Grace Coolidge, Raccoon Whisperer (or: On Not Being One Kind of Blog)

posted in: Art, Work 16
Grace, with raccoon, 1927.
Grace with raccoon, Easter Day, 1927.


That photograph is of First Lady Grace Coolidge with Rebecca, her pet raccoon. My younger sister’s name is Rebecca. Though there are zero Rebeccas in Fons or Graham family history, I am confident my little sister was not named after a White House raccoon. There was no Internet when she was born, for one thing. Did my parents even know about the Coolidge raccoon? Without the Internet, how did they know anything? How did they even know the name Rebecca? The mind reels.*

I don’t know if it shows, but I spend an inordinate amount of my day

1) panicking about the certain-if-not-imminent collapse of America (it’ll be because of the banks)
2) thinking about PaperGirl and its continuity, quality, etc.
3) in search of lost time

That second thing is the most surmountable here, so let’s mount. The goal for me with the ol’ PG is to never let it be about one thing. Life is not about one thing, after all. There’s a lure of making a blog about one thing. A “Mommy” blog can be marketed as such, same as “Foodie” blogs. You can’t blame a person for wanting to have a niche and stick to it. A blog that is about one thing has an easy elevator speech. Let’s listen in on a conversation between a food blogger (“FOOD BLOGGER”) and an advertising executive (“AD EXEC”) in an elevator at a busy blogging convention:

FOOD BLOGGER: (Noticing AD EXEC’s badge.) Oh, hi. You’re an ad exec.
AD EXEC: Yes, I am.
FOOD BLOGGER: (Extends hand.) I’m a blogger. I have over 15,000 page views a month and a bounce rate of 7%. Most people stay on my page for eight minutes at a time.
AD EXEC: Those are great numbers. What’s your blog about?
AD EXEC: Here’s my card.

Let’s listen in on another conversation. We’re at that same blogging convention and two ladies meet each other in a line for coffee:

LADY 1: Boy, am I ready for a latte!
LADY 2: Tell me about it. (Glances at LADY 1’s badge; it says “Blogger.”) What’s your blog called?
LADY 1: (With dreamy look) TheKidsAreAlright-dot-Mom-dot-Blogspot-dot-Com.
LADY 2: I’m a mommy blogger, too! (The women embrace.)

And what’s my blog about? Everything. Nothing at all. I’ve auditioned several replies to the question, but none seem to be winners. (This does not inspire confidence in the concept of the thing.) Attempts to answer “What’s your blog about?” have included:

“It’s a blog about… My… Life?”
Eyes glaze.

“It’s… Well, it’s about all kinds of things.”
Folks suddenly need to check for text messages.

“You know, it’s just sort of a clearinghouse for thoughts. But it’s not just me rambling on about this or that, no way. I try to keep things tight. I have a point of view and I try to…keep things…tight.”
No, no, no. I’ve totally lost them.

Putting a picture up there of Grace with her raccoon, that was me being my own trainer, trying lead my brain away from the trap of consistency. If I write about my diet too much, I’m a “health and wellness” blogger or — far more undesirable to me — a blogger who writes mainly about her chronic health problems. (I recognize the value of such blogs and have no criticism for people who write them, I just don’t want to write a blog like that.) If I write about living in NYC too much, I might alienate all the non-NYC (or non-NYC-loving) readers out there and be labeled an “urban” blogger, which sounds trendy and gross.

I must stay on my toes. While updating readers on the progress of my radical, intestine-rescue diet is appropriate from time to time in the name of consistency, I mustn’t offer daily reports of how it feels to eat hamburger patties for breakfast. (It’s weird but I’m getting used to it.) Though I had doctor’s appointments yesterday and today that I do want to share about at some point, I must vary my dispatches so that PaperGirl is not a long slog through the life and times of a gimpy gal with flagging chutzpah in the face of significant health issues. I have to do the slog; why should you?

So the raccoon. Does that make sense? And if someone wants to take a stab at the question, “What is PaperGirl about?” by all means do so. I need a good answer.

*An Internet search tells me Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and the Bible were both around before the Internet, so maybe my folks got the name from one of those places. I should ask my mom. 

16 Responses

  1. Lisa M
    | Reply

    Yes, your subject matter is widely (and delightfully) varied — but your voice is strong and consistent. That’s what keeps me coming back. I’d say your blog is an agile, honest glimpse into the highs and lows of life as a wild (and wildly) creative spirit.

    • admin
      | Reply

      :: smiles, writes it down ::

  2. Sharon Parker
    | Reply

    Mary, love your Paper Girl blog and it is definitely about your life. We love that you share it with us and truly appreciate all your hard work!

  3. Rukmini G
    | Reply

    You may not be able to tell people this, but your blog is about most things I love–theater, art, writing, love, random interesting information (see Grace Coolidge and raccoon), words (and quilting, but I’m not a quilter). It’s about your life, and you write it so well that every time I read it, I smile. Thanks for providing moments of relaxation for a stressed-out college student!

  4. Naomi
    | Reply

    how boring wud a monoblog be to read?
    answer very.
    I used to blog on Open Diary a lifetime ago. Its very hard to not have a constant theme. Fair Play!

  5. Cari
    | Reply

    Your blog is one of a handful that I read every day, and I subscribe to at least a hundred. It is singular; you are singular. There’s this Paul Saffo quote I like: “In a world of hyperabundant content, point of view will become the scarcest of resources.” I wouldn’t worry about your elevator pitch. I think your right people will find you anyway. I’m glad I did.

  6. Kim
    | Reply

    When recommending your blog to friends, they often ask “what kind of blog is it?” So I actually have tried to explain what kind of blogger you are and what your blog is about. Mary K Fons you defy description , you cannot be labeled. The best I can come up with is an inspired thought blogger. Keep writing !

  7. Amy
    | Reply

    Papergirl definitely is a quilter’s blog & I assume for many people who find this blog, that is what they are expecting… (I wonder how many quilty/fons&porter/Make+Love Quilts readers bounce really quickly when they don’t see anything quilt related here.)

    Papergirl is an exercise in writing.

  8. Elaine
    | Reply

    Your blogs are entertaining, thought provoking, funny, caring, a little sad because you have health issues ( I do hope you recover soon), and inspiring. And one blog I REALLY enjoy reading, whatever your topic of choice is.
    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Christine Bowens
    | Reply

    Love your blog!!!!

  10. Mary Paulger
    | Reply

    Why do you feel the need to conform to someone else’s expectations?
    You are yourself and I think that’s fine.

    But for the record:
    S’a “Never boring” blog – that’ll do me.

  11. Becky M
    | Reply

    First off, as a fellow Rebecca probably born somewhere around the same time as your sister (1977) I have to say it was a popular name for the time. I had 3 in my school growing up and still run into many the same age range as me. Today, it’s “Emma”, maybe we were a fad??

    Secondly, I also was recommending your blog to a fellow quilter and had a tough time describing it. I would say it’s your interpretation of life. Not just “about your life” but about the world around you. Your observations, experiences and challenges.

  12. Michelle
    | Reply

    I started reading PaperGirl because you’re a quilter and I’m a quilter and I finally have time to subscribe to blogs, to quilt…and to read (stuff I want to read rather than endless professional reading.) I’ve subscribed to a number of other blogs as well because they are just about quilting. Those are helpful as I get pretty much what I want and expect from them – tips, ideas, tutorials…. But I also love reading and good writing. I’ve found that PaperGirl gives me my daily fix of getting to read a writer’s writing. It’s that daily column that I look forward to reading. I don’t know what it’s going to be about, and I look forward to that. I feel as though you let us peer, virtually, into your writing notebook as you consciously hone your writing and further develop your voice. Isn’t this the resource you’re going to go back to for ideas/reminders/jogging your memory when you put together a (or multiple) memoirs similar to *Running With Scissors* or *Me Talk Pretty…? You’ll have had time and distance to decide which entries are keepers as is, which would make the cut with a bit more tweaking, which ones just don’t work… It doesn’t seem as though PaperGirl would be serving its function for you if it was about one topic. And we wouldn’t look forward to it nearly as much!

  13. admin
    | Reply

    Thank you to all — PG readers are a pretty nifty bunch, that’s for sure. xoxo. Mar

  14. […] easy.  Anyway, I was catching up on some posts that I’d missed and I came across this one: Grace Coolidge, Raccoon Whisperer (see what I mean? even all of her titles are outstanding!).  Mary […]

  15. […] lots of time in air travel, you’re bound to amass air travel stories. I’ve promised this blog will never be about one thing, but I’d better watch it or it will become Paper(Airplane)Girl before our very eyes. […]

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