Urban Goats and Suspicious Kangaroos (Interview)

Picture a Swiss maid, complete with bonnet, mountain cottage located in the Alps and a flock of goats she holds near and dear to her heart (think “Heidi” or “The Sound of Music”).

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Now imagine that same Swiss maiden transported to the heart of Melbourne, Australia, steaming cup of coffee in one hand, laptop under her other arm, goats following obediently behind as they cross the street. The drawstrings of her bonnet fly behind her in the wind, and curious kangaroos peer around corners in suspicion that the goats have come to invade the outback and pillage all available foliage.

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OK, maybe the goats are pushing it a little. My imagination tends to run wild at times. In any regard, this is one way I picture “Momma” when I read her story below. I started following A Momma’s View a few months ago, now I can’t wait to see a notification that she’s posted something new.

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Coffee House Cold War

In case you missed it when it was originally posted–A REBLOG FROM EARLIER IN THE YEAR.

Covert glances around newspaper pages…steely-eyed, angry men wearing muted shades of gray…silent, unsaid threats of catastrophic damage were ever-present…thinly-veiled scorn and contempt for the other side, constantly seeking for ways to outmaneuver the enemy for the upper hand. It was a time of fear where the lives of innocent were at risk and there was a sense of foreboding that no one could escape.

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What am I describing? Could it be a scene in Russia? North Korea? Perhaps this story is set in East Berlin before the fall of the wall? No, this is simply the weekly scene that occurred at my local coffee shop, and it was war. Continue reading

Feeding Chickens in the Land of Dickens (Interview)

Do you ever have one of those days when you just need a pick-me-up?  When I have a day like this, where my coffee just hasn’t been enough to do the trick, I often turn to Mother Hen Diaries. Dorreen Augustine always has that special blend of optimism and wit to catch my attention and perk up my day!

Seriously…she’s funny. It’s what attracted me to her blog initially. With so many blogs that exist to simply be rant sessions, Dorreen’s blog stands out as being a beacon of positivity.

As an American living in the U.K., she has a very interesting perspective on life, one that I find inspirational, and as is the case with many bloggers, Dorreen describes herself much better than I could.  From the About page of Mother Hen Diaries, here is a snippet of what Dorreen has to say about herself:

“First and foremost, I am a Jehovah’s Witness. (Yes, I do knock on doors!) 🙂 I am also a wife, mother, cuddly Nanny, a reader, a thinker, a dreamer and a storyteller, Margarita expert, singer and entertainer, jam maker extraordinaire, serial dieter, and mother to a dozen chickens.”

After following Dorreen’s writing for some time, I was so pleased when she agreed to have a virtual cup of coffee with me to answer my questions for this interview.  Read on for Dorreen’s thoughts and advice around blogging and writing.  It’s good stuff.

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The “true friend” test

Just a quick thought. I’ve read a few posts on how to tell if someone is a “true” friends. Most of these articles cite surface-level trite things like, “they always support you”, etc.

I’ve always thought the mark of a true friend was someone who will tell you the truth, even when they know it’s not what you want to hear. That takes courage and caring about someone–be truthful with them even when it hurts.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend…”

Picking the Nose of a Wicked Witch (Interview)

In this interview, I had the pleasure of interviewing Whitney of Highest Form of Whit (thanks for agreeing to the interview Whitney). Let me start by saying…I really don’t know how to best describe Whitney…the words fail me…I’m drawing a blank.

I started to try, but I had to keep erasing what I wrote as I felt I wasn’t doing the description justice. So rather than try and miserably fail (most likely causing Whitney to become enraged to the point of mass destruction), I thought I’d simply let her describe herself– as written on her About page.

 …I’m an amalgamation of the sense of humor of a 12 year-old boy, the sensibilities of an 80 year-old man, and the figure of a woman in her early twenties. Basically, I’m awesome. And so, by default, is this blog (note the sarcasm). I also suffered from untreated Generalized Anxiety Disorder for fourteen years, which is a main component behind this blog.

I believe in laughing. I believe in love. And I believe in punching anyone in the face who doesn’t think those two things are great. I also believe in contradictions (or do I?).

See, wasn’t that much better than what I could have written?  I’m sure Whitney is somewhere agreeing as she reads this. 😉 She is clever, has a knack for the craft of writing and she’s funny– all things that I enjoy in a writer.

The other think I like about Whitney and her blog– she is true to herself and as a result she’s built-up a loyal following. Recently I’ve become very interested in bloggers who write transparently– letting followers find them, rather than the other way around.  With over 10,000 followers, she fits this description well! I enjoyed reading her answers; I hope you will as well! When you’re finished, if you’d like to read additional interviews with other bloggers click HERE.

(Full disclosure: Whitney uses enough profanity to singe the hair off the ears of a sailor, so read with your visual “bleepers” on if you are so inclined.)

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What motivated you to start your blog Whitney?

I started my blog for a couple of reasons. One, I had just graduated from college but I was living in LA for an extra semester and I wanted something fun to do. Two, because I haven’t read a lot of mental health comedy anywhere and I kind of saw my opportunity to start a conversation in a different way. Three, because I thought people might want to laugh at all of the dumb things I was scared of when I was a kid. Apparently, people do want to laugh at that, which is really freaking sweet!

How did you “find your voice” in blogging?  Your writing appears to be very natural and shows a lot of your personality– was that something you had to work towards or does it come natural to you?
 I didn’t really work at it at all, to be honest. How my blog reads is how I talk. Except I probably include more “that’s what she saids” in my day-to-day conversation (though I am starting to cut back on that a little bit). I’ve always been super snarky and self-deprecative with a 12 year-old boy’s sense of humor. Why try and be something I’m not?
What one thing do you feel has contributed the most towards growing your follower base?

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Words. That’s all.

If you’re reading this post on WordPress, you are most likely a blogger writing your own blog, right? And although we may be inspired by different things, we do have at least one thing in common– we’re actively writing content that we expect (or at least hope) that others will read.

If not, we’d all be writing in our journals or simply keeping a folder filled with Word documents on our laptops.

Additionally, the web is overflowing with thousands of ways to build a great web site, sell a product or build a following on a blog. Even here on WordPress there are so many workshops and classes that at times I wonder when people find the time to simply write words.

It is for these reasons that the letter (web page) below by Justin Jackson resonated so strongly with me when I read it a few days ago nursing by 2nd cup of java.  And, although I’m sure it’s been republished online many times, it’s so good I couldn’t help but post it again. For the sake of preserving the content, I’m not using block quotes. For the original article posted online click here.


This is a web page.

There’s not much here.

Just words.

And you’re reading them.

We’ve become obsessed with fancy designs, responsive layouts, and scripts that do magical things.

But the most powerful tool on the web is still words.

I wrote these words, and you’re reading them: that’s magical.

I’m in a little city in British Columbia; you’re probably somewhere else. I wrote this early in the morning, June 20th, 2013; you’re probably reading it at a different time. I wrote this on my laptop; you could be reading this on your phone, a tablet or a desktop.

You and I have been able to connect because I wrote this and you’re reading it.That’s the web. Despite our different locations, devices, and time-zones we can connect here, on a simple HTML page.

I wrote this in a text editor. It’s 6KB. I didn’t need a Content Management System, a graphic designer, or a software developer. There’s not much code on this page at all, just simple markup for paragraphs, hierarchy, and emphasis.

I remember teaching my daughter to code HTML when she was 8. The first thing she wrote was a story about a squirrel. She wasn’t “writing HTML”; she was sharing something with the world. She couldn’t believe that she could write a story on our home computer, and then publish it for the world to see. She didn’t really care about HTML, she cared about sharing her stories.

You are still reading.

Think about all the things you could communicate with a simple page like this. If you’re a businessperson, you could sell something. If you’re a teacher, you could teach something. If you’re an artist, you could show something you’ve made. And if your words are good, people will read them.

If you’re a web designer, or a client who is working with one, I’d like to challenge you to think about words first. Instead of starting with a style guide or a Photoshop mockup, start with words on a page.

What do you have to say? If you don’t know, there’s not much use in adding all that other cruft. Just start with one page, with a single focus. Write it and publish it, and then iterate on that. Every time you’re about to add something, ask yourself: does this help me communicate better? Will that additional styling, image, or hyperlink give my audience more understanding? If the answer’s “no”, don’t add it.

At its heart, web design should be about words. Words don’t come after the design is done. Words are the beginning, the core, the focus.

Start with words.

Cheers,
Justin Jackson
@mijustin
On Google+


Thank you Justin for allowing me to post this and for reminding us all of the power of pure, unadulterated…words.

Happy Sunday!

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Hello everyone, and a happy Sunday to you all! Here’s to hoping you have a great day. Go find something to be thankful for today if you can. I’m posting two of my reasons in the pic above. (Taken a couple of weeks ago during a family vacation to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.) Focus on the important things today!

Talk to you soon.

Warmest Regards,

DH

Sincerely? Just Write It Sincerely (Interview)

For this week’s interview, I’m publishing my notes from my conversation with Terri Webster-Schrandt from Perspectives on…Work, Life and Leisure.

I was anxious to talk to Terri for a few reasons.  Different from other interviews I’ve posted, it wasn’t necessarily the number of followers that drew me to Terri’s blog, but rather her way of writing.  Her posts come across in a very sincere and transparent way that make me feel as though she’s writing with her own voice, being true to herself versus writing with the intention of simply attracting followers, etc.  Personally, I value this in a writer as I find their work much more interesting.

Her journey includes making the decision to change the name of her blog as part of this effort to reflect the nature of her content. I love this willingness to evolve and grow in order to perfect; I hope to do the same.  Her life has been a colorful one thus far, and whether it be her past life teaching in northern California, wind surfing on the weekends or advocating for women’s interests, this same energy and transparency shine through.  Read on for my conversation notes! Continue reading

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Seriously? Late Again?

“Yes we’re friends, but you aren’t important enough for me to show up on time.”  Isn’t that the statement that is being made when we constantly show-up late?  From the perspective of the person waiting, that is how it feels at times.   “I don’t really care that my lateness causes ripples to everyone’s schedules…my time is more important than yours.”

Today it’s “San Francisco Bay Gourmet Coffee – Breakfast Blend” brewed in the Keurig that is fueling my furiously typing fingers.  It’s a new brand that I bought on Amazon and it’s actually really good.  It has a solid, bold flavor that is full and pungent.  It’s also interesting because the k-cup doesn’t actually have a full “cup” attached (see below). Rather, it’s the top portion of a normal k-cup with a mesh-like bag containing the coffee beans hanging underneath.  It’s priced a little more reasonably than other brands, it brews quickly and it tastes great!

San Francisco Bay Breakfast Blend

OK, let’s be real, most people are late on occasion.  Life happens, traffic happens, etc.  I realize that. I’m specifically thinking of those people we all know who have that reputation for being late to everything.  You know…those friends you have to give the fake start time that’s half-an-hour earlier than everyone else so they’ll be on time?

Why are some people ALWAYS late? I don’t get it.

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I…Hate…Drama.

We could hear her shrieking from three rooms away– the sound of it caused chills to tap dance up my spine and neck. As she entered the dimly lit room where we silently sat draped in the shadows, she anxiously scanned the crowd. Her tear-streaked face was a twisted mass of agony, as though she were suffering from pain akin to what ancient Indian braves inflicted on their prisoners after a successful war party raid. Then she saw me.

“Oh God, WHY, WHY, WHY!!! How could she leave us!” As the left shoulder of my suit coat was quickly being soaked by the seemingly endless, gushing Niagara from her eyes, her ragged breathing caused me to pause with momentary concern. It was as though she was being forced to breathe through a straw…she just couldn’t get enough air in spite of how much she heaved and strained. The sound of it was making my ear ache. My body was being shaken as she shook; I was a slave to her tight embrace. People stared. I stared…at the floor.

double-ugly-cry-faceIt was the funeral of my great-grandmother, and the quivering mass of wailing flesh latched-on to me was a great-aunt who absolutely couldn’t stand the deceased. Better yet, great-grandma hated her equally as much, maybe more. I…hate…drama.  Continue reading