Can we call a bad news time-out?

I know it’s not reality to imagine the world with less bad news.  Even during times when there are fewer media reports of major crises, heartbreaking evil, or severe weather events, I know there are countless instances of bad news happening every minute all over the world.  But right now I feel like there’s a constant barrage of awful on the front page. The deadliest mass shooting in the US at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The Stanford rapist.   The US political race with all of its protests, hatred, and bullying.  The daily reports of death by gunfire in every major city.  The endless story of racial conflict.  The toddler who lost his life to an alligator in Florida.  That’s just to mention a few just stories happening in my own country.  To keep up on current events right now, you almost need a prescription for anxiety meds.

Realistically I understand that this period of time is no worse or better than any other in the past hundred years.  There are different conflicts, different evil, different crises, but there have always been conflicts, evil, and crises.   I understand that as an adult, as a parent, I see the world through different lenses than I did before.  I understand that we know more about everything and we know it instantaneously because of the advent of social media.  I get it.  But I still feel like there is more today than there ever has been.  Reality or not, my heart wants a break.

Can we all just come to an agreement that we acknowledge all the badness that is happening, but we want a tiny break?  Like, maybe an hour where all the news outlets report on the heroes, the silver lining, some light at the end of the tunnel of all these crises.  The examples of people working together and supporting one another.  Individuals putting themselves last so others can come first.  I know that all of that is happening every minute all over the world, too, and I need to hear about it.  I need to know those people, I need to hear those stories.  I need to show the good to my children, so they know that even in a world that feels like it is falling apart at the seams, love is present and love still conquers.  Everyday heroes exist.

Do you agree?  Can you help?  When we post, blog, publish, and report the bad news, let’s also do another one on the positive side.  Share articles that highlight hope.  Tweet about people doing good.  Write stories of light and love.  We will always hear about the awful.  Let’s make news out of the wonderful.

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4 tools this (not so) new blogger wants to share

In February of this year, I did a “re-launch” of my blog.  I started blogging  back in another life, in 2011 when my only child was 3 and I found I finally had more time on my hands.  I blogged for a while about finding my identity again after getting completely immersed in motherhood.  Then I went through a twin pregnancy, and my blog pretty much went quiet while I got back into the life of 24-7 child care.  Now those twins are toddlers, and I don’t quite have enough time on my hands to add anything more, but I chose to get back into blogging anyway.  This time around, though, I wanted to challenge myself to make more of the blog.  The original version was more of a personal journal, shared with whoever cared to read it.  Now I am writing differently, writing more, trying new things, and being intentional about growing my audience and defining my brand.

I started over without any idea how to do so.  I have spent a lot more time doing research and learning how to do things blog-related than I have actually writing.  Most everything I have learned so far has been through using resources available online.  There is SO much information available.  There are bloggers blogging about blogging, freelance writers writing about writing, reviews of plug-ins, step-by-steps on how to do pretty much anything, advice about marketing, about social networking, about titles, about images, it goes on and on.  I feel like I have read a lot of it.  I haven’t even scratched the surface, and it is sometimes overwhelming.  But I do think I have figured out a few things.

When you are blogging for more than a personal journal, it takes a larger time investment.  Exactly how much is of course up to the owner, but staying current and active in social media and spending time reading other blogs takes extra effort.  I’m trying to find and share relevant and interesting content from other places, creating and sharing my own content, reading and commenting on other blogs that I find interesting, and all of that on top of my full-time job, marriage, and three kids.  This isn’t something I would do without really enjoying it. In fact, even while I really enjoy it, I still struggle to balance everything I want to do.  Not a new concept to any bloggers, I know.

There are so many talented bloggers and writers publishing content.  So very many.  With all of that talent out there, you would think it could be extremely competitive, but I have found the opposite.  Sure, everyone is focused on their own work, but the majority of writers are psyched to help out the newbies, to support up-and-coming talent, to give advice when it is needed.  To all of you I say a big ol’ thank you! I’m trying to do the same as I stumble along.

It is always helpful to hear what works for other bloggers.  With that in mind, here are a few tools that are working for me:

  1. Transitioning my blog from Blogger to WordPress.com.  The instructions were easy to follow once I found them, and there were little to no hiccups.  I chose to make that move based on my impression that it is a much more popular and widely-used service for what I’m doing.  Someday I’ll work at moving to my own self-hosted site, but I have to learn to walk before I can run.
  2. Canva is a really easy and impressive online design program for creating awesome graphics.  I’m just starting to figure it out, and I am not very artistic, but I know if anything can make me look like I am, it’s Canva.
  3. Elna Cain is a freelance writer and coach who I stumbled across when I first started thinking about re-launching my blog.  I signed up for her Free 6 Day Email Course to learn how to get paid to write online.  (She also offers other freelance courses and services for a fee). I didn’t sign up for the purposes of starting a freelance career, but I was interested in reading about what that world looks like.  I’m a fan of step-by-step, and the content was extremely helpful.  When I was completely overwhelmed and sorting through the massive amounts of information available, this was a nice, clean, easy-to-follow guide.
  4. @SarahArrow‘s Twitter account.  She offers paid coaching as well, but just by following her tweets I have discovered a treasure trove of helpful posts to improve my blogging skills.

Do you have a post like this one sharing tips and tools that work for your blog?  Please share in the comments and we’ll all learn together.

 

Still somewhere in the middle

When I started this blog four years ago, I was in a very different stage of life.  My first child was two years old, making a shift into a stage of being more independent, and leaving me a few minutes of time every now and again to think straight.  I realized I had been so entrenched in the cycle of parenting, a full-time job, and household and family management that I had spent virtually no time on myself.  As I usually do, I bit off way more than I could chew and tried to jump back into everything at once.  My blog was a way for me to share that experience, my successes and failures, and in the process I learned that I really enjoy writing.

Fast-forward a few years, and I am in a completely new, yet similar, situation.  My twin daughters are two years old, my son is finishing up first grade, and that cycle of parenting, full-time job, and household and family management is a lot more complex than it used to be.  I learned a lot about parenting and about myself in the years before my daughters were born.  While the parenting part today is like hovering in the eye of a tornado on a daily basis, I knew over the past few years that this day would come when I could think again.

I am nowhere near out of the small-child segment of this life.  Twin toddlers are a force to be reckoned with.  Finding the time to prioritize my son and husband while the girls turn on the gas burners and climb on a chair to grab the knives is not easy.  Yet I know that even while I balance everything, I have to find time for myself because everyone around me benefits.

The content of my blog posts early on was following my experiences as I parented and started to get back into other hobbies.  Because parenting and family are still where I spend most of my energy, I expect most of my posts will reflect that.  But I want to try some new things as well.  Product and book reviews, current events, and finding inspiration in what others are blogging are some of my immediate plans.  Most importantly, I just want to write, and spend more time interacting with those of you who come along and share your thoughts with me.

I know you’ve been here before.  You’ve transitioned from an all-encompassing stage of life, whether it be parenting or something else, and you looked around to figure out what comes next.  How did you stick with it?  What cautionary tale can you share to keep me on the right path?  I need all the help I can get.

Thanks for joining me here in the middle.  It’s cozy and I think I’ll stay awhile.

I’m Moving In!

 

AfteIMG_20160214_163254r four years at Blogger, I’ve decided to move over to WordPress.  For those of you who have followed me to my new home, thank you and welcome!  For anyone that is meeting me for the first time, I’ve already unpacked all of my previous posts for you and am happy you are here. It will take me a little time to settle in, and once I am I’ll be writing about topics both new and familiar.  See you soon!

 

12 Things I Learned In 2014

The end of the calendar year inevitably brings many retrospectives, lists, and best-of’s.  I have not been posting much in 2014, with most of my focus spent on two not-so tiny twin girls and their big brother.  So this list of things I learned seemed as good a way as any to summarize where I’ve been.

I learned, in no particular order because my memory could never chronologically sort these, that:

1) I love instant win games.  Not the lottery type, because you have to buy a ticket specifically for the purpose of winning, but the type that says “Hey, you bought something anyway or are a member of our group, please enter for a chance to win!”  I didn’t win much more than some fries and a free movie rental this year, but the chance that I could makes me feel like a kid in a candy store.
2) Raising twins is just as hard as I thought it would be. Sometimes in life I fret and worry over something that ends up being smooth and easy.  This would not be an example of that.
3) If you enjoy photography like I do, especially the editing and printing part, do not wait a year to process your pictures.
4) Losing a pet plain old sucks.  My first and only dog so far died abruptly in May, after 11 years of trailing after my heels and being awesome.  It still doesn’t feel right around here.
5) Even at this stage in my life when I have seen a few rodeos and am responsible for the lives of three little people, I am still susceptible to fan-girl tendencies.  Exhibit A: The Divergent Series books.  See also Theo James, acting in the movie interpretations of said books.
6) Sometimes the hardest part of having twins is having a five-year-old too.  Poor guy had his whole world change pretty abruptly.  Sometimes he wanted to love them too much, sometimes he wanted more of his own attention, sometimes he was just plain old tired of the crazy here.
7) Related to #6, mommy guilt is the worst.  I’m doing the best I can, and because of that, I compare and second-guess and stress and worry that it’s never good enough.  I know I’m not alone here, but it is still the worst.
8) I read a lot of young adult fiction this year. I figured out that I could navigate my e-reader while pumping during my nursing stage, so I was able to read a lot of books in 2014.  When I looked at my Goodreads year in books, I saw a whole lot of dystopia and escape from reality.  Why?  See #2.
9) Having twins, while being a lot of hard work, is a gift from God in so many ways.  One that I’ve reflected on a lot this year is the fact that a hard pregnancy and a crazy first year has made me SO very ok with being done growing our family.  This could have been a difficult time of my life, having to transition from family growth to family stability, but instead, I thank my lucky stars that I am moving forward.  Next time I get to enjoy this stage is when they are my grandchildren.  Minus the whole pregnancy and nursing thing.  Sweet.
10) I am happiest when my personal email inbox doesn’t require the use of the search bar to find what I need.  Which never happens.
11) I am of the age, along with being a grown-up and parent, where current events make my heart hurt.  Everything is more.  More evil, more dangerous, more overwhelming, more sad, more enraging, more frightening, more divisive.  Stories of children in harm’s way bring me to my knees.  Growing up we just didn’t get it, why adults argued over politics, and read the paper every day, and cried over bad news half a world away.  I get it now.  Lord, have mercy.
12) Parenting young children is my most important life’s work, but I miss things.  I miss pondering, creating, exercising, remembering, sleeping, blogging, gardening, relaxing, watching, cooking, organizing, baking, decorating.  A lot of “-ings”.  I know from having my first child that this changes, and I have about another year before I start getting more consistent time for those “-ings”.  Halfway there.

What did you learn in 2014?
May the next year bring you all the “-ings” you wish for, and maybe a few that are unexpected as well.

 

Sixteen

I can’t remember my sixteenth birthday.  Is that weird?  What girl doesn’t remember their sweet sixteen, either for how great it was, or how awful it was instead of how great it was supposed to be?  Granted, that was 21 a few years ago, I have three kids, and I feel lucky that I remember to put shoes on some mornings, so I’m not entirely surprised.

I do have a strong memory from the day before my seventeenth birthday.  I was riding somewhere in the back seat of the car, “Jack and Diane” was playing on the radio, and I heard the lyrics “Hold on to sixteen as long as you can / Changes come around real soon / Make us women and men.”  I smiled at the irony of hearing that line on that day, and then quickly went grim as the fear of that being true took over.  I had missed 364 days that I should have been holding on to sixteen, and here I was on the last day without ever even noticing that they had come and gone!

I suppose the next day wasn’t any different than the day before, but the point had been made.  Now I am many years wiser and I can agree with Mellencamp (Cougar?  Not sure what he goes by these days) that there was a significant amount of change in the next sixteen years to follow.  Thank goodness.

*this post was inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt*


People Watching

For several years I’ve been in restaurants, catching flying splatters of food and asking my child to sit still and eat, while I enviously eyed those headphone-wearing, laptop-toting, coffee-drinking solo patrons relaxing around me.  Tonight I am one of them, and I have to say, it’s just as awesome as I imagined.  These are the types of things I took for granted before I lost the option to finish a cup of coffee while it is still hot.  So here I sit, ignored by the constant flow of people coming and going, and have very wisely switched to decaf.

Even though I am attempting to “escape” for a little while, I notice that I keep getting distracted from my solitary screen-staring by the real life going on around me.  The young couple with a new baby and a two-year-old taking turns eating and parenting, strained smiles and sleepy eyes.  The very serious-looking teenager sitting with her parents and talking about very serious-looking things.  The twenty-something guy who breaks into a grin as he texts or tweets or posts from his cell phone while waiting for his dinner.  The fellow laptop guy who asks me to watch his stuff as he gets up from the table, since I must be much less likely to swipe his things while I am busy with my own.

Then there are those that catch my attention because they hit a little closer to home.  The high-pitched story-telling I can hear from the kindergartner talking to her mom about school.  Watching her bounce around her table and eyeball my coffee as her mom coaxes her back.  I can’t help but smile at her, which I’m sure isn’t helping mom’s case.  I always find it comforting when I see other little people floating around and other parents futilely trying to pull them back, because at least I know it’s not just me who can’t do it.  I also find it both comforting and sad to hear the exasperated mom in the bathroom with two girls under 6.  Comforting because the words coming out of her mouth are so very similar to the ones I have heard myself using, sad because they are words like stop, no, child’s name in an exhausted whine, repeating the same commands in a louder voice in the hopes that maybe it just wasn’t loud enough the first time, etc.  The ugly is always uglier when I see it reflected by someone else.  Thankfully it is quickly followed by compassion and a vow to not be the mom that reminds other moms to stop being so cranky.

We could all learn a thing or two from each other.  I raise my cup to you, exasperated bathroom mom, and hope that you can find yourself restfully pondering other people someday soon.