Fish ON!

Some summers in SE Alaska are jewels, and jewel-toned in color. The sky is blue, the water is a deeper blue, and the rain forest vegetation is a lush green.

 

But all that takes a back seat to the draw that brings so many tourists to this area. With the salmon capital of the world right here, what else could it be?

That’s right…fish! Salmon and halibut are king, but there are other fish in these waters, and when you’re out for the day, or you’ve come up for a few days of high-priced guided fishing, you want to take something home. Most people coming up to fish have a target, either salmon or halibut. Non-fisher that I am, before I lived here I wouldn’t have really known much about the variables in guiding for different types of fish. But fishing is an art, like any other skill. It’s also a hobby, sport, industry, and a way of life for so many in SE Alaska.

 

As with any hobby/sport/industry, you can outfit yourself with a lot of tools, gadgets, must-have and nice-to-have equipment. For professional guides, the challenge is not just having equipment for yourself or your family; you have to have enough gear to supply the guests you take out. And a boat.

 

There’s a reason fresh-caught fish is expensive, and when you spend some time around these fishermen, you quickly realize to be successful in the fishing industry requires a hefty investment of time, money, and effort, to say nothing of skill, and knowing these waters. I listen to fishing guides talk, and it’s a different language with its own idiom, terms that I can only hazily interpret the meaning, and stories that are fish-sized.

 

Another factor that impacts this industry is the seasonality, whether you’re fishing commercially, as a guide, or even as an individual. You have to have the right type of license, know where to fish, know when to fish, and then be prepared to fish while the fishing’s good. There are “openings” for different types of commercial fishing, at different points in the season, and the state regulates the limits that can be caught. Fishing lodges are seasonal as well. The short summer here means lodges have to make their money in a compressed time frame. In the peak of the season, communities that draw fishing tourists are hopping. Then almost overnight, things change. The season ends, the crowds fly away, and the sleepy little towns go back to their off-season norm. Lodges close, the seasonal workers leave, and the locals breathe a sigh of relief.

 

Some years the fishing’s amazing, and the commercial industry makes fantastic amounts of money. And other years, it just doesn’t happen. This year I hear the water wasn’t right for the salmon. Too warm maybe? Seems hard to believe (I’ve dipped a toe in these Pacific waters, and it’s chilly to me!) but these fish know their water, and if it’s not right, the industry numbers reflect that. So the next time you’re buying fish in the market, or eating it at a restaurant, just know…there’s a reason it’s pricey. But it’s also delicious, and good for you, so maybe that will make it easier to pay the bill, as you reflect on your heart-healthy fish entree.

 

We like fish, and we like to fish, but we don’t get out often…sometimes once a season, or maybe a couple of times if we’re lucky. I sometimes fish, sometimes just go along to bring food, take photos, and enjoy a few hours on the water.

 

This time I fished. I bought an annual fishing license, and good thing I did! We were out with a couple of locals on Prince of Wales, and we caught our limit of halibut, plus a few cod and snapper. No salmon this time.

 

The day was glorious, the fish were biting enough to give us a nice catch, and we got to spend a day on the water…and that always beats a day in the office!

 

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I made raisins!

So I was scrolling through Pinterest a few days ago…often my reward at the end of the day, or when I have a few minutes to wait in line (though I admit the images on my iPhone screen are not as satisfying as they are on my laptop)…and I saw a pin for making homemade raisins. I had to give it a try as I’d just bought some beautiful red seedless grapes. And what could be better than turing my beautiful grapes into beautiful raisins? (Now don’t say you’ve never seen a beautiful raisin!)

I’ve been known to buy the big raisins…did you know they come in more than one size? (I only discovered that a few years ago.) I love raisins that are plump and juicy…I’ve got no love for the dried up, shriveled versions of this grape-reduction. I adore raisins in all sorts of dishes (try adding them to tuna salad, or a sweet / savory green salad), and I even enjoy eating them without the wrap-around of cookie or cake. There’s something so satisfying about the squish factor! So, as a true raisin fan, this seemed like a pin for me.🙂

The instructions were simple enough, but I made the process even easier. The first step was a quick blanch, then a plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. This is to soften the grape skins. But this was an optional step, and I decided to skip it. The “recipe” is so basic…honestly I couldn’t believe it never occurred to me to try this before. I suppose that’s the power of pre-packaged food…a lot of things that are very doable at home have an aura of mystery and difficulty about them.

But as it turns out, making raisins at home is so easy, I may never buy a box again.🙂

And I have to say, mine are better than any I’ve ever bought!

So this is all you do:

Give the grapes a quick rinse, then remove the stems. Place in a baking dish.

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I don’t have a dehydrator handy…hey, I’m living in clinic housing, so my options are pretty basic…but I do have an oven, and that’s actually what the instructions suggested…use an oven, or dry the grapes in the sun…I opted for the oven, since you can’t always count on sunshine in the rainforest of SE Alaska. Set the oven temp to about 180, pop the grapes in, close the door, and let the low heat do its magic. That’s really all there is to it.

This is how the grapes looked after the first few hours:

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You can see they’re beginning to look raisin-y, and give up some of their juices.

I left the grapes in overnight, although the instructions said to leave them about five hours. This is what I had the next morning:

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They were perfect! (Ok, the pan is not lovely…you don’t get lovely pans in clinic housing.) But the raisins were this magical reduction of grape flavor, still just slightly squishy to bite, a lot lighter than the boxed variety. I’ve always assumed that the dark raisins were from red grapes, but these were definitely not as dark as the commercial version.

I stored my freshly dried baby raisins…that is an odd description!…in the fridge, just put them in a resealable container, though I don’t store commercially made raisins in the fridge. But I thought this home version would do better staying chilled. There’s enough moisture still on the raisins I could see them moulding if stored at a room temp.

So all week I’ve been eating a few at a time as a snack. They’re so delicious, and really a handful is enough to satisfy a sweet craving. I’ve tried drying a few other things over the years, and grapes are a great addition to my drying repertoire. This is so easy, and so yummy, I think I’ll be making raisins on a regular basis.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

~ Sheila

Come visit Story Revisioned

Hello! If you’re wondering what’s happening with Grace and Life, it’s largely been on hiatus, resting while I’ve worked on a new site, Story Revisioned. Grace and Life will continue, but I hope you’ll also check out the kid on the block, and let me know what you think.

Story Revisioned grew out of my growth. As an author, I know the value of revising my work. As a human being, I know the power of using vision to revise my personal story, my life story.

The junction of these two realities…that every life requires revision, and revisions are best designed using vision and intention…Story Revisioned is the result. I wanted to create a place, a home, to exchange stories with readers. And I wanted to create a site which allows me to offer what I’ve learned, what I’m still learning. You see, these aren’t just stories to entertain…they’re stories with meaning, with a point to make, or an overcoming to celebrate.

You’ll find helps and encouragement, tools and inspiration at Story Revisioned. I hope you’ll find challenges too, ideas worth sharing, and making your own.

Please visit and look around, wander through the pages, stop and leave a comment if you’d like. Better yet, leave your story. My hope is that visitors will feel welcome and empowered, nurtured and stimulated by what’s offered. We’ll all learn from each other, shall we? I’d be honored if you sign up to follow by email. You’ll find opportunity to do that, as well as a welcome gift, when you follow this link.

See you over there!

~Sheila

Can digital work survive like paper?

For the past month I’ve been listening to the soundtrack from the hit play Hamilton, based on the book Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. I finally downloaded the Kindle edition of the book and started reading it last week, and I’m struck by the author’s references to the writings of people of the 1700s. Some of the references are to letters and other documents that seem fairly obscure. In fact, in the book, the author notes that we’ve learned a lot of what we know about Alexander Hamilton from material that’s come to light only in the last 50+ years, as more than 22,000 pages of Hamilton’s writings were published.

Of course we’re used to reading books and material written centuries ago. From the Bible to ancient texts from early civilizations, Shakespeare and the great writers of all genres and eras, right up to the entrance of the digital era…even the not-great writers…the every-day and common recordings of business, home life, letters, journals, etc…all of it was written on materials that were physical and perishable.

But they were also savable. Keepable. And findable. Readable. And re-producable.

I can’t help but wonder, as I write away on my keyboard, if the words I save to my blog will be readable hundreds of years from now, if they’re only in digital form?

If I stop paying for my domain name, and make no provision to move the posts to a new site, or have them printed, I suppose they would disappear, as if I never wrote.

Here’s an interesting post on this problem…and it is a problem. While I fully expect the digital world to be with us forever, if we don’t experience nuclear winter, or some catastrophic natural event that shuts us all down, the digital world is fragile is ways that the physical world is not. With the changes to technology over time, and the ongoing necessity of financial backing, the issues of who pays to maintain websites, domain names, provide tech support, etc., are thorny.

And it seems there aren’t really good long-term solutions.

I’ve spent the last decade transitioning to digital everything, and I don’t regret that. But reading about information dug out of letters from the early 1700s has made me think about my letters, or rather, my lack of letters. I email, and text, post Facebook messages. But it’s extremely rare these days that I write anything that could be found twenty years from now, likely, much less two hundred years from now.

To be honest, most of what I write doesn’t merit saving…most of it’s just the stuff of everyday life. But then, that’s how we know about the past…because someone wrote about everyday life, and we can look back through time, through letters, through newspapers and books, old photos and journals.

Of course there are printed books and materials everywhere, even in this digital age. I’m not concerned that the future won’t know our time. There’s a huge volume of printed work that will surely exist, long ages from now.

But I have to admit, I’m becoming thoughtful about my work. Do I care if it doesn’t survive me? And if I want it to survive my time on earth, if writing is part of the legacy I want to leave, what do I do to make sure there’s something savable, keepable, readable, after I’m not around to pay to keep a website live, or deal with tech glitches?

It’s not as if this is a totally new thought. Of course I’ve had the experience of clicking on a link only to find that it doesn’t work. Someone set up a site, once upon a time, and then eventually quit maintaining it…you get a message that the page can’t be found, and whatever was there once, is no more.

Could ages past have more longevity than this modern time, with all our sophistication and technology? I think that’s entirely possible. Maybe even probable.

Read the post I linked above…it will make you think.

I suppose someone, some enterprising young start-up company will come up with solutions, there for anyone who is able and willing to pay for digital immortality. But who knows what that would look like?

And I’m thinking…maybe there’s something to be said for printed books after all.

 

 

Body of work

It sometimes happens that I get busy and lose track of the days, or I’m traveling, or for some other reason (and yes, there are many) temporarily set aside my blog.

I used to feel guilty when that happened, and come back to it thinking I should post an apology…like I had abandoned my readers, small audience though it is.

I don’t worry about that any more. Not that I want to come across as disrespectful to readers…believe me, I appreciate everyone who reads, who follows the blog, who comments. I appreciate you, regardless of how or where you choose to engage, through Facebook or Twitter or via email.

I’ve realized, six years into this journey (six years!) that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve had the conversation with myself…will I be blogging five years down the road? Or ten? Will there be some new and exciting way to communicate that we haven’t even imagined yet?

Regardless, I hope to be around for a long time. So while I’d like to sign a pledge saying I won’t miss another day, or another week of posting, that’s probably not going to hold up. I go in cycles…very consistent with writing, then not so much. And try as I might, I haven’t found a cure for life happening, getting in the way of all my best intentions of regular posting.

But instead of apologizing for my irregular creative rhythm, now I’m taking the long view.

First, while I’d like to flatter myself that readers are eagerly watching for my next post, I know that most everyone out there is like me: busy, often over-committed, and full of good intentions. I’m not worried that readers will take it personally if I don’t post as faithfully as I would like. Readers have lives too, and while I don’t take for granted that a blog follower will always be there, I hope many will be like me…when I see a blogger I follow has a gap in posting, I don’t take it personally. I’m just glad to see them writing again.

Second, I’m coming around to thinking of what I post as a body of work, one that I hope will become a legacy, of sorts.

Not everything I post is save-worthy, by any means. Some of it is personal musing about family or travel, a recipe or some other tidbit of life I share.

But now and then, I write from a different place…a place of the heart no less sincere than when I write about family. But these posts are the ones that could have a life beyond the day of posting. These are the ones that come from hard-won wisdom, trial and error, personal epiphanies, or one of my designated roles in life, my alter-ego as a cautionary tale of one sort or another.

My writing in this vein is not from “let me enlighten you” it’s out of “let me share what I learned the hard way so you don’t have to go that route.” These posts aren’t about what a wise woman I am, they’re about wisdom that’s fallen on me through mistakes and personal growth.

It’s this work I’d like to think is part of a legacy I’m growing.

I can’t say it clearly enough…this isn’t meant to sound prideful. It’s acknowledging I want to share the things I’ve learned, mostly painfully, with anyone who can hear my voice. That’s all.

So, a body of work is what I’m about here, in between the frivolous and light-hearted moments. Because we all have those too; and anyway, who wants to be serious all the time? Some days I just want to share a birthday wish, or rave over my latest find.

What about you? What body of work are you producing? Are you consciously shaping a legacy? I’m curious…what does legacy mean to you?

~ Sheila

 

 

 

 

A friend asked me how to start a blog…

A friend recently mentioned she’s thinking about starting a blog, wondered if I had any suggestions.

Well of course I have suggestions!

Actually, though it would have been better planning on my part to have this post come first, it makes a nice pairing with this.

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But to begin at the beginning…a blog is a combination of the words web and log = blog. Blogging began in the late 90s, and at first blogs were really just online diaries or journals.

What a long way we’ve come! Some stats I found said there were 152 million blogs online in 2013. One snapshot of blogging activity put the number of daily blog posts at 1.13 million in March, 2015.

There are many blogging platforms to choose from. WordPress, which I use, Tumblr, Blogger, Medium, Squarespace, Pen.io, Svbtle, LiveJournal, and Weebly are popular options, and offer a variety of features. They’re pretty much all designed for the non-technical user. You can choose basic free options (usually) or go with more customized options and pay a range of fees depending on your needs and budget.

There’s a lot to learn, but fortunately it’s easy to step in and learn on the go. You can usually go with a domain name that uses an extension of the blogging platform (often the domain name is free if you do this). If you want a custom domain, you can check out sites like GoDaddy and Namecheap to see if the name you want is available, and then register your chosen domain for a small fee. There are lots of domain extensions, and you can read about the best options, depending on the purpose of your site and a host of other factors.

One of the basic questions to sort out is your purpose for writing. Are you targeting a specific interest, niche market, type of reader / follower, or blogging style? Do you want a blog focused on food, fashion, photography, travel, current events, family issues, etc., etc., etc. ?  Do you plan to use a lot of photos and graphics? Do you want a poetry blog? When you choose your focus, that will likely define a lot for you…give you a sense of overall goals, style, voice, etc., which will all factor into how you present yourself to the world.

An important decision to make early in the process is if you want to create income from your blog, or if you want to sell products. If you want to generate income, you’ll need to choose a platform that accommodates ecommerce, something that isn’t always an option with free platforms.

Trust me, giving these questions thought up front can save you a lot of time and headache down the road. At the same time, if you start small and / or on a free platform, and then find your goals for your blog changing, you can always transition to a paid platform or add features that will take your blog to a professional level when you’re ready.

Once you’ve made these first decisions, you can set yourself up and get ready to write.

There are no rules in this blogging world, so if you want to write every day, three times a week, or once a month, you can choose whatever works for you. I would suggest the more consistent you can be, the more likely you’ll grow a consistent following.

And that’s the next big thing. Growing an audience is one of the challenges, but also a lot of the fun of blogging. Share your posts on social media, with your email list, invite friends to check out your blog and share on their social media platforms. Before you know it you’ll have some readers (followers) and you should also be reading other bloggers posts and following any that appeal to you.

Blogging is a community activity, and you’ll find a lot of camaraderie as you find other writers who share your style and interests. Or maybe you’ll find writers who are very different to you, but are intriguing and great to read. I’m often inspired by other bloggers, and while you should never copy or plagiarize, reading other blogs will help you learn, gather good ideas, and generally improve your writing.

Here’s a tip, as you wade into this world, if you see a term referenced you don’t understand, just Google and learn. Google and YouTube are your best friends if you need help with the technical aspects of all this. Often I find tutorials on YouTube are better than the official how-tos…I think it’s because people posting to YouTube are doing reviews and tutorials mostly for do-it-yourself types, so I find instructions are usually provided on a layman level, which I love.

Also, many, many books have been written on the subject of blogging, if you want a guide at hand as you get set up. I suggest reading reviews to see what sounds best for your needs. There are books that focus on the different types of blogs, so if you know the specific niche you want to create, look for a book that corresponds.

Last, if you think you’d like to try blogging, just jump in and begin. You’ll learn a lot, maybe surprise yourself, and you can always move at whatever pace is good for you. No pressure to do more than you choose.

Good luck, and if you’re reading this and decide to start a blog, let me know! I love to check out new writers!

~ Sheila

 

 

Hamilton

I finally got around to listening to this soundtrack...spent a good part of the weekend writing with this going in the background, and kept finding myself just listening. The music combines hip hop and R & B, amazing lyrics, and showcases the story of Alexander Hamilton, based on Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. In his prologue, Chernow said, “In all probability, Alexander Hamilton is the foremost figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a much deeper and more lasting impact than many who did.”

The man behind this phenomenon (winner of 11 Tony Awards, including best musical, and 16 Tony nominations, the most nominations in Broadway history, and also a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award) is Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda’s interest in Hamilton grew out of a paper he wrote in high school about the 1804 fatal duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr, which reminded him of old-school rap rivalries.

I understand this production has really impacted Broadway with its unique music for that venue, and the outstanding cast. After listening to the soundtrack, I’m intrigued to read the book, and I’m already thinking about how I can see the play when it goes on national tour next year. It will be a hot ticket, no doubt about it.

If you haven’t heard this yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. You’ll need to really listen to the words. The songs tell the story, and there is so much craft in the way the lyrics are put together…to say that the words rhyme does not do justice to the artistry. Truly impressive! I’ll just add my personal enthusiasm to the overwhelming response this production has generated, and be ready to be amazed if I’m fortunate enough to see it in person.

You can stream the soundtrack via Spotify or Amazon.

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Happy 4th of July! The Star Spangled Banner

 

The 4th of July is here again, a day to remember and celebrate heritage, and a day to remember that freedom comes at a cost. The national anthem of the United States was born during battle, and reminds us that freedom requires courage…we must be brave if we want to be free. Bravery comes in many forms, some more visible than others. How are you being brave in your life?

Here’s a treat:

The Star Spangled Banner at the Lincoln Memorial

And a little history of this song…

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
’Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Best blogging practices – 20 ways to improve your posts

I’ve been blogging since 2010, and now and then I like to review a bit, take stock, and see what I’ve learned along the way. This is my current roundup for bloggers…whether you’re just starting, trying to grow a following, or simply writing to express yourself…this isn’t about list building tools or social media magic. These are my favorite dos and don’ts for blogging as a writing form.

  1. Be yourself, be authentic…it’s tempting to try to sound like popular writers…as clever, as moving, as profound as others out there…and maybe you will be all those and more. But regardless of anything else your writing evokes, it should be real, sound like something you would really say. That will come across as natural and genuine, and be much better than trying to copy someone else, however successful. No one can speak in your voice and style but you.
  2. When you have an idea for a post, write it down. You may remember it later when you sit down to blog, but you may not. (I always think I’ll remember, and often I don’t. I finally learned to take my own advice here.) I’d say the same for a specific phrase or thought you want to use…easier to write something down in the moment than try to remember the perfect word flow two days later.
  3. Use photos, quotes, stories, and tell your story. Even if you write a food blog or a DIY blog, or write on a very narrow subject matter, you’re still sharing your point of view. Using tools to bring your personal style and voice to your writing is always a good thing. In general the more successful blogs are well-defined in subject and tone. Readers know what to expect, and that’s helpful for building a following.
  4. Before you publish a post, use the preview function and read your post as it will appear when you’re done. No one’s perfect, and I’ve caught many a typo in my work. No matter how much you try to prevent spelling errors or spacing issues, sooner or later something will slip by your eagle eye. Don’t let fear of making mistakes be a barrier to writing. And remember, even after you’ve published a post, you can edit and update it when you see your mistake.
  5. Similar to #4, read in preview mode for the flow of your content. Often I let a post sit in draft form for a few days and re-read it to be sure I like the flow, and that I’m not wandering off topic. Re-reading your work after it sits for a while will help you see it with fresh eyes, and as a whole piece. That said, as a blogger, you’re not attempting to write a novel or produce a white paper. Don’t over-critique or analyze your writing, or you’ll never hit the publish button.
  6. Some writers follow the same format for all their posts, and others use a variety of writing and formatting styles…list posts, holiday or birthday wishes, photo posts, poetry posts, vacation or travel posts, pet peeves or random items…anything can work, as long as you’re writing from the heart. If you’re concerned about falling into a rut, ask input from other bloggers you admire.
  7. Some bloggers follow a calendar for blogging with different types of posts on different days of the week. I haven’t done this myself, but I see the benefit. If you’re struggling to be consistent, or come up with material for your blog, consider developing an editorial calendar with a strategy of specific types of posts on specific days of the week.
  8. You can link to other sites that give a writing prompt, and that’s a great way to connect with writers who have similar interests. It’s also a way to grow your readership.
  9. If you use photos, edit them! You can probably crop, enhance, or somehow improve your photos to make them more appealing for your post. You can also find free photos on sites like Pexels.com.
  10. One of the best tips I can offer is: be consistent! When I post consistently and regularly, I notice I have new people following my blog. When I neglect my writing, that usually results in losing readers, and slows growth. Having said that, I try to remember that I’m blogging / writing out of choice, and if life is crazy, I don’t let blogging make it crazier. I want the blog to work with my life, not the other way around. Priorities and balance are important values to hold in the blogging world. It’s easy to get lost in the challenge of posting, being relevant, creating new content.
  11. Use categories and tags for your posts, these will help readers find your work.
  12. Link your blog to at least a couple of social media sites…I link to Twitter and Facebook. From everything I read, it’s best to not be active on too many social platforms…just dilutes your efforts and will be too distracting to try to keep up for most people.
  13. Invite comments! And when readers comment on your blog, respond to them. Some successful bloggers don’t do this, and I’ll admit, I’m sometimes guilty of missing this opportunity as well. But I think it’s a good practice to follow, and helps build a community, helps you get to know people who are visiting your blog regularly.
  14. When someone follows your blog, check out theirs. I don’t always follow a blogger who follows me, but I try to visit in response to a follow notice. If nothing else, I can leave a comment, thank them for following me, and see what they’re writing about. I’ve found some wonderful writers doing this, and again, this helps to build a community.
  15. Once I connect with another blogger, I try to read their posts often. That doesn’t mean I read everything, but I try to visit their blogs regularly, as a way of maintaining my place in the community. When I read other blogs, I often comment. It lets writers know I’m engaged and part of the community.
  16. Be generous. I don’t always post to be informative…some of what I write is more in the genre of personal growth/development, working out my issues by writing them out. Perhaps even through those posts someone may learn something. (One of my life functions is being a cautionary tale.) But I also like to write posts that are intentionally educational or informative, whether a list post, like this, or sharing a recipe or new website I’ve found, a tool or app that works well, or even a link to another site or article I find valuable. I also love to feature quotes…those are simple posts to do, but they can have a big impact.
  17. It’s ok to share your ups and downs. As a blogger, writing directly to readers, you can say just what you want…what’s on your heart. While I don’t think blogging should be an exercise in self-absorption (not every post on my blog is about me or my life) this is your opportunity to use your stories and insights to offer a message…a message of caution, of hope, of perseverance, of triumph, of loss. Sometimes my posts are about something funny, and I like that too. Mixing up the serious subjects with something lighter is a good thing, I think. Whatever you choose, let the sincerity and real-ness of your stories shine through.
  18. If you’re writing about difficult personal issues, be careful and thoughtful about what you share. Whether you have a small following or a large one, once you launch a post into cyberspace, it’s out there. My personal opinion is that you can share a lot generically, but respect the privacy of others, especially anyone you may reference  directly in your writing. Some bloggers are very open about any and everything going on in their lives, relationships, health, etc. I prefer to keep my private life private, at least in the details. I’m ok to write in broad strokes about relationship challenges, struggles with personal issues, etc. I can do that and still maintain a certain level of privacy and dignity. If I write about a struggle, I’ll be honest with what I say, but I don’t have to disclose every detail to make a point.
  19. I don’t use profanity in my posts, though some very successful writers do. That’s not who I am, and I don’t need to write like it is. Some bloggers introduce controversy, others have a very empathetic/sympathetic tone to their writing. I think it’s ok to occasionally mix your emotional tones, but I wouldn’t do it often. Readers grow to expect a certain vibe from you, and it’s probably best to be consistent in general. Look at how your favorite writers do it…don’t copy their material, but you can learn from a successful blogging formula or strategy. Again, very important to speak / write with your authentic voice.
  20. Be friendly! Friendliness will come across in your writing tone. Even if your writing is very dark and emotional, readers will likely connect better with you if you sound approachable; if you sound relatable; if you sound like a real human being they could sit down and talk with.

I wish I could do all these things perfectly myself; sometimes I’m more successful than others. But these are the guidelines I try to follow. Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from other writers!

~ Sheila

Happy #29, Alex!

 

Today is Alex’s 29th birthday, and I’m missing him. I don’t see his face as much as I’d like, for as long as I’d like. That’s the reality of living states apart. The months between visits add up.

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What’s a mom to do?

I wish I could do more. I wish I could make his favorite dinner, bake a treat for him. He’s a hard one to gift, he doesn’t need much. He’s a minimalist, and let’s me know it.

He’s a march-to-his-own drummer guy, and I’ve known that for most of his life. He always finds his own opinion, his own way, his style.

I’m proud of him, this son of mine who grew up to be confident and funny, edgy and spiritual, hard-working and loyal, somehow all in the same package.

I don’t always understand him. With mom-like precision, I sometimes say exactly the wrong thing, even when I’m trying to get my words right. It’s one of my gifts, I suppose…I installed his buttons, at least some of them, so I find them with ease.

He’s a man, and also still becoming. I’m eager to watch his story unfolding, see where he goes, what his choices are. He’s surprised me, marching to the drum he hears. I can’t hear the beat, but I’m confident he knows the way.

Happy birthday to my son!

~ Sheila