Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Follow Me: Parsnip, Leek, and Sweet Potato Soup

I was never one of the cool, popular kids.  To this day, I have dark, lonely memories of elementary school, when I wore big bug-eye glasses, was a little too smart for my own good, was a little plump, commuted with my mother who taught a few towns away from where we lived, and because of her relationship with the other teachers, was often seen as the teachers' pet.  In seventh grade I got contact lenses and a few new outfits, tried fixing my hair differently, and though it sort of worked--at least people talked to me--it never really changed the reality that I just didn't fit in.  In high school and in college, I found a few friends, and we were our own small islands in the sea of popularity.  I hated and loved it at the same time: I loved the intimacy of a few friendships, and the kind of deep work it took to maintain them, but I hated the people for whom likeability and friendships--or so I perceived them--came so easily.

As an adult, I've continued to cultivate a small number of closer friendships, rather than a large number of superficial ones, despite what my Fac.ebook following would suggest (many of those were my students, and before FB became the social media megacommunity it is now, it was a good way to hunt them down).

And yet, when I started blogging, part of me had fantasies of becoming the next Moxie or Dooce.

Don't get me wrong.  I started blogging for myself.  I still blog for myself.  But I'm blogging, not journaling ... and oh, the lure of fame and fortune.  Well, just the fame.  Readers and followers are like a narcotic.  You get hooked, without meaning to.  I was thrilled when I hit 100 followers recently.  But I lost two over the last two posts, and started to think "I shouldn't have tried this meta-blogging series" or "I ought to be posting better stories" or "I ought to be posting more vegetarian recipes ... lots of my followers are vegetarian or vegan" or "I ought to be posting more cupcake pictures, yeah, that'll keep 'em" or "I haven't posted about yoga in a while."  Or "gee, maybe I really suck at this blogging thing after all."  But the truth is, no matter what I post here, someone's going to not-care about it, or actively dislike it, or in some way feel disconnected.

Truth me told, I spent the better part of my life trying to please people.  When I was young, it was my parents, especially my impossible-to-please old-world father, who would ask me where the last two points went on a test when I got a 98.  Somewhere along the way it became my teachers.  My boyfriends.  My dissertation advisors.  My boss.  My colleagues.  Because really, if I just made people happy, they'd love me, right?  But it never completely worked, because I was always a little prickly around the edges.

Then again, I think about the Moxies and Dooces and Pioneer Womans of the world.  Yes, they're awesome people--or at least, their online personae are (I haven't met any of them in person, though I hope to at BlogHer'12).  But how many of their followers are friends, I wonder?  How many people is it possible to hold close to you, without compromising the quality of those relationships?  I used to wonder the same thing about people like the president of our university, or any leader, for that matter.  He spent all day being diplomatic, smiling, shaking hands and kissing babies (well, maybe not the babies part), but how many of those people could he really connect with?

The bottom line is that I will probably still continue to worry about what I post here, and crave connection with my readers.  I will be sad when the number of followers goes down, and I will wonder "what did I do to send them away?"  Because just as I couldn't instantly gain friends in elementary school, I don't think I can change who I am.  All I can do is be true to myself.

We're focusing on opening the heart center in yoga again this month, apropos of Valentines' Day, I guess.  My yoga teacher tells us that if we reach out with the heart center, everything we need will be right there.   Not everything we want, perhaps, but everything we need.  I've been trying on ideas, figuring out what it is I need.  Clarity of purpose?  Self-acceptance? Understanding?  Maybe all of those things.

I'm on a soup kick (in case you hadn't figured that out already).  This one is buttery, slightly spicy, and sweet all at once.  Funny thing about parsnips: while the root of the plant is edible, the shoots and leaves contain a photosensitive chemical that can cause phytophotodermatitis, and so when you're gardening them, you actually have to wear protective clothing.  I like parsnips.  I'm also pretty good at the core, but I'm not your harmless garden variety carrot.

How about you?  Do you read big blogs with lots of followers?  Do you feel connected to those bloggers?  How do you approach your own number of followers?  

How do you feel about parsnips?

And what do you need from your heart?

Parsnip, Leek, and Sweet Potato Soup
adapted from here

1 T. olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 c. cooked cannellini beans (or any white beans)
3 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
4 c. vegetable broth
2. c. water
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried sage
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
green onions for garnish

Add oil to a large pot over medium heat. Sauté leeks for three minutes. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Add the beans, parsnips, sweet potato, broth, water, thyme, sage, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, about 30 minutes until vegetables are soft.

Remove the bay leaf. Blend the soup by using an immersion blender or transfering it to a regular blender. (If using a regular blender, be very careful as the steam can sometimes cause the lid to blow off. I recommend allowing the soup to cool for a few minutes, then blending small batches on medium speed while holding the lid down with a large pot holder or towel in my hand). Serve hot, with salt and pepper to taste, and green onions for garnish.
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  1. I hate parsnips, except when they're surprisingly delicious. I have a set of blogs I read regularly that hasn't changed much since I first discovered what a blog was, and others that I read sporadically or dive into from others' blogrolls. Sometimes, I feel as if the time for becoming the Next Big Blogger has passed, but that's probably just because I'm no longer a bored office drone clicking randomly around for something to keep me occupied. I presume there are such people still out there, but I have no idea whether they read my blog. I would love to connect more with my own readers, and find out who the ones who aren't my IRL friends are, but it's hard to squeeze comments from them. In the end, I try to write for myself and let them come as they will.

    1. Parsnips seemed to be everywhere this year, so I took the plunge, even though I've hated them when the husband put them in chicken soup.

      It was International Blog DeLurking week a while back. Maybe you should have a belated celebration? ;)

  2. I read some blogs with a lots of followers, but I rarely comment or try to interact. I read those blogs more the way that I would read a book...for entertainment. I don't go there for community, since I feel that they're too big to offer that. It's a fine line, I think...being big enough to maintain an engaged community, but being small enough to actually be able to take part in it.

    And - for the record - I'm STILL plump, bespectacled and somewhat awkward. If I go to BlogHer '12 (which I've only just started to consider), will you sit with me so that I don't feel like a huge dork? Honestly, that's the main reason why I'd be too nervous to go.

    1. I'm bespectacled in the morning, before I put in my contact lenses, and I'm still awkward, too. You are coming, and we'll be dorky together. :)

  3. Everybody who comments on my blogs is someone I know IRL. I have two friends who were blog friends first, but I've met them both now. I am now THE place on the internet to find out why George and Mary Bailey gave bread, salt and wine to new homeowners, though. (Well, that's not true, I'm about the #6 spot on the internet for that, but it does generate the majority of my search engine hits.)

    I think there is "the next big blogger" happening all the time. I started following Glennon over at Momastery just a few weeks before she went viral and now she has handlers and a book deal in the works. I wasn't there long enough to get connected to the community before things went crazy. I stopped reading Pioneer Woman and Moxie because I felt like the community was lost. I read some other large blogs because they tell good stories, but I don't ever feel bad about skipping an entry when my feed reader is full and I'm not in the mood.

    I'm terrible at the beginning part of friendships, where I have to go out and find people I want to be friends with and then make friends with them. I'm pretty terrible at the beginning part of blogging, too. I don't want to put myself out there. "Here, this is what I have written. It's about me even when it isn't and I think it's good enough to share." The fat, lonely 12 year old inside of me is terrified of such overtures.

    1. I suspect you're right about the Next Big Blogger. It seems to be how publishers and agents make safer bets on published material these days ... if you know that person X has Y followers, it stands to reason that it should be easier to sell their book/DVD/whatever. I suspect that I will never be the Next Big Blogger, because I still, after two years, am not sure what I blog about, never mind that I'm prickly around the edges.

      I'm also terrible at introducing myself, and many of the followers I've collected have come from IComLeaveWe, which is both great (because it's helped me to connect) and limiting (because many of the bloggers who participate understandably have a hard time reading shiny happy parenting blogs, even ones that aren't really shiny, or happy, or about parenting). I wish there were other IComLeaveWeS, too. Maybe there are and I'm just missing them?

      You, too, should come to BlogHer. Because I will need someone to sit on BOTH sides of me. And it's easier to make introductions over the punch bowl, when that's what you're supposed to be doing anyway.

  4. Ha, prickly around the edges. I have to admit, I would never suspect that from reading your blog. At the same time, I think I'm a bit that way too. Of course, I've had people confirm that. One of my better friends told me she thought I was a huge bitch when she first met me, mostly because I was too loud and so easily distractible, she thought I felt I was better than everyone and that I seemed bored all the time. Really I just had (and still have) pretty intense ADD. I was "bored" by my own thoughts too!

    I feel like I could have written this post. It's true how the number of followers, the number of comments, can be addictive. You don't want to care but suddenly you do. A lot. I go through so many cycles of wondering why I blog, deciding I blog for myself, writing a post that gets a bit of attention, starting to get excited about the attention, realizing the attention was short lived, finding out someone else I read gets 700 hits a post (WTF?!), feeling despondent that I will NEVER get that many hits on a post, wondering why I blog, and on and on it goes. It's literally a never ending, vicious cycle. Right now I'm somewhere between, why are my stats so low, and it's cool, I still like getting my thoughts out there...

    The truth is, why I blog changes, from day to day, from minute to minute. I suppose it will always be in a state of suspended evolution. I've been thinking a lot about my content lately, as I really appreciate posts that have a purpose, that discuss a topic, that explore an idea and I'm more and more bored with, this is what I did today or this is how my kid has grown. I don't want my blog to be like that but then I have TTC in my mind, crowding out any sensible, compelling thoughts and I wonder how to get it out without blogging about it. Maybe unpublished posts? Ugh. I really don't want to become a TTC blogger. Not in the least bit. And it's not that I think it will annoy people, it's that I KNOW it will annoy ME. Just having it in my head annoys me. I don't want to see it in black and white, staring back at me, reminding me of the hold it can have over me lest I let my guard down, even for a second.

    But it's also a part of my life and, more than anything, I want my blog to be an accurate (or as accurate as it can be) reflection of my life. Maybe I can find ways to write something thoughtful about TTC. Seems impossible but stranger things have happened.

    As for reading/commenting on the big name blogs? Honestly, I've never really found one that spoke to me. I feel like none of them write about things that I can relate to, or they write about them in a way that feels very impersonal to me. It's almost as if someone who knows they are writing to thousands of people writes in a way that feels, I don't know, like they are writing to thousands people. It just doesn't grab me the way a smaller blog does. I also never comment on blogs like that. I figure what is the point in adding my voice when 400+ people already have? Surely I don't have anything original to say, something that someone didn't already touch on. How can the big name bloggers even read all those comments? Do they pay someone to do it for them?

    I am most comfortable on blogs like yours, blogs where I feel I "know" the writer, either through their posts or through their comments, or a correspondence of some kind. Maybe a mixture of those things. Those are the blogs I love. Those are the blogs that keep me blogging.

    Writing a blog for millions of people, like Dooce does, must be a very different experience than what we know of blogging. It's an experience I'm not sure I want to be a part of. Of course blogging for money would be AMAZING but I don't know if the actual act of blogging in that way would be as satisfying, personally, as the kind of blogging I do now. And I doubt I'll ever find out. ;)

    1. Thanks for this awesome comment, Esperanza. And yes, the prickly bit ... well, the beauty of a blog is that you don't get to see me in the morning. ;) But more seriously, I suspect that I'm prickly because I have a hard time trusting people, and blogging takes away that barrier.

      I don't really comment on big name blogs, either. I read them (especially for the recipes), but it's the community that draws me, that has always drawn me.

      And I don't know ... blogging for big bucks is probably more like writing a book in installments. Because you're not really worrying so much about your reader any more, are you?

      And yes, part of the reason for this series is that I'm still trying to figure out what this blog is now. (I need to know who gets 700 hits per post, and what they gave away to make that happen. *grin*) Like you, I want to write about important things. But I don't know ... I see people like Jjiraffe tackle the untold stories, and Mel tackling Susan G Komen, and Keiko tackling PETA, and I feel like I couldn't do it as well as they do. Is it just that little voice of doubt again that I need to squash?

      I don't know ... I don't think there's anything wrong with writing about TTC ... especially because people identify with it, and find themselves in it. Maybe it's about the angle ... rather than having it feel like an anxiety-producer, try to figure out how your story can help others?

  5. I love parsnips. They are particularly nice mixed in with mashed potatoes.

    I read some blogs that have tons of followers. I've never like Dooce very much, but she writes well. I comment on those big blogs...but it feels like dropping a stone in a very, very deep well. It doesn't so much as make a ripple.

    My blog is small. It's for me and my sanity. I don't really care how many people read it or comment, but it feels so wonderful when they do. If I were going to blog as a 'career' it would be totally different blog than the one I have now. The blog I have now is about parenting through infertility and many bloggers out there do it better than I can dream of doing.

    I think I found your blog through Mel over at Stirrup Queens. I'm not vegan or vegetarian, I don't like to cook, but I'm still here :) I like your blog. And I think you have interesting conversation points. Your blog makes me think, and that is a nice change from most of the blogs I've been reading these days, which make me feel a lot of emotions, but don't stretch my mind.

    1. Thanks for this ... for being here, and for reassuring me it's not about the recipes! :) (Though, hm, mashed potatoes. Maybe I can trick my husband into eating healthier ones if I use parsnips ...)

      What would you blog be about if you were going to blog as a career? I'm curious. For the record, I think you write well, too ... and you're a good Blogland citizen (I've seen you commenting around quite a bit). It's an interesting thought ... that perhaps other people (besides you) find a public "niche" if they're going to write professionally, and map out other smaller more private spaces if they're not ... and that they attract followers accordingly ...

  6. Gosh, I felt like I was reading my own thoughts and life story (except my dad was the teacher, and I didn't have glasses...but everything else...). I've had the same blog insecurities too--when a facebook follower goes away, I can't help but wonder why...and then second guess what I'm putting out there. I tend to go in phases of feeling really confident and great about what I post, and then feeling like I'm being ridiculous and should just stop. Because, really, nobody cares. Plus, it takes me back to those elementary school days, and it feels like a reminder that I'm not one of those magnetic popular people.
    ...But then, I remember that the connections I have are meaningful. And what I'm blogging about is informing people. Then, I realize that even if only 5 people were to get something out of my posts and feel connected to me (in a reciprocal way, hopefully), it's worth it.
    I glance at Dooce and PW now and then, but I don't read like I used to. Now that I've connected with real people through blogs, it's not as fulfilling or entertaining to just be a voyeur into someone's life.
    It's interesting for me to contemplate--I flip flop on blogging weekly!
    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    1. Those 5 people are totally worth it. What a gift to have affected 5 lives! :) We need to go back to the meaning of those connections.

  7. I think we all go through feelings like this...I've watched my blog readership go up and down, and I spent many afternoons wondering "why?" But then I'm thankful for all the connections I've made, and I feel that love when I need it most. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers last week. They mean more to me than I can express. I hope you have a blessed week, my friend.

    1. I'm not sure if you read follow up comments, but you are very loved in blog-land, Monet. :) You have a beautiful spirit. Jjiraffe says that some day maybe we will meet each other ... I think I'd count myself lucky to do so.

  8. Yes, yes, yes! More cupcakes! Although I will hang around even if cupcakes never again appear on my screen at A Half Baked Life. I just really like to look at yummy desserts. :)

    I read one blog with lots of followers and never comment and have no 'relationship' with the blogger. But I have read for years, it was one of the first blogs I ever did read, and do feel a sort of connection with the blogger, although it's obviously completely one-way.

    Most blogs I read have a smaller size following and are people that I've made connections with (they are most of my readers, as well). I think a lot of that is because of the community of bloggers I'm a part of and the issues that have brought us all together in the first place. It's hard not to feel connected with somebody else who has gone through the same tragic loss I have.

    As for parsnips, I've never had much experience with them, so no comment. :)

    1. I will be working on a cupcake for you, Jenn. :) Really, really glad you're back on the internets ... though I don't know how you're getting enough sleep!

      And you're right, I think that bloggers dealing with loss share a special kind of bond that is different from those who blog about food together, or politics, or web design, or crafting. It's not to say that others don't "go deep," but our stories cut to the core of the heart.

  9. I read both blogs with lots of followers and ones with few followers. It doesn't matter how many followers you have. If I like you, what you write and have a connection I am going to read.

    I write for myself, but it does feel good to have followers. I love getting comments and making new friends.

    I personally love all the recipes you post and your posts have lots of great points and make me think. And YES I vote for cupcakes! :)LOL!

    1. Cupcakes for you, Emily! I will be thinking about the right flavor ... is it some kind of chocolate? :)

      I'm glad you've come here!

  10. I love parsnips!

    And I don't really read any of the big bloggers because I feel like it's little bloggers like me who are people. Big bloggers are akin to celebrities, and I blog to get to know people, not to look at a celebrity from afar through a one-way lens.

    1. Good point ... though I find the big bloggers sometimes have good ideas and beautiful pictures, too. Which, when you're cooking or crafting, can be useful. ;) I guess I don't leave comments on their posts ... just skim through for the surface beauty.

  11. It's interesting--I just tidied up my reader this past week, and the blogs I pruned were those of a few Big Bloggers. I found that I do quite frequently skip over their posts, and they sit unopened, annoyingly cluttering up my reader. I've recognized this for a while, but was always reluctant to discontinue reading, fearful I'd miss something. I don't know what exactly I thought I'd miss. Ultimately I realized that what I was missing was the sense of connection with those blogs, and who needs that? Those blogs are monologues, I feel, and our blogs (yours, mine, ALI community on the whole) feel like real dialogues.

    I have found that my interaction in the blogosphere very much mirrors my interaction in real life: I have a small nucleus of long-term friends. I've pruned my reader in the past because it was just too noisy. There were too many voices, too much stimulation. I prefer to have a cozy amount of intimate friendships--like coffee with a friend or two. I feel a bit swallowed up by a group of people--and I felt swallowed by my ever-expanding reader for a stretch there. I am an introvert through and through, man. I accept that readers come and go with my blog, and I'd only be truly disheartened if one of my regulars--those I read faithfully, who also comment on my blog pretty consistently--ever left me. Just like in real life...

    Anyway, I always love what you have to say. You always give me something to think about. I'm sorry you recently lost readers. It does make you get all introspective and self-conscious, but it shouldn't.

    1. Trinity, thanks for the perspective. You're right; the people I'd care most about losing are my regular commenters, the ones with whom I feel like I have a connection. And that's just like my friendships "in real life," too. :)

  12. I just found your blog and couldn't resist responding to someone who asks how I feel about parsnips. Well, I think they need some poems written about them, lovely things! Such a staple in my house--and here in Oregon we get them so sweet and fresh at our winter farmers' markets.

    I also have a couple of blogs and I have to admit to checking my stats on them way more than I need to. And I read any blogs that look interesting. Like yours. So, if you don't mind, I'll be poking around now...

    1. Parsnip poetry! I love it. :) Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you stay!

  13. I would love to come back, but I'm having trouble finding out how to follow your blog. I'd like to be notified via email--is that possible?

  14. I love parsnips so much my own blog is called Parsnip.Love :) Regarding your blog question, I read blogs that are interesting regardless of how many followers they have. That being said, the way that search engines work with blogs the more links, etc a blog has the more popularly it is ranked so eventually the popularity becomes self-fulfilling (more followers = more links to posts = higher score= more followers) However, most of the blogs I follow I have found through the blogrolls of other bloggers (that I happened upon). Thanks for the soup recipe!


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