- Replace eggs with a cholesterol-free egg substitute or whites. According to the American Heart Association, two egg whites may be substituted for a whole egg.
- Use fat-free (skim) milk. This one change saves you calories and lowers your cholesterol.
- Choose non-fat cheese. For better melting, Dr. Richard Collins, author of The Cooking Cardiologist, recommends soaking the cheese in milk for a few minutes before adding it to recipes.
- Add fiber—fresh fruit, dried fruit, vegetables, and grains—whenever possible.
- Cook with plant oils, such as olive, corn, and canola. If you’re sautéing food, add a dab of butter to the oil for flavor.
- Swap unsweetened applesauce for shortening in baking recipes. Cooking is chemistry and, for best results, you may have to add a teaspoon of oil.
- Hold the salt. Excess salt raises your blood pressure. Instead of salt, Mayo Clinic recommends citrus zest, fresh and dried herbs.
- Cut back on sugar. Recipes made with half the sugar may taste just as sweet.
- Go lean on protein. Buy lean cuts of beef, skinless chicken, chops, and fish. Some recipes, such as spaghetti sauce, may not need any protein.
- Eat normal (not supersize) servings. According to the University of Missouri Extension Service, large servings add up to 200-500 calories a day, which can add 20-50 extra pounds a year.
Grandparents, especially those who are raising their grandchildren, have the right to:
· Enjoy your grandkids.
· Feed them nutritious, balanced meals, and normal servings.
· Give your grandkids sandwiches if they reject dinner.
· Make play part of each day.
· Help with homework, but don’t provide answers.
· Teach grandkids basic manners.
· Ask grandkids to help around the house.
· Laugh at your own jokes even if they’re sappy.
· Ask permission to give grandkids hugs.
· Expect teens to provide who, what, when, where, why and how details.
· Set reasonable bedtimes and curfews.
· Use the word “no” when necessary.
· Teach grandkids how to budget and save money.
· Get grandkids to clean up their bedrooms and ignore the “moanie groanies.”
· Require drivers to fill the car gas tank when gauge reads one quarter full.
· Ask drivers to turn the car radio back to your favorite station.
· Stop loud music and phone calls after 9 p.m.
· Repeat stories even if your grandkids roll their eyes.
· Say “I love you” every day.
Copyright © 2017 by Harriet Hodgson
Last year, on impulse, I decided to keep a book marketing log. The idea came to me in February so the log is a month short. Despite 30 missing days, the log is a written record of a freelance writer’s life—my life—filled with facts and odd surprises.
On the first day I only wrote one sentence. By the end of the year, I was entering columns of information. A year later, when I read my log, I was amazed. It had been an amazing year and I had made marketing progress. These are some of the things I learned from my log.
Keeping a log sparks effort. When I started the log I vowed to take two marketing steps a day. I kept this promise. In fact, I exceeded it. Mid-year entries show that I doubled, and in some instances, tripled book marketing efforts. Reading my log makes me proud of myself.
I tapped Twitter’s power. Since I’ve never had any computer training, everything I know about computers and the Net I learned by trial and error. Several months into my log I hired Books Go Social to publicize books on Twitter. This step garnered many followers, and I cite their names/occupations in my log. As the months passed my list of followers grew from several hundred to 1,273 and it’s still growing.
Finally, I see the power of “likes.” I discovered that clicking the like icon shoots my name all over the Internet—good publicity for any author. Now that I know this I’m paying more attention to likes. Still, I’m careful and avoid strange ideas and people. I’m also careful about the comments I post.
A log is a reference document. My log contains information that I might need in the future, such as my Minnesota sales tax number. To be able to sell books at church bazaars and workshops I had to get this number, and it’s highlighted in my log. Organizations, email addresses, and Internet links are also listed.
Celebrations are cited in my log. The release date of my cookbook is written in caps because it’s something to celebrate. I also note when an organization asks me to speak, the date and time of my upcoming presentation. Media coverage is also something I list in my log.
I’m linked to the world. I list the name of every Twitter follower and where they live if this information is shared. My log shows followers in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Scotland, Australia, France, Singapore, Philippines, and other countries. Surprisingly, many followers are writers like me. But the biggest surprise was the extent of my book marketing progress.
Should you keep a log? I can’t answer this question for you, but I can allay your fears. A log isn’t a journal or diary, it’s a concise record, and therefore takes less time. Typing an entry takes only a minute or two. The benefits of keeping a log are listed above and they may lead you to a new path—a journey of self-discovery and progress.
Whether it’s a special holiday meal, or a casual summer picnic, food brings family members together. These gatherings also lead to family stories. “Do you remember when Aunt Ethel dropped the casserole?” “Those were the best steaks we’ve ever had!” “I love this. Would you give me the recipe?”
You may have shared recipes with family members, who prepare them as written, or “tweak” them a bit. Future generations can enjoy these recipes only if they are saved. Compiling a family cookbook gives you the chance to preserve recipes, document family lore, and share photos all at the same time. A family cookbook is an historical document.
When it comes to creating a cookbook you have three options. One, contact a cookbook company and have it do the work for you. While these companies produce professional-looking books, they tend to look the same. Another option is to self-publish via one of the many companies that do this. For more information look on the Internet using the words “self-publish.”
Or you may take the easy route, which I did, and put the recipes in a three-ring binder. Personally, I think this is the easiest route, one that allows you to add more recipes easily. To shield the recipes from drips, I put each page in a plastic protector. So how to you get started on a project like this?
Find the recipes. My sister-in-law and I sorted through our mother-in-law’s recipe boxes and chose the recipes that family members liked most. Gathering recipes can turn into a treasure hunt. You may find recipes tucked inside cookbooks, for example, or hand-written notes beside recipes. I wrote a one-page introduction to the cookbook.
Be accurate. The fun of a family cookbook is reading about family members. My mother-in-laws handwritten recipes contained notes such as, “Recipe from Tuttie.” Include any instructions that you may find. At the end of a fudge recipe my mother-in-law wrote, “Cut, enjoy. Save some for mother and dad. Be a good scout and clean up the kitchen afterwards.”
Be as consistent as possible. It’s best to list the ingredients in the order they are used. This helps the person gather ingredients and get an idea of the steps involved. These days many cookbooks number the recipe steps and I recommend this.
Include extra facts. Historical notes will add to the personal value of the cookbook and make it an enjoyable read. For example, you may add, “This recipe was served at the 10th family reunion at the farm.” You may also add notes about who is related to whom, such as “Louise is Aunt Ethel’s daughter.”
Add family photos. Photos are excellent documentation of heritage. Be sure to add names and dates if you have them. Other family members may be willing to contribute photos to the cookbook. Offer to reproduce photos for family members.
Think about your family tree. By all means, include your family tree if you have one. Before you do this, make sure names and relationships are accurate. Include a contact email or phone number for the family tree.
Although creating a family cookbook involves lots of detail work, family members will appreciate your efforts. Events—and recipes—bind family members together.
Holidays are a challenge for the bereaved. Memories tug you back in time and the thought of future without a loved one is even more painful. These tips may help you get through this difficult time. Start using your kit now!
- Spend time with people who understand my loss.
- Have one meaningful conversation each day.
- Promise to be kind to myself; the holidays don’t have to be perfect.
- Attend a few special events and note them on the calendar.
- Talk about my loved one and find comfort in happy memories.
- Use linking objects—a rolling pin, tools, jewelry, etc.
- Give to others in memory of my loved one.
- Write about my feelings and grief journey in a journal.
- Add physical activity to my daily routine.
- Remember that love lasts forever and is always with me.
Originally featured on Wheelock.edu.
After I graduated from Wheelock, I taught for a dozen years, four as a kindergarten teacher and eight as a preschool teacher. I loved every day in the classroom. I submitted articles to teaching magazines and was thrilled when they were published. During my last teaching job I designed a series of toys and games from throw-away materials. The students tested the toys and games, and the best ideas became my first published book.
To my surprise, the publisher asked me to appear at “New York Is Book Country,” a festival in the heart of New York City. I flew to New York and was escorted to a booth in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. While I was demonstrating toys and games, a man pushed through the crowd, and began, “Years ago, in Germany, there was a man who invented kindergarten. … ”
“Froebel,” I interrupted.
“You know Froebel?” he said in a surprised voice.
“Yes,” I answered, thinking of Wheelock’s wonderful Froebel frieze.
People keep asking me how I transitioned from teaching to writing. The transition was easy, thanks to Wheelock, yet it took more time than anticipated, required new learning, and plain persistence. How did my Wheelock education prepare me for this career change?
At Wheelock I received excellent training in planning units. Today, units are called learning modules, but the basic principles are the same, starting with goals and objectives. I’m a health and wellness writer, and my goal is to connect the dots between research and real life. For example, the purpose of my book The Family Caregiver’s Guide is to make life easier for caregivers. If I can’t summarize the purpose of the book in one sentence, I rethink the project.
Outlining a book can take months. While I’m working on the outline I search for possible cover photos, relying on my art minor at Wheelock, and my M.A. in Art Education from the University of Minnesota. My publisher subscribes to an online, royalty-free photo service. I log in to the website and look for potential cover photos. Finding the right one takes so many hours that I develop eye strain. In fact, I looked at more than 2,000 photos before choosing the mosaic cover for my first caregiving book.
When I was at Wheelock I served as co-editor of “The Key,” the college literary magazine. Writing for the magazine had an impact on me. As my skills developed, I realized that simple words had power. Surprisingly, long book titles work better for the Internet. People are in a hurry and want information in seconds. Long titles provide this information and that’s why my books have explanatory subtitles.
The value of review is something I also learned at Wheelock, so I include a summary at the end of each chapter. In one book I call the summary “Smart Steps.” In another book I call it “What Works.” I add headings to help readers find their way and follow my logic trail. WriteLife, my current publisher, believes in summaries so much that in one of my books it listed the summary pages at the beginning of the chapters.
My Wheelock education helped me most in 2007, when our elder daughter, mother of our twin grandchildren, died from the injuries she received in a car crash. Two days later my father-in-law succumbed to pneumonia. Eight weeks after his death, my brother, and only sibling, died of a heart attack. In the fall my former son-in-law died from the injuries he received in another car crash. His death made my grandchildren orphans and my husband and me their guardians.
Immediately Wheelock’s philosophy of respecting the child came to mind. It didn’t matter that my twin grandchildren were 15 years old when they moved in with us. I vowed to respect them, their intelligence, talents, goals, and grief. One week after my daughter died, I sat down at the computer and poured out my soul in words. These entries grew into eight grief resources. I also wrote a book about raising grandchildren and, in the preface, thank Wheelock for the child development training I received.
Respect came to mind again in 2013 when my husband’s aorta dissected. He was bleeding to death, and surgeons operated on him three times in a desperate attempt to save his life. During the last operation he suffered a spinal stroke that paralyzed his legs. After being hospitalized for eight months, my husband was dismissed to my care. Just as I’d done before, I sat down at the computer and started writing about being a family caregiver. This decision led to a series of four books.
Whether it’s respecting the child, reviewing information, writing “grabber” titles, choosing cover photos, or planning books, I’ve benefited greatly from my Wheelock education. I’m 81 years old now, chugging along with my writing career. I’m spreading the word about my books, writing for three websites, posting articles on my website blog, and speaking to community groups about grief, caregiving, compassion fatigue, and personal happiness. On my handwritten application to the College I said each of us has the ability to create our own happiness. I still believe this.
Thank you, Wheelock College, for standing by my side all these years
Originally shared on Grief Healing
Our elder daughter, mother of our twin grandchildren, died from the injuries she received in a car crash. This was bad enough, but six months later, the twin’s father died from the injuries he received in another crash.
His death made our grandchildren orphans and the county court, following our daughter’s will, appointed my husband and me as their guardians. The twins (one boy, one girl) were 15 years old when they moved in with us and lived with us for seven years.
At first, the twins treated family meals like a fuel stop; fill up and head out. My husband is a retired physician and we often talked about medical topics. As time passed, however, my grandson became interested in our conversations, listened intently, and asked questions. The twins graduated from high school and left for college, our grandson to the College of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, our granddaughter to Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Both graduated with high honors and Phi Beta Kappa.
Our granddaughter accepted a job with The Salvation Army. Our grandson was interested in becoming a physician, but took a year off to do research in a Mayo Clinic laboratory. He applied to many medical schools and was accepted by the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, a true feat. Mayo receives 5,000 applications a year and accepts only one percent. He just started medical school and invited us to parents’ weekend.
We attended a welcoming dinner, luncheon, and the Commitment to Medicine ceremony. Before the ceremony a speaker told the students they were there because of family support, a sentence that brought tears to my eyes. I thought of the profound sorrow we felt, our efforts to become a family, the twin’s achievements, and the other physicians in the family.
My husband’s father, a specialist in diseases of the chest, was a Mayo Clinic physician and died two days after our daughter died. My husband’s specialties were aviation medicine internal medicine, and public health. Now our grandson was starting his journey. He said the Commitment Pledge to Medicine with others in the class and each student was presented with a stethoscope.
For me, the stethoscope symbolized a family tradition and the desire to help. While attending the ceremony was an emotional experience, I managed to keep my feelings in check until the end of the day. I helped my disabled husband get into bed and went to bed myself. Instead of snuggling under the covers I suddenly burst into tears. I sobbed for my father-in-law and wished he had lived to see this day. I sobbed for my daughter and knew she would have been proud of her son. I sobbed for my former son-in-law and knew he would have been proud too. And I sobbed for my disabled husband’s resolve and courage.
I’ve studied grief for years and knew I was having an anniversary reaction, but wasn’t prepared for its intensity. Deborah Serani Psy.D. writes about “The Anniversary Effect” in a Psychology Today website article. “Make sure you take good care of yourself during these times,” she advises. Her care suggestions include checking the calendar well ahead of time, being aware of public trauma, talking with a family member, journaling, blogging, and using creative expression. A Mayo Clinic website article, “Grief: Coping with Reminders After a Loss,” notes that reminders can be anywhere. Unexpected reminders may be linked to something we see, hear, or smell.
The stethoscope symbolized so many things, among them sorrow, reconciliation, recovery, goal-setting, determination, studiousness, persistence, family pride, and hope. My grandson will be a fine physician and I know he will use his stethoscope compassionately.
Since this recipe isn’t in The Family Caregiver’s Cookbook I decided to post it on my blog. The recipe is a cross between coffee cake and dessert cake. John and I like it so much we eat leftover cake for breakfast. Because rhubarb is seasonal and because I don’t have time to drive to farm stands to find it, I use a frozen product. The original recipe came from a local grocery store. Although it is excellent I felt the recipe needed to be updated, and here’s my healthier version.
- ½ cup butter flavored Crisco (half a stick)
- 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup pre-sifted white flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- ½ teaspoon salt (or reduced sodium salt)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup reduced fat buttermilk
- 1 ½ cups rhubarb, cut into small pieces
- ½ cup strawberries, quartered (more if you wish)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ cup chopped walnuts (or pecans, or sliced almonds)
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13” x 9” baking pan with cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, cream Crisco and brown sugar together with electric mixer.
- Add egg and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.
- In a large bowl, whisk together white flour, wheat flour, salt, and baking soda.
- Add dry ingredients to wet in batches, alternating between buttermilk and flour.
- Fold in rhubarb and strawberries.
- Transfer cake batter to prepared pan.
- Set pan on center oven rack and bake for 45 minutes, or until cake starts to pull away from the pan. Makes 12 servings.
Book Marketing can be as much work as writing. You need to be able to summarize your book in two sentences (an “elevator speech) and print materials to support your book or series. Carry these materials in a shopping bag, large purse, or briefcase. Having materials isn’t enough, however, and you have to distribute them. What do you need?
Business cards. Small as it is, a business card is really a mini biography of you and should be professionally designed. Include your photo, writing genre, contact information, and summary phrase, such as “a romantic mystery.” Your photo should be current, not a shot that was taken 10 years ago. Be sure to include your website address.
Information Cards. A 5 ½-inch by 8-inch card is a good size. Your book cover, or covers, are printed on the front, and “sell copy” on the back. Ask your publisher for help if you haven’t written sell copy before. To encourage people to read both sides of the card, put “over” with an arrow on the bottom, right-hand corner of the front. Include your publisher’s name, logo, logos for the social media you use, and your website address. Inexpensive cards are available online.
Flyers. If you have art training or are familiar with computer graphics, design your own flyer. It should include your book cover, publisher, and some descriptive words. For example, the flyer for my upcoming cookbook says, “easy-fix recipes,” “real-life stories,” and “speed shopping tips.” Four-color flyers are more costly than black, but remember that color sells. To save money, print your flyer in black ink on colored stock.
Author brochures. Although I’m familiar with this idea, I’ve never acted upon it, so it’s still on my “To Do” list. I’m going to wrote the copy, but wait on printing because my marketing budget is strained right now. Tri-fold brochures are common and fairly cheap. Include clear photos only. No photos are better than fuzzy ones that frustrate readers.
A sample book. Nothing takes the place of having an actual book—something you can show top potential readers. Store your book in a plastic zipper bag. To prevent the cover from getting bent, and the corners from getting damaged, put protective cardboard over the front and back.
Bookmarks. Some publishers recommend them and others don’t. I had bookmarks printed for two of my latest books and have given out only a few. The graphic designer’s fee was more than I anticipated, and I had to pay for printing and shipping. If you have bookmarks, store them with your sample book.
Savor at least 15 minutes of quiet a day.
Continue to write articles, books, and speak to groups.
Listen to music when driving around town.
Always have blooming plants in our home.
Feed the birds regularly and observe them.
Wear clothes that feel good and make me happy.
Try new foods, products and recipes.
Be proud of my age and accomplishments.
Read more articles and books for fun.
Continue to learn.
Live mindfully despite my busy schedule.
Volunteer my time and talents.
Say “I love you” every day.
Sorry, but I don’t believe in writer’s block. As a health and wellness writer, I believe in more research, re-thinking points, and revisions. Russian composer and pianist, Igor Stragvinsky, expressed my outlook. “Just as appetite comes by eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning.” When I’m stuck on a word, sentence, or paragraph, I take a short break, have a cup of coffee, and return to work.
In my former house I had a large home office, with a wall of book shelves, a long counter to lay out manuscript pages, and computer desk in front of the window. The window looked out over the back yard, a place of seasonal changes and wonder. Beyond the boundaries of our yard was a wooded area with mature trees, an ideal place for birds to rest.
While I was writing I would see cardinals, junkos, sparrows, blue jays, and other birds. I would check the weather—sun breaking through clouds after rain, a storm blowing in from the Dakotas. Deer passed through the yard, often stopping to eat our roses. I saw several female deer with their fawns, and herds of deer meandering together. Wild turkeys walked by and one winter day I saw a flock of wild pheasants.
Two years ago we moved from the home we had lived in for more than 20 years to a small townhome. It was a forced move. My husband’s aorta dissected and he had three emergency operations. During the third operation he suffered a spinal stroke that paralyzed his legs. Although I visited many assisted living communities, none of them had apartments that met our needs, so I built a wheelchair accessible townhome for us.
We’ve lived here for two years. No home office. No long counter. No window overlooking the back yard. Today, my office is a notch cut from the laundry room. The notch is barely wide enough to hold my computer desk and a small filing cabinet. Instead of looking at nature I look at a wall. Although I’ve hung family photos on the wall, looking at them isn’t the same as looking at nature.
Spring finally came to Minnesota, a time when residents rush out to buy bedding plants and seed backyard gardens. Gardening is difficult for me, due to two arthritic hips and knees, so I asked a horticulturalist to plant petunias by our front walk. When the door is open and I’m working, I see the petunias, the large pot of geraniums, and bench I bought. Across the street, I see a lush, green hillside, inhabited by a variety of birds, and deer that traverse secret paths.
Before I sit down to write, I open the door and look at this scene, the bright pink of the petunias, darker pink of the geraniums, and brilliant green shrubs. I am grateful for this connection with nature. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, devotes an entire chapter of his book to the idea of nature nurturing creativity.
Louv describes nature as imperfectly perfect and thinks connecting with it inspires children and adults alike. “Nature—the sublime, the harsh, and the beautiful—offers something that the street or gated community or computer game cannot,” he writes. Connecting with nature connects us with the basics of life, he continues, “earth, water, air, and other living kin, large and small.”
The last few days I’ve been writing like crazy: letters, social media posts, book marketing pieces, and articles for three websites. I think my increased creativity comes from the view outside my door. Yesterday, torrential rain flattened the petunias and I wondered if they would survive. But today, the flowers are upright and thriving. Thank you, pink petunias, for your happy faces, glorious color, and strength. You inspire me.
Whether it’s novels, non-fiction, poetry, plays, stories, essays, or affirmations, each writing form has rules. This is true of cookbooks. Formats may change, terms may change, and it’s wise to be aware of these things before you start writing. These tips will save you time and work.
- First, determine the chapter topics and titles. You may follow current trends or opt for originality.
- Create recipe titles that inform and tantalize. Every title should tell, instantly, what the recipe is about.
- Add personal comments and stories. These comments will make your cookbook original and interesting.
- Check product names. Granular flour, for example, used to be called gravy flour and is now called quick-mixing.
- List necessary tools. A melon baller may be used to make orbs of butter, for example.
- Follow capitalization rules. Names that refer to actual places usually begin with caps.
- Number directions. Reading numbered steps is easier than reading paragraphs.
- Include colored photos. Black and white photos are a turn-off; colored photos spark the appetite.
- Credit the sources you’ve used. This is common courtesy and legal protection for you.
- Make easy-reading your goal. Readers appreciate graphics and larger print.
When I received my first rejection notice I cried. Since then, I’ve learned how to cope with rejection. I heed publishers’ advice, write better query letters and emails, keep trying to improve, and stay current on industry trends. Putting a manuscript away for a few months and revising it helps too. And I abide by James Michener’s quote:
Some authors get hundreds of dollars for speaking. In addition, their travel, lodging, and food expenses are paid by the group or organization that invites them to speak. For these authors, giving talks about their books is a second income. Good for them, because speaking isn’t easy, and preparing a talk takes thought and time and confidence.
Author talks can be in-person talks in front of a group, or television talks, or video talks on the Internet. Webinars are another trend and good publicity for authors. I’m a low-tech author—no webinars or Internet talks for me. However, I speak to community groups, have been on television dozens of times, scores of blog talk radio programs, and speak for free.
“Really?” one person asked. I told her it was true, but if I have to travel, I would appreciate gas money and lodging if I have to stay overnight. I don’t ask organizations to pay for my food because I would eat anyway Why don’t I charge for speaking?
Speaker’s goal. A bereaved parent and author of eight grief resources, I speak about grief reconciliation, recovery, and creating a new life. I also give workshops about creating happiness. I don’t charge for these presentations because I don’t want people to think I’m trying to make money from their tragedies.
Public perception. I want community groups and organizations to be able to afford me. In August I’m speaking to a St. Paul, Minnesota health-care group that provides in-home services for families. Charging for the talk would make me feel uncomfortable. When the conference planner asked me about my fee she was relieved to hear I don’t charge for presentations. I asked if she would be willing to pay for my gas and she was more than willing.
Author branding. Giving talks and workshops helps me to develop my brand as a health and wellness writer. Varying my talks helps listeners to learn more about me and the books I’ve written. In addition to speaking for free, I provide handouts for audience members. Handouts help them remember me and, thanks to the contact info at the bottom, makes it easy for folks to contact me.
Several years ago I gave a workshop about anticipatory grief. A woman approached me afterwards and said, “I’ve had these feeling for years. Now I can name them. Thank you.” Giving to others helps me and that’s the main reason I speak for free. We’re all in this life together and speaking for free makes me feel good inside.
The idea of keeping a happiness jar has been bouncing around the Internet for months. I first encountered the idea on Facebook. Other posts supported the idea. “I’ll do it,” I said to myself. “Documenting happiness will be fun.” On January 2, 2015 I put my first piece of paper in a wide-mouth Mason jar. It says: “John on zero gravity machine. Looks like his left leg is starting to work.”
The note doesn’t convey the importance of the message. My husband’s aorta dissected in 2013 and he had three emergency operations. During the last one, 13 hours of life-threatening surgery, he suffered a spinal stroke and it paralyzed his legs. After being in the hospital for eight months he was dismissed to my care. A year and a half later he started rehabilitation and the results are stunning.
Thankfully, I have almost 18 years of caregiving experience to draw upon. I was my mother’s family caregiver for nine years and she had dementia. I was my twin grandchildren’s co-guardian and caregiver for seven years. But being my husband’s caregiver is a different story because I’ve never cared for a disabled person before. Still, there are happy moments to document and savor.
So I am keeping two happiness jars, one about my daily life, and the other about caregiving. You may wish to keep a caregiving happiness jar too, or may be keeping it already. How do you go about it? The idea comes from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. She offers some tips in a repost of her article, “Happiness Jar” on the Sacred Folly website. Here is a summary of her instructions.
- Get a large jar or box.
- Write your happiest moment of the day on a small piece of paper.
- Stick the paper in the jar.
- Do this for a year.
- When the year ends, empty the jar and review your life.
Gilbert has been doing this for a long time and loves it. She considers her happiness jar “the whole point of this life.” A happiness jar is also a way to document your life. Without the jar, you may forget these small, meaningful moments of the day. Unlike Gilbert, I don’t write down the happiest moment of the day, I write down several happy moments, a sort of gratitude journal in a jar.
My approach helps me see the positives of life and makes me aware of my blessings. Right now, the notes in the caregiving happiness jar fall into these categories: 1) my husband’s health, 2) daily life, and 3) our family. Future notes may generate additional categories, but the categories aren’t as important as writing the notes. Though I’ve only been doing this a short time, I’m amazed at the benefits of such a simple task.
I am reminded, yet again, that I have an amazing life.
What’s in my caregiving jar? A note about my husband’s health says “John had an amazing rehab session – left leg almost working on its own.” The note doesn’t say my husband seems to be a miracle in the making. A note about daily life says “John loved his lunch – chicken salad with dried cranberries and almonds and warm peanut butter cookies.” The note doesn’t say I love to cook and especially love cooking for my husband, the care receiver.
Right now, the caregiving jar is smaller than my other jar, but I expect this to change. In the months to come, I think the reverse will be true, and the caregiving jar will be the larger one. Being my husband’s caregiver defines my life, and I’m documenting this life with words. Your situation may be similar to mine. Have you been thinking about keeping a happiness jar? If so, make it a caregiving happiness jar, written proof of your life, what you do in a day, and most important, that caregiving is love in action.
Every author has their own approach to writing. One may include page-long paragraphs, so detailed you feel like you are there. Another may string words together in short sentences and move the plot along quickly. Other authors drop clues here and there to spark curiosity. Usually an author’s writing genre reflects his or her philosophy.
For example, biographers search for unknown and little-known facts and photos about a person. Novelists weave real-life experiences, situations, and news headlines into their fictional plots. Nonfiction writers are grounded in facts, keep checking their facts, and cite their resources in bibliographies. Genre requirements very, yet the basics are the same, and writing is hard work.
I’m a freelance health and wellness writer. When I started 37 years ago I didn’t think about my writing purpose. Instead, I followed my instincts and let them lead me forward on the career path. As the years passed, my life changed and my writing changed too. Today I focus on purpose and it is as clear as glass—produce work that helps others. But if you asked me to describe this approach I would probably be wordy.
Thankfully, President Abraham Lincoln summarized my philosophy years ago. He once said: I do the very best I know how—the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.
Lincoln’s phrase, “the very best I know how,” makes me think of the years I spent in the writing trenches, learning, failing, trying again and again. Beginning writers need to understand a tenant of the craft and it’s a simple one: The more you write, the better you get. I once read an online letter from a new writer who said it took her three days to produce a 500-word article. The answer she received: “You need to write more.”
Lincoln’s quote implies persistence. Obstacles and dilemmas and sorrows didn’t keep Lincoln from trying. I think persistence counts as much as talent in life. An author’s persistence includes good work habits, a comfortable schedule, formatting a manuscript properly, adhering to submission guidelines, creating professional letters and emails, rebounding from rejecting, helping other authors, and maturing. While I’m not always
While I’m not always completely satisfied with my writing, the urge to do better keeps me moving forward. Following Lincoln’s example, I continue to write, and plan to do so until the end of my life. I’m grateful for all of the writing opportunities that come my way: writing for several websites, writing articles for regional and national magazines, and writing health and wellness books. I’m also grateful to the community organizations that ask me to speak.
If you’re wondering about your writing philosophy and purpose, Abraham Lincoln’s quote may serve as a starting point. I think the true meaning and power of his quote rests with personal responsibility. We have decided to write. We work to become published authors. We try to keep improving. We write because we must. Thank you, Abraham Lincoln, for stating a writer’s life purpose in such simple words. While I’m not always satisfied with what I’ve produced, I know I tried.
The urge to do better tugs me forward. As Lincoln said, I do my best and plan on doing so until the end of my days. I’m grateful for the opportunities that come to me, including writing for websites, articles for regional and national magazines, and brochures for community groups. I’m also grateful for invitations to speak at conferences. Opportunities like these help authors spread the word about their books.
If you’re unsure about your writing philosophy Lincoln’s quote may serve as a starting point. What points could you add to the quote? Does your statement need more detail? Authors write because we’re compelled to write. We keep honing our craft and trying to improve. We keep challenging ourselves and relish the challenges. Thank you, Abraham Lincoln, for stating our mission in simple, concise, and uplifting words.
When you agree to speak at a conference, the planners will ask you to list your needs. Are you bringing a personal computer or do you need to borrow one? Which do you prefer, a stationary microphone or clip-on one? Do you need an easel or flip chart? Will you have handouts?
Today, handouts are usually posted on the organization's website and registrants are supposed to print them out. I created three handouts for a recent conference. Most attendees printed out the handouts, but some did not. I knew this would happen, and that's why I distributed an objectives handout at the conference. An objectives handout has several advantages.
- It helps attendees to follow the points of your talk and keeps them on track.
- An objectives handout shows that you planned your presentation carefully and done your "homework."
- You can list contact information on the bottom of the handout. As I was leaving the conference, several people asked if I would speak to their organizations. "I have your contact information," one added.
- The handout helps attendees remember the information you share and, just as important, remember you.
- You may list the book or books you've written on an objectives handout. I listed the four books in my family caregiver series and my publisher's website address.
- The handout may also serve as a replacement for your business card.
All are good reasons to create an objectives handout for your next presentation. I wish you good weather, good attendance, and good luck!
Although I worked for a computer software firm, I’m not a technical person. I didn’t grow up with computers and my learning has been trial and error. Sometimes this learning has been painful, and other times it’s been funny. My publisher wants authors to post on social media, so I posted: When I was minding my own business a book idea popped into my mind.
That’s what I thought I posted, but when I looked at the screen I was horrivied to see I said the idea pooped into my mind! At the time I didn’t know how to delete a post and, within seconds, comments started to appear. One viewer wrote, “Hilarious!” Another wrote, “Too funny.” Being a computer klutz wasn’t funny to me.
Since then, I’ve made computer learning a life focus. Recently I listened to “Metadata is Your Brand,” a podcast by Bublish founder Kathy Meis. According to Meis, metadata is information that computers use to access information, or “online book discovery.” If you and I had metadata scorecards how would we rate?
Book category. Your publisher will be glad to help you choose a category. Since I write health/wellness books I thought my category would be “health.” Not so. It turns out they fit under “self-help” and “inspiration.”
Keywords. Long before my book started production my publisher asked me to think of keywords. Some of the words: family, caregiving, caregiver, care receiver, home health, and health-care. Brainstorm on keywords for your book.
Images (book covers). Look at book covers on publishers’ websites and Amazon. Notice that some covers stand out and others are poor in comparison. The cover of your book should be eye-catching and include elements that represent the content.
Locations. This category includes your publisher’s website, Amazon listing, ebook listing, and online presence. With these things in mind, I’ve added extra information to the end of my mails: Visit (website link), Learn (blog link), Like (Facebook link) Connect (LinkedIn link), and Follow (Twitter link.)
Get Amazon Reviews. Your options include asking friends to post reviews, paying for reviews, putting an electronic version on a review website, book groups and clubs. Allow lots of lead time because garnering revews is a slow, challenging process. If you get 10 reviews the computers will notice. Get 50 reviews and the compuers will order more books.
Use Hashtags. This is a new practice for me and may be new to you. Think of a hashtag as a file category system. Rachael Sprung expalins in her Internet article, “How to Use Hashtags In Your Social Media Marketing.” Her suggestions: 1) Be unique and specific, 2) Make it eay to remember, 3) Use on multiple social media.
Authors can improve their metadata information. But it’s a detailed, ongoing task. What would you look for if you wanted to discover your book? Think creatively, think technically, and think Metadata. Help to spread the word about the book you care about so much.