Always Hungry- new tricks to fill up.

I am going to resist starting this post out with a dick joke. Sort of. I have returned from Las Vegas and my very first blogging conference. I arrived home with full arms, heart and belly. In so many ways I was not hungry. A new feeling for me.

When I left I was nervous that I would feel lonely. Most of the conferences I have attended are a bit like high school flashbacks where you walk slowly into a ballroom waiting to bawl, holding your breakfast tray wondering which of these women who already have friends are going to pay as much attention to you as their pastries. Here the answer was all of them. It wasn’t just the welcoming women that made me feel like I was surrounded by family. It was my literal family too.

Thursday afternoon I ate a fish taco by the pool and thought about how much my boys would enjoy a swim. Both to reach out and to rub it in I sent the a picture of the turquoise water. Steve responded by booking tickets to Vegas. Five hours later I was sharing a bed with Leo feeling not at all alone.

The sponsors provided a ridiculous amount of shwag.

Never hungry at Bam
This is one 20th of the goodies. Please note the fun dip and vodka are mia.

My favorite, obviously, was the Tito’s vodka (they know me!) which is not pictured here because it didn’t make it to day two of the conference. Vibrant Nation, Cabot, John Hancock, Chicos,, and many more decided that this particular group of bloggers created enough of a media storm to get in front of us and get their products into our hands.

More important than the speakers and the sponsors were the writers themselves. I would tell you all about my new tribe, but Carol already did. On the first night I met Heather who lives twenty minutes from me and writes at Despite being a new-ish blogger she garnered my “fuck your husband post” 3,000+ hits by sharing it to the ridiculously funny Mommy drinks Wine and Swears facebook page. In addition to the thousands of hits, hundreds of twitter followers, and suitcase full of goodies I returned with 10 extra pounds. Sadly these pounds were not in my suitcase.

Hiking in Las Vegas
Filling themselves with something other than food.

While my family hiked canyons and scaled sphinxes I sat on my butt and ate. Pastries, donuts, pasta, potato chips, fries, and so so so many desserts. The resort had these tiny ball of sugar which were gold and silver leafed. Despite my love of savory food this bit of bling made the difference. Here is a dessert that I had for lunch. When I got on the scale it shouldn’t have surprised me that I was at my all time high. Unlike the last time I focused on being fat I did not find myself sinking under the weight of my weight.

Before I left Steve and I had made a plan. Today is our first day of phase 1 of eating plan from “Always Hungry.” For two weeks we will follow the recipes eating 50% fat, 25% protein and 25% carbs. Despite those odd numbers our shopping cart was FILLED with veggies. Breakfast today was meal one.

Always Hungry breakfastThis morning I am motivated by the women I spent the weekend with, the man I spend my life with, and me. The path to feeling full seems navigable. I am ready to give it a go. In eight weeks I hope that I can practice child’s pose and feel repose instead of my belly. I want to walk uphill without it feeling like I am carrying Sisyphus’ rock. I know that hunger comes from more than an empty belly.

I will not always be hungry. I feel ready to feel full of something other than food.


Comment Chameleon

AND it’s green for Saint Patricks day.

Here is the secret no one tells you about blogging. Logo, platform, hosting, brilliance, spelling…those are just the beginning. Writing? That is only the FREAKING middle. Getting your words out on the page doesn’t help you get the word out. You know what does? Reading. Commenting. Sharing. Reading. Sharing. Commenting. E. T. C. It can be tedious. It is certainly time consuming. But every once in a while it is terrific.

I’ve gathered a few of the comments I have left on other blogs this week. Some of these blogs are award winning, some are just beginning…but all of them either made me laugh or think or both. Go ahead…click some links. Thats how we get the word out about getting the words out.

Lee Gaitan ARP: Did I just read that you put shoulder pads on the positive list for the ’80s? Let me put on my mirrored florescent sunglasses and take a closer look.

ARP: If I invite my son to hang out with me and he says “in ten minutes” and forgets he finds me an hour later weeping. I am not the one weeping. He is. He can’t believe he forgot me. I try to soothe him but he is horrified with himself. Somehow he still feels love is fragile. Love isn’t fragile. In response to this post on Skinny and Single.

ARP: I love the idea of pro bono cosmetology. Maybe the practitioners can collect donations to save the yellow spotted ants.  In response to this post on Skipah’s Realm.

ARP: There is no script for mental illness. A life and a mind can’t simply follow a script. In response to this post on The Plagued Parent.

ARP: I think maybe you just blew your cleaning wad too early. In response to this post on established1975. As a bonus follow Sarah on Twitter. She is wicked funny.

ARP: I used to lament that as we got older there were fewer doors to walk through…at least compared to our 20s when everything was flung open wide and inviting. Now I appreciate the streamlined hallway with fewer distractions and more time to spend in each room inside. In response to this post on The Qwiet Muse.

ARP: What DOESN”T hold me back. I am a home-body. As I get older I get more afraid of heights, enclosed spaces, crowds, strong odors, and the unknown. In response to this post by Elena Peterson on Making Midlife Matter.

ARP: I like to have a $10 sandwich card in my wallet. In response to this post on Considerings.

ARP: Me: Your back hair looks like it is straps to a back pack. S: Well I do need to be able to carry stuff around in it. Me: I wish I could have some of your back hair for me thinning head hair. In response to this post on Boomer Haiku.

ARP: I think I might just hunker down with my kids… In response to this post on Living The Dream.

ARP: At some point this jewish mom had to deal not only with Santa and the Easter Bunny but also a creepy small green man who gets into mischief in our home. In response to this post on Thirsty Daddy.

ARP: I am writing a book called SLUT: Spit AND Swallow… In response to this post at Angrivated Mom.

I should probably get back to that book…the last comment I left reminded me that it existed. See the value of commenting?




What a long strange trip it’s been.

What I used to thing wool looked like.
What I used to thing wool looked like.

There is a fair chance that not a single one of you will weave through the trip I have below. It is my trip. But it is also my blog. There are times when I think I am writing about something personal and it seems to resonate with you…so I invite you to join me in the journey I took between 4pm and 2am yesterday/today.

At 4pm I watched Tim Urban’s TED talk. For those of you who don’t know or read the blog Wait But Why I offer you the gift insight, humor, and research in the form of that link. Such level of examination is rarely seen outside of graduate school. But before you think its all boring let me tell you that Tim is a major procrastinator, so his signature style of stick figure stream of consciousness lacks the pretension of the Phd.

I recommend the blog post on procrastination over the talk, but some of you are auditory learners so do whatever you wish.

Assuming that a fair number of you will never click that link allow me to bastardize it in a  too long paragraph. Tim’s TED talk was about procrastination. August Tim said yes to the talk that was set in the calendar for February. At the time August Tim had no idea how much he was screwing over January Tim. Life experience and a career catalyzed by illustrating and writing about procrastination might have given him a clue but August Tim was busy with stuff like ice cream. The Sept, Oct, November Tim’s were similarly engaged so the end of the year rolled around and  December Tim was PISSED off. He was the one that was supposed to be memorizing the talk to “Happy Birthday” level of familiarity (that shit takes TIME) but the talk hadn’t been written yet. Just when he was going to get down to business the instant gratification monkey showed up. (Now this is Tim’s image and isn’t the same analogy that I would use but damn would it take time to come up with my own.) In any case the monkey shows up and gets December Tim busy with all sorts of things in the dark Playground. He needs to use Google Earth to REALLY study India. Every inch of India needs to be reviewed from a birds eye of about 20 feet. The procrastinator knows that a deadline is looming, casting its ever growing shadow over the playground. Yet it isn’t until true career meltdown or major personal embarrassment is at stake that the panic monster wakes up and shuts down that monkey. Freed from the playground the procrastinator gets to work on his editing/thesis/TED talk. Then he miraculously gets it done in 3 /minutes/hours/days We all know that the quality of the work could have been so much better if he had started early…but…next time. The second half of the talk (which I could totally tell had been prepped and “memorized” two days before he took the stage) talked about a life of procrastination. This is distinctly different from a lifetime of procrastination. In a life of procrastination things are not in a dark playground, they are simply dark. There are no specific projects and deadlines to ignore…in fact the monkey/monster cycle comes as a bit of a break from full time procrastinating. Tim tells of thousands of readers that email him to describe their pain. Their shortcomings. Their total sense of worthlessness. These are the feelings they have when their instant gratification monkey takes a nap and leaves them awake and alone with their thoughts. That is a state that those of us with a procrastination life try to avoid.

From 4:30-5:00 I listened to a patriots podcast and matched numbers in another nail biting game of 2048 (6 x 6 survival mode.)

At 5:00  I ordered pizza to be delivered at 6:00 when Steve was due to return from skiing.

At 5:28 Oliver told me the pizza had arrived and he had signed for it.

At 5:28.35 I asked if he had tipped.

At 5:29 Oliver ran down the car before the delivery person drove away.

From 5:29- 5:32 we practiced figuring out 20% and enjoyed our dinner and each others’ company.

From 5:32- 5:50 we passed around a mechanical pencil and graph paper and sketched what we would want in our dream  media room. Oliver focused on proportion and drew what I am pretty sure was a set of midcentury modern Eames chairs. Leo drew an indoor trampoline. I sketched the chase for the heating.

At 5:50 the boys went to the playground (light) and I tried to keep from going to mine (dark.)

At 6:00 Steve came home from skiing and was so tired that we barely spoke. When I went upstairs to watch election coverage (reason we would benefit from a media room…I might choose to watch TV somewhere other than bed.)

At 6:05 Steve was in his PJs which on many days would have beaten me but I had put mine on at 4:00.

At 6:30 Oliver came into my room where I sat with the TV on election coverage, my phone on 2048 (6×6 survival mode) and my laptop open to Facebook. The monkey had me all set up without the need to think at all. Oliver said to me “I am really surprised that you like that game so much.” With GREAT effort I lifted my head from the screen to meet his blue eyes. “Like it?” What is this child talking about? Then I remembered that his life is not the dark playground and the things that he chooses to do are things that he likes. This seems incredible. In a life of virtual leisure I do very very few things I like. Which brings us back to the monkey. He doesn’t care if I like the distractions he throws at me. He just wants to keep me busy. I have dabbled in enough books on mindfulness, awareness, and the power of now to realize that all of this mind numbing screen time is designed to keep me from waking up to the world. For now I have to get the 2048 tile, then 4096 and on and on. I can explore that other stuff some other time.

From 6:30-7:15 we have a great time discussing inflation and our National Debt. That sentence may be the least believable one I have ever written but it is true. Leo has proposed a global currency chase where we print more dollars to pay back out debt then quickly change US currency so we don’t flood our own market. As soon as other counties catch on we can change again. I imagine field trips to the Denver Mint would be more exciting. Right now the best part is standing on the stair that is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level. Oliver is involved, trying to explain inflation using a gallon of milk (clearly not organic), but Leo is down his own rabbit hole designing coinage. Steve is contemplating all of us through the tired eyes of a day skiing. I wonder if they would like The Big Short.

From 7:15-9:00 We watch the voice. I continue to match numbers so really I just listen to the Voice. (Its a good show for that.) Actually I listen to Leo who keeps a constant patter going about how much he enjoys certain backstories (his term) how funny Blake is, his preference for Christina over Gwen (Christina can really sing, Gwen cares only about outfits which is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THE POINT OF THE SHOW (emphasis his)), and reviews of the battle round performances that are so stream of consciousness that I have to take his word for it because I can’t hear a single note of music. I can’t imagine where he gets that tendency.

By 10:00 everyone is asleep and I am lying in considering Tim’s talk while I work with my various screens. I am thinking specifically about the stuffed procrastination monkey which as a Patreon patron of Wait But Why I received as the most menacing holiday gift ever. Actually I was able to choose between he and the panic monster. But the panic monster scared the shit out of me so I picked the monkey and handed down Leo the gift of instant gratification. Which is an externalized representation of what I had already shared with him in genetic code. In any case I am thinking about the monkey and how for me he is no so much about keeping me from working as he is about keeping me from thinking.

By 1:00am I have an unfamiliar resolve. I’m going to take down that monkey. I’ll show him. I think. He can’t stop me from thinking. The fact that the monkey is me is not lost on my but I DECIDE not to think that. I send out this thought for consideration. I felt better after I wrote the post on drowning. True. That is a totally true statement. But I don’t FEEL the feeling  as I think the sentence. I have given myself that line to think the way I might script dialogue in the fiction I always imagine I will write. I realize how many of my thoughts are like that. Narrated lines. Sure they are in the first person but it has the feel of a movie made from a John Irving novel. The hapless character thinks she is living her life as she chooses, but only the narrator knows her motivations. I am the narrator. I insist to the John Irving monkey. “Just match your numbers sweetheart,” the monkey soothes, “spend a little time with the Patriots Podcast and unload the dishwasher. You like the dishes. They are so pretty. Or chips. What about potato chips? I bet you would like to get yourself some salty crispy chips.”

That asshole is so infantilizing. I think. This is not even close to the first time I have called myself an asshole. I am watching ELECTION coverage. I yell at him. That is something people in control of their lives do. “I was just going to say that.” The monkey answers. “Look at you, so together, watching election coverage after facilitating a conversation about inflation with your kids. What a grown up you are.” Why are you saying you? I ask the monkey. Wait. Why am I saying you? (Even if I don’t figure anything else out I might have uncovered the meaning behind the title of Tim Urban’s blog) You and I are the SAME. We are the SAME person. You are just a monkey because Tim drew you as a monkey and you are John Irving because he came from New England just like me. I am Anna Irving and I like bananas.  See? You can’t script what I think and distract me with shiny objects.

But of course the monkey me can. And almost all of the time does. Games on the iPad, walks with podcasts, falling asleep with the TV on. Monkey me limits the amount of time that I can think. And when the thoughts come they still seem to come as if they are composed.  I have often said (so often that it shows itself as the scripted line that it is) that I can only think through talking or writing. It might be that I only let myself think when I am talking or writing. I am protected by a meta level of reflection that keeps me from falling in. In the midst of being a narrating narrator I stumble across the line. Falling In. That wasn’t what I was supposed to think. Fuck thats scary. If I am afraid of falling in I decide it might be beneficial to give myself a push.

At 1:45 am I turn off the TV. I plug in my phone, watch, iPod, laptops (So many screens the monkey tells me waving his hands.) and set them on my bedside table. I lie back on my horrible pillow and wait to fall in. I am thinking about the Patriots trade. I take several breaths like I did at the zen center but I don’t actually want to silence all of my thoughts, just my monkey chatter.  I want to hear the rest of my thoughts and I even want to feel them. “NO YOU DON’T” screams the Irving monkey. “BANANA.” This time I don’t yell back. It’s OK. I’m going to be OK. And I am talking to myself this time not to monkeys and not to narrators. For a moment I approach a state of otherness like I am on the verge of sleep, a drug trip, or orgasm, about to lose control and I pull myself back up. This is scary. Yes. It is scary. I tell me. The monkey is away from this precipice jumping up and down screeching agin about the Patriots trade, they got rid of Chandler Jones for a second round pick. I wonder what the value of that pick is. Could we package it with another pick and get the first pick of the second round and tell Goddell to go to hell? Hey there. Let’s deal with that tomorrow. For once I am procrastinating the procrastinating. Come back to this. Lets see what you have been so afraid of. I edge closer, gently sending away thoughts of whether or not the kitchen light is on, what the traffic will be to get to volleyball, whether or not the new accountant emailed me back. WAIT. NOT. The new accountant did NOT email me back. I clearly need to deal with that. It is the ONLY responsible thing to do. But it is 1am so my only choices are sleep or check out that huge dark area beyond the cliff.

Cliff it is. I peer over and it is as if everything inverts. The earth that I was standing on is up at the sky and the sky is down here in the pit. It seems like if I fall I will be falling up. I am still on the edge, not sure whether to let go and I have a stomach turn like gravity is changing and I only think one word. This thought is different from the others. It comes from inside and out. It is not think like a line of dialogue but huge and wooly and it is the air I breathe. It is both full and empty and shocking and familiar. Everything is this word.


I scramble back, away from the word. I don’t want to feel how it can consume me. How it can be me. From back here on the earth it is less scary. It is weird even. I have a bountiful life. My father has died, some plans have never come to be, some money is gone but I have everything I need. And more. I have more than I need and even enough to share. The monkey looks at me mockingly.

Maybe I was wrong. But I know what I felt and I know how I act. The frantic academic life of my teens, the sex and drugs of my 20s, the six business start up and shut downs of my thirties, the comfort I can offer Volunteer boards, and Steve and friends and kids but never myself. The distraction of the mania and the defeat of the depression equally good at keeping me from spending any time with that wooly word. All of this scrambling and scrabbling to stay away from what? From where? This here? The monkey is jumpy again. “C’mon.” He says. “We are going to go play a game in this big comfortable bed over here.” “You don’t want to go there.” “You shouldn’t even look over there.” You can’t stop me. I tell him. You can’t stop me. I tell me. It is 2 am and I am going in.

This time my stomach doesn’t flip quite so much. I am surrounded but I am breathing fresh air. I am stroking the dark wool. It feel soft. I am soothing it. It’s OK I tell the part I am making smooth next to me. Somehow I know it is Leo. It is Leo at 4 years old afraid that he hasn’t been invited to the party he himself imagined. That’s alright I tell him. He squeezes my hand with too chubby fingers.. I am at my own table. There are treats. So many treats that I think it must be a trick and I start to feel sick looking at them. There are wings and fries and full on candy. There is nothing subtle on that table. Next to it is the vegetables. They don’t look very good either. You’ll still be here tomorrow I tell the treats. I am not telling you NO. I am telling you not now. They don’t talk back…they are food after all, but I guess that they understand because I feel less sick. Which doesn’t make me drawn to the vegetable table either. I am focusing on sending a breathe of air into my belly. Letting it draw my attention to my stomach. It is not screaming back at me. It is neither full nor empty.

Now I am at Thanksgiving with my father. He is alone at the table, too bright lights shining on the uncleared place settings with congealed gravy and picked over bones. “You left me here.” He tells me. His eyes are big, the anger that kept his engine running is gone. “I am alone.” I know dad. I answer. I’m sorry. And I do I leave him at his table and I feel sorry and so so sad. But it isn’t too much sad. It is not loss with a capital L.

Some of the wool is smooth from where I have been stroking it as I walk around. Beyond it tangled mountains rise up and I can hear distant crying. I can’t go there now. I haven’t made a pathway. I can only see the things right in front of me. I know there are Losses threatening far away. Losses of human rights, clean water, losses to big for me to name. My breathe is stuck. It is not going past my chest. There is no air going in. I stand still with the pain and then it passes. I roll my shoulders back but instead of focusing on stretching the tight muscles of my neck and scapula I send my attention to my breastbone. I don’t even recoil at the word breast like a ten year old. I lift up and out for the first time not thinking of my skeleton but of all of the fear I am holding there. The fear of impotency. The fear that I can’t fix things. The fear that makes me turn my shoulders and myself in. The part of me that needs 2048 to keep from thinking. It is simple. In this moment I know that. I am absolutely right. I can’t fix anything. I can’t change whatever is going on in those mountains over there. All I can do is stay right here with my eyes open, my chest open, and feel the fear and the failure. So I do. And it hurts. After a while I allow my eyes to close.  And then I sleep.

Make your blog go viral – 12 tools for the lazy blogger

I have never had a post go viral. So the first thing you can do as a lazy blogger is stop reading right now. Still, I have been blogging seriously for a year and have tripled my readership. I have regular gigs writing outside of my blog and make enough cash to offset all of the services that you see below. Particularly the free services.

  1. Headline analyzer
    I still haven’t nailed the headline

    Co Schedule Headline Analyzer.  I love puns. I love obscure shadowy references. But I also love traffic and shares. The tool I use to make sure my posts (for the most part) are optimized for clicks is Co-Schedule Headline analyzer. I enter my rough headline and scroll down for analysis. In a glance I know the type of headline I have chosen, the mix of words- power/emotion/ etc. It takes trial and error to improve my grade but in three or four minutes (faster than a Yugo) I can go from the red to the green. I have never scored 100. A girl can dream. Co-Schedule Headline Analyzer.

  2. Unsplash writer search
    Unsplash writer search

    Unsplash. I share this with a heavy heart. It is sort of like when you have an incredible baby sitter that makes your kids as happy as you about date night and you give his name to a friend. It is hard to share. I use Unsplash to illustrate almost every post I write. I’m sure they say it more poetically but I’ll sum it up as a simple site full of free high def images. You can use them anywhere for any reason without attribution. A few weeks ago I was generous enough to share this site with a small group of writers and one of those bitches talented ladies used some of my favorite images. I’m sure I will be just as understanding with all of you. Unsplash

  3. Buffer dashboard
    Look at all of those profiles in one place!

    Buffer.  I broke up with Hootsuite about a year ago. My relationship with Buffer has much less angst. It allows me to post to one or all of my profiles. It has an advance scheduler that I can view by the day or week or month. If I want to change the time it is drag and drop (so good, so easy.) Or I can allow Buffer to send out those things when they can get the most love. I can analyze the stats of my posts and simply click “re-buffer” to send things out again. If I want I can a/b test by changing up the call to action in the headline. It is a breeze. The only downside is that I have to have twitter going to read incoming tweets (unlike Hootsuite which has incoming streams as well as outgoing). I can’t imagine participating in social media without it. Wasn’t there some sort of headache remedy called “bufferine”? That can’t be a coincidence. Buffer.

  4. Blogging Anarchy facebook group
    Good tagline, right?

    Blogging Facebook Groups. There are 100s of groups. Maybe even thousands. At their worst they are time sucks. Frankly even at their best they take time. Some allow you to pimp your channels without real engagement, some have strict guidelines, some have bloggers with such specific niches it feels like an onion article, and some are a series of sales pitches. Yet there are a few special group that boost your traffic and build your relationships. My top three blogging facebook groups are. Blog Share Learn– BSL is robust and interactive with daily threads to share your own posts and additional opportunities to support your social media following. Bloppy Bloggers– BB is slightly quirky and always interactive with a small but super engaged group (and often humorous) writers. Blogging Anarchy– the name says it all. Do whatever you want. Post, don’t post. Share, don’t share. Comment, don’t comment. Despite (because of?) this attitude I have made some friends and followers from this new group of writers.

  5. Pinterest pin making service
    Look at those low low prices

    Pinterest Pin service. I found Katie in two (maybe even three?) of the above FB groups. She always had the best looking pins for pinterest and the traffic to match. Luckily for me (and you) she realized the rest of us needed her. For a super low price she will make you pins. I have opted for even more of her help and she re-organized my boards and even does some of my pinning for me using analytics to post to great group boards. My inbound clicks from Pinterest have gone from 2 a day to 65 a day. The best part is these readers have a 20% bounce rate. That is incredibly low. The pins have enough content to have interested them…so when they click to read more they actually want to read more. Additionally Pinterest, unlike other social media platforms is not time sensitive. Pins pay off long after they have been posted. Check out her services here.

  6. Beyond Your Blog logo
    You can’t quite see how much vital information is represented by this logo.

    Beyond Your Blog. This is the website that inspired me get my writing published outside of my blog. BYB has podcasts with editors from pretty much every publication you can think of explaining what they are looking for in a submission. BYB posts links to paid and free opportunities and has huge free lists of sites that accept syndicated content. All of these are arranged by topic area. Add to this anthologies and regular success stories and you have a place of inspiration and information. I can’t think of another site that combines all of the tools to make your words leap from your blog to the world wide web.   Start Here.

  7. Ad block stats
    9,000 clicks I didn’t have to make.

    Adblock. This chrome extension doesn’t actually help me get clicks on my blog. But it does keep me from throwing my laptop across the room from dealing with incessant pop ups so that allows me to continue writing. Which then allows me to continue posting. Which drives traffic to my site. Look at the 9,000+ clicks I didn’t have to make in the 3 weeks I have had Adblock installed. That probably equates to 100 eye rolls, 90 deep sighs, 10 screams of outrage, and at least 20 minutes of my life that I didn’t waste.

  8. Click to Tweet. Honestly this has probably brought me 28 clicks in the three months I have been using it. However it is a way to break of a block of text (which is always a good thing with you lazy readers) that might serve a function. [Tweet theme=”basic-white”]Click to Tweet: It takes about two seconds to add a tweet box and makes me feel like a pro. [/Tweet]
  9. Askimet stats
    I could watch Fletch. With commercials.

    Askimet. There was a time when I didn’t reply to comments on my blog. I know. I know. Blogging etiquette 101. The reason? The viagra ads. Its not that I don’t espouse a healthy sex life because I DO.  It’s just that the comments got lost in a sea of little blue pills. Or some less appropriate analogy. Askiment is a Word Press Plug in that seems to love viagra. It gobbles up all of those spam comments itself. Askimet.

  10. Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 4.01.31 PMSumome. Even though it looks like Sue me  Sumome is a free and super simple email subscriber plug in. You can customize the pop up to be more pretty and less annoying than most. I don’t sell anything so my subscriber list is worth $0 and 0 cents. Those of you who do though are supposed to value each email address at $1. I think I read once. Just ignore that last bit. Even though giving me your email doesn’t give me any actual cash it does send my posts to your inbox. Almost all of my subscribers read my posts. If I ever did sell anything stats say about 1% of them would buy it. So lets build our lists. Sumome.
  11. Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 4.18.21 PMMail Chimp. Sumome needs a friend. Its best friend happens to be a chimp. A mail chimp. This email tool is free (for most of us) and super easy to use. Plus you can look at a cute chimp logo. Mail Chimp. He is so little but so happy and see his hat? He will deliver your electronic letters for you.
  12. Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 4.23.45 PMTrello. Trello is a super flexible easy to use system for lists, assignments and more. I found Trello back when I was developing apps with a team (a cheap team) and we could watch each other accomplish what we needed to move a project forward. We could also watch each other forget steps and ignore the worst bits of the project. Used alone it is a way to track post ideas, add details and access all of the above from anywhere. Trello.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 2.21.05 PMTo reward those of you who made it all the way down here I will share my happy ending.

I now have a post that has gone viral. And no, it is not this one…yet.  This pin has sent me over 250,000 readers in a month.In fact I am such a basic user that I was never able to track down who to thank for all of that traffic. Scroll back on up to #5 above and for $5 you can be a lazy pinner with pins poised to go viral.

The headline analyzer told me it was a good headline. And I listened. I would not say that it is the best image I have on my author board. That thing is filled with bras and kittens. Yet somehow this is the one that took off.  Those are the sort of results that this lazy blogger loves.

Want to read more about boosting blog traffic? Here is a cheap book.



Totally off limits

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.22.51 AMI often think I have no filter.

There was the time I told my two year old about Hitler and he decided not to be Jewish. There was that other time I told my friend that her outfit wasn’t flattering and had six months of misery trying to sort that out. I wrote about my semi step father’s toe nails and almost alienated him. Whoops I might have done it again. I talk about money and sex. I told a friend about her boyfriend cheating and almost wiped out a 5 year relationship. The list goes on.

There is one subject that shows that I have a filter. I have not written about my husband’s family.

I am also not writing about them today.

When I read books on writing they all recommend pretending your family doesn’t read your work. I always interpreted that as allowing sex and drugs and bad language to fill your page if it wants to. Many people from my daily life and show up in my writing. Sometimes they are disguised, sometimes they gleam with the unique characteristics that make them easily identifiable. It is the hazard of befriending a writer.

Steve’s family didn’t choose me.  They didn’t choose to be revealed through my eyes, in my words. It is difficult to keep them off the page. I have done it for 12 years and I will do it for 12 more. Sometimes the window is open to observe all that goes on in another person’s life. And sometimes the window is shuttered and covered with vines. I’m not sure I have the tools to open it up and shed light into that room.

What about you fellow writers? Is there anything that is TOTALLY off limits? What do you think of my small slice of filter?

Top Six Ways We Annoy Ourselves and How to Change

  1. We care about whether or not we have clickable headlines. See above.  The mantra for building a following seems to start with great content, move on to clickable headlines and finish with sharable graphics. For years I have focused on the content. Every once in a while I put up a shitty list (ahem) and those get shared. Yet the posts where I leave a little bit of myself on the page are beloved only by my mother.
  2. We let our vegetables rot in the fridge. Even the local, organic, expensive life changing vegetables become black sludge if we ignore them long enough. I’ve found an easy fix for this. Next time you pull out the dripping bag stay with it over the sink, give yourself a soothing “aged organics” spa treatment by rubbing the slime on your hands. Lean in and inhale deeply for a slow count of three. Then exhale. Next time you will get those veggies into the compost before they rot. Or perhaps not bring them home at all. That would be the most efficient choice.
  3. We yell at our children to stop yelling. The volume in the house is increasing. Sometimes with excitement but more often of course they are fighting over screen time. Or seating. Or who owns the green pen. Or really anything at all. For a while we can breathe through the noise. Until finally the only thing left to do is to scream as loudly as they are. What do we scream? “STOP SCREAMING.” Now that is an effective message. Almost as useful as telling someone who is anxious to “relaaaaax.” How not to yell? Leave the house. Kick them out of the house. Get really really good headphones. Which you can buy easily. Isn’t paying for a solution better than thinking of one yourself?
  4. We ruin perfectly good words. I think of Pop Warner and that horrible catchy cheer “Be aggressive B-E aggressive.” Be Authentic. B-E authentic. Authenticity isn’t a writing style. It isn’t something we need cheerleading to find. Except in advertising where we might replace lies with truths (Volvos- they are boxy but they are good) we already are authentic. We are already ourselves. We can’t be anyone else. That is authentic. Also annoying… modifying unique (the most unique) it is binary. One of a kind or not. Using notorious as a synonym for famous. Other than the Notorious BIG people who are notorious have done something BAD. Authenticity requires nothing new. Unique stands alone. Notorious is being famous for being bad, not bad ass. [Tweet theme=”basic-white”]Notorious is being famous for being bad, not bad ass.[/Tweet]
  5. We do stuff that is bad for us, and avoid stuff that is good for us. Things we do do: inhale Lays potato chips, play candy crush, watch the Bachelorette, gossip, and covet Teslas.  Things we don’t do: go running, eat our veggies, meditate, read the canon, watch silent films, feel grateful for what we have. The fix? A desert island with native Kale and the complete set of these.
  6. We start theoretically short correspondence by telling everyone how short the correspondence will be. “Just a quick note to say…” As the reader of the “quick” note I shouldn’t know how to decrease the word count before I have gotten to the content. To fix this don’t write that.

You might not appreciate the post, but at least appreciate that I left off the animated gifs. I hear they increase traffic as well. But I have to stay authentic.

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Darth Vader shares the screen with Grumpy Cat
“Most shared image on the internet”

Present Tense

Don't say a word.
Don’t say a word.

There are times I feel younger than my age because of weird enthusiasms. Like when I lean in with glee to hear about a friends sexual interludes, or when I joke about nutsacks with my kids, and obviously when I pretend the pool cue is a tail and trot oddly around the game room.

Then there are times when I feel about 16 for more sickly reasons. I measure up my outfits against other moms at school pick up, I force myself to stay late at a party for fear I will miss something, and when I rebel against an assignment as if someone were trying to lure me into their basement and feed me only salad for the rest of my life. Or something equally terrifying.

In my early college years I walked around with perpetual writers block. I was surprised I could even move my body there were so many words stuck inside my head. I thought my condition was emanating from me like waves and wanted to warn people away from me for fear it was contagious.  They were magical creatures these other students who could do things like start writing, stop to pee or even go to the gym and then START AGAIN. What was this madness?

Since leaving school I have lived a life without assignments.

Any deadlines I have are self imposed. The work I do changes with the month and my mood. There are things I have started and finished, and many more I have started and stopped. Never to START AGAIN.

My wordpress blog dashboard is full of drafts. Probably a ratio of 4:1 to the posts I publish. My blogging style fits me.

  1. I write,
  2. I publish.
  3. There is no three.

I skip the hard part. The review and improvement. The changes small and large. The rules of grammar. The need to weave in a different perspective for a different day.

For the past year I have been sucking at writing a book. This thing is terrible. Unreadable. I have plugged away though, sometimes even reflecting and rewriting. Occasionally I add structure that might (in theory) make it understandable to someone other than me. One day I might do something with it. For now I am using it as practice, a place to experiment with voice, and even more so with a more disciplined version of writing. It is a story from my past. One I want and need to explore but it can come slowly. No has any expectations for a product. Not even me.

This month I got back into writing short form work. I have a spreadsheet where I track the things I submit. Some are syndicated versions of posts I have made public on my blog. Others are originals. In contrast to my larger project I am trying to write in the present tense. Which is presently making me tense.

Last week I sent a query letter to an editor at a The Good Men Project. In the body of the email I spat out a writing sample. It rolled out in a single sitting. I was pleased when she asked to publish that piece as is with just a title change. There is nothing better than writing something and never having to see it again. I wanted this piece to stay in the past.

This time I was wrong though. It got a fair amount of shares through their website and has been picked up by several other outlets for syndication. This is good. Except for the ways it is not good. It means I have had to reread the piece and realize (how could I not have known) that it set in the past and written in the past tense. Worse than that the longer life of this piece means I had to answer truthfully my mother in law’s question about the topic of my article (sex with her son. Except I just said sex. Which was slightly less horrifying.) It means a few other websites have approached me about writing for them. I realize that I should be putting this last one in the good list.

But I am like a sucky 16 year old so I won’t.

I reply politely and with fairly good grammar to each inquiry email. When they ask for a pitch I send a pitch. Guess what happens next?

They ask me to write what I told them I would write.

It turns out this is crushingly hard. I look at the listicle  one outlet has asked me to write. The entire thing was 80% finished in my reply email. I cut and pasted that to a word document. Were it has taunted me for two days. Who knew a chipper little list could be so angry.

“Finish me.”

“I don’t hear anything”

“Finish me.”

“I don’t even have the words to write you, how can you have the words to mock me?”

“Finish me.”

“Fuck you.”


This piece (like the other three I have agreed to write) was my idea and sport my deadline. That doesn’t seem to matter at all. I might as well be a college kid again, fighting against Psych and Poly Sci., kicking and screaming against the invisible force that wants to tie me down, limit my topics and my time.

It doesn’t seem to matter that that force is me.

My past on the page was not perfect and my present seems to be just as tense.

Giving In to Depression

I have been reading the local and international stories with sadness over recent suicides after long battles with depression.

I haven’t been writing or talking much about it. Ok I give.

Then I read this on a friends facebook wall:

Robin Williams was a great man. His death was disturbing. As We all grew up adoring his movies. The one thing he is not is a role model. A self inflicted death is selfish and cowardly. R I P mrs. Doubt fire

To which I quickly responded:

I think everyone can agree that suicide is not an end we would wish for. I’m glad to be able to interpret from your post that you have never suffered from mental illness. I have. Suicide is a choice made from the darkest most desperate place, and the individual should not be judged. Perhaps the society that keeps us from asking for and receiving the right kind of help. But not the person suffering. Great sympathy to an amazing man, and even more to the people he left behind.

But of course there is more.

I have been writing and talking about my depression for years. More years than this blog shows. I am in therapy, and have been medicated and re-medicated since 1998. For the entire calendar year of 2014 I have been stable. Good, even.

I know this will be temporary. I grow used to meds. I need to find new ones. This is a painful process that can take years. In retrospect I can tell that I spent 2011-2013 in a state of clinical depression. But it takes perspective. The kind of perspective I didn’t have then. It is a battle.

Here is one of the very best visual and literal descriptions of depression I have read. And here is her book if you want to support her and you should.

This is what I sound like when I am mildly depressed.

And this when I am coming out of a major patch.

But I cant link to a period of real despair. Because my fingers don’t work to type. And my brain doesn’t work to form words. And I go one breath at a time. Fuck the day hour or minute. I just need to take this next breath. And worry about the next one following. You know that commercial about “Where does depression hurt?” “Everywhere” Who does depression hurt? “Everyone” And you see a small child’s hand trying to comfort a mother who cant get off her stoop. That slays me every time. It hurts in my belly and my chest. My lungs dont open wide enough for a full breath, my diaphragm collapses with deoxygenation. My arms feel like flu noodles and my legs are too stiff to operate. Light hurts my eyes like a migraine.

My kids come visit me in the bed as if I were Debra whatever her name is who played Shirley Mclaine’s daughter in that cancer movie.

Depression is as insidious as cancer. But we don’t see it that way. We are pressured to hide the fact of depression. And that sends people away from treatment and care. Towards suffering. And sometimes directly to the thought that the only way to end this misery is to actually end it all.

And this brings me to the point that I want to make. That I feel obligated to make.

I have been writing about depression for years. Because I CAN.

I don’t have a job that I need to get to every day.
I don’t have a boss at a job from whom I need to hide my stigmatized condition.
I won’t sit in front of a hiring committee and hide a regular part of my life.
I don’t have future in laws who will talk their son out of marrying me.
I am out of the public eye. Very few people will judge my backslides.
I don’t have a fiance who will rethink blending his DNA with mine.
I don’t have parents who are afraid of me.
I don’t have to try to get into the USA on a visa.
I won’t have to wait for a public hospital bed in underfunded mental health wards.
I won’t get turned down for the best depression medication because I CAN prove that I have been treated with everything else.

I have money. I can pay for a private hospital. I can choose not to work. I am already married to someone who has taken this on in the “sickness and health” portion of our vows. I am an American citizen, so I don’t need to worry about crossing the border.

Does this make depression easy? No. It just makes me lucky. Really lucky that I get to talk about this and ask for help. I can be honest, because there is not much in my life that I need to be delicate about. That is not true for most people. Many people have school boards, employers, or family members that they try to shield from the reality of their condition. Which means at the time they are going down, when they still can exercise judgement, they let the opinions and needs of other people factor into their choices for asking for help and care. This is the most critical time, and it is when they are most alone.

Because I am outspoken about my disease I have heard the prejudice first hand. Here are some of the things I have heard:

-You are just bored. If you had anything to keep you busy you would not be depressed.
-You are fat. If you exercised you would not be depressed.
-It is self indulgent to be depressed. If you had to get up you would.
-I couldn’t hire you. You are so smart and have great ideas but I know you would never be able to follow through full time.

These are things that people look me in the eye and tell me. It is easy to imagine the sorts of things they think but don’t say. So this is why most of us hide it. Perhaps underneath we feel weak and fat and lazy too, that depression is a symptom of some fatal flaw. At its worst literally so.


I have not stopped the battle. I am here to write this. I am well medicated and in regular therapy. I consider working at therapy something to be proud of for anyone, depressed or not. Trying to understand ourselves and our patterns to become better partners or parents or co-workers should be lauded, not looked down upon.

Being depressed is not something that can be cured by taking a jog. A complex pattern of treatment and behavioral change can minimize the symptoms. But biochemically I will always be depressed and I will be on guard against its effects.

If you consider suicide cowardly then you are lucky enough not to have experienced the depression that can lead to it. We need it to lead other places first. To supportive workplaces and friends who speak out for us, and borders that allow us to cross into other countries. We need to have sponsors with stories that you can come out the other end. That darkness is not forever. We need survivors to speak out, and our society to listen without judgment.

Then maybe we will not give in.

giving in- thinking about suicide and depression


I woke up today, our last vacation day, without an agenda.

At dinner last night I was worried that Oliver would be running us around when his newly freckled face wrinkled and said he didn’t want out last day on the island to be a LAZY day.

“What would you like to do?” Steve and I asked him. Steve would be working so his question was amused, while mine held a bit of anxiety imagining drives to 90 degree mini golf courses and trips off island to visit his one Florida friend.

“Well, we should start with a cannonball contest in the pool and then dig in the sand, take a quick dip in the gulf, relax before lunch, make lunch at home, then pool, then gulf, then you know…” His voice trailed off.

So, like every other day here. Without the walk to the ice cream shop.

We were up late last night. Both boys had napped. Another hallmark of vacation. Sun, sand and saltwater make them sleepy in a way they can’t resist. Oliver napped right on me. It had been years since our skin blended in that kid nap sweaty stickiness. I laid for almost 90 minutes without moving him. It seemed possible that this would bet he very last time he napped on me. Although he calls himself a snuggly cuddler in reality his cuddles are quick and full of motion. He arranges himself with his pointy elbows and chin against you into just the right position, sighs with happiness and instantly breaks away. The cuddle is completely one sided. His exit often includes a skull grinding against my clavicle or a full force push up off of my shoulder. I’ve learns to lie still during these snuggles, any motion on my part sets him off immediately, like a neighbors cat who we have not quite tamed.

After 90 minutes of Oliver nap I had meditated and day dreamed, and mental listed and finally just needed to get up. I had composed a bit of a vacation blog post in my head and was planning to grab Steve’s laptop to check in on shelburbia for a bit before my literal return.

Leo intercepted me with a pool request so we took the torpedoes and continued our conquest of the “tippy bottom” of the pool. I had demonstrated the handstands and flips of my girlhood. Amazed at how incredibly dizzy the forward flip made me he argues strongly against any attempt at a backwards one. That was the one I loved though. I felt like I was of the water at his age, and that move had seemed particularly effortless. It had the bonus of slicking my hair back in a smooth sleek way that defied it look while dry.

So I showed him, and like I imagined he loved the hair do.

It was 15 minutes before sunset so we snapped a shot from the pool and got out much more quickly than other visits.

The boys were up until 11 last night and Steve and I much later. He successfully snuck out to work on the lanai (Florida parlance for screened porch) and I kept snoozing to the sound of cereal and iPads.

I finally got out of bed to the buzzing of my phone at 9. It was my mother on the train to work. She has been commuting between Manhattan and Boston, is about to wrap up the semester and hop the pond to give a talk in London. Her partner had his third stent procedure this past week. Although I had checked in after that and knew it went well I also knew this wasn’t an easy time for her.

So I answered.

Without caffeine.

My vacation mind set wasn’t an exact match to her commuting one. The call had a purpose.

“What is your plan with your blog?”

“I don’t have a plan. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do.”

“Well, you have to put something up there. You can’t just build an audience and then go literally silent.”

I paused. I had no answer. I mean, obviously I could do that. I had done that.

For such a simple and selfish (in the descriptive rather than judgemental sense) thing as a blog I have not figured out the rules. They are personal between writers and readers, but often unsaid. Many blogs I read begin with a promise of a weekly post and then drift into frequent apologies wondering where all the time has gone.

For a while I tried and mainly succeeded to post every day. Now I am not.

I don’t know about the deep meaning of the blog, or it’s functional schedule. It’s more of a pay as you play sort of thing.

Maybe the pool then the gulf, then the pool.

Ill be back here. I’m not sure if I will change the name or set a schedule or erase some of the categories. Maybe the gulf. And the pool.


I didn’t address this yesterday but it was clear to many of you that I broke my streak of posting at 58.

The first day I didn’t write I didn’t even realize it. I flew to Denver, drove around to see houses, had dinner with a friend and collapsed into bed without giving blogging a thought. If that had been it I would probably ask for a mulligan and just extend my goal by a single day.

However I chose not the write the next day. It felt just like that cheat day on a diet. You start with a small piece of toast and end up with a carton of ice cream in bed at 11:59pm. I mean, you could have turned it around, but then you probably wouldnt need to diet in the first place.

By you I mean me. I don’t think any of you need to diet.

So that second day. That day of choice where I chose not to write is the one that forces me to look more closely at my 100 day goal.

I felt a little fuzzy about the motivation behind it even as I began. I am still not totally clear. When I woke up Sunday and realized I hadn’t written I felt terrible. So that is a bit of information. After I passed day 50 I really started to think I could make it to 100. Choosing not to write the next day reaffirmed that I want to accomplish this goal. I want to be able to say that I did something difficult despite the bumps and uncertainties of life I finished something.

Now I need to determine what will feel like finishing. Which of these ideas sounds fair to you. If you can offer reasons that will be great. Reading your thinking will help me inform my own.

1. Start again today (or yesterday) at day 1 (or day 2.) This has the advantage of clearly accomplishing my goal. This has the disadvantage of being really really hard.

2. Create a formula for missed days, then add them to the end. 1 missed day = 2 extra posts. 2 missed days = 4 extra posts, where each day missed = 2, 7 or n posts. If I never miss a post again I will have to add 4 posts to the count to reach the goal. Has the advantage of helping me reach my goal. Has the disadvantage of approximating the day care experiment. Do you know that experiment? Parents were consistently late picking up their children from daycare. So in an effort to incentivize parents to be on time the daycare began charing $5 for every 10 minute interval that parents were late. The administration (and many researchers after the fact) were surprised to see late pick ups increase dramatically. Parents who had previously been on time began opting in on late pickup. There are lots of theories about this outcome but in general it boils down conforming to norms being a motivator…and putting a price on tardiness made it a legitimate option.

3. Just pick up and keep going until I get to 102. This has the advantage of being super easy. This is the disadvantage of taking the teeth out of the challenge.

What do you think?