A Season of Everyday Blessings

Iron Lung

This is dedicated to my friend and stepfather, Richard.

It was 1942, and families all over the world were dealing with hardship and devastation due to war. In August of that year, the Chinnery family was hit by tragedy of another kind.

Seven-year-old Bill was the first to be diagnosed with polio and within days, his older brother George became ill. At first it looked like tonsillitis, but it soon became obvious that he also had polio. Parents George and Ardice were told that he was dying and when they arrived at the hospital, George was already gone.

The devastated parents returned home to find that their three other sons were also ill. When five-year-old Richard’s condition quickly deteriorated, he was rushed to the hospital and put in an iron lung – a blessing because there were only a few in the entire city. Richard spent several months in the iron lung, paralyzed on one side and unable to move.   But at least his chance of survival was improved.

When Richard needed a transfusion, radio stations across the city put out an urgent call for blood donations. A young man volunteered, and the family never knew the name of the donor.

As Richard and his brothers recovered and were no longer contagious, family members, friends and neighbors helped with physical therapy treatments, taking turns moving his arms and legs. Both friends and strangers donated ration cards for food and gas so that nurses could visit the Chinnery home.

A friend of the family and his wife had a unique idea. Every week they delivered a bag of seven individually wrapped gifts – one for each day. They were small packages and Richard couldn’t even open them himself because he was unable to move his fingers. But he knew that each day he had something to look forward to.

More than 72 years later, Richard remembers the brown paper bag delivered faithfully each week. “They were little things, but they meant so much.”  Richard credits his survival and remarkable recovery to caring friends, family and community and he will never forget all of the people that gave so much.  He gets emotional when he talks about his parents and his older brother, George.  “I only lived because my brother died.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have given me an iron lung – there weren’t enough.”  It’s hard to imagine what his parents went through and even with all of the difficulty that he and his family faced, he says, “We were lucky. We were very lucky.”

In this season of giving, joy and gratitude, remember that love, caring and creativity are precious. And sometimes your time and your presence are the best gifts of all.

Find ways to be a blessing.

Signs of the Times (& VW Vans)

These landmarks, signs and vans caught my eye on a recent trip to Austin.  My husband says that if I had my way I’d live in a VW van.  He may be right.

Johnny's Bike Shop.  Classic.

Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop. Classic.

What's Your Favorite?

What’s your favorite?

Hut's Hamburgers

Totally Austin

Totally Austin

Lucy's Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant

Where retired surfers go to eat

How to Attract Followers and Build a Blogging Community

Sending up a flare

Sending up a flare

“It’s kind of like, when you make a film, you’re on this ocean at night. It’s black. There’s nothing. And I’m out there in my little boat. I send up a flare, saying “these are my thoughts.”  And you discover there’s a lot of other people out there in their little life rafts, thinking ‘Oh! I’m not alone! These thoughts exist!'”  (Terry Gilliam on film making)

To me, that’s exactly what blogging is like.  Your goal may not be to broadcast wildly and attract the multitudes, but chances are good that you are blogging because you’d like to connect with others.  Otherwise, you’d probably be writing in your diary or keeping a private stash of your photos.

So how can you attract followers?  Even better, how can you build a community?  In the months that I’ve been blogging, I’ve learned everything from you!  I’m not an expert, but I’ve seen unique approaches and connected with some remarkable people and can only tell you what works in my opinion.  There’s no handbook but here are some lessons learned.

1.  The naming is the hardest part.  A name tells others about you and the purpose of your blog.  A good name should be clever and/or clear.  For example, More Than Bratwurst features great contemporary and traditional German recipes and FrugalFeeding is about eating well on a budget.

2.  It’s all About you.  The “About” section of your blog or Gravatar bio is an opportunity to tell about yourself and connect with others.  How would you describe yourself or your blog in a 140 character tweet?  The first blog I followed on WordPress was The Edmonton Tourist.  Why?  Because of her “About Me” that described the decision to become a tourist in her own life.  I was hooked.

3.  There’s someone for everyone.  There’s a 100% chance that someone will relate if you write about an interest or a challenge, or post a photo, travel story or poem.  Be authentic, be yourself and others will respond.  Ido Lanuel describes his journey from Combat Officer to journey to India to yoga practitioner and self-awareness writer and, at last count, 2,518 readers responded by liking his story.  It’s like The Secret for bloggers – whatever you focus on, you will attract (in the form of followers).

4.  Visuals aid.  It might go without saying, but readers are attracted to interesting visuals.  Posts with photos stand out when browsing the WordPress reader.

5.  The sense of Purpose.  Having a purpose helps you as a blogger and it helps others to find you.  Here are some common themes.

  • Travel.  Blogs can be better than a tour guide.  They’re up close and personal and you can see new places and old favorites through someone else’s eyes.  Have Bag, Will Travel takes readers on journeys around the world with wonderful descriptions and stunning photography, and with 416,708 hits, I’m not the only one who enjoys Andrew’s blog!  Everywhere Once details the story of full-time wanderers traveling the globe since 2010.
  • Food.  A constant source of inspiration, food blogs can teach you to make any type of cuisine.   Kiran’s Cooking Club is described as “Everyday Indian Food” which seems anything but ordinary to me and Vina’s Delicious Recipes has also introduced me to Bengali cuisine.  My Custard Pie has a very professional style and clearly conveys Sally’s passion for cooking.  Vegan, vegetarian, low-cal, Asian, Paleo…it’s all there!
  • Inspiration.  Some blogs are there just to inspire and to encourage readers, the writer or both.  Penny at The Why About This   brightens your day with inspiring thoughts and music.  No Fries for 365 is more physical kind of inspiration blog charting progress on a journey to fitness.
  • Craft.  Are you a crafter or a maker?  There’s sure to be plenty of material for you!  Sites like Pillows a la Mode, iMake and other DIY blogs are full of project inspiration.
  • Photography.  Photos can be a quick pick-me-up, a work of art, interesting, provocative or all of the above.  Mobius Faith specializes in urban photography, while others document travels or try their hand at landscapes or portraits.
  • Poetry and Writing.  Whether it’s haiku or a serial novel, writers like to share.  Rivers of the Heart and Another Wandering Soul create beautiful images with words and other writers share tips and success stories.
  • Lifestyle.  Bloggers share their experience of urban life, rural dwelling, retirement and other lifestyles.  Retiree Diary is written by a Hong Kong native sharing his adventures for the first time by blogging.  As Michael says, “I have never written anything. Pre-retirement, the only thing I need to write were emails.”
  • Challenges.  Some bloggers aim to help others through shared difficulty by writing about illness, loss, and other challenges.
  • Sharing Knowledge.  Writers like Thomas Cotterill share thoughts and philosophy and many others educate about every subject imaginable.
  • Blogging.  Bucket List Publications is an exciting site about adventure travel, but Lesley has an incredible amount of traffic (more than 10 million hits!) and is generous with tips and advice for other bloggers.     

6.  Active engagement.  The best way to find your tribe and build a community is through engagement and interaction.  Visit others, like posts, leave comments, give encouragement.  Share and give and good things will come back to you – in blogging and in life.

7.  Be a regular.  Write or post.  Period.

8.  Great content.  Write well, post great shots, share something of value and others will respond.