Category Archives: Blogging

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!

 

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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. 

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goodbye, alison

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (37)

A brilliant light left the world this morning with the passing of Alison Piepmeier.

Like many others, I’m saddened that brain cancer (fuck you, cancer) has taken such a gifted writer, passionate advocate, devoted mother and wife, compassionate educator, friend to many around the world, including many (like me) who she never had the opportunity to meet. I will miss reading her words on her blog and in the Charleston City Paper, which offers a lovely tribute today.

I will be forever grateful for how her beautiful life touched mine, if only for a too short time.

Peace and love, my blog friend.

 

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for alison, for her beautiful life

I’ve always been fascinated with the interconnectivity of our lives. You know, if _____ didn’t happen, we wouldn’t have ever met.  Or the way we’re all just six degrees of separation (or less) from everyone else.

Alison Piepmeier is that kind of person for me.  She’s a “blog-friend,” as she once said to me. (And I probably should say right now that I’m not the person to talk to if you believe people you know “on the Internet” and have never met aren’t the equivalent of real-life friends. Because after blogging for almost eight years now, I know firsthand how someone you’ve never met can make a difference on your life. I’ve seen it. Up close and personal, time and time again.)

Girl Zines - Making Media, Doing FeminismBack in 2010, I read a post on Girl w/ Pen about an intriguing book by Alison Piepmeier called Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism. I knew about zines, but I didn’t know their history and significance to feminism. Awhile later, I spotted Girl Zines on the shelves of the Newark Free Library in Delaware, read it, and wrote this review.  Sometime afterwards Alison discovered it, and we became connected through our blogs.

We almost met once. Back in April 2011, Alison visited Pittsburgh for a celebration of feminism and zines, at an event that was hosted at my current place of employment.  We weren’t living in Pittsburgh yet, but had just been there a week earlier to get acquainted with the area.

Connections and missed connections.


I continued to follow Alison’s blog and her writing, still remaining her “blog friend.”

Then, in 2013, a yearly checkup at the pediatrician for my boy prompted a simple question from the doctor.

“Do you ride your bike in the neighborhood, maybe with a friend?”

As I wrote in that post, published here almost exactly three years ago on July 23, 2013, my boy’s eyes went to the floor.

There was no mistaking the look, the loaded weight of that inquiry.

His silence was just a moment, fleeting – accompanied by a quick look to me in the corner where I’d fortunately looked up from my phone to catch his glance.

His blue eyes said it all.

I don’t know how to ride a bike. 

My bike is kinda small. I got it when I was 7. It has training wheels. That’s embarrassing. 

What do you mean, a friend?

“I don’t really do that,” he said to the pediatrician. 

I remembered this post from my friend Alison Piepmeier about her experience with what is now iCan Shine, Inc. (formerly Lose the Training Wheels). I remember thinking how much my boy would benefit from a program like that.

I remembered reading Alison’s post when we were on the cusp of moving to Pittsburgh, and checking to see if our new city had the same program. I remember the feeling of this is going to be okay when I realized that they did. I remembered being at The Children’s Institute (the program host of the iCan Shine Amazing Kids Bike Camp here in Pittsburgh) and mentioning the camp during a job interview I didn’t get.

I remembered my boy’s face in the pediatrician’s office.

I looked to see when the Pittsburgh camp would be taking place, knowing full well we may have missed it. Again.

And there it was. Registration ended six weeks [prior]. 

I emailed the camp director anyway.  Long shot … just thought I’d ask … know it’s last minute …

There was one spot left.


Who knows if I would have learned about the bike camp for people with disabilities, a national program of iCanShine, if it wasn’t for Alison’s involvement with them as a volunteer and her deciding to write a blog post about the experience?  Maybe I would have, but maybe not. Regardless, it’s an example — albeit simple and small — of how one person directly influences the life of another.

Because even though my boy doesn’t ride his bike much these days, I will never forget watching him and experiencing the sheer pride in his accomplishing something that so many parents take for granted. This was a gift, a glorious momentous milestone of celebration on what has not always been an easy road.

And it was because of Alison. My blog-friend.


I’m remembering and reflecting on all this tonight because Alison’s time here on Earth is, unfortunately, very short. She is nearing the end of a long battle with cancer, a fight she fought with the utmost grace, dignity and honesty imaginable and one that she shared in heartbreaking blog and Facebook posts with those of us who care about her. Her words, here in what may be her last column for the Charleston City Paper, are as moving and poignant as ever.

Through her books, her scholarly contributions to the field of feminism and disability studies, and her work as a professor of English and Director of the Women & Gender Studies program at the College of Charleston, Alison Piepmeier has touched many, many lives — especially those of her husband and her young daughter Maybelle.

We may have never met, but I will forever be grateful to Alison for that blog post that led to my boy being able to ride a bike and thankful that her life connected with mine, albeit for a short time.

Much love, peace, and comfort to you on this journey, my blog-friend.  You will be forever missed, until we connect again.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #52 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

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all downhill from here (50/99)

99 Days of Summer Blogging

As of today, summer is halfway over, unofficially — if you consider summer to be from Memorial Day through Labor Day, as I do.  I wish I could say this summer is flying by, but it’s not.  It feels long and difficult and challenging and uncertain. And this is on all levels — personal, political, all of it.  I think a lot of us are feeling similarly, yes?

(Forgive my pessimism.  I started writing this post at 3:30 a.m. today and I am putting the final touches on it after watching the utter travesty of a shitshow that was the Republican National Convention. Which was also the inspiration for the title of today’s post.)

With this midsummer’s mark, my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project has also reached its midpoint.  Granted, I realize this probably doesn’t matter to anyone but me and maybe a handful of bloggers who love this sort of thing, which is fine.

For several reasons, I didn’t think I would last this long with this 99 Days nonsense. I tend to fizzle out early with blogging endeavors like these, so believe me — nobody is more surprised than me to see this still going on Day 50.

It’s been an interesting experiment.  The positive aspects have been that I’m writing more, which is good. And for the most part, it’s new content.  When I started this, I thought it would be a good way to clear out some of the posts in Drafts, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, I’m writing posts that I may have otherwise procrastinated on, had I not been doing this.

I will say that, as of now, I’m not likely to take on another long-term blogging challenge like this anytime soon.  It’s a lot of work to crank out a daily post — which I knew, of course, but it sometimes comes at the sacrifice of other things, like reading. There have been more than a few days when I’ve just wanted to come home from work and read instead of writing a post. And I know, it wouldn’t have mattered if I skipped a day nor would it matter if I gave up altogether right now, but at this point it’s the principle of the thing.

Of these 50 posts, I was curious to see which ones received the most views during this time. Here they are, the Top 10 Most Popular, from most views to least.

Best Books of 2016 …Thus Far (33/99)
This Is the Father’s Day We Almost Didn’t Have

And Then We Practice (39/99)
Weekend Cooking: The Joy of Culinary Arts (6/99)
kicking off 99 days of summer blogging (1/99)
Why I Decided to Delete My Cell Phone Photos (9/99)
love and orlando (14/99)
discombobulated (3/99)
Book Review: Sugar Crush (2/99)
beautiful day (13/99)

Here’s to the next 49 days!

 

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sunday salon/ currently: reading, writing, blogging … and possibly hiking (28/99)

Sunday Salon banner

After a much busier-than-usual week (two work events, two get-togethers with friends), I’m feeling the need for some downtime.  Nothing is on the agenda today, my preferred way to spend a Sunday. I’d also prefer spending it on the deck, but since it’s a few degrees shy of 90 as I type this, indoors in the a/c seems to be the better option.  There’s the usual straightening up/cleaning to do around the house (which may or may not get done) and meal planning for the week.

Summer Reading … 
LaRoseShades of BlueFelicity

Since my last visit here in the Salon, I’ve finished three books: LaRose by Louise Erdrich, Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue, an anthology edited by the amazing Amy Ferris, and Felicity by Mary Oliver.

Of the three, Shades of Blue had the most impact on me and has earned a spot on my Best Of list for 2016. The honesty and courage of these writers as they share their personal experiences with mental health, addiction, depression, suicide, and grief is incredibly moving.  There’s something in every story that connects with you, which is the point.

Modern LoversI need to spend some time with Modern Lovers today. I’m reviewing this one for the Post-Gazette and that deadline is approaching quickly.  This is better than I expected; I judged it by the cover and immediately thought “fluffy beach read.”  It is a bit lighter than my usual fare, but sometimes you need that. And after this week (and this month’s depressing news cycle), I do.

So far I’m up to seven books for the library’s Summer Reading program.  (Magazines count for this; three of my “books” are actually periodicals.)  My goal is 20 and I’d like that to be heavier on the books than magazines.

Writing … 
The Girl starts a week-long Teen Fiction Writing camp tomorrow.  I would have loved this when I was her age. She did a similar program last year with this organization and really liked it.

Taking a Liking to Hiking …
The Boy is participating in a fabulous day camp program this summer for teens with Asperger’s. It emphasizes social skills and a lot of outdoor time.  They’ve been doing short hikes (approximately 4 miles, which certainly doesn’t sound that short to me). Surprisingly, he’s become very interested in hiking, trails and especially streams, and has expressed interest in continuing this when camp is finished in two weeks.

Fortunately, Pittsburgh is a great area for hiking so I’ve been looking into some possibilities for him and I to do some occasional short hikes together.  (If any local readers have suggestions, I need them as this is — quite literally — new territory for us.)

Blogging
#99DaysSummerBlogging is still going strong.  By the end of this week, we’ll be 1/3 of the way finished. (And so will summer!)  I’m slightly revising my approach to this project, though. One of my main motivations for doing this was to actually write every day. Admittedly, that’s been difficult as some posts need a few days to come together and I’m not a fan of posting something just for the hell of it.

I’ve realized that writing every day doesn’t mean the same as writing a brand new blog post and publishing it every day.  I’ve decided to give myself permission to write some posts in advance. That way, those can be pulled out of Drafts and published on days when I want to spend longer on other posts — or even other writing projects.

And speaking of which, a review is due soon, so back to my book I go.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #28 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

 

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one of those days (23/99)

99 Days of Summer Blogging

This is one of those days when I am questioning what the hell I was thinking with this 99 Days of Summer Blogging craziness. I got home later than usual, it’s almost 11 p.m. as I write this, and I just want to crawl into bed and read maybe a sentence or two in my current book (Modern Lovers by Emma Straub) before falling asleep.  If I wasn’t committed to this goofy idea, I would not have even turned the laptop on tonight.

A few participants in this project have dropped out, which I completely understand.  It’s hard, this blogging Every. Single. Day.  There’s days — like this one — when you’re too tired to formulate a coherent blog post or don’t feel like you have anything worthwhile to say. Coming up with content ideas isn’t easy. It’s time-consuming.  I get this — all of it.  I’ve been there.

So, why am I still here?  There’s the public accountability factor, of course: I told you I would do this thing, and because I did, I will damn well make sure that I do it.  I’m notorious for starting and abandoning projects when nobody is looking, but when people are, that’s different. We’re funny that way, us humans.  Who among us is OK with letting others know we’ve failed. We’re scared of what people will think of us if we quit ______. (Fill in the blank:  our job, a marriage, an expensive degree program.)

I’m also still hanging in with this because I think writing every day for 99 days is absolutely an achievable goal for me. As of this Thursday, I’ll be 25% finished — and 25% of the way to Labor Day.  I really, really need to get back in the swing of a regular writing routine and yes — this is helping.  After this project is over, I may not write every day but I think it will definitely become easier to stick to a schedule, of sorts, maybe a few designated times per week.  In the meantime,  I don’t care if these posts make sense or if they’re not the most compelling posts you read in any particular day. They are the equivalent to free writes for me. 

Another reason I’m still here is because of one of my original motivations, which might come as a bit of a surprise to some.  I want to spend less time on social media.  The hatriolic venom that is a constant presence is draining, along with everyone’s opinions. The news is depressing as hell and there’s no constructive dialogue to be had.  I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life and neither do you.  But I do like that this project has helped, at least a little bit, in refocusing my attention.

So, yeah, one of those days.  Here’s to another 76 of them.

 

 

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