January gift

The new year brings re-focus, shiny months stretching out before me, just waiting to be filled with accomplishment.

My list is long.

It’s good, on January 31, to be on the other side of holiday travel and time away, to be caught up with my back-log at work, ready to re-engage.

It’s a familiar process, one I repeat often in my digital life.

Now in my seventh year of blogging, I no longer feel defeated by the gaps in posting, by my lapses of creativity.

I’m just happy to be here, thinking, reading, writing, doing my bit.

This year I’m planning another book, looking forward to the energy and the push that comes from the writing, the burst of words spilling onto the screen.

That’s the gift of the beginning of the year, looking ahead, planning it out, putting dates on the calendar…deadline dates, vacation dates, family trips and events.

Time isn’t promised to anyone. But we expect it, we hope for it, we plan for it. We hunger for it.

I’m hungry, eager for the coming year…for the time I’ll spend with family, for the long days of work and fulfillment.

What about you? What have you planned for the coming year? Will this be your time to thrive, to fulfill a promise you made to yourself, or someone else? Will you stretch yourself and be a bigger, better version of you on December 31?

What gifts will the year bring to you? And what will you give in return?

~ Sheila

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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.

laptop and phone

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

 

 

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

Growing up, growing an audience

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Most of my blogging has been for fun, as a creative outlet, a way to learn and experience technology, and a way to pry open my shell a bit.

For all I’m a talker (once I open up), most of the time, I can sit quietly and keep to myself with no difficulty. I’m more introvert than extrovert.

But I also enjoy engaging with kindred spirits, and that’s one of the joys of blogging, and writing in general.

So I’m beginning to look around and find ways to grow the blog, and my new site Story Revisioned.

Though I’m not good at self-promotion…that’s never going to be a comfortable seat for me…I do like the idea of sharing, and having a way to hear from readers who are willing to engage, or fellow bloggers who are also writing, sharing their stories, and looking for connection.

So that’s what I’m doing here, and will be doing in some other venues…just looking to reach out a bit more, see who’s out there in the big world, plant my flag.

See you on the playground!

~ Sheila

 

Murphy — Eyes + Words

This is so beautiful, just wanted to share. I really love the last line…”I’ll fight for that smile…” ~ Sheila

Written by Jacob Ibrag He tried to appreciate the good, flooding out the inevitable. Looking at her, couldn’t help wonder when his world would crumble. Natural deterioration. Murphy’s law was waiting. Planning a heist to replace his heart with deep gravity. Crawling into his insides, taking over his memories. Destroying everything he’s built in a instant. He rejected it, ‘I’ll fight […]

via Murphy — Eyes + Words

Voices on the page

I read a post today on the subject of the individual writer’s voice, specifically the use of punctuation, breaking rules of grammar, using the same style of writing repeatedly…run-on sentences, dashes, parentheses, foot notes, etc…

The post included quotes from several writers talking about their personal writing style quirks, why they use them, how their writing style is part of their message, and it was validating, encouraging, reassuring.

Sometimes I’m intimidated. I know the blogging world is nothing if not a platform for the individual writer’s voice, and that includes everything from the way some writers have humor pouring our of their keyboards to the way others use profanity, to the use (and mis-use) of punctuation, spelling, and grammar in general.

Still, sometimes I worry. If I write the way I talk, inevitably, I break rules. And I’m not funny enough, or a strong enough writer to get away with it. Am I?

Don’t answer that! I’m not looking for reassurance, just typing out loud here.

The answer is, no, I’m not that good a writer.

But maybe, in this forum, that’s not important.

What’s important is that I’m sharing my reality, and I’m always happy when someone comments as if to say, “Hey, that’s a reality I know too!”

I’m happy when someone comments out of empathy, or sympathy, or to share a different perspective. Because that’s the truly rich world of blogging.

Did you ever think that writers of past eras didn’t get the kind of feedback and interaction we receive through this medium? Good or bad, you’re putting yourself out to the world, and the world (or your 10 readers, or whomever!) has a chance to interact.

That’s exciting to me. It’s fun to me to have the exchange that comments offer…to know this isn’t a one way street. Whether I’m commenting on someone else’s post, or reading and replying to comments on my blog, the process reminds me I’m part of a larger group, a circle of writers, just like me, who use this platform to say just what they want, just as they want.

And the more I write, the more I read, the richer I become, and the better I become. No false modesty here…like anything else, practice actually does help this process.

So going forward, I’m going to write a little more freely…I’m not built to disregard the rules of grammar completely, and poor spelling is a particular pet peeve of mine. But I’m going to think less about style and let my voice speak for itself. I’m not likely to win any awards, but that isn’t what this is about anyway.

Here’s a link to the post. Maybe you’ll see something of yourself in the comments! Enjoy!

The Valley of Indecision

So I have an offer on the house…lower than I wanted, so I’ve countered. And now I wait to hear. The prospective buyers have until Wednesday at 5:00. I doubt it will take that long to hear the decision, but still, the wait is hard to endure. And will they counter again? I hate these games. I wish we could just sit down and talk to each other. But that’s not the way it’s done.

The hard thing is I’ve loved this house. It’s been a nest I would enjoy anywhere, but unfortunately I can’t barge it down to a new location in the lower 48. So part of the process of resetting life is making the choice to move. It’s the first step of many, and at that, my anxiety may be premature. I may just get a rejection and be back to square one.

What do homes say about us? What do they mean? I’ve been a life-long nester, and my home is my refuge in many ways. But I have to say, the older I get, the more I realize…the physical structure, and the furnishings, while they’re important, only go so far.

When you need a real refuge, you need heart, and soul, love and strength. You need character and integrity, loyalty and grace. And none of these things are dependent on the structure of a home, no matter how beautiful or how comfortable it may be.

I’ve faced some challenging moments in my life, and I’m sure there are more to come…life has a way of doing that, testing you, sending a lot of the same lessons over and over again. And each time I realize I learn something new…insights about what I really value, who I want to be in the good times, but more importantly, in the bad.

I’ve learned to feed myself the messages that I want to live, to project what I want to be until it becomes real. Some of the transformation has been slow, but it is happening. And selling a home is just another filter…another lens to look through, to see what I’m really made of.

There have been plenty of times I’ve been disappointed in myself…haven’t been strong enough, or brave enough, or creative enough. But one thing I do know: I have heart, and I don’t give up. So using the filter, the lens, of the success of selling the house, if it happens, I’m going to be thrilled, and celebrate, and find a way to make it positive.

And if it doesn’t happen this time, I’m still going to find a way to make it positive. That’s my life lesson, to take the experiences that seem like defeats and turn them into victories. And believe me, some of the defeats take a lot of work to reframe. Some of the defeats have nearly killed me. But I think most people have to absorb this teaching if they survive, and thrive, in spite of the darts of life.

Sounds pretty philosophical…maybe I’m taking the whole thing too seriously. But tonight, waiting on a decision that has the power to impact my life in such a big way, it doesn’t feel like I’m blowing it out of proportion.

I’m not in control of life, but I can be in control of myself. So whatever happens, I’ll find my smile, and I’ll put on my heels the next morning and go out and try again. Because anything else is the true defeat, the true loss.

The house will sell when the time is right, and I know that in my heart, even if my head has a hard time believing that.

Wish me luck!

And to my blogging friends out there…I haven’t abandoned you…just a little pre-occupied right now. But soon, I’ll be catching up, and reading about all you’ve been up to this summer.  See you soon!

My house!

~ Sheila

View from the top

The assignment for Writing 101:

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

I’ve always been drawn to lights and high places. Sometimes I find a combination of the two.

When Rob and I moved to Colorado, we first lived on the Western Slope. Grand Junction, Colorado was our first real home away from home. We moved there in 1987 with our three-year and and our three-week old. Rob started residency in Family Practice at the local hospital, St. Mary’s, we bought a little starter house, and settled in. Grand Junction was good to us. He had a great training experience and we grew some good friends there. It was a beautiful western community with a perfect high desert climate and scenery to spare. The town had a small feel to it, the local peaches were legendary, and for five years we thought we had found a home forever.

But opportunities beckoned, and eventually lead us across the country, to a new home in Michigan. Midland, Michigan was another wonderful community. As the corporate headquarters of Dow Chemical, Midland had amenities that you wouldn’t typically find in small towns. Our kids had friends all over our neighborhood. I was an event planner for the local Chamber of Commerce, Rob had his first experience with corporate work.

But the winters there were hard, and long, and gray. And while there was a lot about Michigan that charmed us…Mackinac Island, summer cherries and fall apple orchards, Polish pierogi, the beautiful lake shores and the small, colorful towns…ultimately, we missed the Colorado sun, and the mountains, and we began to talk about next…next jobs, next home, next stop.

Once you start having those conversations, it’s only a matter of time.

We looked at a couple of practice options, but it was an easy decision to accept a job in Denver, taking us back to the mountains and the sunshine.

When you drive cross-country, heading toward the Rockies, if you approach from the east on I-70, you reach a point when you can just faintly, ever so faintly, see the outline of the peaks in the distance. That was the moment I always anticipated.

We drove it many times, and in fact, those drives had started in our childhoods, both families drawn to the Colorado mountains, though in different seasons. My parents were summer visitors, heading west on summer vacations, packing the iconic station wagon with four kids, bags, food, books, games, and more books. And music. My dad always had music with him, and by the time we were making those trips, it was cassette tapes, boxes and boxes of tapes.

Rob’s family went to Colorado to find snow, and they found skiing. In the 70s, driving out over spring break to experience winter and the mountains, they created a family tradition, returning year after year to satisfy a love of exploring, and beauty, and escape from routine.

Those trips were the beginnings of our love affair with the West, summer and winter, and the Colorado mountains.

After we got married, when Rob and I talked about where we wanted to live, the mountains of Colorado became our destination of choice. In 1995, that dream came true. We moved to the foothills of the Front Range, Genesee, nestled between Evergreen and Golden. At night we had a view of the lights of Denver to the east, and we had soaring peaks to the west. Perfect!

It was perfect, and from the day we moved to the mountains, I promised myself I wouldn’t take the views for granted, wouldn’t let it get old.

Even good things in your life become insignificant if you can’t see them anymore. 

I used to drive around, running my errands, and even after we’d lived there for years, I’d catch myself just staring at the scenery. I never got tired of it, never looked past it. Living with the views made me grateful, kept me humble, fueled my joy.

Our view to the west

Our view to the west

Red Rocks, a Front Range landmark

Red Rocks, a Front Range landmark

The river bank

Snow frosted

 

I’ve never been a city girl, but there is one city that completely charmed me, makes me want to know it better and better. Paris, the City of Light, is beautiful and timeless.

It’s romantic and iconic.

It seems familiar from all the movies and photos that have made it famous; but it’s unknown too..when you’re walking around, seeing the landmarks with your own eyes,  there’s a quality of déjà vu, and surreality. You can’t understand the aura from photos, or movies. You have to see it for yourself to absorb the little shops, the cafés, the traffic and the people, the Frenchness. I guess that’s true of most places…you have to experience in person. But somehow it’s more true there. There’s magic in Paris, that’s the only way to explain it.

View seat

View seat

The Paris Icon

The Paris Icon

Paris wandering

Paris wandering

Riverside in Paris, 2009

Riverside afternoon

The funny thing about that trip was how meaningful it was to both of us. We’ve done a lot of traveling together, and sometimes a place that speaks to one of us doesn’t  impact the other. But this was different. We were in sync with each other and with the city. And to this day, it is a touchstone for us, an experience that caught us by surprise, filled us with delight.

We thought we were just doing the tourist thing. Turns out, we carved out memories for life. And you never know when life is going to hand you those moments. So it’s important to pay attention.

The good stuff can only be planned so far. I’ve learned to leave room for the joy of the unplanned, the surprise of the unexpected.

At the end of our exploring, tired and footsore, we headed to our hotel in the heart of the city to recover and get ready to leave the next day. But late that night, I think it was a little before midnight, Rob insisted we go back out for a last look at the city, and the lights. I was so tired, I almost didn’t do it.

But how can you say no to Paris?

We walked a few blocks, and this was our reward:

DSC00881

Paris night-light

It was worth putting on my shoes again.

I’m so glad I said yes. If I’d said no, I would have missed one of the perfect moments of my life, of our lives together. 

Seeing the lights of the Eiffel Tower, sharing a midnight dessert at a quaint little café within sight of that stunning monument, was the perfect end to our trip, the perfect date with my best friend.

Saying yes to life has served me better than saying no.

It has caused me to take some wrong turns, true enough. But even those wrong turns have lead to good things, and make up the mosaic of life. So when I find myself hesitating, I remember the lights, and a midnight walk through Paris. And I know that I’ll choose yes, because there might be a night-light worth seeing, and I’ll miss it if I say no.

June promise

June 2nd and another month presents itself. Already half through this year, and I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the tasks I listed for 2014.

I really wanted to improve my blog this year, and I’ve done that in fits and starts. Like all my rhythms, writing often takes a back seat to travel and routine, or lack of one. But I’ll admit that’s often just the excuse. The root of what I’m missing is not a better grasp of technology, it’s the discipline to sit down, even when I’m time-zone challenged, and power on my lap-top, put words on the screen instead of reading them off.

I signed up for Writing 101 to put some structure around my goals, and this is my beginning. I’m sitting surrounded by the stacks of packing, getting ready to go back to Ketchikan tomorrow, back to work, away from days of sun and camping. But I stopped my sorting, sat down to gather my thoughts. Packing is just another distraction, and it will wait.

Today we ran errands out in the hot California sun, the little red pick-up we keep for getting around down here feeling oven-like until the blast of the air-conditioner cooled us down. I’m going back to Ketchikan with specialty cheeses and my favorite pasta sauce and Panzanella crackers. I stocked up on some farm stand corn, the first of the season down here. Got a burger at In-N-Out, satisfied the fast food craving with crispy fries and animal style.

I drive around and wonder if I could ever live here, back in the hustle-bustle after years of small town life. I don’t know. I toy with the idea. Some days I think I could, then the traffic gets to me, or the big box stores seem too big, and I’m happy to find myself out on the rural roads that lead back to the campground. The slow speed of a winding road suits me better than interstates and freeways.

Driving here is a lot like the life I’m living: it’s either the fast lane and overwhelming, or it slows down to a pace I enjoy, and I find myself daydreaming, mesmerized by the scenery.

It’s easy to get lost in your own life, so caught up in the details of living that you forget — you forget you had a plan, and goals, and a timeline. I call it the “where am I?” — you know, that dazed look that says you’re trying to catch up… what state am I in?  what space I’m in (house, trailer, apartment?) and the commitments I’ve got the next day…which clinic am I in? What food do I have in the fridge, and is the bed made, and what season of clothes do I need for tomorrow?

I’m making it sound worse than it is, but at that I’m often disjointed enough. I don’t know how people who travel every week manage. And while I love it, I’m also weary of it. Ready to stand still for a while, find my feet on solid ground. Ready to put the details of life on auto-pilot and give my attention to the things that matter. Still, or again, finding my focus. The funny thing is, I read over these words and it sounds like I’m self-absorbed. But I think the opposite is true. I’m not paying enough attention to the life I’m living. I’m largely floating on the current of events that carry me along. And that’s not what I want. I don’t want to be driftwood in the current of life.

What’s the secret formula? I already know. I just have to reclaim it for myself. The secret is service, and giving, and living with such purpose, such intention, that my busyness finds meaning again, and my work is a labor of love, not just a labor.

And so I promise anew. I promise to make life matter, not just mark the days off the calendar. I promise to notice the details that are worthy, and let the insignificant be just that: insignificant. I promise to love, to cherish, to fill each day with some task that is meaningful and powerful.

Thank you Writing 101! Thanks for the reset, thanks for the reminder. Maybe that’s the power of a blog…the self-reminder that each life matters, and if so, then my life, my contribution, matters too. I just have to find the way, and at the same time, promise not to take it all too seriously. Wouldn’t want to do that. 🙂

The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.

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California burger

 

 

Summer corn

Summer corn

California rambling

Seaside

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Pacific blues

The travel trailer

The travel trailer

 

Write makes might!

Aahh…Blogging 201 is finished, and I learned a lot. It wasn’t evident from my postings, because I haven’t been posting. But the daily tasks have been been thought provoking, made me think about why I blog, tools I use, how I connect.

Out of all the advice and how-tos, the most challenging assignment is to define my brand. (In today’s world, anything and everything is a “brand.”) When I launched Grace and Space, my goal was to share hope, encouragement, and positive thoughts. Sometimes I veer into journal mode, share a recipe, or post family photos. I’ve occasionally tried to add some humor (and though I can be funny enough in person, writing humor is hard to do; kudos to those who do it well!) I’ve shared music, and links to posts that inspire. I post quotes that speak to me, and the occasional personal tribute.

So…out of the mix, what do I offer that is consistent, gives readers a reason to return, and rises above the private ramblings that could be read in a personal diary?

Hmmm….

The truth is, with an ocean of bloggers out there, there are a lot of  similar voices. And while some blogs have a narrowly defined niche…think DIY sites or frugal living blogs, parenting advice authors, religious writers or photography blogs…there are a lot of writers who focus on the topic of the day, whatever that may mean to them.

I’m still thinking about this…do I want to narrow my focus, or have a broader goal of sharing the good stuff, however I define it at the moment?

I’ve been playing with titles and tag lines, domain names and business names as I think about using content from my blog on a professional writing site. Some posts wouldn’t be appropriate…I don’t want to post family photos on a business site, and that wouldn’t be the place for sharing recipes either. The phrase “write makes might” floated through and lodged.

Without taking on delusions of grandeur, or seeing myself or Grace and Space as wielding influence, I’ll just leave my brand aspirations at this: I want anything that appears on my blog to point the way. Often I’m writing out of my own need for hope and joy, and that’s where I want to lead anyone who’s reading. I want my brand to be hope, and my deliverable to be joy. And if that’s a little vague…well, you know it when you see it.

Some days joy is quiet, and others it is exuberant. But always, there’s a deep current of direction and intention, and that’s what I want to convey to readers.

So come along with me if you’d like. I’m searching for a little grace, a little joy, and a community that is grounded in hope, amidst all the nitty-gritty of life. I’m not denying the hard and the sad. But I’m determined to rise above.

The far horizon

The far horizon…