Google Reader. So go, check it out, and set up your own feedreader–oh, and don’t forget to to subscribe to Badgers on the Loose.

Find me in your feedreader

Find me in your email

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ctrl + enter

I just pushed send on an e-mail containing four devotionals for a local publication. This is the first paid creative writing job that I have had since I left work to stay at home with my new babe nearly four years ago. Even though it is a small project in the scope of writing for hire, I feel a bit dizzy with the completion of this project.

I mention this not to toot my own horn, but rather so that I can say thank you to you. Thank you for reading this silly, little blog about badgers and bears that go “poof.” The fact that you come here to hear what I have the say baffles me. It also prompts me to write and to write regularly. You are my accountability and for that I say, thank you.

Even more than that, thank you for encouraging me. You have inspired me with your affirming words and I feel such an affection for you. I just received another e-mail from a mother who has endured the pain of the loss of an unborn child. To read how my experience encouraged her encouraged me even more so. Thank you for your comments, e-mails, cards, and packages–I mean, seriously, you send me Uggs!

And of course, thank you for making me laugh. Out loud. You are a funny lot.

And last, but certainly not least, thank you to Michelle, who recommended me for the job. I feel quite indebted to you!

I can’t believe how cathartic writing this blog has been for me. It is not natural for me to be publicly vulnerable and forthright about what is happening in my life, and especially on this big, scary thing known as the internet. Yet, I have found a joy in sharing that I never would have expected. Truly, if reading what the Lord is teaching me helps one other person, then the vulnerability is worth it.

And doing these devotionals has been a joy in itself. Jonathon Edwards is credited for seeing all the world as a metaphor for spiritual things. It has been such a blessing to be forced to pause and look afresh at the ordinary things in my life and see an extraordinary hand working in and through them. I want to be faithful to proclaim the good things that God has done. The Psalmist David writes, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul” (Psalm 66:16).

I echo this and say the Lord has blessed me through you, and I praise Him for it.

(For those of you not in the know, “ctrl + enter” is the short-cut for sending an e-mail in Microsoft Outlook. Shortcuts–learn them! They are your friends.)

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Oh, you’re here. This is great. I was worried all night that people were going to get lost or that Blogger wouldn’t do its redirect thing or that I set this up wrong, but look you’re here! Yay! I, for one, am so happy that you are here.

Ahh, the badgers–they’ve taken over the blog. They’ve staged a full-on coup. HuberHadley tipped them and Ava guided them. My defenses were down. I knew they were after my pantry and club chair, but my HP? What do Badgers want with an HP? Well, you have your answer now. Top billing–the badgers want top billing.

So this is where we are now. And it would be great if you would type in http://www.badgersontheloose.com into
your browser the next time you want to come visit. Blogger will only keep redirecting you for so long, and really I don’t want you to get lost.

And if you are one of those insanely nice people who has me on your blogroll or link to me on your blog (for which, by the way, I am so grateful. The fact that you actually come back to read this blog endears you to me, but that you also want other people to come over here–wow, that’s amazing), would you be willing to change the URL from my old blog to my new one. We wouldn’t want to wear out the redirecting folks over at Blogger now, would we?

Now if you were to come to an actual open house like actually at my house, then it would be my fondest pleasure to fill your bellies with something tasty. It’s cold up here in January so it would probably be soup. And I’m married to HungryMan so it would probably be chili.

And since you were so kind to stop over and see our new home, I thought it would be fair that I share my new favorite chili recipe, compliments of my friend Jess’ sister-in-law.

Here’s What You Need:

chili ingrediants

1 giant Stock Pot, 1 Onion, 1 Green Pepper, 1 pound of Ground Beef, 1 can of Tomato Sauce, 1 can of Tomato Soup, 1 can of Water, 1 can of Diced Tomatoes, 1 can of Pinto Beans, 2 cans of Black Beans, 1 bag of Frozen Corn, 3 tbsp Brown Sugar, 3 tbsp Chili Powder, 1 tbsp Cumin, Salt, Pepper, and your favorite Bbq Sauce, oh and Olive Oil.Here’s What You Do:

Chop the Onions and Green Peppers and saute them in Olive Oil over medium heat about three minutes or until soft. Add the Ground Beef and cook until no longer pink. In the meantime, pull out your can opener and open all those cans. Throw the Beans in a colander and give them a good rinse. Tear open that bag of Frozen Corn and defrost the Corn in the microwave. After the meat is cooked thoroughly, drain the fat, but not all of it. And then start pouring in the rest of the ingredients: Tomatoes, Tomato Sauce, Tomato Soup, can of Water, Beans, thawed Corn, Brown Sugar, Chili Powder, Cumin, Salt, Pepper, and a couple of shakes of your favorite Bbq Sauce.

Pretty soon it should look like this. Let it simmer until you are ready to eat.

chili

Mmmm, doesn’t that smell good.

Now if you were actually coming over, I would set the table, make some cornbread, and Ava would get all dressed up and play hostess.

ava and chili

We’re fancy like that.

Phew this open house thing has worn me out, so I’m off to bed. But feel free to stick around and make yourself comfortable. Or check back later, I still have to tell you about the Great Purge and there is another contest in the works.

See you tomorrow.

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What goes up must come down.

Thankfully, Ava’s body temperature adheres to the law of gravity.

And like her bright yellow, cheer-me-up balloon, Ava’s temperature has finally come down to rest a more comfortable level.

Thank you so much for your prayers and concerns. A quick survey of our abundance of laundry and bareness of cupboards will give you a fairly good indication of what the previous four days have been like. Praise the Lord, the fever has past and long days of rocking a portable heater child have come to close.

Ava and I have spent this morning ridding her and her room of all trances of the fever. After an extra long bubble bath, I evicted the large family snarls that had taken up residence in her bed head. I swear there was one section that was two degrees away from being a full-on dread lock. It took nearly thirty minutes of power combing, but the promise of freshly painted pink toes kept the tears at bay. She and her ten cotton candy toes are now sleeping soundly in warm, tumbled-dried jammies and sheets.

In addition to the good health news, I have a little secret for you.

It’s been months in the brain-making and a day or two in the actual-making. I was going to reveal it you on New Year’s Day, but an impromptu visit to St. Louis to see our favorite cousins the day after Christmas and the now famous fever kept it at bay.

Today is the last day of our first blog.

Tomorrow, you will find Ava, Nate, Bubba, Moose, the forest friends, and all of us here at this blog in a brand, spanking new home. We’ve moved everything over, have nearly finished unpacking, and tomorrow we are having an open house–you, my friends are invited.

I can’t tell you our new address, as that is still top-secret!!

So this is your moment to say goodbye to this happy, little blog. For tomorrow, it will be no more.

I have to say that it has been so hard for me to say goodbye to our first blog, which is probably why it has taken me so long to actually do it.

Ava’s proud daddy created it when she was still in the hospital. He was so excited to show the world (read our family and friends) his beautiful daughter that created a website just for her. And the name–a perfect combination of our name, our sweet babe, and his favorite childhood story. Oh, I love the name. I don’t want to say goodbye.

And definitely don’t want to say goodbye to you. I’ve loved meeting all of you here and reading all of your clever comments. Thank you for coming to visit and for reading my stories. You have inspired me and encouragement me. And you have made me laugh, out loud! Thank you making it a very happy memory for me!

So come visit us at our new home. I promise it’s not that far away. And really, it won’t be the same without you.

I hope to see you tomorrow!

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Apologies to all you wonderful, internet friends who tried to comment yesterday and were thwarted by some strange “comment moderation” apparatus.

Somehow I unknowingly jammed up the system. And believe me I was quite worked up about it last night, thinking that I must of hit some chicken noodle sore spot.

Thanks to a kind phone call from Shanel, my trustworthy source of many good things, I was able to locate all the hidden (and oh so nice) comments. It was like happening upon kaleidescope of butterflies caught in web. I pulled back the silk and let them fly.

The pipeline is flowing freely now, so comment away. I’m not going to tell a lie, I do love hearing from you.

And if you are ever in a pinch, call Shanel, really, she works wonders!

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