Art, Blogging, Creativity, Encouragement, Family, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Inspiration, poetry, Writing

Five Reasons to do a Year End Review

by Martina Rathgens, CC
by Martina Rathgens, CC

“Out with the old, in with the new.” I don’t like that saying for several reasons, mainly because many old things have value.

But, there is also truth to the phrase. Making room for the new is worthwhile.

A year end review (let’s give this an acronym: YER) is all about looking back. Not to criticize or judge yourself and not necessarily to reflect on what you accomplished but to look back and see what you did and did not do.

A YER applies to any facet of your life: writing, drawing, poetry, cooking, crafting, (insert passion here).

For me, it’s about reflecting on what I’ve done in my writing life.

Here are my reasons for doing a YER:

1. Discovery- If my writing life is contained in a garage, I envision stepping in and searching through the shelves, opening file cabinets, investigating boxes, and poking about the dark corners.

What did I actually do? Is it what I wanted to spend my time on? Did this satisfy me?

I find notes of support, several manuscript rejection emails, a writing conference receipt, a writing fellowship rejection, numerous blog posts, two books on writing craft, 15 fiction books, several poems and an acceptance letter into a mentorship program.

There’s some valuable stuff in that garage. There’s also some dog poop and pee.

2. Appreciation-Look over what you’ve done this past twelve months, close to 365 days, not with a critic’s eye, but with an awareness of what you’ve done.

Highlight some of your favorite sentences, poems, art. “Oh yeah, I did that,” you can say. Post these items on your bulletin board, computer, or wherever you can remind yourself that you did some good stuff-not that this was easy, but you worked at making good stuff. You persevered.

Appreciate the high points and not so favorite parts of your art. Tell yourself: “I took that risk, didn’t work out, but I learned something.”

Recognize that you committed to something. You pushed the envelope. You took action.

3. Motivation-Where did your motivation come from this past year? Are there common themes or images? Why do you think you delved into these areas this past year? Are you still driven to spend your passion on these areas? What inspires you now?

4. Service- Who did you help or what did you bring to light with your passion? Did you share information, resources, increase awareness, touch someone’s heart, or contribute to a community?

Could you do more? (That’s a loaded question, we know we can always do a bit more).

5. Gratitude-What are you thankful for?

I’m encouraged by your thoughtful blog post comments, for allowing me into your life for a glimpse of your world, for sharing your passion and helping me to fuel my own.

I’m amazed when someone subscribes to my blog, comments, or clicks “like.” Thank you for your time. I know it’s valuable.

Our passions are many times a solitary venture so I’m grateful to have a close knit group of writing friends-women who support, encourage, and critique my fiction writing and efforts.

I’m grateful for the patience my family shows me when they know I need quiet in the mornings, when I don’t answer texts or phone calls before 10 a.m., or when I’m spending time away from my home to write.

By going through this exercise, I found I could pat myself on the back (it’s really okay to do that), gently kick myself for wasting time (social media), and feel motivated to continue on with my writing.

I have big plans for 2015 and I’m excited to get started on new adventures.


What are your plans?



Blogging, Family, Female Offenders, Mothers, Parenting, Parenting our Parents, Travel

Travels with Mom


Gingko tree in autumn-flickr
Gingko tree in autumn-flickr

I arrived back to Oxnard, California from Denver yesterday evening from a visit with my daughter. Rain fell the night before, puddling the deck with water. My mother and I stood outside in the cool morning breeze to smell rain and touch the droplets pooled on the banister. California is in a drought and it’s been several months since we’ve had any rain.

The trip provided a look into the fall season with the brilliant yellow Gingko tree leaves, golden hues of Aspen’s and the russet blazes on other trees. I have no idea what kind of trees they are since I was born and raised on the coast.

Traveling with my elderly mom (she would hate that I used that word for her) also provided a look into our coming season. The child is now the mom and the elderly mom is like a child. Before anyone feels miffed about this description, it was said by my mother.

Mom can no longer see, walk, hear or smell very well anymore. She uses a cane and needs a wheelchair at the airport. She hates that she burns tortillas on the stove and can’t see or hear the television unless she sits within a few inches of it and has it on 45 volume.

Her decline in abilities has been in the last three years and for the last two years she’s been saying “This is my last trip, I’m becoming a burden.” 

The inability to do everything for herself is foreign to her, being such an independent woman all her life, and something she struggles against. (I talk about this part of her life here.)

The two things she misses the most? Driving and reading. The freedom to travel anywhere she wants whenever she wants. She is keeping up with progress of the Google Self-Driving Car. I can’t bear to tell her that the commercial sale of these cars is still about five years out. 

Google Self Driving Car

But with the reading loss, Mom is still able to read large print, albeit slowly, with her thick glasses that hurt her nose if she reads more than 30 minutes.

Before we left to Denver, Mom implored me to give her my manuscript to read (Strong Women Grow Here which is about an immigrant teenaged girl in prison). Mom used that “I might not be around to see it published.” Sad, but true.

Given that Mom is legally blind, 12 font on paper is not an option. But, I did figure out how to place the manuscript on my Kindle Fire and enlarge the font so she could see the print.

She read every available minute. Hearing her laugh, or frown, or say, “Ay, that Jester,” (the antagonist) touched me to the heart. We had conversations about prison life for female offenders, effects of abuse, faith and people’s ability to change.

“You have to get this published. It’s important, people will really like the story,” she said.

I love that she is my cheerleader. 

The above led to Mom’s musings about technological changes and how these do not favor the elderly except for her Jitterbug, which she can operate half the time. “They should think about the old people, we want to know what’s going on.”

She’s still waiting to find a computer she can use, because “No one prints photos on paper anymore. They put everything on that ‘Facepage.'” (She calls FaceBook everything but it’s correct name).

“And I want to read your blogging thing. I hear you write poems, is that true?”

So, I’ll see what I can do to find her an easy to use computer with a large lettered keyboard, so she can visit ‘facepage’ and my ‘blogging thing,’ because now her travels will be through a computer screen and her memory.

Blogging, Blogspot, Encouragement, Uncategorized, Wisdom

Five Things I Learned When I Moved from Blogger to WordPress

Moving made easier with friends.

I’ve moved from my two-year residence at Blogspot. The place was a good starter home, and it used to be very nice, but the neighborhood got a little run down.

The ‘help’ section on Blogspot was no help. After losing my photos, my comment box disappearing/reappearing, and the insidious push to connect to Google+ , which I succumbed to and began having more post problems, I terminated Google+ and started looking for a new home.

Ever had to move to a different state? Moving from Blogger to WordPress was about the same experience-for me, a non-tech novice. A chingona knows when she needs to rely on herself and when to ask for assistance.  I knew I needed help with the relocation.

Utilizing Google search and my writing community on Facebook (WordSmith Studio) I armed myself with information about the relocation two weeks ahead of the actual move. It was time consuming but necessary for me-I’m not the impulsive type. The encouragement from my writing community helped make this a much easier move. I didn’t feel like I was walking alone in the dark.

First, which neighborhood did I want to move too? or dot org? This graph made it easier to decide. For a more detailed description and a video go to Michael Hyatt’s site. I decided on the dot-com, the affordable neighborhood. Be aware that if you own your domain name  through a domain service like GoDaddy, you will have to pay $13 per year for domain mapping (this is to tell your name where to point).  I didn’t like this fee, but I disliked Blogger more.

Secondly, there were new ‘shopping experiences,’ at WP, as in 205 themes, free and paid. Almost all of the themes are customizable-not that I know how to do that yet. This took more time than collecting info on how to move to WP, but it was more fun. So many colors, layouts, widgets, options are like being in the tile, carpet, and furniture store. To make it easier, use the filter on WP’s “Find A Theme.”

The third thing I learned is that there is always a downside to a move. I’m sure there must be a way around this, but I lost valuables along the way. You can pay to have someone migrate your blog, comments, followers, etc. On WordPress the service is called “Guided Transfer,” and costs $129.   Unfortunately, I discovered that service after I made the transfer myself. I lost my readers, and the blogs I followed on Blogspot, and I hope they’ll find me at my new place and come to visit.

The upside, and fourth thing I learned with my move,  is that WP has “Publicize.”  This allows you to connect your blog to social media sites and share your posts. Once you do this your Follow widget lists the amount of people on your social media sites, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and so on. This can run into several hundred or thousands depending on how many social media sites you list and how many followers you have on these sites. Your posts are automatically sent to these sites.  I have to confess, after inserting this tool, the resulting number made me feel much better about losing readers, but I still would like them back.

Lastly, my comment section has Akismet, a spam detection tool which works differently from Blogspot’s. It filters out the spam in your comments and trackbacks. It’s automatic and you don’t have to spend time moderating comments.

Now I need to walk around some, hang out at my Dashboard, and the WP home, and get to know the lay of the land.  Thanks Wordsmith’ers. 

Blogging, Mystical Gnome's Guide, Writing

Knowledge and Crazy Blog Title’s

Have you ever noticed a crazy blog title and ‘assumed’ the blogger would be heavy on the cutsie and light on content? Well you know what they say about the word ‘assume.’ If you don’t, ask any twelve year old. During today’s foray into blogs I stopped by “The Mystical Gnome’s Guide to Improve Your Writing-Tip #3” and stayed to read the blog post-even though I don’t particularly like gnomes. The content was full of good advice so I searched for tip #1 and #2.

from Mystical Gnome blog

The log line for TMG is Modern Day Absurdities. The blog and log line titles suggests that the writer (MJ Cache) has a sense of humor. That’s something I look for, not in super heavy doses, but humor gives flavor to otherwise dry subjects. (His profile photo is a good indication of his humor).

The first post described writing style which is about word choice, expression, grammar and tone. It’s the voice the reader hears when reading your work. What voice do you want your readers to hear?  What is your style and does it reflect or mask your personality? Good questions to ponder. 

Writing tip #2 explains the difference between story and plot. Do you know the difference? MJ succinctly says “ A plot is the series of events providing conflict for the characters. The story is the effects from these events on the characters: their emotional responses, decisions and consequences.” (Emphasis mine). It’s important to know the difference especially when you’re trying to ‘pitch’ your story. Someone may ask “What’s the plot?” versus another who asks “What’s the story.” Maybe no one asks, but it’s still important to know the difference and be able to verbalize each component.

And #3 is the post I read first. Hey, sometimes going backwards is a good thing. Besides looking at his cute profile picture again, this quote captured my attention: “What matters more to your reader are the details of how your character reacts, the dialogue that establishes his personality and his thoughts, not endless descriptions.” 

When I think of the stories I’ve begun to read, then tossed a quarter of the way through, it’s often because of one dimensional characters. The writer either forgot to describe the  characters emotional and/or spiritual state: what does she/he think, feel, need, fear, presume?…or the writer didn’t know that characters need to go beyond their physical appearance.  It’s hard to care about a flat caricature compared to one with dimensions, depth, and uniqueness. 

So the moral of this post is that knowledge can come dressed in a gnome suit. Don’t pass it up just because it looks a little odd. If you have any crazy blog titles you’ve come across, please share. We all need a daily dose of humor.