When it’s hard NOT to write

Some say writing is hard. But sometimes not writing is even harder.

As I look back at the past year’s posts, I’m ashamed at how few there are. And as worn out those “sorry I haven’t posted lately” posts can be, I do feel compelled to reflect a little on my negligence.

When you’re a writer, you are intrinsically driven to share. And anyone who knows me personally knows I’m a sharer. Sometimes I share WAY more than a person cares to know about me, but I can’t help it. I put it all out there and allow people to make their own judgment about whether I’m refreshingly open or downright annoying.

When I started my blog, I loved having a place to share my family’s foibles, as well as my feelings and frustrations. And as I started receiving feedback from readers, we developed a weird kind of collective friendship, and I wanted to tell you even more. I wanted to stay up all night, eat graham crackers dipped in a can of frosting while “Friday Night Videos” blared from the TV, and tell each other everything.  I didn’t want to hold back; I wanted to be totally transparent. After all, that’s what friends do.

But I knew I couldn’t tell all. This weird collective friendship included some of you I’ve never met in real life and others I’ve known nearly all my life. And while I’m the type of person who isn’t bothered much by what people think of me, it isn’t just about me. I have three boys and a husband, as well as family and friends, and what goes on in my life involves — and affects — all of them. My story is not just my story to tell. And that’s become really hard.

With Boy #1 being in high school now, and Boys #2 and #3 being fifth and second graders, I have to be incredibly conscientious about what I share and think about how they will feel about it if people they know read it. And I would never want to say anything that would make my husband embarrassed or uncomfortable (although I’m sure I’ve done this more than once).

Over the past year and a half, we have gone through so many changes. Let’s see…I lost my job while my husband was on a month-long trip to Poland, we downsized and moved from a large new home in the suburbs to a smaller 1950s ranch in our small hometown, the boys had to adjust to new friends and a new school, I turned 40 (of course, without having lost the weight I’d wanted to)…and those are just a few of life’s recent stressors. We’ve also dealt with issues that I can’t write about right now, to be fair to my family. For someone like me to not share such big things in my life, it feels inauthentic. Fake.

Cue the anxiety.

Writing became something I dreaded because everything I tried to write just seemed trite or forced. It wasn’t what I really wanted to tell you all, so I did what I do best when my anxiety gets the best of me — I avoided. I avoided for a long stinkin’ time.

But lately I’ve found myself running across quotes about writing from all different sources, and one theme has seemed consistently highlighted, just for me.

To be a writer, you have to write.

That’s it. You have to write. Whether you feel like it or not, whether or not you know what to write about — you have to write. Every day, no excuses, no avoidance. And I figure now that I’m officially calling myself “a writer,” partly because that’s what I want to be and partly because I don’t want to have to find another job, I should probably follow that advice. I have to write.

So I am officially recommitting myself to this blog and to my career as a writer. I figure if I have the nerve to publish this post, I’m going to look pretty stupid if I don’t post again for another two months, so in that way you’re all holding me accountable. (Thank you very much.) And although I can’t say everything I want to say at this point in my life, I know the time will come when the stories can be told. It would be nice if I still had an audience left to read it when that happens. Until then, I will share what I can in ways that I hope you’ll find interesting and entertaining. Just know that when I do have to hold back, it’s nothing personal, friend.



Writer’s Block Presentation Overview

I met so many amazing people at I_Blog last weekend, and one of those was a fellow Iowan, Emily Muhlbach, who is Media Relations Manager at Mount Mercy University. Besides being very sweet and funny, Emily is also a writer and has a blog with a great title — Pitches and Glitches.

Today Emily posted an awesome overview of my Writer’s Block presentation. In fact, I’m pretty sure her synopsis is better than my presentation was! So head on over to Pitches and Glitches and check it out…

Post-conference overwhelm (wrapped in simile)

This was me this past weekend at the amazing I_Blog Conference at the Historic Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa.

absorbing all the great informationYes, I was a sponge, absorbing everything I could—ideas, information, names, URLs, (and food and beer). It was incredible.

But since returning home, instead of a sponge, I feel more like this guy:

Just lying there with my eyes open, staring out into the vastness of cyberspace. So much awesome information. So many amazing people.

Only so much room in my tiny brain.

So please bear with me while I, not unlike this lazy mandrill, work through my catatonic state.

The weird thing is, my hair doesn’t look much different from his either.

And I’m pretty sure we both smell.

I promise, I’ll recharge from my brain overload and post something of substance soon. (And, possibly, clean myself as well.)

Sponge Image by ratner

Mandrill image by Cholin

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10 Reasons you should attend I_Blog (Oh, and I’m GIVING AWAY one ticket!)

*** Congrats to Gregory Hauenstein for being chosen by Random.org as my I_Blog ticket winner! Thanks to everyone who entered to win. I hope some of you who didn’t win the ticket will still consider joining me! It’s going to be awesome! ***

I just took another look at the I_Blog Conference web site, and everytime I look there is something new to get excited about! (Right now it’s the Iowa Wine and Beer Social. Mmm…)

Really, friends, this is a conference with so much to offer that it will be worth the time and money you spend. And even better, I am giving away one conference pass! But first, you have to listen to my pitch. (smile)

Can you relate to these 10 descriptions?

If even one of these descriptions sounds like you, I encourage you to attend!

  1. You own a business or manage a business. I am really looking forward to hearing Joseph Lundberg from LinkedIn speak. Heard of LinkedIn? I thought so. (If not, all the more reason you should come!) He’s going to talk about how businesses or individuals can use LinkedIn to make themselves more productive and successful. Who couldn’t use that? And on Sunday, blogger, author and public speaker Linsey Knerl will present “Collaboration vs. Competition: Boosting Your Business Through Rivalry.” This is a session that I’m sure everyone can apply to their own lives.
  2. You are a writer. I’m so, so, so excited to rub elbows with some amazing writers over the weekend. (And I’m really hoping some of their talent will rub off on my elbows, too.) First, we have Heather King, writer and blogger at The Extraordinary Ordinary. Let’s see, she just won a 2010 BlogLuxe Award, was discovered by a literary agent from her blog and is one of Nielsen’s Top 50 Power Moms. Yeah, she’s good. Oh, and then there’s Beth Blair, a freelance travel writer and co-founder of TheVacationGals.com. She’s frequently quoted in the media (we’re talking FoxNews.com and RealSimple.com, just to name a few). Yeah, she’s good, too.
  3. You own a camera. Okay, now that should include just about everybody. Seriously, does anyone NOT own a camera these days? You don’t have to have a blog or want to become a professional photographer to benefit from Darcy and Randy Milder’s sessions. They own His & Hers Photography, and Darcy blogs at Life with My 3 Boybarians and owns Graphically Designing. They are amazing photographers AND teachers. I got so much from them last year and can’t wait to learn more. My favorite thing was that Darcy showed photos that people took and then revealed that some of them were taken with cheap point-and-shoot cameras (or even camera phones). You don’t have to have expensive equipment to take beautiful photos. (I’m hoping to learn what some of the settings on my camera mean, since I’ve had it now for probably 5 years and still don’t know…)
  4. You like to eat and drink. I’m raising my hand on this one! The Hotel Pattee, which is hosting the conference has the most wonderful food, and there will be plenty of good libations as well, especially at the Iowa Wine and Beer Social. You will not go away hungry (or parched!).
  5. You want to make money. Again, another category in which most everyone can put themselves. There are several sessions related to making money specifically from blogging, such as “How to Win a Sponsor’s Attention–And Money” by Carol Schiller from Cozi.com. I’m really looking forward to seeing her again. We met in Ashville last year, and I was incredibly impressed with her and also Cozi as a company. Another session is “Ad Networks and Monetizing Your Blog” by Melanie Nelson of Blogging Basics 101 and Typepad for Dummies and Ang England of AngEngland.com and Making Money from Your Blogging, as well as Jody from FamilyRambling.com and the I_Blog Conference. These women have the experience, connections, and track record to tell what works and what doesn’t. I can’t wait to soak up their info and later pick their brains. (At an intimate conference like this, there is PLENTY of time for one-on-one chats!) And even if you’re not a blogger, many of the other sessions are directed at increasing your success in whatever field you’re in, which can directly correlate with monetary rewards.
  6. You wonder how social media relates to your job or life. If you’re not sure about this whole “Facebook” phenomenon, or you think Tweets are for Twits, listen to what some of these speakers have to say. Claire Celsi, The Public Relations Princess and VP of the Des Moines Social Media Club, is going to present “Using Social Media to Build Your Online Presence.” Later, Lyz Lenz from YourTango.com will continue the conversation with “Look Who’s Talking: Using Social Media to Expand Your Audience and Your Influence.” Both are successful women who know the power of social media in all aspects of life and business, and they can help separate the wheat from the chaff in the cyberworld.
  7. You own a computer or mobile phone, or use one at work. Dennis Dohrmann from Verizon will be speaking about Mobile Technology, and Bryan Assata from Threshold Communications will explain how to protect your hardware, software, passwords and more. We could all likely use these sessions!
  8. You have a blog or website or want to start one. If you are even remotely interested in blogging, you should not miss this opportunity to be in the same place as so many successful blogging experts. Saturday morning Melanie Nelson will talk about Blogging Basics for beginners. She is AMAZING. Later, Brett Trout will talk about Intellectual Content and Trademarking Your Blog, and what it means to “own your content.” Ang England will speak again about SEO and Why It Matters. (If you don’t know what SEO is and you have a website, you NEED THIS SESSION.) Darcy Milder will present a session on WordPress, one of the most popular blogging platforms.
  9. You are interested in video blogging (or being a YouTube sensation). I really, really need this session. I bought a Flip camera but have yet to do any video blogging. I guess I’m not sure anyone really wants or needs to see the “real” me. But I think this is a step I need to take, so I’m anxious to see what Dave Sniadak, video guy and PR pro at Axiom, has to say. I think this relates not only to bloggers and individuals, but businesses as well. Video is quickly becoming the preferred medium, it seems.
  10. You like beautiful boutique hotels. Say no more…Hotel Pattee will not disappoint. I can’t believe I have lived in Iowa all my life, and it wasn’t until last year that I finally visited this incredible historic hotel. Honestly, it’s worth a trip to Perry, whether for the conference or for a weekend getaway some other time (or both!). The place is so unique, the food is incredible, and the people are all about customer service.

So, have I convinced you yet?

Tickets are still available! Order here!

If you’d like to WIN A CONFERENCE PASS ($199 value that does not include lodging–if you need a roomie, check out the Facebook page!), please leave a comment and tell me why you’d like to come. I will randomly choose one winner on Friday, October 22 at 8 p.m. CST!

And if you have any questions about I_Blog, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments or Tweet me @pjmomof3boys or email me at paulareece@msn.com!

Why I Love Jody — and the I_Blog Conference

***Update: Jody created my own coupon code (I’ve never had my own coupon code!) if you register for the I_Blog Conference! Get $20 off with the code FOP (friend of Paula)! Thanks, Jody!!***

If it weren’t for Jody Halsted, I wouldn’t still be blogging.

I know myself too well. Without the support, guidance, and education I’ve received from Jody over the past 2 1/2 years, I know I would’ve gotten too busy or too frustrated, too discouraged or too overwhelmed. My blog would’ve followed along the path of so many other things in my life: started with a bang and then fizzled out.

She’s my biggest cheerleader, and she’s also a good-enough friend to tell me when I’m not doing something I should be, or when I’m doing something I shouldn’t. She’s the Felix to my Oscar.

That’s why when she decided last year that she was just going to put together a little blogging conference, I knew it was going to be great. That’s just how she does everything. And I was even more impressed than I had prepared to be.

I_Blog Conference 2009, at the Historic Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa

Here’s the deal—she knows what she’s doing. She knows social media, and she knows people. She knows what people want to hear, and she knows what’s a waste of time. She knows how to put together a lineup that includes something for everyone—or everything for everyone, as most of last year’s attendees would agree.

Attendees of I_Blog 2009 get connected online and offline.

I_Blog 2010 is looking to be even better than last year. She has booked some national experts in social media who will not only help you where you’re at, whether you’re a beginner or growing a business, but they’ll also chat with you over cocktails or breakfast. They’re great people.

Deb Brown of debworks.com at I_Blog 2009

So you’ll definitely be getting your money’s worth by attending the sessions. But Jody also knows how to create a destination event for people, being the travel writer she is, and the Hotel Pattee does not disappoint. The themed rooms are gorgeous and eclectic. The bowling lanes in the basement of the hotel make for a fun happy hour, and the food is amazing.

We stayed in the Scandinavian Room at the Hotel Pattee. The decor was so beautiful! I didn't feel worthy!
This was the door to our BATHROOM. Incredible!
Jennic Law, owner of kangarooboo.com, tries out the lanes at the Hotel Pattee.
Relaxin' and socializin' at I_Blog 2009 (and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes play).

I highly recommend attending I_Blog Conference this November. Register now to make sure you get in. Part of the appeal is the intimate size of the conference!

Me and my friend and roomie Kara at I_Blog 2009.

If you’ve ever considered blogging or just want to learn more about social media, I’m telling you — you won’t want to miss this event.

Jody Halsted (right) with Jenny Dammann, social media queen at Creative Memories.
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Help me out?

Dear peeps,

Would you do me a favor? I need to start making some money on this whole blog gig, at least to pay for my hosting fees, so I need to come up with a media kit to seek out some advertisers . . . Here’s where YOU come in!

In order to put together a media kit, I need to disclose my demographics. That would be you all. So if you would be so kind as to click on the link below to take my super-duper easy-peasy survey, I would be eternally grateful.

[Click here for the Boogers & Burps survey]

You guys rock! Thanks!



Digging for Gold—A Nugget from the Boogers & Burps Archive, Vol. 1

Since I’ve now been blogging for nearly two years (Seriously, has it been that long?!), I thought I’d bring back some of the more popular posts every now and again in case you missed them the first time around. So here’s the first installment, a symptomatic guide to determine if you, too, have been overtaken by boys.

“Sorry to tell you this, ma’am, but you’ve got a raging case of boys!”

(click above to read the post)

Finding Time—Without Going Cuckoo

So you’ve probably noticed that it’s now been two days since I posted anything.

Believe me, people, I’m trying. I really am.

After BlissDom, one of my takeaways was that I need to be more consistent and post EVERY DAY.

And with my (sister’s) suitcase not even unpacked yet (Yes, I realize it’s been two weeks), I have already failed. In fact, I think I’m more sporadic now than ever.

Tonight, as I fretted about not knowing what to write about and feeling pressured to produce something somewhat worthy of Google Reader, I began wondering: How in the h-e-double hockey sticks do all these other women post so consistently? And not only post, but post stuff that’s good.

Because here was my day, people. This is what I had to work with.

6:45 – Wake up to Husband’s alarm clock and curse my iPhone alarm clock app which has failed to go off at my requested time of 5:20 AGAIN. Go downstairs to try to finish a freelance proofing project that I had fallen asleep working on the night before.

7:00 – Husband asks, “Are you ready to go?” (Let me back up here. My van has been in the shop for 9 days now. Some sort of electrical short in the heater blower. Long story short, I haven’t heard from the shop since Friday, and I’m pretty sure my van has been kidnapped. But I really don’t want to rush paying the $500+ I’m going to have to shell out, so I don’t call them either. Now it’s become a battle of the wills.) Since we are a one-car family right now, I have to take Husband to work and then come home to take the boys to school. This morning, I chauffer him to work still wearing my pink sock monkey pajamas.

8:30 – Since we have a one-hour late start each Wednesday for teacher in-service, I tell Boy #2 it’s time to go to school. Since arriving home from taking Husband to school, I have managed to finish my proofing job, shower, get dressed, and brush my teeth. Boy #2 starts whining that his throat hurts because of his coughing. I don’t doubt that it does, but he’s a bit of a hypochondriac when it comes to going to school lately. However, after a bout of “the runs” (him, not me) I tell him I will take his brother to school first and make sure his stomach is better before I take him.

9:00 – Boy #1 complains that it’s not fair that Boy #2 doesn’t have to go to school right away. Yelling between brothers ensues. I push everyone into the car and drive toward the middle school.

9:05 – Boy #1 tells me to stop at the gas station to get him gum. I tell him no. Disrespectful comments follow. Then a little yelling by me. I love the middle school years.

9:15 – I call Boy #2’s school to tell them that he will be arriving late and get the answering machine. I leave a message.

9:20 – I get a slightly condescending-tone-“What’s going on?” call from Boy #2’s school secretary, who I do not think believes that Boy #2 has medical issues that cause him to miss school and arrive late at times (which unfortunately he does). I tell her that I just left a message. She says, “That’s funny; we don’t have any messages.” I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m irresponsible AND now a liar.

9:30 – I walk Boy #2 in to school. The secretaries give me the “bad parent” look. I’m used to it. Boy #2 gets his pass, on which he’s marked “tardy,” and I walk him to his locker. He then realizes that his jeans have been completely unbuttoned AND unzipped, and I discreetly help him hitch up his britches before he heads to class. On the way back by, I stop back in the office and inquire as to why Boy #2 was marked “tardy.” Explanations follow. The secretaries now hate me more than ever.

9:40 – I drop Boy #3 off at daycare and don’t make it out the door before he’s picked his nose and wiped a booger on the snack table.

9:45 – I get a call about the ETA of my freelance proofing project. I say I am driving there as we speak. I arrive at 10:00 and drop it off.

10:15 – I walk in to Husband’s school to deliver his wallet, which he had left on the dresser.

10:45 – I finally arrive at my job—you know, where they pay me. To work. I proofread the Teacher’s Edition of a grammar textbook until 2:30 and drink 3 cups of coffee to keep me awake while doing it.

2:30 – I leave work to pick up Boy #2 from school. After shopping at the book fair, we leave to go pick up Boy #3 from daycare. He’s excited because I have bought them both a Kit-Kat, which I hand to him before driving off. He immediately drops the Kit-Kat on the floor and commences to yell. I drive with one hand, the other hand feeling around on the floor behind me for the precious chocolate stick. Feeling it, I hand it back to Boy #3, trying not to think about the grit that is likely stuck to it.

4:00 – I get a text from Boy #1 (from his friend’s phone since my son’s the ONLY middle-schooler without a phone) asking if he can get off the bus at his friend’s house.

4:30 – I have been home 30 minutes when Husband calls and asks me to pick him up from a math competition at a local college. I load Boys #2 and #3 back into the car (since Boy #1 is at his friend’s house), and we make the rush-hour drive to the heart of Des Moines. Oh, and I almost forgot: the dog comes with us too. Because Boy #3 is sure he wants to. I pick up Husband (literally) alongside the road and we head home.

5:15 – I make pasta and salad for supper.

5:30 – Boy #3 asks me if he can clean the bathroom, which would be music to my ears if I didn’t know that it was just an excuse to get things wet. But I agree, and he actually works pretty hard on it. The floor is sopping wet and the mirror is a little difficult to see into now that it is covered in streaks from top to bottom, but he’s so proud of himself that I just heap on the praise.

6:15 – We wolf down the meal in 3 minutes. Well, all of us except Boy #1, who is due home at 6:30.

6:30 – Boy #1 arrives home (on time!), and I announce that I’m going to the coffee shop to try to get some work done. Begging, pleading, and guilt-inducing comments fly. Finally, I give in and say that I will stay home if I am guaranteed some peace and quiet so I can concentrate and try to write.


6:40 – Boy #3 is sitting on top of me in the recliner, asking me to put a Band-Aid on his lip. Boy #1 is arguing with his dad about geometry. Boy #2 is by my side asking if he can show me “just one more” magic trick. Boy #1 then yells at Boy #2 to be quiet. “Mom’s trying to work!!!” (If only tweens understood the extent of their irony.) I ask for headphones. Boy #1 finds me a pair, and I try to drown out the house with some Vivaldi. It doesn’t work. I go upstairs to sit in my room. Husband is there on his computer, talking to his students in an online tutoring session. After approximately 3 minutes of calcuspeak quiet, Boy #3 opens our bedroom door and comes in to “whisper a magic trick” of his own. I try to write and listen to him perform his card trick. Doesn’t work. Multitasking and creativity are not bosom buddies.

And suddenly it’s bedtime. I check homework. I read to Boy #2 while he sprawls halfway on, halfway off my bed, which in my current state of mind, drives me flippin’ crazy. (Especially after I’ve already told him twice to stay on the bed!) Boy #3 falls asleep in his underwear beside me in my bed. Boy #1 takes a shower and then proceeds to yell, “Mom! Towel!” when he’s done. Funny how they never think about the fact that they might want to dry off BEFORE they actually step into the shower. I grab a towel off the bathroom floor, give it the sniff test, and hand it to him. That’s what you get for not planning ahead! Then I wait until I am officially allowed into his room so as to not catch him in his nakedness (because apparently I’ve never seen him in his natural state), and I clear a spot on his chair so I can sit and read. I get one page read when he barks at me to turn off the light because it “makes it hard for him to breathe after he takes a shower.” Whatever in the heck that means. I inform him that it will be impossible for me to read without a light, and he actually tries to argue with me a little about that fact. (Besides being full of irony, tweens are also completely illogical.) Finally, we go into my room, where I can turn the overhead light off and my lamp on. I guess lamplight isn’t as suffocating as overhead light. I read a few pages of our current book, and Boy #1 heads to bed.

And here we are. It’s 9:30, I’m tired, and I feel about as creative as generic toilet paper.

So tell me, how do all these women do it?

And if you’re one of these women, how do you do it?

How do you find the time, the energy, and the creative spirit to produce good content every single day? You know, aside from illegal drugs or potentially prosecutable child neglect?

Image copyright carlsilver
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