When Big Bloggers Turn Into Walmart Ads

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A few months ago I found and visited some of the biggest mommy bloggers’ websites to see if there was anything they were doing that I hadn’t implemented into my blogs. Every so often I do things like this. It’s how I learn. I’m an autodidact but I like observing from other people.

I came across one blogger that I really liked. In part. I found a few posts that were just bursting with authenticity and expression. I loved them. And then they were gone. Her most recent posts were all sponsored posts. Dozens of them. I had at some point signed up for email updates from her website and over the course of a few weeks, all I got was sponsored post content.

Her blog was a walking advertisement for Walmart.

And she’s famous for it.

There must be some kind of trick to these bloggers stats because I can’t imagine a million people visiting Walmart ads every day. It’s ridiculous.

A blogger friend of mine recently wrote a post on confessions and she confessed that she doesn’t want to be a carbon copy of every other blogger out there. I second that. I set out with certain goals in mind when starting this blog and now that I see what some blogs have been reduced to (Walmart ads), I’m second guessing whether I want that kind of traffic. Sure, it’s every blogger’s dream to have so much traffic that we can blog full-time and pay our spouse and send our kids to private schools and pay a mortgage on a million dollar home. But…I always tell new bloggers that that’s sort of like winning the lottery. The chances of becoming that aren’t very high. It does happen, of course, but it’s like publishing a book: there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes and so much of that happens with the help of a whole team of experts. Much like big blogging. It’s never done by just one person.

I kind of like being on the smaller side of things (small considering others’ traffic). I love that I’m small enough to be vulnerable and talk about depression and anxiety without feeling like I should hide that part of me. I love authenticity and I think that’s one thing non-celebrity bloggers really have going for them.

I’m not saying I don’t write sponsored content. I do. But I’m the editor of this blog and I curate what I feel like is really interesting content that I would want to read and then I sprinkle in tasteful and relevant sponsored content. That’s what I feel works best for me. Of course, that means I have to find my income somewhere else and I’m fine with that. Hell, when I watch TV, I fast forward commercials. Why would I want to be flooded with all sponsored content when I really want to get to know the blogger I’m following?

A Quick Wrap Up: Wedding Problems And Starting A Business

You know it’s been a long week when it’s only Thursday and you want to do a weekly wrap-up. In many ways this week has been the week from hell and yesterday I felt like I was racing someone all day. I think I won the race, but I’m not sure. Either way, I’m going to do a short wrap up of the week.

82931 story  shutterstock 37 49b90153203 original web A Quick Wrap Up: Wedding Problems And Starting A Business

Wedding Problems

  • My brother’s wedding is this weekend and I’m excited! I get to see family and my boyfriend gets to meet all my extended family. It’s a happy moment for us all BUT this week has been full of those last minute wedding errands: the hair appointment, the nail appointment, making sure my eyebrows still look okay after their last wax (they’re kind of “meh”), trying out my makeup (it still needs work), trying on my dress with shoes and hair and undergarments, etc. Trying to figure out how to pose in this dress as a fat person and then giving up because fuck it, I’m fat. Wedding problems, amirite?

accro shopping 1024x907 A Quick Wrap Up: Wedding Problems And Starting A Business

  • I’ve had a lot of shopping to do and I hate shopping. Last night C and I went shopping for a shirt and tie for him, and a bra and clutch for me. I think we did okay, but anymore I feel like my style is that of a blind 80 year old. I just bought some eye shadow the other day that proved this. When I put it on, I realized I looked more like a 7 year old cheerleader than a woman in her 30s. Where has my fashion sense gone? (If you ask one of my friends, I always dressed like a mom-I don’t know what that is supposed to mean, but that’s what she told me-so I guess I was always a bit disjointed in fashion.)
  • More Wedding Problems: I wanted to buy a wrap to wear with my dress because I thought it would make me feel much better about the weight I’ve gained over the years + the weight I’ve gained since I’m now happy in-love. (I had planned to diet in January when the wedding planning began, but I pushed it too hard, got injured and then fell in love and ate all this delicious food my boyfriend cooked for me on a daily basis. The romance and the beauty of being fully accepted for what my body looked like put me in such a relaxed state that I forgot about trying to diet for the wedding. Sigh.)
  • I found a wrap that matched to perfection, but since it was about $100, I had a minor melt down and then decided “What the hell?” and ordered it. It’s only one day. I might as well spend $600+, right?
  • I had lunch with C yesterday but of course I was running late to lunch because of a variety of things that were probably within my control. I feel terrible every time I’m late because he’s always punctual and he sometimes goes outside his office to wait for me when I pick him up for lunch. It’s so blasted hot outside I can’t stand making him wait. We went to our usual spot but they were closed for the day. They’d had a death in the family and the place was closed down. It made me realize how incredibly small our town is, despite it’s size and how family run businesses really make this city what it is.
  • I’ve been trying to make an effort to stay off my phone when I’m with C because I can tell that I use my phone so much that he might feel neglected from time to time. I don’t want to be that girlfriend. From what I’ve read from other bloggers, we all struggle with this. We put our boyfriends through madness with social media, our schedules, and photo shoots. Even though my boyfriend does run social media for a living, he doesn’t work around the clock like I do, and I think part of the issue I have is that I’m an overachiever and ambitious. If my blog is brand new, I don’t want to sit around for a year to wait for Google to bring in a decent amount of traffic. I want to work day and night to ensure it’s success. And that’s a bit over-the-top. That’s probably why I’ve felt so crummy and run down for the past few days. Our bodies need rest. We need sleep. We need moments where we can relax.

On Starting a Business:

  • On that note, C sent me some info on LLC’s and my mom had given me some info on a small business event they’re having in the area. I’ve been talking here and there about starting up a local business and I’ve decided to go for it. I need to order business cards and I need to sort out all of the legal and tax expectations that will come up. I’m nervous and excited, but I want to go “all in” on this.

Starting a Public Relations Firm The Business Side of Things A Quick Wrap Up: Wedding Problems And Starting A Business

  • Once I got past some of the indecision and my nerves, I started thinking about ideas that might be a little bit innovative and to me, that’s where the real fun lies. I’ve been thinking a lot about business men and women who have done something big in their lives. Oh this is all so contrary to where I thought I would be at this point in my life, but I’m going with it. Every time I follow my heart (and my mind), something amazing happens.
  • There was a quote on House of Cards last night (we’re catching up on the last season on Netflix) that stuck with me. You know the one that was written on Remy Danton’s watch? It’s a quote by Winston Churchill: “To improve is to change. To perfect is to change often.” People keep telling me that they notice how much I keep improving and changing. They see something I clearly don’t see too well, but it’s comforting to know, and it made me think of that quote. Every time I’ve tried to do something this year, I feel like I’m trying to make small changes to work closer toward my goal. Despite the sheer difficulty and the amount of hard work I’ve had to put in, I’ve pushed through a lot of moments where I could have been down. I’m not always such a fighter, so that makes me incredibly happy. I’m proud of myself. And somehow, I think these are the “improvements” people see. I’m certain a person can never be “perfect”, but I hope one day to perfect the work I do and some of the systems I have that make what I do work.
  • I used to think the goal was success. I don’t think that anymore. What I want is to be really satisfied and I want to be the one responsible for that satisfaction. By that I mean that I want to be part of making something big. I want to live inside this world of ideas, innovation, and the space between business and creativity. I think that may only be possible as an entrepreneur. Very few people have that luxury working for someone else’s dream.
  • I’ll likely be starting up a job soon that’s going to be pretty in-depth and involving quite a bit of travel. I’m excited. It’s going to be extremely rewarding. I take pride in the work I do. Obviously my reputation is everything, so I do a damn good job. I always work harder than the job requires and I think, as a result, people are happy with the work I produce. It makes me happy, and I think this is where that “giver” part of my personality is really quite useful. While I often thought it was a weakness, it’s really a great trait to have in business.

 

How To Get a Broken Heart

If you’ve been following recently, you know I’m dealing with some sadness. Nothing major happened. It’s just life. I made a big move in December of last year and life has had a few downs but mostly a lot of major ups. Despite these ups, I still feel sad. But they’re wonderful ups: I fell in love. I interviewed for a position at StarWars.com. I didn’t get it. See? Little downs. The up side to not getting the job was that if I’d have gotten the job, I would have had to move to San Francisco. I’m not a city person. Plus, C doesn’t live in San Francisco and our relationship probably wouldn’t have lasted so soon into it with a major move and long distance. Sure, I don’t get to work for a Disney-owned company, but I also got to develop a relationship with one of the best men I know.

After my last post, I talked about visiting my doctor, but unfortunately I can’t get in right away. Which is fine. I’ll live. I just had nights like last night where I watched Delivery Man with Vince Vaughn and started sobbing afterward. The movie was touching, but I don’t think that’s why I started crying with that deep gut wrenching sob. I had explained depression a bit to C earlier–”Sometimes the sadness just hits me like a ton of bricks for no reason and I can’t stop crying.” While I sobbed, C held me and then brought me tissues and water and held me some more. My mind was swirling with all the things that make me sad right now, some of them I’d like to leave unspoken. But there’s one thing I think I’m ready to talk about.

My grandfather.

My grandfather suffers from schizophrenia and his symptoms have become more apparent in the past few years. He moved away from us a few years ago when a relative of ours decided he should be his caretaker. I knew he wouldn’t be a good caretaker but he’d somehow managed to talk my grandfather into moving. Despite my concerns, he’d managed to take away the one person I’d grown so close to.

The move broke my heart more than I wanted to admit. I’ve never been in this position. In fact, I’ve always been the kid who moved far away from home. Now I know how I made my parents feel for years as I traveled around the world. And now I actually know how a fellow blogger, Lana feels about her parents moving away from her.

I had no idea I was so attached.

 

I met my grandfather just a few short years ago. Due to his schizophrenia, I never had the opportunity to meet him or write letters with him. I wasn’t even sure if he was alive until my mom looked him up and found him in a run-down home for the mentally ill in Florida. My mom and dad took the first trip to Florida to see him and make sure he was alive and well. He was, so the following year we scheduled a family trip to meet him and coincidentally, also went to Disney World for the first time. I’m a huge fan of all things Disney.

Walking into where my grandfather lived was a bit terrifying. It was not just run-down, but the courtyard was full of what seemed to be catatonic or just heavily medicated mentally ill people. I’d never seen anything like this place, except maybe on the movies. I had a feeling mental health care was not supposed to look like this, but what could I do?

We walked into my grandfather’s room and his angry roommate glared at us and went back to watching his TV without saying a word. My grandfather was sitting on his bed and popped up as he saw us. He was ready to go to lunch with us, but what was more obvious was that he was ready to get the hell away from all the people he lived with.

We spent a few days interacting with my grandfather and taking him to steak dinners (we learned those were his favorite). We didn’t get to know much except his grumpy side, but I enjoyed it. I’d always wanted to get to know my relatives and had always taken an interest in ancestry and the like. My grandfather was a veteran in the Korean War and others. He was from a time period that I’d only read about. My grandmother had passed away several years prior and I had never had much of a connection with her, so my grandfather being live and in person was a real treat.

Except he wasn’t receptive or affectionate. He had disappeared from his own home and left his family when he started going schizophrenic, many decades prior to this. He had changed his name and moved as far away from everyone as he could.

And then we had found him.

At the end of the trip, my mom did something I didn’t know she was going to do. She asked him if he wanted to come live in California with us. It would be nearby, in a better apartment suited to senior living and surrounded by a more general population. He said yes and the next day we swung by to pick him up and move him home. He’d gathered up all of his belongings, which amounted to a single black trash bag. He flew home with us and we moved him into his new place right away.

Over the course of the next few years, my mom went to visit him at least once a week, often more than that. She took him to the grocery store and to lunch and then for a walk around the block. She invited him to our family dinners on holidays and always packed him a plate of food to go. And over time, her efforts, and our family, started chipping away at whatever callousness had formed over the years. Of course there was also the medical care and doctor visits and appointments with mental health specialists. All of this helped and eventually, we became very close to my grandfather and more importantly, it was evident he felt very close to us.

Then one summer, my mom started following my dad up to Alaska during the summer where they gold mine each year. (This year, the producers of a successful TV show have been talking about adding my dad to the cast of the show. I’ll let you know if it happens!) She needed someone to take care of my grandfather so she could go, so of course I volunteered. It didn’t come second nature to me, but I followed her weekly routine and eventually got to know my grandfather pretty well.

We became close that summer. He knew I was a writer and one day he said he wanted to share his favorite book with me. He gave me some money and told me to go buy myself a copy of GREAT EXPECTATIONS as a gift from him. So I did. I started re-reading the book my grandfather had given me and somehow, it made me feel even closer to him.

We got so close that summer that I started missing those Sunday visits with him and when my mom came back, I often went with her just so I could see him. Every holiday, I’d go pick him up and drive him home, so I could spend time with him, but time slipped away from me and my schooling took me away from home and away from my grandfather so that the main way we would keep in touch was by mail. He wrote me letters and I wrote him back. When I addressed the letters as to my “grandpa”, he quickly corrected me and said he’d prefer to be called “grandfather.” Eventually, my life got busy and I never wrote as often as I could. I spent time wishing he would just jump online but I knew that would never happen.

And then it happened. A relative came back into our lives and wanted to spend time with him, too. This particular person wanted to move him closer to him and wanted to assume responsibility caring for him. I knew it could cause complications in my relationship with my grandfather because of the complications in my relationship with this relative, but he was set on moving my grandfather away. And he did. Not long after that, I noticed a deterioration in my grandfather’s mental health and it turned out he was no longer taking his medication. He started writing us bizarre letters with bizarre writing on the envelopes and when we flew out to visit him, he slowly stopped becoming the grandfather I’d grown to love.

His symptoms had taken over.

                                 

Yesterday I got a phone call from my grandfather. His symptoms made it difficult to have a two-sided conversation but I listened to him rattle on about the difference between Shangri-La and Shanghai and I listened to him talk about a dozen other things that weren’t entirely connected.

And when I hung up the phone with him, I felt sad. I’d been upset for the past few years at his deteriorating mental health but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. And now, I really felt helpless. I could see the grandfather I’d grown to love somewhere deep down behind all the absurd discussion but he was just a shell of what he once was. I could hear it in his voice the last time we spoke on the phone and he said that he thought of me often, but this time he didn’t say that. I barely got an “I love you” from him and I can only imagine what our next conversation will be like. Or when the angry calls will start.

                                  

It was only a matter of time until I had a breakdown about my grandfather and last night happened to be the night. When I started crying in bed last night after watching the Delivery Man, I realized it was because I missed my grandfather. I felt helpless over the situation with the relative who I feel is doing his best to keep my grandfather at a distance from my family and especially me. I felt sad because as the clock ticks forward, the chances I have of seeing him become fewer and fewer until eventually there will be no more.

And I will miss him. So terribly much.

 

Leaving Los Angeles For Good

When I was a kid, the first thing I wanted to do after graduating high school was leave my small town and move to a big city. Los Angeles was the closest city to me so it seemed only natural that I would end up there. In 2009, I moved to the L.A. area and settled in for a few years, two jobs, and a college graduation later. This past December I started to really question whether I wanted to stay in L.A. or not. I loved so much of the city but the one thing I couldn’t get past were the people. It seemed so hard to meet really good people who were warm and caring. I’d met a few of them but they were so far away from me that even though we still considered ourselves living in L.A., it was an hour plus drive to see each other. I think the warm, caring types stay hidden from the rest of the city and as a result I met mostly self-centered, fake people who had a really hard time being honest about themselves and life. L.A. wasn’t where I found a good confidant. It was where I discovered the city was cutthroat and you had to hide your secrets from people who would use them against you.

Being a small-town girl, this wasn’t entirely foreign to me. I dealt with the Mean Girls of my high school and junior high while growing up. I didn’t confide in everyone. But after I moved away and joined a cult, I returned for college and reconnected with some really great friends. Friends I could tell anything to and friends who were supportive of me. When I moved to L.A., I did so to start my career as a professional writer. I didn’t realize I would miss my friends so much, but every year I was gone, the ache of not having them to talk to and share life experiences with really hurt.

I saw some of those friends this weekend and on the drive home with one of them last night, my heart felt like it wasn’t dead anymore.

 Leaving Los Angeles For Good

In my time in L.A., I’d forgotten just how awesome it was to have friends you can be honest with and can tell things to. Friends who see the best in you and support you no matter what. I’m crying a little just thinking about my talk last night and what it felt like to have my good friends back in my life.

It’s a great feeling.

It’s nice to know that I don’t have to worry about them using me or pushing me down to get ahead. When I have issues with falling in love with men who aren’t good for me, they don’t judge me and tell me I’m stupid. They don’t tell me to get over it. They listen and if they can’t say anything else, they say “I’m sorry, friend.”

Links I Love: Read Whatever The Fuck You Want

Okay, if you’re like me, you’ve probably read nine dozen sleep articles on the internet. For years, I was convinced I had sleep apnea or something interrupting my sleep, causing my fatigue. Pro-tip, it was actually depression–not interrupting my sleep so much as it was causing me to sleep more and feel fatigued during the day. I’m linking this article on how to get better sleep not because I sleep poorly, but because of one simple reason: Olive. Yes, my dog. She woke me up at 4:30 am today and then again at 6:30. (Unrelated, if you ever get a small dog, also get a doggy door and also make sure you have a fence to keep her in and make sure you don’t live where there are coyotes. Otherwise, you are the doggy potty-time babysitter. It’s an awful job.) Sleep experts do recommend you shut out all pets to your bedroom while you sleep and with animals like mine, I’m pretty sure they’re right. Also, from this article I learned that sex hormone production happens in the morning. Which makes total sense if you’ve ever known a man.

This year I’ve been freelancing a lot. I moved away from the corporate world and I’ve been writing, editing, blogging and exploring my options. I’ve gone on interviews at some really great places, but what’s really been on my mind (for about 2+ years) is started a legitimate business, complete with actual employees, or at the very least a business plan and some business cards. I do baby steps. This year I did some of that (definitely wrote out a business plan) but I also considered myself just a freelancer, meaning if I needed to work a day job, I could. If I needed to expand, I could, but I didn’t rely on that. Anyway, there’s nothing holding me back from expanding and from starting a company, other than myself, just like with starting this blog. Before I dive in to something so large as starting my own company, I always, always do research and over think everything. Sometimes it helps to have some practical advice on what to do as you’re researching and over thinking and how to actually get the ball rolling from idea/dream to living reality. I stumbled upon this article about how to actually do the stuff you say you want to do and found it immensely helpful. YAbookcovers Links I Love: Read Whatever The Fuck You Want Several weeks ago there was a really tedious article about why adults should be embarrassed to read Young Adult fiction. It infuriated me, because as an English major, I feel people should be encouraging everyone to read whatever the fuck they want. What matters is that someone is reading; it’s not our job to judge. I think the drivel was posted on Slate. Slate posts all the shitty opinions these days and I’ll admit their strategy is a good one: Post the most absurd post about a topic that people will be infuriated about for weeks and watch your traffic drive straight through the roof. Or as other people call it, link baiting. (It worked. The article was shared over 80,000 times.) Or the other alternative is the Huffington Post strategy of “side boob.” In plain terms, Huffington Post will publish photos of celebrities with so much of the side of their boobs showing, it drives people to click, hoping they’ll see…well, full on nipple. Works every time. Anyway, the Slate nonsense infuriated a bunch of people, but I really liked BuzzFeed’s reaction piece, which didn’t focus on why Slate’s piece sucked and mostly focused on why reading is so goddamned fun and why you should read like a teen again if you want to. After all, most of us started enjoying books as children and young adults. Why not revisit the absolute best types of books that made us happy? Or, read whatever the fuck you want. In protest of Slate, I’m going to start working my way through Anne of Green Gables and other books I loved as a kid. Want to join me? Use the hashtag #TheGirlsWhoRead.

On that note, Judy Blume says read whatever the fuck you want. GODDAMMIT. Okay, she didn’t add the last word (or the f-word), but I did because it shows I’m emphatic. Exclamation point! Exclamation point! Exclamation point! It provides emphasis. I’m SERIOUS, motherfucker. Yes, yes. I hated the Slate article that much that I’m driven to lower myself to profanity. Except that women who curse kickass, in my opinion. Enough about me, let’s hear the lovely Blume in her own words:

A lot of people worry much too much about what their children are reading [...] A lot of people will want to control everything in their children’s lives, or everything in other people’s children’s lives. If a child picks up a book and reads something she has a question about, if she can go to her parents, great. Or else they will read right over it. It won’t mean a thing. They are very good, I think, at monitoring what makes them feel uncomfortable. If something makes them feel uncomfortable they will put it down…I say go and read. Read what you like to read.

Translation: Read whatever the FUCK you want.

A few years ago I started collecting links I love to share with my readers and Facebook fans. It’s fun for me to do and it also gives you something to browse through during your Monday. Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!

 Photo source.

A Foodies Dream: I Owe It All To Spaghetti

Sophia Loren greatly said: “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” 

Did Sophia mean her thighs or her boobs? Either way, this week we’re following in Sophia’s footsteps by visiting the good old fashioned spaghetti plate that we all know and love. There’s nothing more comforting than a hot plate of spaghetti. It reminds me of childhood–when I could slurp my noodles and blow bubbles in my milk without getting funny looks from people.

Oh wait, I always got funny looks for that.

Before we get into the recipe you guys are here for, I have to tell you about one of the best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles. It’s called Palermo and it’s located in the Los Feliz neighborhood of L.A.

palermo A Foodies Dream: I Owe It All To Spaghetti

Palermo is one of the most understated restaurants in the neighborhood but you have to go. Try their pizza rossa (pictured below) and then email me to tell me thank you for sending you to the most delightful place on the planet. I also devour their lasagna, but order a small serving. Their portions ain’t no joke. Their spaghetti is also divine.

pizza rosa A Foodies Dream: I Owe It All To Spaghetti

Photo by Kelly Bone

I’m hungry for some pizza rossa now. Thanks a lot. (I realize this has nothing to do with spaghetti.)

I first went to Palermo with my friend Lydia. She said the first time she went, she saw Vince Vaughn. And it’s no surprise. The walls in the foyer of the restaurant are lined with autographed photos of actors and important people who’ve eaten there. And besides that, Lydia is also an actress who has been in films like The Holiday and met Tom Hanks in The Terminal. When we walked into Palermo the first time, the owner of the place (it’s a family owned establishment), Tony, came by to say hi to Lydia. Next thing we knew, we had an order of fried mushrooms delivered on the house. They were good.

                                       

I decided I love Ree Drummond, partly because she’s so adorable and partly because she was a blogger before she was a Food Network Personality. So today’s recipe hails from her kitchen. Or her website. Or both.

pasghetti A Foodies Dream: I Owe It All To Spaghetti

Spaghetti Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 18
Ingredients
  • 5 pounds Ground Beef (I Used Ground Round)
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 whole Large Yellow Onions, Diced
  • 2 whole Green Bell Pepper, Seeded And Diced
  • 6 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 cup White Wine (or Low Sodium Beef Broth If You Prefer)
  • 2 cans 28 Ounce Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 can (14 Oz. Size) Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 can (small, 4-ounce) Tomato Paste
  • 1 jar Good Storebought Marinara Sauce (can Use Another Jar If You Like The Sauce To Be More Saucy Than Meaty)
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Thyme
  • 4 whole Bay Leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • ½ teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
  • ¼ cup Finely Minced Fresh Parsley (or 3 Tablespoons Parsley Flakes), More To Taste
  • 1 whole Rind From One Wedge Parmesan (optional)
  • ½ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)
  • 2 pounds Spaghetti, Cooked Al Dente And Tossed With Olive Oil
  • Extra Minced Parsley, For Serving
  • Extra Parmesan Cheese, For Serving
Instructions
  1. IMPORTANT: This recipe can be cut in half.
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef until browned. Remove meat from pot with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Discard any grease in pot, but do not clean the pot. Drizzle in olive oil. When it is heated, throw in the diced onion and diced bell pepper. Stir it around for 1½ minutes, then add the garlic. Stir and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Pour in the wine and allow it to bubble up and reduce for about 1½ minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and marinara sauce. Stir to combine, then add oregano, thyme, sugar, salt, bay leaves, and crushed red pepper (if using). Stir, then add cooked ground beef and stir to combine. Place the lid on the pot and allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add a little water or some low-sodium broth if it needs more liquid.
  5. After an hour, add the minced parsley and the rind from a wedge of Parmesan (or grated Parmesan if you prefer--or both!) Stir to combine, then put the lid back on and allow it to simmer for another 30 minutes or so. Discard bay leaves before serving.

Photo Source.

A Foodies Dream is a weekend feature, including the best food recipes I’ve found online. All of which I’m dying to try. I’m a foodie and if you’re reading this, you probably are, too. Happy eating & enjoy the foodies dream! Let me know in the comments if you try any of these recipes (or if you adapt any to your own taste). This week’s theme is Spaghetti. 

Why I Started a New Blog

It was going on two years and I was stuck. I never set out to make a name for myself as a writer by publishing about religion and politics. What learned about myself quickly was that I wasn’t as political as I thought I was and religion wasn’t the one subject I wanted to write about for the rest of my life.

Many writers are satisfied writing about one topic forever, or re-imagining one subject over and over. I was not.

My creativity was fading.

I needed to revise, as any good writer would. Revision is the single most important thing a writer can do to grow. Only this time I didn’t need to revise a sentence. I needed to revise what I was writing about.

I needed to be inspired again.

 

For the past two years I’ve been settling into a new creative space, brainstormed about new ideas and started various projects. It’s been vibrant at times. It’s been challenging at times. I’m stretching myself as a writer and artist now more than I have before.

Although I’ve switched tones and moved beyond politics and social justice for the time, I believe what I’m writing now is closer to my truest creative talent than I ever have been.

More than anything, it will give me and the creativity I thrive on L-I-F-E. This new blog is one thing: inspired and I hope it inspires you. It’s crafted around my creative life, inspiration, love and relationships.
 

It’s my life, chronicled. 

This blog is also a slice of my life, captured in words, photos and what inspires me daily. It’s a glimpse at my relationships, my creative process, and my inner world. I hope that you will stick around for years as we laugh together, and sometimes, even cry together.

The Girls Who Read Book Club July Wrap Up and Twitter Party

Today’s book chat is all about wrapping up DEAD UNTIL DARK. By now you should have finished the first book (and maybe you’ve moved on to the next one). I would love to know whether you liked the books or not because I’m hoping to continue the series for at least 2 more books, but we can always switch it up.

Week 3 The Girls Who Read Book Club July Wrap Up and Twitter Party

TODAY: LIVE TWITTER PARTY (AND ON THE BLOG)!

Using the hashtag #TheGirlsWhoRead, find us on Twitter today (July 24th) for our first official Twitter Party to talk about the book at 6 PM (PST) until 7:00 PM! See you there. (Find all our book club members on Twitter using this list and Tweet to me if you’d like to be added to the book club list on Twitter.)

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (AND SPOILERS)

By now you’ve read through DEAD UNTIL DARK. And by now you’ve been introduced to the author’s style of finishing the book up with action, which is part of what I love about her writing. The following are a few questions for discussion. Feel free to answer these OR use your own commentary for discussion. (Answers can be posted here on the blog or saved for the Twitter Party.)

  1. Before reading DEAD UNTIL DARK, were you a fan of mystery? I hadn’t read much of it and to be honest, I can’t handle a lot of murder mysteries, but since this one involves so many vampires, I didn’t get too scared.
  2. How did you like the mystery in this book? I personally loved it because it felt like it was a page turner, especially toward the end.
  3. I’m a big fan of some romance in a novel, so I loved Sookie and Bill. What do you think? Is romance a necessary element for you to get into a story?
  4. Comment on anything else you noticed and loved (or hated).

LivingDeadInDallas The Girls Who Read Book Club July Wrap Up and Twitter Party

NEXT READING ASSIGNMENT

We’re wrapping up July and heading into August! For our next book, we’ll be reading LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS (Book 2). We’re going to change things up a bit and only meet once a month. Make sure you finish reading the book within one month and check back here on August 21st.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

  • Read the monthly book.
  • Leave a comment on the blog post which starts a discussion about the book each Thursday and a comment on the final discussion on July 24th.
  • Once a month we will host a  Book Club Twitter Party, be sure to follow #TheGirlsWhoRead, and @thereallisakerr on Twitter.
  • Share this with your friends.
  • If you’re blogging about the book club, you’ll have a chance to link up your post. Check below.

HOW TO BUY THE BOOKS:

Book 1 (Kindle/Paperback): Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, Book 1) The Girls Who Read Book Club July Wrap Up and Twitter Party

Book 2 (Kindle/Paperback): Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, Book 2) The Girls Who Read Book Club July Wrap Up and Twitter Party

Book 3: Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, Book 3) The Girls Who Read Book Club July Wrap Up and Twitter Party

Book 4: Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood) The Girls Who Read Book Club July Wrap Up and Twitter Party

This is part of a series called “The Girls Who Read” featuring entertaining and interesting books we love. I know most of you love to read. Hope you like it and email me any ideas on what we should read next! Join me for our monthly Twitter Party and book chat using the hashtag #TheGirlsWhoRead. Subscribe to our list on Twitter and Tweet to me if you’d like to be added to the book club list on Twitter. New books will be discussed every three weeks. 

BLOGGER LINK UP

I’m Scared of The Sadness

It’s been almost 3 months since I got off my anti-depressants and anxiety meds. I wanted to wean myself off of them. They were making me emotionless, hyperactive, sometimes sleepless. I felt like I was on speed. (For the record, I’m apparently the only person on the planet who doesn’t like the feeling drugs give me when I’m high.) I couldn’t write and I’d been used to writing things that were deep and emotional when I was in college. I couldn’t muster a single tear for years.

It was almost nice, except that I hadn’t learned to write without feeling things deeply. And I started to question myself as a writer: Was the reason I was creative tied to the depression? Was I able to write things that deeply move people without the sadness motivating my words?

I doubted who I was as a writer, and since writing had always defined my sense of self, it was a scary place to be in.

But not as scary as how I feel when I’m sad.

I’m scared of the sadness. I’m scared that I’ll relive that one night in college when I was dating a man named George and when I saw the terrified look in his eyes as I sobbed louder than I ever had before. I’m scared the sadness will take over me and the sadness will turn into tears and then move beyond tears to big, heaving sobs that shake my body deep within the core of who I am, that make me question why I’m even alive.

Because with Sad People, it’s not just sadness. It’s always beyond “sad.” Sometimes it’s even a comforting place. It’s what we know. It’s Home. It’s a wretched, comfortable, dark place that we best enjoy alone. Our loneliness makes us richer in sadness. So what happens when a Sad Person falls in love with someone who isn’t a Sad Person?

I’m finding that out now. I’ll report back as soon as I know.

For one thing, love is a drug and I’ve been euphoric since he and I met. Because of that, and many other reasons, I thought it would be a good time to go off the meds. Test the waters, you know? Do a little naked dance. See what’s out there without the heavy drugging of my emotions. Laugh it off, like “Hahaha! I don’t need you! I’ll just take some St. John’s Wort.” And things were great. I thought, “I can do this!” med free. I thought about how happy I was. I was vibrant. I was able to wake up early. I was full of energy. I even started this blog!

And then last week, I changed. I started over-worrying that I was pregnant simply because…well, because I worry a lot about things that are probable but terribly unlikely. I’m probably infertile, truth be told, but I don’t know that yet because I haven’t ever tried to have a family. Around me, women everywhere are getting knocked up and I’ve never had an “accident.” Something is probably wrong. Or the something that is probably wrong is my neurotic obsession with what could go wrong, or what probably will go wrong, or what will happen if I get pregnant right now (and why does that just TERRIFY me?). Woody Allen said it best.

My point is, the anxiety is back.

And then I started reading this book, THIS CHARMING MAN, assuming it was a chick-lit book. It is…until you reach around page 200 and all of a sudden the author throws in snippets of domestic violence, rape scenes (terribly troublesome for me to read since I haven’t written about what happened to me yet and I cringe every time it’s brought up), and a deeply depressed character who (SPOILER ALERT) turns out to be an alcoholic. I found myself being sucked into the book even more but stopping my reading sessions more often than not to just sit on my bed in a state of sadness.

I showered today (I’d waited two days too long this time, another indication) and remembered the memoir I was writing  until I fell completely apart in a way that I wasn’t sure I would be able to put myself back together. I remembered while I was showering because I wrote these lines that I thought were really great but every time I’m sad inside the bathtub, I remember when I wrote them:

I have good days and bad days. On my good days, I’m strong enough. On bad days, I walk into the bathroom, turn the shower on and dim the lights. I climb inside the tub and I cry. My moods are unpredictable and when I do cry, it’s because all I can do is feel pain and nothing else. I can’t articulate it. I can’t reason with it. I can’t move, so I lay in the fetal position while the hot water washes away the noise of my uncontrollable sobbing.

And I almost tried giving myself a pep talk about finishing writing the book. “You can do it, Lisa,” I told myself, but then I remembered I couldn’t do it. I was a miserable failure at everything, especially at writing, and then I reminded myself that this was the depression talking. Back in full swing, are you, Mister?

“I am,” he says.

I have a book of stories about novelists and their first books that I read from time to time when I get down about writing. Many novelists spent anywhere from 5-10+ years working on their first book. I know, logically, I need time and distance from the subject before I revisit the writing of my memoir. In fact, a few years ago, I emailed Joel Peckham after reading his essay “Swimming” and he told me to keep working on the book after some time apart, but to do so side-by-side with a therapist. I followed his advice, when I could, and found a wonderful therapist. Except when she and I got to talking, our sessions began to wander back to what happened to me in 2008, the night I was on a date with a really wonderful guy. Or a guy I thought was wonderful. And all this talking about what had happened that night prevented me from talking about anything else. I started hating therapy. It was so difficult. It was so full of sadness. I was scared of the sadness, then too, like I am now. I took my medicine. I went to work. I kept writing, but I worked on something entirely different.

I know I’m not a failure. Hell, even I can READ my own accolades. But depression knows no accolades. It knows no cheering up.

Next week I’ll be kind to myself. I’ll be kind to my partner. I’ll go visit my doctor and talk to him about what I’ve been feeling and he’ll give me a new prescription that will make everything better within a few weeks. I may not be able to write well again, but at least I won’t be scared of the sadness again.