Blogging · Goals · Gratitude · My Books · My Thoughts · poetry

A Challenge for Thirty Days! Whew!

Man in rapids in a kayak - challenge

The Ultimate Blog Challenge, Day 30, is today and I have mixed feelings about its ending. I finished the challenge of writing a blog post every day in November, missing only one day—the first day because I didn’t know about it. A friend in my writing practice group told me about it long, long ago on November 2. So, I started that day and continued successfully until I had network issues one day and had to publish two blog posts the next day. The challenge also asked us to post links on our Facebook and Twitter pages, adding the hashtag #blogboost on Twitter. The next step: post on The Ultimate Blog Challenge Facebook page. Finally, read, comment and post on Twitter 1 – 2 other blogs in the Challenge.

What did I learn in this challenge?

I truly enjoyed writing a blog post every day. Because I had returned to Natalie Goldberg’s writing practice every day in March 2021, it came easier. I outlined topic themes for the four weeks at the beginning:

  1. Writing help—SWAG, doing successful interviews, how I select my blog topics and the value of writing groups
  2. Back Stories for each of my six books and three cookbooks—there’s always a story behind the story
  3. My poetry—I found a sketchbook/journal with several poems I had forgotten about and shared them
  4. Gratitude list & things I was grateful for—I shared about my recovery, key people from my life and my dear pets
  5. I chose two suggested prompts from the Ultimate Blog Challenge & then wrote about my newest adventure: audiobooks

Being organized at the beginning with this outline made the writing every day easy. I didn’t have to search for topics. Being new to this, I didn’t realize topics were provided every day. Also, I created a blog post page with the social media icons in it for each day to make life easier. Normally in my weekly blog posts, I love to add a couple pictures, but I found a wonderful plugin that reduces the size of the picture tremendously and that helps because I have a horribly slow network, and it made my life much easier.

My big take-away: I relearned how much I love to write and share my voice with the world.

What did I enjoy?

I thoroughly enjoyed my topics, especially my gratitude week. Coincidentally or not, the day I planned to write about my dear friend Kathi Raver Miller was the anniversary of her death. I savored each word.

Also, I took pleasure in reading the wonderful posts by the other participants. I learned so much and saw how others handled the challenge. Every blog post I read entertained, educated or consoled me! You can’t beat that!

What was a hassle?

I do my blog in wordpress.com, and it has so many helpful hints which have made me a better writer. But every day I went through the list of suggestions to tailor that post to have both green light (good) in SEO (Search engine optimization) and Readability. In the past, frequently, I have had problems with the Readability score because I write complex sentences. It suggests writing shorter sentences, so I worked hard this month and ended up with a lot of green lights for Readability—yahooo!

Also, my brother visited us for Thanksgiving, so I worked super hard Wednesday night and did two—for Wednesday and Thanksgiving. So, I all I had to do on the holiday after gorging on our delicious meal and watching nonstop football was clean it up and publish it and then do the required assignments!

Would I do it again?

Again, I have mixed feelings about it. It took a lot of work to do it, but the regularity of writing significant pieces every day rewarded me deeply. Yes, I think I would.

Finally,

do + dooubt - challenge

I never once doubted I would finish the challenge. I’m just that type of person. I love a wonderful challenge and couple that with one of my passions and it’s a win-win situation for sure!

What did you think? Did you like it? What was your favorite blog post of mine?


Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

STILL AVAILABLE! Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! If you liked my blog posts, you’ll love my books! 40% off of select Individual books, 40% off of select bundles and 50% off of digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

Dancing · family · Gratitude · My Thoughts

Lin Miller Tops My Gratitude List

Lin Miller in his kilt
Lin in his kilt

My gratitude list is long, but Lin Miller, my husband, tops it for people in my life. We just celebrated our tenth anniversary, and what a ride it has been!

We come from two full lives: a small town New Jersey boy and a country girl from Colorado. As a boy, he loved to hide in the swamp and watch people walk right past him in his favorite hiding place.

And he’s still a boy at heart! He starts each day with a song and a smile. Often, he and my cat, Jesse, have a “Meow-fest.” They go back and forth and back and forth—what fun!

Why I Appreciate Lin

Lin proposing to me, Christmas 2010.
Lin Proposing to me Christmas 2010
  1. Lin asked me to marry him on Christmas Day 2010 in front of my mom and Aunt Willie. I will never forget his thoughtfulness of including those two precious women. Amazingly, Mom snapped a picture of him and me when he went down on his knee—shocking!
  2. His outrageous sense of humor amuses me every day. Some days, I wake up a little down and out. His quick wit catches me by surprise and I feel a deep laugh escape, and my world view changes immediately. He sings rhyming ditties he makes up on the spot, so I kid him about being a poet and not knowing it. That’s a joke to him because he doesn’t like poetry.
  3. Lin majored in history at Rutgers University and sees himself as an amateur historian. He’s also a voracious reader. I love history and relish our conversations about historical figures. His hunger for knowledge challenges me to learn more about Stalin, Churchill and other historical figures. As he reads his current book, often he shares the latest tidbit. Lately he’s been reading about Johnny Unitas and filling me in on his life.
  4. If you’re a Facebook friend, you’ve seen Lin’s gorgeous garden. When we first got married, he had three rose plants. Now he has over thirty and so many other flowers! I admire his dedication to gardening with an emphasis on plants that support birds, bees and hummingbirds. The upshot of living with an enthusiastic gardener: every morning, I look out the window to such an array of beautiful colors and plants and the wonder it provides.
  5. I love dancing with Lin. Before we got together, he did some round dancing (cued ballroom dancing). Since he knew how much I loved it, we danced weekly with our round dance instructor, and he improved drastically. He’s a natural, so it came easily to him.
  6. In 2013, Lin volunteered to be president of our square dance club, Duke City Singles and Doubles, a failing club with twenty-seven members. Through his daring leadership, he rejuvenated it with fun activities and a commitment to greeting every dancer every Friday night at our dances. When he quit in 2018, the club had grown to 92 members—what a feat!
  7. Lin is a football fanatic—a Philadelphia Eagles fan his whole life. I love football—a Denver Broncos’ fan. He runs a football pool with his best friend that he encouraged me to join, and what a kick we have! We talk football a lot around here. He’s so considerate. There’s one older guy in the pool who has computer trouble, so he calls Lin every week on Wednesday night about 7:00 PM to give Lin his picks. Lin patiently records them for him, visits with him and has a couple of laughs with him.
Collage of Lin and Larada, 10th Anniverary, 2021
Our 10th Anniversary Photo Shoot, 2021

Finally,

In reality, the list could go on! I think you can see how special he is! I truly thank God every day for this man in my life who makes each day an adventure!

Who tops your gratitude list for people in your life? Why?

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! Individual books, bundles and digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

family · God · Gratitude · My Thoughts · Recovery · Thanksgiving

Try Gratitude—I Challenge You!

Gratitude tuns what we have into enough

Try gratitude! My challenge to you is to be grateful this week—about all the blessings of your life. Thanksgiving always makes me think of gratitude. But do you really know what gratitude is? Have we heard it connected to Thanksgiving so often, it’s lost its meaning?

Positive psychology defines gratitude in a way where scientists can measure its effects, and thus argue that gratitude is more than feeling thankful: it is a deeper appreciation for someone (or something) that produces longer lasting positivity.


https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-appreciation/

Gratitude changes people, attitudes and just about everything it comes into contact with! In recovery, I learned the power of gratitude. I often hear people comment about making a gratitude list. We have a phrase, an Attitude of Gratitude, I’ve heard often. For many, negativity supersedes positivity or gratitude habitually, so the habit has to be changed. And how to do you do that? Practice, practice, practice!

Gratitude Log

So, I created a Gratitude log to chart three things to be grateful for each day this week. Click here to download my Gratitude Log, and start today. It is a Word document, so you can record your list on your computer or tablet. Decide whether to do it in the morning or evening, then commit yourself to that time each day. Maybe put a reminder on your calendar on your phone or tablet.

Email Family Members and/or Friends

To go along with this log, if you are listing people, shoot them off an email. I provide a sample below. If that person doesn’t do email, drop a card in the mail. That would be a shock! Just imagine the double blessing it would be—to get mail from someone other than the ridiculous junk mail vendors and then to open it to a beautiful note about your thankfulness about him/her.

To make it easy for you this week, I know you’re busy, busy—copy this email and send it to people to brighten their holidays.

My Email Example

Dear (Name),

I have deemed this week to be Gratitude Week, and I wanted you to know you are on my list. As I focus on all the good things in my life, I think of you and here’s why:

  • Add one thing reason you are grateful for this person
  • Add one thing reason you are grateful for this person
  • Add one thing reason you are grateful for this person

Just know I love you dearly and felt like I needed to let you know. (Pass this email on to anyone and bless their day!)

My Gratitude for My Recovery & My God

Gratitude is the best attitude!

So, each day this week for the Ultimate Blog Challenge, I’m going to identify people, places and things I’ve grateful for.

My recovery, which led me back to my God, tops my gratitude list. After many years, I have been given, because of recovery, a life I could never had dreamed of. Because of recovery, I came back to a God of my understanding who blesses every day. I had turned my back on the God of my childhood and young adulthood for many years, but because recovery offered me a God I could work with, it all changed.

Finally,

I often need to add something to a holiday to ground me amid the insanity of our world. Being grateful always centers me once more as I head towards Thanksgiving and then Christmas.

So, can you join me in this challenge and be grateful this week? Email or write someone a note to let them know why you are grateful for them? Try it again next week and the week afterwards? What do you think? Let me know below.


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books!

Coronavirus · Dancing · Gratitude · My Thoughts · Recovery

Grateful Now? Why?

Grateful

Why grateful now? The coronavirus has ruined plans for most of 2020, and now threatens to affect Thanksgiving plans! Many have died or lost family or friends. Irreparable losses! Cancellations, shelter-in-place, a world turned upside down! Is gratitude even possible in 2020?

For me, gratitude changes everything, but I’m not talking about an unrealistic Pollyanna attitude. Gratitude is a paradigm shift—a fractional shift one direction or the other off of the coronavirus to a larger, more glorious world.

So why is gratitude important now? For me, it’s an attitude that changes my perspective. I can focus on the negative, an easy choice. So the chaos and horror of the pandemic take over, and I obsess about today’s totals. Seeing what’s wrong comes naturally. Gratitude asks me to dig deeper and take a different route. Personally, I’ve had minimal losses, yet it has taken its toll on me but nothing like many with gigantic losses.

So what’s the power of gratitude? I concentrate on the positive, what’s right with the world, what I love about my life and suddenly I feel different!

The best way to be grateful: write a gratitude list. I learned about this tool in recovery. How do you do that? List two, five, ten things I’ve grateful for. Start small and increase as you practice this. In doing this, I take the focus off the problem and celebrate the solution.

Gratitude list

On November 19, 2020 here’s my gratitude list:

1. My sobriety

2. My God

3. My husband, Lin

4. My brother, Bub

5. My health

6. My family

7. My friends

8. My cat, Jesse

9. Our family ranch

10. My love of dancing

Today I sit in the waiting room at my husband, Lin’s eye doctor. He sits in an adjacent room, having his second cataract surgery in a month or so. The success of the first one prepared him for today’s ordeal. His natural grateful spirit often shows me the power of gratitude for the seemingly small things. His positive attitude contributed to the success of the other surgery, so I know the same thankful attitude will affect the outcome of this one.

Okay, it’s your turn! For what are you grateful? If you name someone specifically, be sure and tell he/she made your gratitude list today! I’d love to hear what you are grateful for during these hard times.


~My other current blog post, “Poetic View: Nine Months Later,” faces life after nine months with the coronavirus pandemic.

Christmas · family · Gratitude · Memoirs · My Thoughts · Travel

A Christmas Memory–Sad & Precious!

My sick brother cut wood to sell!

It was in the late 1960’s. My Mom, Dad, teenage brother and I arrived in Poway, California for a special Christmas celebration. My brother-in-law had recently been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and the future was bleak. This was only the second time we’d traversed to California for Christmas, and this trip had such a mixture of emotion.

As newlyweds, my sister and her new husband and two stepchildren came to Colorado a couple years before and we had a enjoyable time getting acquainted with my sister’s new family. Being from the city, the children delighted in a trip to our ranch to cut down our Christmas tree, and they enjoyed a truly country Christmas with snow.

My new brother-in-law immediately started picking on me, and we bonded deeply even though he forced me to try cranberries–I had never tried this dish before. With his humor and persistent influence, I grew to love cranberries!

My sister knitted beautiful Christmas presents!

Sunny California appeared gloomy and heavy. The festive atmosphere of Christmas felt tinged with a deep sadness and fear. My sister greeted us warmly, knitting like a crazy woman–she shared with me that all of their gifts this year were knitted.

The man we saw on arrival was a shadow of the man we met a few short years ago. The disease had ravaged his body, and he had lost so much weight, his clothes hung loose and limp on his frame.

But his spirit of love and laughter prevailed. Mom tried her hand at making homemade pie crusts, forgetting the affect of being at sea level on a recipe usually done at 6100 feet above sea level. She clamored about the gooey mess she kept trying to roll out, and my brother-in-law teased unmercifully. As he ducked out of the kitchen with his latest quip, she slung the ball of dough at him, hitting him in the eye–a magnificent bull’s eye. Our laughter filled the kitchen with joy in the ridiculous.

Christmas Eve morning came, and my brother-in-law slipped into our bedroom and whispered his plan for the day to Mom and me, “I’m going to go sell some wood so I can buy my loving wife some Christmas presents. Don’t let her know where I’ve gone. Can you help me wrap the presents when I get home?”

Mom and I both choked back tears, nodding our heads.

The impact of my brother-in-law’s health had destroyed their finances. He hadn’t worked regularly in months; my sister had a good job, but she was so busy and overwhelmed being a caregiver, too. Living in the wooded area of Poway, he did cut wood whenever he could and sell it to make some extra money and to keep active–this was not his nature.

Christmas Eve day went by uneventful except for my sister’s repeated refrain, “Where is my husband? What is he doing?” Her distress weighed on me during the day, but I couldn’t ruin his surprise. She continued to knit on the last project she was trying to finish.

Daylight slowly faded into darkness. Mom and I exchanged worried glances all day–Dad, my sister and brother kept wondering about the where-about’s of my brother-in-law.

Mom and I went to the bedroom to talk about what we should do–it was dark. He had been gone for hours. What if something went wrong? Quietly he opened the door of our bedroom with a couple bags of gifts in hand. He looked exhausted but pleased with himself. 

We wrapped the small collection of gifts–all kitchen utensils for my sister. We placed the gifts under the tree, and my sister was contrite in her reaction to her husband’s day-long absence.

I  knew deep in my heart that this was the most precious exhibition of love and gifting I’d ever seen. His generosity and spirit graced the rest of that holiday.

Forty-some years ago, and it still bring a smile to my heart as I remember his mission of love and the true spirit of Christmas.

Have you had a Christmas like this–sweet and bittersweet at the same time? I’d love to hear your experiences!

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM ME TO YOU! I have posted something from my 3 books. Download a free Christmas story or poem from my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, for 25% off of two new bundles and 20% off of individual books–FREE SHIPPING! 

Blogging · Gratitude · Grief · My Thoughts

How Does Gratitude Work?

chicken close up dish food
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

Thanksgiving, 2018 has come and gone. Gratitude takes center stage on this holiday. People recite their gratitude list that day–post cute animations and beautiful memes on Facebook and then what?

Could year long gratitude change our world? Where’s the power in gratitude?

We all know people who are negative, focus on what’s bad and are complete “downers” to be around. They have no understanding of gratitude because a dark cloud hangs over their lives–everything is wrong. Then there are those whose world view is positive, see the silver lining in everything, and I want to be with them. They see life as an opportunity, a joy to live. What makes the difference?

I think the practice of gratitude does. If we only knew the deep workings inside of everyone we see. Each person I pass today is battling something–disease, relationship or work issues, and/or spiritual unrest–but this attitude of gratitude makes the difference. I know peaceful warriors with gigantic loss and pain overflowing with gratitude, so I’m convinced it’s not what happens to someone–it’s something else.

Gratitude grows out of a heart and soul that has a deep connection with a Higher Power–Something or Someone more powerful and more loving than my finite self. In that connection, the negativity and darkness that consumed me changes, dilutes, and evaporates in the presence and power of eternal Optimism.

Yes, I do believe that gratitude can change my world. The moment I turn to my God through a beautiful desert sunset, a belly laugh at a child’s innocence or a dance in my husband’s arms, the world is right and gratitude oozes out of every pore of my being.

Gratitude heals all those deep hurts in my wounded heart: I’m so thankful for the times with my Mom and Dad over the years, my monthly visits with my Aunt Willie and her precious dry sense of humor, and my weekly phone call visits with Marshall Flippo this last year. All of these are losses for sure, but my gratitude for the richness each brought into my life moves me beyond the hurt to the healing.

Make a daily gratitude list this year and see how your year goes. Get back to me next Thanksgiving and we will compare the results. Here’s to a grateful year!

affection appreciation decoration design
Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com


For what are you grateful? I’d love to hear your gratitude list.


Visit my web site for information about my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

Cyber Monday Specials at my Etsy Shop:  Larada’s Reading Loft