Monday, March 31, 2014

End of March Smiles

Can I tell you how much I loved yesterday? I love, love, loved yesterday! First of all, I was able to drink coffee and watch Pioneer Woman before church--my favorite way to spend a weekend morning. Lots of babies and kids attended the service, which made me happy, and the sermon spoke right to my heart.

Sophie wouldn't pose for me on the walk, so I found this older shot of her!

Our weather has been so cold and miserable all year, but we were blessed with a fifty degree day and sunny to boot!

Sophie and I took a three-mile walk by the river in the afternoon. The trees are still bare and the path had slight remnants of ice, but the sound of birds twittering all around reminded me spring really is on its way. Boy, am I ready for it!

The walk posed a wee problem. Mini-dachshund's legs are very close to the ground. Sophie's belly and chest were caked with mud. She went straight to the bathtub when we got home. :)

Another nice thing about the weekend? Homemade meals. Our weekends have been packed all year. It felt great to take my time and make a pot of chili, a batch of pumpkin muffins, and a roast. 

Did you have a nice weekend? Anything stand out that made you smile?

*I won't be around to moderate today, but please leave a comment! I love reading your thoughts.*

Have a fabulous day!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Stop Eating Bats!

Yesterday morning, I settled in with my coffee, flipped on GMA, and watched Josh and Robin chat about the morning news.

A headline scrolled across the bottom of the screen about an Ebola outbreak in Africa.

Seventeen years ago I read a book called The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. How do I know it was seventeen years ago? We'd just moved to Toledo, Ohio. I didn't know anyone, so I joined a book club at the library. I was twenty-three years old, and I think the closest person in age to me was oh, about sixty-five! But I loved going. It introduced me to books I never would have read, including this one.

So, anyway, I started reading The Hot Zone (which, by the way, is non-fiction!!) and became so horrified I had to finish it in one day. The book seared in my brain, and the one thing I pray I never contract? The Ebola virus!

I will not go into all of the gory details describing the symptoms, but the fact there are people suffering from this right now gives me chills.

BBC News: Africa shared the scoop on the current outbreak. I've linked the article HERE. What surprised me the most? "'Guinea has banned the sale and consumption of bats to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus,' its health minister has said." (BBC News: Africa)

People actually eat bats?

I'm squeamish. I'm also paranoid. My entire life I've believed bats to be little more than mosquito control and rabies agents. To hear that anyone considers them a delicacy messes with my head.

"'Bats, a local delicacy, appeared to be the "main agents" for the Ebola outbreak in the south,' Rene Lamah said." (BBC News: Africa)

Lesson learned. Stop eating bats. Repeat after me. 


Have you read The Hot Zone? Is there a book so horrifying, you've never been able to forget it?

Have a terrific weekend!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ah, Choices

On Monday, I was stressed. I've been worried about my parents. Mom and I met in Lansing to start planning her financial future, and on the way, I ordered a non-healthy value meal from McDonald's, including a large Coke (my absolute favorite!).

I arrived in town about half an hour early, so I stopped at a gas station for a coffee. But I didn't buy a coffee--no, I bought a large cappuccino, a bag of M&Ms, and a very-berry Starburst.

Considering I'm trying to firm up to fit into my summer clothes, these were poor choices. However, when I'm emotionally fragile, I turn to sugar.

I ate half the Starbursts, drank most of the coffee, and let the M&Ms live to see another day. They're in my purse as we speak.

The meeting went well--thank goodness--and I ate a light dinner that night. Yesterday I went grocery shopping, and stocked up on fruits, vegetables, yogurt, cheese, and other healthy snacks. While I contemplated buying a lemon, I asked myself, "Are you getting healthy?" The answer was "yes." Slices of lemon in sparkling water help me bypass soda. So I threw the lemon in my cart.

None of these choices are exciting, but we all read magazine articles encouraging us to not let a set-back keep us from our health goals. I have a LOT of setbacks! But I try to not get down on myself. I usually make better choices the next day. If I can do it, anyone can!

Do you struggle with eating healthy, exercising, or another area of your life? How do you bounce from a bad choice?

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Momentum Builders

There I was, making terrific headway with my exercise program, taming the problems in my manuscript, and generally keeping up with life. But, as you know, life happens and instead of keeping up, I jogged behind it, gasping for air.

I might have lost momentum, but nothing came to a halt. Why? Small steps. 

The other day I took my dog for a fifteen minute walk around the neighborhood. Not as intense as my previous workouts, but it kept my body moving. 

My manuscript? I threw out my normal daily goals and worked on it for an hour when possible. All those here-and-there's added up. I've gotten through another round of revisions. 

What about the tasks I dread? Like balancing my checkbook, paying bills, planning a week's worth of meals, and the daunting pile of laundry--I forced myself to Just Do It (Nike inspires me). I realize the athletic clothing giant didn't intend to kick my buns into basic house management gear, but hey, the list above felt like a marathon!

The last month has been way out-of-whack for me, but by doing small momentum builders, I'm on track to catch up soon. Hooray!

How do you stay on track when life laughs at you?

I won't be moderating comments today, but please leave one!  

Have a fabulous Monday!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Building an Author Platform Wore Me Out

Four score and seven years...

Wait. How long have I been building that imaginary plywood stage called an author platform?

A long, long time! And you know what? It wore me out.

Yeah. It just tuckered this girl out.

You see, this is post 782. I've been blogging since 2008. Facebook? Yep. Twitter? Uh-huh. Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Goodreads? Absolutely.

I've been writing full time for seven years, studying, getting critiques, critiquing, honing my skills, attending conferences, pitching to editors, studying the industry. A girl can learn a lot about writing and the publishing industry in seven years.

But last fall I read Wendy Lawton's fabulous post, "The Trouble with Tribes" over at  Books and Such Literary Blog, and I sensed something needed to change. Wendy discusses the problem many authors have--their Tribe (and platform) consists of peers instead of readers.

Personally, I think aspiring fiction writers are smart to connect with peers. These are the people who will shout out your news and recommend your books to friends. Unpublished fiction authors have a tough time finding readers. After all, we don't have a book to sell.

But much of Wendy's advice rang true. We need to continue leaving our comfort zone to attract an audience. And that is what I've struggled with when the initial excitement of building a platform wore off. I settled for comfortable because I was too discouraged and tired to put myself out there.

I've been blessed. My platform has continued to grow on every site without tons of effort on my part. But I could do a better job of engaging readers.

The bottom line?

I'm pushing myself to make more of an effort on my social media sites. Brainstorming ways to kick-start my platform.


Because I'm persistent, and I believe in my books. I love writing. Writing isn't my hobby. Getting published isn't something that would be nice. It's my big dream, and I've sacrificed a lot to make it happen. I'm willing to sacrifice more.

If becoming a published author is important to you, you'll pick up the hammer and nails and build your platform, even when you're worn out.


* Put small efforts in every day.
* Don't let your platform languish.
* Be generous.
* Nurture relationships.
* Freshen the look of your site every so often.
* And don't count on your platform to give you an edge with editors. It might, but it might not.

When the time comes to market your books, you'll need a web presence to do it. Think of building your platform as investing in your business. You can "save"  now by having your own system in place or "borrow" later by hiring web designers, paying for blog tours, or hiring a publicist. You might want to do both. It's good to have options.

If you're an aspiring author (or a published author), how do you stay motivated to build your platform?

Have a terrific day!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why I Stopped Using Homemade Laundry Detergent

Last spring I came across a blog post raving about homemade laundry detergent. The recipe called for only three inexpensive ingredients, and I figured, why not? I quickly whipped up a batch, determined the money saved, and did my laundry as usual. It seemed to work fine.

My sister-in-law makes homemade laundry detergent too. Her recipe has around seven ingredients, and she loves hers. But the money savings dwindles using that method. If I'm making homemade detergent, I expect a return on my time by having clean clothes and more money in my pocket.

About three months of using the three-ingredient recipe, I noticed my whites were dingy. No biggie. I added bleach to them. They still looked bad.

Soon I noticed strange gray splotches on our T-shirts and light colored clothes. Not little spots, mind you--huge random gray areas. I tried adding OxiClean to each load. New discolorations still appeared.

After nine months of using the three-ingredient homemade laundry detergent, I've decided to switch back to store bought, liquid detergent. Too many of our clothes acquired odd markings after months of using homemade. Unfortunately, those items need to be replaced. Maybe our water reacts with the detergent. Maybe my HE washer just can't handle powder detergent. I don't know, but I'm willing to spend more money if it assures our clothes won't end up discolored and ruined.

I don't regret trying a different laundry method. Am I disappointed the money saved didn't yield the results I wanted? Sure. But in the end, I'd  rather at least try a new way to save money than assume it's too hard or won't work.

Have you tried a frugal tip only to be disappointed?

Have a lovely Wednesday!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off...

Funny how when you're down, you think life can only get better and then it implodes. Like a few years ago when I got a particularly painful rejection on my son's birthday and promptly stepped in dog poop. You narrow your eyes and think, real funny. Yeah.

But crazily enough, sometimes life gets so bad, so traumatic, so painful that the only thing you can do is either give up or, like the song says, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. ("Pick Yourself Up" by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Dorothy Fields.)

My father went from mild dementia to late stages of Alzheimer's in the blink of an eye.

The last two years have been difficult for me for many reasons. But if you're a believer, you can see God's goodness in it all. The little signs He sends to comfort you. The people who go out of their way to be kind just when you need it the most. There have been so many upsides in every downside.

I was raised in faith. It's a blessing to be able to talk about God with my family. We live in such a broken, decayed world, and I don't question why my wonderful, smart, kind dad has this disease. I know he still believes. I know he's going to heaven. And I know that God is with him every second of every day.

So many times I've doubted my calling, my decisions about pursuing writing as a career. But those doubts have never been from God. They've been from my own feeling of inadequacy, my impatience, my desire to contribute to our family's income, my deflated pride.

God's strength IS made perfect in weakness. I'm still excited to write. I'm still thrilled to spend time with my dad.

Last week I had a good day. Then a series of ridiculousness bombarded me, starting with a call from the high school's trainer, moving to a flat tire, and ending with feeling like a moron at a mandatory high school meeting. And you know what? I laughed. It didn't seem so bad. That's what God can do. He can take the weight of life and fill you with peace that surpasses all understanding. By the way, Peace is my word for 2014. God is faithful.

Phillipians 4:6-7 (NIV)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Next time you're overwhelmed, pray for God's peace. It really does transcend all understanding.

Thank you so much for all the kind words and support. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Family Emergency

I was out of town most of last week for a family emergency. I'll be taking a blog break until things are settled. Thank you for always stopping by and supporting my blog. Looking forward to getting back here soon.