Key to blogging longevity: Fingers on keyboard

You know that saying “if you want to get something done, ask a busy person”? It applies to writing and blogging, too, at least for me.

Busy bloggers write more.

That’s what I’ve learned from two blogging experiences this year.

I’ve had a spotty year in terms of daily blogging. I did a decent job of showing up regularly in January, May and November, but in the other nine months of the past year, I posted only 20 times, which is less than once a week.

Previous to 2016, I was a blogging fiend, and in eight years here, I’ve posted 1,934 times (for an annual average of 242). Not bad for a casual blogger.

In May of this year, after three months of poor work, I pledged to myself to post a blog entry every day.

And I did! Yay, me! But I realized I hadn’t written one word on the manuscript I was working on. So I promised myself I wouldn’t write a blog post unless I did at least a little work on my book (I guess I do a lot of self talk,  huh?).

Epic fail. I only wrote five entries from June to October.

So I made a new promise in November, which is when writers everywhere celebrate NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month. The stated goal is to get 50,000 words down on paper. Writers everywhere are racing to the finish Right. Now.

I figured if some people could write 50,000 words (or 1,666 a day), I could shoot to write something. Every. Day. No matter what.

As we say farewell to November, I accomplished my goal, writing 15,525 words this month (averaging more than 500 a day). Between this blog, my author blog and my photo organizing blog, I’ve posted every day. And I finished my work-in-progress manuscript and sent it off to my editor!

My success only proves Newton’s Law that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion and bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. My slothfulness this summer just cultivated more of the same, but my creative spark tended to stay lit when I fed the fire.

Admittedly, some days’ writing is better than others. But you know what they say: Eighty percent of success if showing up.

Here’s to showing up.

 

Travel Tuesday: Find evidence of intelligent life in Roswell, New Mexico

If you were a conspiracy theorist, you might think some clever marketer working for the tourism bureau in Roswell, New Mexico, cooked up the whole Area 51 incident in order to compel space nuts to visit an otherwise mundane town in the middle of the nowhere.

Nah … that’s crazy.

It much easier to swallow the theory that bug-eyed green aliens crash landed at a ranch near Roswell in 1947 and the whole incident was covered up by the U.S. military.

The UFO story certainly makes for interesting sight-seeing in Roswell, a town my Beloved and I visited earlier this year on our way through “nowhere.” It’s Travel Tuesday here on Minnesota Transplant, so let’s relive our reverie.

alien-straight-up

You’d be grumpy, too, if you traveled 50,ooo light years only to realize you forgot your pants.

We stayed two nights at the Town and Country RV & Mobile Home Park, and it was a perfectly respectable, uneventful visit. For a science fiction fan who likes her Star Trek with a side of X-Files, it was a little disappointing to see only stars in the wide open sky.

But not unexpected.

alien-museum

A space craft lands every hour at the UFO Museum.

The highlight of our visit, of course, was the International UFO Museum & Research Center, which is replete newspaper articles, photographs and tchotchkes of the close encounter kind. If you want to believe the story that aliens landed once landed there and the government covered it up, you’ll find plenty of evidence. If you want to believe it was just a weather balloon that inspired the crazies, you’ll find plenty of evidence of that, too.

You can even join the research center (I did) though I can’t find any evidence of that on the internet right now. Must be a cover-up of some sort (I’ve heard the system is rigged, so you never know).

Next door to the museum is an awesome little gift shop filled with photo opportunities around every corner (do flying saucers have corners?).

alien-area-51

Creepy place.

Alien Zone Area 51 is worth the price of admission (which as I recall was $3 a person, but don’t trust me — who knows what kind of alien lobotomy might have been performed on me while I slept).

alien-landing

These aliens are closer than they appear.

Enjoy a beer with an alien bartender, or perform an alien autopsy (I just realized autopsy is a seven-letter word; look out Scrabble fiends!). Just so we’re clear here, the beer bottles were empty and the scalpels had no blades.

 

alien-autopsy

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

We were having so much fun, we could hardly tear ourselves away. Even with supernatural rocket fuel.

alien-blast-off

Buckle up, buttercup. Prepare for launch.

We found a couple of T-shirts we couldn’t leave town without (and believe me, there are as many T-shirt shops as there are ufologists on Main Street). Roswell is also known for a specific green chile sometimes  called Hatch chiles. We picked up an ocean of canned Hatch chiles at the local grocery story and made some kick-butt posole soup, which isn’t the worst sort of souvenir.

Glory be

While the secular world recovered from a Thanksgiving dinner-induced food coma and then leapt loopily into Black Friday-Small Business Saturday-Cyber Monday (which for many overeager online retailers began on Friday), Christians rang in a new year.

Today is the first Sunday of the liturgical year which is to say the First Sunday in Advent.

Advent is the run-up to Christmas, a liminal season of expectation. But to describe it only as a time of waiting sells Advent short, just as the days between Thanksgiving and Dec. 25 are more than simply an out-of-breath sprint to be endured.

For me, it’s not this time of year without spending some time in church. Sitting (and standing and singing and praying) through a worship service slows down time.

This is not a post about why you should go to church. That’s your call. This is a post about why I go to church. For me, Advent is the best time of year to spend some time in church, to be observant to the reason for the season. Christmas is all crowds and traditional-in-the-extreme music (let’s just say I’m not a fan of “Silent Night, Holy Night”). Lent, too, is a run-up season, preparing Christians for Easter, but Lent and Easter are solemn. The messages are heavy on crucifixion and death (yes, and rising again, I know, but rising from the tomb).

Advent, though, is news about pregnancy and babies and angels and birthdays. (That Advent also coincides with the countdown to my own birthday is just happy coincidence.)

I went to Mass last night for the first time in years, maybe even a decade. It was a beautiful quiet service in an enormous church where hundreds of people were doing the same thing I was — celebrating the new church year. I was reminded how lovely is the ritual of Mass, so familiar and universal.

I was once Catholic, but when I got divorced, I reverted to my origin religion, Lutheran. A week ago, I read the scripture lessons for the last time at the Lutheran church where I am a member. I resigned my position as reader in anticipation of moving away. Coincidentally, it was also the last Sunday of the church year.

Serendipity.

I kind of felt like I was throwing off the bonds of responsibility and the old year and the old way of worshiping all at once. Celebrating the new Christian year for me meant Mass in a big, beautiful church. Which is how I found myself last night in church I’d never been in before soaking up Bible readings about waiting and preparation and expectation.

It is the perfect message on which to meditate for a woman waiting (and waiting) to sell her house.

Advent is not an empty time, I was reminded. It is a season of fullness. Because preparing is just as meaningful as celebrating. Anticipation should be as joy-filled as the hullabaloo for which we’re waiting.

Pondering Advent and the imminent celebration of the birth of Christ, I was reminded of a scene I appreciated earlier this year.

nativity-facade

This is the Nativity Façade at the Sagrada Familia, aka the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family in Barcelona, Spain. The church was designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. The structure is so elaborate, it has been under construction since 1882 and remains incomplete. This is the entryway to the church, and I snapped this picture when I had the opportunity to tour it in June. As you might expect, the Nativity Façade is dedicated to the birth of Jesus.

A single figure is itself a fantastic sculpture, and here there are hundreds of them. But let’s look at the central point of interest there, right above the two doorways of entry.

nativity

You can see Jesus surrounded by his mother Mary and Joseph. Check out those two faces peeking around the corners — an oxen and a donkey. Kind of cute, if you ask me. Carved into stone above Joseph’s head are the words “Gloria in excelsis Deo” (you can read Deo clearly in this closeup). That’s Latin for “Glory to God in the highest.”

This sculptured wall is the entryway to the church (inside is entirely amazing experience in itself). But before you even get inside to see it (and, presumably, participate in Mass), this enormous highly detailed art greets you. You could spend days gazing at each sculpture, taking in the meaning, and you’re still outside the building.

That’s Advent. Days of detail, building up to the threshold of Christmas.

Don’t wish it away. Soak it in.

Time for some peace and quiet

“You know, I’ve always thought that technology could solve almost any problem. It enhances the quality of our lives. Lets us to travel across the galaxy. It even gave me my vision. But sometimes, you just have to turn it all off. Even the gypsy violins.”

Uttered by Lt. Geordi LaForge in one of my favorite all-time favorite episodes of Star Trek: Next Generation, “Booby Trap.” Because sometimes the best offense is just letting go.

[Thanks, BBC America, for that Saturday night distraction.]

Frolicking

I wore my hooded down parka today to spend a couple of hours moving junk around the garage today (or supervising the movement thereof).

There’s nothing as bad as trying to pack up the miscellany of a garage. It’s all strangely shaped or heavier than iron (because it is iron) or filled with toxic or flammable chemicals. How do you pack that?

And we’re experiencing winter temperatures for the first time in, well, a season, so there’s that. Ahem.

Fun times.

All is not lost, however. Later, as I was digging through 700 photos I took last summer while on an epic European family vacation looking for the perfect one for my holiday cards, I ran across this beauty. And I thought I’d share. Because readers in the northern hemisphere who were shopping today (or moving the stuff they’d once purchased around the garage), might enjoy it.

beachy

Ahh, the Croatian coast. In June. Lovely.

The recipe for a Thankgiving prayer that rocks

Stood in line with your 17-pound turkey at the grocery store? Looked up the recipe for green bean casserole? Hauled up your extra chairs from the basement?

I hope, at this point on Thanksgiving week, you’ve done all this and started thawing your turkey in the fridge at least three days ago.

 

I’ve done all these things in anticipation of the nine people I expect to gather around my Thanksgiving table tomorrow. And now I’m thinking about the purpose of the day.

If you have any interest in praying or God at all, you surely must say a prayer at Thanksgiving. It is, after all, a holiday about giving thanks. Even if you’re not the sort to thank a god, a verbal message of thanks for all to hear is good for, well if not your soul, then your well-being. Gratitude is good.

Have you given any thought to the blessing you want to share around the table? A lot of books and Bibles have perfectly acceptable prayers to say together, if you like, but I like personalizing the prayer. Here’s an outline:

  • Thank the people who gather around your table. Missing someone? Remember them.
  • Acknowledge the sources of your meal (and be thankful you didn’t have to make the ultimate sacrifice).
  • Thank the cooks who prepared the food and, be proactive, thank the people who will help clean up.
  • If you’re spiritual, here’s where you can thank God (in whatever form He or She takes for you).
  • Wrap it up. Amen is a good word. I once heard it meant “I can put my tent stake in that,” which is a powerful statement from a culture of nomads who preferred driving camels to driving tent stakes. Choosing to stay in one place was against their nature, so “I can put my tent stake in that” was a real statement of certainty and approval.

Here’s how it might look:

Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to give thanks. [Hold hands or bow your heads or whatever works in your tribe.] We are thankful to be together around this table on this Thanksgiving Day. We are missing Uncle Wally but we’re thinking of him fondly. We are thankful for the rain and sunshine required to grow this abundance of food and we’re thankful to the turkey who made the ultimate sacrifice to create our table centerpiece. We are thankful to the cooks who toiled to prepare this amazing meal (especially Nina for the pies) and we are thankful to the servant-hearted guests who will help clean it all up later. And finally, we are thankful to God in heaven who makes all these blessings possible. Thanks be to God. Amen.

It doesn’t have to rhyme, it doesn’t have to be recited perfectly and it doesn’t have to be long. Good luck. Have a grateful day.

Travel Tuesday pays a visit to the heart of the Old West

It’s Travel Tuesday, and today we’re going west, young man (and young women, too — we’re all young, right, ‘cuz we ain’t dead yet).

We’re visiting a town named for the furniture in a cemetery, but it’s not as dark as it sounds. Tombstone is off the beaten track — 25 miles south of Interstate 10 in southern Arizona. Unlike the cemetery, you only end up there on purpose because there’s no reason to be near enough on accident. It’s on the way to nowhere.

My Beloved and I visited Tombstone this spring on our way home from Yuma, Arizona (Hampshire residents, please don’t take offense at the proximity between “on the way to nowhere” and “on our way home”). If you’ve heard of it, it’s because of the O.K. Corral. Or the frozen pizza. Or possibly the 1993 movie starring Val Kilmer (sigh). But probably it’s the O.K. Corral, site of the legendary shootout featuring the brothers Earp against a gang of cowboys-cum-thieves.

Tombstone earns its tagline the hard way: By living it. The tagline? The town too tough to die.

tombstone

I enjoyed this sign on the nature of politicians posted at the entryway of one of the shops along Allen Street. Some things never change, I guess.

Tombstone today looks very much like it did in the 1880s, complete with wooden sidewalks and plenty of period tourist attractions with modern-day prices like old-time photo shops, stage-coach rides and shooting galleries. We skipped the daily re-enactment of the shootout at the O.K. Corral, but as a former newspaper reporter, I really enjoyed the Tombstone Epitaph Museum (the Tombstone Epitaph — isn’t that a great name for the local newspaper?). The bar food and live music at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon was worth a stop, too.

We camped at the nearby Tombstone RV Park & Campground, set in the middle of the desert. Watch for cactus, creosote bushes and other prickly native flora (but the sunsets were nice). The town of Tombstone got its name from the desert geology that gives rise to these dry-hardy plants. Founder Ed Schieffelin was scouting the area for valuable ore samples, and his buddies told him, “Better take your coffin with you; you will find your tombstone there, and nothing else.”

When he found a silver vein and filed a claim,  he named his stake Tombstone.