And Now There Are Two

SO… with the help of the 3 people who weighed (two via personal emails) on the questions I asked in my last post, I’ve figured out what I want to do, blogging wise. I want to reflect on spiritual and social questions and I want to tell stories. As the result of my conclusion, “Stop Along the Way” will continue as the place for my reflections, considerations and meditations. In addition, I’ve started a new blog, the name of which was inspired by my last post here. My second blog is called Busy. Writing. Life and it’s where I’ll tell my stories in the form of humor, fiction and poetry. I posted my first piece today. In honor of Halloween it’s a scary story called Mouth Brought Me Here. I hope you’ll click over and check it out.

Busy. Writing. Life.

I can’t believe it’s autumn again already. I was very busy over the summer and it passed by very quickly. I traveled quite a bit, I rooted around the area of the DMV for yet more insight into its history and I spent a lot of time outside. I’m in love with Rock Creek Park, Great Falls Park and Glen Carlyn Nature Preserve, having had the pleasure of hiking all three during the warm months.

Great Falls
Great Falls
Glen Carlyn
Glen Carlyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

I joined a second faith community to strengthen my practice and for service work. I’m also always trying to find work that PAYS. Oh, and I grew tomatoes!

Bumper Crop!
Bumper Crop!
I admit I had a lot going on last summer...
I admit I had a lot going on last summer…

 

But not as much as my neighbor did
But not as much as my neighbor did

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was especially busy writing. I spent more time writing during the summer than I ever have. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this blog as a result. Most of my writing energy was spent on other forms rather than blogging. So now, I find myself knee-deep in work on my first novel as well as poetry and short stories. I have a couple of pieces out for submission to literary magazines and contests. Nothing has been published yet but I’m happy with the work, which feels great. I also increased my involvement with three writers groups (both physical and online). All of this has left me with little time for the amount and type of writing I was used to doing for Stop Along the Way.

So what do you think I should do? Here are my choices as I see them right now;

  • Close Stop Along the Way after a wonderful four year ride.
  • Change it to a creative writing space and post my workshopped pieces here.
  • Narrow the scope of this blog to pieces that focus on spirituality, create a new blog for humor pieces and keep everything else for the groups.
  • Leave it as is, post when I can and hope for the best.

I’d love some advice from my fellow bloggers about the situation. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I don’t know which direction to go in. I try to write everyday but there’s also “life”. So, how do I blog, write the other stuff and still have time for things like family, health and paying the bills? Please weigh in!  

Wrap It Up

webclipart.about.com

NEW YEARS.  It’s the time we use to mark the passing of the old and the beginning of the new. I don’t go in much for traditional rituals so I do my year-end assessment a little differently. First, I don’t think of a year as being “gone”. I like to think I bring every precious, previous minute into the one I’m living right now. In that way time is never “lost”. Secondly, I don’t make resolutions. I feel that’s a sucker’s game and I try not to set myself up for failure. What I like to do instead is reflect on the best lessons I’ve learned in the past year. I have no doubt that the best lesson I learned in 2013 was disciplined anger.

Last August I wrote about a conversation we had in my church group about anger. We were considering whether as Christians we can ever accept anger as justified. It took place a few days before the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and I admit, I had righteous anger on my mind. I was loud and adamant in my opinion. I blogged about it and even made a video to bring home my point. In the post I said, “I think anger and a thirst for justice are at the forefront of movements for equality and non-violence is not so much a belief system as it is a political strategy.” Well, I was wrong. I made a mistake by framing the question in foot-stamping emotional terms. I was childish and churlish. I didn’t take the opportunity to reflect maturely in a deeper spiritual way. Then a wise friend of mine sent me a link (http://www.inc.com/hitendra-wadhwa/great-leadership-how-martin-luther-king-jr-wrestled-with-anger.html) to an article about Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. (Thanks Janie!) Here’s the quote from it that was the eye opener I needed, 

“…the words of another great leader, the one who taught Martin Luther King, Jr. his signature technique of peaceful struggle, Mahatma Gandhi. “I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power that can move the world.”

Wow, “heat conserved, “peaceful struggle”. I guess that’s why Martin Luther King could admit he was angry that his home had been bombed and still move forward; he learned the lesson. How spiritually well grounded does a person have to be to transform anger into a positive power, including the power to understand “the other” and practice courtesy? And how mature does a person have to be to then use that energetic power as a tool for positive action? I had to sit with that and be honest enough to say I was lacking. And I’m still working on it because I realize the lesson doesn’t just apply to social justice. I had to look at the behavior in my personal life and admit I have a pattern of seeing my anger as justified. As we all know, it’s easy to be an ass when you feel righteous. I’m very good at rationalizing my opinion as fact in order to feel superior or feel I have “won”. Even knowing that, I have to remind myself of the power of disciplined anger constantly because I forget so often. (Sorry to the apartment management and the daughter who gave me the gift certificate for Christmas.)

There are other lessons I learned in 2013 but that’s the best one. I’ll take it and the others, along with the cumulative moments of my life gratefully into the time to come. I hope you look at the days past, realize the good and go forward wishing for the best.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Before We Continue……

IMG_2047Brrr…..It’s finally starting to get cold here in Virginia. As happens every year, the increasing cold weather has caused my body to crave food that will bulk me up for the winter. It’s a occurrence that proves my primal link to nature. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, as a result I’ve been cooking like a fiend and putting up delights for colder days. I froze the last of the season peaches and pears in homemade syrup. And I preserved a wonderful jam thanks to the recipe Marrow (Squash) & Ginger Jam by WordPress blogger Random Thoughts. Since I had some ingredients left over from making the jam, I made some Squash and Apple soup  as well. This time a year I spend lots of time making soup. As is well documented, soup is a soul nurturer and spirit lifter.

I’m not a domestic goddess by any means but I buy into the idea that taking time for the preparation of fresh, basic foods is important for good health. I used to have a Recipe Page on this blog but it got lost in my redesign. I’ve decided that I do want to share some of them, so here are two cold weather recipes from past posts.

Healing Super Broth

This is a recipe is based on one that I first discovered on the CarePages website (I made it for my husband while he was battling cancer.) but I’ve seen variations on other websites including drhyman.com and doctoroz.com. I use it as the base for most of the broth soups I make. You can also drink the broth alone. For every three quarts of water add:
1 large onion
2 chopped carrots
1 cup of winter squash cut into large cubes
1 cup of root vegetables (I use parsnips) for sweetness
2 cups of chopped greens (I use kale, collard greens or chard)
2 celery stalks,
including tops
½ cup of sea weed
½ cup of cabbage
4 ½-inch slices of fresh ginger
2 cloves of whole garlic (not chopped or crushed)
Salt, to taste
Add all the ingredients at once and bring to a low boil (remember that boiling reduces the vitamins) then simmer for approximately 60 minutes. It may take a little longer. Simply continue to simmer to taste. Cool, strain (throw out the cooked vegetables), and store in a large, tightly-sealed glass container in the fridge. Makes: 2 quarts

IMG_1160Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Pancetta

This is another winter soup recipe to warm the body and soul. I got this recipe from the Hannaford Supermarket flyer 6 or 7 years ago. They billed it as “naturally thick and creamy without the addition of cream or butter.” Let’s face it the pancetta is what gives it the flavor. Bacon (even turkey) will work too but honestly, not as well. The original recipe called for thyme but I use rosemary instead because I think it compliments the pancetta.
1 ½ tbsp olive oil, divided
¼ lb pancetta, sliced
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
½ tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary or 2 tsp dried
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cord and cut into chunks
1 cup Vegetable broth
½ cup water
In a large pot, heat first amount of oil over moderate heat. Add the pancetta and cook about 4 minutes per side until golden brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel. 
Add remaining oil to the pot. Add the onions and cook 8 to 10 minutes over moderate heat until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the squash, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Cook; stirring for 5 minutes. Add the apples, vegetable broth (or chicken), and water, and bring to a boil over high heat. 
Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, 15 to 20 minutes, or until squash and apples are tender. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Working in batches, puree the soup until smooth in a blender or food processor. 
Add the mixture back to the pot and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Crumble the pancetta and add half to the soup; taste for seasoning. 
Serve piping hot with the remaining pancetta sprinkled on top. Serves 6

Bon appetit and stay warm!!

 

Really, This Time

Oops!! A couple of weeks ago I cavalierly posted a piece called “Welcome Back” which I have since deleted. It was a case of blogging without thinking. I really shouldn’t have assumed I knew how the WordPress pages feature works before I wrote about the grandiose plans I had for them. It turns out I’d have to PAY to have them formatted the way I’d like. That’s not going to happen. (I’m cheap.) I might decide to pop for the fancy pages in the future but more than you ten people will have to be reading me before I do that. (I did buy a domain so it’s just stopalongtheway.net now… That only cost $18.) I added the Category widget to my home page to accommodate the growing number of my topics without the expense. You can read about the changes to Stop Along The Way on the new “What’s Here” page.

Seriously though, I meant it in my deleted post when I said I appreciate those who read and/or follow me. I hope I will continue to provide content that helps you on your journey.

How to Get 3 Million Blog Views

I found this after Corngoblin liked my last post. It was a great way to tell me to get over myself. LOL!

WilliamCharlesBrock

Dear readers,

I’ve recently been working with a team of researchers from Miskatonic University, whose main goal is the delve into the lost recesses of cyber space and uncover long forgotten blog posts from blogs that, for one reason or another, came offline.  We’ve made some astounding discoveries.  This following piece is a prime example of some of the lost treasures we’ve found.

-The Corngoblin

**********************

Hi guys!  In case you’re new here, my name’s Peter, and I’ve got 3 MILLION VIEWS, and I’d like to show you how you can too.  You guys are obviously familiar with my work since, you know, you’re on the internet, so here we go!

HOW TO GET 3 MILLION VIEWS

I go on a lot of people’s blogs, normally just to post a spam comment so they come look at mine, sure, but it still counts, and there’s one thing I always…

View original post 533 more words

Why Don’t You Like Me?

I wrote that last post on cicadas because of two pieces of blogging advice I got on how to increase traffic. The first was to write about timely subjects so the blog will come up when people search the subject on the web. I figured since the cicadas are hot news right now, a lot of people would go to Google to get information on them. I thought a little winking piece on the media hype would be a good quick read. The other advice was from friends who told me my humorous posts are better than my others which can be somewhat didactic. I had a funny story about a bug so I added it to the mix. The result of following these suggestions was exactly two “likes” for the post. Two. That’s less than I got when I started my blog and just my family read it. I would have done better if I’d let the cicadas read it! I know it was a puff piece but I read many WordPress blogs and they’re not all high literature. Sheesh.

I honestly don’t know what to do anymore. This blog is 2 1/2 years old and I have only fifty followers and half of them follow as many blogs as possible because that’s another tip on increasing traffic. I only follow blogs that I know I would read even if I wasn’t blogging myself. I’m not saying I’m better than anyone. It’s just that it hurts my feelings knowing that some of my followers don’t really read me and I don’t want to be responsible for making someone else feel that way.

So I don’t know what else to do to get folks to read this blog. I’ve read every article on traffic that I’ve come across. I’ve advertised on social media sites. I’ve changed themes many times and spent hours finding or taking photos. I don’t blog everyday because I have a life and really, who has that much to say? I’m just about ready to give up.  The About This Blog page states what my focus is supposed to be and I’ve stayed fairly close to that definition. I think I write well but apparently, I sound preachy when I’m pouring my heart and soul out and the stories from my life that I think are funny, in fact, are not. I have a pretty strong ego and stiff upper lip but after 2 1/2 years of really trying my hardest to make this an interesting “stop along the way”, I have to look at the possibility that my point of view is being rejected.

So be it. I’m not one to beg. I may post again and I may not. If I do it might be a re-blog of another piece that nobody read or it might simply be a reference or link to some pop culture piece by someone else. I know I don’t usually come off as this negative but I’m just being honest about my frustration.

I Can Get There From Here

Things got out of hand in February
Things got out of hand in February

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I didn’t mean for it to be so long. I’d been doing so well too. I’d been reading and writing everyday. I’d gotten up to going three days a week to my library “office”. I was going to my writers group meetings regularly and loving it. I’d even started taking on the WP daily prompts, not to publish but just as an exercise. The last one I wrote was the 2/22  “Seconds….describe your most satisfying meal”. I wrote the description with a sharpened literary sensibility and developed a grandiose plan for pairing it with a recipe for the soup I described.

But then the weight of February fell on me and stopped me in my tracks for a while. The photo is real. Things got out of hand in February. I had to get the tax papers together. I use the word “together” loosely. (On April 16th of every year I erase all memory of how much work goes into tax preparation so I’m always surprised and inadequately organized the following year.)

And the vacuum broke. Like most appliances made these days, my vacuum’s too cheap to take to be  repaired. (Take it where?) I can’t afford another cheap one so I took mine apart and put it back together. It was time consuming and I don’t know which one of the many parts was the problem but it works now.

And of course I had to make the choice between writing and the mounting number of projects related to  the imminent appearance of our newest family member.  I have to keep the phone on even in the library so I don’t miss The Call. That decision was a no-brainer since the little person and I have been waiting for this baby for months. (There’s been talk of forming a girl group.)

And I can’t find my pants.

This kind of complexity and confusion in everyday details used to frustrate me. In the past I’d give up on trying to write everyday if I missed a few days and blame myself for lack of organization. We all know that life throws curve balls.  The challenge for me has always been accepting when the curve balls don’t roll down my straight path of plans. I still make plans but I don’t set them in stone anymore. These days I’m confident  I can successfully make my way on my journey because I don’t feel as though I have to take any particular route. I just need to pick the right one for the right time. I finally get that it’s great to be efficient but it’s also great to be attentive, appreciative and active in the right now.  It’s March now and I’m going to post that recipe today even though it feels like it’s a month late. I’m going to add the beautiful description with it too… And I’m ready to go when I get The Call, but I’ll have to wear a skirt.

Please go to the Heaven’s Menu page for my Pasta Fagioli Soup recipe.

I’ve Fallen And….

I’ve had a tough time since the beginning of the month when I took a few emotional hits. I tried to get back on my feet but I wasn’t able to do it. That was until a reader unknown to me commented on a post I wrote a year ago. He reminded me to remember where I want to be. So, I’ve reblogged that post below this one and I’m going to start a new post with a mindful attitude tomorrow. Thank you again, Gerardo.