Category Archives: Featured Articles

Roadtrips

My life has changed.

While our children were little my husband rarely to never took vacations, and we couldn’t afford to travel anywhere, anyway. I centered my life around the home and gardening… then put lots of time into blogging. All those occupations were in sync with my intensive demands of homelife (raising ten children while homeschooling), allowing for creative expression while not requiring lots of money or absence from overseeing the needs of my family.

Now I find I am always on a trip somewhere.

It changed slowly with rare trips to places I never dreamed of seeing… I went to Hungary and Denmark, then to Brazil to attend my son and daughter in love’s wedding. With the advent of grandchildren, there have been increased trips to Georgia, mainly, but Florida and Phoenix were on the list as well.

In the past year we did something -twice- that had been on my husbands wishlist since I met him: a road trip across the nation, visiting the West. He still has the Badlands on his bucket list, but we checked off the others: Highway 1 and Mendocino, Bryce Canyon in Utah, America’s Loneliest Highway Rte 50 through Nevada.

I know some people blog while they travel, but I am an “in the moment experience” type of person. I don’t even like the distraction of taking photographs. I have moderated that and forced myself to take photos for the sake of memories and just because I want to capture some of the beauty that I see, but mostly I drink in the scenery, and let the atmosphere saturate my mind and heart.

The past few years have seen a great increase in travel for me… which may not be comparable to many others, but it is a huge change for me.

I find I like it.

I come back to loads of laundry to do, a marathon of weeding and neglected gardens, but it has been worth the exchange. Time spent by the ocean, seeing vast redwood forests, immense mountains of the Rocky ranges… these are mind opening, soul nourishing events.

So I don’t apologize that this season of my life leaves less room for the type of blogging I once did. My online life evolves and there is no pattern for the shape it will take. But, like all the rest of my life, I have shifted away from letting demands rule my life, and have created space for the simple act of living. Letting the flow of what creates an organic and vibrant participation of relationship and experience to take the forefront, to become my priority.

People figure more predominately in this way of life, and tasks become secondary. I don’t pretend to imply that it leads to being a successful blogger or to create worldly wealth. I do, however, feel richer, and may I say it? Happier. Or maybe happy is not the right word choice, I think the term “joie de vivre” is a more accurate term. The joy of life infuses this pathway.

My garden takes on a wild look, my blogs are temporarily neglected, but I have more to offer when following this roadtrip of life.

A few pictures seem in order here.

Colorado mountain stream by the highway

Dwarfed by the landscape.

lake tahoe

We fell in love with Lake Tahoe

photos

Mountainside Photo Op

money

Writing To Pay The Rent

This isn’t just about writing for income, and I will say that right at the beginning so no one is confused. But it is going to touch on that topic.

When I first arrived on the blogging scene, I really didn’t know what it was all about, but many who were beginning to blog at the same time had a much more concrete view of what the purpose of their writing would be. Many of those writers/bloggers were inspired by a man named Hugh Hewitt to begin their blogs with the view to change people’s world views. I should amend that to say “Christian and conservative” writers and bloggers. The people of liberal politics had long seen the value in using media to persuade people’s thinking.

But whether bloggers of that time were convinced by a specific person, or of the many who had chanced upon this new door to influence, many of us were of the mind that our writing could “make a change for good”. I know that was always a powerful motivation for me.

It still is, but blogging and online writing has changed for many like me.

It’s A Slow Train

It was a slow train coming for me to adopt the idea that writing and earning money were linked. Or could be, or should be.

And I still believe that one must be careful with one’s motivations, not just in writing, but in all endeavors of life. I also understand that without some sort of support, no writer can keep at their craft for long. This is perhaps one of the biggest evolutionary changes for me: if you keep on writing, over time you find you become “a writer”.

In the meantime, I took a break from writing to influence people’s thinking. After spending a good deal of time in online forums, and the dialog that was common on blogs is those days (early years of 2000 to 2007 or so), I grew tired of what online “conversation” had become. No longer exploring differing opinions, creating dialog, or even giving a rational argument for one’s view. Like the rest of the world around it, the web sunk into the morass of polarized diatribe, pandering, and propaganda. It wasn’t fun anymore, then, either.

Yet, there is something very attractive in the way a person, of no means really, can engage in discussion and a public presentation of views, and touch the possible thousands. That is heady stuff. So, I kept on writing and started exploring the world of online income… some of the things which are called passive income, but truthfully aren’t passive at all.

This was a natural road for me since I had started my web experience with non-fiction types of writing… my garden website‘s nascence sprung from the pages begun at that time. In retreating from the hotbed of politics and religion I found solace (as a writer and blogger) in the garden. In the need to pay for the nuts and bolts of such a thing, I began monetizing. Not the easiest thing to do in my chosen set of topics.

Another thing happened along the way… aging.

The focus of life has shifted, and the reality of needing to produce some income for retirement has also become part of my intention for developing my writing online. This has created multiple motivations for branching out into other sorts of writing and interacting online. And let’s not forget the online revolution itself… Facebook and Twitter have mightily changed online writing and all sorts of things.

I still have not forgotten that desire to impact people, to influence society for good (or goodness sake!). I am just not sure how it all works together, or even whether it can.

Paying The Rent

Earning even a small amount of income online is a lot of work. In fact, for a person like me who is not business savvy, I could not write, if I were dependent on its income. Still, some of the things I do are paying for website hosting for my other sites (this one is free, and I own only the content – not the domain). I have ventured into the world that others entered long time back…. writing for income. This I do on sites like Squidoo, and just this week a few articles on Hubpages. They are looked down upon by some in the blogging community, and I understand why. The impetus now is for these sites to clean up the junky parts of the neighborhood.

I like that a format like Squidoo creates community. I haven’t found that in the blogging sector for a long time. I also like that it is set up to create online income for those who contribute. And I have stretched my writing wings in the more mundane aspects of writing. Which is not to demean it. Why be elitist about our writing? I have distaste for this kind of thinking that is so prevalent in the art world.

So, here I am starting to write on Hubpages, too.

I also have learned some marketing along the way which is very enlightening. You view things in our society a whole new way when understanding basic marketing techniques. We are immersed in it whether we realize it or not. Just look at the sales ploy of “scarcity”, for example…. but I digress.

What reasons might be for writing on such sites as Squidoo, or Hubpages, or even Blogger, for that matter?

  1. They share their income with the creative
  2. On the web, promotion is as important as creation. No one will just show up at your blog or website, anymore
  3. It is a free way to get instruction on almost anything, not least on how to earn money online; okay, maybe this is done a little too well.
  4. You network without realizing you are networking
  5. It encourages you to widen your horizons, the way surfing webpages used to “in the old days”

For me, the Squidoo site helped open things that I had long had an interest in but had no grasp of what it took to accomplish. One of those was utilizing the Zazzle site to create and to earn income. I am still making baby steps, but without guidance (and clearly the forums attached to such sites help,too) would still have gone nowhere with these avenues.

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My Affiliation on These Sites

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Community is powerful. It is necessary as well, and the sooner we learn that lesson in family, our neighborhoods and cities, and online, the better. It is just an illustration of “no man is an island” which we will face over and over until we “get it”.

[box type="shadow"]Ah. Now you see I am only one step away from “soapboxing”, or influencing as I like to call it.[/box]

Maybe this part of learning what can help me pay the rent is obvious to you. I have an inkling that for individualists who have a high value on personal freedom, it is a hard won realization.

Paying the rent is not just about money. It isn’t about a materialistic society, it is about how we help each other survive and thrive. Work is important and necessary. All sorts of work -and having integrity and honesty in how we go about it- matters.

One more thing, influence is something we do everyday in all our actions, whether we realize it or not.

turtles

Telling People They Are Awesome

My disclaimer on this post is that I’m going to use illustrations that come from my experience in the church, but don’t think that people act like typical people just because they belong to a certain socio-economic or religious group. If you do that, you are going to miss the whole point.

You’re Totally Awesome, Dude

Pixie Dust and The Wizard Behind The Curtain

Before I get to that story, let me tell you about an old blogpost I re-read from Kathy Sierra. Called “Pixie Dust & The Mountain of Mediocrity. The gist is that people use marketing techniques to game the system and it’s that “pixie dust” that is promoted to be the magic answer to the branding and promotion of ones product.

It is not unlike the last topic, taking to task the online and marketing Gurus who provide methods, for a fee, to making you and/or your customers (clients..fans….whoever you want to win over) an overnight success. Even if they are well-meaning, plenty of so-called experts aren’t really helping you to be what truly makes you awesome: being the best you can be, living to your potential, inspired to rise to greater heights of what you hope to be or accomplish.

Buzzwords, Buzzword techniques, and the fast path to wealth and awesomeness is something people will pay for, and that means a lot of gamers are going to enter the field to make sure they can take advantage of it. That also means there is going to be an aftermath of broken dreams, and the disillusioned.

Sierra succinctly sums it up:

There is a world of dif­fe­rence bet­ween hel­ping someone *appear* more awe­some and hel­ping them actually BE more awesome.

And that in some ways reminded me of a small, but rather sorry, experience I had a long time ago that left me with a distinct sense discomfort that helped shape how I like to deal with people to this day.

A Moment of Clarity

I had gone to one of those big Christian conferences that are comprised of all sorts of people from different denominations, cultures, and backgrounds. It was one that had really pumped up my own sickly and struggling grip on walking out my faith. It wasn’t called a Revival, but it was effectively working as one for me.

Maybe because of that, I was a bit more open, hopeful, and vulnerable to what people said to me. Anyway, after one of the services (there are several at this sort of convocation), a well meaning man spoke to me. He said something very positive, something like “I see you are -positive ‘blah,blah,blah’, and you will -positive ‘blah,blah,blah’”. I felt very encouraged, I felt that he had been moved by some inner insight to share that with me.

As the conference moved on I happened to pass by that man speaking to someone else, using the very same words, the very same expression, the very same way. They weren’t special insights meant for me. This well meaning man was gaming the system.

I suppose he felt this was his ministry of encouragement or something, but for me, it was a searing disappointment, because it didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel sincerely anything. I felt my sense of trust was breached and trampled. I didn’t ask for his words, and wasn’t even hoping or looking for them. He offered me something artificial, when I truly needed the genuine. He sprinkled around some pixie dust, because it had good effects on people. For him.

And to this day, as convinced as I am of the importance of affirmation and encouragement, if I cannot garner together the individualized and sincere words that are infused with my own sense of care and compassion, or affection or desire to connect… I don’t want to give a substitute. I don’t believe in “placeholder” love, that consists of words or token actions merely meant to make someone feel good for the moment.

That is a terribly selfish thing to do. It is pixie dust spread around to make the giver feel better about themselves. If you tell someone they are awesome with that motivation, spare them.

They are better off without your false words and insincere methods. The world is better off without them.

How To Tell Someone They Are Awesome

First -to outline the negative shape before drawing in the detail- do not tell someone how much they matter or how great they are when showing them is better. Words will often cloud the message, even if you intend to mean them. That too often turns into “meaning well”, and you know what the old saying is about good intentions.

If words are all you have, tell people something that you can follow through on… a generally inclusive way of telling them they matter and are awesome “I look for the beauty and glory in you”… because I look for that in all. And then make that your purpose, your own rule of life.

Do something for them that helps them be the best version of themselves.

Then when you tell them you think they are awesome, or that they matter to you, they will trust it, and it will build something meaningful into their lives.

Give them tools of value, words of value, and actions of value. Take something of yourself, and invest it in those tools, words, and actions. Infuse something of your love and care into what you give to others. That will make them feel awesome. Then you can tell them they are awesome and might even have an opportunity to share something that will make them even more awesome.

The outcome of that is what they do with that thing themselves, what they get to experience from it.

This has its way of spilling over and making us feel pretty awesome as well, but that is not the goal or the point of what we tell others, or what we share with them.

What Am I Really Saying?

What really works is love. Love is never cheap, and has no substitution. Everyone needs and wants it, and when you give words or anything to another person with real love attached, you give the world what it really needs.

Pixie dust looks pretty tawdry in the real light of day, and quite unnecessary.
Spirit of the Night

Spirit of the Night
Grimshaw, John…
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