Daily Blogging: What I Learned and Why I Quit

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” Louisa May Alcott

At the end of January, I decided on a whim to write a blog post every day during the month of February as a way to keep busy and have fun during my least favorite month of the year. It kept me busy and was fun for the first 10 days or so. And then it stopped being fun, so I quit.button-1015632_1920

I’m glad I started off enthusiastically and ended when I did. I learned a few things about the blog writing process during my fast-paced blogging stint which should help me as I continue to post at a slower pace.

Brainstorm by day; write by night. Before my daily blogging stint, I used to spend precious daytime free minutes writing posts – an average of 20 minutes in the afternoon while the baby napped and my older daughter watched a TV show. While I thought it made sense to use daytime down time to write, I became frustrated by how many days it took me to get my thoughts into coherent shape. In February, when I decided to produce content more quickly, I fell into a rhythm of jotting down ideas in outline form during the day whenever inspiration struck and writing the post at night, when there were fewer children awake and therefore fewer distractions and interruptions. It’s a much more efficient use of my time, and I like that.cloud-709089_1920

While I enjoy writing quick posts occasionally, I’d rather write more thoughtful pieces on a regular basis. Out of necessity, my daily posts had to be quick and light; I didn’t have time to do any semi-serious reflection. I’m glad I figured out how to come up with decent, light ideas, but from now on, I’m going to focus on coming up with decent, meatier ideas, like this post and this post, which are in line with my vision for this blog.

Blog posts don’t need to be perfect or even great. Sometimes it takes me longer than I care to admit to write a post because I get tangled up in whether or not I’m saying what I want to say with the fewest words possible, and whether I’m saying anything that matters to anyone but me. When I was posting every day, I learned to relax and hit the publish button as soon as a post was satisfactory because I didn’t have time to do much tweaking. It was a good exercise in letting go of too-high expectations of what I can do in the free time I choose to devote to blogging. While I prefer to produce more polished posts (and can’t help but alliterate from time to time), it’s good to remember the simplicity of my blogging quest: reading good books, doing good things, and exploring connections between the two. Time to get on with it.

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Feel-Good February Reads

It’s happening again – the February gloom is upon me. Everyone is sick. The weather is always freezing, snowing, raining, or otherwise uncooperative. School and activities are cancelled. Even coming off a wonderful weekend visiting with friends in New York City, I can still feel that familiar February feeling.25893709

Part of the problem is that I made the mistake of interrupting my fun February reading plan to read My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. The book was good, but it was also melancholic, and no one needs that in February. My other literary issue is that one of the books I anticipated enjoying this month – Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – fell flat for me.

From now on, for the second half of February, my plan is to read all feel-good books. I’m not messing around anymore. Light reads, page-turners, and informational non-fiction only. Here’s what I’m thinking:

IMG_20160216_100456590I’m jumping right into Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I should have started this one as soon as I picked it up at the library. Moriarty’s tone is delightful, and that’s just what I need.

I’m also going to dig into Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. I’ve been enjoying Gretchen’s podcast with her sister Elizabeth Craft, and you can’t get much more feel-good than a book about happiness.

And last but not least, I put in a library hold request for a book I just heard about today on the latloveisthedrugest What Should I Read Next podcast: Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson. It’s a young adult dystopian novel that takes place in Washington, DC. I’ve loved some other books in this genre (The Hunger Games trilogy, Divergent). They’re not exactly feel-good books, but they are usually so fun to read.

I’m hoping that these tweaks to my reading plan will provide a dose of literary vitamin D for the second half of February.

 

T.G.I.F. (Thank God It’s February) #2

*I’m posting almost every day in February as part of my determination to #makefebfun. For more info, read this post.*

I never want to take days for granted, even in my least favorite month of February. Last Friday I shared some of the things I’m looking forward to this month. Here are just a few more:

A Weekend with Friends: I’ve been looking forward to this weekend forever! Friends and I are having a girls’new-york-1024069_1920 weekend in New York City. I haven’t done anything like this in a Very Long Time. I am really excited about a weekend of good friends, good food, and good fun.  And when the weekend’s over, I’ll be very glad to head back home to my family. I hope my babies don’t forget about me.

Participating in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Quick Lit Linkup – Monday, February 15th: I’m excited to link up with fellow bloggers over at Modern Mrs. Darcy’s monthly Quick Lit linkup. I just discovered its existence last week and I have the perfect post to share there. Linkups are a fun way to share content, connect with other bloggers, and discover new blogs.

1064493011/22/63 on Hulu – Monday, February 15th: I absolutely loved Stephen King’s 11/22/63, so I was happy to hear King, J.J. Abrams, and a couple other folks produced a miniseries starring James Franco which will premiere on Hulu in just a few days. The only issue is that we do not currently have a Hulu subscription. I’m predicting Hulu will see a surge in membership this month.

And last but certainly not least …

FULLER HOUSE ON NETFLIX! – Friday, February 26th. T.G.I.F indeed! The reunion show of all reunion shows is set to be released in two weeks. It’s going to be completely cheesy and ridiculous, but I can’t wait to see D.J., Stephanie, Danny, and the whole Tanner crew (minus Michelle, I’ve heard) back at it again. Treat yourself to this trailer.

 

 

 

MMD 2016 Reading Challenge – Month 1 Update

*I’m posting every day in February as part of my determination to #makefebfun. For more info, read this post.*

MMD-2016-Reading-ChallengeA month ago I shared the books I picked to read for Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 Reading Challenge. I’m glad to report that I’ve actually made some good progress and have checked 2 out of 12 books off my challenge list.

 

√ A Book Banned At Some Point → In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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I’m so glad I prioritized this book for the start of the challenge because it was one of the best non-fiction books (heck, best overall book) I’ve ever read. It’s unbelievable to me that the book was banned at some point. It’s not even gory. It is, for sure, a disturbing story about murder, but it is so masterfully written and deep-dives into the human psyche. I think it should be on the summer reading list for every high school student. I wish I’d been forced to read more non-fiction classics before I went to college.

 

√ A Book You Can Finish in a Day → The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner

22504623Even though I didn’t plan on reading this book until later in the year, I couldn’t help but breeze through it when I snagged it for $1.99 on a Kindle deal. I’m not sure if I can technically count this part of the challenge complete though because I didn’t actually finish it in one day, more like three. I’m going to give myself the benefit of the doubt and count it. I’m glad I read the book. Even though it’s geared a bit more toward working-outside-the-home moms as opposed to currently-home-with-kids moms like me, it’s worth a read by anyone who needs affirmation of the importance of taking time to do what you love. Jessica has some great practical tips for actually making hobbies and interests happen, even on crazy days.

So, that’s my quick update. I’m off to a good start. I just picked up one of my other challenge books, My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, and I think I’m going to like it. I’ll be sure to report back.

 

 

 

 

 

The Primary, Peanut Butter Bars, and Presidential Fiction

*I’m posting every day in February as part of my determination to #makefebfun. For more info, read this post.*

The Primary

Today was my first presidential primary as a New Hampshire voter. I did my civic duty and enjoyed watching the Granite State in the national news, but other than that, it was pretty tame – no candidate or celebrity sightings. The only dramatic moment was self-inflicted … I didn’t decide for sure who to vote for until I was in line for my ballot.

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(Pssst … Check out my friend and former co-worker Sean’s blog post, an interview with yours truly about what it’s been like in New Hampshire as we geared up for today’s primary!)

Peanut Butter Bars

After taking the kids to the pollsIMG_20160209_094418923 first thing this morning, we were all a bit cranky, so I decided it was time to try this granola bar recipe from The Minimalist Baker. I made a couple of substitutions and adjustments:

  1. I chopped the dates by hand. My food processer is still packed away somewhere from our move from Virginia to New Hampshire a year and a half ago.
  2. I used quick cooking steel cut oats because that’s what I had available.
  3. I used regular, unnatural Skippy peanut butter because that’s what I buy.
  4. I used double, maybe triple the peanut butter called for in the recipe because the only other time I tried to make granola bars, they turned into a brittle mess.

The bars turned out so great! Really chewy, kind of like a healthyish brownie. Supposedly they freeze well too. I will definitely be making them again.

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Presidential Fiction

I was thinking today that it’s strange that we are willing to suspend our disbelief and enjoy stories about fictional presidents. We know for sure that the person in the story (book, show, movie) is not the real thing. Maybe we’re wishing the character could actually step into office. (I’m thinking Jed Bartlet here.) Sometimes we’re thankful they’re can’t. (I’m thinking Frank Underwood here.) Either way, it’s a funny kind of character to create.

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My favorite fiction book involving the First Family is a young adult book, Long Live the Queen by Ellen Emerson White. I read the book at least twice when I was in middle school. It’s a suspenseful story about the kidnapping of the President’s daughter.

Speaking of the President’s daughter, I’ve also been pondering the fact that Chelsea Clinton might be the First Daughter for the second time in her life. That’s looking a bit less likely after her mother’s performance today, but it could happen. And Bill … First Gentleman? Is that the official title? It’s a lot to think about.

 

My Quote Book Collection

*I’m posting every day in February as part of my determination to #makefebfun. For more info, read this post.*

I love a good quote. I’ve been known to flip through a book of quotations and copy down my favorite ones in a notebook. I appreciate it when someone can get a clever thought across in a sentence or two. A good quote can act as a souvenir from a favorite book, speech, movie, or poem. It may remind us of something very important or funny or both.

“If you could kick the person in the pants most responsible for your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

Theodore Roosevelt

I own t613861hree quote compilation books that I like to flip through from time to time. One, The Yale Book of Quotations edited by Fred R. Shapiro, is very serious and scholarly because, you know, Yale. It’s a heavy volume and contains quotations from a huge variety of people from Eminem to Einstein – OK, maybe it’s not that serious. I love the book, but it’s more of a research tool than a pleasure book; you wouldn’t just sit down with a cup of tea to read it straight through.

The other two quote books I own are shorter and more fun. I’ve mentioned before Jan Karon’s Mitford book series, of which I’ve only read the first book. Karon has produced several companion books to the series, including Patches of Godlight and A Continual Feast, which contain inspirational quotes “collected by Father Tim,” the main character in the series.

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The two books are great, both because of the quotes chosen(many religious and spiritual, some funny, some literary) and because of the format – a handwritten quote journal by a favorite book character. These are good books to read through if you need an escape from whatever’s going on in the real world.

 

I know there are other great quote compilations out there, but these three have served me well. Feel free to chime in with your favorite quotes … especially the brilliant one next to your high school yearbook picture.

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Football Literature

*I’m posting every day in February as part of my determination to #makefebfun. For more info, read this post.*

Although I love to go to sporting events in the flesh (The noise! The excitement! The snacks!), I am becoming less and less interested in watching them on TV. Tonight, during the biggest sporting event of the year, I plan to sit beside my husband Dave with headphones plugged into my laptop and watch The Staircase, a fascinating true crime documentary I picked up from the library last week.  I may be an embarrassment to my family, friends, and the U.S. in general, but at least I’m honest.

I love a gofnlod story, though, and sports can be the perfect backdrop. Take one of my favorite TV shows of the past decade: Friday Night LightsTim Riggins is not just a handsome womanizer with a good heart; he’s a football star.

I thought I’d contribute to the Superbowl excitement in my own way by sharing a few football books I’m hoping to read at some point. Even though I’m not that into the game, a good writer can make me want to read about almost anything.

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Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and A Dream by H.G. Bissinger

I’m curious to see how loosely or closely the TV show plot aligns to the book – I’m guessing very loosely. According to Sports Illustrated, this is the “best football book of all time.” I think my brother might have a copy, perhaps still in his childhood bedroom – I’ll have to do some research on that. Regardless, I’ll find a way to read this classic story from Pulitzer Prize Winner H.G. Bissinger. concussion

 

Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas

This book, about the doctor who bought to light the terrible effects of head injuries on football players, looks both grim and fascinating. I’d like to see the movie too.

 

It’s Good To Be Gronk by Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski

I bought this book by the famous Patriots party animal for my brother Matt (who also loves a good party) for his most recent birthday. When I saw the cover, it made me laugh, and I knew Matt would like the gift. I might have to borrow the book back to learn more about the Gronk’s antics in his own voice. Fun fact: The Gronk and I share a birthday – May 14th. He’s just a tad bit younger.25617367.jpg