which way do I go…

Photo Friday has changed their site. I’ve done 515 Photo Friday posts; my first one was July 14, 2006. Sometimes Photo Friday hasn’t posted new challenges–usually around holidays, and most recently, as they’ve revamped their site. But I don’t think I’ve missed a challenge in all that time, not even when I went on the occasional posting hiatus. I tried to follow every theme they used, no matter what a stretch I had to make between a photo and a theme.

I don’t know where I first saw Photo Friday. I’m sure it was on someone’s blog. I know several of my other blogging friends did Photo Fridays, too, but only one or two still do, and not always consistently. Shit, for that matter, who’s still blogging? I’m barely here other than Fridays and Sundays.

The reason I began blogging was because I enjoyed other people’s blogs. Tim started a LiveJournal and I liked it, so I started one, too. That was in late 2004. In time, I realized what my other writer friends knew–keeping an online journal or blog was PUBLICITY for what we published. And readers could find us on our blogs and interact with us in a way that rarely happened in the old snail mail days. I still have friends I made via blogging. I also met some people who are with good reason not friends. It’s a weird world out there.

I migrated from LJ to a WordPress blog in April of 2011 because I already owned beckycochrane.com and didn’t have anything to put there, not having published a novel since 2009. I figured I might as well use it as my blogging platform. In time, I stopped talking politics because that became too mean and no fun. After even more time, I wrote only occasionally. Facebook and Twitter and Instagram pretty much killed blogs. Who wants to read some longass post from a stranger when you can read 140 characters from tons of strangers. After all, didn’t the Bell Companies–and by that, I mean Southern, Western, Mountain, etc. Bell who later became AT&T–teach us that a romantic story or a sentimental celebration among aging parents and their children or a girl’s idol worship of her big brother could be conveyed in 30 to 60 seconds? Who needs movies? Or even half-hour sitcoms? Those phone commercials were the forerunner of Twitter.

I doggedly blogged even when almost everyone I knew stopped because I WASN’T writing novels. The blog became a creative outlet for my photographs, my paintings, my magnetic poetry, my nostalgia, my doll fashions. When Rescued Pets Movement began to consume my time–and you have no idea how much time that is, but all the people I never call or write or meet for lunch or email or see or travel to see or send birthday cards to: THEY know–the only things I was sure I’d make time for were those Photo Friday and Button Sunday posts. Even so, I linked to them on FB and people would comment there and never here, so my traffic must be pretty slim compared to the number of readers in blogging days of yore. A “like” button on FB is easy, and a comment there is mostly private since almost all my FB posts are friends and family only. This blog remains public, and though the dozens of comments from the old days are now only a few comments here and there, I still read them with the same interest and delight because connecting here continues to feel more genuine than on all those other quick and easy social media sites. This is one-to-one time between me and YOU, who still reads and comments. We’re not just one of a long line of tweets or FB posts or instagram photos. For a moment, we meet, just you and me, because we both want to be HERE, not just two voices lost in a cacophony of more voices than most of us, or at least I, care to hear at one time.

And Photo Friday–well, honestly, I started participating because by making the photos public in my otherwise mostly private Flickr account, and by posting them to the Photo Friday site, I could drive more traffic to the blog and therefore expose the Timothy James Beck novels and the edited anthologies and my own novels to a wider audience.

But now, as I say, Photo Friday has changed. I’ve been trying to figure out its new design, and as best I can tell, it allows us a better view of all the photos submitted on the actual site rather than clicking on the photographers’ links and going to their websites. In other words, Photo Friday has joined the quick and easy view it on your phone or tablet generation, no need to go to all those other places to see photos anymore. YAY!

Except…not yay. Because I liked clicking on those links and never knowing what I might see. A brilliant photographer from some country whose name I couldn’t pronounce? A hobby photographer who wrote really engaging stories about her crazy friends? By going to those contributors’ blogs or journals or websites, I have discovered whole new worlds that intrigued or entertained or dismayed or educated me.

And I, who am not a brilliant photographer and don’t pretend to be, am supposed to upload my photos there to be eclipsed by many far superior photos, and there’ll be no more visits from people who came to see one photo and, maybe intrigued by my tags, poked around and found other things that interested them, or that we had in common or–hey, you wrote BOOKS? Real books on paper that were sold in bookstores? I’m going to order one right now!

Anyway, this has all been WAY more than 140 characters, and thank you if you read this far as it means you are a rare and wondrous creature who still has an attention span and I probably love you more than Charlie the Unicorn. If I stop doing the Photo Friday challenges, I’ll still do something. I actually have a list in the notes app on my phone of what people told me they wanted me to blog about. It’s from July 17, 2010, and it makes me smile when I scroll down that far and discover it again.

YOU make me smile. Thank you for still reading here. I still love reading your thoughts.

National Suicide Prevention Week

September 5-11 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Every day I think of our nephew Aaron. I think of all the times we laughed together. I think of his playful nature, his wisdom, his compassion, the food and dogs and books and movies he liked. I think of the many photos his mother shared when we lived so far apart that allowed me to watch him as he grew up. I think of his visits to The Compound as he got older and the cherished place he took among our family and friends. I contemplate how he loved us and protected us, especially his parents, from the truth of the depression that engulfed him.

No matter how much I wish I could, I can never forget the stark truth of his last day and the terrible phone call that began my reality of living in a world without him. He killed himself just before his high school graduation. His friends overflowed his memorial service to say goodbye.

This year we didn’t celebrate his college graduation. We won’t know which career choices he might have made. We won’t see him marry, or hold his first child, or be part of all the celebrations and challenges that every family goes through together. Aaron didn’t take that from us. Depression did.

I wish no parent, no child, no brother or sister, no aunt or uncle, no grandparent, no cousin, no friend would ever have to know this kind of loss.

For more information about recognizing the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, please visit the American Association of Suicidology website. If you are struggling, please visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

We love you, Aaron, and hold your memory in our hearts.

Button Sunday

My mind is far away today, in Florida, and it’s hard to focus on anything good. These are exactly the days we should, I guess.

I received the movie Maleficent I think for Christmas of 2014, but it was packed away until Tom and I began sorting through some bins that were never unpacked after our move. We found a lot of DVDs I’d been looking for or had forgotten about, including this movie. Some of us had a movie night at Houndstooth Hall Saturday, and I was finally able to see it. I loved this retelling and think Angelina Jolie was a superb Maleficent (my favorite Disney villain). The Moors have been a good place for my mind to escape to today–an enchanted forest whose inhabitants live peacefully together.

It also gives me a chance to revisit a couple of old posts, from 2007 and 2012, about my Maleficent Moleskine. Marika, it’s finally full after all these years, packed with more memories and mementos than you could imagine. This picture does its thickness no justice, really.

But thanks to your cards, it ends as it began: with this character who must, must be an Aries. Those horns. That attitude. That fiery rage regretted later. Total Ram.

It may seem strange to begin a post with a Disney movie and end it with William Faulkner, but the word that came to me as I watched the movie’s depiction of Maleficent was “prevail.” I sometimes reread Faulkner’s 1950 Nobel Price acceptance speech; today was one of the days I needed it. Here’s an excerpt.

I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

Button Sunday

This post has been a while coming, though I can never write all the things I want to about Prince. For me to have bought anything on vinyl in the early to mid-1980s was rare because I was on such a tight budget. Buying music would seriously have been a choice not to buy food. Also, the water leak disaster in one of my college-years houses that left most of my albums unplayable meant I got rid of a lot of them. But I could never have let go of Purple Rain. I have it on CD now, but holding the album in my hands evokes so many memories of all the stereos and apartments and cities where I listened to it and the people who listened to it with me.

I feel fortunate to have lived and been young (and old) and a person who danced and sang along in a time when someone as gifted and unique as Prince was creating music. Not just the music he recorded, but all of his songs that other people covered. I don’t remember the first song I heard Prince sing or saw him perform, but I do have another of those “I remember the first time I heard it” stories.

When I was assistant managing a bookstore, one of our employees was a high school student who worked there afternoons and weekends. She kept telling me about her current music obsession, Sinéad O’Connor. I had no idea who that was; I hadn’t heard any of her music, but Alison was always quoting her lyrics to me. One night I was sitting in Pizza Hut–the place where Tom, Lynne, and I often took Jess and his friends when they were growing boys because of the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet–when a song came on the jukebox. I was mesmerized, something clicked, and I thought, That has to be the singer Alison’s always talking about. And that song is amazing.

It was, of course, “Nothing Compares 2 U,” and although Prince didn’t write it for O’Connor, as some people say, she certainly rode it into the stratosphere on her ascent to stardom. I doubt I knew it was a Prince song when I bought her CD I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, I just knew it was a great song.

I also feel fortunate that I live in the days of being able to fall down an Internet hole of online music and video whenever I want to hear or watch a legend like Prince. Nothing compares to him, and I’m sorry for all the unwritten, unrecorded music we’ll never get to hear, but so grateful for the music we have.