Category Archives: Blogging

Yo, It’s NaBloPoMo

Blogging and I haven’t been getting along too well lately.

Forget about the number of posts I’ve managed to crank out here in the past few months. Since July, I’ve written a whopping total of 10 posts … which, I mean, okay, fine, isn’t horrible but it is significantly less content than in the past.

There isn’t any shortage of reasons for this and they’re the usual excuses. Not enough time.  Personal stuff going on that isn’t fodder for the blog. Exhaustion from work — and since my job involves writing proposals and reports for a good portion of the day, staring at a blinking cursor is oftentimes the very last thing I want to do at night.

Don’t get me wrong: writing is still my passion, still what I would choose to do if I could do nothing else for the rest of my life. (Except maybe reading. That might win out.)

But something is happening with me and writing and I’m not sure I like it.

You see, I’ve never been the kind of writer who gets her thoughts down and then goes back to revise and polish.  I write word by word, editing as I go. And … well, it’s tedious. I’m falling back into my perfectionistic, critical tendencies and it’s killing me time-wise. I’ll belabor over the beginning of a blog post and get out only a few sentences and then become so frustrated or distracted or think it’s crap that I abandon the whole post altogether. It’s frustrating because even though there is unbloggable crap going in my life, there is a lot that I really do want to bring to this space and share.

So when I turned the calendar to November this morning, I remembered that this month is NaBloPoMo.  Maybe that’s exactly what I need to get my blogging mojo back, I thought. Some structure, some self-imposed discipline in the form of showing the hell up here every day for 30 days.

I know this is absolutely doable because last summer I gave myself a challenge to blog every single day — and I did!  I called this 99 Days of Summer Blogging and nobody was more surprised than me when I actually completed this. It helped to generate content, kept me accountable and it was kind of fun.

(Most days.)

So, I’m all in for NaBloPoMo 2017. I need something to jump-start my writing, to clear the deck of the half-baked posts lingering in Drafts, and to help me quash these perfectionistic word demons that are bedeviling me.

As always, blogging is more fun with friends, and there just so happens to be a NaBloPoMo party happening on a new-to-me blog, Blissful Lemon(Love that name!)

Let’s do this. Here’s to a great month!

 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Ready for the Readathon! (Kick Off Post)

It’s a special day for the book blogging community … today marks 10 years of Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon, an event occurring every April and October that brings bibliophiles together for a day of reading and talking about books with other kindred souls.

Dewey was a beloved book blogger who founded this event in October 2007. Sadly, she passed away shortly thereafter but I have to think she would have been thrilled to see how her idea of spending 24 hours reading has grown into something that brings people together across the globe.

I’m pretty sure I’ve been participating in Read-a-thon since the beginning. I seem to remember the first one.  However, I looked back at my blog archives and the first time I posted about it was April 2009. Regardless, that’s a lot of years — some more successful and productive than others, but always a fun time, which is the point. In the end, it really doesn’t matter how many hours or books you’ve read, but the enjoyment you’ve gotten while doing so.

I guess that’s true of life itself, right?

Currently, I seem to be in the middle of a bunch of books that I’ve had checked out of the library for quite some time. (At our library, we have unlimited renewals, so you can practically keep books forever as long as someone hasn’t requested it). Here are the books I have in my Read-a-thon queue and as always, this pile is subject to change throughout the day.

What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Yoga Mind, Peaceful Mind: Simple Meditations for Overcoming Anxiety, by Mary Nurriestearns
The Trump Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Living Through What You Hoped Would Never Happen, by Gene Stone
The Black Unicorn, Poems by Audre Lorde
Hourglass, by Dani Shapiro
Happy Foods: Over 100 Mood-Boosting Recipes, by Karen Wang Diggs
Living Mindfully: At Home, At Work and in the World, by Deborah Schoeberlein David
The Feelgood Plan: Happier, Healthier and Slimmer in 15 Minutes a Day, by Dalton Wong
Namaslay: Rock Your Yoga Practice, Tap Into Your Greatness, and Defy Your Limits, by Candace Moore

Clearly, there’s a bit of a theme going on here. (I also just realized there isn’t any fiction — much as I wish that The Trump Survival Guide was.) Like I said, that may change.

To get this started officially, here’s the Opening Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! It’s a beautiful, warm day outside so hopefully some of my reading time will be spent on the deck.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Hourglass, by Dani Shapiro

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Starbucks Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I’ve been blogging for 9 years.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Probably won’t do anything different. I’ve learned that the Read-a-thon works best when I keep it low-key, fun, and minimal pressure. That said, my goals for today are:
1) Finish at least one in-progress book.
2) Rediscover my blogging mojo. I’ve been rather scarce in this space lately and sometimes the Read-a-thon helps inspire me to want to blog more frequently.
3) Have fun!

I’m planning to do at least one update post here, participate in some Twitter conversations (I’m @thefirmangroup) and possibly Instagram and Litsy, too.

Happy Read-a-thoning, everybody!

 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Nine

We’re nine today.

Nine.

As in, today this blog turns nine years old, which is kind of ridiculous.

You’ve heard the story before about why I decided to start a blog. In 2008, we were living two hours away from our family (which seems practically around the corner, given that the distance is now almost three times that). I thought a blog — which I originally named The Betty and Boo Chronicles — would be a good way to keep the grandmothers updated on The Girl and The Boy, who I referred to online as — you guessed it — Betty and Boo.

I also wanted to use this as an opportunity to write more often, which would eventually be the reason several years later why I abandoned anonymity and took ownership of my words with a site bearing my real name. By that time, of course, this blog had long morphed into something different than my original intent.

After discovering that there was an entire online book blogging community of people passionate about reading and sharing their thoughts about books, I knew I found my blogging niche. And after I found kindred spirits among parents of children with autism, I was inspired to share more of our journey. And then the presidential election happened (the 2008 one) and I had a lot of things to say about that.

The Internet was a different place in 2008. Writing a blog was considered sort of weird. People weren’t sure what exactly it was that we did in these spaces, sharing all kinds of personal information with … who, exactly?  Strangers? Why would anyone want to do that?  But the connections that formed across the blogosphere between people who identified with each other and appreciated other perspectives was — and still is — something magical and special.

Even though my blogging presence has been a bit sparse lately (for various reasons), I have no intentions of closing up shop anytime soon. I think I would miss this space too much and I definitely would miss the interactions that accompany what happens here.

So, whether this is the first post of mine you’ve read or whether you’ve been here since August 14, 2008, I’m so grateful you’re here and helping to make this space into more than anything I could have imagined.

Cheers to the next 9 years!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

In Appreciation: Chez Pazienza (1969-2017)

At a moment when this world needs every voice of reason, every champion of quality journalism and every don’t-give-a-fuck resister of the current political regime we can muster up, we have lost Chez Pazienza, someone who was all of these things and then some.

If you’re not familiar with his work, Chez was a brilliant writer and author of Dead Star Twilight, an award-winning journalist and media producer, blogger, podcaster and much more. But first and foremost, he was a father, fiancé, son, and loved one of many others who are grieving his untimely passing. My deepest condolences go out to his family.

Through his writing and podcasting, those of us who enjoyed and appreciated his work felt like we knew him. That’s because of what Chez shared with us, of course–a hell of a lot, as it turned out, from the personal to the mundane–and we also knew how much Chez loved those who were most important to him.

Mourning someone you’ve never met is an odd thing. It feels voyeuristic, like you’re trespassing on someone’s private life. You don’t feel entitled to your sadness or in any standing to offer up a eulogy–yet through their presence on this earth, this person was still part of your life and had an impact on it. Which is why this post is intended solely to be an appreciation of and respect for Chez’s work and how it added to my life. Nothing more, nothing less.

I first discovered Chez’s work approximately a decade ago, more or less, through his blog Deus Ex Malcontent. If his wasn’t the first blog I’d ever read, it was one of them. His was the kind of writing I aspired to–fearless, insightful, no-holds-barred, sharp witted as hell. Chez’s talent was to make you, his reader, feel every emotion possible in a handful of words.

And that’s exactly what he did, time and time and time again, regardless if he was writing about politics or his personal struggles, music or the media. Within one sentence, you could laugh and then be angry, with plenty of cursing in between. That was the case with his pieces for The Daily Banter, of which he served as editor-at-large, as well as his podcasts with Bob Cesca on The Bob & Chez Show. His perspective was on-point, always, and precisely what we need right now.

Free of bullshit and full of anger, Chez did not mince words about the implications of the sinister machinations and horrific incompetence in The White House. His newsroom experience provided him with a perspective of the media — good and bad — that one can only get from having been in the the industry’s trenches. And in a year that claimed countless icons who defined our coming-of-age years, Chez always had a relevant unique angle that resonated with those of us Gen X’ers who have the same cultural markers and touchstones.

His listeners and readers knew this election affected him profoundly and deeply. Maybe we didn’t quite realize how much. In the immediate aftermath of the election, I reached out to Chez via Facebook to tell him how much I appreciated and agreed with his commentary. I never expected him to respond, but he did and I am grateful that we had that brief exchange to commiserate and for me to express how much I thought of his work.

None of us need any more reminders or Hallmark card platitudes of how life is too fucking short or how important it is to tell people we care about how much we appreciate them. We get it. If not, Chez’s death makes that abundantly clear.

What is also tragically clear is that without Chez Pazienza’s voice, we need to make ours count even more. To resist, to point out bullshit, to call foul, to take those perpetuating the many injustices that have become calling cards of this regime to task by speaking out. Chez knew how imperative that was and I feel there’s no better way to remember him and honor his work and life.

I’d like to think he would expect no less.

My most sincere condolences to Chez’s fianceé, his daughters, his family and friends. If you are inclined to contribute, a fund has been established to help with expenses towards a memorial service and anything remaining will go to his fianceé and children.


If you weren’t familiar with Chez’s work, here are some links…

The Daily Banter: http://thedailybanter.com/author/chez-pazienza/

Deus Ex Malcontent: http://www.deusexmalcontent.com
(among Chez’s very best posts were “The Grand Finale,” written in June 2013 one week after James Gandolfini’s death and “15 Years On: 9/11 in Two Parts”, written in September 2016.)

Dead Star Twilight 


…and here are some Internet tributes. (But read the Chez links first. Seriously.)

Goodbye (tribute to Chez by Bob Cesca of The Bob & Chez Show podcast, 2/28/2017)

My Friend Chez Isn’t Gone … He’s F*cking Everywhere (Bob Cesca, The Daily Banter)

The Internet Has Lost One of Its Most Distinctive Voices  (from Pajiba)

Journalism Lost a Giant on Saturday: A Tribute to Chez Pazienza (from The State Today)

RIP Chez Pazienza (from The Tentacles of Yesterday)

 

 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Currently…Hibernation Sunday

Currently
It’s a day for staying indoors, given that it is all of 11 degrees outside as I write. Such is January in Pittsburgh. I skipped church because of the weather and a morning migraine that has, thankfully, subsided. We de-Christmased the house earlier, then I spent most of the day on the couch with a cup of rooibos tea with the Steelers-Miami game on as background (whooooo hoooo, Steelers!) while I caught up on some blog reading and perused Pinterest for some meal planning ideas. You know, the usual lazy Sunday.

The upcoming week will be busier than usual because I’m immersed in a big project at work. This will likely require a few later evenings, on top of several hours of work yesterday during a rare Saturday in the office to try and get ahead of the game.  I took today as a break from the work project which will wrap up this coming Friday the 13th … hopefully a luckier day than the date portends). The intensity is a short-term thing, but this has been in the works for a year, so it will be good to have some semblance of completion.

Reading …
I need to spend some time this evening with a new short story collection which I’m reviewing. (That deadline is Friday, too.) This one will be my first book of 2017, not to be confused with Sheila from Book Journey’s annual First Book of the Year project. I had all good intentions of participating in that but had to temporarily set aside my choice (The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes) to focus on the review book.

Watching…
I spent a good chunk of my two-week Christmas break binge-watching “This Is Us” and am completely hooked on this show. I don’t watch much TV to begin with and I certainly didn’t need a new obsession, but here it is.  I have two more episodes to watch, which I plan to do right after hitting publish on this. Perfect timing for the season premiere this Tuesday.

Blogging … 
I’m planning to participate in the Winter 2017 Mini-Bloggiesta, scheduled for Jan 14-15.  If you’re new to Bloggiesta, it is described as “a blogging marathon revolving around ticking off those items on your to-do list and improving your blog while in the good company of other awesome bloggers doing the same thing.”

The timing is great because I’ll have a four-day weekend, thanks to the MLK holiday and a vacation day that needs to be used this month. To-do’s for this Bloggiesta include updating my Book Review page (and revising some others) and writing some posts. If you missed it last week, I shared my selections for the Best Fiction books of 2016 (meaning, those I read in 2016, not necessarily ones published during the past year). Even though the window of time for 2016 wrap up posts has pretty much closed, I still want to finish my Best Nonfiction post. I read a lot of stellar nonfiction last year that I’d really like to share with all of you.

OK, I’m off to finish watching “This Is Us” with a case of Kleenex at the ready. Hope your Sunday is going well and that you have a great week.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Ready for the Readathon! (Kick Off Post)

Readathon - Day and Night

Today is one of my favorite days of the year — Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon, an online community celebration of reading and connecting with others who love books. To quote the event description, “for 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs, Twitters, Tumblrs, Goodreads and MORE about our reading, and visit other readers’ homes online. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. It happens twice a year, in April and in October.”

Needless to say, I love everything about the Read-a-thon. I love discovering new-to-me blogs, seeing what other people are reading (and adding those books to my Goodreads), sharing bookish conversation on Twitter and (new for me this year) Instagram and Litsy, and cheering on others who are among the hundreds (thousands?) of readers engaged in the love of all things literary.

Most of all, I love that it honors Dewey, a beloved book blogger who passed away in fall of 2008.  She was passionate about books and connecting people.  She  was (and still is) very special to many of us in the book blogging community. It’s a gift to be able to carry her legacy on and celebrate her life through things like the Read-a-thon, which she started and which was one of the ways I was first introduced to the book blogging world back when I started blogging eight years ago in August 2008, shortly before Dewey passed away.

Read-a-Thon, Fall 2016 Edition
I’m getting a late start on participating today; as I write this, the Read-a-thon is heading into Hour 6 and besides this post, I’ve done nothing but sleep in a bit (storing up energy for the later hours), eat breakfast and read the newspaper (that counts as Read-a-thon reading, right?) and check in with Read-a-thon happenings online.

Weather-wise, it’s cloudy and cooler than usual here in Pittsburgh, a perfect day to be curled up inside reading. At some point today I’ll need to take a break to do this week’s meal planning and grocery shopping.  (There are much more organized Read-a-thoners who get that sort of nonsense out of the way days before Read-a-thon.  I’m not one of those people and most likely never will be.)

So, without further ado, here’s my smallish pile of books that I plan to read from during today’s festivities:

readathon-fall-2016

 

You’re The Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, by Arisa White (not pictured, as this is an online poetry collection I’m reviewing)

American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, by Nancy Jo Sales (I’m on page 187 of this; I’d like to finish it today)

A Want of Kindness, by Joanne Limburg (may not get to this as this is a book I’m reviewing and I typically don’t read review books during Read-a-thons, but this one has a looming deadline so it might be a necessity ….)

Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton

Springtime, by Michelle De Kretser

Shut Up and Run, by Robin Arzon

I’ll do another post later today that will serve as a one-stop for updates, etc.

Happy Read-a-thoning to all who are participating!

 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

sunday salon/currently … some reflections on 8 years of blogging

Sunday Salon 4

“Have you read my blog today
Three hundred million little USA’s
Your doorstep is just a click away…”
~ Five for Fighting, “Slice”

Eight years ago — probably right around this time of the evening — I decided to start a blog. I’d been thinking about it for a few weeks.  I didn’t have any grandiose expectations that anyone except my mom and mother-in-law would ever read this thing, and in fact, they were my original target audience.  We were living two hours away at the time and I thought a blog would be the perfect way to keep both sets of grandparents well informed on their grandchildren.

So, I started writing about my kids, who I called Betty and Boo to match my then-blog’s name of The Betty and Boo Chronicles.

I was also reading several book blogs at that time, and I remember feeling like I had discovered my tribe. I was amazed that there were people just like me who were passionate about books, who wrote reviews (I always thought it would be cool to be a book reviewer), and who enjoyed sharing books with others.

So, I started writing about and reviewing books — and as of today, I’ve posted more than 350 book reviews here on the blog which have led to friendships with many incredible writers, trips to New York for Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Conference (back when the latter was called that) and BlogHer, and regular freelancing assignments with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Along with book blogs, eight years ago I was also reading blogs written by parents who, like myself, were raising a child with autism. In 2008, we really didn’t know any other families with a young child on the autism spectrum. We felt incredibly alone in our lives — and quite frankly, in many ways we still do.  But back in 2008, I remember feeling for perhaps the first time that there were parents who completely understood the unique challenges of our lives.  So very much of what I know now is because of reading these blogs.  If you were blogging back then, words cannot express how indebted I am to you.  Although I may not blog as much these days about our family’s experiences with autism, I hope that I’ve been able to give that same sense of reassurance to someone else.

Of course, as one may recall, there was a very interesting presidential election happening in 2008. I quickly discovered that I had some thoughts on that and this was the perfect forum to share them.

It’s interesting to think about the past eight years of blogging.  Certainly, the blogging community has changed dramatically since I wrote that first post.  Many bloggers who were writing back then are no longer doing so and others have spun their blogs into books, businesses, and other profitable endeavors. New shiny toys and trends have come and gone, and every so often, some pundit or social media marketer/guru/expert/rockstar/ninja claims that blogging is dead or on life support and we should pack up shop and turn off the lights because nobody is reading anyway.

Maybe there’s some truth to that, but mostly I think that’s bullshit.  I subscribe to 1,476 blogs that post something on a regular basis. That includes 338 book blogs.  I also have an additional 82 blogs flagged as “Blogs That Have Gone Defunct” so that I don’t miss a post if and when their owner decides to get back into the game, which has certainly happened on occasion.

Here’s what I do know:  as much as this blog was intended to be a chronicle of our lives and of the books I was reading, it also was very much for me. It was born at a time when I wanted and needed to start writing again. If I was the only person reading these 2,147 published posts since August 14, 2008 that would have been fine — but I’m so grateful that you’re interested in hearing what I have to say. So very grateful.

And indeed, after blogging for 8 years, I have ZERO intentions of closing up shop anytime soon. None.  I still have a few more things to say in this corner of the Internet that I carved out for myself in 2008. I’m not going anywhere.

So, raise a glass or a piece of cake or whatever your pleasure may be. Here’s to the next eight years and the next eight after that and ….

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #77 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project and post #2,147 since August 14, 2008. 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0