11 ways blogging has changed my life.

Originally posted on August 16, 2016

 

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Next month will be Lucky Otter’s Haven‘s 2 year anniversary! It’s hard to believe I’ve been blogging that long. I started blogging only 6 months after going No Contact with my ex. It has become a real addiction, but much more than that–it was a game changer for me. My life is not the same as it was two years ago. Here are ten (plus one) ways blogging has changed my life.

1. I’ve become a much better writer. I’m rather embarrassed by how badly written some of my early posts were. I think I’ve honed my writing skills and use a lot less “purple prose” and unnecessary adjectives than than I used to–that has always been a huge weakness of mine when it comes to writing.

2. I’ve become more self confident and less shy. Writing about your thoughts and feelings teaches you a lot about yourself. You become more introspective and in so doing, realize a lot of good things about yourself, and that gives you confidence. You also get validation from others, and that boosts your self esteem. You also find out that most people aren’t going to judge you for things you thought were shameful or embarrassing. It takes a while to work up the courage to write about such personal things, but once you do, you realize that your words may have helped or inspired someone else and they will appreciate you for your honesty. This has translated into my real life to some degree–while I’m still shy and awkward in social situations, I seem to be a bit more outgoing and less awkward now.

3. I’ve made some wonderful friends. Although I haven’t met any of my blogging friends, I feel like we’re a family, and for a few of you, I feel as if I’ve known you all my life. Before blogging, I felt so alone and isolated, but in the blogosphere, I’ve found so many people who have stories similar to my own, have gone through similar kinds of trauma, and we’ve grown to care abut and support each other. We’re like the surrogate family we never had!

4. I’ve become more creative. Writing almost every day forces me to consult my “muse” and the more ideas I think of to write about, it seems the more ideas just come to me, and some of them are pretty wild! I go ahead and write about those crazy ideas too, and sometimes those prove to be my best posts.

Hello world. This is my very first blog. I’m not sure what the hell I’m doing yet or how the heck this thing (WordPress) works. I’m learning so please be patient with me.

–The first sentence of my first blog post, Lucky Otter’s Haven, 9/10/14

 

5. I’m a better person than I was. Writing about your deepest thoughts and feelings, and exploring painful memories helps purge a lot of the pain that was keeping me from moving forward into real healing. Writing is powerful therapy and I find that today I’m less depressed, less angry, less fearful, have more moments of joy and serenity, and have even become more outgoing. I’ve also developed a lot more empathy, which was almost unavailable to me when I began blogging.

6. A blog is a great record of how you’ve changed over time. It’s always fascinating (and a little horrifying!) to go back and read over old posts and see how much you’ve changed. It gives you perspective and clarity. I can tell by the tone of my early posts that I’m not the same–my early posts were a lot more bitter, angry, whiny, and cynical, and a LOT less spiritual (I was agnostic when I started blogging). I realize a lot of that attitude was because I was only recently out of an abusive relationship and was still in shell shock, but blogging has definitely helped me overcome that.

7. My computer skills are better. Setting up and designing my blogs has given me more confidence in my computer skills. I can do a lot of things on a computer I didn’t used to be able to and thought would be difficult but are really not.

8. Blogging has given me a focus and a goal. All my life, I never had a real goal and never really knew what I wanted to do with my life. Narcissism and narcissistic abuse has always been my primary topic on my blogs, but lately my fascination with this subject is expanding into my wanting to help others heal, whether from abuse or from narcissism itself. I haven’t decided yet whether I will write a book or become a life coach or therapist. Maybe both!

9. My faith in God has grown. God gave me writing ability for a reason, and as I grew as a writer and shared my thoughts and feelings on an increasingly intimate level, I found myself actually listening to what God was trying to tell me, and realizing how much he really does care. I found other bloggers like myself whose faith was also strengthened through the gift of the written word.

10. It’s fun. Blogging is so addictive, and I’ve never had a hobby I’ve been more passionate about. In fact, I never really had any serious hobbies until I started to blog. I always look forward to coming home from work, opening my laptop, and starting to write, or reply to comments, or read other blogs (when I have time). I get so immersed in blogging sometimes I actually forget to eat!

11. I make a little bit of money from blogging. I can’t quit my day job, but I make about $50 a month from ads that run on this blog. It ain’t much, but it pays for my gas for a couple of weeks or a nice dinner out once a month! It’s always a great feeling to get paid to do what you love doing the most–even if you can’t live on it. But I’d blog even if I had to pay to do it. That’s how much I love doing this.

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10 things that terrify me about Trump’s America.

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I realize my last couple of posts have been dark and depressing, but there’s no sugarcoating the fact that what Trump is doing to Americans is abuse.

I began this blog three years ago as a way to talk about the narcissistic abuse I was forced to undergo at the hands of my parents (mostly my mother) and my ex-husband, after I finally found the wherewithal to leave him for good.

Starting this blog gave me an outlet to write about my abuse, and doing so proved extremely therapeutic for me.  In time, I was able to purge all the anger and rage, and the person I was meant to be was slowly revealed to me.  I also found out that I was not such a loser and a bad person after all, and that what happened to me was not my fault.    I realize that I had been lied to for years.   I grieved those wasted years, but at the same time felt grateful that I still had some left to grow into the person God meant for me to be.

With a boost in self esteem, I gained the courage to look inside myself — at the ways I was holding myself back because I was so afraid of everything.   I entered therapy.  I became much more spiritual and developed a real faith in God for the first time.   I began to take small risks and make better choices.   I can honestly say that had I not been able to start this blog, I doubt I would have come as far as I have.  God gave me the ability to write so that I could tell my story, and in the process, heal not only myself, but also help others who had suffered similar experiences.

Until Trump became president, I shied away from writing about politics or religion, because they are such divisive topics and I didn’t want to run off anyone who might have different politics or religious beliefs than I do.   But Trump’s presidency has infected my peace of mind and threatened my recovery, because he is so triggering and toxic, especially to those of us who are already familiar with the destructive effects malignant narcissists and sociopaths have on our souls.

So just like I did with the abusers in my personal life, I also need to write about Trump and the insidious and dangerous ways he threatens my (and many others’) mental and spiritual health.

The truth is, the man absolutely terrifies me. His vision for America terrifies me even more, since in his dystopian vision, I’m an expendable “loser”:  a financially challenged (I don’t want to say poor) older woman without a husband, who is also an intellectual and a dissenter (he hates both), morally and in every other way opposed to everything he and the powerful people who surround him stand for.

So here are ten ways Trump’s policies and his vision for America shake me to my core with terror and dread.

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Child labor during the Gilded Age.

 

1. Repealing the ACA.  This is #1 for me because it directly affects me and could cause me to die early and suffer horribly.    I have been unable to obtain healthcare through a job, and certainly can’t afford to buy it on my own, so I am dependent upon the ACA in order to have health insurance.  And at my age — closing in on 60 — the prospect of losing my only access to healthcare is absolutely terrifying, especially if I should develop a chronic illness that an emergency room can’t treat, such a cancer.

2. Losing my savings.   I have a very small nest egg that if I should become seriously ill and need hospitalization, I will lose (and it still won’t even make a dent in the astronomical medical bills I no doubt will receive).   Unless I publish a book and it becomes a bestseller, or win the lottery (which I don’t play), I have very little chance at my age of ever being able to earn enough to invest in any meaningful way.

3. No Social Security and Medicare.   I am getting close to retirement age, but it’s still some years away, and by the way things are going, I don’t expect that either social security or Medicare will still be around in my old age.    Being a fairly low wage earner (I’m not at poverty level but I don’t qualify as middle class either),  I have not been able to save for retirement (except for the small nest egg I mentioned above).  I don’t work for an employer who offers a 401K or any retirement benefits.  And forget about a pension.  Hardly anyone gets those anymore.   Since I am a single woman, it looks like my only option when I can no longer work is to move in with one of my children, and with all the financial struggles they have been having (Millennials have inherited an economy that forces many of them to live at home until well into their 20s and 30s), I’m not at all sure they will be able to support me in my old age (and it would kill me to place that burden on them anyway).  As for medical care, if the ACA is gone,  it looks like I will have to go without healthcare altogether if Medicare is gone too.    Since more states are legalizing pot though, maybe it will be legal in my state by then and I can just smoke weed all day to ward off any physical pain.

4. A dystopian future for my children.  Much progress has been made in the past fifty years — civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, New Deal policies, the EPA and other environmental protections, and many other things that make life bearable and have made America the lively and vibrant place that so many people from other countries (until recently) have wanted to make their permanent home in.   Trump is trying to roll back all these things, and the hardliners in Congress are making progress in removing laws and protections that have made life in America the envy of most of the civilized world.

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 A coal miner and his son.

5. Corporate tyranny and authoritarianism.   Trump’s America promises a scary future of corporate tyranny or modern-day feudalism, in which insanely wealthy corporate rulers (freed of having to pay any taxes at all) dictate to the hordes of impoverished, sick, beaten down and broken people enslaved to the “system” and forced to work for almost nothing (the hardliners want to eliminate the minimum wage too) until death takes them, usually at an early age.   I see a future much like the Gilded Age, in which people were treated as disposable chattel by rich robber barons until they finally died of some preventable disease or work injury,  a time when there was no middle class or any hope of escaping a life of poverty and endless toil, when there was no social safety net, no public education, and poor children (which were most of them) were forced to work as soon as they reached the age of 6 or 7 (what we call school age today.

6. The rollback of women’s health. While women’s reproductive rights may not affect me anymore, they do affect my daughter.  I’m afraid she will not have access to healthcare, and given that she has medical problems that might affect her ability to bear children safely or at all (Crohn’s Disease and back problems stemming from an accident she had at 16), that is a problem.   She may need surgery before she can safely have a child, but if she loses her healthcare, she will not be able to have that surgery.  Should she become pregnant, she could die.   If she loses access to healthcare and isn’t married to someone who can provide it for her, she could also go bankrupt from constant uncovered trips to the emergency room to treat the intermittent Crohn’s attacks that plague her periodically.  In addition, she suffers from mental health issues (caused by her father’s abuse) and she takes medication to control bouts of almost suicidal depression.   Should she lose her access to mental health care, who knows what could happen?     If the Christian dominionists have their way, most forms of birth control or medical abortion could be outlawed or made almost impossible to obtain.

7. Increased intolerance toward the “different.”   My son came out as gay at age 17, and in this climate of growing hatred and intolerance toward people that don’t fit the “white, straight, Christian” ideal, coupled with Trump’s empowerment of hate groups and the rise of The Christian Taliban,  I’m afraid he could be attacked by members of a hate group for just being who he is, forced to undergo some sort of traumatic “conversion therapy” that Mike Pence is proposing for gay people, shunned from employment opportunities, or just made to feel like he is “less” for being the person he is.

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White supremacists and neo-Nazis march in Charlottesville.

8. An unhealthy and ugly environment.   In Trump’s dystopia, all public lands and national parks would be sold off to huge corporate entities, where they would be destroyed  and pillaged through oil drilling, fracking, coal mining, and built up with even more gated communities for the wealthy ruling class.   The rivers and air would be polluted, and people would die early of preventable illnesses caused by contamination, without even access to healthcare that could treat their symptoms.    The very wealthy have built underground bunkers where they could escape the worst of the environmental ravages.  Roads too would be privatized.  Imagine living in a country where most people are hobbled from free road travel because all roads have become inefficient and expensive toll roads. And I don’t even want to think about the horrors of privatizing air traffic control.

9. Ignorance.  Besides the abolishment of public schools, in Trump’s America there would not be any public libraries or museums either, because all those things are “socialism.”   Everything would be privatized and cost the people money.   The intent is not only to get rid of anything that allows everyone to take part in public life and educate and enrich themselves, it’s also to keep people stupid and ignorant, so they can no longer ask questions or think for themselves.

10. Nuclear war.  All of the above dystopian scenarios may be a moot point should we get into nuclear war with North Korea.  I read one statistic that said there is a 20% probability the entire west coast may be nuked.  Trump probably would love that too, since the states that line the Pacific Ocean are also the bluest of states and we all know how he feels about liberals.

I can only keep hoping and praying none of this happens, and we don’t have to suffer Trumpism too much longer — because it won’t be long before it’s too late to turn back.

12 reasons why I don’t like autumn.

Welp, it’s almost that time of year again. Admittedly, it’s not bothering me as much this year. But please, shut up already about Pumpkin Spice, which ought to be illegal.

Lucky Otters Haven

ugly_autumnIn my neck of the woods, this is what Autumn looks like.

Yesterday was the first cool-ish day we’ve had since May.   While the lower temperature felt nice, I also noticed for the first time that some of the trees are beginning to change colors.  It was also overcast and gloomy, and I realized that my SAD symptoms have kicked in full bore.   I just felt like crawling into bed to escape from the sadness I felt.   After winter, fall is my least favorite season.   Here are 12 reasons why I hate it.

1.  Around here, the “changing colors” just means the trees change from green to brown to bare.  A few turn this unattractive shade of deep maroon or this dirty looking yellow, but unless you go up to the Parkway, we really don’t get the brilliant fall colors you see in places further north…

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10 reasons why the ‘war on Christmas’ is bogus.

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Why am I bringing this up in July?

Because HE did.

This infuriating article appeared in today’s Huffington Post:

Trump Launches the War on Christmas in July

Trump has railed on about the non-existent “war on Christmas” for the past several years, riling up his base of zealous far right religious supporters.   You may remember the drama over the Starbucks coffee cups two years ago.  Plastic throwaway takeout cups failing to have Christmas decorations printed on them  (Heaven help us!  They’re SOLID COLORED!) is apparently a more pressing issue than the Russia investigation, developing problems with North Korea, making sure every American has affordable healthcare, and keeping the planet from turning into Venus 2.0.

But Trump’s issue with people allegedly waging a war on Christmas is totally bogus and here are ten reasons why.

1.  Trump is not a Christian, so a war on Christmas should be of no concern to him.

I’m not here to judge the state of another person’s soul, but it’s pretty clear to me and to many others that if Trump was truly a Christian, it would show in his actions and general behavior toward others.    He is still a lying, gaslighting, cowardly, projecting, wrathful, spiteful, egotistic, name-calling, bullying, blame-shifting malignant narcissist who has surrounded himself with a cabinet of greedy sociopaths, and that’s about as far away from Jesus as you can get.   He shows no empathy and seems to think he’s above the law.  He denies reality.   If Trump was really a Christian, he would be repenting over his past actions both in business and in his personal life.  He has shown no remorse and in fact bragged that he doesn’t need God’s forgiveness.   He doesn’t seem at all sorry about anything he’s ever done and I have never heard him take any responsibility for anything, ever.  I have never heard him say he’s sorry or admit when he’s been wrong.

It makes no difference whether or not Trump attends church or SAYS he’s a Christian or allows a group of evangelicals to pray over him.    Anyone could do those things; it’s all window dressing intended to impress his religious base and please his wealthy Christian financial backers.   “By their fruits you shall know them,”  said Jesus in Matthew 7: 15-20, and so far, Trump has produced nothing but bad fruit.  A Christian doesn’t brag about grabbing women by the pussy or make sexual references about his own daughter, not to mention the many things he is doing to endanger people’s lives and happiness, and the health of the planet itself.   So no, from everything I can tell, Trump is not a Christian and I feel perfectly justified in saying so.   It doesn’t matter that I can’t see the state of his soul, but I can see and hear from his deeds and words that there is no Christ in his heart.  So I don’t want to hear Trump whine about a fictional war on Christmas, since from everything I can see, he’s a Christian in name only, if even that.

2. Christmas is based on a pagan feast.  Early Christians did not celebrate Christmas.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say we must celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  According to Google.com,

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.

History.com explains why December 25th was selected:

Was Jesus really born on December 25 in the first place? Probably not. The Bible doesn’t mention his exact birthday, and the Nativity story contains conflicting clues. For instance, the presence of shepherds and their sheep suggest a spring birth. When church officials settled on December 25 at the end of the third century, they likely wanted the date to coincide with existing pagan festivals honoring Saturn (the Roman god of agriculture) and Mithra (the Persian god of light). That way, it became easier to convince Rome’s pagan subjects to accept Christianity as the empire’s official religion

The celebration of Christmas spread throughout the Western world over the next several centuries, but many Christians continued to view Epiphany and Easter as more important. Some, including the Puritans of colonial New England, even banned its observance because they viewed its traditions—the offering of gifts and decorating trees, for example—as linked to paganism. In the early days of the United States, celebrating Christmas was considered a British custom and fell out of style following the American Revolution. It wasn’t until 1870 that Christmas became a federal holiday.

3. Trump isn’t whining about the secular commercialism of Christmas.

Christmas in America has become much more about gift giving (and big business raking in lots of money every year) than it is about the birth of Jesus.   What do snowflakes on coffee cups, Christmas wreaths, coniferous trees, prettily wrapped gifts, Black Friday, and sparkly cards that say “Merry Christmas” have to do with actual Christianity?  Nothing, that’s what.  In fact, these traditions are engaged in by many Jews, atheists, and people of religions other than Christianity.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with  these things and they can be a lot of fun, but let’s not pretend these things are remotely religious because they aren’t.    Christmas, especially in America, is much more about celebrating capitalism (and the togetherness of family and friends) than it is to any Biblical event.     And, while the gift giving, decorations, and activities can be a lot of fun, they can also cause a lot of stress, especially for people who lack the money to buy gifts or don’t have close relationships with family or friends.   There’s a reason why so many people become so depressed during the holiday season.   But I don’t see Trump complaining about how commercialized Christmas has become; I only see him whining about people and groups who refuse to embrace its commercialism.

4. People have been saying “Happy Holidays” for DECADES.  Why is it suddenly an issue?

Trump acts like people saying “Happy Holidays” is a new development, but it’s actually very old.    I remember during the 1960s and 70s,  my parents always sent out cards that said “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” because so many of the people they knew were Jewish.  No one took offense.   It wasn’t an issue for anyone, Christian or not.    I even remember some of the old Christmas songs said “Happy Holidays.”   Again, never an issue.    I’m sure the trend is a lot older even than I am.   Here’s a very old Christmas card, I’m not sure what year, but it looks to date from the early 20th century or even the late 19th:

Old-Christmas-Cards-christmas-119454_395_500

5. It’s even harder to enjoy Christmas now that it’s become political. 

It’s bad enough that we have to deal with the financial and emotional stresses of the Christmas season, but now we have to worry that we might offend someone by using the wrong holiday Christmas seasonal? greeting.   Maybe it’s just better to say nothing at all and not give out cards either because they also might offend somebody.    It sucks we can’t even enjoy the holidays anymore without it being a potential politically divisive issue.  Again, it was never like this before.  It’s been MADE a political issue.   #6 may be the reason why.

6. Trump is actually waging a war on non-Christians.

Okay, I can’t prove it, but it seems to me that Trump’s phony ‘war on Christmas’ is intended to anger his far right Christian base, who are not likely to think too critically and just take it on faith that whatever Trump says is the truth.  So if he says there’s a war on Christmas, then by God, there’s a war on Christmas and on Christianity itself.   This is intentional, as Trump and his fundamentalist/dominionist Christian backers and cabinet members have every intention of turning America into a theocracy, instead of a nation that has always prided itself on religious freedom and diversity.    To some of these extreme right-wing Christians, “religious freedom” means the freedom to force their beliefs on others, not the freedom to worship (or not worship) the way you choose.

According to today’s HuffPo,  at the “Celebrate Freedom” event at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night, Trump said,

“I remind you that we’re going to start staying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

Is he actually attempting to legislate the words we use?   It sure seems like it from his choice of words.   The intent here is to bring us farther away from democracy than we already are and closer to theocratic rule.    A free country does not tell people what they can and cannot say, at Christmas or at any other time or for any other reason.

waronchristmas

7. Would Jesus actually care if people said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”?

I highly doubt it.  I doubt Jesus was narcissistic enough to insist we use his name when celebrating his non-birthday.  As mentioned before, nowhere in the Bible are we told we must celebrate Christmas or use a particular greeting.  In fact, I bet Jesus would be ashamed of us for attaching his name to a holiday that has become mostly secular and fun at best, and a crass celebration of greed and materialism at worst.    Again, Christmas wasn’t celebrated by anyone until the 300’s when a Pope decided it was a holy day.

8.  The “war on Christmas” is most likely a distraction from the real issues. 

Trump seems to like to stir up drama whenever the heat is on and he’s being criticized for much more serious issues.   This is classic Cluster B behavior and Trump displays it every. single. day.   In deflecting attention from himself and pointing fingers at others (primarily the media, but individuals too), he is really trying to take the light of truth off his own shady, amoral, and possibly illegal activities.

9.  It’s things like this that make people despise Christians.

When Christians (or any other group) whine incessantly about how persecuted they are (when they really aren’t) and fixate on minor issues (like the fictional war on Christmas) they believe prove they are being persecuted, it makes people hate them, and for good reason.   As a Christian myself, I’m embarrassed to be associated with phony “Christians” like Trump who try to restrict our freedoms and obsess over trivia in their efforts to alienate people with different beliefs and divide a nation.

10. He’s yapping about this in JULY.

Yes, fellow Americans, Trump is whining about his bogus war on Christmas the day before we celebrate America’s independence.   Does that historical event mean nothing to him?   It’s an insult to all those who have fought and died for our country.   But what else can we expect from a man who does nothing but insult others?

13 reasons why you should pick up a book and read it.

Knowledge - light

I used to read about three books a week, sometimes as many as four.   As a child and teen, I was a voracious reader, so into my books that the adults around me used to worry about me.  “Why don’t you watch more TV like other kids?” they’d say.   Yes, they actually wanted me to watch more TV because my obsession with books seemed so obsessive. TV was okay, but it never held a candle to my books.

My addiction to books lasted well into my thirties.  But then along came the Internet, and before long, I no longer read three books a week, or even three books a month.  Hell, these days I barely read three books a year.

I’m trying to get back into reading books again, and am rediscovering an old love of mine.  Here are 13 good reasons why you should do the same.

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My bookshelf at home.
  1.  Books are cheap.    You can go to Goodwill or the Salvation Army and pick up used books for a buck or two each.  Yard sales usually have books that are practically free or less than a dollar, and you never know what you might find.  And of course, there are libraries, which carry current titles and all you pay is the cost of a library card.   Some communities also have used bookstores, and in some of them you can trade titles you’ve read for ones you haven’t read and pay practically nothing.
  2. Nothing smells quite like a book.   I’ve always loved the smell of books, and walking into a library is like walking into olfactory heaven.    You can’t get that smell from your Kindle reader.
  3. Books can take you into other worlds.  A good fiction book is like walking into another person’s life and living it for little while.  If you find a book that grabs your attention and you can relate to the protagonist, in a way you actually become that character for awhile.   Chances are, their life is a lot more interesting than yours.  You can go places you will probably never go in real life and have adventures you will probably never actually experience.
  4. You can educate yourself.  Anything you want to know or are interested in, there is a book about it.  There’s no excuse to not educate yourself, with all the books out there you can read.
  5.  Books are attractive.  They look great on shelves or lying on tables,  and are a great way to decorate a room and make yourself look smart at the same time.
  6. Books allow you to be left alone.   If you’re in a public place, such as a bus, a waiting room, or in a park, if people see you reading a book, they will probably leave you alone and let you read.
  7. Books can start new friendships.   Sometimes, if you’re reading a book in a public place, someone may ask what you’re reading.   That can be a great conversation starter, and you never know — you may make a new friend that way.
  8. You can read a book anywhere.  You don’t need to recharge it or have a special table for it or a place to plug it into the wall.   You can lie in bed and read, lie on the floor and read, lie on the beach and read, or even lean back in the tub and read.  You can’t generally go online comfortably (or safely) in these places.
  9. You don’t have to worry about the power going out, viruses, or crashes.   As long as you have a lamp to read by, you can read a book anytime you want.
  10. You will always have something to talk about.
  11. People who read books are perceived as smart.   Even if all you’re reading is the latest beach romance.  The strangers around you don’t have to know that.
  12. Books can relax you.   Whenever I settle down and start reading, it calms my nerves and I stop worrying about whatever’s bothering me.  You can’t worry about your own troubles when you’re engrossed in a character’s life or a subject that fascinates you.   Try not to read horror novels late at night though, if you want to sleep.  If you want to sleep, read a dull book.
  13. You can never really get bored.  If you enjoy reading, you can entertain, educate, or enlighten yourself anytime or any place.

Trump *is* making America great again — but not in the ways he wants.

I *really* needed this today.  This viral Facebook post lifted me right out of my depressed, despondent mood over the direction America is going.

*****

A new forward going around:

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:
1. Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
2. Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to google.
3. Millions of Americans are exercising more. They’re holding signs and marching every week.
4. Alec Baldwin is great again. Everyone’s forgotten he’s kind of a jerk.
5. The Postal Service is enjoying the influx cash due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
6. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry is enjoying record growth in sales of anti-depressants.
7. Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
8. Footage of town hall meetings is now entertaining.
9. Tens of millions of people are now correctly spelling words like emoluments, narcissist, fascist, misogynist, holocaust and cognitive dissonance.
10. Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
11. Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.
12. Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.
13. White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead. (See #6)
14. White people in record numbers also finally understand that Obamacare IS the Affordable Care Act.
15. Stephen Colbert’s “Late Night” finally gained the elusive #1 spot in late night talk shows, and Seth Meyers is finding his footing as today’s Jon Stewart.
16. “Mike Pence” has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
17. Melissa FREAKING McCarthy.
18. Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
19. As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.
20. Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now as popular as the Kardashians.
21. Massive cleanup of facebook friend lists.
22. People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” increased by 10,000% after the inauguration. (Yes, that is true. 10,000%. 9th grade Lit teachers all over the country are now rock stars.)
23. More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important. Like, super important.
24. Now, more than anytime in history, everyone believes that anyone can be President. Seriously, anyone.

– Susan Keller (Copy and paste to share.)

 

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Clowns.

Clown Makes Funny Face

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Halloween just wouldn’t be Halloween without spooky clowns, right?

Mentalfloss lists 7 little known and interesting facts about this very old profession.

http://mentalfloss.com/article/87942/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-clowns

Depending on who you ask, clowns are either harmless fun or the stuff of nightmares. But no matter where your opinion falls, there’s a lot going on beneath the face paint of this surprisingly old profession. There’s even a story behind the iconic red nose: It can be traced to a member of the Fratellini family named Albert, who originated the Auguste clown archetype—complete with the world debut of the bright red clown nose. Now make like a clown car and stuff as many of these facts in your head as you can.

Read the rest of this post here.

15 ways to write an unforgettable blog post.

Originally posted on 6/8/15

In my two plus years of blogging, I think I’ve learned a few things about how to write interesting (and sometimes controversial) posts people want to read. Sure, I’ve posted weak articles no one seems to want to read–we’re entitled to have those days sometimes–but I think my track record on the whole has been pretty good. I don’t consider myself any sort of blogging guru or anything, and there’s still a lot I’m learning, but I think I have learned enough to be able to share what I know with other bloggers and people who want to start a blog.

1. The title is everything.

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Never mind the subject matter, this is a great title. Did it grab your attention? That’s the only important thing.

Keep your titles “grabby.” Make them stand out. Make them a little controversial (“Don’t Judge Me Because I’m Poor”), a little true-confessional (“People Think I’m Stupid” or “All My Narcissistic Lovers”), a little cheeky (“Why Are Some Things So Annoying?”), or even pose a challenge to the reader (“My Son is Furry–Have a problem with that?”) Don’t try to make them too “nice”–because that will make them boring.

When all else fails, just keep them short and to the point. “I Have Issues” is a better title than “I Don’t Know Why I’m So Depressed, Nervous, Bitter and Angry all the Time.”

Keep your titles as short as possible. Never, ever write a title that sounds like a Ph.D thesis, such as: “Preternaturally narcissistic and sociopathic actions within the social media milieu: a paradigm of the interglobal loss of interpersonal altruism.” WUT?

Never, EVER use the word “paradigm” in a title. If you do that, I will personally come to your house and splash water all over your keyboard. That’s a promise. The same goes for “milieu.” Don’t use that word. Ever. No one knows how to spell it anyway.

paradigm

2. Keep your subject matter on topic as much as you can.

Blogging (1)

It’s alright to veer off topic to tell an anecdote or provide an example to flesh out your article and add human interest to it–in fact doing this can make your post seem more personal and that’s almost always a good thing. But try not to veer off the topic too much. It’s hard to do sometimes, but if you do, always somehow bring the article back to your original topic, and it will look like you intended for it to veer off topic a little to make a point.

3. Break up your text!

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Even if you write like Shakespeare or Hemingway, readers will bypass your well-written post if it’s just a long wall of text. While a photo, graphic, drawing or cartoon isn’t required for a very short post, it can make your post stand out more and look more appealing. Walls of text for long posts hurt people’s eyes.

If your post is very long, break it up. Use photos or pictures or quotes at appropriate intervals that illustrate the point of your story or article. It’s easy to Google images you want to use–just type the subject matter into the browser and click on Google Images, and I can guarantee you’ll fine the perfect image to illustrate your article. Your own photos or pictures are fine to use too, when appropriate.

But be careful with this too. If you use too many pictures and graphics (as I tend to do), your post could wind up looking like the cover of a supermarket tabloid, and that will turn off readers too. Make sure your post looks clean and uncluttered, especially if you also run ads on your site.

Quotes and block quotes also work well at breaking up walls of text, and never be afraid to use humorous quotes or captions, even in a serious post (as long as it’s still in context). You can also use subheadings within the article and that will make it easier to digest too.

Beyond that, break up your paragraphs into smaller, easier to chew pieces. Readers are not cavemen gnawing an entire flank of beef all at once. They are civilized humans who like their steak cut into small pieces that can be picked up and savored one at a time. The same advice goes for paragraphs. Keep them bite size and they will be much more readable and taste better too.

4. Use the share buttons!

sharing

Even if you hate social media, make sure each blog post contains all the social media share buttons available, which can be found in the dashboard. Even if YOU don’t want to link your post to them, OTHER people will use them. If they’re not there under your post, people probably won’t bother sharing your post. Share buttons are a lazy way of getting your post seen by many people, only you’re letting your readers do the dirty work for you. That’s nothing to feel guilty about.

5. Use links in your posts.

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Linking to other blogs within your post creates a pingback: the writer of that blog will see that you quoted them, and more than likely will come and check out your blog. They might even follow you back. Creating a blogroll (in Widgets) or somewhere in your header will help too. It shows you read other blogs as well as your own, and the other bloggers will appreciate your support, and may even recommend your blog to others.

And of course, if you quote someone else’s material, make sure you link to their post or at least credit them.

Link to your own articles too. Doing this not only adds depth and background to your article, but it also encourages readers to not stop with the article they’re reading–they might click on your links and read your other articles too!

6. Don’t ignore your comments!

comments

If you ignore your comments, people will lose interest in your blog. People like it when their thoughts are acknowledged and validated. No one wants to feel ignored. Replying to comments may seem like a time consuming chore, but if you fail to do this, it’s insulting to the reader who wrote the comment or asked the question, and it will seem like you don’t care. If you don’t want comments on your blog, you can always disable them. Personally, outside of writing for yourself only, I never understood why anyone would do that. All popular blogs are dynamic, interactive blogs, where people can comment and lively conversations and debates can get started. It’s helpful to comment on other people’s blogs as well.

Replying to comments keeps your readers around and makes it seem like you care about them. It also creates a sense of community that keeps people coming back for more.

You do not have to reply to every comment, but at least “like” it if you don’t have time to reply. If your blog is very active, it may be hard to reply to every single comment or give long well-thought out replies, but a “like” or a few words such as “thank you for your kind remarks” should be sufficient.

If you have the time (unfortunately I don’t much anymore), comment on or at least “like” posts by other bloggers. Follow as many other bloggers as you can, too. Most people are polite so most likely they’ll follow you back.

7. Write frequently.

read_and_write

You should challenge yourself and try to write at least one new post a day. If you can think of nothing to write about (we all have those days), post a funny, cute or attractive photo or a quote you like. Cartoons work well too (I use them all the time). And don’t forget about cats. Cats online are like sex in the movies–they will “sell” your blog post. You can also reblog someone else’s article, but make sure you give credit. If it’s a WordPress blogger, that is automatically done for you.

If you don’t post frequently, people will stop visiting your blog. Sometimes I write 3-5 posts a day. You don’t have to go that crazy, but at least one post a day will keep your blog from stagnating like unmoving pond water. There’s nothing that will kill a blog faster than abandoning it. If you don’t appear to care, your readers won’t either and will go somewhere else.

8. Write as if you’re speaking.

writeasyouspeak

You don’t have to be a Shakespeare or a Poe or have great writing ability to write a good blog post. If you know how to string together a few sentences and have halfway decent grammar (grammar and spell check will help), you can still write a post people want to read. The key is to make it conversational and personal. Don’t overload the reader with too many facts or overly pedantic language. And always, ALWAYS be honest. People can tell when you’re lying or leaving out pertinent information. They will finish reading your article feeling like you’re hiding something. They will feel cheated and may never return.\

If possible, write your post in a conversational, personal tone. If it’s a scholarly article, of course you cannot do this, but for most blog posts, writing in simple, casual language and using personal examples to illustrate a point makes your article seem more personal, as if you are talking to the reader. Be a story teller.

9. Surprise your readers.

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If your blog focuses on one or two subjects as this one does, it’s okay to add in an occasional article or post about something unrelated or even totally random. In fact, I think doing this (as long as you don’t overdo it) makes your blog fresher and more interesting. Another benefit of posting off-topic material is that you will attract readers who may not otherwise be reading your blog. I have had a number of foodies and furries reading this blog (and even following it) because of articles I wrote about those subjects. It helps to be versatile, but be careful not to lose your original focus or you will just look like you aren’t that interested in your theme topic.

It’s okay to have a general interest blog though. Many blogs aren’t about any topic in particular, just whatever the writer wants to write about that day, and that’s fine too. In fact, some of the most interesting blogs out there are general interest blogs without a focus.

10. Don’t dwell in negativity.

fucking_negativity

If your blog is about a serious or dark subject (as mine is), watch your pessimism and negativity. People won’t feel inspired or come away feeling like they’ve learned something of value if all you do is bitch and moan and talk about how the glass is always half empty. While emotional honesty in a post is great, people also want to feel like you’re giving them some hope for their hopeless situation too. That’s why I include inspirational memes and quotes, happy or cute photographs, cartoons, jokes, and lots of music. (Music has been an important factor in my recovery, second only to writing). Sometimes I find that if I post something positive even when I’m feeling like I want to jump out a 16th floor window (it happens more often than you think!), it actually improves my mood. Don’t lie in your posts and pretend to be happy when you’re not (which can come off as insincere and obnoxious), but don’t suck people into your vortex of darkness with you either.

11. Don’t require people to sign in.

red-brick-wall

Unless you are in a situation where you have a potentially dangerous stalker or group of people harassing or stalking you online, never, EVER require people to sign in to read your blog. I know if I see a blog that requires me to sign in or use a password to read posts, I’ll bypass that blog, even if it’s about a topic I’m jumping out of my skin to read about. I just don’t have the patience or time to fill out all that garbage if I want to read your blog.

12. Don’t write about something because you think it’s cool.

almost_famous

Never write about something just because it’s popular or trendy, if it doesn’t interest you. People will be able to tell your heart isn’t in what you’re writing about, and you’ll come off as a wannabe or a hack, and certainly less than honest. Nothing will drive a reader away faster than if they sense a lack of passion or honesty in a blog post. It’s okay to be uncool and embracing your uncoolness in fact makes you cool.

13. Run naked in public sometimes.

naked

If you have been keeping an article set to “private” because you think it’s too personal and feel shy about sharing it with the world, take a deep breath and make it public! In my experience, whenever I’ve been afraid to post something due to its personal nature, I have NEVER regretted taking the plunge. It will set you free.

14. Controversial articles get more views.

jackass-whisperer

It’s a fact. I’ve posted several articles that proved to be extremely polarizing. People either loved them or wanted me to die a prolonged and painful death. Yes, posting something controversial or “un-PC’ WILL get you more haters, trolls and you may even have to face bullies, but guess what? My stats SOARED! That article TRIPLED my usual number of views for that week. Sure, most of them were probably clicking it on to see what all the fuss was about, but along the way, I got a ton of new followers too, and while my views have gone back down, my overall visibility has increased. And the trolls and bullies have moved onto other things. (To handle trolls and bullies, please check my articles under the “Handling Online Trolls and Bullies” tab.) I find it’s best to ignore them, but sometimes even a hater post can make great fodder for a new article, but be careful about identifying anyone by name because that could get you in trouble.

15. Check your grammar and spelling.

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This should be a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many blog posts I see that are full of unecessary spelling and grammar errors. If you can’t write a proper English sentence, you probably should take up another hobby besides blogging. Theirs nothing mor disstractng & anoying than a sentenzes who no can read becuase your writting in bad grammer & falty speling.

A few other things to remember.

If you’re a new blogger, don’t panic if things go slowly at first. Don’t get discouraged, frustrated or give up because at first it will seem like no one is reading your blog. It takes time. Becoming visible and getting lots of views and follows takes some people longer than others. Dedication, patience and honesty will reap great rewards in time. Of course, if you write about a “hot” topic, like I do, that will help your growth too. But it isn’t necessary to write about something trendy. I don’t think the growth of this blog is because it’s “better” than any other–but because I’ve put so much time and effort into creating it.

Finally, you can’t “make” a post go viral. Unfortunately there’s no way to tell ahead of time which of your posts will grow legs and spread all over the web like wildfire. It could be a post you think is “boring” but somehow resonates with many people, or one you posted a long time ago. Maybe the “right” person sees it and helps get it out there for you. But when it happens to you, it’s an amazing feeling and makes you feel validated as a writer.

6 ways to turn things that annoy you into hilarious blog posts.

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This ever happen to you? Yep, it’s beyond annoying. I bet you could write something funny about it.

Let’s face it. Annoying things are funny.   If you can look at the humorous side of the things that drive you crazy,  two things happen:  (1)  it no longer seems as annoying; and (2) you can write a great post that makes your readers laugh.   Some of my most popular posts–such as “12 Reasons Why I Don’t Like Autumn“– have been biting jabs at things I don’t like.

Here are 6 ways you can turn something that makes you want to stick white-hot steel pins in your eyes into something that makes your audience (and you) laugh.

1. First, try to find the funny side of whatever it is that annoys you.

Come on, you don’t have to dig that deep.  Almost everything has a funny side to it.  Most things that are merely annoying (as opposed to, say, tragic, where it might be hard to find a light side) are very funny indeed.   Hate morning radio shows? (I do.)  Make fun of them!  Talk about how idiotic they are or the way they never play any music.  Rant on about the way there’s always a dumb-as-a-bag-of-hammers female sidekick who gets paid to do nothing except laugh idiotically at Bubba and Ed’s lame jokes. Lampoon the way all the jokes are about celebrities and sex.  Or celebrities having sex.  Like anyone cares.

2. Don’t be afraid to use sarcasm.

If you’re good at it, that is. You should know if you are.  I’m one of those people that is not.  Snark and sarcasm don’t come naturally to me.   But if you’re good at it, that’s a plus because it can make your funny posts even funnier.     If, like me,  you’re not good at sarcasm and snark, skip it because you’ll seem like you’re trying too hard, and worse, come off as nasty and mean instead of bitingly funny.

3. Exaggerate!

exaggeration

“That Turbo-sized mug of Pumpkin Spice cappuccino she forced on me against my will smelled like cinnamon-and-clove-scented sewer” is a lot funnier than “that large mug of Pumpkin Spice cappuccino she gave me smelled terrible.”   You’re not lying; you’re embellishing the truth with colorful imagery to enhance its humorous effect. (Oh, and almost everyone  I know is fed up with Pumpkin Spice everything).

4Profanity can be useful, but use it sparingly.

I try not to use too many profanities in my blog posts, not because I’m some prudish church-lady afraid of “salty” language, but because most of the time,  it just makes you sound low class, mean, and uneducated. It’s also lazy.  There are usually better ways to  express frustration, anger, surprise, or whatever strong emotion you’re trying to convey.  That being said, sometimes a well placed expletive gets your point across more effectively than anything else, and you don’t have to worry about Those Words making you sound pretentious, as a euphemism might.   You can usually get away with naughty words if you’re writing something humorous–especially if it’s about something you find f***ing annoying.  It’s the surprise factor of seeing a four letter word there that sometimes sets off the guffaws.  Everyone can relate to the F-bomb (and well-placed,  it does act like a kind of bomb!), even if they don’t admit it.   Only use it once or twice though.  If you overload your post with profanities, you’ll probably just turn off most readers instead of making them laugh.

5. Make a numbered list.

Everyone loves lists–or “listicles,” as they have been recently (and annoyingly) called when they refer to lists on blog posts.   The human love of lists is the reason why back in the 1980s, “The Book of Lists” was a huge bestseller, and spawned a jazillion followup books.  It’s the reason why every article about writing engaging blog posts will tell you to “put it in a list.”    If you’re writing about something that annoys you, you can either write a list of all the different things that annoy you, or focus on one thing and list all the reasons why you hate it.

Lists are also a lot easier to write than regular prose, and easier to read too.

6.  Find funny images to illustrate your post.

I love Google Images, and I can almost always find the perfect image for any post I’m writing.   All you do is type in a few words describing what you’re looking for or what your post is about, and click on Images, and voila!  Then it’s just a matter of choosing the one that “speaks” to you the most.    There are some pretty hilarious ones too, for almost any subject you can think of.   Images, memes, cartoons, and funny photographs can make your funny post even funnier, but don’t overwhelm your readers by posting too many.  After all, you want your  own words to stand out, not have their effect diluted with too many funny pictures.  One at the top of your post, and maybe one or two others sparingly placed should be enough.  If you’re good at writing captions, do it, because sometimes those are the funniest things in a post.   If you love funny captions,  check out those on Cracked.com.  Theirs are the greatest.

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You can also turn things that elicit other disagreeable emotions in you (as long as they’re not “serious” emotions like sadness or grief) into comedy gold!   Try writing a funny post about things that disgust, bore, or scare you!    Here’s one I wrote called “25 Things That Gross Me Out.

8 good things about fall.

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Alright, fine.  I hate fall (see my last post), but it does have a few redeeming traits.  I can name them on one hand plus three fingers.  See?  I can be fair.

  1.  The end of flea season.  If you’re a pet owner, you know exactly why this is important. Especially if you’re sensitive to their bites, the way I am.
  2. No more blisteringly hot, humid, days that make you feel like you’re covered in glue and cause your hair to frizz up and your clothes to stick to you like ColorForms™, and cause tempers to flare.
  3. No more bugs.
  4. You don’t have to mow the grass anymore.  Or at least you can mow it a lot less.
  5. Halloween is kind of fun, and Christmas always turns out to be nice, in spite of the dreaded, over-commercialized “holiday season” that precedes it starting around Labor Day.
  6. You don’t feel guilty about sleeping in on weekends, or get that awful feeling that you might be missing something because you wasted your day lying in bed.
  7. Pumpkins are overrated and taste like garbage, but they do look sort of bright and happy sitting out there on a patch of grass covered with leaves.  Gourds are nice too.
  8. The smell of wet fallen leaves, fattening baked goods (except pumpkin pies, ew), and fires.