Friday Flip Offs 2/18 : Housekeeping and Kinky Blogs

The problem with last week’s flips, is that I was a little bit more creative than usual. Maybe even a tad funny, if I do say so myself. So now, I’m kind of screwed. You’re probably expecting something equally entertaining, but it just isn’t going to happen. It was an incredibly quiet week. Which was kind of a relief. (Plus I think being that funny was a fluke.)

Maybe it was getting past the Valentine party, or the hint of spring weather that put me at such ease. Either way, most of the chaos was minor. I approached things differently this week. Instead of mulling over everything and stewing about things, I simply responded more rationally.I didn’t let my emotions rule.

For example, when I was cleaning up the laundry room trying to get ready for my brother’s visit I finally acknowledged the enormous pile of mismatched socks sitting on top of the dryer. There is a small wicker basket designated to store random socks until I am able to find their match, Unfortunately this basket has grown. And grown. (I think they mate and multiply in there). Instead of getting frustrated, I did the most logical thing. I simply threw them all out. No more socks, no more frustration.

The two unfolded baskets of laundry still sitting in my bedroom were a little trickier. I contemplated taking the sock approach at first, but then thought better of it. I still had 15-minutes left before needing to leave for the airport yesterday. However I was also still in the same sweatpants from the day before, with no shower. What to do, what to do.

The baskets are hiding in my closet and I changed my underwear and spray some perfume before leaving.

All the snow that has been sitting in our front yard for months has rapidly started melting. It looks like a small lake right out our front door. Unfortunately this is exactly where Luna relieves herself. There are a few higher spots around the house to take her, but that would require shoes and a sweatshirt, rather than standing on my front porch in my pajamas with my cup of coffee. Apparently she doesn’t like all the water and refused to go into the yard. We bickered a few minutes over this development.

“Luna! Just go potty. I can dry you off with a towel.”

She wouldn’t budge and I didn’t feel like putting shoes on. So she peed right on the sidewalk. Instead of getting upset that I was now going to have to spray the walk, I simply used the tools at hand. I figured coffee on the sidewalk would smell better than pee.

And my most successful moments this week are how I’ve handled my diet. Counting calories has been a breeze. Want salt and vinegar chips for lunch? Just skip the sandwich. Want a glass of wine at dinner? Just eat a salad on the side or better yet, no salad and a second glass of wine. See how easy that is?

Perhaps the only blaring flip off this week goes to my new phone. It has a mind of its own when I am responding to Twitter, commenting on blogs or emailing replies. This auto-text thing, you know – that feature that is supposed to be helpful by finishing your words for you? It is simply crap. My most embarrassing uh-oh’s happened while responding to two  favorite bloggers: Momma Kiss and Kludgy Mom

Momma Kiss emailed me a simple question about my blog.

I wrote: “I’ll have to get back with you on that one, because right now I don’t use those KINKY Tools.”

Yes, didn’t you know, I’m considering turning my blog into a porn site or blog about sex. It should have read – LINKY Tools people! Get your mind out of the gutter.

Kludgy Mom had what she called a “mom fail” moment. She had the time wrong for her child’s class Valentine party by 30 minutes, and of course she had all the party supplies because she is room mom. I was trying to console her, give her some encouragement.

I wrote: “You are exactly the mom that your family needs, by design. Big hugs to you. Just remember that you are not alone. All your fellow moms and floggers have been in those shoes before and we will be again. We have to just keep supporting one another in the process.”

Floggers? How the hell is that supposed to be supportive? You feel miserable and I imply that we are going to beat you? Sheesh. Yes, it was meant to say Bloggers and luckily GiGi found the humor in my mistake.

Hope your weekend is uneventful too.

You Can’t Take This Too Personally

Recently a fellow Twitterer (is that a word?) asked me this question:

As a blog is personal, do you ever have those weeks where life just doesn’t seem worth writing down?

My response was an emphatic YES. There are weeks that life just doesn’t seem worth getting out of bed, let alone write a blog post. Sometimes it feels like that old Dunkin Donuts commercial , you know the one, where the totally frustrated donut guy continually gets up every morning saying, “It’s time to make the donuts“, only I’m saying, “It’s time to make the lunches, drive to school, clean the house, wash the clothes, figure out dinner and still have time left over for my husband.”

I thought about that question a lot. It struck me that if I really believed my life wasn’t worth writing down, was I subconsciously saying that there are days I don’t think my life is worth the effort in general? Of course not! Every moment is a piece of my children’s intricately woven future and a snippet of what makes me who I am. Things may seem monotonous at times, sucking me into some weird mommy doldrums, but I know in my heart of hearts that being a mom matters. I know that the choices we have made as parents are part of something bigger than ourselves. I also know that creating ourselves, and understanding our purpose, is a life-long endeavor.

Then what is the real reason I might not write a blog post?

After looking at it from another perspective, I started to read that Twitter comment more like this:

As life is so personal,  do you ever have those weeks where blogging just doesn’t seem worth putting yourself out there?

To that, I answer a more thoughtful yes. But why?

Fear. It appears that fear is the real reason.

Fear of my life, not my writing, being good enough. Yesterday is a perfect example. I finally completed a submission for Blissfully Domestic. I had avoided writing my monthly article for them last month, because I just don’t find myself that funny. (Although people do laugh at me often, hmmm.) I kept waiting for some iconic parenting moment to happen, thrusting me into an inspired frenzy, creating a perfectly humorous story. A story that would surely get me “noticed” in the blogging community. The little daily chuckles in my life just didn’t seem enough, (regardless of the fact that they had made me smile at some point during the day). If I keep trying to look at my life as big moments worth blogging about, then I am going to miss out on enjoying the small things.

Fear of receiving comments that are less than supportive or challenge my opinions. One of my blog posts was featured on Blogher over a week ago. I was immediately flattered and excited, until I started getting comment feedback. There were only a handful, but the one that I focused on,of course, was the one that didn’t totally agree with my parenting method. I took it personally at first, then I realized it was an opportunity to consider other styles of parenting, explain more fully my platform, or simply respect some one else’s opinion. This wasn’t about me not being liked. This was about allowing a community of women to engage in a conversation, build a connection, possibly even help one another out to be more secure women and moms.

Ironically, just this morning I read Questioning Your Blogging  by Kludgy Mom and found myself saying “yes” to every one of her points. Not too surprising, I guess, that I’m not the only one either. Afterall, we are incredibly human, flawed. There’s an explosion of bloggers responding in unison, “Me too! Me too!” It sort of levels the writing field when you realize all of us have the same insecurities, when it doesn’t matter if your blog is big or small, because we are more than pretty websites or blog stats. We are real people behind these words just trying to maneuver through our days as best we can, looking for support wherever we might find it.

Maybe we aren’t really drawn to certain blogs because they are more popular, better written, funnier or more dramatic, but simply because they are willing to write it all down. And somewhere in all those words, on some level, we can relate.

Essay Contest and Gift Giveaway!

To celebrate my blog’s one year anniversary this month, I have partnered with CSN Stores to host an Essay Contest and a $45 Gift Certificate Giveaway. CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find anything you need whether it be a chic handbag, children’s luggage, or even cute cookware!

There will be FOUR Essay Winners who will have their essay featured on my blog each Monday during the month of March. Then, there will be ONE Gift Giveaway Winner who will receive a $45 CSN Gift Certificate to choose something from their luxurious bedding collection. (Seriously! When was the last time you bought yourself a new set of sheets to snuggle under in your pajamas?)

How to enter the Gift Giveaway:

  1. “Like” me on Facebook and write on my wall that you have entered this Essay Contest and Gift Giveaway = 1 Entry
  2. Follow me on Twitter and tweet about entering this Essay Contest and Gift Giveaway. Be sure to include #mypjdays in your tweet or I won’t be able to find you! = 1 Entry
  3. Submit an Essay (See Essay Contest Rules) = 1 Entry

As you can see, it’s possible to be entered UP TO 3 Times in the Gift Giveaway. Just be sure to have a valid email address so I can contact you if you are the winner. Once the winner has been picked, CSN will contact you by email with the $45 gift certificate code (please note that this code will not cover international fees) *The Gift Giveaway winner will be chosen randomly using Random.org

Rules of the Essay Contest:

  1. Essays must be submitted between February 4th thru February 25th.
  2. Essays need to be NO LONGER than 1000 words and emailed to me : mypajamadays@gmail.com with the subject “Essay Contest” ( A word attachment would be great, but I’ll accept it in the body of your email too.)
  3. Only one essay submission per entry
  4. Essays should be about one of your most memorable Pajama Days in one of the following categories:
  • Funniest  Pajama Day
  • Biggest Tear-Jerker Pajama Day
  • Best Pajama Day Ever Experienced
  • Worst Pajama Day Ever Experienced

Although you retain all publishing rights to your work, please refrain from posting your essay on your own blog site until one month after this contest ends.

When to enter the Essay Contest and the Gift Giveaway:

  1. Entries will be accepted from February 4th thru February 25th.
  2. There will be one winning essay chosen in each of the four categories.
  3. All winners will be announced on Monday, February 28th.
  4. Featured essays will be posted on Mondays during the month of March, one per week starting March 7th.

Thank you for helping me have such a fantastic first blogging year!

Twitter You Doing At 4pm Today?

A few weeks ago I featured a guest blogger, Emlyn Chand, that gave some very practical and insightful tips about blog writing. Today I have the pleasure of being Twitterviewed at 4pm EST by this same writer.

Yep, I didn’t really know what that meant either. I’m not overly well versed in today’s technology, but I hold my own most days. The easiest way for me to grasp the concept of Twitter was to equate it to texting, only anybody who wants to read it can participate. Public texting. Emlyn has come up with a unique way to help introduce writers to their public through Twitter.

It will be sort of like a game of Truth or Dare, only without the Dare. She’ll be asking me a series of 20 questions, fifteen of which will come from her, but the last 5 will be from the “audience”. Here’s your chance – you know there’s a question you’ve been dying to ask me, some burning desire to know what color my pajamas are today or what I’m making for dinner. Ok, but all joking aside, there really is a method to my blog. I’ll be focusing on my writing and writing process today. You’ll just need a Twitter account and search for our Twitter stream of #emlyn.

I thought it was very appropriate to be Twitterviewed this month considering I will be celebrating my blog’s one year anniversary on February 21st. I have a couple of exciting things up my sleeve over the next few weeks too.  It made me laugh to read my first blog post. Not much has changed in a year. I’m still trying to manage my time and I’m still trying to get out of my own way. But I guess that is sort of how life transpires. We move along every day trying to define ourselves, figure out our details and conclusions. At least by writing it all down, I am reminded that I am more than fragments or incomplete sentences. I am complete…word by word by life tells a story.

Guest Post by Emlyn Chand – 11 Steps to Better Blogging

 

For the full writing how-to series, click on this icon.

Blogging—the convention’s been around long enough that most of us are over how funny this quirky, little verb sounds. I’m sure you already know that a blog is; it’s an online journal in which people write and publish posts about their lives and hobbies and sometimes receive feedback from others. Knowing the definition of “blog” is the easy part—do you know what a blog can do for you as a writer? The answer’s simple: anything you want it to.

It happened for Julie Powell.  She began a blog, which got popular and became a book (and then the 2009 film “Julie & Julia”), and now she’s a career writer—the dream!

I’m definitely not guaranteeing that a big book-movie deal will spring from your blog, but it’s always a remote possibility (an important part of being a writer is holding out for greatness against infinitesimal odds—you have to be your own biggest fan).  At the very least, having a blog will boost your web presence, lead to valuable intra-craft connections, and keep you writing.

I’ve been blogging for AnnArbor.com for about a year and a half now but only recently set up my own private reading-writing blog on WordPress.com.  Through trial and error and a lot of hard work, I’ve been able to get my blog to over 250 hits per day within less than two weeks.  You can’t put a price tag on that kind of visibility—especially if you’re an aspiring writer.

Here are 11 steps for getting the most out of your writing blog this year:

  1. Make your blog user-friendly—if your blog is easy to navigate, users are more likely to stick around and check out its offerings.  Tag and categorize your posts with clear and decisive labels.  Set up various subpages to further filter information, especially if your blog covers more than one topic.  It also helps to add in widgets that offer the viewer the option of jumping to posts by category or date.  These organizational steps combined with a bit of artistic flair give your site a more professional, authoritative feeling.
  2. Post regularly—you don’t want to be a sitting duck.  Make your blog interesting, dynamic, and relevant.  Post often, but not so often that you overwhelm your subscribers with update spam.  The biggest challenge for many would-be writers is getting into the habit of writing.  If you make it a point to blog 250 words per day, you’ll soon get into the writing groove.  Once you’re reliably posting that amount, you can increase the word count or designate some of your daily writing time to work on a novel or short story.
  3. Use the advanced spellchecker—this feature is one of the greatest things to ever happen to me as a writer—I’m not exaggerating! The WordPress.com advanced spelling and grammar checker is a God-sent.  Even though Microsoft Word’s standard spellchecker is a good thing to have, aren’t you sometimes frustrated when it doesn’t pick up a usage mistake (like “their,” “they’re” or “there”) just because the word is technically spelled correctly?  WordPress’s spellchecker can pick up on this type of usage error.  You can also customize its options to check for biased language, clichés, complex phrases, diacritical marks, double negatives, hidden verbs, jargon, passive voice, and redundant phrases.
  4. Pay attention to your site stats—Wordpress keeps track of a number of usage statistics, including your page views, top posts and pages, referrers (sites that led viewers to your blog via link), incoming links (other blogs or websites that permalink to your blog), clicks (links that viewers click on within your blog) and search engine terms. It’s easy to become mesmerized by the hit counter, watching it go up and up, and feeling giddy each time that it does.  However, the most useful stat is actually the list of top posts and pages.  It shows you which pieces of your site viewers are connecting with the most—pay attention and try to write more posts along those same lines.
  5. Engage your readership—if someone posts a comment on your blog, post one back.  Provide your viewers with advice, answers to their questions, and a sense of community.  Ask them what kind of content they would like to see on the site and listen to their answers.
  6. Add your site to blog search engines—blog search engines categorize blogs by topic and keyword, connecting those who have an interest in your blogging topic with your site and maximizing your visibility.  Some search engines require you to pay for their surfaces, some ask that you post a badge on your blog, and others ask for nothing in return.  If you want to see an example of search engine badges, click here and scroll down.
  7. Establish a fan page on Facebook—this will further increase your visibility and allow less web-savvy users access to your site.  Set up an RSS feed of your blog on your fan page and post regular status updates to intrigue users.  You can also guilt your friends and family into following you.
  8. Tweet, tweet, and tweet some more—I started using Twitter about a week ago.  At first I didn’t understand its benefits, but after reading an entire book which taught me how to mold Twitter into the platform that would best serve me (AKA “Twitter for Dummies”), I see that Twitter is perhaps my most useful networking tool for my work as a writer. Tweet about writing and topics on your blog.  Do a search of keywords and hashtags like #writing, #amwriting, #wip and the like to connect with other writers.  Build a following.  You can also channel your RSS feed to Twitter.
  9. Visit related blogs and post comments—it’s all about building a community of like-minded people.  Engage others who blog about the same topics that you do.  They just might come over and check out your blog.  Maybe you’ll find a new friend in the process.  One writing-publishing blog that I follow obsessively is www.nathanbrandsford.com.  This site has a huge following with well-thought-out posts and an extremely active set of forums.
  10. Post on trendy or seasonal topics—I’m not asking you to completely change the focus of your blog and be a trend chaser.  Instead write posts about how the latest news or the current holiday season relates to your topic of choice.  One example would be the piece I wrote about resolving to read more in 2011.
  11. Create a team of blog contributors—by involving other writers on your blog, you’re doing something that is mutually beneficial for both parties. You’ll gain new content for your blog and maybe get a bit of rest for the day. Now let’s say that your guest writer has no blogging platform of his own—by posting on your site, he’ll reach the audience that frequents your blog, thus gaining some exposure for himself. If your guest writer does have a blog, he’ll reach your readership in addition to his own, plus his followers may hop on over to check out your blog. Win-win.

*Please note: Since I blog with WordPress.com (not .org—know the difference), some of my tips are WordPress-centric. You should still be able to take these tips and adapt them for other blogging platforms without too much difficulty.
That’s it!  As always I’d be happy to answer any questions that you may have about this post or writing in general.  Happy blogging!

Emlyn Chand is the Lead Books Contributor for AnnArbor.com. She is also an aspiring novelist, busily spinning her paranormal YA yarn, Farsighted, while seeking publication for her multicultural work of literary fiction, The Iron Pillar. You can learn more about Emlyn by visiting her website: www.emlynchand.com.