My 2000th Blog Post

Well, holy moly! When I started this daily blog back on December 1, 2012, I would have never guessed that I’d still be going strong 2000 posts later. It’s hard to believe I’ve had 2000 things to say, and that I’m rapidly approaching 200,000 views by 110,000 visitors. A conservative estimate suggests I’ve written over 830,000 words.

I couldn’t have done it without you, dear reader. What has kept this blog so vibrant and interesting for me, especially on days when writer’s block was crushing me like a bug, is your feedback and suggestions. Without that input, I’d feel as though I were typing into a void.

I’ve also made quite a few friends on this forum; people from all over the world. Drawbridge Nation feels like a small, friendly town to me, one that I get to walk through every day. I even think that reading my blog is what finally convinced my boyfriend that I was relationship-worthy, so, yay, there’s that, too!

Because of this blog, I’ve written a book, and am working on a second one. I’m very proud of that. It feels like a tiny bit of immortality for someone who chose not to have children.

I’ve even been recognized on the street a few times, which astounds me. I’m used to thinking of myself as relatively invisible, not, as one reader once described me, “a sort of famous person”.

So I just wanted to thank you for indulging in my random musings, and I hope you’ll stick around for my 4000th post! Meanwhile, I think I deserve a cookie.

THANK-YOU-Computer

My Blog Through Fresh Eyes

I have a confession to make. For about a month now, I’ve been wondering if this blog is worth the effort. I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed. And sometimes I feel like no one is reading it.

That’s why your comments mean so much to me. Without them, I’d feel as though I’m sitting all alone in front of this computer screen, typing to myself. It’s like spitting in the wind, only slightly less messy and humiliating.

Not everyone likes to comment on such a public forum. That’s why I’ve set up a way to contact me personally on my blog’s welcome page, and I’ve also got a Facebook group called The View from a Drawbridge, which I encourage you to join.

Every now and then I’ll get a comment that completely does me in. (In a good way.) I’ve gotten several of those related to my Why I Hate Alcohol post, for example. A lot of people struggle with that issue, and they appreciate having someone put a voice to the way they feel. That’s when I know I’m making a difference. That makes it all worthwhile.

Just the other day I got a message from 13-year-old Mariah J. in South Carolina. She says she’s been reading my blog for about a year now, and that she finds it funny and inspiring. She wishes she could do what I do.

Sniff. Cold coming on. Or… no. The sun is in my eyes. Yeah. That’s it. The sun.

We’ve exchanged an e-mail or two since then, and it makes me realize that she’s an impressive and intelligent young lady with life goals and plans. She definitely seems to have her act a lot more together than I did at that age! And she says she looks up to me. Hoo. I mean… hoo. Speechless.

Since then, I’ve started reading my blog posts and I kind of have Mariah mentally looking over my shoulder. It makes me realize that I really ought to watch my language, for starters. And it’s also making me take what I say much more seriously. My words do have an impact. I’m not just spitting in the wind. I have a responsibility. I might actually influence someone every now and then. Whoa. Hard to believe.

Mariah’s message has renewed my faith in this blog. It has made it special again, for me. For the first time in weeks it’s not feeling like work. It’s once again feeling like a pleasurable calling.

So thank you, Mariah! And thank your SAT prep teacher for introducing you to my blog, and thanks to your 5 siblings for putting up with stories from it, and to your best friend Hannah for thinking I’m a “half famous person”. I think you guys are the best. Stay on your amazing path! And good luck on the PSAT today!

Thanks

A book about gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Your Good Opinion

The other day, I wrote a blog post entitled “A Surreal Encounter”. After a friend read it, she said, “You did the right thing. And your response was good, too. Proud of you.”

Of course I thanked her and told her that that meant a lot to me, but I don’t think that adequately puts across just how much it means to me. It brings tears to my eyes, just thinking about it. Everybody appreciates positive feedback. I think that most of us, deep down, wonder if we’re doing a good job in life. And for some reason, compliments are thin on the ground these days, so when you get one, it’s delicious. Savor it.

Personally, one “I’m proud of you” from someone I respect is worth more to me than gold. Because of that, I try to say that to people when I genuinely feel that way. They aren’t mind readers. They deserve to be told. And it’s so easy to do.

I don’t understand why people don’t realize what a precious commodity their good opinion is to the recipient thereof. I mean, it has become increasingly obvious in a general sense. We like to be “liked” for our Facebook comments. Everyone loves to be “swiped right”. So you’d think we wouldn’t be so hesitant to say, “Good job!”

If you haven’t given someone a sincere compliment in the last 24 hours, you may want to sit down and think about why that is. Do you really have such a low opinion of the people around you? If so, poor you. It must be a miserable world that you live in.

Or do you think that your words won’t mean anything to others? To that I say poppycock. And even if your compliment means nothing to the recipient, it’s not like you have a limited supply and you need to use them sparingly. It’s good practice. How hard is it to say, “I like your shirt,” or “Well done!”

If we all committed to giving one extra compliment per day, I think it would make a palpable difference in this world, which currently seems to be so obsessed with hate and division. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

compliments

Check out my refreshingly positive book for these depressingly negative times. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Credit Where Credit Is Due

If you were told that someone had a talent that only a handful of people on the entire planet had, wouldn’t you be impressed? Wouldn’t you be even more impressed if you knew that person was also a free speech advocate, had been in a few films, organizes for street performers, is a storyteller and has a radio show?

Meet Abby the Spoon Lady. This woman is talented beyond measure. She’s also intelligent, well-traveled, and dedicated. That should be all anyone needs to know about her.

But that’s not how the world works. If you check out her Youtube channel or Facebook page, both of which show you dozens of amazing performances, you’ll be enchanted. Unless you start reading the comments. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll be infuriated. While many people recognize her talent, trolls abound. They criticize her looks. They criticize her clothes. They criticize her lack of teeth.

It seems to me that if Abby were a man, she wouldn’t get this type of feedback. But being a woman in the music world, you’re supposed to be glamorous and perfect in every way, or you can’t be taken seriously. I don’t find Willie Nelson particularly attractive, but you don’t hear people discussing that to the point where his talent gets forgotten, do you?

Give Abby a break. I think she’s beautiful. I think her talent is also beautiful. I think the world is a much more beautiful place because she’s in it. I hope I get to see her perform live someday. And if I do, I hope the trolls stay home.

Abby_the_Spoon_Lady

Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Okay, Now I Can Die Happy.

I just had the most gratifying conversation with an old friend from college. He told me I had a huge impact on him, and that I made him socially conscious. Wow. Just… wow.

I had no idea. And I’m all the more honored because I know him to be a very socially conscious person. I can’t take credit, really, because I’m sure it was within him all along, but if I was the catalyst for bringing that to the surface, well, that’s gigantic.

And it surprises me because I’ve always sort of felt like a quiet background kind of person. I don’t think of myself as a mover or a shaker or an influencer (to coin a term). I stand on the periphery a lot. Somebody has to prop up the walls.

So hearing this from my dear old friend does my heart good. A long-standing item on my bucket list has been to have a positive impact on someone. That’s no small thing. I have no children of my own, so the opportunities for substantive impact on my fellow man are few and far between.

It had me thinking about the people that have had an impact on me. There have been quite a few. Have I told them? Some of them. I shouldn’t assume that the rest know. And they deserve to!

Take a moment to think about the people who have made you a better person. Reach out to them. That’s what I plan to do.

And you never know. You might just be giving them this news at a time when they really need to hear it. It’s the most delightful feeling in the world, knowing you’ve made a difference. It’s life affirming.

self-esteem

Portable gratitude. Inspiring pictures. Claim your copy of my first collection of favorite posts! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

And Now for Something COMPLETELY Different…

I thrive on routine. If you are into astrology, you could say that’s because I’m a Capricorn. If you study psychology, you might say it has something to do with my introversion.

Regardless. I may not have all my ducks in a row, but I can usually predict where they will wander off to and when. And I derive a great deal of comfort from that.

I’m also a planner. When I travel, for example, I generally know where I’m going and when and how. When something upsets my itinerary it tends to rattle me. This is why I am never comfortable at airports. There’s nothing quite like an airport to eff up your plans. Airports should have their own circle of hell in Dante’s Inferno.

I’ve been working since I was 10 years old. I like when I’ve gotten so familiar with a job that I can organize my tasks. It’s nice to have some idea what the day will probably look like. Tell me your end goal and then let me loose with a certain level of autonomy, and I’ll have my job running like a well-oiled machine in no time.

Which leads me to the one mistake upper management tends to make in every place I’ve ever known. They spend a great deal of time either fixing things that aren’t broken, or not consulting the stakeholders when something genuinely needs fixing. Either way, they always seem sincerely stunned when they have upset the apple cart and we mere underlings have to waste an enormous amount of time scrambling around to pick up the apples.

Here’s a thought: communicate. Get feedback before you make changes. Assume that your staff actually has some insight. Not only will morale improve, but chaos will also be kept to a minimum. What a concept.

duck
Not exactly in a row, but they’ll get where they need to go.

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It’s the Readers Who Make the Magic

If you have somehow managed to escape all my shameless self-promotion in recent months, here’s what you need to know: I wrote a book! A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude is available on Amazon.com in paperback form, and soon it will also be available as an e-book for Kindle, and Amy Sassenberg’s photos will be in color in that version! This is all very exciting for me. If you had asked me a year ago if this was to be in my future, I’d have laughed.

I have learned a lot from this experience. The biggest lesson is that it’s the readers who create the magic. I used to think authors were conjuring up amazing reading experiences, and because of that, I was in awe. But I was so incredibly wrong.

Yes, the writers do the writing, and the publishers do the publishing, but their work is lifeless and inanimate if there is no one out there to read it. A book without a reader may as well be a brick that one uses to prop open a door. An unread book gathers dust.

I am lucky in that I came to this avocation at a time in our history when reader’s feedback is easy and instantaneous. People e-mail me. They contact me on this blog. They comment in my Facebook group. They also leave much needed (and strongly encouraged) reviews on my Amazon page.

What this means is that I get to share in the magic that you, dear reader, make. I get to experience your reactions. I learn how you feel when you read the book. I discover that each reader has a different encounter with it, quite often one that I hadn’t anticipated. That’s because you are bringing your unique insights to the reading experience. That’s the ingredient that only you can provide.

I can never seem to adequately express just what that means to me. I read your reviews and your comments and I get all choked up. I get tears in my eyes. My heart feels like it swells. What a gift you have given me! Thank you so much!

This first book was about gratitude, but I had no idea just how grateful I would be for you. Thank you for giving my book life. Thank you for making my words have meaning.

Without further ado, I’ll leave you with some excerpts from my Amazon reviews, so you can see why this whole process has made me so emotional. Imagine getting compliments like these! I hope you’ll consider adding your review to their number!

“Barb is ALWAYS entertaining, and whether you agree with her or not, you will likely learn something every time you read her. She will inform, annoy, and inspire you. As a dedicated reader of her blog from the beginning, I have seen many sides of her, and watched her through grief and growth. This is her best, will make you a fan, lift your spirits, cause you to recognize things in yourself you could not articulate. She is real, she is smart, she is funny. You WILL laugh out loud at some point. You will learn SEVERAL interesting things that you did not know. And you will PONDER more than one entry for longer than you expected.” –Amazon Customer

“What a wonderful book. I keep it by my bedside so I can read a chapter before I go to bed. Since the focus of this volume is on gratitude, it’s the perfect way to get your head in the right space to go to sleep focusing on the good there is in this world. Barb is a gifted writer with keen insight into the world around her. This is a book you will keep for years. Timeless thoughts about things that matter – sometimes in big ways, sometimes subtly. It’s crazy. She makes me want to be a better person just by what she shares in her posts. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll marvel at her candor. And you’ll be really glad you bought this book.” – K. Reviews

“A wonderful read. I feel like I’m looking over Barb’s shoulder as her journey through life unfolds. Her take on situations we all encounter, often unconsciously, every day, took me from laughing to reflecting on how I might deal with the same situation. How hard it must have been to pull up roots and move 3100 miles to a place where you know no one? I’m not sure I could. I grew up on the wit and humor of Erma Bombeck and some of the posts in the book remind me of reading Erma’s wonderful writings.” –Firewalker

“This is just an introduction to the refreshingly honest world of a brave woman. As she takes you along on her journey of introspection, observation and acceptance, she challenges and inspires you to open your heart and mind. Whether you agree and identify with her insights and beliefs, or not, you can’t help but be uplifted by her commitment to them. She’s an open book worth reading and based on her prolific blog entries she has a lot more to gift us. Looking forward to see where else her journey will take us.” – Lyn

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My Very First Royalty Check

When I wrote my book and created the website for it, I had to rent a post office box. I didn’t want to put my home address out there for the whole world to see. Granted, the odds of my acquiring a stalker based on a book about gratitude are probably pretty slim. (It’s hardly a controversial subject. Delightful, yes. Divisive, no.) But hey, you never know what is going to stir someone up.

But now I have this post office box, and the subsequent guilt that comes along with it. I chronically forget to check it. (I don’t like to neglect things, even if they are inanimate.) When I do get around to paying it a visit and peeking inside, it’s generally full of junk mail. I almost find this to be a relief. I’m not being rude to anyone except advertisers, and they don’t count, right?

But the other day, nestled among the discounts for the roof repairs on a home that I don’t own and the pleas that I bundle my television services when I haven’t had a TV in years, was an important looking envelope. It had probably been sitting there for weeks. It turned out to be my very first royalty check for my book. I have no idea why, but I wasn’t expecting it.

My first paid writing gig. I’ve been published many times before, in newspapers and magazines, and I have even been included in an anthology, but there was never any compensation involved. And now here was this check.

It felt like vindication; like the thing I love to do finally has value. But that’s kind of silly, because I’ve gotten so much value from the feedback of readers, and from the pride I feel when I publish a particularly well written post. The ability to express myself is also priceless. But these things are intangible. Here was this check. In my hand. Right here.

I took it home. I sat with it for a long time. I crowed a tiny bit on Facebook. Then I set about giving a fair share to those who had collaborated with me, and donated a dollar for every book sold to StoryCorps, since they’re the ones who sent me on this amazing journey in the first place. And what a wonderful journey it has been!

What was left of the check won’t even cover the rental of that aforementioned guilt-laden post office box. But just holding that check in my hand… that was an amazing feeling.

pie
My piece of the pie.

A book about gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving! http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

Let’s Review

Every single day, my e-mail inbox is filled with requests that I review some product that I’ve purchased. Or someone wants my feedback on the service they recently provided me. (The only company I know that doesn’t do this is AT&T, because they already know that they give piss-poor customer service, and they couldn’t care less.)

I get it. It’s annoying. And I have to admit that like you, I often ignore these requests.

But by doing so, we are all shooting ourselves in the foot. Think about it. We all know that the larger the organization, the less they really care what you think of the goods or services they provide. They can afford a certain level of customer angst, because there are always more customers for them. Especially if they have the market pretty much cornered.

We as consumers benefit more when there are a large number of small businesses competing, rather than one big indifferent one. Competition brings prices down. Competition means much better customer service, because your business actually means something to these mom and pop companies. They desperately need your feedback. The only way most small companies can build up their reputations is through customer reviews. And who provides them? Us.

So help out that little company that’s selling stuff on Amazon. Give honest feedback on eBay. Give credit where credit is due. It may seem insignificant, but it helps us all.

Having said that, I’m one of those people who desperately needs your review. If you’ve read my book, A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude, please leave a review on Amazon.com. This helps me in many ways. Enough reviews will get Amazon’s attention, and they’ll promote the book more. And you might encourage someone else to buy the book. That’ll help keep my dogs in kibble.

C’mon. Do it for my dogs. Thanks.

A Bridgetender's View _ front cover only.jpg

Loving My Thankless Job

A friend of mine recently pointed out that I have a thankless job. As a bridgetender, I’m always shocked to discover the vast number of people who don’t even know I exist. People tend to assume that all drawbridges are automated. They don’t realize how lucky they are that most aren’t. People can easily die on drawbridges. We’re talking about millions of pounds of steel and concrete in motion. You really want someone there who can think independently; someone who actually cares about your safety.

But oddly enough, I’ve never really thought my job was thankless. Actually, thanks has never been something I’ve even considered one way or another. Granted, it’s a rare boater who thanks me for opening the bridge for them. Pedestrians and commuters certainly don’t thank me for slowing them down. In fact, I’ve had things thrown at me more than once.

There was one vessel captain in Florida who would give us gift certificates to Red Lobster every Christmas. That made me feel good, but I looked at it as a delightful surprise. It is nice to be appreciated, but for me it’s not a requirement.

When I think of what I need for job satisfaction, thanks doesn’t enter into it for me. I’m sure the criteria is different for everyone, but for me to be satisfied with my job, the thing I need more than anything else is to be left alone to work within clearly defined parameters. I do not thrive on drama. I don’t go in for office politics. I prefer to work independently. Of course, adequate compensation and benefits are quite nice as well. If I were only able to flourish in a career that gave me frequent opportunities for positive feedback, I wouldn’t have lasted for two days as a bridgetender.

I think one of the best pieces of advice I could give to someone who is making job satisfaction a priority is to find out what you need to feel content in the workplace, and then seek out a career field that will provide those things to you. There’s no right or wrong answer. Only you can answer that question for yourself.

What would make you happy? Being a caregiver? Producing things with your hands? Being creative? Once you know what rocks your world, you’ll know what to do. Ignore what your inner voice is urging you toward at your emotional peril.

the wedding photographer
Some of us actually LIKE working in the shadows.