What’s Up Wednesday and SD31DBBB

It’s time for my check-in with Jaime Morrow’s What’s Up Wednesday blog hop!

What I’m Reading

The list remains the same as last week, with two exceptions.

1. I finished The Poor Bastard by Joe Matt. Our book club meeting got switched until next Monday, so we’ll see if anyone in the group had better feelings about this book than I did. The only thing I can say (as I wrote on Goodreads) is that I don’t think I have ever read a more appropriately titled book!

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2. I am now also reading Doctor Who: Who-ology. With this book I have now taken my fandom to a whole different level of geekdom. I can NOT believe that I am actually enjoying reading timelines based on a television series! Any minute now I expect my husband to call the sanitarium. In the meantime, I will be all kinds of ready for the fiftieth anniversary episode on November 23, 2013 (who’s counting down the minutes? NOT ME!)

Quick Updates on a couple of the other reads:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is just plain brilliant. I am intentionally taking my time with it because I don’t want it to end.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green reached a level of hilarity yesterday that I actually found myself laughing out loud while sitting by myself in the Barnes & Noble Cafe. Who doesn’t love when that happens?

The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward reached a point where I put the book down, turned to my husband and said, “This is just plain ridiculousness.” At that moment I was annoyed by it. A couple of hours later I picked up the book telling myself it was time for some ridiculousness and I started flying through the story. Isn’t it interesting how much your mood can affect how you enjoy a book?

What I’m Writing

Tomorrow begins StoryDam’s Open House Extravaganza (relaunch of storydam.com), so I have been doing A LOT of prep for that. I rewrote the entire beginning of Dear 302 and realized that, while I am extremely excited about the direction the novel is taking, I will not be able to do what needs to be done there until the site’s relaunch is complete.

In the meantime, since I want to make sure I am still writing and staying creative, I am looking forward to participating in tomorrow’s trifecta writing challenge again. I am happy with what I came up with for last week, so hopefully I can do something fun for tomorrow!

What I’ve Been Up To

Blogging, preparing for blogging, helping with grad school work and recovering. Tuesday I had to take a three hour nap to sleep off the mother of all headaches from overwhelm. I pray the same thing doesn’t happen again today.

On Saturday I went to my writing group and had a lot of fun catching up with everyone since I missed the last meeting. The group is growing! I RSVPed “No” to this Saturday’s meeting because it is my FIVE YEAR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY, but I fear my husband’s HW may eat up any truly exciting plans…

The only other excitement I can think of is that last night I made pizza! This is very exciting in my gluten free dairy free life. I promise it wasn’t inedible – my gluten and dairy loving husband insisted on me making a second pie! If you have the same restrictions, I highly recommend Bob’s Red Mill Gluten free pizza dough mix and Daiya’s dairy free mozzarella shreds.

If you are a writer and a blogger, check this out!

What Inspires Me Right Now


I’m getting ready to start the StoryDam 31 Days to Build A Better Blog Challenge, StoryDam’s relaunch is coming and I feel like we are rounding the corner to see the end of my husband’s Master’s program. All of these things are bubbling over with great possibility.  Right now I am inspired by all of the “might be”s in my life. 

How has your week been? 
Any new reads or fantastic writing happening in your world?
Where are you finding your inspiration RIGHT NOW?

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How Do You Organize Your Books to Read?

Billy Burgess from Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer is asking us how we organize our books to read in this week’s Book Blogger Hop. When I first read the question, I thought I would have nothing to say beyond “size order,” but after really thinking about it I realized I do have a couple of “rules” with my book collections.

Advanced Reader Copies

I have an entire shelf of books I received from this year’s BookExpo America in my china cabinet. They have to be read, reviewed and, for the most part, given away. Last year I was terrible at keeping up with this and one of the reasons was every time I finished a book, I just wouldn’t know what to do next. This year I came up with a plan! I organized the books in order of publication date! Since publishers and authors both prefer that the review is closer to the release date, I figured I needed to work that way. Now when I finish a book, there’s no confusion about what I should read next – I just grab what’s next on the shelf.

Graphic Novels/Comic Books

This summer my husband and I bought an enormous bookshelf/entertainment center for our living room. We were very excited about having a new shelf for all of our books. After we filled it we realized we couldn’t fit much more past our graphic novels! They were put on the shelves in number order and then in size order.

Teaching/Math Books

Three years out of the classroom and well aware I am not heading back, but I still have a bookshelf full of all of my teaching resources. How are they organized? Mostly by size order, but in between, if you look very carefully, you will also see some content-area breakdown.

Current Reads

Much to the chagrin of my spouse, there is zero organization when it comes to what is in my “current reads” focus. They can be under the bed, in my night stand, under my pillow, on the end tables in the living room, on the couch, in my pocketbook, on the kitchen counter, pretty much anywhere I’ve been. This wouldn’t be so bad if I were only “currently reading” one book at a time, but if you check out my goodread profile, you will quickly notice this is a serious problem!

So how do you organize your books? 


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To Capture A Miracle

The breeze carried the first smells of green instead of the bite of white. The rising sun shed a yellow glow instead of an empty bright. I smelled the grass and knew the flowers weren’t far behind. Spring was on its way. I walked the dewy grasses knowing this would be the day. I carried my camera with the hopes that this year I would capture the miracle, the tiny dance that starts it all.

I found my position on the floor beneath a tree on the edge of the meadow and waited for the sun to cook the dew off the blades of grass. As the final drop dissipated into the ether, a robin landed in the meadow. The forest fell silent. The wind was still. The robin stood royally among the blades of green for a heartbeat before it began to sing. It sang a single note followed by a melody so beautiful that I am sure it’s the one that torments the dreams of every composer who has tried, impossibly,  to replicate it.

I lifted my camera silently from the ground and fixed my lens on the miracle. I watched the robin charm a red, wriggling, half-dormant worm from the soil. Its body swayed inconceivably upward from the foot of the robin to the space beneath its singing beak. The robin finished its song. My fingers stood still. It was as if nature would not allow me to capture this impossibility. It was as if, I, too, was under the robin’s spell. For a moment longer everything remained silent, everything but the worm remained still. Then the robin tilted its head, snapped up the worm and took flight.

When the bird’s feet separated from the soil, the spell was broken. I could smell the flowers on the new breeze and feel the warmth of the sun. My camera came maniacally to life capturing nothing but a moment lost. The forest came back to life. Spring had officially begun.

CHARM (verb)1a : to affect by or as if by magic : compel
b : to please, soothe, or delight by compelling attraction<charms customers with his suave manner>
2: to endow with or as if with supernatural powers by means of charms;
also : to protect by or as if by spells, charms, or supernatural
3: to control (an animal) typically by charms (as the playing of music) <charm a snake>

– See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.pfKAby6g.dpuf


is my response to the Trifecta weekly challenge, which is to write a 33
to 333-word response (mine is exactly 333) using the following word and its third definition

CHARM (verb)

1a : to affect by or as if by magic : compel
b : to please, soothe, or delight by compelling attraction<charms customers with his suave manner>
2: to endow with or as if with supernatural powers by means of charms;
also : to protect by or as if by spells, charms, or supernatural
3: to control (an animal) typically by charms (as the playing of music) <charm a snake> – See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.pfKAby6g.dpuf

CHARM (verb)
3: to control (an animal) typically by charms (as the playing of music) <charm a snake>

to control (an animal) typically by charms (as the playing of music) – See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.pfKAby6g.dpuf


1a : to affect by or as if by magic : compel
b : to please, soothe, or delight by compelling attraction<charms customers with his suave manner>
2: to endow with or as if with supernatural powers by means of charms;
also : to protect by or as if by spells, charms, or supernatural
3: to control (an animal) typically by charms (as the playing of music) <charm a snake> – See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.pfKAby6g.dpuf

CHARM (verb)

1a : to affect by or as if by magic : compel
b : to please, soothe, or delight by compelling attraction<charms customers with his suave manner>
2: to endow with or as if with supernatural powers by means of charms;
also : to protect by or as if by spells, charms, or supernatural
3: to control (an animal) typically by charms (as the playing of music) <charm a snake> – See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.pfKAby6g.dpuf

This week’s challenge is community judged meaning for the 14 hours after the challenge is closed readers can vote on their top three posts. To vote, head over to this week’s Trifecta post and click on the stars next to your favorites (the stars will appear only after the challenge is closed)!



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OMG! I Forgot I Have A Blog!! [IWSG]

Okay… at least a little part of me is joking. I did not really forget that I have a blog. I simply have been unable to sit down and focus on the things that I typically write about. The main culprit seems to be “pregnancy brain,” or so I’ve been told.

from pregnancyhumor.com

When Pregnancy Brain Attacks

My reading challenge for 2013 on Goodreads is never going to be accomplished and my writing plans for this year have all but been squashed. I have been able to read things in short snippets – such as magazine articles or things that flash by on the Internet, but a whole book? No way. I have been strictly in audiobook land snce I started growing my little boy. And, at that, it is a one book at a time, needing to rewind frequently, kind of pace.

As for writing, I have to thank God over and over again for my writing group. If it were not for our weekly meetings, writing prompts and the writing assignments we give each other in between I don’t think I would get any other writing done. It is frustrating, but it also feels strangely natural, which, to be completely honest with you, scares the hell out of me.

Arguing “Just for Me”

I love my blog and my writing – I don’t want either one to wilt away on me. I have committed to writing for StoryDam.com twice a week and keeping that up has been a struggle for me. I don’t know how to add more on top of it when it is something that is “just for me.”

And there are, quite possibly, the silliest words I have ever written. “Just for me” might be the most important reason for doing anything… ever. Particularly since my life is about to transform in such a way that every breathing moment will be dedicated to the livelihood of another. My “just for me” moments are probably running out!

Physical Roadblocks to My Creative Endeavors
Of course, two things are physically in the way of me getting any writing done: exhaustion and incessant nesting. The exhaustion is hilarious – I am basically a narcoleptic. This morning, as my husband left for work he told me he thought I should go back to bed. “Don’t be ridiculous!” I said, “I am wide awake and I have to write a post for Story Dam, anyway!” I closed the door behind him and made myself some oatmeal for breakfast. I don’t know what happened after I finished that oatmeal except to say that approximately five hours after my husband left for work, I woke up in a drooling stupor, on my couch, with every light on in the house and the television blasting. I still had not written my post for Story Dam. I wish I could tell you that this was out of the ordinary for me. It is not.

from Belle La Vie

On the other hand, when I am blessed with bouts of energy, like I was yesterday, I am filled with only one goal in mind: get this house in order! I have written about this house a number of times – the flood, the fact that I have lived here my entire life, and the fact that it isn’t exactly… well… put together. When I was teaching, my work came first and my house barely held fast on its foundation. When I came home to deal with my disease, I was too sick to do much of anything. Now that I am somewhere in between the two worlds of “too busy” and “too sick” my eyes are finally opened to the reality around me. Unfortunately, I still live in the world of “too poor” to make the dramatic types of improvements truly necessary, but, in between I can at least clean up the debris of the chaos that has swirled within these walls for years.

And how does one make time for themselves when that reality exists? My answer, thus far, has been that one does not. My answer has been that I am not as important as my setting. And while I feel so much better with the progress that I have been able to make in certain portions of this house, innately I know something is very wrong about this line of logic. A part of me keeps asking if I am just making excuses, if there is something else holding me back from letting my mind wander while I write. Or am I being irresponsible even thinking that “I should be writing” instead of doing more laundry?

from blog.cashcrate.com

Finding The Balance

I know somewhere in between there is a balance. There is a place where I can write, blog, read, keep my house in order and build a baby. All is possible. I simply have to allow myself to believe that again. I also have to allow myself to believe that I deserve it all.

What kind of mom will I be if I squash my own desires? While I want to store up all of my creative juices to pour onto my baby boy (did I tell you that?! I’m having a little mister!), I am beginning to realize that bottling them up in the interim will merely make them atrophy. I need to work these creative muscles out so I can shower my son with the best that I have to offer – not only in parenting responsibilities, but also in beautiful visions of the world around him. 

Have you ever been faced with something in your life that you felt was “more important” than your writing? How did you deal with it and find a balance?
For those who have experienced pregnancy brain – did you ever find a cure besides giving birth? What things became impossible for you while afflicted?

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New Friends vs. Old Friends

In today’s book review for StoryDam.com I reviewed a book called Question of the Day: Where Truth is the Dare by Al Katkowski. In an effort to demonstrate the types of questions the book asks, I used random.org to pick a page in the book and asked StoryDam readers to answer it.

I realized it would be pretty cruel if I didn’t at least follow suit, even though I find this question a difficult one to answer. Here’s the question of the day:

My Answer:

I am happy to see that this question is ranked as one of the “heavy” questions of the book because it is something that is more difficult to answer than I thought it would be when I first read it.

First of all, I am not the most social person in the world, so I can’t say that there are a huge number of “new friends” to think about in terms of this question. My local writing group accounts for the first group of people that I have regularly socialized with since having to leave work due to my illness.

My natural response to this question would be that my newer friends know more about my passion for writing than my older friends. However, since my husband still works in the place where I worked and many of my older friends run into him, I am often told by him that people say they “love reading” what I write. They don’t comment, or let me know this, so I would never think that this is the fact.

I honestly can not think of anything else, but this is for one big reason: Facebook. I am connected with my many of my older friends through Facebook and, as anyone who is my Facebook friend knows, I am a huge (over)sharer on that social media network. Therefore, anything that my new friends may learn about me, I would, most likely, come back to Facebook to share myself. Is this odd? Maybe. But I feel like the whole point of staying connected to older friends in this way.

So what is your answer to this Question of the Day?
 How difficult do you find this question to answer?

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Secrets REVEALED!!

I wrote this yesterday, but once the phone began to ring and the Facebook lit up, I was unable to post it:

Ten days ago I was cracking at the seems with a desperate desire to spill a secret > that I wasn’t sure I was able to do.

Today’s the day. The secret is out. And here it is:


Oh my Lord. How good is it to type those words? Even better is knowing the truth behind them.

This is it. I am having a baby.

Then for a completely different perspective of the news, forgetting that I wrote the above yesterday, I wrote this today:

Something happens when you spend years of your life hospitalized, sick and suffering – people look at you differently. They don’t even know it. They don’t realize that when they ask you how you are doing that a glaze of sadness falls over their eyes. They don’t realize that your heart breaks every time you realize you are the one to bring them down even if it’s just for a flicker of a moment.

I stopped sharing with people face to face. It was something that had to be done to save my own sanity and do what I thought needed to be done to relieve them of their pity. When I had to have an emergency eye surgery to save my eyesight, I begged my husband to keep the location a secret from everyone. I love the support showered upon me, I just didn’t want to hurt everyone else. Wasn’t it enough that I was hurting? How dare I cast that upon those I loved?

Slowly, things got better. But by that point I had already locked myself in a world of isolation that no longer included phone calls, human to human interaction and the look in people’s eyes. Good news was shared through the grapevine, via my husband or, my old faithful, the Facebook status.

Then the miracles came. Opportunities to share things with people that couldn’t possibly cast a shadow on their souls started to finally occur. Little by little, I was turning into someone who had good news to share once again. I was turning back into the person who could shine sunlight into your day. I wanted to share. I wanted to scream it all from the rooftops.

Except for one thing… the haunting possibility that the miracle could be shattered before its true fruition. Sharing the news too soon ran the risk of bringing everyone to their knees in the event of a not so uncommon mishap. The miracle would have to remain secret. My joy would remain my own due to the threat of my unlucky medical history.

Yesterday I was finally able to share that secret. Yesterday I was able to shed my curse of bad news and bring friends and family to tears of joy. Yesterday I was finally able to tell the world I am pregnant.

And today I am telling you.

There are no words to fully encapsulate how overjoyed and blessed I am feeling to not only have this be true, but also to be able to share it. I am 12 weeks today and everything about the baby and me thus far has been healthy. A simple seven letter word so many take for granted, but one that brings tears of joy to me on a daily basis.

I’ve been super tired and maybe I can’t concentrate on things as well as I normally do (reading and writing have been super challenging), but everything else has been wonderful – no morning sickness, no cravings or food aversions, so far no crazy mood swings – just growing lovingness.

At the conclusion of this, I realize this doesn’t capture any of the thrill, excitement or overwhelming joy that I am feeling every moment of every day, but that’s because my writing always serves a different voice – the quiet one within my heart. The voice who desperately wants to say she is sorry for getting sick, for breaking people’s hearts and for not being strong enough to share all of her difficulties with everyone who loves her so deeply. The voice who silently tells me it was wrong to lock people out and who knows it is time to learn how to bring them back in.

Now I feel like a complete schizophrenic reading those two announcements side by side. However, I still feel like they both belong. Forgive me!!

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Refreshed, Revived and Re… Writing

meetup_logo_1I just came back from my writing group which has become so popular we have switched from meeting once every two weeks to meeting every week. The fact is, the only writing I am doing lately is in relation to this group. I don’t know if it is pregnancy brain or something else, but I have been unable to focus on two things that are pretty pivotal to my existence as a sane human being: reading and writing.

I keep telling myself that it is the exhaustion associated with the first trimester and that there is an end in sight, but I know that is more than that. First and foremost, I must bring myself to the page. I am at the point where I must FORCE myself to write. Not because it is torture, but because it is, in fact, the opposite. Writing is my release, if I don’t do it I am bound to get overwhelmed with little more than my existence.

Sophia, the organizer of our writing group, called us all to action this week. She brought light to the fact that we aren’t pushing ourselves to a solid writing goal. She’s right. I know, personally, I have started treating my writing like more of a hobby than a passion.

Enough is enough.

Time for me to get back to work. Time for me to embrace, once again, that this is work. However, just like my teaching, this is the kind of work that reaps rewards that are so very worth the time and effort.

What things help to reboot your writing habits?
Do you have a writing group that you meet with regularly?

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Reviving Your Blog – Schedule

Well, this is one of those “why don’t you just practice what you preach, Nicole” blog posts. A key component to reviving your blog – particularly when the need for revival has occurred due to a severe cut in the amount of time you can devote to your blog – is the schedule. There are a number of ways to use the schedule, so you can pick which best suits you, but the fact is it will only work if you actually use it (again… I am looking at you, Nicole, right in the mirror!).

How To Schedule Your Blog Posts

Whatever your blogging platform is, there is a scheduling feature available. For me, on Blogger it is right beneath the section where I add the labels. I simply select a date and time I wish a blog post to be published and then I select to the “publish” button. When I do so, the post will not go live until the date ad time selected.

Ways to Use Schedule

Depending on your needs, there are different ways you can approach the schedule. Here are a couple to consider:

  • The Binge Schedule This is a technique where you can possibly carve out one solid block of blogging time, rather than find the time on a regular basis. Let’s say you have a couple of hours of time on a Sunday that you can call “your own,” you can use this time to write your entire week’s worth of blog posts and then schedule them. You are then freed up for the rest of the week!
  • The Themed Schedule Are you the type of person who gets really excited about one topic at a time, but you want your blog to have a more diverse feel? Rather than post all of your writings on one thing at once, you can schedule them to occur on a weekly or even monthly basis!
  • The Just In Case Schedule Schedules are even useful to bloggers who are able to blog consistently. There are always times when life gets in the way – sickness, holidays, or other distraction – use your schedule feature to be prepared. You can write posts ahead and leave them in draft until needed. When your rainy day shows up, just pop into your bloggin platform and schedule it to cover your butt! I know one blogger who dedicates herself to writing as much as she can one month per year so that she has enough extra blog posts to cover her at least once per month.
  • The Schedule of Shame This final use of schedule is one that I am participating in right now. I am scheduling posts in the past – making up for the letters I missed earlier this month. Using the schedule feature, anyone who comes to visit my blog later on will not know that I “missed” days – they will all appear with the appropriate dates. It is magical. Using schedule you can rewrite your past!


How do you use the schedule feature on your blog?

Do you prefer to write on a regular basis, or to schedule ahead? Why?


Reviving Your Blog – Read


Reading is fundamental in nearly all endeavors, however it is particularly important when what you are doing is writing. When you rededicate yourself to your blog, make sure you are taking at least some of your time to read.

What To Read and Why

When deciding what to read, there really is no way to go wrong. Any and all reading will help you, but there are some specific reading assignments you may want to focus on from time to time.

  • Other Blogs Reading other blogs will help you make connections with other bloggers and a broader audience. It will also help you to identify trending topics and questions you may be able to answer for your audience.
  • Magazines Darren Rowse, ProBlogger and author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog recommends reading and analyzing print magazines in order to identify topics to write about and to see what types of designs the print media are using to capture their audience’s attention. This is a great tool in helping to determine how to design your own blog.
  • Op-Ed Pages The op-ed pages of your local newspaper are great places to find fantastic blogging material. These are the places, before the Internet surfaced, where we could find controversial and thought-provoking topics of discussion. They still do this. Take a piece that interests (or enrages) you and share your reflections on it with your audience!

Time for you to share your thoughts:

What types of things do you like to read? How do they help you blog?

When was the last time you wrote a blog post as a result of something you read? What was it?


Reviving Your Blog – Question

Have you ever thought about the importance of asking a question? There are so many times when conversations die simply because a question was not asked. Do not assume that your readers know that you’d like to hear their comments about your latest writing, when you revive your blog, ask them to participate.

How to Ask Questions In Your Blog

While I do not believe there is any right or wrong way to ask a question of your readers, there are a couple of ways I have found to be effective in the past:

  • Ask for comments. If you have been following my blog you will notice that I end nearly every blog post with a series of questions in order to engage my readers with the post. I do this in the hopes that it ignites a conversation between myself and my readers.
  • Ask yourself first. Is there a question you’d like to discuss with your readers, but you aren’t sure how. Simple: Make that question the title of your next blog post. Then you give your answer. At the end of the post, ask your readers to give their own viewpoints.

What Kinds of Questions Should You Ask?

Questioning has always been a big deal from me – it comes from my years as a teacher. If your goal is to spark conversation or deeper thoughts about the topic at hand, then there’s pretty much only one rule you need to worry about:

Don’t ask any “yes” or “no” questions!
(While I was really good at this in my teaching, as I’m writing this I am realizing I’ve been breaking this rule a lot in my blogging!)
If you are looking for longer than one word comments from your readers, then you have to steer them in the right direction. Instead of asking a question like “Has this ever happened to you?” change it to “Tell us in the comments about a time when this happened to you!” Even if a reader has never had that happen to them, they are like to comment as such because they will feel the need to respond to the fact that you expected they did. Or, add a second question saying something like, “If this never happened to you, why do you think that is?”  
How have you used questions in your own blogging experience?
When faced with a blog post that does not ask you any direction questions, when do you feel compelled to comment?