Thursday, May 16, 2013

These is my hashtags

Recently, I have developed a newfound appreciation for the book ‘These is my Words’ by Nancy Turner. If you haven’t read it, and I highly recommend you do, it’s the fictional story of Sarah Prine, a woman living in the Arizona territories in the late 1800’s. If you’re into things like Indian raids, nervous breakdowns, and amputation without anesthetic, and who among us is not, you’ll eat it up.

The book is written in the form of Sarah’s diary, the first entry dated when she was 17 and barely literate, and spans about 20 years.  By the time it ends, she has been married a time or two, birthed and buried babies, and finally learned how to put together an intelligible sentence. Then of course there is that dashing Captain Jack, swoon, but before I go spoiling the plot I will get to my point.

What I’ve come to appreciate recently about the book is that when it begins, and Sarah is an unattached teenage girl, the diary entries are frequent, and they are lengthy. She writes every day. Multiple times a day. Pages and pages. We get rich details of her daily life, challenges, dreams, joys.  

As time goes on however, and Sarah assumes the responsibilities of a wife and mother, the entries become increasingly brief and infrequent.

She will write once a week, then once a month, and soon only a few times a year, sometimes dropping in simply to mention that the Maldonado children have the measles, or that she is proud of the dress she sewed for her daughter, and of her son, who can now hammer nails into the wall, and “talk Mexican like he was a native.”

Then, another year will go by, and we will hear nothing except that, “A new decade will be upon us soon, and our family will greet it with another baby.”

My favorite excerpt from her journal, is this one:

“My life feels like a book left out on the porch, and the wind blows the pages faster and faster, turning always toward a new chapter faster than I can stop and read it” 

Yes Sarah! Katie Erb “likes” this.

My own book may be free from the threat of poisonous snakes, or tasked with churning butter and fighting off bandits with a shotgun, but the wind blows my pages still, at a rate of speed that never ceases to amaze me.

Like Sarah, the more deeply entrenched in family life I’ve become, the more brief and infrequent the chapters I write. I imagine the posterity of our generation digging up our memoirs, and finding lengthy blog posts that gave way to Facebook status updates and eventually, Instagrams. From these is my words, to these is my hashtags. 

The book helped put into perspective for me, the value of any effort we put into documenting the lives of our families - no matter how brief, infrequent, or inconsistent. Even a picture or two a year, accompanied by a few thoughts here and there, can add up to over the course of a lifetime to tell a remarkable story.

I think sometimes we're paralyzed by the idea of all or nothing - Either we keep an organized, current, consistent record of our lives and our children, or we don't bother keeping one at all. I think I would do well to take a page from Sarah's book and start embracing the concept of brevity. (Nevermind the fact that my post about brevity has ended up being eleven paragraphs long.)

When the pages of my life are blowing quickly in the wind, and I want to remember them as best I can, I'm going to upload for my posterity whatever is on my memory card, with nothing more than a word or two.

Like this. Here a few highlights from our last six months.

“My life is so full of wonderful things right now...Mama told me to make a special point to remember the best times of my life. There are so many hard things to live through, and latching on to the good things will give you strength to endure, she says. So I must remember this day."

-Sarah Prine, These is my Words.
























Susan said...

Katie, even though I love your concept of brevity, I hope you'll always bless my days with words, words, and more words! This is beautiful...I love it!

Marilyn said...


Lorie said...


Jane said...


Vivian said...

I know I've seen that big bird downtown at the bus station.

Jodi said...

so great and so true! I'm one of those people that still manages to keep a semi-regular journal, but it has definitely grown more infrequent over the years. And the blog? Definitely neglected.

Mary Karlee Mullen said...

oh I love that book too! Did you know it is part of a triology? I just read book 2 and 3 in the last few months. They weren't as epic as number one, but I still loved them.

Sometimes I can just hear my younger kids saying, you wrote everything about Marielle and nothing about us. I think my response was something like, well if I had blogged about you, you might not have two eyes today. I was wrapped up in protecting you from older sibling eye gauges and the like.

Also, I just started instagram, how do I follow you?

Richard Bracken said...

I'm so happy you provided me with intermittent bouts of laughter in this post (big bird, not amused) or I get too teary-eyed at this, yes Marilyn! "Masterpiece"

Lexy and Jared said...


Julie Knowlton said...

I truly don't know what I enjoyed reading more. 'These is my Words' by Nancy Turner or 'These is my Hashtags' by Katie Erb. Nancy Turner didn't include a photo of Big Bird on meth, so I am going with your post as my current favorite read.

Seriously, great book. Great post. It struck a chord with me today.

Bless your brilliant heart.

Kristin said...

You are inspiring and I can't wait to read that book! I should have read this blog post BEFORE I updated my blog with a post that's about 2 months old. I might have had a better attitude and therefore had more interesting things to say. #lovebrilliantwordsofkatieerb

Kristin said...

Your words, your hashtags, those kids! I can't believe how Leah is looking so much more grown up these days. Long slender fingers… what happened to her girlish round cheeks?! And Eddie puckering his lips at the camera while "low"-riding on his toy truck! Fatal. I'm counting down the days until June 22nd...

Estella said...

Oh,'re so amazing. This post really resonated with me. I was one of the "paralyzed" ones, feeling that if I did keep a journal, or create a scrapbook, it had to be absolutely perfect in every way. As a result, very little has been done toward chronicling the Houston family history over the years. I have now learned to be happy with "good enough" and wish so much that I had embraced that concept years ago! I hope all who read your blog (especially those of the younger generation) take your message to heart!

Jeannie said...


Love that book! I believe I borrowed it from you so it's fun to see it applied to my life in such a meaningful way by you. Amen, sista. I was doing alright blogging but life gets away from me and I start beating myself up about all the things I've missed recording. No more! Even just a picture to remember is better than nothing and guilt! Love you, friend, for your amazing insight!

Tanita said...

Your hashtags were so sweet...and then there is #bigbirdonmeth which made me spit the water I was drinking all over my lap because I thought #sotrue. I love you lady!

Mike said...

Again, I say thank you for turning me on to the blog scene. This is a wonderful way to forward thoughts, memories, and pictures to all who follow.

You pic of the U.S. Naval Academy brought back memories for me. Years ago Bonnie and I made a visit to the Academy campus on the same day that the new Secretary of Navy was being sworn in. We've been Navy fans ever since.

The midshipmen in their ceremonial whites certainly caught the eye of my wife. "What handsome young men."

I almost joined the Navy out of college, but providence stepped in and took me on another path.

Jennifer McArthur said...

Katie, how beautifully written and poignantly expressed! Love this post and love the pictures of your wonderful family!

Katie and Jeff said...

The last picture of Eddie in a tie sleeping just made me even more ok with the idea of having a boy! What a sweet moment!

Ingrid said...

Thanks for sharing your poignant insights, Katie!! I just reserved the book from the library; I'm sure I'll love it! Miss you, friend!

Humpty Dumpty

My dad passed away 16 years ago, but I still consider Father's Day an occasion to celebrate. I plan a favorite dinner and pick out ...