The Hiatus Ends

This blog has been inactive for nearly two years. I’m surprised and pleased that no one or nothing has deleted it in my absence. I don’t know why I’ve decided to post again, and I don’t care. Such is my peculiar bent of personality; I abandon my passions for other passions and return to them sooner or later.

In addition to neglecting this blog, I have neglected all my personal writing. Instead, I’ve been doing photography as my preferred means of creative expression. I offer no explanation other than that I am still chained to a job, from which I will be rid by the end of the year, inshaAllah. Well, enough of commenting upon my hiatus…I want to dig in.

I still have “Return to Riyadh” dreams. They occur less frequently, but follow the same pattern. I begin the dream knowing I am going back to Riyadh. I pack my suitcase, buy my ticket and get on the plane, but I don’t pack correctly, I buy the wrong ticket or get on the wrong plane, or I get on the right plane but it goes to the wrong country. Complex variations on these themes weave in and out of the dreams. None of it feels unreasonable, just perplexing. Sometimes the dream begins after I’ve landed in Riyadh, having gotten myself there properly. However, I wander the streets looking for where I am supposed to live, and I look for my friends who still live there, and the hospital at which I worked and maybe am supposed to work at again. Naturally, the plots of dreams include ridiculous feelings and events. I cannot find the necessary phone numbers. I run into strange men who want to help me, and I don’t know whether they will help me or hurt me. I do find a nice swimming pool and take a marvelous dip, but then get lost again and don’t know where I am supposed to go, or I know, but don’t recognize the place, even if I arrive there. I find myself in public without an abaya. I go to a souq and try to buy some Arabic foods, but I don’t have riyals. I remember that I never told my family I was going to Riyadh, and I need to phone them, but I my cell phone is still connected to a US network. All these dreams are distressing, but I am so accustomed to them, I merely wake up  and turn over.

Long ago, I realized that my dreams are nothing more than an expression of discontent with my life here in the United States. I’ve necessarily had to re-enter (and remain in) the workforce– a fate I tried to avoid. My marriage ended in divorce– a fate I never imagined would occur. The practice of Islam here in my community is anemic compared to what I had lived in Riyadh. I’ve pushed Islam into a form that fits into the slots between my other forms, and I don’t like that.

Wonderful events have also blessed my life. I am now a grandmother to four magnificent children– a glorious position I never imagined I would occupy, but for which I am infinitely thankful.

This is enough for my first entry after a near two-year hiatus. If anyone reads it, I thank you! I wouldn’t blame any of my handful of readers for abandoning my blog as I have abandoned it. At the same time, I will be thankful and responsible to those who come back or to those who find my blog by happenstance. Maybe I will keep posting for another concentrated period. The concept of Riyadh as place, and Riyadh as metaphor, still guides me. I will never lose it, as one loses distant memories and feelings that no longer hold currency. Its character remains vivid, its personal significance does not pale as I travel further from it along the trajectory of my life. I am on a path returning to Riyadh, and I haven’t arrived.

What Happened to “Ocean Mist”?

I was perusing the new WordPress themes, wondering whether I wanted to change my theme. Ocean Mist has always been a favorite theme; I’ve returned to it regularly. Tonight, however, I accidentily gave it up, probably forever. 

I didn’t intend to give it up, but my finger brushed the wrong key as I was loading  “live preview” on one of the  themes. Suddenly, Ocean Mist vanished. I decided I didn’t really want to change my theme after all, so I looked for Ocean Mist but couldn’t find it in any of the lists of themes on the WordPress site. I “googled” it and found it as a download, so I downloaded it– the new, improved version!– but then I couldn’t figure out how to upload the theme into the blog, so now it’s really gone, and I feel a sense of loss.

 

Poking around the WordPress site, I realized that themes are going the way of other consumer goods—  more numerous but of poorer quality and higher price. Custom color options that used to be free on certain themes are now included in the Custom Design option that costs $30 per year.  “Custom header” now means (on some themes)  that you can choose from several pre-loaded headers but not upload your own. Free custom fonts went away years ago; I’m surprised I can still choose font color. Font size can be changes, sort of, but the limited choices don’t always work. I cannot figure out why this paragraph cannot be shrunk to fit its surrounding paragraphs.

I finally landed on Coraline, a theme I have used and liked, which still offers custom color backgrounds and fully custom headers–  free. I have since activated Fruit Shake, with the same custom header and (limited) custom background, my necessary minimum requirements. I’ll miss Ocean Mist, as I don’t think I’ll have the gumption to learn new computer maneuvers for awhile.  I’ll keep the downloaded file, just in case I run into a computer guru who would simply love to upload it for me. 

If I were knowledgeable about designing themes, I’d craft a Middle-Eastern  theme. Maybe someone will do it for me, and if it were gorgeous, and  infinitely customizable, I might even pay for it. 

Blogging a Book

Blogs, Books, and Good Writing

Blogs and books don’t share much in common, at first glance, but they should share the most important, critical aspect of the written word: good writing. Now that blogs have “grown up” as a literary form, blog authors need to  pay attention to craft.

Nina Amir is a writer, coach and editor of both books and blogs. Her guidance not only improves the writing of blogs, but opens an avenue for bloggers to publish their work in book form. Since many blog readers are blog writers, I offer her website as an invaluable tool for those whose blogs could, or should, be published as books:

 http://howtoblogabook.com/hire-a-blog-coach/

I’ve read several blogs that deserve to be immortalized in books, and I’ve read at least one book that started out as a blog:  

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riverbend_(blogger)

I’ve considered using my own blog to construct a book, eventually. Book or no book, a blog should offer good writing. I encourage all who  write blogs to learn about the craft of writing, even if their blogs are simply places in which they release a pressing stream-of-consciousness. Readers deserve good writing.

Blogging a Book

Certain blogs are good enough to publish in book format. American Bedu, http://americanbedu.com/ , for instance, contains  posts of interest to those who would understand life in Saudi Arabia from an international perspective. I’d love to be an editor, and cull the wheat from the chaff for an eventual hard copy book of that blog. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong course of undergraduate study, so the only editing I get to do is of my own work.

That’s OK. I have enough of it to occupy my time for the rest of my life, and since I have gravitated towards the memoir genre, I continually contemplate the writing of my own memoir,  publishable in book form, of course.

Aside from the reasons or the advisability of such a project, I am finding excellent resources to help an author accomplish just that– writing a book. One such resource is Nina Amir’s “Blog a Book” blog, in which she shows the ways in which a blog can be brought into the service of producing a book:



Occasional bloggers think that their blogs can be lifted and patched into a book, but that wouldn’t work except for a small group of highly focused blogs with dedicated followings, such as American Bedu. The blog format has developed into a vessel to contain conglomerations of outpourings from the blog writer’s psyche, and as such, has enjoyed tremendous popularity. Even focused, purposeful blogs tend to represent fluid affairs and current topics, or else serve the instruction of esoteric subjects.

Nina Amir’s idea turns the thrust of the blog around. Rather than using a blog to elucidate the blogger’s ideas on religious, political and social positions— interspersed with daily activities, menus, and weather reports— a blogger could use a blog to shape and hold a book project.

I like this idea. I will think about it.Let me know if you, too, think it’s a good idea for your writing.

More to the Kingdom and to Me

Monday, September 13, 2010
There is More to the Kingdom, and More to Me

Judging from many comments made on English language blogs about Saudi Arabia, one might conclude that the Kingdom is nothing but a hell-hole– a prison for women, a women’s prison in a cage that confines men, too, men who beat the women but do not beat the keepers of the cage. A prison in a cage, surrounded by the nourishing waters of freedom, but never cranking open sealed doors…

I’m not going to deny the social problems relating to women, the political danger to those who speak against the established regime, or the academic weakness of the educational curriculum. Real as they are, these issues coexist with other qualities. There is more to the Kingdom than female oppression, etc.

I am also not going to make lists of everything good and desirable in the Kingdom; I am not an apologist.

However, I do wonder of those who live there, or have lived there, is there anything right about this place? Have the Saudis any decent thing to offer each other or the rest of the world? If not, what are you doing there, or what are you doing spouting off on the blogs about the lack of freedom and Western-style choice in a country that doesn’t claim to offer it?

Emotional diatribes do not enrich my understanding of Saudi Arabia, Islam, the world, or my enthusiasm for participation, therefore I need to rein in my energies.  I started this blog mainly to collect my Riyadh memories, and to explore my relationship with Saudi Arabia and Islam as the years have passed.

I’m satisfied with my efforts so far, but I feel the urge to expand my purpose. I’ll be revising my blogroll on a continuous basis. Certain blogs have been informative, entertaining, and enriching, but the abundance of bitching and bashing in the comments sections have blunted my interest in those blogs. I’ll be adding blogs to the list, blogs that I read and that reflect my interest in diverse subjects— Italian language, Depth Psychology, Digital Imaging, Journal and Memoir Writing. If I lose readers, I’ll attract others.  I don’t have many I haven’t already lost, anyway. Though I write this blog primarily for myself, I do want readers; they inspire me and connect me in a way that writing cannot. Writing is completed by reading.

This blog is different from the essays I write  for publication elsewhere. It’s not more personal, but more spontaneous, of the moment, perhaps.

Future posts will bring more of the rest of my life into my blog.  I look forward to sharing aspects of my life that blossomed before I ever boarded my first flight to Riyadh, or my last flight out.




The Journal

Sunday, July 18, 2010
The Journal, The Wonderful Journal

The Journal is an elegant Windows program for personal journal writing, record keeping, social networking, creative writing, and whatever other purpose you might conjure up. It’s the most versatile, customizable writing program I’ve tried. You can post to your blog directly from it, you can password protect it, you can decorate it, you can insert images, etc… Whatever you can think of, it can do right now, or will do in the next version. David Michael, the programmer, is constantly at work tweaking The Journal, adding new capabilities (just when you think there are no more capabilities to be added) and communicating with Journal users who ask questions, make suggestions, or simply want to tell him how they use The Journal.

I’ve tried several other notable writing programs. I used to like Life Journal, but poor support drove me away.

Blogging tools like Windows Live Writer are useful, but The Journal includes the functions of Live Writer, plus much more.

The Journal is not yet available for Mac, but you could certainly install Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp or Parallels, and  then put The Journal on it (which is what I plan to do when I buy my first Mac, one of these days.)

Try it free for forty-five days:

http://www.davidrm.com/

For the record, I am not in any way connected to David Michael, nor do I benefit when someone clicks on the link to The Journal from my blog. I simply love the program and want to endorse it.

Typekit, Anyone?

Has anyone on WordPress gotten the hang of using this tool? I don’t know what is easy about it. Nothing was easier than controlling font appearance the old-fashioned way. I think I’ll continue to do so, if such an antiquarian method is still available on WordPress.

WordPress vs. Blogger

WordPress vs. Blogger

I use WordPress because of its ease and efficiency. Blogger offers more options for creative content, but I don’t have the patience to learn it.

I can subscribe to other WordPress blogs, but not to Blogger blogs, so I end up reading more WordPress than Blogger blogs, which is exactly the point.

Some of the Blogger blogs are wonderful, but I find myself neglecting them. Commenting on Blogger blogs continues to be a challenge, with the separate comment page that sometimes eats the comment , and what about those skewed letters you always had to decipher?  Are they still a prerequisite for posting a comment?

If you are writing on Blogger, please know that I probably love your blog but do not read it or comment as often as I do on WordPress blogs, and this is only because of accessibility.

Does anyone else notice this tendency for polarization of community based on format?