2018 A New Beginning

I used to be a runner. In high school, I joined the track team because I thought I was pretty fast. My teammates and competitors proved me wrong, but I learned a lot about racing. Life isn’t a race, but years have a cycle to them. When you cross that starting point to go another round, something happens.

The New Year brings reflection and direction. I think about how far I’ve come – and where I want to be. How do I move forward? If you’re like me, you want to make every step count.

I’ve tried (and failed) at New Year’s resolutions before. This year I got some different advice that’s significant enough to share. It sounds simple, potentially powerful, and effectively fail-proof.

Instead of a resolution, choose a word.

The word can be “chill” or “declutter” or “grace” – whatever resonates with you and lines up with your goals for 2018. When you get tired or stuck spinning on your track, use the word (choose a positive word people!) to keep you moving and power through.

Are you wondering what my word is?

You know, I haven’t completely decided, but I’m considering “try”. I took some pretty big chances in 2017 (learn about my amazing trip from Bluehost) and the adventure wouldn’t be in my story if I hadn’t tried. I met incredible people over the course of the year, did some wacky art, and sewed seeds that may still bloom in 2018.

Friends, I might be addicted to trying.

Thank you for sticking with me as we invent our stories together. What creative/innovative dream are you going to try this year? Let me know because I would love to encourage you.

 

I hope a good word helps! But no matter what, keep inventing your story.

 

 

 

 

WordCamp with Bluehost: The Gift of a Lifetime

We’re in the middle of “the giving season” and there’s nothing like receiving a gift and wondering what’s inside. Some gifts go beyond your wildest expectations. The WordCamp giveaway that Bluehost chose to send me to was one of those. This life-changing event started with some extraordinary people.
I wish I could introduce you to everyone at Bluehost. Their team was energetic, fun, kind, and genuine. From hugs-at-first-meeting to side-splitting laughs on the way to the after party (at the amazing Science Adventure Center) I felt like family with the crew, and I couldn’t be more thankful for them.

WordCamp itself: incredible. The Music City Center was as unique as it was grand. Over 1,000 people with different specialties, passions, and skills came together for the WordPress global community event. I met so many individuals committed to sharing their strengths to make WordPress the exceptional organization that it is.
 
My catch-phrase for the weekend: “I’m new.” I didn’t go to school for website development. I’ve loved blogging on WordPress, but I’m not a techie guru. I had a lot of questions, and not one of them was met with an eye-roll or deep sigh. People were not only excited share their expertise and opinion, many of them wanted to keep in touch. One girl explained to me (after an awesome Nashville hot chicken lunch with her group) that it’s “the WordPress way.”
 
The speakers and variety of topics covered at WordCamp were so vast, I really don’t know how to narrow down the focus. I learned about how to run a successful online business, create a financial forecast, use great tools and plug-ins, share my story online, about Gutenberg (a revolutionary project WordPress is working hard to complete) and many of the things developers troubleshoot and innovate to make everything run well. It’s an intense amount of work! Another cool thing was…
Everyone could help. The final day of the conference was “Contributor’s Day.” Anyone could go, join a team, pitch in if you wanted to. I sat with a team to learn the ropes, and I found a typo! I know it’s a small contribution, but I enjoyed being a part of making something great even better.
 
I was thinking about my original post tonight; about why I wanted Bluehost to send me to WordCamp. I wanted to take a new step – the next step with inventing my story. And I wanted to encourage others to do the same. On my trip, I discovered through talking with people about their stories that I am not alone.
 
The Bluehost team, every Uber driver I met in Nashville, real techie gurus, moms, dads, authors, speakers, CEO’s, and even a nurse practitioner dedicated to ending cancer – there are many people in the world with stories full of hope and invention. When we grow & work together, amazing things truly happen every day. Thank you, Bluehost for the gift of a lifetime.
 
My challenge to you this week is give the gift of a listening ear to someone else’s story – then encourage them on their way! And check out Bluehost if you are looking for an awesome web hosting company. They partner with WordPress, and they have made a huge difference in my life story.
 
Keep inventing your story, and Merry Christmas!

Dreams Do Come True – Thank You Bluehost

Grab your guitars y’all – we are going to Nashville, Tennessee!

Bluehost was true to their word. I took the challenge to enter their WordCamp US 2017 Giveaway on my last blog post – and I still don’t believe it, but I won!

I’m so excited (and amazed!) at this incredible gift. Here’s the low-down on how generous they’ve been with this giveaway:

  • A roundtrip flight to Nashville, TN
  • 4-night stay in a hotel
  • WordCamp backpack full of essentials for WordCamp ($150 value)
  • 1 entry ticket to WordCamp US
  • One $250 gift card for expenses during WordCamp US

YEE-HAW!

I feel like you can move my life into the fiction section of the library now. Seriously! Did this really happen? Yes, it did. Can it happen for you too? Keep stepping in the direction of your dreams and yes! Doors will open up for you. Keep inventing your story!

What is WordCamp anyway?

WordCamp is a community organized event that connects WordPress enthusiasts from all over. At the conference, speakers empower and equip attendees to grow in excellence and expand horizons. It’s a fantastic way to connect with cool, motivated people who make a difference every day. I’ve never been there before, and I can’t wait to soak it all in.

If you want to kick it up in Nashville with WordPress & Bluehost, follow their blog like I did, and stay up-to-date on what they’re doing. It’s a fantastic resource for anyone with a website. And you can still sign-up for this year’s conference. If you come, I would love to meet you!

I will definitely share more of my story with you as everything at WordCamp gets rolling. So far, in my excited flurry to connect with them, I accidentally gave them the wrong phone number to contact me! Bluehost couldn’t be cooler, and I am just thanking God that I get to hang out with them in a few weeks.

In the meantime, thank you for journeying with me.  I want to hear your success stories too, so we can celebrate together. What has been a catalyst in your story so far?

 

Happy Inventing!

Bluehost WordCamp Giveaway

For all of my readers out there, this post is going to be a little bit different. I’ve started to switch my website (currently hosted by WordPress) over to a Bluehost account (which partners with WordPress) to expand what I am able to control on my site. Bluehost is offering a free trip to their WordCamp Conference in Nashville, and the way to enter is to write a blog post about why they should pick you.

I’m excited about this opportunity because I don’t want to be a regular business. Or a regular author. Or regular in any way except how I like my coffee in the morning. The reason I chose Bluehost is because I want to take my website/web business to the next level. The reason they should choose me is I have a vision for my website, and I want to partner with Bluehost.

When I launched my site about a year ago, I was compelled to write about invention because I believe the concept of invention is universally valuable. The recorded history of mankind is inspired and thrust forward by men and women who share this zeal. The pursuit of the wonders that can discovered when people fuse new ideas with strong existing foundations is an adventure worth taking.

If chosen, my goal in Nashville will be to learn, share, and go to the next level with Bluehost. Whether or not I am selected as the winner, I would like to recommend it to anyone in a similar place in their business. You can learn more about WordCamp here. I received an entry into the Bluehost WordCamp US Giveaway for writing this post.

Also for my readers: what do you want to take to the next level in your story? Don’t let anything hold you back. Figure out the first step you need to take to get there, and take it.

Invent your story!

The Trick of the Time Sheet

Keeping a time sheet sounds like a needless, stifling, and altogether gross task that could shift your creative writing focus and undermine your inner artist. I avoided this devil for a long time. After all, as long as you write to the best of your ability, why would it matter how long it takes?

It matters.

Time is important. A book may take 6 months or 6 years to complete depending on the amount of time you invest into researching and writing it. But you won’t know how much time you actually invested in it if you don’t keep track. A time sheet may not change how long it takes to complete your work, but it will make you a more informed writer.

And information is motivating.

Say a project takes 8 hours to complete. (This is something you won’t know, by the way, if you don’t keep track.) You have the option to tackle it in different ways:

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This example is not entirely fair. You will not get the exact same results if you write for an hour at a time or 4 hours at a time. But creating a time sheet to track your writing will help you begin to see patterns, find your rhythm, and enjoy your craft.

It can also motivate you to keep writing. You will have proof each day that you are moving forward and your work is not sitting on the shelf. If you don’t have an editor, agent, or publisher in your life (and honestly, even if you do) you don’t have someone waking you up in the morning telling you to write. You need to make the choice for yourself.

Keeping on track as a writer can be challenging. You have to be the boss and the worker bee at the same time. I don’t know of a business out there that doesn’t track the time their workers put into each day because time is valuable.

As you invent your story, keep track of the time you invest in it. You, your time, and your story are worth the effort. Using this tool may streamline your writing to be more efficient and effective, but I think the most rewarding part is the ability to look back one day and see how far you’ve come.

Happy Writing!

 

When Inventions Break

What do you do when something you care for breaks? If your 18-year-old vehicle needs a new transmission, is it “broken” or does it just need another new part? Or say you find a hole in a favorite shirt. Is it trash now? A work shirt? Or still a regular shirt, just with “personality”?

I’ve never been one to enjoy throwing things away. There’s a certain sadness to it.

Like “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. There are many layers to that story, but one noteworthy angle is the tree is very useful. Even when it’s down to a stump, a stump still has value. I love that story with all my heart.

But there is a point in life where you can get stumped if you don’t embrace change.

Here’s how bad I am at this:

My popcorn popper. I’ve had this popcorn popper for over 10 years. It first cracked – just a little bit –  about 2 years into its current lifespan. But it still worked. In fact, it even worked better in some ways because the crack provided a little bit of “give” for transferring popcorn to another bowl.

Over the last 8 years, the original crack grew, and it split the entire lid of the popper. There is literally 3-4 inches of lid left before it’s broken in two. But people handle popper problems in different ways:

Some people would throw it away or donate it 8 years ago.

Other people might keep it for awhile, but once it’s ¾ gone, it’s done.

I am convinced that there is someone out there who, even after it’s split in two, would duct tape this puppy together and say, “See! It still works!”

Sometimes inventions break because we break them.

Sometimes things just break down.

At some point, we have to embrace that change is a good thing. Brokenness is never fun, but sometimes inventors get so caught up in what’s broken, we lose sight of the original goal.

Does the popper make popcorn?

But don’t stop there, because after that, inventing becomes a whole lot more fun. Values and critical thinking can be applied. Is the popper operating to the best of its ability? How can we improve it? Is it aesthetically pleasing? Does it need to be? Would it be better to adopt an entirely new way to pop popcorn altogether?

When we embrace a mindset that allows for brokenness to be a catalyst for change, the world becomes a place that is full of different ways to make popcorn: over the fire, off the cob, in the microwave, on the stove in a pot, in a covered tinfoil pie plate….

I’m getting hungry, so I’m going to wrap this up. When inventions break, face the broken pieces and move forward with your end goal in mind.

The results may be the best part of your story. Happy inventing!

Nature Writing 101

I’m not a professor. Before you hit X, you need to know I did take a nature writing class in college. So, I am professionally taught. Right now, my butt is on a rock and an oak root is buddying up to my coffee mug. It doesn’t get more natural than that.

Welcome to nature writing.

My first assignment to you will be the same challenge I took from my professor in college:

  1. Get up a half-hour earlier than you normally do.
  2. Make coffee. It must be coffee.
  3. Grab a notebook, pen, and your coffee – then go outside.

We had to go to the same spot every day and write – so we were advised to pick our spot carefully. I climbed a tree by a pond back then. I’m feeling kind of lame on this rock now, but that’s okay. I’ll climb a tree tomorrow.

Anyway, once you’re in your “spot” – and if you live in the north during the school season, you’re probably getting cold fast – here’s what you do:

  1. Write what you hear, taste, smell, touch, and see.
  2. Write what you’re thinking about.
  3. Write how you feel.
  4. Drink your coffee.

The coffee part was the killer for me because I was not a coffee drinker – so I thought I’d be super-smart and buy the cheapest stuff I could find.

Gross.

But it became an odd companion to me. And I visited that tree long after the class was over. You know, it’s funny because it sounds like a complete waste of time. And there are people who will always think something like nature writing is a complete waste of time no matter what you say.

I was going to try and describe all the things I hear, and feel, and imagine right now, but my professor nailed it:

You’ve just got to experience it for yourself.

So, we studied a bunch of books, wrote reports, and all that jazz. For today, I’m going to cut out early and find a tree. As for you, you have your assignment.

Class dismissed.

*I originally wrote this post as a guest blogger for questtype.com. It’s a really cool blog that has fun DIY projects for kids and adults, delicious recipes, and great writing advice. Check it out! Questtype.com.

And have fun inventing your story today.

Top 5 Reasons Why I LOVE Library Fines

The library. I’m not always a person of great focus or grounding, but when it comes to my local library, I can commit. I carry the free canvas bag from this year’s summer reading program kickoff. A library swag mug hosts my coffee most mornings. I had to beat the crowds to be one of the first 100 people to sign-up and win that puppy.

I’m not joking.

I commit.

That’s why I have five legit reasons to love library fines. If you currently have a library fine and feel like yuck about it, STOP NOW. Read. My. List.

 

TOP 5 REASONS TO LOVE LIBRARY FINES

Reason # 1:

You went to the library.

Pat yourself on the back. Like yourself on Facebook. Give me a virtual hug and high five, because you took time to enrich your life FOR FREE with books and programs found only at the local library. You’re a smarty-pants. Admit it. And you want more out of life.

Reason #2:

You checked out a book too long. 

Did you read it twice? Never finish it? Never open it? As I write this, I have four library books in my truck, two more at home, and some in oblivion. Whatever happened to your book – you checked out a BOOK! (Or a movie you’re not afraid to tell your mom about.) You didn’t hang out on a computer all day or linger in the land of indecision. You went for gold – and you got it. Extra-long. It’s worth the couple dollars or cents to invest the time at home learning something valuable and new.

Reason #3:

You now have camaraderie. 

The first time I paid a library fine, the clerk assured me, “Don’t worry. I work here, and I still get them.” The second time I paid a library fine, a different clerk assured me, “I’m here every day, and I forget too.” Welcome to the club of imperfect, yet pretty fantastic people who use the library. My best walk-of-shame was when I returned a school library book to the public library, and they gave it back to me saying, “it happens all the time.”

Reason #4:

Your mom couldn’t give you a better fine.

If your car is parked on the wrong piece of asphalt too long, you’re going to get a decent fine. If you’re speeding or your tail-light is out, you’re going to get a hefty fine. If you overdraw your bank account five bucks, you’re going to pay back much more for your mistake. But keeping a library book too long? That’s like mom saying, “If you use bad language, you’re going to have to put a quarter in the swear jar.” Okay, mom. Fair enough.

Reason #5:

You can now invent something new. 

Because inventing is kind-of my thing – whether it’s making up a story, creating art, or constructing fun inventions that enrich kids’ imagination and learning – to have a problem like a library fine is a great opportunity to invent a solution. You can make a library book box and decoupage the outside. You can do a calendar countdown between trips. There are a lot of fun ways to keep your family library-fine free with some ingenuity.

But, at the end of the day, if you still have a library fine, don’t sweat it. Go talk to your local librarian about it, and they’ll probably cheers your coffee mug. Sure, it’s twenty-five cents in their pocket. They’ll probably use it to better the community somehow. In the meantime, remember this:

You didn’t have to put it in the swear jar.

Easy DIY Flower Press

Welcome Inventors! I wanted to make a good, old-fashioned flower press. When I was in third grade, I went to a camp where we pressed leaves, flowers, and grasses to create leaf collections, art, and cards. I loved it! So, this summer, flower presses were on my bucket list of things to introduce to my kids.

I needed:

1 – 2×4 ft. piece of ½ inch plywood

2 – ¼ in. carriage bolts (4 per press) about 2 inches long,

3 – ¼ in. wingnuts and washers (4 per press)

That was it! I was able to make four 12×12 inch presses – one for each of us! The kids helped, and here’s how:

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First, I cut the plywood cross-wise into four equal parts. I used a scroll saw because I am a big chicken with circular saws. Once I had my four pieces, I cut them in half again.

After we had all eight pieces, I let two of the kids sand the edges of their boards with sandpaper. I worked one-on-one with my third kid (in rotation) using a drill with a ¼ inch bit. We painter-taped the boards together and drilled through both at the same time. That ensured our would holes line up even if the measuring and cutting wasn’t perfect. We drilled 4 holes in each board, about 2×2 inches from the corners.

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Once each board had the holes, we pressed four carriage bolts through one board. It took some wiggling, but it worked. Carriage bolts have a square under the head of the screw that will press into the wood and keep it from shifting/falling out easily, but regular bolts will also work great.

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The presses were ready for flowers and leaves. We put newspaper down first and then put the flowers in between paper towel sheets. This was cheaper than using all paper towel, and it prevented newspaper ink from staining our stuff.

When our press was loaded, we put the top board on the other side, and secured each bolt with a washer and a wingnut. We turned the wingnuts until there was a lot of resistance and the board was slightly warped. Drying time from plant to plant can vary, but a good rule of thumb is at least 2 weeks.

flower press pic

My kids and I had fun with these. They’re portable, easy-to-use, and when we make memories in the great outdoors, now we have a special way to keep a piece of them forever. Thank you for visiting, and I hope this encouraged you to invent timeless memories in your story today.

Invention on the Go

Welcome Inventors! Do you like travel stories? Whether it’s an airplane to Africa or a walk to Ben’s Pretzels, getting away from home base is an invention adventure. My latest real-life adventure was a surprise birthday trip to Cross Village, MI. Huge thanks to my Alex, who wanted to give me the stars.

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Cross Village was less than a half-hour south of a dark-sky park. This stargazer’s dream gave us a full view of the night sky without competition of city lights. To be completely honest, we brought kids, and they were not enthused to stay out past 11:00 when it really started to get good. But the park and night were gorgeous. If this idea sparked your interest, check out:  http://www.darksky.org/idsp/parks/

IMG_0565Then there was Legs Inn – a restaurant with unusual history and a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan. IMG_0585

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Traveling was wonderful for inspiration because it challenged me to think differently. The house soup at Legs Inn featured hard-boiled eggs! Adventure was delicious.

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If you venture out, you could run into people like the artists at Three Pines Art Studio. Gene Reck and Joann Condino were not only gifted in ceramics & textiles, they were also kind. They partner with other artists internationally and host classes for all ages.

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I left with this fabulous oven-safe, dishwasher-safe salmon dish that easily decorates my home as much as my table!

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Also noteworthy: we did accidentally break a piece of pottery when we were there. We wanted to pay for the piece, but Gene and Joann insisted they had a better idea. They invited our kids to help them plant the (mostly intact) broken piece of pottery in a flower pot they had out front. I want to write book characters inspired by these two.

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We had breakfast at the Old World Cafe, and the stonework, ornate paintings and enormous fireplace within gave us the feeling we’d been transported to another country. The food was as grandiose as the building. But tastier. 🙂

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My challenge to you is to make some travel plans. Let yourself be inspired by the journey, and when things don’t go according to the plan, plant your broken pieces in a flowerpot. That may be the inspiration you were looking for all along. Now go – invent your story!

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