In the spirit of random

I’m having one of those mornings when I’m not quite sure what to write about. After all the hustle and bustle of the last couple of weeks the last few days have felt very still, and somewhat empty. So, today, I’m going to do a brief summary of what’s going on in life at present and wrap up with a question for you all.

In no particular order, here’s the big and small of what has been going on this week:

  • I am super excited about our puppy coming home in about two weeks, but somewhat sobered by all the people who are telling me (with the sort of passion and graphic detail usually reserved for stories about labor and delivery) how much hard work puppies are. Most people who’ve weighed in seem dead-set against getting two puppies. One friend laughed out loud when I wondered if our little puppy would be house-trained by the time Mike leaves for Australia on Dec 10. The vehemence of all the facebook comments prompted yet another facebook friend to fear that I’d be dissuaded from puppies entirely and write me a long and lovely email reassuring me that it would be worth it.
  • As a PS to the puppy commentary, is it seriously messed up that I’m already dreading possibly having to leave this puppy here if and when we leave Laos and the puppy hasn’t even come home yet?   
  • Mike’s down south in Vientiane for a couple of days. He gets back tonight, yay!
  • I re-read on old friend of a book this week that I remember loving when I was twenty. It was one of my top twenty most incandescent reading experiences ever. So I was rather disappointed to return to it and find it still engaging but no longer incandescent. On the other hand I read a new book I loved – A Girl Named Zippy – which was just a treat of a memoir about a relatively happy childhood in a town of 300 in Indiana. The author’s voice is wonderful – a study in childhood resilience.
  • And, speaking of resilience, I have started interviewing people this week for the consulting project on resilience in humanitarian managers that I am aiming to have wrapped up by Nov 28th. It’s a fun topic to be pondering, and a real treat to have a good reason to chat to some of the many acquaintances and friends I’ve made over the years in the humanitarian field and make some new ones. Three more interviews today – Kenya, Australia, and Central African Republic. Once again I think of the pure genius of skype with shivers of awed gratitude.

So now, the question. I’ve been reading a lot of articles and blog posts lately about themes in blogging, and offering your readers useful content, and the strategic use of twitter, and how to time your comments on facebook so that you get the most traffic… and it’s all leaving me a bit baffled.

This is a level of strategic thinking I just haven’t reached with social media (and am not entirely sure I want to, either). My usual blogging process is to get up in the morning on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, grab some coffee, and then figure out what I feel like writing about that day. Sometimes that is snakes, or toilets. Sometimes it’s sick kids.

So I’m really grateful that so many of you come here regularly to check out what Mike and I are up to, and I’ve been wondering this week what constitutes “useful content” for you all? What do you enjoy about this blog? What would you like to see me writing more of? What topics would you be interested in?

And, have a great weekend, all.

PS. In the spirit of random, here’s a photo I took from the back of the elephant the other day, because Laos is beautiful.

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22 responses to “In the spirit of random

  1. I read a lot of blogs. My own blog is a sort of a place to record things I think are interesting or noteworthy. It’s completely recreational. I think if I put any pressure on myself at all to post regularly it would end up deteriorating into yet another life “have to”… something I try to keep to a minimum.

    The other blogs I read are more focused… cooking, home decorating, etc. I think the useful content there is pre-determined. Because you’re a writer my thought is that your useful content is you. Keep doing what you’re doing. Your thoughts and perspectives are what draw people to your blog. 🙂

    • Thanks Sally. I don’t know quite what I expected from people on this question, but it’s been lovely to hear that people are just interested in whatever crosses my path. I could make this more focused, but deep down I didn’t really want too at this stage. I do want to impose the discipline of a posting schedule (three times a week seems to work pretty well for me) but I didn’t want to narrow the focus too much. So I’ll keep on as is for now. PS, the bub photos on the blog are too cute. I’m glad you’re loving being a mum.

  2. Some abstract stuff might be fun. You could do some series inspired by other mediums. For example, commentary on the picture from each month of a wall calendar, or set your iTunes to random and reflect on the first song that comes up. Perhaps you could write letters to different plants and animals you see there (no, I’m not smoking something, just thought it might be a fun exploration of personification).

    Anyhow, I haven’t kept up with all your writing thus far, so I probably shouldn’t be making suggestions ; )

    • Well, some interesting thoughts there, for sure. If I didn’t know you well I wouldn’t know how to take this. I do know you quite well, and I still don’t quite know how to take this, but I did laugh out loud. I will ponder these suggestions, but you’ll have to come back to find out whether I’ve taken any of them to heart 🙂

  3. Hi Lisa! I come here pretty regularly in hopes of a new post. I found your blog while searching for blogs about Laos after another terrible day of missing it. I’m native Lao, living in the US, so I’m basically vicariously living through you since my return in August after a summer of frolicking in VTE. For some reason, I really enjoy reading other people’s thoughts about Laos so your contents are spot on. I really enjoy reading about your time spent enjoying the land, the people, the food (since I know you had a rough start trying to love Laos) and questioning humanity but realizing that it’s all part of the beauty that is Laos.

    • Hi Saojoy! What a lovely surprise to find strangers missing home finding this blog, and I’m so glad that you’re enjoying catching glimpses of your homeland through the eyes of a stranger. I know what it’s like to be far away from the place that seems most like home. PS, love the image on the top of your blog!

  4. Lisa – i just love being part of your life from all the way over here. Feel that I know what’s going on in your life more than I know what is going in most of my extended family.

  5. Hi Lisa, I first came to your site because Mike suggested it. Although no literary specialist, I stay because of your amazing writing style regardless of the topic. You delight this reader and others (we talk about your fab blog behind your back). Honestly you don’t ever seem to have a bad writing day. SEO and SMO can become a trap. Soon you’ll worry more about scoring and ranking and it has potential to distract you from your core brilliance in writing. SEO/SMO strategies can provide some good tips, but don’t become wedded to them. Being wedded to Mike is difficult enough 😉

    • Hi Mary, thanks for these wise (and lovely) words! I had to look up SEO/SMO (you learn something every day) and I think you’re right. I’ve already seen in the past how easy it is to get distracted by things like your amazon sales ranking and your blog traffic stats and it definitely can be a time and energy waster!

  6. I’m puppy obsessed — I know. Housetraining time varies. What substrate did it pee on in its early life? How often are you ensuring it is correctly pottying outside — and how often are you preventing (not punishing) accidents inside? 16 weeks of age is kind of bare minimum for “being housebroken.” 20 weeks is more common. Yes, I have known and have had dogs housetrained earlier, but those ARE exceptions.

    Why would you need to leave the dog behind? The US allows imports from pretty much anywhere.

    • I have some reading to do… and some of it on your blog I see! Great.

      As for leaving the dog behind. We won’t necessarily need to leave it. But it’s very expensive to move dogs, and some countries (like Australia, for example) have six month quarantines which are also expensive. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. And in the meantime I’ll enjoy having her here when we can bring her home!

  7. I first heard of you when Nicole Baart featured your book on her blog site. The title intrigued me so I checked out your blog and started reading your essays. I couldn’t stop! The work you did and the wonderful way you captivated your life with words kept me hooked. Then came Mike! The story of how you met and got married is worthy of a novel 🙂 I think all the “useful content” will come as you are living it; your writing, editing, photography, puppy training and marriage 101 tips. It’s all fun to read.

    • Thank you Doris, and thank you also for your encouragement re the little puppy that’ll soon be ours! Your email made me smile. I’m so excited to bring her home. We even have a crate for her now – Mike bought it in Vientiane last week and charmed them into checking it onto the plane.

  8. Lisa:

    I read you blog (through my blog reader) because I want to know what’s going on with you and Mike. But, I keep coming back with anticipation because I can’t wait to see what what has happened since the last time I read your post and the delightful way you describe even the ickiest things. Your posts make me laugh, make me think, and remind me that there are lives happening on the other side of the world that are as important as my own. Keep writing and I will keep reading. 😀

  9. I love your way of writing and I love your honesty.

  10. Lis- I’ve also read the messages about having a strategy, theme, making a blog ‘useful’, etc. To be honest, I think one of the things that makes your blog ‘useful’ is as a tool for entertainment and relaxation- namely, reading your posts is always a pleasure. You have voice (as you once complimented me)- a voice that is interesting and enjoyable to listen to/read, and which allows a little escape from whatever daily grind- however mundane or exotic. That’s what draws me and, skimming the comments above, most other people too. So just keep doing what you’re doing and let us enjoy reading about your life, through your own unique, creative and expressive descriptions.

    I’m sitting at a little under 200,000 hits on my blog over the last 2 and a bit years, and I can assure you I don’t have much of a strategy. I set out, much like you, just to catalogue my travels for friends and family. My posts vary from travel tales to analysis of aid trends to tips on photography. My most popular posts have varied across the spectrum. There are tips out there as to what get you noticed- and sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. But I basically write from the heart, and although I get mixed responses and attract different audiences at different times, that seems to keep people coming. Keeping consistent content coming up is a pretty essential ingredient (erm… current fail on my behalf), but beyond that, agree entirely with Mary’s comment above that you don’t want to be distracted from an enjoyable blog by concern about the number of hits you’re getting. Just enjoy, and we’ll enjoy it with you. 🙂

    • Thanks Tris. Yeah, that basically echoes my thinking on this in the last couple of weeks. I see a lot of targeted blogs out there written by writers for other writers for example. I love some of these and find them very useful, but they’re not memoir style blogging and some of the blogs I most enjoy are memoir style bloggers where I get into people’s story and just enjoy hearing what’s going on in their lives. I’ve thought a couple of times about whether to slant the blog more towards humanitarian work posts, or forensic psychology posts, or writing posts, and in the end it just ends up that I feel like I don’t want to do that – that it would take the fun out of it if I don’t just shrug my shoulders and say I’m going to write whatever I feel like writing on a particular day. So I think I’m going to stick with scattershot blogging for now.

  11. Howdy Lisa,
    I have found your blog fairly recently. Originally, I mistook you for a different Lisa McKay (oops) but found your book’s title fascinating and your writing style engaging. The first post I read was “Family Planning” and I’ve come back about once a week since then. I appreciate the range of your posts and think you do good work within the “scattershot” blogging model.

    Believe it or not, I like that you write about unpleasant, hard, and difficult stuff, even if it is you, yourself, who is being unpleasant, hard, or difficult. Mixed in with funny stories, intriguing photographs, and snakes and toilets, these topics speak to the common condition and allow your blog to stand out from other communicators who censor and sanitize their content to the point I do not recognize the world they live in, even if it is down the street from me!

    You bring Laos close to Texas. That’s why I continue to read your blog.
    Rachel B.

    • Thank you Rachel! That’s good to know. Oh, I had so much fun writing Family Planning, it’s always good fun to poke fun at my mama, and she takes it with such good grace. (Possibly because she is a pragmatist and know she deserves it, too :)). And as for the unpleasant, hard, and difficult stuff. Yeah. For me blogging has so far about letting people get a glimpse of our lives (and processing what’s going on as I write) and some of that’s not going to be pretty, but I do want to be real. Thanks for reading! Hope life in Texas is going well. Cheers, Lisa

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