Your iPod’s grandma…

I decided a long time ago that there are certain times when I am completely willing to look like an idiot. Ever had one of those realizations about yourself? For a half second you consider changing and then decide that marching to the beat of own drum makes you happy… dang it… so screw society’s conventions?

Well, confession time.

What makes me weirdly happy and totally willing to look stupid is a disc man.

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That’s right. You heard correctly. A disc man.

Before you ask…

Yes, they still make them. In fact you can buy one here. It’s the one I use and recommend.  (Although, now that I just hyperlinked that I see it’s no longer being made and is now ridiculously expensive…and I just had a minor panic attack. That company might be getting a letter.  No worries…other companies are still making them for a much more reasonable price.)

Yes, I’m aware that there is newer, smaller, infinitely cooler technology available. And while I adore my Iphone, I don’t own an Ipod.

Yes, the 80’s has been calling wanting their technology back. But tough luck. It’s mine.

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Let me explain. I have an addiction to reading books, but I’m also really busy. Solution? Audio books. It allows me to listen to a book while I make clean my house, fold laundry, DIY, drive in my car, and here is the big one…while I run.

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(Infographic from a great article on audiobooks here. I can personally recommend numbers 3, 6, and 7.)

I run between 5-6 miles every other day. That’s roughly an hour of time that I get to spend with just my sneakers, the road, and a book. I go through around 2-3 books a week this way between the one I have going in my car and the one on my trusty disc man. I can’t run with music. I tried it once. Horrible experience.

But I’m sure you’re wondering…why a disc man? Why not load those books onto an Ipod.   The simple answer? Lack of time. I get the majority of my audiobooks from the library, and some (like the one I’m listening to right now) are on LOTS of CD’s. It would take gobs of time to load each CD onto an ipod which would inevitably be maxed out on storage in a matter of days, causing me to spend even MORE time deleting old books. All of this is time I could have spent doing something else.

So a disc man it is.

I even used to introduce them to my students and allow them to rent them from my classroom. I would explain this foreign technology as “your Ipod’s grandma” and tell them to be respectful to their elders. Some laughed. Some thought I was a complete dork. Which was fine. I am a lot of the time.

Now, if you are at all like me and are a little bit intrigued by this whole idea, I have some helpful hints for you. Take it from a faithful disc man user and audiobook aficionado for the last 20+ years

  • Get a tunebelt. It’s a specialy designed belt to hold your discman while you listen. In my case, it holds it while I run, but my mom uses one while she pulls weeds and cleans the house. I’ve gone through about five of these in my lifetime. I always stash extra CD’s, batteries, a back-up hair tie, and a few dollars inside it. Oh… and a Taser. (Thanks Dad!)

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  • Use rechargeable batteries. Unlike Ipods, Discmen where born before everyone started “going green.” I used to go through a four pack of double A batteries every week…it got expensive. I finally bought a pack of rechargeable batteries and they have been going strong for over four years now.

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  • Use your local library. Audiobooks are EXPENSIVE. Nuff Said.

I know most, if not all of you are rolling your eyes at the moment. And that’s fine. But don’t knock it till you try it. HOURS of your life that are spent doing mundane tasks could be used to improve yourself. I always recommend audiobooks to struggling readers. It helps build vocabulary and fluency, plus it allows struggling readers to really get “hooked” on a story because it’s being read at the pace that was intended. Kids who struggle with reading never “like” it because it’s the equivalent of watching a movie in slow-motion. BORING!

I tried to find a picture of myself wearing my tunebelt and discman setup and didn’t do so hot. Shocking but I don’t do lots of photo-ops wearing what is essentially a fanny pack.  Here is the best one I’ve got.  See it on my hip? It’s right next to the photobombing french bulldog. (Don’t panic, my dog doesn’t really have two necks like the picture shows. His image just got a little wonky in the mirror’s reflection. )

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If you aren’t afraid to fly your nerd flag proudly…try it out. You never know. You might actually like it!

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ps. I can’t end this post without mentioning the Harry Potter audiobooks. They are read by Jim Dale who is phenominal. I may have listened to this series more than once.  Okay..more than ten times. But who’s counting?

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Blogs…

I’ve wanted to write a blog for over five years now. Ever since I stumbled across an amazing one and got addicted to reading the content every day. I’d find myself doing DIY projects around my house and narrating how I’d write them up on my “imaginary” blog.  Dorky? Oh yes.

I even started up one, wrote one post with a random picture of my dog on it (translation: ridiculously lame) and then chickened out. For one thing, putting a blog out there is a lot like waiting to get picked for a team in P.E. class. You wonder if you’re “worth” someone choosing and then you wonder if you really want to know. For another I noticed that most of the bloggers I enjoyed following had some MAJOR photography chops. Something I am sadly lacking but am going to make an effort to improve.  I also told myself that any time I spent writing blog posts would be better spent  writing and getting a novel published.  So, on the shelf went my blog idea….of course until I started this little corner of the internet.

But while I was avoiding blogging myself, I did develop a very serious blog addiction. In fact I let all my magazine subscriptions lapse because blogs were just so much better. And FREE!  So in the interest of sharing some of my favorite sources of inspiration here they are in no particular order! Enjoy!

#1. Young House Love.   These guys were in a league of their own when they were blogging. They were the first blog I came across which led me to the other blogs I would eventually follow. Sadly, they stopped blogging over a year ago now, but their website is still up and their archives are a literal treasure trove of DIY know-how.  They also have a new book coming out that I will be buying the day it drops. Yes. They are THAT good.

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#2. Bower Power.  I found Katie Bower through a mention on Young House Love, and I will cry if she ever stops blogging. She is HILARIOUS and manages to accomplish some major DIY projects all while raising  four adorable little boys.

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#3. Meg Duerksen.   When I mentioned the photography chops, this lady comes to mind. She is so creative and positive and her posts just make me happy. They also make me want to craft. Go check it out, and you’ll see what I mean. ( As a side note: the name of her blog Whatever is also based off of one of my favorite Bible verses. Ten points if you know the verse JUST from the word Whatever.) IMG_9268(pp_w775_h547)

#4. Janet Reid.  This is by far the best blog for writers out there…in my humble option. As a top literary agent Ms. Reid delivers priceless advice for would-be writers all with a side of dry-humor that will keep you smiling. She also runs a second blog, because yes, she’s THAT good.  It’s called Query Shark, and this one is a must-read for writers who are attempting to create a query letter. She takes submissions from writers and then critiques the query, telling in detail what worked and what didn’t. When I was trying to write the dreaded query letter (blog post to come on that whole messy process), I spent hours upon hours reading the archives of this blog. They were all hours VERY well spent.

#5. The Freckled-Fox.  This is one I just recently stumbled across. Emily is not only beautiful but she has this positive outlook on life that is contagious. She has five kiddos all five and under…think on that one for a second…and still manages to make time to put together an amazing blog. It’s worth checking out for her hair tutorials alone.

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So there you have it!  I feel as though I should apologize for the HOURS of time you will probably spend getting lost in the labyrinth of creativity these ladies have produced. But I won’t. Because I know you’re going to love every minute of it. You’re welcome.

Staying Focused…

I have a confession.

I never REALLY understood or sympathized with people who talked about how busy they were once they had kids. I used to think that they were exaggerating or just plain not organizing their time well.

Then I had one.

And I immediately felt the need to write apology notes to all those people for all the secretively judgmental thoughts I’d had on the subject. In fact, I did write a few apology letters to my own mother, because, gosh, this parenting thing is HARD.

So when I say having a  one-year-old who could give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money keeps me busy, I promise I’m not exaggerating. Which means I have two set times of day when I can get some writing done. Heck, when I can get anything done for that matter.

  1. Nap Time (Which can last anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours)
  2. Bed Time (Again, anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours of free time once the munchkin FINALLY falls asleep.)

But here is the problem. Sitting down and ACTUALLY writing. Besides the dishes that need washed, the bulldogs that need to go outside for the tenth time, the laundry that needs to be folded, and the dinner that needs prepped- it’s hard to sit down and dial myself into my novel and let the other stuff go.  And that’s not even the biggest distraction.

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(Graphic originally from here.)

The internet, where free time goes to die.

For example, I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. I have thousands of pins that represent HOURS and HOURS of my life, and I think I’ve only actually done around twenty projects/crafts/DIY projects from there. And by the way, those HOURS and HOURS spent on Pinterest would have definitely been better served writing.

But here are the rules that I’ve discovered that have helped me get down to the serious business of writing.

  1. No Music
  2. No TV
  3. Disconnect the Internet
  4. Leave your Phone in the other room.  On silent.
  5. No Company (That includes my poor husband who can’t HELP but talk if we’re in the same room. The nerve!)
  6. Caffeine

Now while all those rules are great, I have a particular fondness for number six. Probably because it’s the easiest of all the rules to follow.

I was never  a big coffee fan. That is until I discovered iced coffee. Then all bets were off. I came up with this recipe after a bit of trial and error, and it can be tweaked to fit your preferences. I have one of these every afternoon, and it’s that little extra jolt that helps keep me on track.

Step One: Brew a cup of coffee. (Awesome Harry Potter mug is completely optional, but it will make your coffee taste better.  Fact.)  I do this in the morning and then pop it in the fridge until I’m ready to use it. There is nothing, and I repeat, nothing worse than trying to make iced coffee with hot coffee.  You’ll end up with a diluted mess.

Step Two:  Now that your coffee is nice and cold, you’re ready to assemble. Here is the line up of players.

Step Three:  Pour your coffee over ice. Some people get all fancy and freeze coffee into cubes so their coffee doesn’t get diluted at all. I’m not that picky…or organized…so regular ice it is.

Step Four:  Add your almond milk. I’m sure regular milk would work too, but I prefer almond.

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Step Five: Add a splash of creamer. Not to much or it gets WAY too sweet. And if it’s fall, Pumpkin Spice is a must.

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Step Six: Put a LID ON THAT CUP.   Coffee and computers don’t mix well. Your elbow will hit that delicious concoction you just created and then your hard drive will sizzle. And you’ll probabaly cry.

Use a lid.

Always.

Then settle down and get writing, and don’t stop until that sleeping baby wakes up!

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The Power of Words…

I adore quotes.

There is something so powerful about them, and I can’t really put my finger on it. As a teacher, I started each day off with a quote of the day plastered loud and proud on the opening slide of my powerpoint. Often it would tie in with the novel we were reading, the lesson we were tackling, or a current event.  I had these high teacher hopes that the few seconds we spent discussing it would somehow impact their middle-school souls. Because, wow, some quotes are just knock your socks off, tattoo it on your heart and live by it powerful.

Here are a few of my favorites “Classroom” quotes.

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So it’s no real surprise that I have a lot of quotes posted around our house in various prominent positions. I would have more, but my husband has a firm dislike for “clutter.”

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I painted these for my daughter London’s nursery. I’m not sure if the one on the left counts as a quote, but I’ll let it slide.  I can’t take credit for the beautiful design as I just free handed these from the original artwork of Katie Daisy. If you’ve never looked at her work on etsy, you need to. I own quite a few pieces, but nothing she sells came as large as I needed for the nursury, so I busted out the old paint brushes and got to work.

Also- take a moment to look at the cute one-year-old busy “reading” during this photo shoot. And just to keep it real, it took some major re-shelving  while she un-shelved to get this picture.

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The quote on the right reads:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 
-Mary Oliver

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These two beauties live in our living room.

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Also, that picture on the right is vintage Martins. Back when we treated our bulldogs like kids because we didn’t have any yet. Although, if we’re honest, they still get treated like our kids.

We are also blessed to have a dedicated “playroom” in our house, and I tried to make most of the artwork fun and colorful. You know, kid stuff. Here is a quick shot for reference. Again, this took major clean up during nap time. It is usually a hot mess. Toddlers are not known for their tidiness. And unfortunately, neither am I.

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Here is the art on the right hand side. The top left is a chalkboard that, don’t worry, is sure to hold lots of quotes for my kids as time goes one. You know, once they can actually read them. And can you spot another piece of Katie Daisy artwork? If not, you probably really struggled with Where’s Waldo as a kid.

Anyways, I recently added this quote as a reminder for myself. They are words by an author I admire greatly, Mr. C. S. Lewis himself.  The man who had me checking the back of wardrobes for longer than I’m willing to admit. His words are some that convict my heart daily as I find myself longing for nap time as I read the same story for the twelfth time in a row.

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“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work. ”  -C. S. Lewis

These words remind me daily that these moments are fleeting. They won’t be here forever. Someday I’ll have all the time in the world to write, and my daughter will be too busy to hang out with her mom. Sniff. Okay enough of that.

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While I was in the playroom, I noticed a quote I’d almost forgotten about. For years, this lived in my classroom. It was one of the things I made as a first year teacher, and I brought it home on the sad day I cleaned out my room for good. I thought it was too cute not to use somewhere so to the playroom it went. I know it’s hard to read on the vase, but it says:

“Don’t let the weeds grow around your dreams.”
-Anonymous.
I told you, I preached dream chasing like it was my job. Because, really, it was.

I also have a few key quotes that have impacted my writing life and gave me a much need kick-in-the-pants to write a novel already. I wanted to share them  in the hopes that they might impact you as well. Maybe they will inspire you to go after that thing that you’ve ALWAYS wanted to do… or become… or accomplish. You know, the thing that eats at your insides and won’t let you sleep at night. The thing you catch yourself daydreaming about?
Yes.
That thing.
Here’s hoping these inspire you to chase it down.

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This next one isn’t a quote, it’s a poem. I know, I tricked you. But I’m counting it as a quote anyways. d9bc417f92ff7e4eff0b43bae3e271a8

And this one is just so powerful I feel it in my bones.

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Infographic originally from here

What a thought! Put a deadline on a dream, and it because something completely reachable. Not something you just think about, or wish about, or complain that you never accomplished. Deadlines work. I am a firm believer in the deadline.

And just for fun, I thought I’d share this one. In this selfie day and age, where photoshopped models beam from the covers of magazines, it is refreshingly frank. I’m more than guilty of “screening” photos before sending them out into the world.  But gosh, sometimes my face just looks that bad, and I need to just suck it up and deal. Thank’s Honest Abe.

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Infographic originally from here

And finally, this guy.  Because isn’t that the truth. Have a great week guys.

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You can buy this gem here.  I’ve been more than tempted.