Monday, October 2, 2017

Cottage Life - The Things You Discover When You Don't Blog

I know fall has arrived when I see the golden hue of the large crab apple tree in our neighbor's yard. Saturday morning the sky was dark with rain clouds to the west, and as the sun broke through on the east the light was so spectacular that I grabbed my phone and scooted outdoors to photograph the tree and the red barn at the end of our alley. 

Every time I see that old barn with its fabulous patina I smile, but especially in the fall. Just imagine the barn with a plethora of pumpkins and a scarecrow nestled against it and, in my opinion, you have the ideal autumn scene.

If you're a regular reader of A Joyful Cottage you know this is my first post after a month-long blogging break. While I enjoy the interaction with A Joyful Cottage readers, I must confess that I loved every minute away from my computer. Suddenly I had hours to pursue the things I love, such as regular country walks with a friend, and lunch with another.

I had time to complete a custom rug order.

And begin a new rug.

Time to make a shabby chic gift for a dear friend in the hospital using a new technique for making fabric collages.

Time to attend an art show in Joseph, Oregon with my husband. His "Red Barn" won second place in the En Plein Air Competition.

Time to travel with Dennis to Palouse Falls in Washington state where he painted while I explored the area.

Time for reflection.

Time to breathe and listen.

My blogging break gave me more time to restore my soul with scripture. More time to soak up God's word daily.

I even had time to attack a long neglected project: the makeover of this old hutch into one more fitting for our cottage style. I'm working on it, and will reveal it when it's finished.

Blogging takes up so much of my time. Way too much. It's not just the taking of photos, writing text and posting. It's the visits to other blogs -- the blogs of people who take the time to visit and comment here. I know there are bloggers who don't reply to every comment or make return visits, but I've never been able to do that. It just seems dismissive to me. Sorry if you feel differently, and it's okay if you do. I'm not judging you. But that's just not my style. Another part of this is that blogging has changed so much in the 7 years I've been at it. Blogs I used to enjoy and read regularly have gone to monetization with ads that take for-EV-er to load and pop-ups that ruin the moment for me, and I've simply run out of patience. The other day I found a post through Pinterest that I really wanted to read, but after the endless Google Adwords searching, loading and reloading ads on the page which delayed the content, I just clicked off. I understand that people want to earn money with their blogs. Shoot, it takes a lot of time to post good content -- it's a full-time job for many -- and those hours sitting behind a computer deserve monetary reward. I very briefly tried ads on my blog and considered going the commercial route, but I'd much rather find another way to make a few dollars. 

The Living Large In Small Spaces series is a black hole for time. It takes hours and hours to hunt down cottages and small homes to feature every week, days to contact people who own them and make sure I have their permission to share them (and sometimes I never get a reply).  Again, I realize there are bloggers who don't go this extra step, but I feel it's necessary that I respect the intellectual property of others and give credit where credit is due. It's how I want to be treated.

I'm closer to 70 now and I feel like life just has to become simpler. It's why we moved here, why we built a small cottage. But somehow living has become more complicated and I feel time slipping away. So I've come to a couple of decisions. First, I won't be blogging much. I'm not saying I'll give it up completely, just that I refuse to be tied down to the computer any longer. I'll blog occasionally, when I have something I want to share. As for the series "Living Large In Small Spaces", I've written 116 posts over three years and I feel it's time to let it go, at least as a weekly contribution. If I find a cottage that really speaks to me, I'll most likely share it, but I don't want to feel the pressure of coming up with a regular feature.

There are other decisions I've reached to further simplify my life: I've closed the online shop. After four months I came to realize that online sales are not for me. I don't like the photographing, shipping calculations, marketing, and being bombarded with emails from the shop host, Ebay, Amazon and other places that want me to expand my business. I'm so busy trying to manage all of it that I have no time to create product. And without product there's no reason to have a store. Last year at the Christmas bazaar I earned in two days what I cleared in four months in my online shop after expenses. Clearly, there's a message here: 

Keep. It. Simple.

Dennis and I are also talking about how to simplify the garden. Yes, it's beautiful. But it demands a lot of work and we're not sure that that's how we want to spend our summers. We're still pondering this, considering how we can keep it pretty but more manageable.

For the past eighteen months I've struggled with what to do with my blog. It's just not the fun it once was, and I always said when the fun ends I'll quit. I'm not ready to throw in the towel, but I am ready to narrow my focus. I've really come to appreciate creative bloggers that are kindred spirits, whose blogs reflect real life with all its struggles, victories, and who write with joy. We're living in troubled times, but I have faith in God and hope for the future. I want my life and my blog to reflect that. It's what's in my heart. 

Thanks for wading through this long post. I promise not be this wordy in the future; there's just a lot to say after a 31 day absence.

God bless you.