Spring Forward, Look Back

Spring is a time of hope, when promises unfold and the world is fresh and green. It’s also the time when I reflect on life-changing milestones and special memories.

Every April, I celebrate the evening that I reluctantly attended a barn dance outside Lawrence, Kansas and met my future husband. I also remember the time, four years later (to the day) when he defended his thesis and we prepared for our move to the Netherlands (the next day!). An overwhelming cascade of memories mark the flight to Holland, arriving in that unfamiliar village that would become home, and meeting a friend who would instantly become family. I also think of young daughters searching excitedly for brightly colored Easter eggs hidden among the daffodils or scattered throughout the house.

It was quiet this year, and a college visit took the place of the traditional Easter egg hunt.

My friend sent photos of her home – a beautiful farm in Holland, ready for friends and family sharing a festive holiday brunch.

Image

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Mothering

We have mothers, we are mothers, we’re connected no matter where or when by the common experience of mothering or being cared for.  I’m thankful for a mother whose love, acceptance, creativity, sense of humor and encouragement shaped me as a person and a parent.  And the joy that motherhood has brought me for all of these years leaves me lost for words.

I’ll just show you what I mean.

Mom and Grandmother

Mom and Grandmama

Me and Grandmother

Me and Grandmama

Young Family

Young Family

Me and Mom

Me and Mom

By 25 my mom had three!

By 25 my mom had three!

My mom and sister

My mom and sister

3 Generations

3 Generations

Long Day

Long Day

Family Portrait

Family Portrait

Words Escape Me

laundry line

Sometimes,

I feel like working in silence.

Kneading bread dough,

painting walls,

pulling weeds with the sunshine on my back.

fence

Here are some images from a walk around the block in historic Richmond on a quiet afternoon.

 

wringer

Richmond oaks

Winter in Texas

It’s December in Texas and you’d never know that the end of the world and fiscal cliffs were looming just ahead.  No dark days or doom and gloom here – it’s actually pretty bearable.  However, if you haven’t experienced winter in Texas, be prepared for hardship. Tea is good for those days when the temps plunge below 70 and always be ready to dig out the long pants.  Brrrrr….

Cup of tea?

winter footwear

changing leaves

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.

10 Tips for a DIY Photo Safari

One fine Saturday morning I grabbed the camera and the husband and decided to go on a local DIY photo safari in downtown Houston. It was fun to experiment and to see the city with a different perspective.

Here are some tips for a fun excursion and a few pics from the outing.

1. DIY = Do It Yourself. Although it is great to take a class and learn from the experts, it’s ok to experiment on your own! A digital camera is very forgiving. Just have fun with it.

2. Charge your battery or bring a spare. It was painful to run out of juice a short time after starting so unfortunately I have a limited number of pictures this time.

3. An open and curious mind can create the most interesting shots. See the beauty in unusual places. Sometimes an abandoned building can hold as much promise as a garden.

4. Be respectful. Being in a crowd is an advantage when taking anonymous photos of others. If it’s a one-on-one situation, it’s considerate to ask permission.

5. Look for contrast. A bit of green in an urban setting. Young and old. Old and new. Differences add creative tension and interest.

6. Be aware of the lighting. Buildings look good in the sunshine. People look better in the shade.

7. Change your position and line of sight. Instead of the usual dead-on shot, look up, try kneeling, climb some stairs. Different angles and positions give you and the viewer a whole new perspective.

8. Zoom in to capture texture and look for patterns.

9. Photographers, artists and designers use the “rule of thirds.” Imagine that your viewfinder is divided into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, and place your subject where the lines intersect for a more pleasing composition.

10. Focus on the entire frame – not just your subject. Pay attention to objects in the background that may be distracting.