April 8, 2012

So, Bellezza, what was it like giving up blogging for Lent?

Perhaps the best way to describe the experience is to post a few thoughts from my journal during the past 46 days. Here are the most pertinent bits:

February 17, 2012
Sometimes my blog sucks so much out of me. I read wondering what I'll put into my review. I select books according to challenges, review requests or what I consider worthy for others' consideration, not always what I want to read.

True, my horizons have been greatly expanded by the books I'm exposed to and the friends that I've made. But when a passion governs you, instead of you governing it, something's got to change. I need to let some pressure go. I need to rid myself of obligation and unspoken competition. I need to restore my joy in literature. I'm strongly considering giving up my blog for Lent, except for the three posts I've committed to for tours and publishers.

It seems very nice to lay it all down for roughly forty days. I may lose some rank, some traffic, some influence. But, it's only temporal. Not eternal.

Saturday, February 18, 2012
It's funny to me how ever since I decided to give up blogging for Lent, I have peace. It's been running my life to where I wasn't enjoying what I was reading. Now I'm freed up-emotionally and literally-to read as I choose. So tired of the chore blogging's become in the endless "requirements" to post and leave comments.

Worse, I realized tonight that I've established too much of my worth on page rank, blog status and comments. Not focusing on God's approval of me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012
When I gave up chocolate for Lent, I'd be tempted with substitutes: cocoa at night, Nutella for breakfast. Because if it's not in a bar form, it must not really be chocolate.

And so, I give up blogging largely because it's an obsession, an overwhelming amount of constant information, and then I get an iPhone4s. As if that fits with denying my sacrifice. Now I can check email. Twitter. Get comments left on my blog with the click of a button. Therefore, the only blogging I'm not doing is posting reviews or leaving comments.

Linda sent me a link to post that wrote of an "Internet Sabbath": turning off one's devices from Friday night until Monday morning. I think that would be a more worthy thing to do throughout the year.

Saturday, February 25, 2012
I love having the computer, and Blogger, turned off. I love not checking it throughout the day, or being concerned about what to review next. I'm so free, in fact, I wonder how ardently I'll pursue blogging once Lent is over.

Monday, February 27, 2012
Since before Christmas my Technorati Books authority has been in the top 100. Now it's 702. How quickly one is forgotten. Deemed unnecessary.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012
It's so difficult to write a post now! I've labored and labored over my review for Enchantments. Before Lent, I would write a post in fifteen minutes, polish up the spelling or mechanics, change a word here or there, and hit "Publish". Now I save the draft. Revisit it. Quit halfway through utterly stymied. Can one lose one's ability to write by not doing it for only three weeks?!

Saturday, March 17, 2012
There is so much going on that I want to blog about! I'm excited about World Book Night coming up  April 23, for which I'll be giving away a different book than I expected but am still thrilled to participate. I'm so excited about the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize titles which both Parrish and Stu have been discussing on Twitter. (For which I've only read Murakami's 1Q84, and purchased Naruda's Parallel Stories. But, I want to read Eco's The Prague Cemetery as well as others on the list.) I've been receiving all kinds of titles from Penguin and Simon and Schuster that I'm dying to mention. Laura Fabiani has tagged me for a meme on her blog, Brad has contacted me about passing on discounts for Gone Reading International which helps support libraries and literacy programs, and Tom of Wuthering Expectations and I are planning to read Baltasar and Blimunda (a Nobel prize winning book by Jose Saramago) to read and discuss at the end of April.  For the first time, today is a bit of a challenge not to write a post. Or, two.

Sunday, April 8, 2012
Is it a sacrifice if one enjoys giving it up? I have been largely relieved in this little exercise of mine. I've missed your posts, learning what books you've enjoyed, and reading over the events of your lives. But I can't say that I've missed blogging terribly. In fact, I've discovered that, as in anything, balance is required. A little reading and reviewing, while avoiding the tendency to turn one's joy into a job? That's where I'm going from now on.

I hope you'll join me.

74 comments:

  1. Welcome back! I've missed you, but I completely understand what you've gone through. Personally, I'm thinking of closing down all my blogs for good. Don't know if I'll do it but, unlike you, I barely get any traffic any way.

    I think it was the feeling of competition, along with feeling like I was being judged for my political beliefs, that took the joy out of book blogging for me. That and the fact that I'll post things asking specific questions and get no responses, despite getting hits.

    I hope you find a nice balance and can get the joy back.

    cjh

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    1. Hi CJ, I sense a bit of sorrow in your comment (perhaps too strong a word). I loathe feeling judged and so I often take too neutral of a stance. I admire you for taking a position, and of course you know I agree with all of your political and religious beliefs as they echo my own. Still, I understand when writing a blog no longer feels fulfilling.

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    2. Thanks for the kind words, Bellezza. And you may be right, but it is what it is. It's not keeping me awake at night.

      Glad you're back.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I have definitely shifted to blogging about what I want to read rather than reading what I think I should blog about. It's made a big difference in my excitement level about books. And that's what matters, after all -- not stats or metrics or traffic. Glad to have you back!

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    1. Blogging about what we want to, when we want to, has got to bet he key. I can see why it's made a big difference in your excitement about books!

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  3. Hi Bellezza! Glad to see the blogging break felt quite good. It's important not to let things run us, but do the opposite instead :)
    Happy Easter, full with love and light!

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    1. Hi Ally! One of the things that made me sad about this blogging break was how I never officially wrapped up our Venice in February reading challenge. I so loved that!! I read a ton of books for it, too, I think more than even for the JLC5. Do you suppose it's too late to mention my thoughts on it a full month and a half later? Can we do it again next year?!

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    2. Don't worry, Bellezza! There is always next year and I definitely want to do it again, since I have books set in Venice that I want to read, plus I didn't manage myself either to write more about the ones I finished reading, since February and the first half of March have been totally crazy for me... So, if you want to stand by my side next year as well, I will be thrilled :)

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  4. It was really interesting reading your thoughts during the break and has also made me think about why I blo. But what does come across most strongly is how much you do love blogging and the reasons why. Happy Easter!

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    1. Sakura, when I review my post I see it's much longer than those I normally write. Bless you for taking the time to read it (or most of it anyway :). I do love blogging, I do love discussing books, when I do it with an element of moderation.

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  5. Now this struck more than one chord.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. Thanks for reading them, Caroline. Glad that you could relate to one or to of my thoughts.

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  6. Welcome back! It seems like you got a lot out of your blogging break and some of the topics you touch on, like blogging becoming competitive and an obligation, hit a nerve with me too. Here's to blogging just for fun :)

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    1. One of the wonderful things about blogging with bibliophiles is that we seem to feel so similarly about things. Here's to blogging for fun, and meaning, when we want to!

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  7. It sounds like this was a wonderful lesson for you and a very successful Lent. Happy Easter!

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    1. Happy Easter, Kathy. Thanks for being such a faithful commenter and encourager.

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  8. I gree that we have to balance what we love to read with what we have promised to read. Hopefully some books will hit both categories.

    I often read library books as well.

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    1. I'm trying to use the library more. For one thing, it's becoming expensive to keep buying books, even for my Nook. For another, I'm running out of storage! The only problem with our library, which keeps winning some national prize in excellence, is that I'm always person 900 on the wait list. I just received a book I put on hold in December! Can't tell you how annoying that is!

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  9. I've enjoyed your journal during Lent. I think it's admirable you had taken the leave of absence to spend more time during that meaningful hiatus. Glad you're back too, so we can hang out again. ;) Happy Easter to you and yours, Bellezza!

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    1. Arti, it was especially hard to be in absentia for the first round of Midnight's Children posts! I didn't read, or comment, on the posts I wanted to discuss that book, so I'm especially glad that I'll be back for Part Two.

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  10. I need to let some pressure go. I need to rid myself of obligation and unspoken competition. I need to restore my joy in literature.

    A little reading and reviewing, while avoiding the tendency to turn one's joy into a job? That's where I'm going from now on.


    This is where I am in my blogging. I read what I want when I want. I write and post reviews at my leisure. The only thing I wish I could do more of is visit my favorite blogs on a more regular basis. I'm constantly trying to catch up! There simply aren't enough hours in the day to do all I want to do. But fretting about a review is now at the bottom of my list. It'll get done when it gets done.

    I've missed you terribly and am happy to have you back. Good luck with your new goals!

    Happy Easter, dear friend.

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    1. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that we gave up the same thing for lent!! I also gave up FB and any social media. I had the same conclusions as you, though I did miss my friends that I only connect with through blogging!! But visiting everyone today has been very sweet!

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    2. Lesley, you've always been much better than I have at drawing boundaries for yourself. I remember a few discussions we've had on how I wouldn't even allow myself to abandon a book if I didn't like it! Now imagine my relief to abandon the compulsion to post if I don't feel like it! So glad you missed me, thank you for your constant friendship and caring. I missed you, too, a lot!

      Sara, I didn't know you gave up blogging and social media for Lent! It's so interesting that as sisters in Christ we felt the same need to do so. I'm looking forward to visiting everyone's blog, too, and getting back in touch.

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  11. Welcome back! I'm always so impressed with your goals each year; quite a motivation and reminder for me!

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    1. Natalie, it's sweet of you to be impressed, but really, I just do what I feel led to do. We motivate and remind each other of things to do in our lives.

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  12. Absolutely will! Happy Easter!

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    1. XOXO, Audrey. Happy Easter to you, too. He is risen!

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  13. Keeping blogging “real,” putting it in context and perspective with the rest life - that’s always a challenge. I think stepping away from time to time is good, and I like your conclusion- a little reading, a little reviewing, and don’t turn the joy into a job!

    I’m glad your time off brought you a blessing :)

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    1. I'm glad you concur with my conclusion that we don't turn our joy into a job. I even have to apply that to my cycling! I love the things I love, but I don't want them to control me and become onerous. Here's to keeping our blogs real!

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  14. I hope you'll keep book blogging for purely selfish reasons--I enjoy reading your book blog. But in all honesty, it sounds to me like you are ready to move on to other things. That's fine. That's great, really. I think it's a mistake to assume once a book blogger, always a book blogger. I believe it is always best to leave the party while you're still having fun.

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    1. I don't know if I'm ready to leave in entirety, C.B. After this respite I do feel refreshed, and I think that drawing some boundaries for myself will be immeasurably helpful. Still, books and discussing them are quite high on my list of favorite things to do, so I imagine I'll be around awhile yet. Glad you like reading my blog, and I want to remind you how much I loved your Western Challenge last year. Reading The Virginian was a highlight of my reading period. One of my favorite books ever, and I'd not have read it if your challenge hadn't encouraged me in that direction.

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  15. point one, blogging is fun, if not, stop. apart from the odd time like now (IFFP) I only blog/post on average once a week & my posts are written as & when I want, with posting once a week I've normally more written than I've posted ( at the moment I have 7 posts ready to go) that way less stress and if I don't feel like writing I post one of my already written.

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    1. PS. Although I'm lost without my phone (broken at the mo)as all my tweeting, answering comments, G+ Emails etc are done via that :- (

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    2. Putting up a post once a week on average sounds like a wonderful plan. I, too, have a few posts in queue if I feel like publishing them.

      You must be quite attached to your phone! I've just purchased an iPhone, and I can see how that would set off a whole new string of addictions for me!

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  16. welcome Back ,love the diary happy easter ,all the best stu

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    1. Happy Easter, Stu! I missed you, and your translated fiction. Quite a bit.

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  17. Welcome back, happy Easter & I'll be so interested reading about your Saramago read. He's Warmth's favourite author.

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    1. Joan, perhaps you'll join us in the Saramago read? I'll put up an invitation later this week, to further pique your interest... :)

      Happy Easter, to you, too.

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  18. Welcome back. I'm glad you were able to find your blogging voice through that period of silence. What book did you get for World Book Night?

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    1. Hi dear Vasilly, I originally requested Because of Winn Dixie which I love!!! But, they had run out of that copy so I received The Reliable Wife which I like very much. However, another title I would have been thrilled to give away is A Prayer for Owen Meany which I've not read but keeps cropping up as a beloved title from bibliophiles.

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  19. It's so good to have you back! As you know, I concur with many of your conclusions. My own practice of writing what interests me, and posting on a (mostly every six or seven day) schedule that allows me time to create quality and my readers time to enjoy what I say has been a lifesaver.

    I suspect it's that approach which has allowed blogging to remain a joy for me - never has become a job. Sometimes it's more difficult to write than at other times, but sometimes I don't want to cook dinner!

    Happy Easter - and happy Easter season. It's a time to nurture the growth and new life that arose during Lent.

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    1. Shoreacres, I know that you are very good at giving what teachers call "wait time". You write a thought-provoking post and give us time to mull it over. Form our own thoughts and conclusions even after we've responded to yours.

      Here's something I don't know how you do: you respond so thoughtfully on so many blogs! I can't imagine how you have the time, and the energy, to read every post let along garnish the nugget of truth from it which you so perceptively do.

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  20. I admire your "stick-to-it-ness". You were missed.

    (I secretly think about giving up blogging or taking a long break).

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    1. I cheated a bit. Posted on three promised reviews. Checked on my gmail for any messages. But, it was a much needed 'sacrifice'. Thanks for missing me.

      Should you post your secret on Post Secret? :)

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  21. Hi, nice to see you back. What a fulfilling break!

    Looking forward to the Saramago reading. I doubt I will do much for your Technorati ranking - you might help mine!

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    1. My current position is not going to help anyone's rank. ;) But, we're only doing this for the love of literature, right? Looking forward to reading Saramago with you

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  22. Welcome back, Bellezza!! I'm so glad you are back - I've missed your insightful posts ;) And, Congrats on sticking it out during Lent ( I was pretty good, but failed the last week )! I see that you've thought quite a bit about blogging - makes me think about why I blog.

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    1. You're so sweet, Nadia. Thanks for missing me and remembering to come back! ;) I missed it myself, too, in many ways. Especially the feeling of camarderie, but not the feelings of obligation. :)

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  23. Before I comment on the deeper parts of your post, -

    "Monday, February 27, 2012
    Since before Christmas my Technorati Books authority has been in the top 100. Now it's 702. How quickly one is forgotten. Deemed unnecessary."

    I think that is because your blog wasn't visited because people knew it wasn't up and running during Lent. Don't you?

    I don't know why there are stats and friends and followers. It is so Junior High to me. Aren't we grown-ups now? Supposedly our own people without needing approval? It's just weird to me. Sometimes I check mine for fun, and you know what I found the other day as a source, of how someone gets to my blog - an I hate O. website. You know who the O. is. I didn't want to say his name. My God, where in hell did that come from. I don't post anything political or religious so... It sure makes me wonder about the validity of those numbers and names. And my most all-time popular post is the one on my kids' tattoos. None of my heartfelt book or garden or people posts, but tattoos!

    I think we can't write for anyone else. Just ourselves and what we are feeling at the moment.

    I think it was a 'sacrifice' because you did not enjoy giving it up. Giving it up was difficult, but as the time went on it felt good, and really I think that's what Lent should be, right? We give up say, chocolate. When Easter comes, perhaps we have learned balance, to know when enough is plenty.

    I think one of the hardest things for me in this blogging world is when I see some blogs have 20-40 comments a post, while some whose words are magnificent, whose thoughts are profound have maybe two comments. I don't get it. Not that the ones who get a lot don't deserve them, but why aren't people reading all the others?

    I hope you will read what you want, when you want, and take as long as you want. And the same with writing about the books. I know I've begun a 'book notes' that I do occasionally instead of a full-blown book report. Sometimes I want to just take note of a book, and get on with reading the next one. :<)

    I thought of you all during Lent, and wondered what you were feeling and thinking. I'm so glad you kept your journal. A brilliant idea. So good to look back upon and remember how you felt.

    I'm very happy to see your return. And I'll be here no matter what you write about, or how long your post is.

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    1. Wow, Nan, such a thoughtful and involved post you've left here, with a lot I want to respond to. First, you always understand the essence of the thing...I can count on you to 'get' why I do what I do, and give me encouragement in the process. Loved these lines from your comment:

      "I think we can't write for anyone else. Just ourselves and what we are feeling at the moment." Agreed!

      As to a site about O and the most beloved post being on tattoos, that's so laughable! I would never associate you or your lovely blog with subjects so trivial; I just straight away to what you've written on nature, or books, or cooking.

      As to comments, I think there's really no rhyme or reason. I know that many of my friends, in real life, read my blog. I didn't know it until they told me because they never left a comment. But, in conversation they'll say, "Oh, I read this and such on your blog..." Just because someone hasn't left a comment doesn't mean one's content isn't read. And, I agree with you, some of the most personal and touching and well written posts have only one or two thoughts in the comments section. Maybe there's not much more to add to those kinds of posts, but what one takes away in one's heart.

      Thank you, Nan, for being my friend.

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    2. And you, for being mine!
      I think I wasn't clear in my comment. I didn't mean blog entries on one blog- I mean blogs in general. How some blogs receive a ton of comments while others which are equally wonderful may receive one or two.
      And every single time I check my stats, someone has found my tattoos posting. :<)

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    3. No, I knew that you meant one blog receiving few comments. It is a weird 'phenomenon' that I can't quite explain either.

      As to checking stats, how about this new plan? We won't! XO

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    4. I so rarely do. Mostly I've found that they are way off. I do enjoy seeing how many view my kids' tattoos though. :<)

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  24. Thank you, Belleza, for sharing your thoughts here. I've struggled with finding and maintaining the balance of bloggish stuff with real life stuff, and I'm afraid I too often let bloggish stuff dominate. I'm happy to see you back and hope you continue to maintain your desired balance and joy in sharing of reading.

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    1. Thanks for your warm thoughts, Amanda. I've missed you!

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  25. We're glad you're back! Thank you for sharing journal thoughts. I hope you find that balance and will continue posting in a way that doesn't feel like a job with stress and pressures. Purely selfish reasons, of course. When I step away, I feel lighter and more in the here and now. I think there must be changes in our neuron pathways as we hook into online and I'm sure we will be seeing more research about this. In the meantime, I hope you still find joy in blogging and maybe a once a week post might do the trick. I hope so - we would miss you!

    Sorry to hear about Winn Dixie because it's one of my all-time favorites, but I bet the Reliable Wife will be a wonderful giveaway.

    Looking forward to Salamago.

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    1. I was hoping to give away Winn-Dixie because it's one of my favorite read-alouds. There's so much in that book to think about for a long time. But, I loved The Reliable Wife for the story...it totally caught my interest. However, I can't give that away at my elementary school (unless the teachers want it! ;).

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  27. Bellezza, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your blog is wonderful, a rare blend of artistry and thought-provoking content. I'm sure it requires a great deal of time and effort; not "having to" blog can be a bit of a relief at times.

    After a few days without blogging, though, I start to feel antsy. For me, the best part of blogging is the writing process, and the discoveries that brings. It is also very satisfying to add to my work in progress, to record just a bit of my experience, to make it clear and solid (to the extent that I can). The "teacher" side of me loves helping others, and I hope my blog has helped students and others better understand some of the books they read in school or elsewhere. And of course, I greatly enjoy and appreciate comments from readers.

    This is a wonderful discussion topic! Thanks for providing this platform.

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    1. Suko, I'm so touched that you said you find a blend of artistry and content as that is my goal. I know what you mean about feeling antsy. It's almost like one's blog has become a part of one's self; we think about it, plan for it, check it. And after those things have become a habit it's hard to let go!

      I love comments, too, to keep the conversation going. Thanks for always being a faithful friend through our blogging endeavors.

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  28. It was so nice to see a post from you this afternoon. I know that, for me, giving up the blogging would be something of a relief as well. But most of the time I love it. As you mention, the balance is key.

    I gave up sweets for Lent, which is a HUGE deal for me. But I've realized that I attach emotions and stress to my need for sweets, and it was becoming ridiculous. I need to deal with those things as opposed to a quick fix that makes me feel better. I'm always amazed when I give something up the things I learn about myself.

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    1. You must use Google Reader to know when new posts arrive...I should get into that habit rather than checking my sidebar. Which is really in my footer.

      Giving up sweets is very difficult! I think what's most interesting, in both of our cases, is that through our sacrifice we can take a step back and re-evaluate why it is that we do what we do. I, too, am amazed when I learn something new about myself.

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  29. Wow!! This is such an interesting post :D You know…I started enjoying my blogging again when I STOPPED reading because I felt like I had to. In other words, I no longer read because I have to review something or because I have to finish a challenge. I just read because I want to now and if I like a book I post about it and I'm finally really loving blogging again :) I had to find a happy medium somewhere because there was no way I could walk away from all of the amazing friends like you that I've made.

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    1. Chris, it's interesting that you liked blogging again when you stopped reading...perhaps we shouldn't always tie the together! And, I consider you an amazing friend as well. You're always the first person to send me a Christmas card, and you're the only one to have made the Pinch-up (shortbread) cookies. :)

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  30. Welcome back!!! I've been through a lot of what it seems like you've wrestled with. Somewhere along the way, I found out my RSS feed was broken and my numbers were dropping. I pondered that and how obsessive I'd become with numbers. My conclusion was that I didn't need to fix it. I'm fine being a quiet blogger in my own little corner. If people drop by, I'm thrilled. I will do my best to visit them in return, but I no longer care about Technorati ratings and blog grades. When that newfangled thing called "Klout" came along, I ignored it and persist in ignoring it. I continue blogging for only two reasons: I like my blog friends and don't want to lose touch, and blogging gives me a chance to chatter about something I love.

    In spite of all those conclusions, I periodically get in over my head when it comes to ARCs and then spend months working my way out from under the burden. Anyway, so glad you're back!! Do you know I went to London and visited Persephone Books, again, while you were away?

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    1. Yeah, Klout...what the Hell? Or, how about Compete? Talk about the anti-thesis of blogging for friendship! :)

      I am way over my head with ARC's (note my sidebar, and that doesn't include all of them). I, too, work through the stack for months or abandon them with an overwhelming sense of guilt. But, I don't want to put something on my blog which says, "Don't send me any more reiew copies." That would be dumb.

      So, you've been to Persephone (twice) and Japan? I think I might have to stop talking to you. Not really. XO

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    2. Oh, I haven't heard of Compete. That sounds seriously icky, just based on the name!

      LOL I actually have a note on my blog saying I'm not accepting any ARCs till further notice, but everyone ignores that. It doesn't hurt to throw up a notice, now and then.

      Actually . . . I've been to Persephone 3 times. This year, I bought 4 books and a couple postcards and then decided I needed to go back to get more postcards to hang onto for times I want to dash off a quick note to book buddies (and, while there, I bought another book, har). So . . . want a Persephone postcard? Send me your address privately (I'm always losing things) and I'll pop one in the mail, the next time I go to the PO.

      You're too nice to ditch me. I know that. (HUGS)

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  31. Welcome back. It was interesting to read your thoughts, and I think I would feel similar things if I was to stop blogging for a while. I have tried to step back to a degree, but I still would be lost without blogging, but then then are days when I still feel incredibly insecure doing it! That's despite the fact that I have been doing it for ages now!

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    1. Oh, Marg, how brave of you to admit to a feeling of insecurity. May I confess the same? I look at so many blogs I admire, or the really amazing reviews from sources such as the New York Times, and I feel quite insignificant. But, I guess I just blog to share my thoughts, and read responses, as well as read your thoughts and others'.

      Ultimately, I'd feel a bit lost without it, too.

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  32. Welcome back! I've missed you, but I think you did a very important thing that I think we could all benefit from. I agree that balance is the key and I am trying to cut down on the blogging, but I do miss it if I go away for a few days. I've just had 5 days away and this afternoon I have more family coming to stay so will have another 3 days away, but I know I'll be very keen to get back to blogging after that. I hope you manage to find a balance.

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    1. Thanks, Jackie! After 8 days, I'm sure you'll be quite keen to get back to your blog. The longer we stay away, the tougher it is to get back in touch with everyone (in my opinion). I feel so lost about knowing what my friends are reading and thinking.

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  33. I loved reading this, and I think I'd feel just the same. Especially since I work in social media now, I feel a lesser urge to be competitive in my blogging and social media presence at home. Home time is reading time, kiddo time, me time.

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  34. I didn't know you now work in social media??! Tell me more, have you 'abandoned' teaching?

    Amen to home time is reading time, kiddo time, your time!

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  35. Looks like you gleaned some important lessons from your experience of giving up blogging for Lent. Letting go of obligation is so important but so difficult. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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