31 May 2012

Blogathon Ends...Gardening Begins!

Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration. 
~ Lou Erickson

 ell, the thirty-one days of tortuous deadlines is at an end. And I am very sad to see it go.  After seeing my lament yesterday, Michelle Rafter suggested she could send me nasty-kick-butt- writer-trainer emails to keep me going.   I would take her up on her offer, but I know even that wouldn’t work for long!

Setting my own deadlines doesn’t last either.  I am way too smart for my own good.  I can’t fool me!  Perhaps I should apply my political philosophy to my writing:

Expect the worst, and hope for the best.

Which is where my garden is right now.  I’ve been silent on the subject of hobby farming because I hadn’t done anything!  However, this past weekend, I weeded the old herb garden, put in some organic dirt, trimmed both a wayward apple tree and a mulberry tree that plopped themselves at the edge of the garden.  After all that, I put in three basil plants, planted half a packet of spinach seeds (in the shade since it was so hot), and gave some love to a forgotten rosemary plant that had risen from the winter’s dead.

Basil is my favorite herb ~ scallops in pesto is a little bit of heaven! ~ so three plants is definitely not enough.  I will have to search out more organic plants this weekend.
 In the meantime, I have forty-eight tomato plants, a number of cucumbers, and four watermelon plants that need homes, as well as some pumpkin, squash, carrot, and various flower seeds that need to be planted.

Guess who’s going to be playing in the dirt this weekend? (And writing about it, of course!)

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

So glad you could join me for the 2012 Blogathon!  Even though it’s over, I’ll still be here!  So sit down, help yourself to some sweet tea and a honey biscuit, and relax with me awhile.

30 May 2012

The End is Near!

And now, the end is near
and so I face the final curtain.
 ~ Frank Sinatra

 lmost there!  And for this year’s Blogathon, I must say I am very pleased with myself. By tomorrow night, I will have published twenty-one posts out of a possible thirty-one.

Not bad! Especially considering I published only seven times each in January and February, nothing at all in March and thirteen times in April.

Go me!

Publishing a post that is worth my readers’ time every day of the week is for me:
1) like running a marathon;
2) like being ADHD;
3) like having an invisible personal trainer who still delivers a wicked kick to the hindquarters.
Reading a post every of the week is for my readers:
1) like drinking from the fire hose.
At least, that’s what I think it must be like.  As a reader of several other blogs of awesomeness, it becomes almost impossible to keep up with daily posts, so I am grateful when a blogger doesn’t publish a daily post.  Otherwise, I feel guilty for falling behind.

So part of me is relieved that tomorrow, the Blogathon ends.

But another part is sad, and a little crestfallen.  Because after tomorrow, no more invisible butt-kicker-trainer-deadline-giver to make me write everyday.  The hope is that now that I’ve been writing for almost thirty-one days straight, the habit is now permanently infused in my memory. 

One can always hope.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

I see the finish line!  Last one over is buying me a very large, very neat 25 year single malt scotch!

28 May 2012

Blogathon: Wordle Day

Although they are
only breath, words
which I command
are immortal.
~ Sappho

oday is Wordle Day at the Blogathon.  Fitting, as I have the day off.  So here is mine, for your viewing pleasure.

Now, off to watch Thor so I can go see Avengers this weekend.
Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Ever tried Wordle?  It’s lots of fun!

25 May 2012

Top Five Friday: Food and Thought

Try to relax and enjoy the crisis.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Update: Computer glitches this weekend messed up my post scheduling.  Sorry if you missed Friday’s post! ~ M.D.
ime for another round of my favorite blog posts from my fellow Blogathoners this week.  A couple of foodie posts, and three about getting back to center.

Cultural renewal is something I never tire of talking about and promoting.  And technology is an (almost) neutral tool that can either help or hurt that renewal.  In this post, Gadget Girl Holan Kerrick gives us some tips for reconnecting ~ in a real way! ~ with our loved ones.

Well, my ice cream eating days are over ~ at least if they are made with dairy. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t make heavy cream filled ice cream for friends.  The last time I made ice cream was back in July of 2009. Whoa! Well, perhaps this summer I will try MMC’s Vanilla and I’ll try my hand at the basil ice cream again but this time with coconut milk.

Seeking forgiveness and making amends is tough.  And the toughest person you will ever have to forgive is yourself.  Way to go, Beth for breaking through this step!

Ahh, berries!  Come July, the blackberries will be ready ~ can’t wait to make some cobbler!  Melissa Miller gives us some recipes for blueberries in today’s post.  Definitely one of my Top Five favorite blogs that I’ve discovered during this year’s Blogathon.  Thanks, Melissa!  Can’t wait to try the Blueberry Crumble!

Sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves and our loved ones is to simply walk away.  Everyone needs space and time to just breathe and re-center.  So needed to read this post ~ thanks, Jennifer!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What inspired you this week?

24 May 2012

Why I'm Taking a Course on Blogging from Freddy Krueger

A word is not the same with one writer as with another. 
One tears it from his guts. 
The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket. 
~ Charles Peguy

 esterday I talked about what I would do differently if I were starting my blog today.  Today, I attended a blogging webinar that provided more answers to that question – answer that will I hope will prove fruitful for my readers in the coming weeks.

Curiosity and perfectionism ~ both can get you into trouble.  But if you turn that negative energy in a positive direction, it can boost you to places you never thought possible.  I am always eager to learn about new things or ideas, or more about ones I may already know something about.  I consider myself a fairly good writer.  But I could always improve my blogging skills.

I am a “follower” of Mary Jaksch and the A-List Blogger Club, and love all their articles.  So when she sent the notice about the "Faster, Easier Blog Writing" free webinar, I thought, “Why not? Here’s another chance to learn something new!”

I keep wanting to call him Freddy, because that’s his nickname: the Freddy Krueger of bloggers.  Pretty crazy, huh?  But Danny Iny is amazing!  The webinar was super fast, but that was perfect for me as I was at work and on a tight schedule.  Yet he was easy to understand, joked around enough to make his listeners feel at ease, and (most important) shared great tips and pointers and the process he used to become a world-class blogger.

Now What?
The webinar was great and I learned a lot of things that I am already putting into practice.  Even
Thought it’s over, it was recorded and will be up on WriteLikeFreddy in the next few days.

But I wanted more.

One of the things Danny said was that if you wanted to go deeper and really be a professional writer so that you can give your readers the best you can, then at some point, you will want to take some training courses. And Danny offers one that is web-based (so I can watch the videos and do the exercises when I have time) and he personally answers every single email.

That last really got my attention. 

Every single email!?  Yes, I tested it out, and he really does answer your emails! Then I also read that he works one on one with his students on their blogs (design, content, etc.)

The Program
That’s when I decided to sign up for his online class/mentoring program.  For a really low price (the reasonable price was the final point that got me to sign up – most of these online programs cost waaay more and don’t always deliver), I have online classes I can take at my own pace, a really great mentor who is industry savvy and gets proven results and will take the time to help me become a better writer and in turn, a better blogger.  I am really looking forward this course! 

There will be some changes ahead – good ones – and I hope you will benefit from my learning as much as I will!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

23 May 2012

If I Started Blogging Today, I Would. . . .

The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. 
By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.
 ~ Mark Twain, attributed

 oday’s Blogathon theme challenge is to think about what I would do differently if I were starting a blog today, but knowing what I’ve learned in the past almost seven years of blogging (has it really been that long?!)

Find My Rhythm
It is fine to write once a week or even once every two months if you are blogging to keep Grandma updated on Little Timmy’s antics, growth spurts, or hilarious faux pas that you can torment him with when he’s sixteen. 

Actually, that sounds more like Facebook then a blog.
However, if you are serious about blogging as a writer, to share your knowledge, your passion, your well-thought out opinions, then you really should post consistently.  For some, that may be once a day.  For others, it’s three times a week.

The Blogathon has been a really good way to discipline myself to write and post almost every day. (Yesterday friends and whisky sours were more important and I was just too ADD to remember to write anything!)  But I think that a good rhythm for me is to publish something at least 3 times a week.

What’s your writing rhythm?

Research Blogging Platforms
When I first started, there were only a few platforms out there and I didn’t know anything about anything technical.  I still don’t, really, but from everything I’ve seen, I would go with WordPress.  Their platform seems like it can do a lot more, especially if you know more techie stuff.  But even if you’re a non-tech geek like me, it still has a lot to offer.  Plus, you can have your own domain name.  Which leads me to my third thing….

Do you have a favorite platform?

Shorter, Catchier Address
When I started this blog, I was very POD (Pious and Overly Devotional) and so anything in Latin was ipsum.  Now, however, it’s a pain in the asinum to type the whole address and it’s not easily remembered.  On top of that, it doesn’t convey what the blog is about. 

What’s the best address: short and memorable?  Or means what it is?

The Whole Enchilada
In today’s social media saturated world, it’s better to have the whole package: blog, twitter handle, and Facebook page.  I do have a Facebook page, but because I didn’t think it through, it’s less an extension of my blog and who I am as a writer and artist and more a personal page where I friend only people I have actually met.  And even then I have to preface my emails with, “Hey it’s X, only under my pen name!”  Which kinda misses the point of having a non de plume if everyone knows it’s you!

Has Facebook helped your writing career, and if so, how?

Be Not Afraid
And because of that last doh! moment, I’ve limited myself.  There are certain posts I would like to publish, but I can’t because someone that knows me might read it and be offended or hurt or not accept what I am saying (the whole “prophet in his hometown” issue).  This one is a real kicker, and I have actually considered starting a new blog under a second pen name just so I can publish my thoughts, research and passion for other subjects.

Of course, anyone who writes anything is bound to offend someone somewhere, so might as well just write (as long as it is well researched and thought out and not just venting your spleen in the heat of the moment) and let the tomatoes be thrown!

Here’s to becoming a more consistent writer, a smarter blogger, and a serenely unafraid person because of it.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What would you do differently if you could start your blog over again?

21 May 2012

The Silence between Words: Writing Haiku

It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things. 
~ Stephen Mallarme

ondays in May are theme days for Blogathoners and today’s theme is to write and post a haiku.  Last year, I posted a little bit about what a haiku is and posted one that was 5-6-5.  Traditionally, it follows a 5-7-5 syllables per line pattern, which this year's haiku follows.   Enjoy!

Plump petals quiver -
The thunder was long and loud.
Sorrow slips down, slow.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Try your hand at haiku and post either it or a link to it in the comments! 

18 May 2012

Top Five Friday: Blogathon Posts of the Week!

When we need to fall back in love with words, we must return to the page.
~ Dona Bumgarner

here were a couple of themes going around this week at the Blogathon: Monday was guest post exchange day and there was an unofficial Second Act challenge.  There were posts that made me laugh out loud, posts that made me cry in empathy, and posts that inspired me to be a better person and a better writer.  My fellow Blogathoners are so talented!  It was tough to choose just five!

“Return to the page.”  Dona Bumgarner made it to my top five twice, once here as a guest post.  In this post on Page Lines, she uses meditation practice as the foundation for developing a writing habit.  Concentrate on your breathing.  When you become distracted, return to your breathing.  And for writers, writing is breathing. 

Favorite thing: That one paragraph on returning to the page ~ meditative and melodious.  Just reading it out loud is like a mantra.  Definitely going to print it out and tape it to my computer and in my journal!

I “met” Tia Bach during last year’s Blogathon.  A beautiful mother and daughter writing team with the best looking blog I have seen so far!

As You Grow is a mother’s reflection on the wishes Tia has for her daughter on her 12th birthday.   Beautiful advice that isn’t overly sentimental or unattainable.  All mothers would do well to read this post and write down their (unconditional!) wishes for their children. 

Favorite thing: We single ladies should especially read her first paragraph on love: it’s never too late!

Depression Cookies makes it onto today’s list for a second time, this time with a guest post from Blogathoner KateMegill.  She is the mother of four daughters and shares some lovely things she did as a mom to make sure that her daughters knew they were loved and accepted.  If only more moms were like Kate!

Favorite thing: “I’ve tried to find out how they communicate best and encourage that” and “I’ve tried to show a loving relationship with their dad.” These two things are sorely missing in our families and relationships today.  Kate, you’re my heroine!

The last three bloggers  on my list today all took the Second Act Challenge: writing about how you changed your life after 40.

Dona Bumgarner is on my list a second time for her post on her own blog, Abergine.  She took the Second Act challenge and wrote about quitting her stable job and becoming a writer and mom in the “second act” of her life. 

It takes a lot of courage, passion, and faith to step out of your comfort zone and begin again.  But Dona’s writing shows she made the right choice.  I’m looking forward to reading more as she grows into her new role!

Favorite thing: her financial planner saying “I give you permission to rest for awhile.”  How powerful!  And how freeing!

Nancy  J. Kopp made my Top Five last Friday and makes it again this week for this great Second Act post.  I am always amazed to hear about artists (no matter what their medium) who take up the brush, violin, pen, or potter’s wheel for the first time after the age of 45.  We always think it’s too late to follow our dreams, to live our passions.  But that simply isn’t true.  It is never too late and I am a firm believer in things happening when they happen for a reason.

Nancy got a lot of life experience under her belt and then returned to her first love: writing.  And her life experience brought a richer, more textured dimension to her writing.

Favorite thing: she took a correspondence course on writing and that’s what sparked her second act.

Victoria Musgrave also took the Second Act challenge and her story is so inspiring it’s frightening.  Imagine working your way up the corporate communications ladder, sitting in an office with a window (something we cube dwellers long for!) pulling in a nice salary, and then chucking it all. . . .to write your memoir. 

You might as well tell me to walk off a cliff trusting that somehow you’ll sprout wings on the way down!  But she did it.  And she

Favorite thing: I left my job and gained the time and freedom to be my fully creative self.”

My inspiration this week from all these ladies:

What have you got to lose?
Risk it
Let it Go
It’s Never Too Late

I am so honored to be a part of such a wonderfully inspiring bunch of writers and bloggers!  Thanks for inspiring my week ~ and my writing!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What inspired you about these posts?  What changes are you going to make because of their example?

17 May 2012

La Belle Hobby Farm: How to Keep Out Pests Part 1

In gardens, beauty is a by-product.  The main business is sex and death. 
~ Sam Llewelyn

 nd nowhere is this more apparent than in a sustainable garden.  A gardener must be inventive if she wants to live in rhythm with the land, grow crops that are free of harmful pesticides, growth hormones, and not the product of the Frankenstein-Nazi combo of Monsanto non-reproducing seeds.

One Saturday a couple of months ago, I visited the local farmer’s market and asked one of the stands whether they used sustainable and/or organic practices.  And the lady (quite nastily) said that their crops wouldn’t survive and their business wouldn’t be viable if that were the case.  I just said, “Ah” and walked away without buying anything.  To give her props, I think their farm is a fairly large one.  So maybe it is tough to sustainable farm in large quantities.  I don’t know (note to self, research that.)  But if that is true, then that makes the case for smaller farmers more attractive and compelling.

Hence, my desire to don overalls.

Now all this sounds very romantic (except maybe the overalls.)  Until you get to the nitty gritty (great band by the way) of growing things and trying to keep down pests, etc.  As you’ve seen, my efforts so far have been sad.  But it’s Virginia, folks ~ I still have time to get those little green babies in the ground! 

In the meantime, how does one sustainably keep out pests?  Well, it depends on the type of pest you are trying to keep out.  But the other day, I found one pest control “device” that works really  well!  I think it may even cause some humans to run away very fast from, well, wherever it goes!

I'm just going to check for mice down here, don't mind me!

This beauty is a Black Rat Snake ~ about a 6-7 footer I would guess.  At least he (or she) was keeping the mice and mole population under control in the cellar!  Black rat snakes are common in Virginia and quite harmless.  You can find out more here.  Another great site is the Virginia Herpetological Society (and no, they have nothing to do with herpes!)

I actually feel sorry for them ~ they usually end up squashed on the highway.  As long as this one doesn’t find a way to crawl into bed with me, he/she can stay as long as they want to.  Just keep the mice away!

By the way, I’m shooting for Memorial Day weekend.  Anyone want to come help dig in the dirt?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

How do you keep pests out of your garden?  And what do you think of sustainable and organic practices? 

16 May 2012

Time Management (or Why Today's Post Is...Meh)

The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.
~ Sydney J. Harris

t is almost 6:30; my train arrives in 15 minutes and I am fresh out of ideas to write about.

Actually, that isn’t true.  I have tons of ideas.  But they were all conveniently out of reach all day today.  It didn’t help that I had a other tasks I needed to accomplish before I could sit down and “indulge” in creativity.


It shouldn’t be this way.  Beauty and art and creativity are necessities, not luxuries!  However, food and clothes and gas and train tickets are also necessities, which is why my passion gets shunted to the side so I can concentrate on the work that provides the food, the clothes, yada, yada.

However, if I’m brutally honest, it’s as much about proper time management as it is about having other duties.  Those other duties are only issues if I don’t prioritize, set deadlines, etc.

In the words of the immortal Scarlett: “Tomorrow is another day!”  So here’s hoping I do a better job managing my tasks and have a more thought provoking post for y’all!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Confess!  How great / wretched are you with time management?  And how did you tame the To Do List beast?