How to Achieve the Ultimate Humblebrag

Living Well Spending Less Review

living well spending less review

Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukup is essentially twelve tips on how to live “The Good Life.” Soukup, who is a blogger turned author, begins be redefining what “The Good Life” is, biblicaly speaking. She shares her own story about how redefining what a good life was transformed her worldview, which she thinks that it can for you, too.

I had high hopes for this book. The reviews (not that I read them in detail) have seemed positive, and I like the idea of simplifying life. My husband and I have been donating boxes of “stuff” left and right, plus trying not to accumulate any more possessions that aren’t food. Watching my entire family exchange gifts at Christmas was funny because it was all coffee, beer, and candy. I kid you not.

Soukup uses the introduction to beat the dead horse of jealousy created by social media. There is plenty of praise on the internet for her transparency in the book, as she admits to falling into the trap of becoming envious of other people who share photos of their fabulous vacations on Instagram. But like we all already know, people only post flattering things. I’m not including a picture of me in my sweatpants typing this review, obviously.

All twelve “secrets” appear to be derived from her own experiences and then broken down into practical steps to help you achieve the goals or tips. I say “appear” because I couldn’t finish this book. I managed to skim through the first 50% of the book, but I just wasn’t interested enough to finish.

Soukup relies heavily on scripture and famous quotations to fill the pages. While I appreciate that she has drawn inspiration from the Bible and wise people to create her secrets, I just don’t have a fondness for inspirational quotations. It probably goes back to my freshman year of college when my randomly selected roommate plastered doodles of inspirational quotations all over our dorm room, so I put up a poster of Jack Bauer in retaliation.

Her secrets are practical, if you share her worldview. As a newly married, chronically ill, 26 year old with no plans to have children or a career anymore, the book is not very applicable to my life situation. Having to leave my job, redefine my own life goals, and having my financial resources already pillaged, it was kind of salt in the wound to read about her dropping out of law school because it didn’t make her as happy as she thought it would.

She writes about out of control budgets, while making sure to mention that her husband insisted that they paid for their home renovations in cash, so she didn’t do into debt. She mentions her two year hospitalization at McLean Psychiatric Hospital, which put her law school dreams on hold. What she doesn’t mention is that the hospital, famous for treating Sylvia Plath, James Taylor, and Ray Charles, as well as Susanna Kaysen, whose memoir about her stay was turned into a major film, Girl, Interrupted, costs 51% more per day than the average psychiatric hospital. Soukup writes about the power of creating habits, but when she shares about how her simple habits were broken during a vacation, it isn’t just any vacation, it’s “a trip of a lifetime.” It was a 29 day cross country trip that she had been talking about with her husband for a long time. How many people can take of 29 days of work? Every anecdote in the book is quick lesson for readers in the art of humblebragging. There is nothing average about Soukop, her life, or her circumstances. It is like someone quoting scripture about taking care of widows and orphans at the beginning of a book, but then writing about how to show hospitality through a perfectly decorated house with a picturesque view and serving guests exotic dishes. If you want to talk about your perfect house and the fancy foods that you enjoy cooking, do it. Don’t disguise it under the guise of showing the love of Christ.

She advises you to find your sweet spot and what inspires you, but I know what those are for me–they are just not physically possible. Again, she writes about setting long term goals with practical steps on achieving them. However, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get out of bed tomorrow, so… you get the point.

I was also annoyed at her drawing on on so many “inspirational” stories about well known and famous people who came from humble beginnings, worked hard, and achieved great things. One, we all already know those stories. They’re, well, famous. Two, those stories were just filler to make what could have been a self published eBook into a “real book.”

Soukup speaks from both sides of her mouth, so to speak, in the book. On one hand, she tells readers to pray for God to change their desires, yet she relies heavily on stories about friends or famous people who are “self-made.” They were either inspired by the brevity of life to work hard and pay their way through school, so they could make more money. Or they wrote lists of goals and worked hard to achieve and surpass them. Does Soukup want us to live a more simple life of contentment by praying for a contented heart or buckle up and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps? It is confusing.

Maybe this book is aimed at women, specifically mothers, who have it all and don’t want to feel guilty about it. She takes the readers on a little guilt trip with a list of all the things we have that most people don’t, like water to drink, a place to sleep, and the ability to read. But then her tips are about creating a cleaning schedule for your family, so you can organize all of the stuff that you aren’t even supposed to want anymore.

The next time I need a big dose of hypocrisy, I will make sure to finish this book.

Disclosure: Netgalley provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest Living Well Spending Less review.

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Categories: Review Tags:
Reading Challenges Update {Vol. 1}

I thought that I’d finish out January by updating all of my reading challenges!Reading
For the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge, I’ve read 4 out of 12 books:

Dark Places: A Novel, Gillian Flynn
Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
Lady Chatterly’s Lover, DH Lawrence

My Jazz Age January novels are reviewed here!

For reading 52 Books in 52 weeks, I am way ahead of schedule. I have read 17 books so far this year!

For the Audiobook challenge, I said that I would aim for 30-50 this year. So far, I’ve read/listened to 11 audiobooks.

For the I Love Library Books challenge, I am aiming to read at least 24 books from the library. The majority of the books I read are from the library, used, free on Kindle in the public domain, or from publishers for reviews. So far, I’ve read only read 2 library books! I guess I kind of read 2.5 because I quit one of them halfway through.

Right now, since I do have mobility issues with getting to the library, I’ve been using to mail away some of my already read books for “credits,” which I use to request other books that I want. If the library would just deliver, like the pizza guy… Sometimes my mom brings them to me because she’s so nice!
But, in all seriousness, if you are interested in using, you can put my username, srslysarah, into the referral box! There are a couple of ways to save a lot of money on there by shipping multiple books for the price of a single book (so you can get 4 credits for $4 instead of 1 credit for $3), especially if you have books that are in high demand. Give me an email, if you want some tips! I’ve shipped out 17 books, received 2, have 8 en route, plus I’m waiting on a few to be shipped. Then they let you get on waiting lists for highly requested books, which there is also a way to circumvent the same way that you save money on shipping. Or, if no one has listed a book you want, you get notified as soon as someone lists it! I was finally able to track down a book that I couldn’t find at my local library or for under $8 with shipping, used.

And finally for my Classics Reading Membership Challenge, which I started on December 24, 2014, and gave myself 2 years to read 50 books, I’ve read 13! My anticipated list is here, but it is definitely subject to change!

So far, I’ve read:

The Awakening, Kate Chopin
Little Men, Louisa May Alcott
Daisy Miller, Henry James
Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell
The Beautiful and Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Lady Chatterly’s Lover, DH Lawrence
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
Adam Bede, George Eliot
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Tales of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Finally, for this year’s Back to the Classics Challenge, I’ve read the following books for the following categories:

A 20th Century Classic — any book published between 1900 and 1965. Just like last year, all books must have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify as a classic. The only exception is books that were published posthumously but written at least 50 years ago.): The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (1929).
A Classic in Translation. As in last year’s category, this can be any classic book originally written or a published in a language that is not your first language. Feel free to read it in its original form if you are comfortable reading in another language: Madam Bovary, Gustave Flaubert (1857).
A Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title. First name, last name, or both, it doesn’t matter, but it must have the name of a character. David Copperfield, The Brothers Karamazov, Don Quixote — something like that. It’s amazing how many books are named after people: Adam Bede, George Eliot (1859).

So, three categories down and nine to go!

Don’t forget that you can add me as a friend on Goodreads or even grab a few of my books off of Paperback Swap here (or check out my unlisted, but available deals here).

Finally, you can see all of my posts tagged with “Reading Challenges” here!

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Categories: Reading Tags:
I Capture the Castle: Blogger to Blogger Book Club

I hope you’re ready to link up your book club question answers today! I am! And so is Josie. This was a reread (like 5th) for me. I fell in love with this book during high school and return to it frequently!
IMG_5694 (1)

You can visit Kelly’s blog to read more about the other upcoming book club questions!


I Capture the Castle is told through Cassandra’s entries in her journals, an exercise she has undertaken in order to teach herself how to write. Why do you think Dodie Smith chose the form of the diary to tell the story of Cassandra and the Mortmain family?

Using a diary is a great way to tell a first person narrative story. Since her father was a writer, it is great to be in the mind of Cassandra, an inspiring writer. As a diary, Smith allows Cassandra to narrate events from her point of view, plus add commentary with her own thoughts. Since Cassandra’s point of view is limited to where she is, things like the incident with her sister in the woods isn’t reviled to Cassandra or the readers until the end.

Mortmain’s celebrated novel is described throughout I Capture the Castle as a literary breakthrough, a predecessor to James Joyce’s work, and meriting the analysis of famous literary critics. Yet beyond a few spare descriptions, Smith tells us little about the actual story. What do you imagine Jacob Wrestling to be about?

Since Jacob Wrestling is described as a predecessor to Joyce’s work, I imagine that the work is stream of consciousness or similar. Also, since Jacob Wrestling is also meant as a reference to Jacob of the Old Testament, that also reminds me a little bit of Ulysses, which is about a Jewish man (Old Testament references abound!) So, I think that it is likely written in a stream of consciousness and is about a person wrestling with what is happening in his life and God. Also, I would imagine that the main character has some type of physical deformity.

A voracious reader, Cassandra compares her situation to that of the Bennetts in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. How would you compare the situation of the Mortmain sisters to that of the Bennett sisters?

Well, Rose, like Jane, is the older sister who attracts a wealthy man. Cassandra, like Lizzy, is smart, witty, and on her guard. She does allow herself to like a man, but she does not pursue anything. Also, like the Bennett sisters, both girls want to marry a wealthy man in order to bring their family out of poverty.

Why does Mortmain encourage Cassandra to be “brisk” with Stephen? What does I Capture the Castle say about class in mid-twentieth-century England?

Even though Cassandra’s family is living in absolute poverty, they are well educated and upper class, even though they don’t have they money to back up the lifestyle anymore. Stephen works for them and even lives with them. On all practical levels, he is an equal with the family. However, since he is not of the same class, Mortmain encourages Cassandra to be brisk with Stephen when he shows affection for her. It is kind of funny because for most of the novel, Stephen is actually the only one in the family who earns any money! The fact that the well educated and celebrated writer, Mortmain cannot earn any money and married someone who is only an artistic muse, who also cannot earn money, shows a shift from people living off of the money of previous generations and becoming self made men, like Stephen, who goes into modeling and acting.

So, on one hand, following WWI, class distinctions are blurring because Stephen is living with and acting as part of the family, but on the other hand, the upper class still wants to keep a distance by not marrying and intermingling too much.

Link up your thoughts!

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Categories: link up
The Man Behind the Blog {Vol. 2}

Welcome to the second edition of The Man Behind the Blog! This time, I’m linking up with Betsy at Heavens to Betsy to share a little bit more about Brian, my husband. These questions were written by Betsy, but I had to add a follow up for our entertainment.

the man behind the blog

1. Have you ever had a blog, or have you ever considered starting one?
Yes. When I was in high school I had a website. I would post things about my first car, and I would review video games.

Follow up: Is the site still live? Can I see it?
Writer’s Note: We found the site, but due to the excessive number of popups associated with tripod sites, here is a beautiful excerpt of my husband’s thoughts when he was 17:

4.12.03- London Bridges Falling down

On Friday I fell. I didn’t think it was that eventful but some other people thought it was pretty darn funny. I was just leaning back in my chair and then this guy nudges my chair just enough to send me flying back. In my futile attempt to stop my fall I somehow dislodged the pencil shaving cup from the pencil sharpener and made all these pencil shavings come raining down. Now I didn’t see this because once I was on the ground I was just trying to get my bearings again. Some other people wet their pants it was so funny. Well not really, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I mean, I almost DIED! I could have snapped my neck on that brick wall behind me.

When me and my brother are talking about Counter-Strike, we try to do it discreetly. Otherwise we might disturb a few people.

4.5.03- My car

I actually got out and took some pictures of my car! Now you can feel sorry for me.

4.4.03- Update

You may be wondering why I haven’t been updating in awhile. Well the answer is its the fourth nine weeks. And the fourth nine weeks is always crazy because all the teachers are like, “Oh no we only have 1 more nine weeks and we have to finish the book even though we are only half way through we will do it even though you are gonna fail and won’t learn anything!” It’s crazy man!

2. If you could be a member of any band, which one would it be?
Hmmm… *scatches head. Runs hands through hair. Still thinking* hmmm… That’s hard. I guess I’d be the third wheel in The White Stripes.

3. Valentine’s Day is on the horizon…are you the date-planner type or do you fly by the seat of your pants? Do you have anything planned for February 14 this year?
I fly by the seat of my pants. I have a little bit planned, but not the whole picture.

[The writer is refraining from making any commentary.]

4. Tell us about a date-night-gone-wrong for you and your wife/fiancé/girlfriend. If it’s funny, all the better!
Well, once Sarah was coming over to my apartment so we could go walking on the greenway by my place. When she got there, I went to start my car, but it was dead. We moved our cars around in the parking lot to try to jump the battery, but it was still dead. I called AAA and they came and towed my car to the shop. Sarah drove us to the greenway and then we hung out at my place until it was finished being fixed. The place was running late on replacing my battery, and I had to get to church early that night to volunteer with video production. In the end, Sarah had to drop me off at the car shop with my change of clothes and everything. It was not the day I had planned.

5. And let’s cover all the topics…sports…who are you rooting for in the Superbowl and why? (if you post after the big game, then your guy could tell us if he’s happy with the outcome!)
Whoever Sarah is rooting for.

brian shih tzu 2


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Categories: Humor Tags: ,
Jazz Age January Round Up

Well, I don’t want to ruin any spoilers from my monthly round up that I’m posting next week, but I did read a bunch of books from the Jazz Age this month!

Jazz Age January

It was really fun to read a bunch of novels written during the same time period and compare/contrast them. I tried one novel written about the Jazz Age, but I couldn’t finish it. It was that bad. I also know I read a TON of Fitzgerald. I had planned to read some other authors, but I won’t have time by Friday to finish them. There was also one in particular, discussed below, where I couldn’t track down a copy! I need to go back to college, because my the local university had it, but they don’t let county residents get library cards!

The Beautiful and Damned

book recommendations the beautiful and damned

Rating: ***

I really wish that I had read this before I read a biography of the Fitzgeralds’ since it is semi-autobiographical. It was a little predictable because of that. I also wish that I had read This Side of Paradise first, since it was Fitzgerald’s breakout novel.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

book recommendations lady chatterley's lover
This novel was very interesting because I read it immediately following The Beautiful and Damned. The novel takes place during the Jazz Age, also, but it takes place in the UK. It dealt a lot with social classes, like The Beautiful and Damned, but it referred to World War I and the class changes a lot more than Fitzgerald. Money was discussed at length in both novels. Lady Chatterley’s Lover is much more explicit with sex than The Beautiful and Damned, which danced around the topic much more. Honestly, I was completely shocked that this novel was published in the 1920’s, due to the explicit nature of some of the scenes and language. Lady Chatterley’s Lover does mention jazz, dancing, and bobbed hair in passing, but it more about what love, sex, and intimacy means to men and to women. Lawrence wrestles with the three (love, sex, and intimacy) to see where and if they overlap with each other, plus how men and women might view them differently! Women and aristocratic women, specifically, are held to a different standard in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as opposed to The Beautiful and Damned, where the men seem to be falling over themselves to make the American women happy.

This Side of Paradise

this side of paradise

Rating: ***

I wanted to read this novel because it was the novel that gave Fitzgerald his start. Again, not my favorite book, but I can appreciate it for what it was, a portrait of the “lost generation.”

The Sound and the Fury

the sound and fury

Rating: **

Ok, I love Faulkner. Sanctuary and Absolom, Absolom are two of my favorite novels ever. This one, however, I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe I’ll try it again some day!

Benjamin Button and Tales of the Jazz Age

tales of the jazz age

Rating: ***

It’s hard to rate a collection of short stories because I loved some more than others.

This collection contained some of Fitzgerald’s best stories from the Roaring ’20s. Included were the classics “The Jelly-Bean”, “The Camel’s Back”, “May Day”, “Porcelain and Pink”, “The Diamond as Big as The Ritz”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Tarquin of Cheapside”, “O Russet Witch!”, “The Lees of Happiness”, “Mr. Icky”, and “Jemina”.

I thought that “The Camel’s Back” was absolutely hilarious! I never saw the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but from what I understood, it was kind of a love story. The short story is anything but a love story. There was no love lost between Benjamin Button and his wife as she aged and he un-aged. It seemed like he couldn’t be any happier to go to the dances in town because he was finally feeling and looking young. While some of the stories were humorous, the story like “May Day,” highlighted the lost generation’s differences. Some men were still partying with their college fraternities, even though they were well past college, but other men couldn’t let the war go, so they protested against socialist newspapers. The story contrasted high society with the working class. And like many other characters in Fitzgerald’s work, there was the man who was straddling the line between being upperclass, but not having the money to afford the lifestyle.

Couldn’t Finish

This is a new category for me. I had to quit a book about half-way through this month.

Call Me Zelda

call me zelda

This novel was marketed as a fictionalized account of Zelda Fitzgerald’s life after she was institutionalized.  The story is told from the point of view of a nurse who is taking care of her. The nurse’s story was distracting, but what was worse was the fact that there was no new information. Because I had read other novels about Zelda Fitzgerald, I knew the general gist of her life. Most of those books, though, end once she is sent to the psychiatric hospital. Instead of this novel telling me about what it was like for her there, the emphasis was on Zelda rehashing her past, as she worked on her autobiographically based novel, Save Me a Waltz. At the half-way point, I decided that it wasn’t worth my time.

Overall Thoughts:

I am so glad that I chose to participate in Jazz Age January! It was great. I actually have a bunch more books from the era that I would love to read. I have already read most of the recent popular fiction that is set during the Jazz Age, so I had to go back and read writers from the time period. During my research, I found a few new-to-me authors from the time period that I want to read, a historical fiction novel set during the Jazz Age by Phillipa Gregory (I loved the Cousins War Series last year!), and specifically a book called The Green Hat, which was a best seller and provocative for the time. I couldn’t track it down in an e-book or through my library. I hate buying new books, so I’m patiently waiting to track it down on Thriftbooks or sometime soon. If I run out of books, I’ll break down and buy it.

What I Read

You can read my past monthly round ups for more:

December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
And other archived roundups here!

Also, you can find other individual book reviews, tips on saving money on Audible books, book recommendations based on genres and all things related to literature here!

Don’t forget that you can add me as a friend on Goodreads or even grab a few of my books off of Paperback Swap here (or check out my unlisted, but available deals here).


Please note that comments with links that are not relevant to the discussion will not be approved. Personal signatures with blog URLs will be deleted. Please use the Disqus profile to add your blog’s URL, so that I can find you.

Categories: link up, Reading Tags: ,
CoSchedule: Increase Promotion & Interaction

CoSchedule Review: How I used CoSchedule to increase my blog's traffic and engagement on social media.

I’m here to share my CoSchedule review because I am so excited about this service. I’ve played around with a lot of free and similar services in the past, but the ease of using CoSchedule, because everything is right in one place, convinced me to keep the service past my two week trail.

I started using CoSchedule at the advice of some fellow bloggers, when I asked how I could share Facebook posts more efficiently with a different program. Everyone wrote back that I should just switch to CoSchedule! After two weeks, I absolutely had continue with it. Not only does it make prescheduling promotions especially easy because the prompts you within WordPress to schedule promotions before you even post, but you can share your friends’ posts and other interesting information with your readers on a variety of platforms.

With just a little work upfront, to make up for the fact that you just started using CoSchedule, you can leave your laptop, smartphone, and tablet and go live the life that you blog about!

CoSchedule Review

In the past, I used to send out one tweet and one Facebook post when my post went live. If I saw a post I liked, I would click the share buttons on the post, but, if I read a few good ones in a row, I would not share as many because I didn’t want to clog my feeds and turn off readers and followers.

Here is a screenshot of the first few days that I used CoSchedule:

CoSchedule Review

*These are my experiences with boosting my traffic, but the streamlining of promotion will be the same for everyone!*

Since I’ve never been much for Twitter, I started slowly adding more tweets. I shared a few of my own posts, but I also shared some from friends. You can see that the first Saturday that I used CoSchedule, I promoted my posts almost hourly. Normally, I get zero Twitter referrals. I was hesitant about losing followers by over tweeting, but instead, I got 27 Twitter referrals. I attribute some of the success to making sure that I added hashtags to the tweets. In the past, the auto-tweets that I would send out through a plugin on WordPress, I couldn’t customize the messages, so that the Facebook and Twitter messages were different.

With CoSchedule, you can easily schedule promotions for the day of, a week after, a month after, or even months after the initial posting, if you have evergreen material. In fact, if you write something seasonal, you can go ahead schedule it to be promoted during the next Christmas season! (I know it seems premature, but you’ll probably thank yourself later!)

Share Your Own Content:

CoSchedule ReviewSchedule from CoSchedule’s Website

CoSchedule Review

Or schedule straight from WordPress!

Share Other Posts:

Also, like I mentioned above, you can easily share material from other bloggers or websites! I have found that sharing great content from other bloggers is helpful in building relationships, and your followers appreciate good content. If you are adding value to their Twitter or Facebook streams, they are more likely to keep interacting with you. I know that I love when I see a tweet that provides information that helps me better a writer, blogger, or deals with issues that I care about. So, if you know your audience, you can add value and not just bother people!

Here is an example of how I share great content with my Twitter followers:

First, I find something of value. This article will appeal to people with chronic illnesses, like me. I already have a lot of followers who deal with chronic illness, so sharing something funny, but meaningful is important.

CoSchedule Review

After I find the article, I go to the CoSchedule website and create a social message. If my day is already scheduled full of messages, which it should be, I set it to tweet or share on Facebook at a later date. Sometimes I go in search of articles to share, so I devote maybe 20-30 minutes, but other times, in my general internet browsing, I find something.

CoSchedule Review

After choosing the profile or profiles to share the article/post, I can start creating my customized post. Sometimes I use the same text, but set it to share on different profiles at different times, but other times, I choose to only share it on one platform. I tend to share much more frequently on Twitter, where I’ve read that the average life of a tweet is 15-18 minutes.

CoSchedule Review

Then you need to decide if you are going to have a link post or picture post with a link. By placing the link under “link post,” and then clicking the “image post” tab, CoSchedule will pull pictures from the article, but you will need to go ahead and re-paste the URL into the text. CoSchedule will ago ahead and shorten the URL, so you won’t need to worry about it taking up your 140 characters!

From what I’ve read on several sites about social media engagement, tweets with pictures are far more likely to be clicked because they are more eye catching. I haven’t looked at my own analysis yet, but I try to evenly use pictures and text tweets, if I am doing a lot of promotion for a single post in a short amount of time. If I am only tweeting someone’s post once, I try to use a picture. Or, if I have not promoted a certain post recently, I definitely use a picture. I haven’t sat down to look at the analytics of which of my posts are bringing in the most clicks, yet, but when in doubt, I use a picture!

CoSchedule Review

My number one tip is not to simply paste the title and URL into the box and tweet it out. Once you read the article:

+ Think about the post as a whole or what key piece of information that you took away from the post.
+ What would make you click the article? Write that! This applies to your own promotion and promotion of the material you are sharing.
+ Sometimes I even ask people their opinions on the post, when it’s an article can spark a discussion!
+ Again, use hashtags because they give your readers a quick overview of the topic and new readers/followers may find you, if the article is of interest.

The articles that I share are in line with the topics that I write about, so if someone finds my tweet with a hashtag and visits my blog, they will find more posts of a similar nature, turning them into potential new readers!

So, you should definitely try CoSchedule, if you are interested in prescheduling with ease, increasing your interaction with readers on various social platforms, and possibly increasing traffic to your own site.

If this post helped convince you to try a two week free trial, please use my referral code here! (I put a lot of work into this!) Once you’ve signed up, also check out the very generous referral program to help defray your own costs!

Additionally, the CoSchedule blog is a great resource on maximizing the effectiveness of CoSchedule and all things social media. I recommend checking it often!

I can guarantee that I’ll be scrolling down to the bottom of this screen to set up promotions on Facebook and Twitter as soon as I finish editing! [CoSchedule can also link to Linked-In, Tumblr, and Google+, if you’re so inclined.]

CoSchedule Review

Disclosure: This CoSchedule review contains referral links and was written as a part of the referral program. However, the opinions and tips are entirely my own.

Categories: blogging Tags: ,
Responsible Blogging: Avoid Misrepresentation

Welcome back to the Responsible Blogging series! Like I said last week, I am writing about pausing before you publish because I do it before I offer any information about Dystonia or Fibromyalgia. Likewise, it is important that bloggers also take a moment to pause when they write about sensitive topics (health, religion, or relationship advice).

Please read the introduction to the series for context.

responsible blogging avoid misrepresentation: You need to clarify your credentials before you start giving advice.

As bloggers, I do think that there are 5 ways in which we can avoid contributing to the proliferation of bad and dangerous information:

Avoiding Misrepresentation
Writing from Experience
Citing Your Sources
Providing Context
Thinking Through the Implications

Today I am going to talk about avoiding misrepresentation. Hitting publish on a post means that it is out there for the world. A search engine or a regular reader can pull it up at any time. If you are writing about anything of a serious nature, I implore you to think about how your words could affect other people. It pains me to read posts that talk ad-nauseam, with an authoritative tone, about the latest fad in healthcare, which will probably turn out to be unreliable (Dr. Oz, anyone?) and prevent people from seeking appropriate medical attention.

Avoid Misrepresentation:

You need to clarify your credentials before you start giving advice. I learn a ton from LPC bloggers who write about issues, like self-care or depression. These people are trained, so I am glad that they’ve taken the time to share their wisdom! They state their credentials on their blogs, so they have the right to use an authoritative tone when they give tips, tricks, and advice. Medical doctors usually contribute through reputable websites from major hospitals. (For example, the doctors of Mass General Hospital populate a blog specifically for Women’s Mental Health. It is a wealth of information for women about medications, therapies, and the medical side of mental health.) However, if you are only a lay person with personal experience, stay tuned my post next week.

A great example of proper representation comes from Amanda, at Notes from a Newlywed. She wrote a post about her experience with going off of birth control. She included that it was only her personal story in the title and graphic, which you can see here:



So, right up front, she is letting you know that the symptoms that she describes are her experience. You may experience them, too, but medically speaking, everyone is different!

Furthermore, Amanda used this disclaimer at the top of her post:


And there you go, folks! Amanda has perfectly demonstrated how important it is to honestly portray yourself, if you want to be a responsible blogger.

Recently, I read an extremely irresponsible post that prompted this discussion (and series) about responsible blogging with another blogger. The post that we read was about mental illness and Christianity. Those are hot button topics in their own right, even if they are published on a Christian website. The post, which was written in an authoritative voice, was about scripture and mental illness. I was very upset because the person did not write from any place of experience or training, and when she hit “publish,” she obviously did think about the impact the post could have on a desperate person with mental illness, who found her page through a search engine. The details are not as important as the fact that she had zero experience having, taking care of, or working with the mentally ill. I checked her biography and realized that she had only worked in marketing and had an interest in scripture. I was in a good state of mind, so I checked her biography on the site and could discern her credential.

However, a sick person, who is desperately searching the internet for help at 2 AM because the doctors’ offices are closed, family members are asleep, and the ER would only give them the option of going home and waiting it out (if they tell the doctor that they aren’t a danger to themselves) or admitting to wanting to hurt themselves, so they’re placed in a 72 hour hold, in a highly inadequate/uncomfortable facility, might not think that far ahead. They would only read the hurtful post and feel worse. Desperation and mental illness should not be treated with platitudes.

The tone of the post, combined with the failure to disclose that she had no experience, could have dangerous consequences. Instead of writing from her experiences with hard or difficult times in her life, she made sweeping generalizations. Her assertions were not only patently false, they were harmful to people who are already in a fragile mental state.

So, if you are not able to write from a place of authority, make sure you note that in the post, like Amanda (who is not a doctor). Don’t leave it to your readers to hit your “about me” page, which might not be adequate. It’s ok to write from your personal experiences, which is the next topic! Just clarify your qualifications, whether they are professional or from experience.

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Categories: blogging
Why I Publish Non-Dystonia Posts

So, I’ve been reflecting on why I blog. When I started blogging, I wrote a lot of reflective essays. My goal for my blog was to raise awareness for all types of dystonia, but specifically to connect with Cervical Dystonia patients. I had no idea where it was going to take me. A year ago, I never thought that it would look like it does now.

Eventually, though, I changed how and what I wrote, so that more people would read my blog. I was willing to do that because I really wanted to raise awareness for dystonia. I didn’t write paragraphs upon paragraphs anymore. I would take an essay and break it into a list. Instead of a thesis addressed by paragraphs of writing, I would “defend my thesis,” so to speak, with easy to follow bullets. I started to understand how visual people are, so I had to break things down into a few sentences at a time, which ruined my favorite part of writing – my own, unique voice and point of view.

Why I write a full lifestyle blog, instead of a singly focused Dystonia blog.

In fact, this post originally had a different title and went well over 1,000 words. So, I decided to split it into two posts and provide you with these handy bullet points. [If I could have made this a DIY post, I would have :) .]

Why I Still Publish Non-Dystonia Posts:

  • There are other blogs about dystonia, but there aren’t many, especially those offering any tips that are derived from personal experience. Yet, I belong to a private Facebook group with over 2000 members who all have cervival dystonia, which is only one type of dystonia. I knew there was a void of personal experiences, and I could fill it by writing what I wanted to read when I first got diagnosed. So, I made concessions in my writing style to bring in more traffic. Traffic means that my site will be seen and noticed. In fact, I’ve had posts get picked up by Healthcare Advocacy organizations.
  • If you saw my Instagram post from Monday, you can see why I am going to continue to blog and put out the content that people want to read, in addition to the content related to dystonia. More people than just people with dystonia are suffering, so I at least want to offer a common experience, a listening ear, and maybe connect with them about some other interest because it’s miserable to think about your pain all of the time.
  • Blogging is fun because I’ve learned about photography! I am learning to play around with graphic design, which is something that I never thought that I would touch. I have always liked to paint and write, but I never thought of myself as creative until now.
  • I’ve read more blogs and learned more about different lives and viewpoints than I would have by living in my own bubble, here in South Carolina. It’s also amazing how much we all have in common, too. The human experience is amazing.
  • Blogging has made me more creative. I have more discussions. Real life conversations become blog posts.
  • Blog friends. You know who you are.

More to follow!

contact me dystonia

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Categories: blogging, Cervical Dystonia, life thoughts Tags: , , ,
Responsible Blogging: An Introduction

I know that probably all of the bloggers who read this blog are responsible and thoughtful writers. I read a lot of your all’s blogs, plus I read a ton of other blogs, too. I don’t see irresponsible blogging running rampant (but I also don’t read any parenting blogs, where I am sure that a lot of people have very different opinions and would call each other irresponsible – that was a joke – kind of).

Responsible Blogging: An Introduction // A series on the responsibility of bloggers to use their words to help, not hurt people

I am starting a new weekly series for the next few weeks that will deal with the responsibility of blogging. I was inspired by an irresponsible post and a discussion with another blogger about the implications of writing without thinking through the implications.

As writers, a lot of thoughts run through our heads before we hit publish. We think about how a post will be received. We think about if it will help anyone. We want to know if we’ll be understood. So, in addition to excessively clear writing, you should also keep in mind the responsibility that comes with hitting publish because your words have weight. Your words can build people up and your words can tear people down. Your words can give someone the gift of mutual understanding, but your words can damage someone who is vulnerable.

This series is also a warning to be discerning about what you read, especially if you are looking for help or advice. If you want a review of makeup, that’s one thing; the review is someone’s opinion, for which you were looking. If you need advice on mental health, physical health, spiritual matters, or anything that can have a lasting impact on your life, look for reputable websites and authorities on the subject. I know that it’s hard to get an appointment with a professional or maybe you’re not even sure that you need professional help yet because you’re exploring the topic. The beauty and the danger of the internet is that there is a ton of information, even though some of it can be bad information.

I think it is important to keep in mind that being a clear writer can eliminate all of the problems. However, it is easy to assume that people know that you are suffering from a disease, so they will automatically know that you’re writing from experience. When I was in college, I wrote my papers like the reader had no context for the essay or research paper. I pretended that they were completely ignorant about the subject. That forced me to write with a critical eye for providing context.

As bloggers, I do think that there are 5 ways in which we can avoid contributing to the proliferation of bad and dangerous information:

Avoiding Misrepresentation
Writing from Experience
Citing Your Sources
Providing Context
Thinking Through the Implications

My original post was close to 2,000 words, so I decided to break it down in a series. Obviously, if I was able to write 2,000 words on the topic, I do feel very strongly about it. I was so offended by the disservice that the post that inspired the series did to people with mental illness that I could not help but speak out against irresponsible writing. I am not advocating censorship or avoiding difficult topics. Instead, I am advocating for clear writing, professionalism, and knowing that your words are available for public consumption at any place and at any time, once you hit publish.

Since I do write about physical conditions, I try to be acutely aware of the impact of my words. I wouldn’t want someone to hurt themselves with stretches that I do for my neck, if their situation is different, for example. Writing with responsibility is always in the front of my mind, when I hit publish on a post about physical health.

If you want to write something controversial or even insulting, that’s your prerogative, but there are a few things that you can do to prevent dangerous,  irresponsible, and potentially damaging posts.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you see reckless posts a lot? Not like things that just make you mad or that you disagree with, but posts that offer advice with no credentials, disclaimers, or that are not clear that they are from personal experience? Do you let the person know that they should be more careful? Move on and hope that everyone is as discerning as you?

Please note that comments with links that are not relevant to the discussion will not be approved. Personal signatures with blog URLs will be deleted. Please use the Disqus profile to add your blog’s URL, so that I can find you.

Categories: blogging
Dark Places: Between the Lines Book Club
dark places

I’m really excited to linking up with Anne and Kristyn for the first ever Between the Lines book club link up! I love to read, obviously, so I was so excited for this! I purchased a used copy of Dark Places right after I read Gone Girl (you can see my recommendations for more books like Gone Girl right here!), which I absolutely loved. The novel has been sitting on my shelf for a long time, so I had already added it to my To Be Read Challenge for 2015! Multiple birds with one stone!


Here are the discussion questions:

1. Libby became famous as a victim—how do you think this strange fame effected her?
The strange fame made Libby kind of lazy. I think that she can’t get over the strangeness of being known as “that girl,” so she doesn’t really move on with her life. Her comments about being jealous of another girl who was burned around the same time, because it caused her to get fewer donations is messed up. But, on the other hand, she embraces strange things in a way that a person who didn’t get famous in the strange way. Attending a Kill Club meeting, especially as a key witness in a murder that the people are interested in. She has reservations, but she does embrace it eventually.

2. What do you think of Patty Day as a mother? Is she doing the best she can, or is she making excuses for herself?
I think that Patty is doing the best she could possibly do. Obviously, she made a bad decision by marrying Runner, but it only snowballed from there. She married him and kept on having kids. Although, she could have left him out sooner, I don’t think that kicking him out would have been effective. He was a constant drifter and she couldn’t get rid of him, anyway. She was never going to leave her own farm because it belonged to her parents. The only sure way to get rid of Runner would have been to take the kids and move away, which would have meant leaving her sister. Leaving would have also been hard because she had no employable skill. She could not have moved and raised four children without a skill-set. I do think that she took the coward’s way out of her problem, though. It would have been embarrassing to lose the farm, but she would have still had her family. She would have had to find a new way to live, but there would have been financial assistance made available to her, as a mother of four kids with no income. It is easy to say that she should have acquired some type of skill when the farm started going south, but she was also trying to take care of four children. I don’t think that she could have physically gone to school or learned a new trade, continued to try to make an income, plus take care of a brooding teenager and three young girls.

3. Why do you think the author chose to set the murders on a farm? What images and themes does the heartland and farming evoke?
Farms are remote, which lends them an air of creepiness. Flynn spends a lot of time discussing the house, and while the house wouldn’t exactly be considered another character in the novel, like a typical Gothic novel, it is important! The farm/house, which is dilapidated and falling apart, is the homebase for all action. The juxtaposition of images of a gruesome murder next to the idea of “America’s Heartland,” which is supposed to be innocent and wholesome, creates even more tension in the novel. Flynn focuses on the seedy underbelly and poverty in the heartland, which is usually romanticized as an ideal place to raise a family.

Most importantly, Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood, which is a classic, landmark novel and first true crime story, is about murders that take place on a farm in Kansas in 1959. Capote could have written about any murders, but the remoteness of the family from the rest of society, also in America’s Heartland, and the brutality of the crime, like in Dark Places, is a more intriguing story. I don’t think Flynn chose the farm murders on accident because the parallels between Dark Places and In Cold Blood are strong. Flynn, though, inverts the affluent farming family of In Cold Blood and replaces it with the poverty stricken Day family. The murders in In Cold Blood are motivated by criminals who are looking for cash. Similarly, the theories about the Day family murders throughout the book are usually centered around a hypothesis that someone was looking for cash, even in the poor family’s home.

Furthermore, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of horror films are set on farms or in remote locations. The first example that I can think of is The Stranger, which focuses on a young couple being murdered in a very isolated vacation home. Again, the idea of a vacation home is like the idea of the heartland. It’s supposed to be a respite from the chaos and violence of city life.

4. What do you believe in Diondra’s motivation throughout the story? Does her relationship with Ben change him?
Diondra ruins Ben’s life, without a doubt. She’s manipulative and cruel. She preys on the younger person, Ben, and uses him. I could never tell if she had a clear plan in mind when she began to take advantage of him, or if she was only toying with him to boost her self esteem, but she makes her both her manipulation and cruelty quite clear by the end of the novel. Ben was a drifting teenager, who was trying to find his place in life. He already felt humiliated by being the school janitor, poor, and having a father who was a known drug dealer. Diondra continues to humiliate him, yet he will do whatever she wants for brief moments of praise or sex.

I doubt she knew who the real father of her child was, but once she saw how she could use Ben by claiming that it was his, she latched onto that story. For 20+ years, she continued to manipulate Ben, who was still just a child, emotionally. I don’t think prison ever gave him the chance to grow up more than physically.

Now that you’ve read my thoughts, you can click the photo below to read more posts! I am really interested to see what other people thought about the last question. It was the hardest question for me!


Love the Here and Now

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Categories: Reading Tags: , , ,